How One Fine Artist Went From Zero Confidence to 8 Commissions Waiting and a Condo in the Caribbean.

How one fine artist went from zero confidence to 8 commissions waiting and a condo in the Caribbean.

(Transcription)

Artist Laura Saxon
New Orleans, Louisiana

Ann Rea: (00:01)
Hello everyone, this is Ann Rea coming to live from San Francisco, California, and I have a special guest, one of my students who’s going to be joining us. And she’s going to be telling us about her experience and what she learned and how she evolved in the Making Art Making Money™ Program. We have a question, I’m going to actually bring her on now. There! Hey Laura!

Laura Saxon: (00:26)
Hello Ann!

Ann Rea: (00:18)
Hey. So we have a comment already. It says, Beverly. “I have been a self-employed artist for over 35 years, almost to retirement with Zero saved because I never cracked over 24k annually. Being an artist was a huge mistake. Now I will die in the streets.” Wow, Beverly! Well, I’m sorry to hear about your circumstance. And I’m sorry to hear about your story. I would like you to listen to Laura’s story because Laura was also struggling for quite some time and things have now changed for her. So, Laura, when before you joined the Making Art Making Money™ program, I’ve asked you this before, but just for the sake of Beverly, and all the other artists who are listening, what were your top two challenges? 

Laura Saxon: (01:17)
Oh, I’m hearing an echo.

Ann Rea: (01:21)
Oh, I’m sorry. Because you’re on twice actually. So, let’s see if I can remove you.

Laura Saxon: (01:25)
Sorry

Ann Rea: (01:26)
You’re on two, you’re on two devices, so. Okay, let’s try again. How about now?

Laura Saxon: (01:35)
Okay. I don’t see, I don’t see me.

Ann Rea: (01:38)
Okay, well I see you. That’s what matters. So just tell me what were your top two challenges before you joined Making Art Making Money™?

Laura Saxon: (01:49)
I was working really hard and hardly making any money chasing down art shows. And so financially was a huge challenge. And then, having self-confidence was a huge challenge. So 

Ann Rea: (02:07)
Okay. So–

Laura Saxon: (02:08)
Those are my two big things.

Ann Rea: (02:10)
Why do you think your self-confidence was so low before you joined? And on a scale of, actually on a scale of one to 10, let me first ask you, where was your level of self-confidence before you joined?

Laura Saxon: (02:24)
Oh, it was really out the window because I’m a lifetime artist. I started winning awards in elementary school. And so I’m an award-winning artist. I’ve studied my whole life. I’ve been in–I have actually clients.

Ann Rea: (02:41)
Those awards give you confidence. Where was your confidence on a scale of one?

Laura Saxon: (02:46)
Well, it was really low. It was like two, but two, I have like collectors across the world, And so I just felt like I wasn’t good enough.

Ann Rea: (02:58)
Okay. So you had collectors, you had awards, but you weren’t making any money. So– 

Laura Saxon: (03:05)
Yes, I’d make some here and I’d make some there, but you know, especially with Covid and everything, everything closed down.

Ann Rea: (03:12)
Right, right.

Laura Saxon: (03:13)
I’d been cleaning every day. So I was very frustrated with the whole thing. I was ready to pile ’em in a big pile and burn everything.

Ann Rea: (03:21)
Wow. Okay. So since you joined the program, where is your level of confidence now on a scale of one to 10?

Laura Saxon: (03:31)
I’d say it’s probably about a nine today, although–

Ann Rea: (03:34)
Oh, that’s a triple increase.

Laura Saxon: (03:37)
Yes. So, so last week, maybe not a nine, but you know, today I think it’s a nine because I was going back over the things to discuss with you and I started realizing what a huge just change of mental attitude I had. Number one, that was the biggest thing. And that one took me as, you know, a very long time because I was very skeptical. 

Ann Rea: (03:57)
Right. And so, yes, Laura enrolled even though she was still very skeptical. So, we had to work on her.

Laura Saxon: (04:10)
Big time.

Ann Rea: (04:11)
Big time. But so what, that’s okay. That’s what needed, that’s the work that needed to be done. How skeptical are you now, Laura?

Laura Saxon: (04:22)
Oh, I just actually before I signed on, I just added up. I have like eight people waiting for commission paintings right now.

Ann Rea: (04:28)
Okay. So how skeptical are you?

Laura Saxon: (04:31)
So I can’t even paint fast enough. And the people that I’ve done Prototype projects for so far have just totally loved them and told me, you know, their fault. They’re in love with them. They love me. They want to tell all their friends about them.

Ann Rea: (04:45)
You’ve earned conversational currency. That’s excellent!

Laura Saxon: (04:49)
Exactly. And another big thing for me is I had a hard time visualizing success in my life because I hadn’t had it. But, you know, for my art anyway. I could run other businesses, but the art business just was not working for me. So, to have a different change of attitude that I could actually earn a living and then to start doing it and see that I can, you know, escalate was just an incredible, incredible thing for me.

Ann Rea: (05:17)
And didn’t you like buy a condo or go in on a condo recently with some of the earnings from your selling your art?

Laura Saxon: (05:27)
Yes. you know, part one of our exercises that we had was we had to plan a fantasy wedding, which I fought.

Ann Rea: (05:36)
Yes.

Laura Saxon: (05:37)
Finally, I did it. So I came up with this condo I like to go to in the Caribbean and all this stuff. Well, it turns out that I made enough money in a year to actually have a down payment for that condo in the Caribbean. I couldn’t even believe that. 

Ann Rea: (05:54)
There you go. Well, okay, so these are great things, but I think there are people who are watching or wondering, “Well, can I do this?” I have these challenges. I have these other challenges. I’m not really sure if I can make art and make money in a consistent way like you are Laura. So can you just, what are some of the obstacles that you overcame during the program? Now, one of them I already know is you changed your mental attitude significantly.

Laura Saxon: (06:23)
That was huge.

Ann Rea: (06:24)
Yes, that’s huge. Are there two other things that were huge obstacles that you overcame in the program?

Laura Saxon: (06:31)
Yes, basically like devaluing myself, like other people can charge a lot for their paintings, but oh, you know, my friends who buy my paintings won’t pay that much. And so to change an attitude about what my work was worth was really huge for me. That was a stumbling block.

Ann Rea: (06:53)
Can I ask you like what– when you started, from the time you started to what you’re charging now, what do you estimate your percentage increase has been in your prices?

Laura Saxon: (07:04)
Well, smaller pieces I increased like four times in price. 

Ann Rea: (07:08)
Four times? Okay. Okay.

Laura Saxon: (07:10)
And the larger pieces, I’ve doubled the price on

Ann Rea: (08:21)
Yes. Okay. So I guess my question for you is, there are other artists listening to this and they are also very skeptical and I know why they’re skeptical because they’ve been screwed seven ways to Sunday. You were skeptical and you were enrolled anyway, and you did really well. What would you, what would you say to other artists who feel really skeptical about Making Art Making Money?

Laura Saxon: (08:53)
Just do it. Just do it. Because I was– I just thought it was too much money to pay. I was horrified that I paid that much, but how much money have I spent in my education in my life? I’ve spent a lot of money and I thought, well, this is really just an investment and if I, if I don’t make that money back, I will just have learned an expensive lesson. And if I do make the money back, that would be great. But I doubt seriously that’s going to happen. And so not only did I make it back, but I made like three times that amount and I just, I couldn’t believe it. It took a long time before it happened because I was skeptical and I didn’t want to do all the exercises. I thought they were sort of silly. And so I didn’t do the program like I should have. And if I’d gone slow and really thought about things and taken my time and not try to rush, you know. I would’ve been a lot more successful earlier, earlier on. 

Ann Rea: (09:50)
Right. So I think the moral of the story here is that you can do this imperfectly and still succeed. However, if you’re super skeptical, I don’t see it as my job to convince you quite honestly. And I’ll tell you why. I have over 300 case studies. I’ve been doing this since 2005. And I also now have a 100% no-risk guarantee. Which what what that looks like is my students are required to earn their tuition investment back through the sale of their art at an absolute minimum in order to officially graduate, which Laura did many times over. And if for some reason they’re unable to accomplish that within a year, we’ll work with you for free until you do. Of course, as long as you do the work. If you don’t do the work, I can’t help you. So that’s– you’re not going to find that anywhere. And that’s why the program is by application only. So you try to find, you try to find a company that won’t take your money if they don’t think they can help you. They’re happy to take your money whether or not they ever help you. But I really believe that your success is my success. And so Vanessa says, “That’s amazing.” Yes, it is amazing, isn’t it? Okay. So you’ve been at this a long time. Like you said, you started making art when you were young.

Ann Rea: (11:18)
So if you had a time machine and you could travel back in time to the young Laura who decided she wanted to pursue art, what would you say to her now with all the wisdom that you’ve gained?

Laura Saxon: (11:33)
I would just say take your time and do it one step at a time. And as long as you love what you’re doing, it’s going to be successful. 

Ann Rea: (11:41)
Right. I would say if you have a roadmap. So yes–

Laura Saxon: (11:47)
The map made a huge difference for me because before I was just like so scattered. I tend to be scattered in my own personal life anyway, but I was so scattered and I just was being more and more hopeless. 

Ann Rea: (12:00)
Yes.

Laura Saxon: (12:01)
So the course totally turned me around and I thank you for that, Ann.

Ann Rea: (12:05)
You’re welcome. I feel like the overwhelm really erodes confidence and when you’re focused, you increased your confidence. What do you think about that, Laura?

Laura Saxon: (12:14)
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Because, you know, scattered doesn’t get you anywhere, but focus does.

Ann Rea: (12:22)
Right.

Laura Saxon: (12:23)
And if you focus and just do one thing at a time, which is not the way I operate, I scatter and do everything at the same time, which means you don’t get anything accomplished. 

Ann Rea: (12:31)
You don’t get anything done. And energy flows where focus goes. So if you focus– 

Laura Saxon: (12:37)
And Jina Kim was the one that said, “What is one thing that you can do tomorrow to earn money?”

Ann Rea: (12:44)
Yes. 

Laura Saxon: (12:45)
To work towards earning money. And so–

Ann Rea: (12:46)
One thing. 

Laura Saxon: (12:47)
That totally–yes. One thing. So that totally changed my way of thinking ’cause I thought one thing.

Ann Rea: (12:52)
One thing, yes. So we really believe in working smarter and not harder. So a lot of artists are operating under a really disempowering belief that they have to work harder in order  to gain more success, when in fact, actually, you need to work smarter. Going back to the road map analogy, I like to offer this analogy like I’m sitting in San Francisco right now. If I wanted to get to New York City and I got into my little fiat and I started driving and I didn’t have a roadmap, when am I ever going to make it to New York City? I’m not. What’s going to happen is I’m going to run out of gas. I’m going to blow out my tires. Like eventually I’m just after driving around in circles, which is what most fine artists are doing, you eventually give up. And once an artist gives up on their art, I think a part of their soul dies. And Laura, you were at that point, you were saying that earlier, that you were thinking maybe it should just burn all this art, and give up. How did– how were you feeling? Like, what was that like? Can you describe that? 

Laura Saxon: (14:02)
Oh, I was really distraught, you know, I mean, I’ll cry talking about it, but I was really distraught and ’cause it was every week I was chasing down shows. And I’ve been in galleries from Manhattan to Los Angeles. I live in New Orleans. I’ve been in galleries here but I would sell a piece here and two pieces there and hardly sell anything as much as I was doing. And I’ve been in art associations, I’ve helped run art associations. And that, you know, I just was working myself to death for hardly any money.  So yes, that was very difficult. 

Ann Rea: (14:39)
Well, I’m very proud of you Laura ’cause you’re not doing that now. You’ve given that up and that makes me really happy and makes me more inspired to help other fine artists just like you, Laura, just take your power back. Take your power back from that scarcity and permission-based art establishment. Because if you are not setting the terms for the sale of your art, they’re going to be set for you and they will not be set in your favor. Am I telling the truth, Laura?

Laura Saxon: (15:09)
Yes. And the funny thing is that after I decided that I wasn’t going to be in any more gallery shows, then I got invited to be in more and bigger shows and competitions. I’m going, “Oh, I have to say no.” Oh! Oh! And it was very hard for me to say no to those, but I did.

Ann Rea: (15:25)
And you made more money.

Laura Saxon: (15:26)
I think I was only in three shows. I think I was only in three shows after I signed up. And I was invited to be in a whole lot more than that. So–

Ann Rea: (15:34)
But all that money creating all that time, all that energy creating bodies of work that may or may not ever sell. And then you go, you got to schlep the work. You got to pay for the framing if you’re a two dimensional artist. And then, I mean, are you kidding? They’re not. It’s not just that. They’re going to take 50% of sales commissions or more. The real cost is that you’re never going to understand who your collectors are. There’s no business that would ever, ever, ever be able to operate if they didn’t know their own damn customers yet. That’s what art representatives and galleries impose upon fine artists. You can’t run a business if you don’t know your customers. Right Laura?

Laura Saxon: (16:19)
And the best part, Ann, you’ll like this, is I had one gallery in New Orleans who said they could represent me and they would be my exclusive gallery and they would take me. 

Ann Rea: (16:27)
Oh no! They won’t!

Laura Saxon: (16:28)
Wait! Listen to this. And then they would charge me 80% tip for that privilege. Yes. 

Ann Rea: (16:33)
Oh, hold on. Hold on. So this gallery wanted to take 80% of your money, not let you have any access to your collectors, which means you would lose exponential sales. And then they want to lock you down in an exclusivity agreement. Don’t sign an exclusivity agreement everybody, because they’re b******t. They’re basically a ploy to make you feel special. “Oh, this is exclusive.” And so they lean into this idea of prestige. And prestige is French for “deceit.” Do not sign an exclusivity agreement. All of you, all of you representatives. You know what you’re doing is often illegal. Not only– not is it just predatory? Not, is it only unethical? It’s often illegal. Check the state. Check your state law. Don’t fall for this b******t everybody. Please. I’m so glad you sidestepped that but let’s just say you hadn’t joined the Making Art Making Money™ Laura, do you think you would’ve signed that stupid agreement?

Laura Saxon: (17:38)
Well actually that was several years ago and I didn’t sign it because I just thought it was horrible. 80%, you know, I’ve been in other galleries, 50% is bad enough. But then it would lock me into– I could only be in that gallery. 

Ann Rea: (17:52)
I think 50% is the least of the problem. If you look at how many sales have you gained by referrals, Laura, that you would never have if you were only going through an art gallery. 

Laura Saxon: (18:04)
Yes.

Ann Rea: (18:05)
What would that look like?

Laura Saxon: (18:07)
Many. Yes. Many. Cause most of the people that I have the commissions from are actually my friends. But they tell their friends and they all–

Ann Rea: (18:14)
That’s how it works.

Laura Saxon: (18:14)
They all love my work. 

Ann Rea: (18:16)
Yes, exactly.

Laura Saxon: (18:18)
Even Thanksgiving. We were invited to some friend’s house and they’re like one of my biggest collectors. They live in Baltimore and they have a big party. And so, you know, all of their friends know my friends and you know, so they all love my artwork and two of them want more paintings from me. So, yay!  

Ann Rea: (18:35)
Good for you. See! This is what I try to teach artists. Real relationships equal revenue, not transactional, not pushy, not fake. Real relationships, equal revenue. What you may not understand as a fine artist is this, people who care about art care about the artist. They don’t care about the middleman. People who care about art, care about you. And you can leverage this in a very sophisticated but authentic way that feels good for everybody. But Laura, am I– is that true?

Laura Saxon: (19:16)
Totally true. And I, I would never have believed it unless I had done it.

Ann Rea: (19:22)
I know. Well you didn’t believe it, but now you do. Alright, so if someone was listening to this and sitting on the fence and they weren’t sure about applying to enroll, what would you honestly say to them? 

Laura Saxon: (19:34)
I would honestly say it would be the smartest move you could make. Because I think this is a brilliant program because we are the ones that have the power to be creative and other people don’t have that power. 

Ann Rea: (19:49)
That’s right.

Laura Saxon: (19:50)
And that’s why they value what we can do. Because we can bring them something that they can treasure for the rest of their lives.

Ann Rea: (19:57)
Exactly. Which is what they’re going to do. That designer dress or the designer furniture? Whatever it is, that’s going to be gone. The art’s going to stay. And here is the thing, as fine artists, we make a huge impact on people’s lives. And so we deserve to be paid and we shouldn’t be subjected to accusations of selling out. And we shouldn’t be demonized by academics, you know who you are, or the art establishment because we do create value And we’re an important element of all of society. And so don’t fall for this b******t. that’s been foisted on us. We have to reexamine our belief system. And if you continue to subject yourself to rejection from this scarcity and permission-based art establishment, eventually you’re going to give up or you’re going to wind up poor. Take your power back, everybody. What’s that?

Laura Saxon: (21:06)
Or both.

Ann Rea: (21:07)
Or both. Yes. Or both. Poor and yes. So you do have a choice today. That’s the good news. All right. Thank you Laura for coming on and sharing a bit of your story. I really appreciate it. I hope that other artists also appreciate Laura’s time and attention. She’s a busy lady. She’s got a bunch of commissions stacked up she’s got to finish so thank you very much. I’m very proud of all the work you’ve done and the turnaround, even though you came in super skeptical. Look at you now. 

Laura Saxon: (21:35)
Yes. And I was kicking and fighting. I’m sorry. 

Ann Rea: (21:38)
That’s okay. We fixed it. Alright, everyone.

Laura Saxon: (21:42)
Thanks so much, Ann.

Ann Rea: (21:43)
Welcome. Bye-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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