Sunday, May 24, 2009
In the heart of the Pioneer Building on East Grand Boulevard in downtown Detroit, Victor Pytko browses through the stacks and stacks of paintings that fill his studio. No surface, vertical or horizontal, is left uncovered, and the place is filled to the brim. A space heater in the middle of the room hums away on an uphill battle against the drafty building, an old paper factory converted into artist studios.
Pytko describes himself as "self-unemployed". After 15 years working for PR agencies, Pytko struck out on his own in 2001, essentially becoming a freelance PR man.
"I slowly over the years built up a sufficient number of clients to make a decent living out of it, until recently when the market went bad. A lot of projects dried up," he explains.
Having been self-employed, he wasn't eligible for unemployment benefits. But rather than dwell on his bad luck, Pytko has turned his painting hobby into a full time job. He now spends 30-40 hours a week painting, applying for grants, and promoting his work to museums and galleries.
In addition, he's attempting to take advantage of Michigan's growing film industry.
"There are a number of opportunities right now in Michigan working in the film industry. Using what I know about photography, and having done some PR work that involved video and web , I'm trying to bring it all under one umbrella now, calling it my 'creative side', and looking at any way to leverage it," he says. In the past several months, Pytko has also been an extra in a number of movies.
Not only has this change renewed a creative passion in his life, but Pytko claims it serves a much needed therapeutic quality.
"You start biting your nails when you don't get a check for a while," he says. "I'm pretty much using the escape mechanisms that painting offers to avoid thinking about it too much. Instead of worrying about it and getting depressed, I come down here and paint knowing that most artists are broke anyway," he says with a grin.