On this episode of the Artmatcher podcast, Shlomo Tuvia speaks with Michael Goodman about his journey to becoming a successful artist and entrepreneur. Shlomo shares memories of growing up in Israel with deaf parents, moving to Los Angeles, and starting his own business. The duo touches on pivoting careers, building a reputation for yourself, and using experience to create compelling art.
About Shlomo Tuvia
Shlomo Tuvia is a prolific artist and successful entrepreneur. His art deeply reflects his life experiences, like growing up in the small town of Rehovot, Israel, with deaf parents.
After moving to the U.S. at twenty-one years old, Shlomo began his career as a commercial painter and an artist.
His artistic initiative, Body Art, gained great recognition in the Los Angeles art community.
Check out his work on Instagram @shlomo_tuvia or on his website.
Watch on YouTube
0:00:00.4 Michael Goodman: Hi everybody, I’m Michael Goodman with Artmatcher, the mobile app which will bring innovation to the art industry and is coming to you soon. While we work hard to build and release this app, we’ll be talking art with some of the industry’s most interesting and knowledgeable people. Whether you’re an art aficionado or this is all new to you, we’ll be here to provide valuable insight and hilarious good stories. Hope you enjoy our chat today. Welcome to another episode of Artmatcher, the podcast. Joining us today, Shlomo Tuvia, a local artist here in Encino. We’re in Sherman Oaks or in neighboring areas. Shlomo, thank you for being here. Can you please tell the audience a little bit about your background, where you come from, how did we get here?
0:00:57.2 Shlomo Tuvia: I was born in Israel in a town that’s called Jaffa. I grew up in by Weizmann Institute in Israel. Obviously, we grew up very poor, but a lot of fun.
0:01:15.4 Michael Goodman: What kind of landmark is that to give the audience? Because people know Israel, they know Tel Aviv, they know Jerusalem.
0:01:21.9 Shlomo Tuvia: It’s about 20 miles south of Tel Aviv. Great weather. It was a small town back then. Still, there were donkeys on the street and streets are not paved. I remember as a kid going to school as a first grader, second grader. Back then, all the tables and the desk for the student were made of wood. I would take pencils and crayon and make sure that all the classes will have some kind of kish-kosh, we call it, which is a scramble of my art. I did it much earlier in my life. Then I got in trouble for it, of course.
0:02:13.4 Michael Goodman: You were putting gum underneath the table?
0:02:15.9 Michael Goodman: I did that too. I really enjoyed it. I had a very, very happy up growing in Israel. You have a unique story though with your parents. They were mute. They were deaf. Deaf, mute. Both of my parents are Holocaust survivors from the Second World War. We lived in one room, me, my brother, and my parents. Somehow, we made it. There was a lot of love in the house. My father was also an artist. He would draw a lot of Germans. He would just take a pencil and white paper and draw guns and boots and the clothing of the Germans. It was very sad to watch it, but yet his art was amazing. He also used to take bulbs, lighting bulbs, take out the inside and put inside all kinds of white flakes and put different figurative inside the bulb. He would close it, put it on a little plate, and he would go into town and sell them. Is your brother artistic? I’ve met your brother briefly as well. Yes, very much so. The artistry has been in your blood since your parents? Yes, 100%. How did you grow up in Israel? Relatively lower socioeconomic background.
0:03:57.4 Michael Goodman: Extremely lower. You’ve been in Los Angeles and have stayed here since? I came in 1980.
0:04:06.1 Shlomo Tuvia: Right after the army, I went to Europe. I had great trips in Europe. Then I ended up in the United States going to my uncle. They promised me that this is a country for me. I came to visit them. I stayed with them in one year. Right away, I started painting and doing stuff. Within no time, I built a little company and I started painting houses. Then I knew right away I didn’t want to work in Fairfax area, the small little homes. I said, I want to go to the big houses. Within a year, I actually established a company. I went to get my license. I barely understood the reading of the license and how to get it. I had help from outside to study it. I studied it. I passed the license and I became a company. Within no time– That license was what? For painting. For painting. Commercial painting? Commercial. I did residential, but I had license also for wallpaper and decorating.
0:05:21.2 Michael Goodman: Do you still need a license for that stuff today? Oh, yeah. Big time. To actually treat wall? I almost think when I hire a painter today, I’m looking at pretty much a handy guy who knows how to– Right.
0:05:33.2 Shlomo Tuvia: I wasn’t in that kind of a category. I would work for designers and big contractors and you cannot enter even to the property if you don’t have a license, bond, and insurance. Because you come with a crew of five or 10 or 20 guys. So it was much like being a contractor in various ways. Yes. Just specialized in painting. But I stayed away from commercial and all that and I went into more of the artistic and the beauty of the painting, like making doors looking like Liberace piano. Okay. Making stria on ceilings or put together wood that–I remember the designer. The first designer told me, can you make a driftwood finish on a brand new wood and the wood came from the ocean and been travel maybe 100 years in the water and the sun? Can you match it? I said, let me try. And that was the beginning of me.
0:06:46.3 Michael Goodman: Because that takes a lot of artistic skill. I mean– Extremely. I love the part of that because I’ve seen that translate into the work you’re doing now. You’re very tactile. You like textures. You like various elements. Correct. That’s what we used to do. We used to do diamonds on hardwood floor. How did that start though? Did it start with your talent? Because as you grew the company, you were very business oriented. Yes. I hire professional. I basically hire people who knew how to do restoration. We used to go to downtown, go into theaters and they would tell me, Shoma, look, this is 80 years old beams, but most of the paint has been gone. You need to get into the mind of the artist that worked 80 years ago on that beams. But you were using modern day techniques at that point. Correct. And it’s much easier. Yeah. And then I learned how to use stencils. Taking stencils and putting them together and which stencil and how to age it so it doesn’t look like fresh, beautiful beam next to another beam who is very old. Yeah. So we put together a lot of finishing. And then I got into like back in the days, used to do sponging, but that I didn’t really like.
0:08:04.9 Michael Goodman: And then I remember, I never forget it. I went to this giant house in Beverly Hills and the designer says, look, Shlomo, I have to get this French artist from Europe. Back in the day, 1981, 1982, they paid artists like $600 a day to bring him from Europe and paying the day $600. One day or was he here? One day. And then he can work for a month or two or three. And we did something else on those big mansions. But I said to myself, I have to learn what he does because that’s a higher level than what I do. And I want to learn it. Yeah. So I used to pick from the windows, check brushes, see the material that he used, develop relationship with a European guy and learn that myself. Wow. And then I took that and I taught other guys, other finishers how to do it. And then we became like top, top company. Like if you had a specialty finish, my name somehow will come in. It was the first one to go. Yeah. So we were very busy. And these cities, there’s plenty, plenty of people who’s looking for a good job, good artists, honest company.
0:09:33.1 Michael Goodman: You had told me about a year ago though, that the industry has changed dramatically. Yes. Meaning it wasn’t what it was then to today. Correct.
0:09:42.4 Shlomo Tuvia: Back then you had to mix your own plaster, your own paint, your own glaze. Okay. Today they have tools. You can just go to an art store and get already a glaze in the mix. And the tools becoming now more easier. The only thing is the people who apply it, they don’t have the knowledge about art. They don’t have understanding about what really, how it’s supposed to look, but they’re doing it. Yeah. So fine artists, they don’t touch anymore the stuff that we used to do like this triay and the aging and high-end glazing mix with benzene and lacquer. We used to do all kinds of stuff.
0:10:30.1 Michael Goodman: Do you take those techniques from then? Because now how long has it been since you exited that more commercial realm of art to what you’re doing now?
0:10:40.4 Michael Goodman: Yeah. About 15 years ago. Yeah. 15 years ago I sort of… 15 years ago though, did you ever touch like the fine art practice where…
0:10:49.8 Michael Goodman: No. Wow. So then… No, no, no. I’m telling you, maybe… I used to do only samples and then I would give others to do it. I became a company of a hundred people. I couldn’t work myself with my hand anymore. Yeah. But sometimes I would get involved with samples and those were very challenging. Sometimes you have a sample flying from New York, from Europe, from the Far East and you have to match it. Yeah. You have certain days to come up with the finish and if you don’t… Someone else gets the job… Someone else. It could be a job of half a million dollar to a million. You don’t want to lose it. Yeah. So you work day and night, day and night to get the samples to look like your work or do you get to your work to look like the samples. So that was a lot of challenge. And I remember one time it was one of the giant job for important person, I cannot say who it is. And I remember I brought few of my friends and we stayed for two days. We were drinking beers. We were just… I had a basement.
0:12:00.6 Shlomo Tuvia: I had a house in Studio City and I said, I got to get it. So I was so excited to go to West Hollywood to show to my designer. And I said, God, I hope it’ll work. My designer, he took the real piece. He took my sample and he looked at it and he looked at it and he said, Shlomo, it’s good, but not good enough. I says, what’s wrong? Look, let’s look at the light. Let’s look at the outside light. It looks the same. But they were so, so good at what they did. Yeah. So good at what they did. So I had to just, he gave me a little tip to get into one more layer of one more color to it. So if it will satisfy him, so I got the job. Oh, wow.
0:12:50.4 Michael Goodman: So you got… But that was, it’s an anxiety. It wasn’t so smooth all along. And then even when you apply it… It may be very different on site and stuff like that. And they come and they check. You know, they come, they could be a giant designer. So coming from that world that is so, you know, not all the aspects are in your control because you’re dealing with other people doing work for other people, circling it to the work that you’re doing now. Being leisure, you don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s your vision. Do you find that you’re carrying out the visions though in your head through kind of like the vision in your head, are you accomplishing to like what standard are you holding yourself versus holding standards for others? Or do you not see it that way?
0:13:43.2 Michael Goodman: No, first of all, when you work for other people, you know, you can do so much and you cannot go outside of what you’ve been told to do. Yeah. Today, I have nothing to explain to nobody. I just do it. Yeah. And, you know, some of the stuff that I do, people could look at that and say, wow, it’s okay. But, you know, it’s not my style. But somebody from up north or whatever look at it and says, wow, I love this job. I just got a text this morning from somebody who looked at my, this beautiful painting with the eyes that I never did as good as it’s an Instagram. And he wrote, wow, who are you? I felt so honored that people complimented. But you’ve had a skill of getting your name out there, promoting most artists that I’ve worked with. They have a hard time building the confidence to display their work. And I think one of the things that’s unique about you is the fact that in every aspect, and I think it’s the, it’s, it maybe comes from the aspect that you’ve built a successful company. You are a successful person.
0:15:07.2 Michael Goodman: You have these skills, which then gets rewarded, perceived as like success. So now tackling your own work, it’s interesting because I don’t think you’re going about it the same way that you did in the other aspects of business. Correct.
0:15:27.3 Shlomo Tuvia: When I had the company with so many people working for me, I was doing so well financially that I didn’t have to worry. But now that I do it just for myself and I’m showing to people and I’ll sell one painting, it’s just not about the money. Yeah. It’s about me loving what I do and I feel I’m getting better and what I do and people actually lately, they call me the artist, Shlomo. Oh, wow. So, so it’s coming, you know.
0:16:05.8 Michael Goodman: But deep down you always, cause like, look, you’ve been in an industry which is highly artistic. You learn certain fundamental aspects, like from a technical standpoint, which I think is very apparent in your work today. You still use those skills, those different, whether it’s stenciling, whether it’s, you know, giving it like that distress look. So I see that incorporated in your work. I’m wondering then, like pretty much all along, you’ve technically been this artist, but you never, not once in the, while you were running the commercial kind of empire that you had, you didn’t just buy a canvas and say, hey, you know what I’m going to go do? No. Wow.
0:16:52.5 Michael Goodman: And I tell you what happened to me. Maybe after like the 10 year that I had the company, I basically put the brushes down and I said, I didn’t have time. And I’m going to tell you a story. I was asking to do, it was a big mention in Santa Clarita, some world champion of wrestling. Okay. He was the world champion. So I went, I met the designer, the contractor, everybody, the owner, and they said, look, this is what we want on a giant, giant beams. And the living room was maybe three story high and each beam was like, I don’t know, it’s just giant. So they said, Shlomo, we want just distress. We want it to look old. So then I remember this particular time, what I did, I’m going to mix something that nobody did. I was watching my gardener taking some kind of a chemicals and to kill the grass. So figure if I’ll put it in with water and I’ll throw it on the beam with brush, it will kill the beam, kill, kill, but just minor. So I made a sample myself. I show my guy because it’s outside my work because I usually work Beverly Hills, Bel Air.
0:18:22.2 Shlomo Tuvia: So I’d never worked in Santa Clarita, but that was special. So I knew that I’m not going to do a lot of visiting over there. So I took my top guy. I showed him how to do it and I just show you guys how to do it. So the formula was a quarter of the powder and five gallon water. Oh, wow. That was the formula. They did the opposite. Oh, my. So what happened? The big giant beam became small beam. Wow. So that was a mistake of about $150,000 that I had to pay to redo the beams. Why? Because I wasn’t there and the guy got the formula backward. That is crazy. So sometimes you’re coming into that kind, but it was very rare. We were like top company. I was on top of it. I give 24 hours a day, five days a week. And I always was into it. Always making samples, always running to jobs, always making sure that I would be the best.
0:19:30.2 Michael Goodman: It’s amazing because I think when people look at your work, you’re so prolific now. You’re always posting. You’re always putting up things. Some people probably assume you’ve been painting for your whole life. You just have so much work. Correct. Which I find that’s kind of astonishing. I’ve seen the growth from when we started working together to where you’re at now. And I didn’t even know that even back in those days, you didn’t even touch a canvas. I thought there was maybe a little bit of dabbling. So this whole new venture is just completely… How much of it nowadays are you honing your technical skill? Or do you not really concern yourself? Like, is that already in the bag? Meaning, technically you can do what you want to do, how you want to do it. Or is there a lot of learning? I spoke to another artist who we’ve had on the podcast, Richard Ranciere, and he talks about how his process is just learning the medium. Kind of what you say about testing out formulas. So do you do a lot of that in your practice now where you’re testing things? Or do you pretty much know your formulas and you’re creating the image?
0:20:49.5 Michael Goodman: Yes, I do actually test different material.
0:20:52.9 Shlomo Tuvia: I mix all kinds of base in order to get to certain colors or look. And now lately, I don’t know, for some reason I’m into abstract, but not kish-kush, as we say. I wanted to do it more of like, when you look at the picture, I want a thought that, okay, what is going on there? It’s more calculative. Right, but not hard to figure out. I don’t need to put like hidden stuff that you have to have a whole day thinking what did the artist have? You look at that, I want you to come into the picture and draw yourself in it. And I love it. So I’m doing that and I’m doing picture and picture. I’m just trying different things. And I mean, I’m so lucky. I am enjoying so much of it.
0:21:49.1 Michael Goodman: It’s interesting because when looking at your work, at least when I look at it, it almost looks like there’s 10 different artists sometimes because you do so many different subject matters. You do so many different things. You’re not contained. I think you’re also pretty good at like, how do you deal with like, as much as there’s a lot of people complimenting your work, do you find anyone not saying nice things? And how do you deal with that? If so, or no, everyone loves it. Look, in the media, you know, a lot of it, it’s, you know, when people do like to your pictures, you know, maybe they’ll just say, oh, what a beautiful picture.
0:22:29.6 Michael Goodman: But some people, and I can tell the one who actually follow me too, they really love my work. And they want to comment. Sometimes they don’t want to comment in public. So they send me on a messenger. You know, it feels great. It feels great. And some of it, some of the like on Instagram and Facebook, I wouldn’t say fake. I don’t like to say it’s fake. But to me, I’m doing it not for the likes, you know, and if I get 160 and 120, there’s people says, oh, what’s wrong with it? I do something wrong in that picture. And also, it’s like, how often do you post? You know, if you post like a picture every few days, people get tired of you a little bit. So you might not get enough likes. It’s interesting because when people come to me, they’re going to be critiqued. And a lot of stuff, I’m not looking of what’s nice with it. I’m looking about what’s not so nice. But it’s interesting. I know I’ve after knowing you for a while, your environment seems to be a very positive environment. So I guess my question is, how do you shun out the negativity?
0:23:42.2 Michael Goodman: Because there is, there has to be negativity amongst you. Do you not pay any attention to it at all?
0:23:49.4 Michael Goodman: I don’t hear it. I don’t. It’s like you telling me, behind you, there’s a thousand birds and they’re making so much noise. But if it’s not within my energy and my feeling, I will not hear those birds. Wow. So I, you know, if somebody don’t like my work or, you know, somebody wants to compete and not liking your work because of you have blue eyes and I have green eyes or I don’t judge nobody. I respect any artist. And, you know, there’s people who just do a little dot on a white, beautiful frame and he calls it art. And I will not say, oh, you’re crazy. Okay, it’s art. Let me see, let me figure, let me ask you why, what. I’m, and I know I’m going to come up with a few little things, you know, and that will change a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t say change the world because I don’t want to put my nose up, you know, like these people say, I am the best. I mean, some people, I mean, the sky, the one thing that’s so amazing, I think I find about, about you as a person is you, you live in this world where you’re able to connect with people naturally.
0:25:06.8 Shlomo Tuvia: I’ve seen you at art shows. You naturally, I don’t want to say you have the chutzpah to just go out, but you, you have the, the kahones to just go up.
0:25:17.4 Michael Goodman: Hi, how are you doing? My name’s Shlomo. And I’m wondering, like, were you always like that? How did, always. So you’ve always just been an outgoing, always when I was eight years old, I already had a few guys from the neighborhood pushing this baby carriage and selling pita and hummus. Wow. So always, and always talking to people, you know how rare that is just for like, yeah. Because people are there, they’re hearing you right now. You’re a very animated character, you know, moving. Yes. High energy functioning person, and just to give the audience an idea of like kind of listening, I mean, if I told Shlomo right now, go outside these gallery walls and talk to the first five people walking down the boulevard. Not a problem. He’ll do it without a problem. Not a problem. And you’re not, you’re not scared of it because I find a lot of artists, it takes them a long time to give them that permission to do that. Yes.
0:26:13.1 Shlomo Tuvia: I’ll give you a little example, but 30 years ago, me and my wife were going to Tokyo, first time for me to Japan. So my wife sat by the aisle, I sat in the middle and that Japanese man was sitting by the window. He spoke no English, no any other language than Japanese. I don’t speak Japanese. Yeah. And we connected throughout the whole journey to Tokyo. Wow. And we became friends and he host us in Tokyo and he took us around and people say, wait, wait, how did you call him? He did call the hotel and they got into my room and I just couldn’t talk to him on the phone. So I ran to the lobby and I says, please tell him tomorrow, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can connect with anybody. Yeah. It’s just, you have to open up and then some people might not like your shtick when you come and say, hey, how’s it going, Johnny? Or sometimes I talk from my stomach, just make fun. Hello, hello. So people are looking all over and it’s, oh, that was me. So it’s the beginning of something. Yeah. You got to play it.
0:27:28.0 Michael Goodman: It’s interesting because when you started working on your hand series works, which we spoke about, we kind of conceptualized kind of something that was a part of you, a narrative, having parents that were mute. Correct. And kind of representing how hands kind of were the aspect of communication. Did they speak like a formal sign language? No. No. Wow. They didn’t know the ABC. No. My mom didn’t know one plus one is two. She just knew the color of the money. And when the money changed the colors, it was a whole to do. Wow. I had to go with her to the shulk, which is the flea market. Yeah. And show her, okay, the four tomato, it’s only the green. Don’t give him the yellow because that’s hundred. Yeah. The green is 10. Okay. Don’t give me the yellow. Throughout their whole life, I mean, so you created your own communication then with your parents? Yes.
0:28:28.6 Shlomo Tuvia: In a way. They actually almost create their own language.
0:28:34.2 Michael Goodman: I would assume they would have to.
0:28:36.4 Shlomo Tuvia: Yeah. But yet I finished when I traveled the world and I met deaf mute people. And I don’t speak the ABC. So I speak just very animate. Yeah. Very animated. So I would come and I would just say, hi, how are you? They said, you talk a little bit differently in the sign language they tell me. And I said, I don’t speak in ABC, just it’s movement. It’s a little dancing. Yeah. Understanding. The way you’re, you know, you just have to show whatever and you’re making conversation.
0:29:12.9 Shlomo Tuvia: I think that’s amazing. I think I got to attribute your highly sophisticated communicating skills via your parents, because if you can’t do it with words, you got to do it with gestures. And if you could do it with gestures, you could most likely do it with words, even though you always tell me, you know, you always compliment me for using big words and stuff. You are. You talk so beautiful. Well, the question is how effective you are.
0:29:40.8 Michael Goodman: And I find for those who don’t know, and for those who are going to check out your work, you know, Shlomo’s work, he depicts beautiful images, but it’s not reflective fully of who you are as a person, I would say. Correct. And it’s amazing because as a person, you have this ability to connect and like, obviously your love for art. I mean, you’re always looking to do something even during these crazy times. I know you’re doing right now in the development of some properties and you’re even conceptualizing, okay, how are we going to do a show there? How are we going to show these images? Correct. And that really is amazing. I think. And also, I don’t know if you know, I prepare a series of work and that goes to a children’s hospital.
0:30:34.9 Shlomo Tuvia: Oh, wow. And I have a guy who connected me and then when the Corona strike, you know, I was supposed to have a show there.
0:30:42.0 Michael Goodman: Oh, wow. The one on, is it near Sunset?
0:30:46.5 Michael Goodman: Where is it? There’s one on the Burbank. Burbank, okay. And so we’re just waiting when people can get together. I’m just going to give them the whole thing and hopefully they’ll make a few dollars and it’s going to be a big-Wow, for an auction. For an auction, it’s going to be a big gala and you’re invited. Oh, thank you. Thank you. I’m always excited to do things with you. Yeah. And I want to help.
0:31:09.1 Shlomo Tuvia: I want to also help. I mean, I think that I was fortunate and I just wanted to give and give and give as much as I can.
0:31:16.7 Michael Goodman: Well, I love that. Thank you. This is much of our time today. Shlomo, I want to thank you so much for jumping on. Where can people check out your work? I know you’re on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram. At Shlomo Tuvia. Is there a hyphen in between or is it one word? No, Shlomo Tuvia. You could just Google and it’ll give you all the sites. I love it. Can you give the people the spelling so they-Yes. It’s S-H-L-O-M-O-T-U-V-I-A. Shlomo Tuvia. Thank you so much, Shlomo. We’re going to have you on again, probably. Please, I love you. You’re a neighborhood friend. And thank you so much, guys. Tune in to our next episode coming up.