While Brynn Casey didn’t author the Blue Ocean Strategy she sure does embody it. A coastal artist known for painting oceans. Oceans yall. For years.
Don’t you ever get bored?
Don’t you ever want to branch out?
These are questions Brynn is more than accustomed to hearing. Her answer floored me, “I’m a big believer in not going super wide, I want to go deep”. Alright Georgia O’Keefe. I hear ya.
“Stay in your lane” may be a phrase we hear often but it’s not something I see often.
Permission to go deep, to get really good at what you are already doing, stay true to yourself and keep the main thing the main thing. Today’s interview with coastal artist Brynn Casey is unique and special and I cannot wait for you to hear it!
“I never really had any other plans for my career outside of the art world. Maybe I was naïve to just think I could do it, but really, art was the only plan.”
Now a successful coastal artist, it turns out Brynn Casey didn’t need another plan. She regularly sells original paintings, drawings, and commissions as well as products like notecards, journals, and calendars. But as an art student at the University of Georgia years ago, the path to success in the industry wasn’t as clear.
“I considered doing art therapy or maybe being an art teacher. I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d be able to put the degree to work exactly, but I knew painting was the plan.”
An unexpected internship with abstract artist Britt Bass helped Brynn clarify her next steps as an artist and an entrepreneur.
“For whatever reason, she trusted me. She kind of took me under her wing, and that really changed things for me.”
Working for Britt while she finished her degree gave Brynn an up-close-and-personal look at what it would take to run a successful art business.
“It was cool to be kind of a fly on the wall at her business. I learned so much just by watching her, listening to her, and absorbing the way she handled everything from hiring assistants to pitching new works to having conversations with clients.”
Soon, Brynn was promoted to studio manager, taking on more responsibility at the studio at the time. That is, until Britt challenged her to make a change.
“She looked at me one day and said, ‘Brynn, I think you’re ready to do this. You don’t need me anymore. I think you’re ready to spread your own wings.’ I will forever be grateful to have learned from the best and to have that person I admire so much tell me to go build my own empire.”
For Brynn, however, building that empire wasn’t simple.
“I’ve always struggled with the fear of failure. It really gets to me; it keeps me stuck. So, you can imagine what it felt like to share and sell my own work.”
To help her know what to do next, Brynn leaned on the guidance and wisdom from a professor who challenged her simply to try something new.
“I remember that I had my headphones on trying to tackle that assignment. I was listening to that song ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong that’s all about walking on water and facing your fears. And I painted my first ocean that day.”
From there, Brynn created a collection of works featuring oceans, coasts, and beaches.
“I remember showing them to my professor, who I deeply respect, and being so nervous that I’d not done well. My professor looked at them and said they were ‘heroic.’”
It was the push she needed to put her work out there in the world.
With Instagram just coming out at that time, Brynn began sharing her work on the platform. Eventually, she garnered a few commissions. Soon, she launched a small print shop where she released a handful of original prints at a time. The popularity of her work motivated Brynn to consider a new approach to showcasing and selling her art.
“There were artists out there at the time launching collections of artwork and sort of inviting people to an online gallery show when they released. I thought, ‘Why don’t I give it a try and see what happens?’”
Her first collection sold out, helping her hit the goal of paying for the honeymoon she was planning with her now-husband. The success of that first launch inspired Brynn to try it again.
“After the first collection, I decided to do them quarterly. It was a really great way to present my work to the world. It’s what I’ve been doing with the business ever since.”
Obviously, selling each collection didn’t come without its challenges, pricing being the biggest for Brynn. Today, her work is priced more than six times what she charged for her initial launch, but that growth didn’t come right away.
“A big lesson I’ve had to learn is that I’m not necessarily my buyer. Their financial sphere and spending threshold are different than mine. I started out pricing my work for someone like me, and I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to make enough money doing it that way.”
Still, the struggle to raise her prices was very real for Brynn.
“I had to learn not to present my work out of a place of insecurity. That can really rub off on the buyer. If I’m not confident in the value of my work, why should they be? I had to learn to price and present my work with confidence. I had to overcome that to be able to create the business I wanted for myself.”
Little by little, Brynn raised her prices to hit the point she’s reached today. How? By diving into the details of her financials to figure out what would work for her.
“I remember learning I had to pay myself for my time, my supplies, my advertising—all that stuff. But then, after that, I need to still make a profit. Before that, I was only breaking even. Now, I’m actually making money. I can do things like give myself a bonus or a raise or manage the seasons of surplus and scarcity differently. It’s more than just a hobby or side hustle now; it’s my livelihood.”
By the time 2020 came along, Brynn was painting and running a successful business. She welcomed her first child that year and launched an online course for artists called Crash Course Academy. To say she was working harder than ever would be an understatement.
“That year, I was really struggling. I dealt with postpartum, trying to find a new work-life balance with a baby at home, and navigating a business during COVID. It was probably one of the hardest seasons of my life.”
Trying to navigate so many new things in an unexpected season could’ve left Brynn wondering if this business was still the right path for her. Thankfully, her deeply held belief in her calling to art kept her going.
“I love painting. I love creating. I find so much joy in my work, and I really believe it’s something God has given me. And with God’s grace, I found a lot of peace in being both a mom and an artist through that season. I can be an awesome mom and an awesome business owner, and I’m thankful to have learned that in that season.”
To hear the rest of the story and what Brynn is up to now, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
We love Britt Bass!
Crash Course Academy for Artists
Brynn W. Casey is a Georgia based artist living just north of Atlanta with her husband, son Sawyer Gray, and daughter on the way. She received her BFA with an emphasis in drawing from the Lamar Dodd School of Art, and it was at this very school where she learned the discipline it takes to be a serious artist, the confidence it takes to accept criticism, and the bravery it takes to try new things. You can find Brynn at her studio in Roswell, GA painting the day away, getting lost in the waves.
December 2, 2022