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

This always cracks me up

But when I heard a story years ago about stores with “n-stuff” and “n-things” at the end of their names, it stuck with me. So this Coffee with Ronnie video compiles a few “things-n-stuff” to help your creative business grow. Enjoy (n-stuff)!

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!

How do you know if you’re ready?

Like really ready?

Well with some things like athletic achievements (which I know exactly nothing about) you would train, increase your speed, or weights, or times or other sportsy measurements and then you’d know exactly when you were ready for the next step.

Or say you have a job. You perform over and above the expectation of the job, you’d take all training that was offered, and probably volunteer for extra projects. Eventually, you’d spot the next rung on the ladder and go after a promotion or a better job because you have increased your skills—both business and the “people” kind and you would, for the most part, know you were ready.

In each of those scenarios there are obvious markers, guideposts, or someone saying, “Yes, you’re ready to move on”.

But what if you’re on your own; forging the path of bringing your creative ideas and amazing self to the world, how do you know if you’re ready?

Well, guess what?

You don’t.

You just have to be ready enough.

You already know that stepping out of your comfort zone is hard. Not like, “Oh, I have to speak to the Joint Session of the UN with 10 minutes notice” hard. More like, “He-e-e-y? I’m been working on this idea for a while and I’d really like you to see it” hard.

Way different.

And here’s a little secret: you don’t have to be ready for everything that could happen as a result of you moving forward, because frankly, you can’t be.

It’s impossible to know all that.

But you’ve done hard stuff before so you know that with any move you will have some discomfort. And discomfort isn’t so bad. I mean, you go to the dentist occasionally, right? You use self-check-out scanners at the supermarket from time to time*. These things aren’t fun, but you have proved over and over in your life that you can do the uncomfortable, the awkward, and the “deep breaths, we’re almost through here” moments and come out better for it on the other side.

I actually think you are readier than you think you are. And so do the people around you**. I mean, haven’t you been dreaming about and reading about and talking about this thing for like, years already?

So yeah, you’re ready enough.

And you know it.

*actually the invention of the devil

**Trust me, I talked to all of them and they said you are more than ready for this thing.

Don’t forget that I am live on Facebook each Thursday at 3pm eastern time talking about how me manage this creative life (and these creative brains). The videos are also on YouTube!

Be that person.

The one who shows up consistently.

The one who plans.

The one who says, “I’m pretty sure I can do that”.

The one who says thank you.

The one who tries to figure it out.

The one who asks for help.

The one who tries again.

The one who is easy to work with.

The one who reaches out first.

The one who knows when it’s time to rest.

The one who says, “How can we fix this”?

The one who laughs.

The one who looks at things from a new perspective.

The one who sends the note.

The one who finds a little magic.

Happy New Year!

I’m having a slow-ish start to the year. And from a few conversations I’ve had recently, you might be too.

I mean, I’m all about looking back on the year with the usual questions like:

  • So where DID the money come from last year?
  • What made my heart sing and what were the slogging through-quicksand projects?
  • And if the money came from the quicksand projects, how will I change that up this year?

You know, the usual.

So I evaluated and pondered and reached out to the people I trust though phone, email and across the couch (that’s Jim, btw) and sat with the information at hand for a bit.

And here’s what I know:

I want to make meaningful work that enhances my skills and interests.

Well, that’s pretty generic, Ronnie!

Yes.

And no.

As I make my practical plan for the new year, everything on it must meet that criteria. So with each opportunity, I need to ask the following questions:

  • Is it within my skills? (sure, I’ll stretch a bit—after all I taught myself video editing last year!) But if I need to learn a new skill to do something, how much time is taken away from the “doing something” to learn “the something”? And is that a better use of my time than developing more content that fits better?
  • Am I interested in it? We all see things go by us and think “hey, I can do that” but is it something that will hold my interest once it’s done? I don’t have time for trend-chasing, flash-in-the pan, hey that’s pretty cool detours from my best work.

And finally,

  • Is it meaningful? It doesn’t have to change the world, but it does need (for me, anyway) to be useful, to be helpful or to make someone else feel better. That includes coaching, teaching and even my art practice.

How are you approaching 2019?

Slow re-entry or with a hands-on-hips power pose ready to crush it this year?*

What are the questions you need to answer?

*Well, good for you but you’re making me a little tired.