Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm
Jim Meissner, owner and chief executive officer of Sussex-based Color Ink Inc., received a great deal of satisfaction in growing his printing and graphic design company from start-up 22 years ago into a business with $20 million in annual revenue. The company has grown well beyond his initial expectations, Meissner said.
However, he still wanted to pursue another interest.
"I always did commercial art when I worked as a designer and art director, but I didn’t know anything about fine art," Meissner said. "I had always wanted to paint, so I decided to do it."
So, four years ago, Meissner took up permanent residence in Scottsdale, Ariz. He began studying painting under Leland Beaman in Phoenix. Beaman is one of the premier oil and watercolor painters in America.
"(Beaman) was an artist I had respected and admired, so I contacted him, and he agreed to give me private lessons about technique and what I would need to do to get started," Meissner said. "He told me what supplies to get, and we got together. He showed me what techniques he uses, and had me paint alongside him, or he’d say, ‘Go paint five pictures and then we’ll talk about them.’ I already had a good sense of color and design from my work in commercial art, so I didn’t have to start over in that respect.
"I started this for a hobby, because I wanted to see if I could do it. I got hooked, and it evolved into something I really enjoyed," said Meissner. "I knew I was on the right track when friends wanted to buy my work."
It wasn’t long before those friends showed Meissner’s paintings to a director at Landmarks Gallery in Milwaukee. The director was very interested in them. The gallery planned a show featuring Meissner’s work, as did two galleries in Scottsdale and one in Indianapolis. The James Store Gallery in Waukesha will show Meissner’s work this fall.
Meissner said he never expected such recognition for his work.
"I didn’t have a clue this would happen," said Meissner. "I often thought about painting, and it just sort of evolved, much like the company evolved. This has now turned into a business for me, so I really don’t have any choice. I have about 200 paintings now."
Meissner paints with a style that is, "impressionistic, but leaning towards realistic." He enjoys painting portraits, landscapes and architecture, often depicting places he has visited.
"I’ve always traveled a lot, but now I have a different eye for things," Meissner said. "I do the actual paintings in my studio, but when I travel, I draw sketches and take reference photos, then I piece it together. I’ve never traveled with paint, although I’d like to try it in the United States first before trying it overseas." Meissner said he plans to travel to Prague and Budapest in the coming year.
To pursue painting, Meissner reduced his duties at Color Ink.
"Over the past three to four years I’ve slowly gotten further away from the daily operations of the business," he said. "All the day-to-day decisions are left up to the management team and our president, Tom Murel. However, I do still own the company, the buildings and the land. I’m still involved in the major decisions. I’m in Wisconsin about once a month to check up on everything, and I’m in constant contact with the management team."
Meissner first went into business for himself in 1974 when he started his own commercial art studio. He produced product promotional literature for major Milwaukee companies, including GE Medical Systems and Master Lock. Gradually, he added the capability to print the materials himself, so he could better satisfy his clients.
He eventually formed Color Ink
"It was basically a timing thing," said Meissner. "We went from one-color to two-color printing, then we added more and more. It evolved out of a basement operation, and we built it into what we have today."
Color Ink offers a range of products and services, including the ability to make prints and reproductions of Meissner’s oil paintings.
"We can make fine art prints and giclee prints on canvas," Meissner said. "A giclee is a proof on canvas that looks exactly like the original painting, but you don’t see the brushstrokes and build-up of paint that you do on the original. We can also scale the giclees to whatever size we want. If an original painting were to sell for $5,000 to $10,000, a giclee of that work would sell for $400 to $500. It is also possible to add paint on top of a giclee to give it the appearance of the original work."
Meissner has sold several of his original and reproduction works. His original paintings were sold for $500 to $5,000, he said.
Company: Color Ink Inc.
Location: W250 N6681 Hwy 164, Sussex
Studio Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Galleries Shown: Horizon Art, Scottsdale; W.I.P. Art Gallery, Scottsdale; Green Door Fine Art, Indianapolis; Landmarks Gallery, Milwaukee
July 22, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI