Feb 2013

My Larry's Look Feature

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Hi, everyone. I had a very nice time filming my feature with local NBC personality Larry Sprinkle two Fridays ago. He and his crew are exceptionally professional, kind and welcoming. The filming took pretty much exactly the amount of time the feature plays. I think Larry needed a single retake of his intro line about me, but the conversation he and I had throughout the feature was the first and only shot. It was super easy to set up, and I was in and out and off to the counseling job before I knew it.
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Since the feature aired on Friday (2/22), I’ve had numerous sales and inquiries, and an invitation to staff two charity craft shows in the region. I’m grateful for the opportunity and hope to live up to the honor of such a feature. I’m pretty impressed by Larry Sprinkle’s work history. He’s done everything from acting to voice acting to weather to hosting. I’m impressed by such a life of hard work and under-sung talent. I’ve got to remember to send thank-you cards for the experience. Make sure you visit his fan page and show your support!

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Once again: Art is work, not throwaway entertainment. You have to pay for it.

Get a load of this email. I deal with this ALAALALALLALLLL THE TIME.

Your Name: xxxx
Your Email (which I don't intend to share): xxxxxxxx@att.net
Subject: I have a question
Message: Mr Murphy I have a quick question why is Julian van voon soo expensive he is so cute and that one is my most favorite I really wish you could lower it to a more reasonable price because I would willing to buy it Sincerely xxxxxx

Julian
Well.. Expensive is an opinion. Here are the reasons I've priced Julian the way I did:

He's handmade, which means it took me more than just an afternoon and a YouTube tutorial to disassemble the blazer I made him from, reinterpret the parts, trim, shape and cut them, stitch, stuff and close him up. 
He's very complex and detailed, which means it took me probably more time designing him than actually putting him together. 
He's one of a kind in the whole world. 
Add to that, he's kind of a published celebrity and comes with a free copy of the book he stars in, signed by the author.. 

I think he's kind of cheap. 

What kind of price do you think is reasonable?

Thanks for asking, 
John

And to all of you reading.. I realize this is a tough economy. When someone has a spare $150 lying around they’re probably going to use it to feed their family or invest in home repair. I realize few would make such discretionary purchases this day and age. But those people exist and I’m patient.

The email above begs certain questions: What do you make per hour? What do you need to earn to survive? Would you take any less than you think you’re worth? Would you take any less for your time than you need to make your ends meet? My work is valuable to someone out there. It isn’t valuable to everyone, which is why I counsel kids between the rare opportunities my art actually earns me cash.

Making soft sculpture by hand is such detailed and time-consuming work that it is no longer worth my time to create them full time anymore. Opinions like those expressed in the above email confirm for me that I should stick with counseling and pursue loftier artistic pursuits than one-off plush monsters.

I extend my sincerest thanks to the occasional few who get what artists do. There aren’t enough of you to make us want to stick around full time. And like I’ve said before, I’m just going to make what I want to make, when I want to make it. And I’m going to price it how I want. For the nay-sayers who think plush works should be cheap for whatever reason, go ahead and buy a copy of Closet Monsters where Julian’s pattern is taught. Make a Julian yourself and consider what the effort is worth to you.

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Wow. Two entries in as many days. I must be having an interview Friday..

Ten years. I’m still wrapping my brain around that. I was 27 years clueless when I started Stupid Creatures. I gotta stop beating myself in the head over all this hindsight business. Time to move forward!!

I hereby solemnly swear I am no longer going to stress myself out over art. I'm going to do what I can in the time that I have, but I will stay consistent creating more pieces. I intend to draw more, and I won't make excuses. I will draw what I can in the time I have every day. Maybe I'll make some merchandise with what I draw, maybe I'll draw just to practice. Maybe I'll join a forum and take drawing prompts every day.

Realistically, I have about 3 hours a day I can work on art. More like 2, now that I think of it. I rise and dress, then I have 2 hours left before I leave for counseling. When I get home, I primarily get ready for the next day, and depending on how long that takes I can squeeze another hour out of art time.

This morning I made a 1-sock creature and didn't get around to stitching its arms or eyes on, or closing its stuffing hole. That much I can bang out tonight without stressing myself out. But scratch that. I’m baking brownies for my kids tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. Sakes alive. If I had been more disciplined with my time this morning I would have probably finished at least the eyes, if not the whole thing.

My goal for artistic endeavors until future notice is to be able to start and finish something in the 2 hour window that I have without letting a project drag into my usual abyss of never-get-finished. I'll work on some more epic, huge pieces once I've conquered using my time wisely and have gained more self-discipline.

These new goals kind of stem from my counseling environment. A healthy mindset often starts with accepting your situation and doing your best with whatever it is you have. Once you've done that, you can aspire to more if that's what you want, but it's useless to want more than you can expect from what you've already got. That only causes crazy stress and makes a person depressed when plans fail.

I figure I've got a good 50 or 60 years left in this life if things go well. That's plenty of time to produce quality work within my means and abilities, and to grow those means to achieve more than I now have.

On my list: My cartoon pitch. I’ve got to get drawing on those characters. Get the stylesheets and set designs nailed down. I’ll likely do that this weekend.

I’ve got to get ready for an interview Friday with a local NBC affiliate, and that involves packing my car with monsters, making sure I’ve got books and business cards, then make some freebies to give the hosts as thank you gifts.

I’ve got to develop a new concept for Land of Nod since they’ve asked me back for another product line.

And just today I’ve been approached by a potential licensee to use my drawings on his products.

Will that 2 hours a day be enough for all this art? It’s going to have to be.

So.. with that, I won’t make any commitments to make a creature a day. Maybe one a week? Gosh.. I’ll be sewing in my coffin. I love it though.


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A Decade. Yep. I'm feeling decadenous.

Happy Belated New Year, everyone. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Stupid Creatures™. And I have to tell you, I’m pretty amazed. I have learned a lot in the past decade about the world because of the creatures. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the way other’s tick. It’s been really crazy and full of experiences I never thought I’d have. I’ve had huge expectations, some of which have been met, others have not and likely won’t be. But whatever.

Let’s see. When I started making the creatures, I really, really wanted to be famous and popular and approved of and accepted by a particular, edgy, cultural, hipster elite. Instead, I fell in with parents and crafters and quilters. Nothing wrong with that. That crowd is humble, realistic, sincere and more loving than anyone whose attention I might have wanted while I was chasing fame. I mean, my publishers have primarily moms, grandmas and crafters for an audience and they’ve been really welcoming and supportive to me.

My sick pursuit of hipster affirmation gave me unrealistic expectations of the art world. Art is just a business at the end of the day. Willing buyers, willing sellers; a business. Nothing more. I’m glad to have been spared the hipster BS that I so badly desired back then. It isn’t real. It’s just a passing fashion. Most of them don’t have any money to buy one of my pieces anyway.

Let’s see. In my decade with the Stupid Creatures, learned that money doesn’t fall out of the sky. You’ve got to work your whole entire life for it, be born with it, or borrow it and painstakingly pay it back over the course of your entire life. If you want to do anything in the toy world you’ve got to have TONS of money up front, and manufacture scads of content overseas in a sweatshop so Americans can buy it cheaply. Americans will tell you they want your work fair trade, handmade and recycled, but when it comes time to pay for it, they scream and run to wal-mart.

So I’ve been very lucky to have the publishing, the press and the toy contracts that I’ve enjoyed. I’m also very lucky to be a counselor. I’m good at it, I love it. I’m doing something my community needs. Granted, the community needs art more than it realizes, but artists need to eat. Sadly, the vast majority of anyone anywhere do not believe in feeding or paying artists, so many of us wind up in other careers.

My problem, I’ve come to realize, is that at the end of the day, despite my love for monsters and my skills for sculpting and creating, I’m really a character designer. This means my best work isn’t the physical items that I sew and stuff, but their back story, their universe, their history, their relationship to other characters.. To this end, I will be pursuing cartoons and comics in the near future more than more plush sculptures. In fact, I’m helping a friend pitch a cartoon series as we speak. I’m working on the visuals primarily but I’m also helping him flesh out the universe that he created.

In addition to counseling children, I’m designing actual toys and other children’s items for The Land of Nod and I’m learning how the social work and mental health industries function. My whole life is research and I’m grateful for it.

This isn’t a swan song. Stupid Creatures is sticking around. But moving forward things will get a lot more serious. No more expending myself to force the art world and the consumer world to regard soft sculpture as legitimate art. No more starving at craft shows while the dowdy judgmental throngs peek and glare at price tags, or make the excuse that they don’t have any kids to shop for. I’m going to make what I want to make, how I want to make it. And I’ll work my hardest for those who support me the most. I’ll put my energy where the support is, and I’ll stop wasting myself on stuff that drains me unnecessarily.

Watch for me on various cartoon channels. That’s where I want to be next.



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