Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 3, 2013

TC artist drops banking career to follow dream

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Ryan Greiner wasn’t sure where his life was headed last winter when he walked away from a successful career in banking.

But he never imagined 10 months later he would be sitting atop a successful business as a working artist.

The 33-year-old husband and father didn’t just turn away from a job, he quit a career that he had made his life for more than a decade. It was a job he was good at, a job that helped support his wife, Stephanie, and 2-year-old son, Ben.

“It wasn’t the life my wife and I envisioned,” Greiner said Wednesday morning in his home art studio. “I missed just about everything for 2.5 years. I was taking care of other people’s responsibilities. For what, so I can make somebody else rich?”

The small shed that serves as his studio sits behind his Slabtown home and features a floor covered with paint splatters and walls adorned with abstract art.

For several years Greiner had been painting in what little spare time he had. It was a pastime he was pretty good at, but nothing he thought he could really make any money doing. He has no formal education in art aside from a short watercolor class he took years ago where an instructor consistently told him he was doing things wrong.

“It really took making that leap,” he said. “It was scary.”

Working in the financial industry was pretty much all the Central Michigan University graduate had ever known. He worked for Hagerty Insurance for a short time after graduating with a degree in finance and business, but quickly moved into banking.

But long hours at the office and limited time with his family wasn’t Greiner’s American dream.

So the couple invested a significant part of their savings in getting Never Wonder Studio started. Greiner knew people were interested in abstract paintings he made on wooden cutouts in the shape of Michigan. But along the way he realized his art would sell much better if it was smaller, cheaper and more accessible.

He began to sell his paintings at the M-22 store downtown Traverse City. People bought plenty of them, but not enough to call a paycheck.

Greiner decided making stickers from the image of one of his favorite abstract paintings would be the best option. As July and the National Cherry Festival approached quickly, he ordered 1,000 stickers from a printer in California.

He would sell the small works of art alongside their full-size counterparts at a booth at the festival. Greiner knew that if the stickers and paintings didn’t sell well at the massive event, there simply wasn’t a market for his work.

The week before the festival, Greiner arranged an interview with a local bank. If people didn’t like his work enough, he had a backup plan that would take him back to the finance world. It would end his daily walks with Ben and would limit the time he has to spend with Stephanie, but it would bring home a paycheck.

But the stickers sold, and so did his paintings.

Patrons of the festival forked over cash for hundreds of stickers.

A few days after the festival ended, the Greiners went for a walk along Empire beach. It’s the place where most of their important decisions are made, he said.

“I said, ‘I think I need to call and cancel this interview,’” Greiner said.

It was a sentiment echoed and supported by his wife, and one the couple looks back on as a turning point.

Since July, Never Wonder Studio has sold more than 10,000 of the Michigan abstract art stickers. It also began production on a Florida art sticker plans for several other states.

About 150 retail outlets in Michigan and Florida now sell the stickers and Greiner works long days fulfilling orders and late nights making art in his studio.

He probably works just as hard today as he did from his bank desk. But there’s one big difference now Greiner said.

“It’s not work when you love it,” he said with a smile.

If you want to know more about Greiner or Never Wonder Studio, go to www.neverwonder3.com.