A retired person can, either move with the times and learn new skills, or s/he can be stuck in the past or, in my case both, as perhaps this blog will demonstrate. One of my new skill sets, as modern people would say, is to read the news on my phone while sitting on the toilet. Too much information? Yes probably. Anyway the point is that while reading the news on my phone I came across the article below and, rather cleverly I thought, transferred it to my email account and hence, parts of it, into this blog. Marvellous. I was ridiculously proud of myself for this new skill set and using the term new skill set – again. The thing about this article that caught my attention, and this is where living in the past comes into the equation, is that it is about a person becoming a cartoonist (and having a book published and you know how I feel about that), and this has a resonance for me because many years ago I wanted to change career and have just such a career as a cartoonist. I’m going to include in this blog one example of my and Mrs Summerhouse’s efforts and you may judge for yourself whether my decision or more accurately the decision of the newspapers I approached not to publish my cartoons is a sad loss or a blessing. To be honest I thought it would be pretty easy in that cartoons rarely made me laugh, at best, other than examples from Punch and The New Yorker (they were often exceptional), they might raise a smile. I can do that I reasoned. Anyway, as I say, you judge.
I wanted a career change at a point in my life when I had had enough of teaching and even after that when I had retrained as a psychologist and this was a continuing theme throughout my working life. Never satisfied lad, as my grandma used to say. I tried a number of different options while looking for that elusive career path that would bring me happiness. I had flying lessons, well one, with a view to becoming a pilot. This went well until my instructor told me to change the direction of the plane, banking is it called? I hadn’t expected the plane to turn sideways and leave me looking out of a flimsy, glass window down 10,000 feet or whatever onto my home city below, way, way below. The seat belt across my lap seemed laughably inadequate. At this point I realised I had a debilitating fear of heights, not good for a pilot. End of this career path.
Next I decided I would become a diver and enrolled on a six week course. It took place in the local swimming pool, the deep end of which was, a decidedly shallow, 6 feet. I got claustrophobia even at this depth. Strike 2. I tried something a little less ambitious and closer to home, I set up my own graphic design company. I had two clients and I enjoyed the challenge and the designs I produced for them. They thanked me for my efforts and went elsewhere. Cut-throat world this graphic design business. Strike 3. Then there was the sitcom writing. I really went to town on this writing 4 or 5 different pilot episodes and one whole 6 episode series. It was about a bunch of psychologists and it was called Psychos, I didn’t need to make much up. Pretty funny I thought, unfortunately the many companies I sent them to did not agree. You get the idea. But then this BBC article reminded me of the cartoonist idea. I’ll take some of the article so you get the idea:
Chaz Hutton is a 32-year-old Australian living in London who has become famous for his funny, bite-sized observations about everyday life drawn on Post-it notes and posted to Instagram, where he has attracted more than 140,000 followers. His talent for drawing stick men on sticky paper and whales of all kinds, has now enabled him – with the help of social media – to leave his day job and land a book deal.
“I used to be an architect, but designing buildings is actually quite hard and I didn’t have the patience, so drawing stuff on little bits of yellow paper seemed like a step in the right direction for me,” he told BBC Trending.
“You can draw anything on a Post-it note while you’re at work and people will assume you’re actually working. I like the size restrictions of the Post-it note in a way not dissimilar to Twitter’s character limit, it requires you to be a little creative.”
“Instagram works well for this kind of thing I’ve realised, and the work I do is very much tailored to an internet crowd. The content and the way it’s presented is deliberately relatable and therefore more shareable, resulting in it picking up new followers. This isn’t something I set out to do deliberately, but I’m well aware it’s the reason I have more followers than far more talented artists vying to have their far superior work noticed.”
The rise of social media in terms of attaining some kind of attention has completely flipped the traditional model on its head. This new kind of playing field is actually really good for emerging artists, who no longer need an agent, or a wealthy benefactor in order for their stuff to be seen. Instead they can send it out on the internet, essentially the world’s biggest art gallery. People who previously would have never been noticed suddenly have a wide ranging (and, most importantly, cheap) platform on which to show their art.
What I Iiked about this way of working is that a person did not need to persuade some ungrateful wretch of an editor / publisher / agent, as Chaz writes above, to publish your work. So I checked out Instagram, dug out my cartoons, at least the ones I had left, I seem to remember having far more than this in electronic form but they’re lost in the electronic ether now. Anyway I’ve got 20 which if I released one a month would last me for the best part of a couple of years. The cartoons were based on a combination of my life in my local pub, named Woodies, and my love of the American sitcom Cheers. The three stars were Bob, Tel and the barmaid, Babs. I wrote the script and Mrs SH drew the cartoons. The ‘signature’ being a combination of our initials, PEG. Obviously couldn’t miss. Except that it did.
So now here I am a retired person looking for the magic answer to the missing link issue – again. Could these cartoons be it? Probably not, at least not unless I wanted a new set to be about a retired person’s life and I don’t think it would require much in the way of tweaking to make it retirement related. The only magazine, as far as I am aware, aimed at this life bracket is The Oldie and they already have, though it pains me to say it, some pretty good cartoonists. And the other slight flaw in Chaz’s eulogising about the world’s biggest art gallery (and I suppose with 140,000 followers he has a right to speak out, but how the hell did he manage to get that many??) is the same one that bedevils this blog, namely that I seem unable / incapable, unlike Chaz, of increasing the numbers of people who access my ‘talents’. As far as I can see any Instagram output would go no further than my 12 friends on Facebook, hardly the world’s biggest art gallery. But maybe I’m wrong, correct me by all means if you think I am. So this retired person ploughs on looking for his dream retirement.
Now here’s one example, as I say, you judge.