I’ve been working as a commercial artist for over 10 years now. While I love being a graphic designer, I often think about how much I used to enjoy creating fine art. As designers, our work has a specific purpose, which is great, but there’s something special about creating art for art’s sake.

Nothing is stopping me from doing this, but working in the design field does give me a lot of creative fulfillment on a day-to-day basis. If I’m being honest though, this is simply an excuse. Drew and Josh both have art degrees as well. They went to school to be artists (specifically painters). After a variety of group discussions, I realized we all had the same thing missing in our lives. I decided to take action and start a project that gave us all a reason to create a piece of art.

Secret Artist logoSecret Artist logo

The idea started as an art exchange between friends. I asked everyone at Oxide if they were interested in participating, including our creative coordinator Mandy and web developer Wes. It was very satisfying to discover that there was a mutual excitement for the endeavor. As participating artists, we each put our names in a hat and then selected our “patron” names at random. With our patrons’ names kept secret, we agreed upon on an exchange date of June 4, 2018 (the next time I planned on being in Omaha), for Secret Artist 1. This gave us each a few months to get inspired, experiment, and create a unique piece of art. We collectively decided that the work each participant produced could pretty much be anything, but there needed to be a final physical piece. For example, if I wanted to write a song, the lyrics could be handwritten and framed.

Josh and Drew at Secret Artist 1Josh and Drew listen to Adam present his work

Each artist’s financial and time investment was an issue that needed to be discussed. There are a lot of costs that can go into creating a piece of art (including framing). We decided that as the artist, your financial investment should only be what you’re comfortable putting into the project. If you produce a 2D piece of art, you are not required to frame it. You must also be aware and ok with the fact that your time and financial investment may not match what you receive as a Secret Artist patron. This project is primarily for the artist, not the patron. If you’re in it to get a free piece of art, you shouldn’t be participating. You should create something that gives you joy to work on. It’s not required to make something that you specifically think your patron would want. This is not a job, task, or chore — it’s a creative outlet for the artist in all of us.

Wes at Secret Artist 1Wes (patron) receiving Mandy’s art

Secret Artist rules

  • You don’t have to be a professional artist.
    (You do have to consider yourself an artist at heart.)
  • You can’t create art in a medium that you work in regularly.
    (If you’re a designer, you can’t design a poster.)
  • You can’t make excuses for your work.
  • You can’t judge or criticize the work you receive.
  • You have to enjoy yourself.

Secret Artist 1

The Secret Artist 1 exchange party was a huge success. We each took turns presenting our art to our patron and explaining our thinking and process to the group. Smiles were plentiful (although some of us may have struggled a bit with the no-making-excuses rule).

Secret Artist 1 - JoshJosh Schwieger
acrylic on wood
8 x 10 inches
Patron: Drew Davies
Secret Artist 1 - WesWes Piper
wood bench
36 x 12 x 24 inches
Patron: Mandy Mowers
Secret Artist 1 - MandyMandy Mowers
Penny and Ruby
10 x 10 inches
Patron: Wes Piper
Secret Artist 1 - AdamAdam Torpin
brass pocket knife
2.3 inches
Patron: Josh Schwieger
Secret Artist 1 - DrewDrew Davies
Cayman 01
mixed media
8 x 10 inches
Patron: Adam Torpin


Secret Artist 2

I decided pretty quickly that I really want this to expand by invitation to include other professionals we know who also need a creative outlet. Round one participants (all of the employees at Oxide) who want to continue participating in the project will each receive two invitations for round two. A date for Secret Artist 2 will be set soon. In my wildest dreams, this project would become a quarterly event and involve an extensive number of participants.

If you’re interested in participating in future Secret Artist projects, please email me at adam@oxidedesign.com.