Transcript of interview with Ann Rea, Artist and Mentor and Lori Sweet, Artist, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
What’s the most important step?
– Really, the most important step, because all the other things are either hard or impossible to do without that fundamental, psychological shift, which is simply believing that you can be a successful artist.
– And you can define that success in a way that satisfies you, and you don’t have to meet anyone else’s damn standard.
Are you a real artist?
– Where we got the idea of what is an artist, and what does it mean to be an artist, and challenging some of those beliefs, I know that I’ve struggled with that in terms of I’m not a real artist. I still have that, “But real artists don’t do that,” you know what I mean? I go out there and I can’t really about all this–
– Okay! Who are these real artists? I want to meet them!
– No I mean now that you see it.
– and say it, it’s crazy
– Really, ask yourself, you know, what the hell, who are the artists? And how do you become one? How do you get deputized, where do you get a license or certificate to be a real artist? I don’t know.
– How should you wear your hair, what do you dress like in order to be one. I mean, now saying it, it sounds crazy but, if somebody’s out there thinking that they have to be a particular way, or particular thing, that’s just a lie.
– It’s nuts!
What is a real art?
My mentor, certainly not in business, but my mentor artistically, was Wayne Theibaud. WayneTheibaud, is, he’s in every major art collection. When I met him, his paintings were starting to sell for over a million dollars on the secondary art market. They’re much more now. That said, and he had a retrospective touring the nation that was at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, which means kind of like you’ve hit it big, right? And I asked him about this. I asked him about feeling like a legitimate artist or a real artist, and you’d think he has every single reason to feel like a legitimate artist. But here’s what he said to me. He said, “When I look at a Degas, I think my art is crap.”
– Mmm, wow.
– Even him, even he was struggling with it. That was actually really a good lesson for me, because I realized, who the hell wants to become that successful and work that hard, and get to a place where you can’t even enjoy it?
What is art?
– We’re drawn to different things and–
– and there’s value in that, you know, for each person has something to bring.
– Yeah, and let me offer you another analogy. You know, you might see your friend is married to this man, and she is in love with him, she’s loved him for years. In her mind she’s got a great relationship, it’s healthy, it’s everything she’s ever dreamed of, and you think, “I wouldn’t walk across the street with that guy!”
– Right, right.
– That’s art! We have to give some real honest context to some of these beliefs and opinions, so what we can decide what matters and what is just bullshit, doesn’t matter.
What did you struggle with?
– Feeling self-doubt, and that kind of falls into the category also of feeling “I’m too old” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” and that kind of self-doubt. And then also, feeling more confused or I guess on the business end of it, not sure exactly even where to start, or what to do.
Why does art matter to you?
– [Lori] To my art, why is my art just a hobby? Why is it just on the side but it’s always been there and I always come back to it. And every time I try not do it I get depressed, and struggle with the what’s my purpose in life kind of thing. It just kept coming back.
What did you decide?
I just thought, you know, what am I waiting for? Like, this is what I want to do, this is always what I’ve wanted to do, and however that looks, whatever that looks like in my life, as a part-time or full-time or whatever, but really embrace it more as a serious business adventure that I’m undertaking.
What help did you find?
– I don’t call myself a coach, I don’t have a coaching certificate and I don’t want one, and I’m never gonna get one, I just share my experience selling my own fine art and I share lessons from students like Lori, so that we get real, practical information and tangible strategies. But you said you looked around online, and the truth is, I don’t look to see who else is teaching this because I really can’t be bothered, I know what I’m doing, but what did you discover? I’m actually curious what you discovered? And don’t be shy!
– Yeah, so, I think over the past year and a half, two years, I started to watch your videos and I was really inspired because you were kind of saying things that were in my head, and I’m like, oh my gosh, maybe I’m not crazy. There’s someone else saying these things! So that was great. But I did look around and I tapped into things. And my son also went to art school, so I really resonated. He had graduated a couple years ago with an illustration major, and he and his girlfriend are not working in art, they’re working other jobs because of the debt and no business. So, one of my options was should I go back to school? But after watching my son go through that, there was no business help, nothing, you know, and a huge debt. So that was frustrating. I found a couple other people who were doing things, but they were focused more on, one of them was like, “Get into a reputable gallery.” That was the first thing she talked about. And the other one was talking about, “What awards have you had?” And, “What’s your resume?” And, “Where have you shown?” And, “How many shows have you had?” And I loved that one of the first things you said is, “Don’t put your resume on your website!”
– No one’s looking at it!
– There are one-on-one coaches too, so people who were doing meet one-on-one with you, and I think real coaching in terms of inspiring you but wasn’t so much geared to the business end of it. So there were all these different factors and then I looked into some just regular life coaches. One person I talked to, I didn’t take her course but I talked to her, she was neat to talk with, but as she was talking, one of the things she said to me was, “I looked at your art website, “and it just had this emotional charge to it, “and that is where I think your gold is.” And so when I got off the phone call with her, I don’t know you were just in my head and I went back and I clicked on your next training and that was when I signed up. Because I am like, that is where my gold is. It’s in my art, and I want to be in an art program and a business-oriented program in something that is longer-term with a support network that could help me really anchor in and also be self-reflective, so that I could deal with some of the resistance and the beliefs that I have.
What have you learned?
There’s nothing holding us back, but us!
– Exactly, good! If we have the problem for a long enough period of time, we start to fall under the illusion that we’re always gonna have this problem. We’re always gonna struggle knowing how to price our art. We’re always gonna struggle feeling comfortable selling our art. We’re always gonna struggle understanding our creative purpose and who our niche is. And that’s just not true! These are all problems that can be solved.
– Right, and they can be solved in a happy way.
– Right, you don’t have to. Crying and gnashing of teeth and suffering is completely optional. If you wanted to do it, I’m not gonna stop you but you really don’t have to!
What have you learned?
– Just that the work that you feel inspired to do is important, but that’s a value in your own life, and to other people. And it’s important to be able to have a container for that, how to bring that forward, so there’s value in that. I think when people are called, like when they’ve been spending that much time doing their art, and investing that much energy, even if they haven’t sold anything.
– A lot of artists will say, “oh, I don’t want to join your “program because I don’t want to change my style.” Do I advise you to change your style?
– No, not at all, not at all. But really to actually embrace it.
– Exactly, that’s where your power is. That’s why another book on the reading list is Do You by Russell Simmons. I want you to do you! And don’t try to do anybody else but you, you were not going to be any good at it anyway!
What else have you learned?
– When I would think about doing the whole thing at once, it felt overwhelming, but to realize that you know what, everybody goes through stages and you might fail, if you want to call it that. But you try to figure things out, it might work, it might not, but you learn in that process and that there actually is value in taking small steps and moving forward, and that other people have done this before. And that rejection, which is part of a great big group of people who have had to deal with things until they succeed. So I think that is something else that’s very well communicated in the program, that there are tools and there are processes and there are systems that you can put in place that apply to what your situation is. And that other people have done it and you can take those steps too, and it’s doable, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
What if an artist asked you this program?
I would tell them to apply. If they get in and feel that this is the right time, they have to feel like they can invest the time, and that they are motivated. But I am only at the end of course one, and I’ve read the first two books on the list and I want to say, I had been following you for a while before I did but there were kind of bits and pieces of what you offered in your free videos, but I have to say, there’s way more here and there’s way more value, and there’s a lot more substance. And, like you said, that comprehensive package than I even understood when I was actually signing up. So now, on this side, I would say absolutely, I wish I wouldn’t have waited.