Ashleigh Brilliant (Pot-Shots)by GoComics
The GoComics "Meet Your Creator" series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week's featured cartoonist: Ashleigh Brilliant of Pot-Shots
First of all, let me make it clear that the title "Meet Your Creator" (which I didn't create) is somewhat misleading, and that I have no special connections with whomever or whatever created you.
It is true, however, that much of my work has what you might call a pseudo-spiritual content. When I started doing Pot-Shots, expressions like the following were not often to be found on postcard racks, which was where they made their first public appearance:
So you might say that I have specialized in heavy thinking with a light touch.
The generic term for expressions of this kind is not "comics" or even "cartoons." They are illustrated epigrams. But, if you Google that term, you'll find that I seem to be its only modern practitioner.
That being the case, I suppose I can claim to be some sort of pioneer - still waiting for a throng of followers.
The explanation may partly be that my work is too idiosyncratic. I have laid down so many strict rules that other dabblers in words and images prefer to invent their own games rather than try to play mine. (This, however, has not protected me from "knockoffs," i.e., deliberate theft of my material.)
The most difficult and demanding of those rules are: (1) that the verbal expression must be easy to translate into other languages, and (2) that, unlike cartoons, my graphic images, while providing an added dimension, are not necessary for a full appreciation of the words.
Other factors which separate me from my colleagues are that I have no cast of characters, no storyline, no themes, no continuity - nothing to give any coherence to an amorphous series of thoughts, ideas, and expressions - except that they form a numbered series, and are all visually in the same shape.
What, then, is my rationale? The name Pot-Shots really says it all. I am firing random shots, hoping serendipitously to hit an occasional lucky target.
Some people (my most treasured fans) admire most of my output, or even all of it (which I have to admit is not even true of yours truly himself - but then my standards are extremely high). But if you see a Pot-Shot now and then that tickles your fancy, penetrates your mind, stirs some emotion, or just satisfies you in some way - that is as much success as I can hope for.
This, I know, for a feature appearing daily, does not sound like a very commercial proposition. And in fact, though I have been churning them out since 1967, they have never come close to making me rich and famous even within reasonable expectations, let alone my wildest dreams.
My fandom is very spotty. To most of the world (even those with access to computers), I am virtually unknown. But I do receive compliments from far and wide, and occasionally - and sometimes in the strangest circumstances - somebody encounters me in person unexpectedly, who, discovering my identity, goes into embarrassing ecstasies of praise and delight.
Often it turns out to be not they themselves, but somebody they know or knew, who is (or was, before they died), my "biggest fan."
Anyway, I have been asked by the GoComics people to give you some details about myself. They supplied a list of questions - so, here are my answers:
First, how did my career begin? I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't until I was in my 30s, and had already started pursuing another career, as a college teacher of History, that I began experimenting with combining very short verbal expressions with appropriate images. I happened to be living in the ideal place for such experimentation, at the ideal time: the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late 1960s, and fortunately had friends who helped and encouraged me in various ways. One of them went so far as to marry me.
There was, of course, no Internet at that time. My first medium, as already indicated, was postcards, which were then still much in use as a means of mass communication. People were actually buying my cards - and it was one of the great discoveries of my life when I found that a card could (in those days) be printed for a penny and retailed for a dime - a profit of 1,000%! I realized that I had a new livelihood, and would never have to go back to teaching!
Next question: "What inspires you?" The sad truth is that nothing ever has. All my thoughts and ideas are internally generated. I might overhear a snatch of conversation, or see something in a book or movie that starts wheels turning in my head, but that is as close as I ever come to being inspired.
Next: Tell us about your achievements and accomplishments. Sadly, again, the ones I tend to remember are the ones that didn't happen. While living in England, I was very disappointed to be unable to attend either of the prestigious universities, Oxford or Cambridge. And some time later, I never quite got over being left for somebody else by a girl I had been living and traveling with for four years. But for some reason, the failure I most regret was that of never (yet) being selected as the Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara.
In my entire career, I have received only one genuine substantial financial honor, which goes back to 1987, when I was given that year's Raymond B Bragg Award for Humanism in Entertainment and the Arts. This included $2,000 in cash, and a free trip to Kansas City to receive the prize in person. (For my acceptance speech, go here.)
But, perhaps the most satisfying honor ever bestowed upon me was that of being invited back to speak at a college in Oregon, which I had had to leave in disgrace 30 years earlier. You can read all about it on my website here.
The next question is about my favorite childhood comics, and those I read today. Sorry to admit, I don't read any today, although my wife reads all those in the Los Angeles Times quite avidly. (I do read all the cartoons in The New Yorker.) As a child, however, I grew up on comics. I had a large collection of comic books, of which I still possess 34, now so valuable that they are wrapped in plastic, and I am afraid to handle them. Of these, I considered Hal Foster's "Prince Valiant" the greatest. I was also very fond of Captain Marvel, but liked the cartoon characters, too, particularly Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.
Next I am asked about "upcoming projects or appearances." I do make public presentations once or twice a year. The most recent was in December 2015, when I appeared at a local bookstore to help promote a new book called "Short Flights," in which I am one of 32 featured authors who all specialize in very brief writings. I was the only one of the 32 who also illustrate their works, but only texts appeared in the book.
As of this writing, nothing definite is upcoming.
Last question: "Your studio or workspace." I have a little studio above our garage here in Santa Barbara, where most of the graphic part of my work (including the lettering) has been done. It looks out to the Pacific Ocean on one side, and to our old Spanish Mission on the other. But of course I am primarily a writer, the beauty of that craft being that it can be done almost anywhere.
Finally, may I take this opportunity to publicly thank the Powers That Be at GoComics for considering me worthy of a place on their impressive roster.
- Ashleigh Brilliant