10 minutes with Logan Artist, Ronelle Reid
How she left her job and start her career full time in 2020
For Logan Artist Ronelle Reid, it was only a matter of time before she committed herself to her art full-time. As a kid, it was all she dreamed of. Over the years she worked hard to learn and refine her skills in both school (compelled by some healthy sibling rivalry), then later at uni – graduating with Honours in Fine Art from Griffith University, Queensland College of Art.
But despite her willingness to make it work, when she graduated, she lacked the business skills she needed to make it successful. A story you may know well or have heard many times.
So, she got a “real job”.
Ronelle found herself working in animal welfare, which, as an animal-lover, suited her perfectly. She’d spend her days at work, then come home to work on animal art at night.
After 20 years of balancing work and art, Ronelle was made redundant early this year – giving her the push she needed to work on her art full-time. She knew it was time to commit to her practice and use the business skills she learned at work to make it a success.
Read on to learn more about Ronelle’s work and how she’s made the leap into her full-time art business this year.
But first, who is Ronelle Reid and what does she create?
Ronelle’s art combines her experience in animal welfare, her love of animals and her interest in science and environmental conservation.
Using ink, oils and watercolours, she creates detailed, visual narratives that explore the relationships between animals and their habitats to inspire people to learn more about our vulnerable animals and do more to protect them.
Unfortunately, as Ronelle found out, Australia has one of the highest rates of extinction globally and a poor record for protecting this unique biodiversity. We have around 10% of the entire world’s species, and our megadiverse continent is also uniquely distinct. Many of our animals (46% of our birds, 87% of our mammals and 93% of our reptiles) are exclusively found here.
Find “Shhhh” online as part of the Lethbridge Gallery Art Prize Exhibition
“I love learning about animals and I’m very interested in environmental issues. My work started out as a cool observance of the animal world through the lens of the museum. Taxonomic reference, dioramas and drawings of dry specimens,” Ronelle told me.
Her current style is reflective of this museum experience, and inspired by naturalist painters like John James Audubon – but she also brings her own quirkiness to her compositions.
Her colourful and quirky pieces take naturalist style one step further – pairing species that don’t coexist or share habitats. She invites viewers to ask why the rules of land, air and sea no longer apply, and wonder why fish happily swim through the antlers of a bongo antelope and butterflies flutter around a moray eel.
How does Ronelle work?
She loves taking photos of animals that she can use for reference at a later stage. When she’s looking for inspiration for a new work, she often finds a photo that grabs her and piques her interest, and the composition flows from there.
“I go on to research that animal and find out the unique facts including its IUCN Redlist status,” she told me. “I don’t only paint endangered species because I believe every species is in peril and something that is plentiful today could be threatened tomorrow through hunting, habitat loss, or ecosystem disturbance.”
When asked what medium she prefers, Ronelle told me her studio work often is often a combination of things to create detailed paintings. But she also works with watercolour pencils alone, straddling the realm of painting and drawing.
Ronelle was awarded a BEMAC Creative Booster grant to create this artwork ‘The Thylacine Returns’. A Regional Arts Services Network funding initiative.
The transition from part-time to full-time artist
Ronelle only had 24 hours to decide if she was going to take a different position, or accept a redundancy from her job earlier this year. Meaning she had to commit to her art, or put it off for a while longer.
She chose to commit.
“I had a bit of an internal panic and then made a plan. I did a big mind map of all the things I want in life and made sure anything and everything was on the table. I have always had a good work ethic so it wasn’t hard for me to carve out a routine that works with my creative flow but allows me to get the business side of things done,” Ronelle told me.
And plan she did! While working with Ronelle this year, I’ve seen how her planning and importantly, her actions have paid off – despite the pandemic.
In her first months of working in her art business full time, Ronelle’s work was exhibited as part of The Queensland Wildlife Artists Society (QWASI) joint show at the Logan Art Gallery this year (pre COVID-19).
She applied for a solo exhibition at the Logan gallery for 2021 and was accepted, and then put in an application for a Regional Arts Development Grant (RADF) to help cover the costs of making and showing the work and was also accepted. She’s entered her work in prizes, accepted commissions and has applied for two further grants, one accepted and one still pending.
I’ve seen Ronelle consistently sharing her work online, engaging and growing her audience and supporting the local arts community. “I’ve found the Brisbane/Logan art community is really a very supportive one. I wasn’t expecting that when I jumped back in at the beginning of the year.”
Finding and maintaining creative confidence
Self doubt and comparisonitus can be crippling for any creative. But according to Ronelle, you just need to keep working and creating.
“Give it a go. I’ve learnt pretty quickly that art is so subjective and not everyone is going to love my work, but if I don’t give it a go and put my hand in the ring of chance, I’m sure to not win that prize, get that grant, or be included in that exhibition.
“I find the process of trying gains me so much insight into my own practice and gives me avenues to meet new people in the industry.”
Ronelle Reid with her painting ‘The Pollinators’ (top left) and ‘The King’s Horses’ (bottom left)
Balancing business with art
Ronelle’s work experience taught her some necessary business and marketing skills, and gave her a much better idea of what she needed to do, and how to make a living through her art.
“When I was at uni, it didn’t even occur to me that I would need these skills. I was an artist and the work would speak for itself…(right?) – only it has to be in front of the right people at the right time to do that.
“I’ve heard many artists lament the business side and say it takes away too much of their creative time. I enjoy the business side but agree it can be difficult to balance these elements. I have to be very strict with my time and stick to deadlines I set for myself.”
Ronelle has clear boundaries for admin and business tasks, and her making time and she’s disciplined with her schedule.
Lessons learned over the years
I asked Ronelle what advice she’d give her younger self, or to those just starting out and she said, “Don’t be so scared to fail that you don’t even try. If you write that proposal or enter into that competition, you may not be successful, but you can learn from the process – and better yet, if you do apply you may be successful.
Also, take the time to think about what it is you are trying to say. I used to (and sometimes still do) struggle to articulate what my work is about to people at galleries. I hate small talk and struggle with social gatherings so having a very clear understanding of key concepts and conversation starters going into that situation really helps.”
And, she’s patient. A quality she says she learned from her father. She’s invested time and energy over the last 20 years to build her skills and techniques. Looking at her now – you can see it’s paid off.
Over to you
Have you made the leap into working on your art full time? How has 2020 affected your art practice? I’d love to know.
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