Wondering what’s been happening in the studio lately?

Well first, Jim and I moved. And it was a big one. We sold the house we’ve been living in for the past 20 years and it was A. Lot. Of. Work. Very thankful that Florida houses are not built with basements or attic storage, but somehow we still managed to accumulate lots of…stuff. Far more than could possibly fit into the much smaller house we moved to.

Where did all this stuff come from?

Our Toyota Camry became a de facto pick-up truck with many, many trips to the thrift store to drop off those fabulous items we had accumulated, including countless product samples from years of licensing my art onto giftware/home goods/stationery/etc. (Yeah, it was a LOT!). We’re not sure how many weeks it took us to actually stand upright after we moved, but there was a fair amount of moaning and creaking of knees.

picture of lots of bowls

We are now adjusting to life in our semi-tiny house. Which can be…. a challenge (she says with a forced smile on her face). But for the most part I love it. I have my favorite cooking items, a capsule wardrobe (determined by the closet space), a couple places to sit and a small but workable art space.

Ronni Walter's tiny art studio

Looking for some Clarity in your creative life?

I’ve reopened my schedule on a limited basis for coaching, bringing back the popular “Cup of Clarity” program and simple one-on-one hourly sessions. Just click here if you would like more information.

And I’ve been taking some time for myself (and you should too!). To study, explore ideas, and spend some open-ended time in my “mini-studio” with paper, paint, oil pastels, and anything else within reach. Have I developed anything yet? Sort of, but mostly I’m following threads of my curiosity. It’s a mindbender to work this way, since I spent so much time over the course of my career developing collections (for licensing) that were more planned out and structured. I’ll let you know when I have developed some of this work and it’s reached a place that I am proud of.

So that’s all the news from the studio, what’s up with you?

New year, new direction...same me!

Mr. Rogers Quote

Whew…that was a year, right?

Not many of us would care to repeat 2020—but—there are a few things turned out to be (relatively) positive experiences, like…

  • Working from home. It can work, possibly even better than before, although I’d hate to be in the commercial real estate market.
  • We rediscovered that simple pleasures can be, well, pleasant.
  • We didn’t run out of art supplies—or ideas.
  • I found out after 17 years of marriage that my husband can bake bread, though I’m still trying to figure out why he hadn’t.

I can’t believe anyone has come through this year without a heightened sense of self-awareness and a bit more clarity on their wants, needs, and what really brings them joy…even if they must only imagine it for now.

And that includes me.

As many of you know, I publish coloring books, other books, teach on several online teaching platforms, and I am passionate about painting abstracts—the bigger and more colorful, the better. For the past few years, I’ve also coached and mentored artists in every phase of their journey, have been live every week on Coffee with Ronnie, and kept up (mostly) with updating my YouTube channel.

Sounds like a lot? It is. As I digested all of that, thought about (and journaled about) what else I want to do, I came to a decision.

I am taking my own advice.

If you’ve ever worked with me or watched any of my videos you know I often talk about “if you say yes to something you have to say no to something else,” and I’m afraid I’ve only been saying yes over the past few years. That is not sustainable, especially for the balanced and joyful life I intend to have. And there are a few things I have been saying “no” to that I want to move into the “yes” column.

So, I’ve made some decisions. I am pausing my coaching practice for now, and my weekly Coffee with Ronnie “show”. I will invest more time into my publishing efforts, my fine art endeavors, and publishing more videos about the creative life on YouTube.

Also, I love teaching and will find meaningful ways to do that, and of course I will be contributing to conversations on social media whenever I can add something of value.

“Living a Colorful Life” says it all— linking the Coloring Café, my paintings, and my attitude toward life. I want to experience and reflect all the hues and shades that life has in store for me, and I hope you come along for the rainbow-colored ride with me.

I hope that this past year has brought you some clarity as well. So, here’s to an amazing 2021!

Ronnie

An Open Letter to Artists

Hello Friends,

When the world seems a little sideways, that might be the exact time to make art!

Making things helps us make sense of things, takes us to another world, and connects us to others.

If you’re feeling insecure or anxious, I totally understand! But it may be the perfect time to get those feelings onto paper or canvas…I know that’s my approach these days—and it will keep me away from the ice cream, at least for a little while!

Enjoy this short video and take care!

Ronnie

The Power of Drawing

In last week’s Coffee with Ronnie, I talked about how important drawing is to your long-term success as an illustrator. I was concerned that my message was a bit of a “now get off my lawn” moment, but to me, drawing is kind of everything.

If you are self-educated as an illustrator you may have skimmed over the drawing part and gotten right into the design and learning software part of your development, and that may have worked just fine for you. And if it did? Cool!

But here’s the thing about drawing—drawing is a fundamental tool to help you noodle out ideas, make the ideas in your head come to life, and help your audience see what you mean to say. If you analyze an illustration you love, you can probably reverse-engineer it to see how the structure of the work is in the drawing, and you can’t fake that.

It’s why a unicorn riding a bicycle looks believable to you or why you can draw 25 coffee cups stacked on top of each other looks normal to you even though in real life they would all topple onto the kitchen floor. When you know how to draw, you can push your ideas forward in a way that your viewer says, “yep, that makes sense to me”.

It’s about understanding proportion and weight and scale—and more. When you know the basics of drawing, you soon find out that you can draw anything, and to me, that’s freedom! It never leaves you and you only get better with time and practice. It’s why you see accomplished artists and illustrators show up for life drawing nights long after they’ve “made it”.

So if you feel like you are at a place when you can’t quite express the ideas in your head or you’ve come to a point in your career that you feel stifled, maybe you need to back it up and work on your drawing skills. I explore more details on exactly how (and why) to do just that in this video.

Just click below to watch, and you can watch the other videos from my “Coffee with Ronnie” series here.

Also, I am “live” on Facebook most Thursdays at 3pm (eastern) chatting about art, the art biz and how we can keep moving our creative goals forward over the long haul, just click here to find out more!

Dear Auntie Ronnie…

Ever since I was a wee little artist I read all the “agony auntie” columns in newspapers and fashion magazines. I was fascinated by Dear Abby, Ann Landers and the ones in Seventeen magazine (should I break up with Brad before the prom or after???) got me through junior high and high school. And if I had an alternative career, this would be it!

And just so you know, I’ve written these first questions myself, based on common questions and concerns I hear from my coaching clients, but if you have a question, feel free to shoot me an email here.

Dear AuntieRonnie Logo

Dear Auntie Ronnie,

I’ve been trying to make a living as an artist for a while now and I can’t seem to get any traction—heck, I can’t even get anyone to answer to my emails! What am I doing wrong and is there any chance I can “make it”?

Signed,

Talented and Ignored

Dear T and I,

Hey, I hear ya, sister! First, I can’t tell you whether you can “make it” because

  1. I haven’t seen your work
  2. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether the market will respond to a look before it’s out in the market, but that doesn’t help you one bit now does it?
  3. I don’t know everything. (what?)

But here’s what I can tell you. This all takes time, even in the best of scenarios. Timing of decision making and production cycles are not in your control so you might be contacting the right kind of people but at the wrong time. Hey, that happens.

But I would ask you to be honest with yourself. Are you spending enough time in the efforts needed to get your work in front of the people you want to work with? Meaning; have you identified the categories and sharpened your view on where your work would be most successful? Or are you sending your work only to people that everyone else seems to be sending to or in a random (meaning non-strategic) manner? And are you clear in your messaging of who you are, what you do and why their customer might respond to your work?

Building a client base (either with licensing or any business model you are working in) takes time—like a lot of time. Of course, things can happen faster when you have a body of work that clearly resonates with your market (plus a few lucky breaks) but in general be prepared, for a it can be a longish slog.

I would suggest you put yourself on a schedule of sorts. Add “getting in front of people” at the top of your to-do list, not at the end. Make a commitment to a certain amount of emails per week which includes following up with previous contacts (as they say in sales training “the fortune is in the follow-up”). Looking at the longer view, take advantage of any opportunity to meet with potential clients in person whether that is through workshops, conferences, shows (if that seems right for you), and other networking scenarios.

Consider this kind of a plan. I like to look at my year by quarters. I ask myself, “what do I want to accomplish next quarter”? A quarter is 12 weeks. How many contacts could you make per week x 12? That can be a lot of you do it consistently! At the end of those 12 weeks, you should evaluate the results. What worked and what didn’t? Plan for the next 12 weeks and repeat. By looking at your year in 4 chunks, you can evaluate what happened. And if it’s “not much” then you either need to change your approach, the market you are targeting or maybe even the work you are offering.

But here’s the thing. Maybe your efforts will not work. Bummer, I know. You must get your work in front of people to know if they want it or not. That’s the only way to know. And the answer could be, “thanks, but no”. Then what will you do?

And only you can decide how much time you will spend on building this business before you decide to either pivot your attention to another market or method or go in a complete other direction using other brilliant talents in your bag of tricks. I do not subscribe to the “if you dream it you can do it” philosophy. I’m more in the “if you dream it, you can see if it will work and then you have to figure out something else if it doesn’t” camp which  admittedly is not very Pinterest friendly.

But I know how that feels and sometimes it’s not us at all. But by being honest with ourselves and how we are really spending our time, sticking to a plan or strategy long enough to see results and then evaluating those results, we can see a clearer path for say, the next upcoming quarter.

And I wish you all the best!

Love,

Auntie Ronnie

Cathy Heck + Julianna Larsen = Pure Delight!

These two! Okay, I had a blast interviewing my old pal, designer Cathy Heck and her a-MAZ-ing daughter Julianna Larsen. We talked about Cathy’s pathway to designing some of the most charming products on the market, how they chose to expand their business when the economy was a bit wobbly and some great stories on working on and in a family business. Just click here to watch and be prepared to giggle!

The Project Predicament

It always starts the same way.

“This is the coolest idea ever!”

And then it starts; before you know it, enthusiasm wanes and uncertainty develops but you soldier on because, my dear, you are a professional!

And pretty soon, it’s done. You might be tired, or stressed out or even pissed off.

But then, you relax for just a second and it happens all over again…

“This is the coolest idea ever!”

©2017 Ronnie Walter
©2017 Ronnie Walter

Enough, Already!

solongcookie-webI opened the Target ad on Christmas morning and predictably Christmas was nowhere to be seen except for the red and green plastic wreath and ornament boxes (now 20% off)–however closet organizing systems and fitness equipment covered 8 or so pages. I know, I know–I lived in Retail Land for a big chunk of my career so I am fully aware that the dust doesn’t settle completely on one event before we move on to the next shopping opportunity. I’m pretty sure it’s in The Constitution, and if it’s not now, it will be in the near future. Why would we be surprised to see the red and pink boxes of Valentines displayed next to the rolls of 75% off Rudolph gift wrap?

But over the past few years, by the time I am placing my own wreath in the plastic box I bought at Target for 20% off, I think “Enough.”

Enough cookies, enough holiday frivolity, enough making sure I’ve made my list and checked it twice. Enough with the jolly.

I am full.

It’s all enough.

But with the New Year just days away, our thoughts turn to a new calendar page, twelve whole months ready to be unfurled. The fun, the sad, the confusing, the unexpected opportunities, and the friends we’ve yet to meet; it’s all out there waiting for us. Will we be at this same place next year thinking, “Was my year enough? Did I reach out to add good things to my life—did I bring my gifts to the table? Did I share enough of my talents, my kindness—did I send enough love? Was I enough?

The answer of course is, yes. Yes, you are. You’ve got everything at your fingertips to embark on this sparkly new year, so go and fill your cup just enough—and maybe have a little cookie on the side.

 

And finally–the new edition of License to Draw is available! You can see here to see all your options. See you next year, friends!

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Let’s call it a plan, shall we?

I am deep into planning for 2017.

It sounds like such a corporate-y thing to do, but I usually spend a few moments around this time to have a  look at my goals and objectives for the coming year. I evaluate the state of the market, what are the most expeditious paths to actually bringing in income and what passion projects to move forward.

But this year I am going a bit deeper. Getting help.  Having meaningful conversations. Working through a few processes that will help me negotiate where the real crossroads are between my time, talents and passions. It has been frustrating and illuminating at the same time, just like any process of gaining clarity and peace.

I also know that old saying about “the best laid plans of mice and men…”  when it comes to standing up and declaring, “This! This is exactly what I am going to be doing in the next twelve months!” Serendipity happens, new opportunities raise their hands in your direction and compelling ideas creep in and wrestle your previous ideas for space and time. I get that.

But the basics of what I do best, the cream that rises to the surface need to stand guard for the moments when I drift too far away or agree to things that are less “Well, maybe…” and more “Oh, Hell, yes!” .

I often use a “hub and spoke” graphic to illustrate concepts and you might want to use this one to help you see through the clutter and indecision as you plan the next chunk of time in your life. Feel free to [media-downloader media_id=”1119″ texts=”download it here”] and let me know if it was useful to you!

 

hubspokegraphic-web

And as I head into 2017 I know a few things; no matter what happens in the US Presidential election, it will be blessedly over and we can regroup and move on. (whew!) And I will have a pretty clear picture of how to move my creative interests forward, how to expand my business to include more outward focused activities and will continue to develop cool alliances with cool people while remaining fluid when it comes to opportunities that I don’t know about yet!

That’s doable, right?

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These Girls…

I was out of the studio for a whole week, last week. It was a long planned trip with my four best friends to celebrate a year of (pretty big) birthdays and our 46 years of friendship. I packed clothes, gifts, and a ton of art supplies–and big plans to use them.  We envisioned lazy afternoons on the deck overlooking Lake Michigan, trolling around charming towns, enjoying good food and the occasional glass of wine. We did all of those things—and so much more.

I am grateful and blessed to have these four strong, unique and hilarious women in my life. Over the years we’ve witnessed marriages, sparkly sunsets on Sanibel Island, great hilarity in Texas, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island; we’ve celebrated new life and held each others hands through the complicated, the sad and the sometimes wretched heartache that is all part of living on this earth.

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We rented a house big enough to hold us AND our giant personalities and embarked on a week that we wanted to be rejuvenating, relaxing and restorative. We split up the cooking duties, Claire led us through a communal art project, and we celebrated each birthday on a separate day of the week—or as we said, “Hey! It’s my fake birthday”! Debi personalized journals for each of us with her popular font, Cantoni, and in them we wrote letters to the “birthday girl” with funny memories, things we admire and love about that person and encouragement to follow their path to peace and fulfillment. Then we would read the letters out loud at our nightly camp fires. Yes, it was blissful. Yes, I am so grateful for each of them. And yes, we are planning our next trip.

Oh, in case you were wondering—of COURSE we got on each others nerves now and then! I mean, really; five women, forty six years, one house—and did I mention the big personalities? But here’s the thing. We get it. A long time ago we accepted that if we expect the others to be patient with our weirdo tendencies then we need to show a little tolerance to theirs. So we’re a little more tender, a little less judgmental and can usually craft a response that either cracks everybody up or figure it’s a good time head out and clean up the kitchen.

I loved watching my friends enjoying a quiet swim by themselves, or seeing two heads bowed together as they talked about something profound or maybe something silly. But the best times were when we were all together—breaking bread (and brownies) around the dining room table looking like the world’s oddest quintuplets, sprawled on couches in the living room, squished into the car heading out on an adventure or crisscrossing the kitchen as one chopped, one cooked, one cleaned up and a few either entertained or just got in the way.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah Ronnie, that’s a sweet little story—but how does it apply to me?”

Well, besides your family (who come with their own joys and irritations) the friends who’ve known you the longest are probably the ones who care the most about you. So gather your friends. Call them up. Reach out. Make it work.

And remember this quote from Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home”.

Well, I couldn’t pick better people to walk this journey next to me.

 

PS. The art supplies stayed in the suitcase.