This month we are chatting with the incredible Terry Runyan, a visual artist with a penchant for beasts of every kind. Living her dream, creating art from her studio every single day and sharing her learnings with others. She’s found that maybe not everyone is into cats (whaaat?) but that the world connects her with the right people at the right time.
Read on to find out more on Terry’s journey from college student to Hallmark Senior Illustrator to being her own boss (well, her two cats may disagree about who is the real boss).
Your art features so many wonderful animals. What role do animals play in inspiring your art?
Well, in case you didn’t notice ;) I love cats and creating cats! I also enjoy creating characters out of quirky shapes. Love drawing birds, dogs, horses, fish and most furry, feathery and fishy friends. In addition, I create girl characters and occasional boys…usually with cats. ;)
What’s the one thing you’re most proud of in your artwork?
Showing up daily even when I have no ideas and/or don’t feel inspired. Once I get started it feels more like I’m being given what to do next rather than pushing myself and trying hard to do what is next. Creating without much of a plan has always been my preferred way of working. I love the mystery of what might show up.
“Creating without much of a plan has always been my preferred way of working. I love the mystery of what might show up.”
What is the best advice you’ve been given as an artist?
Create something every day even if you don’t feel like it!
Do you have a creative routine?
I love to create in the morning, sipping coffee, sitting cross-legged on the sofa, a cat on each side of me. Usually get my #dailycreation done before or right after breakfast. Any time after breakfast and before dinner works as well but there are a few more distractions.
What elements are in your creative workspace?
My two cats, a sofa and an iPad, when I’m creating in the morning. I do enjoy painting, collaging and drawing as well. This mostly happens in my studio (converted dining room.) It is also a blast to meet up with my artist friends to create together in our sketchbooks.
How did your illustration career unfold?
Growing up in California, I never thought I would be moving to the midwest. Hallmark recruited me at college, and I was hired as an in-house illustrator upon graduating. I worked for Hallmark for 30 years. The last 7-8 years of my career I kept up a mostly daily practice of personal work and accepted illustration jobs that came my way. I retired to pursue my own thing in late 2016. Recently, I have discovered an interest in creating videos for YouTube (it would be awesome if you subscribed!). I love sharing how I work and all the insights unfolding as I experiment with this new format. I’m putting one foot in front of the other with my creative experiments in video. I follow the breadcrumbs of inspiration as they appear. Like my personal artwork, I don’t start with much of a plan; if I have a plan, I hold it loosely. I find that the creative spark and inclinations that happen when I show up and move forward with creating, are much fresher and often bigger than I could have ever imagined!
“I follow the breadcrumbs of inspiration as they appear.”
How has your style and aesthetic changed over the years?
I started off drawing mostly realistic artwork. I would spend tons of hours trying to create photo realism. I didn’t enjoy this much. It felt mechanical to me. Happily, I started creating greeting cards for Hallmark and started playing with cute, stylized (non-realistic) characters, flowers and anything else that came my way or was inspired at the moment.
Do you have any tips you could share with our artist community on creating their own illustration career?
The most important thing I can share is to keep creating, create a lot…even when you don’t feel like it. Also, share what you create. It is inspiring for others to watch your process and get to know you.
Are there any books, podcasts, blogs that you would recommend for inspiration?
I love hanging out on Pinterest. It is so inspiring to look at all the wonderful things everyone is creating in all areas of life. I also get a lot out of learning about how human beings operate. I’m currently in an online class (also a book) called “Creating The Impossible” with Michael Neill. Highly recommended. Michael also authored the book “The Inside/Out Revolution.” Excellent! In addition, I recommend “One Thought Changes Everything” by Mara Gleason.
As far as YouTuber’s go, I really enjoy Peter McKinnon (video and photography) and Stefan Kunz (lettering artist). There are so many new creatives I’m discovering every day. I love all the sharing that goes on!
What has been the most challenging experience you’ve had during your artistic journey?
I didn’t know I was going to be an illustrator until I was 25-26 years old. Even then, I never felt confident that I would be successful. Although I had a bent toward drawing, I didn’t enjoy doing art much when I was younger. I preferred being outside hiking, biking and other activities usually including dogs.
I went back to school at age 26 when I heard about illustration as a career. I defaulted to art because I couldn’t figure out what else to do. It wasn’t until later in my career that something shifted. I found myself enjoying the process and what got created through me! I just kept at it even through all the years of questioning.
I’ve decided it is part of being human to have thinking that says things like ‘your not good enough’ or comparing ourselves to others. What I know now is that I don’t have to indulge that thinking. I can let it flow out just like it flowed in. My insecure thinking/feeling doesn’t snag me as much as it used to and doesn’t stop me from starting something new.
Are you like Terry Runyan and find inspiration in furry, feathered, fishy and flowery friends? What are your favorites sources of inspiration? Share with us in the comments below.