Saturday, April 24, 2010

My conversation with Hugh MacLeod

I like Hugh MacLeod. I like that he's a regular guy just like you and me (unless you're a lady, of course). I like that he lives way out in a small West Texas town but has made a global name for himself. I like the fact he'll give you and me the time of day, as long as he has the time of day.

Hugh Macleod - 4921.jpg
Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist who owns a wine company, and if you've never heard of him, well, it's about time you did.

Several weeks ago, Elizabeth Potts Weinstein "introduced" me to Hugh MacLeod, and when I saw his art work, I knew immediately why she was raving about him. And let's make no mistake about it -- his cartoons ARE artwork.

It wasn't long before Tyler Hurst gave me an opportunity to write a story about my favorite pieces of MacLeod's work.

And then just yesterday, I decided to engage Mr. MacLeod in a bit of conversation, mano y mano, to see exactly how his artist mind worked.

I had noticed on his website that quite a few of his sketches were done not on regular drawing pads, but on musical staff paper. Being a musician myself (yes, banjo players call themselves musicians sometimes), I was curious to know why he had chosen to use such paper. So, pulling on my "I'm about to engage a Big Dog" boots, I sent him the following Tweet:

OldManOnMtTop Question for @gapingvoid -- why do you sometimes sketch on staff paper? Just curious.

And then I sat back and waited to see if he would respond.

The thing about "The Big Dogs" is that most of the time, they don't mind throwing us "Little Dogs" a bone every now and then. They're personable, they're witty, and they recognize that they were once exactly where we are now. So it didn't surprise me in the least when I received my answer:

gapingvoid @OldManOnMtTop Because I can ;-)

Ah, such a simple and straightforward answer, wrapped around a center with infinite meanings.

To analyze his response, because that's what all good journalists do, let's first look at the smiley face at the end. He's actually winking, which implies that MacLeod is giving the answer in friendly jest, with the unspoken acknowledgment that there is more to the answer than meets the eye.

And now, for his actual words: "Because I can."

Those words imply self-confidence, poise, direction, focus, determination, a coolness in the face of hardship, a master of his own fate, and one who achieves greatness not because it is handed to him, but because he earns it.

Because he can.

For the longest time, I sat at my computer wondering what would be the right response to his message. I'm sure he also sat at HIS computer, wondering what my response would be. But in the end, I felt any response by me would only sully his original thoughts, and so I let them dangle there in the interwebs...words of wisdom afloat on the backs of 1s and 0s.

Okay, so it was a short conversation, but you have to admit it WAS a conversation!

Thank you, Hugh MacLeod, for your artwork and time, and thanks for being a good sport!


  1. I love stumbling onto a blog and finding other people there I know. I'm an EPW fan and of course, a Hugh fan. Love his work. Have you read his book? Brilliant. And then you mention Tyler Hurst...and I saw his blog yesterday for the first time. He rocks too. World getting smaller. :) I love being connected.

  2. I'm glad you stumbled my way! And about the world getting smaller -- it's not getting smaller, it's just getting cozy!