About the Artist
John Daly, the artist behind Amity Island Gift Shop
It still feels like I get whiplash when I think about my artist journey so far. How I went from sketching late at night for fun into shipping artwork I made and printed myself across the ocean is wild.
At the start of the pandemic, my wife, Jenessa and I were tag-team parenting as we both attempted to work from home. I was fortunate and was able to flex my hours, going from early hours before our daughter Quinn woke up, work again during nap time, and then back at the keyboard after dinner. The days were long but watching our baby learn to walk was all we'd need for energy boosts. I'd finish my work late at night and wasn't able to go right to sleep (who honestly could in April 2020?) I turned towards sketching on my computer, something I hadn't done in a long time, as my wind down exercises. Sketching silly scenes from my favorite movies was just the right amount of dumb fun I needed.
I steered my attention towards making some playroom artwork for Quinn. First was a piece inspired by Queen Elsa, looking out at the sunrise then another inspired by Moana looking back towards the ocean. My friends encouraged me that I should start selling what I was making. "Yeah sure, why not?" I thought and dove into making an Etsy shop for this stuff. A few hours after I posted my first 10 designs, I had a customer...in Australia of all places!
My online store where I sell my artwork is called "Amity Island Gift Shop" inspired by the town from Jaws, my favorite movie of all time. I try to make something new for my shop at least once every two weeks. Some designs take me months of "work for hours, delete everything, start over" and others I'll knock out over a few late nights. Since 2020, I've been fortunate to have customers in over 17 countries and I know artwork I made while having a laugh is hanging in places like movie theaters in Minnesota, pubs in England, and homes in New Zealand.
"If it sells, sweet! If not, that's okay, this was fun to make."
My method for any of my art projects has been guided from the start as "If it sells, sweet! If not, that's okay, this was fun to make." A great example of this would be my "Tommy Boy" inspired artwork I call "The Salespitch." We just finished a rewatch of the Chris Farley classic and when Tommy loses his mind and lights a potential client's desk toys on fire had us in stitches as always. "This is such a dumb scene, I have to draw it!" and assumed nobody would buy it - but I didn't care. It made me laugh and was fun to work on getting Spade's nervous face just right. Turns out, it's one of my best sellers!
My art style tends to lean towards the silly moments or big cheer moments from movies. Instead of drawing a bloody shark attack from Jaws, I'll draw the heroes singing together on the boat. Instead of Iron Man blasting through the bad guys, I'd rather draw him having a cup of coffee and a donut. Why draw a sword fight when I can draw Captain Jack Sparrow atop the mast as his boat sinks? I want to draw the goofier stuff, or the scenes that make you want to immediately quote the movie, because that's what I'd want for my walls.
How I Got the Business Going
Every day I'm learning how to be better at the "business side" of being an artist. I could have started off dropping a ton of money on a professional printer or on stacks of art prints to start mailing out, but I did not know (and still don't really know) what will sell and what won't sell when I make something.
I partnered with print-on-demand companies for printing my artwork early on to eliminate the financial risk of "What if this doesn't sell?" It's allowed me to throw anything I make out onto the internet and I'd only have to pay for a print when someone buys the artwork. At the start of my shop, that meant lower profit margins, but it gave me the freedom to experiment and focus on "What do I want to create?" instead of "What will sell best?"
Doing so, I incrementally build up the business and was able to purchase my own professional level printer - so I can fulfill art print orders entirely in my basement now with more control over how the print looks before it heads out the door. Some other items like mugs, bottle openers, and clothing I still use POD because, again, it's great to focus on making something fun and not just what will sell.