#9: An Art Business & Life "Outside the Lines"

What do we do when the reality of something does not line up with our expectations of it? How do we slow down, get quiet, and observe the signs around us? How do we align our passions with our daily lives? Or explore creative outlets in the midst of our busyness and responsibilities?

This month Jenifer and Adriénne talk with Melanie Cramer, creator and owner of Outside the Lines Young Artists’ Studio. She made a business out of her passions, and shares her journey with us. We discuss these topics and so much more in this beautiful episode.

Melanie believes that our words matter, and shares some of her tips for talking with children about their artwork in this episode’s Freebie.

At Brazen BFF podcast, blog, & community, women’s stories are the inspiration we need to help each other level up in work and life. If you want more out of your work and life, you have come to the right place!

  • Melanie said something nice about a child’s artwork and was rewarded with a beautifully executed drawing the next week. It was a helpful reminder to her about how much her words matter.

  • Jenifer said “No, that won’t work” to an idea that would solve an administrative problem, but that would prevent her from being paid.

  • Adriénne has been making time for music in her life, playing piano in the mornings and guitar on “Music Monday” evenings.

  • Melanie discloses a tendency to skip steps and not always plan ahead as much as she’d like, sometimes bringing about unsavory results with her students’ artwork. Jenifer and Adriénne point out that this project failure, though not the desired outcome, still might be serving her students well as an opportunity for problem solving and growth.

  • Jenifer had made a plan to stop getting into negative conversations about work and immediately forgot her plan and entered a negativity spiral when she had coffee with a colleague. Melanie reminds her to find the space where she can appropriately vent her work frustrations, rather than leaving them completely unexpressed.

  • Adriénne canceled work/life balance day with Jenifer and regrets the decision.

  • Melanie celebrates her brave, brazen daughters – Virginia, the fearless, and Annie, who uses her clever creativity to help her approach scary situations. When speaking of how much she has learned from her daughters, who call her out when she’s overly judgmental, she says, “All children teach you. Just listen.”

  • Adriénne discusses her new hero Brené Brown, renowned researcher and storyteller, who studies shame, vulnerability, and wholehearted living. In particular, she expresses how many insights she has gained from reading one of Brené Brown’s bestselling books, The Gifts of Imperfection, where she learned that “Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.” 

  • Jenifer is all excited that her department finally has an admin who makes things function, Helene Clehr!

Melanie Cramer

Melanie Cramer

Creator & Owner of Outside the Lines Young Artists' Studio

Melanie Cramer spent a lot of her childhood dreaming. Would she grow up to be a ballerina, an artist, or maybe a teacher like her parents? At High Point College (now University) she settled on art and segued her college internship into her first career as an art director for the local newspaper. Ten years later she moved to Norfolk to focus on her growing family, fell in love with her daughter’s preschool and taught the three-year-old class. She found the best part of preschool to be messy, messy art, so after six years in the classroom she founded her own art studio for children – Outside the Lines. Since 2011, it has been her daily joy to share what she believes about the power of art with the next generation.

  • Melanie tells us how art has always been part of her life.
  • High school teachers and college professors inspired her and when she graduated she became art director at a local newspaper, a career she loved.
  • Then she had a baby, suffered from severe postpartum depression and lost her job, her husband, and her home.
  • She tells us how her own unreasonable expectations of herself as a mother contributed to her depression and how it took a really long time to recover.
  • We learn how a move and the start of a new life led her to teaching preschool and eventually to opening her own art studio for children.

We discussed:

  • Thinking about how you get paid in your business comes FIRST.
  • Aspects of going into business with friends.
  • Experimentation & failure in art, especially Michelangelo & Leonardo’s dueling frescoes, and the experimental technique that led to Leonardo’s painting essentially melting on the plaster.
  • How creativity is making something every day and how we all need that.
  • We have to know our limitations and work within them, even though it’s sometimes painful to do so.
  • The aspect of creativity that involves exploring one idea over and over.
  • Postpartum depression
  • How what we thought we would be like as mothers was basically impossible.
  • When figuring out your business, Melanie recommends looking for the BEST PARTS of your current job. What do you love? Then see where that lines up with a need in the community. Also, respect your limits when forming your business model.
  • Melanie advises us towards following small signs to the next thing in our lives.
  • “People who are quiet often are very deep. You don’t necessarily know, because they haven’t told you. If you don’t listen, you will never know.”
  • “Maybe if the world were a little quieter, we could hear each other better.”
  • “Look for the signs. There are always signs… If you’re quiet enough and you’re paying close enough attention.”
  • [Look for] “…what brings you joy, and follow that… as far as you can.”
  • “Also be open to the possibility that it may not work out. There’s a lot to be said for knowing your limits. Look at not just the fact that it’s not working and you’re not getting what you want from it, but look at all the moving parts. There may be one aspect of it that if that little aspect changed… As you’re looking for that thing that sparks passion in you, if you come up to a roadblock, look to see if it’s really a roadblock or something that you could change a little.”
  • “We are told to be fearless. We are told to be strong. We are told that we can do anything. That’s kind of what got me depressed. It’s important to recognize that it’s okay to step back if something’s not really feeding you like you thought it would. That’s okay. Give yourself a break.”
  • “All children teach you. Just listen.”

We love you for listening!


Thank you for listening to “An Art Business & Life ‘Outside the Lines'”, Episode 9 of Brazen BFF Podcast.

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Special thanks for joining us. Until next time!

For more information on Melanie’s business, Outside the Lines Young Artists’ Studio, please visit:

If you are a pleaser who is enthusiastic about everything but has trouble accepting and embracing your limits, Jenifer’s “Say No and Let it Go” webinar is made for you!

  • Discover WHY saying no will help you level up in your career.
  • Learn WHEN to say no.
  • Get simple strategies to know HOW to say no… and then let it go.
  • Get the FREE (funny, helpful) Say No Flow Chart.
  • Q&A Session included following the webinar presentation.

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