When an artist knows their mission, they sell their art, not themselves.
Artist, Leah Smithson, Los Angeles, California
What were your challenges?
Leah Smithson: 00:04 I knew kind of like an outline of things that I wanted to do and that maybe I should do, but I didn’t know where to start first, what order to do things in. And I wasn’t sure how long to try something to know whether or not it’s working or not.
Leah Smithson: 00:24 Well, I knew I needed to share my art. I knew I needed to, I mean it was apparent that I needed to go outside, and not only just rely on the whole gallery system, but I didn’t know exactly how to start building it as a business. And I also knew that art needed to be handled like a luxury item, but it was really hard to find good information on how to do that.
Did you try to work with art galleries?
Leah Smithson: 00:55 Yes, I tried contacting some galleries. I tried doing some of my own pop-ups and things like that. Some of them they were pretty decent, but I didn’t have like the foundation or a system to really grow the business.
How does it feel to claim your Copyright?
Leah Smithson: 01:13 If feels really, really good. And I guess as I was doing it, and this is kind of what you mentioned before too, as I was doing it, I realized how valuable these things are and I’ve felt that way about art. Doing art is sort of a long-term investment or it’s like your legacy and it’s something that you can will to other people. As I was filling out the copyright, it really settled in and it made me feel like I was dignifying my art.
What did you learn from other artists about your Copyright?
Leah Smithson: 01:47 Other artists I’ve talked to have talked about how you can just write it in on your work and things like that and so going over that information really opened my eyes to how vital it is to do that and that the process wasn’t complicated.
Did you try to figure this out on your own?
Leah Smithson: 02:07 Whatever information I could find about selling or luxury. They don’t really help you stay authentic. It was more of selling to versus really helping people, which is what we want to do with art too. You are really providing a service and so it just all fell into place and made sense.
Were you told that you had to “sell yourself”?
Leah Smithson: 02:29 It makes it hard to connect with people. It makes it even worse. The whole process is like, even though I’m a shy person I still want to connect with people, but I don’t want to put myself in the forefront. So I really appreciate the fact that I can approach people as if, because I’m helping them it just makes it better.
What have you learned about being an introvert?
Leah Smithson: 02:52 I really like how you set up the program because you have talked about the fact that introverts can. There’s a lot of positive qualities that we may have, but there’s still some certain things that you have to do and we just have to figure out how we can connect with people somehow. The Study Partners, really after implementing it like once or twice, then it’s easy. It’s not as scary. I don’t know what the unconscious barrier is to this all because people have all been really nice and sweet.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
Leah Smithson: 03:31 The fact that my product is emotion, that definitely is huge just because it kind of helped rearrange things. It answered and a lot of things fell into place as far as even whatever things that I’ve studied before, it just totally made sense that because it’s hard to put into words because (one book I was reading said it’s because it’s in the different part, the right side of your brain that doesn’t normally handle the words), so a lot of people love something, but they can’t even say why. So it just makes sense that it’s emotion. All that is connected to our emotions. So that was, that was huge. Yeah.
Are you going to re-write your artist statement?
Leah Smithson: 04:11 No, no, no.
Ann Rea: 04:16 Are you glad that you have a mission?
Leah Smithson: 04:17 Absolutely, it’s just better. It’s better just thinking about other people, not having to put the spotlight on me necessarily, but just on them and on the them being able to benefit from whatever work that I’m doing.
Did you want to be a fine artist?
Leah Smithson: 04:38 I wanted to go into art, but I felt like I needed to be practical. So that felt like the practical thing. Then as I started doing graphic design, I realized that honestly, whatever work that I put into graphic design and to be a good graphic designer and to work a long time in that I might as well put it into art. It just made more sense. So that’s why I went back.
What do artists need to know?
Leah Smithson: 05:01 Doing things yourself, but not doing it alone. Meaning we can’t… The whole idea is you can’t wait for a savior. You can’t wait for somebody else to do everything for you. But at the same time we need to talk, you have to talk and get other people involved and make connections with people. And by making connections, I mean, just being nice and kind to people and sowing those seeds so they can grow. So I think that that’s really important because sometimes you feel like you have no power.
Do you need to wait for permission to sell your art?
Leah Smithson: 05:46 You don’t have to wait for it, or you shouldn’t wait for it. You just got to do it.
Why do you think artists are conflicted about being paid?
Leah Smithson: 05:53 Really when it comes to also being paid for what we do and realizing what we do is valuable. I think about that a lot too, like musicians, no one looks at Prince or any other famous musician and feels that because they got compensated well for what they do, that it made them less of an artist or not as creative. So I don’t know why as visual artists, or just people in different other parts of the art field, why we feel like we have to carry that burden.
Do you think that artists are not heard in the art establishment?
Leah Smithson: 06:23 That’s what it boils down to. That’s the way everything’s set up. I feel like unfortunately parts of the art world is. It’s like everybody is having a conversation about you, but you’re not allowed to say anything. I hate it. It’s awful. I hate that. They wouldn’t exist if we weren’t here.
Do you think that the art establishment tries to convince artists that the money shouldn’t matter?
Leah Smithson: 06:47 Yeah, absolutely. Because then nobody can tell you anything because you care more about the people that benefit from your mission.
What happened recently?
Leah Smithson: 06:59 So I shared my mission and they shared it with another business in the area and they basically commissioned me to do a mural for them. So my mission is to help people by helping them let go of things that they can’t really do anything about so they can put their energy and focus on things that are precious to them and making that process beautiful.
How did that make you feel?
Leah Smithson: 07:28 It really made me feel good that what I said and the idea I had was almost naturally viral.
What if you had found this program earlier?
Leah Smithson: 07:39 I would’ve been able to build a business. I would have gotten over the hump of how I should approach people and things like that. Because you know you have to talk to people, but how do you approach them and definitely about the mission and being able to help others.
How does it feel being able to share your mission?
Leah Smithson: 07:58 It feels a lot better. Yeah, it just feels a lot better because again, I’m not talking about myself. I get to start a conversation and then listen to them, which is what I enjoy doing anyway. So yeah, that’s nice.
Should other artists apply to enroll in this program?
Leah Smithson: 08:17 The time that they spend on the fence, they just aren’t going to be able to get that back. So if you go ahead and do it now, then you’ll be where you want to be a lot faster. There’s things that I would not have been able to figure out by myself or it would have taken years. I wish I would’ve found you sooner. I feel like I had been trying for maybe, I don’t know, at least a little less than a decade . I was doing graphic design, or I’m still doing graphic design, but I was trying to refocus on the art and it just took a long time to realize the things that I needed. Also I wish I would’ve found you sooner because it would’ve made things go a lot more quickly.
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.