DesignerCon 2019: Mark Brickey x NOT REAL ART Creator, Sourdough: VIDEO INTERVIEW
In 2019, Mark Brickey, host of the Adventures in Design podcast, went on special assignment for NOT REAL ART at DesignerCon in Anaheim, Ca. His mission: talk to artists, creatives and companies making good stuff.
While at DCON, Mark interviewed Aaron Draplin, Nevermade, Man One, Alex Pardee and Dan Janssen of Lincoln Design. He also took the chance to interview Scott “Sourdough” Power, creator of NOT REAL ART. Here’s an transcription of their conversation:
Mark Brickey: Sourdough, you’re the second person I’ve spoken to today that isn’t an actual artist, you’re the facilitator, the tools, that helping hand that every creative needs. For people that are normally outside of the creative world, they see it as a magic trick. But those that dig deeper they can see that it’s actually a very complex universe of time, time management, creativity, getting your voice out. What made you think that you could get in there and sort of conduct the madness for some of these artists?
Sourdough: Well, my superpower is cheerleading. If I believe in you, nobody’s going to be more persuasive than me. Artists just want to make art. They don’t want to worry about telling their story. A lot of them are too humble or shy or whatever. I think my superpower is helping them tell their stories better and promoting their work because I’m a fan.
About Not Real Art
Mark Brickey: So with NOT REAL ART, when you tried to put together an organization where you could bring people in at different entry points and sort of show people the guiding way, what is your feedback? What is your return on investment that makes you feel like job well done?
Sourdough: So after our artist conference in last spring, artists came up to me afterwards to say, thank you, we needed this. We need more of this. Please don’t wait a year to do it again. That to me is the metric of success because t’s tangible. It’s real, you know, when you’re giving people something they’re hungry for at the conference, information people are starving for about how to up their game professionally. They want to learn about art licensing. They want learn about art marketing and branding. They want to learn how to pitch their ideas in Hollywood. They want to learn how to protect their IP. So when we bring in experts like lawyers and agents and artists get the opportunity to listen to them and speak to them and learn firsthand in the course of a day for a very affordable price, they’re grateful for that. It is was interesting because there’s really a lot of hunger. And when I get that positive feedback, it absolutely makes me want to do it again.
Mark Brickey: You can see the seeds you’re planting and good things are starting to grow. Speaking of when you did the Not Real Art Grant, I know as somebody who was on the other side of creative as an actual artist, now working on the production side of things. When you walk into a room, you know you didn’t make any of the art, but you facilitated it. You help these artists with their vision. It’s a real sense of pride. You know, I helped make this happen, but you’re not stealing their glory, you just know that you helped make it happen. That is a great feeling, isn’t it?
Sourdough: One hundred percent. Not Real Art exists to help artists tell their stories and promote their work. We’re here to celebrate and elevate creative culture and the artists that make it. So the grant for example, is one way we prove and live our values. And, it’s not just about giving people money. First of all, our grant is no strings attached. If you fill out our application and our jury of judges select you as meeting the criteria by which we’re looking for recipients, and you’re one of those winners, we give you the grant money, no strings attached. However, we don’t just give you the money. We give you a platform. We help you tell your story and promote your work. So what we do is we produce content around you. We have you on our podcast, we interview you on video. We make content about you for your marketing and promotion. We also produce an art exhibition featuring your work. Two weeks ago we had an amazing exhibition featuring our grant winners. Over two hundred people came. Artwork was sold. For some of our winners it was their first show ever. And they were so grateful and that’s good.
Mark Brickey: You must feel good being in that room. You know, I want to emphasize you’re not taking the credit for it, but you know, there’s a piece of you in there. Therefore their success shines on you as your success.
Sourdough: Exactly. Just a couple weeks ago during the grant winners’ exhibition, I was standing outside (the gallery) most of the night and somebody came up to me to ask why I wasn’t inside the gallery, why was I standing outside? I answered, it’s not my show. It’s their show. I’m just out here enjoying the fact that they’re inside getting all the love and the attention. I’m just a facilitator.
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Mark Brickey: Five DesignerCons ago, you were walking the floor as an attendee. A light bulb went off in your head that you needed to get involved, help out Ben Goretsky and his crew elevate DCON and offer a helping hand where you could.
Sourdough: When I first came to DesignerCon, I was blown away by all the positive energy I felt there. And, the energy is coming from the people involved. DCON is all about the people. You have artists that are producing their artworks, their blood, sweat, and tears go into that artwork. They’re selling their work and that’s positive. But then you have all these fans and attendees who appreciate that work. And they want to come and spend their hard earned money to buy that art. So the vibe and the place was so amazing. But I also saw opportunities. I saw they weren’t having speakers and panels. I saw they didn’t have a party. I saw opportunities to add value. So I reached out to the founder Ben Goretsky and I said I’d love to help. So, we eventually helped them produce some amazing panels and parties. Just adding value. But DCON is all about the vibe which comes from the artists and art. And just trying to build on that because at DCON you find your tribe as a creative professional and we just want to help celebrate and elevate that.
Mark Brickey: As an artist, you have tunnel vision. You look at a project, at the task at hand, coming here, building your booth, making a profit to send you off into the holidays with a good vibe. But if someone such as yourself who comes from the world of professional advertising and marketing, you see the potential for everything. So when you come through here, how painful is it for you to see all these talented people that can’t squeeze out the extra hours to get that next level of marketing and promotion their businesses could really benefit from?
Sourdough: Being a small business is the hardest job in the world. There’s little glamour in owning a business really. Whether you read Inc. or Fast Company magazine, they want to make entrepreneurship sound easy. Follow these 10 steps or read these three steps. And, the reality is 90% of small businesses fail. And, a lot of times they fail by no fault of the owners. It’s not the owners faults or the artist’s fault. It’s just super hard. And so when I see these artists who are trying to bring integrity to their work and putting out goodness in the world, I want to do whatever I can to help. It is really hard. The struggle is real and everybody’s fighting a lot of the same battles.
Work is hard enough when you have a colleague where you can bitch and moan together. But a lot of artists work alone in their studios. It’s a very lonely existence. And so one of the things that we try to do with Not Real Art is build community and bring people together so people can talk and share and learn and realize they’re not alone. Everybody’s fighting the same battles. And so, yeah, as a guy who’s comes from the agency world who is used to brands having big money, or what have you to spend on a marketing campaign or what have you, it is frustrating to see these artists struggle. However, it is also inspiring because these guys are busting their asses, doing great work and fucking killing it. And, yes, it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of perseverance and endurance and strength of character to do what these artists are doing. And I just feel privileged and honored to be here and sharing that energy.
Mark Brickey: I know in your annual research, you walk the shows of Art Basel in Miami. You go out to the desert for Burning Man. You go to the different ComicCons. You have a real gauge of what the public space of art looks like. Out of all of those journeys you go on, what makes DesignerCon different than the others?
Sourdough: Great question. First of all, I would say DesignerCon is focused on what I would call small business or working class artists. They do everything. They don’t have a gallery behind them. They don’t have a big art patron behind them. They are literally doing all the work soup to nuts. I think that comes through in the energy. Plus this is a family oriented show. You go to Art Basel Miami, it’s quite hoity toity. I’m not seeing a whole lot of families and kids having fun. DesignerCon is fun for the whole family. And I think that’s one of the things that makes a DesignerCon unique. And by the way, a lot of these artists do go to Burning Man and Art Basel. So there’s that overlap as well. And there are worlds within worlds and a lot of connection. You and I were chatting earlier about how your podcast, Adventures In Design, where you talk to a lot of these artists and how these worlds overlap and they may not even realize it. But somebody like you, who sits at the intersection of these worlds can really appreciate the interconnectedness of the worlds we’re living in.
Mark Brickey: Yeah. The internet has brought a lot of people together, but it’s also created sub genres of the main genre so you can feel very alone and isolated. I do love the family picnic vibe of DesignerCon and being right on the edge of the holidays. It is a sort of a nice wind down for the year. Thanksgiving’s a few days away. Everybody’s got that vibe. I do feel bad for our out-of-town artists though that fly back home possibly at the worst time of the year, but for us LA folks, it’s fantastic. Final question for you today Sourdough: Everything gets packed up. You walk out of the convention center at the end of Sunday. What makes you feel like it was all worth it?
Sourdough: Well, by the end of Sunday, this wall behind me is going to be filled with several hundred pieces of original art because these folks walking by are going to use some of our Sharpie markers and they’re going to make art on our blank Not Real Art cards, and they’re going to post them on the wall. And that, energy, love, engagement and participation is so very positive. So when I walk out of here on Sunday, I’m going to feel great because I get to take a little piece of everybody home with me.
Mark Brickey: I think the best thing about your Not Real Art wall is people walk through here and you see row after row after row of art, and you get stoked and stoked and stoked. And then you go, Hey, you want to draw something for our wall? And, t’s like, yes, I need to get this out of me! And it seems kids of all ages are over there. 40 year old kids, 10 year old kids, are getting that creative energy out. That’s a really cool thing.
Sourdough: Absolutely it is. And it’s our honor to be here and help people express themselves.