Once upon a time, I did a lot of illustrations for lots of ideas with my friends Ben and Ryan. We worked on tons of things, mostly sports apps, and part of these endeavours resulted in fantastic random graphics and images of baked beans, donkeys, an old shoe, and even Matt Damon. There was a narrative to it, I swear.
It didn’t become the billion-dollar app that we were planning for, but that was okay. We all moved on and lived our lives.
While I was cleaning out some of my files (as you do when you are actually procrastinating and probably should have been doing something else), I came across the old Illustrator files and started to laugh at them. In particular, this image of a mule I had made.
Pushing through a bit more, I found that a lot of these elements would work really well on t-shirts. They were all set up as little icons and visuals, and I thought kind of perfect on their own.
Ben, Ryan, and I have previously tried to endeavour a merchandise-based experiment, but it only ended up with us (me) having to store hundreds of t-shirts with Roberto Luongo’s face and the text, “What’chu talkin’ about, Gillis?” emblazoned on the front. It was difficult to find a market of where Canucks fans would meet Diff’rent Strokes fans in a Venn Diagram.
Learning from that, as well as a few lessons from Cycling ’74, it was clear that I did not want to have any type of inventory in the house. An on-demand service seemed like a great way to go because it was less waste, less risk, and less commitment. According to my pro-con list, one of the bigger cons may be the cost.
But as a way to justify this, I decided to think about it as another leap towards something new to try.
The main goal is to have fun, not make money.
It’s so easy to say that, of course, and we’ve all heard it, but it’s so difficult to keep that in mind and at heart whenever we do something.
I just kept thinking about how I laughed when I opened up the above donkey file, and I wanted to see if I could extend that delight a little bit.
It’s okay if I don’t make any money from this because it’s given me something more to think about and spend my energy on. I’ve found myself looking at older illustrations, tweaking them, improving them, and even making new ones. Just the idea of creating them was so much fun for me, and being able to publish them somehow was a great motivation.
I think it’s a bit related to building your own portfolio or self-initiated projects. I get lazy when I know it’s just for me. It’s terrible to admit that, but I think we all know that feeling.
When there is less pressure in the form of a client or accountability, the less stellar the work is. Unless you are some kind of crazy genius, or an obsessive alcoholic. But then again, who likes hanging out with those guys anyway? History is filled with brilliant people that everybody regarded as spectacular assholes.
The great effect its had on me is that I dream a little bit more, and I complain a lot less. I think about what else I can draw, and what other things I can try.
Another fun part is when my friends throw in some ideas. I really enjoyed making this monkey and this cute pig.
I would never have thought about them if my friends Megan and Anita did not suggest it on the Facebook post I meekly shared.
And now, the printed samples I ordered are starting to arrive in the mail, and I think I definitely achieved my goal of extending my personal delight over these illustrations. I get super excited to go downstairs to check the mail because of the possibility that it might be a t-shirt, a bag, or a mug.
To round things off, the very first sample I got was the Donkey Bag. It came in the mail on the same day that I was to meet up with Ben again, after more than 2 years of being apart, and it was going to be the first time that I was going to meet his little son. Funny how things align like that, and I had no hesitation in bringing it with me and giving it as a gift.