A Tribute to My Mentor, Wayne Thiebaud
A Tribute to My Mentor
Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone. This is Ann Rea coming to you live from San Francisco, California. I’m a fine artist. I’m a mentor to about 23 different types of other fine artists from 22 countries and counting for over 15 years. And today I want to pay a very special tribute to my mentor, one of my mentors, Wayne Thiebaud. So if you don’t know who Wayne Thiebaud is, he was an American art icon, and if you crack open your art history book, you’ll see him featured alongside Andy Warhol. And he was a pretty significant influence in my life. And I thought I’d just share a little story about how I came to meet Wayne Thiebaud and how he influenced me and how that created a ripple effect, because if I had not met Wayne Thiebaud, then I wouldn’t be standing here right now,
Ann Rea: (01:00)
and I wouldn’t have created the Making Art Making Money program, and I wouldn’t have helped so many artists all around the world. So what happened was at the time I met Wayne Thiebaud, I was working as a development director at a shelter for battered women and children. And– one of my many jobs, I had lots of jobs before I decided to become a full-time artist. And I was in my office, and I was interviewing an investment advisor about setting up a charitable trust for the Non-profit where I worked. And I remember I didn’t work there for very long because the executive director was, let’s just say a little lacking in integrity. She was actually having an affair with the staff attorney, and she wanted me to raise money for them to go on some trip to India together.
Ann Rea: (02:00)
And I just, I couldn’t do it because I knew the only reason they were sauntering off on this trip is so that they could spend time alone. And so I was really unhappy in that job for obvious reasons, but I was finding time to paint. And I remember the investment advisor. I had my paintings behind me in my office. It was a pretty dreary office. And I thought, “Well, I’ll brighten my office up with some paintings.” And he looked at the paintings and he said, “Wow, were you a student of Wayne Thiebaud?” And I said, “No, I wasn’t a student of Wayne Thiebaud.” And he said, “Well, I’m actually a collector. And I think your paintings are fantastic. And I think, you know, it’s really interesting that you’re not a student of Wayne Thiebaud.” And he said, “Maybe you should talk to him.”
Ann Rea: (02:51)
And I thought, “Well, maybe I should.” And so I thought, “How am I going to meet this icon?” Right? How is that going to be possible? Well, what I learned was that he was a professor at the university of California at Davis where he worked for free actually as a professor. And because they couldn’t afford to pay him what he was worth. But he also really enjoyed being a student of art. And he said he learned a lot about his own painting by helping other young artists learn how to make art. And so what I decided to do was actually write him a letter. So I wrote him a letter and I put slides inside of the letter. Remember when we had slides? Many of you were too young to remember that. But I had slides of my work and I put it inside this envelope, and I just sort of blessed it and thought, “Oh God, I hope
Ann Rea: (03:49)
I hear from him.” And I asked him if he would phone me at work if he was willing, and able to give me a critique of my art. And lo and behold, he called me. And this was in 1999. This was like 23 years ago or whatever. So it was like a time when we weren’t all bombarded with our smart phones, right? Where a phone call wasn’t an annoyance, right? When people made the space and time for one another, and Wayne made the space and time for me. And it was really, really special. I was so thrilled. And so I went to the campus at UC Davis where he had an art studio, and he had some paintings that he was working on. And I would go there for critiques. I wasn’t a student, but I would audit his classes when I could go.
Ann Rea: (04:44)
And he gave me a lot of encouragement. And as a result of knowing Wayne, I was able to meet his friend and colleague who also sadly passed away this year, Gregory Kondos. And Gregory was also a great source of inspiration, and encouragement to me. I remember one day I was standing on the sidewalk, about to go into a gallery to meet with Gregory. And I was so grateful that Gregory was making the time for me. And so I said to him, “I’m just so grateful that you’re making the time to speak with me, and encourage me.” And he said, “Well, I’ll tell you what, just make me a promise.” And I said, “What’s that, Gregory?” And he said, “Just make sure you help other artists.” And I really took that to heart, and I thought, “Okay, I don’t know how I’m going to, but you know, we’ll do that somehow some way, someday.” So fast forward, you know, I met with Wayne and one of the things he did was really encourage me to pursue my art, but I had to ask this question. I had to ask, “Well, Wayne, how am I going to make a living as an artist?”
Ann Rea: (05:58)
And he said, “I don’t know, I’m not a businessman.” His words still ring in my head. And I thought, “The IRS sure thinks you’re a businessman.” And that was because at that very time, his paintings were selling for over $1 million on the secondary art market. Now he wasn’t getting a million dollars cause we know how that’s all rigged, but he was getting paid well. He had– his son was running a gallery here in San Francisco called “The Paul Thiebaud Gallery,” and he had licensing deals. So he was very much a businessman. But in that moment I recognized this very severe disconnect between making art and making money. And in honor of that moment, I decided to put those two words back together, and I own the trademark “Making Art Making Money” because if Wayne’s art didn’t make any money, we would’ve never heard of him.
Ann Rea: (06:56)
Right? And we wouldn’t have been able to be touched by his amazing talent. So it’s really important. So he taught me so many things. He’s taught me so many things that are very important about making art, but what he didn’t teach me about was the making money part. And fortunately for Wayne, he was one of the very few artists who won the lottery within the art establishment, but it wasn’t until much later in his life that he really received recognition and payment for his talent. And I met him he was in his like late seventies. And my thought was, number one, I don’t wanna take the chance that I could live my whole life dedicated to art, and never be recognized, and never be paid. And I didn’t wanna be at the mercy of the art establishment, this scarcity and permission-based art establishment. So like I said, fortunately for Wayne he was able to be one of those lucky lottery winners.
Ann Rea: (08:02)
But it wasn’t a sheer luck. He was obviously incredibly talented, and he was incredibly hard-working, and dedicated, and so articulate, and so inspiring. And I’d like to share with you a moment where I read the letter of recommendation that he wrote for me. And I wanna share this with you just because it’s a moment that was really important to me. And it reminded me of a quote that I read recently, which I’ll share with you. And the quote is, the quote is this, and I think this is really important for artists to hear. “Surround yourself with people who believe in you more than you do yourself.” So at that time when I
Ann Rea: (08:55)
met Wayne, I certainly didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t believe in my art. I was really in desperate need of affirmation, and I was in desperate need of validation. And I think that it’s just true, we don’t succeed alone. So here’s what Wayne– I actually framed the letter that I received from Wayne. So I’ll grab it now. Here’s the letter. It’s dated November 18th, 1999. It’s a long time ago. And it says “Rea.” Ann Rea. Right? “I’m very pleased to recommend Ms. Rea as a practicing artist. She is an extraordinary candidate, and she exemplifies a rare combination of very special qualities. Ann Rea has an engaging manner of working and relating to varying and challenging circumstances. She has a well-developed confidence and personal inner resources, allowing her to use critical confrontation for positive results.” Critical confrontation. I think he had my number way back then.
Ann Rea: (10:02)
I don’t back down from a just fight. “Ann Rea is intelligent and sensitive with a deep capacity for serious and sustained work. She is keen to share this talent. I urge you to take her application seriously, and I highly recommend her as someone who can make a significant contributions to the community through her art.” So I’m not sharing that to brag with you. I’m sharing that because it did make a really important impact on my life. And it was because for the very reason that this quote explains, you know. (Inaudible). I don’t know how long my mic has been muted. Let’s see. Let’s see. Has it been muted the whole time? Let’s hope not. I might have to do this again. Sam, when did the audio cut out? At what point? I might have to do this again. Oh shoot. I am so sorry. I may have to do this again. I think I probably will. Gosh. Oh, only 30 seconds. Okay, good. Alright. Less than one minute. Alright. Hey Matt. Hey Sam. Alright. Good. So what I was trying to explain was that,
Ann Rea: (11:54)
you know– you were summing up Wayne’s letter. Okay. Thanks Matt. So in summary, what Wayne did for me in that moment was he was, you know, as the quote goes, “Surround yourself with people who believe in you more than you do in yourself.” And Wayne believed in me way more than I believed in myself. And thank God he did because now I work with hundreds of artists who frankly, when they come to the Making Art Making Money program, they’re not real strong believers in themselves. And it’s no big surprise because they’re living in a culture. Let’s face it. We live in a culture as fine artists who actually celebrates our suffering, romanticizes it, in fact. And we live in a society that expects us to fail, expects us to struggle. There’s no other professional that has to endure those kind of mind limiting-beliefs and expectations.
Ann Rea: (13:04)
So I want you to take it from this, what you, what you will, but I just want to pay my deepest respects and heartfelt gratitude to Wayne Thiebaud, and to his friend Gregory Kondos. And I just can’t emphasize enough. We don’t succeed alone. None of us succeeds alone. So Sam says “Having older friends. It helps see a broader perspective rather than here, and now. It’s each step that matters.” Yup, absolutely. Yes. I mean, it’s people who’ve gone before us and who’ve learned more, can give us so many shortcuts and so much insight that we don’t necessarily yet possess. And that doesn’t mean you have to accept everything that elder passes on to you without questions, but you aren’t gonna be able to figure it out by yourself. There’s just no way. So, on that note, I’d like to invite all of you to a five-day challenge that is happening live in January.
Ann Rea: (14:22)
It starts on January 18th, and it’s going to go till Saturday. The classes are going to be free, and they are in honor of Gregory Kondos. They’re only 30 minutes each. If you can’t make it for some reason, you can watch the replay for a limited time. And we’re also going to have a special VIP session where applicants can ask me anything you want. And you can also ask my students. I’ll have a couple students there. You can ask them anything you like. But I would say, you know, take a minute to thank someone who’s helped you. Take a minute to, I mean, the thing is like these tributes is like, “Damn, I wish I would’ve said exactly what I said in person to their face while they were alive.” Right? And we forget to do this. So if there’s someone that you can thank for your success or for your progress, I can’t emphasize enough, do it. Do it before it’s too late. And in honor of Wayne Thiebaud, go make art that you love and get paid doing it.
About Ann Rea
Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based artist and the creator of The Making Art Making Money program. Her art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, by the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent is commended by her mentor, art icon, Wayne Thiebaud.