Drawn to Success Preface
"ART IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE"
"My Future's So Bright I've Got To Wear Sunglasses!"
THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME...
The 21st Century will be the greatest era for the Storytelling Arts in the History Of Mankind, and Those Who Master This Language Will Have No Limits To The Riches Placed Before Them.
That's right. You read that right.
"The 21st Century will be the greatest era for the Storytelling Arts in the History Of Mankind, and Those Who Master This Language Will Have No Limits To The Riches Placed Before Them!!"
NO LIMITS. RICHES. SUCCESS. WEALTH. HAPPINESS. A OPEN INVITATION TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE... AND EVEN CHANGE THE WHOLE WORLD!
How can I say this? Because I know that the universal language of all of mankind is art. No matter where you go in the world, a picture that is well drawn is understood. A story, that has no words, but is a series of pictures, or images, so well done that they grab your eye and won't let go can change the hearts, the moods, the souls of anyone from anywhere in the world.
HISTORY PROVES THIS TRUTH!
Egypt, 1889... Adventurous British Scientists "read" about the lifetimes of Egyptian Royalty through a series of carvings in the tomb walls.
A Movie House in France in 1934. A Mickey Mouse animated cartoon makes the crowd of Theatergoers laugh so hard they cry.
An Infantry Unit In Viet Nam pins a sheet up between two palm trees in 1968 and watches a wordless 8mm Tom and Jerry Cartoon ordered from the back of a Mexican Comic Book on a Kid's Crank Movie Projector.
1990... A father comes home from a business trip to Japan to his two small children in Connecticut with undubbed videos. His daughter immediately begins to beg for EVERYTHING she can ever find with the character from the video on it, after falling in love with "Hello Kitty", and his son begins jumping off the bed pretending to be "Ultraman"!
2007... A little 10 year old Iraqi boy smiles and points to the screen of a cell phone in an American Marine's hand, as Bart Simpson dances to a ring tone.
Cartoons, and the visual arts have always and ALWAYS WILL transcend any border, and make any language barriers disappear.
JIM HENSON AND ME
I know this from my own professional experience, going all the way back to the early 1980s when I worked for Jim Henson, drawing and writing the Muppets comic strip for him along with my younger brother, Brad.
From the very first day we were launched in newspapers with the strip, we were GLOBAL. The Muppets was the FIRST comic strip in history to be run all over the world starting the very first day. Brad and I became the first cartoonists in history to have to write every single joke for a worldwide audience. We had to work twice as far in advance as anyone else in our business at that time, because our strips had to be shipped via airmail and messenger (prior to the internet, of course) all around the world to be translated into every language of the 80 countries that read us each day.
We had to be extremely AWARE of the GLOBAL MARKETPLACE. We couldn't, for instance, write any "puns" or English language wordplay. It couldn't be translated, you see.
We were taught, from day one... that the best jokes we could tell to the world would be well drawn, easy to understand, and have as few words as possible. We were told to study the masters of early comic strip art, many of whom were European immigrants , who were master artists, but knew little of the English language. Because of this language "limitation", they were forced to tell their stories and jokes with few words, and wonderful, fully drawn, expressive artwork! This , in turn, made them among the WEALTHIEST of all turn of the century Americans! Why?? Not only were they THAT GOOD at it, but also, because the REST of America, who were ALSO in a large part immigrants to this country from all over the world, could READ the comics in the newspaper, NO MATTER WHAT LANGUAGE they spoke in their native country!
These turn of the century artists, coming to this country with almost no material possessions, with almost no knowledge of the English language, but extremely proficient at the GLOBAL LANGUAGE of ART... BECAME RICH beyond their wildest dreams.
JIM HAD STUDIED WALT, WHO STUDIED CHAPLIN, WHO STUDIED...
Walt Disney turned his little mouse, made in America, into a WORLDWIDE HIT by using gags and comedic situations that didn't rely on words to entertain the theatergoers. By using the universal language of picture comedy, and well-drawn, well-defined characters that the whole world could identify with, he created the world's largest entertainment empire. He started out in a tiny little room in Kansas City, which was so run down, mice crawled in through the holes in the walls and kept him company as he practiced his art. Good thing he decided to name one "Mickey".
Jim Henson stood on the shoulders of great storytellers and visual comedians like Chaplin, Bob Clampett, Walter Lantz and Walt Disney, and went global with Kermit and Miss Piggy as soon as he could. He always looked at the world as his stage. He always knew there were no borders to a great joke... or a great story! AND... No LIMITS to the riches that could made IF you were wise enough to always expand your audience to include the whole world!
Jim got rich with that way of thinking... and I'm grateful he took me with him.
I learned those lessons well.
A GLOBAL BASE
When I decided to come back to syndication and newspaper comics, after a few years in children's books and global sports marketing and children's entertainment licensing , I settled on redefining and relaunching NANCY, a childhood favorite. Nancy was appealing because of her GLOBAL BASE. Many of the hundreds of newspapers she had were around the world, owing to her creator's Ernie Bushmiller's knowledge of visual humor and the worldwide market for well done art with few words.
My TINY DINOS, Night Lights, and MUDPIE characters have been marketed all around the world for years. At least 1/3 of the millions in combined sales of all my book titles were from outside the USA. My Night Lights and Fairy Flights Sunday comic feature is sold around the world , with 77 of the 100 papers it has run in outside the states.
IF YOU MASTER THE ARTFORM, YOU WILL HAVE A FUTURE WITHOUT LIMITS!
Wherever you are in your life right now, wherever you are in your mastery of the arts right now, you can master your own future and make it as boundless as your creativity and imagination! Never before has there been the opportunities for the graphic artist, cartoonist and storyteller that exist right now. In this early part of the 21st Century. You, the Up and Coming Comic master... are right in the middle of what will soon be THE PERFECT STORM!
Yep. It's that time when all the elements are right. When the actions of the whole world, societies, faith, politics, pop culture, communications, technology, and CHANGE are whirling around you. THOSE that can COMMUNICATE GLOBALLY will not only survive... but thrive, and even redefine storytelling and entertainment for the future generations that will come.
THIS IS YOUR TIME.
We are living in a time of great change.
In those times of change, those that cling to the old ways and have no vision and heart to embrace the shining light of the next wave... will fall away. Those that don't have the imagination to reinvent themselves and their work will fall away. Those who refuse to accept everyday of their lives as the "present" that it is... the opportunity to learn something new... to try... to fail... and to try again, smarter... will make it easier for the ones, like you, to move forward in a less crowded field.
Newspapers as we know them are fading away. Print comic books sales have been on the decline for decades. Even TV is becoming less and less relevant everyday. So... how can I not only be optimistic, but tell you that THIS IS THE GREATEST TIME FOR ARTISTS IN HISTORY?
Because the whole world is watching, baby... and YOU have ACCESS to the whole world as YOUR audience, and YOUR MARKETPLACE!
The INTERNET has changed everything forever. The Comic Book publishers, the Comic Syndicates and Newspapers, The Movie and TV people... they don't know HOW yet. THEY don't know HOW yet to make a buck off YOUTUBE. But, since their lives and businesses depend on them figuring it out... they will. THEY don't know HOW to make enough bucks off sending comics out to cell phones, and PDAs, and all the next 752 things that Apple and Microsoft and Motorola and Sony will have invented and started marketing by the time I'm done with this chapter... but they will.
OR... YOU MIGHT FIGURE IT OUT FIRST.
Hey, Number one records have been cut in closets, basements and garages. The Beatles started in a basement. Kermit the Frog was cut and sewn from an old Pea Coat. "Mickey" was a mouse that a struggling cartoonist fed when he barely had enough food for himself. A man with hardly any family or formal education, who lost his first two elections for local office, became President Of The United States. Then he freed an entire race of people forever. I know... Lincoln wasn't an artist... but, come on? Abe was cool. You gotta go with Lincoln.
THOUGHTS ARE THINGS. You have as much right as anyone else in the universe to think great, life changing, possibly world changing thoughts. WHY NOT YOU?
Hey... The Red Sox won a World Series. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
With focus, sincerity, persistence of vision, drive, determination... and your incredible gift of VISUALIZATION that you have as an ARTIST... ANYTHING you dare to dream, dare to do, dare to draw... can create your fate.
In coming chapters, we'll examine in greater detail, the emerging opportunities for you, the ARTIST... as you continue to be... DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
I look forward to hearing from you as you continue on your journey. Email me at the Academy, or post here.
God bless you,
Cartoonist of NANCY, YOUR ANGELS SPEAK, Night Lights and Fairy Flights
Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy
Drawn to Success #1
"HOW DO I GET ENOUGH EXPERIENCE TO HAVE EXPERIENCE?"
"Thinking Yourself Into The BIG-TIME!"
One of the most difficult things about being taken seriously as a Cartoonist when you're just starting out is having a professional "presence" and professional portfolio that shouts to the world, "This kid's BIG-TIME!"
Let's face it, you're NOT working very much, and when you are, you're doing small-time jobs for less than small-time money.
You and I both know that we only can get better as cartoonists when we're drawing all the time. Certainly, you would be a better comic strip cartoonist AFTER you drew, inked and lettered 36 daily strips, and a month of Sunday pages. Naturally, you would be a better Children’s' Book Illustrator AFTER you had penciled, inked, and painted a 24 page Storybook!
"ALL I NEED IS A CHANCE!!" you scream at the cold, unfeeling world! But those uncreative, uptight, and narrow-minded editors can't see YOU, the next boy or girl genius, standing right before them! They don't seem to realize that if they just gave you a chance... you would change the course of cartooning history! You're the next Caniff! The next Watterson! The next"___________________" (fill in the cartoon god or goddess of your choice here)!!
But, alas... no shot.
Are you done for? Are you defeated? Should you start practicing the words, "Do you want fries with that?" for your next McCareer? No. You're only defeated if you BELIEVE it to be so. There is no mountain you can't climb... if you have faith, and are willing to work at it.
How could I possibly know what you're going through? Me," Mister Already Syndicated for a Million Years Nancy®/Muppets/Mudpie Old Guy?" Because, young grasshopper, when I first started out, I was shut out, just like you. I was living with a roommate in a tiny little apartment in Hartford, not knowing how I was even going to pay the rent. The apartment of my post-high school youth was expertly furnished with my parent's cast-off couch, chairs from tag sales, and what we found by the side of the road. Our walls were exquisitely adorned with Beer Mirrors, posters of Lynda Carter and Farrah, and my "only my friends know I'm a genius" artwork.
I worked any jobs I could find, from cook, to part time bartender, and "too skinny to bounce" Bouncer. I took my off days and walked the streets with my portfolio full of the cartoons and illustrations I had done for the small time jobs I had gotten so far. With this "small-time jobs" portfolio, I was only successful landing even more small-time jobs.
But... I WANTED THE BIG-TIME JOBS! My heart ached for the big jobs...along with my meager bank account, and my empty stomach. I created a process to get the work I so desperately wanted. Let me tell you what I did in hopes it may also work for all of you who find yourself in similar straits.
First, I decided I HAD TO stop thinking of myself as small-time! That was the first step. I was surrounded by poverty, yet I wanted riches. I began to THINK of myself as already being successful. I had years of poverty to somehow force out of my mind. I had to BELIEVE I was already successful.
So, each morning before I went to work, I wrote down in composition books and pads, a daily affirmation and an ultimate goal for my success. I began to THINK of myself as a big-time cartoonist. I had read Napoleon Hill's classic motivational book, THINK AND GROW RICH, and it was highly instrumental in my conceiving of this approach. Dr. Hill had told me that only WE alone were commander of our THOUGHTS. That what we thought about, what we filled our heads with, ultimately dictated our approach to our lives. Everyday, I wrote down my goal in my journal. Every NIGHT, when my workday was done, I wrote down my goal in my journal. Before long, I believed I was going to be successful.
In those pages each day, I began to develop plans for how I was to achieve my goal. I believed it would happen. Plans began to form in my mind. I began to write down "deadlines" on my calendar, as if I already had the work I desired. As an example, I'd write down that one week from that particular day, say, Monday, July 7th at 10:30 am, I had an appointment with the editor at Western Publishing, the publishers of Little Golden Books. It had always been a dream of mine to write and illustrate a book for them, so that's what I DECIDED I WAS DOING!
I was to have a 24 page Fairy Tale all laid out in pencil to show the editor to get his okay. Then, every night after work, just like if I really HAD this job, I worked on the pencils. For a story I picked "Rapunzel", a story everyone knew. So, I did the job.
I got photo reference. I found reference on costumes, environments, castles, and horses. I measured a Golden Book for the correct dimensions. I laid out a "dummy book" and filled it with my drawings, leaving room for text which I typed out from another version of the story, and copied at the library. I found I was challenged. I had to work hard. This job was tougher than I thought! I had to work hard at page layout, composition, anatomy, environments, light sources, mood, the works!
All were "lessons" I would never had learned had I not "had this job"! By Monday morning at 10:30, I was done. Next, I gave myself the rest of the deadlines I would have to meet to finish the job. One week for a finished cover painting, one month for the interior color pages, and so on. You get the idea. Within a few short weeks, I had the portfolio to visit Golden Books and other publishers with the big pay-off? Did I get a job with Golden Books?? Not right away. The portfolio went with me for the weeks and months immediately afterward, however, and opened the doors of every publisher in NYC, and in Connecticut where I lived. I almost immediately got a job with Weekly Reader Books. That turned into steady freelance work, and finally a 5-year contract! I was on my way! My work was now national... and my pay was good!
I would have never gotten the jobs I got had I not first BELIEVED I was already successful, and created a portfolio that looked successful. Remember, I believed I was already in possession of the job I wanted before anyone but me knew of this.
I continued to do this with other projects: Comic Books and Strips, Magazine and Newspaper Illustrations, you name it. When I met with editors, I had the demeanor, confidence, and portfolio of a successful cartoonist. It wasn't long before the outside world believed as I did, that they were dealing with a successful cartoonist, and I became that successful cartoonist.
Oh... and those guys at Golden Books? Well, grasshopper, they eventually wound up hiring me after a few years, and I wrote and illustrated a book called JUST IMAGINE: A Book Of Fairy Tale Rhymes. It sold about a half a million copies. By then, I had gotten rid of the Salvation Army furniture, the Farrah poster, and the Beer signs. I was even eating steady.
Who'da thunk it? -- I DID.
So, let me ask you this: WHAT'S HOLDING YOU BACK? If I can do it, you can do it! I was no baby genius born with a silver ink brush in my hand. Less "White Wedding Rich" and more "White Trash Poor". I had little formal training. I had no influential contacts. But, I had a brain. That's it. A brain filled with the desire to succeed!
Believe yourself to be what you want to be. Then, work like you already are! Excuses are easy. Failure is a breeze. Success? That takes brainpower, and grit. But, if you possess a burning desire to become a successful cartoonist or illustrator... you already HAVE what you need to succeed. So, like old cop Sean Connery said to young whippersnapper Kevin Cosner in "The Untouchables"..."Here endeth the lesson."
Guy Gilchrist -- Nancy®, Mudpie, Your Angels Speak, Jim Henson's Muppets
Drawn to Success #2
“MAKING YOUR WEAKNESSES YOUR STRENGTHS”
"How I Got Pretty Girls To Model For Me, And Got Paid For It”
Okay. I’ll admit it. I like to look at pretty girls.
I know.... what a shocking confession for any red blooded American Hetero to make! Right? I’ve always liked to look at pretty girls. I liked talking to them, dreaming about them, but, alas (a Lass?).... up until a few years ago, I couldn’t DRAW them.
As I grew up, desperately wanting to be a Cartoonist, I did everything in my power to AVOID drawing women. I was lousy at it, and I knew it. All my jobs were Babeless. I knew that was wrong. I tried everything to change that.
So, in my Fortress Of Solitude.... my basement studio, with my little Sears’ stereo playing in the background...I copied Mort Walker’s Miss Buxley. I copied Milton Caniff’s Femme Fatales. I copied Will Eisner’s bevy of 40s Beauties. This went on for years, in secret. I wouldn’t even ATTEMPT to copy Stan Drake, who I thought was the best at it. Stan drew “The Heart Of Juliet Jones”, a soap strip that featured two beauties, Juliet, a brunette, and her blonde sister, Eve. Stan’s work was exquisite, and beyond the reach of mortals.
As time went on, and I was starting to be successful in cartooning, first with Weekly Reader, and then with The Muppets, I still couldn’t do it. For cryin’ out loud, the only blonde I could draw was Miss Piggy!
Yes, here I was, one of the most successful, young cartoonists of the “new breed”, with one of the biggest strips of the era,”Jim Henson’s Muppets” in papers all around the world, and I, alone, knew that I harbored this dirty, little secret. I couldn’t draw girls!
In my heart, I knew I didn’t deserve to live.
I could date ‘em, love ‘em, maybe even marry ‘em...but I couldn’t DRAW ‘em.
Then... I met Stan Drake. That’s right. I met the Master. You might even say, I MADE SURE I met him.
I did this by joining the associations and groups Stan belonged to. You see, as I achieved my first blush of success, I sought out those clubs that successful cartoonists belonged to.
I applied for membership and was accepted into The National Cartoonists Society, The Newspaper Features Council, and a Cartoonist’s recreational golfing group called Artists and Writers (years later I was elected to the Board Of Directors of the two latter organizations).
Why was this so important to me? And WHY should this be important to YOU?
No. These clubs are not peopled with male and female super-models, so it’s not about meeting and drawing pretty people, sorry.
It’s not about empty “status” either. It’s about KNOWLEDGE!
Each of these groups I now belonged to were full of people who were the tops in their field! The very field I wished to be tops in! EVERYTHING I could ever want to know about Cartooning was HERE! In the great minds of these men and women!
Why wouldn’t you or me want to be around all that talent???
Getting to know people you share common talents and dreams with, and them getting to know YOU is one of the finest things you could ever hope to do to make your life happier, and richer.
Through Professional Groups, you LEARN MORE, MAKE CONTACTS, HAVE FUN, BUILD LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIPS and CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY and the ultimate BETTERMENT OF THE WORLD!
I’ll write more in subsequent chapters about the benefits of these groups later on...Right now, Back to the pretty girls...
After a round of golf one day in Westport, Connecticut, where the Artists and Writers group had an outing, I approached Stan, who was standing at the bar in the Grill Room. I spoke in the softest, most confessional tones I could muster, and told him that I couldn’t draw pretty girls, and asked if he might give me some tips.
My private, dark secret was made loudly public when Stan laughed a hardy laugh, shouted my problem to the whole room, slapped me on the back, and told me he’d LOVE to tell me how to do it!
I picked my pride up off the floor, stuffed it in my pocket and listened as he confessed that once upon a long time ago, HE couldn’t draw pretty girls either... until one of HIS cartoonist heroes taught HIM how!
He told me about the correct way to pose a model (exaggerate the pose) and how to take pictures correctly (always at eye level, or with a slight UPWARD angle) and to use as much photo reference as possible. He told me to pay close attention to how a woman tilts her head, darts her eyes, uses her shoulders, and hands. He told me to take tracing paper and trace over pin-up photos in magazine ads and catalogues, because the professional photographer knew how to pose his models.
Then, he said to exaggerate all the most comely features of the lady, as much or as little as needed for the desired effect. This, Stan Drake said, was how HE learned.
Tracing over and over and over till he could draw women in his sleep (which he and I now often do... more about managing deadlines later). Stan even invited me over to watch him work in his studio. He was, by then, drawing BLONDIE.
You can bet I did everything Stan told me to... including paying for his cocktails the rest of the evening!
What a tough assignment Stan gave me, huh?
Taking photos of pretty girls, drawing them from life, and tracing over beautiful models in magazines and catalogues. The only thing that is tough about the latter is convincing your girlfriend or wife that you need that Victoria’s Secret catalogue for BUSINESS!
Practicing all the time, I eventually mastered the art of drawing women.
It was a good thing, too. Within a few years I was called on to draw Fritzi Ritz for the” Nancy®” comic strip, Fairies and Princesses in my children’s books and Night Lights feature, and later, the Angels for my inspirational feature, “Your Angels Speak”.
None of my success with Nancy®, or any of the rest would have happened if hadn’t kept within my heart and mind a burning desire to learn more! To master what was difficult.
For Mort Drucker, it was “hands”. You all know Mort Drucker of Mad magazine fame. I think he’s the greatest caricaturist who ever lived. Mort got his start in comics because he could draw HANDS. He told me that when he was starting out, he’d look at some of the guys doing comic books, and saw that many of them “hid” the fact they drew hands poorly. They would hide them in pockets, behind doors, etc. in their panels. So, Mort went about becoming an expert on drawing hands. He figured that if he could be good at that, then he could beat out some of the other fellas and get work! Mort MASTERED something that was difficult. He got work because of it.
There is no substitute for practice. You will be applauded in public for what you practice in private!
Want to rise to the top in this field?
Minimize and even eliminate your drawing weaknesses by concentrating your practice time on those weaknesses until they become your STRENGTHS.
You might even become such a BIG SHOT Cartoonist that a supermodel might actually talk to you.
Guy Gilchrist -- Nancy®, Mudpie, Muppets, Your Angels Speak
Drawn to Success #3
“GIVING AND RECEIVING”
“How A Connecticut Hillbilly Got To Know Miss Piggy Intimately”
Do you like to give? Or, are you like I was.... living paycheck to paycheck, never even saving for a rainy day, because everyday, in your life, it’s already pouring?
I didn’t even have enough money to buy an umbrella!
It took a long time for me to realize what I want to share with you now...that “giving” doesn’t have to be giving money. The most valuable treasures you have are your time and your talent, and those treasures can get you all the money you could ever dream of possessing.
No. I wasn’t always this philosophical. No. I was not always this smart. There was a time.....(okay, cue the dream sequence video to start spinning.....cue the music.....fade to....)
When I was just starting out in my cartooning career, when someone would show up asking for money at my tiny little apartment in Hartford, Connecticut, I’d reach quickly for my wallet.
Not to open it, but to grab it tightly, wrap it in duct tape, to keep it closed while I mixed up some concrete to encase it.
“GIVE” was a four-letter word around Cartoon-Boy’s Ponderosa in those days. I was heavily into “GETTING”. Getting anything I could, and I wasn’t giving anything away.
You see, I had been born to a hard working, proud and poor Mother and a Dad that was never working and never even on the premises. Before my mom divorced him and later remarried, we had very little. My mom worked three jobs to provide for my little brother Brad and me, and did the best she could. But I remember very clearly going to bed more than once hungry.
It’s a funny thing, once you’ve been hungry as a small child, truly hungry, you never forget it. No matter what graces God gives you for the rest of your life, you never forget.
So, even after my mother remarried and we moved on up to the sparkling lower-middle class, I guarded my meager belongings like Roy Rogers guarded the Wells Fargo box on the Noon Stage!
I’m not exactly sure of the exact moment I changed. When that time in my life came that I realized I liked giving more than getting...but it probably involved a pretty girl.
Broke, but desperate to impress the little girl of my dreams at that moment, I’m sure I probably drew her a picture, or wrote her a poem, in hopes that she’d like this kid who didn’t have enough money to buy her jewelry.
When I got that kiss on the cheek as payment, I guess I got hooked on “giving”.
That kiss, and that change of heart put me in the right place for life, I think. Maybe “giving” could do the same thing for you.
Yes. It can get you better dates. Maybe the girl or guy of your dreams. It did that for me. But, giving can also get you the career of your dreams. GIVING got me syndicated all over the world!
You know, if you read your Bible, which I strongly suggest you do, right AFTER you read this brilliant column on cartooning, you might find that it is full of really good advice from a smart, all-knowing, all-seeing being.... and no, I don’t mean your mother.
You’ll find a place where God tells you to give your full-measure, and if you do, that your full-measure will be given back to you many, many times over.
I’ll bet Mort Walker has read a Bible. He gave me the world.... and it was his to give. He has a lot, as worldly possessions go. Having comic strips in every paper ever printed for 50+ years will do that for a guy. And when Mort (Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Boner’s Ark) gave me the world, it wasn’t on a silver platter...it was on a golf tee.
Mort was golfing with his pal Bill Yates, who was a great cartoonist in his own rite, having drawn magazine gags and a syndicated strip (Professor Phumble) for many years, and now was the Editor at the world’s biggest comic strip syndicate, King Features. Bill told Mort about a problem he was having with Jim Henson, and The Muppets. Bill said he had auditioned every good cartoonist he could think of to please Jim Henson, who had signed a deal to have his world famous “Muppet Show” adapted to a comic strip. This strip was going to be HUGE, if Bill could just find the right talent, but Jim didn’t like anybody that Bill liked, the deal was almost blown, and Bill was at his wit’s end. Mort suggested Bill call me.
It still, after 25 years, blows my mind. ME. An unknown Connecticut Hillbilly kid who drew comic books for Weekly Reader. ME. I can’t even believe the great Mort Walker even knew my name.
By now you know, through my credits, that I got the job. How I got the job, and my experiences during it and after it will fill many other columns to come. For now, I just want to tell you HOW Mort knew my name.
GIVING. Since that kiss on the cheek so long ago, I loved to draw for people. It is what I do.
So, when Weekly reader sent me around to schools all over the place to draw and teach drawing to promote our books to schools, I took to it like King Kong to Fay Wray.
Mort had opened a Museum Of Cartoons in Greenwich, Connecticut that subsequently moved to Ryebrook, NY. I went to the Museum all the time to hear the speakers they would have at special Sunday Programs in their small auditorium. The speakers were all famous cartoonists and friends of Mort’s who would do a talk about themselves and their work. I saw John Cullen Murphy (Prince Valiant), Bob Clampett ( Looney Tunes and Beany and Cecil), Dik Browne (Hi and Lois and Hagar The Horrible), Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes), and so many more there!
Every once in a while, the famous cartoonist had to cancel for travel, health or personal issues and the museum would call on local talent to fill in. I put my name on the LAST MINUTE LIST.
Every time I got a call, I went. I drove the two hours to the museum and gave a drawing lesson and talk for free. I loved it! I did it 10 times in five or so years. Mort didn’t know me, or anything about me. I found out later that he thought I lived right in the neighborhood; I was there so much. I didn’t. I lived far away. But it was truly AN HONOR to be asked to give of my time and talent. I really felt that way.
So, one day, Mort told the guy who ran the museum to tell me I could have a little art show the next time I spoke. I could hang a bunch of my work up in the foyer of the auditorium, so the folks could see what I did, (since no one had ever heard of me, probably) and as a “thank you” for all my effort.
It was those few pieces of comic book work that were hung there for that day in the museum that Mort Walker remembered when Bill Yates told him they needed to find a “Muppets” artist. Those pieces, my work ethic, and (I guess) pleasing personality were all Mort knew of me.
And you know the rest.
While I can’t guarantee anyone that if they give of themselves they will soon find themselves in 660 newspapers like I did, I can guarantee EVERYONE a few things.
If you give from your heart without desiring anything in return... you will get the greatest feeling of self-worth you can imagine. You will make your little piece of the planet a better place. You will know what it feels to be needed. You’ll get love. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
You might like giving so much; you might even find that you get “selfish” about it, as I did. I like that feeling I get so I give all that I can.
And don’t worry, there will still be plenty of time to take care of Number One, too. Don’t give the store away... just give of yourself what you comfortably can. Let the world know how talented you are! Show off a little! The rest will all take care of itself.
I haven’t needed that rainy day umbrella for years.
Guy Gilchrist -- Creator of Nancy®, Mudpie, Your Angels Speak, Night Lights and Pillow Fights, and Jim Henson’s Muppets
Drawn to Success #4
“LIGHTING THAT FIRE DOWN DEEP IN YOUR SOUL”
”How I Sang RUBY BABY With A Pencil And Shirt Cardboard From The Laundry Delivery Truck”
When you're driving down that road to "Big Time Cartooning Success", you're bound to hit a bump or two in the road. I don't care if you're driving a Hummer, or a '68 Dodge Dart held together with super glue, a coat hanger and a prayer, the bumps are going to come. The Hummer drivers are the ones whose cartooning careers seem to be humming along very nicely, and for quite some time. Established. Recognized.
The old Dodge drivers are those who have made enough noise in the business to start climbing out of their paycheck to paycheck prior lives, and have enough going for them that they seem to be slowly getting on their way�just a couple of jobs away from trading in the old hoss for something snappier.
Then�a bump of trouble. The phone doesn't ring as often. A project doesn't sell. Too much month left at the end of the money. Tragedies. The inevitable personal storms of life. It's when you're faced with those tough moments in your career when sometimes it's easier to forget the fire. Douse the flame and move on to a real job. The fire of desire can easily fade and become a dying ember. That's the time when it can help to go back and remember that spark. That first spark you felt down deep in your soul that made you want to become a cartoonist or illustrator in the first place!
Instead of doubting yourself and your true feelings, maybe it's about time you go back in time for a while and remember WHY you want this dream so badly! In every person's life, there is a moment of change. A moment of inspiration. That experience that winds up defining our life's goal, and US in the process. Let me tell you about my "first time."
Okay, yes�I'm old. I'm so old I watched Andy Griffith when the show was new. I'm old. I bought two comic books and a Bazooka Joe piece of gum for a quarter. I'm old. I went to Elvis movies when they were in theaters. I remember rock and roll before The Beatles. I'm OLD. In 1963, I was six years old. In 1963, JFK was still president; Roy Rogers was still on Saturday morning TV. And Dion DiMucci was the biggest rock-and-roll star in the world. WHO? Dion. He sang "Runaround Sue," "Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love," "The Wanderer" and lots more.
I, at six years old, knew who Dion was because I had seen his poster in a mill discount store hanging off the ceiling in the record department. There were three posters at this mill store, as I remember. One was of Grace Kelly, by then Princess Grace. She had a crown on her golden head, was dressed in a white gown, and was surrounded by white roses in a white room. I thought she was married to God. I had an old record by her and Bing Crosby that my mother had bought, where she and Bing sang "... For you and I have a Guardian Angel on high...," and she was very pretty. So pretty that, at six, I thought that she must be singing about Heaven because she was Mrs. God.
As you can tell, I wasn't all that bright a boy.
The other posters were of Elvis Presley (my mom's favorite), and Dion with a red-orange guitar. So, on this particular Saturday afternoon in 1963, I was sitting in front of our black-and-white little TV set, set for life with peanut butter and jelly on Wonder bread and a Dixie cup full of Kool-Aid, because it was raining outside. If it hadn't been pouring, my brother Brad and me would have been outside climbing trees, jumping out of them, playing underneath the old house and in dangerous old barn lofts, running around shooting each other with our Roy Rogers six-shooters, scaring girls with frogs and spiders, and exuberantly living the Opie Taylor lifestyles that got us into trouble with Mom�if she found out.
After all the cartoons were over on Saturday morning, American Bandstand came on in the afternoon, and then a local version of Bandstand came on, hosted by a local disc jockey and sponsored by the Connecticut milk companies. I liked music, so I usually watched those shows... if it was raining. All the time I watched, I would be drawing on whatever paper I could find. Usually I'd be drawing my favorite cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker. Sometimes I would steal the shirt cardboard out of a laundered shirt because it was so crisp, hard and white. WOODY looked better on shirt cardboard. I had an uncle that worked as a delivery guy for the cleaners and eventually he found out I needed paper and would stop by and give me stacks of the stuff. He was my favorite uncle.
Now, even at six years old, I knew the singers sang along with their records and really didn't perform live. At least I was THAT smart. But, still I watched and I loved to hear the singers talk to the host about their new record, or their lives that were so glamorous to me. Really, I just wanted to know where their "art" came from, and . . . would they take me away with them on their swell tour bus to Hollywood, so I could go to Disneyland and visit the studios of Walter Lantz, who drew Woody Woodpecker? I watched The Woody Woodpecker Show each day after school. Walter Lantz would introduce his 7-minute cartoons with a sort of "show and tell" about how he created these WOODY, CHILLY WILLY, or ANDY PANDA cartoons.
He would draw his character, and then show us his cool studio, where 3,000 people (or what seemed to me to be that number) all copied his style to animate these full-color, moving things of Heaven-sent beauty. I would sit there with my cardboard and pencil and copy him, dreaming, every day, and wishing with all my heart that someday I might be one of Lantz's Army, in Hollywood... at The Walter Lantz Studios... where the Chiffons', or The Drifters', or The Beach Boys' or Dion's tour bus would take me... if I could just get to Dion! Well, as God would have it, on that day, on our local Bandstand show, DION was set to perform his new smash.... RUBY BABY.
I was watching intently. Out came Dion, into the gymnasium that was packed with teenage guys and girls. Everyone was clapping like crazy! He walked up to the microphone, with his red-orange guitar (I could tell because on my black-and-white TV, red and orange were black) that I had seen so many times on his poster. And then he spoke those immortal words that every kid from the Bronx to Brooklyn to Canton, Connecticut, where I sat longed to hear: "How you doin'?" So much for finding out some secret to his art. Then, two special things happened. He KEPT his mike on, talking all the while, as he reached down on his guitar and flipped a switch on it. He turned ON his guitar. There was a loud WHOOOOOMMMMPPPFFFF that crackled over the airwaves from the gymnasium. WHAT WAS THIS??? I had never heard or seen anyone EVER perform live.
Then, Dion started to strum the guitar, and sing. "Welllll . . . I've got a girl an' RUBY is her name . . ." For two minutes, he sang and, as he sang, he changed that atmosphere in that old gymnasium into a party, and he changed my life. By the time he was done, the place was going crazy! All the guys wanted to be like him! All the girls wanted to know him! The air was super-charged! He had changed the world with his talent, his song, his ART. Just one person. He made the world a more exciting, beautiful place.
I looked down at my cardboard and pencil. The pencil became my voice. The picture on the cardboard . . . my song. I didn't have to be one of 3,000 members of Walter Lantz's Army to create art, and make the world a more beautiful place. I could do it all by myself. I gave my little picture to mom, who kissed the top of my head, told me it was lovely, and stuck it up on the refrigerator (or "Koolerator" as Chuck Berry would say) for the whole wide world to see. That was the day I KNEW I would drive down this road. This bumpy, pothole filled, beautiful, glorious road of Cartooning.
Remember your dream when the world tries to snuff it out. Troubles are temporary. Talent, hard work and your inner fire are forever. You can make this world a more pleasant place to live. You can put excitement, humor, and love out there to inspire us all! Sometimes it ain't easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
Oh, and Dion? Years later, he and I became close friends. Brothers. One day I asked him about that day so long ago when he sang that song LIVE, instead of lip-syncing the record. Incredibly, he remembered that very day! The only time he ever did that, he told me. It seems the record had broken, and couldn't be played. They had no back-up 45 on the tour bus. So, he was "forced" to go get his guitar and sing and play LIVE with the sound pushed through the old school PA in the gym. He said to me, "I always wondered why that happened. Now, I KNOW. God made sure the record was broken, because YOU had to become an artist."
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go over to my Sears stereo and flip the record over. I want to hear the flip side of this dream.
--Guy Gilchrist Artist of "Nancy," "Mudpie," "Your Angels Speak," "Jim Henson's Muppets"
Founder, Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy
Drawn to Success #5
"GETTING IN THE MOOD"
"Where Are My Groupies?"
I don't have to have my favorite album playing in the background in my studio to get in the mood to draw or write.
I don't need candles and a bubblebath.
I don't need a glass of beer, some oysters and a Viagra to get up for drawing and writing.
I just go ahead and do it.
When I finish my strip, pretty little groupies don't rush my drawing table to show me how much they appreciate my masterful brush and ink solo.
Yeah. I know. Bummer. But, you know what? I do it anyway. Everyday.
I AM A PROFESSIONAL CARTOONIST.
My motivation is a soul-deep love for what I do, and a soul-deep love for my family that needs to be sheltered, clothed, and fed.
If I needed any additional motivation....how about daily deadlines in a thousand newspapers? Daily deadlines are something else, man. Everyday a newspaper goes to press. Everyday I need to fill my slot. Death, taxes, and my daily deadline.
I meet folks almost everyday who tell me they are "Artists", have tried to be "Artists", or that they have a kid who's an "Artist". They feel they have something in common with me. They tell me how lucky I am, and then tell me that they would like to be that "lucky", too. They would like to be professional artists, too...
Then it starts. Their ROLLERCOASTER. All loaded up to go. Going UP when their art is working out, and when they are pumped up by outside forces. Spiraling DOWN when their art isn't working out, and they go on to blame the nearest distraction or latest disappointment for their lack of production.
As I understand them, their LIVES got in the way of the LIVES they wished they had lived.
That's very sad. But that's how many "Artists" are. There is a big difference between ART and THE BUSINESS OF ART.
The reason I capitalize and put "Artist" in quotation marks is because of the self-importance and mystism of the muses that these creative, well-meaning but misguided folks seem to drape their work in. That stuff applies to the Weekend Artist, but NOT to the Artist-Businessperson!
We can't go outside and dance in the meadow and chant at the moon before each cartoon we draw, people! We've got find a way to do an honest, masterful piece of artwork anytime we have a deadline, drop it off and go cash the check.
I remember a long, long, time ago when I was a teenager and was eagerly reading an article about "The Eagles' "newest album in Rolling Stone magazine. I always loved reading about my favorite artists and where the art came from. The Eagles had just put out two huge first albums and had become " The California Beatles".
Don Henley and Glenn Frey were talking about how they had previously had their entire lives to write all those songs that filled their first two albums, but now had to tour the country, deal with fame, and having no quiet time at all, and STILL had to figure out how to write a whole album of new, great songs. This time, with the WORLD looking on and the record company screaming for hits.
"They called this process ,"The Hardening of The Artistry". They had to figure out how to turn off all personal and business distractions to do what they were born to do.
That's what professional cartoonists have to do, too. That's what I do everyday.
I'm not sure where I developed that gift, but I know that if you want to make it , you'll have to develop it, too.
No matter what is going on in "Yourlifeville", newspapers come out every day, and if you're a syndicated cartoonist, you need to fill your space, and admirably so. You need to a find a way to do your job everyday!
Some of you have full time jobs, and still need to find a way to work on your craft every morning or night when you get home.
Here's a tip to start to separate your life and your art.
Keep two journals. One journal, you'll never re-read it once you've written in it. The other, you'll re-read all the time.
The first journal is called your " Morning Journal". Set your alarm clock 45 minutes early each morning. Then grab your journal and write. Write down anything that comes to mind. Not so much ideas for cartoons, or stories or anything that has to do with your art... but, write about ANYTHING else.
Like life. Whatever you're going through. Whatever is bothering you, or pleasing you. Whatever comes to mind. Never edit this!! This is stream of consciousness writing.
All your roller coaster of emotions rolls out onto the tracks of your paper right here. All the STUFF that gets in the way of your creativity pours out into this journal. You have to do this everyday. Write three pages in long-hand in this journal everyday!
THREE PAGES. I know. It's a lot.
What if you have nothing to write? If you have nothing to write, start writing anyway. Begin your writing in your "Morning Journal" with the words,"I have nothing to write". Write it over and over until something emerges. Just fill up the three pages. Eventually, you'll write down something.
Do this all alone, with no one around. Find a quiet place the night before where you know you will not be disturbed the next morning. Do this before you DO ANYTHING ELSE! No newspaper reading, or email checking, or feeding the kids, or ANYTHING at all. You can make a cup of coffee while you're doing it and drink it. That's all. Never re-read what you wrote, or you'll edit yourself. No editing! Just write anything and everything down . This will get you released from your emotions that might be tying you down or hindering your creative output. You can always write MORE than three pages if you're obsessing that day, but never LESS than three!
Julie Cameron, in her book, "The Artist's Way", calls this process "doing your Morning Pages". She meant this exercise to help unblock your "writer's block". I use this exercise to free up my imagination each and every day. You can write down anything!!
And you WILL!
One thing you might want to write down somewhwere in it are your dreams and aspirations .Perhaps you'll want to describe a definite goal for yourself professionally. These might flow out of your pen, along with fantasies about some hottie, the neighbor who's bugging you, the benifits of mowing your lawn, the exact count on dents in your ceiling, or how ugly and stupid your boss is. I don't care what you write, just write.
Then, when you've filled that journal up, burn it. Trust me. Just burn it.
This journal is simply the place you fill up with your roadblocks...or "Brain-blocks". So, Never save them, or re-read them. If you do, you will then begin to subconsciously self- edit these pages, your emotions, and your thoughts in these pages, and destroy their purpose! Burn 'em, baby. As soon as you fill one up. Burn 'em!
The OTHER journal? Now, that's the money, honey.
Write down your jokes, your ideas, your stories, your poems, your art. Keep it with you all the time. Write down anything you think you can use. It's all going to be good in this journal. This is the journal you'll look at again and again for ideas to use when you have a job to do as a professional cartoonist. You'll find that writing in this journal almost right after closing your other journal might be the most creative time to write. It is for me!
You'll have your good days and bad days as a writer. When things are flowing, you'll fill this journal. When things aren't flowing, this will be your reserve. You won't be able to turn everything you write in this journal into gold right away....but this is your garden where you'll always go to create.
When you fill one up, date it with the last day you wrote in it, and start another one. Keep this filled-up journal around to check back in on when you need to find a starting point for your creative process anytime! I have stacks of these journals going back twenty years! Jokes and poems that I wrote years ago but could not at the time PERFECT, I have found the seed of something I could later use! These journals are GOLD.
I hope this idea helps you separate your personal life and your professional life.
It's helped me for over two decades to be productive, creative, and enthusiastic at my drawing table.
I still wish I had groupies like The Eagles do, though.
Cartoonist: Nancy®, Mudpie, Your Angels Speak, Jim Henson's Muppets, Night Lights and Pillow Fights
Founder: Guy Gilchrist's Cartoonist's Academy
Drawn to Success #6
“What To Write About?”
"or: 365 Days in a Cat Suit and a Plaid Dress”
"It's all right now, I've learned my lessons well. You see, you can't please everyone, so...you gotta please yourself." --Ricky Nelson, "Garden Party"
Rick Nelson's anthem for individuality was a big hit back when I was in high school in the Stone Age. I'd like to change a word or two in it to reflect my own ideas on what makes a comic strip worth reading.....
"You see, you can't BE everyone, so... you gotta BE yourself" - - Guy Gilchrist, "Cartoon Party"
When you write a comic strip everyday for 365 days a year, you had better be HONEST. Write what you know. Write WHO you know. Write about yourself! We all do it. Any successful comic strip is a true reflection of its creator.
A person who knows his or her own self can become a successful writer. Those that write material strictly because they want to appeal to everyone, and therefore writing "jokes" that come from outside themselves and not from within themselves is doomed to failure. Try it. Wear a Halloween costume for one day a year and it's a lot of fun. Wear that same Halloween costume everyday and they'll lock you up in a place where the walls are covered with mattresses. Wear a costume for a day, and the opposite sex might find it sexy. Wear a costume EVERY DAY and the same person you were trying to attract will RUN for the hills and leave "DIAL-A-PRAYER" as their phone number if you ever try to reach them again. That's because HONESTY is ultimately attractive.
In relationships, in business, in life, and in cartooning. I've known otherwise brilliant men and women who never let this sink into their cute, little craniums. They try to be something, or someone they're not. It works for a while, but ultimately; one's own true self emerges. Then, it's either, "Nice to finally MEET you!" or "HEEEERRRRRRREEEE'SSSS Johnny!!!" When I started out, I sought out the "Keys To Success" from those who were the most successful in building a loyal following to their comic strips. I tried writing about all the "stuff" I read in other people's comic strips, thinking that I could write like THEY wrote and become successful in that way. I copied the writing styles of Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Johnny Hart, Chic Young. I got nowhere. I had enough syndicate rejection slips to wallpaper my apartment! THEN...I decided to ASK THEM what I should write about. Here's an approximation of what I learned. BE YOURSELF IN YOUR WRITING.
Is there any doubt that Mort Walker shares of himself in Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois? Mort was in the Army during World War II. He was always caught up in the middle of the chain of command. He was a little guy, a corporal, who heard it from both sides. The grunts, and the officers above him. He also knew that the Army was a bunch of guys, completely different from each other in every way, trying to somehow get a job done as one cohesive unit. So, what's your strip about, Mort? In "Hi and Lois," Mort is all over the place in that strip, as a family man in the suburbs. Mort's got seven kids... so there is PLENTY to write about! Mort told this young KNOW-NOTHING to write about what I knew... and who I was.
So did Dik Browne, Mort's partner on "Hi and Lois"... a father of three and a closet Viking. When Dik created "Hagar The Horrible," he was drawing himself. Not only did Dik LOOK exactly like Hagar... but, INSIDE, he was Hagar as well. A family man, just trying to earn a living. Sure, Hagar did it by pillaging, plummeting, and taking over countries... and Dik did it by taking over the laundry room in the basement as his studio... but he wound up taking over countries, too... newspaper by newspaper. Hagar WAS Dik Browne, in life, and in his dreams and fantasies. Now, "Hagar" is being done by Chris Browne, one of Dik's sons, and written by Chris and some of Dik's closest friends.....all folks that share common experiences of family. So.... the Viking fun continues. "Hi and Lois" is now written by Brian and Greg Walker. Both are Dads from the suburbs, writing about what they know, and the strip is drawn by Dik's other son, Chance Browne. Also - - you guessed it - - a dad from the suburbs.
Chance, Chris, Brian and Greg are all good buddies of mine, so I have a first-row, 50-yard-line seat to watch as they all put pieces of their experiences with their children, and their lives into these comics and come up with awesome gag after gag. I've watched as Greg's and Brian's children have grown up, gone through all the changes and trials that all children do and how Greg and Brian have taken much of their every day life, filtered it through the cheesecloth of comic timing and understanding... and turned it into a timeless strip full of love and laughter.
Brad, my brother, and partner on "Nancy," and I do the exact same thing. We are both dads. Brad is the father of two brainy, beautiful and talented girls, Jayme and Carly, who have provided him with enough material for a dozen comic strips...all of which I'm sure he'll get around to writing after the girls let him get one good night's sleep, and myself, the father of three. My son, Garrett, is out in LA working on trying to be a filmmaker. My oldest daughter, Lauren, is a talented artist, a successful professional retailer, and the woman who made a grandpa out of me. Oh... and my youngest, Julia, is a breathtaking high school beauty, so full of brains, wit and charm that I need two baseball bats to keep the boys at bay. So... d'ya think Brad and I have any trouble writing NANCY? Nope. Plenty of SLUGGOS running around.
And the beautiful Aunt Fritzi? My wife Angie poses for her when I need a model. The reason I knew Brad and I could make a good team on NANCY and could keep Ernie Bushmiller's strip rolling was because we were doing, at the heart of it, a family strip. Aunt Fritzi is Nancy's "mother," even though they are really niece and aunt. Aunt Fritzi also takes care of Sluggo, a boy with no immediate family.
Coming from my place in children's books, I knew that I wanted to take Nancy more in this direction of family than even Ernie himself had done. The heart is the strongest bond. LOVE is at the center of everything I do. Therefore...our comic strip is about LOVE. Fritzi has centered her life around her niece and this bald-headed kid who raids their refrigerator. She is not immediate family to either of these children, but still she provides in every way for her niece. Love, compassion, discipline, role modeling and...oh, yeah...food, clothing and shelter. And she has plenty of love and fried chicken to go around for Sluggo, too. She has no love life to speak of, since that would just gum up the works...and instead finds joy in the raising up of her orphaned child by choice. That's how I see it.
We live in a world where "families" come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. Children being raised up with love and strong hearts by grandparents, aunts and uncles, stepparents and adoptive parents of all kinds. LOVE is the strongest bond. That is the heart of NANCY, and both Brad and my lives. I'm not saying that in REAL life anyone should put their love life on hold forever to raise children. But the star of the NANCY strip is NANCY, not Fritzi, and giving her a love life in the strip might take the focus off her relationship with the star of our show and dilute the daily message we try to put forth. That's important message of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that we feel so strongly about.
When you do a daily strip, you have to constantly reintroduce your cast of characters, since there are people who are always reading you for the first time, in addition to those who are faithful readers of many years. Now, some folks don't like NANCY. It's not for everyone. That's where "being yourself" comes in. If you try to write for everyone, you'll wind up writing for NO ONE. That's not to say, I write without the audience in mind! Completely the opposite! I ALWAYS write with the audience in mind. MY audience. I write a strip I feel is easy to understand. I write with the idea that many people probably feel the same way I do about things. Then I try to make a strip that communicates my feelings, and my emotions in a fun, thoughtful way. I also try to make it universally understandable, as my comics are read in many different languages in many different countries.
I do the same thing with YOUR ANGELS SPEAK, NIGHT LIGHTS and MUDPIE. They are ALL pieces of ME. My spiritual side, my side that longs for direction, my side that longs for love and acceptance. MUDPIE is a cat... but really, he is me. He really wants to get the girl, and once he gets her...he doesn't have a clue as to what to do with her. ME...in high school. Or yesterday. The fact that he's a cat, has a guardian angel who's a mouse.... well, that's just a furry coating I put on things in hopes that more people of all races and nationalities will be able to identify with the soul of this white, middle-aged Connecticut hillbilly.
Same goes for "Night Lights," where I write poems illustrated by pictures of fairies and monsters. Still me. All of the characters I draw are bits and pieces of me. So, I make it easy on myself in the writing process. I write about their hopes and dreams, really what were or are my own hopes and dreams, and hope and dream that some readers out there will identify with what I'm writing and drawing about. And having my characters slip on a banana peel once a week doesn't hurt either. Sure...it hurts them... but they're pen and ink and they'll bounce back tomorrow. Just like my audience... and me.
We all go through triumphs and tragedies... but we hope that we can bounce back tomorrow. I hope that this column has been worth the time you spent reading it. I hope you will look inside yourself and find your own message. Your own art. Your own truth. You are a one of a kind, never-to-be-duplicated child of God with something to say that is valuable and enriching...and maybe even funny. Don't deprive the world of that.
Drawn to Success #7
“How Character Licensing Works”
Went The Strings Of My Heart”
You hold in your hot, big hands the next big, big thing to hit our pop culture! This creation of mine is going to be on everybody's lips, in everybody's heads, and emptying everybody's wallets! This new breakthrough group of characters, now available for licensing, is called "Skunk-Head Kids"! I am the brilliant but still undiscovered creative genius who came up with this riveting concept. I hired a local artist to flesh out the characters, and now I offer them to you. See the art work for details."
(BTW, the "artwork" is three pages of group shots of these characters, with no concept copy, no personality profiles of the characters and no background or environmental elements drawn. Really.) I would like to make you this earthshaking offer, Mr. Gilchrist. If you will create a comic strip or comic book or children's book about the characters, I'll cut you in on "The Skunk-Head Kid" for 50 percent of future revenue! How about it?
Delusioned Idea Man"
Dear Skunk-Head Kids Creator,
The preceding exchange was real. Really. I'm not kidding. I did change the name of the property that was offered to me� but, believe me� it WAS Skunky.
I get "incredible" offers to work for free all the time. Even before I became established, "creators" would seek me out, like they do others, to do jobs for them for no up-front money and a piece of the future "action". So� what is wrong with this proposal? If you said "Everything!" you win a prize. Asking you to work on "spec" (meaning no up-front payment) Telling you they have a concept when they really don't. They haven't worked out a story line. They have no idea what the personalities of the characters are. All they have are a group of "cute" drawings. No idea how licensing works. No idea that they are offering you 50 percent of nothing. These letters can be funny, but they are also symptomatic of a lack of understanding in the creative community about what the label "professional cartoonists" means and what the business of "character licensing" is all about.
Let me address the first problem. "Professional" means it's your "job." You must be paid to be called a professional. Working on spec is something a professional cartoonist doesn't normally do without a good reason. Part of being a professional cartoonist is knowing when to do a spec project. In my opinion, working on something for no payment from a stranger is always wrong. If you want your work and yourself to be valued, to have worth, you have to set a value on yourself and what you do. If you don't ask for what you're worth, and stick to your guns about it, who will? If you think that doing free work will enhance your professional standing, then, in my opinion, you're wrong.
You will get offers of future pieces of a pie for free work your entire career. You alone will have to decide whether you want to take that chance. I have made a lifelong decision to only do projects on spec if it is my own idea or an idea created with another established creator I know and I trust. I only work for free for charities.
I strongly believe we have to give all we can, the full measure of our heart, souls and talents, to make this world a better place for our humanity. I am a religious man. I know the Lord has blessed me in more ways than I can name. So, I give. Just not to "The Skunk Head Kids." Now, let me explain what character licensing is and how it works. A character, or group of characters, is only going to be eligible for crossover on licensing success after it is successful in its original place in pop culture as a comic strip, comic book, movie, TV show or book. Disney marketing only existed because Mickey Mouse was such a beloved cartoon show. After all of the early success of Mickey Mouse cartoons, Kay Kamen, the original merchandising man for Walt Disney, was able to find companies to make books, dolls and watches.
This was always the way to licensing success. Then, in the �70s and �80s, characters began to be created by huge, wealthy, multitiered companies in partnership with other huge companies. These huge licensing campaigns used characters in dozens of product lines to create characters recognizable around the world seemingly overnight. In other words, they used mountains of cash to shove cartoon characters down our throats. We gagged as those mountains of cash turned into continents of cash. Rainbow Brite, The Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake� Decades later, you still know their names�
Ever since those heady days, well intentioned amateur cartoonists, writers, and "idea men" have been sending me letters like the "Skunk-Head Kids." I blame Parker Brothers and American Greetings for every "Skunk-Head Kids" submission I've ever gotten. When creative amateurs saw the "overnight" success of the Care Bears, etc., they started thinking they could be overnight millionaires if they could just come up with "something like that!" They couldn't. Here's why. Parker Brothers was a toy and game company, (with deep pockets and a huge staff of talented artists and writers) who would get together with American Greetings (a huge, wealthy greeting card company with another big creative staff). Together, these companies could create character properties that were bigger than Godzilla. They would put these characters on toys, games, books, greeting cards, and dozens of other products needing no outside help from anyone. Then they would spend tidal waves of cash in promotional campaigns so enormous that no mom or dad could withstand the wallet-emptying force.
I know this for a fact. I had to take my daughter to the Rainbow Brite movie. Back in the �70s and �80s, I got into working on successful licensing campaigns with The Muppets and Muppet Babies, Looney Toons, Tom and Jerry and Pink Panther, to name a few. I learned how to design products and write books and create stories for these established characters. Then I took that education into my own licensing campaigns. I created my own characters. I wrote stories. If my ideas were successful in one area - -for instance, children's books- -I would work with toy and clothing companies to create crossover product. I didn't have huge sums of money to "buy" a successful character licensing campaign like Parker Brothers, American Greetings, Hallmark or Disney could. I also was just "me." I wasn't a huge creative staff of artists and writers. I was a staff of one. But I did it. I sold 14 million books, had stuffed animals, pajamas, games and puzzles, greeting cards and school-kid valentines with my cartoon characters on them.
It wasn't the Muppet Babies, or the Care Bears, but it wasn't small-time either. I worked with Gibson (the third-largest card company), Gerber children's wear, Thermos lunchboxes, and Applause and Russ Berrie Toys. I'm not telling you this fishing for applause while I'm bowing. I'm telling you this so you will know YOU can do it, too. You�little nobody you� can compete in the character licensing business! You can IF you stay true to yourself and your art� IF you don't think about putting the cart before the horse!
You must first start with creating characters that are meaningful to you and your audience. You must first create characters that have a meaningful story, that have well-developed personalities and that are well-drawn. If you do that, you have a chance to get a following in comics, children's books, TV or movies. Once you've proven yourself in this first area of entertainment, you will be at least eligible for crossover success. You can be a success. Just ask Charles Schulz.
But remember, FIRST comes the comic strip and THEN you get the blimp.
Drawn to Success #8
“Using the Computer to be a Successful Cartoonist”
"Or "What Program Do you Use to Make Those Comics With, Because That's What I Want To Do Tomorrow" ”
I have an old high school buddy who doesn't get it. Every time he asks me to take off with him to the lake and I can't go because I have a deadline, he says, "Don't you have all your "Nancy" characters saved in your computer? Can't you just do a week of them in Photoshop or something?
The answer is "Yes" and "No." Yes I have all my drawings in the computer. No I don't feel comfortable recycling old drawings into a week of what are supposed to be new comic strips. I draw new stuff every day. I don't work on a Wacom pad. I use two- or three-ply Strathmore Bristol board, a number 2 pencil, and I finish my drawings with a Windsor-Newton series 7 Red Sable Brush, Hunt 102 Dip-Pens, and a 50/50 mix of Higgins Black India Ink and Speedball Black. I've been drawing comics pretty much the same way since 1975.
I know. I'm old. Ah, you wise-guy, know-it-all kids with your spiffy, new-fangled computers! Now, when I was a kid, we had to draw our comics with sharpened dinosaur bones dipped in tar. Then we had to walk 50 miles across volcanoes carrying the stone tablets we drew on to our editors at the Neanderthal News-Times. That's how old I feel sometimes. I feel like the guardian of the old treasure. The old ways of paper, pencils, inks and paints standing fast as the slings and arrows of Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator fly all around me. My drafting table is my shield. "Forgive these marauders, Lord! For they know not what they do!"
If you look at some of the bad web comics out there, you'll see what I mean. Computers have forever changed how comics are drawn, written, distributed and read. Mostly for the better. In some ways, for the worse. To be a successful cartoonist, one has to adapt to each change in his or her chosen field. It's up to us all to meet the new challenges head-on. We have to use any new weapon we can to win, while overcoming each new technological challenge with talent, brains, and renewed determination. You can be a successful cartoonist in the new millennium, if you do your work, and understand the 21st century landscape. Part of understanding the landscape is not only seeing the opportunities but also the negative forces.
Let's get the bad news out of the way regarding syndication and newspapers and the Web first� The Web is killing the newspaper business. More and more people get their news, sports, features and comics online. Online "newspapers" and "magazines" continues to grow and flourish, while the old printed newspaper I used to hold in my hands disappears as I'm reading it. The newspaper is another bygone century's technology. It is becoming less and less relevant. It is also expensive to produce. Newsprint, labor, distribution, and real estate prices go up� and the sales figures go down. Even this old dinosaur of a cartoonist can figure this out. The fewer newspapers that are sold translates to smaller circulation numbers, which means less money from the newspapers for fewer comic features.
Newspapers thrive off big distribution. Their advertising rates are tied into their circulation numbers. If they have a readership of 250,000, they can demand and expect, say, $2,500 a page for display advertising. As their circulation of the printed paper goes down, so does their ad rate. The bigger a paper is, the more it spends on comics. If I sell a comic strip that I'm producing to a 14,000 circulation small-market newspaper, I can expect a weekly check of somewhere about $14, or $1.00 per thousand readers. A big paper in a large metropolitan area of 250,000 SHOULD be paying $250 a week. They don't. They tend to pay less than that. Why? Because they know they can. If you want to be in their market, you'll let THEM dictate what they're WILLING to pay. The days of two-, three- and four-newspaper towns are over.
Back when there were two or more papers in a big town, newspapers would actually "bid" for a hot, popular strip! The costs of producing a newspaper, combined with the rise of the 24-hour news networks and the rise of the Internet, have spelled the end of those days. I remember in 1981 when I started creating "The Muppets" comic strip for Jim Henson and King Features, we actually had two papers in Philadelphia go to court to decide which one of them would get the "honor" of running our comic strip. We were HOT, and every big town had more than one paper. If the syndicate asked for $200 a week, and the paper didn't want to pay it, all the sales person had to do was threaten to go across the street to the other newspaper! That was my kind of war. I paid for two houses and a bunch of cars. Good Times. Good Times. Nowadays, there are still areas where there is more than one newspaper, but the days of bidding wars on comic strips are over. Now� THEY tell you what they're going to pay. PAYBACK TIME. Ouch!
As the circulation of the printed newspaper has gotten smaller, the newspaper owners have learned to adapt by offering online versions of their newspapers. These are scaled-down versions of the daily paper. They HAVE to be. Internet advertising rates are very small relative to the ad rates still quoted in the print version. The comics we do as syndicated cartoonists are run in most of these Internet versions, but for no extra pay. It's another situation where the newspaper is squeezing the syndicate, and us! More payback? Yep. I'm getting squeezed like a Florida orange.
Ready for the good news? Not quite yet, my young, disillusioned friend. Let me get into the negative consequences of computers in art, first. C'mon. Put the gun down. Step away from the noose. It'll all have a happy ending. Remember, I write children's books. Now, back to the technological trials�. On the creative sides of computers, we now have to deal with another waking nightmare... People who don't know how to draw very well can take their badly conceived art and put it into programs designed for artists who know what they're doing! They can AIRBRUSH bad drawings! They can ANIMATE bad drawings! They can misspell words! They can take crudely drawn and rudely written comics and put them on Web sites and e-mail inboxes!! The cyberworld and the computer in my living room can be filled with garbage that, before computers, would never have even been published by your junior high newspaper!
Yeah. I know. "Power to the people." Right. Go tell it to Yoko. I ain't buying it. I'm old-fashioned. I think you should know how to write and draw before putting out a comic strip. Yeah. Just call me "Dream-smasher." Now, that having been said, there is only one way I know to get better at creating a comic strip and that is to DO IT. You will be applauded in public for what you practice in private. If you are committed to becoming the best cartoonist and writer you can be, and you work hard to improve computers can be incredibly helpful. I realize I've spent the first part of this column ripping the latest technology.
Now, let me give the computer its due credit! The programs designed for the artist are absolutely amazing! In the hands of a skilled cartoonist, these programs can save some time and money, helping you create awesome artwork. "Flash" and the other animation programs allow anyone with the ability to create animation, the opportunity to do so. In the old days, animation was so expensive, the artist with an idea for a cartoon series had to literally sell his or her idea to an entertainment company just to get the thing test-animated. A few of my own animation projects were dealt death-blows either by a production company only wishing to negotiate for film rights on my properties after they owned everything, or lack of funds to do a proper test reel. These problems have been minimized with the relatively inexpensive cost of computer animation programs. All you need now is talent, a little money and the time and desire to create a sample piece of "film."
Many of the cartoons that have become blockbusters lately have started out as "basement projects." No longer is the cartoonist so much at the mercy of the big entertainment companies! If you have a great story, with great art, you have what you need to be seen, and taken seriously. Yes. You still need to get them to buy in but you can develop your ideas much further with computers. The same goes for comic strips. Now, with the Web, if you have an idea that is well conceived and worked out, you can go about finding and building your own audience.
Cartoonists are not as much at the mercy of the syndicates. He or she can build a Web site with his or her own web-comic, or put their web-comic on a web-comic showcase site that features their comic and other comics. Some of these comic strip or graphic story creators strictly work for the Internet audience. A very few of them have even found some "commercial" success, in that they are selling paperback collections and/or t-shirts, posters and other cartoon merchandise based on their creations. Are any of these cartoonists making the big "Peanuts" or "Blondie" money or even the "Nancy" money? Not yet. But, in time, somebody will.
For a lot of years, newspapers and comic syndicates tried to ignore the 800-pound gorilla that was the Internet. The gorilla just got bigger. Syndicates have started to adapt by selling subscriptions (at very low rates) to their cartoons. My folks at United Feature send you "Nancy" and anything else you want to read daily right to your email inbox. They post our comics on comics.com. This is a huge plus for readership of my strip. In the old days, if the Newark Star-Ledger didn't run "Nancy," I'd have no readership in Newark. Now, people from anywhere can read "Nancy!" They can buy Nancy merchandise online. They can visit my Web site and see all the projects I have to offer. Newspapers are online with our strips. Magazines are online with our strips. Working on a Web-comic is a great way to learn how to do a daily comic.
I remember back in 1999, having a discussion with Jeff MacNelly, the late, great political cartoonist, and creator of the comic strip "Shoe." Jeff loved working on a Wacom pad. He had taught himself to do it and had eliminated pen, brush and ink paper originals. I fought hard on the side of Strathmore Bristol! I love the tactile feel of paper beneath me. I love the give and take of brush and pen on paper! Jeff loved the Wacom! So, we disagreed on that one aspect of computer art. Jeff and I found common ground on the subject of comics on the Web, however. Jeff felt, as I do, that the Internet was a great way to develop a comic strip and the characters and story arc that would sustain it. When he and I first started out, there was, of course, no Internet.
When you began to create a comic strip (before the Web), you created that strip in a vacuum. In your own private world. Speaking just for me, here's how I would do it. I would come up with an idea, and start creating the characters and the jokes. I would then do a week's worth of strips, followed by another, and another. Over the course of the first two, three, and four weeks, I would begin to change my strip. My character's appearance would change as I fleshed them out and got better at drawing them. My "star" might even change. A new "star" might emerge. I might find that my original main character was not as strong as another character I had in my "supporting cast." The more strips I drew, the more I came to realize what the true essence of my strip was to be. I also found out if my idea was even going to work.
I can't tell you how many times I would come up with an idea, and draw two or three weeks worth of it, and come to the conclusion it wasn't going to work out. Remember, the comic strip is the "marathon" of all art. It's the story that never ends. At least you HOPE not! When a comic syndicate looks at the strips being submitted to them, they have to try and gauge if this idea before them is strong enough to last 10, 20, 30 years. Sometimes they're right, and they buy a strip that is classic. Something that has "legs." Sometimes, they're fooled, too. A cartoonist sends in a strong submission and they buy it. Under the intense pressure of the daily deadline, the cartoonist begins to crack and weaken. He or she cannot sustain strong writing or strong art on an everyday basis. After a year, the feature folds.
Jeff MacNelly thought that if a cartoonist first put their strongest ideas for a comic strip up on the web, it would be beneficial to him or her in many ways. The cartoonist could try writing every day and not missing a deadline on the Web and see if he could do it. If they could do a strip for six months on the web and not miss a deadline, then they had a much better chance at being successful as a daily newspaper cartoonist. I agree. I would add though, that one should first do three or four weeks of material so you have an idea where the strip is going. It will also help to have a small backlog of material. I also think that having a discussion board or an e-mail link is a good idea. It gives the creator a chance to find out what the audience thinks of what he or she is doing. The cartoonist is no longer creating in a vacuum. The audience might have a favorite character or a favorite story arc. This feedback can be very beneficial.
There are many comics on the web that were not and never WILL BE created as "auditions" for newspapers and the syndicates, as I've mentioned before. But if your goal is to someday be a syndicated cartoonist, the Web can be a great place to start. Two of my features, the old daily "Mudpie" comic and the weekly "Your Angels Speak" feature were developed online and then sold to the syndicates. I know that several syndicates watched both strips for quite a while, to see if they would work out for the long haul. After appearing for a couple years on my website, as well as other web-comics showcase sites and on search engine comics pages, I sold them both to established syndicates.
You can make it, too. The technological terrain may shift, but the qualities one needs to succeed never change. Whether you're working for newspapers, magazines, comic books, the game industry, movies or TV, a good cartoonist is a good cartoonist. If you practice in private, you will be applauded (and rewarded) in public. Being good requires talent, determination, a never-quit attitude, and a habit for doing your homework. There are hundreds of stories of failure for every story of success. That's because success is difficult� and ultimately� beautiful. As beautiful as that purple pteranadon flying above my cave studio.
- - Guy Gilchrist Artist of "Nancy," "Mudpie," "Your Angels Speak," "Jim Henson's Muppets"
Drawn to Success #9
“That Leap of Faith from Part-Time to Full-Time Cartoonist”
"Or, "Don't tell Marianne and Ginger, but I Just Told Gilligan to Burn the Boat"”
"Established Quitter Wanted: Must be able to make excuses at a moment's notice. Inquires and resumes should be sent to: ."
Yeah. That ad will work. How many e-mails would that thing get? Every cartoonist who ever made it has faced adversity. Every one of them faced it a different way but overcame it. How are you doing with it? What's YOUR problem? What's YOUR excuse for shutting it down?
The way I overcame adversity, and continue to, is by leaving myself absolutely no choice to but to succeed. No parachute. No reverse gear. No boat to jump back in and paddle away from the Island of Rejection Slips."
There was a military leader from centuries ago I once heard about who commanded his troops to burn the boats! The deal was this: Once his troops had landed on a foreign shore in their boats--soon to engage another army in battle for possession of the prize--he would order the troops to BURN ALL THE BOATS! That way, his army had no choice but to fight to the death to win! They had NO OUT. No boats to escape in if they lost. THEY HAD TO WIN.
I've burned a lot of boats. I've won a lot of battles. I've even won some pretty long wars. But I've lost some beauties, baby. Oh, yeah. Sometimes I wasn't General Grant�I was Gomer Pyle, USMC! No one wins every battle. Sometimes just when it looks like you've won the war, you lose a battle. You have to retreat behind the trees and figure out another way to approach the editor... I mean, enemy. If you had a boat to get out of there with... say, a really well-paying noncartooning job (that you hate doing, of course), you'd be tempted to quit trying, and paddle your torn-up behind out of there! Instead of just losing the battle, you'd quit the war. Just on the verge of winning the prize, you'd quit. Heck, YOU didn't know that if you'd just hung in there for ONE more battle, you'd win, Totally rule, man. Totally rule.
Here's what happened to me... At the age of twenty, I got married. My wife and I were already expecting a child. She had some secretarial skills and made mediocre money at jobs she wasn't thrilled with. Soon, she would have to, at the very least, take maternity leave and I would be the sole provider, for a while, anyway. I was working as a cook, bartender, and bouncer at a couple pubs while taking my lunch hours and days off to pursue my ultimate dream--the same one you might have: "World-Famous Cartoonist." That's the title I wanted following my name in the newspapers.
I was picking up a decent bit of freelance cartooning work. They were all small-time, local jobs. My lunch hours and one day off each week were not enough for me to take the time to go to New York City from Connecticut very often to get to the Big Kahunas. It was also extremely difficult to even get to see the art directors at the local Hartford and New Haven area's corporations since my day off HAD to coincide with a break in THEIR schedule to see me.
It was pretty tough. I knew that I had set up this roadblock. I only had that one day a week to go after my dream of steady work. So, baby on the way, and everything else, I chose to stick to my plan I had mapped out for myself three years earlier. Three years before, as a poor high school kid who didn't have the money to go on to art school, I had told myself I would not ever give an excuse for not becoming a cartoonist. Everyday my junior and senior years, I would work the night away while others were playing and dating, to first LEARN how to draw, and then to build a portfolio with decent work to get small jobs that would eventually lead to bigger jobs. I had also taken on every single art job I could at school to be printed. I was art editor, then editor in chief, of the high school "Literary Art Magazine,� the editorial cartoonist for the school paper, and the artist for the school yearbook.
Through these high school jobs, I became acquainted with the local businesses that bought ads in the paper, and the yearbook. They paid me to illustrate and composite their ads. These businesses and that ad work became the foundation for my commercial portfolio. Three years later� I had told myself that if I could ever make the same amount of money in cartooning that I was making in my day job for three months in a row, I would quit my day job. I knew that as long as I had that day job, I had created a parachute against prosperity! A "One Day A Week Looking For Work Wall" that held me back. It happened. I made the then (1976) princely sum of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS a month for three months. So, wife, baby on the way, I QUIT MY DAY JOB.
If I didn't succeed quickly, I would not only appear the idiot. We'd all probably be homeless, my wife's father would beat me to a pulp, my baby would have nothing...and it would be my fault. Tie the noose. I deserve it. Goodbye, cruel world. I've always been a proud, family-oriented man...even as a 20-year-old bozo. So, off I went in pursuit of a steady-paying dream that would feed a young family. It was springtime, and the jobs were plenty. Seemed like I had started running down the road to success at exactly the right time! Nope. Wrong again, Lone Ranger. Summertime came and the small commercial jobs dried up in the hot July sun. Folks in key positions took vacations. Folks got more laid back about giving this young hillbilly some work. Looked like I had just burned my boat in time to lose the battle. And my young family would be perishing with me.
Looking back now, almost thirty years later, I almost can't believe I didn't walk back into that bar and beg for my old job back. But I didn't. I went out and begged for any cartooning, lettering, writing, paste-up, drawing or inking job I could find instead. For any pay. And I did them when I found them. Some days I would sleep in my '65 Dodge van in a park by the side of the road because I had sworn I wouldn't go home until I had gotten a job that day... and I didn't have a job yet. As I looked under every rock that summer...sometimes so desperate for that pay that I would travel to 10 or 15 appointments per day if I could get them... I met people. People who knew other people. People who liked my willingness to work, my ability to produce good work on deadlines (much of the work I got that first summer was work with such impossible deadlines that no other artist would take the job). July, August...I was only making about a hundred dollars a week most weeks, not the thousand I had to have per month just to make what I had left behind in the bar. My wife was supposed to leave her job in September. I needed to pick up HER paycheck as well by then. My time was almost up.
Then--at the eleventh hour--it happened. One of the ad agency guys I had produced for sent my name and number to another guy in Middletown, Conn., to Xerox Education Publications, where they produced books and comic books and promotional brochures for the Weekly Reader. Weekly Reader was a newspaper outfit that did educational publishing of newspapers, magazines, and children's books for schools all across the nation. They had a comic book they wanted written and drawn to "test" to see if they could sell it on a monthly subscription basis to kids 7-14. The 7-14 age range was their weakest-selling demographic, and consequently they were willing to try out a young cartoonist for the job. It was no big deal to them. It was a real big deal to me. I got an audition for the job. I got it.
The book sold 25,000 copies in the test. When, after six or so issues, the subscription base went up to 100,000 kids. They offered me a five-year contract. The comic was called "SUPERKERNEL COMICS." It was about a cartoon superhero who encouraged kids to read by defeating villains who were illiterate and thus prone to losing out. It eventually had 350,000 readers every month. My art and writing in this comic caught the attention of many publishers, ad execs...and even a few of my cartoon heroes! One of them was Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey and HI AND LOIS fame, who passed my name onto Bill Yates, the Head of King Features Syndicate in New York.
Eventually, King Features gave me an audition to become the cartoonist for the brand new Jim Henson's Muppets comic strip they were launching worldwide in September of 1981. Yep. Got the gig. Never looked back. There wasn't a boat there anyway. SO, what's holding you back? WHO's holding you back? It just might be YOU. It was for me. The Wall Of The One Day A Week Interviews For Work was something I built myself. So I got rid of it. I am not going to tell anyone to just up and quit everything and jump off the cliff like I did. That would be irresponsible.
I don't know YOUR situation. Only YOU know YOU and your own personal battles within your own war. What I will tell you is to look long and hard and with absolute truth at yourself and your dreams and then ask yourself: "WHAT AM I WILLING TO DO?" "HOW BADLY DO I WANT IT?" Look inside yourself. Keep a journal with your your goals and write in it everyday. (I mention this journal in an earlier column; read it below.) Try to move toward those goals a little more every day. I believe that God opens doors.
I believe that God wouldn't put that burning desire in a soul if it wasn't there for a reason. It ain't easy. There are no guarantees. Okay. I just lied. There is one guarantee If you don't give yourself every chance to succeed, you WILL fail. I hope this story of my own life has given you some things to think about in your own. I wish you every blessing on your own road to cartooning stardom. I hope you too are "Drawn To Success."
--Guy Gilchrist Artist, "Nancy," "Mudpie," "Your Angels Speak," "Jim Henson's Muppets"
Drawn to Success #10
“How to Create Your Own Personal Goals”
"or "Honey, Why Don't You Come Over Here And Ink This Cartoon In For Me?"”
A cartoonist walks into King Features and says, "Here's my strip. Put it in 1,000 newspapers. Oh, and I want one of those supermodels/male models waiting for me back home in Paramus, okay?"
OOOOOKAY... Somebody call Security.
Sound ridiculous? You bet. But still I get letters all the time from folks trying to make it as a cartoonist who tell me they can't understand why they haven't made it yet. After all, they've been at it a month or two already! They ask me WHO they have to know to get anywhere in this business! WHO do you have to know?
Start with knowing YOURSELF. Your dreams. Your specific goals. I have written in previous chapters about the importance of having a definite goal in your mind and your heart. I want to elaborate on that in this chapter. You must, MUST, MUST have a specific set of goals in mind that you are working toward every day. You have to have a specific destination. If you don't, you're just wandering around HOPING you get where you want to go. That supermodel might be waiting for you back in Paramus, but you won't stop at the filling station to buy a map.
"I guess I want to be a rich and famous cartoonist." THAT won't really work as a goal. It's much too vague. It's like a rough, light pencil sketch drawn on gray paper with a gray pencil, and then colored in gray wash. DREAMS DIE WHEN THEY'RE WRITTEN IN GRAY. Think of your dreams, your GOALS like a piece of artwork you're creating. A good piece of art has a specific idea in as a finished piece of creative work.
You work it all out in pencil first in a thumbnail, or several thumbnails, until you find the composition that is strongest. Then you begin to draw, lightly at first, and continue drawing tighter and tighter until you have just the image you visualized. Then, you go to inks on it. You work on it until it is a perfectly composed piece of black-and-white art that can be reproduced for the public. Then, and only then, have you achieved what you set out to do. Then, and only then, can the world see what you first visualized.
GOALS are like that, too. You've got to be very black and white with them. Your goals have to be black and white, bold, well worked out, and easy to read. Your goals should be clear. Something you, and only you see. Goals that are reachable, yet stretch you to your limits. You should have both a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Did the guy/girl who walked into King have a definite goal? YEP. Sure did. Was he/she off their rocker? YEP. Sure was. But no more so than anyone who wishes to succeed, who doesn't have a clear definite goal in mind and written in a journal, and the patience and fortitude to work as long as it takes to achieve, or surpass that goal.
It's a long, long journey to riches and success, grasshopper. You need a map with a destination and a pathway BURNED into your mind. Everyday there will be things in your way. Traffic jams. New construction. Most drivers on the road to success turn off to the side of the road. Go back where they came from. No way to get there. HELP ME! they scream! I TRIED! they lament. It's the solitary driver who drives on, no matter what, changing pathways, and routes along the way, never stopping until they reach their destination, that MAKE IT.
There are plenty of excuses for failure. Success knows no excuse. YOUR GOALS ARE WRITTEN IN INK. YOUR GAME PLAN IN PENCIL. While your goals must be definite, your plans don't and shouldn't be. Circumstances of all kinds come and go daily, and your plans have to change with them. As you move on, more rapidly than perhaps you ever thought you could toward your goal, your plans will constantly change to get around the problems you are faced with, and the incredible opportunities that come your way. ONE ARTIST ON ONE MASTERPIECE.
When I set goals for myself, I write down in my "Personal Goal Journal" what I want to achieve... both in six months from today and in five years from today. I date my entries. I give myself deadlines. Ever try to "get to" that spec idea you have for the next big strip or project without giving yourself a deadline to get it done? Never gets done, does it? WE ALL NEED DEADLINES! When I write down these personal things, I am the only one I have to convince that these goals are reachable and realistic. To me, THAT is extremely important. I ask for no one else's input. WHY? Because no one but me KNOWS ME, and all that I AM capable of.
Someone else might think that I'm just as wacked out as that person that got booted out of King Features! Only YOU really know the greatness inside you. Only YOU know your own desires. Only YOU know what you really want, and only YOU know what you will be willing to do to get it! I know, I know. You have a great "soulmate." You have a great family and great friends and a pet that licks your face. I know.
So, WHY NOT get THEIR input? Why not tell them all your hopes and dreams and show them your lofty goals so that they can tell you how great you are and how incredibly talented you are and that they SO, SO, SO believe in you. BECAUSE. Because they will love you no matter what. That's why. And if you fall on your face and fail as you may have so many times before and don't get it done, they will still be your safety net. And isn't THAT really why you want to tell them? To set yourself up for failure? To give yourself a "guarantee" that they will still love you when you fail? Failure should NOT be part of your roadmap to success! They could also tell you it's too hard. They could also tell you you CAN'T do it! They could also tell you that you can only do it WITH THEM at your side. OR that what YOU'RE wanting to accomplish will affect THEM!
So, be careful. All these scenarios are WALLS. Walls between YOU and your GOALS. More complicated considerations that you'll have to take into account as you plan your dream. You don't need any more walls! Goals are hard enough to achieve, dreams are tough enough to get to, when it's just you and you alone! Think about it this way, "Mr. or Ms. Soon To Be A Successful Cartoonist Or Writer": When you are at your drawing board, journal or computer drawing or writing, trying to create a masterpiece in the solitude of your mind with your God-given talents, HOW MANY PEOPLE are there with you doing it? That's right, Grasshopper. NO ONE. Just you. That's why for your next masterpiece, YOUR GOALS have to be just between you, your journal, and God.
If you're anything like me--and Heaven help you if you are--you already carry all the luggage of your life in your mind along with your own guilty conscience every day of your life. You already hear that evil whisper that YOU don't have anything creatively worthwhile to say, so why don't you get a real job. We all are weak sometimes. We all get beaten down. Sometimes we beat ourselves up. And a beating that you give yourself is always much worse than any beating the outside world could ever give you. It takes all you've got sometimes to battle that evil whisper! But you do it. You beat it. You dismiss it. You soldier on in your solitude toward your goal. YOU CAN DO IT! you think to yourself! You know you need to succeed! You feel a strong, intense sense of responsibility to succeed not just for yourself but for your loved ones. Therefore, your loved ones are always a huge part of your life and your thinking. But if they are also a part of your creative experience, than there's always more than one artist holding the brush.
As it is that only one person can hold the brush in your artwork, so it is that that only one person can hold the brush as you paint your goal masterpiece! When it's done...when you've achieved your goals... hold them up for your loved ones and the whole wide world to see! It always kind of cracks me up when the TV people call and want to do a story on me and my work. They come out with a camera crew and ask to film me drawing. BORRRRRING. The creative process is long and boring and uninteresting to anyone but the artist. WE are the only ones who see what we see before it's drawn, aren't we? The camera guy always eventually figures this out and takes video stills of the completed artwork for the story. THE COMPLETED WORK is WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE UNDERSTANDS!
Your goals, once achieved, are what you will be applauded for! Once you've achieved your goals...they are visible to everyone! They are of value to everyone! They become gifts to you and your world! In my next chapter, I will detail the GOAL JOURNALIZING process. Until then, e-mail me and let me know how things went at King Features.
Drawn to Success #11
“How to Set Up a Personal Goals Journal”
"or "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All" (Firesign Theater)”
No one ever got where they're going without KNOWING WHERE they were going. After you have decided to go from point A to point Z, you can Mapquest, Google, or Yahoo your way anywhere! All the webmaps and directions may tell you to go various ways, but they are all going to send you from Point A and have you end up at Point Z, aren't they?
Creating a GOAL for yourself short-term and another GOAL long-term is exactly like that. You MUST have a definite destination in mind before you start on your journey! What good is it to toil day after day working toward some goal that is not clearly defined? How will you ever know if you've made it there? It's like working on a drawing without knowing exactly what you want it to be! You would never do that! You KNOW that you must SEE the image in your mind clearly first to EVER be able to transfer that idea into a drawing that will represent that idea to the reader! In the same way...your vision of WHO you want to be must be clearly defined in your creative mind before you can ever create the future you want for yourself!
Make sense? YOU ARE A CARTOONIST. That means you are already an incredibly creative person who is used to being the director of your own thoughts. You spend your days at the drawing board making amazing, imaginative things that YOU SEE only in YOUR MIND come to life on paper for the entire world! Why haven't you used this incredible talent that you and only you possess to create the FUTURE that you imagine in your mind and make it real for the whole wide world to see? I know. You've been trying. You have been using every pickup line you know to woo this girl/guy of your dreams...that treasure you want more than anything. Your future. Your successful career.
But... just like a woman/man who refuses to be wooed and captured by vague, unimpressive, less than honest "lines" that are meaningless to a person of class, taste, beauty and substance...so has your future been drifting away from you...just out of your grasp...until NOW. Now you will have a roadmap. Now you will have a clear set of goals. Now you will know exactly what you want...and exactly WHO YOU ARE inside. Easy? No. Worth every moment you spend on it? YES. YOUR GOALS JOURNAL Get yourself one of those old style third grade composition books you used to write notes for reports and other schoolwork in. They cost about a buck and a half. This will be the best 1.50 you ever spent, trust me. DO NOT go out and get yourself some fancy-schmancy "journal" at the art store or Borders. I know, those things are so cool. They have Gilded edges and look like everything you would write in them will be words sent to you directly from God from your place next to the burning bush. THAT'S EXACTLY WHY you shouldn't be writing in that thing, Grasshopper!! Too much pressure to be brilliant. Nope. THIRD GRADE composition book for a buck and a half. Works for me. Will work wonders for you, too. Believe me...YOU WILL BE BRILLIANT.
Next... and this is the hard part... you'll have to think. Think of exactly who it is you want to be, and what your career looks like to you. Do you want to be a syndicated cartoonist? Do you want to be Walt Disney? Do you want to be Maurice Sendak? How big do you want to be? WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR? This is the time when you can be totally out there! Shoot for the stars! Damn the present reality! The treasure that you create in your mind in these precious moments is the treasure you will soon have! HOLD A DREAM CLOSE TO YOUR HEART, AND SOON YOU WILL HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND, Don't worry about HOW you will achieve this dream right now. Now is not for HOW... now is for WHAT. Once you have a clear and definite idea, that will become your LONG RANGE GOAL. Write down in your journal that long range goal of yours, and a definite DATE on which you have decided you will achieve that goal.
For instance... "I will be a world famous internationally known children's book illustrator with my books in every book store in this country and beyond by January 1st, 2011, five years from today." OR... "I will be a successful freelance cartoonist working for nationally distributed magazines and newspapers, earning 200,000 dollars a year, by January 1, 2011, five years from today." What is YOUR LONG RANGE GOAL? Be specific...have a definite goal in mind, and a definite date on which you will achieve that goal. Walk right in to the dream store and grab yours NOW! After you write out exactly what your goal is, and when you wish to achieve it, sign that document and date it. It is now official. Your journey toward that dream has begun. Next, write down in your journal what your SHORT TERM GOAL is. This short term goal should be something you wish to achieve in the time between NOW and THEN... between the beginning of your journey and the destination you have chosen. Somewhere along the way that you wish to reach in say, six months. No longer than one year from the time you have begun.
This short term goal is extremely important as a marker on your way as you are DRAWN TO SUCCESS. We all need deadlines, don't we? This short term goal will be a lightning bolt to your brain that you MUST continue moving on toward that goal. It creates a sense of immediacy within you!! It says to your subconscious...DO IT! DO IT! This is so, so critical, my student, my comrade, my peer. Again, in creating your short term goal, don't be concerned a bit about what your present circumstances are. Don't even give it a blink! ONLY YOU know how talented you are. Only YOU know what your dreams are! Only YOU know what you want!!
Write down that short range goal and date it and sign it and make it official! Your short range goal should be very specific, as it will be a marker on your way toward your ultimate long range goal. If your long range goal was... "I will be a successful freelance cartoonist working for nationally distributed magazines and newspapers, earning 200,000 dollars a year, by January 1, 2011, five years from today."...Then your short range goal should be something like... "I will be a successful freelance cartoonist whose work has appeared in at least 4 nationally distributed magazines, and I will be earning 50,000 a year by...(and put down a date between 6 months and no longer than one year from this starting day). You see what I mean, don't you? Now...write it down!!! That evil spirit of doubt and low self worth will be screaming in your soul! DON'T LISTEN TO IT!!! Of course this little demon you've been battling will pick THIS VERY MOMENT to come out and try to eat you and your dreams right up, and leave you in the dirt of self doubt and despair! This DEMON of Doubt is freaking out! IT KNOWS you now have the weapons to destroy it forever! It doesn't stand a chance once you are committed!!
So... write it down and lose this evil voice for good!!! THERE. You now have a contract with your future. Your mind, your intense, creative mind KNOWS you have given your word. Next, take two small pieces of paper and re-write your signed, dated goals down on them. One piece of paper you will put in your wallet or purse, and you will carry it with you everywhere you go. It will be there as a constant reminder to you of YOUR FUTURE and the contract you have made with it. During your day, if you are out and about, you can take this CONTRACT out and read it. I suggest you do this at least 6 times a day, especially when it is fresh and new to you. Each time you repeat this oath to yourself, it will be a recommitment on your part to DO IT! The more you repeat this oath to yourself, the more your brain will begin to ACCEPT it as the truth. This is a key to your success.
The subconscious mind accepts as TRUTH whatever thought is continually put into it. If you keep calling yourself a "failure"...your mind will believe it. After all, you wouldn't lie to yourself, would you? So, conversely, when you keep planting this seed of success in the fertile ground of your subconscious mind and imagination... it will begin to take root and grow. The second piece of paper will be posted by your workplace in a spot where you will see it each day. Put it right with your religious or spiritual object, your photos of family and friends, your daughter's finger painting...right amongst your most precious things. Because my friend...YOU and your future...your success and happiness...are precious to those who love you, and they should be for YOU, too. REPEAT YOUR OATH as many times as you can during the day, to plant and nurture and feed this new dream of yours. It has already started growing.
You don't need a plan to start with...all you need is a dream. A definite set of GOALS. Before you go to sleep that first night, and every night thereafter... repeat your goals out loud or to yourself at least three times. Then, go to sleep and let your dreaming, subconscious mind take over. As you sleep, your mind will begin to formulate a plan to get there...to your goals! Isn't it true that some mornings you have woken up from a sound sleep, not even realizing that when you went to bed that previous night that there was a problem you had to solve, and in that new sunrise of a new day, you have mysteriously woken up with the answer?? OF COURSE.
Your mind is always working on keeping you happy, and in balance. Your mind is your great friend that stands with you in every storm of life! YOUR MIND IS YOUR MOST VALUABLE ALLY. When you wake up in the morning, and that first IDEA comes to you, that first idea on how you might begin to make your goals a reality... WRITE IT DOWN MMEDIATELY. Take out your GOALS JOURNAL, and again, for the second day, write down your long term and short term goals, and your new idea! THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF YOUR PLAN. Continue to write for at least THREE PAGES IN LONG HAND, FRONT AND BACK, about your goals and your plan. Watch in amazement as the plan begins to formulate! Continue this practice each and every day. It's only YOUR FUTURE we're talking about here. Don't miss a day.
In future columns, I'll write more about your subconscious mind, your ability to feed it the nutrients it needs to help your dream grow, and how to plan your future step-by-step. Until then...I hope this column has been of value to you, Mr. or Mrs. Soon-To-Be_Everything-You've-Ever-Dreamed-Of-Being Cartoonist. May God bless you as you continue to be DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #12
“Training Your Mind to Realise Your Dreams”
"Or "Yeah, Baby...You're the only one for me...well, look at THAT total babe comin' down the street! SLAP!"”
Are You Focused? I mean, really focused? Or, are you like most people...with that MTV attention span that flips around like a TV remote with 200 channels and nothing on you want to watch? Are you one of those people who, when you're out on a date with your lover, still gets whiplash checking out the other babes or hunks that walk your way? Yeah. That would go over BIGTIME, wouldn't it? It wouldn't be too long before your lover gives you the evil eye, the argument, and then the big boot in the butt!
After all, YOU and YOUR DATE have chosen each other. So, what are you doing checking out the competition? You lose all around. That good thing you've been working on is gone...and you have shown yourself to be someone who will probably do the same thing to the next relationship partner...so, THEY'RE not too eager to get with you, either. THAT'S what happens to your dreams and goals if you don't keep it together, and stay focused on them, as well. YOUR GOALS will get up and walk away, too...just like a spurned lover. You cannot serve two masters, grasshopper. That's why you've got to choose your goals carefully, and put everything you've got into them! As soon as you've chosen your goals... LESSER and more easily accessible treats may be put before you to steer you off-course! It's that little demon coming after you again!
Don't be fooled. Stick to your goals. A good long range goal, along with a short term �on the way there" goal is the only way to get there. The short term goal is still part of the long range plan. It's a signpost pointing you straight toward your dreams. YOU WRITE YOUR GOALS IN INK, AND YOUR PLANS IN PENCIL. While your dream, or goal, is written in stone, and is daily repeated, and translated into TRUTH in your subconscious mind, your plan is as fluid as your day to day trials and triumphs. Every morning when you wake, you go to your PERSONAL GOALS JOURNAL and again and again write down your two goals, and the dates on which these dreams of yours will become a reality. If you're like me when I began, you have no idea, or very little idea, HOW you and God are going to make that happen, however. YOU DON'T NEED TO. IT WILL HAPPEN. How do I know?
When I was 16, I was working at the drug store when I wasn't going to high school. I drew every moment I could, practicing what I thought I needed to know to become a better artist. I came from a family of eight kids and it was "understood" that neither me, nor anyone else was going to get a college education paid for by my parents. I was a middle kid, and the three kids before me had been left on their own to make it, and so I knew that I would be, too. We were not wealthy. My Stepfather, who I call my DAD, was an upholsterer, and he made a good enough living to take care of a huge family, but with no frills. I also knew I wanted to be a Cartoonist. I had ALWAYS wanted to be a cartoonist. But...I was going to have to make it without Art School. I was angry. I thought that by going to art school, I could more easily learn what I needed to know to become a world famous cartoonist. Others I knew would go. I would stay home. I would be left behind. In five years... THEY would know everything they needed to know, and be one-up on me for the prize. I would not let that happen. I would NOT be left behind in the "Success Sweepstakes".
So, I wrote down a FIVE YEAR GOAL. In five years, I would have just been graduating Art School, I figured... and I wanted more than anything else in my heart of hearts, and with all my soul, to come out AHEAD of anyone my age with my artistic ability who were fortunate enough to be able to go to art school. I know... sounds a little bit like "revenge", doesn't it? Well, I was young... and I needed an edge. THAT was my edge. I DECIDED that within five years of that date, I would be a successful, nationally known and published writer and cartoonist with an income substantial enough that I could afford to HIRE a college graduate as an assistant! The KEY WORD is DECIDED. I wrote it in stone. Done-deal. Yep. I was going to be fabulously successful by 21... and have a college kid working for me. I set up GOALS for each year...steps on my ladder to success. Where I wanted to be a year from then, two years, three, four... and my end result. I had NO PLAN. Not at the beginning. Just a decision.
Soon...Between God and little ol' me...I had a plan. I did it. By the time I was TWENTY, not twenty-one, but one year earlier than I had hoped, I was the cartoonist of SUPERKERNEL COMICS, a monthly comic book published and distributed all over the country by Weekly Reader Books in Middletown, Connecticut. STAYING FOCUSED WITH A FLUID PLAN. I learned that THE PLAN would all come to me in bits and pieces. Day after day, I would work in my journal. First I would write down my goals... then I would write about my goals and how I might get there. Many of my early pages... remember I ask you to write THREE long hand pages FRONT and BACK every single day were full of questions, and few answers. Heck! I didn't know what I was doing!! I just KNEW what I wanted! I BURNED MY GOALS INTO MY MIND! My goals consumed me! Even CONSUMED by my goals, and the fluid formation and re-formation of a plan, I found I still had PLENTY of time for family, my "real" job at the time, and even dating.
I would get married at the age of twenty, by the way, so don't think I was ALL WORK and NO PLAY.I found time to woo this gal, and win her heart, even though all I really remember taking up my thoughts from that period was THIS BURNING DESIRE TO ACHIEVE MY GOALS! I guess even then I knew that I needed to achieve my dreams to become someone that someone else could love, needed to achieve my dreams to support a wife and future children, and create a successful marriage and homelife. I had little formal art training. Little formal training as a writer. Little money. No contacts in the business. Yep...I guess you could say I had no shot. Everybody else did...everybody except ME and MY GOALS JOURNAL. Over and over again, I TRAINED my mind to believe my dreams as truth until my dreams became truth. YOU CAN DO IT, TOO!
You would be absolutely AMAZED at how much daydreaming and wandering your mind does in comparison to direct, concise thinking about ANYTHING during a normal waking day! So, what I'm asking you to do is fill that daydreaming time in your mind up with YOUR FUTURE! You! YOU! YOU!! You have the supreme power over WHAT your mind is filled with and ultimately creates! Think of your future as a drawing that only YOU can see until YOU CREATE IT, and make it truth on paper for the world to see. You have an incredible imagination when it comes to your art...so let's transfer and grow that brilliance into creating your own future! YOU MUST TRAIN YOUR MIND TO SEE YOUR DREAMS AS TRUTH UNTIL YOUR DREAMS BECOME YOUR TRUTH, AND EVERYBODY'S REALITY. If you will fill your mind with the POSITIVE TRUTH that you will be successful... Your mind will believe it, and so will YOU. In your waking hours, you must repeat your oath over and over and over until it becomes an absolute truth.
Then, as you sleep, relax, or play, when much of your decision making, and creative mind is usually "on hold"... your mind will begin to figure out what the next step is that you must take to achieve that truth. Each morning, after you again state and date your goals... your subconscious mind will send answers to your questions about your PLAN to your conscious mind as you write and think... and those answers will be revealed to you in your journal during your waking moments. These bits and pieces of brilliance, over time, will come together creating YOUR PLAN! IT WILL WORK, IF YOU WILL. This is not easy. All along the way, roadblocks will spring up in your pathway to your goals, and ultimate success. LIFE will try to get in the way. You have a lot of responsibilities, I'm sure. Everyone, and everything in your life needs love, caring and your time. How will you ever find time? YOU MUST! Think about it.... IF you were already successful, and had world class clients that needed boatloads of awesome artwork that only YOU could create, you would HAVE to MAKE the TIME to be that successful artist that everyone was clamoring for! So...start right now. Start to "compartmentalize" YOU�your life, your brain, your thinking into what YOU ALREADY KNOW MUST HAPPEN if that dream is to come true!
In subsequent chapters, and earlier chapters, I will write and have already written of some other tools you can use to help you through the day to day triumphs and trials of your life as you move closer to your dreams, and SURPASS THEM...as you are DRAWN TO SUCCESS. My next chapter is on "sustaining success". But, first you must SUSTAIN YOUR GOALS. Here's to your success!
Drawn to Success #13
“Continuing Success Day After Day”
"or "It's Getting Better All The Time" (Imagine Lennon and McCartney Singing)”
What an ugly word. The only "flat" I want in my life is my Strathmore Bristolboard... oh, and my stomach...and sitting at the drawing board with my Strathmore Bristol isn't helping my abs at all. But... it IS helping me to not go FLAT in my career. I am continually trying to stay focused on learning and getting better in my art. I constantly fight the notion that I am any good at this at all. Do I sound like I have a "self-esteem" problem? Sorry, Oprah. I don't mean to...because I don't.
As a matter of fact, one reason I believe in myself and my work is because I know how hard I try to not "flatten out" and "plateau". So many artists do. I did once, too... and I didn't even know it. When my first blush of true success came with Jim Henson and The Muppets comic strip, I worked extremely hard to get better and better at my task of a daily comic strip with well established characters. I made mistakes and LEARNED each day... on a worldwide stage in the bright spotlight of 660 newspapers. I was a kid. I was still learning, and the thrill was tremendous... and frightening.
But Jim, and Michael K. Frith, the Vice President of Creative at Henson gave me a year of working "under the radar" before the strip launched in September of 1981 to get used to it all. I practiced SO HARD! For myself of course, for the fans of the Muppets... and for Michael and Jim. I believe I made huge artistic strides that first year, and the next three or four years. Certainly, being thrown into the deep end like that, you're going to sink or swim...and I was determined to not sink. Learning comes naturally easier to you when you're younger. You are just out of school, and accustomed to "classes", "homework", "grades"...and testing...both by others, and by yourself. As you get older, however...LIFE takes over.
Your career and money take over, and it becomes easier to "plateau" or to do what is expected of you... instead of consistently trying to learn and improve. For about a year or so, in the mid eighties, I have to take an honest look at myself and my work and say that I skated. Besides doing my work on the Muppets, I had many other lesser commercial accounts and I have to say that I only did what was expected of me and nothing more. I shamefully, I can say now, believed I was good enough. I was making consistently good money, and had many accounts. The accounts were all happy with what I was providing for them... but I KNEW I could do more...and do it better. I can give all the standard excuses about deadlines and time restrictions, life, family, and improving my golf game. That's probably what I was telling myself then to help myself not feel guilty about "skating". It's just not a good enough excuse. THERE IS NOT GOOD EXCUSE.
That's what this column is all about. That's the reason I'm making this confession to you. It's another "cautionary tale" from your pal, Father Guy, of the Church Of Don't Do That. It's incredibly simple to fall back into "fat and happy" mode when things are going well in your career. It's like any relationship...a story as old as time. How many marriages would be saved if either one of the two people TRIED as hard to please their spouse in year 6 or 12 as they did in year 1? Okay... probably not Liza Minelli's. I don't even know if there was a year one there... But, you get my point. I broke out of my funk before things got real bad, not because I was brilliant and saw a big fall coming, I wasn't and probably still am not that smart... but because of an opportunity that came my way. Henson Associates and The Muppets were so HOT that they just had so much work to offer, I HAD to get better.
I was offered jobs illustrating merchandise, books and games and I was not adept at full color work. So, if I wanted to be involved, I had to learn to paint! So... I did. I learned so much about art, and about the business. I learned that to continue to succeed, you need to be constantly getting better. You need to keep on learning, and try everyday to master new skills. Jesus said... "Come to me as a child..." I began to approach each new day as a child would. I advise any artist to do the same. What I mean by that is to come to your art each day wanting to learn something new! Some things will come easily, some hard. Some you will never master. What a blast!! If we keep on drawing... life drawing, gesture drawing... anatomy drawing... continuous line drawing... we'll have a good shot at getting better! If we keep on inking, painting, using new methods of computer assistance... we'll keep growing! And the world we create for ourselves to work in will be brighter, and more exciting!
Gill Fox was a good friend of mine. Gill was a master at everything in cartooning. He was one of the first cartoonists in comic books in the thirties. He worked on Betty Boop cartoons in animation before that. He did a panel for NEA called SIDE GLANCES for over twenty five years. He was very successful in commercial work. But, at the age of 75...THAT'S 75, mind you, he wasn't satisfied! He still chased his dream of becoming a Political Cartoonist. He practiced all the time. And, at that advanced age of 75, when almost everyone has shut it down... Gill Fox became the staff Political Cartoonist for the Connecticut Post. He was like a kid. EVERYDAY... Gill was like a kid. I wish you could have known him. He could inspire anyone with his enthusiasm for cartooning! Every time I would learn a new skill, or get a new client that was going to stretch me creatively, Gill wanted to know about it. I still think of him frequently, although he moved on to that much better place of light and love a while ago. I know he'd be yelling at me if he ever thought for a moment I was skating. And he could YELL. He was a tough German-American from Brooklyn. He would get mad and yell if he EVER thought anyone was �skating�.
So... I never do. I hope you won't either. If it helps you to think of ME, yelling at you... then... good. I am a good yeller... I have three kids. Continued success will be yours always if you continue to try. Quit trying, and face the fact that there are 100 guys and girls out there who...at that moment... want YOUR job. And they are trying just as hard as you USED TO. An ex -girlfriend or boyfriend never looks better to us than when she/he is in the arms of someone else. Or, have we learned nothing from Days Of Our Lives, people? I hope this column has been worth your time, and that you have found something meaningful in it to keep you DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #14
“Learning From Adversity”
"Or "If It Don't Kill You, It'll Probably Just Make You Stronger...So Keep Telling Yourself That In The Emergency Room"”
I never learned anything from those times when everything went the way I wanted them to, and I was just plain happy. It is always those tough times when I find some things out about the world, the career, and myself. Don't think for a moment I DON'T LIKE BEING HAPPY. It's wonderful!! My brain is full of 60's bubblegum music, my back is loose, and I'm walking on sunshine like Katrina and The Wave... I just never LEARNED anything. I was too busy being happy. It's Adversity that teaches me what I need to know. How about you?
Adversity is a great teacher. Never mind that sometimes you can have so much adversity it makes you feel like your teacher is Larry Holmes... and that you're getting a full 15 rounds of his schooling. In cartooning, as in all the arts, you're going to hit rough patches. Storms Of Life and Career. Everyone gets knocked down. It's those that get up that are the SUCCESSFUL ones. Just the nature of the business makes it that way. That's why there are so few winners and so many losers.
Whether you're a web cartoonist, a comic book or strip cartoonist, a freelance gagman or woman, a commercial illustrator, or a book illustrator, the reward you get for a job well done is usually a check, and the invitation from the world to start looking for another job. You make one client very happy, but they don't have another job for you right away... so you're essentially out of work. Sure... they'll call you when they're ready to have you work for them again, if you did a good job, but for now... you need another job. BUT... YOU knew this going into it, didn't you? You knew that you didn't want the security of a staff position, because you wanted to do your own thing. Make your own way. Have your own creative say. You didn't want the monotony of the same job for years on end. Same old, same old. You wanted the excitement of making it on your own terms. Your own way.
Well... now you have it. And it's scary sometimes. I had been an established cartoonist with world class clients for over fifteen years when the phone stopped ringing one day. I don't think I even noticed for the first couple weeks that the phone had stopped ringing. But it had. For the first time. I went to my mailbox. No checks in the mailbox either. WHY? What happened? Surely I wouldn't panic. The next job was probably on my answering machine. No panic. No panic. No p-p-p-panic... PANIC!!!!!!!! RING! PHONE! RING!! I've got a good friend, Frank McLaughlin, who is one of the most talented guys I've ever known. He did Wonder Woman, Batman, and The Flash...all through the 1970s and into the 1980s. He's always worked steady. Fatale in the 1990s. Commercial stuff. He does Gil Thorpe these days for newspapers. Frank cracked me up one day. He asked me if I was going to do an appearance at one of the big NYC Comic Conventions. He said, "You have to show up at these things from time to time or people think you're DEAD!" How true, how true. Maybe the phone wasn't ringing because folks thought I was dead. Maybe my cartooning career was. Maybe I was and I just didn't know it yet.
At the time, this was about 15 years ago, I was in the midst of a very messy divorce. One of those storms of life I write so frequently about. I had been so wrapped up in the divorce that for almost a year I had stopped doing the things to promote myself and my work out there in the marketplace that I had always done to find work and sustain my studio. As soon as I realized this valuable lesson that adversity taught me, I began to quickly try to turn this tide. I began promoting myself again through the same avenues I had previously for years, and searching out NEW ways to offer NEW services as well. I learned several lessons from this storm that I hope you will take to heart as I did, in hopes you can turn the tide BEFORE it becomes a tidal wave that threatens the safety and security of your own career.
Continue to reach out to new and old clients, even when you don't need the work. When you're busy, and up to your armpits in work, it's easy to forget to promote yourself. It sometimes seems even a good idea to NOT promote yourself. After all, HOW MUCH CAN YOU DO? Promote yourself anyway. If you're good, clients will wait a week or three for you. They may be able to adjust their deadlines because they really WANT YOU! There's no harm in asking. A busy artist is a successful artist. And an artist the client knows they can count on. After all, you wouldn't have all this work if you weren't fantastically talented, professional in every way, and didn't meet all your deadlines. You're very attractive to the client... they may wait a bit.
You can also adjust your own timeframes to try and accommodate more work. For instance, working more jobs at once. Getting a helper on a job to job basis. Doing a rough quickly for the client is also a good way to spread yourself around... so they can visualize and plan their project out and wait a few more days for the finished job that they KNOW will be on time. If you just flat out cannot do the job, recommend another true professional friend of yours to do the job, and check in with both the client and your friend to make sure it all works out. Yes, you take the real chance that the client may wind up staying with the friend of yours, and you lose that client... BUT, more likely, the client may truly appreciate your willingness to help them out, and reward you by staying a client... even if in the future you will SHARE the jobload with your now �happier and more indebted to you� friend.
You will also most likely be rewarded by your friend, either in a 10% "finder's fee" or even better...your friend REMEMBERING you and your goodwill when the same thing happens to them. There will come a time when THEY have too much work and call you with a job. It just might be when you aren't busy and the rent's due, too. God has a way of doing things like that. PROMOTE! PROMOTE! PROMOTE! Send mailers and email mailers out on a consistent schedule! Keep you, and your work in front of clients! They WILL forget you if you don't. DON'T MISS DEADLINES! It's all for nothing if you do. Don't Let Your Life AND Your Career Fall Apart... TRY to keep your professional and personal life separate! I KNOW... Believe me, I know how hard this is. But, TRY!
Remember... if you have a career that's going nowhere... YOU will fall apart and have nothing to offer anyone on any level. You'll be broke. Depressed. You won't feel like drawing. It will be a short walk to your new career... asking, "Do You Want FRIES With That?" And, if this ever happens...even if you're just like me and KNOW it shouldn't... go back to square one and start all over doing what you know is right. Remember... we all fall down. Some, like me... probably more than others. But the WINNERS get right back up and start swinging again! That's YOU. Keep on swinging! I hope this column has been worth your time and that you have found something valuable in it to help keep you DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #15
“Sticking to Your Goals, No matter What”
"Or "A Little Bit of Success, A Little Bit of Failure, with Pepperoni and Anchovies on the Side"”
Keeping up with your GOALS JOURNAL is absolutely crucial in the development of your dreams of being a successful cartoonist, writer or creator. Not keeping up with it is the main reason most people fall short of their goals, both long and short term. It is extremely easy to "miss" a day. Then, it's that much easier to miss two days, and three, and so on. It's like my "diets". Oh... enough brown rice and vegetables. I'll just have ONE pizza. Then...twenty pounds later... Or my famous, fabulous "workout" schedule... Gee... My shoulder hurts today. I'll just skip a day or three and "listen to my body"...twenty flabby pounds later... Reasons to "miss" are as diverse as the population. Everyone has an excuse. The TWO MAIN REASONS are a little bit of success, and a little bit of failure. I'll elaborate: A LITTLE BIT OF SUCCESS. Let's say that you've been writing everyday in your GOALS JOURNAL, just as you are supposed to. THEN, good things begin to happen! They SHOULD!
You have set down in writing your stated and well thought out goals for the long haul, and the short haul. You have been reinforcing these goals each and every day. Every morning when you arise, you grab your coffee, and write down those goals. You date it. You sign it. You write down your stream of consciousness thoughts. Your subconscious mind has been working all night while you've slept... helping you to navigate between the point you were at last evening, this morning, and where your future, the future you are creating, is heading. The "breaks" begin to happen for you! YOU KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO WORK! Your creative life begins anew! You are seeing the beginning of your dream realized, right before your eyes! So...you start to miss writing entries in. You aren't as hungry anymore. The new car smell is wearing off. You start to get happy. You start finding excuses for missing entries in your journal. The good luck keeps going for a while, even though you've stopped journaling.
Then...THE GOOD LUCK STOPS. I wish I could tell you it would keep right on going. I can't. Eventually, it will stop. WHY DID IT KEEP GOING for a while, even though you stopped writing in your journal? YOUR DREAMS, YOUR GOALS, YOUR INTENT...YOUR PROMISE... was THAT strong that it couldn't be stopped, even when you stopped!! You had developed such keen and clear focus that the ball just kept rolling! Eventually, however, without more work on your part... the ball has to stop rolling. And once your momentum is gone, you have to rebuild that momentum all over again! "Oh, WHY? WHY? WHY did I quit just as I was getting going??? I'm gonna start writing in my Journal again tomorrow... or the next day...THEN there'll be NO STOPPING ME! But first... I'll order a pizza." A LITTLE BIT OF FAILURE.
You have been focused, strong and diligent. You have been doing everything you think you should. You have been writing in your journal, every morning without fail, and your plan has been formulating in your subconscious mind. You carry a piece of paper with you during the day in your pocket, and keep reciting your goals over and over. The goals are even posted where you can see them at work each day. You are trying as hard as you possibly can. But, every time the ball starts to roll, and it finally looks like you're going to get somewhere in your quest...The ball turns into a grenade that blows right up in your face! WHY ME? You cry out to the universe! But you keep on going, keep writing, keep dreaming, keep hoping, until another explosion happens, and another, and finally you start missing your appointment with your GOALS JOURNAL. Your appointment with YOUR DESTINY, YOUR FUTURE. Without your goals being stated over and over again, your focus fades. Your dreams fade away like a picture drawn in Flair Pen in the noonday sun. Till only traces of your once beautiful dreams and goals remain.
I tried, you tell yourself. But...did you try LONG ENOUGH? Was that dream of yours shining just over the next hill? That fiery glow you thought was just another grenade going off?? You'll never know, now, will you? Better order a pizza and think it over. A CARTOONIST'S LIFE IS ALL ABOUT DEADLINES AND PERFORMANCE OVER THE LONG HAUL. Keeping deadlines has gotten easier for me over the years. I didn't say EASY, now...I said easier. I've been syndicated now for parts of three decades. Deadlines are never easy over the long haul. Everyday, LIFE gets in the way of the strips. But, somehow, someway, I get them done. That's how I look at the GOAL JOURNALIZING process as well. SOMEHOW, you've just got to get it done!! If you want something of great value, it will demand focus, sacrifice, and creativity on your part! Sometimes the road to success is easier, sometimes it's harder. But you MUST KEEP GOING!
Remember what they say about "going that extra mile". If you go that extra mile, it certainly means you are running harder, and longer, than anyone else. But... as you run that extra mile and look around you for competition, you'll see nobody else around you. YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE OUT THERE! You run alone to that goal line that only YOU CAN SEE! You WIN. When I began JIM HENSON'S MUPPETS, the comic strip, for King Features and Jim back in 1981, we launched in 660 papers all around the world. It was the biggest launch in the history of comic strips. To say that I was off to a great start doesn't even come close to what that really was. I had a five year contract to fulfill. I couldn't "skate" even for one week, or one day. That success would not last if I didn't stay focused through the whole five year run. If I didn't stay enthusiastic everyday, I would lose momentum, and possibly NEVER get it back. Everyday, I had to do my best. I had my great days, good days, bad days, and miserable days... but I filled that space in 600 plus papers everyday the best I could for five years and retired a success.
When I began the NIGHT LIGHTS AND PILLOW FIGHTS Sunday and daily feature, with illustrated poems and the MUDPIE comic, I started in 5 papers. After the first six months, I only had about ten. It wasn't much better after a year. I won't lie to you. I thought about quitting everyday at some point. It was rough. I was busting my hump on a feature and nobody read it! It was the exact OPPOSITE of The Muppets, and my other feature, NANCY, which was running in over 400 papers. Why didn't I quit? I had made a five year commitment to the feature! I KNEW it would take five years at least to know if the strip was going to be a success or a failure. Five years to try all the different marketing schemes, five years to get the word out! I HAD MADE A COMMITMENT TO A DREAM. I HAD A GOAL. I HAD MADE APROMISE TO MYSELF AND TO GOD IN A JOURNAL. IT WAS A TRUST. After two and a half years, NIGHT LIGHTS was running in 100 papers! It became the most successful self-syndicated comic of it's time, according to American Color in Buffalo, New York, who did the distribution and color separations for it, and hundreds of other features syndicated by King features, United Feature, and Universal. I was a success. A little bit of success, or a little bit of failure should not change your commitment to a quality future. BOTH SHOULD SPUR YOU ON!!
Remember... when you created your goals, you had neither success or failure as part of your equation. YOU SIMPLY HAD GOALS. You made a daily, lifetime commitment to achieving those goals. You made a promise to commit your time, artistic ability, focus, and blood, sweat, and tears to achieving something only you could see. You chose a timeframe. You chose your future. Just like a guy that does a daily comic strip cannot just "not do it for a while" and keep his spot in the comics pages... you can't ever quit filling your GOALS JOURNAL everyday with your "feature". It's all yours. You CREATED it. It will not and cannot exist without your daily input!! All around you, everyday, LIFE will happen. You will have to find new and creative ways to keep your commitment to yourself, your loved ones, and your future.
But remember... YOU CREATED IT. IT WILL NOT EXIST WITHOUT YOUR VISION. Just like that drawing you have in your mind, that through skill and talent and focus you can make come out of your arm and fingers to that pencil to that paper, for the whole wide world to see...you cannot stop it's creation until you see it through till it's finished. Only then have you achieved your goal. Only then is your dream a reality for the whole wide world to see. May you continue to stay focused, strong, and divinely blessed on your road to greatness, as you are DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #16
“Managing Your Time”
"Or "Did Frankie Avalon Ever Get Lucky With Annette?"”
There was an old Italian gay tarantella that went, "Lucky, lucky, lucky me! I'm a lucky son-of-a-gun! I work eight hours. I sleep eight hours. I have eight hours of fun!" I looked it up, and found out that Evelyn Knight had the hit on it in 1951, with Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle, for you younguns) and Annette Funicello doing it as well. I probably heard the Disney Diva's version, being a child of the sixties. I grew up in an Italian family. My stepfather sang that song under his breath all the time. He was a furniture upholsterer. I guess he thought he was a "lucky" furniture upholsterer. We all have those "lucky" 24 hours everyday. We work eight hours, and sleep eight hours. It's what we do with those OTHER eight hours that make our destiny. Our dreams. Our goals. OUR LUCK. I believe it is what we do in those eight hours that define us.
WHAT DID YOU DO LAST WEEK? Try this. Write down what you did in those eight hours you weren't working or sleeping every day of last week. List the days from Sunday to Saturday, and write it all down. Make it as detailed and time specific as you can. Write down as accurately as you can remember the time spent on each activity. "Workout at the Y, 4pm till 6:15 pm." Or..."Watched the playoffs and ate chinese food 3:15 till 7:15." Or... whatever and whenever. You could absolutely amaze yourself! Either by how productive you were toward your dreams and goals ... OR... by how much you goofed off, and THOUGHT you were working toward those dreams and goals, getting closer and closer to that time you could dance around the Sons Of Italy Hall with the best of them! I know, I know...a dream come true. Now put down that accordion and pay attention to that watch on your wrist. Mickey's hands say... it's time for a little "Time Management"! TIME MANAGEMENT IS NOT A DIRTY WORD FOR ARTISTS.
I get this all the time. The "I am an ARTIST� talk. I'm sexy! I'm flighty! I'm moody! I'm free! Hey, Freebird... take it somewhere else. Creativity DOES have a time clock! So do you... and it's high time you figured out how to manage YOURS! There is ART... and then there is the BUSINESS OF ART. There are wishes... then there are GOALS. Big difference. Art is beauty. Art is communication. YOUR ART is your future. Your art is going to be beautiful... it will speak to the whole world...but you must manage your art like the PRODUCT it is if you want to make money doing it on a regular basis and create a future for yourself. Your ability to manage your time will be the difference between your present-day circumstances and the future you so heartily want deep within your soul! Your ability to manage your creativity will be the difference between showing it to some family and friends and your dog, Boo... and communicating from your heart and soul through your art to the whole world!
When your GOALS become your REALITY, you will have to create masterpiece after masterpiece on a steady basis... all the while still being the best friend and lover and nurturer and humanitarian you are now. Can't be done? YES, IT CAN! And YOU'RE JUST THE ONE TO DO IT!! WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU? Make a short list of what is most important to you. Who is most important to you. Now, next to each of those "BLESSINGS"... write down how much time you have given to each of those in that same past week. For many of us, those blessings include friends and family, our country, our town, our church, our God. For many of us, we include our "art" as an afterthought. A begrudged aside to our lives. We are almost ashamed to list it. It seems too "all about me". THINK ABOUT THAT. Your dream. Your art. Your gift. That HUGE piece of you that is so much what makes you the YOU that your family and friends and even your dog, Boo, love so much! Aren't you cheating not only yourself... but EVERYONE in your life that wants YOU to be YOU?
Think about those charities you think so much of. Think of your church, your country, your world. How much "luckier" would all those organizations and causes you believe in be if you took the time to become WHO YOU TRULY WANTED TO BE and gave them some of the fruits of your talents? The plain truth is that everyone and everything in your life that you love and care for could be thoroughly enhanced by your artistic success. Next to each of your blessings on your list, now write down or draw a picture of what that future looks like to you for them. Write down what you could do when your dreams become your reality... and what you could do for them on your journey to your dream. It's about the journey, too, you know.
Before I started writing all these things down, I always seemed rushed and behind schedule somewhere! Either I was golden to some, and garbage to others, or running around like a madman trying to be everything to everyone, and finally collapsing in a pile of goo at the end of another half-finished day. Now, I manage much better, and there is lots less goo around the studio for folks to slip on. My GOAL JOURNAL each day is filled with three hand written pages front and back describing EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that's on my mind. I am "sorting out" my life as I write. I find plans toward my goals, roadblocks and stepping stones, and everything and everyone that's important to me. My subconscious mind finds ways to help me do ALL that I need to. All that I have deemed important to me, deep within my heart. I can't be all things to all people at all times. Yep. I finally learned that!
But... I CAN be good to many. One six month period, while I'm working on my goals, if I manage my time and talent well enough, I can spend time helping out my church. Art prints for the kids graduating Sunday School, or painting the scenery for the Christmas Pageant. I'm building my dream at the same time as I am helping others. Another six month period, while I am striving toward my goals, I can teach my child to draw and paint. I can give some time to the school he or she attends, doing posters or flyers for activities around school... or doing a guest speaker gig. I am enhancing MY life, my career, and getting the gift of giving! The truth is, you will be a better artist, better friend, and better ANYTHING to anyone as you move closer to the goals you have committed yourself and your talents to in your GOALS JOURNAL, in your mind, and in your actions day after day. WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND? Whatever is on your mind, if you write it down, and give it the time it will take, it will become your agenda! It will become part and parcel to your GOALS and DREAMS.
You will become a person of thought and action! A PERSON OF THOUGHT AND ACTION. Isn't that WHO YOU ARE? WHO YOU WISH TO BE?? A person whose thoughts are so well defined and well formed that they become action? Isn't that what this is all about? From now on... THAT IS WHO YOU ARE! There are many, many different ways to manage your time and learn life changing time management skills. I have only touched on a couple in this chapter. I will outline more time management procedures as we move on in coming weeks and months. HOW you learn to manage your time is not as important as DOING IT! The key here is to begin. Use that time you spend with your goals each morning in your GOALS JOURNAL to be truthful, as painfully truthful as you can be, with yourself and how you plan to spend each gift of today.
The past is the past. The PRESENT is indeed, a "Present". God's gift to you. Spend it wisely... and you will surely wind up being "A Lucky Son Of A Gun". I hope this chapter has been of value to you, as you strive toward all your hopes and dreams, creating a new reality for yourself, and for all of those you cherish. May you continue to be DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #17
“Harnessing the Power of Your Artistic Imagination”
"Or: "You Crazy Cartoonists Live In Your Own World, Don't You?"”
You hear that kind of stuff all the time, don't you? You even really like it if it's from some member of the opposite sex that finds your talent, your vision, and your ability to draw a puppy on a cocktail napkin really sexy. You DO live in your own world! And it's a really COOL WORLD! You made it all up! All the guys are handsome, all the women stacked, all the puppies big eyed and cute as ...well...big eyed puppies. You can take your characters from world to world, century to century! One panel they may be in covered wagons on a western prairie... and the next, they're soaring through space and time in a starship! You saw it all in your mind and then, trough your talents, enabled anyone in the world to see it, too! See... that girl or guy you just drew something for just gave you their number. Cool world for cartoonists, Oh, you Children of the Higgins Ink Forearm Tattoos. You are a Cartoonist. A Storyteller. A Creative Thinker.
Because of the way that you think, the way that you perceive the world you see, you are capable of using your mind to create YOUR OWN WORLDS. After you have created these worlds in that Wonderful World Of Disney Imaginer�s place you've got right between your ears, you are very adept at taking that vision in your mind and sending it down your drawing arm to your drawing fingers to your pencil and RECREATING that same world you have created onto paper for the outside world to see, and feel, and experience. The better you are at using that "bridge" of your drawing arm to recreate, on paper, the world that you see in your mind... the better your reader can SEE that selfsame world. The more you draw ANYTHING, any one subject, the better you get at recreating that image. The more depth and dimension you are able to give that image. The more FULL OF LIFE, DIMENSIONALITY and "REAL-ER" that idea of yours becomes. First, FOR YOU... then, for the whole world. HOW DID YOU DO THAT??? WOW!!!!! Isn't that what you want your readers to say and think? "WOW! How did YOU DO THAT??"
That same "miracle" of talent, brainpower and focus that made you so good at creating great art is the same combination you will now use to create your own SUCCESSFUL ARTISTIC DESTINY! You've been using your imagination to build alternate realities every single time you sit down at your drawing board. As a Cartoonist, you tell a story, something YOU MAKE UP, in panels and pictures. And you do it so well, you can make other people BELIEVE it!! Isn't it about time you use your powerful imagination to create the world, the future, the DESTINY that YOU WANT? Of course it is! CREATIVE THINKING, HARNESSED AND FOCUSED, IS YOUR MOST POWERFUL TOOL IN SCULPTING YOUR DESTINY. Michelangelo looked at a solid block of marble and saw THE PIETA. Handel looked at a blank piece of sheet music and heard THE MESSIAH. It wasn't just a good imagination and talent, and even hard work that saw them through the months and sometimes even YEARS it took to bring their creations to life. Sure, they both had all of those important inner qualities... but it was their PERSISTANCE OF VISION that saw them through to completion of their creative masterpieces.
What IS "Persistence Of Vision" and how can YOU possess it? Persistence of Vision is the ability to sustain a strong, focus of mind over a long period of time, while life goes on all around you. The period of time that is needed in each situation is ever changing with the time it takes you to create whatever it is you must complete. When I am working on a comic book series, for instance, I must sustain my vision for this story and this book throughout the 22 or so pages it will take from beginning to end of each episode. I must also have a deeper and more long ranging vision of the series in its entirety, as to keep the same flow in story and art throughout the entire series. If I start getting unfocused, at any time throughout my work, my work will suffer, become uneven, and not be the fluid, beautiful piece of storytelling I had planned. I must possess PERSISTENCE OF VISION, both in my long range plan and in my short range plan as well.
The short-term goal here is to make each panel on each page work well in moving my reader forward through the story. My long term is to make sure that each episode flows within the larger arc. As a Cartoonist and Writer, you know this same PERSISTENCE OF VISION very well, don't you? This is the same power and focus you need to harness in order to sustain, achieve and ultimately SURPASS your long range and short-range goals in the area of ARTISTIC and PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS! You have terrific advantages over most people on the road to success, in that you are already in possession of PROOF you can create and sustain a powerful vision! The proof is in every one of your successful drawings!
The fact that in the past you have focused this incredible power in only your drawing and not in your professional life has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on how you will focus this power from this day forward! That last statement should be read over and over by you until it sinks in and you believe it with all your heart, Grasshopper... so listen to Professor Guy one more time on this... The fact that in the past you have focused this incredible power in only your drawing and not in your professional life has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on how you will focus this power from this day forward!!!! "TODAY, AND EVERYDAY HEREAFTER, I WILL FOCUS MY IMAGINATION ON CREATING MY DESTINY." That's a new mantra for you, Tiger. You can do it. You already possess every quality you need to become a success. Just look at how successful you are at drawing! That puppy on the cocktail napkin came out "phone number good"! Now...you're going to take that same magic and focus on your professional success. Now, you will be DRAWN TO SUCCESS! In your waking time, while you enjoy this wonderful gift of today, you will write and even DRAW in your Goal Journals exactly what you see for yourself. YOUR WORLD. You must SEE IT first in your mind, before you can hold it in your hand. We have discussed in previous chapters how we must write down our SPECIFIC GOALS each day in our GOAL JOURNAL.
Each day as you write down your goals, both short and long term, you are carving that image into your destiny rock. You are working everyday carving that image of exactly what you want into that piece of Italian marble. The more you write those ideas down, the truer and more real that they become. Over and over again, each day, you write in that journal where you want to go. That image becomes indelibly etched in your mind. The more you write it down, the easier it becomes for your subconscious mind to perceive this as reality, and as you work, live, sleep, especially sleep, those goals are being worked on by your mind, your powerful imagination. Your powerful imagination works each and everyday and night charting a course for you to take to reach your goals. This is all about FOCUS. The thoughts that you are putting into your mind become MORE THAN THOUGHTS, the longer you think them, and the more you keep repeating them over and over again. Just as when you draw a character over and over again in many different situations over a long period of time. That character becomes "real" to your mind. To your imagination.
Over time, your imagination becomes so focused, and comfortable with the character you are drawing and the world that you have created for it that it takes on a "life of it's own"! YOU AMAZE YOURSELF at how much better you are NOW, than when you first began to "crudely" work on this character. What was so difficult for you to perceive about the character becomes "routine". That is exactly how successful thinking works in every aspect of your life. The more you do it, the easier it gets. All of those times you could only maintain your focus for brief bits of time become past stepping stones to your focused, successful future. You were learning how to "teach" your mind to focus. Over time... this focus becomes an everyday, every waking moment fact! As we are all artists, and therefore very "VISUAL" people, sometimes it is very helpful to draw pictures of your goals in your journal as well.
Drawing iconic images of the money you want, the position you want, the world you want, may be of great benefit to you in training your mind to become focused on your dreams and visions. I encourage you to do this once or twice to see if it might help you. Each one of us has different "learning Keys", and it's up to each of us to find out what they are if we do not already know, and create a SUCCESS CURRICULUM that is self designed for each one of us individually. YOU CAN BE YOUR OWN BEST TEACHER. You HAVE to be!! NO ONE KNOWS YOU LIKE YOU DO!! Just as you may have taken art courses to learn the fundamentals, the building blocks on which you have built you style and vision of reality in your own cartoons, so must you also take control of your own mind once you have been given the fundamental processes on how to do so!
Use your powerful imagination to help you get exactly what you want. YOU already can SEE your future in your mind. Now, through repetition of thought and action, create the POWERFUL PERSISTENCE OF VISION that you know is necessary to carve out that beautiful life you so richly deserve! I hope that this chapter has been helpful to you, and that you find every blessing as you continue to be DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #18
“How to Aquire the Power of Faith”
"Or " How John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful, Tim Hardin, and Jefferson Starship Got Me Where I Am Today"”
"Do You Believe In Magic..."..."Still I Look To Find A Reason To Believe"..."If Only You'd Believe In Miracles, So Would I"... YEP. That Rock 'n' Roll Oldies station is still playing in my mind. Hey... I'm OLD, okay? Miracles. Magic. A Reason to BELIEVE. It's not just a group of old songs... it's human nature. The nature of humans with artistic imagination. FAITH, and IMAGINATION are what can get YOU down the road to where all your dreams can come true! They say that "Seeing is Believing" yet, in the power of Faith, we are asked to believe in something we can't see. That is a fundamental difference in mankind. On one side, are the SEEING IS BELIEVING crowd, and on the other is the BELIEVING IS SEEING crowd.
As an artist, I stepped over that line years ago. I had to believe in myself, my dreams and goals, and my artwork way before anyone else could see any of it. MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES I remember as a young child innocently "asking" people around me to believe in my dream. I remember showing off my scribblings, and babbling how one day I wanted to be the most famous, best cartoonist in the world! I could see it all happening in my imagination. I remember my disappointment at the confusing notion that no one else "got it". WHY NOT? Each drawing I did was a testament to my future! My comic book collection was my resource and research library! My daydreams of showing up to the office of Walter Lantz or Mad magazine ... was SO REAL! I had so much faith. I just DID. I don't know WHY no one had to instill that feeling in me. I don't know if anyone could. It was MY DREAM. Not my parent's. Not my friends'. MINE.
WE ARE BORN WITH DESIRE I must have gotten DESIRE in the mold that God made for me. I know I didn't get talent. Talent has to be learned. Practice. That's what makes us good at anything. And FAITH? That has to be nurtured. Learned. Felt. Understood. PRACTICING FAITH Faith is a POWERFUL emotion! To develop faith and to hold fast to your beliefs is one of the strongest emotions you can ever feel. Think about it... along with sex, and love, faith is one of the strongest powers ever known! Wars are fought over beliefs. Multitudes of people are drawn to distant places to reaffirm their beliefs, such as pilgrimages to a Holy City or place. Faith transforms the blackest souls. Souls that are eaten away by pain, heartache or depression are renewed and strengthened by their coming to a new consciousness that there is hope.
No matter what you call the higher power you believe in, you have to BELIEVE in something or someone you have never SEEN. You have to believe in an ultimate destination you have never seen. You have to KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is something or someone that you have faith in, believe in, in a place that you believe in, have faith in, and that the journey will be worthwhile, and the destination will be meaningful beyond any dreams or thoughts you could ever conjure up in your imagination. That is "faith". Isn't it? How do we attain this feeling of faith applied to our own lives and desires?
The method by which someone develops faith is the subject of this chapter. DAILY AFFIRMATION Just as in a religious faith, or belief in God or a Higher Power, and a Heaven, we must develop our faith in ourselves and our goals and our ultimate destination through daily affirmation of our faith among other visual and emotional stimuli. Just as it is nearly impossible to describe the change that comes over a person when Faith in a Higher Power is found, it is that difficult to describe the transformation that occurs in a person who finally attains and develops faith in themselves and their art. It's like trying to describe something beautiful you have seen to someone else. A baby's smile. A beautiful woman's grace. An athlete's awesome power. The Grand Canyon. The beach in Jamaica at sunrise. The Alps on a Summer day. Mt. Fuji seeming to rise from the clouds, midair, in the volcanic hills of Japan. Words don't do it. Photographs don't do it. Paintings and drawings... even, mixed with our wonder and awe... don't even do the job. They may all in varying degrees come close, but there will be that emotional tug missing. Once FAITH is allowed in, there is no need for explanation. No words are required. It JUST IS.
We all know how powerful Religious Faith is. One of the ways we see those of religious faith build and mature and nurture their faith in God is through daily prayer and meditation. Why is this so important? Because everyday there are battles. Everyday there are assaults on those beliefs. Everyday things happen that can toy with our senses, and even try to tear them asunder. There are almost always more battles than their are victories. There are almost always more negatives than there are positives. It's incredibly easy to become negative, in my opinion, and much harder to stay positive. Positive people are almost laughed at by the negative world! Called everything from "Pollyannas" to idiots. How dare you be "up" and happy? You must be stupid! How can you be happy, or even optimistic, with all the rain and pain falling all around you? I don't try to explain it anymore. It's all Mt. Fuji. It just IS... and I JUST AM. FAITH AND DAY-TO-DAY ARTISTIC CREATION As an artist who runs his own business that is predicated on the belief that I must create artwork everyday that makes others feel good regardless of how I happen to be feeling everyday, I must have extreme faith in myself, my own inner strength, and my ability to create this work.
I have built a steadfast faith in my abilities and my ultimate goals. I have done that by not only working every single day and creating work that I gave everything I had to give that day therefore making it the best work I could, but also by reaffirming my beliefs and goals in a GOALS JOURNAL. The longer I keep up this routine, reaffirming my goals in writing, and then working on my art, I create a tangible HISTORY of success. You must find your own way to do this. YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO. YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK. THE "YOU" THAT YOU CREATE IN YOUR MIND AND THEN IN YOUR DAILY WORK BECOMES YOUR HISTORY, AND YOUR LEGACY. You will only develop faith in your ideas, your work, and yourself if you give yourself and your subconscious and waking mind a REASON TO BELIEVE! If you PUT OFF your destiny even for a day, then another day, THAT BECOMES YOUR HISTORY! THAT BECOMES YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM!
If you LISTEN TO THE NEGATIVE VOICES all around you saying you'll never do that it's foolish to try... THAT becomes your history and your belief system!! If you affirm in daily journals what you wish to accomplish and then go about doing just that... THAT BECOMES YOUR HISTORY AND YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM, and you have the work and accomplishments to prove it. YOU have to SEE it FIRST! EASY TO BE HARD. EASY TO SAY NO. OOPS! Three Dog Night just started singing in my head! The Oldies Station wants to make a point about Non-Believers, I suppose. It IS easy to say NO. If you don't try, you never lose. YOU NEVER WIN, either. The non-believers who say they don't believe you can do it are the same ones who are too scared to try it themselves! They don't want to appear foolish. They are too weak to sustain the good fight! They want YOU to join them. They want to control you and your thoughts so you don't accomplish what they can't or refuse to conceive! Ben Franklin was an idiot. Newton was an idiot. The Wright Brothers were idiots. Walt Disney was... UGGH... I can't say it. DAILY REEXAMINATION OF HOW TO GET TO YOUR GOALS, AND DAILY HONEST INTERSPECTION.
Another way we have to keep our faith strong is by looking within ourselves and being totally, completely honest with ourselves. Non-Believers have allowed, in my opinion, the daily assaults on their fragile belief systems, what there is of them, to control and redefine their lives and their hearts and the paths they choose to take. Bravery is not the absence of fear...it's being afraid and doing it anyway. FAITH is believing. They don't have the heart to believe. The Non Believer allows the obstacles to stop them. Instead of figuring out the way around the roadblock to stay on the journey, instead of changing the path to the destination instead of changing the destination. They just change their destination. They go back where they came from, and don't acknowledge the death of their dream. They just wait for someone else to start dreaming, and call them an idiot. I've written about how to find the long range and short-range goals that you TRULY want, and the importance of those goals being EXACTLY what you want in previous chapters. I've also written about how you must always reexamine the path you take to reach those goals.
While your goal, a good, well-thought-out honest goal DOESN'T CHANGE...YOUR PATH SURELY WILL. It is within the goal journal that we write in each day upon first waking where we pour out all our hopes and dreams and unleash the subconscious mind to find a path to reach these great heights! Over those three long hand written, front and back pages, we find that we examine and reexamine our goals, our feelings and all the obstacles and temporary disappointments we encounter day to day. By honestly having this heart to heart talk with ourselves in these pages, alone, daily, we find new ways, better ways to keep moving on. We also reaffirm our belief system. The more you write in your journal, the deeper you look, the more you know, the stronger your faith grows. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO MAKE SENSE TO ANYONE ELSE BUT YOU!
Try to describe a great picture you have in your head to someone else before you draw it. Doesn't work. THEY CAN'T SEE IT. Only YOU can. That is the same thing as having that dream in your mind before your actions make it a reality. I know. NO ONE ELSE COULD SEE MY DREAM BEFORE I MADE IT A REALITY. I went from being a flat-broke14 year old kid with no artistic training and no way to afford an Art School education to being the cartoonist for Jim Henson's Muppets doing a syndicated strip for 660 newspapers all around the world with a 1980s income of six figures in ten years. WHO COULD SEE IT COMING? I COULD!
Faith and desire created a strong work ethic, a tangible dream, and an ability to rise to the artistic challenge that was put before me. All I had was what I give to you here. TAKE IT. BUILD YOUR OWN DREAM. I know without a doubt that I was given all that I have now, the way I was given it, to not only enjoy my life and success, but to help others achieve their dreams.
I hope to help you achieve yours. May you continue to be DRAWN TO SUCCESS!
Drawn to Success #19
“Your Incredible Imagination and Keeping It Alive and Exploding”
"What I Did On My Summer Vacation”
... OR... "We all Live In A Yellow Submarine"
I remember that movie from when I was a kid. It was SO OUT THERE! The animation based on Peter Max's renditions of The Beatles and the outrageous world they flew/drove to in their Yellow Submarine, along with The Beatles' amazing music absolutely blew my mind back then I guess it still does. Well, I just got another taste of that "anything goes" explosion of imagination, and from a completely unexpected source. KIDS. My kids. Well, not exactly MY kids. The kids that have been coming to our Cartoon Camp here at our Academy all summer long. Their imaginations and eagerness to learn blew me away and excited me about my own work and my own blessed life spent drawing!
It is essential to every cartoonist and writer, every artist, to find ways to keep his or her love for art fresh! It is essential to want to learn something new as often as we can. It is essential... but certainly not easy. Complacency... that's easy. Lying to ourselves about why our work isn't going anywhere... financially or creatively... that's even easier. But... finding a way to get ourselves psyched each and every day? Are you kidding me? Yes.
I'm KIDDING you. That's exactly what I'm doing. Kidding you. Telling you that the secret to success in keeping your imagination exploding is by remembering your childlike wonder. Your childhood desire to learn everything about art. I'm totally kidding you.
Here's what I've been doing on my Summer Vacation... so you know where this is all coming from: I put together a Summer Cartoon Camp for kids of all ages this past spring, as an extension of my Academy, and created a daily list of activities to keep everyone happy, energized, and busy through an "all day, all week" schedule. It was six weeks of 8:30 am -4:30 p.m. camps, followed by another three weeks of 8:30 a.m. 1 p.m. "Mini Camps. I trained several instructors in my philosophy of teaching, I call it "creative repetition" and then let them loose to add their own colors, and creativity to their courses. We have the kids outside drawing from nature, walking along trails learning perspective, textures, natural environments. The campers also spent time creating their own comic books and strips in one indoor classroom, painting and sculpting and doing crafts in another, and even playing around with beginning animation. It's been a lot of work, and even more of an education for ME and the other instructors and counselors than we all thought it would be. Certainly, I learned MORE than the kids did... and they learned plenty!
Honestly, KIDS HAVE NO BOUNDARIES IN ART.
Yes, this truth causes many mistakes, and some weird artwork that can never be understood by humans... BUT.................
It also causes many more times, AMAZING stuff. Just amazing stuff. Yes. That is a teddy bear growing out of her forehead, why?
So she always has her teddy bear WITH HER, silly.
Yes. That piece of earth just became a talking car. Weren't you paying attention?
We all live in a Yellow Submarine. A Yellow Submarine. A Yellow Submarine.
Weren't you paying attention?
Anything goes. Imagine that! Can I??? Can YOU????
Wow. ANYTHING GOES. Start with that and see where it gets you. I've been doing that a lot more lately. It's a lot like Saturday Night Live when it first started out. Sure, some of it stinks on ice... but when it works... it's really cool.
KNOCK KNOCK. Who's there? LAND SHAR... I mean... CANDYGRAM.
Certainly, it is crucial to carry all of your experience and knowledge into your work. Of course you don't ignore all you know. Your knowledge, your experience, all the colors you bring, are the very essence of your art. What I AM saying though... is...
DON'T LET WHAT YOU KNOW GET IN THE WAY OF WHAT YOU MAY LEARN TODAY.
By, turning an idea on it's side, or head, or by approaching it differently than you may have in the past, you may ignite a new idea, and find a new way to express yourself! Don't be afraid to experiment whenever you have the time to. Most of the time we are on a deadline and MUST use tried and true methods to accomplish our work. But there are times we can carve out some extra time to experiment. And we truly must do so.
The opposite of "fresh" is "stale," remember. No one wants their work to be stale.
A fresh, experimental approach also can fill us with a new childlike enthusiasm for art! That is another unexpected benefit I gained from having so many children around me all this summer in our Cartoon Camp right next door to my commercial studio. Truly, a child's enthusiasm for art is contagious!
There were so many precious moments this summer. One kid looked up at a Sunday MUPPETS strip I have framed on the wall, and said, "Did YOU do that?" Well, I perked up, puffed out a bit and said that I indeed did do that. The kid said, "Boy, You sure must be OLD."
I had another ask me if drawing was indeed my JOB. I said that, yes, it was. He said, "You must be the luckiest guy in the world."
Yes, son, yes, I am. Thank you for reminding me.
Aren't WE lucky? So, so blessed?
I recently had the opportunity to have dinner after a celebrity golf benefit with Bill Monbouquette, a pitcher with the Yankees and Red Sox in the 1960s, who was boyhood hero of mine. I told Bill that as a little boy, I had no concept of money in baseball. It never occurred to me that those Red Sox heroes of mine, and the guys that played against them, got paid. I just thought that they were the best baseball players, so they got to play on the greenest grass in the biggest parks with the biggest stands and they were so good that people came to see them.
To me, Bill Monbouquette was the luckiest guy in the world, just because he GOT TO PLAY everyday.
To that youngster, I was BEYOND lucky. Not only did I get to draw everyday on beautiful paper, with beautiful brushes, in a beautiful office... but I got paid for it. It was MY JOB.
Sometimes, I do forget how fortunate I am. I think most of us pros do. We try NOT TO. We know we are living a dream. But, we all have problems, and egos, and financial difficulties, and deadlines, and too little of this, and too much of something else... and we, too, can get a bit complacent about this dream job. It helps to remember how we felt as children when we got the chance to draw. DRAW! What we loved to do!! We were all done with our homework, perhaps, and could just spread our pencils and cardboard and pens across the living room floor with some comic books opened up for inspiration and DRAW! Oh, my! If we could only do this everyday it would be a dream come true! We could draw ANYTHING!!!
I am indeed, incredibly lucky. And I have even had the good fortune to be reminded of it daily by about 125 true believers.
May YOU stay the true believer you are now, always... and may you always be DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Drawn to Success #20
“A Review... and an Introduction to the Apprentice Program”
In my previous DRAWN TO SUCCESS columns, I have tried to help the aspiring artist and writer achieve success in this incredible, creative, inspiring, fun and fantastic competitive business I love so much.
The subjects covered have included:
How to study drawing, inking, composition, storytelling and other aspects of our art form in meaningful, time-sensitive ways to achieve the most dramatic results in the shortest time.
How to create urgency in deadlines for yourself.
How to create a meaningful portfolio.
How to market yourself and your work.
The necessity of creating long term and short term meaningful goals.
HOW to decide on your goals.
How to DEFINE your goals.
How to create a PLAN to achieve and surpass those goals and achieve your dreams.
Creating a burning desire to achieve that success.
Balancing your creative side with your business and marketing side.
Legal issues. Protecting your work and yourself.
Marketing your work, promoting your work, and finding meaningful work.
Persistence of Vision. Staying FOCUSED.
How to create a GOAL JOURNAL.
How to get rid of WRITER'S BLOCK
How to ride the ups and downs of the business, and stay reasonably sane...if there IS such a state of mind.
Longevity. Staying away from the trendy style of the moment, and work on skills for the long haul....and the lifetime of success.
Creating the YOU that you want to be.....with a rich and meaningful life PERSONALLY, SPIRITUALLY, and PROFESSIONALLY.
These columns have been challenging to write. It has been a great test to put down in words what I think about this life as an artist . Up until the time I began writing DRAWN TO SUCCESS... I had only shared these thoughts and lessons with my colleagues, my studio assistants, and the aspiring artists in the audiences that have welcomed me as a speaker over the years.
I certainly always had a FORMULA FOR SUCCESS, as a matter of fact, a couple different formulas.
You need a FORMULA for being really good at your work on the board. It's amazing to me how many people DON'T GET THAT! They don't practice well, don't study hard enough, slide through the planning, composing, and execution of the art... and wonder why they're not successful. Yes. You will get better the more you work, the more work you get. How do you get off the ground and get the work?
There IS a formula for getting good, you know. You just need to learn to focus your mind on what you need to know, and how to practice those skills. There is also a formula for getting yourself in the position of being "marketable".
You need a FORMULA for setting meaningful goals, and for setting in motion workable plans to get to and surpass those goals. You need a formula for reworking plans to change with the times and changing circumstances.
You need a FORMULA to balance your personal life and family and real life responsibilities and financial issues with your drive toward your dreams and all that goes with it! The key to all these formulas is being in control of your own mind. Your own emotions. Your own sense of purpose, of responsibility, of artistic excellence, of balance in your life.
I was told by an artist at a Comic Con recently that my columns had given him CLARITY. I told him that HE HIMSELF, had found CLARITY. What I had given him, was a means to look for it.
YOU are the one who will be ultimately responsible for your own success. Your own LEGACY.
You know, I recently had my 50th Birthday on January 30th, and my Staff and my Wife sent out an email asking for friends and students and colleagues, etc. to send me a congratulatory note because they know it would thoroughly embarrass me, and they like to do that, I guess. Well, after reading all the nice things that were written to me, I couldn't help feeling like I had been eulogized. I was fifty... and not yet dead. But, I was asked how it felt... to have had an impact on my former assistants, colleagues, students, family, charities... you know... stuff of life... gosh. So embarrassing. The only reason I'm telling you this is because I was FORCED to say something about my career, and "my philosophy of life".
"Thanks for remembering my birthday. 50. And I'm not dead. Wow. It has been an honor to be a part of comics and cartoons my entire adult life. It's been 12 years of Nancy now. I thought the 5 and 1/2 of Muppets years ago was a lot. It's been 5 years of Your Angels Speak, 10 years of Night Lights, and in March, our Third anniversary already of my Cartoonist's Academy! I truly am the luckiest guy I know. I believe that whatever you do each day, knowingly or not, eventually becomes your legacy. You can wait around for life to happen, but it already has. Dave Astor of Editor and Publisher has written me a nice little note for my birthday wishing me even more prolific decades. Prolific? I thought I was just hitting deadlines. I suppose, if you create goals for yourself, and stick to them, and have a bit of work ethic,and a bit of caring in you, realizing how blessed by God you are, and just get up each morning and do the best you can... you get really lucky, and you wind up with a really good life. Day built uponday... that becomes your legacy. The "present", today, always really is a present. A great gift. And one day you realize... Wow, 50 years. That's a lot of days. A lot of gifts. A lot of chances to do somethingmeaningful, fun or funny. I never have been the best artist in the world, or the best writer, or the best teacher, or the bestbusinessman, but there IS one thing I've always tried to be... and that is the one that tried the hardest. And all these decades of strips later, all these books, awards, friends, causes, students, my wife and kids and family... I'm feeling very blessed."
So, that's what I'm trying to help YOU out with. Finding YOUR WAY to enjoying THE PRESENT of TODAY... and piling them up, day after day, gift after gift, job upon job, until... Wow! YOU ARE HAVING A WONDERFUL LIFE.
If you haven't read some of my columns, and want to get up to speed, check with the Webmaster here and they will help you to the archives....or, you can visit my Cartoon Academy Website, and all the past 19 columns are there.
I think of these columns as discussions between you and I personally. I try to look into my heart and through my memories and find the issues and answers that may be meaningful for you, at this time in your life. Like CONVERSATIONS.
So many issues. So much training. So much commitment. So many meaningful conversations.
I wish sometimes that I could have these conversations, in person, with some of you. The readers of this column who ask such meaningful questions. I have emailed some of you. Answered some of you in posts at The Pulse. I have recently met some of you at Comic Conventions.
I have thought of a way to work personally with you. It is an exclusive APPRENTICE PROGRAM at MY STUDIO and CARTOON ACADEMY. This idea is very new...but very old, as well.
Howard Pyle, the great Illustrator, used to invite several promising students whom had impressed him with their artwork and drive and desire to come work with him and learn from him in his studio for several months each year. They worked along side Pyle, and did as he did. They then worked on their own projects using the techniques they had learned. They had meaningful lunchtime chats with their teacher about art and the business of art, and met their Teacher's colleagues and learned informally from their visits as well. The students got the chance to learn and experience life in a creative, working studio, and got to live their dream. They then went home to their lives, changed... and more prepared for their own journey... their own dreams... their own triumphs.
I will offer my studio, my knowledge, my skills, and my assistance, along with the help of my assistant on Nancy and my other features, Scott Lincoln, to several students a year, in the same way.
This idea has been forming for a long time. When I was coming up through the ranks of the Wannabes, I worked as an assistant to an animator, and worked at various advertising agencies and old paste up rooms. In those days, all the biggest illustrators, artists, and cartoonists had assistants, and we all dreamed of someday being able to just sweep the floors at these offices, and eavesdrop to get any kind of advice, or "leg up". We'd take our drawings to signings, hoping the cartoonist would give us advice. ANYTHING. I remember taking a job sweeping the floors and making cold telephone sales calls at the old Hartford Times newspaper office, just so I could meet Ed Valtman, their Pulitzer Winning Editorial Cartoonist! I met him and he told me to empty his wastebasket. I learned a lot just from looking at the drawings he threw away! THEN, when I got to show him some of my stuff... he was very helpful and kind with his advice. He STILL made me empty his trash, though.
Up and Coming Cartoonists, I hope, still do those things, and try for those opportunities at the Comic Cons now, and at Book signings. Much information can be gleaned in so many different ways. But, finding a way to put their talents to work, to get on the spot professional advice, and get contacts, is still the toughest part of the equation.
The students whom I choose to work with, through review of their work, and personal interviews to determine their character, and desire, will work right along side us in our studio, which is attached to our Academy. While we are working on drawing, writing, inking, coloring and producing all my syndicated features and freelance contracts, the students will practice all these skills. They will create their own calendars with their own goals and projects to help reach these goals. They will live and learn in a professional artist's atmosphere, just like the old "Comic Bullpens" of the past, where the masters showed the Newbies how it was done!
I feel like this idea is the logical next step of my DRAWN TO SUCCESS advice. REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE. It's what I yearned for... It's what I wanted more than anything! So... maybe I can help someone else out that feels the same way.
I will be setting up a page at my website with photos of my studio and school, along with information about how to apply, fees, and specific dates. We are also setting up relationships with hotels, motels, homes and apartment owners in the Simsbury Connecticut area, to help the student find housing during their time at the studio. In the meantime, we will be taking phone calls and emails re: portfolio review and possible placement. My initial plan is to invite less than 6 students to the studio as apprentices for one, two, or three month terms. Students would live off campus, be responsible for their own housing, with our assistance of course, and would be in class 9am till 2 pm each day Monday through Friday. We would provide daily transportation. As I said, I'll get into financials, and other details as we go along.
In the meantime, I wish to thank everyone who expressed appreciation for my previous columns, through emails, letters, and lately, in person at the Comic Cons. Because of you, I am going to continue to write this column and help you stay focused, fresh, full of enthusiasm, and working toward your goals of being DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
May your heart and mind dare to dream... dare to draw... dare to create your own future.
Drawn to Success #22
“GIVING THAT LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA”
“I'm Pickin' Up Good Vibrations”
I didn't even tell my friends that my wife and I were going to The Beach Boys concert at the Arena Monday night. I just didn't want to have THAT conversation that all Beach Boys fans of the two or three certain generations have about the Beach Boys... or the group of guys now touring and recording as the Beach Boys.
I'M SCARED. ONE SHOW COULD RUIN A LIFETIME OF MUSIC THAT SPOKE TO ME.
I was always a huge Beach Boys fan and I had never seen them in person, in concert. I had only seen them on televised shows, and certainly had not seen or heard them since all three Wilson brothers had gone, Dennis and Carl passing away, and Brian being "gone" in so many different ways over the years, and also founding member Al Jardine leaving. WHO would be up there with Mike Love, the only remaining founding member, and Bruce Johnston? Would they be any good? I just couldn't bear it if they were bad, and I had to not only sit through it... but also report back to all my music loving buddies.
They were good. REAL good.
8,000 people rocked out to two hours of American Classics. They must've had 8 or 9 people up on that stage, in that band. The sound was full, and rich, and the harmonies strong. The show was absolutely wonderful. All the new band members were tremendous. Mike and Bruce were great. Every audience member walked out of that arena knocked out. My wife and I couldn't wait to buy tickets to their next show.
THE REWARDS OF TRYING A LITTLE HARDER THAN EXPECTED.
Why am I writing about some sixty-year-old guys singing "Surfer Girl" in a column about SUCCESS in the Communicative Arts? Because The Beach Boys went the extra mile to be sure they were successful on Monday. Sure, It took eight guys to do the kind of show that just five of them could do when they were the original band. The remaining founding member, Mike Love, did whatever it took to continue to be successful. Is it greed? Ego? A love for performing? I don't know what drives him. I do know I learned something from him that night.
Instead of sitting in the sun, counting his money, he was out there TRYING hard.
I gotta tell ya... I'm impressed.
I am impressed by anyone who goes the extra mile. Do YOU?
Do you try hard? Do you go the extra mile?
Really think about this before you answer, okay? Be honest with yourself. It's the hardest thing in the world to do. Being completely straight with yourself. But it is essential if you're going to succeed in the arts... or in life in any way. Look deep within yourself. Look into your mind. Your heart. DO YOU GO THE EXTRA MILE EVERYDAY? Okay, Champ... how about just on Mondays, Wednesdays and Casual Fridays? It's HARD to try hard everyday! I know! It's almost impossible! BUT... What would happen if you did it? For just one sustained time in your life? Can you, the person with the great imagination... even IMAGINE what could be yours? How about MORE than you could ever wish for? How about every blessing you could ever dream of... all because you created a sustained drive to be better than you ever were... and more giving than you've ever been?
GOING THE EXTRA MILE PUTS SOMEONE IN THE POSITION OF BEING INDEBTED TO YOU.
When you provide services and goods that exceed the customer's expectations, they will respond positively. They will tell others. They will think well of you. You will have surprised them. Someday, someway, they will honor and reward you.
Every single time you go the extra mile, something good happens. Even if it is not immediately apparent. Remember, every single action in this universe has an equal or stronger re-action. Whatever you put out there, comes back. It could take a moment. It could take a lifetime. You just keep putting it out there. The longer it takes to come back to you, the more compound interest will be due you.
YOU just delivered your assignment a day early. YOU just gave 100 percent to a job you really weren't so into. YOU did more than the minimum. YOU just made someone's day.
I just told everybody reading this chapter that the Beach Boys rocked. They just sold some extra tickets. That's a good way to hang around and make money.
KING FEATURES WOULDN'T PAY. HENSON WOULDN'T PAY, BUT STILL I DREW ON.
God, I so wanted to be the Cartoonist of Jim Henson's Muppets! I wanted it like I had never wanted anything in my life. I NEEDED it. I needed it like I needed air.
I had no right being that guy. I had no right, no business, not enough experience or ability to be a syndicated cartoonist in newspapers all over the world , drawing some of the most famous characters in the whole world. I am not full of false modesty. I am just being honest with you. AND... I was honest with MYSELF.
I knew I didn't have a shot with King Features, and Jim Henson, unless I put it all out on the line. Unless I became the guy who tried the hardest. So, that's who I became.
After my two initial meetings had gone positively with Bill Yates, the Editor and Chief of Comics at King Features in NYC, I was really mixed up. I'll tell you why.
What do I do now? I had drawn up about two or three weeks of dailies and a couple Sunday strips, and now I was told to wait. I didn't know how long the wait would be either, because Mr. Yates didn't know. He wasn't in charge on this project. It was very complicated. There were many levels of executives at King, and even more at Henson Associates, who had to examine my work, sign off on it, comment on it, and have meetings about it before Jim even got to see it, if ever... and of course JIM would be the final judge. And HE was in London, in negotiations with the studio, and couldn't be disturbed... no , wait, he's in Stockholm editing a movie, no, He's in Paris, or Brussels... OH... HECK... JIM is INCOMMUNICADO, and YOU are a Cartoonboy.
Well, I may not have known where Jim Henson was, but I knew where I was. Up a creek.
I felt badly for Bill Yates, as well. He was in the middle. So, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I tried to figure out what he was feeling, and how to make his job easier, instead of harder.
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES. WHAT WILL MAKE THEM HAPPY?
I always did this exercise. Trying to think like the other person in the relationship. I always found negotiating anything came much, much easier if I tried to think like the other person.
I figured, Mr. Yates is a very busy man. He has to run the biggest comics syndicate in the world. He has to handle Cartoonists, Superstar Cartoonists, People begging for a job, all his office employees, all the newspaper editors...
He's a very busy man. The last thing he needed was ME calling him, on a project he doesn't have the final say on, asking, "Did you hear anything?" every single day.
And yet, I wanted to know. I wanted to know so bad I couldn't sleep at night. So, I took all that energy and did something constructive, that I thought might make Mr. Yates' life easier, and would keep me in the game.
Every single day, for a week, I drew more Muppet strips. I did this all on my own, for no pay.
I then sent them in to Bill Yates. He called me and told me that he really appreciated my efforts. He said that having more strips like this would make the decision easier for everyone, since it showed what I could do. He even asked me if I had any more. He didn't want me to draw more if I didn't, because he couldn't pay me anything. He just thought if I had any more... he'd send those around, too.
Over the next six months, I drew at least another 150 rough gags on typing paper. My roughs, by the way, were pretty finished. I looked at each drawing as a chance to work on figuring out how to draw the Muppet characters better. I just kept sending them in.
For all of that time, I heard nothing from Jim Henson's group. Not one thing. The only thing I knew for sure was that Bill Yates wasn't looking for anybody else to audition, and that The Muppets group hadn't chosen anyone yet. This was huge news since they and King Features together had supposedly, legend says, auditioned almost two hundred cartoonists and writers for this job prior to my getting a shot.
I simply tried hard and went the extra mile. Bill even had King cut me a check for "development" for 500.00 and took my brother Brad and I out to dinner at a fancy Westport restaurant to give it to us in person. Bill went the extra mile for me. He eventually TOLD Henson Associates and King Features that the only way this strip was going to work was if they agreed to hire ME! I had done so many strips, I had PROVEN to Bill that I could handle the day-to-day pressure of the strip, and that we could write and draw the characters!
I not only "believe"... but I know... going the extra mile during those days was the only reason we got the job.
I KNOW that because I went the extra mile and got that job, I got everything else. Every blessing I've ever had in my entire life has come to me because of a small decision I made one day long ago.
A studio grew around me, and I hired many cartoonists and writers... who in turn went the extra mile for me... and began their careers and began receiving all their blessings. All because I understood the simple practice of giving more than is expected of you.
YOUR WHOLE LIFE MIGHT CHANGE WITH THE DECISION YOU MAKE RIGHT NOW.
Is THIS your shot? Was your shot last week? Is it tomorrow?
I think that EVERYDAY is your shot. I believe you should start looking at your life as an opportunity.
I think you should start looking at today... The PRESENT... as the "present", the GIFT... that it is intended to be. Can we try our best everyday? Can we be the person who gives it their all everyday? It will be difficult to. We may have our off days. We may have our moods and our struggles. But, if we set as a DAILY GOAL to put it all out there... our very best... we have a greater chance at changing our hearts, our souls, our art, our careers... and our lives.
GRAB THAT CHANCE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE! GRAB THAT SHOT AT MAKING SOMEONE HAPPY! GRAB THAT CHANCE TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE!
You can change your world. Your thoughts are powerful things. You have all the power, grace, intelligence, and talent you need to achieve your dreams. Begin today.
I hope this chapter has been meaningful to you, and I hope you'll post here or email me at my Academy website, and check in as you make your way down your life's road... as you continue to be DRAWN TO SUCCESS.
Past chapters are posted on our website, as well.
Cartoonist of NANCY, Night Lights and Fairy Flights, Your Angels Speak, Jim Henson's Muppets
Simsbury, Connecticut 06089