Chris Piascik does a drawing every day, Monday through Friday and posts it on his website . To date,1147 and counting. Take a minute to contemplate that. Whatever you think this book might be, it’s bigger and badder than you imagine. First, there’s the rare good fortune of 1000 days of sound mind and body. Then there’s the determination and perseverance to complete something you set out to do, regardless of any and all things that can happen over 3+ years. And the biggest, baddest thing of all, is the completely engaging, honest and human narrative of this illustrated documentation. This book is a glimpse into the character of the illustrator that is Chris Piascik and I am in awe.
FOE: I have been following your daily drawings and still, I wasn’t prepared for the lessons I would learn from your book. Have you heard that a lot? Is that a reaction you expected?
CP: No, I haven’t heard that! I’m not even sure what it means, haha. I certainly wasn’t expecting to teach any lessons with this book. I think of it as simply a documentation of my daily drawings. That said, it does somewhat feel like a diary or journal sometimes.
FOE: Well, I guess I am just way deeper than most people, haha. But I think I will prove my point with this here interview. You know, for those other deep, thoughtful people, or as I like to refer to them, our awesome customers.
I love many things about your book, but I think my favorite thing is the completely honest and real documentation of the process. It’s pretty inspirational. To see you repeatedly draw that you are tired, or don’t know what to draw, or overly caffeinated helps me to power through those same feelings. I don’t mean to embarrass you, but I think that’s the surprise your readers might not be expecting. Are there people or experiences that gave you that same feeling?
CP: Well, first, thank you so much. I never would have thought that my whiney-complaining drawings would help others! Local genius and webcomic-extraordinaire Rich Stevens has always been a huge inspiration. He’s consistently put out a new comic (Diesel Sweeties) every Monday through Friday since 2001. For a while he was doing twice as many for newspapers. He taught me that consistency was very important and it’s stuck with me.
FOE: Rich Stevens wrote an excellent introduction to your Improvised section. I also liked your interview with Aaron Cohen for the Complaining section. The tension of a cranky combative interview is certainly fun, but you admit to not initially liking Aaron. Clearly though, even in a challenging relationship, you remained open to learning something. You seem to be very mature and confident.
CP: Haha! I’m glad you enjoyed that. I wondered if it would make sense to anyone who didn’t know Aaron or myself on a personal level. I would not use “mature” or “confident” to describe myself—but I’m flattered you think I am! I’d have to say my mom is responsible for teaching me to be open-minded and give people the benefit of the doubt.
FOE: Ok, so Matt Groening bought your book! I mean, I know lots of people bought your book and your kickstarter was very successful. What does it mean to you when someone you admire, wants to know what you’re up to?
CP: Ha! He did! And I totally geeked out. I met him at the ICON illustration conference in Providence. He was a really nice, down-to-earth guy. When he asked to buy my book I told him he could have it for free, but he insisted on paying. It definitely blew my mind that he was interested in my book and that he liked my work. I grew up with The Simpsons and his comic Life in Hell. He played a huge part in forming my taste and sense of humor. It’s almost as if the circle is now complete!
FOE: Right! That’s kinda what I’m getting at about lessons. Matt Groening draws cartoons and follows his own path and creates the most successful cartoon in TV history. You grow up being influenced by his work. You commit to what you want to do and voila, years and years of hard work, discipline, sweat and tears later you meet Matt Groening and he buys your book. And now you’re talking circle of life language! Dude, there’s a lesson in that! For reals!
Do you think you will always do daily drawings? Would you feel a little lost without it? Even when you didn’t feel like doing it, you got it done. There is a pleasure/pain principle in that transaction. Do you think you would ever feel comfortable putting your Sharpie down and not drawing for a day?
CP: I do think I will always do a daily drawing. I think I’d feel a little lost without it. As an independent illustrator my daily drawings are basically my sole marketing plan. I get almost all of my work from these drawings. I imagine that eventually it won’t be as crucial, but I still don’t think I would stop. I’ve learned a lot and progressed a lot from this exercise and I’d like to keep that going for as long as I can.
FOE: Chris, you’ve worked hard to create the life you want for yourself. You have been unsure at times and sacrificed a great deal. Is it all internal motivation or have there been mentors and examples that showed you what you could accomplish?
CP: I’d say I am a very motivated person, or maybe just neurotic… but really, I’m a workaholic and I love what I do. I never imagined I could have this career (or lack of career) until I met Rich Stevens. He taught one of my classes at the Hartford Art School. When I learned that he supported himself by doing a daily webcomic and selling t-shirts based on it I was completely blown-away. At the time it seemed so far-fetched for me. Over the years we became friends and he encouraged me to make things happen on my own.
FOE: What advice would you give to someone who is about to embark on creating their own path for success?
CP: I think the most important aspect is to be fully committed to what you do. If you really love what you do making sacrifices and working long hours isn’t that difficult.