On episode 3 of the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast, we chat with Eli Bucksbaum, an artist who sells original and commissioned paintings on Instagram.



Kevin Douglas (00:07):
Today on the entrepreneurship at DU podcast,

Eli Bucksbaum (00:11):
When I first started getting commissions, it was friends in college. You’re like, here. I was like, you give me X amount of money and I will produce a painting for you.

Kevin Douglas (00:22):
We’re chatting with the up and coming artist, Eli Bucksbaum, an art major and entrepreneurship minor. Eli is turning his love of painting into his professional career.

Eli Bucksbaum (00:32):
I want to find a way, and when I move to LA, and this is the perfect place to do it, is finding a way to put art in front of people’s faces constantly.

Kevin Douglas (00:41):
I’m Kevin Douglas and this the Entrepreneurship DU podcast. Welcome to the Entrepreneurship at DU podcast. Today we have Eli Bucksbaum who sells his art via Instagram original pieces. Could you introduce yourself, how long you’ve been doing this for

Eli Bucksbaum (01:02):
Sure. Well, first I just want to thank entrepreneurship at DU for having me and Kevin. Thank you for having me. My name is Eli Buxbaum. I actually just graduated college and I have a major in studio art with a minor in entrepreneurship. For the past, oh two out some years I’ve been selling my artwork primarily on Instagram as a motive, advertising and marketing through word of mouth and family and friends while I’ve been at du. And yeah, I’ve sold a good amount of work and I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of shows and move into LA and I’m two months and life is about to really start kicking, so

Kevin Douglas (01:51):
That’s exciting. Congrats on the upcoming move.

Eli Bucksbaum (01:54):
Thank you.

Kevin Douglas (01:55):
I’d love to know how long you’ve been painting for and when you made the decision and maybe what catapulted that decision to start selling your work?

Eli Bucksbaum (02:04):
Yeah, so it’s actually kind of a interesting story. I started school as a hospitality business major. I actually looked at colleges for hospitality business programs because I thought that that’s what I wanted to do. And then I think it was, yeah, it was fall 2019. It was my sophomore year, and I was just unhappy with what I was learning or not unhappy with what I was learning. I was just unhappy with what I felt like I was doing. And at that time, my best friend and I Jack Nathan, he started a company called Happy Jack, and unfortunately he passed away on July 24 or July 4th, 2020. But we started doing a lot of art together and he was thinking about switching to an art major and he was like, Eli, we’ve been painting, painting all this time. We should become art majors. And he was already kind of further along on that journey.

(03:04): And then I just called my parents one day. I was just like, Hey, I feel like I’m not pursuing what I should be doing in college. And my dad went to du and so I was like, Hey dad. I don’t know, just any kind of guidance here, any kind of stuff. And they both through my academic journey, have always wanted me to just do what makes me happy. I’ve had been fortunate to have parents like that. So I became an art major and then about six months later I had been producing a lot of work and I’d just been painting in the basement of my house and been making work with Jack and just having fun. And then I think it was September, 2020, I just moved into my new house and my friend’s brother was, he just came into our house, I guess, and he was like, how much is that painting?

(03:55): I really liked that painting and I had never even considered the thought that anyone would even want to buy my, I’d just been doing art because at that time, that is how I was overcoming the loss of my friend, how I was overcoming mental health, how I was overcoming this feeling of not really knowing where I was. And I go 85 bucks and he was like, I’ll do it. And was in that moment I was just like, wow, people actually want this. I could sell my art. And then it was after that I started to post on Instagram a lot more and be like, Hey, this is for sale. And then before it, friends were like, Hey, I want something from my house. And I was low balling everything a little bit. I mean, I didn’t really know how to price my art. I didn’t really know how to take account of my expenses, how to do real business skills.

(04:58): From there, I just started to take off a little bit and I’ve sold, I think 30, 35, 30 paintings in the past two years which I consider to be a pretty good, I mean, yeah, selling paintings is selling paintings, so I’m happy about it. You’re getting paid to do what you love. Exactly, exactly. That in and of itself is amazing. Thank you. Yeah. Yeah, it’s cool. When I think about, as I’m leaving du, I starting to think about, I’m starting been thinking about it, but about all the things that led me to where I am right now. And in a lot of respects, had I not liked hospitality in, I know all these things wouldn’t have happened. I would not be where I am. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you about making art. So it’s weird thinking about it all and can be quite tumultuous sometimes. But I’m pretty thrilled to be here with you talking about all this, so it’s

Kevin Douglas (06:00):
Pretty cool. Yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit about and maybe, I guess I like to think of myself as an artist. The process can be kind of opaque or can differ from project to project, but I’d love to hear a little bit about, if you could describe in your own words the art that you produce, what it invokes or what artists inspire you or whom you emulate, if there’s someone that you have in mind and what the typical process looks like, how long a piece takes you to make.

Eli Bucksbaum (06:29):
Yeah, so it’s a good question. It’s a question that I oftentimes, it’s an easy question to answer and it’s a hard question to answer because I’m influenced by a lot of artists. I mean, in the past mean my whole life I’ve been surrounded by art. My family’s very involved in the arts. My grandma’s apartment is filled with some of the best art I’ve ever seen. My mom works in the film industry, and so through her I was given access to all kinds of different media and different things, and it was kind of always there subconsciously. And then when I got to college and I started to shift a little bit and find my way, all of this art just started coming to me. And so yeah, I just started deep diving on artists that I liked. I mean, I’m an abstract artist predominantly. And so a lot of the artists I love at the beginning, I love Pollock, Jackson Pollock is, I loved everyone that was in the IRAs Bulls, which is the New York movement of painters post-war painters, that abstract and Mark Rothko weather.

(07:40): Well, the list goes on. And I just became pretty enthralled with what they were doing and the form. And I can go into a museum now and I can just see a painting and I know what it is. And I like going with my friends because I’m like, oh, now I know, understand how they did what they did and what solvents they used or what materials they used to get there. And I’m sure people, different artists in different respects also have that moment where they get to a point of knowledge where they’re like, oh, I know how they did that. And so that really started my introduction to learning about art and stuff was like, wow, this is really cool. I’m now okay. I really like what I see. How can I emulate that? And then just over time of working, I start doing it.

(08:28): I’m like, holy crap, this is how Rothko does it, or this is how Clifford still does it. I, I’m like, oh man, I’m doing it now just from doing the art. But in terms of process for paintings, I mean, it’s different. When I’m working with someone on a commission, we have an initial meeting where, so I’m like, Hey, Kevin, first off, what are you feeling right now in your life? What’s going on? It’s kind of a therapy session in a way where I want to know what it is is going on with you because there’s this book that I read and can’t, losing the titles by this guy named John Armstrong. And they argue that art, that the taste that we have or that you have, that I have, that your mom is directly correlated to what is missing from your life or that is something that’s outlying that you haven’t grasped. And to a certain extent, I think that’s true. And so when I meet with someone who wants a panning from me, I’m kind of trying to learn what the hell is going on in their life. It’s hard for you to just give me all the trust and then I just whip up something and you’re like, yeah, I love it here. I’ll pay $500 for it. That it’s a hard thing to accomplish.

Eli Bucksbaum (09:40):
I really try and get as much as I can from someone just from a short meeting. As annoying as it is, sometimes I have to take an account, they’re color preferences and and things like that. And sometimes they make the case I’m colorblind, so I’ll be like, oh, I didn’t know I was using, and that can cause a funny interaction. But for the most part, when I’m working with people, there’s a little bit of a meeting before and then I just send them updates, Hey, what do you think of this? What do you of this? Keep going until we find something that works. But now I’m kind of in a place where I’m trying to produce work and I want people to just go on my page, Hey, I like this painting. Let’s talk costs here. Just because the commissions can be consuming to a point where I’m not making the art for myself, I’m making the art for somebody else. And that process of discovering and trying new things and doing what comes from inside me gets lost a little bit in that. But at the same time, I have to make money somehow. So it is nice to have that income flow come in. It’s, it’s a personal choice

Kevin Douglas (10:48):
Say. I can imagine that it becomes a commodity when it’s for someone else, and it’s them prompting it instead of it coming from you. I could see how that could be a dilemma that you face.

Eli Bucksbaum (11:02):
And at first, when I first started getting commissions, it was friends in college who were here. I was like, you give me X amount of money and I will produce a painting for you. And at the beginning it was great because literally whatever I did, people were like, this is rad. I love it. Thank you so much. And then as it started to grow into bigger paintings, it’s hard for people just to be blind trust, because I’m not some big artist yet. They don’t know what I can do. You know, get a commission from, I know, I’m trying to think of someone, you get a commission from an emerging artist right now, people just give a money and they make a painting because they trust them. And I’m just not at that level yet. I hope to be someday, but that comes with time and people seeing your work and it being in the world. And I’ve new, I’ve been two and a half years now, three years. So I’m not, it’s going to happen. I’m just, it hasn’t, and hopefully someday it will.

Kevin Douglas (12:01):
You’re on the journey.

Eli Bucksbaum (12:02):
I’m on the journey. Yeah.

Kevin Douglas (12:04):
I’d love to hear mean. You mentioned the fact that you’re colorblind. That has been an obstacle at times with some people you’ve worked with, but I’ve talked to so many entrepreneurs and the common thread with everyone is, you could call ’em failures, you can call ’em learning moments or teachable moments, but moments that you had to overcome to get where you are now. What do you think in your journey have been some of those struggles, some of those obstacles that have helped you reach and grow to the point where you are today?

Eli Bucksbaum (12:36):
Well, honestly, I think it starts way back when I was just in elementary school or when I was in middle school or high school, when I was just struggling with school, I was never an academic person. I never really could grasp what was being kind of asked of me or what I needed to do to achieve success. And I’d always been in learning resources or getting help outside help. And that was great, and I had all this support, but it wasn’t, and this will all kind of tie in and make sense. You might have to remind me of the question, but it junior year, I was sitting in my 3D approaches class, and we were tasked with making, and this is right at the beginning of me kind of getting into the art major. So I’m taking the intro classes and yada, yada, yada, and I’m making a bag out of masking tape.

(13:33): So the assignment was to make something out of one role of masking tape. And I’m sitting there thinking, what the hell am I doing? Well, this is crazy. I mean, it’s cool. I like the idea of it. And you’re making a sculpture, I guess, or at the time, I was like, yeah, I don’t know really what this means to me or what I’m doing. And then after it’s three hour classes, I’m sitting there rolling up tape and making it into this thing. I had this epiphany that I was being asked to do it, but there was a moment where I wanted to do it. It was like, I want to make this into something really cool. And it was in that moment that I realized that it’s a lot more fun to do things because you want to do them, not because you’re being asked or told to do them.

(14:22): And I, that’s how my academic journey as a whole felt like I was being told to do something and I kind of just had to hunker down and do it. So in that moment, I mean, I called my dad afterwards. I was like, dad, I finally feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, even though I’m making a bag out of masking tape. Most people would be like, that is ridiculous. What does that mean? That it kind of doesn’t have any tactile use in the world. But for me, me, it was a moment of clarity and knowing that, and that I was doing something I wanted to do, and that’s important. And then that kind of translated into, it was kind of in that moment that I realized. And then through the entrepreneurship program, through all the grind to the sprints as they call them now, and the classes that we take, is that, yes, there is an assignment and they’re telling, you have to come up with an idea of some sort and then pursue that idea.

(15:20): But something that really struck me in something I think about pretty daily is that you pursue the idea or the project that you want to pursue that you would like to see come to fruition in some way. And for me, it was never in the actual class, it was never art related stuff because it was either someone had an idea, I’m like, oh, that sounds really cool, I’ll jump on that. But yeah, it was like, yeah, I think it, it’s just kind of that realization that if you can find a way, and this is an entrepreneurship mentality, is what they teach it in the school too, is if you want to see something done, do it yourself. And so I think my troubles and not knowing this all through college, all through me, all this stuff leading up to that point, kind of until I made this bag out of tape that I was 20 years later is just, it’s profound. I don’t know, really. It is really mind boggling to me to think that that moment defined, honestly, the foreseeable future of my life.

Kevin Douglas (16:24):
What else about your time at DU has been impactful on your journey as an artist? An art, as a career? And I’m especially interested in how you got involved with the entrepreneurship minor.

Eli Bucksbaum (16:38):
Yeah, so I, when I was deciding on art at my end of my sophomore year, beginning of my junior year, I was like, what do I minor in? And I knew that I was interested in business of some sort, but nothing really, it nothing really stuck out to me. And it was Steven Hague’s class idea, first dollar. That just completely mean, the idea is that you come up with an idea and then you make a buck, and if you make a buck, you get nay. Yeah, basically, that’s it. Not to mention just Hags, just one of the, he’s just a great guy. And I think anyone who’s had him as a professor would agree. Unfortunately, I never had him again after that. But really also part of that was my buddy Jack, who I mentioned earlier, we were in a class together, and that’s kind of where his business idea that now is still happy, Jack is still in effect, is still being run.

(17:41): It’s a clothing company. And the idea was basically to take Thrifted clothes and resell them, but with more our own designs on them or just resell. Someone doesn’t know it’s a cool vintage Grateful Dead shirt, and then we sell it for more money. It’s a very simple idea. And I felt like you could do, this makes sense for my art. I can now find ways to monetize myself. And because unfortunately tell people you study art and people oftentimes don’t see that as a way to live or to make a living. And whether that be acting or writing or painting, people’s kind of just sl it off. Sure, yeah, you’ve felt

Kevin Douglas (18:25):
That. And I studied theater and creative writing, so I’ve heard that many times.

Eli Bucksbaum (18:31):
And so I thought, I was like, you know what? It’s probably in my best interest to get into entrepreneurship because they teach you, they teach what they think you need to succeed on your own. And I found that to be extremely valuable. I think doing it, I could have done it maybe alone, just figuring it out on Instagram and whatnot. But I’ve gotten a lot of little nuggets of information from, and a lot of big nuggets of information from the entrepreneurship program that are just completely invaluable to me. And professors that have taken an interest in my art, who want art in the future. I know we’ll want art in the future or something like that. And that experience happened, and I’m very fortunate and happy about that.

Kevin Douglas (19:16):
How did you end up here at DU as opposed to any of the other schools here in the, I mean, I imagine maybe the hospitality program Yeah. Was a draw, but did you mention earlier, are you local or were you a transplant?

Eli Bucksbaum (19:31):
I’m from Chicago originally, so Okay. Not local. Like I said, my dad did come here. That wasn’t ever like, oh, your dad went here. It’s this big thing. It was more right just in the back of my mind, like, oh, my dad went, he studied decon, he’s successful. Sounds good.

Kevin Douglas (19:51):
He told you he had a good time.

Eli Bucksbaum (19:52):
Yeah, he had a good time. And to be honest, I didn’t really have anything. I mean, I went ED to a different school. I went Ed to Boston University and went, applied other to other places. Sounds weird saying it now. I’m just like, whoa. Yeah, I’m very glad that he didn’t go or get into any of those schools. And I in, I remember I got deferred from my ED school and accepted to DU on the same day. So I remember the application there was confetti, and I remember just sitting at it like, oh, damn. And it honestly wasn’t all that exciting for me. But then I guess I visited in the spring and had a great time and was call my mom. And I was like, mom, I’m coming here. And it was more just based on the people I’d met. And it wasn’t really about the academics or the programming or anything like that.

(20:39): But then once I got here, I mean, I joined the rugby team then that was honestly, if other than switching to an art major, joining rugby was the biggest impact on my life to date now, it’s just been the most incredible experience for me. And honestly, I was going to drop out of school. I wanted to drop out of school when I was freaking out and didn’t know what I wanted to do. And the only thing that my sophomore year that was holding me to the floor on the ground level here was rugby. And then I remember switching majors and still figuring it all out. And rugby was always that place for me to just, I, it’s an ugly sport sometimes to go out there and just fight it all out. So thank you to rugby. I mean they, it’s really been, I just can’t think of myself being any other place and not playing rugby but here, so I know I kind of took a

Kevin Douglas (21:36):
Little, no, it’s great. It’s all about learning the people behind the business. We don’t get this just by looking at your Instagram page.

Eli Bucksbaum (21:42):
No, it is kind of shocking to people’s like, oh, so you’re an artist and you play rugby and you do all this other stuff. I’m like, yeah, have you never heard of that

Kevin Douglas (21:50):
Before? <laugh> an entrepreneur minor. And it’s just like I get that reaction when I tell people I studied theater, creative writing, but then I got a master’s in management. And then I work in marketing, but also in healthcare,

Eli Bucksbaum (22:04):
The beauty of, I don’t know, being an artist, being an entrepreneur is you can wear whatever many different hats and still be dedicated to your art, to your master, your craft, which is really cool. It’s all part of the process too. Sometimes I get off the pitch and I’m just feel my body hurts and I’m bleeding or there’s something going on and I’m like, I have a idea for a painting I have. There’s something here I need to put down. It

Kevin Douglas (22:31):
Ties together.

Eli Bucksbaum (22:33):
So it all works in one big machine together. It’s pretty cool.

Kevin Douglas (22:37):
And finally, I want to hear a little bit about this move to la Congratulations. What made you choose la? I mean, obviously it’s a cultural hotspot, but do you have big plans while you’re there? Do you have any shows on the horizon or people there you’re going to collaborate with or?

Eli Bucksbaum (22:53):
Yeah. So it’s interesting because I’m going to get this question a lot going home with family, with friends, what’s next? What’s next? What’s next? I was like, I don’t want to move to New York from Chicago. I love Chicago. I just don’t want to move there just yet. And I’m an artist. And people go to LA to be artists. People go there to pursue a dream. And yes, I think there’s some kind of social contagion to that maybe where anyone feels like they can go there, and I mean anyone can, whether or not they enjoy it or are successful, I guess that’s up to them. But something that I hope to do as a plan and this stems from the entrepreneurship program as just being in classes. The class could be about something completely different. I’m just starting to have ideas or just starting to flow up.

(23:45): But I hosted this film screening last Wednesday to show a documentary that was made by a friend of mine through the Jack Nathan Art Grant, which is a grant, new grant that his parents have started. It’ll continue for the next five years. And the surrounding message was to create, the work has to do with mental health in some way. And so I was on the committee and my friend happened to receive it. It was unbiased, and I wanted to show his documentary because it was important to me and it’s art. And I love documentary. I’m creating a documentary right now actually about it. One of the professors here in Roddy McKinnis. And I understand how difficult it can be to create art and then not really have somewhere to put it or to show it in the way that you hope it could be. So now we post everything on Instagram.

(24:40): If I had the choice, I wouldn’t post anything on Instagram and people would all just see it on my website, or I could have a show every week. And my, it’s just looking at your phone is not a good way to view a film or to view a painting or really to view anything. But that’s how people look at things now. That’s just how we consume stuff. And so I said like, Hey, let’s have you at the art studio and we’ll invite a bunch of people and we’ll just show your film and I’ll show a couple of mine, we’ll show a few of my friends, and we’ll just have a film screening. And it was kind of in that moment that, and this ties in with my ideas that I’ve had in the past, I’d say six months to a year, is that I want to find a way, and when I move to la, and this is the perfect place to do it, is finding a way to put art in front of people’s faces constantly, but in a way that is just in a way that is right to the artist.

(25:32): Because we don’t always have access to a theater. We don’t have access to big screens we don’t have access to a gallery. And so I want to create a space and environment where I can have artists come and show their work like a gallery, but more of a community engagement type thing where we can work on projects together, we can create an events together, non-profit events, we can have all kinds of things mm-hmm. Happen in this space. And we can do it in a way that is however, the person I’m working with desires whether it be me that’s doing it, or you that’s doing it. And I just really found that I want to show art, put art on for people in a meaningful way. And however that pans out, I’m looking forward to it. But I just think LA right now seems like the best place to do it. And I think that, I just feel like there’s so much we can do with that idea. And there’s so many artists and actors and performers there that I think are all looking for a place to put their art. And I feel like I’m pretty good at showing art and presenting art in a way that feels important and meaningful because I want my art to be shown in that way. So if I can do it for myself, I like to do it for others as well. That’s

Kevin Douglas (26:43):

Eli Bucksbaum (26:44):
I’ll be back in Denver if I’ve still got things happening here. I make the documentary that I’m making is

Kevin Douglas (26:49):
About a professor here,

Eli Bucksbaum (26:50):
So it’s about a professor here

Eli Bucksbaum (26:51):
So watch out for that in the next few years.

Kevin Douglas (26:54):
Maybe we’ll have you back when that’s promoting it. Yeah, after it’s finished. 

Eli Bucksbaum (26:57):
That would be fantastic.

Kevin Douglas (26:59):
Very cool. And then we have rapid fire questions. So Max five to 10 word responses. Just a couple easy questions. First one is favorite movie?

Eli Bucksbaum (27:14):

Kevin Douglas (27:15):
It’s not an easy question.

Eli Bucksbaum (27:17):
<laugh> Forest Gump.

Kevin Douglas (27:18):
Okay, there you go. Favorite artist, or sorry, musical artist or band.

Eli Bucksbaum (27:25):
That is tough. Well, my favorite music pioneer is Rick Rubin, but not his music per se, but Rick Rub, I mean, yeah, Rick Rubin, what his favorite Rubin.

Kevin Douglas (27:37):
Cool. And then favorite place in Colorado to visit or hike or camp if you’re into that kind of thing.

Eli Bucksbaum (27:45):
The never summers range.

Kevin Douglas (27:48):
Where’s that?

Eli Bucksbaum (27:51):
I went to camp at Nest Park, Colorado and I, okay. I climbed there and it’s just the most beautiful place ever.

Kevin Douglas (27:56):
So near Estes Park, probably. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Eli, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and just remind us where we can find you, what your Instagram handle is. 

Eli Bucksbaum (28:05):
Yeah, you can find my work on Instagram at Eli abstracts and there will be a website coming soon. And you can also find my video work on YouTube just under Eli Bucksbaum. Hopefully.

Kevin Douglas (28:19):
Great. Thanks for coming on the show, and we wish you the best of luck on your move to LA and all the projects you have in the future.

Eli Bucksbaum (28:26):
Thank you so much.

Kevin Douglas (28:31):
The entrepreneurship at DU podcast was recorded in Marjorie Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. You can find us on Instagram at du Entrepreneur, on Twitter, at underscore entrepreneur, and on Facebook at entrepreneurship at DU entrepreneurship. At DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast. By the way. Check out Voices of Experience available wherever you get your podcasts.