History of Mann - About MannArtt
Being, In Part, A Khronicle of 25 Years Slavery on the Design Plantation.
But First, An INTRODUCTION...
These days, according to Google and every SEO guide of merit you'll ever come across, you gotta have an About page. So here you go, the obligatory "About MannArtt" page.
An About page tells readers and the Big G that you're serious, you should be taken seriously, and that you're not some low-life, scum-sucking punk who just threw up a cheezy blog in an attempt to con the world into believing you are some sorta big shot expert.
No! Can't do that! Homie (i.e. the Big G) don't play that.
About MannArtt: Career Info
I'll keep this (relatively) brief for now, as I could easily write 10,000 words on my long and storied (ahem) career. Time and will permitting, I will put together a more detailed (read, exhaustive and probably exhausting) overview of my years toiling away in the commercial art/graphic design trade, which I liken to being a slave on the design plantation.
But I'm not bitter.
NOTE: Before anybody takes offence or accuses me of insensitivity or just generally thinks I'm being an entitled white jagoff, I am fully aware that my time toiling away on the commercial art factory farm is in no way approaching anything like the horror real slaves experienced way back when or even now. OK? It's a metaphor. Relax.
In this case, it's a metaphor intending to drive home what it's like in today's graphic design business. I could have called it "My 25 Years of Indentured Servitude," but this would neither have the impact, nor piggyback on the branding footprint left in the popular consciousness by the incredible and moving Academy Award film of similar name.
So, being a former Hollywood Creative Director (i.e. high-paid art slave) with an acute eye/ear for branding, I chose the more impactful path.
Please forgive me.
Suffice it to say, by the time it was all said and done, I worked on many high profile creative, design, marketing, promotion and branding projekts over the years.
When I left the "big leagues"—working in Hollywood and on campaigns for Fortune 500 companies—in around 2010, I'd been working in the field man and boy for over 25 years.
BTW, I positioned myself as ArttMann during those years, in case you're wondering. Memorable, eh?
Titling this ersatz semi-biography page with the obligatory "About MannArtt" couldn't have been more shop worn and less interesting.
So I didn't wanna do it!
And besides, it doesn't jive with my "k" conceit (konceit?), and there's no way to get there from here.
Kabout MannArtt? WTF? I don't think so.
But ah-hah! There's no law which says the obligatory "About MannArtt" section of the site doesn't can't be called something else. Right?
And there's no reason it has to be dull as dishwater, either, especially not when it can say something.
I figured, if I'm going to chronicle some of the important bits about Mannartt, myself and my career here, I might as well call it that. Which meant I could get cute and do the "k" thing with it.
And then, because I am a punster (sorry) and insane workaholic—work being what one girlfriend once called "my chronic," my own personal addiction.
That being... wait for it... (drumroll please)... WORK! There! I said it. I cop to it. I'll get treatment, I promise.
Anyway, I figured... "Why not? What the heck?"
Hence, how the boring "About MannArtt" title became something a tad bit more interesting. At least, I think so and hope so.
Speaking of "the chronic" and where I now live, many of the local greybeards (I'm increasingly one myself) toke more or less openly, whereas once upon a time they didn't admit to smokin' grass, much less on the porch. As the ol' Maryjane has been legalized for both medicinal and recreational purposes in much of the country, things are a changin' hereabouts and all across #Amerika.
In fact, as I write this, we're only weeks away from Donald Freakin' #Trump being gone from the White House (unless his least likely of many attempts at wiping away the election and installing himself as #Dictator4Life succeed), so it is, indeed, a new beginning on many fronts...
Not least of which because I can spend (I hope) much less time on the evil malignant force that is #Trumpism, though I no way expect that it's pernicious influence is going to entirely vanish any time soon.
About Mannartt: The Career Begins...
I got started at the bottom (as most of us do), breaking in with a local ad shop (and it's clients) because I had specialized skills even as a teen. Even before that, I'd had my first published pieces (cartoons) in a national magazine (age 14!)).
While my goal (at the time) was to be a professional illustrator, and having learned airbrushing—first for model building, then adapted to art—I soon found myself doing signage and displays. Some years later, I even did holiday windows and sign painting.
The airbrushing eventually led me into retouching, and I continued to work in the local ad biz while going to school for painting and graphic design. I suppose I was lucky because I never had to take one of those crappy "burger flipping" jobs most teens end up with.
It was around this time that I also began to dabble in photography, taking my dad's rarely used Pentax SLR for my own. Between my own interest, OJT and a few classes, I learned to be a pretty competent photog, but I don't do much of it anymore.
Besides, that's what smartphones are for these days, right?
About Mannartt: Professional Career–First Gig
Right out of college I was lucky enough to land a gig with a growing mail-order company, from which I learned many skills and put what I'd learned before to good use. Lucky me (?), I was in the right place at the right time, at the beginning of the digital age, to learn computerized typesetting, pre-press and printing. Four years into the gig we were printing 150 thousand copies of our 300 page catalog per annum.
The system I learned on was by Compugraphic, a multi-million dollar firm which serviced the design and printing industries. It was one of the leading companies of it's type in the world at that time. Just a few years later, it was gone—bought out by another company, wiped out by the Apple Mac!
Anyway, this first gig positioned me for the transition from analog to digital, a changeover which profoundly impacted and radically changed the entire industry.
After five years, I was effectively the company Marketing Manager, even if my official title was Art Director, but by that point I was ready (more than ready, actually) to move on.
In short, A) I'd learned what I could learn, B) I was increasingly bored out of my mind and disenchanted with the company, and C) realized that if I wanted to do "high end" work I was really going to be proud of (even if it wasn't illustration), I had to move on.
And I did. Leaving the steady gig was tough, but in the long run, it served me well.
About Mannartt: Professional Career Moves
What followed was the better part of two decades working, sometimes as a staffer, other times freelance, as a designer, art director, Photoshop expert/retoucher (I was one of the first full-timers in the industry), marketing consultant and creative director. I eventually even added video and web production/marketing into the mix.
When the design/print trade went analog > digital (early '90s), thousands lost work. What took a team weeks could be done by one person in days. I was "lucky" to make the jump, but the pay wasn't much better, and the pressure 10x. :-/ https://bit.ly/38fsBM7
I eventually worked for a wide variety of enterprises across the greater Los Angeles area, from mom and pop companies and small design shops, to large, multinational ad agencies, major brand name and Fortune 500 companies to most of the big film studios (and several small ones), on everything from game, toy and entertainment marketing to automotive, electronics, film, television, music and the web.
It would take considerably more space to detail all the companies and jobs I worked on across a varied career. TL/DR, right?
Suffice it to say, I was privileged to work on many high profile, prestigious projekts over the years, for which I am grateful. Generally speaking, clients were very happy with my work, as evidenced by the fact that they kept bringing me back, year after year.
Well, until ageism began to kick in (it's really a thing, particularly in heavily youth-oriented Hollywood) and major burnout took over. 'Cause when I say "worked," I mean WORKED!
The thing about Hollywood and the Design Plantation is that two big things are working against you, personally.
1) Your desire to work in the trade works against you.
Slots are limited and demand very high, so agencies and studios know they can use and abuse you.
2) There's nowhere to go but down.
Once you're in this field, you're in (arguably) the most prestigious and "elite" of all the design fields. After all, there's nothing more prestigious than being able to point at a hit movie and say: "I designed that artwork!"
Ironically, the longer you're in this "most prestigious" of fields, the less desirable a hire you are by other industries, because entertainment advertising is seen as "different" to other branches of the trade, even if the guys outside entertainment all secretly wish they were inside it, too.
At times, the pay was great, but as the years wore on the great pay became merely good pay (as measured both by pragmatic and practical reality as personal opinion).
To cite one example, when I started out doing professional digital retouching in Hollywood in the mid 90's, I was making a cool $150 per hour. By the time I left the business, 15 years later, I was making one third of that, despite my seniority and my far greater skill set. Why?
Well, in part, it was a matter of supply and demand.
But I don't mind telling you that it was pretty irritating, too. In most trades, you make MORE money as you advance and progress and build a reputation—not less! In Hollyweird, towards the end of my illustrious career (ahem), I was, at best, treading water.
I mean, I was still working long and brutal hours (usually with no overtime boost in pay) without making much forward progress financially.
And then there were the "boom and bust" cycles, where you'd work three or six or nine months straight—60, 70, 80 hours a week, to the point of collapse—and then...
Be out of work for weeks, sometimes months at a time!
It was during those down times that you tried to catch up on your life.
But whether it was making good money working brutal hours or being out of work and stressing about where the next gig was going to come from, I don't recommend the design plantation—which is now, increasingly, due to the web, the global design plantation.
This latter phenomenon effects straight up freelancers and self-employed graphic artists more than those who are "lucky" enough to establish themselves in particular industries, but imagine trying to compete with kids in India, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc. for work from an ignoramus art buyer who basically only cares about cost—which describes most of the "clients" you'll find online.
Another important factor: Creatives working for the Hollywood studios considered themselves "white collar" professionals, which meant that, unlike the artists actually working directly for the studios, there was no union and no representation.
How f'n sweet, right? No dues. No union bosses or shop stewards to worry about, right? Hah.
That would have been a nice problem to have, actually. See, the thing about unions is that they, at bare minimum, make sure that the baseline level of working conditions are livable for the average person (not every person is an insane workaholic with no personal life).
It's exactly why virtually all trades in Hollywood (except mine, of course) unioned decades ago. Without unions, the slave drivers of Tinsel Town would work people to death. Occasionally, quite literally.
Even if you're not in the union, the union itself creates a rising tide which lifts all boats, and makes it better for everyone working in the field, whether they are members of the union or not.
In theory, our bosses—the ad agency owners and agents who got us work—would negotiate for us the best money and working conditions. In practice, it was a kind of high-tech slavery.
The ad business is one where you're expected to work whatever crazy hours are needed to get the job done. And in Hollywood, it was nearly always yesterday that the job was due.
Our bosses made sure they got the big bucks—the rest of us killed ourselves for scraps.
And due to the nature of the business, unless you were one of the few lucky enough to be working with plenty of lead time (i.e. far ahead of release), it was asses and elbows, all the time.
And then there's the increasing competition...
When I first started in "the biz" (as we say), there were only a handful of Photoshop experts in town. Today, art schools turn them out by the thousands.
Sure, if you're experienced and good, you'll make more than a first year hire. But not that much more.
And increasingly, the agencies look at it this way: We can pay one top-notch pro $50 or $75 per hour, or we can hire three interns and two salaried employees for the same rate...
During my long career, I literally lost track of the number of times I worked "all nighters." I mean, it was literally hundreds of times I worked a full day, through the night and into the next day.
The number of "two nighters" or "double nighters" I call them—where you worked a full 48 hours, non-stop—was more than I care to recall, but was more than enough, I assure you.
Not to mention all the weekends, evenings and holidays lost because the job had to get done.
Personal life? You want a personal life? Haha! That's a good one.
It's why I call the high-end graphic design business in Hollywood (and, to some degree, across all Fortune 500 firms) the graphic design plantation and the job a kind of wage slavery, even if it's better pay than more prestigious kinds of work.
Guys who fought in Vietnam have PTSD which they have to live with for the rest of their lives. While I don't equate my years in the graphic design/marketing killing fields with savage jungle warfare, let's just say I can relate.
What's the longest "day" you ever worked? In his insane early days in the ad biz, Mann (of MannArtt.com) worked one 75 hour shift! No stops, no breaks, no joy, no kidding. It took two days to recuperate! Check out his work here: https://bit.ly/36wD9WL
About Mannartt: Professional Career Denouement (?) or Career Transition
While I got to do illustration projekts here and there, I soon realized that "going full time" was a probable non-starter. Unless you had a big name (which generally took many years to establish, assuming you ever did), you were going to starve along the way.
Case in point: Book cover illustrators in 1990 were making the exact same money as they had—I kid you not—thirty years before. Yikes! And no, it's not gotten any better. The only guys making decent money in the field were the top dogs. So that dream of being a professional illustrator went up in smoke...
Admittedly, I got used to making good coin in the commercial art biz, even if that meant working 16 hour days six days a week at times, and I just couldn't see (or justify) working as hard (if not harder) for a tiny fraction of the dough.
There's an old expression: "Mama, don't let your sons grow up to be football players." I would append that expression to include "or artists." Someday I will write a piece on how the art biz has changed and how particularly brutal it is now (it was never easy).
Today, I'm actually plotting a number of illustration oriented projekts in which the only person I have to please is myself. Hopefully others will dig it too. I'm also working on a number of original projekts (like HISTORY KARDS) which I hope will, eventually, become commercially viable. Time will tell.
Retirement? Fah! That ain't ever gonna happen...
Mann has created HISTORY KARDS, the standard 52 playing card deck which profiles The Greatest Villains of All Time, one per card. Now you can "play with history," as the creator says. Go here: https://bit.ly/30Obxsu
About Mannartt: Current Availability
For those who are interested, I'm available for hire as either an artist or Art Director/Creative Director/Marketing Manager under the right circumstances. Be advised that I'm not cheap and I'm no longer willing to work 24/7 (or even 16/6) unless the money is really, really good. And maybe not even then.
That being said, I'm always interested in cutting-edge, innovative projekts and products, and have always prided myself on providing great value and "bang for the buck" to my clients.
About MannArtt: Mann Non-career Info
Single. Fifth generation Californian. Descendant, on my mother's side, from at least two Founding Fathers. True patriot and ardent anti-fascist. Proponent of equal liberty, justice and opportunity for all.
Humanist, animal lover and "bleeding heart liberal" who, in general, abhors the stupidity of the mainline Dem party. Don't even get me started on the evil(s) of the GOP! Tom Paine and FDR are my historical political heroes, despite their flaws (all men have 'em, though not all women).
Many of today's most vociferous fighters for human rights, and generally speaking progressives, are my current ones.
Interests include art (duh), music, films, books (fiction and non-fiction), games, learning, knowledge, obscure sh*t, etc., etc., etc.
Never married (got close a few times). Was married to my work for many years (sigh), not quite so much anymore. Not exactly divorced, but in a trial separation.
Currently working on HISTORY KARDS and hoping to crowdfund it's complete development. YOU can be of help there, if you like (and get your name "in lights" too). Please take a minute to go through the Kwiz and tell me what you think about the whole projekt after reading this article!
If you want to learn more about my tender formative years (and relation to Star Wars and Hollywood), you can read my reminiscence here.
NOTE: For much of the Trump era, I've been involved in a various grass roots, "guerilla warfare" efforts against our resident tyrant-buffoon-would-be-dictator and all of his treasonous, mendacious, felonious GOP enablers and collaborators. You may have noted that I have created a fair amount of anti Trump material, including wanted posters, t-shirts/merch and other stuff.
IMHO, the whole Trump supporting #MAGA lot of the GOP should be hung. Lest you think me crazy, let me say this; unless you have really studied it, you have no idea of the breadth and depth of the betrayal of the American people by this group, and it only got exponentially worse under #ManBaby (aka #DonTheCon, #DiaperDon, #LiarInChief, etc.).
And if Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Paine were still alive, I believe they would be preparing the gallows. I'm pretty sure the man who defined the original (long since abandoned) principles of the Republican party, a certain Abraham Lincoln, would pitch in.
We've got a lot of work to do in this land to clean up the "hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck" (as Jake Tapper of CNN put it), left to us by the Trumplican (ne Republican) party and the #OrangeMenace.
If you are a #Trumper, please save both of us the hassle and DON'T contact me! All idiotic comments and commentators will be cheerfully terminated... with extreme prejudice.