Q&A with George Leeson
Casgar, Susanne, Art Business News
George Leeson is the president and owner of San Francisco-based Image Conscious, the exclusive American distributor for the Art Group of London, stocking its entire line of some 1,200 posters, most notably Vettriano, Guichard and Michael Austin. In its own catalog, Image Conscious has more than 1,850 posters, of which they publish roughly 30 percent.
Q. You have had a varied career--from accounting to journalism. What made you venture into the art world?
Like so much of life, [it involved] luck, chance and serendipity. I had just opened a tax practice in San Francisco, and my first big tax client had just opened a poster gallery. They needed part-time help, and I needed a part-time off-season job. From the moment I walked into that gallery, I loved the art. Chagall, Miro and Calder were big then, and I responded immediately. Color is emotion, the opposite of the gray world of accounting. So a numbers guy became "image conscious," and thank God, I wasn't a numbers guy any way!
Q. What is definition of success?
Happiness with family and friends, and contentment with what you do and where you live. I think Frank Lloyd Wright's idea of "organic architecture" applies to humans as well--a matter of knowing who you are, and then finding the place, the people and the work that best suits you.
Q. What is your biggest accomplishment in the art world?
Building a company from scratch and publishing inexpensive artwork that invigorates people with small budgets who want to live in a rich art environment.
Q. What is your biggest regret?
That we didn't publish sooner. For the first six years of its existence, Image Conscious was solely a distributor. I'm thankful for the distribution base we were able to build, but the publishing is what s kept the business vital. It's now like academia: publish or perish! Of course, in any business, you only see your mistakes.
Q. Professionally speaking, what keeps you up at night?
Copyright infringement! It's theft, they're stealing as I sleep. I'm now vice president of The Art Copyright Coalition, so we're doing something to fight it.
Q. What do you read?
As a young man I read for point of view, go "find" myself. Thoreau, Henry Miller, James Baldwin and William Saroyan were helpful here. Later on,, in business, I began reading more for information, books like "Growing a Business" and Only the Paranoid Survive.
Q. What is your favorite Web site? A sports board that follows my alma mater's football team--the University of Montana. …