In order to create at a high level you must feed the machine that’s doing the work. Having a workbook and relentlessly pounding into it ….

This is something i drew in a workbook a few years ago.

I’ve had a workbook going since about 1985. I doubt my brain would work if i didn’t. I’m surprised i ever did a lick of any kind of good work before i started keeping my work with me. I used to work on yellow legal pads. I’d throw ideas i didn’t like in the trash. I was ignorant.
i didn’t start with the idea i’d make a cartoon. i remember thinking/writing the idea of the guy with a sign protesting being rich. The idea came first, then the image of the guy with a sign, and then i revised the words to go on the sign.
After i looked at it i thought a line was needed underneath to explain the joke. i thought it was funny in a dark way i like things to be. Now i think it works better without the explanation. (when is that not true?)
Most of what you put in a workbook goes nowhere. But you have to, have to, have to put everything in. You’ve got to pound it in. Because you never know what is going to come out of the process your brain does.
Looking at the bit now what i like is different from what i liked back when i did it.
Now i like the offhanded lean against air of the guy with the sign. I’m no drawer, but i like the accident that happened. It suggests how it should look on film.
Money is like computers. Doesn’t do anything people say it will, but ain’t nobody trying to get rid of theirs.

What goes into the workbook. It’s not sacred. It can be a silly thought like this one here.


Don’t treat it like it’s anything. It’s not. It’s hay for the horse your brain is willing to work like.
Even more likely, your workbook will be full of undramatic pages with lines & thoughts & unbaked ideas scribbled all over. Like this:


Good. Get it all out. It’s work, not art at this point.
It needn’t be written. I fancied myself a naive painter for a few deluded moments. I worked with cheap paint and charcoal and easy stuff. All i did was make lines look different than the typewriter could. Silly. Looking at it now, though,

and pulling out maybe this one from a hundred pieces of crapola, it’s a look I don’t mind. It seems to serve the thought of the line. I don’t paint this juvenile stuff anymore. With some years remove i can see that it’s what the words mean that i care about and have some interest in moving around.
When i’m working on a real project i’ll have different approaches to the same headline plastered into the workbook (wood-glued, actually, i like the crinkle effect it has on the pages and it doesn’t seem to add as much bulk as tape, although that’s likely not to be true by the laws of physics now that i think of it) This is an ad idea from 1996 or so done for KFC.


I doubt we (Steve Luker & myself) were thinking of it as a print ad. We were just getting ideas down on paper. No, wait, i think the idea was to make a book of sorts introducing these characters we’d made up & their philosophy.


Anyway, just get the stuff down on paper and look at it different ways.
I should own up, in defence of Mr. Luker who is an extraordinary art director and would choke himself to death if he thought for a moment that anyone had been given the impression he art directed the roughs in my book shown here, that i probably stuck these headlines on these pictures myself.
But that’s the point. Get whatever you think or see down in the book. Don’t waste time putting it down or critiquing it in your head, get it down in the book.
Don’t think about it being final. Don’t worry yourself, just hurry yourself. Your brain will keep up with your hands. Get stuff down.
I could go on and on.
I won’t.
Let me stop here with a final encouragement about workbooks.
The job of a copywriter or art director isn’t fun and it isn’t easy.
Jackasses often get the final say about whether our work runs or is even presented to a small group of people.
Genuine hacks often are given free rein to edit our work.
There is no honor in the advertising business.
Although you cannot create high level work without approaching it as an artist, you will not find yourself treated as an artist.
In short, you will not be able to love the job of advertising copywriter or art director as you would like to.
Do not fear.
Your desire is not muted.
Only misdirected.

(Kate Flather, i think, art directed this for me–we were working on tshirts if memory serves)
This, i have found, is what can happen.
The process of creation is worthy of love and will return to you what you seek.
The workbook is both the repository of your work and the feeding mechanism for your brain in the process.
Do not waste your love on the business. It cannot meet you where an artist deserves to be met.
Love the process.
I’ve written here clumsily perhaps, but i hope only to encourage use of the workbook, not to explicate it prettily.

Advertisements