I draw on everything. Napkins, placemats, scraps of paper, bills, checks, you name it, I have probably left a mark on it. Including the dirt on the side of a my TRUCK and even sometimes, the side of the occasional school bus! I do these kinds of cartoons ALL THE TIME, for Shannon, the kids, family, etc. They are fast and just meant to get “the guys” out on paper. I never thought much about them, it was just something that I have ALWAYS done. They don’t take that long to make, just a few minutes each, sometimes even seconds.
A few months ago I received a box of business cards for my new position at SERVPRO of The Saint Croix Valley. A THOUSAND OF THEM. My Boss told me; “When you get to the bottom of the box, I’ll buy you some more!” If you have never seen a thousand business cards lined up in a box, I ASSURE you, it is A LOT! The goal with theses cards? Get rid of them, all of them. Now I am no stranger to the game of passing out business cards, there is an etiquette to it, when, how many, and to whom all play a role but a thousand of them? I seriously wondered how long it was going to take me to pass them out to clients!
Fast forward to last months sales cycle. I try to see my insurance clients every 6 weeks and I was preparing to go out and while I was getting ready I happened to DUMP the card box!
Cards. Covered. Everywhere.
I had sometime to kill because I was waiting for a co-worker who was riding along with me and while I was putting the cards back into the box I realized that there was printing on only ONE side of the cards. I placed the box back in the desk and while I was waiting, pulled one card out and drew one of my quick Doodleton Guys on the card, holding a jack-o-lantern, and after looking at it for a few seconds realized how much like a greeting card it looked like! Just for fun I wrote at the top; “Happy Halloween!” then I signed the bottom. Ha! It really DID look like a greeting card!
It was at that moment that it hit me to hand these cards out to my clients, just as a way to say “hi” and for them to remember me by. I do service many clients but I found that if I do just a few everyday I can replenish for the day ahead and only have a few left.
So, at the beginning of the last sales cycle I started taking the blank side of my SERVPRO business cards and putting hand drawn cartoons of the Doodleton guys with a message for the next calendar holiday on them, Halloween. In the middle of all this, we attended my very first Corporate Sales meeting in the Wisconsin Dells. I handed out a couple off them and by the end of the meeting people were coming up to me asking for them! The next week I finished the routes and heard several compliments and “You did this?” and when they found out my background I even managed to see a rise in views on my website. I was pleased.
Within the week I started getting responses from these little cards. I got an email from an CSR asking if it was ok for them to scan the image and send it on to a family friend, I said “sure” and forgot about it. Fast forward to THIS sales cycle. My very first stop the woman behind the desk greeted me by asking me if I was going to have a Christmas Card this time?? I handed her a card that I had just drawn an hour prior and she laughed it and said; “Hey! Now I have a collection!” By the end of the day I had met with several offices that had asked the same thing, several of them had last months card posted up on the wall and taped the new Christmas card right next to it. At one office I made a second stop, after a customer left and found that they had cut out the cartoon that I did in the newsletter and put it with their cards!
A day later, I received a text message from another office…
There was NO WAY I was goin to turn this down, I made a SPECIAL 2-fold card and delivered it. A few hours, I received this…
These photos are just the beginning. The NEXT DAY I had TWO different offices introduce me to a couple of agents as “Sketch, the guy that draws those cards!” How cool is that?! I have seen the cards taped to computers, stuck to side of cubicle walls, and duplicated many, many times!
How lucky am I?!?!?
There are many things that I can say that I have accomplished in my short life here on earth. I have addressed politicians and they have listened to what I had to say, I have spoken to groups of people that have numbered in the thousands, I have stood in Disney World on Christmas Day and felt the energy of thousands of people on one of the best days of our calendar year, and today…I was in Best Buy for Black Friday. I saw the best and the worst. I saw people literally jump into mountains of products only to have that same pile disappear moments later, I saw people make fun of others as they were forced to crowd together, like cattle, in lines as long as the eye can see and I saw others be defiant standing in the ways of people that were simply just trying to get around them in an isle. At one point in time, I simple grabbed ahold of Shannon’s hand like a vice, placed it in the center of my back and PLOWED through angry people just to get to the other side for Shannon’s own safety…I don’t care WHAT time of year it is, people move when a 6’5”, 300 lbs man comes barreling through. Thank goodness they did, I had no intention of stopping to see what they were screaming at each other for.
I also saw something else. While standing in what seemed to be miles and miles of check out lines, crying children, and complaining customers; I saw Shannon. For a second she looked up at me and smiled. At that moment I realized, that I should be thankful. Thankful that we could afford to go shopping for “non” essentials like electronics, thankful that we were financially stable enough to put this on our credit card that our jobs help us pay for, thankful for my wife, when so many these days find it impossible to stay together. Thankful that we would take our packages out to our paid for vehicle and take them to the home we own and then have a meal of LEFTOVERS from the GIGANTIC meal that Shannon prepared for us, and her family, the day prior. I found in that line, in that crowded store, on the BUSIEST shopping day of the year, surrounded by the ugliness of others self preoccupation, I found thankfulness. I leaned over, kissed her on the top of her head, enjoyed the view of others and we went home. Today, on Black Friday, I got the best gift of all….peace.
The new book is finished and ready to go to print, unfortunately it is not with the printer that I had originally been going through. In an effort to lower the cost of publishing I am shrinking the size of the book to "Manga" size(5"x7.5") and I was going to publish through an online vendor called "Kablaam" who is very popular for printing but it would take some time for turn around. I changed the format of the cartoon and the book in June with intentions of doing it this way. Fortunately for me the situation changed about a month and a half ago. While getting organized to speak at a local art store in Ellsworth, WI "Brush Strokes" check out their link here, the owner told me that they were getting equipment in to do printing of books! I had to jump at the chance...any time I get to support local business I am going to EVEN IF it changes my publishing schedules. The owner Kayleen, an energetic and positive artist herself, deserves all the support that I can give since she is offering a place for local kids to come and do art work, as well as welcoming the community classes on different art forms, I had no choice, I felt I had to support her because it is the right thing to do.
What does this do to my upcoming show at St Bridgets Craft Fair? Nothing. We will be selling vouchers at the table for the book for reduced rates and a little bonus to be decided. While I believe in supporting St B's and their craft fair I also think this is the proper way to handle this so EVERYONE benefits from this. Thats the best way isn't it?
I can talk. I can talk and talk and talk and talk and talk! You give me a little bit of information about something and I can create a sales pitch around it, package it for a presentation and then deliver it sprinkled with enough humor that the client will want to buy the product AND the presenter, all at the same time! Did I mention I like to talk?
On the opposite end of the scale one of the drawbacks to being a cartoonist is that I can spend vast amounts of time by myself staring at a drawing board with no human interaction. This can be for hours and sometimes even days. I have been known to loose entire weekends and holidays in the pursuit of a deadline. Currently there are no windows in my current office so even if I did look up I couldn’t tell you what time of day it is anyway!
And there between those two differences lies the problem.
A long time ago I read somewhere that “it is the responsibility of this generation to pass on their knowledge to the next generation” and I one hundred percent agree. Basically, if we didn’t ,how would there be any advancement of anything? More importantly thought I see it as if you don’t pass on knowledge and/or passion how will anyone get it? I realized this about a decade ago when I first started talking to groups about my background and cartooning.
Since then I have spoken to THOUSANDS of students in Studies, Assemblies, Libraries, Schools, and Comic Book events. While I don’t get to every student there are those four or five that, out of the group, really seem to understand what I say to them and have the drive to want to keep going.
I am fortunate, after to talking to young people about the art, I benefit from it as well and it gets me a little excited to go back to my own drawing board to work on my own things.
How lucky am I?
Many years ago when I first got the idea to take my art and publish it on the internet, options were, slim, to say the least. Electronic tablets were not anything close to what they are today (back when I originally had the idea, not even scanners were the norm! My first scanner cost me around $600 and was bigger than my present day computer!) However, there was one thing that I saw, that was clear to me, that was going to affect how I did my work and that was the application named “Adobe Photoshop.” Now when I was in school we were working on version 4.0 of Photoshop and as of the writing of this article my Adobe Photoshop CC is on v.20 and WOW have things changed! I will assume that most of you know what Photoshop is and how it works but, for those of you that are just hearing about it I will summarize it in a nutshell. Adobe Photoshop is a in-depth computer application that manipulates photos, pixel by pixel. It can do everything from repair old photos, to the other end of the spectrum and create things in photos that aren’t even there(the final project that I had for INTRO to Photoshop was a photo of my long deceased Mother shaking hands with my Father’s 2nd wife on the day of their wedding. I received and A on the project and my father received a heart attack!). All this is to say, for a graphic artist skilled in this application the sky is the limit. I saw this application as an avenue to create work directly on the computer, color it, shade it, package it and then distribute it, all this and never once would you have to use a sheet of paper! Unfortunately, while I was right, I was also a little head of the curve, about twenty years ahead.
Now fast forward those twenty years and those ideas are the norm. Technology has given the artist the ability to create amazing worlds, do fantastic works of art and has even forced the Federal Government to up there game in the acquisition of counterfeiting criminals. I believe all these things changed because of one computer application, Adobe Photoshop. There are many knock offs of this app and regardless of whether you like the application or despise the corporate side of the company, there is no getting around that Adobe cut the path and continues to set the standard for the industry.
I used Photoshop, religiously. I did everything in this program and I swore by it for cartooning, it could make my work pop off the screen and I could fix anything with just few clicks of a mouse. I impressed non-believers by fixing photo problems while they watched and I didn’t think anything could change my relationship with Photoshop…
…then a company named Smith Micro released "Manga Studio."
Now again, I will not go down the technical aspects of this application but if you are not familiar with this application just know that Smith Micro had taken what I would consider a Photoshop "base" and streamlined it geared directly for comic book artists, Manga Artists more specifically, but comic artist in general hailed this program as the next thing in the progression of comics/comic book creation.
When I was first introduced to this application, it was an one of those “end-cap” applications that sell for $29.99 and were mixed in with other apps like “500 different kinds of Solitaire” and "Mahjong." When I opened it up I saw immediately what they were trying to do with this app and I was impressed.
There was only one immediate problem that I could see from this app. While they had it all set up for the artist…INPUT of said work could just NOT come from a mouse, I was going to need a tablet. I was out shopping one day at a local Office Supply Store and I found a Wacom Intuos for a fairly decent price, a couple hundred dollars, and I bought it. Brought it home, plugged it into my computer and found myself having to look at the screen after years of staring at the paper, it was a little awkward but, it was exhilarating!
I played around with this set for several months not really getting into it, then a year or so later a cartoonist friend of mine, Daniel Mohr (http://wolfiebbad.com) let me sit down with his Cintiq Tablet, that counts as external monitor/input tablet, 30 seconds after sitting with the device…I was hooked. I bought one not to long after and set it up.
Moments after setting up the hardware, I was up and running and I have used it that way to this day. Though I did update Manga studio version 4 to Clip Studio Paint 5 Pro, which is essentially version 5, they just changed the name.
That was 2015, I have been using this setup since now and while it has been a somewhat expensive investment, I highly recommend it. I handle multiple assignments, weekly, and this has been the best way that I have found to get through my assignment load. I have done other things to make my workload more manageable also, pre-made templates for layout work, finding certain settings for pen sensitivity and finally, button assignments for repeated work (undo, erase, etc.) are all a matter of personal preferences. There is only one real drawback to this setup and that is that there are no “originals” to be able to hold onto or sell since it is all digital artwork, but I have found that if I just draw the project by hand, scan it in, use the scan as the blue line work, that is a good work around.
I am not saying that this is the perfect setup or something everyone has to do, I am just saying this is how I have it set up and it works best for me.
Hope this helps.
A few months ago, I was approached by someone who said that they loved my work and wondered if I would be willing to do some of that work for a family member of theirs? Something we in the industry call a “commissioned piece.” Now, when someone asks me for something like this, there are a series of questions that follow that are most always never thought of originally but, because of experience, are a natural progression to the work; what size, specific wording, the ever important price and, the final question I ask, when would you like this done by? To which most of the answers I hear in return are always along the lines of, “Oh, whenever you get a free minute, just whip something up.”
Now, to be clear here, I need to point out that at this moment, TWO different conversations are happening inside the respective heads of Artist and Client. The Client might be thinking, “I don’t want to interrupt you” or “I believe that you can do this commission for me rather quickly” or even, “I am not sure what your schedule is?” But that is not what the Artist hears with those words. What the Artist is hearing is, “I’m not really sure if this is how I want the idea to take form” or “does the Client understand the commission?” Or in some cases, “does the Client really even want the work done or is it still just a thought?”
While a potential Client might not want to seem imposing, they must understand that this art form is pretty much a deadline driven industry and while they may not want to seem forceful, they need to remember to clearly communicate to the Artist which mental ‘Deadline Pile’ this request needs to be put in. Should this be done by Christmas? … List A. Should this be done by next month? … List B. Should this be done by next week? … List C, and so on and so on.
Cartoonists and comic book Artists are trained to think in deadlines and that is how they gauge their workload. Deadline by deadline.
The point is this, clear communication with the Artist is not an ‘infringement of their time or rights’ … it’s good business practice. You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without knowing your side of the deal and purchasing art, while on a less grander scale, is no different. Any seasoned Artist who doesn’t ask these questions, I would consider inexperienced or undisciplined; either way, know your rights, know their rights and communicate expectations that way everyone knows where they stand. It will make for an easier transaction and save some frustration down the road.
Have a thought about or agree with this article? Comment below and let me know what you think?
There are a couple here that I did not publish in the dailies. Let me know what you think.
I started a different Journal yesterday in addition to the one I am already doing. It follows along the same line as the Personal one that I publish regularly but it goes into more in-depth work for me with meanings and such. I won't be publishing these as much because, well, there personal and private meant for me and sometimes are not meant to be funny or profound, they just mean something to me. No rhyme. No reason. Just thoughts.
Also, since Spring is" legally" here, I am going to start up again with the "Out and About" series again. Where I am going to be packing up my stuff and heading out to Parks, Landmarks, local places of interest, to give some history, background and some fun. As Shannon told me last night; "Camping Season is almost upon us!"
If you have any recommendations on places where you think I'd might like, that are good for creativity, or you just wanna se me try post a response below.