Fiona Valentine is a business coach and the creator of Business School for Artists, a program for aspiring artists who want to paint for fun and for profit, even if they’ve never sold any of their work before. Fiona has over 30 years of teaching, painting and business under her belt that includes her own transition from an admin manager and painting hobbyist into a profitable business owner and passionate artist. Now, she helps others do the same.
Today, she joins the show to talk about early impactful financial lessons she learned, the important role that faith plays in her life, and the difference between artistry and creativity.
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00:49 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Fiona Valentine, who joins the show to discuss her earliest memories of entrepreneurship, breaking the cycle of financial trauma, and raising children to be responsible with money
08:09 – Faith and money
11:52 – Fiona’s career arc and what led her to help artists
17:55 – Fiona’s program: Business School for Artists
22:30 – How an artist finds their niche
26:08 – Artistry and creativity
30:11 – Bringing creativity to the forefront
32:43 – The impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) on human creativity
35:36 – One piece of advice to heed as an artist and one thing to completely ignore
39:01 – One thing Fiona would like others to know about her and Fiona’s idea of a perfect day
40:59 – Jonathan thanks Fiona for joining the show today and lets listeners know where to connect with her
“So those [financial trauma] lessons in a man who decides, ‘That’s it. I am not doing that to my wife and children,’ and they’re prepared to work hard, and do whatever it takes to provide. That’s a powerful thing to be the generation that grows up blessed with a loving, balanced, responsible parent and spouse.” (03:58) (Fiona)
“In Australia, you’ve got to be fifteen to go to work and draw a salary. So, once we had part time jobs that were drawing a salary, that was the guideline. As long as we lived in the house, we contributed to the house. And so that taught us to be really careful about making sure that there was something to give, something to save, something to spend, and something to contribute to the household.” (06:56) (Fiona)
“It takes a significant amount of connection, and messaging, and pricing, and getting all of those things to come together so that the right people – your ideal collectors who are people who love what you do, they can’t wait to buy it, and they can afford it – making sure that they know who you are, they know when and where your work is available and there’s been enough connection to build that trust so that they’re ready to hit ‘Buy.’” (17:03) (Fiona)
“So if you spent all your time working on the skills of drawing, painting, observing, contemplating your view of the world and how you bring that to life, unless you actually have a job on the side or you’ve done a double degree, or something like that. If you haven’t been exposed to the business world, through family or training, you probably do not have those skills.” (20:45) (Fiona)
“I do believe that everybody is creative. And, I think the thing with creativity is to follow your interest. If you have no interest in becoming an artist, then don’t worry about it. If you’re really excited about becoming an artist, don’t worry about whether you have enough talent. You have more than enough talent and creativity. What you need are skills. You’re creative because you are human.” (26:34) (Fiona)
“Art is a wonderful way to prove to yourself that it’s not just about talent, it’s about skill. And your creativity is able to be developed.” (31:22) (Fiona)
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Jonathan DeYoe: Welcome back. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Fiona Valentine. Fiona is a business coach for artists. Her program, business school for artists, started as a side hustle that turned her painting hobby into a profitable business. As you’ll hear, she is in Australia. She writes regularly for the australian artist magazine and has been featured in the tv show color in your life and the Art Business podcast. She wants to help artists have both more joy in the studio and more money in the bank. Fiona, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.
Fiona Valentine : Thank you. So good to be here. Looking forward to talking with you, Jonathan, and your audience.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I’m excited to have you. We have very similar audiences, so I think this is very good. First, where do you call home? Where are you connecting from?
Fiona Valentine : Right now I’m in Melbourne, Australia. So right down the bottom of the continent and we’re just heading into autumn.
Jonathan DeYoe: Did you grow up in Melbourne?
Fiona Valentine : I was born here and my family moved quite a bit. My dad was a retail manager, so we lived in country towns. We took a trip around Australia for a couple of years and lived way up north. Yeah, we moved pretty often, but came back to Melbourne in my teens, met my husband overseas, lived in Texas for a little while, lived in Africa and.
Jonathan DeYoe: Then came back, lived in Texas. We probably won’t get into this on the air, but I’d like know, compare and contrast, uh, Texas and Melbourne, Australia. So you see some similarities there. I’m curious, growing up in Melbourne, while you were there, what did you learn about sort of money and entrepreneurship? You said your dad is a retail manager. What sort of lessons did you glean from that? What did your mom do? Just tell us about sort of childhood with money and entrepreneurship.
Fiona Valentine : Yeah, my parents were quite adventurous. My mum’s English, she’s a schoolteacher. And they were not afraid to up and change their lives. So we moved quite a few times with my dad’s management roles in retail, but they also took some time. That trip I mentioned around Australia when we were very small was really about mum saying, hey, the kids don’t know whether to say hello or goodbye because you’re gone a lot. Let’s make some time while they’re little. So they just took off. And my dad was able to just do. He’s quite a handy person. He loved carpentry and building. He’d grown up with that, with his father, and so he would just take on any kind of work in rural Australia just to make ends meet and make sure there was enough in the bank. And so I saw a really adventurous approach to life while being very responsible financially. Both my dad and my husband, sort of cycle breakers, and they have both been terrific providers, and I’ve been really blessed with that. To see that combination of not afraid to do something really wild and change your life while also doing whatever it takes to make sure that you’re really financially wise in the decisions that you make so you can take care of your family. So I got some really solid lessons.
Jonathan DeYoe: You said cycle breakers. Could you just touch on what that means?
Fiona Valentine : So in both cases, just, um, a violent, abusive dad and really financially irresponsible to the point where not m getting enough to eat was an issue for my dad and for my husband, just watching the family go bankrupt a couple of times. So those lessons in a man who decides, that’s it, I am not doing that to my wife and children. And they’re prepared to work hard and do whatever it takes to provide. That’s a powerful thing, to be the generation that grows up blessed with a loving, balanced, responsible parent and spouse. So I’m very grateful for what they’ve done and for how their children and grandchildren have benefited from that kind of cycle breaking.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I’m going to go a little bit off script here because one of the things we talk a lot about, and I have two kids myself, and so this is really important, is how raising kids with money looks and sort of the benefits they get and the lessons they learn, and then raising kids without money, what that looks like and the benefits they get and the lessons they learn. And one of the things that guest after guest has said is when you are raised in a household without anything, and this is how I was raised, you end up being a lot more successful and a lot more responsible. But then if you’re raised in a household where there’s money and it’s flowing and it’s supportive and it gives you whatever you want and all you need, then you end up being less responsible. So there’s this cycle. So are you afraid of that cycle at all? Your husband and father sort of broke the cycle, and then the next generation would be you and your kids.
Fiona Valentine : Yes. So I think that that’s definitely a possibility. And I think if you’re blessed with the kind of parent who knows how to teach a work ethic, then that can really help. Uh, and my dad firmly believed in that. Even when we were young and we were getting our first jobs, he instructed us very carefully about how to be a good employee, and he expected us to work hard. There were no sons in our family, so we mowed the grass, we helped dad in the shed. We were much contributing to the household, and it was not okay to not contribute when there were things to be done. And we also contributed financially. From the time our very first job, we contributed 30% to the household expenses, not because mum and dad needed it, but because dad was teaching us that as a young adult, you contribute to the household. So I think that was a really powerful lesson and maybe a rare lesson. We didn’t particularly love it at the time, but I think that was really important. And for our girls, we’ve done things differently, but we’ve also communicated to them how to contribute and not been afraid to tell them when, um, we think they’re wrong or we think they’re being irresponsible with money. We’ve had those conversations about where the money’s going. And giving has always been a part of our life. And I think when you see need and when you’re engaged in helping others who have far less, it does bring a check to that natural, well, I’m comfortable. So do I need to do. I don’t need to work hard, just that natural human giving into laziness and self indulgence gets checked a little bit, for sure.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m, um, shocked by the statement that you contributed as a child, as an older child, but as a child to the family, I’ve literally never, only as.
Fiona Valentine : A 15 year old. So in Australia, you’ve got to be 15 to go to work and draw a salary. So once we had part time jobs that were drawing a salary, that was the guideline. As long as we lived in the house, we contributed to the house. And so that taught us to be really careful about making sure that there was something to give, something to save, something to spend, and something to contribute to the household.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow. I’ve always heard the three categories being something to save, something to spend, and then something to give. I’ve never heard the category of support the household. My kids are both one’s 15, one’s 18. I’m going to have them listen to this and then I’m going to make the suggestion afterwards. I think it’s time for you to contribute to the household. How do you think they’re going to take it?
Fiona Valentine : Mind you, we did not choose to do that with our children. We did tell them that that was how I grew up. And we did expect, uh, uh, as they were older, of course, if they had a salary and were living at home as an adult who’d completed whatever training they were doing, that’s a different thing. But as teenagers, they didn’t financially contribute to the household, but they did in terms of taking turns with household chores and having conversations about what they were doing with their money and how they might provide for the future and that sort of thing. So, yeah, don’t blame me if you decide to tell your kids.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m totally blaming you. I’m totally blaming you. I want to, um, focus on, can you name an experience that sort of later in life, you look back and you go, oh, I got this behavior decision process out of this thing that happened when I was a kid. So is there something that happened to you when you were a kid or purchasing decision or a conversation about money that has become sort of really important or integral to your money story?
Fiona Valentine : I think when we’re talking about childhood money stories, mindset for me in my life, it’s impossible to not include the fact that I’m a Christian. I’m a, uh, born again believer in Jesus. And so my faith and trust in him and my choosing to live engaged with the word of God as a person and as a book is foundational to everything. So right from the time I was a child, those ideas about money were all grounded in relationship with God and a, uh, constant encountering scripture and what God had to say about money and that sort of thing. So my family, right back to my great grandparents on my mother’s side, were christians, and they lived in a very day by day walk with God. So we had seen for multiple generations times when there wasn’t much, and God had provided in an amazing way. And then we’d also seen seasons of prosperity in the family from employment. So I learned very early on that whether somebody was earning that money or whether it was a season where of service, maybe whether wasn’t a lot of money coming in from a known source or the family were going through a particular crisis that God provided, and sometimes he did it through a salary, and sometimes he did it through amazing means. So I heard those stories growing up. I saw some of those situations for us as a family. And then, of course, I had my own experiences. So that’s not really one experience, but that is one aspect to my money stories that I feel like is a big part of this conversation for me.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m imagining that you raise your daughters, you said, with that, uh, same sort of faith and belief, that sort of things are going to be okay one way or the other. Does that seem fair?
Fiona Valentine : Yes. And it’s in the okay. The okay being, you know, where you’re going. Ultimately, even if the worst happens, you’re going home to God. Ah. And in this life, really, really hard things may happen. Really, really hard things do happen. And we often tell those stories in our family of the hardest times, and how we found that God wasn’t just there at the end when it worked out fine, but he was there with us in the middle when, uh, it wasn’t working out fine.
Jonathan DeYoe: And that peace, that poem, footprints in the sand.
Fiona Valentine : Right, exactly. Yes. Those arms underneath us, carrying us through those times, are a big part of our family story, whether that’s to do with money or health or just well being and safety, all those sorts of things.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I was raised, my grandfather was a lutheran minister. I gave the sermons in church. I went to graduate school to be a seminarian, to be a lutheran minister. And I shifted in grad school towards buddhist studies. And so now I’m kind of, uh, I call myself a Buddhist Christian. So my buddhist faith sort of, it’s not really faith belief sort of comes first. But I retain a lot of that stuff from the history and the growing up, and I don’t really have a problem retaining both of those things. And I don’t have a problem throwing in some beliefs about Islam and some other things in there, which I know that’s sort of anathema to some more spiritual folks, but it’s lovely. You might want to listen to a prior episode that I had with, uh, Jason Scott Montoya, and you might want to check out his podcast and some of the things he does, because he’s very deeply spiritual, and he wears that on his arm as a part of his daily life, which is, uh, really neat. When you see that among the business people. Before we look at your current work, stuff you’re doing with artists today, can you kind of explain your path? What led you to coaching artists a long road.
Fiona Valentine : A road I didn’t necessarily plan. Looking back, it makes so much sense, but looking the other way, I had no idea, really. Art, uh, is there. In my childhood and my teens, I got some great training, which I was really thankful for. And I knew that was part of who I was, but I didn’t ever seriously, uh, consider it as a career. Teaching was, it’s who I am. I knew that about myself. And my mum was a teacher, so that was modeled for me. And I was involved in her teaching very early on and just picked up a lot of skills from her. So that was my pathway. I went to Africa on a gap year, and as sort of part of my teaching pathway, I was teaching kids to read. But I met my husband that year. He’s from the US. So we were both on a year long trip to Africa. He followed me to Australia. We got married, lived in Texas, went back to Africa. And so my life took off fairly quickly in a way I hadn’t expected. I did not expect to meet my husband at 18. I did not expect to be a teenage wife. Uh, we married the following year, just before I was 20. And then I had kids at 23. And I was living in the desert. And we were fully engaged in mission work at the time, sharing the gospel with nomads. And we loved that work, that church planting work that we were doing. We came back to Australia, had another baby, and then I homeschooled those kids. So I had this gap that said, missionary mom, homeschooler. Ah. And then it was time for them to go to school. And I’m like, okay, now what do I do? And it was often say I had, like an early midlife crisis. So I was only about 34, but because I got started early, I was suddenly at this point in my life where I had a big, big gap in my resume and I wasn’t qualified to do anything I was passionate about. I didn’t want to just go into teaching in a public or private school, teaching five days a week. Our second daughter is on the autism spectrum. In fact, she and I are just about to publish a book sharing our journey with autism called Tiny Wings. So we were grappling with that and I knew I needed a big chunk of me to be there for her. Uh, so I was looking for something part time. I went into an admin role. I had seven years there. I did a diploma of business management and learned a ton of finance people, relationship administration skills. And I loved the chance to work with grownups. After years of being home with kids. But I also had started painting again on the side. And, uh, I was rediscovering the centrality of creativity and realizing how crucial it was to my well being. And, uh, just finding I was really loving this. And so I got to thinking pretty quickly, how can I turn this into a, uh, money making venture so that I get to paint more often? And so I slowly sort of figured that out. I started teaching art classes, and after about 18 months, I actually went full time in my business. And so I was teaching people to paint, but I was also finding they were transitioning very quickly into being asked, oh, can I buy your work? And then they were stuck because they really didn’t have sales and marketing skills. And so they were responding really awkwardly to those questions. So as I was selling my own work, exhibiting my own work, and growing that part of my own practice, I was training my students how to step into that with confidence. And because I had an education background, public speaking background, and a business background, I was bringing together multiple, uh, skills that many artists just didn’t have. And because I’m a teacher, if I find a way, I can’t wait to tell you how it works. That’s fun for me to sort of map the thing out. So it was a long and winding road, but teaching face to face, you very soon hit the time for money ceiling. And so the Internet and online training and coaching really helps you to buy your time. And I really appreciated discovering that.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m curious about the problem when you’re an artist. That I thought we were going to talk about was, and this is because I’m not an artist. And people tell me, don’t say you’re not an artist, say you’re not an artist yet, or say you’re a developing artist, whatever, because everyone’s got artistic talent. I’ll disagree with that for a second. But what I thought we’re going to talk about was the difficulty of finding people to buy the art. And what you’re saying is the people you’re meet being they already had people that wanted to buy their art and they didn’t know how to build the, uh, business structure around that. I wonder if it’s a difference between Australia and the US. There’s so many artists here, they’re like open houses. Nothing sells, and they just don’t have an audience and need to find an audience. Is it easy to find an audience?
Fiona Valentine : No, I wouldn’t say it’s easy to find an audience. But if you, um, are painting, then you will find that very often people enjoy what you’re doing. They love hearing this story. And there are people who do want to buy. Finding enough of those people to actually build a business is another thing they are out there. The problem is that there’s a real relationship that’s got to be built with a buyer. And the fact that someone might be interested doesn’t mean that your work is going to sell out, because it takes a significant amount of connection and messaging and pricing and getting all of those things to come together so that the right people, your ideal collectors, who, uh, are people who love what you do, they can’t wait to buy it, and they can afford it, making sure that they know who you are, they know when and where your work is available, and there’s been enough connection to build that trust so that they’re ready to hit buy. And you haven’t made it so difficult for them to hit buy that they either put it off until later or get distracted and go somewhere else. Getting all of those things to come together so that you have consistent sales. That takes skill, time, effort. There are a lot of factors that go into that. And so sometimes there is a big disconnect between the art I’ve made and the sales I’m making.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Can you tell us about your. We sort of quoted this at the very beginning, but you have this business school for artists. Tell us about the program.
Fiona Valentine : So it’s a 90 day online program, and we start off going really deep into what do you want your business to look like? What do you really love to make? How much time do you want to spend? How much money do you want to make? So we make sure, right on the front end, that we’re beginning with the end in mind, because that can look very different from somebody who wants to start a side hustle and cover the cost of their painting versus someone who’s got a family to support, and they have a very clear salary that they’re looking to replace. So once we’ve kind of done that math, and it takes some time, because we really look into when, you know, what you love to create and how much money you want to make and how much time you want to spend, we’re looking for where those things intersect and where those things intersect. We’re looking for the highest value offer that you can create. Because the number one problem many artists make is spending too much time on offers that will never have enough profit margin to generate the income that they need.
Jonathan DeYoe: What do you mean by offer?
Fiona Valentine : So, an offer being my painting, buy my thing. So is it my $25 print on etsy? Or is it a, uh, $3,000 painting? You can spend a lot of time marketing $3,025 products or 25 $3,000 products. You’re going to end up with the same amount of money, but one is a lot less work and a different kind of work, a different customer base, a different approach. So focusing on that highest value offer. So for an artist, that’s usually a large painting, or ideally a series of large paintings that you offer in a collection, working out whatever your highest value offer is and sticking there, there are many things you could do, probably only a few things you should do to hit those financial goals. So we get very focused right at the start.
Jonathan DeYoe: The thing that’s really interesting to me about this is the same message you hear when you hear people talking about, I’m going to start up a plumbing manufacturing tool business, because it’s like, okay, are you making the really high quality tools that, uh, are only going to be for sale to professionals, or are you making the stuff that’s going to be at the checkout thing at Walgreens or some sort of safeway or something like that? So this is for business people, this is a normal conversation. But it seems what you’re saying is it’s novel to an artist, this idea of knowing the price point that makes sense to get you where you want to go financially and the time you want to spend painting.
Fiona Valentine : Yes, those basic business decisions, they’re not usually taught in art school. So if you’ve spent all your time working on the skills of drawing, painting, observing, contemplating your view of the world and how you bring that to life, unless you’ve actually had a job on the side, or you’ve done a double degree or something like that, if you haven’t been exposed to the business world through family or training, you probably do not have those skills. And it probably is a revelation to you that those basic sales and marketing questions, processes, choosing of who your ideal customer is, all of that, it can be news to an artist and recognizing it’s not that you’re so creative that dealing with the sales and marketing things takes away from your creativity, because that mindset issue can be a huge stumbling block for many artists. They feel like somehow it diminishes their contribution as an artist and they’re selling out somehow to be selling work. But I think as an artist, we can have a much more humble approach than that and recognize the plumber who’s deciding where they’re going to market is not so different than the artist who’s deciding we are working in order to provide for our families, and if we’re really blessed, we’re doing work that we love, that we’re well suited for, to provide for our families. But there is nothing shameful about the exchange of value from the person who has money, who would love to experience the joy, the inspiration, the colors, the mood that your art’s bringing to their home or their workspace in exchange for the hours that you’ve spent learning to do that and the time that you’ve taken to present your view of the world in a way that they can hang on their wall and share in. That’s a wonderful dynamic and not a shameful dynamic, for sure.
Jonathan DeYoe: I totally agree. It sounds like in the old school art world, you’d be a painter or a sculptor, and then you’d have to find a gallery that would show your stuff, and then you would share 30% to 50% with the gallery. If something sold, maybe nothing would sell. So the idea of the Internet really democratized the ability to sort of build an art business, and you’re sort of layering on top of that the education around how to start business, how to market, how to find your. So how does an artist find their niche? Like, I like painting sunsets. How do I find people that like the sunsets I paint on the Internet? It seems like an impossible task.
Fiona Valentine : Right? And so beginning with what you already know about yourself is very helpful. Looking at your location, your history, your likes and dislikes, we naturally have an affinity for certain colors. Some of us are really into trees. Some of us really into beaches. Some of us are really into abstract. Some of us are really into still life or portraits or people, whatever it is that lights you up and the ways that you connect that to your particular story, where you live, your preferences, your style, all of that sort of thing, when you focus there and look at all of the influences that are part of the kind of art you make, so that what you’re doing is a collection of your interests and your experiences and the artists who’ve inspired you and the training that you have, and you’re doing it in a way that no one else has made this particular set of choices. Then you look at, okay, so who else is likely to enjoy what I’m doing? Who else in my environment? Maybe I live on a peninsula, and there are holiday makers and people who come to this beautiful area for the beaches, for the lifestyle. Maybe some of them have moved overseas and they want small snippets of their favorite place. To send to a loved one overseas or take with them overseas, or they just want that holiday feeling every day in their house all year round. Maybe you’re into pet portraits. Well, the people who love whatever kind of pets or animals you enjoy painting for, they’re probably going to be in certain places. They’re probably going to take their pets to be groomed to a certain place, or they’re going to shop in certain places, read certain magazines, participate in certain events. You’ve got to get curious about who’s like you, what makes you local and different and special and, uh, special in the sense of unique and not quite like what anybody else is doing. And then you’re looking to see where those people are hanging out, and you’re looking to build a connection. So even though you’re doing it on the Internet, you’re being very specific about who you are, and that’s naturally going to call out the people who like what you like and can afford to pay for it. And so you’re constantly speaking to that person. You’re speaking less about yourself and more about your customer, but it really is grounded in who you are. It’s a very interesting conversation.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I’ve been in financial services for 25 years, and probably I’ve gone through three different processes where we figure out the avatar, the kind of person that I want to have as a client, and then how do I reach that target market. So you’re going through a very standard marketing process with an artist and helping them say, this is what you like, this is where those people are. Go there, like really sort of advertise or talk or be part of a forum, or go there and communicate. I love it. On your website, I noticed you talked about six stages of creativity that one can learn. Are those the business lessons, or are these the creativity lessons? Is this the design and artistic lesson?
Fiona Valentine : Both because creativity is far more than making art. Uh, you said before that you’re not so sure about the idea that everybody’s artistic or everybody has artistic potential.
Jonathan DeYoe: Just mean it. Just mean.
Fiona Valentine : So. I would tend to agree with you, but I would adjust that statement and say that I do believe that everybody is creative, which isn’t quite the same thing as being artistic and having artistic talent. Artistic skill isn’t the same as artistic talent either. And I think the thing with creativity is follow your interest. If you have no interest in becoming an artist, then don’t worry about it. If you’re really excited about becoming an artist, don’t worry about whether you have enough talent. You have more than enough talent and creativity. What you need, uh, are skills. You’re creative because you’re human, but it doesn’t look the same.
Jonathan DeYoe: Can you say that again? I think that’s really, really important.
Fiona Valentine : I’m trying to remember where I was up to, what I’m repeating, but this whole idea that artistry and creativity are not the same. And you have to follow your interest. So if you are interested in art or anything else, it’s not about whether you have talent. It’s about whether you have skills. And skills are learnable. You have more than enough talent and creativity to do what you would like to do, but what you need are skills. So it’s not really about talents, it’s about training.
Jonathan DeYoe: The idea is when you love a thing, you can develop skills even if you don’t have talent. If you love the thing, do the thing you love.
Fiona Valentine : Yes. And learn from the best. Learn from someone whose style or outcome appeals to you. Ask yourself, who doing this really well? Who has already done this? How can I learn from them? Not because you want to become a carbon copy, you don’t, but you won’t be able to help yourself. But take those skills and it’ll merge with all the rest of your personality and experience and history and location, and it will be unique. But don’t underestimate the value of learning from somebody who’s further down the track, whether that’s in art or any area of creativity or business, because you’re going to get there so much faster wherever it is that you’re wanting to go. Just be very careful about the mentor you choose. But yet, don’t get hung up on the talent myth. Talent’s a bonus, but you won’t even know how much talent you have or don’t have until you’ve done the work to build the skills. So, uh, I always say, focus on.
Jonathan DeYoe: The skills and you’ve actually taken this business skill set that you have. And instead of taking the business skill set to the creative class, you’ve actually started bringing the creative to the business class. Is that right?
Fiona Valentine : Yeah, both. Because I really am fascinated with that intersection between art and business. And creativity, to me, is the common denominator. We’re all human, so we’re all creative, even though 50% of us don’t believe we are creative. And I think where we get tripped up on that is that creativity doesn’t look the same for everybody. It doesn’t look the same for that plumber as it does for the artist. So creativity in spreadsheets and medicine and manufacturing looks really different than creativity expressed by a potter, a sculptor, or a painter, but it’s still creativity, because at its core, it’s about problem solving and the brain’s stunning ability to step away from a task and in the background, sort of flip through all of our experiences, our history, all of the things that we’ve learned, and randomly make new connections and then just offer them up to our conscious thought as ideas. That’s a huge part of inspiration. It’s not all external to us. It’s often going on just within the brain itself when we step away from our tasks. So you need that in continuous improvement. In every industry, creativity is essential.
Jonathan DeYoe: So when you’re coaching a, uh, business group, or you’ve got a small business, you’re coaching or a subset of executives at a company, how do you bring sort of creativity? I’m just imagining a bunch of guys and men and women in suits and very formal finance or lawyers. How do you bring them to see creativity as a critical part of their roles?
Fiona Valentine : I take them through a two hour workshop, and I talk to them about how if you’re interested in continuous improvement and you’re asking your team to look at their process and to problem solve, to collaborate, to come up with solutions to help improve your customer experience, and maybe you’re taking them through a lean six Sigma program, you’re asking them on a deep level to be creative, to problem solve. If you’ve got a room full of people who do not feel that they have a creative bone in their body, they immediately do not feel qualified for the task. Whether they’re consciously aware of this, that resistance is still going to be there. So I take this team through the facts about creativity, that it’s a function of your brain, that you are creative because you’re human. It looks different in every industry, but art is a wonderful way to prove to yourself it’s not just about talent, it’s about skill, and that your creativity is able to be developed. So I take them through a drawing exercise, and I teach them some basics about art, ah, history and classical drawing. And I show them in this hour and a half workshop, they follow my step by step instructions, and they draw a beautiful, realistic, three dimensional drawing of a foot. And that exercise, they have got proof right in front of them that, oh, my goodness, I can’t draw stick figures, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, and I just produced a classical piece of art. Wow. It’s just an exercise in how your brain works and how doing something new feels really uncomfortable. It takes learning, it takes repetition, takes skill, takes instruction, and that is a very vulnerable process. So if you’re asking your team to dig into their creativity for continuous improvement, have buckets of empathy for the process, because it’s going to feel yuck and you’re going to come through the process to a great solution. But it’s going to take this confusion, endurance, this discomfort with conversations and tasks that feel unfamiliar, and that’s completely normal. It’s part of the process, and you can get through it.
Jonathan DeYoe: I don’t know if you’re, I’m, um, sure you’re watching, but AI has been everywhere in the last six months, eight months, it’s just been chat, GPT, AI, three, then there’s four, and now Google’s coming out with theirs, right? So it’s everywhere. How critical is real human creativity? Sitting next to a world of just sort of cobbled together might look like creativity, but it’s just cobbled together former ideas in, uh, mean, do you see that as, like, the fundamental way we differentiate ourselves?
Fiona Valentine : Look, that is a big topic, and to me, it’s got a massive spiritual component to it. So I’m not a fan of AI and Chat GPT. There’s a lot of coordination of information going on there, but I think as a human, we are far more complex than just information. And so I think our role as humans is to be our own authentic self. And to me, that means in relationship with God, whether you choose to pursue that relationship with God or not, you’ve still been made in his image, and so you’re still a fully dimensional, spiritual, emotional, mental, physical human. And I don’t believe that technology is ever going to fully replace that. I believe plenty of people will be trying to merge the two, which I’m not actually a fan of. But in being a human, nothing can replace that is an incredible, nuanced, unique, authentic situation. So for me, my focus will always be on who am I growing that, growing that combination of mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, all of the aspects of being a human and learning and growing in that. That is far more important to me than supplementing that with an artificial intelligence. That’s a whole nother conversation about how that’s not neutral. But even if you’re tapping into AI and using some of those resources, it’s never going to replace the fact that you have something authentic and original to bring to the table, and that’s what’s going to connect with another human. That’s what matters.
Jonathan DeYoe: I love that, and I think that it comes across from a lot of different people I’ve interviewed the idea that no matter what you’re doing, no matter what outcome you’re seeking, if you begin it with your authentic self, with who you really are, what you really believe, what you really hope for, with the real you, then the world will be curious about the real you, the you that you were shown how to be, the you that people thought you should follow, that you is there, and you kind of got to battle against that. But when you find the real you, the real thing, the real core of you, the authentic self, doors open, like, stuff happens. And I think that a lot of things begin, and I love that. I want to really simplify it, because there’s a ton of noise out there for business people, for artists. So let’s say you meet someone who wants to go from starving artist to thriving artist. What is one thing that they can do today that will lead to better outcomes?
Fiona Valentine : Be very clear about those big questions. The time, the money, and what you love to create. When you know what your financial goal or need is, then mapping that pathway gets much, much clearer, because you can see with some simple math what’s going to work in the time and with the financial goals that you have and what’s not going to work. So just taking some time to get that clarity will be enormously helpful. We touched before on the six stages of creativity, and we didn’t really unpack that just very quickly. In a nutshell, the six stages of creativity are about going from not just inspiration to implementation, creation in one big spontaneous leap, but recognizing that there’s a process here, and it involves research, it involves starting off with an affirmation, all of the things about talent and creativity, et cetera. But there are stages. And if you can learn each of those six stages and take the pressure off yourself to jump from inspiration to creation in one spontaneous leap, but embrace all the stages of creativity, whether that’s in business or in making art or doing both, it’ll be tremendously helpful to you. But starting with some clarity about the end in mind is very, very helpful.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I, uh, totally agree. So there’s the flip side to, uh, that like business people and artists, because there’s so much noise, and we swim in this soup of this world, right? There’s a lot of lessons that are people trying to sell us on stuff. There’s a lot of things people are trying to get us to do. What’s one thing that we might be doing or people might be telling us to do that we should just ignore? Just don’t do that. What’s one lesson that’s a not do?
Fiona Valentine : Don’t believe the myth that lower prices make it easier to sell. When you’re aiming at a certain clientele in selling your art so that you can meet your financial goals and you’re looking at that highest value offer, you’re going to see that there is a group of people who are looking at price, and if it’s too low, it feels very suspect to them. Price does tell us something about quality. It’s reassuring that one, you believe in yourself and that this is a quality work of art. And there’s a strange perception thing. If you’ve blindfolded and you drink cheap wine out of a great glass, you might not know the difference. It’s been proven that when you’re told this is a very expensive wine, your taste experience changes versus if you’re told it’s a very cheap wine when you can’t see for yourself, perception around money is very influential. So don’t fall for the myth that low priced art is easier to sell.
Jonathan DeYoe: In a couple of weeks, I’m actually interviewing somebody who, and this is not in the art world, but just in women in business, how, uh, often women misprice things. You price too low in order to sell it. And how do we help people boost their own belief in themselves so they can charge more for whatever it is that they do? So I think, uh, there’s a theme there that’s actually really important. A lot of people do that. Just before we wrap up, I like to make things personal. We started personal. We went through the work, and I want to end personal. Is there anything people don’t know about you that you really want them to know?
Fiona Valentine : Probably at the moment, the thing that they may not know is that I’ve written this book, tiny wings with my daughter, sharing our journey with autism. And so there’s just a whole set of experiences that happened there that are different than my, um. It does involve my art in that I made the illustrations for it. But being an author of a book is a whole new thing for me, and I’m excited about it. I found the process to be challenging. There were some really hard times that we had to write about. We had to dig deep to relive those events, and it was hard for our immediate family, my husband and my other daughter, to even read it. And yet we’ve done it with humor. We’ve done it in, uh, a hope filled, faith filled kind of way. So, yeah, not many people may know that I have now written a book and it’s about to be published. But yeah, I’d like them to know that.
Jonathan DeYoe: If there’s a link, please send it to me so we can include it in the show notes at the end. I don’t know if it’s ready yet. Uh, it’ll probably be month before we go live with this episode.
Fiona Valentine : Yeah, it should be ready by then. We’re hoping that it’ll come out in May.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s great. One other personal item. What for you would constitute a perfect day?
Fiona Valentine : Maybe waking up. It’s sunny. My husband and I would head to the beach. We have some uber comfortable chairs. Just have a swim, sit there in the sun for a while, come home, take a shower, maybe read a book for a couple of hours, have a barbecue in the sun in the backyard and glass of wine. And then just talk. Enjoy the evening. We’re kind of homebodies. We love to read. We love to talk theology. We like to make lovely meals and just share them together. So that’s kind of my perfect day.
Jonathan DeYoe: Sounds good. I noticed sun came in there twice, so sunshine is important, I guess.
Fiona Valentine : Yeah. And we’re really feeling we’ve had a very wet summer, so we have savoured every day of sunshine and now we’re heading into winter. We’re at the bottom of the continent here, so we get a lot know South Pole weather blowing up, so we enjoy our sunshine while we’ve got it.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s great. Tell us how people can connect with you.
Fiona Valentine : You can connect with me via fionavellentine.com, my website where you’ll find a, uh, free how to start selling your art PDF and also my art of innovation business corporate workshops. And you can also connect with me on instagram at fionavellentine artist thanks, Fiona.
Jonathan DeYoe: Thanks for coming on. We’ll make sure all that stuff’s in the show notes and I really appreciate your time.
Fiona Valentine : Thank you so much and enjoyable conversation. Jonathan, thanks for having me.
Jonathan DeYoe: You bet. Thanks.