Here's an idea: take an old landscape painting. You know the kind - one is probably hanging over your grandparents' mantle right now.
Now grab that boring landscape painting, and add the fantastic. A monster, a UFO, a mystical creature.
That’s what Audra Lockwood thought, too, when she saw a simple seaside landscape and thought, “What if I put a mermaid there?” She’s developed a fan base for her revamped paintings (as she calls them), and reaches a particular market for her work at comic book conventions and art shows.
She doesn’t need much to get started.
“I'll see a piece, an ugly old landscape, and that alone tells me, 'This needs a crazy old dude in it,’” Audra says.
Audra and her husband, Cody, were into the geek community, and often went to conventions. After seeing the artists that were regulars at cons, she thought her unique landscape creations would find an audience.
“And I did, thank the gods. It's been amazing,” she says.
Now the duo travel all over the Midwest, and all over the country, selling art and meeting artists at the shows. They started local, and as they met other creatives, their travel range broadened.
“IT'S LIKE MY COLLABORATION WITH AN ARTIST I'VE NEVER MET BEFORE.”
“It's a great community of people,” Audra says. “We're like little art gypsies, hooking each other up with great shows and great info. We scratch each other's back.”
And it all started with that mermaid. Or, more particularly, grabbing vintage landscapes at thrift stores as an affordable way to grab a gorgeous frame. That’s when she saw the waterscape.
Audra has that first revamped painting hanging in her stairwell, the seaside spark that launched her niche. Several years ago, she saw that old surf scene, and figured a mermaid would make the whole thing better.
“It's like 11 years old. I was hooked every since,” she says. “And I thought, 'What a great time saver.' It's framed and ready to hang. You can't go wrong. Then, everywhere I went, I imagined what it was supposed to be.”
The raw materials are old landscapes and lithographs, and Audra’s own sci-fi and horror movie imagination. She does research on the landscape artists, many from the 1960s, and Googles the creator to make sure she’s not painting over a masterpiece.
“It's like my collaboration with an artist I've never met before,” she says.
While she finds success all over through the convention scene, Audra and Cody stick around Jackson because of the affordable living, its central location, and because their friends and family are still here.
Audra sees the Jackson art community as a close-knit group, and credits The Singularity with helping her reach out to a local audience.
“It's a young community. Jackson is a blue collar city, and I feel like a lot of 30-somethings are reaching out for something cool and unique,” she says. “They're at that age where they're starting to buy art, and they have homes. I think all these weirdos that are coming together are doing something good.”
She finds resistance with local art buyers, however.
“Some of the art shows aren't ready for what I'm doing. Maybe what I do is a little too strange,” Audra says. “But what I go to shows in Ferndale, it's full of weirdos like me. And we're all incredibly successful. There are so many people like me here.”
“It kind of blows my mind that I can do what I do, and I can be successful at it. So that gives me hope.”