For Russell Singler, the Director of Art You Grew Up With, his ‘magical’ career started when he was fourteen years old, when his parents bought him an original production cel of Baloo from Disney’s Jungle Book. ‘I couldn’t believe it,’ he said. ‘It was (and still is) my favourite film, and that kickstarted my collection.’ Skip forward thirty years and Russell is now director of the world’s largest destination for collectors of animation and character based fine art.
But the business has not been without its frustrations. In 1995, he co-founded the Animation Art Gallery at Oxford Circus and ran it for 13 years. He then decided to move the business in a new direction and bought out his partners. Changing the name of the company to Art You Grew Up With, he started published limited edition Fine Art under license creating the kind of artwork he wanted to own and collect, but was not available.
However, he expanded too quickly, was often over enthusiastic and unrealistic in his aims, and tripped up a few times. When the landlord of the building he was renting decided to increase the rent by 200% he started approaching big retail partners and now Art You Grew Up With has concessions in Selfridges and House of Fraser, with more on the way. He now works with all the major children’s and nostalgia brands including Peppa Pig, Mr. Men, Beano, Mr Benn, Spongebob Squarepants, Paddington Bear and many more.
Art you Grew up With also supplies independent galleries, and thanks to its many years as a retail gallery, has a wonderful following, and an ever growing collector base. In fact there are children of collectors who bought from the gallery in the 90's that are now collectors themselves! Their unique character and art events have a devoted following and they consistently provide an irresistible shopping experience, ensuring loyalty with their customers.
With an almost 20 year history of providing a personalised and unique experience to art collecting, the company has become one of the leading companies in the world offering licensed character fine art. They are constantly reinventing what they do and how they do it, not just in terms of images from the shows they represent, but creativity working with artists who reinterpret characters, and innovating special product such as the now sold out 3D layered Paddington Bear limited edition signed by creator Michael Bond that retailed for £450.
Russell is now planning to open more retail galleries, and focus on the company’s retail partners and clients. They are also expanding their gallery partner division. Soon they’ll be refreshing their website to accommodate and communicate the growth and change, accompanying their vibrant social media presence
As to what makes the company such a success, Russell says, “Having a passion for what you do, and being interested in character art since 10 years old. You can't buy or pretend to have that kind of experience or drive for what you do. And that's the secret in any business - love what you do!”