Peter Max stamp. 1974 postage stamp commemorating Expo '74. Public domain.

A counselor or teacher, a person who is influential — these are some of the words used to describe a mentor. Mentors can provide a powerful incentive for carrying forward one’s work — not only in the creative process, but also in the world of art marketing.

A mentor can be an advisor, a trusted friend, an acquaintance, or a respected individual that we have become familiar with. People who we attend to, visit, talk with and keep in touch with can be referred to as seen mentors. On the other hand, another kind of mentor is available to us, one that we have no personal contact with — this is an unseen mentor. We gain motivation from these individuals by accessing them through books, periodicals and the media. These mentors might live in our times, or be from the past.

An artist who gains access to a mentor (seen or unseen) who inspires her will often realize a guide and perhaps find a person who will greatly enhance her focus.

Mentorship in the realm of art making is well known and supremely chronicled. Anecdotes of Renaissance artists and their masters are written about. Renowned artists throughout history and their personal contacts and motivating influences make for fascinating reading.

In art making, we may be drawn to another’s style, philosophy, subject matter, mood and work habits, to name a few things.

Renaissance artist Raphael (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520) apprenticed with Pietro Perugino, well known in Umbria, Rome and in Florence. Raphael studied anatomy and painting techniques with Perugino and also adopted his style of painting portraits with dear and peaceful faces.

Contemporary artist Wayne Thiebaud (born November 15, 1920) experienced seen and unseen mentors which influenced his art choices. Beyond High School Thiebaud worked as a sign painter, a freelance cartoonist and a movie poster illustrator later becoming a layout designer and cartoonist for Rexall Drug Company’s ad department. It was here that a mentor appeared. That person was Robert Mallary, a contemporary and self taught artist with an intellectually strong commitment to the study of art and art history. Thiebaud’s voracious self learning points to the powerful drive of Mallary, as one who motivated his mind to constantly and aggressively seek and learn. This intellectual trait from Mallary was to be enduring.

Mentorship can also be profoundly experienced in the realm of art marketing. Financially successful artists are often those who find a specific market for their genre of work. Finding the right audience can be a rigorous, time consuming, trial and error process. The pay off might be the experience as well as the outcome.

Several artists with rewarding careers come to mind, one of whom is a personal seen mentor.

A friend and watercolorist, creates fantastic, mythical animal watercolor paintings. His work is well known and sought after due to the fact that he put in many years and much perseverance in selling his paintings at art fairs, thereby becoming established as a’ “regular” on the art fair circuit. Through decades of developing his whimsical, light, airy and often humorous animals, along with years of returning to lucrative “selling” shows, he has developed an audience that expects to see him and plans to purchase his work. He sells mainly in the state of Florida.

An acquaintance, deeply devotional, does her ministry in art. Through enduring travels to sacred shrines and locations and through her own discipleship, she paints on a commission basis for spiritually based exhibits and for religious institutions. One of her accomplishments includes having her paintings hung seasonally as alter icons at a University chapel. Another achievement encompasses an exhibit of biographically based paintings, depicting the life and work of a saint. These works remain as a permanent show at a Catholic University.

A much admired colleague found his niche in working with design and furniture establishments. His geometric paintings work well into rooms filled with chairs, rugs, tables, mirrors and ceramic ware. Individuals looking for objects to enhance their interiors, as well as decorators, are his clients.

Regarding unseen mentors, research on highly admired artists might give insight into how they projected themselves economically. With whom did they involve themselves? How did they achieve economic success?

Synthesizing his observations, experiences, and feelings, Peter Max (born 1930) has gone on to be recognized as a world renown painter. To look at his work is to encounter bold color and vivid imagination at play. Major works include his 1960’s posters which gave him a widespread association with the youth movement of the time. The World of Peter Max exhibit opened in San Francisco in 1970 and consequently traveled to 46 other museums in the US. The United States Postal Service commissioned Max to create a 10 cent stamp in honor of the 1974 World’s Fair. His Book of Paintings and Collages was created in 1976 in celebration of the United States’ Bicentennial. Along with Lee Iacocca, Max was a major force in the campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty in 1981. His Statue of Liberty paintings have been ongoing. Peter Max continues to work globally into the 21st Century. He has become an iconic New York City artist. Certainly, Peter Max works brilliantly with business leaders and municipalities.

To view the sculptures of Marisol Escobar ( b. 1930) is to see bold, imaginative and often humorous persons of acclaim. Her talent in guiding wood, metal, found objects, paint and other materials to transform into life size sculptures has resulted in art work with great appeal.

Marisol is widely acclaimed for her unique portrayal of exceptional people- Her portrayals of world leaders include African Bishop Desmond Tutu, Franco, de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy. and Lyndon Johnson. Artists also were her subjects–portraits of Picasso, de Kooning and Georgia O’Keefe were some of them. In 1963 Life Magazine commissioned a portrait of John Wayne, by that time an American icon of the movies. Marisol’s whimsical portrait sculpture shows him as larger than life, but almost two-dimensional, as was his image on the screen. Wayne’s horse was cut from plywood sheets. The addition of stacked boxes, added cutouts, a ten gallon hat and a deadpan face appear on two sides of a cubic head. A smiling publicity photograph is glued on the front.

With her unique vision of well known people and her imaginative depictions, Marisol’s celebrities have found homes in major museums and collections, including a permanent installation at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. To get a feel for the numerous museums and art galleries which have Marisol’s art works in their permanent collections, go to:

Different genres of art attract diverse audiences and most certainly abundant styles of art marketing. Which audiences do your works appeal to? What art marketing strategies are you drawn to? Is there a seen or unseen mentor to study, to be emboldened by? Researching those persons who inspire you might give rise to originating new and determined strategies for marketing your own art for developing a game plan specific to your purpose.

Find out all that you can about a mentor’s success. Learn from the trial and error of your own journey. Celebrate the good fortune of others, of your inventive and unique self.

Eugene and Diana Avergon are committed to art education. Along with being exhibiting artists, they have taught art in the Chicago area and in New York, both in private and public schools.

The Avergons share a keen interest in “the role of choice” in art making — students can become more aware of what they are “drawn to” and what their ensuing choices might be. Their combined experience has resulted in the production of numerous books, tear pads, packets and posters, all under their Art by Choice trademark series. These publications are developed, produced and distributed exclusively through Nasco Arts and Crafts.

Eugene and Diana reside in Hebron, Kentucky. Through charitable auctions run by private schools, regional art centers and not-for-profit institutions, their own artwork in sculpture and printmaking goes to help fund scholarships in art and also to help endow other philanthropic programs.