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What a public artist learned from cute motivational sticky notes on the train

Nine sticky notes with motivational phrases

Boredpanda.com reports:

October Jones (real name Joe Butcher), the prolific writer and illustrator… is at it again with a fun series of sticky notes featuring a grimly determined cat named Peppy posing next to motivational messages. He draws them and leaves them in the trays of the train he takes for unsuspecting fellow commuters.

If you’re having a case of the Mondays (or of any other day of your work week, for that matter), these images are perfect for getting inspired and pepped up!

The cute

I am also a public artist that uses sticky notes in public spaces, so I’m very excited to see another artist using sticky notes in public. Seeing this series reported in many places online makes me excited to see the success it’s having.

Beyond the medium and success of the series, what do I think of this artwork as a fellow public artist?

Bored Panda posted 15 photos of the sticky notes, the majority of the notes are extremely positive, which is great. This series is really effective by using a cute drawing in each sticky note. That gives me ideas for my own public art. I have been leaving just a message in my work, but to have a cute animal spokesman, gives the work greater impact.

The feelings

This series is also very VERY pointed at the reader. The artwork is very successful at playing at the viewer’s emotions.

The straight-up compliments about being “awesome” are nice, buuuuut… I feel like the compliments are rather empty. That might be my rational INTJ personality coming out. But I like compliments that are real.

I might be getting too philosophical, but part of what makes me a joyful person is accepting that I’m not always “awesome.” Not everything can be awesome. I can be a person who does wrong things. When I start from that foundation, things become simpler and more honest. I then have the courage to break out.

But to not overthink it, these sticky notes would be fun to come across and brighten up someone’s day. So for that simple notion, they are wonderful.

They also inspire me to think of how to make my public artwork more emotional. Most times the goal of my work is to make people THINK deeper or to THINK creatively. Rarely do I consider about how my artwork makes people FEEL.

These motivational sticky notes make people FEEL better, even though rational thought says that we don’t always have to be awesome.

Inauthentic?

The artist is expressing love for others by encouraging others, which is a great idea. However the sort of encouragement is artificially bloating up individuals with inauthentic praise. How does this artist really know you are awesome? When I compliment someone, it’s a personal direct compliment. It has authenticity.

Man. Am I a big jerk for critiquing these wonderful positive sticky notes? I should let them be nice positive notes.

But what about the “You are beautiful” stickers?

I love the “You are beautiful” project. Isn’t that project in the same line as the commuter sticky notes? The artist behind “you are beautiful” doesn’t know if you are a beautiful person, or does he?

Perhaps this is an individual belief, but I believe that every human is beautiful. We all may have ugly sides. We all may do ugly things. But we are beautiful creations.

Now, beautiful creations also be awesome? Hmm, perhaps. But I hold the word “awesome” in a more literal sense of awe. Like a, strike-you-down-to-your-knees awesome.

“I am a superfly success machine,” declares another sticky note. Well, we aren’t always successful. We are workers. We at times succeed and other times fail. I see great growth in failing.

Another sticky note jokes, “Lick the back of your hand. That’s what a winner tastes like.” Ok, so this one is funny, because of the cat pun. But the underlying philosophy is there, that we must always be winners. I disagree. We don’t always have to be winners. I enjoy and thrive on daily live with its ups AND downs. Life isn’t all about the ups. Life isn’t all about happiness. Life is about growth.

Perhaps the phrase on one of the sticky notes “Kicking Monday in the face” is what turns me off. I don’t believe in kicking Monday in the face. I believe in hugging Monday. Embracing it. Giving Monday love. The Monday sticky notes in this series strike me as a “F– you world. I’m the best there ever is.” When you view the rest of the sticky notes with that attitude, you start to see why I have a hard time with these notes. That or I just need to lighten up.

There are many things I learned from this series.

  1. To use a cute cartoon animal in my public artwork. I’m not being sarcastic. This is really a good technique.
  2. To think about how I would like the viewer of my work to FEEL when seeing my work, not just how they THINK.
  3. Love and embrace your imperfect self. We don’t have to always be awesome, or always be winners, or kick Monday in the face.
  4. Srsly, I should just lighten up.

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