Iowa state grad rocks art world

Kyndal Reimer

Many artists spend their weekdays working at a job unconnected to their art to pay the bills. They spend their nights building their brand, all the while battling the villain that is the unemployment rate among artists.

Fine arts and design majors are among the top 10 worst college majors based on unemployment rates, according to the Huffington Post and the Simple Dollar.

Not only are unemployment rates high, but they are expected to continue to rise in the future. The rate of employment in 2015 is 11.8 percent for recent graduates and 7.5 percent for experienced graduates in the field, according to Forbes.

A considerable number of art-focused majors move on to occupations that don’t channel their creative spirit because of these rates.

John Bosley, a 2003 ISU alumnus, has defied those odds.

“The funny thing is I originally began at Iowa State majoring in biological pre-medical illustration,” Bosley said. “I had a love for art, but I also had a love for science. Meshing the two seemed to make sense. While the idea of drawing textbook graphics and cadavers was intriguing, I soon realized that science classes were not my forte.”

Bosley switched majors and earned his bachelor of arts degree in drawing, painting and printmaking.

Bosley shuffled through a few odd jobs following graduation, some of which were art-related. He landed a job as a painting artist at Sticks in Des Moines, moved to a customer service agent job at Nationwide Insurance and worked in production at Sigler Printing Co.

Bosley began a job in October 2009 with RAYGUN, a comical T-shirt store established in 2005 that has become a downtown Des Moines icon.

He started working part-time doing screen printing and printing shirts for the store. He began designing and illustrating merchandise full-time in February 2010.

“RAYGUN was great,” Bosley said. “It was a cool company to work for. I learned a lot about the business side of things, but I sort of outgrew it. At the end of the day, I didn’t own what I was doing and that’s something I really wanted.”

Craving for credit for his work, Bosley left his job at RAYGUN in July 2015 to pursue an independent designing career. As a result, Bozz Prints was born.

“My dog has been the best co-worker ever,” Bosley joked.

Bosley now devotes all his time to handcrafting screen-printed posters and shirts, as well as working on freelance design. His specialty is designing iconic landmarks, geographical settings and regions and then applying his illustrative spin. He’s designed prints ranging from images of the Des Moines Capitol building to Kansas City, Mo., in the shape of a badminton birdie.

“A typical project begins with lots and lots of research,” Bosley said. “I then compose countless sketches and once I’ve settled on a winning design, I begin to draw it up digitally.”

The next step is screen printing, which takes the longest. The entire process usually lasts a week. 

“I’m a huge comic book fan,” Bosley said. “I really love the style approach to line weight and the way they draw and depict things. I try and mimic those sensibilities when I draw too.”

Bosley is currently working on composing designs for the fast-approaching holiday season, bouncing around the Midwest to craft and art shows. He is also creating his first Minneapolis-focused designs and a special city of Des Moines print.

In addition to these prints, he’s also putting together an exclusive print for Iowa State’s homecoming weekend.

The project has been in the works since the beginning of the summer, thanks to the Iowa State University Alumni Association and The Iowa State Daily.

Bosley was selling his prints at the Lucky Star annual spring market in Ames  when Lawrence Cunningham, the publisher and general manager at the Iowa State Daily Media Group, stopped to talk to Bosley. Cunningham suggested that Bosley design something for the Alumni Association featuring the new stadium entrance.

“Luck favors the prepared,” Bosley said. “In this case, I was prepared. I had all my best merchandise out for the show. Lawrence stumbled upon me, and that’s how I landed this fantastic gig.”

The design will serve as a commemorative print featuring the south end zone entrance at Jack Trice Stadium. It will be available and handed out during homecoming weekend at the Alumni Center.

“We want to promote the ISU Alumni Center as a ‘Homecoming hub’ for people to stop and get maps, schedules, treats and so on,” said Katie Lickteig, the assistant director for outreach and events at the Iowa State Alumni Center. “As we were brainstorming extra incentives, this idea of a premium exclusive giveaway kept floating around. The idea of a print that would appeal to current students, alumni and community members came to light.”

This project was intriguing to Bosley because it brings his appreciation for his education at Iowa State full circle.

“When I was in school, I’d see work by Iowa State graduates that would be inspiring to me as an artist,” Bosley said. “Artists would come by, and it was neat to see them go off on their own and be such a success. It’s special to be seen as one of those success stories. It’s an honor to be involved.”

After brainstorming, sketching, designing, printing and signing all 425 copies, Bosley completed and delivered the print Friday.

One of Bosley’s biggest inspirations throughout his journey has been Charles Richards, professor of art and visual culture.

Bosley took Richards’ ARTIS 330, a life drawing class, twice during his time at Iowa State.

“Bosley was among one of the better students, and that goes beyond just having talent,” Richards said. “What set Bosley apart was that after college, he stuck with it. He was tenacious. There’s a number of art majors who after college, get lost. As an art major, you have to create your own opportunities. John has conquered the most difficult part.”

Richards explained how it takes discipline to work on art outside of a 40-hour work week. While a person needs to make money in order to pay bills, they need to also develop as an artist. Chasing the dream is just as important as having talent.

Bosley remains excited and open-minded about the future of Bozz Prints.

“I really look forward to seeing where Bozz Prints takes me,” Bosley said. “I want to continue developing prints and posters and shirts for new places, new cities. Not just places, but also the home market such as kitchen art, kids room art and so on. I see myself as a screen-printing powerhouse that can apply himself to anyone anywhere.”

Bosley’s work is available online at, as well as at craft shows and small shops in Kansas City and Des Moines. He hopes to be involved with the Des Moines Farmer’s Market in the future.

Bosley said it’s unlikely that he’ll ever open his own shop. If anything, he would open a studio with a part-time storefront option.

“It’s fun traveling and meeting people as opposed to being stationary in a store,” Bosley said. “Face-to-face contact is ideal, I believe it’s the best way to do the job. The dream would be to move out of the basement of my house and open my own studio. That way I could concentrate on the design and art business of it all, and then maybe even farm out the production side of things to employees.”

While Bosley admits that tossing out the safety blanket — his job at RAYGUN — was the most challenging part of his journey, he also believes it was the most satisfying. His experience has been nothing but validating.

“I believe the key to success, especially for an artist in today’s age, is to not be afraid to try new things, and not just try them casually, but try them with confidence,” Bosley said. “Confidence goes a long way with everything in life. If someone else can do it, why can’t I? Don’t ask permission; go for it.”