Ep #49 Teaching Art Online At The Age of 81 with Richard H. FreundApr 30, 2023
This series is called "Founders Over 50" and features people who started a business (or even more than one) after the age of 50 years old. It's my birthday month and to honor that I invited a few guests over 50 to share their business journey.
In this episode, I interview Richard H. Freund who is teaching himself how to transition his in-person art classes to online workshops. Here are the highlights of our inspiring conversation.
Camille: I met Richard at an art festival and took his art classes. Then we formed a friendship and now are working together on getting his once in-person art classes into virtual workshops. Welcome to the show Richard, can you tell us a little about yourself?
- I'm three months away from being 81 and could talk about a lot of things.
- Everything I've done is one step at a time. I started out not thinking I was an artist.
- I was already creative but was a computer coder, which is also creative, and started "computer parts art". But it still felt like crafting and not as much fine art.
- So I went to a workshop and learned from a guy who became kind of like a mentor, was making art from found objects and he helped me get better. People started buying it and liking it!
- Now, I've done 56 art festivals, 80 workshops, and a host of other awards and competitions.
- As I became better I kept putting art into a frame because I thought that's what you do. But my mentor told me "No, let it grow on the wall." Aha! The world of art opened up to me because I realized that art has no rules.
- So each thing to do you have to learn, it can be scary, and then you learn and add. Sometimes I think I'm crazy, I did things wrong and made mistakes. But it's one step at a time.
Camille: I want to pause and reflect on what you already said. It's funny how you've done so many things and yet you still didn't think of yourself as a fine art artist. A lot of people struggle with accepting an identity like this.
I want to explain more of the story of how we met. Back in 2015, I was in Big Bear, CA. There was a street festival and you were there with your art pieces growing on the wall. And I was so pulled in. I learned that you were using these pieces out of found objects. And then I ended up in your workshops and learned your techniques. By then I think your classes were very well developed and you could say you were a fine artist.
- I wasn't born a fine artist. I didn't want to show my art off in my groups. When thy asked me to I said "I'm not a real artist" and a woman there said, "Richard, you make art therefore you are an artist."
- So, when you start it's important to join groups and get connected with other artists. They will encourage you.
- Shifting into calling myself the identity of an "artist" helped me get over the reservation I had about really feeling like one.
Camille: I love that because it applies to more than just being an artist. If you're working for yourself you are a "business owner" and we tend to hold ourselves back because we don't feel like we are the best, greatest, etc. at that identity. But the reality is if you are doing something, whether it is "good" or "bad" you are still that identity. So let's get back to when you said Covid changed everything for you.
- Covid was a huge disappointment and put a stop to my art classes.
- But on the positive side, that time forced me into redefining my art process. I always struggled with seeing color.
- So I left the "old" technique behind and made 20 new pieces using a new "rust" technique. People loved it and my website only has the new art. I'm done with the old method.
Camille: Go see Richard's art at his website www.FAFFO.net so you can see his art. I love that you used that time to reinvent your process. In fact, your process was new to me and I didn't know how to do it because I had only learned your old process in the in-person classes. But we figured out how I could learn your new process virtually on Zoom. Can you say more about that?
- The workshop is the next new thing. Really It's not even a thing yet.
- But I don't want to do it in person anymore because of Covid, my age, and the cost of an in-person workshop.
- A virtual workshop costs me almost nothing.
- This is going to be so easy except it's going to be a lot of learning. I am researching cameras and different angles, I am playing with video editors. I learned what I need to know to learn what I got to do. It's one step at a time.
- People will find technology challenging but it's a matter of experience. I was asked if was it hard, and I say buying a new car and learning the dashboard is harder than learning this!
- I signed up for Zoom, I know video, and I have a photo studio.
Camille: That's a great comparison. Car dashboards confuse me! As your guinea pig, I observed that you were learning so fast and you told me that the trick is to only learn the next thing you need to know.
- Well in the early 70s, I advocated for a new computer but my boss said we can't have one. But he got one and I told him we needed to hire a programmer. He said, "Nope, you're going to have to do it."
- So I had to teach myself the technology and only focus on that.
- My philosophy is to only learn the one thing I have to do. This worked for 30 years. It is a philosophy.
- And that's how I'm approaching this new phase.
- I'm going to have to learn social media which I don't like and think is a waste of time. But I know people who can help and I will ask them—like you!
Camille: I have a prediction. I think you'll love it because it's just like more art but just digital!
- Well, that will be good.
- Now I need to figure out how to drive traffic to the website. Even though money isn't the object, I certainly don't want to lose money.
Camille: Getting more traffic is an easily solvable problem.
- I'd rather make art than make money. I want money to buy what I need to make art.
- I don't want to lose money but I don't want to chase after profit either.
- Chasing the dollar ruins the fun. So I don't need to make a lot of money.
Camille: What's interesting to me is that I see opportunities like selling the workshops, pre-recorded video recordings, affiliate links, etc but you keep telling me "Camille, that's not my goal," Haha.
- Well, age is part of it. I want to make it to 100 and I want to enjoy myself.
- The real joy is creating art and that's what I want to do.
Camille: I think you can do both. I believe you can have fun and generate reasonable income and a wider audience. Can you tell us more about the virtual workshops?
- Go to my website and look at the table pieces. The goal is to make something like that.
- You can take the workshop online and make a piece like what you see online.
- I think it will be a combination of self-study videos and then a live Zoom call for questions and answer.
- The whole structure of it is different and I need to adapt and learn that.
- So this is the part that will be a challenge.
Camille: It's a challenge you are already doing through with a lot of grace. I can't wait for your virtual workshops. I am excited and happy that this is the direction you are going. I'm inspired and I think it will inspire others. Is there anything else you want to share with people?
- Especially if you're retired and need something to do. Being busy will save your life.
- Don't worry about the dollars. Except if you are retired and playing golf that's going to cost you. So why not make creating art the enjoyment?
Camille: Most people listening are not playing golf, they need to keep working, or want to work so I can apply your message to more than art. Don't be afraid to try new things. Be willing to put one foot in front of the other and give it a shot.
- I was still working full-time when I started my art life.
- The beauty is that the thing I started when I was working is the thing I could walk into when I retired.
- The last day that I was on the job, and the next morning I was unemployed. I saw my studio out the window so I shut down my computer and did art from that day on.
- I had something to step into.
Camille: That's great. I'll have to have you back on and talks bout retirement, because I see too often people who don't have something lined up after they stop working and it can be terrible. So thank you again, it's always a pleasure.
- Thank you this was fun!
Camille: One last thought from this series. I'm more convinced that age is not "the" determined factor in your ability to do things. For example, some people use their age to decide if they are going to be successful or not. In that sense, age is a bit arbitrary.
I see another trend with my clients in Remote Work School which is those who are approaching 70 and beyond are often the most motivated to try new things. I find that people in their 50-60s have more fear and maybe that's due to a disruption of their work identity. The point is this—If there are people like Richard doing new things then people can learn new things at 60, 70, 80, and beyond!
If you want to start something new but feel a bit overwhelmed, I invite you to take my free remote work training:
You can also join Remote Work School, my coaching program:
Check out Richard H. Freund's art at www.FAFFO.net.
If you have any questions Click here to DM on Instagram.
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