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Artist Ann Rea
Painting with Matisse
Henri_Matisse One of my most treasured memories was painting in a little fishing town in France called Collioure, a small Catalan harbor sheltered on a quiet bay where the chain of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean Sea, 15 miles from the border of Spain. I was in France studying with Gregory Kondos, a friend and colleague of my mentor, Wayne Thiebaud. One morning Gregory and I sat in a café sipping espresso in the very same place where painting masters including Picasso, Derain, and Matisse had traded their art, still on the walls, for a meal. After we left the café I set up my easel on the beach to do a quick study of a small simple white chapel perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Mediterranean.  I put it away and joined my fellow students at a nearby art museum. Visiting artists from yesteryear had their work preserved in these galleries.  It was a delight to see the work of art masters reflecting the environment that I was being inspired by that week. I turned the corner of the museum and what did I see.  A painting by Henri Matisse of a small simple white chapel perched on a rocky bluff over looking the Mediterranean.  Just an hour before I had stood in the very same spot that had also inspired him! I recently found a quote: "In France there is no sky as blue as the one in Collioure...I just have to close the shutters of my room and I have all the colors of the Mediterranean before me." --- Henri Matisse
Do you just paint vineyards?
[caption id="attachment_1117" align="alignnone" width="400" caption=""Over the Bridge" Ann Rea ©, pastel, private collection"]"Over the Bridge" Ann Rea ©, pastel, private collection[/caption] I have to admit I do tire of this question.  The answer is: “No.  And I’m not painting vineyards.  I’m painting color shaped by ambient light in the tradition of the French Impressionists yet I’m influenced by my mentors, and contemporary art icons, Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos.”  But the real answer would just take way too long so I reply,  “Yes. I only paint vineyards.” However, I’m revisiting a series of pastels on black sandpaper inspired by San Francisco at night under the full moon. I started it when I first moved to San Francisco five years ago. Recently I was inspired by an exhibition on display at The Legion of Honor called Aspects of Mount Fuji in Japanese Illustrated Books from the Arthur Tress Collection.  It’s there until February 20th, a must see. One of the many artists that I was drawn to was Henri Riviere, and in particular his 36 views of the Eiffel Tower bound into a book of lithographs.  Henri  Riviere was inspired by Hokusai’s 36 views of Mont Fuji. Wayne Thiebaud used to say there are no new ideas.  If you find one you like, take it and make it your own. So I am carrying on the tradition and continuing my series of the Golden Gate Bridge under full moon light to include a total 36 views. It's raining now and the vines are bald so I cannot paint in Wine Country. So I'll focus on my Eiffel Tower, my Mont Fuji.  That is the Golden Gate Bridge,  less  than a mile from my private live work studio. The Golden Gate Bridge is  as an ever-visible icon symbolizing my adopted home.  And when it’s lit at night it glows for miles around in and through the fog.
Ann Rea (Inc.)
annreaSquared Many people ask me, "Who's your representative?"  The answer is that Ann Rea, Inc. is the legal entity that represents the artist Ann Rea. How did this come about?  Well, while I was being mentored by American art icons Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos they encouraged me to make a go of it and to explore my talent full time, and to quit that boring and unrelated day job that I wanted quit anyway.  "It's not too late" they both advised.  But each of them began their careers as academics. “How do I make a living?” I asked of Wayne Thiebaud.  Mr. Thiebaud replied, “I don’t know, I’m not a business man. But I can give you a letter of recommendation and refer you to some galleries, one in particular. You can use my name, you’ll probably get in. But the owner, I'll warn you, she’s a pill.”   A pill, that was a very polite understatement. Wayne Thiebaud’s letter did get me an entrance into that gallery to review my work.  But when the gallery owner revealed her terms, actually illegal but common terms, it was no wonder  why artists are starving.  The gallery owner insisted on geographic market exclusivity, and demanded that the best of my painting inventory was left on consignment.  The art gallery may never sell a thing and I was handcuffed from selling my own work through other galleries. It gets better.  I would be paid 50% of the sale price or less because the gallery owner wanted the right to negotiate a discount to patrons, a discount that I would have to eat.  I could not work with any other galleries in Northern California even though this gallery may or may not sell a thing and they could give me the boot at any time they pleased. The gallery also wanted to be listed as the single representative on my website and she really didn’t want me selling from my own site. And the art galleries illegal demands are common terms demanded by many galleries. So I thought, “Oh, I don’t think so!  I want to make a living."  And no profitable business would agree to these terms.  “I’ll make my own market, thank you very much. I don't know how, but I'll figure it out." I was advised by the successful artist Donna Billick, yes the sister of the famed football coach, “Take the reins, it’s the only way you’ll succeed.”  How true! So I reflected on the lack of business advice from Wayne Thiebaud, and from my brother, the Dean of a business school, and my sister, a self made multi-millionaire.  Then I decided to write a business plan and a marketing plan anyway.  I sat with a dear friend to do this.  I didn’t have experience in writing business plans but realized that it was an unconventional approach for an artist that could offer a distinct advantage.  Why not try? They all thought that  I was crazy.  But then, they always did think she I crazy. So in 2005, I launched my business as a sole proprietorship. And without the benefit of a PR agent my business was profiled by the national media, including, “Fortune”,  “The Wine Enthusiast”, “Practical Winery and Vineyard Management” and "The Tasting Panel" magazines, and the “Fine Living” channel. I'm happy to work with art galleries and art consultants but only if the terms are profitable and mutually beneficial, like any good business owner. In late 2008, I learned more about our federal tax structure and the IRS code and with my CPA's advise I changed my business structure to a corporation. Now you know the history of Ann Rea, Inc. and you have a little insight into the art market. And hopefully this story has encouraged you to support independent artists just like Ann Rea, who have decided to "take the reins."
Confidence and Inner Resources
annreaSquaredOK I admit it. I watch American Idol.  And when I do,  part of my fascination is watching what's required of these emerging artists.  Many haven't found their true voice and clearly their skill requires honing.  Obviously it’s about their talent but the underlying story is their ability to weather the very public humiliation and rejection and still keep going.  It's like being in a Roman Colosseum battling emotion and ego. Artists engage in their craft because they are passionate about it.  It gets them high, so to speak.  What an artist shares comes from the depths of their heart.  So rejection and criticism can be biting, at the very least.  Of course, we don’t have to put ourselves out there. Except if you want to get paid, you do.  A plumber, a doctor, a financial analyst never has to deal with such deeply personal matters of rejection or acceptance. And when we place our treasured craft into the world of commerce we are subject to the market’s whims and we have to understand and play by the complex rules of business.  This does sometimes leave me feeling like I maintain a split personality. But I not only accept this, I embrace it.  The good news is that I’m only trying to win over a very select few, a clearly defined targeted market of art and wine enthusiasts. In fact, I thought that David Mathinson, author of “Be the Media” put it well.  He said you really only need a 1000 fans.  This is also a lesson taught by Chris Anderson, author of the “The Long Tail”. Anderson explains the new economics of culture and commerce and "why the future of business is selling less of more." Once I read my letter of recommendation from Wayne Thiebaud in 1999, I found one part most flattering, but also the most important thing I always remember is “She has a well-developed confidence and personal inner resources allowing her to use critical confrontation for positive results.”  Without this I think I'd be headed straight for the lions.
Go see the Thiebaud exhibit at the San Jose Art Museum!

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This past Sunday my fiancé took me to see the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit at the San Jose art museum.  I could have spent all day there.  The title of the show is “Seventy Years of Painting.”  It was amazing to see a slice of my mentor's work representing his life’s effort.

I sat and watched the 70-minute interview with him and heard him offer the same observations and advice that he offered me.  That as painters we are in the business of creating illusions, that one must use critical confrontation to edit our work, and to be conscious that there is muscularity in a painting, an artist’s movements are reflected in the canvas. If you look closely, you can see how his close friendships with contemporary painters Willem DeKooning and Richard Diebenkorn left their mark in his history.  And I noticed each of these art giants is an amazing draftsman.  As Thiebaud says, “drawing is foundational” and that’s what I learned from Viktor Schreckengost at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Established in 1882, it is a highly esteemed member the Association of Independent Colleges of Art, a coalition of the leading art schools in the United States. Go see his “lushly painted glimpses of everyday life—from a slice of pie to a steep San Francisco streetscape—are icons of American Pop Art.” Theibaud is really a painter’s painter.  He understands the medium; he’s unusually passionate about teaching despite his individual success in the international art scene.  I’m so appreciative that our paths crossed.
Confidence and Personal Inner Resources
[caption id="attachment_302" align="alignleft" width="287" caption="Artist Ann Rea"]Artist Ann Rea[/caption] When I met Wayne Thiebaud, a retrospective of his life’s work was traveling the nation’s major art institutions.  We were discussing my decision to commit myself to painting full time.  He mentioned that if I did this, aside from earning a living, I would always be challenged with one issue.  “What?” I asked.  Wayne said that “You’ll be challenged with the nagging thought that your work is not quite good enough.”  I replied.  “You feel this way?  Even with your national retrospective show and with the international acclaim and recognition you’ve received?  Really?”  I was surprised.  I thought, “I’d be on top of the world!”  He said, “Yes.  When I look at a Degas I think my work is just crap.” Not long after this meeting Wayne Thiebaud wrote me a letter of recommendation.  I picked up the letter from his secretary and as soon as I was outside the door I ripped open the envelope.  As I read the letter aloud on November 19, 1999, my eyes welled with tears. I am very pleased to recommend Ms. Rea as a practicing artist. She is an extraordinary candidate as she exemplifies a rare combination of very special qualities. Ann Rea has an engaging personal manner of working and relating to varying and challenging circumstances. She has a well-developed confidence and personal inner resources allowing her to use critical confrontation for positive results. Ann Rea is intelligent and sensitive with a deep capacity for serious and sustained work. She is keen to share this talent I urge you to take her application seriously, and I highly recommend her as someone who can make significant contributions to the community through her art. Sincerely, Wayne Thiebaud Ironically, now it didn’t matter what I thought or what art critics thought.  I had just received a teflon coating against negative criticism.  And I’ve not since suffered from this notion that my work is “not quite good enough.”   I don’t so much look at a painting as “better” than another. I look at each painting that I create as part of a bigger ever evolving effort.  My inner critic is essential, it helps me edit my work. But it must be kept in check.  I listened carefully to Wayne.  I’ll not allow my inner critic to undermine my confidence or prevent me from enjoying success.
Five Years Painting Full Time
How do my Wine Country Traveling Patrons find Me?This month, January, marks my fifth year in business, my decision to paint full time.  What inspired me to do this?  A number of things led me down this extraordinary path.  But if I had to name a single person who inspired me to make this decision, it was a coworker I met when I was suffering from anxiety and working as a corporate consultant, her name was Angela. Angela and I worked together on the same very politically charged government account as project management consultants.  When I think about it, I can’t even believe that I forced myself to work each day.  I found the work so incredibly boring and the management was dreadful. Angela and I worked with a young, insecure, and power hungry consultant from New York. We were quite sure that she was sleeping with the boss. Ick!  And so we'd break the tension by laughing and making jokes. Angela was one month older than me and she was recovering from stage four breast cancer treatments.  Her black hair framed her attractive face in a short-cropped curl.  I always wanted curly hair.  She told me that hers used to be straight too but that it was very common when women lost their hair from chemotherapy for it to grow back in curly.  This made me pause and I became thankful for my hair just the way it was. Angela and I both were both deeply dissatisfied with our jobs.  I wanted to paint and I learned that Angela always wanted to be an interior designer. Unbeknownst to Angela, I looked at her one-day and thought, "why the hell don’t we just do it, why are we staying here?" Angela and I moved on to different project management gigs. Hers to Hawaii and mine to San Francisco where I had an episode with a self proclaimed born again Christian manager.  One day he actually cornered me into my v-shaped cubicle at PG&E.  I woke up the next morning with a different resolve. I could not again drive for 45 minutes, park, wait for the ferry, and sail into the financial district for yet another hour, one more day, not one more day of my remaining life.  I decided to quit, to find a way to paint, to live the life I was given, and to develop the talent that Wayne Thiebaud himself recognized. I’m blessed to have another year ahead and I’m going to make it the very best that I can.  And I look forward to dedicating my first book to Angela.
How do my Wine Country Traveling Patrons find Me?
How do my Wine Country Traveling Patrons find Me?I have a growing list of private and celebrity collectors across Northern America and Europe and my work is gaining increasingly collectible status.  It's commended by Wayne Thiebaud (an American Art icon) and I'm fortunate to continue to receive features by the national media. But because I deliberately don’t follow the traditional route and work with galleries people often people will ask how my patrons find me. Many of my collectors are visitors to San Francisco and the Wine Country.  They either find me on the Internet or through my exposure in the press. I was at a party the other week hosted by one of my newer patrons in his beautifully refurbished barn amongst his Napa vines.   How did he find me?  He read about me in Fortune magazine in May of 2007, and he saved the article.  At that party I met several of his neighbors.  Referrals are the biggest source of my business and hopefully these introductions will lead to more collectors like him. However, occasionally someone FINDS me on the Internet.  Often they have been looking, often searching, for original art inspired by the Wine Country.  And what I frequently hear from these collectors is that they have found several “decorator” pieces but that these pieces do not have the same depth or quality they have been searching for. They are formulaic, very literal, and most importantly they don’t evoke and emotional response.  It’s much like searching for a fine wine. By appointment, traveling collectors of original works visit my private live/work studio in The Presidio on their way to and from Wine Country. A couple of avid art and wine collectors recently visiting from Naples, Florida commissioned me to create an original oil on large canvas of Tim Mondavi's Continuum Estate vineyards so that they can "bring home a piece of the Wine Country". They are remotely sharing in the evolution of the series via my blog posts.
Color, color, color. I eat it for breakfast.
The Color Wheel

What inspires me? Color, color, color.  I eat it for breakfast.

What is color?  It’s simply the energy of light vibrating at different frequencies.  I choose to focus on color because this inspiration is infinite and it is ever changing. As the sun shines through the particles in the sky and moves over our heads each day it casts a different light in each environment on the globe.  Hour by hour forms and shadows are reshaped.  Focus upon this subtle change keeps me present, it therapeutically keeps my thoughts in the moment. Why do we enjoy watching a sunset?  I think it’s because we slow down and relax into the moment, reflecting as we watch the very source of color reshape the environment for yet another day.  As they day ends we’re reminded that the sun will set again and it places the days events and life’s current circumstances in context. The French Impressionists discovered the genius of this joy and inspiration.  Their subject was color shaped by the immediate and ambient light of a place in time.  The subject wasn’t haystacks, water lilies, or cathedrals.  The Impressionist period continues to hold universal appeal and remains one of the most popular periods in the history of Western art.  It’s accessible and the focus was beautiful simplicity. I’ve been referred to as an Impressionist and I don’t believe that is accurate.  Although I do paint in the timeless tradition of French Impressionists like Monet, plein air (in the open air), I’m not from a previous century. And even though I use the same oil pigments as Van Gough from Old Holland Oil Works established in 1664, my work is influenced by the direct mentorship I received from contemporary painters Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos (American Art icons) and my study with renowned industrial designer Viktor Schreckengost.  Each of these influences are an inspiration along with my love of color.
"Who tells Ann Rea what to paint?"
[caption id="attachment_48" align="alignnone" width="287" caption="Artist Ann Rea"]she does't accept art direction[/caption] “You mean your patrons don’t tell you what to paint?”  I get this a lot.  The answer is no.  The first paragraph of my commission agreement explains this very well. I invite you to consider, when you’ve attended a musical performance, the audience didn’t select the sets performed.  And generally guests at a restaurant don’t go back to the kitchen and help prepare the meal with the chef.  It’s really the same thing.  You leave the decisions in the hands of those who are informed and inspired to create for you, to do their very best, with your satisfaction and pleasure in mind. If you have a particular vision that you want someone else to execute you would hire an illustrator.  That’s what they are trained to do. A winery executive once asked me why the images on their labels did not have the same depth of feeling that my paintings possessed.  I explained that this was because those images did not come from that illustrator’s pure inspiration, they where someone else’s vision and they where developed and edited under someone else direction.  Consequently they lost their original inspiration, logic got involved. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that illustrations lack feeling or that I don’t have great respect for illustration. My friend Yan Nascinbene, a French Italian author and illustrator, is an enormous talent.  Yan and his wife Joan encouraged me to paint and pursue my passion from the very beginning when we all lived in Davis, California.  American art icon, and my mentor, Wayne Thiebaud, began his career as an illustrator. So to answer the question, no one tells Ann Rea what to paint. One hires an illustrator to execute their vision. One hires an artist so that the artist can create a vision, just for you.
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