We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Shaw and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
The most important lesson I have learned in running my own business and pursuing a career in art, is that failure is the only pathway to success. We learn from failure not success. Art is perhaps one of the toughest pathways to a successful career, especially if you want to make it on your own. Since I started my journey in art back in 2009, I have learned so much since then, and there were many failures along the way. There were some times where I was ready to give it all up, even as recently as 2017. With each failure and obstacle that came my way, I stuck with it (with the support of my amazing wife, family, and close friends) and now have consistent work coming in. I am not complacent though. I know there is always room for growth and I never stop learning. I have the best clients I can ask for and I love my job. Yes, it’s not stop work and promotion, but I wouldn’t trade working for myself for another career.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What sets me apart from others is the fact that I want to share my love of drawing with others, by volunteering my time drawing at children’s hospitals with One Step Closer Foundation, teaching drawing to kids, and doing art giveaways from time to time. I want my art to, at the very least, give someone a smile and brighten their day. I also want to see my colleagues and other artist friends do well. I got to where I am today with the support of my wife, family, friends, and longtime clients. It was not an easy path. I overcame the challenges not only with support from others, but by remaining persistent and not giving in to the frustrations of failures over that time. I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way. I learned not to believe everything you hear right away from potential clients. There have been promises made to me that did not come through, payments not completed, people and companies backing out of high paying gigs last minute, and dry spells that have hit hard in the past. These, along with a few other tough incidents, have made me want to give up at times. This is when I learned to not give up no matter how bad things get, and also that it is okay to be selective on clients to work with. By being selective on some work, I have seen my client quality and work quality improve. About three years ago, I nearly threw in the towel altogether. The main thing is to adapt to these challenges and obstacles, learn from them, and not to give up. However, I will say this, the positive experiences I have had in the past 11 years have outweighed the bad. I love what I do. As far my story with my brand Cartoon U, it goes likes this: Cartoon U, originally started out to help teach kids the building blocks of drawing cartoons through the use of shapes. With Cartoon U, I published How to Draw books for kids of all ages that build upon this technique, and also the Cartoon University YouTube Channel for kids. Over time, I transitioned from teaching drawing to kids to creating and selling custom art and logos to businesses and individuals. I still teach drawing to kids, but on a more limited basis in conjunction with iWrite, the non-profit group I am associated with. I will also do an occasional guest artist-teacher spot at Mark Kistler’s Fine Arts Summer Camps. I specialize in cartooning, digital art, fan art, hand-drawn originals, character designs and logo designs. I am most known for my cartooning and illustration work. I am most proud of being associated with organizations that convey a positive message in the community, such as iWrite, Mark Kistler’s Imagination Initiative, One Step Closer Foundation, school districts, and local libraries. I have also had the honor of celebrities reposting my work on their social media pages and giving me shout outs.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I had a really close friend come in from out of town I would take them several places around the Houston area. First off the food in Houston is amazing, because it is one of the most diverse cities in the whole nation. The focal point would be food. We would have to stop by two BBQ places that are amazing, Burns BBQ and Corkscew BBQ. Then we would hop around for great Tex-Mex and Authentic Mexican food where you have to speak Spanish to order. I can’t leave my favorite pizza joint off the list, Star Pizza on Washington Ave. Also some of the many great Vietnamese restaurants we could go to. Besides food there are many micro breweries throughout the Houston area that make so of the best craft beers. We’d also have to go to Haak Vineyards for some nice wine and a tour of the facilities. Midtown Houston and Downtown Houston have great places to shop, eat and drink. Afterwards we could catch a show at The House of Blues or Loko Wrestling at Houston Premier Arena. There is so much to do in and around Houston.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people to give thanks to. I know I am going to leave someone out, so I’m sorry in advance! Here are some key people and groups I owe my career to for all of the support, encouragement, and mentorship: My wife Maddi, my family – which consists of my Parents and two brothers Justin and Dan, and my sister in law Kelly, Melissa Williams-Murphy and the whole team at iWrite Literacy Organization, Commander Mark Kistler, Barry Blanton, Jaime Martinez and all of the Loko Wrestling crew, Thomas Barnes, my good friends Jason and Thy, the Theriot family, the Burr family, and many more.