conservation, Illustration, Interviews

Interview with Australian Wildlife Artist, Ronelle Reid

I am so excited to interview fellow wildlife artist, Ronelle Reid, who hales from Australia. Ronelle’s work touches a cord in my heart, as she often paints wildlife living a precarious existence, and she is not afraid to paint some of the rarer and more unusual species. Ronelle has even painted some of our own iconic New Zealand native species. I was delighted when Ronelle took time away from her amazing paintings to talk to us.

© Ronelle Reid

What is your background?

I wanted to be an artist from a very young age, I was determined and very focused all the way through university. But I found my passion wasn’t paying the bills and I didn’t have any experience running a business so I got a job working in animal welfare, I worked for RSPCA for 20 years, quietly continuing to make art in the background. In 2020 I made the jump to focus on my art full time again. 

Why did you decide to become an artist?

I can’t really remember what made me decide to be an artist. I was 6 and my dad bought me a little oil painting kit and I painted the tree in the backyard. I remember being very competitive with my older sister at drawing horses as well. It was just always what I was going to be. I never went through a fireman, doctor, princess stage.

What inspired your wildlife artwork?

I have always been fascinated by nature in all of its majesties. When I was in university I was focused on the museum environment and how natural history is portrayed in museums. It was very scientific and cold. Then I worked in animal welfare and saw first-hand the impacts on animals from habitat loss and human impact. My work soon followed that path trying to draw attention to the balance of ecosystems in a quirky way. 

© Ronelle Reid

What media/techniques do you use and what is your art process?

I am a pretty traditional artist. I prefer a solid surface so use birch wood panels. I use oil paint, watercolour pencils and ink in various combinations to get my work on the boards. I paint with tiny brushes and take way too long to make every piece. 

© Ronelle Reid

Do you work from photos or life?

I like to go out and do sketches from life, take lots of photos and then when I am back in the studio I work from a combination of those parts. Often my animals need to move around other animals that they are not normally living with so I need to use a bit of ingenuity to make the magic happen. 

© Ronelle Reid

What was your most challenging artwork and which is your favourite and why?

That is a hard question. The most challenging and hardest is usually the one I am working on at the time. I like to challenge myself so learning new anatomy can be a challenge for me. I recently painted my first pangolin, I had to use reference images as I haven’t met one personally and the bottoms of their feet are totally flat!

What advice or tips can you give to other artists?

Believe in yourself. No one can do what you do and if you stick at it you will become an expert doing your art. If you believe in what you do, it is easy for other people to believe in you as well and buy your magic. 

© Ronelle Reid

What creative project are you working on at the moment?

I always have a few things going at the same time, I am working on a watercolour work of bilbies for the Save the Bilby Fund, a few postcards for an exhibition in New Zealand and a large scale oil painting of a nautilus. 

What is your favourite animal and plant and why?

My spirit animal is the octopus. I love how alien they are, so different to everything else, adaptable and intelligent. As for plants, I love to surround myself with ferns. I think they take me back to a more primitive time when dinosaurs walked the earth. 

If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only take your most necessary art materials, what would they be?

A sketchbook and I could make charcoal, so I would be set. 

What is your greatest challenge as an artist?

The same as everyone else – making the ends meet. Coming from a nice fortnightly paycheck to sporadic income is difficult but I am making it work. 

© Ronelle Reid

How do you stay motivated, productive and disciplined?

I have always had a really good work ethic with all things I do. I treat it like a job, start at 5 am and going to work. The part I have a problem with is switching off. I find stopping making art and taking a day off the hardest thing to do. I always am making art – everywhere I go, even when I go away. 

What is the biggest challenge in selling your work and where do you sell it?

My work always has a complicated story behind it – a conversation I have with the animals I depict. Sometimes I find I get too immersed in that story and forget to tell people they are actually for sale. I have found that a mixture of online galleries and physical gallery spaces is working for me. 

What are your thoughts about using social media to expose your work?

I like social media as a platform to create a portfolio of your work and to give a look into the background work that goes into making it; but it is a time sucker if you let it. I try to have an idea of what posts I am doing a month ahead ( it doesn’t always work that way)!

Do you have any social media links you would like to share with our readers?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ronellereidart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RonelleReidART

Do you have any hobbies when you are not making artwork?

 I don’t have much time for hobbies these days, but I love spending time with my two dogs. Grace and Elwood are Basset Hounds. I often bake cookies for them. 

If we return to being stranded on a desert island, please share your favourite book, movie, food and music, if you could take these with you.

  • Book – would be a reference book like ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin.
  • Movie – ‘Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are dead’.
  • Food – corn – in all of its many and varied options.
  • Music – that is a hard one. I listen to so many different types of music, but if I had to choose one to take with me, maybe Blondie or the Pixies. 

Thank you for spending this time with us, Ronelle. It has been fascinating getting to know you and learn about your passion for wildlife and painting.

Please head over to Ronelle’s website to see more of her incredible artwork and read more of her story.

Website: https://www.ronellereid.com/

Art Business

The Many Hats Artists Wear – Part 7 (Final)

In the concluding mini-blog of this series, my job as an artist involves the following:

Image from Pixabay

13. Struggles with technology

When I have a list of tasks to do in a day, there is insufficient time to deal with technology challenges. This is my biggest frustration and often makes me wish that we not be so dependent of technology. I was going to share my recent techno battles but took pity on my readers.

14. Finally, painting, drawing and embroidery

Yes, it is time to generate some artwork, but is 5 pm and there are dogs to walk and tea to cook. Maybe tomorrow will work out as an artwork day?

I do work in the evening; however, my artwork needs extremely good lighting, which is not relaxing for the rest of the folk in the room. I usually do my needlework in the evening as I find it less cognitive and more relaxing.

Before anyone has a chance to feel overwhelmed by my art business responsibilities, I would like to add, that even though I earn considerably less than I used to, my stress levels have also alleviated, and this is something I am not willing to trade for a fat salary. I sleep better at night; I am happy and enjoy life to the fullest. I no longer dread Monday mornings. I am surrounded by my best friends, Mum and the three hounds, Elza, Gaius and Quink, and I make the most of every day, grateful that I can be self-employed, doing what is most important.

I would really love to hear about your art business, or your thoughts if you are contemplating becoming a self-employed artist. As always, I am also keen to read any tips you may have.

At this point, I have not settled on the subject of my next blog but hope it will be an artist or conservationist interviews. Please watch this space.

Until next time…

Art Business

The Many Hats Artists Wear – Part 6

Following on from yesterday’s mini-blog, my job as an artist also involves the following:

‘Malherbe’s Parakeet’ DOODLEWEAR WOMENS’ CREW NECK SWEATSHIRT from my doodlewear collection

10. Retailers

Because of COVID, retailers are now reluctant to consider stocking any of my prints or greeting cards as they appeal to overseas tourists who cannot currently enter New Zealand.  As I think that artists need to spread their work as widely afield as possible, I hope to soon add my merchandise to Felt, and hope that Kiwis will be interested in buying merchandise displaying local flora and fauna.

Image from Pixabay

11. Packing and processing orders

When I receive a notification of a sale from my online store, I respond to the customer ASAP, as they have taken time to support my business, and I want them to know their patronage is valued. I like to process/package all orders within three days.

Image from Pixabay

12. Development

Artists are perpetually developing. We are planning artworks, exhibitions, product ranges, courses, marketing strategies or even just indulging in a little self-development (playing with new media, taking a marketing course, etc.).

Tomorrow I will share the last few ‘hats’ I don on a daily basis. Today’s blog is the sixth part of a series of mini blogs, which I will complete posting tomorrow.

I would really love to hear about your art business, or your thoughts if you are contemplating becoming a self-employed artist. As always, I am also keen to read any tips you may have.

Until then…

Art Business

The Many Hats Artists Wear – Part 5

Following on from yesterday’s mini-blog, my job as an artist also involves the following:

Image from Pixabay

8. Research

When I paint an endangered animal, I like to know something about them, so spend a little time researching them and their habitat so that I can create an authentic setting in the illustration.

Part of building an art business also means researching merchandising options and retailers. My target audience is animal-art lovers! I am aware that not everyone wants to buy an original painting or print, but most of us like to wear t-shirts, use tea towels and notebooks, build jigsaw puzzles, etc.

With that in mind, I am constantly researching manufacturing options for New Zealand-made, natural fibres, non-polluting, sustainable, reusable environmentally-friendly products. I am so grateful that I can work with Digitees (https://www.digitees.co.nz/), who print my designs on 100% cotton ethical clothing (the adult clothing is 100% organic cotton too!) with eco-friendly inks.

Image from Pixabay

9. Uploading designs to merchandise

Once a design is digitised, it needs to be uploaded for merchandise. Although I have designs on three print-on-demand platforms (Zazzle, Society6 and Redbubble), I only load designs on Redbubble now, as I hardly ever sell anything on the others. Redbubble is also, by far, the easiest platform to use. It costs nothing for me to put my designs on items, but in return, the royalties are small, and I dare not push them up for fear of chasing away customers with excessive prices.

Recently I started to sell my work on 100% cotton t-shirts on my own store, which are printed and drop shipped by Digitees (https://www.digitees.co.nz/), a Kiwi business. I am also proud to be part of the Kiwi artist collaboration, doodlewear (https://www.doodlewear.co.nz/) and sell my designs on 100% cotton sweatshirts and hoodies.

My endangered animals’ designs are also printed as giclee prints and greeting cards. These are sold on my online store (https://www.bumble-beesartandcrafts.com/).

All this merchandising work takes considerable time – creating merchandise options and entries on the online store and Facebook are very time-consuming, but it needs to be done so that customers can buy what they like and when it is done, it is rewarding.

Tomorrow I will share some more of the ‘many hats’ I don on a daily basis. Today’s blog is the fifth part of a series of mini blogs, which I will post over the coming days.

I would really love to hear about your art business, or your thoughts if you are contemplating becoming a self-employed artist. As always, I am also keen to read any tips you may have.

Until then…

Art Business

The Many Hats Artists Wear – Part 4

Following on from yesterday’s mini-blog, my job as an artist also involves following:

Image from Pixabay

6. Teaching

Early on in my art career, I was advised to teach classes. I love teaching children and adults watercolour, cognitive drawing and embroidery, and always hope that advertised courses run. Unfortunately, between one-third and half of all my advertised classes have been cancelled due to a lack of enrolments. When I have a class, I really enjoy it, even if it means teaching until 9 pm followed by a 5 am wake up (which is hard for a night owl!). Even if a class does not go ahead, I have still prepared material, written notes, created samples and examples, etc.

So why don’t I teach online? I do not have a studio and work in the living room – filming is tricky when folk are around. Plus, I simply do not have time or knowledge to edit film. It would complicate an already frenetic schedule, and I am super introverted and filming myself is acutely uncomfortable.

Image from Pixabay

7. Digitisation

When I finish an illustration designed for merchandise, I need to use image-editing software to remove the background paper or canvas from vignette illustrations. Although there are a multitude of ways to do this, the methods I found to ensure the best results, are not quick. I find this work exhausting and try to do it straight away and not save it up and spend days digitising multiple artworks. If there is a job in my business I dread, this is it – however, I am always figuring out better ways of doing the work, which brings considerable satisfaction. It is essential to use a tablet (Huion or Wacom) and a stylus or an iPad and pencil. It is simply not possible to do this work with a mouse if you create highly-detailed designs.

On Sunday I will share some more of the ‘many hats’ I don on a daily basis. Today’s blog is the fourth part of a series of mini blogs, which I will post over the coming days.

I would really love to hear about your art business, or your thoughts if you are contemplating becoming a self-employed artist. As always, I am also keen to read any tips you may have.

Until then…