The Wild #MPRraccoon Ride
The thing about opportunity is you often never know when it will show itself!
In case you hadn't heard, on June 12th and 13th 2018 in St. Paul Minnesota a raccoon astonished onlookers by scaling a 25 level building. She attracted attention globally as we awaited to hear that she hopefully safely reached of the roof. Most the attention started on the 12th, and I happened to hear of the situation (living in Rome not Minnesota remember!) since I was plugged into a great radio show episode on the Colleen & Bradley Show by my previous employer myTalk1071 discussing the Suicide Epidemic. (A tad ironic that I was not listening to MPR, but another talk radio station of the Twin Cities!) When the episode was over there was some breaking news about the raccoon!
By that time it was evening for me. I called to my partner about it and we excitedly watched the few videos that were up. We headed to sleep and were hopeful about the Raccoon's fate in the morning.
When we woke up, around 10am Rome time it was still 3am in St. Paul so no one was up yet to report about it.
I sat at my computer, without too much freelance on my plate, and was considering how inspiring and odd this situation was- particularly after the very recent tragic news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain ending their lives still paining everyone- this news of the MPR Raccoon was so genuinely pure and wholesome. At that point, since we hadn't heard about the fate, it had brought people together over the love of this animal. There's something about raccoons too, that are just so adorable but menacing with their grippy hands. (The cutest combo)
Everyone had pure love and hope for this animal, and I was inspired to make some art while most people following were asleep and I awaited the news. To be grim but honest, at this point I didn't know if I would be creating a memorial or inspirational commemoration.
The raccoon drawing started from a photo I found, I used it as a base and drew over it and added my own extra fluffy touches with the smudge tool.
The building was something I started with an image as well- I edited out the UBS logo for simplicity and used the smudge tool as a base for turning it into a more oil painting quality. It was a bit repetitive and painful to get every single window, but I'd rather make sure the building was accurate than make a different interpretation of it. From there I added my own shadows and highlights.
The background flowers:
I had previously been sketching different nature in our yard- particularly magnolia leaves and flowers:
The low quality, yellowy scan is what ended up being the background magnolia. I used it as a rough base for the smudge tool then added my own extra shadows and highlights.
In process of drawing I was checking and refreshing the news- HOORAY! The MPR Raccoon successfuly reached the roof (*shewwww*)- so then I guess that means I was making an inspirational commemoration afterall.
I thought the design was really cute (especially how fluffy the raccoon turned out!) and decided to mock up the design into a shirt and tote with my fulfillment company that I normally use for Hip My Trip.
By the time I completed these designs and added them to my shop, it was about 2pm Rome time, 7am St Paul time and we were about to eat lunch. I knew this was prime time to share something as people in St Paul were waking up so I was nervously hurrying and letting my lunch of yummy frozen pizza (it's so good here!) get cold.
To be honest, I was nervous to share because in my mind it was a big enough occasion to make art for but I was worried maybe other people would think I was silly and brush it off. And- if that happened oh well, I did make it just because I wanted to, but an artist does love an audience afterall! It's quite validating to be shown appreciation since most of us have at least some level of self-worth complex, just saying.
So on the 13th at about 7am St Paul time I shared my post on Instagram and Facebook, suggesting if anyone feels like it they are welcome to share the post. I think a large part of my success was being 7 hours ahead- I had much more time to spend effort on it which added to the surprise slight irony factor as well.
The only way I can describe the rest of the day is 'chaotic excitement.' The post on FB was shared 70 times total (this is in the first few days, but most were in the first day), a handful of times on Twitter (my partner Onar was working Twitter- he was responding to so many people that were asking about any t-shirts available, bless him!), featured in an MPR News article, and on top of the social spread- M A N Y people were actually clicking on the links to the T-shirts and tote bags.
The first sale was about an hour after posting I think- one shirt! I couldn't believe it, and had to figure out what to do when selling something in my shop since this was the first time that happened. (I had just set it up a few weeks earlier). 20 minutes later a second order came in- this time for T W O canvas bags! My partner kept saying he believed I'd sell a lot but I didn't think that would happen. I ended up netting about half my rent money for the month! Pretty darn exciting for a freelancer.
I was guessing many people were visiting my site but wouldn't know until the next day when the analytics were tallied. I first checked Google analytics and it said something like 60 unique visitors. That's more than usual, but I thought maybe it would have been a bit more with the amount of times it was shared. Then it hit me- since I just set up my shop I hadn't added the Google Analytics code to that page yet. Drats! But then I remembered Squarespace has its own analytics which was making more sense:
If you couldn't guess, since this site is primarily functioning as my portfolio for freelance work I do N O T get many views/unique visitors a month. For some this number would be crazy low, but for my level this was crazy high!
All in all, this whole experience of following the plight of the MPR Raccoon, being inspired to make art, and being met with such positive feedback about it has been such a fun ride!
I don't think an opportunity like this would happen again, I see it like a once in a lifetime fluke thing, so I'm just going to appreciate that it happened and go on with my day.
I did learn a lesson in timing and effort.
I believe if I was even 4 hours later to post this design in the day it wouldn't have had nearly an impression. (Of course- that wouldn't be the case if I had a ton of fans and people that followed my work- but I don't. I'm just one independent freelance designer still figuring out a 'style' with a constant identity crisis in what I share.) A breaking news story like this needs to be acted upon right away if you want to be leading rather than following. I actually learned this while working at myTalk, maybe listening to them inspired me in more ways than one.
Also I believe it's worth putting effort into something if you really believe in it- and it shouldn't matter whether or not you anticipate feedback. It's those times you aren't really trying that hard that end up being more impactful in the world.
So that's my fun story about the #MPRRaccoon that went viral- may the story and She Who Persisted go down in history and never be forgotten.
Thanks for reading!