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Expanding Our Art Empire

We’ve begun. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ll remember that Bogdan and I have been trying to find our way since my parents passed away a couple of years ago. We moved back to the USA to help them out as they got older, and opened a creative business in 2015 to carry us through during those years with them. On the way, we’ve fallen absolutely in love with being creative entrepreneurs, and have determined that we will do whatever it takes to succeed as artists. I just can’t imagine going back to a “normal” job now.

We’ve been selling art for several years, and now that Mom and Dad have passed, there’s nothing really holding us to the Houston area. We’ve been looking at our business goals, and what makes the most sense to us, and that process has revealed some rather ambitious, and awfully wonderful ideas, of what we’d like to achieve over time. We’ve been looking at ways to increase our income and ultimately expanding out business, and that journey has revealed two things about us. First, we don’t make enough money with art sales to pay for the dreams we have. And the second realization is that Bogdan’s parents are getting older now too, and he is really far away from his family.

If you guys know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a rather annoying optimist. I see obstacles as challenges, I’m not afraid to take risks, and I’m ok with failure. While these are not the most reassuring qualities for a life and business partner, they do have their value.

So let me set the stage for our dilemma. We have a bit of cash now between our savings and money we inherited from Mom and Dad. We’ve looked around Houston, and indeed around Texas, and we simply can’t afford to purchase a property that would support our goals and dreams for the business. We do not qualify for a loan, since we’re freelancers and are still supplementing our income with our savings. I get it, I wouldn’t loan me money either. Art sales have been improving after Covid, but now with the war in Ukraine, and the inflation here at home, those sales could evaporate at any time. Selling art has severe peaks and valleys, and with no other stable income source, we cannot sustain this pattern forever. We will eventually run out of money.

There is also a good deal of political strife around us, and recent developments indicate that there are growing challenges to gay rights, gay marriage, and overall personal safety. I grew up gay in Texas fearing that one day I would be killed, and in fact, lost two of my friends to gay bashing… beaten to death just for walking down a street in a gay neighborhood. I’m 62 years old now, and I don’t want to go back to worrying about how I am perceived, where I’m seen, or how honest and public I am with my cherished lifestyle. Enough on that topic. I’m just not doing all that again.

So what do we do? Here’s what I’m thinking. We know that we can’t afford to move within the States, unless we relocate to some remote area where there would be no market for our artwork. We can sell art online, but that has been spotty at best over the years. We could also move someplace else, where we actually could afford to live, and still have access to a large art market… Do you see where I’m heading?

We’ve done a couple of reconnaissance trips to Mexico, where our dollars would stretch farther, but Bogdan is feeling a real pull to return to Europe. There are places like Portugal and Spain that offer a cheaper life, but not all that much cheaper if you ask me. Then there is Romania… where we could afford quite a lot with our dollars, where we could live cheaply, have access through the EU to the rest of Europe as a market, and where we would be close to Bogdan’s family and aging parents. So we’re considering Romania as a strong contender.

Now don’t get me wrong. Living in Romania can be tough. It borders a country currently being invaded by Russia, and they’re known for being pretty homophobic. But I would have a ready support system with Bogdan’s family, Romania is a member of the EU and Nato, and I’ve never ever heard of anyone being beaten to death with a two by four, or of anyone being kicked to death by teenagers. That just doesn’t happen in most of the world, and since we’re not planning on flying rainbow flags from our doorstep, I don’t much fear any significant consequence to being gay in Romania.

So while we have our eyes wide open with the realities of living in Romania, let’s look at some of the advantages. We would be moving away from the largest art market in the world, and from our established collectors, but Europe’s not a tiny art market either. Being in the EU means that we could pile our artwork into a van, and drive across Europe without any issues of border taxation. After living in Texas, the distances aren’t that daunting in Europe either. I believe I could drive from Bucharest to Vienna in the same time as driving from Houston to Dallas, and I do that without a thought. We also wouldn’t have to give up on the States completely at first, and could spend a bit of time traveling between the two places for a while.

But the most significant benefit I see is that I can purchase a piece of land, develop it into a place to live, to work, to expand the business, to house guests and collectors, as well as Bogdan’s parents when needed. I can live a simpler life, with more natural foods, access to adequate and affordable health care, and a rich tradition of support for the arts. So that’s what we’re thinking. If we can’t afford the life we want here, let’s find a place where we can. Once we are rich and famous, we can make other decisions for our lives and business. For me, right now, this seems like a simple choice.

So the wheels are now in motion. We’ve hired a lawyer to open a business in our name, that will grant me a visa. That visa will allow me to stay in Romania for extended periods of time, as well as to make money while there. We’ve contracted an accountant to help with the business records, government rules, and taxes. We have booked tickets in a couple of weeks to visit Romania, finalize paperwork with the lawyers, and open a bank account. While there, we can start scoping out the countryside for a property that would allow us to start on the next chapter in this novel of our lives, and the next phase of our art business. Stay tuned…..


“Art Life with John & Bogdan” is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. Bogdan is a videographer and fine art photographer who constantly seeks to stretch the boundaries of traditional photographic work, with the added flare of his artistic eye.  Both artists’ work can be seen online, or at their studios at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, in Houston.

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