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The Art of the Start with Artist and Designer Pablo Solomon

Pablo Solomon

I am now an internationally recognized artist and visionary environmental designer. I live the good life that success in America can bring. My wife Beverly and I split our time between our beautiful historic ranch in the Texas Hill Country north of Austin and doing shows and promotions for my art in the great cities of the world.

So how did a kid who grew up in a multicultural home in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Houston achieve this level of success? I will credit having a God given talent, a strong work ethic, discipline and tenacity. Luck? Maybe. The older I get the more I believe that God has given us a destiny—maybe two destinies—one good and one the result of bad choices. Once you find and follow your positive destiny, the rest is often amazingly full of “luck”.

My parents were a great example to me. My mother had grown up as a sharecropper on a south Texas farm without running water or electricity. They grew their own food and sewed their own clothes. Very much like the pioneers once did. When she was 12, her mother died and she had to quit school to raise 6 siblings under those conditions. She finally left the farm and got a job as a nanny/maid for a rich doctor in Houston. She observed what that family did that might have contributed to their success. She also observed that wealthy people collect things—art, antiques, etc.

My father spoke 5 languages. This was because his family had been run out of several countries due to religious and political oppression before finding freedom and opportunity in the US. My father had to quit school in the 5th grade to help support his family. Yet he continued to learn both skills and academics whenever and wherever he could. He was one of the smartest people that I have ever known.

Over the years my parents worked their way from poverty to a nice life.

My parents taught me the value of hard work, discipline and careful investing. They also taught me how to buy, sell and trade. Over the years we traded for anything and everything—stuff for stuff, stuff for work, work for work. I also learned to make money from nothing. As a kid I was collecting bottles, newspapers, scrap metal, etc. and hauling it around in my wagon to sell to recycling plants. I also learned to collect things—rocks, fossils, arrowheads, etc. and how to trade up.

My love was art. However, being a sickly, skinny kid who liked art in a tough neighborhood was a formula for being bullied. I would often hide out at the library or the art museum as these were safe places and had the added bonus of being air conditioned—a luxury in Houston in those days. When I was 12, I read a book about Theodore Roosevelt and how he turned his life around through exercise and hard work. About that time fate entered as a couple moved in next door. The man had been stationed in Japan and he got me interested in working out and in martial arts. My study of martial arts became fanatical. I eventually had my own martial arts schools and even did classes for the Queen’s Guard in the Netherlands.

Because I wanted to improve my timing, balance and flexibility for martial arts, I began to take dance. This eventually led to my being a founding teacher at the Houston Contemporary Dance Theater and focusing my art around dance.

Over the years I did a wide variety of things while building my art career. So many and so diverse that people often think that I am making up some of my adventures. However, I have had a remarkably interesting and exciting life. I often tell people that I have tried to run from art, hide from art, hack paths away from art—but my destiny has always been to be an artist.

The luckiest occurrence in my life was meeting and marrying my wife Beverly. She was a model and then an account executive in sales and marketing for Diane von Furstenberg, Revlon and Ralph Lauren. She had battled her way back from cancer as a teenager to follow her dreams. We met at one of my art shows and were married two months later. We have been married 35 years as of this writing.

She was the top sales person in the nation for a major fragrance company. Despite her successes in the fashion world, she always wanted to be her own boss. Twenty years ago she walked away from a successful corporate career to run our own art and design business. She has used her expertise, her experience and her connections to make me the most well known “Pablo” in art since Picasso. As of this writing, I am in over 20 books and have appeared in numerous major magazines and newspapers. I have been on national TV, international radio and was a subject of a short film.

So how do you start a business with nothing? Let me tell you some short stories which are full of lessons. The first businesses that I started were as a kid. I just got things and sold them. I can remember my parents selling things in garage sales my entire life. They made money to supplement their income. My dad and I would try to beat the garbage guys to antiques and other good stuff left on the curb. My dad would fix the stuff up and sell them. My mother and I would shop yard sales, junk stores and surplus stores to get things to resell. I learned the tricks and often made sideline money buying and selling. When my wife and I got married we paid for our honeymoon by selling antiques one afternoon on the street corner next to our apartment. These were items that I had gotten for nothing or next to nothing and fixed up. We parlayed some of this money into our first sideline business as a couple—furnishing cafes with antiques and collectibles. This money was split between investments, shoring up our income and investing long term.

I sold my first art at the age of 15 and always worked toward being an independent artist.

I designed my first public space—an outdoor chapel at the age of 19.

The first real business that I started out of college was my martial arts business. This cost me nothing. I knew many dance teachers and I would teach classes at their studios and split the money. Eventually, I had three studios of my own. This sideline money was put into investments and this money allowed us to buy our historic 1856 ranch for cash.

Among my many jobs along the path to independence as an artist, I taught school in some very tough areas. The students were very negative on life and thought that to make money you either had to be rich already or a crook. I wanted to teach them the secrets of making money that my parents had shared with me. So I got a Coca Cola bottle that someone had tossed. I got the 10 cent deposit. I bought a collectible plate at a yard sale. I sold the plate for $3. I bought a chair for $3. I then sold it for $25. And so on. By the end of the school year, I had turned 10 cents into $6,000. The lessons—knowledge, work and discipline can put you in business.

One of the great turning points of my art career was the help and advice from my wife’s dear friend Marilyn. Beverly had met Marilyn years before when they both worked for a French designer. Marilyn was a wonderful photographer who specialized in shooting the French villages and countryside she so loved. She had contracted cancer and had moved to Houston to get the best treatment. At that time, my career as an artist had hit a wall. I was going no where. Marilyn had spent her life in art. She knew the business. She wanted to help me to revitalize my career because she loved Beverly and me as friends.

She suggested two things that changed my life for the best. First she suggested that I use “Pablo” instead of my given name. Pablo had been my nick name. My given name was hard to remember and if you did, you did not think of art. She felt people could remember Pablo better and would immediately associate it with art—and she was correct. She also suggested that Beverly and I build relationships with photographers and writers. She knew that I needed my career documented and that by working with photographers and writers I would get enormous free exposure.

Her advice worked beyond our expectations. I have been seen in print by over 100 million people and on the internet by millions more. My art and design work are in demand and Beverly and I live a great life.

Too many people worry where they will get the money to start a business. What you should really focus on is having the vision, skills, knowledge, tenacity, discipline and being willing to do the hard 24/7 work necessary. By doing this and that you can put enough money together to get started. If you have the drive and your business provides outstanding goods and services at a good value, you can build your business. A startup can never succeed if you do not know what you are doing, you are dishonest or you do not provide top value.

Your fate is not in the startup money, but in yourself. Startup money is the easy part. Being a successful person is the hard part.

Best wishes on all of your endeavors,

Pablo Solomon

Artist & Designer

Bunny Wong featured me as one of 3 top American designers in her article on how to achieve that hotel sleek and serene look in your home for Woman’s Day and AOL.

Defining Trends Magazine for March 2010 did a feature on how my work has been a major influence on the resurgence of Black and White in art and design.

Iyna Caruso featured me in an April 6, 2010 article for Wall Street Journal

Home design magazine Growers and Nomads describes me as the choice of major publications for “the designer to interview”.


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