Featured Illustrator

Ashley Ronning

February 2018

We love Ashley Ronning and her honest, down to earth approach to design and life. We chatted about her lovely morning routine, why we should bin the word networking, finding your style, and the impact Instagram has had on the industry.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

My parents really encouraged me to be creative, I got art supplies for most birthdays and we’d get into lots of DIY around the house. The earliest project I can remember is stencilling gold fairies around our deck. There were a lot of fairy-related projects to be honest. It wasn’t until high school that I realised design was creative problem solving which sounded like a whole lot of fun, and I was hooked!

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied graphic design at Shillington College, their course was perfect for me as I wanted to get stuck in to the practical stuff and get straight into the industry. One of my lovely teachers suggested I try graphic design and prop making in the film industry. I got in there by doing work experience and started to get paid work on a few ads, a tv show and a film. I ultimately found that it was too much pressure and stress for me, and left my last gig with a wicked case of carpal tunnel. All the while I was in and out of hospo, illustrating in my spare time and refining my style, and slowly got enough jobs to kick it up a notch into a full-time gig!

What does a typical working day include for you right now?

My day usually starts out with riding my bike to the studio, putting on a pot of coffee, checking through emails and writing out a list of jobs for the day. Then the middle of the day will be filled with brainstorming and drawing, sometimes accounting and admin, and then if my brain gets too tired I can get up and do any risograph printing for Helio Press that I have in the print queue. Riso printing involves a bit of heavy lifting, moving around and fixing, which is a great change from the rest of my work at the desk. Then I might finish the day with a cider with my studio buddies! This year I want to try harder at checking emails way less often, procrastinating less, and practicing deep work. Gotta get in that zone.


I reckon we should bin the term ‘networking’ and just focus on getting out there and meeting people with similar interests and goals!


How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I was so stressed out about finding my style for so many years - it's hard when there’s so many fantastic and totally unique styles out there. I just kept drawing through it and tried to not let anyone else’s style influence mine, but I soon found that when I drew things I love with mediums I loved to use, a style developed from there. You have to push through the self doubt, draw and draw and draw, try out a whole bunch of tools, and one day you’ll surprise yourself with your own special style!

What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?

You can totally be an artist if you want to! Don’t listen to all those adults! You can make anything a ‘real job’ if you are ambitious and love what you do. I try to make an extra effort to show teenagers what I do and let them see its possible to have a creative career, whether it is going to schools, running workshops, tabling at zine fairs, or just being transparent and approachable online. I feel like that was something that I didn’t have as a younger person - having a creative career seemed like such an abstract concept. I think instagram has helped a lot too. Teens are able to share their art right in the same feed as professional illustrators and designers, and there is almost no barrier to interacting with your faves!

How important is networking to you?

I reckon we should bin the term ‘networking’ and just focus on getting out there and meeting people with similar interests and goals! There’s nothing better than having a group of mates you can go to for advice on tricky or exciting situations and it also feels great when you’re able to give a bit of helpful advice too. I have a really good group of illustrator/artist/maker friends; it's been so beautiful to see everyone achieve great things in their fields and be able to celebrate the wins alongside them. I don’t think people in our industry need to be competitive at all - we can all support each other and build each other up. The more good exposure your peers’ work gets, the more clients who will seek out creative work from everyone.

Website: ashleyronning.com

Instagram: @ashleyronning

Twitter: @ashleyronning

*photos by Tatanja Ross


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our design community of emerging graphic designers around the globe.