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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Border Collies, Stocks, & Humor by Rick London

Border Collie Collectibles         Click To Enlarge

Border Collie Collectibles
Click To Enlarge

 

I love dogs.

I like to make money, though I doubt I’ll ever be a dot.com zillionaire. I have too much of a writer/artist’s heart (whatever that is), and am much more interested that certain details of a graphic are correct, than I am if one of my licensed t-shirts is displayed properly (though I do appreciate the importance of that part of business too). Let me reword that. I don’t like selling things.

I probably am fairly good at selling things (for instance I’m fairly good at bartering which takes a certain amount of sales acumen), and by the same token I understand the importance of the myriad of details that go into an entrepreneurial venture.

I have learned over the years that I have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. There are several remedies for that. In the areas of weakness, I should surround myself with people who have strengths in those areas, and be the strength for them, if they have weaknesses in the areas (of which I have strength).

It’s business but it’s also physics. In basic physics one of the first lessons is “action/reaction”.
What people don’t understand is those physics apply to everything. When we empower someone, we become empowered. When we try to undermine or hurt someone, we become disempowered. Don’t believe me? Try it. It never fails to be true. So I try my best to try to empower those around me. I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s no reason not to keep trying. And I allow them to empower me, if they have knowledge in a matter of which I do not.

Which brings us to border collies and investments.
Rumor has it that art and art collectibles have outperformed Standard & Poors for the past 3 decades. That really doesn’t surprise me much, given the reasons people buy art or collectibles compared to the reasons people buy stocks.

I love art and photography collectibles and my wife Lee Hiller (Lee Hiller-London) who is a fine nature photographer and I have posters and prints of our work all over our home. We have some mugs, cards etc. too. We may, or may not ever sell them, but whatever we do, we’ll enjoy them, and have enjoyed them as the years have passed. We had several new ones to our collection each year. Our wall looks like a nicely stocked gallery.
One could do that with their stock certificates (if they wished) but the emotions that stocks and bonds paperwork seem to enhance are not in the same league with arts and letters collectibles on a print, mug, apron or even ornament.

That’s why I don’t “just design a T-shirt when we create a cartoon but a bulk of collectibles, because a lot of people are like me. They often don’t just want a T-shirt or an eco-friendly bag or a mug bearing that image, they want all three and maybe a key chain and/or button to match.

Which brings us to border collies. I love all dogs. But late in life I shared my home with a beautiful bearded collie mix (I think); and learned about a whole new breed. Most my life I’d had hounds, mixes, goldens labs etc.
One of my best friends had a border collie who reminded me very much of my bearded collie in many ways. Both were extremely bright, a bit hyper, goofy and a lot of fun.
My friend was/is also a sculpture. He has made numerous sculpted metal of border collies which are wonderful.

I’ve not kept up with Frank for several years (his late dad was one of my best friends though), but it gave me the idea of collectibles. If it worked so well on “serious items”, why couldn’t it work with cartoon collectibles?
So I created products, and put them in specific categories and pages, so that one could find a tee, keep shopping for the same design on other products, and not get lost.
Here is a “for instance” of my border collie page at one of my online shops. Enjoy and have a great week.

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer. He is best known for Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which he launched in 1997 in an abandoned tin shed in rural Ms.