The Story Behind Salad Bar Exam Cartoon & Gifts by Londons Times Cartoons

salad bar

When I launched LTCartoons.com in 1997, everything we did was in black and white. We felt newspapers would “make or break us”, and for many years that was true in cartooning. We heard every excuse from “Your cartoons simply are not family-oriented enough” to “Nobody really would understand them…they’re kind of ‘out there’.” Yada yada. I worked with an artist named Richard Larson (no relation to Gary).  Newspapers just wouldn’t touch us. We didn’t take it personally. On any given day there were approximately 100,000 cartoons competing with us (and still are).

On the other hand we were getting amazingly positive feedback from families (even kids of all ages), and on the Internet within a year they were relatively well-known. We finally decided to do color and a t-shirt manufacturer in San Diego paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 images (by then we were doing color); convinced newspapers were not going to be our bread and butter.

Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz advised me that if I was ever to make any money in cartooning, it would not be from newspapers; they merely paid peanuts (no pun intended). He said the real money was in licensed goods, such as Tshirts, mugs, lunch boxes etc.  So that became my focus.  When someone finally created digital design a few years after I launched the cartoon, I spent 15 hours a day learning how to design products digitally.  I have designed about 160.000 products with my mouse and keyboard.  Though it’s not rocket science, it does take a few minor skills to learn. And I’m grateful for those who helped me along with learning that process.

Still curious why so much rejection from newspapers, and downright hostile rejection letters from literary agents.  Though most of those rejection letters were “form letters”, a few added personal comments.  One of my favorite was, “That’s all I need is another failed cartoonist”.  (That came from one of New York’s biggest literary agents who has been defunct for about 8 years). 🙂

I started researching a bit, and talked to some mentors (other cartoonists who had made it) only to discover newspapers no longer were the holy grail.  The Internet, somehow was going to be the place to showcase ones work.  One simply had to be creative and figure out a way to do so (attractively) and market them properly.

I returned to school at age 47 to learn Internet Technology and Business. This helped a great deal; though most of what I learned is now outdated.  However many of the business principles remain the same and I believe always will.

I started selling signed limited edition prints on Ebay and at the time they did fairly well.  I noticed some of my most popular ones had to do with either a particular animal (such as dogs, cats, mice, chipmunks, snakes, etc). Everybody had a favorite.

Also professions were popular, and, believe it or not, nobody liked lawyer jokes (as much as lawyers).  Well most of them anyway.  They loved to laugh at themselves and many bought their fair share of legal-related cartoons.

So I decided to “outdo” myself with one called “Salad Bar Exam” which is now 14 years old. It remains our trademark cartoon and people seem to like it no matter what their profession (or lack therof).  Also many vegans and vegetarians like it too, as well as dieters who love restaurants with salad bars.  And of course just regular people like you and me who like to laugh.

Many collect my licensed items of “Salad Bar Exam” since they tend to go up in value.  They enjoy items such as Tshirts, mugs, caps, eco-friendly bags, aprons, etc.

To view entire Salad Bar Exam line of Collectibles…
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LTCartoons.com Was & Still Is The Only One To Do This by Rick London

What makes Londons Times Cartoons different than others?

We like to think it is a lot of things; as, a lot of elements go into the cartoon and subsequent gift items on the marketplace (from concept to end user).

In a nutshell (in hopes of not getting too grandiose), we like to be the cartoon that is different in more than just one way than all the others.

For instance, we were/are the first and only offbeat property that is 99% in color, featuring 4000+ images. Though several other offbeat cartoons can boast beyond the 4000 mark, none of them (except us), most are in black and white with a few color offerings.

zazzle orgnanic tern

In addition, we take great care in how we have our products manufactured, and what we have manufactured.

We are the only “green” offbeat cartoon on the planet (to our knowledge); that is “cruelty free” in the making of our products. For instance, we have a line of ties, which we only make using polyester. There is silk available, but we’ve opted out of using it. The ties appear to be silk in texture, are much more affordable, and no animal loses its home.

Admittedly we have about .07% of gift items (on Amazon) that contain leather, and that is beyond our control (though we are working on finding alternative manufacturers who make the same products in pleather or some comparable material).   This is found on products such as ceramic framed tiles; not on the majority of our items.

zazzle organic columbus

We were/and are the first and only offbeat cartoon to dedicate an entire shop to 100% organic No-GMO tees RickLondonOrganics.com.
We’re very proud of that shop. It is not yet a profitable store, but we feel it is worth it, to have clean materials available to our more health-conscious customers. process.

Yes, we still have tees that are not organic and are made with mainstream dyes, but the largest scope of our following demands that, and we cater to them too.

However, our goal is one day to be able to sell nothing but 100% organic gmo-free tees.

Of course tees are not our only product. We were the first (and still the only) cartoon to offer a line of offbeat cartoon real USPS postage.

zazzle stamps saladbar
We’re very proud of our stamps. Philatelists love them and collect them. Non-collectors often buy them with matching greeting cards or postcards from our RickLondonGifts.com shop.

zazzle postage squid

Finally, we invented the offbeat cartoon gourmet coffee gift basket which has been available on Amazon since 2006. Though I call it “Ruth London’s Exquisite Coffees”, each basket contains 5 imported delicious whole coffee beans, a jumbo cartoon mug, four matching coasters and the gratuitous gourmet biscotti. Can’t beat that as a gift and it’s exclusively at Amazon. We offer about 1000 different cartoon baskets. It’s a gift that is always remembered (and enjoyed). http://bit.ly/LTGftBskt.

This coming march it will be 18 years since my favorite dog “Thor” and I launched LTCartoons.com in that little abandoned Ms. warehouse. I’ve worked with some of the world’s most talented people who helped make this happen, and learned a great deal. The learning process never ends.

amazon coffee gift basket

Maybe that’s the reason I love doing what I do. Every day is a new challenge and opportunity to create something that makes someone smile or laugh. And though, yes, I do look at it as a business, no amount of money in the world can replace the fact that products that I create make people happy. As corny as that sounds, it’s important.

Thank you and have the happiest of holidays this season.

Sincerely,

Rick

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, and designer.  He is best-known for his founding of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He also founded several Great Quotes Shops which feature famous faces from the past and some of their most famous quotes on gifts, cards and tees.  His main offbeat cartoon site is Londons Times Cartoons.  He is married to nature and wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) who is best known for her designer gifts, Lee Hiller Designs.

Shopping The Way Mom Taught Me To….by Rick London

Caveat: Please forgive me for dropping graphics of some of my brand items in this article.  I couldn’t help myself as I love shameless self-promotion 🙂   The article has important info in it, however, so bear with me please & enjoy!  

I remember (sort of), loving to go shopping with my mom.  She taught me about “outfits” rather than buying “just Levi Jeans”.  I was relieved upon discovery that “an outfit”, could be made from Levis because I didn’t wear much else in the way of pants. 

zazzle watch twittermoms 

Those lessons would serve me well in the “80s Yuppie Movement” while living and working in Washington, D.C. where what one wore was nearly as important as his/her pedigree and/or education.  Am so glad those days are over (at least for me).   I believe my wife Lee agrees.  It was a neverending frenetic “keeping up with the Jones’” and no matter how much one had, and at one point I had a lot, it was never enough.  That became another powerful lesson that would serve me turning into a senior. 

I still see numerous peers playing that “frenetic game” in which money rules over all. Please don’t get me wrong. I like money and I like making it.  It is simply not at the top of the list; not even close; unless I’m making it doing exactly what I love doing.  So far so good.

Which brings me back to shopping. 

zazzle squid zone tee 

As a college student in the early 70s in Dallas, I took any kind of jobs offered to me such as waiting tables, managing a walk-in movie theater,  working in a health food store, etc.  Though they were all very different jobs, they all involved dealing with the public.

Fast forward not too many years and the dotcom boom was beginning.  Included in that boom was retail sales.  Retail was not at the top of my list as “fun ways to make a living”, but humor did.  So did design, and I attended retail school in Dallas while going to an accredited college across town. I wanted to “learn it all.

zazzle print kiwi 

I didn’t become so lucky, but every lesson, whether “good” or “bad”, served me in later life.  At age 49, I returned to college online, and learned a fascinating topic.  Retail. 

Yes, the very same retail I’d learned while “finding my way” in early life.  But this retail required digital design of my own line of products, and learning to deal with manufacturers.  I found I was not working as much with the public, except on social media which I learned to like, but also taking that information from interaction with media followers to become “the seed” if you will of image designs that went onto the products.  Wow.  Sounds high-tech and different.  Well, it actually is today, but my latter-life education has taught me that if asked, even online, most people will tell you what they like, or don’t like, and most people in this day and time prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home.

zazzle manatee tote

They have, and I have, nothing against malls or Main St. shops, but one can’t help but be reminded of business classes.

When ordering from an online boutique shop (or shops) with good reputations one is more likely to get a unique product not found in malls and downtown shops.  We all love unique.  None of us like being at a party where someone is wearing our same clothing or has the same gift we’re describing. 

zazzle pillows dolphin 

More importantly to many, economics plays a major role in any buying in today’s marketplace.  Common sense tells us that the lower the overhead, generally the better the price.  That is true in both my wife Lee Hiller’s shops and my own. 

But what about employees.    We indeed create a fair amount of jobs, but they are contractors who work for the organizations that make our products.  They get paid the same amount no matter how many products we design.  Again, cost stays down.

I don’t say this just about our online shops, but of nearly everyone’s.

If a person is looking for unique quality affordable designer products, at the cost (or lower) than non-designer products as found in a mall or shop (or even a box store or their website), the trick is to find your favorite designer at such places as CafePress.com, Zazzle.com, RedBubble.com or Amazon.com.

zazzle mug sperm 

If one is the least bit savvy, he/she can buy the most memorable different gifts, for 1/10th what they’d spend elsewhere.  Plus these are the type gifts that will be used, cherished, and remembered (as they often become valuable collectibles as well).

zazzle case salad bar 

Shop smartly.  Shop with small businesses and/or designers. You will come out ahead in the short (and long run). 

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Rick London is the founder of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons aka LTCartoons.com which he launched in 1997. He also owns several licensed image shops that sell funny gifts such as Rick London Gifts and one that specializes in funny tees and clothing called Rick London Cartoons.  He is married to nature photographer  Lee Hiller who sells designer gifts & clothing at Lee Hiller Design.  

Posters, Bullies, Success, The 60s, And “It’s A Wonderful Life” By Rick London

 

Click To Enlarge Londons Times Cartoons

Click To Enlarge
Londons Times Cartoons

       More than once I’ve been asked “Why did you get into the cartooning business”?  Soon it will be seventeen years and though I still love creating cartoon concepts, writing them and collaborating with our creative team, the business into which I’ve morphed is hardly the cartoon business (only) anymore. It’s still fun, but like most creative businesses, as it goes, there is more legal, administrative, marketing etc., than creative.  Don’t get me wrong, those are some handy skills I picked up along the way; some better, others worse than others, but all have turned out to be nifty to know and implement. 

      I had some terrific mentors, both real life and in books.  One of the real-life ones was Charles “Sparky” Schulz (Creator of “Peanuts”),  who warned me that as time went by and I was one of the lucky few who would still be in the business past one year, then I’d find myself more in some kind of accounting/admin/licensing business with a little time for creativity I’d have to find (or make for myself).  He was a real jokester so I imagined he was pulling my leg.  He was teaching me a “reality bites” lesson.

     On the other hand Walt Disney with whom I never got to speak or meet, taught me many things via books about him and his autobiography.

     Like me, he could draw, but not to the level of which he wanted his characters.  Plus he was into the new “special effects” called animation.

Rafael And Quote: Lady W/Unicorn Click To Enlarge. Designed by Rick London

Rafael And Quote: Lady W/Unicorn Click To Enlarge. Designed by Rick London

     In my case, I had loved cartoons like the Far Side, Speed Bump, Close To Home, and Rubes, and though I prefer that type of absurd offbeat humor in my frames, nobody, to my knowledge had ever used a type of “fine art” mixed with “the absurd”.  That was and remains my vision.

      I thought I was chasing windmills or had some pie in the sky idea (as most if not all in my hometown proclaimed) but Sparky told me that was not a problem whatsoever.  He said, “Find and hire fine artists who don’t mind rendering other people’s cartoon ideas.” Easier said than done of course. But in time, it was done.  

    I can’t count the number of illustrators who came and went, for a variety of reasons, but I awakened one day and sixteen years and 5000 or so cartoons later, not to mention ¼ million licensed items I was living a life owning the #1 offbeat cartoons and gifts in the world.  And I’m still here, to some delight’s and other’s chagrin. But, just like I was taught by Sparky Schulz and some lesser known genius/good men and women, “What other people thought of me was and is truly none of my business.   And I truly don’t care.  I’m a nice guy. Not a saint, but not a devil.  I clean my side of the street only.  I still respect the law.  I respect my elders and children. Both should have civil rights and cared for no matter what their family’s station in life.  In fact animals should have rights and fortunately in most states do. I’d like to be my friend if I wasn’t me, and those who don’t care for me, well their loss. 

Click To Enlarge Londons Times Cartoons c2013

Click To Enlarge
Londons Times Cartoons c2013

     I still shake my head and cannot believe all that has happened, has.  But it has.  Every day I wake up with items all over the world that say “Londons Times”.  It is like some kind of dream.  People email me for autographs. Large and not so large nonprofits, churches, charities, schools etc.  contact me for signed prints for their silent and regular auctions.

 

Ironically, I used to resent, so horribly being treated as an outcast in my own hometown for my way of thinking. Even from some family members (Especially so).   Now I thank the good Lord every day for those wonderful souls who thought I were so evil at th time None of this would have ever happened had they treated me humanely.  I had no idea they were jealous of my gifts and talents. I didn’t even know I had them and they dared not tell me as I might “actually move ahead”.  Of course they wanted me to move ahead; just not too far ahead. 

Still back home and reeling from caring for my ill mom, I was visiting a young friend who’d graduated from a nearby college. I was in the next room and I heard him tell his parents he wanted to “be free and try the things Rick is trying.  I felt terrible for him, when they responded “You can’t. You don’t have his talent”.  First of all, I was about 41 years old, and it was the first time I’d heard from anyone I had talent. That part felt wonderful.  But that part was squashed when I realize the way I had to find out was by some bad parents squashing their grown but troubled son’s dream by demanding that he not explore his own talent (everyone has some talent) and all it need be is developed.  What they were saying is, “We’ve paid for your college. We’re finished helping you.   Now go find yourself by putting on a suit and getting a boring 9-5 job that you’ll hate with a passion.

I truly thank God for creating all kinds of people, smart and kind, and even the mean, talentless, ignorant with whom I’ve had to deal. I used to wonder why they existed. Of course I’m grateful to Him even to be alive given all the health issues I’ve suffered and there have been a myriad of them; and yet He keeps me rebounding and creating. 

He brought the woman to me in my life who is my wife and has made me very happy.  We are regaining our health together communing with nature while hiking, enjoying the little things, forget keeping up with the Jones’ or Smith’s or even Mr. Potter. To us, anyone who “wants us to keep up with them”, might as well be Mr. Potter.  We no longer “go there”.  Our lives are much more valuable for that kind of junior high nonsense.  For us every day is “It’s A Wonderful Life”. 

Now I know of their great value; not just to me, but of nearly all the creative people with vision of whom I’ve been friends and/or friendly.  It seems to be a major motivator to prove “creative vision above ignorance”, and creative vision seems to win out every single time. They teach us our most valuable lessons (without even meaning to of course).

Sikh Golden Temple With Proverb Deisgned by Rick London c2012. Click To Enlarge

Sikh Golden Temple With Proverb Deisgned by Rick London c2012. Click To Enlarge

Which brings me to posters. I began to look at posters as more than just art around the late 60s and early 70s.  I can remember some of my earliest being by Peter Max. If I’m not mistaken one of them was Dylan with the rainbow hair.  Ironically my wife’s artwork very much reminds me of Peter Max; had Max combined nature with his musical expression.  Lee’s colors are similar but her characters are of her own creation from sea turtles and seahorses to birds and deep in the sea wonders.

When I was in college in the 70s, I lived in (what was then a very nice building) called Elam Arms in Hattiesburg, Ms at USM.  I loved that old building which I think now has either burned or was torn down.

Rick London c2011

Londons Times Cartoons
Click To Enlarge

While other kids were putting plaques, awards and such on their walls, I was adding posters.   This was one way we all learned who the other “leftover hippies” were so we could “hang out” and we did; and often admired each other’s posters.

Now, I find that some of the favorite items I sell, whether they are in my cartoon shops or famous quote stores are my posters.  I get a nostalgic thrill when they sell.  And so that everyone can afford them, I try my best to construct a deal with the manufacturer to mark them down as much as possible.

This is one of those weekends.  Until this Monday September 30th at 11:59pm Pacific Time, all posters are all 50% off in all my stores whether they have funny posters or serious posters or even my famous love quotes posters shop. Use coupon code FALLINTOSAVE at checkout for your 50% savings.   If I were a customer of mine, or a student back in college, I’d buy ten or more of them.  But that’s just me.  Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for his Londons Times Cartoons which he launched in a tin shed outside his hometown of Hattiesburg, Ms in 1997. It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon and funny gifts since 2005.  London is married to popular nature/ Wildlife Photographer Lee Hiller-London and they both happily live as vegan hikers in the Hot Springs National Park Mountains Of Arkansas 

It’s High Time To Laugh by Rick London (My New Line Of Watches) How? Why?

Before much recorded history, there was “fun fiction” called Greek mythology. 

zazzle gift watches 2222222222222

 

      One of the most read and famous stories was the one of Narcissus. 

      He was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Leiriope, was an extremely good-looking Greek youth. His beauty ultimately led to his death…if I remember my Greek mythology studies in college I believe he was staring at his reflection in a pond fell in and drowned. 

      I only mention that because, to me, today’s new narcissism is the blog.  Not as intense, but let’s face it.  We humans have a little bit if not a lot of vanity.  We buy products that make us appear younger, unless we are under eighteen and trying to buy beer.  But those fake mustaches look rather silly, and really not worth the trouble. 

     We also now blog.  When I started on the Internet, we all shared our thought’s and opinions on forums and in chat rooms owned and managed by others.  But it gave us our “vanity fix”.  We got the word out, at least our humble opinions right into mainstream media. Ok maybe right into Yahoo! Chat but it sure seemed big time.

      Now I’m like Narcissus staring into an empty page that tells me its a humor blog called “RickLondonSyndication”.  Now tell me that’s not impressive 🙂

     I used to blog a lot and then got busy designing products and writing cartoons and could never seem to find the time.  The other truth is I could never seem to find anything interesting enough to share publicly.  Though it may seem to others that what my very talented nature photography wife Lee Hiller-London and I do is quite glamorous, we are much more often running errands and spraying Deep Woods Off Spray on us before hiking because we tend to get bit a lot.

     But she told me I should blog about some of my cartoons and/or products (cartoon watches in this case)  and I like that idea, even though I don’t know that I will always be accurate as the impetus/motivation of a lot of them come from a series of events, and some from just sitting there, or even meditating in the bathtub.

     Last week she told me one of our main manufacturer/dropshippers “Zazzle” had added a number of new products and one of them was beautiful humorous unisex watches.   Lee and I had just experimented with stopping wearing our watches last month, and I was beginning to miss mine.

     Several events led to the end of my wearing a watch.  I like to buy cheapies because I tend to break or lose watches whether they are Timex or Piaget.  So WalMart watches it was. For awhile anyway, until I went “wrist-naked”.

      Then I saw what I could do with the vintage mens/womens watches provided by Zazzle.  I can add my cartoons on some, my love quote graphics and quotes on some, and even add some to my famous wisdom quote shop.  This could be hot.   So I was off to the races last week, creating at least 10-15 watches per day (I digitally design them on my pc and Zazzle provides the software).

      So here I am hyping myself, my watches and my talent as if it is something I just take for granted.  Please note that I believe God has been very very good to me. I live in a town that is paradise.  I have a wonderful wife.  My businesses make a living.  I’m fifty nine, but I’m not in bed all day.  I work, I hike in the mountains, I admire the beauty of nature and commune and actually talk to the animals in the forest.  But yesterday we were in the forest on a mountain far, far away, and I realized, “Hey Rick, no watch”.  Then I thought, “Rick, you could buy one of your own”.

     “Whoaaa, I thought to myself.  My watches admittedly look good (sticks toe in reflecting pond)….but would WalMart ever let me forget that I bought one of mine and not theirs?

      Does it really matter?  Am I the only person on the planet who feels guilt that long ago I told Walmart I loved their watches and would always buy them there.   Do I think they will now go under because Rick didn’t buy his next watch there?

     I hope you like my new Rick London watch I will be buying next week.  I will post a photo of it, but shhhhh….please don’t tell WalMart. 

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zazzle gift watches

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Rick London is an author, musician, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for launching Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 in an abandoned Ms. tin shed/warehouse.  LTCartoons.com has since become Google and Bing’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts