Ed Brock, Amateur

I office in a metal building in the Texas countryside. Out one window a llama keeps watch over the herd of a cattle baron. The other window looks at the workshop of the property owner where my office is situated. It’s an atypical work environment, and fascinating every day.

Stan Richards has  been favorably or unfavorably compared by various Richards Group “alumni” to Leonardo da Vinci, Midas, Machiavelli, Hemingway, E.F. Hutton, Michael Jackson and God. In his book, The Peaceable Kingdom, this modern day Leonardo writes an ode The Amateur. Stan is writing about the man in the next door workshop. He is writing about Ed Brock.

Not long ago I read a line that I liked. It was on a fourth- or fifth-generation photocopy pinned up on the wall in, of all places, an old sundries store, right next to the soda fountain. “Choose a vocation you love,” it read, “and you will never have to work.” “Chinese proverb,” it said at the bottom.

Now, personally I’m a little skeptical about the “Chinese proverb” part. You see an awful lot of little aphorisms billed that way, most of which I suspect are actually written by a guy named Maury who works out of the Brill Building in New York City. In any event, regardless of its provenance, I like the adage about loving your vocation. I like the fact that it was photocopied and pushpinned to the wall by the soda jerk in a sundries store. It makes him and me brothers in a family that I wish were a whole lot bigger: people who love showing up at work every day.

We get so caught up in our careers, in trying to be professionals, that we forget what it means to be an amateur: somebody who does it out of love, pour l’amour. I got into the advertising business because it gave me a way to make a living doing what I would gladly do for free: expressing ideas through art; figuring out extraordinary ways to say ordinary things; meeting and hashing out ideas with bright, interesting, funny people. If this is work, then I feel like I’ve pulled a fast one on society all these years, because this is fun.

Ed sketched this up the other day

One reason my organization has worked so well for so long is that I’ve tried to hire people who, like the soda jerk and me, have the old fire in the belly, the lover’s zeal of the true amateur.

For a good example, look at Ed Brock. He’s the “B” in our design group RBMM. Ed (who, by the way, once cycled through China and never once encountered that proverb about choosing your vocation, which I think proves my earlier point) is a filmmaker, an animator, who joined me as a designer in the early days of the agency and was part of the cadre that spun off the design group as a separate operating unit in 1979. He was the first person at either RBMM or The Richards Group, other than me, to celebrate a twentieth anniversary as an employee.

Ed’s reel of work is a wonder – elegant and wacky and inventive and, in terms of media and technique, impossible to categorize. The guy could empty the grass bag off your lawn mower and animate something spectacular out of the clippings. He is, by and large, a soloist. He looks at your storyboard or conceives the film himself, assembles the materials, works out the technicalities, and shoots it, typically, with a fine old camera that I think he bought at Sergy Eisenstein’s last garage sale.

Portrait by Ed Brock.

Click, shoot a frame. Then move the little pile of grass clippings and click, shoot another frame. Then rearrange the clippings again, and so on. He works like a medieval stonemason dressing columns for a cathedral. You can feel the artisanship.

Ed, you can tell when you’re around him, does it for the love. More so than other people, I’d wager. You’d never be able to assemble a staff composed entirely of Ed Brocks, but you don’t need to. A few people like Ed, strategically placed, can leaven the whole organization. All you have to do is find people with apparent potential and evident zeal to do something with the potential, put them around an Ed Brock, and watch the inspiration happen.   Source

What do you love to do?





Good bye, e-media

166 invitations

As I drove down the road to worship, I was watching a YouTube clip that was embedded on a friend’s social networking page which notified me by SMS so I could open the Facebook app on my iPhone.  Isn’t it great to keep in touch?  The problem is, I can’t tell you what the video was about or who the friend was.

That morning our Pastor shared two individual thoughts:  a reflection on a time when he avoided all advertising for a few days, and a call to devotion as we approach the traditional Lent period leading up to Easter.  My mind combined the two and I began to contemplate what 40 days without media would look like.

There is an expectation that my employer can still get a hold of me, so I can’t get off the grid completely.  That aside, beginning tonight I am “unplugging” whatever e-media I can.  On the chopping block are internet, TV, and the iPhone.  I will put my AT&T simcard into a no-frills phone.  I will check work email, but leave forwards and any entertainment-related emails unopened.

I understand the irony that I did a Google Search to find an image to put into this post on our family blog, which will be pulled into my Facebook profile (some extensive use of technology to announce I am cutting it all out).   In the meantime, I’m unplugged and will be rediscovering reading and maybe some new hobbies too.  At the prompting of a friend I will keep a journal of the good, bad, and ugly (using real paper!)  See you on Facebook after Easter Sunday…maybe…

If you need me, let’s talk…in real life.