Happy New Year, Friends!

As much as I like to say, “Oh, I never make New Year’s Resolutions” you would never believe me, now would you? I mean all I talked about over on Instagram were cookies for the last month or so—and you know where that leads. But here, I made a few here and feel free to steal them.

Another Show Season Behind Us…

Funny how the illustrators who develop art for products see the year begin and end in mid-May when the trade shows rear their trendy heads. Whether or not you exhibit or attend, so many of the blogs and social media posts are tracking the anticipation of the shows. This year I attended with multi-faceted goals. I met up with some of my coaching clients–live and in person (some were shorter than they looked on Skype and some were taller-ha!), I did some mini-coaching sessions, chatted with some of the folks I’ve been consulting with and had a minimum of 6.5 hilarious conversations per day–and at least 7.2 serious ones.  And I drank coffee, wine and ate pasta with some of my favorite people. And it case you missed it–or just miss it, here are a few of my observations from the shows.

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The Seven Stages of Surtex…

Welcome to my annual Surtex blog! If you want to step in the way-back machine, you can read previous ones here, here and here. This year I’m delivering all that wisdom in graphic novel form–which stage are you hanging out in?

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I will be attending SURTEX and the National Stationery Show–and I’m looking forward to meeting all of you! Best wishes for a great show!

Ronnie

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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 ronnie@ronniewalter.com 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.

Bummer.

Often its things like;

“Well my family never encourages me.”

or

“I have no time.”

Or

“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.

Forward.

 

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!

Deeper, funnier, stronger…you

RonnieWalterIllustrationYou get it. You know what it feels like to sit up with a sick kid and clean up puke in the middle of the night–again. You are the one that has held a friend’s hand when she’s had a bad breakup, lost a job—or worse, gotten a bad haircut. You watched as your parents became confused or sat with them as they slipped into the next world. You’ve been there—and back.

So for all of you artists, writers and potential dreamers of creative careers, remember this; it’s the tattered and sometimes faded memories and experiences that bring the depth, the seasoning and the patina to your work. Don’t believe me? Take a look at that cute twenty-six year old sitting there in her cute shoes, unlined skin and that fresh illustration degree. She’s talented and clever and has a big future ahead of her. She’s your go-to gal for the ‘aren’t we cool and sophisticated?’ images (which I love by the way). But is she the one that can write a greeting card about loss or courage or see the rip snorting hilarity surrounding sagging boobs and hot flashes? Can she write a book about the horror of watching her adorably sweet former baby drive off in her hand me down car for the first time—alone?

Wear your badge with honor, ladies—fly that “I have seen what life serves up and I can still find the humor, the joy and the pride” flag with style and confidence!

Don’t let anyone tell you its too late. Sit down, cut that crap out and draw and paint and write from the very depths of your heart. And once you’ve mopped up the tears and finished the wine just look at what you’ve done. Maybe it’s a tear and wine stained mess but somewhere in there is the nugget of what you want to say, what you want to portray and what and how you want to send a message to someone walking the same mile in the same cute shoes as you. And whether you serve it up with humor, sentiment, scripture or with gorgeously rendered images, the message is this:

It’ll be OK.
I’m there for you.
Life is pretty good, when you think about it.
I understand.
I will not leave you.

So tap your inner goddess, the mama warrior, that holder of truths won from age and experience, and let that woman out already! You, my dear, are the conqueror of complacency!

And remember, you get it.