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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A lackluster day

I Only worked an hour today, but here are some new toons.
I'm fast running out of territory in this region, and I'm considering either moving or at least traveling to Menlo Park or Alameda or maybe San Leandro. I could probably bike on over to the El Cerrito bart and catch a bus for a few bucks over to SL, which I'm sure has many of the same sort of folks as Albany and the El Cerritos. I've been in this area about a year ago, and I'm pretty familiar with it, and I'd like to check out some new scenery. On a more humanistic level, I'm not completely happy about seeing new things, or change, but I am happy once it happens. I sort of enjoy not knowing and the after effects of knowing what I did not know before.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not everyone is a stereotype, but some folks actually work towards it.

yesterday was a hard day. I was directed to a very posh community, in what turned out to be a semi gated community. Now, i don't want to disparage everyone in this neighborhood, but the neighborhood itself was painful, weird and unfriendly in a way that no other part of the city even comes close to.
First, the first house I went to had a nice woman who full understood the connection between art, business and hippy-traveller/entrepeneurialism that I was driving at. I'm on my pal's computer, so, I'm not sure I spelled that last one right, but whatever. Anyway, the very NEXT house, the lady looked at me sort of coldly and said, "we require tags for this part of the city. I was like, fine, good luck, as I always say. Three more houses down, a 17 year old comes to the door, I say, "are your parents available?", and before he can even say yes or no, he catches himself, actually lies to my face, says no (yes, I see them) and says, "what's this about?" I said, "If I can't get a straight answer, I'm leaving." he actually apologized for lying and shut the door! Next, I stop at another house, the lady says the same thing, "you need a tag in this part of the city. I say, well, I'm a traveller, and are the other folks creative, doing their own thing, or just selling magazines? She tells me they aren't, but it doesn't matter. Fine, good luck! And I move on.
I have to add here, I have NEVER heard this before in SIX MONTHS of working in Oakland and Berkeley.
I'm at a final house, on the corner, a women comes to the door, a woman that appears to have some class. I give her my short spiel, which takes at most 15 seconds, but she cuts me off in the middle and says "no thanks." Ok, Great. I say good luck. I'm walking away, and this woman takes the time to come back out of her door, and call down to me, "excuse me sir, sir..." I spin around, "let me guess, " I say, "I need a tag?" She nods. I look at her and I say, "I've been doing this for six months in the city, and I have never heard this before, yet I have heard it three times in this neighborhood. Do you know what that tells me about this neighborhood?" She looks at me and says, "no, what?" I respond: "I'm not going to tell you, you figure it out." At which point she ran inside, probably to call the police on the surly itinerant artist in her midst.

There are many wonderful, lovely folks in Oakland, and a little later, I was down by the Grand, talking with an old black lady. I told her I had been in this specific, though it shall remain nameless, neighborhood. She rolled her eyes. "The rich," she said, and told me where there were more mixed neighborhoods where, despite any other form of rejection, people treat each other with decency and don't lie to avoid conflict as a family value. I don't have a problem with rejection: I do have a problem with people who lump a 46 year old scholar/musician/artist with 16 year old ghetto youth that sell crooked magazine subscriptions. On the way to a neighborhood that looks clean, where did so many residents lose all their class? The other neighborhoods, with all their good people, struggling to get by and good, even if they reject me, to a humble artist, makes this one, despite all it's fancy lawns, pretty houses and clean children, look bad, filthy and dirty.

Some places may look nice, have pretty lawns, even have access to good schools, but the class of people in them is so low, that I think it would be an embarrassment to raise one's children there, for fear that they might become as crass as their neighbors.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'll probably upload tomorrow, but today I want to talk about "street mentality."

Something I've noticed as I walk streets and talk with folks, is that different neighborhoods have different ways of saying no.

Like, in one neighborhood, everyone says, "I'd really LOVE to help, but I can't right now." In another, "I can't help." is all they say. In some it's "I WISH I could help," in others, "I won't be helping you." Oddly, often the same basic comment is made through a certain set of streets, but then on other streets, very nearby, folks are in a totally different space. My theory is that folks take their subconscious cues from some maven in one of the houses nearby, and use whatever lingo that person uses.

The interesting thing about this is the "mood" of the response. I really don't have that much of a problem with someone saying, "I don't like art, I don't like cartoons, and I'm not going to help you." Ok, fine. Or, "I don't read cartoons, but good luck." Also fine. But, I feel genuine pity for someone who tells me "I can't." How disempowering. A total stranger has knocked on their door, offering some item, and the person inside feels, at least on some level that they CANNOT help, even if they want to. This is very similar to someone who says, "it's my policy not to do any business at the door," which is all good and fine, except that if you create a policy, you have the right to break it, especially if it's worth ten seconds of your time, and sure, if that's your "policy," whatever...but, if you say, "I'd like to help/look at/buy your stuff, BUT I have a no sales at the door policy," now you are living by the letter, not the spirit of your own laws.

When I was a kid, I read a funny Mad Magazine cartoon that sort of sums up this "I can't, I have too many rules" type of thinking. A husband and wife are trying to decide wether to get a subaru or a volkswagon. Finally, they decide to flip a coin. It comes up Subaru. Both of them angrily throw down their car description books, "Darn it," says the husband, "I really wanted a Volkswagon." "Yeah," agrees the wife, "me too." In other words, because they pretended to themselves they didn't care, they feel they have to invest the decision in some coin, despite both of them disagreeing with its result!

I always wish everyone who rejects my pitch "good luck." With such disempowering ideas, many need as much luck as they can get!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Art vs Commercialism

I've been thinking about this awhile, and today I decided to talk a little about it. Often, when going door to door, people support me for a variety of reasons. Because i'm and artist, because i'm a comedian, or just because they are philanthropic. I really don't care that much. Supporting myself with my work is a job in and of itself, so, I don't really concern myself with the "why" of everyone's purchase.
There is one group, however, that is particularly interesting to me, and that is the group of folks that I meet who self-identify themselves as artists. As I was telling one of my customers today, I usually do not do well with this group. I have a few opinions as to why.

First, "artists," like actors, are catty people. They generally crave attention and criticize other's work if it threatens them. I have heard endless tales of the gallery scene, which I have not yet participated in, about artists not allowing artists into their shows, art galleries playing favorites, artists playing favorites, etc., etc. Thus, when I, as an artist, come to their door, they are threatened.
But this brings me to my second point: what is an artist? Is an artist a "designer?" Because, any savant can learn to draw a horsey, or a pretty little girl in a pink dress. Sure, it might take them longer then someone with a natural eye, but, that can be developed. In fact, when it comes to "photographic" art, many would argue that that is not art at all, but merely copying with technical principals, like the concept of negative space. Just because someone can design a house, paint a nice painting or create a piece of pottery, does that make them an artist? I think not.
I think that an "artist" is someone that understands his or her place in the cosmos, opens their mind to new things, and always has a place, in some way, for those that are creative. Now, if these "artists" at the door said something like "well, I can't afford to help you, but, how about an exchange of a photo of one of my pieces for page of one of your cartoons," or "how about an apple," Then I would percieve them as an artist. However, when a self-identified artist ("Oh, I'm an artist also") has no interest in

a.Looking at what I've produced for 20 seconds
b.showing me anything they have produced
c.Not even trying to do an exchange of SOME sort if they like my work,

Then I do NOT consider them artists. What they are, in fact, are "Commercial Designers." In other words, their "art" is really nothing more then some sort of economic display, like a peacock, to gain approval. In many cases, these "artists" have bought into the idea of peer review, as if "art" was like history, and was only valuable when judged so by some committee of elders. As far as I'm concerned, they have completely lost track of the "why" of their craft, and have instead decided that art is a dry, technical field that is judged by people that are better then them, or at the very least, more influential.

Are some commercial designers artists? Of course. But not all artists are commercial designers. Art is something that is intrinsically diffused through culture, and the Beatles, Elvis, Patch Adams and Wavy Gravy are "artists." They live for their work, took a lot of guff about what they were doing when they were doing it, and ended up breaking the mold and creating new ones. Someone, however, that has never suffered for their work, works downtown at some graphic design studio doing derivative art and not even investing their own opinions into the mix is NOT an artist, they are a commercial or a graphic designer. That's it.

So, when someone identifies themselves as an artist, I think to myself: did this person do something original? Did they actually make something new, or do something new within their own genre? Maybe I'm a bias narcissist, but I think that just the act of reading a blog from a cartoonist that sells his booklets and works door to door is a unique twist on cartooning and the entire profession, and I think that when I make cartoons about my work, or subtly make references to experiences I've had or thoughts I've had while working, I am breaking new artistic ground. I do not think that most of the "artists" who give me nothing or don't look at my stuff have ever created or done anything new in their field, and certainly have never engendered any sort of mass social criticism, either positive or negative, related to their field.

Is my definition of "artist" too stringent? Perhaps, but, when you ARE an artist, you have to have a big ego, and I might as well hold myself above the "average" artist.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life is always a surprise, yet, it is predictable...go Figure

It's amazing how I will always make about 12 to 14 dollars an hour. Lots of time might go by where everyone I talk to is not interested, not able to, etc., but I always end up with 25-30 bucks after 2 hours and 40 bucks after three. I don't actually like going door to door, but, considering I have worked for many sales and fundraising, I don't mind it. I like the fact that I can share my art, and a good conversation sometimes as well.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kudos to Hammid

My pal Hammid let me scan a few toons today. I worked for 2 hours and made nothing, then made 40 in the last 20 minutes. I have to go farther afield i think, since i was just here a year ag0.

New Cartoons!!

Here are a few toons from the times just before I left for the gathering. Some are rehashes of my older work.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A little bummed out at the lack of cheap downloading services in Berkeley

Howdy folks. Well, yesterday I met a man with a very bright orange shirt, and today I saw flowers that were decidely purple. I had a interesting discussion about the reason for banking practices with a banker, in which I described how fees are a direct burden on the working poor, because, those with a few hundred in the bank at all times ( I guess the lower middle class), don't have the problem of the gauging via fees in their life. In my case, the bank had numerous purchases "still on hold" when I went over my "balance," which was not, apparently what was printed on my online account. In one case, I had a 75cent purchase held back six weeks until I went over my account balance, at which point it suddenly was released: for a 35 dollar surcharge. my point: the bank profits more from negative and positive accounts then it does from zeroed out accounts. If you HAVE money in the bank, they can get a loan out of it, if you OWE money, they can SELL the debt to someone else. If, on the other hand, you have just "no money," or a few pennies minus or plus in the account, it's useless. Thus, those living on the edge financially are particularly burdened by these fees, which are simply imaginary income for evil banks, because they kick in Usuriously, in a way that is unexpected. For a 200 dollar overdraft, i'm being charged 890 dollars! Supposedly because I overdrafted "before" all the other purchases went through, even though my overdraft was the last thing I ever did in the account, over a week past any other purchase, all the other purchases rack up 35 dollar fees. If that is not illegal, it is certainly immoral.

Stay tuned, I will print out new cartoons in a few days.
If I do not soon meet up with a scanner, I will go to a Kinkos.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So far, Berkeley seems to Judge me well.

Well, Berkeley has been treating me well. I've made enough to enjoy life, and most folks have been very friendly. I was thinking I'd share different blow offs, since they can be pretty funny. The weirdest one in Berkeley so far: a man comes up to the door with a bird on his shoulder, looks at me with a forlorn look and says, "I can't help, my bird is sick."

Other good ones that I hear more regularly:
1.Oh, my daughter/son/cousin/best friend is an artist, I help him/her.
2.I'm working at home, and I haven't got ten seconds to look at your art.
3.(I love this one): "I'm out of work also." No, I'm not out of work: I create my own work and I make 15 bucks an hour.

I'll try to add more blow offs as I go along. :-)

unfortunately, I can't upload, even off the web, at this internet cafe. I will upload some images in the next few days at a Kinkos.