The Creative Evolution of Patrick Ganino

The Faux Finisher by Diane Capuano - 03/01/2001

fuaxfinisher_2001spring_1.jpgIt's a gutsy thing to do: to leave the steady income of a regular job and pursue the dream of becoming a professional painter. That's the situation in which Patrick Ganino of Gales Ferry, Conn., found himself just a few short years ago. He was working for a company that sells photocopiers and digital printing systems - a good job, in fact, a milestone job because that is where he met the woman who would eventually become his wife. As it turned out, his wife, Alli, would be instrumental in convincing him to leave the comfort of an office job and make his livelihood doing what he truly loves.

Patrick had only a limited amount of professional decorating painting experience, so making the move was a little bit like stepping off a precipice. But he decided to try out his wings, giving his artist talents a chance to soar, while Alli provided the safety net of a continuing secure job and income.

At the outset, Patrick was long on talent, but short on experience. He had always been interested in drawing and painting. That talent bloomed during his high school years, so upon graduation, he left Connecticut to pursue an art degree at a college in Boca Raton, Fla. But the regiment of college art classes proved to be a bit restrictive for Patrick's tastes. He dropped out of college and pursued some painting work on an informal basis in Florida. His roommate gave him a lead on a mural for a nightclub. "I did it for $500," Patrick recalls. "For a 19-year-old kid, that was like a whole year's income."

Through word-of-mouth, Patrick gained another nightclub job. Soon, he took on an apprenticeship with a faux artist, which allowed him to learn gold leafing and distressed finishes.

Eventually, Patrick wound up back in Connecticut and took the office job where he would meet Alli. They decided to get married, and it was that specific event that would lead Patrick back into the world of decorative painting. The owners of Bella Fiore, the restaurant at which Patrick and Alli had their wedding reception, were seeking the services of a mural artist. Patrick was hired to do the work-a re-creation of the Michelangelo sculpture "Tomb of Lorenzo"-which he completed in relatively short order. The owners were thrilled, and soon Patrick had the urge to pursue his artist endeavors full-time. Alli encouraged him to move forward. "You've got to do this," she told him. Alli offered to be the primary breadwinner while Patrick embarked on establishing himself as a legitimate professional in the field of decorative painting.

Patrick called his fledgling business, "Creative Evolution" - expressing his ability to transform a client's space but also serendipitously describing his own situation as he evolved into a creative businessman in every sense of the word. Patrick knew that he could not succeed by just waiting for the work to come to him. He would have to be both creative and vigorous in order to gain regular painting projects.

"I threw myself into it," he says. "I dropped off my business cards at paint stores. I called all the contractors listed in the yellow pages and told them, 'I do faux finishing and murals.' I introduced myself to virtually every faux artist in Connecticut and to quite a few in Rhode Island."

From the beginning, Patrick felt it was important to look and act like a professional decorative painter. Though painting can be down-and-dirty work, he always made a point of dressing neatly when in pursuit of new business. He also prepared a professional portfolio. In the beginning, he took his own project photos for inclusion in the portfolio, but as soon as he could afford it, he hired a professional photographer to upgrade the quality of his visual presentation.

In addition, Patrick presented a confident aura whenever he met with potential clients. "I never told anyone that I knew what I was doing, but I presented myself like I knew what I was doing," he reports. "Eventually, my experience caught up with that."

Patrick soon found himself with an impressive client list, encompassing work in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York State. Half-million to million-dollar homes became a regular part of his everyday work. "I used to pitch mostly commercial," Patrick reports, "but now I do mostly residential. It's easier, there's less hassle on price, and I love interacting with customers in their homes."

Not resting on his laurels, Patrick continued to cultivate work, participating in home shows and producing a professional-looking Web site (www. creativeevolution. net). He also was aggressive in seeking publicity for his business. "Whenever I did a really good piece, I'd call the newspaper," he reports. "If you want to be successful, you've got to make it happen."

Now, Patrick has a four-to-six month backlog of work-even more impressive because he works at such a fast pace. "I'm a high-energy person anyway," he reports, "and when I first started out, I wanted to be fast since I figured that was the only way to make money."

Initially, this caused a dilemma for Patrick. Since he finished his work so quickly, his clients were getting an incredible bargain. "I started out by charging $200 a day," he reports, "but then I realized I was cutting my own throat. It used to take me three days to make $600. Now, I can do that in one day."

With several years of experience under his belt, Patrick now is able to walk into a room, assess what needs to be done and quote a fair price for his work. Covering a large geographic area, Patrick acknowledges that it's not uncommon for him to drive an hour or more to get to a job. But, he reports. "I don't charge for commuting to a job. I enjoy the time driving."

The most common faux finishes that Patrick does are rag-off techniques and glaze stripes. With his residential work, he most commonly uses latex - and because he works so quickly, the need for extra open time is virtually never an issue.

Patrick's work is split almost exactly three ways among mural projects, faux-painting projects and children's rooms. Painting kids' rooms is particularly fun for Patrick these days, since he and Alli now have a two-year-old daughter, Lauren. "The kid's rooms are laidback fun," he reports. "It's awesome to see their faces when they come into their rooms."

He generally can finish a child's room in about half a day, compared to the six days it takes to do a mural. Because he enjoys these projects so much and can do them so quickly, he charges a modest $200 per project. "I love doing them," he says. "It's awesome to see their faces when they come into the rooms."

Patrick works many projects on his own, but he also hires independent contractors when needed. He solicits creative individuals-but those who are just as committed as he is to getting the job done in. "I want free-flowing spirits, but I want them to be able to work 9 to 5" he says.

In addition, Patrick regularly uses a local painting company to do the basecoating for his projects. "It saves a lot of time," he reports. "I can just go in and do the kind of painting that I do best."

After keeping up a high-energy pace for a couple of years, Patrick was forced to slow down when he was injured in an automobile accident earlier this year. The accident occurred on Jan. 29, when a ladder fell out of a pickup truck that was traveling ahead of Patrick's car.

Patrick drove over the ladder, which caused his car to turn sidewise and crash into the truck. He sustained a head injury that required 30 stitches, but more seriously, he suffered a fractured vertebrae. "I was nervous," Patrick recalls. "I was afraid that I was not going to be able to paint again."

Patrick wound up spending two days in the hospital and about a month and a half recuperating at home. "The worst experience was having the stay in bed," said Patrick, "but I have the best customers ever. They sent me flowers and cards. They told me to take my time and get better-that the work would be waiting for me when I was able to do it."

Within a couple months, Patrick was able to start working half-days. Shortly thereafter, he was back to his usual schedule of 12 hour days-which was good, because he had a lot of work to do. "The jobs kept coming in, even while I was recuperating," Patrick reports. "To make up for lost time, I started doing two jobs a day. March wound up being my best-ever month financially."

It's obvious that starting his own business was the right move for Patrick. He's making a living at what he loves-sharing his artistic talents with others. "At the end of the day, you're your own boss, and you can sleep with a smile on your face," he says.

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