Artist Johanna Carrington; Richmond, Virginia
QUESTION: What was your biggest challenge?
Carrington: Trying to organize my day and all of the things that you need to do; from painting, to keeping track of the books, and trying to figure out how much time you devote to each of those.
QUESTION: Have you given your art away?
Carrington: I’ve been the poster child for giving away my paintings. I had only just started Course One and I had arranged to go see a friend about an hour away and spend the night with her. She had expressed interest in one of my paintings in the spring and it took me a while to finish it and for it to dry, so I finally got it to her. Now ordinarily I would have just given that to her free because she really is a dear friend- but she’s a real estate agent and she’s been my realtor and she’s never discounted her fee and we have a friend who’s a contractor and he redid our kitchen and he didn’t give it to us for free. So you really spoke to me (in that lesson). I really realized that I needed to stop doing that. It feels good, but then it’s like, ugh. Why did I do that?
QUESTION: Did you give her a discount?
Carrington: I gave her 20 percent off.
Ann Rea: No!!!
QUESTION: Why you should never discount your art.
Ann Rea: If you discount your art, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You’re being very unfair and out of integrity with the people who’ve paid full price for your paintings, whether it was through you or through the gallery; so that’s wrong. You’re also being unfair to the people who maybe didn’t buy your art, but you asked them for full price. The bottom line Is this: It’s a luxury. When you start discounting a luxury, what happens?
Carrington: I guess it’s not really a luxury item anymore.
QUESTION: What happens when you discount your art?
Ann Rea: She is only going to talk about the discount that she got.
Carrington: I hope not.
Ann Rea: Well, you better have a conversation with her because 85 percent of new sales come by way of referral. Ask your real estate agent friend. She knows this. So now she might give you a referral, maybe. She definitely would not give you a referral if you gave it to her for free and now you have got to get her to button her lip about this discount.
Carrington: Okay, well that’s good I can still correct it.
Ann Rea: It has an exponential effect.
Carrington: I felt like I had to hold to the price that I agreed to in April.
Ann Rea: No you don’t. No you don’t. Prices go up and terms change. Ask her if the cost of real estate goes up. Ask her if the terms change.
Ann Rea: No you don’t. No you don’t. You should sell your art for the most you can get paid for it. There’s only one original piece. So you should sell it at the highest price you can get.
QUESTION: Who can help you?
Ann Rea: Now, what I want you to realize is if your friend is a dear friend and she’s a real estate agent, who do you think can help you sell the hell out of your art?
Carrington: Yeah, absolutely. She can.
QUESTION: What would you have done differently?
Carrington: I probably would have found several different places to sell my art and have reliable income. That’s the thing I’m missing right now. It’s just like catch-as-catch-can every month. I never know. Everything is so unpredictable. Hopefully I can get to the point where I have some reliable source of income, some number that I know I can make. If I’d done this 10 years ago my name would be established. I have so many friends that say, “Oh, I didn’t know you painted” and I think, ‘wow, I have done a terrible job of getting the word out that I’m doing this’.
QUESTION: Why do you want to sell your art?
Carrington: I just can’t fight it. This is what I want to do and I’m 53 years old and what am I waiting for? I’m not getting any younger. I really wanted to do this from the get go when I went to college and I got talked out of it like “come on, really, you’re going to be an art major? You’re not gonna make any money.” and I should’ve just stuck with it. I should have done it. I’d be established by now and, so anyway I can’t go back and have all those regrets, so I’m doing it now.
QUESTION: Were your parents right?
Ann Rea: Your parents were right. They were, right. I got to give them that and this program didn’t exist then, so there weren’t the same resources. Also, there wasn’t Instagram, there wasn’t online marketing. There weren’t websites. It was much harder. It’s a much better time now than ever, ever before.
Carrington: So true.
QUESTION: What advice would you have given yourself?
Carrington: Trust yourself. I wish I trusted my instincts and had just been willing to be a little more patient with myself and give it some time.
QUESTION: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Carrington: I really didn’t understand that it is a business I have to say. Up until very recently I’ve sort of thought, well I’ll just keep painting and eventually it’ll just kind of get traction and people will come to me and that’s just not been working. It doesn’t work like that.
QUESTION: Where have your sales come from?
Carrington: One of the best things is one of my neighbors has brought several people. I mean I’ve probably had five or six sales from him alone. He has house guests and brings them down to my studio and it’s so great. I need more of those people.
Ann Rea: All right. Now that’s what I’m talking about. The power of referrals. 85 percent, right?
Ann Rea: Now if you cultivate relationships with those people, the five people that he brought and that came and bought from you then they’re going to produce referrals. It does work.
Ann Rea: But you have to be very deliberate in how you cultivate a relationship and also, when people come over make them feel welcome and inspire them by sharing your mission.
QUESTION: What advice do you have for artists?
Carrington: Pay attention to the fact that this is a business and that you have to arm yourself with certain skills. You’ve got to learn how to do this, and have faith in yourself and keep painting (in my case- I’m a painter). Just Be patient. It takes time so don’t give up.
QUESTION: Should other artists apply to enroll?
Carrington: Oh my gosh, why wouldn’t you? You need to invest in yourself. Last year I finally hired a graphic designer to create a good website for myself, and honestly, I wish I’d found your course first and done that first, but it’s so vital. If you were running any other kind of business, you would have to have legal advice or banking advice. It’s so important. It’s like having my computer or my printer or a second easel. It’s a worthwhile investment, and you have to have it.
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- Ann Rea, Artist Mentor