Martin Wessel is a self-taught artist and web designer, working as a senior cloud engineer in Denmark when he’s not working on his poster shop. Martin designs posters with a Scandinavian touch — text/quotes, digital illustrations, and photoart.
Martin, thank you for being our first Artist of the Month! Tell us about yourself.
I’m a father of three, and a self-taught artist and web designer, working a normal 8 am – 4 pm job as a senior cloud engineer at the largest telecommunications company in Denmark. I hope to one day quit my day job and be my own boss, doing what I love the most, which is designing and selling prints.
How did you get started as an artist?
It all started when we moved into our first apartment and we wanted something on the walls. We couldn’t find exactly what we wanted, and I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Photoshop and Illustrator (more hate than love sometimes), so I wasn’t sure I wanted to make my own posters.
Whenever we found something that was close to what we wanted, it was always missing a few details, or the typography wasn’t right. So with my “skills” in Photoshop, I gave in and started designing posters. As it turns out, friends and family were eager to get their hands on some of the designs.
I saw an opportunity and kept on designing posters. I invested in a printer that could print in large format, and bought some premium paper. Then I started designing an online poster store from scratch. I had never created an online store before, had never set up a payment gateway, and had never done accounting before — and boy, I learned a lot in the process and started over a few times!
So now I can say that I design and sell posters with a Scandinavian touch — both text/quotes, digital illustrations, and photoart.
What do you love about your work?
I love almost all aspects of my precious little shop — I love designing the website, and how it showcases the artwork I’ve done.
What challenges have you had while developing your art business? How did you overcome them?
It’s no surprise that when you’re a one-man army, there are some challenges! I’ve had to do everything from designing the website, finding inspiration, making the artwork, accounting, and integrations with the postal service.
The backup lesson
One time my PC died on me, and I hadn’t done a proper backup of my posters, so I had to start over on a lot of my designs. So there I was, with a live website with ~100 products in low quality resolution, having to cancel orders while rebuilding the portfolio. Now everything is stored both locally and in the cloud, which has saved me from accidentally deleting and overwriting files more times than I care to admit.
Respect for accountants
When it comes to accounting, the first year was one big mess! Accounting is still a struggle to maintain because it’s a tedious task which I tend to put off as long as possible. But I’ve learned a lot about debiting and crediting — and now have a bit more respect for accountants. :)
Getting into marketing
I was a bit naive to think that a website that simply looked good to the eye would get people to visit and shop like crazy. As you might guess, it didn’t really happen. After a good four or five weeks with no visitors beside friends and family, I started to look into the world of SEO and social media.
I worked to overcome some of the issues on the site and started Instagram and Facebook accounts. Then I needed content to show my followers. I stumbled upon a Photoshop file from the creators of Canvy a few years back, bought it, and failed to use it because my PC wasn’t good enough to run the massive file.
Finding the solution
I asked for my money back and fell into conversation with Tobias (Canvy co-founder) about my need for an online platform where I could make my own mockups and showcase my art. Living in a small two-bedroom apartment with two kids didn’t leave much space (or capital) to create my own images for a professional-looking Instagram account that was updated weekly.
What made you choose Canvy app for displaying your work?
I wasn’t in any doubt when Tobias first pitched the idea of Canvy to me. Their other online platform was more of a desk where you could place items and hang posters. That was great, but I wanted something more, a room with furniture, walls, windows, and not just a table with various books and vases. Canvy provides exactly that.
Canvy has made showcasing my posters in everyday scenarios so easy. The scenes are high quality and have that Scandinavian vibe, which is spot on for my customers.
We know the power of being able to effectively display your artwork. How did it feel to be able to make those images and use them for your business?
I love it. I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t be able to make a professional looking store, or Instagram and Facebook posts, without the help of Canvy. Canvy has brought my store to the next level.
Tell us what you've got coming up next in your business. What are you most excited about creating this year?
My current website was made with a focus on the user, with no SEO at all. When I started adding SEO on the site, I quickly got tired of the design and felt it was outdated, so I decided to do a full makeover from A to Z. Even my folder structure needed a brushup because I couldn’t always find a poster when an order came in!
In late 2020 I embarked on a complete redesign of plakato with a focus on SEO, without bloating the site for the end user. I hope to launch the 2021 edition of plakato.dk in March when all products are up. And, I hope the focus on SEO will show an increase in visitors and orders.
Martin, why did you start this business?
I started this business because I wanted to show my kids that you can do anything if you strive for it. I’ve never been good in school but I want my kids to be proud of their dad for what he has achieved in life. Just as I’m proud of my own father.
Find Martin Wessel and his poster shop here: