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תוכן מסופק על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלו. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.
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Gary Kopervas visualizes business innovation with cartoons and creativity - S14/E09

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תוכן מסופק על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלו. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.

In this episode, Gary Kopervas shares how drawing and writing freed his imagination and got reactions from others. He’s built on his early skills to become a cartoonist, copywriter, creative director, and brand consultant.

Sponsored by Concepts

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Running Order

  • Intro
  • Welcome
  • Who is Gary Kopervas
  • Origin Story
  • Gary Kopervas's current work
  • Sponsor: Concepts
  • Tips
  • Tools
  • Where to find Gary
  • Outro

Links

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tools

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tips

  1. Do something and share it.
  2. If you want to learn something, draw it because you have to process the information to understand it.
  3. Share your work with people who inspire you, you never know where all that interaction might lead.
  4. Get on someone else's radar.

Credits

  • Producer: Alec Pulianas
  • Shownotes and transcripts: Esther Odoro
  • Theme music: Jon Schiedermayer

Subscribe to the Sketchnote Army Podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube or your favorite podcast listening source.

Support the Podcast

To support the creation, production and hosting of the Sketchnote Army Podcast, buy one of Mike Rohde’s bestselling books. Use code ROHDE40 at Peachpit.com for 40% off!

Episode Transcript

Mike Rohde: Hey everyone, it's Mike, and I'm here with Gary Kopervas. Gary, how are you doing?

Gary Kopervas: I'm doing really well. Mike, thanks for having me. Really excited to be here.

MR: Yeah. Did I say your name right, Kopervas? Is that the right way to say that?

GK: That is spot on.

MR: Really.

GK: And that doesn't always happen, so I appreciate that.

MR: Yeah. Well, I just came back from Holland, so I've been aware of very unusual names, and trying to pronounce them, that was about a month ago, end of August, early September.

GK: I think everyone who's been mispronouncing my name, I should ask them to make a visit and bone up on the pronunciation because I often get the "coppervas" as in the metal or the copper. So, appreciate that.

MR: Yeah, not a problem. I always try to make sure I say the name right at least. At least that's the one kind thing I could do for somebody. But let's get into a little bit about you. We've crossed paths because I think we ran across each other on LinkedIn and I really liked your stuff, I think you liked my stuff, we got chatting and I said, you know, "You'd be a really good candidate for the podcast 'cause of the work you're doing." And I'm always trying to push the boundaries of who I talk with to go more toward the edges, so.

GK: And I think we have some people in common who introduced—you know, I was aware of your work prior to that, but some people have talked about the podcast and I think we have them in common. So that helped facilitate today. So I'm grateful for that too.

MR: Yeah. Now that I think back, there was someone who recommended you, I'm trying to remember who it was that recommended you, but I'd have to.

GK: Martha.

MR: Martha, yes, of course. Yeah. So, once I saw your work, then that totally made sense. So, I'm glad. Thank you, Martha, if you're listening.

GK: Yeah, and I think she will. So she'll be happy for that.

MR: She's a pretty dedicated listener. I do know that.

GK: Yes.

MR: Well, why don't we get right into it? Why don't you tell us a little bit of who you are and what you do, and then jump right into your origin story? How did you end up here? You can go back all the way to when you were a little kid if you want to. I just love the origin story 'cause it tells me so much about the person and what motivates them.

GK: Yeah, that's very true. As far as today, I guess I would describe myself as really a cartoonist turned, copywriter, turned creative director, turned brand consultant. It has been an evolution and not really stopping something and starting to do something else, it was always continuing to do what I did in the early days which we can talk about.

But it started to evolve it to to the career that I was in. And I went from college to advertising agencies. I live in New Jersey and started in New York. And just to answer your question of who I am Gary Kopervas, and then I'm all those things that I just mentioned. I grew up in East Coast, so advertising was always something that I wanted to do. Growing up, there was this great television show called "Bewitched."

MR: Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. I watched "Bewitched" all the time.

GK: She was a genie out of a bottle, you know, I think it was a documentary, I'm not sure, but she was a genie—oh, no, a witch. Sorry about that, that's actually not a genie.

MR: Bewitched, yeah.

GK: Bewitched. She was a witch, Elizabeth Montgomery, a cute witch and married to an advertising executive. So it was always like, man, I have to look into this advertising thing because it was always creative and it was always, you know, Darren creating these cool campaigns. And then his wife, the witch, would always splash it up with something really cool and amazing and Darren would get all the credit, you know, for being so creative.

So, you know, it was a sitcom when you're a little kid, but I just thought this advertising seems like it might be a good thing which did dovetail into I guess an origin story, is that I was a quiet kid. I just didn't talk a whole lot. But I found at some point writing and drawing and playing the guitar became really great forms of self-expression for me. So I started to just you know, write stories and comics. I grew up around, "Mad Magazine" and "Marvel Comics."

I had a mom, like many moms who saved a lot of things, and I would see there's elaborate stories of things that I had written and illustrated. So the cartooning thing was really a great thing for me because it just allowed me to, at some level, make sense of the world around me. I didn't write journals per se, but I kept pretty good—maybe unconsciously at that age, but I would always draw what I was into and draw what I was interested in. And to look at it years, years later, it was always amazing.

One of the examples, and I still laugh about that was parent-teacher night. The teacher said to my mom, is like, "Oh, we asked the kids to draw something that they like, you know, a house, maybe a Turkey made out of their hands, some cotton and clouds." And I brought into class the illustrated, as best I can, the parody of The Godfather from "Mad Magazine" by Mort Drucker. You know, just painstakingly drawing Sonny Corleone, and my mother was like, "Wow, all the other kids had, like, you know, houses and trees and yellow suns, and you came in with the Godfather parody."

And they kept an eye on me for a little while, but it was just an example of us fascinated by getting lost into writing words and drawing pictures. But the true origin story goes back maybe a little bit further, but like most, and looking at your wall, it's fun to see and reminds me of superheroes and Marvel. And like most kids that are, you know, six, seven years old Superman and Batman, maybe Captain America or Thor. And I would draw them which was really great for things like anatomy and drawing just what human beings look like. And that was fun.

But in drawing that, I like many kids wanted to be Batman. Batman was really a fun thing, and I would have stuff on walls, but there was a period of about a year or two when I can't explain it, but that's how the culture works, is I really got excited about Zorro. Do you remember Zorro?

MR: Yeah.

GK: Zorro was the swashbuckling—

MR: He left a Z, and when he would fight crime or whatever, right?

GK: And I thought that was a cool thing. So me being a quiet guy and using drawing and writing to express myself when I was around that same age, six or seven, I thought it would be like a really cool idea that on one rainy day, I did have a Sharpie, maybe it was my first experience with Sharpies, where I put Little Z's under the furniture in my family's living room furniture.

So I thought it was cool, I had Z's all underneath, you know, put under various pieces of furniture until my mother did see that and said, "Come here a minute. What gives on all this furniture, there's little Zs under our living room chairs. What's with the Zs? Did you draw the Zs? "

And I want to remember it this way, I'm not sure if it actually happened, but it was like, "Mama, I really didn't draw those Z's. Zorro did. I had nothing to do with it." After talking to and probably a grounding, I realized, "Do not deface furniture with Z's." But at a very young age, I found there was something really interesting about drawing and writing and letting your imagination run, and to get a reaction from people.

What I think it did, is it allowed me to build confidence, you know? 'Cause I was quiet and played sports and did things like, you know, hung out with friends in the neighborhood. But I think I started to find, "Hey, I'm actually okay at this. I can write and I can draw, and I usually get reactions outta people. Not always favorable, you know, with the whole Zorro thing. But it was an opportunity to express.

And I followed that into jobs and started to shape this idea that I was very visual, but also wrote, so sort of a left hand, right hand. Then what sealed it for me was, to follow this little arc of an origin, I was in high school like many, and in a chemistry lab in high school, maybe 10th-grade 11th-grade. Maybe it was a bio lab. And it was a three-hour lab, and the teacher was, I still remember him, he was a really serious guy.

And I remember wearing earth shoes, and he wore his pants really high, and he had a beard with no mustache. So I couldn't help but say, man, he sees really sort of a comic character. So it was an afternoon of learning about the Doppler effect, about the little dropping of balls into the water and the rings of things, which is, you know, pretty important at the time.

And it was long though, for me. My mind started to just wander in my hand and my imagination. So I started to, in my notebook draw a picture of this teacher talking about the Doppler effect. And it was a bit of a caricature, but it was taking something he said about the Doppler and, and drawing it.

And a neighbor nearby said, "Lemme see that. That's funny. That's really funny." So I started this, a Doppler effect of distraction in this classroom where people grab the notebook and passed it. All of a sudden I realized it was getting away from me. And people laughed and they're like, "Oh, man, this is—" And as teachers often do, they pick up on that right away. And he saw about three rows away from me, saw disruption.

So he walked over and he looked at, "Hold on one second. May I see this?" And he saw the picture that I had drawn, and with this little scenario, and in a poker face, didn't say much, and he said, "Oh, who did this?" And I was like, "Uh-oh this is gonna top my Zorro experience. This is like, serious now." So he came over and I heard this little earth shoe squeaking, you know, as he made his way through the rows. 'Cause people were like, "Who drew this?" And people gave me—

MR: They kept pointing backwards. Yeah.

GK: — people gave me up. I still remember, walked up to the side of me, you know, and I was just playing it cool. And he looked down and he said, "Did you draw this?" And he put the notebook in front of me. And I was like, "What am I gonna say?" I was like, "Yeah, I did do that." And I was expecting, oh no, I'm outta here. I'm gonna probably go somewhere, someone's office. And he looked at it and he goes, "So you did this?" I said, "Yeah, I did this." And he goes silence. It was like two seconds. And I thought, "Oh, it's just boiling up. This is not gonna go well."

MR: It's getting worse, yeah.

GK: He goes, "Could you add color to this? And I wanna put it in the frame and give it to my wife." And I just thought, "That did not go the way I thought it would go."

MR: No.

GK: He said, "This is so funny. I would love if you can just maybe pull it out and clean it up and put some color in it. And I like to give it to her for fun in a frame." And I realized at that point, the reactions that you can have, even in the most, you know, unexpected places of just an idea and a visual be it comic or just a diagram or what have you, that just captures people. And I just thought, "This is starting to get interesting."

And then from there, I went into to college and studied business thinking, advertising, and then got into creative departments. And then it's been that trajectory ever since. So it's funny though, those early stories, the early days led up to what had been, you know, a pretty, pretty long career now.

MR: Wow. Yeah. It prepared you in some ways to be ready. I love that you're channeling the spirit of Zorro to your mom, right?

GK: Oh.

MR: I guess she probably was thinking like, "Well, at least he drew it on the bottom of the furniture," right?

GK: He said, "Maybe he was thinking a little bit." But it was on the bottom. I don't know the mental process then, but it was so important that I did not do the top. And I think it was that you know, Zorro had that little mask, and he was sort of mysterious, so he didn't wanna go over the top. That was one of my early memories of that whole creativity.

MR: Wow. One of the first taggers, I guess Zorro. I never thought of it that way.

GK: Yeah. At least Sharpies could rub out and wash out if you wanted it to, but Zorro went right into the wood.

MR: He would cut into there. Yeah.

GK: He would cut into the wood. So I wasn't completely Zorro, so, but they were forgiving, thankfully.

MR: Yeah. And as they were on the bottom. Yeah. That's really cool. I love the story about the teacher as well, you know, because we have had a fair amount of teachers on this show, and they really embrace visualization. It seemed like this teacher was open enough to do the same and see the value. Like, wow, he really was. I would think any teacher that walked up and saw that, leave aside the humorous drawing of him, which he enjoyed, right? It worked out that he enjoyed it.

GK: Yeah.

MR: You were paying attention, right? You were capturing information and the stuff he was telling you, you were receiving it, right? That's a reflection of what you received, so.

GK: And that's a really good point. And I hadn't thought about it before, you know, trying to pull out what maybe would become mechanics of some sort that I would do later. But I was listening to Doppler and I had him in some context that said, "Oh, I heard you, but I'm just gonna interpret it."

And I think that's what, whether it's either sketchnoting or even workshops that I often do is I'm hearing what comes out or comes from and then quickly interpreting it and putting it into somewhat of a visual context, as, you know. And just isn't solely reporting what you hear. It's not like it's a court stenographer or something. It's interpreted and enhanced so it's more memorable and sometimes even more entertaining, you know?

MR: Right. And you're often connecting—I find myself connecting dots, like it may be unsaid, but there's a connection between these things that as I look at it, these have impact on each other, or one doesn't exist without the other. And you can visually connect those things, which could be pretty interesting. Maybe you did that as well in the work you did. I think the other thing too, as an a scientist, right? So he was a scientist.

GK: Yes.

MR: His whole job is observation. You have to be a good observer of what happens and then document it. You did all those things. You were observing him. You're almost, as though he were a monkey in a zoo or something, and you're observing like all the details.

GK: Yeah, that's true.

MR: And then, you're capturing what he was saying, and on top of it, and putting it in context. I'm curious, did you ever hear back from him, what his wife thought of your drawing? Did you get feedback on that frame drawing?

GK: I did. And it was a hallway because I remember it was, and I still had another year. I think it was like a junior year, I was still there around for a year. But he was a tough teacher grade-wise, but he did have a bit of a sense of humor. And it was almost like Catskills kind of humor where, you know, I think I hit a nerve, and he might've been like, "I don't see that here often." So it was a bit of a surprise.

And I think probably the following year, my senior year, and oftentimes if I remember correctly, a lot of teachers would hang out in the hall or near their classroom and welcome. I remember walking down the hall towards him and we made eye contact, and he was just like—

MR: I remember you.

GK: He did a little bit of the De Niro from his movie, "You, you, just wanna tell you, I gave it to my wife around Valentine's Day or whatever it was." And he goes, "She loved it. Now, she'll never let me forget about how high I wear my pants." So he even had a bit of self-effacing humor and order to just want me to just tighten it up so he can give it to his wife.

And I think we had in a way a bit of a connection there where he was grateful, but still maintaining his teacher status. But we had a moment in the hallway the following year where I walked away feeling pretty good. Oh, I kind of probably forgot about it, but it made me feel good. Other kids in my class, yet again, kind of quiet guy. And I find there's a little bit of a relationship of sometimes the quiet guys, the instigator.

As they say, "You gotta watch the quiet guy, you don't know what he's up to. " And it was a moment where people remembered that and said, you know, that it was fun and they remembered it years after. It's like, "Hey, how about that lab class, you remember that?" "Yeah, that was funny."

MR: Gary, the mastermind.

GK: Yeah.

MR: Talking about all that, so obviously you went to school and you ended up in, you talked about cartoonist copywriter, creative director, and now brand consultant. I'd be interested to hear the—it sounds like you didn't really stop doing the one thing. You just layered things on top, right? So you built all those things into the way you operate. Tell us how those things layer and what does that look like now that you're a brand consultant? How do those different parts come into what you do?

GK: And that's a great question. And it was a little bit of that. I'd started out as a junior writer at different agencies. One was in New York, and then I wound up going out to the Midwest. And so you're just doing what you're told and, you know, you're writing for whatever clients you were working on. I found myself—and this was years before even knowing what sketchnoting was, or people actually did it.

I was in many meetings, lots of meetings, and some boring meetings. And there were times when we didn't all work on our laptops, which was a little bit like, "Geez, I don't know why I wish I knew at that point." We all wrote in notebooks and things, so, we would often sit in, you know, circles or semi-circles and just notes and say, "Hey, let's take a break and we'll come back in 10 minutes."

And oftentimes, people would go by and in matter of casually walking by and look at my notebook, and it was just organized differently. Everyone else had the same notes taken the same way they took it back in high school and in their biology classes, just that everyone's notes looked identical. But in that 90-minute meeting, they would look at mine and go, "What kind of going on here? What is this? What are doing? You should be paying attention. Your notebooks should all look like everyone else is." It just didn't process that way.

My mind would work, as I often described it, in sound bites and snapshots. As the information came out an image would pop into my mind, and all of a sudden I would just doodle, a lot of doodling. I would doodle an image and then write what I heard around it. And they were just little episodic sketches during a 90-minute meeting. And people will be like, "How do you do that? How can I do that? Because I wanna take a guess and say, I'm gonna remember yours a little bit more."

So it's that idea again, of verbal visual working together. And I got somewhat known for amongst clients and creatives of that odd note-taking style. And then, and then the progression said, "Hey, we have a large meeting where we're gonna do a whiteboard, or we're gonna just put your paper up on the wall, could you just track notes and can you stand up and do that?" And I was like, "I think I could do that. I mean, I haven't, but I'll put my notebook aside and grab a couple of these markers, and sure let's do it.

And I started to do that in a larger scale at meetings, and I noticed people would take their phones out later on, people actually took photos with their phones. Took their phones out, took pictures of it. And I was like, "Wow, why are you doing that?" He said, "I don't wanna forget it. I don't wanna forget what we just did. And plus, I wanna share with my team."

So I was finding those moments where be it a high school moment where it connects and someone engages with it, years later engaged with it when they saw it on a conference room table or in a room. So it just continued to progress. And people kept waving me on, just do it over here and do it over there.

MR: Kind of encouragement.

GK: And then there was a moment where it went from, you know, doodling and sketching for my parents, you know, to some positive and negative effects. And then doing it in high school and having a moment with some teachers where it's just like, "That was a reinforcement." And then being in the working environment and ad agencies and with companies, them calling it out is kind of different and helping me to remember the material. And I thought that's really kind of cool.

And then there was a moment in the working world where I worked for maybe 10 years or 12 or more in new product development. As a group that I was one of the four charter members of a company in Cincinnati that started to do new products. So we would go into rooms and work with teams and research and sales and various others and start to build concepts for either beverages or foods or with hotel chains on how to build these new service programs.

But it was basically going from nothing to prototypes and just loosely done sketches. And that was really a great call of a decade of that kind of work where you're working in the intangibles and being able to sketch quickly. And, you know, that was always a great expression that someone shared with me is that a doodle is really the first prototype for anything. And that really lived in the new product era.

Another moment where I thought, okay, it's on now, it's kind of interesting, is I was doing an innovation session in Chicago for an education company that in essence trained accountants to become CPAs. So it was training-based and education-based. So a friend was running the program and said, "Hey, can you come out and join us for a couple of days and help facilitate and work their group for new ideas and new approaches, strategic planning kind of thing." And I said, "Sure, I'll do that."

I showed up on a Friday—or no, I left on Friday. So I showed up on a Wednesday the night before, and we often grab a bite to eat and talk about, okay, what's the next two days gonna be about? I really hadn't known much about it. And she was always, "Ah, just go with it. You're pretty good on the fly. It's the usual thing except for an education brand." It's like, okay.

But meeting with her and the rest of the team, somewhere between me leaving and showing up in Chicago, somebody had said. You know, I spoke to the client and they're really excited to do this, but someone sent me something in a PDF and it's called some kind of sketching."

And we were all like, "Well, what do you mean exactly? You know what you mean prototype, just like writing sketchbooks and sharing it?" She said, "No in front of the room to hear the ideas and then to live sketch them in the room and move on to the next." It was a strange request because somebody said, "Hey, any of you guys do that?"

MR: Here you are. "I can do that."

GK: "Anybody with any experience?" And it was a very good friend of mine said, "I didn't even see this coming so don't feel obligated, but do you wanna try?" I said, "Well, I haven't done it in this capacity. And it was always fairly loose and spontaneous, but now this is part of an expectation of a two-day conference."

MR: Right. It's different.

GK: So, I remember asking, "What is the client's expectation?" So they said, "I'll send you PDFs of what it is. "And it was largely what you would imagine it would be, you know? A lot of just loose sketches and a lot of mind mapping. It was more energetic and more, excuse me, visually interesting mind maps than just circles and hubs and spokes kind of thing. So at that point, it's like, "What do I have to lose? Yeah, okay. I'll do it." So they went out and got foam core or other types of materials, and handed me the markers. And I showed up in the morning going, "This is either gonna go pretty good or okay, or—"

MR: I'm never gonna do this again.

GK: "— I'm never gonna do this again." It might've been when you really started to make this more mainstream and make people aware of its sketchnoting, all of a sudden people are like, "Hey, I saw this thing, can we do that?" And it was a moment in time where probably a lot of what you were doing and some of your, you know, colleagues, someone on this client team said, "I'd like to incorporate this into our session." And now, it was maybe one of the more lucky instances that I could imagine because it went really well.

It's just while I was doing it, you have that out-of-body where you look down and go, "Man, this is like so much energy. Look at these people. There's laughter." And I found that that point, the style started to emerge a little bit, which was, it had a lot of that cartoonist in it. Some of my objects, and some of my people looked a little Don Martin-like from "Mad Magazine," and people were like, "Oh, that's funny." But there were many drawings over the course of two days that might've been 8 or 10, which was kind of fast stuff. And I realized, man, I'm kind of gassed at drawing, you know?

But I went home and they did ask to ask me to do some buttoned-up, cleaned-up versions. And I still have that set of 10 or 12 that were fun to do, live in the room. And it really helped the team look at all the ideas and go, "I see all the components and you really characterized it, get rid of this one, we'll keep that one.

And my friend who organized the session said they, they loved it And it was, you know, better than they thought. And it was a lot of people who had their hand in it. But me playing this little—it was like an improv, I played in bands in high school where you'd show up with your guitar with a bunch of strangers. And they're like, "Hey—"

MR: Ladies and gentlemen.

GK: "—you don't walk this way by Aerosmith." And it's like, enough, and boom, you're off, you go. So it was sort of a, a jam session using sketchnoting and it was one of those moments where I thought, "Okay, I got a new arrow in the quiver, and it's a pretty sharp one and a pretty cool one at a time when there was growing need for it.

So the agencies that I worked with, they had also had like, "Hey, we got this, you know, different way of doing things." So I started to do every meeting like kickoffs and immersions and presentations, and even strategy meetings where I became a little bit of the clunky monkey with the symbols where I would come out and they're like, "Do that thing. "

And then years went by and I realized this is an extension of all the things I did early on, and now a market had been created for it. Again, I'll take this opportunity to thank you for a lot of what you put out that did a lot of the heavy lifting.

MR: Oh, thanks. Well, I think there were a lot of other people doing it too. And graphic recording, which is more of that large scale, in the front of the room stuff, existed since the '70s with David Sibbet, some others.

GK: The Grove.

MR: The Grove. Yeah. And some others MG Taylor, I think Matt, and Gail Taylor were doing it. They were also part of that early way before.

GK: Yeah.

MR: You know, in my experience, I didn't know that graphic recording was a thing. I stumbled into and invented the name sketchnoting and practiced it just 'cause it made sense to me. I didn't know if anybody else could apply it. It was just totally me making sense out of note-taking because it wasn't working. And then come to find out, hey, all the concepts that seemed really logical to me is the same stuff that these people standing in front of rooms getting paid to do the work are doing.

And so, then I got involved with many of the people in that community. So now I'm connected to that community. So there's been a lot of people, I think, over time, that have been slowly building that wall. And there's lots of people now that enter the business or the space, or the community, wherever you wanna call it. And there's a huge wall built that you can walk on. A bridge, somebody built this bridge, but it took, you know, 10, 15 years of work to put that up.

GK: Yeah, exactly. Right. And the other observation, which was a moment was, I think during COVID we're, I mean, globally, all kind of stuck in place, in homes and communities started to pop up and people, and it was critical that people chose to do that, is that people started sharing. And I started to see these similar things to what I was doing, but way different. And something that I could be inspired by coming from people in Italy, in Finland, and in the UK.

And all of a sudden, without noticing, a year and a half later, I am connected to and sharing and just chatting to people throughout Europe and various other places that there's a bit of a kinship there that otherwise, you know, again, for me, when you work at different agencies and things, you get a little focused just on what you're doing and who you're doing it with. And now there's such a community out there where there's always something new to learn.

And I think we all learn that a while ago, is continuing to learn, keeps you plugged in, keep you relevant and there's always a new perspective to learn something by, and I could look at some people's work and going, "Wow, that is so much in the way that works for them. I could never do it that way, but I really like how maybe the mechanics of it is something that can apply to my own thing."

And then the great thing is that most of the people that I've been in touch with, they're like, happy, go, "Yeah, I'm glad something clicked for you and go and use it." And now I'm adapting different tools and templates for branding assignments. And now, I mean, I'm sure is some of the work of Dave Gray and Sunni with Gamestorming.

MR: Yeah.

GK: There were times where, and prior to seeing Gamestorming, I just realized I'm just having fun and upfront and drawing these funny little templates and asking people to put post-Its on this cartoon head of an empathy map before I knew what an empathy map was.

MR: Right. Right.

GK: And I realized that's a whole nother layer of this cartoonist turned brand guy that somehow made meetings more enjoyable and clients would be like that, "That wasn't even work. That was fun." And I thought, "Okay, that's I something I'd like to hear."

MR: It's pretty cool.

GK: Yeah. And it was just, again, a adapting some of those muscles that got built up and some of the other muscles that were deliberately built up in terms of advertising and branding. But it's been an interesting journey, and one that it was not prescribed, you know, I backed into a lot of different environments. The new product thing was just really something that through circumstances that ad agency wanted to get into new products. And I wound up being one of the people that wound up working in that part of the agency, and thought that was no dumb luck. That was really a cool break.

MR: Yeah. Well, I think, on the flip side, you prepared yourself by doing all this work as a kid and continuing, of course, you had encouragement like by your teacher in high school, but you were doing it because it made sense to you, and you were putting in the hours doing it in meetings for yourself, then called before the group to do it, and they really gave you feedback.

So all this prep put you in the position. Like, so had you not been doing that and you had the opportunity to be a part of that product group, you probably may not have gotten the job at least not to do that. Or maybe not at all. I don't know, right. Because you had this skill that was unique that you could bring to the table, and obviously it was the people that decided maybe you should be part of that had seen it in practice in the past. So everything's sort of built on top of the next thing.

GK: I think that's true. I was lucky in some of those respects where it was as much of a surprise or an epiphany to the people around me as it was to me. And just in a very, I think basic sense you're adding value that maybe isn't everywhere. I think a lot of the people I've met and yourself included, it's an interesting package of talents, you know? I think it's just not something you see in classified ads.

You become an amalgam of your experience and your talents and it makes you, you. And I think if you could find a group that appreciates that and really feeds it which I had the opportunity to work at a branding agency over a decade where they kept feeding me more opportunity to do that it's about growth. I think I'm happiest when I'm growing.

MR: Yeah. I agree. I think so too. Well, this has been great. It's been really fun to see your progression to where you're at now and how you're using all this—all the things that you've built, they don't go away. They just become useful at different points in the project, right. So, That's pretty cool.

I'm really curious now if we switch over from the work, your background, and how you got here. What are the tools that you like to use? We always do this with every guest. I discover new stuff all the time. And I thought I'd seen everything. So I love this part of it because there's like, "Oh, I'd never heard of that pen, or that notebook or that something.

GK: Yeah. I wish I could bring more discovery to it, but in terms of the transition from analog to digital, I'm a bit of a work in progress. Because I still love—and maybe it has a lot to do with the nature of the work was always show up. And it has changed since COVID where there's mural and it's different. But over those years of development working with markers and paper, I think it was just, you know, I love the feel of a line.

I have a lot of cartoonist friends 'cause I've been doing this cartoon strip for many years now, and I have a lot of cartoon friends, and they're still like, "Man, you still dip a quill pen in ink." And then there's one or two were that I still know that are There's nothing like a feel of that line. But, you know, a lot of the tablets now and the digital tools, so I'm doing my best and I found some coaches to move me there.

But I'm one of those types, particularly with being very mobile and working in a place where it's just coffee shops and other places, I like being able to walk in and buy tools from Rite Aid. Whether it's a nice gel pen or a—I have a friend, Rob Armstrong, who does jumpstart very successful long running strip. He still hand draws all his strips with a Paper M1ate pen.

MR: Really.

GK: Yeah. And some people are like, "That would take forever." I think it's a call you make, but I do love the times I've dabbled and toyed with, you know, iPads and things, but I need to do some work on the digital side. You may have found this too, but there were stores in the past, there was an art store called Pearl on the East Coast, these superstore, you know, where I can get lost.

MR: Lost in there for a day. Right.

GK: I'm buying pens and paper, and there's one in Philadelphia, which I'm not far from, called BLICK.

MR: Yeah, BLICK.

GK: And BLICK is one of the remaining super stores. I like Copic. I'm a fan of that. There's a couple others I think Japanese made that has a really fine brush to it where you can—I love varying lines and creating some depth. But my tools are what they have been for years. I would even turn it around and say, your tools, what do you recommend digitally? I mean, is it Wacom? I mean, where are you at in the whole transition to digital?

MR: Yeah. Well, I would say just understanding that you're someone who's mobile, and I'm a mobile person too. I think the iPad and the pencil is pretty great. The resolution with the pencil and the screen is good. I recommend some kind of a screen cover. I like Paperlike, which has got little patterns that are printed or embedded in the plastic. Not only does it make it matte so it's not shiny, but it also provides a paper-like texture, hence the name.

GK: Yeah. That's really key to know. I'd have to even go back and get that again once this gets out because the times that I have toyed with things, it's a little tricky, it feels like you're, you're drawing on a glass surface. I have other daily strip friends who do comics and go, "I couldn't go back to that because my process is so quick, and now I can knock work out a lot faster." Their production approach is vastly different. Which I can understand where I have some shopping to do and figure out what I'm most comfortable with, but I'm in the middle of it. I have an iPad now that I toy with, but I don't actually do work on yet.

MR: In production. Okay.

GK: Yeah. Latex Syndicate does my coloring and that kind of thing.

MR: Okay. There's a few apps that you might consider. Procreate is popular with lots of people. It's really aimed at art. It's got layering like Photoshop. You can choose different brushes and colors and you can record it and have it animated. There's all kinds of power in there. If you need to edit your lines, if you want vectors like Adobe Illustrator, there's a couple of tools. One is called Concepts who sponsors the podcast.

GK: Yeah. I think I've seen that.

MR: Where you have different brushes and such. But then you can grab the points just like in Illustrator and move things around. You can select whole chunks and change to a different brush and it flips. Adobe Fresco is another tool that does both pixels and vectors in the same application. So that's another one to play with. And that's a variety of other ones.

Some people who are really doing more note-taking than art, lean toward other tools. There's lots of really great note-taking tools, Goodnotes and Noteshelf and even Apple's Notes is pretty decent. It supports the pencil. There are some that are more note-oriented. If you need the organization and the structure of notes and to be able to search and all that, then that might be the better path.

And then there's stuff that fits in between like I use a tool called Paper by WeTransfer. It's super old. It's designed when the iPad first came out. What I like about it is it's very limited. So I can't change the screen size. There's no layers. There's limited tools and the tools set are limited sizes. The colors are adaptable. But I kind of like the constraints.

And what I've found is I've invested so much time using it that if I need to knock out an idea quickly, I just go to that tool 'cause I know it so well. I know where all the parts are. I know what it's gonna achieve. I know how to achieve them. For me, it works really well. But I also use Procreate for illustration work. 'cause It's got benefits of resolution and layers and undo and other features.

So I think you almost need to take a little little tour on each one and see which one fits. And there might be need, I believe, in multiple tools, because some projects require different expectations. So if you need to make something that needs to be zoomed up to a billboard, well, you probably wanna use a Vector tool because procreates gonna pixel out at some point, even if—unless you build the canvas to be big enough, which is one approach. The other approach is to go, you know, resolution-independent with Concepts or Fresco, and then you could scale. So that'd be my list for you.

GK: All good stuff. No, that's a great one. I'm gonna have to pull that off because a near-term goal I set for myself is to really get set and getting that comfort level because a lot of my cartoonist friends use the same type of a setup. And I dabbled with there. So I'm gonna have to you know, step into this century.

MR: I think it's important for you to find what works for you. So even if they use something else, who cares? Like, if it works for you, you know this already.

GK: Yeah. I love the point you made that if you have real stuff to that you're accountable for, you have something that's familiar and reliable and you know what you're getting into, and then create experiment time to try some other things. But that would be my ideal setup is to have my go-to.

MR: Yeah. I think the other thing that works for me, and this isn't true for everybody, but it might, is I need a real project to work on. When I wanted to use Procreate, I had a big illustration project and I said, "All right, I gotta use this. I gotta figure it out." I forced myself to sit down and build the templates and choose the different inks and sizes, and I set it all up, and then I forced myself to do a project with it. And that was a good solution. For me, I learn 'em as much as I can, and then there's a point which I have to flip over and use it, and then they start to make sense together, so.

GK: Yeah. No, that's, that's good advice.

MR: Yeah. Going back to your analog tools, I'm kind of curious if you have any specific ones that if you go to the Rite Aid, are there certain pens or notebooks or anything that you tend to work with? Do you have any notebooks that you like? Is there a certain gel pen brand that you prefer if you can get it?

GK: I think in terms of paper it, as long as I can remember, it's always been the—oh man, what's the—it escapes me at the moment. I don't wanna say Valore, but, so that's not—

MR: Like Parchment paper, something like that?

GK: No, it's, it's a little heavier weight paper, but it's in Michael's is another place that I go. it's just—vellum. Thank you.

MR: Vellum. Yeah.

GK: Whatever part of my brain say Valore. It's not Valore, it's Vellum, but it's Bristol Vellum. The Vellum has that nice tooth to the line. And I still love to see the interplay between a line and a piece of paper and scan it. Whenever I see my strips, the weekly strip I look at, and it's just like, I remember that line. It's a little obsessive. But I do the Copic pens of a lot of variety, but it's a good firm. Its tip doesn't mash.

MR: Lays on top of that Bristol Vellum as well.

GK: Yeah. And you could lean in and that's good. And then there's—is it Tubo? I forget. It's a Japanese pen. They sell 'em in too, and then I go through them like whenever I see them, I buy 'em. But they're mostly one's a firm paint or a brush tip. The other one's a little more of a traditional paint or a brush I should say. But that's usually in the Michaels or the BLICK. This is from Rob, you know, he does a lot of his lettering with a Paper Mate pen.

MR: Paper Mate Flair.

GK: Yeah. The Flair, it's like the Chuck Tailors of sneakers of mark making. I mean, it's just like tie up the Chucks and put 'em on, you know, and whenever I'm in Rite Aid or CVS, it's just like, "Okay, buy a couple things. We need, you know, milk, bread, Paper Mates."

MR: Paper Mates.

GK: And I always have those. I'm thankful that they don't discontinue that. I have huge, you know, just boxes of pens and I'm not loyal to, you know, other than what the ones that I've mentioned, because they've served me well. I do need to experiment and push out. But those are the Copic and the Paper Mate.

MR: Simple tool set. Yeah.

GK: Yeah. That's what I use for the strip. And my strip, I do on the vellum. I just scan them, clean them up, and send it to the syndicate. I work with King Features, and King Features does all the colorizing, and they distribute it to the papers and they send me the finish and it's always like Christmas. I send them these little black and white comics, and then they send me the archives of all the colorized.

The strip I do a strip called Out On The Limb, and it's been like 30 years with King. And it's always that same relationship as I send them the finished black and white, and they colorize it. All my other friends are like, I still use my digital 'cause I wanna color it the way I want to. I should get used to that, but I love that King does that for me, and it's a nice joint relationship for many years now.

MR: Yeah. It's worked for a long time. Maybe it doesn't need to be changed at all.

GK: Yeah. It will eventually. At least being able to control that and send. I'm sure they wouldn't be mad if their production team in Orlando goes, "Oh, he's gonna do color. We don't have to do that anymore."

MR: Yeah. Thankfully.

GK: "It took forever." So, we'll see.

MR: Interesting. So that makes me curious, since you're a cartoonist and you continue to be for a long period of time, what I think could be interesting to answer would be how do you deal with, every week you've gotta come up with an idea. Where do you get your ideas from? How do you cook up those? Are they just stuff that you encounter and you put 'em away somewhere? Do you have a tool or a notebook where you write things down? Like how do you manage that stuff?

GK: It's really interesting, A lot of the same muscles. It's like listening and observing. Somewhere, somebody said this and it always stuck, which is, "You gotta do A, B, C. Always be capturing." So wherever I am, and now with iPhones, if I see an absurd notion in the world, I put it in the phone. And then I have a bit of a writing routine where Sunday nights I often go, "Okay, let me see this culmination of photos and post-its and backs of envelopes."

The world is great stimulus for ideas. And sometimes I'll just stockpile them and then sit down and process it. And there was an incident where, I'm sure you've noticed is that I was walking through Barnes and Noble and went through like the top 10 books, often business books. So the top 10 business books, six out of the 10 business books had the F-bomb in it.

Suddenly, major business books all have you know, F-words, we'll keep it at that. And I just thought, "What is that?" And then my mind started to play with that whole reality. And a cartoon happened where there was a woman—I took it out of the bookstore and put it into the standard library and saw a little librarian with a bit of a potty mouth talking to somebody who was directing them to the business book of the section, which is essentially, the cartoon was like, "Hey, it's okay. Let's everyone—just F-away, man. It's accepted."

Because I just thought, wow, when did this this—people are now writing books to see if they could top someone else. So that was just an example of ideas happen because I just always keep one hand free. And I heard recently, there's a great quote by Neil Simon, and he said, he said it for comedy writers, but I think it's true of cartoonists, but also anyone who's creative.

And Neil Simon said, "Comedy writers are two-headed monsters. One head is like everybody else. They go to the DMV, they go to Rite Aid, they put gas in the car. That's the one head. The other head is the one that kind of rises up and looks around and notices all the things around that other head and the rest of the body." And that's why that one really spoke to me because my wife will be one saying, you know, we're at this parent-teacher night, and my mind is like, wow. And she's like, "Earth to Gary, can you kind of dial back in here into this parent-teacher night?"

So part of that is I do have that second head kind of out there looking for odd connections to make. And, you know, I'm hoping it never stops, but I'm always looking and always capturing stuff I can maybe use later. And many times it's writing it down in a small notebook and other times with the laptop. And now with the phone, that's the one piece of digital that I've become really relying on is photos and notes to myself, because it is true, you forget those epiphanies, you know?

And there are times where I'll read a note, much like an old "Seinfeld" episode with a note he put on his next to his bed, where he couldn't decipher what it was he wrote at 2:00 in the morning. There are times where I can't make sense out of a note, but I still feel good having taken the note. Because there are times that some of the best ideas come from other people and just being in the right place. And that's why many of my coworkers coming out of those meetings that I described earlier, once they see me write something, they're like, "You didn't write that." When I said, "Right. I'm not gonna be an inspiration for a cartoon."

And many times, they had, and I share it with them, but there'd be just brilliance that are far beyond what I'm thinking at that time. And I would just write something down and later the sweetest little gag and I'd often share it with them. And going back to my science teacher, they're happy to get it. And every single day, and particularly the world we live in now, there's just so much, to your point, you know constantly making new connections. And that's why I think, you know, there's always stuff to have fun with and build ideas around. So it's paying attention.

MR: Well, let's shift into tips. I always frame it that someone's listening their individual thinking, but they feel a little bit like they're in a rut or hit a plateau. They just need some inspiration. What would be three things that you would tell them practical or, you know, mental suggestions to help them break out of that rut or just move forward?

GK: This isn't too long ago myself, where I start to feel like it's a bit of a rut and also a rut, but also sometimes when you transition because I moved from agency life into now my own consultancy, which it's a different world and it's a different metabolism almost. I mean, it's just different. And I think that led me to this idea of the tip is sometimes just continue to—I'll use my case of, of writing and drawing and things, is to create and share.

I mean, there are so many people that—I'm sure yourself and I know people like Austin Cleon has a book or two out there. It's just like, just put it out and let that be a source of conversation. And during that time when I started to expand some of the community with sketchnoters, I would just do things, you know, whether it was listening to a particular podcast, and I just would draw it and say, here's something I did. And it turned out to be something on LinkedIn where I started to share more, and I heard back more, and I got feedback.

So whenever you're stuck put something out. And that's the beauty right now of even LinkedIn. If there are people that you admire or people that whose opinion, you'd appreciate, you know, share something and say, "There's something I'm working, I'd love to get your thoughts." And, you know, no harm could come from doing, creating something and putting it out, and sharing it. I mean, you might get, you know, feedback that people sometimes aren't always kind.

But I think by and large the tip would be to just, you know, create every day and put it out there and start conversations with it. And there were times where I do, and I call it the Kopious notes now 'cause my name is Kopervas. So I will listen to a podcast or something of—an example of if I was stuck again, I'm not generating anything anymore, I will listen to a podcast or something.

A friend of mine who wrote for Forbes interviewed Brian Grazer. And it had to do with this, he was launching a book called "The Curious Mind." And my friend Steve said, here, could you just listen to this interview that I recorded and can you give me some your takeaway on it? I listened to it and sketchnoted the whole thing, and sent it to him. And he sent it to Brian Grazer, who is in the process of a couple other things with this writer friend of mine.

But in doing that sketchnoting, I learned a ton about this idea of I'll cut to the chase on that one is that Brian Grazer has curious conversations from his book. Every two weeks he talks to someone who has nothing to do with Hollywood or directing or producing to learn something. Maybe a long way around to the other idea of do things and share is if there's something you wanna learn, draw it.

Because there's that eye-hand thing is that your mind learns when you, you draw it. And it turns out that many of that type of thing, I sent work to authors or even podcasts that guests and they loved it. And we had relationship of, whether it's LinkedIn or whatever of "send me more."

I think if I'm stuck, I try to engage new people with work I've done and see where it goes. 'Cause In some cases it's led to consulting gigs. There was two authors that wrote a book, and I was taken by it and I did a quick sketchnote for each of the chapters—or actually for just one of the chapters. And they hired me to do that for all of their chapters.

MR: Wow. That's cool. Yeah.

GK: Ruts are just kind of like a pause and it's like, "Okay, now what?" When I get to that point when I'm stuck, it usually means I'm at a pause of some sort so I need an interaction with somebody.

MR: You need a reason to move forward, I guess. Right.

GK: And someone will inspire it or someone will validate something I've been thinking about. And I think I've learned to rely on others to get me through these little pauses and ruts.

MR: If I were to re restate those, I guess the first one I heard was if you're in a rut, do something and share it.

GK: Yes.

MR: The second is, if you wanna learn something, draw it because you have to process the information to understand it. And then the third would be share your work with the people who inspired you. So like a podcast guest, an author, and you never know where that interaction might lead. If anything, you'll just have their appreciation. And all those three things in a row is you've done something to move forward, you've learned something new and you've made an interaction. That's a really great combination of things.

GK: And I love the distillation on that, Mike. Thank you. And I think the other, I don't know, maybe it's a wrapping for all of it that I have found whenever I get stuck in a crossroads, whatever, how you wanna describe it, to do some of those things, but it really helps to just get on someone else's radar. And I found whether it was from other brand consultants or those sketchnoters in other parts of the world, get on other people's radar, they get on your radar, and all of a sudden, I find myself not stuck as much because because of that happening to me.

So I think there's something about that. And I think we live in a time now where it's much easier to get on other people's radars because we have such access now, whether it's Instagram or LinkedIn is very big from a business standpoint. So use it.

MR: Yeah. Those are great tips. Thanks. So to wrap the show up, I just ask where people can find you and your work so they can connect with you, so they can see what you do, they can check out your comic strip, see your work that you do.

GK: Yeah, no, that's great. I think I'm most active on LinkedIn. That's where I do a lot of posting and it does have a bit of a business centered approach to it. But I put a lot of things there 'cause So many of my things tie to business. So LinkedIn is one. Facebook is a little more some fun stuff there as well. And at Kopious Notes on Instagram. I've been not pushing that as much. And maybe when this does get out and is live, I will have gotten back on that. But Kopious Notes is where I'm at in Instagram.

And same idea is work in progress on garykopervas.com is a site that I've neglected, but there's a lot of my early cartoons there. And that's a either last quarter or first quarter of this year where that's gonna get reinvigorated perhaps.

MR: Revamped.

GK: Yeah.

MR: Nice. Well, that's great. We'll either find those links and put 'em in the show notes, or as we follow up after this interview, maybe you can send me things you wanna make sure we include. So for those that are listening, check out the show notes. We try to make our show notes pretty extensive, and we include transcription of the discussion so if you're a reader, you can read while you listen. So we've got lots of options for you. And we're really happy to have you on, Gary. This has been a long time coming and I'm so glad that you came on the show and you just fit right into our community, just so well.

GK: Yeah. Thanks so much. It was a real pleasure. And as you say, I was really waiting for this for some time, and it was awesome. So thanks for having me and have a great weekend.

MR: Yeah. Well, thanks for all that you do, and for anybody listening or watching, it's another episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast. Until next time, talk to you soon.

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תוכן מסופק על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde. כל תוכן הפודקאסטים כולל פרקים, גרפיקה ותיאורי פודקאסטים מועלים ומסופקים ישירות על ידי Sketchnote Army Podcast and Mike Rohde או שותף פלטפורמת הפודקאסט שלו. אם אתה מאמין שמישהו משתמש ביצירה שלך המוגנת בזכויות יוצרים ללא רשותך, אתה יכול לעקוב אחר התהליך המתואר כאן https://he.player.fm/legal.

In this episode, Gary Kopervas shares how drawing and writing freed his imagination and got reactions from others. He’s built on his early skills to become a cartoonist, copywriter, creative director, and brand consultant.

Sponsored by Concepts

This episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast is brought to you by Concepts, a perfect tool for sketchnoting, available on iOS, Windows, and Android.

Concepts' vector-based drawing feature gives you the power to adjust your drawings saving hours and hours of rework.

Vectors provide clean, crisp, high-resolution output for your sketchnotes at any size you need s ideal for sketchnoting.

SEARCH in your favorite app store to give it a try.

Running Order

  • Intro
  • Welcome
  • Who is Gary Kopervas
  • Origin Story
  • Gary Kopervas's current work
  • Sponsor: Concepts
  • Tips
  • Tools
  • Where to find Gary
  • Outro

Links

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tools

Amazon affiliate links support the Sketchnote Army Podcast.

Tips

  1. Do something and share it.
  2. If you want to learn something, draw it because you have to process the information to understand it.
  3. Share your work with people who inspire you, you never know where all that interaction might lead.
  4. Get on someone else's radar.

Credits

  • Producer: Alec Pulianas
  • Shownotes and transcripts: Esther Odoro
  • Theme music: Jon Schiedermayer

Subscribe to the Sketchnote Army Podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube or your favorite podcast listening source.

Support the Podcast

To support the creation, production and hosting of the Sketchnote Army Podcast, buy one of Mike Rohde’s bestselling books. Use code ROHDE40 at Peachpit.com for 40% off!

Episode Transcript

Mike Rohde: Hey everyone, it's Mike, and I'm here with Gary Kopervas. Gary, how are you doing?

Gary Kopervas: I'm doing really well. Mike, thanks for having me. Really excited to be here.

MR: Yeah. Did I say your name right, Kopervas? Is that the right way to say that?

GK: That is spot on.

MR: Really.

GK: And that doesn't always happen, so I appreciate that.

MR: Yeah. Well, I just came back from Holland, so I've been aware of very unusual names, and trying to pronounce them, that was about a month ago, end of August, early September.

GK: I think everyone who's been mispronouncing my name, I should ask them to make a visit and bone up on the pronunciation because I often get the "coppervas" as in the metal or the copper. So, appreciate that.

MR: Yeah, not a problem. I always try to make sure I say the name right at least. At least that's the one kind thing I could do for somebody. But let's get into a little bit about you. We've crossed paths because I think we ran across each other on LinkedIn and I really liked your stuff, I think you liked my stuff, we got chatting and I said, you know, "You'd be a really good candidate for the podcast 'cause of the work you're doing." And I'm always trying to push the boundaries of who I talk with to go more toward the edges, so.

GK: And I think we have some people in common who introduced—you know, I was aware of your work prior to that, but some people have talked about the podcast and I think we have them in common. So that helped facilitate today. So I'm grateful for that too.

MR: Yeah. Now that I think back, there was someone who recommended you, I'm trying to remember who it was that recommended you, but I'd have to.

GK: Martha.

MR: Martha, yes, of course. Yeah. So, once I saw your work, then that totally made sense. So, I'm glad. Thank you, Martha, if you're listening.

GK: Yeah, and I think she will. So she'll be happy for that.

MR: She's a pretty dedicated listener. I do know that.

GK: Yes.

MR: Well, why don't we get right into it? Why don't you tell us a little bit of who you are and what you do, and then jump right into your origin story? How did you end up here? You can go back all the way to when you were a little kid if you want to. I just love the origin story 'cause it tells me so much about the person and what motivates them.

GK: Yeah, that's very true. As far as today, I guess I would describe myself as really a cartoonist turned, copywriter, turned creative director, turned brand consultant. It has been an evolution and not really stopping something and starting to do something else, it was always continuing to do what I did in the early days which we can talk about.

But it started to evolve it to to the career that I was in. And I went from college to advertising agencies. I live in New Jersey and started in New York. And just to answer your question of who I am Gary Kopervas, and then I'm all those things that I just mentioned. I grew up in East Coast, so advertising was always something that I wanted to do. Growing up, there was this great television show called "Bewitched."

MR: Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. I watched "Bewitched" all the time.

GK: She was a genie out of a bottle, you know, I think it was a documentary, I'm not sure, but she was a genie—oh, no, a witch. Sorry about that, that's actually not a genie.

MR: Bewitched, yeah.

GK: Bewitched. She was a witch, Elizabeth Montgomery, a cute witch and married to an advertising executive. So it was always like, man, I have to look into this advertising thing because it was always creative and it was always, you know, Darren creating these cool campaigns. And then his wife, the witch, would always splash it up with something really cool and amazing and Darren would get all the credit, you know, for being so creative.

So, you know, it was a sitcom when you're a little kid, but I just thought this advertising seems like it might be a good thing which did dovetail into I guess an origin story, is that I was a quiet kid. I just didn't talk a whole lot. But I found at some point writing and drawing and playing the guitar became really great forms of self-expression for me. So I started to just you know, write stories and comics. I grew up around, "Mad Magazine" and "Marvel Comics."

I had a mom, like many moms who saved a lot of things, and I would see there's elaborate stories of things that I had written and illustrated. So the cartooning thing was really a great thing for me because it just allowed me to, at some level, make sense of the world around me. I didn't write journals per se, but I kept pretty good—maybe unconsciously at that age, but I would always draw what I was into and draw what I was interested in. And to look at it years, years later, it was always amazing.

One of the examples, and I still laugh about that was parent-teacher night. The teacher said to my mom, is like, "Oh, we asked the kids to draw something that they like, you know, a house, maybe a Turkey made out of their hands, some cotton and clouds." And I brought into class the illustrated, as best I can, the parody of The Godfather from "Mad Magazine" by Mort Drucker. You know, just painstakingly drawing Sonny Corleone, and my mother was like, "Wow, all the other kids had, like, you know, houses and trees and yellow suns, and you came in with the Godfather parody."

And they kept an eye on me for a little while, but it was just an example of us fascinated by getting lost into writing words and drawing pictures. But the true origin story goes back maybe a little bit further, but like most, and looking at your wall, it's fun to see and reminds me of superheroes and Marvel. And like most kids that are, you know, six, seven years old Superman and Batman, maybe Captain America or Thor. And I would draw them which was really great for things like anatomy and drawing just what human beings look like. And that was fun.

But in drawing that, I like many kids wanted to be Batman. Batman was really a fun thing, and I would have stuff on walls, but there was a period of about a year or two when I can't explain it, but that's how the culture works, is I really got excited about Zorro. Do you remember Zorro?

MR: Yeah.

GK: Zorro was the swashbuckling—

MR: He left a Z, and when he would fight crime or whatever, right?

GK: And I thought that was a cool thing. So me being a quiet guy and using drawing and writing to express myself when I was around that same age, six or seven, I thought it would be like a really cool idea that on one rainy day, I did have a Sharpie, maybe it was my first experience with Sharpies, where I put Little Z's under the furniture in my family's living room furniture.

So I thought it was cool, I had Z's all underneath, you know, put under various pieces of furniture until my mother did see that and said, "Come here a minute. What gives on all this furniture, there's little Zs under our living room chairs. What's with the Zs? Did you draw the Zs? "

And I want to remember it this way, I'm not sure if it actually happened, but it was like, "Mama, I really didn't draw those Z's. Zorro did. I had nothing to do with it." After talking to and probably a grounding, I realized, "Do not deface furniture with Z's." But at a very young age, I found there was something really interesting about drawing and writing and letting your imagination run, and to get a reaction from people.

What I think it did, is it allowed me to build confidence, you know? 'Cause I was quiet and played sports and did things like, you know, hung out with friends in the neighborhood. But I think I started to find, "Hey, I'm actually okay at this. I can write and I can draw, and I usually get reactions outta people. Not always favorable, you know, with the whole Zorro thing. But it was an opportunity to express.

And I followed that into jobs and started to shape this idea that I was very visual, but also wrote, so sort of a left hand, right hand. Then what sealed it for me was, to follow this little arc of an origin, I was in high school like many, and in a chemistry lab in high school, maybe 10th-grade 11th-grade. Maybe it was a bio lab. And it was a three-hour lab, and the teacher was, I still remember him, he was a really serious guy.

And I remember wearing earth shoes, and he wore his pants really high, and he had a beard with no mustache. So I couldn't help but say, man, he sees really sort of a comic character. So it was an afternoon of learning about the Doppler effect, about the little dropping of balls into the water and the rings of things, which is, you know, pretty important at the time.

And it was long though, for me. My mind started to just wander in my hand and my imagination. So I started to, in my notebook draw a picture of this teacher talking about the Doppler effect. And it was a bit of a caricature, but it was taking something he said about the Doppler and, and drawing it.

And a neighbor nearby said, "Lemme see that. That's funny. That's really funny." So I started this, a Doppler effect of distraction in this classroom where people grab the notebook and passed it. All of a sudden I realized it was getting away from me. And people laughed and they're like, "Oh, man, this is—" And as teachers often do, they pick up on that right away. And he saw about three rows away from me, saw disruption.

So he walked over and he looked at, "Hold on one second. May I see this?" And he saw the picture that I had drawn, and with this little scenario, and in a poker face, didn't say much, and he said, "Oh, who did this?" And I was like, "Uh-oh this is gonna top my Zorro experience. This is like, serious now." So he came over and I heard this little earth shoe squeaking, you know, as he made his way through the rows. 'Cause people were like, "Who drew this?" And people gave me—

MR: They kept pointing backwards. Yeah.

GK: — people gave me up. I still remember, walked up to the side of me, you know, and I was just playing it cool. And he looked down and he said, "Did you draw this?" And he put the notebook in front of me. And I was like, "What am I gonna say?" I was like, "Yeah, I did do that." And I was expecting, oh no, I'm outta here. I'm gonna probably go somewhere, someone's office. And he looked at it and he goes, "So you did this?" I said, "Yeah, I did this." And he goes silence. It was like two seconds. And I thought, "Oh, it's just boiling up. This is not gonna go well."

MR: It's getting worse, yeah.

GK: He goes, "Could you add color to this? And I wanna put it in the frame and give it to my wife." And I just thought, "That did not go the way I thought it would go."

MR: No.

GK: He said, "This is so funny. I would love if you can just maybe pull it out and clean it up and put some color in it. And I like to give it to her for fun in a frame." And I realized at that point, the reactions that you can have, even in the most, you know, unexpected places of just an idea and a visual be it comic or just a diagram or what have you, that just captures people. And I just thought, "This is starting to get interesting."

And then from there, I went into to college and studied business thinking, advertising, and then got into creative departments. And then it's been that trajectory ever since. So it's funny though, those early stories, the early days led up to what had been, you know, a pretty, pretty long career now.

MR: Wow. Yeah. It prepared you in some ways to be ready. I love that you're channeling the spirit of Zorro to your mom, right?

GK: Oh.

MR: I guess she probably was thinking like, "Well, at least he drew it on the bottom of the furniture," right?

GK: He said, "Maybe he was thinking a little bit." But it was on the bottom. I don't know the mental process then, but it was so important that I did not do the top. And I think it was that you know, Zorro had that little mask, and he was sort of mysterious, so he didn't wanna go over the top. That was one of my early memories of that whole creativity.

MR: Wow. One of the first taggers, I guess Zorro. I never thought of it that way.

GK: Yeah. At least Sharpies could rub out and wash out if you wanted it to, but Zorro went right into the wood.

MR: He would cut into there. Yeah.

GK: He would cut into the wood. So I wasn't completely Zorro, so, but they were forgiving, thankfully.

MR: Yeah. And as they were on the bottom. Yeah. That's really cool. I love the story about the teacher as well, you know, because we have had a fair amount of teachers on this show, and they really embrace visualization. It seemed like this teacher was open enough to do the same and see the value. Like, wow, he really was. I would think any teacher that walked up and saw that, leave aside the humorous drawing of him, which he enjoyed, right? It worked out that he enjoyed it.

GK: Yeah.

MR: You were paying attention, right? You were capturing information and the stuff he was telling you, you were receiving it, right? That's a reflection of what you received, so.

GK: And that's a really good point. And I hadn't thought about it before, you know, trying to pull out what maybe would become mechanics of some sort that I would do later. But I was listening to Doppler and I had him in some context that said, "Oh, I heard you, but I'm just gonna interpret it."

And I think that's what, whether it's either sketchnoting or even workshops that I often do is I'm hearing what comes out or comes from and then quickly interpreting it and putting it into somewhat of a visual context, as, you know. And just isn't solely reporting what you hear. It's not like it's a court stenographer or something. It's interpreted and enhanced so it's more memorable and sometimes even more entertaining, you know?

MR: Right. And you're often connecting—I find myself connecting dots, like it may be unsaid, but there's a connection between these things that as I look at it, these have impact on each other, or one doesn't exist without the other. And you can visually connect those things, which could be pretty interesting. Maybe you did that as well in the work you did. I think the other thing too, as an a scientist, right? So he was a scientist.

GK: Yes.

MR: His whole job is observation. You have to be a good observer of what happens and then document it. You did all those things. You were observing him. You're almost, as though he were a monkey in a zoo or something, and you're observing like all the details.

GK: Yeah, that's true.

MR: And then, you're capturing what he was saying, and on top of it, and putting it in context. I'm curious, did you ever hear back from him, what his wife thought of your drawing? Did you get feedback on that frame drawing?

GK: I did. And it was a hallway because I remember it was, and I still had another year. I think it was like a junior year, I was still there around for a year. But he was a tough teacher grade-wise, but he did have a bit of a sense of humor. And it was almost like Catskills kind of humor where, you know, I think I hit a nerve, and he might've been like, "I don't see that here often." So it was a bit of a surprise.

And I think probably the following year, my senior year, and oftentimes if I remember correctly, a lot of teachers would hang out in the hall or near their classroom and welcome. I remember walking down the hall towards him and we made eye contact, and he was just like—

MR: I remember you.

GK: He did a little bit of the De Niro from his movie, "You, you, just wanna tell you, I gave it to my wife around Valentine's Day or whatever it was." And he goes, "She loved it. Now, she'll never let me forget about how high I wear my pants." So he even had a bit of self-effacing humor and order to just want me to just tighten it up so he can give it to his wife.

And I think we had in a way a bit of a connection there where he was grateful, but still maintaining his teacher status. But we had a moment in the hallway the following year where I walked away feeling pretty good. Oh, I kind of probably forgot about it, but it made me feel good. Other kids in my class, yet again, kind of quiet guy. And I find there's a little bit of a relationship of sometimes the quiet guys, the instigator.

As they say, "You gotta watch the quiet guy, you don't know what he's up to. " And it was a moment where people remembered that and said, you know, that it was fun and they remembered it years after. It's like, "Hey, how about that lab class, you remember that?" "Yeah, that was funny."

MR: Gary, the mastermind.

GK: Yeah.

MR: Talking about all that, so obviously you went to school and you ended up in, you talked about cartoonist copywriter, creative director, and now brand consultant. I'd be interested to hear the—it sounds like you didn't really stop doing the one thing. You just layered things on top, right? So you built all those things into the way you operate. Tell us how those things layer and what does that look like now that you're a brand consultant? How do those different parts come into what you do?

GK: And that's a great question. And it was a little bit of that. I'd started out as a junior writer at different agencies. One was in New York, and then I wound up going out to the Midwest. And so you're just doing what you're told and, you know, you're writing for whatever clients you were working on. I found myself—and this was years before even knowing what sketchnoting was, or people actually did it.

I was in many meetings, lots of meetings, and some boring meetings. And there were times when we didn't all work on our laptops, which was a little bit like, "Geez, I don't know why I wish I knew at that point." We all wrote in notebooks and things, so, we would often sit in, you know, circles or semi-circles and just notes and say, "Hey, let's take a break and we'll come back in 10 minutes."

And oftentimes, people would go by and in matter of casually walking by and look at my notebook, and it was just organized differently. Everyone else had the same notes taken the same way they took it back in high school and in their biology classes, just that everyone's notes looked identical. But in that 90-minute meeting, they would look at mine and go, "What kind of going on here? What is this? What are doing? You should be paying attention. Your notebooks should all look like everyone else is." It just didn't process that way.

My mind would work, as I often described it, in sound bites and snapshots. As the information came out an image would pop into my mind, and all of a sudden I would just doodle, a lot of doodling. I would doodle an image and then write what I heard around it. And they were just little episodic sketches during a 90-minute meeting. And people will be like, "How do you do that? How can I do that? Because I wanna take a guess and say, I'm gonna remember yours a little bit more."

So it's that idea again, of verbal visual working together. And I got somewhat known for amongst clients and creatives of that odd note-taking style. And then, and then the progression said, "Hey, we have a large meeting where we're gonna do a whiteboard, or we're gonna just put your paper up on the wall, could you just track notes and can you stand up and do that?" And I was like, "I think I could do that. I mean, I haven't, but I'll put my notebook aside and grab a couple of these markers, and sure let's do it.

And I started to do that in a larger scale at meetings, and I noticed people would take their phones out later on, people actually took photos with their phones. Took their phones out, took pictures of it. And I was like, "Wow, why are you doing that?" He said, "I don't wanna forget it. I don't wanna forget what we just did. And plus, I wanna share with my team."

So I was finding those moments where be it a high school moment where it connects and someone engages with it, years later engaged with it when they saw it on a conference room table or in a room. So it just continued to progress. And people kept waving me on, just do it over here and do it over there.

MR: Kind of encouragement.

GK: And then there was a moment where it went from, you know, doodling and sketching for my parents, you know, to some positive and negative effects. And then doing it in high school and having a moment with some teachers where it's just like, "That was a reinforcement." And then being in the working environment and ad agencies and with companies, them calling it out is kind of different and helping me to remember the material. And I thought that's really kind of cool.

And then there was a moment in the working world where I worked for maybe 10 years or 12 or more in new product development. As a group that I was one of the four charter members of a company in Cincinnati that started to do new products. So we would go into rooms and work with teams and research and sales and various others and start to build concepts for either beverages or foods or with hotel chains on how to build these new service programs.

But it was basically going from nothing to prototypes and just loosely done sketches. And that was really a great call of a decade of that kind of work where you're working in the intangibles and being able to sketch quickly. And, you know, that was always a great expression that someone shared with me is that a doodle is really the first prototype for anything. And that really lived in the new product era.

Another moment where I thought, okay, it's on now, it's kind of interesting, is I was doing an innovation session in Chicago for an education company that in essence trained accountants to become CPAs. So it was training-based and education-based. So a friend was running the program and said, "Hey, can you come out and join us for a couple of days and help facilitate and work their group for new ideas and new approaches, strategic planning kind of thing." And I said, "Sure, I'll do that."

I showed up on a Friday—or no, I left on Friday. So I showed up on a Wednesday the night before, and we often grab a bite to eat and talk about, okay, what's the next two days gonna be about? I really hadn't known much about it. And she was always, "Ah, just go with it. You're pretty good on the fly. It's the usual thing except for an education brand." It's like, okay.

But meeting with her and the rest of the team, somewhere between me leaving and showing up in Chicago, somebody had said. You know, I spoke to the client and they're really excited to do this, but someone sent me something in a PDF and it's called some kind of sketching."

And we were all like, "Well, what do you mean exactly? You know what you mean prototype, just like writing sketchbooks and sharing it?" She said, "No in front of the room to hear the ideas and then to live sketch them in the room and move on to the next." It was a strange request because somebody said, "Hey, any of you guys do that?"

MR: Here you are. "I can do that."

GK: "Anybody with any experience?" And it was a very good friend of mine said, "I didn't even see this coming so don't feel obligated, but do you wanna try?" I said, "Well, I haven't done it in this capacity. And it was always fairly loose and spontaneous, but now this is part of an expectation of a two-day conference."

MR: Right. It's different.

GK: So, I remember asking, "What is the client's expectation?" So they said, "I'll send you PDFs of what it is. "And it was largely what you would imagine it would be, you know? A lot of just loose sketches and a lot of mind mapping. It was more energetic and more, excuse me, visually interesting mind maps than just circles and hubs and spokes kind of thing. So at that point, it's like, "What do I have to lose? Yeah, okay. I'll do it." So they went out and got foam core or other types of materials, and handed me the markers. And I showed up in the morning going, "This is either gonna go pretty good or okay, or—"

MR: I'm never gonna do this again.

GK: "— I'm never gonna do this again." It might've been when you really started to make this more mainstream and make people aware of its sketchnoting, all of a sudden people are like, "Hey, I saw this thing, can we do that?" And it was a moment in time where probably a lot of what you were doing and some of your, you know, colleagues, someone on this client team said, "I'd like to incorporate this into our session." And now, it was maybe one of the more lucky instances that I could imagine because it went really well.

It's just while I was doing it, you have that out-of-body where you look down and go, "Man, this is like so much energy. Look at these people. There's laughter." And I found that that point, the style started to emerge a little bit, which was, it had a lot of that cartoonist in it. Some of my objects, and some of my people looked a little Don Martin-like from "Mad Magazine," and people were like, "Oh, that's funny." But there were many drawings over the course of two days that might've been 8 or 10, which was kind of fast stuff. And I realized, man, I'm kind of gassed at drawing, you know?

But I went home and they did ask to ask me to do some buttoned-up, cleaned-up versions. And I still have that set of 10 or 12 that were fun to do, live in the room. And it really helped the team look at all the ideas and go, "I see all the components and you really characterized it, get rid of this one, we'll keep that one.

And my friend who organized the session said they, they loved it And it was, you know, better than they thought. And it was a lot of people who had their hand in it. But me playing this little—it was like an improv, I played in bands in high school where you'd show up with your guitar with a bunch of strangers. And they're like, "Hey—"

MR: Ladies and gentlemen.

GK: "—you don't walk this way by Aerosmith." And it's like, enough, and boom, you're off, you go. So it was sort of a, a jam session using sketchnoting and it was one of those moments where I thought, "Okay, I got a new arrow in the quiver, and it's a pretty sharp one and a pretty cool one at a time when there was growing need for it.

So the agencies that I worked with, they had also had like, "Hey, we got this, you know, different way of doing things." So I started to do every meeting like kickoffs and immersions and presentations, and even strategy meetings where I became a little bit of the clunky monkey with the symbols where I would come out and they're like, "Do that thing. "

And then years went by and I realized this is an extension of all the things I did early on, and now a market had been created for it. Again, I'll take this opportunity to thank you for a lot of what you put out that did a lot of the heavy lifting.

MR: Oh, thanks. Well, I think there were a lot of other people doing it too. And graphic recording, which is more of that large scale, in the front of the room stuff, existed since the '70s with David Sibbet, some others.

GK: The Grove.

MR: The Grove. Yeah. And some others MG Taylor, I think Matt, and Gail Taylor were doing it. They were also part of that early way before.

GK: Yeah.

MR: You know, in my experience, I didn't know that graphic recording was a thing. I stumbled into and invented the name sketchnoting and practiced it just 'cause it made sense to me. I didn't know if anybody else could apply it. It was just totally me making sense out of note-taking because it wasn't working. And then come to find out, hey, all the concepts that seemed really logical to me is the same stuff that these people standing in front of rooms getting paid to do the work are doing.

And so, then I got involved with many of the people in that community. So now I'm connected to that community. So there's been a lot of people, I think, over time, that have been slowly building that wall. And there's lots of people now that enter the business or the space, or the community, wherever you wanna call it. And there's a huge wall built that you can walk on. A bridge, somebody built this bridge, but it took, you know, 10, 15 years of work to put that up.

GK: Yeah, exactly. Right. And the other observation, which was a moment was, I think during COVID we're, I mean, globally, all kind of stuck in place, in homes and communities started to pop up and people, and it was critical that people chose to do that, is that people started sharing. And I started to see these similar things to what I was doing, but way different. And something that I could be inspired by coming from people in Italy, in Finland, and in the UK.

And all of a sudden, without noticing, a year and a half later, I am connected to and sharing and just chatting to people throughout Europe and various other places that there's a bit of a kinship there that otherwise, you know, again, for me, when you work at different agencies and things, you get a little focused just on what you're doing and who you're doing it with. And now there's such a community out there where there's always something new to learn.

And I think we all learn that a while ago, is continuing to learn, keeps you plugged in, keep you relevant and there's always a new perspective to learn something by, and I could look at some people's work and going, "Wow, that is so much in the way that works for them. I could never do it that way, but I really like how maybe the mechanics of it is something that can apply to my own thing."

And then the great thing is that most of the people that I've been in touch with, they're like, happy, go, "Yeah, I'm glad something clicked for you and go and use it." And now I'm adapting different tools and templates for branding assignments. And now, I mean, I'm sure is some of the work of Dave Gray and Sunni with Gamestorming.

MR: Yeah.

GK: There were times where, and prior to seeing Gamestorming, I just realized I'm just having fun and upfront and drawing these funny little templates and asking people to put post-Its on this cartoon head of an empathy map before I knew what an empathy map was.

MR: Right. Right.

GK: And I realized that's a whole nother layer of this cartoonist turned brand guy that somehow made meetings more enjoyable and clients would be like that, "That wasn't even work. That was fun." And I thought, "Okay, that's I something I'd like to hear."

MR: It's pretty cool.

GK: Yeah. And it was just, again, a adapting some of those muscles that got built up and some of the other muscles that were deliberately built up in terms of advertising and branding. But it's been an interesting journey, and one that it was not prescribed, you know, I backed into a lot of different environments. The new product thing was just really something that through circumstances that ad agency wanted to get into new products. And I wound up being one of the people that wound up working in that part of the agency, and thought that was no dumb luck. That was really a cool break.

MR: Yeah. Well, I think, on the flip side, you prepared yourself by doing all this work as a kid and continuing, of course, you had encouragement like by your teacher in high school, but you were doing it because it made sense to you, and you were putting in the hours doing it in meetings for yourself, then called before the group to do it, and they really gave you feedback.

So all this prep put you in the position. Like, so had you not been doing that and you had the opportunity to be a part of that product group, you probably may not have gotten the job at least not to do that. Or maybe not at all. I don't know, right. Because you had this skill that was unique that you could bring to the table, and obviously it was the people that decided maybe you should be part of that had seen it in practice in the past. So everything's sort of built on top of the next thing.

GK: I think that's true. I was lucky in some of those respects where it was as much of a surprise or an epiphany to the people around me as it was to me. And just in a very, I think basic sense you're adding value that maybe isn't everywhere. I think a lot of the people I've met and yourself included, it's an interesting package of talents, you know? I think it's just not something you see in classified ads.

You become an amalgam of your experience and your talents and it makes you, you. And I think if you could find a group that appreciates that and really feeds it which I had the opportunity to work at a branding agency over a decade where they kept feeding me more opportunity to do that it's about growth. I think I'm happiest when I'm growing.

MR: Yeah. I agree. I think so too. Well, this has been great. It's been really fun to see your progression to where you're at now and how you're using all this—all the things that you've built, they don't go away. They just become useful at different points in the project, right. So, That's pretty cool.

I'm really curious now if we switch over from the work, your background, and how you got here. What are the tools that you like to use? We always do this with every guest. I discover new stuff all the time. And I thought I'd seen everything. So I love this part of it because there's like, "Oh, I'd never heard of that pen, or that notebook or that something.

GK: Yeah. I wish I could bring more discovery to it, but in terms of the transition from analog to digital, I'm a bit of a work in progress. Because I still love—and maybe it has a lot to do with the nature of the work was always show up. And it has changed since COVID where there's mural and it's different. But over those years of development working with markers and paper, I think it was just, you know, I love the feel of a line.

I have a lot of cartoonist friends 'cause I've been doing this cartoon strip for many years now, and I have a lot of cartoon friends, and they're still like, "Man, you still dip a quill pen in ink." And then there's one or two were that I still know that are There's nothing like a feel of that line. But, you know, a lot of the tablets now and the digital tools, so I'm doing my best and I found some coaches to move me there.

But I'm one of those types, particularly with being very mobile and working in a place where it's just coffee shops and other places, I like being able to walk in and buy tools from Rite Aid. Whether it's a nice gel pen or a—I have a friend, Rob Armstrong, who does jumpstart very successful long running strip. He still hand draws all his strips with a Paper M1ate pen.

MR: Really.

GK: Yeah. And some people are like, "That would take forever." I think it's a call you make, but I do love the times I've dabbled and toyed with, you know, iPads and things, but I need to do some work on the digital side. You may have found this too, but there were stores in the past, there was an art store called Pearl on the East Coast, these superstore, you know, where I can get lost.

MR: Lost in there for a day. Right.

GK: I'm buying pens and paper, and there's one in Philadelphia, which I'm not far from, called BLICK.

MR: Yeah, BLICK.

GK: And BLICK is one of the remaining super stores. I like Copic. I'm a fan of that. There's a couple others I think Japanese made that has a really fine brush to it where you can—I love varying lines and creating some depth. But my tools are what they have been for years. I would even turn it around and say, your tools, what do you recommend digitally? I mean, is it Wacom? I mean, where are you at in the whole transition to digital?

MR: Yeah. Well, I would say just understanding that you're someone who's mobile, and I'm a mobile person too. I think the iPad and the pencil is pretty great. The resolution with the pencil and the screen is good. I recommend some kind of a screen cover. I like Paperlike, which has got little patterns that are printed or embedded in the plastic. Not only does it make it matte so it's not shiny, but it also provides a paper-like texture, hence the name.

GK: Yeah. That's really key to know. I'd have to even go back and get that again once this gets out because the times that I have toyed with things, it's a little tricky, it feels like you're, you're drawing on a glass surface. I have other daily strip friends who do comics and go, "I couldn't go back to that because my process is so quick, and now I can knock work out a lot faster." Their production approach is vastly different. Which I can understand where I have some shopping to do and figure out what I'm most comfortable with, but I'm in the middle of it. I have an iPad now that I toy with, but I don't actually do work on yet.

MR: In production. Okay.

GK: Yeah. Latex Syndicate does my coloring and that kind of thing.

MR: Okay. There's a few apps that you might consider. Procreate is popular with lots of people. It's really aimed at art. It's got layering like Photoshop. You can choose different brushes and colors and you can record it and have it animated. There's all kinds of power in there. If you need to edit your lines, if you want vectors like Adobe Illustrator, there's a couple of tools. One is called Concepts who sponsors the podcast.

GK: Yeah. I think I've seen that.

MR: Where you have different brushes and such. But then you can grab the points just like in Illustrator and move things around. You can select whole chunks and change to a different brush and it flips. Adobe Fresco is another tool that does both pixels and vectors in the same application. So that's another one to play with. And that's a variety of other ones.

Some people who are really doing more note-taking than art, lean toward other tools. There's lots of really great note-taking tools, Goodnotes and Noteshelf and even Apple's Notes is pretty decent. It supports the pencil. There are some that are more note-oriented. If you need the organization and the structure of notes and to be able to search and all that, then that might be the better path.

And then there's stuff that fits in between like I use a tool called Paper by WeTransfer. It's super old. It's designed when the iPad first came out. What I like about it is it's very limited. So I can't change the screen size. There's no layers. There's limited tools and the tools set are limited sizes. The colors are adaptable. But I kind of like the constraints.

And what I've found is I've invested so much time using it that if I need to knock out an idea quickly, I just go to that tool 'cause I know it so well. I know where all the parts are. I know what it's gonna achieve. I know how to achieve them. For me, it works really well. But I also use Procreate for illustration work. 'cause It's got benefits of resolution and layers and undo and other features.

So I think you almost need to take a little little tour on each one and see which one fits. And there might be need, I believe, in multiple tools, because some projects require different expectations. So if you need to make something that needs to be zoomed up to a billboard, well, you probably wanna use a Vector tool because procreates gonna pixel out at some point, even if—unless you build the canvas to be big enough, which is one approach. The other approach is to go, you know, resolution-independent with Concepts or Fresco, and then you could scale. So that'd be my list for you.

GK: All good stuff. No, that's a great one. I'm gonna have to pull that off because a near-term goal I set for myself is to really get set and getting that comfort level because a lot of my cartoonist friends use the same type of a setup. And I dabbled with there. So I'm gonna have to you know, step into this century.

MR: I think it's important for you to find what works for you. So even if they use something else, who cares? Like, if it works for you, you know this already.

GK: Yeah. I love the point you made that if you have real stuff to that you're accountable for, you have something that's familiar and reliable and you know what you're getting into, and then create experiment time to try some other things. But that would be my ideal setup is to have my go-to.

MR: Yeah. I think the other thing that works for me, and this isn't true for everybody, but it might, is I need a real project to work on. When I wanted to use Procreate, I had a big illustration project and I said, "All right, I gotta use this. I gotta figure it out." I forced myself to sit down and build the templates and choose the different inks and sizes, and I set it all up, and then I forced myself to do a project with it. And that was a good solution. For me, I learn 'em as much as I can, and then there's a point which I have to flip over and use it, and then they start to make sense together, so.

GK: Yeah. No, that's, that's good advice.

MR: Yeah. Going back to your analog tools, I'm kind of curious if you have any specific ones that if you go to the Rite Aid, are there certain pens or notebooks or anything that you tend to work with? Do you have any notebooks that you like? Is there a certain gel pen brand that you prefer if you can get it?

GK: I think in terms of paper it, as long as I can remember, it's always been the—oh man, what's the—it escapes me at the moment. I don't wanna say Valore, but, so that's not—

MR: Like Parchment paper, something like that?

GK: No, it's, it's a little heavier weight paper, but it's in Michael's is another place that I go. it's just—vellum. Thank you.

MR: Vellum. Yeah.

GK: Whatever part of my brain say Valore. It's not Valore, it's Vellum, but it's Bristol Vellum. The Vellum has that nice tooth to the line. And I still love to see the interplay between a line and a piece of paper and scan it. Whenever I see my strips, the weekly strip I look at, and it's just like, I remember that line. It's a little obsessive. But I do the Copic pens of a lot of variety, but it's a good firm. Its tip doesn't mash.

MR: Lays on top of that Bristol Vellum as well.

GK: Yeah. And you could lean in and that's good. And then there's—is it Tubo? I forget. It's a Japanese pen. They sell 'em in too, and then I go through them like whenever I see them, I buy 'em. But they're mostly one's a firm paint or a brush tip. The other one's a little more of a traditional paint or a brush I should say. But that's usually in the Michaels or the BLICK. This is from Rob, you know, he does a lot of his lettering with a Paper Mate pen.

MR: Paper Mate Flair.

GK: Yeah. The Flair, it's like the Chuck Tailors of sneakers of mark making. I mean, it's just like tie up the Chucks and put 'em on, you know, and whenever I'm in Rite Aid or CVS, it's just like, "Okay, buy a couple things. We need, you know, milk, bread, Paper Mates."

MR: Paper Mates.

GK: And I always have those. I'm thankful that they don't discontinue that. I have huge, you know, just boxes of pens and I'm not loyal to, you know, other than what the ones that I've mentioned, because they've served me well. I do need to experiment and push out. But those are the Copic and the Paper Mate.

MR: Simple tool set. Yeah.

GK: Yeah. That's what I use for the strip. And my strip, I do on the vellum. I just scan them, clean them up, and send it to the syndicate. I work with King Features, and King Features does all the colorizing, and they distribute it to the papers and they send me the finish and it's always like Christmas. I send them these little black and white comics, and then they send me the archives of all the colorized.

The strip I do a strip called Out On The Limb, and it's been like 30 years with King. And it's always that same relationship as I send them the finished black and white, and they colorize it. All my other friends are like, I still use my digital 'cause I wanna color it the way I want to. I should get used to that, but I love that King does that for me, and it's a nice joint relationship for many years now.

MR: Yeah. It's worked for a long time. Maybe it doesn't need to be changed at all.

GK: Yeah. It will eventually. At least being able to control that and send. I'm sure they wouldn't be mad if their production team in Orlando goes, "Oh, he's gonna do color. We don't have to do that anymore."

MR: Yeah. Thankfully.

GK: "It took forever." So, we'll see.

MR: Interesting. So that makes me curious, since you're a cartoonist and you continue to be for a long period of time, what I think could be interesting to answer would be how do you deal with, every week you've gotta come up with an idea. Where do you get your ideas from? How do you cook up those? Are they just stuff that you encounter and you put 'em away somewhere? Do you have a tool or a notebook where you write things down? Like how do you manage that stuff?

GK: It's really interesting, A lot of the same muscles. It's like listening and observing. Somewhere, somebody said this and it always stuck, which is, "You gotta do A, B, C. Always be capturing." So wherever I am, and now with iPhones, if I see an absurd notion in the world, I put it in the phone. And then I have a bit of a writing routine where Sunday nights I often go, "Okay, let me see this culmination of photos and post-its and backs of envelopes."

The world is great stimulus for ideas. And sometimes I'll just stockpile them and then sit down and process it. And there was an incident where, I'm sure you've noticed is that I was walking through Barnes and Noble and went through like the top 10 books, often business books. So the top 10 business books, six out of the 10 business books had the F-bomb in it.

Suddenly, major business books all have you know, F-words, we'll keep it at that. And I just thought, "What is that?" And then my mind started to play with that whole reality. And a cartoon happened where there was a woman—I took it out of the bookstore and put it into the standard library and saw a little librarian with a bit of a potty mouth talking to somebody who was directing them to the business book of the section, which is essentially, the cartoon was like, "Hey, it's okay. Let's everyone—just F-away, man. It's accepted."

Because I just thought, wow, when did this this—people are now writing books to see if they could top someone else. So that was just an example of ideas happen because I just always keep one hand free. And I heard recently, there's a great quote by Neil Simon, and he said, he said it for comedy writers, but I think it's true of cartoonists, but also anyone who's creative.

And Neil Simon said, "Comedy writers are two-headed monsters. One head is like everybody else. They go to the DMV, they go to Rite Aid, they put gas in the car. That's the one head. The other head is the one that kind of rises up and looks around and notices all the things around that other head and the rest of the body." And that's why that one really spoke to me because my wife will be one saying, you know, we're at this parent-teacher night, and my mind is like, wow. And she's like, "Earth to Gary, can you kind of dial back in here into this parent-teacher night?"

So part of that is I do have that second head kind of out there looking for odd connections to make. And, you know, I'm hoping it never stops, but I'm always looking and always capturing stuff I can maybe use later. And many times it's writing it down in a small notebook and other times with the laptop. And now with the phone, that's the one piece of digital that I've become really relying on is photos and notes to myself, because it is true, you forget those epiphanies, you know?

And there are times where I'll read a note, much like an old "Seinfeld" episode with a note he put on his next to his bed, where he couldn't decipher what it was he wrote at 2:00 in the morning. There are times where I can't make sense out of a note, but I still feel good having taken the note. Because there are times that some of the best ideas come from other people and just being in the right place. And that's why many of my coworkers coming out of those meetings that I described earlier, once they see me write something, they're like, "You didn't write that." When I said, "Right. I'm not gonna be an inspiration for a cartoon."

And many times, they had, and I share it with them, but there'd be just brilliance that are far beyond what I'm thinking at that time. And I would just write something down and later the sweetest little gag and I'd often share it with them. And going back to my science teacher, they're happy to get it. And every single day, and particularly the world we live in now, there's just so much, to your point, you know constantly making new connections. And that's why I think, you know, there's always stuff to have fun with and build ideas around. So it's paying attention.

MR: Well, let's shift into tips. I always frame it that someone's listening their individual thinking, but they feel a little bit like they're in a rut or hit a plateau. They just need some inspiration. What would be three things that you would tell them practical or, you know, mental suggestions to help them break out of that rut or just move forward?

GK: This isn't too long ago myself, where I start to feel like it's a bit of a rut and also a rut, but also sometimes when you transition because I moved from agency life into now my own consultancy, which it's a different world and it's a different metabolism almost. I mean, it's just different. And I think that led me to this idea of the tip is sometimes just continue to—I'll use my case of, of writing and drawing and things, is to create and share.

I mean, there are so many people that—I'm sure yourself and I know people like Austin Cleon has a book or two out there. It's just like, just put it out and let that be a source of conversation. And during that time when I started to expand some of the community with sketchnoters, I would just do things, you know, whether it was listening to a particular podcast, and I just would draw it and say, here's something I did. And it turned out to be something on LinkedIn where I started to share more, and I heard back more, and I got feedback.

So whenever you're stuck put something out. And that's the beauty right now of even LinkedIn. If there are people that you admire or people that whose opinion, you'd appreciate, you know, share something and say, "There's something I'm working, I'd love to get your thoughts." And, you know, no harm could come from doing, creating something and putting it out, and sharing it. I mean, you might get, you know, feedback that people sometimes aren't always kind.

But I think by and large the tip would be to just, you know, create every day and put it out there and start conversations with it. And there were times where I do, and I call it the Kopious notes now 'cause my name is Kopervas. So I will listen to a podcast or something of—an example of if I was stuck again, I'm not generating anything anymore, I will listen to a podcast or something.

A friend of mine who wrote for Forbes interviewed Brian Grazer. And it had to do with this, he was launching a book called "The Curious Mind." And my friend Steve said, here, could you just listen to this interview that I recorded and can you give me some your takeaway on it? I listened to it and sketchnoted the whole thing, and sent it to him. And he sent it to Brian Grazer, who is in the process of a couple other things with this writer friend of mine.

But in doing that sketchnoting, I learned a ton about this idea of I'll cut to the chase on that one is that Brian Grazer has curious conversations from his book. Every two weeks he talks to someone who has nothing to do with Hollywood or directing or producing to learn something. Maybe a long way around to the other idea of do things and share is if there's something you wanna learn, draw it.

Because there's that eye-hand thing is that your mind learns when you, you draw it. And it turns out that many of that type of thing, I sent work to authors or even podcasts that guests and they loved it. And we had relationship of, whether it's LinkedIn or whatever of "send me more."

I think if I'm stuck, I try to engage new people with work I've done and see where it goes. 'Cause In some cases it's led to consulting gigs. There was two authors that wrote a book, and I was taken by it and I did a quick sketchnote for each of the chapters—or actually for just one of the chapters. And they hired me to do that for all of their chapters.

MR: Wow. That's cool. Yeah.

GK: Ruts are just kind of like a pause and it's like, "Okay, now what?" When I get to that point when I'm stuck, it usually means I'm at a pause of some sort so I need an interaction with somebody.

MR: You need a reason to move forward, I guess. Right.

GK: And someone will inspire it or someone will validate something I've been thinking about. And I think I've learned to rely on others to get me through these little pauses and ruts.

MR: If I were to re restate those, I guess the first one I heard was if you're in a rut, do something and share it.

GK: Yes.

MR: The second is, if you wanna learn something, draw it because you have to process the information to understand it. And then the third would be share your work with the people who inspired you. So like a podcast guest, an author, and you never know where that interaction might lead. If anything, you'll just have their appreciation. And all those three things in a row is you've done something to move forward, you've learned something new and you've made an interaction. That's a really great combination of things.

GK: And I love the distillation on that, Mike. Thank you. And I think the other, I don't know, maybe it's a wrapping for all of it that I have found whenever I get stuck in a crossroads, whatever, how you wanna describe it, to do some of those things, but it really helps to just get on someone else's radar. And I found whether it was from other brand consultants or those sketchnoters in other parts of the world, get on other people's radar, they get on your radar, and all of a sudden, I find myself not stuck as much because because of that happening to me.

So I think there's something about that. And I think we live in a time now where it's much easier to get on other people's radars because we have such access now, whether it's Instagram or LinkedIn is very big from a business standpoint. So use it.

MR: Yeah. Those are great tips. Thanks. So to wrap the show up, I just ask where people can find you and your work so they can connect with you, so they can see what you do, they can check out your comic strip, see your work that you do.

GK: Yeah, no, that's great. I think I'm most active on LinkedIn. That's where I do a lot of posting and it does have a bit of a business centered approach to it. But I put a lot of things there 'cause So many of my things tie to business. So LinkedIn is one. Facebook is a little more some fun stuff there as well. And at Kopious Notes on Instagram. I've been not pushing that as much. And maybe when this does get out and is live, I will have gotten back on that. But Kopious Notes is where I'm at in Instagram.

And same idea is work in progress on garykopervas.com is a site that I've neglected, but there's a lot of my early cartoons there. And that's a either last quarter or first quarter of this year where that's gonna get reinvigorated perhaps.

MR: Revamped.

GK: Yeah.

MR: Nice. Well, that's great. We'll either find those links and put 'em in the show notes, or as we follow up after this interview, maybe you can send me things you wanna make sure we include. So for those that are listening, check out the show notes. We try to make our show notes pretty extensive, and we include transcription of the discussion so if you're a reader, you can read while you listen. So we've got lots of options for you. And we're really happy to have you on, Gary. This has been a long time coming and I'm so glad that you came on the show and you just fit right into our community, just so well.

GK: Yeah. Thanks so much. It was a real pleasure. And as you say, I was really waiting for this for some time, and it was awesome. So thanks for having me and have a great weekend.

MR: Yeah. Well, thanks for all that you do, and for anybody listening or watching, it's another episode of the Sketchnote Army Podcast. Until next time, talk to you soon.

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