Recently I was contacted by a local ad agency looking to update the logo for Hardware Hank, a chain of small-town hardware stores sprinkled throughout the upper midwest. When I was a kid it seemed like every town had a Hardware Hank store, but in recent years they’ve been eclipsed by the “big box stores” (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.) and the remaining stores are pretty much mom-and-pop establishments. Anyway, I was told Hardware Hank was looking to update their “Hank” character and that several local ad agencies were competing for the job. I was hired by one agency to do a few sketches in the hopes that we would get the bid.
I have fond childhood memories of shopping at Hardware Hank with my dad, and their “Hank” character is looking rather dated, so I jumped at the chance. Besides, there is still a Hardware Hank in the town where I grew up, and I thought it would be neat for my parents to tell their friends that their son designed the new store logo.
The original Hank character is in the upper left. I was asked to do one version that stayed close to the original design (upper right), and then do 2-3 additional concepts (I did a few extra for good measure). Ironically, the current trend in cartoon art is to go for a 1950′s “retro” look, so I had that in mind with a couple of the designs.
I waited several weeks without hearing anything. Finally I was told that the Hardware Hank people had changed their minds and were going to stay with their original character. Oh well, that’s the freelance biz. At least I’ve got a few more pieces for my portfolio.
Fallcon is Minnesota’s premier comic book convention, and it’s always a lot of fun. I am usually there with a table promoting my illustration work. Except for last year, when I couldn’t attend because I was getting married to my lovely and beautiful wife Jennie. That means that this year FallCon is happening the same weekend as our first anniversary!
It’s also the same weekend as the annual meeting for the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonist’s Society, which is being held in Minneapolis this year. The NCS will be having a panel discussion/Q&A at FallCon called, “Ask the Cartoonists: Cartoonology 101″, and I have been invited to be one of the panelists. I am honored to join the other panel members Michael Jantze (The Norm), Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), and Jerry Van Amerongen (Ballard Street). We will be discussing the business of cartooning, where the industry is headed, and answering questions from the audience. The discussion will be at 1:00pm on Saturday, Oct. 7 in the FallCon auditorium/meeting room. So if you are planning to attend FallCon, come check it out!
I’ve also been coordinating an art show at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design featuring over 80 pieces of work from NCS chapter members. The exhibit (called “EyeToons”) will run in the MCAD gallery from October 6-22. There is also a special reception where you can meet the artists on Friday, Oct. 6 from 6-8pm. So come to FallCon, then head on over to the MCAD gallery!
Then on Saturday night come back to MCAD at 7:30 p.m. for show-and-tell presentations in the Auditorium by Tom Richmond, Michael Jantze, and Jerry Van Amerongen. I’ve seen Tom give his presentation before, and if you have any interest in cartooning this will be well worth your time. And it’s free!
It’s going to be a very full weekend. What a time to have a wedding anniversary! Fortunately I have a very understanding wife, and I’m planning a special anniversary celebration for us on the following weekend to make it up to her. I luv ya, Honey! You’re the best!
As some of you may have heard, Congress is working on major changes to U.S. copyright laws. The new law, called the “Orphan Works Act” has good intentions but will have disastrous results. Congress is trying to make it easier for people to use non-copyrighted images, but in the process they are opening the door too wide. The new law would make it easy for someone to violate your copyright and difficult for you to get compensated for the infringement. Illustrator Tom Richmond gives a good summary of the issue on his blog. Or, for more detailed information visit the Illustrators’ Partnership website.
If you make a living or gain any income from creating artwork, you have real cause for concern. This is definitely something to write or call your congressmen about.
Two new art blogs you should know about:
1. Brother Jones is a blog by three terrific illustrators who happen to also be brothers: Dennis Jones, Doug Jones, and Don Jones. Here’s a few samples of their work…
2. FunnyPages Productions is the new blog by animators Tom Bancroft and Rob Corely. They’ve shared a studio together for a while now and decided to combine their individual blogs into one. Check out some of the recent work…
Saturday was my 34th birthday, and my lovely wife Jennie gave me a moleskine sketchbook as a gift. If you aren’t familiar with moleskine (pronounced mol-a-skeen-a), they are luxurious high-quality sketchbooks. They are bound in a classy black cover and come with a cloth bookmark sewn into the binding and an elastic band for keeping the book closed or for holding down the page you are drawing on. They also lay flat when opened for easy scanning, unlike most sketchbooks which leave a shadowy gutter area when you try to scan them. It’s the kind of sketchbook that makes you feel like a real artist. You want to do drawings worthy of the pages.
My wife and I went out for dinner at Applebee’s (free dessert on your birthday), and I brought along the sketchbook. While we waited for our food I sketched this guy from a photo in a magazine. I think he’s a US Senator, not sure who. When you start a new sketchbook, the first sketch is always intimidating because you know it will be the first drawing anyone looks at when they open the book. Fortunately this one didn’t turn out too badly.
Thanks, Honey, for the terrific gift and the touching inscription. Your love, encouragement, and respect mean more to me than words could ever say.
As you may have heard, a couple of years ago Big Idea (the animation studio that gave us VeggieTales) went bankrupt. As a result, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are now owned by Classic Media (which also owns Lassie and Rocky & Bullwinkle). VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer has posted a detailed description of what went right and what went wrong with the company. It’s fascinating to read, and I understand it is now required reading in at least one business school.
I am just a humble illustrator, but that also makes me a businessman. While I love my job, for the longest time I detested the administrative trappings that come with it. Budgeting, taxes, self-promotion, e-mails, paperwork, databases…I saw them as a necessary evil, a distraction, and a nuisance. It’s amazing how much time it all takes when I could be drawing instead. And talk about boring! But they are the engine that keeps my business running. If I neglect those responsibilities, I will soon find myself wearing a paper hat and asking, “Would you like fries with that?”
Fortunately my gracious wife loves doing administrative stuff, so I am in the process of passing those tasks off to her. What a blessing she is! The goal is that I’ll be able to spend more time drawing, and therefore bring home a little more bacon (which we will need with a baby on the way).
Now that that burden is lifting I find myself looking at the bigger picture. Strangely, my attitude is changing. I’m actually starting to get interested in the business side of things–self-promotion, networking, and the like. Maybe it’s a desire to have more stability in my career (freelancing can be incredibly stressful and chaotic, with relatively little financial reward). Maybe I feel the need to gain a foothold now that I live in the big city and swim with the big fish. Maybe I fear shipwrecking my career because of a bad business decision. Maybe it’s just my latest personal “fad” (I have a long history of getting curious about something, studying it ferociously, burning out, finding a new topic to fascinate me, and starting the cycle all over again). Or maybe I’m just getting older. But something’s changing. Suddenly the business side of things doesn’t seem so boring anymore.
I recently I stumbled upon a free trial subscription to Inc., a magazine for small business owners. I was sure it would be capital “B’ boring, but it was free so why not? It’s actually a very good read. I find myself soaking up the advice and tidbits in their articles, and reading case studies of business owners facing difficult decisions and asking myself, “What would I do?”. I’ve also been buying a few business books on Amazon.com. It’s scary how much I don’t know. Artists’s are generally poor at business, it cuts against the grain of our creative, emotion-driven natures. All the more reason for us to learn. I may never run a big studio or hire employees, but there is still plenty I can learn from those who do.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love drawing. I will probably be creating artwork until the day I die, even if it’s just doodles on the paper placemats at the nursing home. But for now I want to learn what I can from the successes (and mistakes) of other business owners. Especially those in creative industries like art and animation. I’d rather learn from their failures than make my own. So I’m very grateful for Vischer’s honest and informative tale. His humiity and humor despite his mistakes is very inspiring. I have a feeling I’ll be following Vischer rather closely from now on to see what else I can learn. Maybe you should, too.
It’s been five years since the terrorists have had a successful attack on America. As a result, it’s tempting to think that the war on terror has pretty much been won. Can’t it all just be over already?
No, it can’t. And now I understand why.
Over the last two nights my wife and I watched “The Path to 9/11″, a two-part mini-series on ABC. There has been a lot of controversy and finger-pointing surrounding the mini-series, so there’s no need for me to talk about that here. Rather, I want to focus on the bigger picture.
It was riveting, much better than I expected it to be. A tense, tightly woven tale with high production values. It did more than entertain me, it educated me. And I didn’t mind a bit. “The Path to 9/11″ illustrated vividly the fanatical hatred the terrorists feel toward us, and how fiercely dedicated they are to destroying America. Their threat now feels more real to me than it ever did before.
It also helped me to understand that this is not a traditonal war. Al Queda is not a country, they do not have troops or borders. This enemy fights not in battlefields and beaches but in the underground, the black market, and the back alleys of the world. They are sly, they are sneaky, and they could care less about the Geneva Convention or any other so-called “rules” of war. I’d heard about the terrorists’ zeal for violence, but now I understand how real the threat truly is. And it won’t be going away any time soon. There is no negotiating with these people. They will stop at nothing short of destroying America as a world power.
This is not a battle of ideologies, this is a real war, and like all wars it is sometimes very bloody and very messy. I used to roll my eyes at hearing news about the war on terror. Now I see we need to roll up our sleeves. My eyes have been opened and my resolve has been strengthened.
I’ve heard rumors that “The Path for 9/11″ will soon be avaiable as a free download on iTunes. No matter what your political leanings are, I highly recommend that you watch it. Even if you have to pay for the download, it will be well worth the money.
I’m currently working on some illustrations for a Sunday School publisher. One of the illustrations was supposed to be a waist-up shot of Noah, but after I did the sketch they changed their mind and wanted Moses instead. So I thought I’d post the sketch just for fun.
I was gonna make him all smiling and cuteness, but I started thinking that if you had been warned that God’s judgment was coming, and you had to endure the ridicule of your friends and neighbors as you buit a giant boat in your back yard, you would probably have a heavy heart, not a cheery one. But I’m not sure it comes across in this sketch because of the cartoony-ness of the lines. So it’s probably just as well that the illustration was changed.