We had the good fortune of connecting with Roy Kerckhoffs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roy, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work balance has shifted majorly five times since 2003, when I moved to San Diego, CA from the Netherlands to perform postdoctoral research at the Bioengineering Department at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Basically, a scientist’s job is not a 9 to 5 type of job. Yes, the university expects you to be present at normal hours during the week, but outside of those, at home I’d read scientific papers or prepare to teach classes. Or I’d remotely log in and run and check my simulations of cardiac electromechanics and cardiac growth. That was pretty much the standard for me until I started “Eyeball Photography” in 2008 on the side, in which I sold my – mostly – black and white photographs. It started pretty simple, with a website I had set up myself. A year later my work was on display – for sale – in a few local businesses in San Diego. I ordered my prints from local labs and had them framed by ArtWare. This didn’t take up a lot of time and was able to do this easily outside UCSD. Towards the end of 2009, a friend of mine pointed out art festivals where artists sell their work directly to patrons and it piqued my interest and in 2010 I attended my first art festival which was Mission Federal ArtWalk in Little Italy, San Diego. My work was selling so I started to attend more art shows and street fairs. Also, galleries and stores started to represent me. Now things started to get a little busier. I was a scientist mostly during the week and work on my art in the weekends. I remember picking up and dropping off artwork at ArtWare during lunch hours and thinking “Could I go full-time with my artwork?” After some deliberation – which included my wife – we came up with a plan: see how my art sales increase and if we reach a certain tipping point, I’d quit science and go full-time with my own business. That point was reached in 2014. I quit UCSD, changed my business name to “Roy Kerckhoffs Art” and we moved from Normal Heights to North County. And behold, my wife also decided to quit her job and start her own business with a partner. At first I was looking for a retail space in Carlsbad but had trouble finding one. For two years I worked from home in which I hand colored my black and white photos, did framing myself for smaller pieces, and still went to a framer for the larger work. Then I thought, what if I’d start doing all my own framing in a studio and forget about the retail space? That led to the next phase in which I opened my almost 1600 square feet studio in Carlsbad, and bought all the equipment I needed for framing – and later also a wide-format printer. So for three years I was working outside the house again, but of course at my own set hours. I loved it. But then the end of 2019 was approaching. My intention was to extend my lease but the buildings my studio was a part of sold to a new owner and the rent was going to double. That felt like a little too much. We came up with two plans: look for a new studio space in Carlsbad or find a new home in Carlsbad with enough space to work from home again (remember now I had all this extra framing and printing equipment). The latter would reduce my overhead and we bought a new house. We wanted to stay in the same school district for our daughter and we were still at walking distance from her elementary school. It worked out great: I was working from home again and able to pick up my daughter from school everyday. Then, COVID happened. An expression that applies to a lot of things this year. In March 2020 all schools went online. Later, my wife also closed her out-of-the-home office and now all three of us were working and learning from home. The next school year approached and my wife and I decided to homeschool our daughter for the 6th grade. Not that we didn’t have any faith in the Carlsbad School District. On the contrary, the quality of the Carlsbad public schools were a big factor in our decision for moving to Carlsbad. But, we wanted stability for our daughter and felt that homeschooling her would provide that in the best possible way. We are of course fortunate to own our own businesses and found a way to work, teach and live our daily lives at our home.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My background as a scientist/engineer informs how I approach photography. For one, I like straight-on shots, with straight lines going across the image. I also typically try to shoot a subject from all sides using a variety of focal lengths, hence I’m researching my subject. Sometimes, especially when I haven’t visited a particular area yet, I do some initial research using Google Earth. In science, you convey your research through scientific papers to your peers, and that is done as unambiguously as possible. With photography, you also convey your story to the public with your images, but ambiguity is absolutely allowed here, as people have their own interpretation of art. To convey a story I portray places by high-contrast black and white photographs and hand tint or paint on the photographs with either pastels, acrylics, oils, or a combination of them. In the early days of photography, people used to hand tint black and white photographs with transparent oils. In those days color was applied with cotton balls; I apply oil paint to photo paper with cotton rounds and cotton swabs. More recently, I experimented with other media and now I also apply acrylics and oils to black and white photos on canvas – thinned with acrylic medium and liquin, pastels to black and white photos on matte papers, and oils on plexiglass. I feel the hand tinting is what sets me apart from others, especially when I paint on my photos. Besides getting my black and white photos on chemically-developed photo paper from a lab, everything else I do myself in-house: creating color prints; printing on canvas; stretching canvas; mounting photos; coloring photos; cutting frame molding; assembling frames; fitting art into frames. I number almost all my pieces, even originals as they usually have a b&w photo underneath. Of course I have not been alone in getting where I am today. My wife’s support has been tremendous (especially when I gave up my scientific career). Plus, all the people that purchase my work make it possible for me to keep producing artwork. As for some accomplishments I’m proud of are the hotel jobs: my work is now in several hotels, in order of installation: Riviera Beach and Spa in Capistrano Beach, CA, Cape Rey in Carlsbad, Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe, and most recently Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Resort in Carlsbad. I’m particularly happy with the latter one as I produced over 160 pieces by myself. For the last year or so, I’ve been focusing more on my YouTube channel: there you can see and learn how I create my work.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Stand-up paddle boarding at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad. Stroll the Carlsbad boardwalk, breakfast at Cafe Elysa in Carlsbad Village, sandwiches for lunch from Carlsbad Ranch Market, dinner at Paon Restaurant (just to name a few, there are many more we go to). I’d also take them for a bicycle ride in Coronado and walk the grounds of Hotel Del. If they had little kids I’d take them to Legoland (done that).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I definitely would like to give a shout-out to Jeremy Dunaway of ArtWare. He is the framer I mention in my story and has helped me not only with framing, but later also assisted me in getting the necessary equipment so I could do my own framing. He still helps me out with certain aspects I cannot do myself or very large jobs.
Linkedin: Roy Kerckhoffs
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