Visual artist Charles Pachter shares the secret of his success (which is no real secret), Queen on Moose, and the art of shameless promotion.
By Guinevere Pura – Blogger, Communications Professional and Photographer
Well known Canadian artist, Charles Pachter, sometimes described as Canada’s Andy Warhol, calls himself shameless. Why? Because he says that signing a commercial deal with Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is way more important to him than having his paintings shown at the National Gallery of Canada.
At 74, Charles Pachter, hasn’t lost any steam. His controversial 1973 portrait of Queen Elizabeth on moose-back – satirizing Elizabeth as the queen of Canada – gave him instant fame and shame and his sense of fun, and his vigour hasn’t slowed him down.
I interviewed the artist last spring and had the opportunity to visit his downtown Toronto Studio and home, the Pachter Hall & Moose Factory this August. Pachter produces at least 50 paintings a year, which are sold to many collectors across the country. He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1999 and promoted to officer in 2011 for his outstanding achievement in the arts, and his dedication to serving his community and the country. Despite many years of high recognition and enormous sales and praise, no Pachter painting has yet been shown at the National Gallery of Canada, and says he doesn’t care. The curators in large galleries are of a different breed. Perhaps the kind that may not appreciate Pachter’s sense of humour, fun or controversy expressed in some of his paintings. Non-the-less, he is admired by art collectors and enthusiasts across the nation.
Being an artist for collectors than a national gallery helped build Pachter’s reputation among buyers and made him financially stable. “What’s more important is that the painting matches the curtains or your couch,” he says. His philosophy of making art for the client has steered him clear of the traditional “starving” role. And treating your art like a product rather a piece of your soul can likely feed your soul much better. Selling a painting to a large retailer such as the Hudson’s Bay Company for example, can grant an artist a pretty penny and plenty of exposure. It worked for Pachter.
Applying for grants and waiting for a response will not often bring financial gain, nor will it make you famous. Promoting art like a commercial product can do both. “Canada is not so sophisticated at making stars,” he says, commenting on the Canadian art market, “I don’t want to be the Lady Gaga of the United States and besides, it’s more fun to be a big fish in a little pond.”
This dedicated artist gave me three points of advice to share with emerging artists:
- Find a good support system. “I have my followers and people who like what I do here in Canada.” In addition to his loyal fans, his supporting family knew he was ‘special’ and put him in art classes at age 10. His mother often joked about the time he painted the walls with own waste as a two-year-old. Hi Nanny was furious, he recalls. “I had nothing else to paint with. Since then we all knew that I was going to be an artist.”
- “Shamelessly promote yourself by following the 10/90 rule – 10% work and 90% promotion.” Pachter is a relentless promoter and also has private agents who promote him. Early in his career, he posted ads in the Globe and Mail and met potential clients face to face.
- Don’t give up. “It can take three to four decades of consistent hard work to reach even a small level of success.”
If artists could add a touch of Pachter’s vigour, and vitality to their portfolio, it might give them a better chance of financial gain in the tough Canadian art world.
More of Pachter’s work can be purchased by appointment at Pachter Hall & Moose Factory,
22 Grange Ave., Toronto M5T 1C7