This interview is instructive and motivational for artists like me trying to make it.
In five years, Todd McFarlane grew his humble beginnings in comic book illustration into an entertainment empire. Now with a personal net worth of $300 million, McFarlane discusses his love for the arts and the motivations and principles that made him the most successful comic book artist and collectible creator ever.
I transcribed the outline and my favorite points below.
- Find Your Passion
- Learn the Details
- Look for an Opening
- Be Persistent
- Make it Sexy
- Fight the Status Quo
- Know Your Weaknesses
- Hit Your Deadlines
- Entertain Yourself
- Make Business Serve Art
- Know Your Value
- Watch Your Back
- Do the Math
- Empower the Artists
- Own Your Ideas
- Have a Sustainable Plan
- Create Stories You Don’t See
- Find the White Space
- Demand Excellence and Charge for It.
- Always Say Yes
- Diversify Your Brand
- Get Help When You Need It
- Learn from Pain
- Know Your Limits
- Finance is Freedom
- Stay immature.
In the beginning of his career, to break into the comics market, McFarlane sent out 700 samples — 10-20 packages a month, and got 300 rejections, until he “wore down” the editors. His determination: “I’ll show them all. I don’t analyze myself against anybody else.”
If you’re mediocre and you hit your deadlines you will have a long career.
McFarlane’s brand began with the Spawn comic book then diversified into toys, video games, live action movies, and TV animation.
“I’m in business for one reason: to drive my art, to drive my ideas. I taught myself business as a second language.”
“Why are we still successful now 25 years later? Because we allow people to own their own ideas and property.”
“In its simplest form [a sustainable plan is] just the Three Little Pigs story – you can build it out of wood, out of straw, or out of brick. And it’s hard to build it out of bricks and it takes a little bit longer, but it will sustain itself a lot longer. I was just the pig building the brick house.”
“How Did They Not? All’s I’ve done was make stuff that already exists look sexier. I never invented anything.”
“Always Spend Your Own Money, ‘cause that way no one will be able to tell you a single damn thing.”
“There’s only two things that have value for me: My wife and my kids.”
“Dumb luck must be a semi-regular friend.”
“Time should teach you something, and what time should teach you is where the mistakes and the potholes are.”
“Here’s what drives me: My goal in life is to outlast every one of my enemies. That would be the sweet revenge that I get.”
“Nirvana is finding the space and doing it your way. And it works. Wow, and they actually pay me for it.”
“Whenever you have a bad day you have to ask yourself who started it. Uh, duhh – it’s that guy I shave with every day. It’s me.”
“Every day that I don’t have to work for a corporation is a moral victory for me, and I’ve been doing it now for 30 years.”
“I’m smart enough to find brilliant people that have skills that I don’t have that make me look good every day.”