In the BBC program “Dr. Who,” the time-traveling hero often discusses “fixed points” in time, moments or events that deeply affect people’s lives.
Meeting Tom Fishburne recently felt like a fixed point in time to me. The moment was quiet and soft, less obvious than some momentous occasions. A subtle watercolor amid the blurred bold strokes of the event, the memory of the meeting has remained with me.
Getting to Meet Tom Fishburne
Tom Fishburne, the cartoonist and marketer (aka the Marketoonist) was the speaker for a session at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston. Before Tom was a full-time cartoonist, he worked as a product marketer. Now, his cartoons brilliantly combine humor, marketing smarts, and artistic appeal.
I’ve been following his work for a while now. I’ve also listened to his interview at MarketingProfs and other places, and read his blog.
As Tom gave his talk, I sat in the back of the room, sketching visual notes in my art pad. While making sure the event rolled smoothly, Kathy Bushman whispered to me, “You have to meet Tom. You have to show him your drawings.”
The idea of doing so scared me. A lot. Because it’s one thing to really like someone’s work and something else to meet them. Because maybe he’d end up being a big fat jerk. Maybe he’d fall over laughing at my work. And also, it feels safer to hide behind a notebook than to trot up to the person whose work you admire.
But the little kid in me—the bashful girl who hid her desire to draw for so very long—wanted to talk to Tom. Not as a fan girl (even though I could have easily been one of those other people asking for his autograph). Not even as a marketer (even though his marketing-related advice in the presentation was spot on).
I just wanted to talk to him about drawing, for he wonderfully infuses smarts and play in his pieces.
After the crowd left, I approached him. “Hello, I’m Veronica Maria Jarski. I work for MarketingProfs. I’m a writer and, ah, I draw, too…”
And he interrupted me, saying, “Did you draw that work outside? The big poster outside by the door? That’s awesome. I took a picture of it.”
“Yes, that’s my work.”
Then, I showed him the drawing I made of his talk, and he said, “Let me get my camera! I want to take a picture of it. Can I? Do you mind?” And he did.
Tom Fishburne taking a picture of my quick sketch was surreal.
Just like that, I suddenly felt like we had hit it off in our school yard, finding something in common to chat about while hanging upside down from the monkey bars.
Why Meeting Tom Fishburne Mattered So Much to Me
In meeting with my writing group regularly, I’ve grown to deeply value the friendship, insight, and support of other friends on the writing journey. However, until I met Tom, I didn’t realize how I needed to meet another artist.
For the 15-minute meeting, I completely forgot my self-consciousness; Tom didn’t treat me like the barely known artist that I am. Instead, he warmly spoke to me like another artist on the same art-supplies-strewn road. We talked about the unfurling of one’s artistic side, about the self-doubt and insecurities that come at first until one find’s one style, about how people treat cartoons or drawings as opposed to what it considered “real art.”
He shared his own artistic journey and what he has learned along the way. The lessons are applicable to writers, artists, illustrators, anyone creative…
- Set personal goals. Tom mentioned making goals for himself. “Set goals for yourself, not for work, not for a client, but for YOU.” Plan to draw something outside of work once a week. Or commit yourself to finishing a certain drawing project by a certain date.
- Stick to that goal. Make it happen.
- Share your work. Tom put his work on Flickr, on a blog, etc. Art is meant to be seen, to be shared.
- Practice regularly. Drawing is a craft, and that means continually working to improve in it, to grow.
- Be confident in your style. Don’t compare your work to other people or hope to draw like someone else. Be the artist that you are.
Finding One’s Artistic Voice
The advice that lingered most in my mind was the one about being the artist that you are. (Perhaps because we talked about this point the most.)
When I first began drawing, I longed to be an artist along the lines of someone like Holly Hobbie. Later, I was obsessed with the fantastic Arthur Rackham. Then, I wanted to be like Marc Chagall, with his brilliant colors, floating people, and deep imagery. Then I hoped to create work like Lane Smith.
But as much as I studied and enjoyed and fell in love with those artists’ work, when I draw, my people come out like this (if I have time):
Or like this (if I’m sketching a live talk):
I’ve learned that, yes, you can learn from your favorite artists (just like you can learn from your favorite writers), but you should not spend your artistic life longing to be like another artist… My own artistic journey means becoming truer to the artistic spirit within me, cultivating a spirit of peace and truth, mindfully sharing the gifts God gave me…
And unfurling one’s style and talents means continually learning and practicing. It’s the only way to let your style emerge.
Being true to yourself means being true to who you are in the creative world.
Have you been shy about calling yourself an artist or a writer? How have you changed since you first began drawing or writing?