I came across artist Sonya Paz’s work as I was wine tasting at el Sol Winery in Livermore, Calif. I was instantly attracted to the jaunty and bright labels adorning the bottles of vino. The contrasting, primary colors matched the vibe of the winery: sunshine, rolling hills and fun – very California. I took a business card home, checked out the site for Sonya Paz Inc. and was immediately impressed with her talent and versatility. A painter primarily, Paz shows her work at her gallery in Campbell, Calif., but she’s also carved out a business as a designer, licensed her artwork to businesses and special events as well as lent her creations to merchandise such as coasters and jewelry. Paz prides herself on being a working artist, and her pieces are inspirational to anyone with pop art on the brain.
Paz started painting in the ’90s while working in the high-tech community of Silicon Valley – she says she would come home from work, wrangle up her children and then paint while watching television to relax. “I painted what appealed to me and what I liked,” Paz told me. “I was connected to artsy folks because I worked for Adobe. I started networking and would hear people liked [my paintings], so I started showing at open studios and coffeehouses.” Paz says painting was a fun hobby for the first few years. But when her Adobe group disbanded in 2002, she figured, “If I can do full time what I’ve been doing part time, I’ll be happy.”
Looking past producing only paintings, Paz started selling greetings cards featuring her prints and through that developed the know-how to market other products. “My art lent itself well to greeting cards and prints and, eventually, much later, to watches,” says Paz, who admits it was a “huge” financial outlay to create products beyond paintings. Her advice to artists who want to make money off their creations? “Start with greeting cards.”
Soon Paz was attracting the attention of businesses, from cities to nonprofits, asking her for permission to use her images in their promotions. Paz realized it was sometimes more advantageous for both parties if she created brand-new works for posters, labels and other marketing materials. Not only that, but Paz learned something about marketing herself: “Sometimes I get more return on my investment when I donate the use of an image rather than charge a ton – a gazillion people are going to see this artwork. “I’ve sat back and seen too many artists see green rather than the practicality of giving to the community. The community is your friend!” she says.