Hot Topics:

Passion Sculpts Modern Art into Business

Etsy seller molds a successful business with impasto art.

Nestled in a tranquil Pennsylvania town sits an 800-square-foot studio attached to Susanna Shap’s house. In this space, Shap spends much of her time creating modern art for her Etsy shop, Modern House Art.

Thanks to a quiet environment—and the scenery outside—Shap can free her mind and build abstract images of orchids, dragonflies, koi fish and other subjects from nature on her canvases.

“I am surrounded by the clean air, natural beauty and roaming wildlife around my home, all of which are perks that come with living here, and, over time, have proven to provide me with unlimited inspiration and imagination,” Shap says.

Creating ‘controlled chaos’

Using a palette knife, the seller’s modern art works are heavily textured with oils and acrylics, which creates a rich, almost animated expression.

“I like taking globs of paint and turning those globs into squares and flower petals just as much as I like sticking a seed into the soil and watching it grow”

“I like taking globs of paint and turning those globs into squares and flower petals just as much as I like sticking a seed into the soil and watching it grow into something beautiful or edible,” she notes.

As long as those globs are done right—and don’t appear sloppy—Shap considers it a “controlled chaos,” she continues.

This technique seems to work well for her. Shap’s heard her work was the only style husbands would compromise with their wives on, and men have bought her pieces as gifts for their wives.

“I’ve been told my style is a balance of both masculine and feminine essence,” she adds.

Brush is secondary

Born in the Ukraine on the opening day of Moscow’s Summer Olympics, Shap has always loved creating art, and taught herself to a successful career. She describes her work as contemporary-impressionistic abstract, building geometric shapes, landscapes or other scenes with an impasto style.

“Contemporary modern art can come in different styles, and where the artist usually focuses on either the color and/or design, my focus first and foremost is on the sculpted composition, heavy texture and then the color, which is why a palette knife is always my first and most important tool and a paint brush, if ever used, is always secondary,” Shap says.

“My focus first and foremost is on the sculpted composition, heavy texture and then the color, which is why a palette knife is always my first and most important tool”

Busy as a bee

Despite how wonderful it might sound that Shap gets to paint every day, she points out that the business side of things keeps her very busy. She has to prep and ship sold paintings, list new ones, receive nearly daily deliveries of supplies, and break down boxes and empty paint gallons for recycling.

On top of all that, Shap focuses on her family, a husband and two girls. Without her husband’s help, Shap wouldn’t be able to get much done, she notes.

Shap has an assistant to help with social media efforts, which involves mainly answering questions from Etsy customers. She uses Facebook to post her new paintings, but her social media strategy does not reach much beyond that.

“I’ve been told by people that I should stay on top of it, and do more social media for advertising and staying connected to people, but for some reason I’ve never been able to get into that,” she adds. “Time is required for ‘socializing’ and, unfortunately, time is something I have very little of, so I have to prioritize and use my time for creating art.”

Fortunately for her, Shap’s store has a name that is SEO-friendly, as all Google search returns appear to lead right back to her.

Staying one step ahead

Shap has been selling her paintings online for more than six years now, starting with eBay and moving on to Etsy. In that time, she has sold more than 2,000 paintings across the globe, and now has more than 3,000 followers on Etsy, her primary selling venue.

“The only thing you can do is always make sure you remain true to yourself, create in your own style and keep your own quality at that level that will never be surpassed by an imitation”

She estimates 50 percent of her sales are within the U.S., 30 percent are from Canada, 15 percent come from the U.K. and 5 percent from other countries.

While selling her modern art online is much more favorable to sales than selling it locally, one of Shap’s biggest challenges is being susceptible to imitations and image theft, she says. Imitations are unavoidable, but manageable to a degree.

“The only thing you can do is always make sure you remain true to yourself, create in your own style and keep your own quality at that level that will never be surpassed by an imitation,” Shap says.

She notes that imitations are usually obvious, because the amateur cannot recreate what true artists take years to develop, so the fake piece often looks “forced or tortured.”

Shap also finds thefts of her photographed images used by sellers on eBay, Etsy and other common places. Shap does what she can to stay one step ahead of these forgeries by maintaining an online presence and keeping her inventory fresh. And if someone asks for tips on how to recreate her style, she tells the person to develop what’s natural.

“If you can manage to find your own thing, express your own creativity and develop your own style or technique from the start, you’ll do really well,” Shap says.

“If I am ever told what a customer wants, whether it is even a slight deviation of a color or composition, I get a mental block and the final result comes out looking forced and unnatural”

Art flows naturally

Sometimes customers want commissioned pieces to be created, but she rarely complies.

“If I am ever told what a customer wants, whether it is even a slight deviation of a color or composition, I get a mental block and the final result comes out looking forced and unnatural,” Shap says.

The bold statements her pieces make are meant to flow naturally from her soul, and yet complete the look of a room in houses and offices across the globe. They are an expression that comes from her subconscious without any rules or constraints, she says.

“And maybe on those rough days that we all have, it may even put a smile on your face,” Shap adds.

Despite her continued success, Shap tries to maintain a simple life. The ability to sell her work online rather than going the gallery route affords her the privacy she desires and the peace to sculpt her passion onto a blank canvas.

Visit Modern House Art.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



Newsletter Signup

Subscribe!