The first time I met Wyatt Cantrell, I immediately knew there was something special about him. He was so self-confident and sure of his surroundings while being completely curious and enthusiastic about life. We met Wyatt in early spring of 2016 at Sola Pop-Up Market. He was set up a few booths down from us selling artwork accompanied by his mother Meredith and father Ian, so we figured it was their show and he was just along for the ride. We would soon come to find that these interesting multi layered paintings were all made by a six year old. We could hardly see him behind the booth but he came around smiling, full of energy and introduced us to his work. Over the next few months we got to know him and his family, and we decided to sit down with this young hustler and entrepreneur for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard.
Wyatt, who turns seven on Friday, has been a hustler since birth. He grew up watching his mother run a small business, and has always idolized Raleigh artists and entrepreneurs, like Adam Peele. When he was four, he had his eyes set on a $300+ Ewok Village Lego Set, so his first thought was to start a business. He began with an idea to make refurbished toys and masks from salvaged items, which proved too labor-intensive. After spotting a Star Wars decal on the back of a car one day, he and his mom decided stenciling and painting might be the best way to bring his ideas to life. At 4 years old, Wyatt taught himself how to paint. After his mother Meredith creates and cuts stencils, Wyatt goes to work painting and layering the piece with an array of colors, textures, and patterns. When I asked how he learned his skills, his answer was refreshingly simple. "Well, this was the job I chose so I just started painting." An answer only a six year old with no concept of failure or doubt could provide. Wyatt started gaining traction at local markets and events, and 100 paintings later, the Ewok Village belonged to him.
Wyatt estimates that he’s sold close to 1,000 paintings. At first glance, that number seems high for such a young kid, but if you catch him in action, you’ll become a believer. Wyatt is full of positivity, interest, and passion. His infectious attitude and energy radiate across the booth and is visible in each customer. It’s rare to see them leave empty handed. He operates with a blind confidence. He's clear in his goals, and for now that's hustling art to buy toys. His business is fully functional and self funded. He purchases all of his own equipment and supplies exclusively from Jerry's Artarama. He loves that store.
Wyatt’s process is intense. He batches a few paintings at a time, working on the porch because of the mess. He uses acrylic and then draws using a paint marker or oil pastel. Then he repeatedly layers spray and splatter paints, then stencil. He and his mom have spent the last two years experimenting with this system of layering, the basis being the stencil ideas Wyatt comes up with like “Storm Trooper Eating a Popsicle” or “Hedgehog Riding A Skate Board”. Wyatt hustles hard and you can find him working almost every weekend around the triangle. He’s commissioned pieces for countless individuals and locals businesses like Citizen Pops and Gringo A Go Go.
It’s easy to forget that he’s currently an elementary school student. I jokingly asked if he was in the 4th grade, and he answered, "If I was in 4th grade I probably wouldn't be doing this because I'd have all the money.” He quickly checks himself and adds, "Well, no I probably still will do it when I'm in 4th grade." True wisdom and hustle. Wyatt loves to toy hunt at the Flea Market and especially at the Lego store. "I have 102 Lego sets at home." Meredith nods behind him with a smiling sigh. What’s even better than the Lego’s is that much like myself and most 80’s babies, he absolutely loves He-Man. I’m talking favorite movie, TV show, and toy. "I like He-Man so much I have a He-Man Skeletor,” he said leaning forward, eyes bulging. We talked about the Skeletor toy for the next four minutes straight. Much like Porch Fly's own Jay Blevins, you'll rarely find Wyatt anywhere without at least one toy. When I ask Wyatt what other essentials he keeps on him at all times, he said “I like to make sure I bring at least 4 quarters with me just in case I run into a quarter machine.” God, I miss being 6...
Obviously, at such a young age no amount of talent and drive equals success without support. Wyatt’s parents, Meredith and Ian not only make it possible, but work hard to encourage and provide an environment for the entrepreneurial spirit to grow. While they are fully supportive of his endeavors, Meredith stresses that his path remains his own. “It's better to learn tough business lessons now when he's a little guy and has the largest safety net of all than to learn them when he's grown and the net is much smaller. It could be great, a disaster, or simply fade away, but he'll be the one that determines all of that.” I have a feeling Wyatt is just getting started.
Learn more about Wyatt and where to find his art as well as a few of his favorite places to visit in the area:
Wyatt is done with events for 2016, but you can keep up with his future shows and view his currently available pieces at his Facebook Page HERE
To order artwork, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for stopping by the porch!