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ISSUE 121 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 11/2/2007

Artists look zany

By Kelin Loe
Opinion Editor

Friday, November 2, 2007

As the only writer sitting amongst round tables of visual artists and musicians, the Making It in the Arts Conference forced me to shift my tentative career choice into a new mental bracket.

Artist? I could fall into the artist archetype: one of those perpetually late, frizzy-haired, pop tab earring-wearing wackos always strapped for cash.

At this point, I guess I only need to string the pop tabs together, and I'll have the complete ensemble.

Ward Sutton '89, a wildly successful illustrator, gave the keynote address. He majored in studio art and math at St. Olaf.

Sutton worked on the Manitou Messenger, drawing cartoons and writing columns, and he even created the graphics editor position. Nearly 20 years later, at the capstone of his career, the New Yorker published one of his cartoons.

Awed as I was by his success, I still listened with a critical ear.

How many times can one stand to hear "Persevere, my child!"?

He did go beyond the typical encouragements. He gave the very practical advice to just "call people."

Simply call and ask to meet with them. And call everyone you can think of.

But he also said to remember that "people are busy,"– very busy. And, not only are people busy, but "people are lazy."

However busy or lazy, people are also interested in the next big thing, and you just need to remind them that you are the next big thing.

Then he gave a recommendation shocking to the Midwestern ear, "Go to New York!"

Everyone at the forefront of an artistic career is in New York, he said, and we should be meeting and working with them.

The final moleskin-worthy advice I took from his talk was "Dress interestingly. It can't hurt."

Give publishers or directors something to remember you by. Apparently, early on, Sutton bleached his hair, and people still knew him a decade later as "that guy with really blond hair."

From now on I'll strive to look interesting. But I don't know when interesting becomes that age-old artist stereotype.

Keep an eye out for that frizzy-haired writer girl – and let me know when it gets too frizzy.

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