The Big Sell-Out Question

The Big Sell-Out Question

tiny-turtle-by-drew-brophyI knew this day would come.  In the twenty years of Drew being an artist, we hadn’t heard anyone call him a sell-out.  Until now.

SELL-OUT.  The words make me cringe.  Usually uttered by uninformed or jealous people who don’t know what it means.

The accusation was on a blog that chooses one poor soul every week to be his “SELL-OUT OF THE WEEK.”  And every person he chooses for that column just happens to be successful.

It really irritated me.  (Drew, of course, laughed it off.)

The article implied that Drew is selling-out because he allows his art to go on boogie boards for kids.  But that’s always been a part of our plan – to make Drew’s art attainable to everyone, even those who can’t afford his originals.

Keith Haring Sigg Bottle

Keith Haring Sigg Bottle

About 8 years ago we signed our first deal with Wham-O to use Drew’s art on boogie boards.  We questioned it back then – will this hurt Drew’s art career?  We decided to go with our gut, which was telling us that this was the best way to make the art available to kids, affordably.   And quite frankly, we don’t usually care what other people think.

The only opinions we care about are those of Drew’s fans; and his fans are excited for his art to be printed on things like skateboards, water bottles and t-shirts.

Keith Haring felt the same way – in his generous manner, he wanted his art to be available for most everyone, affordably.

Most people don’t know what selling out means. Here’s one of the formal definitions:


In other words, if you do anything that goes against your personal principles just for money,  you are a sell-out.

If you sign on with a major record label and you agree to write music that you really dislike, you are a sell-out.  However, if you sign on with a major record label, and you agree to write new music that you actually like, you are NOT a sell-out.

It’s important to BE WHO YOU ARE, even if others don’t get it.  Stand firm on that.

Every now and again we’ll hear that someone somewhere thought Drew was too commercial.  But Drew is completely true to himself – HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN WHO HE IS.  He is a guy who wants everyone to be able to enjoy his art, regardless of their financial status.  And anyone who doesn’t get it, well, they just don’t get it. And that’s okay.

Drew Brophy has NEVER sold-out.  He never does anything he doesn’t believe in.  Ever. So don’t try to get him to paint something that he doesn’t want to paint, even if there’s a lot of money in it.

Many people wouldn’t turn down a six digit deal, but Drew did.  He was offered big bucks from Mattel to create the new Street Sharks.  Boy, we would have loved to have the money.  But we turned it down.  It didn’t fit in with what Drew wanted to paint.

  • Are you a sell-out if you want to be a fine artist, but instead you wait tables in Laguna Beach?
  • Was Michelangelo a sell-out because he created art as propaganda for the church?
  • Are you a sell-out if you paint what the gallery owner tells you to paint?
  • Did Shepard Fairey sell-out when he commercialized his operation?
  • Are you a sell-out if you’re successful?

The answer is:  you are a sell-out if you do anything that goes against your personal values. Period.  And for every person, that is different.

I wrote this article to shed some on light on what “Sell-out” actually means.

If you use that phrase, use it wisely.

Spunk BrophyAnd please, recognize the artists that are being generous with their artwork; the artists that share their art and make it available for everyone.  Even if that means that it’s printed on a boogie board.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Maria “Spunk” Brophy  Follow me on Twitter!

Check out my other Art, Lifestyle, Inspiration Blog here.

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  • Marie Pinschmidt
    Posted at 12:09h, 23 August

    “Selling out” shouldn’t be the issue. I derive my pleasure from the painting process itself; the subject matter is secondary. One instructor told me years ago, “You can create a painting from almost any subject if you know how to paint.” Learn the basics, become a pro at color mixing, perspective, harmony, etc. and painting the less than stimulating commissions will become a pleasure. I’ve painted everything from dogs to boardroom portraits and each work is a separate challenge from which to learn. Happiness can be found in the painting process; a beautiful subject is a bonus.

  • Kenneth C Young
    Posted at 08:44h, 23 August

    On the subject of Selling Out Your Art and not making or selling art that goes against your morals. Well isn’t that rather like the grocery retailer if he/she believes ice cream is bad for you then should he/she keep it off the shelves and not sell ice cream.


  • Waiting tables vs. Painting Dogs – whats the Sell Out | business of art - Maria Brophy
    Posted at 07:46h, 22 August

    […] now and again the Big Sell Out Question emerges, and I’ve written about it before, on a different topic, as well as on the question of […]

  • jay Alders
    Posted at 14:32h, 09 October

    Great questions…something we all ponder for sure

    One thing I must bring up, is that it seems like *most* of the finger pointers and sell-out accusers are people who gave up their own dreams for a 9-5 existence….Hmm..that seems like the worst sell out of all doesnt it?

  • Mike
    Posted at 07:29h, 08 October

    I don’t understand how a surf artist can sellout as long as it has to do with surfing it’s all good. I have a half sleeve of drews sebastian inlet and da local tiki tattooed on me and only other surfers recognize his style noone else. So if he did sellout noone payed attention.

  • Maria "Spunk" Brophy
    Posted at 21:13h, 07 October

    Thanks, Trey, for confirming what we’ve always believed! I write this post more to give artists something to think about, not so much to defend our decisions. And I really want people to know, they need to make their own decisions, rather than let others make them for them.

    Thank you for your support! We appreciate it greatlly!

  • Trey
    Posted at 17:57h, 07 October

    Great article Maria, I think its great what drew does and Im one of those people that can’t afford an original brophy painting right now so i bought the water bottle and my nephew has one of the boogey boards and he thinks its the coolest, so im glad that i can obtain drew’s art that way until i save enough of my money so i can purchase a original.

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