– Okay, this is Ann Rea coming to you from San Francisco, California and this is is Donna Shearn coming from — London.
– London! So Donna’s a student of mine in The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester.
I posted in our closed Facebook group to ask about how many people, how many of the artists there, had really just given up on art altogether for a long time even though they had trained for it and spent probably a considerable amount of money and time earning Fine Art degrees or getting training. I’m in that category.
I didn’t paint or draw anything for over 10 years. I didn’t touch art. I gave up on art altogether. So I’m, what I found is this is pretty common experience. I think a lot of artists are operating under the assumption that if you’ve given up, you’ve given up and you can’t come back to your art but it’s like riding a bike. You can if you want to. So, Donna, I’m just curious, tell me what was your journey. You studied art and then what happened?
– Yeah, well, I studied as a teenager, took private lessons from age 11 to 18 and then when it was time to go to college, I didn’t really get the support from my parents to pursue art and my art teacher was gutted. He just sort of, he was so upset that I wasn’t doing it but I felt sort of caught between what the two sides wanted and I was too afraid, I think, to rebel so I did a sensible degree. I went to business school. I became a computer programmer and that took me eventually to Washington, D.C. and then Holland and eventually I decided I miss it too much. I’m gonna study art again.
– May I ask how old were you when you decided to go back to art?
– At this point I was about 26.
– Okay, and you earned a business degree and you’d learned about Computer Science in the meantime.
– Yeah, I was a programmer and so I was made redundant, got a severance package because the company nearly folded so they laid loads of people off and I decided, well, I’ll use that money to go to art college and I applied to Roller-an School of Design and the Fine Art Academy in The Hague and I got offers from both. So I was really excited.
– Great job.
– But I decided to stay in Holland ’cause I had met somebody so but it was taught in Dutch and I had to gem up on my Dutch and start studying part-time while I was still working part-time.
– So I did that for a couple of years. Graphic Design, not painting that I wanted to do.
– Was that a practical choice?
– It was a practical choice, yeah, but the course had a lot of the things I liked. It had printmaking, had painting, it had art history.
– So it sort of felt comfortable enough but it was a five year degree part-time at night so before I could finish, my soon-to-be husband, he was offered a job in England so we moved to London and I started all over again at another university —
– Oh my gosh! Okay.
– [Donna] Yes.
– How many degrees do you have, Donna?
– I wasn’t finishing them so —
– But it sounds like you were still studying quite a bit.
– Yeah, but the degree itself seemed to be unattainable. So I started and as soon as I started I was pregnant and then —
– I just wanna point out there’s a lot, so that life happens along the way and if you’re committed, you’ll find your way back to it when the time is right.
– That’s right, yeah. Yes, I seemed to always, I always seemed to keep my hand in somehow but eventually I had to drop out because, after my daughter was born, I had two young children to look after —
– So I put it on hold but I just have continued to do short courses and then eventually a two year Fine Art course, not degree course but a course, an adult education college in London and that gave me more confidence and I started, I started earning some money but still wasn’t getting as far as I wanted to so I stumbled upon your course and was really feeling guilty about investing yet more money in trying to get there —
– But you know in order to graduate from my program, you need to earn your tuition back at a minimum.
– Well, I was just gonna say, I was very skeptical and feeling guilty and I had all these about signing up but I wanted to more than I didn’t want to so I’m so glad that I took the leap of faith because —
– It’s given me just unbelievable focus and confidence and even though I’m not there yet financially, I feel that it’s given me hope and I feel that it’s possible.
– Now were you the one who met up with, went to Ka-dee-gee’s event in London and gave her a big fat hug?
– Yes! Yeah, in Wimbledon. So I’m in Ealing and she’s in Wimbledon so it’s maybe an hour or a bit less to get there so —
– That was lovely. I know she said something like she felt like you were sisters, that you just —
– Yeah, yeah.
– I thought that was really, that makes me very happy because so many artists are working in isolation.
– [Donna] Yes, yeah.
– They don’t have the support of their family or their friends and I actually do appreciate and respect a parent’s concern about their child enrolling in art school because the tuition, especially for the top art schools, is quite high and the fact is is that most fine, I’m gonna just speak of fine artists and fine craft people, not necessarily commercial artists. They usually quit making art altogether after two years so I understand the concern. There’s a missing piece here about how you go about making money from your art and, I don’t know about you but when I asked about how I was gonna make money with my art to my fine art professors, I was shamed for even asking.
– Like somehow I shouldn’t have that concern. I mean, I have a concern about eating and having a place to live so why wouldn’t I have that concern?
– Yeah, I know. I kind of think, I wonder, I was probably ready enough at 18 if I had the wherewithal to start a business, I probably had enough to get started at that point but I don’t regret.
– That’s why your support network is so, so important and when I interviewed Ka-dee-gee about her most recent success so, by the way, listen to that interview with Ka-dee-gee who’d never sold art before in her life and sold, organized her first exhibition, she organized it herself. She sold 24 paintings, she secured three commissions, and she got back orders and she had, she built in a mailing list. She also doesn’t have a website yet. So that’s the power of what you can do when you put your mind to it but I think she really, she mentioned you and she really emphasized the fact that you came —
– And you showed her support. It meant a lot to her.
– Yeah, I wanted to get there early in case, ’cause I know if it was me, I would be waiting for that first person to arrive so I thought well, I’ll get there right on the dot atsix —
– But she had lots of support already so, in fact, it was the opposite. She, you know, we didn’t have as much time to talk as we would’ve like ’cause she had some new people to greet so it was lovely to see all the support she had.
– Yeah but when you see other people’s success, I think it helps really give you confidence, right? If they can do it, of course, you can do it. They’re students just like you.
– Yeah. Incidentally, I’m gonna meet another artist in the semester.
– Oh will you please take a photo and post it?
– I will, yes.
– I’d love to see. I love when that happens because, so for those of you listening, we have a global community of artists who are my students in the Making Art, Making Money program but every now and then, they live close enough to each other that they can actually meet in person. So that’s always great joy to see that they’ve actually met in person and they may have been doing what are called study partner calls where they meet with each other on video calls like Donna and I are doing right now and then they get to meet in person. So let me ask you this, if you could travel back in time and you could go back to that teenage girl who really wanted to study art, sounds like she had a art teacher who really wanted her to study art, and you could give her some advice, what would you say to her?
– Oh, I think I would say that there isn’t some magical ingredient that you get from art school, that you can learn a lot but it’s not the only way to get there and I think I always felt like I was missing something, that people go to art college and they get something there that–
– Yeah, they’re missing the part about how you’re gonna make money with your art That’s the part they’re missing
– It’s true and you can’t be successful without it and I think I would tell her that actually, just trust in yourself and your vision and you’ve got enough to get started.
– Right. Now you went to business school so did, why didn’t going to business school teach you how to sell art? What’s your perspective on that?
– I mean, it was a business degree. It was a liberal arts university so the first year you did all sorts of subjects, almost a continuation from high school subjects and then I think I switched degrees a couple of times ’cause I just didn’t know what to do —
– Well, it wasn’t really until the end of the second, the third year that I started to hone in on what I was studying and even then it’s only an introduction to accounting and statistics and all those things. It wasn’t applied and then I specialized more into computing so, yeah, I didn’t even, I learned most of my programming on the job. I just think the degree, it was good basis but it didn’t go deeply, deep enough to teach me how to run a business.
– Right and that’s why this is very practical and hands on and I expect you to test your prototypes and use the, what you’ve learned about selling in your selling conversations and start to really define your terms, your business terms and maintain your terms and get clear on your pricing and maintain your pricing and it’s just a training ground really here in this semester. So you said earlier that you kind of hesitated. You weren’t sure, oh, if I should spend even more money on another program!
– This called, what i sThe MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester.? So you obviously had some hesitation there. So now I’m gonna ask you again if you could go back in time to the place where you were like not sure, oh man, I shouldn’t spend more money on this. I don’t know about this program called the Making Art, Making Money semester. What would you have told yourself? Now that you’re in it?
– Don’t hesitate. It’s been the best thing because I also, personally, I have some demands on my time that mean it’s harder to make art at the moment and this has kept my sanity because I know that I’m still working towards it and I’m forming my business in other ways and yeah, it’s been the best thing. Everyday I’m so grateful I’m doing it and —
– Oh good!
– [Donna] Yes, yeah.
– Yay! Well, I have no doubt that you’ll do well, Donna. You’ve got, even though the point of this, my talking to you is to talk about how so many artists give up and they think that, oh, I’ve given up, I’ve lost time, I’ve lost traction. I don’t think that’s true. I think that, like, I’ll just speak for myself. When I, even though I gave up on art altogether, I’m actually glad I did because I gave up on a system and an establishment and an approach that is broken and will never work.
– So when I found my way back to it, I had a different set of standards for myself. I was not willing to ask for permission anymore and so it had a very different outcome and so I would say if you’re feeling like it’s too late, it’s never too late! You’re still alive! It’s not too late.
– [Donna] Exactly.
– It’s not too late and I think you’re gonna do really well. I think you’ve got, the fact that you’re, you’ve met, you’re gonna meet in person with this second, like that’s pretty extraordinary you actually get to meet in person with two fellow students. You witnessed a significant success of fellow students and you’re gonna take this on the timeline that suits you, Donna. There’s no rush. What matters is you just maintain and you just, just be consistent and you’ll get there.
– Right, I really believe that as well.
– Good. Well for those of you in the United States, happy fourth of July!
– Yeah, we stopped —
– Not so much in England
– I still think about it even though I don’t live in the States anymore.
– Well, Donna, it was a pleasure speaking with you in person. I love meeting my students and I appreciate you sharing your story and just being proof that you can find your way back.
– And I’m looking forward to seeing you graduate.
– Oh, me too.
– Alright, take good care.
– You too. Thank you.