Darren Baker: Businessman and artist to the Queen and the FA speaks to Bdaily
If you haven’t heard of Darren Baker, you may have been living under a rock for the past decade.
The Huddersfield born-and-bred artist has painted the Queen, became the official artist of the London Olympics 2012 and found his niche as a portrait painter to Premier League footballers including Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerard, and other sports stars such as Amir Khan and Lewis Hamilton.
On top of his day job, Darren is ambassador to the Princes Trust and one portrait alone donated in 2011 raised over £25k at auction.
Here Darren talks to Yorkshire Editor Clare Burnett about his successes and how to mix business and creativity into a winning formula.
Is there a secret to setting up a successful creative business?
Well what I say to young students is that you’ve just got to keep practicing on your main artistic practice. Always be out there promoting yourself, meeting people. Even when you’ve had a bad exhibition or rejected from a gallery just keep believing in yourself. I think that’s true for any business. Persistence really is key.
On your bio it says you have a bit of a flair for identifying interesting people and making contacts, do you find networking beneficial when it comes to the business side of things?
Definitely. I was lucky enough to be introduced to The Princes Trust when I left art college and they were a big help, and that started me networking. Now I’ve become an ambassador for the Princes Trust, donating artwork for fundraising and putting on workshops for young people, just putting something back in.
Thats what its all about. I’m a true believer in making connections in business. I’ve got collectors who have been collecting for a decade now, who still collect my work and have become friends.
So do you think it’s important to stay grounded in Yorkshire then, as so many people go off and try and make it in London?
Yeah I’ve got loads of Yorkshire customers, I’ve got an exhibition coming up in Huddersfield in March and although I think its the first thing I’ve done in yorkshire for 7 years, my framers and printers are still in Huddersfield, my friends and family are still in Huddersfield so there’s always that connection.
You also definitely found a niche in the sports sector, do you think that helped you on your way to success?
I think definitely in the early days I got in with a lot of top clubs and players and it was something that no other artists were really doing at the time so I cut out a niche for myself there and became more established in the art world. Then I got to do exhibitions in London galleries and so it snowballed into other sectors of the art world.
Who was the hardest person you’ve ever had to paint?
I suppose in terms of pressure it was the definitely the Queen, getting the lighting right, getting it in before the deadline for the unveiling. I only had 2 sittings at Buckingham Palace which can be quite unusual, most artists do more than that. That’s probably why they hired me; I wasn’t too demanding on their time! And then another 4 hours in the studio after that for the finished piece.
Footballers on the other hand aren’t used to sitting still, it was more of a meet and greet and then do their portrait from a photograph, then go away and paint them. I’ve painted John Terry, Steven gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Daglish, I’ve even painted Joe Hart’s pug dogs! He’s a nice chap, was very impressed with the finished piece.
Is there a creative business person who’s work you really appreciate?
My fellow Yorkshireman David Hockney, in terms of marketing himself he’s done really well and coming from nothing but using his talent and always following his passion.
Marketing has changed now, it’s not necessarily about who you know but how to get yourself out there using and becoming engaged with digital and social media, have you found this in the art world as well?
Yeah you really have to be on the ball with everything digital, social media, websites; the whole lot. Just embrace all the new forms of marketing and promoting yourself. All the stuff I do with the galleries and charities out there, they all need recognition and people want to promote themselves which also helps me as well.
Is it more difficult being a born Yorkshireman and trying to make it in London and the wider world do you think?
Yeah I think it would have been far easier if I’d have been an originally London based artist, to get anywhere in any industry as it is the focal point for the arts. But coming from Yorkshire I was able to build a strong base there. Yorkshire people like to stick together as well, it meant I had a lot of strong support when I moved down to London.
Where are you going from here, what sort of direction do you want to take now you’ve already achieved so much?
Im off to paint one of the presidents of america, I’ve been invited to Afghanistan to record the army one of the regiments, get introduced to the US army and you never know where that might lead. I want to do more with the Royal Academy, get more of my artwork into museums so theres still a long way to go.
My aims are to become more established in the art word and have my art collected by museums. At that point your work reaches a new level and enters the auction houses. Thats where I want to be.
I’ve got my childrens book launch this year in London on the 6th March, (details at www.darrenbakerfineart.co.uk) and the gallery hosting the event M1 Fine Art of Greenwich. The event is in aid of my charity The Princes Trust which is then coming up to Yorkshire. I’ve also been commissioned to do a mural for Lourdes so I’ve got a lot going on this year!
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Burnett .
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