May 18, 2013
[buy the print etc] [newsletter]
A CEO would need a lot of cajones to hang this one in the office.
It’s pretty contentious. Culturally speaking, its nitroglycerin.
But the thing is, there are two ways of reading it:
[One:] Oy vey, this company is a mess. Somebody please shoot me.
[Two:] Guys, becoming a company where this KINDA stuff happens is JUST not an option, and if I hear about it, I’ll be really pissed off.
How it got interpreted, good or bad, would all depend on the company culture.
A junior who hung this in their cube without permission would probably get fired.
A CEO, however, could maybe get away with it. A brave one, anyway.
Hell, it could even do a lot of good.
May 18, 2013
[Originally sent out in the newsletter etc.]
There is a popular idea that everyone hates marketing. So much so, my Twitter buddy, Scott Stratten has built an outstanding business out of the idea.
Of course, it all depends how you define “marketing”.
Making sure you hire really nice, friendly, chirpy people. Well, that’s marketing, but no one is going to hate you for that.
Few people begrudge you for building a better mousetrap, especially if they have a mouse problem. Whether you invade their chill time with a loud, obnoxious commercial, well, that’s different.
The problem people have, of course, is not with marketing, but with bad marketing.
I actually think people love great marketing, even more than they hate bad marketing.
A good thing to remember…
May 18, 2013
[Originally sent out in the newsletter etc.]
I don’t know about you, but it took me twenty years to get from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. And I don’t think that’s outrageously long compared to most people, I really don’t.
Was it worth it? I don’t know, is being alive worth it?
It’s sometimes tempting to think that somehow it would be easier to think of your life not as an adventure, but as something else to be gotten on with, endured.
But it wouldn’t be easier, our spirits weren’t designed that way. And no amount of boozy late nights on the weekends will ever change that.
May 14, 2013
[Originally sent out in the gapingvoid newsletter etc.]
No one is going to like your idea at first. Again, it’s all got to do with change.
New ideas, good and bad, mean change. And people are hardwired to fear change. It’s what kept our species alive for so long.
And then on top of that, there are the haters. They need something to do to fill the time in between watching Gilligan’s Island reruns and taking trips to the liquor store. And hating your idea fulfills that need, sadly.
That being said, just because people aren’t hating it, doesn’t mean your idea is a good one, either.
Like I said in Ignore Everybody, good ideas have lonely childhoods. It’s only after they’ve had a little time to grow up some and be able to beat up the haters (or at least prove them wrong) that they come into their own.
Just something to keep in mind…
May 12, 2013
[Originally sent out in the newsletter etc.]
[Buy the print]
Besides being a Roman Emperor (and damn good one at that), Marcus Aurelius was also one of the great Stoic philosophers.
His “Meditations” is one of the first self-help books, and it’s amazing how much of it still applies today.
Besides being a fantastic read, the interesting thing about Meditations for me is, they were written while Marcus still had a very demanding day job i.e. he wrote them in his military tent at night, while campaigning against the Goths. Like blogging is for many of us, it was his way to unwind.
Marcus Aurelius’ example reinforces my belief that a certain famous myth is a load of crock: that one can only produce great art if one does nothing else, besides “make art” yada, yada, yada.
Like the great art teacher, Robert Henri said, the artist is interested in everything around her, not just the stuff she makes.
But just as the artist must be interested in the world around her, so must the world be interested in the art around it. Both halves feed the other, both halves teach the other, both halves inspire the other.
That’s how real innovation happens, for artists and for everyone else.
May 8, 2013
[Originally published, September, 2007]
December, 2007 marks the 10-year anniversary of my “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards” format. Here’s some random notes on the subject, in no particular order:
1. I came up with the format in early December, 1997 in Chicago. I moved to New York about a week and a half later. But the format didn’t really gel till I got to the East Coast, a couple of months later.
2. At last count I had done over 5,000 of them. That was over two years ago.
3. I never really experienced the “One Big Moment”, the Tipping Point etc. The schtick just built up slowly, day by day.
4. When people ask me what I do, I never say, “I’m a cartoonist”. But the other day a friend of mine made a compelling case for me to start doing so. Not sure what to think yet…
5. I never expected the cartoons to get successful.
6. The way most cartoonists make a living utterly horrifies me.
7. Constantly setting new goals, artistic or otherwise, is harder than it looks.
8. Not caring what other people think is harder than it looks. Especially AFTER you get successful.
9. As I get older the temptation to “tone it down” grows stronger every day. I’m glad I still can resist it, most of the time.
10. My favorite cartoonist for the last while has been David Shrigley, long since before he was hired by Hallam Foe to animate the title sequence. I first met him in Glasgow in the early 1990s. He’s a really lovely guy in person.
11. Musicians have always inspired me far more than other cartoonists, with perhaps the exception of Charles Schultz, Saul Steinberg, Ralph Steadman, Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey.
12. Instead of carrying a portfolio around, I just keep a couple of hundred images on my iPod. Seems to work well enough. Luckily my format is well suited to the device.
[All you need to start building an empire– drawing pen, blank business cards, iPod, smokes, lighter, and a local pub that serves a good pint. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
13. Everything I own would easily fit in the back of a small pickup truck. I’ve never been into possessions. The same was true for my late paternal grandfather, probably the most resonant influence in my life.
14. I find it very liberating to have a format that allows you to store a few years worth of work in a single shoebox.
15. If you offered me $10,000 for this cartoon, I’d probably turn you down.
16. One of the smartest moves I ever made was to figure out that making money indirectly off the cartoons was far easier than trying to make the money directly. If I could teach gapingvoid readers just one thing, that would be it.
17. I can’t imagine how I would have made the cartoons successful without the internet. I just can’t imagine a likely alternative scenario.
18. There are tons of cartoonists who write and/or draw better than me. If my work has one thing going for it, it’s the quite unique and unconventional life that I’ve always seemed to lead.
19. I’ve never envied people with “normal” lives. Nor have I ever envied the people without them.
20. My work generally isn’t for sale. You have to ask me to give you a drawing. And I have to be in the right mood at the time.
21. I have found the standard “struggling artist” myths and stereotypes mostly full of crap. Powerful magnets for Bullshitters, to say the least.
22. I don’t envy, admire or like pretty much 90% of the artists I meet. That’s not me just being old and jaded, that was just as true when I was a teenager.
23. I want to draw cartoons that rip the face off the reader. But in a good way.
24. I have no artistic ambition outside the cartoons. No desire to write a novel or anything like that.
25. I would never recommend to a young person to pursue a career in fine art. Even if she had a talent that was off the scale, I would be slightly hesitant.
26. The most important word in cartooning is “continuity”. Drawing a good cartoon isn’t difficult. Doing it repeatedly, day-in, day-out is far, far harder.
27. Cartoonists who don’t like to think much about the actual business they’re in, who are fond of saying, “I just want to draw” deserve everything they get.
28. Drugs and alcohol are lousy substitutes for inspiration.
29. The older I get, the more solitude the work seems to require.
30. The longer it takes you to become successful, the harder it will be for somebody else to take it away from you.
31. I increasingly find that, as I get older, the only subjects worth writing about are Love, Loss, Religion and Ambition.
32. Ten years ago, when my current cartoon format was “new”, there was a certain magic to it that now I SIMPLY CAN’T RECAPTURE. It took me many years to just let it go.
33. The format works for me because it forces me to keep things simple.
34. If the early days, most of my drawing was done sitting at a bar. Nowadays most of the work is done sitting at the kitchen table. They both have their pros and cons.
35. There’s something about being a celebrity, even a micro-celebrity that poisons the soul.
36. I can totally see why so many artists eventually become recluses, living in the boonies. I find myself increasingly heading in that direction, and I doubt I’ll lift a finger to stop it.
37. In the early days of the cartoons I was living in Manhattan. It would really tickle me when people would describe my cartoons as “SO NEW YORK”. Though now a wee voice tells me that if I still lived there, I’d probably be dead by now. I think a lot of ex-New Yorkers feel that.
38. One of the great things about the format is, hey, they’re just doodles on the back of business cards. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or not.
39. If you told me ten years ago that I would still be using this format pretty much exclusively in 2007, I don’t think I would’ve believed you.
40. I have never really given any serious thought to changing my format in all these ten years. Sometimes I find that odd.
41. Art is simply using the tools at hand to ask the question, “What is possible?” Painting, music, literature, it doesn’t matter what media one uses. What matters is the question.
42. No artist wants their best work behind them. But that day always comes.
43. I was fortunate. Somehow I managed to get the B-Plan baked into the A-Plan. And vice versa.
44. The good news is, my drawings will probably be worth a lot of money one day. The other good news is, I probably won’t be alive to see it.
45. I feel extraordinarily fortunate and grateful.
[Related Link: “How To Be Creative”. 10,000 words from 2004 etc.]
May 7, 2013
There’s a great article in Slate [Thanks to Austin Kleon for the link] about how a lot of famous artists managed to still do their thing while still holding down a regular, long-term day job. Joseph Cornell, one of my favorite artists, was mentioned:
The artist Joseph Cornell struggled with this arrangement. He made his first shadow box in 1934, not long after securing a 9-to-5 job in a Manhattan textile studio. It was tedious and low-paying work, but Cornell stayed there for six years. Nights he spent at his kitchen table, sorting and assembling materials for his boxes. In 1940 Cornell finally mustered the courage to quit his job and pursue his art full-time. Still, as much as he had hated working, Cornell found that he hated not working, too. During the 1940s, he returned to the workforce twice, happy at first to resume the reassuring routine. Then, after a period of months, he would grow frustrated and quit.
Wage-earner-by-day, artist-by-night? By choice? Sure, why not? It’s why I wrote The Sex & Cash Theory in the first place. Heck, there are plenty of times when I think I should have done more of it, even.
The only problem with this plan is, the kind of jobs that can pay your bills while still leaving you enough bandwidth afterwards to really pursue your calling… Those jobs don’t really exist any more. Maybe they never did.
May 6, 2013
THE HUGHTRAIN MkII
1. The market for something to believe in is infinite. We are here to find meaning. We are here to help other people do the same. Everything else is secondary. We humans want to believe in our own species. And we want people, companies and products in our lives that make it easier to do so. That is human nature.
2. The most important word in marketing is “complicity”. It’s not enough for the customer to love your product. They have to love your process as well.
3. Your customers are becoming smarter about your market a lot faster than you are. Thanks to the internet, your customers are able to talk to each other. They are able to find better information about your product than you are able of willing to give them, much quicker than you are capable of giving them. The conversation will happen with or without you, you’re better off joining in.
4. The primary job of an advertiser is not to communicate benefit, but to communicate conviction. It’s not about what you have; it’s about why it matters.
5. A company’s primary role is to function as an “idea amplifier”. A company’s primary role is not to make or do stuff. Making and doing are mere subsets.
6. The future of advertising is internal. The hardest part of a CEO’s job is sharing his enthusiasm with his colleagues, especially when a lot of them are making one-fiftieth of what he is. Selling the company to the general public is a piece of cake compared to selling it to the actual people who work for it.
7. Your job is no longer about selling. Your job is about firing off as many synapses in your customer’s brain as possible. The more synapses that are fired off, the more dopamines are released. Dopamines are seriously addictive. The more dopamines you release, the more the customer will come back for more. Your customer thinks he is coming back to you for sane, rational, value-driven reasons. He is wrong. He is coming back to feed.
8. Good-bye, Messages. Hello, Social Gesture. A well-executed marketing campaign is an act of love.
9. Control the conversation by improving the conversation. Choosing to have a“smarter conversation” with the market is not a marketing decision; it’s a moral decision.
10. The more porous the membrane that separates your business from your market, the easier it is for both parties to be in alignment. And the more porous the membrane, the easier it is to fix non-alignment.
[Originally published November, 2006]
May 6, 2013
I stole this off the Internet; a photograph taken by my old Twitter pal, Amber Osborne of a print I designed for Liz Strauss’ recent #SOBcon conference.
A conference which, if the Twittersphere is to be believed, was a huge success.
Liz and I have known each other for a while now; we usually bump into each other at SXSW and hang out. She is one smart, groovy lady. [Her Twitter page is here.]
She once did this great talk about the importance of, “Finding the people who won’t let you fail”, which I think is a beautiful thought [YouTube video here], so I made it into a drawing.
I also heard that Liz has cancer. That is the saddest news possible, it really is, but in spite of that, there was Liz turning up to the SOB confernce in spite of her illness, surrounded by people who think the world of her. It was moving to witness from afar.
God go with you, Liz. Like I said, you are one smart, groovy lady. Rock on.