Retired Vice-Principal John Kowarski, 65, never dreamed he’d be making $12,000 annually from selling his wildlife paintings. Nor did he think his work would attract the attention of celebrities like Irish rocker Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, a feat that earned him considerable cool points with his adult children. “Everything has kind of been an accident,” says Kowarski, 65.
He’s always painted for pleasure, but started to see a commercial opportunity in the mid-1990s, when he won first prize in an amateur painting contest. “Someone bought the painting and that indicated to me there was a possibility of making some money after I retire,” he says. The next year, Kowarski entered a professional competition, taking first again, and international buyers started taking notice of his signature artistic work: the painted feather.
These days, he focuses on about 12 commissions per year at his Nature’s Spirit Studio in Ontario’s Kawarthas region. “I just enjoy doing it,” say Kowarski. “Life is good.”
MAKING IT HAPPEN: There is no shortage of hobbies that can be converted into legitimate businesses, says financial planner Jason Heath. “Even if the business doesn’t make much money, it may enable a taxpayer to claim expenses they’re going to incur anyway as tax deductions.” Given the minimal liability risk in painting and the low income being generated, it makes sense to run this type of business as a sole proprietorship rather than a corporation, advises Heath. There are no set-up costs and the tax filing is done as part of one’s personal tax filing.