Ron Cole comes from Los Angeles, California. Though born and raised in upstate New York, Ron thinks of himself as a product of LA after having started his career there, raising his family there, and taking in the Marina del Rey and Santa Monica culture for so many years. "It's a love-hate relationship", Ron says of the place. "There is an energy out there like nowhere else; like living everywhere in the world at the same time. I miss the ocean, our view of the Hollywood sign from our balcony, but I don't miss how all of that energy could leave a person completely drained by the end of every day."
In Los Angeles, Ron worked for several companies as an industrial designer and product development engineer. Mattell, JPL, McDonnell Douglas, Dreamworks and Disney all put Ron to work on new products, model making and art. "It was so diverse," Ron explains. "I was designing and making a toy bike for Barbie one week and some futuristic classified national defense contraption for JPL the next."
While in California, Ron developed a unique way to paint new artwork. "I was sending 2D work to other artists because I'd never completely made the jump from being a painter to being truly commercial about my art. As a businessman I needed to be more diverse; a one stop shop. Painting with brushes on canvas could only be pushed so far in terms of realism (clients demanded photo-realism), but digital painting was too stark and clean - it wasn't realistic, either. I combined the two, pushing old school painting as far as possible, then completing it in the digital realm." The results won Ron high accolades from his clients, such as Rio Casinos in Las Vegas and other big LA developers. "I want to leave people confused," Ron says. "It looks like a photograph, but the lighting, the composition. It can't be. What is it? When I get that reaction I know my time was well spent."
Ron abandoned Los Angeles (that's how he puts it) in order to support his wife's own career ambitions. The move took his family to Zanesville, Ohio. From LA to a small southern Ohio town was a culture shock. "I know this sounds weird, but the first thing I noticed after we moved here was that there are babies all over the place. They're kind of rare in LA. And pickup trucks. A pickup truck in LA is a Hummer H1 - and when you saw one out there it usually belonged to Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of the people here are terrific, and I haven't seen a police helicopter since the move." Challenged to find a outlet for his experience, Ron turned to his personal interest in history and aviation. "Not a lot of stuff is built here, but I can paint airplanes anywhere," he says. "It used to be said that an artist couldn't sell his work online - but I've proven them wrong."
Ron put his LA business experience to work with his new endeavor: Cole's Aircraft Aviation Art. He built a new web store from scratch and opened an Ebay store. In a very short time Cole's Aircraft had not only proven itself to be sustainable, it was succeeding beyond any of Ron's previous ventures. "It goes to show that if you have a good product and know how to market it, anything is possible." But Ron points out that his artwork is only a small part of his operation. "It's 80% marketing," he explains. "There are plenty of artists who are better artists than me, but how do they target customers? What do they offer that's different? How many of them put in fourteen hours a day creating ads, studying analytics, and creating a good product. A beautiful painting is not necessarily a good product that will make you money. It's not a romantic way to approach it, but if you want to do what you want to do and live - that's how it has to be done."
Ron Cole isn't content to spend his money on himself - though he does enjoy driving his red Maserati around town on sunny days: "Zanesville has a terrific art community with some amazing talent," he says. "I frankly don't make much money from my work in town, but I opened a gallery here, help the local museum of art, and serve on several local boards and committees." It's about giving something back. "I know I'm this LA transplant with the associated stereotype that isn't always too far from the mark," he jokes, "but nothing gives me more joy than helping my new community, especially its artists. When you make your hobby your profession - you need to find a new hobby. This is my hobby now. Helping folks. But I still love painting airplanes."