News

Busy Month

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 5.37.29 AM
I’m working on a cartoon pitch. I’m developing images for a line of cell phone covers. I’m processing customer orders. It’s been a busy month! Above is a tiny screen grab of the cartoon. I can’t promise I’ll show you more later. My collaborator and I are working as quickly and as well as we can to get a pitch ready for a particular network which I won’t name until something’s official. Needless to say I’ve been postponing laundry and dishes. Luckily it’s Spirit Week at the counseling job, and we are allowed pajamas today. I think I’ll just wear my bathrobe over regular clothes. One never knows when a meeting might happen. Alright.. That’s it for now!!

0 Comments

My Larry's Look Feature

IMG_1777
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.
IMG_1790
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!

0 Comments

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.


0 Comments

New Year, New Things

Hi Everybody..

New-year-res-kid-art
Lately I’ve been catching up on some ghastly overdue paperwork, ignored now for 6-ish years. I’m finding forms and papers and documents from what seems like another life. Becoming a camp counselor was the meridian which divided the course of my life from *artist-who-listens* to *professional-listener-who-is-alarmingly-artistic*. I have grown up so much since becoming a counselor, and now I realize how disastrously un-ready I was to run an art business. This paperwork through which I now wade is the result of running a business without a bean’s worth of expertise.

New-year-kid-art
Needless to say, things that mattered to me before becoming a counselor, such as fame, attention, approval and indulgence, matter to me less now. New things now matter to me, such as whether the physical, emotional, nutritional and educational needs of at-risk kids are being met, and by whom, and under what circumstances. I get up at 5 a.m. I go for a run. I get to work and set out breakfast for the kids. My coworkers arrive. We chat about the coming day and try to find where we put the stash of new spoons. The kids trickle in and we metal detect ‘em at the door. We have breakfast with them and go to class. We do fun stuff, boring stuff, exercise stuff, play stuff, creative stuff and we address problems as they occur. The kids go home. My coworkers and I debrief on what worked and what didn’t, then we do our paperwork. I go home. I have a couple of hours left to do some creature making or housework before preparing for the following day. Then I sleep and repeat the process.

New-kid-art
My life is focused, driven and full. When the kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I manage to jot down a few doodles of new toy designs and old comic characters. When I manage to find some good art time, I take it slow and steady, focusing largely on the planning and preparation for production rather than just hacking into fabric and seeing what transpires. My spontaneity has mutated into decisive, intentional planning. I will make fewer pieces of art this year, but they stand to be remarkably better than anything I have ever done. And Stupid Creatures™ as they have been known will change forever.

new-book-creatures
I’ve just finished writing book #3, and I will be editing the first run of black/white laser prints in February. It’s a new sock creature book, and it focuses on not just the projects, but the way an idea can transform, expand and evolve when shared with hundreds of thousands of people. 15 of those people became guest designers in this new book, which is why there will be 20 projects for you to enjoy and further evolve. I’m excited to show it to everyone when it’s legal for me to do so. Next on my creature roster is a set of robot-like characters made from old trousers, and a new way (for me) of making a 3-toed foot.

Take care, everyone, and more soon!!

John
0 Comments

Directions?

My phone has an incredible navigation app that speaks road directions to me while I drive. It lets me speak my destination to it as well so I don’t have to type while I drive. It comes in a lot more handy than I expected. I’d used a map application on my old phone that gave pretty good directions, but it was up to me to pay attention to road signs and distances. I never look at my odometer to gauge whether I’ve gone a quarter mile or what have you, so I missed the odd turn here and there. I don’t know if any of you have this problem but in NC, many roads are missing visible signage, especially in deeply rural places. The new talking navigation app makes missing signs much less of a problem.

IMG_5454
Needless to say, out here in the country side, I use that nav app pretty well all the time. The environs are a lot more rural than I’ve known for any great length. Right now I’m enjoying the scenery and the wide open spaces. I’m not enjoying how far I have to drive to see my new clients, though. My fuel bill has been suicidal. Each of my clients is at least a half hour drive from wherever I am. But that’s really the only drawback. It’s a significant one, though, considering the price of fuel against the meager stipend my employers pay us. I’ll need them to raise the stipend. Chances are we don’t have the budget, but I’ll ask anyway.

Gotta say, gas prices aside, I really love this line of work. I’ve asked some of the psychologists at my office what degree track is necessary to continue in this field and advance in the ranks. I’m interested in studying teenaged psychology, prescribing courses of treatment and diagnosing mental conditions. I’d also like to clear up whether a kid truly needs a diagnosis (and therefore a pill) or just better nutrition and a safe place to grow up. To that end I’ve paid close attention to my own health and nutrition, and focusing not just on the kids in my caseload but their parents and home circumstances. Economic circumstances dictate the quality of food a kid gets, and a junky diet contributes to a junky psychology. And like begets like. There’s more to it than that, but enough that I want to investigate the benefits of a raw foods diet. I see the parents of my clients giving them potato chips and syrupy candies from the ice cream truck. I can’t judge. They have to feed their kids what they can afford. Even if these parents were educated about the benefits of a better diet, they’d never be able to afford it without a massive lifestyle overhaul, nor would they likely stick to it after knowing and loving junk foods for such a long time.

Basically, what I do now is help parents and kids compensate for wrongs they didn’t choose, but which strongly influence the course of their lives. It’s tough ‘cause I’m well spoken and have an education. I drive a car that at least looks nice. I’m from a different world than most of my clients. Many of them listen to me ‘cause they’re so used to social worker types meddling in their lives (they’ve had ‘em since they can remember). I’ve never felt unsafe in any neighborhood. Maybe a tad freaked out approaching a client’s house, but never have I felt danger. If anything I feel like I’m in the way, as though it shouldn’t take an educated stranger from a different upbringing to fix someone else’s very personal problems. But I love it anyway. We’ll see where it goes.

IMG_5337
As for the Stupid Creatures™, my 2 year sabbatical may actually take the 2 years I originally committed to camp. The new book I’m writing is due in October and though a lot has been accomplished, I feel as though I’ve barely begun. I won’t be getting much into art for art’s sake till that book is done and in the can. I do look forward to making my creatures again, but I’ve changed a lot since camp. I just don’t know what kind of work I want to make now. At least with the recession in full swing, I don’t have to worry about making my stuff affordable anymore since nobody’s buying art anyway. I’d like to get really dynamic and intricate with my new creatures, and price ‘em to attract the drippingly wealthy. They’re rolling around naked in tax cuts anyway so I may as well get some of their money. Ha!! Wouldn’t it be fitting if I drew my income from both ends of the tax-break spectrum?! Social work and art for the rich. How neat.

Nah..

At any rate, It’s time to grab some lunch before seeing a client.

More soon!!
0 Comments

Now that camp is over...

hlab-over-oakland
Pictured here is a creature named Hlab. He’s one of my earliest and favorite creatures. The setting is the rooftop of my old Oakland apartment where the Stupid Creatures made their debut. Less than a decade has passed since this photo was shot, but it’s certainly been a lifetime. So much has happened, changed and been tried since I first took my scissors to a sock, and here I am at the start of a new chapter. My new location is old and familiar. My new opportunities have an element of routine. The only thing that’s changed is my new desire to keep helping kids. Where will that take me? What will that do for the creatures? Here’s where we find out.

So, I’ve finished with Eckerd Youth Alternatives and now I’m in a state of transition as I get back in the saddle with toy design. The past few days have been spent unpacking at my family’s house, straightening, tidying (kind of the same thing) and deciding my next permanent move. I have an open invitation to live with friends in the next town over. I’m not sure I want to do that, even though they live in a great town.

Right now what I need is a modest income to pave the way as I design my plush prototypes and write my new book. So I’m looking into a few part time jobs. One job in particular could be really good, but it would involve making yet another move and would eliminate the benefits of living with or near family.

So, I’ll ruminate and plan some more soon. I’m off to Raleigh to pick up my sister and drop her off at the airport. Then I’ll make supply runs for sewing things and maybe take some coffee time for filling out job applications, etcetera. I’ll have a look at the old Craigslist as soon as I get home.

Take care everybody!!

0 Comments

Creature comforts.. gosh.. what day is it?

photo-3
Can this be only the second blog entry I’ve written since I arrived in Sheboygan? Lemme see. Tommorrow’s my last day at the arts center, then I fly back to NC on Sunday. I’ll have a bit of down time with my family and then I head back to camp on Wednesday. I’ve written my campers two rounds of postcards. I hope it wasn’t overkill. One of them asked if I’d bring everyone something from Sheboygan but I likely will only bring myself. I can’t go lugging souvenirs in my backpack all the way back to camp. They’d get broken or stolen the moment I handed ‘em out.

So what’s on my mind today as the residency comes to a close? Nothing really. My brain is kind of mud.

Here’s what’s been going on. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center has a Connecting Communities program which exposes community members to many different art forms by inviting established artists to lead workshops in or related to their areas of expertise. Yvonne Montoya heads up this department. She plans years in advance for projects that will serve various charities or purposes in the Sheboygan area. In my case, since the center brought me on board before to make sock monsters, they asked if I’d come back for the Creature Comforts project. Yvonne asked me if I’d develop a stuffed toy pattern using socks to make tummy pillows. Patients of abdominal surgeries use tummy pillows to press against their incised areas when they need to stand up, sit up, sneeze, laugh, cough or wear a seat belt. Otherwise there’d be heaps of pain and maybe a ruptured suture. I’m guessing.

IMG_4099
Each creature is different, in typical Stupid Creatures style, but the directions people followed were pretty much the same. I typically don’t follow patterns, and I only teach from patterns if people need some direction and suggestion. In the case of Creature Comforts, the primary reason I insisted people follow the pattern I made was to ensure that the resulting creatures were flat and pillow-ish. We tried to avoid tummy pillow creatures with a row of plush spines down its back, for example. They had to stay flat and basically featureless so that no patient with an abdominal incision would press a lumpy area painfully up against the tender spot. You know?

Anyway, here’s what the tummy pillow creatures look like.

IMG_4072

IMG_4097
Over the course of two weeks we’ve held workshops with the general community, STARS (a program for at-risk teenagers), Friendship House (a group home for more at risk teenagers), the Hmong Association, TLC (Together We Live with Cancer), a senior activity center, Safe Harbor (for victims of domestic abuse), and group of adults with special needs. Each of these workshops produced heaps of sock creature tummy pillows which the arts center will donate to local hospitals and clinics for their patients in recovery. Tomorrow Yvonne and I will staff a booth at a Hispanic convention, not just to represent Creature Comforts but to put the Arts Center out into Sheboygan’s Latino population. We’ll be at our booth stitching creatures and talking about the arts center. It should be cool. Maybe people will want to make a creature, but we don’t expect anyone’s gonna sit with us long enough to do that.

IMG_4077
It’s been a great experience working with the arts center again. I really, really miss a studio artist’s life. But the workshops we hosted kind of confirmed my commitment to the kids I work with at camp. There are so many populations in need of help and support in every community. Right now it appears that service is my station rather than the typical self-service that comes with being an artist. The recognition, attention, fan letters, et cetera, are all great, but my skills can be used to help rather than to self glorify, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m a camp counselor. Granted, there’s appeal to going home every day and blobbing on the sofa (I’ve enjoyed that tremendously throughout the residency!) once the day of work is done. Instead, I will live 24 hours a day with my campers until further notice. Anyway, lunch is over. I’ve got loads of photos to post and such.. I’ll get around to that soon.
0 Comments

Creature Comforts Day 2

CIMG0011
So, don’t bother looking for a Day 1 entry. Here it is in a nutshell. I left camp, went to the air port, met my dad, he picked up my car, I flew to Milwaukee, I took a shuttle to Sheboygan, met my host, Yvonne, here at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, picked up my rental car with her, went to my guest house, bought groceries, did laundry, watched some TV, tried to eat junk food (but couldn’t stand it), and went to bed.

Today I woke up and discovered my month old Palm Pre was effed up. I can’t hear any phone conversations, music or video, nor can anyone on the phone hear me. The alert sounds work just fine. When I visited a Verizon store here in Sheboygan, the clerk beeped and booped around with my phone long enough to confirm that it was effed. Other things started going wrong with it. The touch screen feature became slow and unresponsive. The screen zoomed randomly and refused to scroll. When I backswiped in the music application, the phone started dialing my dad. It was ridiculous.

Long story short, I went to a corporate Verizon office and they are sending me a new phone. Trouble is, they are unable to dump the contacts from my current phone to the new one. I think that’s a tad ridiculous, personally . I might have to wait till I’m done with this residency to do that. I’ll go back to the store where the phone was purchased and get it taken care of.

IMG_4035
So I’m in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a town I like a whole lot. The weather is much cooler here than in NC, and I’m excited to experience it. I visited with Yvonne, the coordinator of my residency here at the arts center, and I’m working on quite a few things right now. Here’s what we’re doing: We’re creating a sock monster kit to sell, and we’re teaching classes both here and around town on making sock monsters. We’re using one specific pattern, intending for the participants to donate the creatures they make as holiday gifts for sick and needy people. I think a photographer will document the whole thing. Not sure but I think that’s what I’ve heard. Wigwam socks has donated a thousand of its factory reject socks, so the art center’s marketing department will have to work in connections to the Stupid Creatures, Wigwam and the center itself.

IMG_4042
Right now I’m in the empty, closed café at the center where I have an internet signal and relatively few disturbances. Someone will have to tell the security guy who keeps passing me that I’m here for work, not the free internet. Yvonne is upstairs with the center’s director working out my contract and putting finishing touches on my itinerary for this week and next.

I miss my camp kids and have already bought two postcards for them apiece. It’s expensive to stay in touch, but I want them to be sure I’m thinking about them while I’m away. Each one of my campers is incredible and I’m really lucky to be working with them, no matter how unruly or rude they become. When you love kids you just love ‘em. It’s sickening, but sometimes those kids need to be adored no matter how horrid they get. I got a huge group hug from ‘em one day. It was cool. I’d been pulled by our MC to cover another group while their chief was in meetings (my co-chief was also on, so I could be spared). When I returned like 4 hours later, each of my 9 guys ran at me and piled on top of me shouting CHIEF JOHN! It really, really hurt, now that I think back. I was kind of bruised up (like half a ton of teenager?). But it was awesome. Things like that make me want to work at camp forever. I really am lucky to have such a great group of guys. But now that I’m on vacation, I will try not to feel too guilty, I mean, I’m here to work after all.

Truly, I do enjoy sleeping indoors and relaxing for a bit. In fact, in many ways I feel downright indulgent (I tried to eat some potato chips. Tomato basil flavored. They nearly sickened me. Anybody want what’s left?). I’m thinking about my co-chief stuck in the woods by himself with my 9 guys. They’re an intense bunch. I will text my co-chief most days just to check in. I gave one of my guys the address of where I’m staying in case the campers wanted to write. Long shot, I know, but I wanted to be thorough. A departing parent would do no less whether it was for a business trip or out to dinner with Mom.

Photo on 2010-09-07 at 17.40 #2
I bought some sewing supplies since I’ll have down time to do a little art on my own. I’ve got some ideas for altering a few shirts and I look forward to tinkering with that. Mostly I look forward to catching up on some sleep. I don’t have to wake at every noise to make sure my kids aren’t sneaking around or running off. I’ll do my best to stay in bed and stay asleep while I’m here.

So tomorrow I meet with the center’s marketing group at 10 sharp, so I gotta run and finish the instructions for our kit. More soon as it develops!
0 Comments

My Stuffed Article!

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 1.34.20 PM
So. Now that I’m stuck at camp, I’ve got books and press coming out this year. How convenient!! Stampington Press has given me quite a lot of coverage in their most recent issue of Stuffed Magazine. I wanted the article to be a plug for the new book Closet Monsters, which I just wrote, but alas, it was all about me. Had I known, I’d have sent a more diverse collection of works for them to ogle and photograph.

Stuffed Magazine is an up and coming flagship magazine for the indy plush industry. It’s still kind of a small industry, half pop art crime wave, half Sunday afternoon crafting bee. The indy plush movement gains and loses steam frequently, thus do magazines trying to cover it. Stuffed comes out twice a year, and the issues aren’t cheap (just like the artworks it features!), but it’s worth it (just like the.. anyway). Without further adiddlydoo, here are some images to whet all the short attention spanned palates out there:

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 1.31.16 PM
Here’s an image from the first page of my article. What’s strange is I don’t remember sending them this monster. I thought I sold it at my studio. Oh well. The last few days and hours leaving Asheville for camp were a bit on the crazy side. I wonder what else of mine I thought I sold or packed will wind up in a magazine next!!

Below you’ll find what the magazine would have looked like had I made the cover. I didn’t, for whatever crumbly reason, but I can confuse people nonetheless with this great photo. The kind people at Stuffed worked up this alternative just in case I had won the vote. As it turns out, once again (and again and again and again) elementary shapes covered in appliqué win out over the intricate and sculptural Stupid Creatures, but that’s okay. Actually, I lie. Gosh, America, when are you gonna fall in love with quality again? We’re gonna have to soon ‘cause the Chinese are sick of working for dirt cheap. I could wax on but I hope you get the point. Alas.

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 1.30.29 PM
0 Comments

New Merch, You All

Hi Everybody.

I keep a Café Press on hand for non-wearable merchandise. Just visit the merchandise page here on the site and click accessories. I find the sublimation printing process Café Press uses looks fantastic on non-fabric surfaces such as greeting cards and coffee mugs. I’m giving the shop a test run just now, and for the moment I’m featuring the image you see below. New designs will be featured on some sort of basis once I get my head wrapped around a schedule. Anyway, check things out and if you see anything you like, by all means, click. If you see something you would like but isn’t there, by all means let me know.

Thanks!
John

245461233v7_480x480_Frontsillowet
0 Comments

Another Services Update and I'm getting really buffed for summer.

Photo-247
RRAARRR, Everybody!

I’ve just had the morning workout with my housemate Chad, and I’m headed for the shower before embarking upon the last week of my day job at the school. We’re only doing half days now since state budget cuts require a furlough for all state employees. We’re taking a pay cut too. It seems a bit heartless to brush all this off and say “we’ll survive,” but those of you my age have grandparents who survived much worse back in the 1930s. Things might get tougher, but hold onto your sanity everyone, and don’t let your hands go idle. In fact, pick up thread, needle and old clothing and try your hand at making something. Crafting whiles away countless hours otherwise given to ennui. Crafting engages your mind and your body and makes you feel really great. So, I digress.

I’ve made some more updates to the service pages. I’ve added photos to the sock creatures page and enfleshed the custom plush jobs page. Next I’ll work on explaining my lessons/classes service then it’s on to illustration.

Photo-246
On the radar for changes I wish to make soon are improvements to the galleries. I’ve got just loads of new work images to post. They’ll cover the bases of what I’m up to these days even though I’ve let so many creatures fly the coop (go to customers) without taking the time to photograph them. That’s a really rotten habit of mine. It comes from lack of planning most times. Anyway. Continue flipping through this new incarnation of stupidcreatures.com and enjoy the content as it develops, Enjoy as well my ginormous biceps. They rather feel shaky at the moment.

More later! Thanks!
John
0 Comments

Moving Right Along

So.. I’m really procrastinating. But at least I’m doing something worthwhile and productive while I procrastinate. At times like this I wish I had more fingernails to chew. I’ve got literally a day and a half to finish one of the most complex character design jobs I’ve ever been given.

The work is tiny, detailed and meticulous. I’m glad I can see things almost microscopically with my glasses off..

So, what have I been doing to procrastinate? I’ve been updating this website. It’s almost ready to launch. I’m looking forward to getting it up at last. It isn’t as polished as some of those really swanky flash-based sites out there, but that’s the price I pay for using prefab software, having virtually no web skills of my own, and no desire to hire one of those lawyer/plumber hybrids to do the site for me.

I’m so excited, you guys. I’m gonna finish this sculpt job (by the skin of my teeth, it seems.. and trust me, after so many allnighters, one’s teeth in fact grow skin) and hand deliver it to my client/rep/agent in Los Angeles. I don’t go to LA often, but I’ve enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the trip. I’m looking forward to chewing the rag with my agent and discussing what to do next with my brand.

So.. Gotta get back to sculpting. Enjoy the new website. Give me suggestions for improving it whenever you want. Thanks!

John

Photo 221

0 Comments

And a second entry just to see what's what.

Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya. I’ve got a meeting at my publisher’s in a little while. I can’t wait. They’re rereleasing my box set and I’m making a new monster for it!!!! YAAAAAAY! Now I’ll try and post an image.
GarbageTruck_l
0 Comments