Wednesday, June 1, 2011

365 Squarey Monsters explained

A couple of years ago I found a really cool blog called Skull-A-Day. The creator, Noah Scalin was creating a new piece of skull art every day for a year to challenge himself. The project exploded, and the idea of keeping a 365 days a year blog has become inspirational to countless artists. Noah even published a workbook called 365: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life to help inspire artists of all kinds to be creative every day. Some are documented at his blog.

A few weeks ago I finally got to meet Noah at Spacecraft in Brooklyn, NY. He was doing a workshop to inspire fans and artists to follow through with his creative challenge. At the time, we were put on the spot immediately to conjure an image in our heads. Being that I am one of the creative duo who invented Squaredy Cats, and that we're currently collar deep in the early marketing of our licensed characters as plush toys I naturally first thought of a Squaredy Cat. Noah challenged everyone present to use articles found on the table in the craft shop to make 10 or more of our chosen item within 20 minutes. Obviously speed was key here. Speed forced us to move on, not to dwell on the details, and to keep thinking while we worked.

I only managed to finish 8 as I spent a few minutes on the first one thinking I'd do a lot that were the same, and I could speed the task having perfected the process during my first Squaredy Cat. This wasn't going to work on so many levels, because when the first one was being finished my mind was already taking inventory of the things around me. I couldn't let myself make the same exact thing 10 times. It was that, and his drill sergeant pestering that motivated me to move about and create…FAST!

By the time the 20 minutes was up it was quickly apparent that just like lots of artists — when I am presented with a task and a deadline I can make things happen. In that short time I experimented with new ways of seeing what a Squaredy Cat could be. The shape began to mean more than the logo I created for it.

I was inspired.

For a few weeks the inspiration dwindled as I argued with myself over the integrity, or lack thereof, in making Squaredy Cats — something that is already commercialized in a lot of ways. Yeah, it's still an artistic creation, but didn't I want to do something completely different? Of course! But my professional life is constantly immersed in all things Squaredy Cats as my wife Elaine and I (aka Monkey Doodle Dandy) develop the characters as not just a toy, but a brand. I won't be able to take the time to be creative in yet, another way, daily. What I needed was a way to feel constructive in a new and creative way without feeling like I would be sapping my energy away from something that's really important to my livelihood. Monkey Doodle Dandy does work for other companies. Squaredy Cats is our first big license. It's in the early stages, and every minute spent on it is still a great investment to the future of something we believe in.

Then, a day ago it occurred to me that while I have a ton I'd like to develop I also have something that hasn't quite made the impact that Squaredy Cats has. It was actually born around the same time, probably from the same brainstorm — Squarey Monsters! I've developed quite a bit, but it's mostly in the background, waiting in the wings, watching Squaredy Cats grow — waiting for its opportunity. What Squarey Monsters really needs is a way to prove its value as a separate idea altogether.

So, that's where I am, and how I came to decide I should make a Squarey Monster every day for 365 days. It's going to give me the opportunity to grow and explore as an artist, while at the same time help me to develop Squarey Monsters in unexpected ways. I have no idea what I'll do. Some days I expect to be lazy (I hope not to the point of lameness), but I will make up for those days with imaginative work that should (and better) even surprise me.

I hope anyone who follows this blog will enjoy what is to come (or what has already been made). And, I encourage you to follow Noah Scalin's lead. If you are creative, and you need the motivational target in front of you as I do…make something 365.

Below, you'll find my 8 Squaredy Cats pieces. As crude as they are, please bear in mind there was a time limit. Use your imagination. These are not necessarily indicative of what is to come. Sometimes I'll have very little time to devote, but more often than not I'll have enough time to create something fun to look at.


  1. I've really been enjoying going through your blog which I found via Noah's 365 site. I started my not-really-365 project (Oddments) in June as well, & I'm inspired to see your experiences. I'll be back!

  2. Thanks, Curious! I'll check out your blog too!