Last night we went to a free creative event at Apple’s Regent Store with insta-famous and all-round genius cartoonist Ruby Etc. It was part of a series of events called The Big Draw which Apple is hosting this year in its stores across the globe.
The evening began with a short talk from Ruby. Normally, we only ever see snippets of her mind revealed in her cartoons, so it was wonderful to hear her talk at length about her practice.
Her advice to all creatives was to ‘never stop’. ‘Carry your sketchbook everywhere’, she said, ‘and use it.’ Ruby beautifully articulated the sketchbook as an ‘external hard-drive for your mind’, and she thought people should be ‘dumping’ stuff in there as often as they could. For her, one of the hardest things had been embracing the fact that, very rarely, does any sketch come out perfect first time. To help combat that, she decided to start sketching with pen immediately. ‘Using pencil encourages you rub it out… you lose the immediacy and for me that’s the best part.’ If something didn’t come out quite right, she’d simply do it again, until it did.
Following her talk, an Apple employer and Ruby demonstrated Apple’s new creative tool on iPads, and then got all members of the audience drawing their own cartoon on an iPad. Apple are clever. What a way to get people invested in not only an iPad, but its software too. The editing capabilities that we played with were generally great and intuitive, more so than Adobe and far more complex than traditional tablet editing services. Rather than being preached to by someone from Apple, we were being shown the functionalities and capabilities of a product from an artist. Now that is smart. Suddenly it didn’t feel like a glorified product demonstration, but a quirky creative evening.
Whilst everyone’s creations were being uploaded to the Cloud, we moved to the Q&A part of the evening. The most interesting question was around the responsibilities of social media influencers in the mental health space. A lot of Ruby’s cartoons deal with her depression and anxiety. Because of her incredibly relatable style, thousands found themselves reaching out to Ruby for advice. But Ruby is an artist, not a therapist, and she was clear on this point. ‘Obviously I want to reply to every single message sending my thoughts and wishing they were okay’, she says, ‘but you have to remember that you don’t owe anyone your experiences or advice regarding mental health’. In a world where it feels like being an ‘influencer’ is about exerting, exactly that – influence – this struck me as a particularly pertinent thing to say.
Ruby followed on by saying she found one of the most productive parts of her art was its ability to start conversations between others (rather than her having to be in them herself). Recently, for instance, she shared a cartoon about PMS (see right) and this got women globally sharing their stories and offering support to one another, on their own terms rather than it being required of them.
We finished the evening by going through all of the audience’s creations on a huge screen. Ruby gave individual feedback (always encouraging) to each hastily drawn doodle; always finding something nice to say. Everyone laughed together and felt a sense of pride when their creation landed on the big stage.
Overall, the evening was quite wonderful. Everyone fell in love with Ruby and, I suspect, felt pretty warmly towards Apple. They hadn’t hosted a pretentious evening where attendees felt like they had imposter-syndrome; they hosted something fun and genuinely creative. And showcased an excellent product in a way that didn’t make it feel like I was being sold to. At no point did anyone ask me if I wanted to buy an iPad or the software, and I think that’s key to their success. I actually came away debating whether I should perhaps scrap my plans to get a Kindle and consider an iPad instead…
Well done, Apple.