By Jared Janzen
BENTLEY—Carol Grudowski recalls getting started in art at a young age, inspired by a bit of sibling rivalry.
“My brother drew a picture, and my parents just ranted and raved over it,” the Bentley resident said. “And I thought, ‘Well, I can draw, too.’ So that was really the reason that I started.”
She continued with art in junior high and high school, but after that, she only kept at it on rare occasions for friends and family as gifts.
That changed in the last two months when she decided to become more committed to her artwork as a source of financial income. She’d been an insurance agent for 20 years until quitting that a year ago and dabbling in a few different things before landing on painting.
Her decision paid off, as she’s already landed a contract selling her art at a gallery in Dallas’s design district, and commission requests have also been flowing in.
“This is always something I would have dreamt of, but as an artist, you’re always your worst critic so you think you’ll never get to that point.,” Grudowski said. “You just don’t ever think you’ll ever have anyone take you seriously, and so to have a professional art gallery owner say, ‘You are really good’—it meant the world to me.”
She’s now averaging 40 to 50 hours a week on her artwork, some weeks putting in as much as 70 hours.
“I got a really good response from the gallery that wants to carry my art, and he’s expecting more, so I’m committed to it now, and it’s a full-time job,” Grudowski said.
It all began with a 1950s-style diner booth that she and her husband bought for their kitchen a few months ago. The couple loves cars, and as Grudowski was deciding how to decorate the space above the booth, she decided to paint a picture of their 1946 Ford Super Deluxe.
“I just thought I wanted it to look like part of the diner scene, so I went out a took a picture of it from a different perspective, and I just kind of played with the colors a bit,” she said. “It came out so well that I decided to do another one.”
Around this same timeframe, she visited an art gallery in Dallas’s design district, Griffin Trading Company, while accompanying her husband, Robert, on a business trip. She’d had a good conversation with the gallery owner and mentioned that she was a painter, but she hadn’t asked about showing her art there at that time.
Then a month later, she decided to email him some pictures of her work to get his opinion, and he called her back saying he wanted to carry her art.
“When we went down there to sign the contract with him, his wife told me that he gets asked to look at people’s art all the time and he always turns them down because everybody’s always like, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’” Grudowski said. “So at first he thought I was just another one of those. He said he doesn’t take on new artists very often.”
She said that gallery carries a lot of types of artists and even some antique, high-value furniture. They sell to a lot of interior designers.
Right now, she has four paintings for sale at Griffin Trading Company, with more in the works. She has prints of three of those paintings hanging above the 1950s diner set that re-inspired her painting.
Grudowski has also been getting a lot of commission for cars, motorcycles and pets. Word of mouth has led to requests from across the country, including Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin. Local commissions are easier, though, because they don’t involve boxing and shipping a large object.
“It takes a lot to ship a painting, and it’s not the funnest thing to do, and it’s not the most cost-efficient thing to do,” Grudowski said.
A piece may take her just two days, or it may take her three or four weeks.
“It just depends on the level of difficulty and detail, because I tend to put a lot of detail in,” she said. She likes working on large canvases so she can include lots of details.
Grudowksi’s recent works use bright, bold colors, but when she’s doing commission pieces, she lets her clients decide if they want if they want that option or something more traditional.
“I prefer to paint in realistic colors,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve really done anything with abstract colors.”
She said she may try getting artwork in a gallery in Wichita, but she’s heard that the art market doesn’t move as swiftly as Dallas’s does.
“I haven’t really tried, but I’ve heard it’s harder,” she said. “But yeah, it’s a possibility. I would love to, but I just haven’t tried yet.”
If interested in placing commissioning a piece of art with Grudowski, contact her at 913-731-1611 or email@example.com.