Artist and Illustrator: Amy Riedl

Amy Riedl is an artist born and raised in San Francisco and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA. She was raised among a

family of artists who encouraged her to follow her dreams to study abroad and cultivate her artistic talents. Amy received herUndergraduate Degree in Art History and Religious Studies and a Masters Degree from EIIC Emerson College in Masstricht, The Netherlands. While raising a family Amy continued her career in museum and gallery work and was inspired to create her own body of work ranging from abstract fine art to children’s illustrations. But her career as a freelance artist began with  a chance visit of a gallery owner into her art studio. From there her career began to blossom with art shows, logo design work, mural work, and illustrating two children’s books. Most recently Amy’s illustration was chosen by the London Zoo as the face of the Penguin Futures global fundraising project. Penguin Futures is a program designed to research the impact of climate change on the Antarctic penguins and to educate the public on the effects of climate change. For more information about her book Waves and Splashes or the Penguin Futures projects please contact Amy Riedl or Sasha Reid at Amy’s mural artwork can also be seen online at Haley Ashbury Rehearsals is Santa Barbara’s only music rehearsal hall.

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Artful, loving, devoted

What is your life motto?
I’ve adopted a quote I read early on in my studies that articulates my philosophy of life so well. It is from H.D. Thoreau… I want “to live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life, to put to route all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived”. All that I would add is that it be done with great heart and with honor.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take you to become successful?
I would have to say in undergraduate school. While in University, I fell in love with every aspect of art. Studying the great artists of history became my academic focus and I threw myself into learning every technique that peaked my interest. In those years it ranged from sculpting, drawing and graphic to interior design. But it was figure drawing the moved me most. The lines of a human form and how a simple s-curve drawn of a woman’s back could communicate the figures emotion. To communicate without words was powerful stuff. It was like a light turned on in my soul and that was it, I was hooked.

I did quite well in the sales of art, where I learned a great deal about what appeals to people, the type of art they chose for their home, or their collections and why. I believe that gave me an edge in style and aesthetic choices, but creating and selling art took time.

You have to find your own style or artistic voice and then put it out there to be seen in galleries and pray that it is commercial enough. There are upfront costs for materials, framing and marketing. Networking and proving yourself are essential. For me that meant giving it away sometimes, so that I could prove my skills and show what I could bring to the table.  As an illustrator my success came from teaming with skilled writers. As an example, I collaborated with Sasha Reid on the book “Waves and Splashes.” Sasha’s heart-felt stories and her marketing skills coupled beautifully with my ability to imbue emotional content into the illustrations. I believe creative talents, partnered with marketing skills is the key to getting your work out there.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dreams?
That is difficult to quantify. I’d say about seventeen years roughly and counting! Am I there yet? Certainly feels like I’m getting closer.

Describe how difficult the business really is?
There are so many facets to the art business that it is hard for me to generalize here. Some areas of the art business are far more easy to crack in to than others. A strong academic background and some hands on skill will get you in the door in a lot of areas. But for the book business you’ve got to be very committed and patient.

The creation of the book and bringing the little characters to life was a magical period for me. But the process of submission and the hills and valleys of emotion that journey brings requires some tough skin. Marketing skills and a good mind for business are priceless. That has been the biggest learning curve for me, no doubt.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
My mistake was spending a great deal of time trying to mimic the master artists I admired, instead of trying to find my own creative voice or style. It was when I finally freed up my mind to play with the creative process a little that things got really interesting and I finally started to believe I had something new to offer or share.

Is formal training essential?
NO. I have met many naturally gifted artists with no formal training that stumbled in to using their skills for hire. But I highly recommend formal training! I learned a tremendous amount during my graduate and undergraduate years and that was when I really fell in love with art — its origins, its history and its mediums of expression. It is the one window in life where you can sample it all and have the time to find where your strengths and weaknesses are. I use the techniques learned from my professors to this day. Let’s put it this way, the only regrets I have looking back at college are the classes I didn’t take and wish I had.

Best is the best piece of advice you’ve been given to date?
“To first commit and you’ll figure the rest out as you go.”

What is the piece of advice you weren’t given?
To use nature as your teacher and reference point when trying to create art. Anyone that draws knows that art is in the details. If you are a good observer, nature is an amazing resource to pull from. For example, when drawing I have looked to nature to find complimenting colors and pulled beautiful combination ideas by looking at a simple flower in the garden. My Dad use to say “God is the best designer” and I think he was right. Don’t forget to borrow from it!

Do you believe that making it is about luck and being in the right place and time?
I’ve always believed luck is preparation meeting opportunity and I have found that to be true. But there have been undeniable twists of fate that brought Sasha Reid, the author of ‘Waves and Splashes’, literally to my doorstep! A chance meeting and connection changed our lives and career directions. So my answer would have to be all three of these elements. Preparation, opportunity and a little bit of luck…

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
Family support. But more often than not, it has been a fire in my belly that has always been there pushing me; a desire to contribute something in this life and to not be lazy. As a society, we pour energy into so many things we “should do” and care little about. My thought was “why not at least try to give the same amount of energy to the things that move and inspire you… to something you really love?!”

4 thoughts on “Artist and Illustrator: Amy Riedl

  1. Great artist and inspiring interview! Love the photo of charcoal drawing in that beautiful room…

    Congrats Amy!

  2. Hey Amy! Loved your article, Mom hasn’t seen it yet, but wonderful photos and info. You should be very proud. We are very proud of you!!!! Love and kisses, your very favorite sibling.

  3. Wow! I can’t believe I stumbled onto your site here. Has it been something like 15 years since we’ve connected? Looks like you’ve been quite busy-beautiful work.

    Big hug and bountiful blessings to you –

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