Playing off of each other’s strengths is how artist and printmaking power couple Lindz and Lamb achieve success in their art business and their marriage. They understand that their long-term achievements depend not only on themselves, but also on the collective strength of the community they build around them.
As these two continue to give more than they take and reinvest in their business, they’re building the foundation necessary to take their art careers to even greater heights.
In our conversation, Lindz and Lamb share:
- Why reinvesting profits into your art pays the biggest dividends
- How no artist achieves success entirely on their own
- Why diversifying revenue streams is imperative for long-term success
Let’s start with you, Lindz. Can you give us an overview of your background?
Lindz: Coming out of high school I initially wanted to go to college for a fine arts degree. Then I decided to transition into working for a mortgage company and at 24 I approached Northwestern Mutual to become an associate financial advisor. I did that for 10 years.
My dad was a painter and muralist so I grew up knowing the skills and the trade. Then I met the wonderful Jon Lamb on Tinder and brought art back into my life. I started spending some of my time outside of financial planning helping Jon curate and do the administration for a mural festival called Crush Walls here in Denver. And that transitioned me into creating and working full-time with Jon as of January 2018.
How about you, Jon, what’s your background?
Jon: I moved to Colorado in 1998 to study art at Fort Lewis [College]. I lived there [in Durango, Colorado] for a few years after and then moved up here around 2004. I’ve just been doing art full time.
And now you two run LKMNDD (Like Minded Productions) together, which specializes in art activations, curation and art printing. Can you tell us about its history and where it’s going?
Jon: I started LKMNDD with Michael Ortiz in 2006. We ran it as an art collective / print house. It was just a creative endeavor that pushed us continually to keep growing. We were working with galleries and started pushing out into the streets doing murals.
We put together one-off art shows and pop-ups that were always branded LKMNDD and sometimes we would bring other artists in for those shows, whether it’d be John Fellows or Max Kauffman. It was always a very communal effort with the artists coming in, working with the print company and doing other creative projects together to grow and push the creative bar around here.
LKMNDD still exists in that same capacity. We’re doing printing, we’re doing murals, we’re doing project management, art curation.
Okay. And what are the main things you focus on? Or is it pretty evenly split, as far as the percent of time and what you offer?
Lindz: I’d say LKMNDD’s business is 60% focused on fine art printing for artists, bands and brands.
Then 10% to 20% is project management. So a company or brand might come to us to do an activation for their brand and if we’re not the artist on the job, because maybe that client has a different aesthetic than what we create, we will manage that job from beginning to end for another artist.
And then Jon and I also love curation. We have curated for Crush [Walls Mural Festival] multiple years and Dairy Block with the McWHINNIE development company. We’ve curated art events and music festivals like Grandoozy last year. So I’d say that’s another 10% to 15% of LKMNDD.
Jon: And all the murals and originals that we paint ourselves fit in some part of that pie.
Since you two are partners in business and life, how do you divvy up tasks?
Jon: I think we fall on our strengths. For a lot of years with LKMNDD I ran point on creative direction with Michael. Then at a certain point we flip-flopped and he ran point creatively and I was taking care of the back end of the business for a lot of years.
When Lindsey was able to come in, being a financial wealth consultant for many years, she helped us with the business side as it grew. It allowed Michael to do his own thing creatively and I was able to go back to being creative myself instead of just running the business and the day-to-day operations.
Since we started painting together, I was taking creative lead as projects were coming to me. Then the first project we did this year Lindsey took full creative rein and ran point on the creative direction for that project because that’s what suited that client and that project. I assisted her on that. So it goes back and forth.
Lindz: But for the business side an easy way to break it down is, I do the bookkeeping, most of the administration, the marketing, I rebuilt the website and gave it an uplift so now it has e-commerce and there’s an actual way to contact us for fine art prints. I love admin, I still love paperwork, I still love doing math.
You learned a lot of the business stuff from your previous jobs, then?
Lindz: Yeah, I work on getting quotes to clients and stuff like that and Jon is still training me on prints. I can run the machines once Jon has prepped the file and I am getting better at paper, but he has 12 to 13 years of experience in printing. It’s a team effort where he’s still teaching and training me on what paper types are, what’s appropriate for what job and how to price that print job.
And how about stuff you don’t know, where do you go for advice or learn how to do things?
Jon: I would say the business mirrors a lot of the creative collaboration we have in our community where we lean on our network when we need to.
When Lindsey is doing the books she’s able to reach out to someone and be like, I have this problem, can I sit down with you, have lunch and talk about it? And they say, Yes, here’s how to organize this and here is how we do it. I think it’s always just continuing to grow a network and going after resources who are friendly.
What do you do to help nurture the community you have?
Jon: I always use a metaphor of an Olympic athlete. They never really stand on the podium and get the gold medal on their own, they’re more a representation of a larger team effort.
Working with large groups to try to achieve and push things further is a fundamental aspect of our business. Artists who come in this door looking to get prints reproduced have no idea that we are in the business of enabling and teaching them how to function as professional artists. Because we want them out selling their prints, we teach them how to merchandise them, how to market them, where to take them and sell them. We set them up with gallery owners we work with who we think their art is a good fit with so everybody in the community continues to grow. We’re really trying to water the whole garden and grow together.
Lindz: It’s really important to Jon and me to connect people and resources with one another. If we have an artist like Detour who comes in here and needs advice from Mike Estes on the correct type of concrete paint, we’re going to connect Detour directly with Mike so they can figure out what product is appropriate for that project.
Just opening up that library — when I don’t know something I reach out to people and ask, Hey, I need a copywriter, can you please recommend somebody?
Jon: You get out what you put in, but always trying to put in more because energy goes around in a circle. You put it in and it comes back to you.
Since you do work with a lot of artists, are there any other common problems that you see them struggle with and what advice do you have?
Lindz: A common thing for artists who come in for prints is they don’t have a business account set up — they’re just running it through their own individual name and don’t have a tax ID number. We always recommend that if you are trying to do this full time, have some sort of billing system set up. It makes it easier for us if we’re trying to pay you for a job.
We’ve had a couple artists who started doing prints with us and wanted to get into murals. We spent a lot of time with one artist over the last year and he completed his first mural for a new brewery on Tennyson Street. We are here as a resource to help people through stuff that they might not know how to do for a project.
Jon: It’s a myriad of problems. Confidence. Persistence. Work ethic. Just typical core values that make people good and successful. Professionalism.
Lindz: Yeah, unfortunately professionalism is a big one, being responsive and responding to email.
Jon: Some of the best, most gifted artists are the worst at business. Some artists who are talented enough to execute art, whatever that looks like, just need a pep talk and to be steered in the right direction. A little guidance can go a long way with people. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed.
Lindz: Art shows as well. It’s pretty frequent that we have artists coming here who are new to the print shop and aren’t sure if their work is good enough to show in a gallery or how they go about doing that. We don’t know all the gallery owners in Denver but we know a few and we have no problem sending an email and making an introduction.
How are these artists and clients finding you?
Jon: For the most part word of mouth, social media.
Lindz: And Google.
How do you handle social media?
Lindz: We’re working on it. We just hired a social media coach to help us understand algorithms, to help us understand tagging, how to post a story.
Jon and I were born in the early ’80s and don’t live our lives on social media. And there’s nothing wrong with that but we’re figuring out how to navigate our lives with social media and how and when we show our work.
It’s been enlightening. There are a lot of artists who come into this print shop who definitely school us on social media and have given us tips. We received a lot of feedback from large international artists we’re friends with and our clients saying, Are you hash tagging this, have you thought about this? We were even at an event with an artist and they called us out saying, I haven’t seen you sharing any of this yet.
It’s a new and interesting thing for us to consciously be thinking about what our social media posts are going to be and how to present ourselves to the public. Our social media coach has explained to me that people like to connect with people on social media, so it is okay to show yourself a little bit outside of your work. And for us, being married, we create together and work together 100% of the time and I’ve been told that people would like to see more of a window into that world. So we’re getting there.
When you two are working with emerging artists on their prints, I would think pricing would be a common struggle too, is that right?
Jon: So, a local creative and an adjunct professor brought a class to come see me and the studio and I straight up asked her class, How many of you deal drugs? 30% of the class raised their hands. I was like, You guys have a head start.
Do you know how to hustle drugs? If I make a $7 print for you, do you know how to go make it $30? Go flip it. Do you know how to be like a rap artist who’s recording CDs and going and flipping them on the corner? I learned by making prints of my paintings and going to rock band shows — when most other people were selling drugs I was selling art.
It’s a basic idea of commodity brokering. I have always taught the younger artists coming in here that it’s much easier to sell 50 prints for $20 each to your friends than it is to have one of your friends in their early 20s who has $1,000 or $10,000 for you. Even if you want to do big paintings, start small. Everybody’s got $20 on them to help. Start building from there, start selling your paintings for less.
Get the photo of your work and make prints from that so that you have an artifact and a way to continue the revenue stream coming from that creative endeavor. Document everything, reproduce as much as possible, get something for “x” and sell it for “y.” Reinvest the profits, don’t go blow it on a fancy dinner. Put it back into the art project.
Lindz: I would say too that some of our artists try and presell prints on social media. They may purchase one or two prints from us and then put it on social media to figure out what that sweet spot is to charge their clients. They’ll look at the feedback they’re getting or not getting to help them know if it’s priced too high or not enough.
And what about for you two, for LKMNDD? How do you go about pricing your work?
Jon: It’s interesting how the cornerstone of the printing and flipping of the prints at a margin establishes a certain amount of revenue. When we’re printing for other artists or galleries, those people are buying the printer’s time, our time, and then we can be creative with the money that these prints are making. We’ve built up a clientele that’s large enough to support that.
If you want to buy our time and get us out of our studio to go paint anything, there’s at least some base numbers that we know have to be met. When someone says, I have this opportunity, it’s a new startup, I need you to come paint my wall, here’s my budget. I’m like, I’m losing money by leaving my art studio to go do this for you, that’s not going to work. But this other younger artist, I’ve been seeing them do a bunch of cool work and I think this is a great fit for them. Then I’m able to connect the younger artist and Boom, I still made that client happy. So in the future they’ll say, Well, I called Jon and he took care of that for me, so I would recommend calling him.
It’s been a natural buildup from making prints to doing large-scale commissioned private murals to getting small grants from the city. For the grants we’re sometimes biting off too much, breaking even or losing a little money but we’re learning from those experiences. Then we document the price of our art and know what price we can consistently sell it at in these markets and then the next time we do it, we raise the prices. The new work’s better and we’re more experienced so it costs more.
And you know, selling a $5,000 painting in 2019 feels an awful lot like selling a $500 painting in 1998 for whatever reason — cost of living, cost of being an adult, responsibilities that come with that. But consistently raising the prices always.
Lindz: For murals the price is per square foot and that can range depending on the artist’s experience.
So when a client comes to us with a project and they have “x” amount in their budget, that may break down to $20 a square foot. That is below our rates but often times that’s when we’ll end up managing a project and bring in an artist who doesn’t have as much experience. They’re still learning the ropes so they’re not charging $55 a square foot.
Jon: Price per square foot does not work with mural pricing.
Lindz: Not always. Because if you are dealing with a very large square footage it may end up being $200,000 and that then becomes unrealistic for some clients. But the general rule of thumb is price per square foot plus supplies on top of that.
Jon: We have a number of what we want for our day to leave to go paint.
Lindz: Yeah. We know what our day rate is together if we’re working on a project that takes both of us out of [our print shop] and we try and stick to that when bidding a job.
I think for new artists it’s trying to figure out what that is. We helped guide an artist through how to write a proposal, how to price it. One artist we know charged on the lower end of the square footage and he was aware that he may go over budget and some money might come out of his pocket. He was getting paid for it, maybe not at the best hourly labor rate, but he wanted something for his portfolio. And getting a piece in your portfolio does help with grants. The City of Denver would like to see maybe one mural you’ve painted if you’re going to apply for a grant.
2-sided, 5-story mural. RiDE at Rino. Denver, CO, September 2018. –Lindz and Lamb
What’s the general price range for murals?
Lindz: In Denver I would say $20 to $60 a square foot.
Jon: A beginning muralist is never going to get that price and they’re going to undercut it.
There is no formula. Take it as a project-based thing. Don’t bite off more than you can swallow. Start small, learn how to do it, learn how to price it. Certain artists go and paint extremely quickly and can paint large areas very fast. Other artists’ techniques may require them to be out there much longer. And if they’re an inexperienced artist maybe they need to refine their techniques to work with budgets.
That’s why I often advise younger artists to ask what the client can spend, not tell them what you charge. Know how much money they have to spend on a creative project, lock them in on it and then create according to that budget. Don’t trap yourself into a corner and paint hyper-detail for 40 months for pennies.
There are so many variables and complexities like what artist “A” needs versus what I need — I have overhead, I have a studio. Are you painting out of your garage or your mother’s basement? Maybe you don’t need so much, you know?
So it depends.
Jon: It really depends. How bad do you want to go paint that mural? What does that mean for you? Are you painting a commercial billboard for somebody or are you trying to make high-powered art?
Lindz: I will tell clients sometimes that the more you are willing to pay, the more you’ll get a say in the design, in what I paint. So that kind of helps because then they say, Okay, I see, if I give you more freedom, then I won’t be at the top end of my budget. That way they’re not telling me to paint the C in the Colorado flag or a mountain range or skis, they’re hiring me for my talent and for me to paint what I want to paint.
What’s your creative process like working together as a married couple? I know you said you kind of trade off, but what does that look like?
Jon: I definitely think it’s healthy to know when to shut it off at night, you know? I think we really benefit from not having a live/work studio so that when we go home, we’re able leave work behind at the art studio. It’s pretty healthy for us.
Lindz: I would say that it’s not easy. I personally don’t know Adobe Illustrator so I sketch with a pencil, a piece of paper and a ruler. And then Jon will take a photo of that and bring that into Illustrator and he may work on it from there, send a file back to me, I will then print it and continue to draw on it with pencil. And then he will photo it again and bring it back in.
It can be a tedious. I think Jon wishes that I knew Illustrator. It would be a lot easier for us to create that way. But for the time being we try and make that work the best we can.
Jon: It’s 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. We take an idea and just run with it. I think that’s really been our MO [modus operandi]. From the first mural we did with extremely limited resources in an afternoon in Mexico just drawing on a wall together, that then developed into a year’s worth of art projects together. We extrapolate and then develop other ideas. We see what comes in the door and try to spin that and be creative with other ideas that are flowing through the studio.
Lindz: I try my hardest to let Jon lead unless I am really passionate about something being a certain way. I hope that I’m patient most of the time and let him lead so that we’re not just butting heads and not moving forward. I’m happy to be creating and painting with the person I love, so I already am winning. I don’t necessarily need to have every interaction of us creating be a struggle and I don’t always have to be right.
Jon: Yeah, there’s that back and forth too. But really, from composition, layout, color scheme, to the physical tasks on the wall it’s deciding, Who’s taking what task? Which one is going to be more physically demanding to do? Usually I like to take that one, whether it’s her idea or my idea. She’s got a pretty steady hand, so some of that task does fall on her.
How do you guys split your time between the print shop, all your clients and your personal artwork? What does a typical day or week look like?
Lindz: We work seven days a week. That’s an unfortunate part because we don’t really have weekends or spare time. But I’m in love with this lifestyle with him so it’s okay.
Unless we’re on a wall, we’re at the studio and working the print business — we’re following up with inquiries for mural jobs or proposals that are currently out, looking at the marketing plan to make sure that some of those tasks get hit throughout the week. I do our to-do list, maybe not every day because they change sometimes minute to minute or depending on what traffic we have in the studio. We might have artists stop by and then we don’t get as much done that day.
I have multiple sclerosis and I will say that something that is amazing to me in our relationship and creating and working together is that with him as my partner, he takes that into account and makes sure that I have time to rest. Or if there is a wall that I’m not feeling as physically able to do, he really takes the brunt of that burden for me. He also allows me to do hot yoga as much as I want during the week and take my time outside of the studio to take care of myself.
Jon: Having a good foundation of a healthy lifestyle is really important to be able to handle all of it. I think it’s a foundation of our relationship that we’re both able to handle a lot of different things coming down the pipe. We can get the commercial work done and also carve out the time to do the creative work because we both want that.
Do you have employees or is it just the two of you?
Lindz: Just the two of us.
Jon: Yeah, and we’ll augment. When we need help it’s always there. People want to work with us. They answer my calls if I call them.
Lindz: Yeah, we will call upon other artists that we know are good at this or that, whether it’s help with the print business or a mural.
What are some ways you guys stay organized? Any particular software?
Lindz: QuickBooks. I think it’s a game-changer.
Squarespace I think has the best ecommerce. I even got Detour to switch maybe a year ago. Squarespace’s ecommerce has made things a dream. I taught myself over the last year how to build websites on Squarespace and I feel like if I can do it coming out of the financial world, anyone can build a website.
I use Excel a lot. I use spreadsheets to keep track of every single client who orders prints from us. When we send out our price sheets at the beginning of the year I have that client list to rely on. When we do print releases for artists, I track every purchase and contact info for the artist as well.
Jon: I’ve always tried my best to get everything up here [points to his head] to paper.
Lindz: And then when he does that, I take his scratches of paper and type that up into a log to keep them organized on the back end. I also keep track of what I call a COI, which is a Center Of Influence. A COI is a person who might be great at giving referrals or connecting you with people.
Many artists kind of patch together their income and have multiple revenue streams. What are the different ways you earn a living?
Jon: From the beginning it was just being conscious that having multiple revenue streams is always healthy and never putting all our eggs in one basket. I always try to grow my creative studio and business equally.
Always trying to make new original fine artwork and exhibit it, whether in a gallery or making our own shows. Doing mural work, expressing ourselves larger and working out in the streets, using that as an advertisement for our brand and our art design.
At a certain point I was taking any design job no matter how stupid it may have been, doing essentially every creative project that came my way. Saying yes until I had the ability and the time to say no to certain projects. But always being cognizant of trying to grow multiple revenue streams because I never knew when one was going to dry up.
Lindz: When I started here I took his past year’s sales and broke that down into a mathematical scale, looking at where the income was coming from and figuring out how to increase all of those areas.
Prior, I would say the print business has always been foundational, about 50% or more of income. Murals came pretty close to that. And then our project management has been 10% to 15%. Many curation jobs don’t pay that great. A lot of times you’re on a committee, a board or volunteering.
I would say now, going into our second year of working together full time, the print business is 60% to 70% on the LKMNDD end and Lindz and Lamb is pure murals and original artwork right now.
What is the biggest challenge right now for Lindz and Lamb as you’re getting this new brand started?
Jon: Just spreading the word.
Lindz: People know us, but to better define us. Yes, there is a business called LKMNDD, but to have people engage with us more on a personal level. I’ve been a very private person, but I want to be able to share this great love and our day-to-day experience with people.
Jon: One of the biggest challenges for all artists is this idea that the artist is a slacker and is unsuccessful. The notion of a starving artist is absolutely bullshit. People are successful, people are making livings. Yes it is difficult but life is difficult. Trying to run any small business is difficult.
It doesn’t help when people don’t offer living wages to creatives, dealing with this notion that $750 is what’s gonna do you. With the rising cost of living in Denver that’s not a living wage and people aren’t honoring or respecting the craft.
If you’re a creative you might want to start being a critical business person and be thinking about, How do I get ahead amongst this field of creatives? How am I working smarter and harder than the next person to achieve? What are the obstacles that look like opportunities but are dead ends?
With the rise of the creative class it’s understanding that the road to success is not always just climbing straight up the mountain — you have to know when to come down or traverse to get a better angle to the summit. I think a lot of that is lost on somebody just out of art school, which is why many people don’t want to work with them. They want to work with people who have 10 or 15 years of experience, who have dealt with those things and realities of being a professional creative.
So getting people to open up their pocketbooks to fund high-powered creative projects has always been my biggest battle.
Lindz: Or the famous response, It will get you so many “likes” or followers on Instagram.
That’s what Detour also said you told him. Something like, You can die from exposure.
Jon: Yeah, you can die from exposure. That is a true, true thing.
It’s like, one of the most basic needs is shelter. You need shelter. But why in this community, in this neighborhood [RiNo — River North in Denver] is it so difficult for an artist to have shelter and have a studio? Creative wages are stagnant and force you to live 60 miles out of the city and commute through traffic to get here. At what point is that a subservient relationship?
What drives you guys to do what you’re doing?
Jon: I don’t have a choice. This is what I want to do and I’ve been able to carve out a niche and exist doing it full time for well north of a decade. Now I have to pursue it twice as hard because I have a wife who loves me and is helping me do it. Also knowing she has a disability that needs to be managed.
So those are adult things that have to be looked at. As a professional artist I don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. As soon as this interview is done that printer is running and canvas is going on that wall to start a new painting tonight.
Continued growth and emotional and financial support from other respected creative entities is what continues to push me. To know that there are still doors available, and people I’ve looked up to and have wanted to work with are working with us and providing new, exciting opportunities that I’ve always dreamed of. But with that comes an expectation for professional deliverables. There’s no room for slowing down at that point. Deliverables have to be met to continue to play at an international, professional level. No crying.
Lindz: It’s big boy time.
You want to add anything, Lindz?
Lindz: My dad’s no longer here with us but painting with him growing up was the funnest thing ever. I absolutely love painting and I love the freedom of my own schedule and working with my best friend every day.
What’s next? What are your dreams for the future?
Lindz: Well, it’s all written down so I can tell you because I already read it twice today. I just updated it.
Jon: She has a manifestation statement, it’s pretty intense. It works.
Lindz: We want to see the world together and continue to paint in public spaces for people to enjoy all across the world.
For me, I hope to do my first gallery show. To show in a space where people are looking at my paintings up close.
For us, I think continuing to provide prints for emerging artists and to help them understand that it is possible to print your own money — you take one painting, maybe make two prints, sell those and then pay yourself back for the time that it took to create. So to have them understand those fundamentals on a very basic level. I think Jon and I both really love that part of our day-to-day, helping artists understand that capability and that possibility for their future.
Jon: Financial independence. Financial management, not mismanagement.
Really trying to be the artist and painter that I’ve always wanted to be while also being a good son and husband. Taking care of my parents through their elder years, making sure I live up to my family’s expectations. To be there for them and to give back not only to family who has allowed me to be in this position but anyone who has contributed to that. Not everyone is able to be in this position, so I take it very seriously and make sure that I’m doing everything I can to honor that and to positively affect and give back to any community that we’re able to create in.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Lindz: The only thing that I do want to share is the concept of “no” as an artist.
For me, I see a no as closer to a yes. And statistically we have to have nos to get yeses. So while we don’t necessarily rejoice when we get a no, I know that when we hear a no that we are one step closer to a yes somewhere else.
Knowing what your boundaries are, knowing who you want to work with and who you don’t. Knowing that you have the power to say no and that saying no may open doors to other opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
Also, don’t take stuff so personally. I know it’s really hard when you’re creating. I know that I’m a different Lindsey today at 36 creating artwork than I was at 18. I was very sensitive then and did not think that my sensitive nature could take a “no” or critiques on my artwork. Now I do not care what you think of what I’m painting at all which is totally different. I really don’t care if anyone likes it, you know? But people do because for the most part what I’ve painted people are paying for.
Jon: You’re enjoying the process.
Lindz: Yeah. And I love painting.
With most of our younger artists who spend time in here, I think it’s important for them to know who those COIs (Center of Influences) are. Know who’s in your circle that you can go to and say, Hey, I don’t have any mural jobs right now but do you know any real estate agents or developers or a librarian that might need some artwork?
Know who your Centers of Influence are and also have a circle of people around you who’re supportive and give you an opportunity to give back to that circle.
Interview edited for length, content and clarity. Artist’s work (images, audio and/or video) courtesy of the artist unless otherwise noted. All other photographs by Kim Olson.
- Crush Walls
- Dairy Block
- John Fellows — artist
- Max Kauffman — artist
- Michael Ortiz — artist
- Patrick Kane McGregor — artist
- Thomas “Detour” Evans — artist
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