LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Dirk Guidry left his native Galliano in 2005 to pursue an art degree at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and has since made a career out of his passion for painting.
“It’s good, especially since I’m only 35, so I would have never imagined sustaining a living off of my art and live comfortably,” said Guidry, who describes his preferred style as large-scale abstract expressionism.
Guidry caught his original break when the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Lafayette wanted a mural in its Bayou Bistro restaurant. Some of Guidry’s friends worked at the hotel and told him about the contest. He won and began to work out his plan to do art full-time.
“The way that I was looking at it is that if I could book one wedding painting a month, then it would help float my studio costs, living expenses and, again, this was 2015,” he said. “Now I’m at the point where I have to take off a weekend from the wedding paintings because I average about 35 to 40 wedding paintings a year.”
He charges $1,600 to $3,000 to do a live performance painting at weddings but has sold some paintings for more than $5,000. His performance paintings take about eight hours. He shows up early to paint the background then adds in the people during the reception.
Painting at weddings has helped Guidry gain recognition, even traveling to Mexico for one couple’s wedding. Wedding painting is steady work, but Guidry said an artist can’t focus on just one trade.
Guidry, who is not related to the Terrebonne Parish councilman by the same name, sells original paintings and prints both online and in shops. He creates apparel, does paintings live at events, creates art on commission and has offered painting lessons. Guidry said the key to making it as an artist is doing whatever it takes to keep at it.
“I think a lot of artists don’t realize that you are an entrepreneur. Nobody wants to touch the business side of things, but it’s 50-50,” he said. “That’s what I tell any up-and-coming artist that you need to be able to handle your budgeting and your finances so that you can produce work.”
Originals can sell for $1,500 to $2,000, and prints of the originals are sold at around a hundred dollars. He sometimes limits the number of prints made of a piece of art. Designing apparel, including shoes, is new to Guidry.
“I was wearing the shoes to a lot of my wedding paintings and a lot of people were like, ‘Dude, how do I get those shoes,’ ” he said.
From there, the apparel branched out.
“I put them online, so, yeah, we’ve sold a lot of fanny packs,” Guidry said.
Staying disciplined is also important, especially after having a family. Guidry has a wife and four kids. Every Tuesday and Thursday he drops his kids off at school and is in his shop morning and afternoon, painting for two four-hour sessions.
Moving to Lafayette was a two-fold decision, Guidry said. He likes the culture and there is a client base for his art style.
Now he helps other artists get exposure through a program called Bare Walls. The program connects business owners who want to spruce up their walls with artists who are seeking to showcase their work. For a monthly fee, Bare Walls brings the artwork to the business and rotates it each month.