Real Life Adventures of an Illustrator

Ohio in the Autumn

Summary: My wife and I travel back to my old hometown. An old High School buddy and I throw a party at his skateshop and call it an “In Store Artist Event.” I find myself on the hook for 3 new skateboard graphics. Good times are had by all.

Recently I took some time off to go back to visit my old home town. My wife had never seen where I grew up and I hadn’t been back there for entirely too long, so we pulled some strings and made it happen. So, in October we went back to good old Ohio. Luckily we caught the tail end of autumn there so that we could enjoy the turning of the leaves and that warm autumnal light. There were a lot of really wonderful parts to our visit. One aspect in particular, and as it relates to this blog, was the “in-store artist event” that I scheduled with my old High School buddy, Jeremy, who now runs the Collective Skateshop in Canton Ohio.

Healdsburg Skatepark 2003

One major aspect of my youth that I really love is Skateboarding. I started started skating in the mid 80’s, and for about 2 decades I rode pretty heavily. In hindsight, I guess that I got to be pretty good at it. There were always some guys who were just way gnarlier, and others who were not, and I found myself somewhere in the middle, but being the best skater wasn’t what it was about for us, it ran deeper than that. At that time skateboarding certainly wasn’t what it is today, and skaters were a very rare breed in rural Ohio, I can tell you! When we happened across another skater’s path while we were out and about, it was more like an instantaneous common bond was there. Looking back now, it was just about being there hanging out shredding with friends, and having fun. Anyway, before I get too rhapsodic about my youth, one thing that I always thought would be way cool was to have my own skateboard graphics. It turns out those dreams of our youth have a way of sticking around!

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Awhile back, I was out walking the dog and I’d had the “crazy” idea of creating some graphics for skateboards. Somewhere along the way I spotted my friend Jeremy’s postings about his new Collective Skate Shop. Somewhere in the back of the “Wild Hair” section of my brain, I began to put the two things together, in that sort of day-dreamy way, and as the time of our trip approached I contacted Jeremy and floated an idea about throwing a marketing party past him.

“What I am thinking,” I said, “is to have a marketing event at your store.” I went on to explain my vision of what I was thinking. It entailed creating some new board graphics and having them printed through Zazzle, as well as bringing some of my original art to show and doing on-location drawings for people who wanted them. We could simply push this out through Facebook and Twitter to generate some buzz, through in some food and, BOOM, we’ve got customer’s coming to his store and a chance to see a few pieces with my work on them. It was a win-win kinda dream.

So, Jeremy went for it. Stunned; I now realized that I was on the hook to create some board graphics as well as the online presence for the event! This work would eventually grow to include a web page, and some flyers and posters for the event. Luckily for me, as it turns out, this was one of those jobs that you dream of… or at least I do… oh wait I did! So, anyway, the board designs flowed pretty easily from scribbly pencils through to final ink drawings. Once the inks were scanned, the overall board designs and flowed pretty smoothly and naturally. As the drawings evolved, I put up a brief post on them called, “Tentacles, Barbarians, and Fist-a-cuffs, OH MY!”

The Finished Designs {click for more information}

Building the Buzz

In the week or so preceding the event it’s self, Jeremy had contacted some folks at a couple of different local newspapers. The first to appear was a press release that Jeremy had written for Buzzbin (a local music and culture newspaper.) Then, unexpectedly I got a phone call from Dan Kane, who’s a writer for the Canton Repository (the main newspaper for the area.) Dan asked a lot of really good questions, and I enjoyed talking with him. At the end of the conversation he said that the interview would appear in the Friday arts and event’s section of the paper called “The Ticket.” With that and the efforts we’d put together through Facebook and Twitter, the stage was set.

The Day of the Event

Finally, the day of the event came to be. I grabbed all the stickers, drawings, and mini-comics that I’d brought with me and headed to the shop. Since I’d never been to Jeremy’s shop, it was a new and pleasant experience. The store is clean, and well laid out. We did some quick shuffling of beanies off a table, and created a nice display area to display my wares. With that, we were ready to rock and roll. The first people through the doors were a boy and his mother. They’d read the newspaper article and discoverd a number of connections with me that ultimately brought them out. We had a lot of fun, and the boy and his mother ended up getting a deck for him. The stuck around for a while and we talked about art, skateboarding, and the good ol’ days. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

A friend's daughter, and artist of the future
Grom of the Year

Through out the day there were small groups of people who would show up. Friends of friends, folks who’d heard about the event, a gal who was trying to figure out how to make a living as an artist (lots of drawing, lots and lots of drawing.) At one point Jeremy’s fiance had gotten in touch with some friends of hers who are in the band The Phantods. They had happened to be doing a show in the area and decided to stop by. They were all very cool, and only afterwards was I to learn that they are talented musicians as well. (Go buy their music!)

The Phantods are here!

{update 12/17/11: free Phantods holiday download}

The Road Goes On

Old Dogs

At the end of the day we didn’t create a tsunami of new people coming for the event, but some folks did make it out and we did have a really good time, so without a doubt, I would definitely put this one in the win column. Jeremy and his Fiancé were super to hang out with and I wish them all the best with their endeavors.

I will also shamelessly plug my boards too: first you can drop in at the Collective shop and pick up a deck or two (tell ’em I sent’cha), or you can get you’re own custom graphic designed from the ground up, or you can have one of the existing designs customized with your own name or moniker by dropping me a line, and lastly if you would like to get these designs on shirts and whatnot check out my Zazzle shop.

I had a ton of fun pulling all this together and doing the art for these boards and would love to do some more, so if you’ve got an idea or know somebody who could use these types of graphics, feel free to drop me a line from the contact page.

One Response to Real Life Adventures of an Illustrator

  1. Hi Brian,
    I enjoyed reading about your homecoming (the title in the Hire an Illustrator e-newsletter caught my eye). Nice board graphics. I’m an illustrator, too, and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind me asking you a question about your Zazzle shop…. Is it worth the bother? I realize that the quality of the work is a huge factor, but is there the potential to make enough money there to be worth it? Some very well respected illustrators like Von Glitshcka have Zazzle shops.

    I work primarily in Adobe Illustrator, so my artwork ( is well suited for reproduction on Zazzle.

    Thanks for your time. Best of luck in 2012!
    Glenn Hiramatsu

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