Self-taught artist creates Cape Coral Gear
Even though she had never painted anything before, Brenda Boss brought her mother’s old art supplies home “just in case she ever wanted to give it a whirl.”
That was six years ago. Now she has a large in-home studio and an online store full of unique Cape Coral-themed items.
T-shirts, jewelry, bags, hats, drink ware, magnets, key chains, bumper stickers, postcards and pillowcases on www.capecoralgear.com are derived from Boss’s original paintings.
Her subject matter consists of Florida wildlife, including egrets, pelicans, owls and fish; abstract beach and ocean scenes, and abstract skies and flowers. She also doesn’t like to limit herself to one style or genre.
Many of Boss’ products feature her burrowing owl paintings and often convey a sense of humor. For example, some of the products feature a burrowing owl peering out of a heart illustration, and the words “I love Cape Coral.”
Boss is also working on a product line called “Leroy Says.” There is a special section on her website for the green fish with ogling eyes and big, red lips.
It’s centered around one of her funky fish paintings, named Leroy, with captions like “Leroy says: Keep it in the Cape” and “Leroy says: I’m green with envy that you are in Cape Coral.”
One of her funky fish paintings also hangs in Big Blue Brewery.
Boss, a self-taught Cape Coral artist, works in a wide variety of artistic styles, mediums, textures and subjects. Her artwork can be found on her website at lanai-art.com.
Boss focuses on complementary colors that emit energy, movement and feelings of calm. Her philosophy is to paint things that make people smile.
Creating art is a hobby for Boss, who runs a real estate business with her husband.
One day in retirement she hopes to be a full-time artist making commissioned, original works, displaying her art in galleries, and designing and selling her Cape Coral Gear.
Boss launched her online store in June.
“What I do is paint it, photograph it and digitize it,” she said. “In Adobe Illustrator, I’ll design it and put the words ‘Cape Coral’ or something like that. Then I work with a print vendor to supply the product.”
Boss loves a challenge and experiments with new techniques, textures and tools. She likes to use textures, metallics, palette knives and other tools that make her work “pop.”
Her original pieces are 100% hand-made. Much of Boss’ work has dimension and is large format.
It’s also a family business.
Her husband, Dave Sage, makes her frames, gallery-wrapped canvases and panels.
“He went to Home Depot and bought some wood,” she said. “We both researched how to do it online. And now he makes them for me.”
The couple is from Minnesota and has lived in Cape Coral since 2004.
Boss has sold original art pieces in the Cape, has been commissioned to create art for home interiors and she’s exhibited at local galleries.
Boss decided to offer wholesale pricing after receiving a Facebook message from Steven Stewart, the store manager at Vision Ace Hardware in downtown Cape Coral.
He told Boss he liked her burrowing owl products on Zazzle.com and asked if she would consider offering wholesale pricing.
“And I jumped on it,” she said.
They met a couple more times to review the products he was interested in, and to talk prices and quantities. Stewart plans to have products on the shelves in time for the fall season.
The meetings with Stewart inspired Boss to think about getting her products into other local stores.
Her artwork is also featured in Family Hardware and House 2 Home Goods.
For small, consumer orders, Boss uses print on demand services. For larger wholesale orders, she uses local printing vendors.
“I was thrilled to find a Cape Coral print vendor, Cheetah Printing, that will work with me on small quantity orders” she said. “This in turn allows me to offer low quantity ordering to retailers. My hope is that offering low minimums will encourage more retailers to give the products a try.”
When she was first starting out about six years ago, Boss received a lot of positive feedback, and that helped keep her going.
“I had so much fun. I thought, ‘I don’t really care if no one else likes it.’ It’s fun for me to do. It’s rewarding, it’s very relaxing, and I like trying new things.”
She said her first paintings were horrible, although you’d never know that from looking at what she’s accomplished.
“I just kept practicing and practicing and now we’ve turned this bedroom into a studio.”
Boss likes problem solving and trying new textures and new mediums.
“I don’t think most people put painting and problem solving together,” she said.
In one painting, she wanted an eye to look like the light was shining on it.
“So I have to think, ‘How am I going to achieve that and how do I create a shadow?'”
With the paintings with texture, she has to figure out how to get the texture element of the painting to stand up off of the canvas.
“So I research mediums, and different kinds of texture,” she said. “It’s problem solving. I know what I want to achieve but I don’t know how I’m going to get there.”
One kind of texture she likes to do is painting on glass. She also made a piece out of old paint remnants. And Boss enjoys splatter painting.
“That’s why it’s so fun,” she said. “It’s experimenting. I’ll see something and think, ‘What if I can do that?'”
She also doesn’t draw anything out before she starts painting.
“I make an idea of what I’m going to do and just wing it,” she said. “And I make a lot of corrections. Like yesterday his hair was blue and now it’s orange,” she said, referring to a painting of an owl she named Joseph, the “Technicolor Dreamcoat Owl.”
“I’ll make changes as I go.”
Boss will feel like she’s made it when the revenue is exceeding the expense of making the products.
“I could invest more,” she said. “You need capital to grow a business.”
Boss said she will also feel accomplished when she experiences the rewarding feeling of being in demand.
“I love selling direct to consumer,” she said. “But it’s such a niche that my hope is that it will be in stores and that eventually the demand would be enough that I could get a warehouse and get inventory and have some kind of retail footprint of my own or have a partner of some kind.”