Seemingly routine for many Kansas fans, crimson and blue are once again among the colors flooding the canvas of the 2019 NCAA tournament. But for artist Megh Knappenberger, the Jayhawks’ familiar palate has painted an entrepreneurial journey with as thrilling ups and downs as Big 12 basketball, she said.
“It’s a pretty special and unique thing that I was able to do this,” Knappenberger, owner of Megh Makes Art, said of the way she obtained an official license to reproduce Jayhawk-related work — a rare and exciting achievement, she added.
“They don’t typically grant rights [to the Jayhawk image],” Knappenberger continued. “I’m one of the only artists they’ve ever said yes to. And that’s over 30 years!”
A KU graduate herself, Knappenberger went through an extensive process to obtain the licensing rights, which included such tasks as putting together a business and marketing plan, along with revenue projections, she said.
A slam dunk for the artrepreneur, the meticulous process first paid off in late 2017 — resulting in a $150,000 payday for Knappenberger — when a series of six Jayhawk prints she’d produced sold to an Oklahoma man.
“The day I found out that I got licensed, I think I had $0.28 in my business bank account. … It is totally true. I have the screen grabs to prove it,” she said, laughing as she talked about the momentum her business has gained since becoming licensed.
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As Knappenberger experienced the most active period of what was becoming an all-star career in the art space, she learned she was pregnant with her second child — adding to her excitement and presenting a unique set of challenges as demand for her work grew.
“It took me down and I was on bed rest,” she said of her experience with a difficult pregnancy. “I was down for the count [and] it was frustrating. I mean, I couldn’t paint.”
Managing motherhood and life as an entrepreneur is an art in itself — well worth the struggles, with each journey producing something beautiful with a little perseverance, she added.
Fresh off maternity leave, Knappenberger will soon resume her work in a new East Crossroads studio space, she said excited.
“A lot of people are wondering what I’m going to do next on the heels of that success — and I’m really just as curious as everybody is,” she said, pondering the ways her career could grow next.
The official studio of Megh Makes Art is expected to open at the beginning of April, Knappenberger noted.
In addition to Jayhawk-inspired pieces, Knappenberger also dabbles in scenic work — inspired by such elements as local flora and fauna, which grew from her and her husband’s move to Kansas City from Chicago in search of the perfect place to plant midwestern roots for their family, she said.
While commissioned pieces and scenic portraits of roaming bison serve a niche client base for Knappenberger, there’s no escaping the beloved Big Jay when she sits down at a canvas ready to create, she added.
“[March is] kind of like the peak time, when — if you’re a Jayhawk — you’re really engaged with the team. You’re wearing all your T-shirts, you’re talking with your friends — or, you know, just reconnecting with the sort of Jayhawk community,” she said, reflecting of the support found in her KU family. “That definitely reflects in sales for me and it’s also a fun time for me to share behind the scenes stuff.”
Such glimpses behind the canvas include a contest just launched on the Megh Makes Art Facebook page — a means for engaging with fans who have engaged with Knappenberger’s entrepreneurial journey, she said.