Art Representatives Who Rip Off Fine Artists


Artist Cynthia Mosser 
Vancouver, Washington 

Ann Rea: (00:00)
Hello everyone, this is Ann Rea coming to live from San Francisco, California. And this is one of my students, Cynthia, who’s coming to us from Seattle?

Cynthia Mosser: (00:11)
Vancouver, Washington.

Ann Rea: (00:12)
I can’t hear you at all. Let’s see. Say it again. It’s my fault. I got tech issues left and right this morning,

Cynthia Mosser: (00:20)
Hello? Can you hear me?

Ann Rea: (00:21)
Hi! Yes, now I can.

Cynthia Mosser: (00:23)

Ann Rea: (00:24)
Alright. So, where are you coming from on the planet? Tell us again.

Cynthia Mosser: (00:27)
Vancouver, Washington.

Ann Rea: (00:28)
Vancouver, Washington. Alright, everyone. So I’m doing a whole interview series for my book that I’m going to be publishing, and the interview series is with my students. And it’s called, “Has this happened to you?” And most of my students have been through a kind of a war zone trying to sell and market their art. And now what I ask– inviting them to do is to share their experience so that you don’t have to make the same expensive, time-consuming, confidence-crushing soul-sucking mistakes. And so it’s very generous of them to come on here and share what they experience. So please give them some appreciation for that kind of a bold move. Now, Cynthia, there’s that list of 43 and counting ways that most artists use to try to market and sell their art that don’t work and never will. What was the one that jumped out for you?

Cynthia Mosser: (01:35)
I highlighted creating new bodies of work.

Ann Rea: (01:38)
Yes! .

Ann Rea: (01:42)

Cynthia Mosser: (01:42)
And I thought, I don’t have to do that anymore. Oh my gosh! You’re right!

Ann Rea: (01:48)
Yes, let me give you some context for what I mean by this, because this’ll confuse a lot of artists. So many artists believe that, okay, if their art is not selling, all that they need to do is create a whole new body of work with some new style or some new subject or some new inspiration. However, if you’re not selling your current body of work, that’s not the thing to do. Making more of that inventory isn’t going to fix it. Right? What you got to fix is typically your strategy, your marketing, and your sales strategy. So, Cynthia, were you just like–tell it. Take us to the moment. When you read that, what did you think of?

Cynthia Mosser: (02:37)
Well, I thought of all the years that I’ve made the bodies of work for gallery shows in which I’m no longer a part of. And I realized that after taking your course, all I have to do now is connect with my ideal client.

Ann Rea: (02:56)

Cynthia Mosser: (02:57)
That’s it.

Ann Rea: (02:58)
That’s it.

Cynthia Mosser: (02:59)
And create a piece for them, or a piece that I already have that they like.

Ann Rea: (03:03)
That’s it. So do you know why galleries want you or just continue to mandate that artists create whole new bodies of work? Do you have a sense of why that is, Cynthia? If you don’t, I can explain.

Cynthia Mosser: (03:19)
Well, it’s to keep things moving. It’s sales for them. That’s what it is, essentially in my mind. And I have my own thought about being in an art gallery, but enlighten me, let me know. I’d love to.

Ann Rea: (03:35)
Yeah. Okay. So, you know, unlike any other retailer, you know, typically retailers have to invest in inventory, right? And they pay typically 50% the cost of the retail, cost for the inventory that they buy. They also have to pay taxes on that inventory. However, if you’re an art gallery or a representative, you don’t buy anything. You only consign inventory. So it’s a great deal. So what they do is they put the fear of God into you. And they say, “Keep creating work.” Right? Because it’s free, unlimited, tax-free inventory. And then they just cherry-pick what they want, right? They don’t take all the work you’ve created or enough of the work that you’ve created. They take a little bit here, a little bit there. So you’ve done all of this work, creating all of this inventory, paying for all these supplies all this time. And you’re lucky. Lucky if they can sign one or two pieces. So that’s why it’s not going to work, because if you keep doing that, you’re not going to generate a profit. If you don’t generate a profit within a certain timeframe defined by the IRS or your taxing authority, then you’ve got yourself an expensive hobby, then they can categorize your business as a hobby, then you will lose all your tax deductions, which means you will never be able to operate a business and you won’t be able to sustain yourself. So this is why it’s so bad.

Cynthia Mosser: (05:16)
Speaking of profit, I never made a profit in an art gallery ever.

Ann Rea: (05:21)
Of course you didn’t.

Cynthia Mosser: (05:22)
I lost money. In fact, with all the expensive framing.

Ann Rea: (05:26)
Yes. And a lot of the galleries sell you the framing. Did you notice that?

Cynthia Mosser: (05:33)
Yes. Mm-hmm. . Yes.

Ann Rea: (05:36)
Yes, you can’t use your framing. You got to use their expensive custom framing. It’s a great deal for them.

Cynthia Mosser: (05:43)
Yes. I’m so done.

Ann Rea: (05:45)
I’m so glad you’re done. Because it’s just, it just takes away your dignity.

Cynthia Mosser: (05:54)
I felt the least valued as a human being and as a woman in this gallery than I’ve ever felt. And it was demoralizing. And I’m so glad, it was a great experience. I’m so glad that I had the experience, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to show there. But at the end, it was really, it wasn’t good for me.

Ann Rea: (06:20)
Cause keywords, Cynthia. Show, not sell. So what’s your goal here? If your goal is to show your art, you have yourself a hobby. God bless you. Making Art Making Money is not for you. Not a problem. No judgment. You do you. But if you want to experience the validation, the satisfaction of actually running a profitable fine art business and having real relationships with your collectors, then that’s a different path altogether.

Cynthia Mosser: (06:54)
And it’s deep work. It’s the best work I’ve ever done in my life.

Ann Rea: (07:00)

Cynthia Mosser: (07:02)
I cannot say thank you enough for the course that you’ve created, which has allowed me to understand myself, to then help other individuals. It’s been life changing.

Ann Rea: (07:16)
That is some powerful stuff right there. Well, Cynthia, you did the work, you know?

Cynthia Mosser: (07:23)

Ann Rea: (07:23)
I lay out the roadmap for you guys, but you have to follow it. You have to follow yellow brick road. I can’t get you to us.

Ann Rea: (07:33)
Like Dorothy. Dorothy doesn’t pick up, you know, or Glinda the good witch doesn’t pick up Dorothy. Right? To fly her in her bubble to Oz. You have to go. You have to walk the yellow brick road, which includes lions, tigers, and bears.

Cynthia Mosser: (07:49)

Ann Rea: (07:49)

Cynthia Mosser: (07:50)

Ann Rea: (07:50)
And you have to have companions, right?

Cynthia Mosser: (07:54)
Yes. Yes! I’ve met the most wonderful artists, most supportive artists in this program. And the work that I’ve self-examination has been priceless for me. It’s been better than therapy.

Ann Rea: (08:08)
Nice. Although it’s not therapy. It’s mot everybody.

Cynthia Mosser: (08:11)
It’s not but it helps you understand who you are and why you behave and how you can serve.

Ann Rea: (08:19)

Cynthia Mosser: (08:20)
Serve other individuals.

Ann Rea: (08:21)
Yes. Because you are not getting paid no matter what the heck you do. You are not getting paid if you don’t serve, if you don’t create value, you’re not getting paid. Right? And if you’re an artist sitting out there listening, and you don’t know what your unique value proposition is, or even what that means, or you don’t know who your target market is or your niche, you are going to go out of business. Let me just give it to you straight. Am I making that up, Cynthia? Or is that your understanding?

Cynthia Mosser: (08:52)
Before this program, and even parts sometimes during the program, I didn’t trust that I would know this. And I know it now, and I thought women were my target market.

Ann Rea: (09:08)
No, that’s not a target market. That’s just half the planet. That’s not it.

Cynthia Mosser: (09:11)
You’re right! It’s even further than that, because of the self-examination of my life. And it’s been fantastic knowing, I feel so much more grounded as an artist knowing who I can help and serve.

Ann Rea: (09:24)
I love that because Making Art Making Money is for my intention is to join heaven and earth. Right? Art is heaven. Right? Making art is heaven. Making money is earth. They have to be joined.

Cynthia Mosser: (09:40)

Ann Rea: (09:41)
Yes. If it’s all money, it’s no good. If it’s all art, it’s no good. Right. It has to be that balance. Striking that balance.

Cynthia Mosser: (09:48)

Ann Rea: (09:48)
Let’s go. So if other people understand who maybe struggled with making volumes of new work, not selling enough of it, even losing money in the process, can you go and you don’t have to name names at the gallery or the galleries. I don’t really care. This is more, this is a teaching moment. Can you go back to the moment where it was really painful and you realized, “I am not being valued. I’m not having a good experience.” What was the most painful moment when you were working with the art gallery?

Cynthia Mosser: (10:24)
My most painful moment was when my dealer had my art in a cardboard box, in the broom closet. And when I was coming in to show my art to some clients slash friends of mine, he brought it out.

Ann Rea: (10:42)
Of the broom closet?

Cynthia Mosser: (10:43)
Of the broom closet, stacked, not even front-to-front, back-to-back. And basically threw it out onto the showroom floor, if you will. And I was just like, “How?” I thought to myself, “How could you? I’ve worked so hard for this, and you’re treating it like garbage.”

Ann Rea: (11:07)
Garbage in front of you and in front of potential buyers.

Cynthia Mosser: (11:12)

Ann Rea: (11:13)
What the hell was– what were they thinking? Wow! How did that make you feel?

Cynthia Mosser: (11:19)
I felt the least valued I’d ever felt in my life. And now I understand why I put up with, I understand why I put up with that.

Ann Rea: (11:26)
Yes. Tell me why. Because I think other artists need to understand like why they’re tolerating this level of disrespect and disregard from people who are supposed to be representing them.

Cynthia Mosser: (11:40)
Right. You know, this gallery was high-end and I was desperate to be in there. I wanted the– for me, it was credibility and also pedigree. And I liked that it was feeding my ego. It wasn’t feeding my wallet. And because of that, I was, I thought that was where I was supposed to be.

Ann Rea: (12:02)
Yup. Okay so–

Cynthia Mosser: (12:03)
I worked hard to get there, you know.

Ann Rea: (12:05)
Yes. I want to just warn everyone. This is something that art galleries contest or organizers– they all fricking play on your egos, and specifically your unfulfilled egos. They really sell it hard that this gallery is prestigious. I want to inform all of you that prestige is a French word that means “deceit.” Do not fall for this BS. Do you want to show your art at a prestigious gallery who’s going to toss it in the floor and keep it in this, you know, broom closet or whatever the hell they’re doing? Or do you want to sell your art and keep all the money?

Cynthia Mosser: (12:52)
. Yes. . Oh, keeping the all of it is just brilliant. It feels so good!

Ann Rea: (12:56)
Is it better?

Cynthia Mosser: (12:56)
Super good. Yes! Yes.

Ann Rea: (13:01)
So, alright. So you, but you know, it’s true. You needed to have this experience though, in order to contrast that experience with what you’re experiencing now, right?

Cynthia Mosser: (13:13)

Ann Rea: (13:13)
Or you wouldn’t be able to see this program Making Art Making Money as any value to you.

Cynthia Mosser: (13:20)

Ann Rea: (13:20)
Right. So share with people who are watching. What do you think so far your top two lessons have been inside of the Making Art Making Money program. What pop what comes to mind?

Cynthia Mosser: (13:37)
The top two are; number one is knowing why I behave the way I do now from my past. Ann–

Ann Rea: (13:48)
Knowing yourself.

Cynthia Mosser: (13:49)
Knowing myself. Yes. And taking that knowledge of knowing myself through some really excellent exercises that you’ve created. And then taking that and using that to serve others and help others. It’s solving a problem is what it’s doing.

Ann Rea: (14:08)

Cynthia Mosser: (14:09)

Ann Rea: (14:10)
You don’t get paid unless you solve a problem.

Cynthia Mosser: (14:12)

Ann Rea: (14:12)
So, a lot of people love to argue with me about this, but I really don’t care because I know I’m right. And Cynthia knows I’m right. . So why is it so important for an artist, right? To know themselves? Because unlike other entrepreneurs, we have to know ourselves because our product is an expression of ourselves.

Cynthia Mosser: (14:37)

Ann Rea: (14:38)
So you have to know yourself deeply, right?

Cynthia Mosser: (14:40)
Yes. And then that helps knowing myself deeply helps me connect with others who’ve had the same or similar experiences.

Ann Rea: (14:49)

Cynthia Mosser: (14:50)
And that is then my tribe, who then I can help and serve. And I never thought, “Oh, I’m helping someone with my art.” And now I get based on my, even past collectors who’ve collected my work, they’ve had the same– we have share similarities in our past, and I never even knew it.

Ann Rea: (15:13)
No, you wouldn’t know it because if you work at the gallery, they’re not going to allow you to take, to even speak with your collectors. Right? You would never, never know, and you would never be able to draw on that fountain of inspiration. Right? Take us to a moment where you were working with one of your collectors, you sold a piece of art, and you were like, wow, I really help them, I really created value. What pops into your head as like one of those moments?

Cynthia Mosser: (15:38)
One of my clients told me that when she looks at my art, she feels like she is experiencing the joy that she never got to experience in her childhood.

Ann Rea: (15:51)

Cynthia Mosser: (15:52)
And that was, was really remarkable for me that she feels that that happiness within it. And that made me realize, first of all, she, this was even before the program. She’s this, she’s, oh my gosh, she’s my ideal client. And then during the program, and we had a conversation, I real, she told me what she liked about my work and that that just not only validated me, but al validated what I was thinking, but also made me realize that what I’m doing is helping her. And I never thought that was possible.

Ann Rea: (16:30)
Yeah. So most artists are, especially in art school, you’re taught to be completely self-involved. Mm-hmm. completely self-involved. Look at me, look at me, look at me. And no one really cares. Everybody got a news flash, no one cares. You create value for a target market and then you’ll get paid. No one’s gonna pay you because you’re passionate about your art or your new technique. No one cares. But one of the things that I wanna comment on, Cynthia, is a very important distinction that you now understand. You’re not selling goods or services like a conventional business owner. Right. Your product is emotion. Right. And the emotion that’s ignited in that particular collector you just gave an example about Right? Is this joy and this like memory of childhood that was like kind of, it’s kind of reconstructing in her mind that’s really deep and powerful.

Cynthia Mosser: (17:27)
Yes. And I love that. I love that we have these really authentic connections now.

Ann Rea: (17:33)

Cynthia Mosser: (17:35)
The level of depth within my relationships with my clients and with potential clients is beyond what I ever thought possible. And it’s been so– I can’t. It’s sublime. I mean that’s the best word I can find for it. It’s grounding, it’s deep, it’s beautiful to have that shared human experience and connection.

Ann Rea: (18:01)
Yes. And that’s your job as an artist. An artist’s job is to connect other people with their humanity. That’s our job.

Cynthia Mosser: (18:13)
Thank you. Ann. I never, never knew this. This is so oh so good.

Ann Rea: (18:19)
No, you’re not going to get this in art school or business school, everybody. It’s not going to– you’re not going to teach you this. So. Well, I’m really proud of you. I love that you have learned these lessons and that you put the work in to have, you know, have this progress. And I know it’s only gonna get better because you’re understanding the concepts now. Yes. And you’ve made a big, big shift in your perspective.

Cynthia Mosser: (18:43)

Ann Rea: (18:43)
Right. I’m sure that your paradigm is way different now then when before you joined. So let me ask you, before you joined the program, while you were trying to work with art galleries and losing money, working with art galleries, what were your, what were the top two challenges you were experiencing?

Cynthia Mosser: (19:06)
Well, connecting with clients. I was always trying to sell my work. Like just buy it. Like, uh, you know, there was no,

Ann Rea: (19:15)
It felt cringy, right?

Cynthia Mosser: (19:17)
Yes. It felt very cringy.

Ann Rea: (19:20)
Do you feel cringy now when you sell your art?

Cynthia Mosser: (19:22)
I don’t. I feel authentic.

Ann Rea: (19:24)

Cynthia Mosser: (19:25)
Yeah. And that this is the path that is– I’ve taken 22 years to finally find and I was about to give up on my art and give up on this path. And I knew there was something else extra that I wasn’t getting. And it was until I found you and decided to take the leap that I knew was right. Sometimes you just know that. And yes, it’s an investment. I knew it was right because I was ready for the self-examination and I told my husband, “This is it. This this program is it. Like if it’s not here, I don’t know where it’s going to be. And this is it for me. For me. It may not be for everyone, but for me, this was, this was life-changing.

Ann Rea: (20:14)
Well, we went through the application process to make sure it was for you. Cause we don’t let everybody in. We don’t, I don’t want your money if I don’t think I can help you. If you had given up on your art, which you were contemplating, how do you think that would’ve made you feel?

Cynthia Mosser: (20:30)
I probably would’ve. I mean, how, how dark do you want me to get? I probably would’ve killed myself, I mean, no, I would’ve probably committed suicide. And I’m not kidding you, it’s that

Ann Rea: (20:42)
Harsh. You know what this is, you’re the second person to say this to me. So I interviewed Lucy from Australia. Okay. And she told me that she has had other fine artist friends. So disappointed, so disheartened that they have done that.

Cynthia Mosser: (21:01)
Right. Right.

Ann Rea: (21:02)
So there’s you guys, look, there’s no no need to do this . Right.

Cynthia Mosser: (21:07)
Right, right.

Ann Rea: (21:07)
That’s a very permanent solution to a temporary problem. Cynthia has not been in the program for an entire year and her whole perspective has changed. Yes. And she’s selling art. So this is absolutely possible. Come to our five-day workshop. That is a trial. There’s no cost. Even even if you don’t join the program, you’re still going to gain the benefit. A lot of benefit from the trial. So just come, especially if you’re feeling disheartened, but read the instructions. Cause if you don’t, we’re not letting you in , just F.Y.I. So your biggest challenge were were that you were considering giving up.

Cynthia Mosser: (21:46)

Ann Rea: (21:46)
And you were, you were basically paying money to work with this gallery.

Cynthia Mosser: (21:51)
Yes. And those days are over.

Ann Rea: (21:55)
Those days are over.

Cynthia Mosser: (21:56)
Yes. And I think knowing who you’re serving is life-giving.

Ann Rea: (22:02)
It is.

Cynthia Mosser: (22:03)
We wanna help other people. We like helping other people.

Ann Rea: (22:06)
Well, and you’re not going to get paid if you don’t.

Cynthia Mosser: (22:09)

Ann Rea: (22:09)
That’s true. And you’re not going to feel good about what you’re doing if you don’t.

Cynthia Mosser: (22:13)
That’s true.

Ann Rea: (22:13)
So even if you’re getting paid, if you know deep down in your soul you’re not really providing much value, that leaves a mark on your conscience.

Cynthia Mosser: (22:22)
That’s true.

Ann Rea: (22:23)
It really does. But when you know you’re really helping in a deep way that you just described, you can just, there’s just some, there’s just a certain piece and confidence that comes with that. That’s amazing. If someone was sitting on the fence and they weren’t sure about applying to enroll, I ask everybody this question, what would you honestly say to them?

Cynthia Mosser: (22:46)
Don’t wait. If you have– no, I mean, honestly, if you feel like you’re about to give up and you don’t know what to do with your art, you just feel absolutely lost. This program will give you the steps connection, this internal connection which then allows you to connect with others. And that connection then sells the helps with is the emotion that is the currency that then allows you to sell and connect with others so that they want to have your art, they desire to have your art. Um, and that is, that is something I never knew. Ann keep saying trust the process. It was kept saying in the beginning, trust the process. I’m like, “Trust what? What am I trusting?” And the more that I– the more I worked through it and it’s taken me, it’s taken time, it’s taken commitment and focus to work through the program and I’m– I just am starting what we call the “Prototype.” The beginnings of learning how to put, I’m putting all the pieces together essentially. And that is my next step. And I am so ready and so excited because I know where I’m going.

Ann Rea: (24:02)
Yes. So for those of you who are not aware, so the Making Art Making Money Program is a comprehensive program. And we’ve been, we’ve served artists from 23 countries in counting. And the program really in its infancy, started in 2005. It’s evolved quite a bit since then. And I had an intern from the Art Academy who graduated with over $250,000 worth of student loan and credit card debt. Her father just lost his job. Her mother just passed away suddenly. And she had zero marketable skills. And so when I decided it was what really the inspiration for making art, making money. And what I decided to do was to impose a graduation requirement, like screw the diploma of their certificate. Who the hell cares? My students are required to earn back their tuition investment through the sale of their art at a minimum in order to graduate. So the last phase of the Making Art Making Money program is what Cynthia just referred to the prototype project. So there are, there are actually nine courses that proceed the prototype project. And the Prototype project is basically like your final project in school. And you test what you’ve learned and wavy what you need to review. And you either sell your art or you don’t. Either way it’s okay because you’ll learn why you did and you’ll learn why you didn’t. So basically you’re selling your homework. That’s really all you’re doing.

Cynthia Mosser: (25:38)
And even without the prototype project, I’ve sold more art this year than I’ve sold in many years.

Ann Rea: (25:44)
Yes! .

Ann Rea: (25:47)
All right then.

Cynthia Mosser: (25:48)
Thank you!

Ann Rea: (25:49)
Thank you. Excellent. You’re welcome,

Ann Rea: (25:54)
Well, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the art gallery. So if you’re an artist who’s had this experience or is having this experience now, you know, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one. And there is a better way that is much more dignified, hell of a lot more profitable, way more enjoyable, way more fun. So come join us on, uh, Monday, uh, November 28th at noon Pacific Standard Time register for the five day trial. And, um, let’s, let’s do this because life’s too short, everyone. Alright. Thank you, Cynthia.

Cynthia Mosser: (26:36)
Thank you, Ann.

Ann Rea

Ann Rea, Fine Artist & Mentor

Ann Rea is a San Francisco-based fine artist. She created Making Art Making Money, the leading and most reputable business program for fine artists since 2005. Rea’s art and business savvy have been featured on ABC, HGTV, Creative Live, The Good Life Project, in the book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields, the San Francisco Chronicle, Art Business News, Fortune, and Inc. Magazines. Rea’s artistic talent was commended by her mentor, art icon Wayne Thiebaud. 

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