The other day I ran across an article with the title “These Raccoons Are Creating Abstract Masterpiece Paintings Using Their Tiny Paws.”
After almost spitting out my coffee, I was overcome with a myriad of emotions. At first, I was like “What the hell? An abstract masterpiece… really?”
My indignation didn’t stop there. I then proceeded to go into a mental tirade about the mainstream art world and how it is a miracle that anyone takes artists seriously. This very unproductive moment of my life lasted about five minutes that I’ll never get back.
My second thought, once I came back from the brink of declaring war on the art world and the raccoons who inhabit it, was “Dammit, they’re so cute.”
So why did I get mad about cute raccoons selling art?
Because no matter how much I try to remind myself that the art world is not a dog eat dog competition, I sometimes have momentary lapses of my brilliant optimistic self. As insecure artists, we can sometimes turn our nose up at things simply because we are being jackasses with no sense of fun.
Why am I telling you this story? Because I almost passed up the perfect marketing lesson. I was too wrapped up in feeling undervalued, too wrapped up in feeling like a victim to the status quo. This would have been a very stupid move considering that my next book is going to be about “Rogue Marketing” which is all about taking the status quo and throwing it out.
These raccoons have a YouTube following, create and sell art, have weird names, use their own techniques to paint(paws), and have a whole bunch of pictures of themselves on the internet… It’s like looking in the mirror.
So what can I learn from the phenomenons that are the painting raccoons?
It started as a fun project. Their creative spirit is fostered thanks to the help of their humans Mitchell and Sarah Thyme. They came up with the idea to let their raccoons paint by observing the behavior of the creatures. “Raccoons are constantly touching things with their hands to gather sensory information,” Sarah said, “and we saw our raccoons doing it, so we thought painting would be a fun activity for them.”
The truth is, these raccoons are doing exactly what I recommend for artists who are just getting started. Create art and put yourself out there in the arena… and try not to take yourself too seriously.
They are telling a story and have a purpose. If you go to their website, it is not just “Hey look, this raccoon is painting.” Tito the Raccoon shares his adventures on Instagram and YouTube to change the stigma about raccoons, who people commonly think are pests. He wants to spread the message that not every raccoon is a rabid, feisty animal (though Tito does not support everyone keeping a raccoon as a pet).
There are cute baby raccoon pictures and stuff… it’s fucking adorable.
It’s unique to them. The really important thing is that they have done something to set them apart. They are not following what everyone else is doing. It is cute raccoons creating art.
It’s fun. I think that sometimes as artists we forget the nature of that childlike desire to create and share our creations with others. We make it way too serious, maybe because we want to be taken seriously.
Are they masterpieces? Will they sell for millions of dollars some day? Are they “HIGH ART”? Is it even really art if a human isn’t the one creating it? I don’t know, and I don’t really care… it’s fun, and the raccoons are enjoying themselves, that much is clear from all the social media and videos.
So before you scoff at someone nailing a banana to the wall of a gallery, or someone signing a urinal, or a raccoon painting a masterpiece… consider not taking it all so seriously, and have fun.
I think we might all benefit from this lesson in so many ways… Thank you Tito the raccoon. Unfortunately Tito has gone missing, hopefully he’ll return home soon.