Always drawing, designing and building, Jonathan Munz has exhibited great artistic talent since a young age. A self-taught artist, he grew up in the small town Heidelberg, Ontario. Jonathan speaks about how fortunate he feels to have been raised in Canada surrounded by supportive friends, family, pets and nature. A key component in his growth came from the encouragement received by his parents and teachers, opening a door of creativity allowing for the artist to explore many different mediums before considering a brush on canvas.
During his childhood, the Munz family spent whole summers exploring national parks with Killarney and Algonquin holding a special place in their hearts. Always inspired by nature, Jonathan began sketching more seriously shortly after an introduction to The Group of Seven and more specifically Canadian artist Tom Thomson. This early exposure to nature, culture and art fuelled a passion in him that later grew into experimentation with his own paintings coupled with photography and continued camping and canoeing.
Jonathan Munz continues to paint from his home studio full time supporting his business “Paint by Munzy” managed by his younger sister Laura Munz. The brother-sister team manage a small gallery space in Uptown Waterloo and have developed an independently designed greeting card line and canvas prints showcasing Jonathan’s original oil paintings.
I stopped by the gallery at 32 King Street North in Waterloo earlier this month and chatted with Laura over tea.
1. How long has the gallery been open?
Just over two years.
2. Has the gallery had an impact on the Uptown Waterloo area?
I think it gives a few people a drop in, or a check in spot. I feel like it acts as a bit of a local hub. Lots of artists come in and I like to give them kind of advice one at a time. It's not an actual consulting gig, but I feel like I send them on their way with a task and they come back for more, so that's been pretty cool. It's always a revolving door and not necessarily of clients. I think that having Princess Cinemas down the street we can be luckier that it draws an artistic crowd of people who appreciate visual art as well. That keeps us busy in what would normally be an off season for a lot of people. It's just neat that you never know who a client is going to be.
3. There must be a lot involved in running an art business. What is your typical day like?
We have e-commerce. We have our online site set up. There's regular maintenance on that. With the canvas line that we have, we offer that to designers and wholesalers, so there's a lot of behind the scenes getting organized for that, cold calling, and keeping the inventory for the card line in stock. There's a lot of marketing and planning for things that aren't happening yet. The annual show that we do takes months to plan and that is an ongoing thing that I'm always working on. We have the colouring book now. We're looking at doing collaborations with fundraisers for that. It's just constantly looking into leads, following up on clients that we have now, managing Jon and what's he's doing. I usually come up with the marketing and the ideas, but he does the visuals and the graphics as that was his background before he started this. Marketing is the big one. It takes time and I'm never fully satisfied, so it's always ongoing.
4. Have you ever tried your hand at art? Do you have any hidden aspirations to be an artist as well?
Yes, I have. When Jon talks about my work he's very complimentary. He says it's very stylized. I grew up loving art. I was always into drama, art, anything like that. Those were my favourite subjects, but outside of high school...Jon was always more serious about his art in school. Since he was a kid, he couldn't put down a pencil. He was always sketching. For me, it's always experimental. I try things and get very into it, but I'm more driven to market his work. He's been honing his craft for a lifetime. I think that deserves to be seen.
Once the business reaches a level where I have more spare time, I will get very into it because I'm so inspired by seeing Jon's work and other people in the area as well. The last painting I did, I was living in China for a while, and I decided to paint a piece from a city in the south that has beautiful pagodas. I was actually kind of happy with my first piece. I'd say this is the first time I completed a painting in over 15 years. It's funny, I think that one of my fears now is that since I've studied Jon's art for so long is that I'm going to completely mimic his style. I think it'll be necessary for me to get out there for myself. I have so many travel photos, that's what I want to use as a reference. (Laura showed me the painting and I thought it was good. That painting took her two hours to complete. She turned my attention to a piece on the wall behind me that clearly inspired her painting).
I look at the effort, time and patience that Jonathan has to put into one of these pieces. It's a full month until he's finished and happy. I just don't have that drive for perfection, but I'd like to get back into it. I'm not an artist. I think I have very artistic vision. I could stare at other people's art all day long. I'm very visual.
5. Paint by Munzy has made a recent foray into the world of creative colouring books. What inspired the idea and how has it been received so far?
There was a demand for them. People are able to understand or describe Jonathan's style as paint by numbers. As colouring books became more trendy and popular last year, I said to Jon that his style is perfect for it. He kind of laughed. He always kind of laughs at first. It was the same thing with the greeting card line. The launch has been successful. We've been selling quite a few. His process is to paint the black outlines first, so he was already designing a colouring book without realizing it. The response has been good. We're hosting an event with The MUSEUM for their Beer Plus series. We're talking to Taco Farm. So, just really using it with other local businesses. We do a lot of donations throughout the year for different fundraising initiatives. I think that the colouring book will be an amazing tool to collaborate with organizations that we want to help with.
6. Paint by Munzy exhibited at a gallery in NYC last year. Are there any plans for 2016 to exhibit again outside Canada?
No plans. Priority number one is to grow the canvas line. I'd like to do more international shows. I think we're still growing as an art business and KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) isn't the easiest city to do so in. It's a pretty underground scene. It's hard for an artist in this area. I think once we reach our goal and are at a level that we're both happy with, then I'll start looking at outside galleries again. With outside galleries, I learned this is New York, you need to be really selective. For any artists reading this interview, go on the gallery website, look at their social media, see how they are marketing. The gallery that we ended up in, they were a not for profit and I think a lot of their funding came from grants and things like that, so they weren't as sales driven. It's a lot of work to get things organized, so build a relationship with the gallery long before, talk to other artists that have exhibited there. Do your research. I'd love to show his work in China. I feel like his work would do well there.
7. What is the furthest place that the art has been sent to? How far is your furthest collector?
We had someone buy in Edinburgh. That was exciting. We've shipped out to Norway, the west coast of America and Canada.
8. For art buyers, why should someone buy an original instead of a print?
We sell both originals and prints. We wanted to make sure that Jon’s work was accessible at any price point for anyone who admired it. Reproductions are a large and very important part of our business. We offer reproductions in the form of blank greeting cards, unframed prints and stretched canvas reproductions. Our canvas print line gives Jonathan’s work real versatility allowing clients to select custom sizes which just isn’t possible with original works. It’s incredible how organized Jonny has been over the years, photographing and archiving his art images. He’s been doing so since he started painting landscapes ﬁfteen years ago. Being able to bring a painting back in canvas form years after it’s been sold somehow makes it easier to see his original pieces ﬁnd homes outside of the gallery. If we didn’t do prints, I might have to keep all of his work (like the rest of our family does).
Originals. If you're someone who gets a gut response from seeing a piece of art, whatever medium, whatever colour, there is only one of those pieces. The process and the time that goes into that piece, I just think there's no comparison. Art is so authentic. It's someone putting their own emotions, thoughts and vision into this piece. Where so many other things are disposable in our day to day life, an original piece can last through the years and can be something that passes through your family, telling a story. The story starts with the person who creates it and is making it and it's something you can have for a lifetime. If something takes your breath away, see if you can do instalment payments with that artist. Think about how that piece is going to make you feel when you come home from a long day
9. Who are some other artists of galleries that you like?
Group of Seven, all of them, but specifically Tom Thompson. Group of Seven would have been our first real exposure to art. Chris Austin, everyone at Globe Studios, Jennifer Gough, Megan Olinski, My Pet Skeleton, Dan Gottfried, Michelle Purchase, Ralf Wall, Cornelia LaRoux, Nancy Peng, Richard Ahnert, Katrina Schaman.
10. What's next for Paint by Munzy?
I'd like to start a separate project from Paint by Munzy, but with a very similar feel and structure to it. I'm starting to lay that out and get myself organized. I'm looking into working with a lot of artists. That doesn't mean one on one and that might not mean displaying here (at the gallery). We'll see what I can do. I think that art and business education need to go hand in hand and they don't, they really don't. I feel like there needs to be more promoters for people in this area. What else? The 2017 calendar. New art for the calendar, we want to offer the shared marketing opportunities for the calendar to businesses outside of KW. Also, hopefully working with more designers this year and next.
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Interview by: Glodeane Brown
All photos provided by Paint by Munzy