Take it Away

Orignal post on Blogger 10 April 2005

Watching a video presentation by Tom Sherman an artist based in Canada. He discussed the value given to a piece of work by the amount of time spent on it.

In a culture of convenience, he asked, perhaps it makes sense to produce art in the same amount of time it takes to consume it. Move as fast as you can to make your point.
However, he noticed, in this world of non-linear digital editing nothing was ever finished. Once a wood carver made his piece of art there was no turning back. For the digital artist there could be limitless revisions and improvements – nothing is ever finished.

I know from personal experience that the possibility of making alterations to work is a curse.
Sherman told a story about an art teacher who had a remarkable gift for getting great work out of young children. When asked what her secret was she said it was that she knew when to take the paintings away from the children. To work for too long on something was to spoil it.
Why move beyond the sketch?

Watch the presentation


Truth & Risk

original post on blogger 25 May 2005

John Hegarty spoke at the ad agency BBH , thanks to Graham Fink and The Arts School

John Hegarty, we were assured, was slightly delayed because he had just flown in from Miami – which of course is reason for admiration rather than disapointment.

Hegarty in partnership with (Nigel Bogle & John Bartle) set up BBH  in 1982. The agency has been responsible for some of the best known campaigns including famous Levi ads.
I think some of the points he makes are relevant in all sorts of fields where communication is important, not just advertising. Here are my notes from John Hegarty’s talk given to a group of (mainly) students.


The power of the truth
The greatest thing you can do in advertising is tell the truth, how you tell the truth, how you make it interesting, is the key. The truth lies in the product and what you have to do is dig it out.

The power of strategy
It would have been no good coming up with wonderful ideas if they were on a strategy that people didn’t relate to. Linking those two things together has always been behind the success of BBH. You can’t put up a wonderful new building without a great foundation.

The power of fame

We don’t mean celebrity. The dictionary defines it as something of public renown or great esteem. We are living in a cluttered media driven world. Analysing who you should take notice of is just quicker if you are dealing with famous people of things.

The power of irreverence
Art went on the be something which debunked established order and forced people to ask questions. It was this irreverence which created tremendous power. Art made people think and we in advertising are constantly trying to make people think.

The power of humour
Humour binds people together. It can make difficult message acceptable to a broad range of people. Humour makes you listen. The trick is to make that humour relevent to the brand and that’s where people often go wrong.

The last thing you want to be in advertising is in advertising.
People in advertising spend their lives looking at other bits of advertising. In a way I try my best not to look at other bits of advertising, I try to go out and look at life – try to stay connected in some shape or form. The thing you’ve got to do more than anything is keep an open mind. When you stop being excited by new things you become tired and stop being creative. You may work in advertising but don’t live in advertising.


Two themes pushed forward for me, truth and risk-taking. Here’s a poem that was read out on the theme of risk.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feeling is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd, is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But the risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he has forfeited freedom.



Five Creative Personalities

Original post on blogger

A while ago I did a session on creativity with a group of media students in Odessa. I can say it was a great to have met them and an inspirational time

The proposition is that anyone can make a film, in fact It is so easy to make films these days that anyone with enough money to buy a camcorder can go ahead and make their own movie.
Learning how to make films – the story-boarding, the visual grammar, the lighting, the editing –  can be learned and practiced, but even if you become brilliant at these things you still will not be able to make great films.

I suggest there are five personality traits which provide an important mix in creativity; the extraordinary thing is that I suspect we all have these personalities within us. Simply being who we are – human – is what is required to reach our creative potential.

The Inventor

It is possible to have ideas without making films, but impossible to make a great film without an idea.

The Storyteller

It is possible to tell stories without making films, but impossible to make great films without telling stories.

The Actor

It is possible to speak the language of emotions without making films, but impossible to make great films without engaging the emotions.

The Prophet

It is possible to recognise the truth without making films, but impossible to make films without a truth we can recognise.

The Hero
It is possible to take risks without making films, but impossible to make great films without taking a risk.

We suggest it is a good habit to practice inventiveness, storytelling, engaging emotionally, capturing  truths, and taking risks at every opportunity.


Art of Zagging

Here’s an article by Christa Paula on the Promax website. She interviews John Hegarty on Black Sheep and the Art of Zagging.
“It’s about ‘zagging’! When the world ‘zigs’ you ‘zag’…When everyone is going in one direction, go in the opposite direction.”
He goes on…
“What happens with age, is that you do stop questioning, and it therefore means that you stop engaging, you stop challenging (and then) the mind begins to close down. It can happen to 30-or 80-year-olds.”
I’m not sure I agree with the above, it used to be like that but the new generation of "old" people are a different breed I feel.


Brand on the Brain

Graham McCullam of the Branding agency Kemistry wrote about the brain and brands. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Graham and respect him thoroughly. He says that brand names and logos give us an instant emotional fix. Children as young as 18 months have come to associate the MacDonalds golden arches with comfort food and toys.
Our relationship with brands is, as I have come to understand, less about the products and more about perceptions and emotions. The value of a brand has absolutely nothing to do with the thing in the bottle it’s a mind thing.
Here’s a story from his article:
During the Korean War the Coca Cola Company decided to send every US soldier a free bottle of Coke. Some of them took the bottle to bed with them, many wrote home to their parents and loved ones about it, while others kept it for a special celebration. To these soldiers it was more than just another drink. The brand meant home and raised memories of sitting in the soda bar with their first girlfriend, summer days with friends and all the other life experiences in which Coke had played a part.
Full article by Graham McCallum