From Ready To Give Up To Securing 3 Commissions
Artist & Mentor,
chats with Artist Topher Goode
Artist, Topher Goode
Ann Rea: (00:00)
Hello everyone. This is Ann Rea coming to live from San Francisco, California. I’m a fine artist. I’m the creator of the Making Art Making Money program, and I have a special guest, one of my students, who I’m going to have a little chat with so you can have a peek inside of the world of Making Art Making Money. Hi there!
Topher Goode: (00:21)
Hi, Ann! How are you?
Ann Rea: (00:22)
Nice to meet you in person. Sort of. Kind of.
Topher Goode: (00:24)
Yes, I know right.
Ann Rea: (00:26)
So please introduce yourself and tell us where you’re sitting on the planet.
Topher Goode: (00:31)
I am Topher Goode. Weird accent because I’m from the UK, but now I live in Atlanta. I’ve been here 25 years, and just north of the city in a tropical rain forest right now.
Ann Rea: (00:44)
You don’t have a twang.
Topher Goode: (00:45)
Yes. If I go back to the UK, everyone’s like, “You sound like a yank.” But apparently here I don’t.
Ann Rea: (00:52)
I know. It’s confusing. I used to have a British accent when I was little, but it’s clearly, it’s gone now. Well, I would love to ask you a few questions if that’s alright with you?
Topher Goode: (01:04)
Ann Rea: (01:05)
Okay. So– because I think people are curious about, you know, what does it mean to make art and make money and what’s this Making Art Making Money program all about. But I really just want to hear about what your experience has been. And I would love to know, like what were the top two challenges that you felt you had before you joined the program?
Topher Goode: (01:27)
Sure. So I’ve been making art for, you know, the better part of 30 years. I grew up in a creative family so that was always going on. But also coming from England, being an artist for a living was not necessarily something that anyone–
Ann Rea: (01:48)
I don’t know if that’s– but it’s not just restricted to England. It’s kind of everywhere. Yes.
Topher Goode: (01:53)
Yes. And you know, I felt like I wasn’t responsible and I’ve been a graphic designer and creative director for 30 years, but somehow that was different than me painting. So the thought of actually trying to make enough money from selling my art to support myself, that was, that was terrifying.
Ann Rea: (02:17)
Topher Goode: (02:17)
And the second part of that was who am I actually going to be as an artist? Because I see all these other people out there. So do I go copy what they’re doing and hope that that works?
Ann Rea: (02:33)
Topher Goode: (02:34)
Ann Rea: (02:35)
Don’t do that. Bad idea.
Topher Goode: (02:37)
So, I threw a bunch of money and a bunch of different things like, you know, art booths and shows and shows that I paid to be judged in, and a website that cost me $5,000 to try and sell my art for free, and I did a lot of stuff. And I realized very quickly that it wasn’t fulfilling. I was actually more panicked about what I’d done. And I had seen a bunch of your stuff on Facebook and I’m like, “All right. So she’s actually talking like she knows what she’s talking about.”
Ann Rea: (03:20)
She might. .
Topher Goode: (03:22)
Yes, and I don’t tend to trust easily especially because there’s a lot of stuff out there.
Ann Rea: (03:28)
Oh yeah. I don’t blame you one bit. Yes, absolutely.
Topher Goode: (03:31)
And then looking at your students, and then you and I had an interaction one night and I’m like, “Holy $hit, she’s actually talking about the thing that I’m the dealing with.” And in that moment, I had the confidence that even if I sold one painting as a result of being in the course, that would make it worth it. And I trusted me enough that I could do that.
Ann Rea: (03:54)
Topher Goode: (03:55)
And I trusted what I was seeing. And so yes. I signed up.
Ann Rea: (04:00)
So I think what you’re talking about is this whole, you know, we just first have to stop the bleeding. Right? There’s so much money going out because artists have unfortunately been– they believe that somehow you can pay your way to success and you can’t. You have to create value and you have to find the niche that actually perceives that value and everything that I– that’s why everything I teach costs nothing. So it’s very deliberate. But unfortunately I do hear this a lot that people have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars, but not just that. The money’s a big part of it, of course, but the level of disappointment and dismay, and then rejection that comes with paying to be judged and rejected. It’s freaking ridiculous. By the way, if you don’t know who the hell I am, please do not pay to have your art judged by people who are never going to damn well buy it. You’re paying for rejection.
Topher Goode: (05:00)
Ann Rea: (05:01)
And it doesn’t matter what they think. And these art contest judges, shame on you! Unfortunately they’re just not accountable to anyone and they do prey upon the need for an artist’s validation. And it really pisses me off. I mean, it’s really predatory. And even art museums are in on this now.
Topher Goode: (05:24)
Yes. Very much.
Ann Rea: (05:26)
Yes. Okay. So, so we stopped the bleeding. Thank God!
Topher Goode: (05:34)
Ann Rea: (05:35)
And what did you– so you wanted– what specifically did you want to achieve in the program? You wanted to, you know, obviously you wanted to sell your art. Was there anything else in particular that you wanted to achieve in the program?
Topher Goode: (05:48)
Very much actually. So, you know, I’ve done decently in my professional career, so it’s given me some space to do this, which is awesome. But also I have been kind of fairly disillusioned about just kind of doing stuff to make money and make money and like that. And I actually wanted to– I wanted to say something with my art and I wanted to know that I could stand up with other artists and it would be good enough. And that was terrifying at the beginning.
Ann Rea: (06:22)
Yes. So you want make art and this whole thing of good enough is such a strange subjective–
Topher Goode: (06:29)
Ann Rea: (06:30)
mind-twisting idea. And here’s the thing, if you’ve already sold your art, guess what? It’s good enough. It’s good enough! You sold it. And all you need to figure out is your– like the niche. It’s the individuals that decide it’s good enough. And I think where I realized that it doesn’t even matter what anyone thinks except for the people who buy your art is when I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and I saw a two-storey relief sculpture of an elephant made of elephan$hit and glitter, which was.
Ann Rea: (07:08)
Okay. So, I guess even $hit is worthy of being at the modern museum of art in San Francisco. So I feel, I figure, well, all bets are off. If you create perceived value for a target market, then guess what? It’s good enough. I’m not saying that you should make art that $hit, by the way, my point is, look, it’s all up for– but you know what, it’s the same with fashion. It’s the same with music. It’s subjective. And as long as you’re looking for some critic to tell you it’s good enough, it’s really. That’s– I mean, that’s just a stupid game. They’re not, unless they’re buying it. I don’t give a damn what they think. Are you buying it? Are you in the market? No? Okay. Well then, move on. Right? But you get caught in this game when you don’t understand the whole what a niche is and what a niche isn’t. And I’m so glad you’re out of that. All right. So now you wanted to make art that had meaning. So how do you feel, where are you at with that? Do you feel like you are closer to that as a result of what you’ve learned so far?
Topher Goode: (08:19)
Absolutely! So it’s, for whatever reason, I have this drive to be authentic. Right? I want to be real.
Ann Rea: (08:30)
Topher Goode: (08:31)
And so I’m getting to a point where, or I’m beyond getting. I’m at a point where I’m happy to put my art in front of people. I went to a party a couple of months ago. I happen to have a piece rolled up in the back of the car.
Ann Rea: (08:47)
Topher Goode: (08:48)
We got talking and people were like, “What do you do?” “I’m an artist. I have a piece in the car.” So I brought it in, I rolled it out. It was four feet square. The entire party stopped. And three people bought commissions from that.
Ann Rea: (09:06)
Damn! That’s awesome.
Topher Goode: (09:08)
But it was, you know, it was having the confidence to just throw it out there in front of people and now–
Ann Rea: (09:15)
And not care.
Topher Goode: (09:16)
And not care. And watch when people were just in the presence of it rather than a thumbnail online. And it was such a different experience.
Ann Rea: (09:26)
One of my favorite quotes from Andy Warhol, he has a ton of them. But I think the one that I– and I don’t know if that I’m quoting it exactly. But basically he said “I became successful when I stopped caring.”
Topher Goode: (09:39)
Ann Rea: (09:39)
Now, obviously he cared, but he didn’t care about things that he didn’t need to care about. That’s the key.
Topher Goode: (09:46)
Ann Rea: (09:48)
Oh, that’s awesome. Damn. Congratulations! I didn’t even know about that win. That’s awesome.
Topher Goode: (09:53)
Ann Rea: (09:53)
All right. Good. Okay. So, what did it mean for you personally to achieve that? To just go out to your car, bring this piece out into this party, and then bam! Get three commissions. How did that make you feel?
Topher Goode: (10:08)
I was to be honest, completely in shock and slightly panicked because now I had to produce the three and make people happy and all the rest of it. So that was, but– you know, as a creative kid, I always wanted to be an artist more than anything. And it was one of those things I’m like, “Yes.” But I won’t do that. And all of a sudden walking out to the party, I’m like, “Yes, I kind of did it.”
Ann Rea: (10:31)
You just did it.
Topher Goode: (10:33)
I just, yes. And it’s been life-changing.
Ann Rea: (10:37)
That’s awesome. I love hearing these stories. This is my favorite part of this. It’s so cool. This is my art, everybody. Right here. Right now. This is my art. So let me ask you this. If nothing had changed and everything stayed the same, what are maybe two or three ways it would’ve impacted you personally?
Topher Goode: (11:04)
So, the week before I kind of really saw your work and we had the conversation, I remember one afternoon it was raining, sitting on the sofa and just realizing that I was never going to be an artist, that I wasn’t good enough, and that I would have to, I would have to go back into corporate. And I knew it would be okay because I’d been successful, but it would’ve been devastating.
Ann Rea: (11:35)
Topher Goode: (11:38)
And I just, I got to a point where I thought, “Oh, it’s inevitable. You gave it a try, Christopher, but you weren’t good enough.” And that was that. And that’s not true today. I never thought I would be where I am right now.
Ann Rea: (11:55)
And by the way, if you’re in corporate, you don’t have to like it’s not you have to have like a big on-off switch. You can start selling your art gradually, and guess what? That job will become so much more bearable because you’ll see it as a means to an end. And you’ll make the transition when, and if it makes sense financially. Depending upon your livelihood, from the sale of your art doesn’t make you a better artist, everybody. The reason why that that has become an ideal it’s because the art establishment wants you to be 100% dependent upon your art for sale, because then they own you. But it doesn’t make your art better. It’s just doesn’t. But I’m glad that you see, like, you have this desire because it was a potential that was living inside of you.
Ann Rea: (12:53)
We don’t have the desire to, you know, like we have desires because it’s within the field of potential for us.
Topher Goode: (13:01)
Ann Rea: (13:02)
Right? Like I don’t have a desire to, I don’t know, fly planes. I have no desire to do that. Can’t stand heights, but you know I’m sure that if I really wanted to, I could go to school and figure it out, but I just don’t want to. So if you have this desire, there’s a reason why you have this desire. And there’s a reason why you had it for so damn long too, right?
Topher Goode: (13:23)
Ann Rea: (13:23)
So, yay! Okay. So I guess the next question I have for you is what are maybe like two or three parts of the program that have made the biggest difference for you?
Topher Goode: (13:36)
So I kind of had an idea in my head when I signed up that this was really going to be like focusing on the business and the numbers and the da, da, da. And all of a sudden we did emotional stuff. Now, I’ve done some emotional stuff before, but never in the context of art. And actually it was, it was very very different. Looking at the stories I had about myself in terms of, you know, “Am I good enough? Am I worthy?” Da-da-da. And so dealing with that really head on, I found it challenging, but on the other side of it, the reward has just been massive. The other thing that I’ve really learned, there’s been some resistance to be fair, but I’ve freely learned.
Ann Rea: (14:32)
Well, welcome to the club! That’s fine.
Topher Goode: (14:34)
Exactly. So, I, working my way through the different chapters and things I’ve wanted to resist or be creative and do it my own way.
Ann Rea: (14:46)
Okay. You can if you want.
Topher Goode: (14:49)
Yes, to be fair, every single time. Every single time, I’ve come back to the beginning and I do it the way it’s done. And then it works.
Ann Rea: (14:57)
Topher Goode: (15:00)
Yes. I’m cute, not smart. So, doing it, kind of doing it by the numbers, you know, this prototype project thing that I was terrified of.
Ann Rea: (15:14)
Oh really? Why were you scared of it?
Topher Goode: (15:17)
I don’t enjoy initial conversations with people or historically I haven’t; I’ve backed away from that.
Ann Rea: (15:25)
Topher Goode: (15:26)
And I was also concerned that it, it was going to be like sales, which terrifies me.
Ann Rea: (15:32)
But is it? Does it feel like sales?
Topher Goode: (15:34)
No. Not in any way.
Ann Rea: (15:36)
Topher Goode: (15:36)
Not in any way or whatsoever. I start having a–
Ann Rea: (15:39)
I’m just– can I just say the British are the most terrified? Okay. There’s– I know like every, so I have worked with artists from 23 countries now and every freaking time the British will say, “Oh, I don’t want to be salesy or pushy. I can’t do that!” I mean every single time. No other culture complains as hard as the British. So I got your number. Like, I’ve heard this. I am British. I understand how– I know how this works. But we don’t do pushy. We teach luxury marketing and sales. You can’t be pushy with the affluent. It will backfire. You have to be dignified and gentle. Right? I mean, there’s nothing pushy about it.
Topher Goode: (16:29)
I’ve– I mean every and there have been six of these, you know, test commission prototype project conversations.
Ann Rea: (16:37)
Topher Goode: (16:38)
Every single one of them has been about listening to the other person.
Ann Rea: (16:42)
Topher Goode: (16:43)
Figuring out what’s important to them, what inspires them, what makes them happy, and having them feel really loved and heard.
Ann Rea: (16:52)
Topher Goode: (16:54)
That is– there’s no sales. It’s just, “Well, of course I’d love to do that with you.”
Ann Rea: (16:57)
Topher Goode: (16:58)
And it’s been beautiful.
Ann Rea: (17:01)
Yes. And then you will have earned what’s called “Conversational Currency.” And they’re going to say this was amazing. And they’re going to tell their friends. And that’s going to lead to a referral. And it will grow organically over time. You can’t force it. Wish I had a can of miracle grow, but I don’t. It’s going to happen over time. But yes, it’s not. We don’t teach pushy. Pushy doesn’t work. Not when it comes to luxury sales. It doesn’t work. I’m pushy when it comes to artists because you should damn well join the program. Right?
Ann Rea: (17:35)
I mean, unless you have another plan. Then, okay. Do that then. But if you don’t have a plan, you should. You should do it.
Topher Goode: (17:43)
I mean, you know this already Ann. Like halfway through the first year I signed up for a second year.
Ann Rea: (17:50)
Topher Goode: (17:51)
Ann Rea: (17:51)
That’s what you did!
Topher Goode: (17:52)
Yes, because I have sold more art being part of this than I have in my entire life. And I know that the study partner sessions that I have, I do about 10 to 12 of those a week. ,
Ann Rea: (18:07)
Topher Goode: (18:08)
Ann Rea: (18:09)
And you did one in England too, didn’t you? Like you actually went and met.
Topher Goode: (18:12)
Yes, we went out for dinner and had a couple of pints and that. But every single one of those conversations, there’s some little nuggets, some little pieces of gold that comes out, and something gets moved forwards. And the other thing is, there’s just this real sense of being part of this community and we’re all swimming in the same river in the same direction.
Ann Rea: (18:37)
Topher Goode: (18:38)
We’re all fumbling, failing, winning.
Ann Rea: (18:40)
All different fish.
Topher Goode: (18:41)
Yes. All those different things together. And it’s just lovely.
Ann Rea: (18:45)
Yes. So in case you don’t know what I’m referring to. So I employ something called “Peer-learning.” And that means that people learn better when they’re learning with their peers and their teacher, not just their teacher talking at them. It’s called peer-learning. And so what that looks like is my students have study partners. They can have as many as they like. And if they ever study with someone they don’t want to do it again, they don’t ever want to meet with them again, they don’t. They just are kind and professional. I just ask my students to make friends. And the reason why is because artists are operating in isolation and that is not helpful. That’s when all those negative thoughts spiral get bigger. And you know, you sit on the couch, I bet you were on the couch alone when you were having that thought. And you didn’t have a study partner to knock you out of it.
Ann Rea: (19:37)
But I bet now, you know, if you were having a limiting thought, you’d have a community you could reach out to and who would reach out to you gladly probably. Right?
Topher Goode: (19:47)
Ann Rea: (19:47)
That’s what it means. Bottom line lesson here is none of us succeed alone. Myself included. You have to have a support system especially when you’re doing something as challenging as selling your art. It’s a big endeavor. Okay. So let me ask you this. If you can finish this sentence, “I almost didn’t join the Making Art Making Money program because–dot dot dot.” What?
Topher Goode: (20:14)
I was scared it wouldn’t work.
Ann Rea: (20:17)
Yes. Scared it wouldn’t work. Yes, that’s the big one. Scared, but it’s been working just so everyone knows for over 16 years. 16 years now. The artists from 23 countries and counting. So I know you all think you’re a special snowflake, but I think I got to dialed in pretty well. It doesn’t– actually, it does not work if you don’t do the work. It won’t work if you don’t do the work, That’s an instance where it’ll absolutely not work for sure. Okay. So another question is like if someone was sitting on the fence and they weren’t sure about applying to enroll in the program, like really, what would you honestly say to them?
Topher Goode: (21:01)
So, it was the question I asked myself and it was “All right, Christopher. If you don’t enroll, then what’s going to change in the next year? Like what what’s going to be be different? Or if you do, do you trust that you could sell one piece of art as a result of what you learned? And if you can do that, it’s paid for.” And that was–
Ann Rea: (21:24)
It’s a good way to look at it.
Topher Goode: (21:26)
Yes. That was actually a no brainer for me. And I, you know, I sold those three commissions within the first two months of being in the program.
Ann Rea: (21:34)
Oh, that’s awesome!
Topher Goode: (21:36)
And that was, you know, I said at the beginning, I don’t trust. I expected to be disappointed. I expected it to not work. And then all of a sudden people are buying art and yes, it’s been amazing.
Ann Rea: (21:49)
Well, I mean, based on your previous experience, which unfortunately is a common experience, you have been disappointed and you’ve spent a lot of money and you haven’t received a return on your investment. And that can leave a lot of artists super skeptical, even though, and they can’t even recognize when something actually can help them. And I get those applicants and I– if you’re super skeptical, I’m not even going to bother with you because I can’t. At that point, you’re too far gone, unfortunately. And it pains me because I think, “Wow, you know, that’s just too bad”. Let’s see, okay. “The half hour seminar time is almost up and there’s still no information on what this program is.” Okay. Simmer down. My name is Ann Rea and I have a program called Making Art Making Money program.
Ann Rea: (22:46)
And we’re happy to provide you with a link. Joie, if you’re listening. It’s available by application only. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing your name correctly, Linea, Linea. So that’s what we’re talking about. And Christopher also known as Topher, is one of my students. So, alright. Well, so I’m so glad you renewed, by the way, too.
Topher Goode: (23:17)
Yes, me too.
Ann Rea: (23:17)
Because I got to tell you, I mean, students who do that tend to do even better. It’s not a requirement by any means, but what I’ve noticed is some of the star students come from the ones who’d say, “Yes, you know what? You just have to keep investing in yourself in order to like, because you’re your business.” Right?
Topher Goode: (23:38)
Ann Rea: (23:38)
You are your business. You’re the factory You are the factory. Jennifer says, “Topher, you rock!” So there you go.
Ann Rea: (23:48)
So I have lovely students, by the way, we don’t let people in who are not lovely. , it’s kind of a we do have a filter system. I just really am very protective of my community because so many artists communities are infested with competition and that competition then leads to jealousy. And then jealousy then leads to snobbery. When I think snobbery is just a really thin flimsy veil trying to cover up really deep insecurity. So we would try to maintain, and that’s why we have this application process because we just want to make sure that we’ve got people who are interested in being responsible for their success and who want to receive support and give support, because this is just too hard to do by yourself. So I’m so proud of you– three commissions at one party. That’s so good. I just love that story! That’s awesome.
Topher Goode: (24:46)
I actually carry a painting in the back of the truck the entire time.
Ann Rea: (24:49)
That’s your new market? That’s your new marketing tactic? That’s on your one-page plan. “Always carry a painting in the back of my truck.”
Topher Goode: (24:57)
I just happen to have.
Ann Rea: (25:00)
Hold on. “I just happen to have.” Hey, I don’t give a damn if it works. I really don’t.
Topher Goode: (25:07)
Ann Rea: (25:10)
All right. Well thank you for your generous sharing your experience and for your time. I really appreciate it. I just like to give people a peek at, you know, what it’s like to be a member of the community and to like what it was like for you before you joined and what it’s like now. And, I think you’re doing really well. I’m so proud of you! This is awesome.
Topher Goode: (25:34)
I’m so grateful. Thank you. This would not have happened without you.
Ann Rea: (25:38)
Well. This is my art.
Topher Goode: (25:40)
Ann Rea: (25:40)
This is my art. I really just– I want artists to take their power back. That’s really what I wanted. And it’s my favorite because I hear, you know, when I have these orientation calls with new students, I hear the tone of your voice. And it’s often a little scared or a little, you know, with some reservation. And then, and then, it’s like this. Like I can actually hear it. Like it’s evident. The level of increase in confidence and focus is evident in the tone of the voice of the students. So it’s really wonderful to witness. All right, everyone. I hope this was helpful. If you’d like information about the program, we’re happy to provide it to you just know it’s by application only. And we’ll see if we can help you. If I believe I can help you, I will let you know. If I don’t believe I can help you, I will let you know, but I won’t leave you like hanging in the dust. I’ll still give you some resources to help you with your next best step. Okay. Thank you.
Topher Goode: (26:42)
Thanks so much, Ann. Bye.
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.