One Licensing Agent, please!

AgentKitty-WEB“I think I want an agent. How do I hire one?”

“Which agent should I choose?”

“I’m just starting out and I think I’d prefer to work with an agent.”

“I hate the business side of things, so I think I will get an agent.”

I totally get it. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in the studio alternating their time between creating amazing artwork, leisurely drinking hot cups of coffee and cashing royalty checks while your agent runs around the world getting you gigs that you could have only dreamed of a few years ago?

(Hey! I want one of those!)

Screeeeechhh! (That’s that needle on the record sound for those of you who remember those things.)

It’s a new world out there, kids and “hiring an agent” is easier said than done. Maybe you’ve noticed that there are a lot of artists out there. Some of them are reaaaally good. Everyone once in a while I hear of an agent looking for artists, but generally they have their pick of the litter, so to speak.

A few years ago, I heard a prominent licensing agent say that they don’t consider any artist with less than 150 pieces of artwork. Now, that’s a lot of art! Personally, I think that is not necessarily true–but you do have to have a large enough body of work so that the agent can hit the ground running.

Most agents are looking for the following:

  • Really good art that resonates with their core clients.
  • Enough of a body of work that a client feels like they have a choice and so they feel comfortable that you are not a one hit wonder.
  • Consistent additions to your portfolio. When Jim and I represented artists with Two Town Studios, most meetings and conversations with clients started with “So what do you have that’s new?” Something new to show always triggered an email—or if it was really spectacular—a phone call to say—“Open your email—this is really cool!” Also, if work is coming in consistently—deals will come in more consistently. That’s how the math works. You cannot wait for a show or for inspiration to strike. You have to be constantly adding work to your portfolio.
  • An artist who is engaged in their career and the rest of the world through social media or other activities that can build their platform.
  • An artist who is (reasonably) pleasant to work with, understands the basics of business (particularly this business) and is open to compromise and creative options when necessary.

Most agents are not looking for the following:

  • A portfolio that is not well-thought out or consistent with current aesthetics.
  • An artist who competes head-to head with another artist in their stable.
  • An artist who is unpleasant, unappreciative or dishonest. (Hard to believe, I know!)
  • An artist who thinks once they send their portfolio, they never have to be involved in the process again– except for cashing big fat royalty checks.

I think there is a “sweet spot” for when an artist is at the best stage for both them AND the agent.

  • A basic understanding of the business and the market.
  • A strong portfolio with a point of view and a consistent (though not boring) look.
  • A clear picture of what kind of work you want and what your strong suit is—and what you plan to do about it.

So do you still want one?


Presenting your work to an agent is not that different than how you would proceed with a potential client. Do your research just like you would with any potential business partner—check out websites, LinkedIn and Google them to see if they show up in an interview or podcast.  Send a simple inquiry with a brief explanation of who you are and what you do, with links to your website or other online portfolio. Have a list of questions (that are not spelled out in the agency contract) ready in case you have further conversations and take your time with the decision.

Questions like:

  • How often will I hear from you?
  • What’s the one thing I can do to ensure our success? (I’ve never asked that question but I would love to hear the answer!)
  • What is it about my work that you think will resonate with your clients?

You will be signing a legally binding contract with this person, so you want to feel pretty comfortable that this is the right fit for you. Make sure you understand all the points in the contract before you sign it. If you feel rushed to sign, slow down the process to a pace that you are comfortable with. It’s kind of a big deal.

And if this is the right step for you, embrace the collaboration and the support you are gaining with the addition of an agent to your Dream Team.

And go draw another picture—your agent is waiting!


Just about every other week, I send out a quickie little update with new blog posts, upcoming classes and events, and maybe even a new cat cartoon. Just shoot me your email from the form over there on the sidebar and you’ll be updated on all the shenanigans! And thank you!

That thing you do…

KittyThing-WEBHow’s that thing of yours going?

The thing you’ve been dreaming about and planning and training for?

That thing.

How’s that going?

Do you love it?

Do you think you’re supposed to love it but it’s not exactly working out how you thought it would and now you don’t love it as much as you once did?

Is it harder than you thought it would be?

Are you making progress? Does it look like it’s going to work out?

Are you still doing it because you’ve met some cool people there and well, they seem to be pretty happy with that thing so that probably means you should be pretty happy too, right?

Are you feeling a bit guilty that you’ve devoted a whole bunch of time and a fair amount of money to make it work and you’re thinking, gee—maybe this isn’t really the thing I want?

Do you find yourself doing a thousand other things rather than the things you think you should be doing to move this thing forward? Do you think that tells you anything?

That’s kind of a big thing, you know.

Sometimes a thing needs to be revisited, re-tooled, or revised to bring it closer to the thing you wanted.

But you? You’ve got this thing.


Arrow-AquaBlueSigning up for my newsletter gives you all the news from the studio, sneak peaks of the blog posts and links to fun stuff that can add years to your life and several more bags of money to your attic (full disclosure–it’ll just be fun and informative!) The sign-up is right over there on the right hand side of the website–or just fill in that annoying random box that pops up now and then. Thanks, dolls!

Sprinting Surtex

RonnieAndTheSloth-WEBSo, I’m back. I hit the ground running in New York and didn’t stop until I stretched my legs on the trip back to Florida. Oh, and I won the airline lottery on that flight—no seatmate! Now you know how much I love humanity, but after a few days in Manhattan I was gifted with a tiny travel oasis when to my delight the doors closed at JFK and I realized I had two seats all to myself. And since it was a teeny aircraft there were only two seats on each side of the plane so I did not have to negotiate for the middle seat real estate with the aisle passenger. It was mine, all mine!

So I used the time to draw, read my magazine—use the other tray table for my coffee, water, yogurt and the extra cookies that the flight attendant slipped me—there are perks to the silver hair, people!

And I had a little space to reflect back on my trip. As you know from my newsletter, I offered 20 minute coaching sessions to the nine artists who scheduled with me first (plus I added a 10th person because I’m so nice).

All of these appointments were crammed into about 4 hours. Without food or bathroom breaks. Although I did offer one person $100 for a Tic-tac. Again–I am a professional. I received two texts from pals who offered to bring me food but I didn’t see them until afterward and even so, I didn’t want to squander my “coachee’s” time (or potentially grossing them out) by stuffing my face with Javit’s hot dogs.

So back to my “mini-first class”. I took out my journal and wrote down everything I learned from the experience. This is in no apparent order nor do any of them relate to one exact person, in case you are playing along at home.

What I learned from coaching 10 people in 3 hours*

  • Scratch the surface for the really good stuff.

Lots of portfolios have “pretty good” art. The artist has taken “the classes” and has learned about typical arrangements of collections, developing a color story and presenting it a clear and concise manner. But where’s the soul? Where do you (your experience, your culture, your unique point of view, your heart and guts) fit into the equation? Dig a little deeper, honey—that’s where the good stuff lives.

  • Follow your calling.

Does the thought of patterns and snowmen and the newest “it” critter make you roll your eyes and maybe even develop a twitch in that very same eye? Then don’t do it—leave it for someone else. Do your best work and don’t worry about the rules. Figure out the highest and best use of your art and remember there is room for the square peg. In fact there is a square peg writing this blog as we speak. And she’s a doll.

  • Trust yourself.

If everyone who has looked at your book, your website, or your adorable bookmark has said some version of “hey, that’s pretty cool”, then believe them. And move it out into the world further and further until someone who can do something with your art says, “hey, that’s so cool, we’d like to develop that into something” or “naah, not right for us.” You are ready for that.

  • Ideas are cheap—focus is everything.

We all have mountains of sketchbooks, paintings, notes on grocery lists, church bulletins and tiny slips of paper tossed all over our desks. Idea generation is usually not a problem for us—but moving them into something that can be received and evaluated and understood is the hard part. Some (most) ideas fall apart during the process—but you cannot know which ones are the winners and which ones just need to live in your sketchbook until you test  them against a process to see if they have “legs” in the market. (hmmm…that sounds like another blog post—or a Periscope)

  • Right rock, wrong hill

Each step of the process of getting a collection closer to actual numbers on a bank check can feel like pushing a rock uphill. Some of the hills are smooth and gradual while some end at the edge of a harrowing cliff. Some of the rocks you can kick along in front of you while others require Herculean (or Sisyphus-ian) strength. Sometimes you have amazing artwork that will not be appropriate for the market as we know it. Hey, it happens. So you need to march that rock over to that other hill which might just be the exact right one for your designs.

  • Narrow your focus.

We are not all things to all people. We are not even some things to all people. But by golly, we are the exact right thing for some people. Find those people. Tighten your story, find your audience, be okay with responding with, “yeah, thanks, but that’s not me.”

And—I met ten of the most interesting, vibrant adorable artists that I am so excited to see blossom on their chosen path! Oh, and the rest of the time in New York? Super fun!


*actually I knew these things before but boy, did they become crystal clear to me with that kind of intense activity. Even without the hotdog.


To Surtex or Not to Surtex?

This question was posted recently by the (very talented) Melissa Washburn in one of my Facebook groups:

“Is anyone else *not* going to Surtex? I realize that Surtex is not necessarily the place for everyone, and is a huge time and money commitment that not everyone is ready for, but I feel like EVERYONE BUT ME is going (leading to those terrible comparison thoughts and “If I don’t go to Surtex I’m never going to get clients” thoughts). Anyone care to start a “Not going to Surtex” Support Group, lol?”

Melissa’s posts received lots of responses from “maybe some day” to “I wouldn’t miss it!”. It’s a timely subject and  I was planning to write a blog discussing this exact issue. Taking each side of the argument, I’ve written my own little Point/Counterpoint—with myself. So here we go!

SurtexDebate2Why you SHOULD exhibit at SURTEX:

SURTEX attendees are a concentration of art directors and decision makers across lots of disciplines and product categories. If they are in the business of licensing art from independent artists and agents, then they will likely attend the show to scout for current projects and also to discover talent for future product lines.

By exhibiting at SURTEX, you have the opportunity to be seen by and meet with the companies that you have dreamed of working with. And as a bonus, you also have the opportunity to meet people you didn’t know you wanted to work with. (And sometimes you can cross a few off your list once you have met with them because you won’t work well together…).

SURTEX is an enormous networking opportunity to meet potential clients, industry influencers and lots of other artists who are doing, or aspire to do, the same thing you are doing. It’s a way to develop face to face relationships with people that so far you have only met online.  And that’s really fun, plus you never know when those paths may cross again.

If you exhibit at SURTEX you might even get a deal for your art! Yes, that’s right; you could walk away with a licensing contract under your belt before the end of the show. It has been done, however in reality it doesn’t happen often during your first few years.

If you are on the hunt for agency reputation, you can scope out the agents who are exhibiting and possibly have a conversation with them. At the very least you can get a sense of who they are, and maybe whether you would want to talk further with them.

Exhibiting at SURTEX (or License Expo or Blueprint, etc) is only recommended when you feel like you have a clear vision for your business–and your body of artwork is deep enough to attract a wide range of manufacturers—and is at a competitive level for the market. This is no time for a “well, let’s see how this goes” attitude unless you have recently won the big Powerball. (Then you’d probably just want to hang out on the beach in Maui anyway. Call me!)

This is a show chock-full of eye candy: great art, emerging art trends and industry insights that you can observe first hand. Exhibiting at SURTEX can make you feel like you are playing with the big kids—that you are ready to take a big step in moving your creative career forward.

SurtexDebate3Why you SHOULD NOT exhibit at SURTEX

Contrary to popular opinion, SURTEX is not the Holy Grail of success in this industry. There are many artists, agents and a lot of licensees who never set foot in the place. Exhibiting at SURTEX does not guarantee success by any stretch of the imagination; in fact it could take a very long time to earn back your expenses from the show.

Here’s the math:
Say your booth and other expenses total somewhere around $7000 for a 10 X 10 booth. Figuring a 5% royalty on wholesale, your deals would have to net your clients $140,000 at wholesale in order for you to break even. As in no profit yet. And that’s a lot of money. Many deals (like a few greeting cards for example) will never come close to that number. And most artists will tell you that they didn’t get any real traction until they exhibited for multiple years. Yikes.

You are early in your career and are not really sure if your work is right for the industry. Many artists and art styles are not. Instead of risking those kind of expenses you could spend a little more time showing your work to art directors via email and reaching out through social media. Getting additional feedback makes much more sense, particularly in the beginning.

If you believe that you will never make it unless you exhibit. Many artists who have either never exhibited, have stopped exhibiting or do it only occasionally have viable businesses and lots of profitable licenses. It’s just not true that if you don’t exhibit at SURTEX you will be missing out on all the best deals.

If you believe that you’re not “somebody” until you have exhibited at a show. If you are eager enough to make a living with your artwork, you can find other far less expensive ways to get in touch with decision makers and influencers.

Keep in mind that you do not have a lot of control over who sees your art (despite making appointments and promoting yourself) at the show, due to your potential client’s schedule and agenda. They have a lot to see in a short time, so they may not stop at all. You may have better results by sending targeted information to them when they are not in “show mode”.

If you have never walked the show (trust me, you only have to do it once to figure out if it is right for you or not), then you need to pony up the money to attend as a visitor before exhibiting. Spending a grand or less (depending on where you live) is a whole lot cheaper than dropping upwards of $7000 and finding out that you are in the wrong venue for your art.

So there you go—some reasons why you should and why you shouldn’t exhibit at SURTEX. It’s not for everyone and it’s not guaranteed success.  A well-planned strategy and thoughtful promotion of your artwork places you in the position to be seen by decision makers–whether at a show or not.

I hope my little argument with myself helps you in your decision!


Note: All of the free in-person coaching spots have been filled at the show, but keep in mind that I am offering a 20 minute free “get to know each other call” after I am back from  New York. Sign up here!


Surtex Tips from a Pro

©Ronnie Walter
©Ronnie Walter

So it’s just a few weeks away from a couple of art trade shows; namely SURTEX and the new and swanky Blueprint Show.

If you are exhibiting at either of them, you may officially start your freak-out now. As a veteran exhibitor of SURTEX, CHA, and Licensing Expo, I’ve got a few tips that I have learned over the years. And now I’m going to share them with you.

You’re welcome.

Here’s the dealio. You’ve already paid for the most expensive 10’ by 10’ space– not just in New York, but probably in the world. So you need to make it count. I did the math for you and for the average cost of your booth, adding travel expenses and materials cost divided by three and multiplied by 365 days it would cost you roughly $973,000 a year to live there. Of course a 10 X 10 space in New York is probably considered luxury digs.

That’s a lot of money.

So let’s go through a few things to make it all worth your while.

  • Don’t wimp out. You need to stay engaged– all day, every day of those three precious days you will be there. From the moment they say “Welcome to the Show” to the last announcement that says “We can’t wait to see you all next year!) you need to be bright, you need to be open and you need to stay engaged. I had one of my best clients come into my booth 10 minutes before the show closed one year! We made a connection and ended up doing a very nice deal over several years so don’t discount the end of the show. There are people still walking the aisles and they are still doing business. So stay alert. Stay engaged.
  • Never ask the following question: “So what are you looking for?” They are looking for art. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there. Ask a more concise question like “Are you looking for seasonal or everyday?” or “Are you looking to fill a specific look in your line?” You will get a much better answer and they won’t be irritated that you can’t come up with something more original or meaningful.
  • Make sure that you feel good physically while you’re at the show. Here’s the trifecta of de-railers that are totally within your control. (picking up a nasty cold or other icky bugs are just bad luck).
    • Go easy on the alcohol. I know how tempting it is to go out and celebrate with your new and old friends, but as soon as someone says, “Oh, let’s just have one more” that will be your cue to say, “I gotta go—I’ll see you tomorrow!” The shows are stressful enough without adding a hangover to your meetings.
    • This is not the time to try out the best Mexican restaurant in New York. Or the hottest most exotic Thai dish you can find. I’m talking tummy issues, people! You know—gas? If you thought that 10 X 10 booth was small before…got it?
    • Get some rest! More than likely you are sleep deprived from all of your prep and the stress of worrying about whether or not your banners will stay on the wall. Call up ocean sounds on your phone, wear earplugs, mind your caffeine intake. No sleep makes for a very long show.
  • Try not to eat in the booth. If you must, eat something that you can swallow easily like yogurt or small bites of granola bars because you never know when someone’s coming. If you’re in the middle of a giant sloppy sandwich and the best client ever comes along, they may very well pass by because they figure, “Oh, the poor thing is hungry so I’ll just come back later” And trust me on this one—if they say they will come back, many things can happen where they cannot make it back—like their next meeting ran overtime, they forgot which aisle you were in or they just plain forgot. Sometimes I think there are gremlins in the Javits Center that abduct potential clients who say those three little words “I’ll come back”. If you need more to eat than yogurt or granola bars, find somebody to help cover your booth while you’re gone. Now– pretend like I’m your mother. No chewing gum in the booth!  It just looks sloppy! Use Tic Tacs or Altoids or some other breath freshening product you can swallow easily if you need to talk to someone. Just don’t choke. That’s typically bad for business.
  • Get in early! Coming in early to the show (even 15 minutes) can be just the ticket to feeling calm and relaxed when the doors open. Don’t be that artist racing in at 20 minutes past opening schlepping her bags and super hot coffee while eating an enormous bagel. Yes, things happen, but leave earlier than you think you should.
  • Make friends with your neighbors! I have made life-long friends at trade shows, and you know how everyone is always talking about finding “your tribe”? Well, here they are! Be helpful, be generous. Cover for each other for bathroom or snack breaks. Also, if you have a potential client in your booth and they are looking for something that you know is not your style or anything that you can accomplish for them, and you know someone that could? Make the introduction! The artist will be grateful and that client will know what kind of person you are.

Hey, you’ve got this, right?

And here’s a fun little announcement! I am going to be in New York meeting with some of my “coachees”, some trending shopping and sourcing for one of my clients. I am offering a 20 minute meeting with artists who would like to sit down with me! (I am limited to 9 people max) I will be available Monday May 16th  from 11 am to 2 pm. If you have a burning question, or would like a quick portfolio review, I am there for you. I will not be able to meet anyone on the show floor. If you want to get one of the sessions, just contact me here or email me at and we’ll set up our meeting. It’s just a little thank you to this industry that has given so much to me and my career. UPDATE: My schedule is now full for the free spots, but I will be at the Monday morning meet-up on Level One from 8:15-10:30 am (with an awesome give-away!). Hope to meet you there there! (and of course, take advantage of the super offer below after the show!)

And… this is big, people!

I am also offering a free 20 minute “get to know each other” coaching phone call so you can see if we are a good fit or to help you clarify your needs if you’re ready to fire up your creative career. Have a look at the testimonials on the right side of this website to see the kinds of things people have said about me. If you’d like to set up that phone call, click here.

Wishing you all the best success at the show– whether you are with an agent, have a solo booth or are attending as part of the discovery phase of your creative career; I know one thing for sure–it’ll be a ride!

Buh-Bye Barriers!

©Ronnie Walter
©Ronnie Walter

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about barriers to success. I’ve talked to lots of artists over the years that put up roadblocks for themselves and for any number of reasons they actually block their own potential.


Often its things like;

“Well my family never encourages me.”


“I have no time.”


“Did you see Game of Thrones last week?”

Sometimes these are real obstacles and you have to decide whether or not you can get around them. Or find some creative way to climb over.

Things like:

You have no talent. Yes, I said it. Maybe, just maybe you don’t have what it takes to do what you are dreaming about doing. But all is not lost—you can fine tune your dream, you know. More training, or a mentor or you can practice practice practice –or realize that this really isn’t your thing and you can try something else until you find the thing that you do have the talent for. Own it and move on. It’s OK.

Maybe you are basically lazy. Yes, I said that too. And I’m not talking depression or other real issues here. I mean when you convince yourself that watching 11 hours of TV over the weekend (while eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch right from the box) is “relaxation” and “staying abreast of popular culture so I understand trends”. And I haven’t met an artist yet that doesn’t procrastinate sometimes.  Maybe you’re mulling over options and just aren’t ready to make a commitment to where you’re going on an idea. Yeah, let’s go with that. But procrastination means you are at least moving forward in your head, if not physically. But if you do find yourself in that position–sheesh, at least have a sketchbook next to you!

You have an educational deficit. We hear tons of stories about artists that are self-taught; they had no idea they were capable of this kind of genius and then one day they picked up a paintbrush and poof! a lucrative art career was born! Well, sure, that can happen! But a really good drawing class, or a teacher/mentor who really understands color theory or composition or proven business principles can usually move you forward faster than you can on your own. Unless you are that latent genius unicorn we’ve all been looking for. Do the fundamental work.

You have minimal emotional support. A biggie for sure. If the people in your immediate world do not understand what you are doing or why you would ever want to pursue something creative, I hate to tell you this– but you need to find additional people. Your current people may not support it since it’s not part of their world view or they might not see your vision or commitment yet. Maybe they will come around later, but in the meantime (either online or in real life) find some people that grasp the creative process and all the weirdness that comes with it. You can move forward without your people’s full support and then one day you’ll overhear them tell the neighbor “you know she decided she was going to be an artist—and you should see the most amazing work she’s doing!”

You have an organizational problem. Become a list maker. As my Aunt Marie would say, “immediately, if not sooner.” The only way you are going to see progress is to see all the steps ahead of you—and checking them off as you go. If you are not a list-maker try it for two weeks and get back to me with your results. This is how you go from the “I really want to do this” whine to “Wow! Look how far I’ve come!” happy dance. Make a date with yourself once a week. Sunday night. Wednesday morning. Don’t care when. Write your list for the week. Reward yourself. Wine. Doughnuts. Private jet. Don’t care. And don’t worry about complicating it with long term goals, short term goals, visualizations and affirmations (unless you want to, I’m not the boss of you—I just act like it). Just a simple list of the things you can do this week to move you closer to success. Tiny baby steps.



Catch me over on Instagram where I am currently working on #100 Days of Advice–as of today I am on Day 65–that’s a lot of fun and heartfelt advice!

What I’ve Learned Half-way through my 100 Days Project

bossofyouRoughly 52 days ago I decided I would start a 100 Days Project like I have seen other artists do on Instagram. Or some do 365 Days of Paintings or 52 Weeks of Something. There are any number of ways to slice and dice the concept.

Before I started, I pondered what I would—and could–commit to. I decided to do 100 Days of Advice as my concept and hashtag. I thought this would give me a broad enough subject so if I wandered about with funny ones, or super serious or heartfelt advice I would still be within the parameters I had set up for myself. But it also allowed me to stay focused and not head into the all too familiar “what the heck should I do?” territory of creative life.  And I reminded myself that there weren’t any 100 Days Police out there ready to write me a citation if I headed in a new direction, skipped a day or abandoned the whole idea and turned to How to Make Oven Mitts out of Bath Mats as my next project.

Here are some things I learned so far:

  • Some days it’s really hard! Even though you have set your intention about what you want to do, actually continuing to have ideas—or enthusiasm–can be difficult to conjure up. But soldier on, my darlings—let yourself off the hook by doing simpler designs some days or a shorter message and get on with it!
  • Consistent daily action toward anything will bring you progress. If you picked up a harmonica tomorrow and practiced for the next 99 days thereafter, I’m pretty sure we could recognize a lively rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In”*. In 100 days you will have an enormous body of work that you didn’t have before—now how cool is that?
  • As I look back on even these first 50 days, I am definitely seeing an evolution of my work. I don’t know where it will take me yet but I know that at the end I will have 100 seeds of ideas to develop further, to group together in ways I couldn’t see before and I suspect a few creative a-ha! moments.
  • Posting for 100 days in a row (more or less, trust me–people aren’t counting) will increase your visibility on Instagram and wherever else you post. More followers, potential clients or interesting projects have the potential to come your way because You. Showed. Up. Doing a consistent daily action and not sharing it is a valid way to grow as an artist, but if you want to be seem—or make money—you need to show it to the world.

So how do you start?

beginagainPick a date. Any date. Or join a group that is doing it together. The adorable folks at They Draw and Cook are starting one beginning April 19th. Go see them on Instagram to join the fun.

Pick your topic. Make it broad but specific (ha!). You might just share 100 Days of Sketches or 100 Days of Flowers or you can get more specific and do 100 Days of Wildflowers or 100 Days of Cupcakes—you get the idea. Pick something that you are pretty sure you can accomplish but not so narrow that by day 37 you are sick to death of it!.

Once I finish my 100 Days of Advice, I know what my next topic will be—it may kill me, but I won’t know until I try, right?

You can follow along with my #100DaysofAdvice—I am @ronniewalter on Instagram.


*It’s the only thing I learned to play. I apologize to my family. And the dog.

How Artists Get Their Groove Back

I’ve stolen a phrase from fire fighters about how to put out the flames if you happen to be on fire. But what if you want to start a fire–like your creative fire for instance? Funny! It’s the same three little words! Soon you’ll be smokin’ hot–creatively, I mean!


Yes, You might just be boring…

BoredGirlMy sister Sarah is my go-to gal when I am in the need of conversation that can be at any given time (and often in the same sentence) stimulating, heart wrenching but always downright hilarious. We have spent untold hours on the phone and in person cracking each other up over the irritating minutiae of life. No tidbit is considered too trivial or too far in our past for us to discuss and ruminate over.

But every once in a while one of us is yammering on about a subject even we recognize as over-analyzed and picked apart so far that even we can’t stand it. I think Sarah was the first to say,


“Holy Moley, I am boring myself to tears. I cannot imagine what I am doing to you.”

This occasionally repeated phrase is code for, “Fer cryin’ out loud,let’s move on! We we cannot possibly be this dull!” And we do and we find something waaay more interesting to talk about. Like what we’re making for dinner.

Well, that was an amusing little story*, but let’s get back to the art business, shall we?

Artists strive to develop a “style” –some recognizable element that makes them stand out in the crowd and makes a distinctive mark on the world. Of course an artist’s range can vary but once they hit their “sweet spot” they tend to stay in that place, varying their work through different subjects and new images. But eventually the well starts to run dry and our little artist keeps finding herself serving up designs that are sort of okaaaay but lacking that original zing and shiny luster of the initial concepts. And our little artist has become bored.

And dare I say it? She has become…bor-ING!

So what happened here? She’s had her head down churning out idea after idea in her attempt to serve her style, just like she is supposed to do. The problem is she keeps going back to the same well for her inspirations. And she keeps coming up with the same basic look just changed up with a new color scheme or a different season but it’s really more of the same. This girl needs to get out more.


It’s called “filling your cup”, people.

When you find yourself restless and bored with what you are doing or wondering what you should do next, it’s time to take yourself out of the studio. Go to a museum—natural history, art, your local historical society–heck, maybe even the Mustard Museum**—can you imagine the cool vintage labels they might have there? Go to the dustier parts of the library. A botanical garden or arboretum. Go walk in the woods. Take a class in a medium you don’t normally use. Stop using Google images and Instagram as your only reference source. Find new inspirations and perspectives to bring back with you to the studio. Do this often, pretend like it’s your job.

Oh, wait—it is your job!

Because if you find your work boring, you can only imagine what it’s doing to us.

Sarah said so.


*Hey, I have seven sisters, there are sure to be more of them.

**It’s a place, really. Here’s the link.