I was introduced to Hugh, through a friend and was immediately hooked. Not only does he have two hilarious and inspiring books out, but he sends out an email every day that I really look forward to. Please enjoy this interview, and check out his webpage at www.gapingvoid.com!
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
Goats- and sheep- have always struck me as rather dumb, sad, pathetic, unhappy creatures. That certainly seemed the case of my grandfather's farm. I suppose "Mourning" reminds me of that.
2. A friend of mine turned me on to your cartoons last year, and I've been a subscriber ever since, do you feel a lot of your support is word of mouth?
My support is ALL word of mouth. The occasional ping by big media has never really made much direct impact on my career.
3. Can you tell our readers what cube grenades are?
"Cube Grenades" is art I make, designed to go into office cubicles and cause little cultural explosions. See my recent blog post, "My work doesn't belong in art galleries, it belongs in cubicles."
4. I feel like your cartoons are almost self-help books, disguised in cartoon form, what are your thoughts?
I try to make art that motivates people to be the people they want to be. Art has no power in itself, it can only remind people of the power and the mystery they already have within them... which I suppose isn't too different from the best self-help literature out there.
5. You started doodling on the back of business cards in 1997, did you ever think it would get you to this point?
Never. I thought it would keep me amused. The fact that it kept other people amused as well is an added bonus.
6. Did the bar scene in New York City start everything for you? It sounds like a lot of your inspiration at the beginning came out of them.
The bar scene in New York was just an extension of what started years before that, in the bar scene of Edinburgh. Social drinking is a big deal to the Scots... it came quite a shock to me, a couple of years later, to discover it wasn't as big a deal everywhere else.
7. Was it a harder decision for you to go or leave New York?
Both were easy decisions. Both just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I loved New York, but I felt I had "done it" by the time I left.
8. Social networking has exploded the past couple of years, what are your thoughts on google+, is it needed? I see that you are a member, where do you see social media going?
Google+ is just one more thing to add to the slushpile, as far as I'm concerned. I would advise anybody to spend less time doing the social network thing, and more time actually MAKING stuff.
9. What was the journey like from drawing on the back of business cards to having thousands of subscribers reading your cartoons every day?
It was slow and steady. Something I did every day, like practicing piano scales. Eventually it looked like a big deal from the outside, but it never was. It still isn't.
10. A cartoonist, a writer, CEO of a Stormhoek USA (a South African Wine), how do you find the time to do all of this?
I don't. Most of my time is spent trying to catch up, and mostly failing.
11. Wait, CEO of a what? What does that entail?
Exactly. I don't really do the wine thing any more, I need to change that on my website.
12. Ignore Everybody and Evil Plans were awesome, what made you decide to start putting out books?
I always loved books, so one day I decided to make some of my own. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
13. You've lived all over the country and world, do you think your location is important from a marketing standpoint, or are we past location?
Of course location is important. I couldn't do what I do from, say, Europe, let alone somewhere brutal and impoverished like Somalia. Too many hidden costs...
14. What were your aspirations when you first went to University of Texas, for English?
Get a degree and find a good job afterwards. Nothing too ambitious.
15. You mentioned in a youtube video about being obsessive, do you think that's a positive trait in writing/art?
It's pretty much the ONLY trait in writing/art.
16. How long did it take you to get out of the copy-editing world and live on your art?
Five to ten years, depending on who you ask. That's about how long it takes to do anything TRULY lasting and worthwhile, I have found.
17. Was tripling Anderson & Sheppard's Tailor business one of your favorite marketing stories? I loved watching it, here.
It certainly is. It's what broke me out of the usual nine-to-five meathook reality that most people have to put up with. I was very glad to leave that accursed world behind, believe me...
18. Do you think that your writing, art, and marketing all coincide? It feels like they're all interconnected.
Yep. They all collide, pretty much every day. I don't worry about it any more.
19. I love that you said, "an artist is quite a fucked-up thing to be, and to be honest I'm not sure if I would recommend it to anybody" do you really believe that? What advice do you have for someone that wants to be?
The hardest part of being an artist, I have found, is not the work itself, or the business side of things, but the ACCEPTANCE of it. Accepting that hey, yeah, this is what I do, is really hard for anybody, artist or not.
20. What's next for Hugh MacLeod?
There is no "Next". There is only making more drawings and writings, and trying to stay healthy and happy. "Ambition" is for amateurs.