Today we’d like to introduce you to Lonnie Lardner.
Lonnie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My love affair with art began with a Venus Paradise Coloring Set when I was in kindergarten. I can still recall the numbers on each pencil. Poppy Red was Number 3. Peacock Blue was Number 7. I would color all day after school, and beg my parents for more coloring time before lights out.
In high school, I had a teacher who imparted the lessons which would form the building blocks of a budding art career. Mr. Printz encouraged me every day. He taught me to celebrate my successes and learn from my failures. When I presented a project, he would always say, “Does it raise your blood pressure, Lon?” He was in his gentle way, teaching me that as an artist, there is only one important metric. When It’s right, you will feel it. I use that measurement in everything I do today.
I studied Art, English, and French at the University of Denver, and spent my Junior Year Abroad in the South of France studying painting.
After graduating, I had my sights set on becoming an illustrator for Scientific American. I loved drawing detail. The more intricate the cells, the better. But while I was looking for that perfect art gig, my older brothers convinced me to apply for a job as a tour guide at NBC, to make a little income. They had each done it, and each gone on to stellar careers in TV sports.
I joined the NBC Page staff, and that set me on a career path that soon had me writing news for radio and TV anchors. One day, a local TV News reporter called in sick. The News Director asked me to grab a crew and go interview the Mayor of New York about an ongoing sanitation strike. I was suddenly in the deep end of a pool I previously had no intention of swimming in. It was exhilarating. Riding back to the station I made up my mind, this was what I wanted to do, tell stories on TV. I started as a reporter in Little Rock, Arkansas, before moving on to gigs in Nashville, Chicago, LA and New York.
But still, that longing to create art never ceased. In 1992, right after what became known as the Rodney King riots, I was challenged by my TV boss to find an off-camera way to serve the community. Giving back turned out to be feeding my own soul. I started a small inner-city kids art program in the most beleaguered section of Los Angeles: South Central. 28 years later and we’re still going today. At each event, we serve several hundred kids, and for me, the best part is helping them create a drawing or painting that is uniquely theirs. I get to encourage them to celebrate their inner artists, the way Mr. Printz did for me so long ago.
A few years later, I began to realize that while being a TV journalist was a great gig, and paid the bills, my passion was still art. Out of the blue an artist friend at Entertainment Weekly called and asked if I could design and teach a Creativity Class for Fortune Magazine’s annual “Most Powerful Women Summit.” Fortune is known for its super creative conferences, so the curriculum had to be worthy of what these extraordinary women represented.
The names on the guestlist blew me away. A journalist could spend an entire career just hoping to land an interview with anyone of these women, and suddenly, I was going to be teaching them. It was the deep end of the pool again, and I dove in. I provided theory, some technical guidance, but mostly my lecture was designed to instill my belief in their ability to create something magical. The talent emerged from the 100 canvases instantly. It made sense: these women had spent their lives accomplishing more than most — in an arena that was not always friendly or encouraging. In short, they kicked ass.
That experience inspired me to further develop a series of Creativity Classes for global companies seeking a strategic advantage. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the top minds in business: men and women who continue to creatively and fearlessly lead their companies to genuine breakthroughs, discoveries, and innovation.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
For an artist, a smooth road is boring. Give us something with cracks, and texture, hills and valleys. Clients on the other hand, require a smooth road. So the greatest challenge for Creative Voltage has been, keep the experience organic and creative for the participants while making sure the planning and execution are seamless and stress-free for the people who hire us in the first place. The truth is it’s just my nature to be optimistic. I’ve always had the blessing of being able to see the learning experience in every obstacle.
Just like for thousands of other businesses, Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge we have ever faced. Creative Voltage workshops are designed to teach people to engage the right side of their brains, and we had to take some of our own medicine to make sure the global pandemic wasn’t an existential threat to our company. Obviously, the in-person conferences we had booked for 2020 were canceled, so we set about creating a
hybrid/virtual version of our hands-on workshops — with every bit of participation and creativity. We have found ways to create art with our smartphones — and no one has to leave their home. It’s actually kind of cool — because it challenges us to think differently — which is exactly the point.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Creative Voltage story. Tell us more about the business.
At Creative Voltage, we provide hands-on Creativity Workshops for Fortune 500 corporate executives. Our “right-side-of-the-brain” artistic exercises unleash what we like to call our client’s “creative superpowers.”
Like most companies, our clients are looking for a competitive edge. What sets them apart is the understanding that there are creative ways to solve problems that they have not explored. A lot of that exploration comes only when you venture outside your comfort zone. That’s what we help with. The trailblazing companies who do this — like GE, Siemens, Deloitte and Johnson & Johnson — always seem to find a place on the top of the “Most Creative Companies” lists.
For many of these high powered, type-A, left-brain dominant executives, trying to create art is WAY outside their comfort zones. Sometimes putting a paintbrush in their hands forces them into that “deep end of the pool.”
We take pride in custom-designing our workshops to a client’s needs. We listen. We always try to find the right fit. We offer a huge range of art services — from interactive graffiti walls to environmental art installations. It’s always a joy to brainstorm an idea and supercharge it into a mind-blowing experience that’s memorable and fun.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m a big believer in luck. But as you may have guessed, for me, luck is often found hiding behind risk. You have to embrace the risk, to get the luck. By stepping out of my own comfort zone, sometimes with hesitation, sometimes with resistance, I’ve been exposed to unimaginable opportunities: international travel, introductions to and conversations with extraordinary thought leaders in business, and a chance to fine tune my mission and life’s purpose.
- Address: Creative Voltage
5737 Kanan Rd. (#205)
Agoura HIlls, CA 91301
- Website: www.lonnielardner.com
- Phone: 805-490-7099
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @lonnie.lardner
- Facebook: Lonnie Lardner
- Twitter: @LonnieLardner
- Other: www.thelardnerreport.com
Photos by Josh Kaplan and Lonnie Lardner