An Interview with The Artist's Guide
Hear, Hear
Published 7am on 04/11/07 by Shawn | Discuss this article
The Artist's Guide

I am a big sucker for independent art journals. They are great sources of inspiration – not only from the art, but from knowing that some people out there are working hard producing these printed material because they believe in it. I came across The Artist’s Guide’s website a couple of months ago. It’s a one-pager that features just one picture – the same photo you see above. The title says, “The Artist’s Guide to Making Money”, which I found amusing. I purchased a copy and what I received is a most unusual art journal. The Artist’s Guide to Making Money is something I can hold in my hands and carry with me to read on the subway. Yes, read – I flip through lots of art journals, but this one I read, and the writing is witty and humorous. The front and back covers are graphical ads of their sponsors, which I thought was brilliant. I wish we knew about it earlier and we would’ve chipped in so Harvest and Hear, Hear can be on it. Maybe next time.

I got in touch with the masterminds behind The Artist’s Guide – Matt Cassity and Sam Spratlin, and asked them a few questions:

Hear, Hear: Who are you guys?

Sam: Matt and I are occasional collaborators who sometimes work under the moniker “Howdy Partners.” We met in college where we both enjoyed America’s Funniest Videos and going to beer parties. Matt sorta looks like John Cusack and I really look like John Cusack.

Sam Spratlin, Matt Cassity and John Cusack

Sam Spratlin, Matt Cassity, and John Cusack who was not at the same party.

HH: Why did you decide to make this magazine?

Sam: The book itself was an experiment to see if two people living in two different places could make one thing in ten months. And we did, only it took about fourteen months, and we had to get it printed in Canada so that is like a third, totally different place.

The goal was to produce an awesome art book similar to all the other awesome art books out there, but to hopefully craft a stronger thematic experience by positioning each volume as a “guidebook.” This allows us to provide a theme for our contributors, as well as an editorial direction for the content and tone.

This first issue is the The Artist’s Guide Volume One: The Artist’s Guide to Making Money, a topic we found to be exceptionally apropos given the financial concerns that go in to starting a project like this. We hoped the book provides a candid look at a subject matter that is at times hesitantly discussed. All in all, we would expect that more than three people will go on to make +$1,000,000 after having read this book.

Most of all, I think we both just liked having a project we could work on outside of work that would be fun and funny and something we could be proud of.

Poster by Dan Funderburgh

Spam poster insert, by Dan Funderburgh.

HH: 14-months is a long time. What did you guys do to… make money during that time? How did you last that long?

Sam: Well, we cancelled our cable, and we had to skip a few meals… but we made it through. Actually, I hold down a full time job at an agency in Chicago, and Matt makes money through freelancing for advertising agencies and a major record label (though he could always use more well-paying work). Most of that 14 months was spent waiting for this and that. Sometimes we wanted to just give up and scrap it, but we had already commissioned and received some amazing work and that just wouldn’t be fair to the hard-working artists.

Sam Spratlin, Matt Cassity, and John Cusack who was not at the same party.

HH: Can you tell us more about the making of this magazine – the ‘process’, what tools you used, how you’re marketing it, how did you find/approach the artists, etc?

Matt: I would say we are both level-8 proficiency web surfers, and many of the artists were picked from our bookmarks, others were “net friends,” and more are real life friends. We owe a lot to projects like The Drama Magazine, Faesthetic, and Arkitip. They’ve really set the bar for the genre of collectible art zines, and we used the same Canadian printer they all use. So far we’ve relied on blogs an web-portals to spread the word, and we’ve approached our respective neighborhood bookstores. Waiting in line at the post office is a real bitch.

HH: In the journal, there is a ridiculously high print quote for $50k, is that for real??

Sam: It was very much for real, and very much what one high-minded print rep thought we were looking to spend. It’s the sad/great thing about hanging out in an ad agency all day. The context of money gets wildly distorted.

HH: How did you come up with the sponsored cover?

Matt: We were debating wether or not to try and sell ads and how to do it. There was talk of getting sponsorship for each contributor AIDS walk style or some other clever idea, but we said fuck it, we’ll just plaster the covers with ads. We sold them all fairly cheaply and the revenue covered the cost of buying envelopes. So that helped. Plus we didn’t have to design the cover. We should have explained this somewhere in book, cause I don’t think too many people are getting it.

HH: What’s your connection with FLAT?

Matt: Petter at FLAT is a really nice guy that always answers our e-mails with enthusiasm and agreed to an informal interview with me when I first moved to New York, unfortunately I didn’t bring my portfolio with me.

Some amazing artwork in The Artist’s Guide (all are amazing, these are just five random examples), from left to right: Marcus Oakley, Gunsho, Jessica Lynch, August Heffner, Andy Rementer.

HH: Where do we see some work by the Howdy Partners?

Sam: This is the first Howdy Partners project. It exists as little more than a moniker really — just a good name we might need to hold on to in case we need it in the future. You hear that? We called dibs. The title of the book is definitely more important than the name of the collective. I’ve been trying to get into printing posters under the Howdy Partners name, but so far I’ve only done one.

HH: What are the last 5 (memorable) things you guys consumed (could be anything)?

Together: We ate some stand-up Red Snapper at Barco Marisco in Chicago.

Matt: The Wire DVDs, 3 Charley Harper prints, VietNam’s self-titled record

Sam: I just read the first 5 volumes of “The Walking Dead” – but I am, by no means, a comic book person. And khraigslist.

HH: Thank you for your time, Matt and Sam!

2 really nice guys; 112 pages; 6×9 inch; $16 + shipping; printed in 2 colors; limited edition of 1000; zero actual advice for making money; a ton of inspiration. Get your copy of The Artist’s Guide to Making Money today!

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