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Artist Ann Rea
“What other work do you do? You know, for yourself?”
[caption id="attachment_751" align="alignleft" width="493" caption="San Francisco based Artist Ann Rea, CEO of Ann Rea, Inc."]San Francisco based Artist & CEO[/caption] I still get this question!  The paintings that I paint are the paintings that I want to paint.  I can’t even imagine having it any other way and calling myself an artist.  Otherwise I would call myself an illustrator.  Who I have a great deal of respect for, by the way. Now I am very mindful that if I want to exchange my creations for payment then I have to add value beyond selfish self-expression.  I’m not criticizing self-expression as selfish. I’m just saying that as an artist, interested in building a strong business and brand, clearly I have to think beyond me. This Friday I was at a reception at an incredible contemporary estate in Napa Valley.  And ironically it was two "artists" who asked this question. “What other work do you do?  You know, for yourself?” One a photographer and her husband, a sculptor, a retired physician.  So I’m assuming that their monetary concerns have been different from my own and that has shaped their perspective. A former art director,  along with another guest, then asked if this was what I did “full time?” Another asked “Ann, are you here to show your work?”  “Actually, I’m here to develop a strategic partnership with the host.” I responded. I can’t pretend that I’m not irked by these questions.  I’m a serious full time artist and entrepreneur.  Imagine that!  Is that not obvious?  Or are the stereotypes about artists just too strong for this to be as plain as the nose on your face? But I accept the perspective of these relatively affluent people who, like many, see art making as an indulgence, maybe a career, and a business, “oh really?” In my experience I’ve observed two distinct camps.  Those interested in art and music making in exchange for money and those that don’t believe this should happen or have enough confidence and skill to make that exchange.  Guess which camp I belong to? I know that my brother, the former Dean of a business school, did not take my venture very seriously until my business was profiled by Fortune magazine.  Then suddenly I was a teaching moment, an example of how to live your passion and earn a living. It’s not only possible, but given the opportunity, I believe that it’s our obligation to live our lives to the fullest, to be fully self expressed, and to provide value so that we can earn as much money as possible doing it.  Then we are in a better position to live a healthy, prosperous, life. And then to give back.
Like Moths to a Flame
charcoal2I’ve blocked off my entire schedule for tomorrow to devote to painting a commissioned piece in my Pacific beach studio.  I’ll be painting a privately commissioned large-scale canvas inspired by one of twenty field studies I created in and of Continuum Estate vineyards in Napa Valley. This evening I taped the edges of the 30” x 40” stretch canvas with blue paint masking tape so that my thick paint won’t bleed onto the sides.  The framer will appreciate this effort.  Then I reached for a Winsor and Newton willow charcoal stick, a fragile 5” piece of thin charcoal used for sketching on canvas.  They’re ideal for large-scale drawings or filling in forms.  I always break them while I’m drawing. Tomorrow morning I’ll go for a long run in The Presidio to the Lyon Street stairs and clear my head with the ocean air.  When I return I’ll shower and turn off the phones and the computers.  I want no disturbances when I paint.   It’s time to center and engage in an active mediation requiring my full yet relaxed focus. I long for these times when I can create.  I’m excited to just let the painting flow.  I lose track of time and I’m in the most peaceful place that I can be and still remain conscious.  This high is what draws artists to painting like moths to a flame.
Would I rather be painting?
[caption id="attachment_302" align="alignleft" width="287" caption="Artist Ann Rea"]Artist Ann Rea[/caption] My collectors often ask how much time I spend engaged in my company’s sales, marketing, and administrative work.  I would estimate that I spend about 50%-80% of my time. Not so romantic, but it's vitally necessary.  The good news is that I don’t mind it.  Many years in the corporate cubicle trained me for it.  And its what I must do if I want to build the Ann Rea, Inc., brand so that I can spend more time painting. Of course, most, if not all, of my collectors own their own businesses or they certainly work, so we can relate on that level. I’m also asked “Would I rather be painting?”  The answer is, not necessarily. I enjoy business and I particularly enjoy marketing strategy.  Again it’s not an either or proposition. But yes, when I do paint its like entering another realm.  The time flies, I’m relaxed and engaged in an entirely different and purely creative way.  My thoughts are focused; I’m peaceful and emotionally responsive.  The skills and experience I’m drawing on and developing are entirely different.  A friend of mine who is an experienced astrologer completed my chart.  She said that astrologically I would walk this life with two different personalities.  Others seem to think this is true. I remember being introduced to my friend Paul Kelly at a business-networking meeting. Paul is an accomplished architect in Napa Valley.  He was later asked if he enjoyed meeting Ann Rea the artist.  He couldn’t believe that I was a fine artist.  He couldn’t put two and two together.  The Ann that he met didn’t seem at all like a painter.  Now he knows that I am and we hope to be working together on a restaurant project in Napa. The good news is that over the past four years my annrea.com sales have averaged about 8% of my total sales.  These sales are the easiest and most profitable transactions.  But in 2009, that number jumped to 27%.  What does that mean?  I have more time to paint.  And I’m very happy about that.
Commissioned Paintings Demystified
[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Century Vines, Ann Rea, charcoal on paper"]0408CenturyVines[/caption] I sometimes forget that commissioning a fine artist is not something that many people are experienced with and therefore may not be comfortable with. So I thought that I would share my commission process with you.  A fairly recent example of a private commission comes from my lovely patrons in Naples, Florida.  They reviewed my work on annrea.com and then in August they visited my private live/work studio in The Presidio of San Francisco with their wine consultant, Bruce Nichols.  Through their active involvement with Naples, Florida Chaîne des Rôtisseurs they became acquainted with Tim Mondavi.  They were interested in a large-scale custom oil painting of Tim’s Continuum Estate vineyard. My patrons first decided on the finished size of their canvas.  Then they completed my commission application and booked me to create their custom painting.  I then scheduled a tour of Continuum with Tim Mondavi and his daughter.  The winemaker knows the visual nuances of the terroir and their enthusiasm and connection to their land provides me with inspiration.  During my tour of Continuum I took several photographs and my inspiration grew. I used my photographs of Continuum to sketch in charcoal on canvas board. After I completed existing private commissions I then scheduled my stay in the Napa Valley to paint at Continuum Estate vineyard. Patrons often ask how I choose to paint a particular subject.  The best way to answer this is to say that I don’t think about it, I just feel it.  Much like deciding what move to make when you’re dancing.  You don’t think, you just feel. To date I’ve completed over a dozen of the twenty or so field studies that I’ll actually paint in and of Continuum vineyard. Each piece is painted in one sitting to capture the inspiration of fleeting ambient light. Once these field studies are dry I’ll look at them again and begin to edit the series.  My creative process when I’m painting is much like writing a rough draft.  First I spill my thoughts, leave what I’ve written, and then return to edit it with fresh eyes. I’ll select one of these field studies that measures 16”x20” and use it as the compositional basis for my patron’s larger custom canvas measuring 30”x40”.  This final piece will be painted in my Pacific beach studio, where I can pace myself and control the lighting. Once all of the paintings are dry, my professional art photographer with photograph each piece.  Then I’ll register my series with the US Copyright Office to protect my intellectual property. The field studies will be uploaded to annrea.com and made available to my collectors throughout the globe. However, my Florida patrons will get first dibs on the field studies in oil and charcoal studies on paper. The finished commissioned piece will be carefully packaged and insured for shipping to my patrons in Naples, Florida.  I'll also enclose my patron's "certificate of title" establishing the provenance of the painting and to provide documentation for insurance. Sometimes I’ll first provide the framing; sometime my collectors will use their framer. Most often my patrons will throw an unveiling party, where they host me and their guests to celebrate and to toast to the unveiling of the painting I created exclusively for them.