Artists don’t need to sell themselves if they serve a mission

Artists don’t need to sell themselves if they serve a mission


Artist Nicki Adani
Sausalito, California

Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone! This is Ann Rea coming to you live from San Francisco, California. I’m expecting a student named Nikki to join me momentarily, but she’s been having some tech challenges, so we’re not going to wait. We’re going to go ahead and get started. Let’s see. 

Ann Rea: (00:22)
Alright. So one of the things that I wanted to share was I just sent out an email of a very short clip of one of my former students named Travis Krause. And Travis has done quite well in the program. He has not only paid off his mortgage early, he reduced his work as a full-time teacher to part-time. He’s keeping that for benefits and all the things that come with having a teaching job. However, he really took a minute to actually- I’m just going to put some settings together. Travis actually sat on this for quite some time. He was not clear about whether or not he should enroll in the program. He was reluctant to apply, and I think for good reason because so many artists are scammed on a regular basis.

Ann Rea: (01:28)
And I think what happens is, even though what you’re doing isn’t freaking working, right? You’re not– you don’t have art sales at the level that you want them to be, you keep doing the same things over and over again, hoping for a different result. I refer to that as living under the Tyranny of Hope. It’s a nasty place to be living under the Tyranny of Hope, because hope is a beggar and a beggar doesn’t make art and make money. 

Ann Rea: (02:04)
Let me say that again. if you keep trying to approach marketing and selling your art the same way, but it’s not working, you’re not generating a profit, then you’re living under the tyranny of hope. What’s wrong with that? Hope is a beggar. Hope is a beggar.  So it’s really critical that if you are not satisfied with your current art sales, that you look  for a different approach. Right? But as I said, it can be really hard to remove yourself from the indoctrination that you receive, not only in art school where your art professor will shame you for even wanting to sell your art, but by society at large, and our culture, because our society tells us fine artists that, “Well, we must struggle financially, right? We must struggle.” And our culture actually celebrates our suffering. They’re not going to make a movie about my mentor Wayne Thiebaud, because he didn’t have enough negative drama in his life. 

Ann Rea: (03:24)
So this is the problem. And so what happens is we wind up assuming this position that we’re just going to keep doing what we do and work harder. Work harder instead of working smarter. But after a while, you run out of gas, right? All human beings can only accept or deal with so much rejection. And then after a while, you just want to give up. So if you’re in that place where you’re teetering on wanting to give up, then I want to give you a little kernel of hope, which is simply this. If you have already sold your art, then it stands to reason that you could be selling more art with a proven roadmap, with an expert mentor, and with an informed and like-minded community to cheer you on. Doesn’t that make sense? Right. 

Ann Rea: (04:37)
So I want to make you aware that unlike any other program out there, the Making Art Making Money™ School of Business is the only program that offers a 100% no-risk guarantee. I also want to tell you we are the most expensive program out there. The most expensive program out there. And I make no apologies for that. And the reason I don’t make any apologies for that is because you have an expensive problem. If you don’t know how to sell your art, then you have yourself an expensive problem, and there are no cheap solutions to expensive problems. 

Ann Rea: (05:16)
I see Nikki has joined us, so we’re going to get into this and have a chat with Nikki, who’s one of my former students also, and see what she has to say about what she has learned as a fine artist. Hey, Nikki, how are you doing? 

Nicki Adani: (05:32)
Good. How are you?

Ann Rea: (05:33)
Good. Well, let’s get started. So where are you sitting on the planet right now, Nikki? 

Nicki Adani: (05:39)
I am in Sausalito, California.

Ann Rea: (05:42)
You’re over the bridge. 

Nicki Adani: (05:43)
I am over the bridge from you. I just moved into the ICB building, brand new. Studio is still in boxes. And it’s, yeah, I’m very excited about my studio move.

Ann Rea: (05:53)
That sounds lovely. ICB tell me what, what is that about?

Nicki Adani: (05:58)
The ICB building is– it’s called the Industrial Center Building. It’s an artist building and there’s, I think, about 106 artists here in the building, three floors of art studios, and it’s really hard to get into the building. There’s usually like a 200 people wait list. And I, by very serendipitous circumstances, managed to find a studio and get into this building. And I literally moved in this week, so– 

Ann Rea: (06:23)
That’s awesome. Congratulations!

Nicki Adani: (06:26)
Yes, and I’m really excited about it because that was one of the things that was really on my agenda to find a studio where I will have more foot traffic and more people coming directly into my studio. 

Ann Rea: (06:36)

Nicki Adani: (06:37)
I was in Petaluma early before that, which is also it’s in Sonoma County, which is a great affluent county, as you know, to– 

Ann Rea: (06:44)

Nicki Adani: (06:45)
To have a studio. But the problem was there was zero foot traffic and the other people in the building were more like little retailers and artisans, not fine art. And now I’m in a building that’s all fine artists. 

Ann Rea: (06:57)

Nicki Adani: (06:58)
 So I’m really excited

Ann Rea: (06:59)
You’re closer to the money center too. Petaluma is beautiful, but it is more of a suburb, you know, than– Sausalito has lots of people who are affluent, but also lots of tourists. So that’s fantastic. That’s great. I’m really glad for you. So I just want to ask you a few questions as a former student of the Making Art Making Money program. Before you joined the program, what were your top two challenges when it came to selling your art and marketing your art?

Nicki Adani: (07:33)
My top two challenges were outreach and like how to get to people to buy my art, and also that I felt like it was not aligned, like nothing was really aligned.

Ann Rea: (07:48)
Well, give me an example of what wasn’t aligned that you were doing before you joined the program. 

Nicki Adani: (07:54)
Before I joined the program, so I don’t know if the people who are listening were in the program or new people, but it’s mainly like having found my mission, knowing what my mission is, made everything aligned. So it was that intro saying, “I sculpt, I paint, I do all different types of mediums of art.” And I– even though I understand what the thread between those is, I never had a clear picture, really. And when I found my mission through doing the program, I was able to really understand myself and understand like, and be able to like, put words to, to my art to, instead of just like trying to wing it and trying to figure out how to explain it. And all of a sudden like it all fell into place and started making sense.

Ann Rea: (08:46)

Nicki Adani: (08:47)
Why it is what I do and to– yeah, to explain it. That really helps.

Ann Rea: (08:54)
Yes. So there’s this saying, I don’t know who to credit this saying to, but “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” So fine artists have the same challenge, but when my students determine their mission as it’s defined within the Making Art Making Money™ program, all that concern about how to have a conversation that is, you know, meaningful and authentic and aligned with the collector, that all gets solved.

Nicki Adani: (09:24)

Ann Rea: (09:25)
Has that been your experience?

Nicki Adani: (09:26)
Absolutely. Absolutely. It makes it so much easier. And also now when people come to my studio, it makes it so much easier for me to know what to say, to weave in a conversation to explain my art not in the artist statement way. 

Ann Rea: (09:43)

Nicki Adani: (09:55)
But yes. But in, in an authentic way. And I really notice that people light up and connect to my art on a different level, even though it’s still the same art that I was making before I took the program. But the connection about it and the communication about it completely changed.

Ann Rea: (10:01)
Yes. Yes. And it, so just so everyone knows, we do not advocate artist statements because they are conversation killers. They literally are conversation killers. They’re just as difficult to read as they are to write, and they will stunt a conversation with a potential collector instead of really invite a conversation with a potential collector. So, alright. So that’s fantastic. So your mission is one thing that you, not knowing how to really connect in an aligned way that’s been solved by understanding your mission. What was another big challenge you had before you joined the program?

Nicki Adani: (10:45)
Another big challenge was really having the courage to reach out to people, because I always kind of felt insecure and at a loss of what to say when I reach out. So that really helped me. I feel like the program helped me like build confidence in.

Ann Rea: (11:11)

Nicki Adani: (11:12)

Ann Rea: (11:13)
So we’ve done surveys on confidence of students and a lack of confidence and or a lack of focus is those are two of the top challenges that most artists have before they join the program. So we’ve done surveys where we ask graduates to rate their level of focus and confidence on a subjective scale of one to 10. The reason being is because focus and confidence are actually tied together. If you think about it, you’re really super focused, you’re really super confident. If you’re all over the map, it’s hard to be confident. So where would you rate your level of focus and confidence before you joined? And where is it now?

Nicki Adani: (11:52)
I remember I put it at a two before I joined. 

Ann Rea: (11:57)
Two is the average. 

Nicki Adani: (11:59)
 Yes. And it jumped up to at least an eight. It depends on the day.

Ann Rea: (12:14)
Of course. 

Nicki Adani: (12:05)
Like some days like it slides down, some days it goes up. It depends. Like sometimes I have an open studio event and a lot of people are in the studio and I haven’t really easy time talking about everything. Then I would say it’s more like at a 9, 10. But then some other days when I haven’t seen any collectors or anybody coming to the studio for a while, then I start like slumping down maybe into like a 6 or 7 again. But generally I would say a good average 8.

Ann Rea: (12:31)
So that’s more than a triple increase in your level of focus and confidence, and that essentially makes somebody a new person, right? Like you’re a different person when you have that level of increase in confidence and focus. 

Nicki Adani: (12:46)

Ann Rea: (12:41)
So why don’t just, can you just share with us like what are the like two biggest accomplishments that have occurred for you since joining the program? 

Nicki Adani: (12:59)
Let me think about that one. 

Ann Rea: (13:02)
I mean, I know you’ve made significant sales past your goal. Why don’t we start with that?

Nicki Adani: (13:07)
So, I set myself a SMARTER goal at the beginning of the program when that comes up in the program with to set the goal. And even though I did not reach the goal that I had, I have a very big art installation that I was at I wanted to sell. So I figured if I sell this art installation, which was a part of my goal. My goal was to make $75,000 in art sales. And I’m not shy about talking about money. I know some people don’t like sharing numbers, but–

Ann Rea: (13:38)
This is called Making Art Making Money so we talk about money.

Nicki Adani: (13:40)
Exactly, exactly. So yes, my SMARTER goal was to make $75,000  in art sales, and that included selling this big art piece that is worth $50,000 because it’s a huge installation. So my other art sales would’ve been $25,000. However, I did not make it to sell that art installation, but I sold $40,000 worth of art. So I sold–

Ann Rea: (14:06)
How much did you sell? 

Nicki Adani: (14:07)

Ann Rea: (14:08)
$40,000. Well, damn. Okay.

Nicki Adani: (14:10)
I sold almost double of what I was planning– what was my goal to sell outside that art installation. 

Ann Rea: (14:15)

Nicki Adani: (14:16)
And so even though I didn’t make the actual goal number, I almost doubled what I was hoping to sell on other art, like what I already had plus commissions. 

Ann Rea: (14:26)
Now, if you had not set that art sales goal, Nikki, in the way that we teach, what do you think your art sales would– where do you think your art sales would be right now? 

Nicki Adani: (14:36)
That’s a tricky question because before last year, I never really tracked all my sales, so I would have to compare to that. 

Ann Rea: (14:44)

Nicki Adani: (14:43)
I mean, I tracked them, but I didn’t track them properly, so I was kind of all over the map. So that is– being in the program also made me much more organized on really like tracking everything.   

Ann Rea: (14:46)
That’s great! 

Nicki Adani: (14:58)
Yes. I think it would’ve maybe been at like 15 to to $20,000. I don’t know. 

Ann Rea: (15:03)
Yes. Well, what I like to point out is if you don’t have a goal, an art sales goal, and then it, that is your goal. You don’t have a goal, that’s your goal. So just having the goal and writing it down in the way that I teach, if you just did that and you did nothing else that would increase your chances of attaining that goal by 42%, pretty– I mean, it’s worth writing down your goals when you learn that part, right? 

Nicki Adani: (15:31)

Ann Rea: (15:32)
And of course, there are other steps to help you make that into a reality. Now when– I’m just curious, were you following me for a while before you joined or–

Nicki Adani: (15:43)
No, I– actually you popped up on my Instagram feed and I listened to the little intro and at first I thought it sounds too good to be true and that must be kind of a scam and–

Ann Rea: (15:58
Yup. I get this all the time.

Nicki Adani: (16:00)
Yes. And then I did the five-day free challenge that you do a free intro every day. 

Ann Rea: (16:07)
Yes, I do a monthly workshop for five days, just half an hour, 45 minutes a day. So you did that. 

Nicki Adani: (16:13)
So I did that, yes. And then I joined right away.

Ann Rea: (16:16)
There you go. Okay, great! Alright, well, let’s– I guess my next question for you is if you could go back in time and give Nikki, the young artist Nikki, a pieceof advice, what would you tell her? 

Nicki Adani: (16:32)
I would tell her to take art business classes and to be herself and follow her intuition.

Ann Rea: (16:48)
Yes. Good advice. So if someone was out there listening to this and they were thinking, “Oh, I don’t know about it. I’m not sure about it.” And they were sitting on the fence, maybe they think it’s a scam too, and hey, you know what? For good reason, I’ve identified 54 ways that artists get screwed. So I understand why people are reluctant or skeptical, but let’s just say someone was sitting there, they were thinking about applying, what would you honestly say to them? 

Nicki Adani: (17:22)
I would say do it. Do it right away. Let’s see. Even though, I mean, I know it is like, it is expensive. So that was like my biggest hurdle was that I felt it was expensive. But it’s so worth it because the knowledge you take forward is like, you can never undo that knowledge. And if you don’t take the course, they’re like, I think it’s invaluable information. I think it’s way more expensive not to know how to market and sell your art. 

Ann Rea: (17:52)
Yes, exactly.

Nicki Adani: (17:54)
But if you don’t know anything about it yet, or you haven’t done it yet, the price tag is a hurdle for somebody who doesn’t know what the value you’re gaining from it. So that’s what I meant. 

Ann Rea: (18:04)
Yes. And based upon your sales, it would absolutely be way more expensive had you not joined. 

Nicki Adani: (18:11)

Ann Rea: (18:12)
Way, way, way more expensive. Right? So I guess the thing– I think what it is for a lot of artists out there, you think you have an art career and you don’t, and you never will because there are no jobs for fine artists. There’s only jobs for some commercial artists. So if there’s no jobs, there’s no career. So if you’re busy updating your resume with your list of exhibitions, and shows, you’re no– why? There’s– you’re not getting a job. You don’t need a resume. So what happens is, I think for a lot of artists, they don’t really understand the difference. I mean the intellectually understand the difference between spending their money and investing their money,but when it comes time to invest in themselves, fear happens. 

Nicki Adani: (19:11)

Ann Rea: (19:09)
This wasn’t a problem before, so I’m glad it’s a problem now.

Nicki Adani: (19:13)
It wasn’t a problem before and you know, I looked at my list of collectors before I started the program and you always instill the idea of work with what you have. And I thought, “Well, yes. Work where you are and work with what you have now.” Yes. And I thought these people are not going to be buying, you know, the big ticket items. But you know what? I asked them anyway

Ann Rea: (19:37)

Nicki Adani: (19:38)
And they have helped me out. So it’s been amazing.

Ann Rea: (19:41)
Yes. What a lot of artists don’t understand is that you are the best person to sell your art. Because people who care about art, care about the artist. They don’t care about the middleman. They don’t care about the gallery owner. They don’t care about the art representative. They care about the artist, and that’s your advantage. That’s your superpower. All you have to do is make yourself available for a conversation and they will help you. And what my students get to do is blame me if they feel goofy or awkward about doing any of the homework assignments. They can just say, “Oh, this woman named Ann Rea living in San Francisco, she’s making me do this. It’s part of my homework.” I mean, doesn’t– I mean, have you used me as an excuse? I encourage people to do that if they feel awkward. 

Nicki Adani: (20:32)
I have. I have asked people if they will help me with my homework, but I don’t really say, you know, it’s you and I don’t really say you. 

Ann Rea: (20:40)
That’s okay. I don’t care how you do it, Dana. I just care that you get the results. That’s all I care about. And I’m really happy for you, and I’m really proud of you. And I hope that this interview, like 300 other ones I’ve done, shows artists that it absolutely is possible. If you have sold your art already, then it stands– it’s good enough, period, good enough. And if you’ve already sold your art, then it stands to reason that if you had a proven roadmap, and you had an expert mentor, and you had a supportive network to cheer you on. You could be selling more. But if you want to struggle, keep doing what you’re doing.

Nicki Adani: (21:21)
Don’t struggle.

Ann Rea: (21:22)
Don’t. Don’t. I mean it’s so much fun selling art. It’s so inspiring. It’s like getting paid twice. So anyway, thank you so much for your valuable time and attention and for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it. It helps other artists to hear from other artists, and know that, you know, if they’re feeling awkward in their conversations or if they’re struggling with complicated e-commerce sites, you’re not alone and you don’t have to live with it.

Nicki Adani: (21:53)
Exactly. Thank you so much. 

Ann Rea: (21:55)
Alright, take care, Dana.

Nicki Adani: (21:56)
Thank you.

Ann Rea: (21:57)
Thank you. Bye

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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