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Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Interested in becoming a professional artist? Blake McFarland, retired Blue Jays pitcher and professional artist, shares his experience selling his first piece, appearing on NBC Make it, and marketing his art on YouTube. 

Who is Blake McFarland?

Blake McFarland is a California native who played professional baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays for eight seasons. 

“My whole life was athletics and football, baseball, basketball, but fortunately, you know, I got drafted by the Blue Jays and just had a really, really good and fun career with the Blue Jays.”

Unfortunately, in 2016, he suffered from a shoulder injury during spring training. He rehabbed for two years and eventually retired. 

Fortunately, during the previous six-month baseball offseasons, he had been busy learning another craft, art, and selling his paintings. So, when he realized that the shoulder injury was severe enough to make him retire early, he had a backup plan already in place. 

Currently, he is a “full-time artist and sculptor kind of specializing in recycled, mixed materials as well as wood and epoxy. And [I] couldn’t be happier doing it.”

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

His First Big Sale as a Full-Time Artist

“The very first one [artwork] was … a recycled tire bobcat, and I had no idea how to get into the art world… Up until this point, I would just sell on Craigslist and Etsy, but I wanted him to get into art galleries and a little on the higher end side of things.”

To get his bobcat into art galleries, he created flyers out of tires which he placed underneath art gallery doors. Four months later, he was contacted by a gallery interested in putting his bobcat sculpture in their gallery. 

The gallery sold his bobcat and a couple of his first sculptures. 

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

The Learning and Creation Process

When asked how he learned such a unique type of art, Blake shared, “Everything I learned is from YouTube. I mean you don’t know any other sculptors in the area or anything, so I try and watch and learn as many different artists as I can.”

He notes that he, “started off looking at clay and watching these guys and girls sculpt just amazing things with clay and I kind of learned that and then got into the woodcarving aspect. But for tires… there was no one to look at to work with tires.”

Learning how to create sculptures from tires was all trial and error. Over the years, Blake’s process has become much more efficient, with him noting that a tire project used to take him three months, but now they usually take a couple of weeks.

His artwork today is “mostly animal or human forms with just all different materials.”

He notes that his hardest project to date was a three-dimensional tree wall mount for the Golden State Warriors, which took him over a year to make because he ended up scraping it multiple times. 

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Blake shares that he works alone except for the occasional 3D model created by another artist, which he uses as a rough outline of what his final sculpture will look like. He also has a friend who works in woodworking that he’ll ask questions about woodworking and occasionally use some of his heavy-duty woodworking equipment. 

Today, his sculptures can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the materials used, size, timeframe, scope, and much more. He has a contact form on his website, where interested individuals can reach out to him for commissions. 

Appearing On NBC’s Make It

“The experience there was super fun, just going there and seeing Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman was really, really cool. Obviously watching them on TV for years and years… and Nick is actually a really, really good woodworker… and he’s actually super knowledgeable in not only creating art, but woodworking and fine woodworking.”

Blake shares that they still have a text thread between the three of them, and meeting the other contestants was a hugely rewarding experience for him. 

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Marketing his Art via YouTube

Blake notes that he initially thought art galleries were the way to go when selling artwork. 

However, “My mind has completely flipped since then, and that was, you know, five or six years ago. Personally, for me, I do not think art galleries are the way to go for any artists [of any] kind.”

According to Blake, galleries frequently double or triple the price of a piece, and he prefers selling directly to clients.

He shares that “90% of people that come to me are actually from YouTube… So filming the entire process of how these sculptures created a huge marketing platform for me.”

Blake says that his next five clients are all individuals who first saw his artwork on YouTube and then contacted him via his website.

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Working with Brands

Blake shares that he is open to working with brands and doing sponsorships. He currently has an agency that handles his emails from the YouTube side of things and helps him find viable partnerships and work. 

“A lot of them [emails] are spam… It’s tough to sift through, and that’s why I actually hired an agency to kind of take care of that stuff.” 

A favorite sponsored build of his was being hired by Goodyear to make artwork from Goodyear tires for the last five years. 

With Goodyear, he “make[s] mascots of the NCAA college football playoff and for the cotton bowl, so Goodyear will hire me to use Goodyear tires to create both schools mascots, and that’s just been a really good collaboration.”

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Another collaboration he noted was working with Sports in Art, a company that furnishes major league stadiums and venues throughout the country with artwork.

With Sports in Art, he shares, “I did a sculpture for the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Golden State Warriors for them, and that’s two of my favorite sculptures, I think, just to be in those venues for fans to see and just different people to see that have never really admired art, maybe because they’re there for the basketball games, so it’s just really cool.”

Blake McFarland: Professional Artist & Retired Baseball Pitcher on Marketing His Art on YouTube

Future Plans

Blake says that his career goals for the next five years include “I just want to continue pursuing art and seeing bigger projects take shape. I really want to go into the public space, so basically there are different funds for, I mean, different states have different percentages, but … if there’s a new building being built, there’s a certain percentage that has to go to artwork for that building if it’s in a public space.” 

He notes that he’s excited to continue making a lot of epoxy wood structures. He’s also making a life-size bison sculpture out of tires, which he’s very excited about because it’ll be his most giant sculpture to date. For reference, his life-size bison sculpture will be around nine feet tall by 12 feet long. 

His dream goal?

“To have just a large-scale public sculpture in a big city, and I think that’s doable in five years, and I’m going to do everything I can to get that done.”

Amy DeYoung is a freelance blog post writer covering influencer marketing and business topics. As the daughter of two business owners, she's been fascinated by all things business from a young age, which led her to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in business. When she's not typing away, she spends her time reading nonfiction books and mystery novels, baking scrumptious desserts, and playing with her dog.

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