My name is Colin Sean VanWyke, a home-grown type of guy. Raised in Mason, Michigan – I grew to stand out a little more than the other kids. I could say that I had a good K-12 experience, but that would just be one big, fat, juicy lie. The school part of my childhood was never an issue as far as academics go. It was what was going on behind the scenes that really made an impact on me. Like I said before, I stuck out because I am an outsider. I always had my headphones plugged in to weird music no one else knew about. I was not afraid to express myself with my clothing then, plus I wasn’t the skinniest kid in school. These are, most likely, the reasons that did not help with the name calling I suffered literally, every single day, at least once. Any insult you could think of -- I most likely have had it thrown my way on several occasions. Now, I’m not saying that it completely affected who I am as a person nor am I asking for any sympathy from anyone. What I was going through at the same time I was being bullied were things most kids from my school didn’t have to deal with: parents getting divorced, being diagnosed and medicated for ADHD, and dealing with anger issues, anxiety & depression on top of it all. These issues were all so real back then as much as they are today.
What I am saying is that the bullying I faced took its toll on me, as it would anybody else. Looking back at it today, I can see how it did make me quite the introvert. I remember while all of the bullying I faced at school was going on – I heard it all at hockey practice too from the same group of people. I couldn’t get away from the bullying, but I didn’t let that stop me from the sport I dedicated my lifetime and effort to chasing. Hockey was my life, and when I say life – I mean that I literally lived, breathed, and even slept hockey. It was my obsession, and I grew up playing it with my older cousin Andrew. I honestly remember idolizing him for a time because of how easy the sport of hockey came to him. He went on to play on all of the higher-skilled travel hockey teams, while I barely made tryouts for the lesser-skilled and rarely traveling house leagues. I was a goaltender while he and his little brother, my other cousin, Owen were both players. It worked out perfectly. They both would get a goalie to school while I got practice getting scored on. Andy learned from me: how to score on all of the other keepers he ever faced. I can take credit for that. I played hockey until the last year of high school and loved every second of it, dreaming of becoming an NHL’er one day. Ultimately, deep, deep down I always knew I had no chance. My cousin went on to play college hockey while I was stuck with no more real hockey to play and no career plan after graduation in 2016. While I was in school, both my middle and high school art class teachers loved me. I looked back at all the times they both encouraged me to take time from hockey and spend some of it creating artwork outside of class. I was always pretty good at drawing, people told me all the time but I was so focused on making my career as an NHL player I ignored it. Now that school was over, and my dream of playing hockey professionally was over, I had time for something new. I picked up my old art supplies and started drawing and actually painting again. Once I started, I knew that I had a new calling to follow in my life.
The next few following months of mine were spent working a full-time job and making a college art portfolio. After just about two weeks, I had 15 pieces ready for the application. Not knowing the College for Creative Studies in downtown Detroit, is ranked third amongst the hardest schools to get into in the state of Michigan. I had no idea what to expect, but what happened was totally reassuring for me. Not only did I receive an acceptance letter, I also received a generous ¾ scholarship based solely from that application. I attended one full year at CCS: living in the dorms on campus, never missing any workshops, and excelled in almost all of my college courses. I felt unstoppable while I was there, except the only problem was my ego and stupidity. The scholarship I was awarded was academic-based and required me to pass all of my classes or the result would be the termination of the financial support. While I was there, I attended maybe one English class the entire time there at CCS in 2017 and refused to write because I thought, “we are art students, not authors.” That mindset cost me heavily and I decided to drop out following my freshman year due to the $200,000 tuition. My mom was paying for my school while I paid for supplies, but I could not ask her to pay so much. I admit, I was completely lost with myself after that happened. I knew I wanted to make art for a living but now I had absolutely no guidance to get me there.
I spent the next year moving around until I moved in with my older step-brother and his girlfriend in Colorado. I worked a few part-time jobs until I found a great full-time job at a store that sold art supplies and commercial paint. It was a perfect fit, and worked for about two years while I purchased supplies throughout the year. I was able to sell some of my work on the streets when I went out in public. I also hung my work in the R Gallery there. It was a great feeling for me because I knew I was on the right track. I sold my first ever gallery-hung piece of artwork and that gave me so much more motivation. I seriously started to think of how I was going to do it. Galleries are a scam and I learned that very quickly while looking for others to hang my work in. Most places will often take anywhere from 30-50% commission from you if the work sells. You have to know people, in other words – the “real fine art” world is bullshit. I hate all systems and wanted to be independent and make an actual profit on my hard work. I started an Etsy store and figured out a way to get my work selling. I started with small works at a rather inexpensive price, and have marketed them to people my age who want art but don’t have hundreds for it. Selling those, I can purchase larger canvas so the people who do have hundreds can buy some of my more expensive paintings. Being a small online business owner for two years now has taught me a lot about navigating the art market and sales tactics. I now have so many plans in mind for my business, and it all will come with time. I have to make more money to be able to do more. I am confident in my business today, and plan to make it my full-time job.