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.
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.
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).
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.
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