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Each artist’s journey is as unique and colorful as the colors splattered across their palette. Canadian pastor-turned-artist David Hayward is no exception.
David is the artist behind the NakedPastor brand and is best known for his thought-provoking cartoons and serene watercolor paintings. Through his art, David tries to inspire conversations around freedom of thought, spiritual journeys, and deconstruction.
Freedom is something that came up a lot during our chat with David on the sunny spring afternoon we e-met. Read on to learn about the artist’s exciting life journey and how making art full-time gave him his freedom.
In 2010, after 30 years as a pastor, David Hayward quit the church and decided to focus on art full time. On why he made this leap, he says: “Because my freedom is my biggest desire. I want to be free and authentic. At that time, I had finally hit a wall where I felt I couldn’t fully express myself, explore, and grow in my own way. And the only way I felt I could do this was by leaving the church because we were just no longer compatible.”
At the time, David was already making and selling some art but thought if he put all his energy into it, something may come out of it. And something indeed did! Now David’s NakedPastor brand has grown into a diverse global community that supports each other on their journey for personal spiritual freedom.
David says that he didn’t change tracks spiritually, just vocationally: “I went from being a pastor to an artist as a means of income, but I’m still interested in spiritual things, our personal freedom, authenticity, and freedom of expression.”
The Canadian artist notes that he’s noticed how there’s a big change happening in religion these days, especially since Covid. People are trying to figure it all out and he’s there to help them do it through his art.
His artistic journey started way before he switched careers, though. David’s been creative ever since he was a little kid, inspired by his artist father: “I just sort of took a pencil and a brush, and I’d draw ever since I could remember.”
David says there are two branches to his art. There are his cartoons that some might see as a little controversial. In those, he expresses his views on the church’s abusive power, the abuse of money, and matters of social justice. The inspiration for the cartoons comes from David’s own experience at church and from talking to other people.
The other branch is David’s watercolor paintings which are calming and peaceful. He mentions how living next to a beautiful river has helped him get in touch with nature and his surroundings, and that’s where the inspiration for paintings comes from.
The decision to offer his art as prints came to David because of how much time it saved for him. He’d sell his original artwork, but when people started saying how they’d like to purchase it as a print, he knew it was time to invest in a printer.
David did a lot of research and settled on buying an Epson printer for himself. He took care of the printing, wrapping, going to the post office, and shipping by himself at first. His breaking point came during a Black Friday sale on his NakedPastor website. It was so busy that he spent a week printing and packaging all the prints he sold.
He started researching print-on-demand solutions and printing companies. After going through countless videos on the topic on YouTube, he noticed that Printful kept coming up on top in terms of quality. David ordered some samples and was stoked about the quality Printful offers.
Having time to make art instead of going through the hassle of doing it himself is very important to David: “The next time I had a sale, nothing at home changed. It literally changed my life—it freed up so much time, and gave me my life back. That’s why I recommend Printful to any artist who wants to save time.”
Another aspect of print-on-demand that David is grateful for is the fact that it saves his customers money:
So how did David manage to build his NakedPastor brand and gather a big community around it? The artist says he started building his following way back in 2005. Now David has more than 100K followers on Instagram, and a big audience on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and his blog too. His approach to marketing is quite straightforward: “If I post a cartoon, I just say, ‘hey, there are prints!’”
Additionally, David also runs ads on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Google. He says that ads are his way of reaching people that don’t know about him just yet.
The reach of his art is something that still sometimes amazes David: “There’s an app that tells you where your cartoons have traveled. I wouldn’t ever think that 100K people have seen my cartoon on a specific day. I only see that 2K have liked the picture on my account. Turns out these people have shared it and the next people have shared it even further. It’s crazy and wonderful.”
When I asked David about his advice for people who are hesitant to start their own business, he said that it just takes one design to start.
He also wants to encourage people who have great ideas but don’t think they’re good enough artists: “Look at some of my favorite cartoonists—their cartoons look like a kid has drawn it. It’s not about photorealism drawing, it’s about trying to convey a feeling.”
David tells other artists all the time that you have to be creative, fearless, and just take the leap: “And Printful can help you with that because there’s no money upfront and no risk. That’s how it starts.”
Laura speaks 5 languages and her professional passion lies in translating, copywriting, and the overall art of marketing.
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