Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on the First Thousand Posts

Yesterday, while I was writing this sentence, someone from the Czech Republic found this blog via Google Image Search. That person was the 919,308th visitor to Today's Inspiration. Imagine that!

Here's the image, a piece by Robert Fawcett, that brought this visitor to the blog...

Out of curiosity I tried typing "Robert Fawcett book" into Google Image Search. The piece, from my January 19, 2009 post on Fawcett, is the first result. Clicking on its thumbnail in GIS takes you to that day's post.

The Czech visitor subsequently stayed on the blog for 1 hour, six minutes and 37 seconds. They looked at sixteen pages of content. The last thing they clicked on before leaving was this piece by Bob Peak.

And then, without leaving any comment, they were gone. That sort of thing used to frustrate me; people who would visit who clearly had a genuine interest in the material I present (spending a substantial amount of time, perusing several pages). I'd wonder, why does this person, who must surely be a kindred spirit, not reach out? But then, I do the same thing all the time, visiting blogs, reading interesting content or perusing the images there and leaving without comment, so who am I to talk? The Czech visitor has excellent taste. Beyond that, I have no idea if they were male or female, old or young, an illustration professional or not -- and no way to contact them.

Frankly, when I started this blog in November, 2005 I never dreamed it would get nearly a million visits in less than 4 years. But then it never occurred to me that there would be a thousand posts here in that time span, or just how much information and artwork I could amass in just three and a half years of steady posting.

Since most readers, like our Czech visitor, are "blurkers" I must rely on my Sitemeter stats to give me an idea of who you are, where you come from, and what your interests are.

Here's a snapshot of a hundred visitors who dropped by at one point during the day yesterday (perhaps you will recognize your own visit on this list).

That certainly demonstrates the remarkable power of the Internet, doesn't it? Its wonderful to know that people all over the world are discovering - or rediscovering - the work of these great mid-century illustrators.

Of course a lot of those who arrive via Google Image Search aren't actually hoping to find art or info on 50's illustrators. Try typing "Esquire Girls" into GIS and see what comes up. Go ahead, I'll wait 'til you get back.

Interesting, huh? Yeah, after all these years (as we in advertising have always known) "sex sells".

In fact, checking the stats on my Flickr archives, I discovered that the following ten images were all in the top twenty most viewed in my archives. See if you can spot the commonality:

All of those images had over 4,000 views each. But here's a quandary: the single most viewed image in my Flickr archives? This page from an Al Parker step-by-step demo I posted 10 months ago has been viewed nearly 15,000 times!

What's up with that?!

Compared to the next most popular images in my collection, that image has more than twice as many views!

I even asked at the time when I first posted the image and noticed immediately that its view-count took off like a bat outta hell, but so far no one has commented on where they found the link that brought them to this image.

And here it is again, climbing the daily rankings, beating out other more recent (and, I think, more interesting) images.

Incidentally, did you notice that stat for how many times my entire image archive has been viewed? Wow!

There are nearly 7,000 images in my Flickr archives, organized by artist name or general subject (auto ads, sports, etc.) and all but a hundred or so are mid-century illustrations.

Recently I've been corresponding with a researcher from England who's conducting a study comparing the stats of *official* institutional websites that provide digitized visual content to the sites of "amateur enthusiasts" (people like me) who provide similar content "in our spare time" (ha). I gave her access to my sitemeter statistics and she was blown away. Apparently some of these well funded full-time organizations get a fraction of the traffic in a year that Today's Inspiration gets in a week. Huh.

The researcher asked me if I would be doing this ( researching information, collecting and scanning images, and writing related content ) if no one was watching; and I had to think about that for a minute. Ultimately, I suppose I would... but I doubt it would be with such regularity. Its the many friends and acquaintances I've made by providing this "place for those with an interest in 40's and 50's illustration" that motivates me to invest the time, effort and money to pursue this endeavor so vigorously. And without the generosity with which so many have shared their knowledge, their resources and their moral support, this blog would be a pale shadow of what it is today.

Years before the TI blog there was a Today's Inspiration daily mailing list. Here's one of the scans I sent out to the group back then, when that list had less than a hundred people on it. Its by Len Steckler, a former Cooper Studio artist.:

I couldn't have imagined that one day a few years later I'd be getting an email like this:

Hi Leif
My friend Tom Sawyer sent me the image I did... I can't remember the date, and I even forgot about painting it. I want to thank you for your interest in this work it's extremely gratifying. For your information I am still creating images, as I have almost all my life .


Isn't that cool? And the friend Len referred to is another artist whose career has been showcased here on the blog, Thomas B. Sawyer. This past spring, while attending the NCS Reubens Awards in L.A., I had the immense pleasure of meeting Tom in person when he graciously invited me and my wife, Wendy, to join him and his lovely wife Holly for lunch at their beautiful home.

There, in the presence of one of my illustration idols, I was shown a portfolio of the actual originals of illustrations like the one below, which Tom drew back in the 60's and 70's.

Such are the priceless rewards of maintaining this blog from week to week and year after year.

But in spite of the pleasure I derive from this daily, um, obsession?, the day has come when I need to admit that I devote more time to TI than I ought to. Like most every other illustrator I know, the last few months of this recession have kicked the crap out of my business. Illustrators are struggling more than ever to make a living and I'm determined not to become a casualty.

That means investing more of my time to producing new samples and figuring out new marketing and promotion strategies - time I would otherwise rather devote to this blog.

So for a while, Today's Inspiration will return to more of what it began as: a scan a day, intended to inspire - but presented without commentary. Well, maybe just a little commentary. Occasionally, I'll still do a complete week on a specific artist (there are already plans under way for several such weeks) and I have enlisted several contributors to guest-author the blog now and then. This will give me some breathing room to focus more of my attention on my "real" job; being an illustrator.

There will be another thousand posts on this blog... there are too many artists whom we have not yet celebrated... too much history still left undocumented. I hope you'll join me on the journey.


  1. Leif, the Al Parker demo might have gotten so many hits for the same reason it caught my eye - to find out the nuts and bolts of how he worked for both inspiration and ideas. Don't we all love "how-tos?"
    Love the blog, keep it going - it's so great.

  2. Thanks Julie, I certainly will. I dunno about the Parker demo, though... it would make sense if the other steps also had so many views, but they don't. There's gotta be some other explanation...

  3. Leif, congrats on your first 1000! I don't always comment, but I check in nearly every day. I have discovered countless artists through your blog who have made a lasting impact on my own artwork. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  4. I, too, am a lurker, Leif. Thanks for the ongoing inspriration.

    By the way, what's that statistics interface you're using?

  5. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I am a TI "junkie". I'm thrilled that you have had 1000 posts, to date. I will look forward to the next 1000.
    Bill Vann.

  6. Thank you Paolo, Jon and Bill; that's extremely gratifying to know. :^)

    Jon, I use a free service called "" to collect stats.

    I also have Google Analytics for my website,, but I find sitemeter more informative and easier to use.

  7. Gratulations on the 1000 and the many well deserved visitors! I hadn't heard the expression "blurker" but I kind of felt there had to be one. I think I've commented only a couple of times here instead I hope to send others your way by posting about your great stuff. Keep up the great work, Leif! (my second first name is Leif by the way)

  8. Hi Leif,
    Congratulations on you 1000th post, you are doing a great service for all of us illustration lovers. I hope that there will thousands more. It's a lot of work and you are an amazing guy.

  9. Leif, I of course immediately spotted the common theme in your ten most popular images: sunbathing, swimming, gardening-- it's great that so many people are interested in pictures of summer sports.

    I join with everyone else in congratulating you on your 1,000th post (even if it did show up a little late in the day...) We are very grateful for all you do, and we look forward to the next 1,000.

  10. STANDING OVATION! Well deserved Leif.

    Funny about the traffic to that reference photo. I too get a kick looking at the search strings in my stats page. I can't figure out what half these people are searching for.

  11. congratulations! it's quite an achievement.

    don't forget that probably a lot of visitors read the blog through some kind of a reader (google reader for me), and not sure if those register on webstats. i'm sure there's more than a million.

    here's to another 1000! cheers

  12. I have enjoyed visiting this blog
    and want to thank you for all the work you have done.

  13. Congrats, Leif! This is an amazing accomplishment!

  14. Thank you so much for the inspiration you share
    Yes, I'm a ""blurker", and this is may be my second comment on a blog since months... I'm not realy a chatter, it takes me loooooong time to find my words...
    love your blog and thank you again from Paris!

  15. Congrats on your thousandth post! And enjoy your time away from the heavy-duty posting. I will miss the daily commentary but will continue visiting and enjoying the site.

    Oh, and seriously, you asked readers to google "Esquire Girls" and expected them to come BACK? That was risky, my friend.

  16. Hi Leif,
    What a wonderful and 'grand' post. Congratulations!! Your legions of follower; the blurkers, contrarians,fan-folks and merely awestruck are looking forward to the next TI millennia.

    Thanks for everything,

  17. Perhaps many people around the world don't write often because their english is not so good - I am one of them:) Btw this blog is one of my favorite places on the internet, congrats Leif for the first 1000 posts accomplishment and, again, keep on the great work!

    "Thanks for sharing!"

  18. This Blog is the Best! Thanks for your inspiration and Dedication. Congrats!

  19. Anonymous3:31 AM

    Thank you so much for what you have created here. Your time spent keeping this amazing and informative trove makes you, I believe, something more than just an illustrator (and a very good illustrator at that). Intentional or not, you are providing a wonderful service - not to clients, but to the world. I hope you take a great deal of pride in that. Your warm and intelligent posts, and very generous sharing of these beautiful images, is another reason people - anonymous or otherwise - show up here. You are a friend un-met to many people like me, who stop by here for a long cool drink at this creative fountain. I applaud you, I congratulate you, and I thank you. I can safely say I am not alone in doing so.

  20. This blog has been a revelation and is a constant inspiration. I have discovered so many amazing illustrators an always enjoy you insights and thoughts. Your flickr archive is an invaluable resource especially as so few of the great artists are properly recognised in books. Thank you so much for yor time and passion

  21. Leif
    Congrats on the your first 1000
    With regards to "blurking", I, like many visit the site every morning and in the absence of anything profound to add, resist leaving messages like WoW! LOL and Phewee!, Fab stuff!
    You've over 400 followers up there.I don't think I've come across another site with that many.
    For most of us out blogging in the ether, we just have to presume that someone is watching.
    Good luck with your promotional drive and I look forward to further posts however brief they may be.

  22. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Thanks Leif,
    before i start working, i get me a coffee and visit a few blogs, including yours. Like today.
    I am an illustrator from berlin, germany and admire the handcraft of the shown pictures.

    keep it up,

  23. Acontece, meu caro, que este blog é uma maravilha da arte do século vinte.

  24. Hi Leif,

    I'm a lurker too.
    I go every day on your blog. I love it.
    I'm not good in english, so i never write a note.
    I'm illustrator from Belgium. I work in comics like " Spirou " magazine.
    Thanks for the blog!

    Hugo Piette

  25. Leif, your blog is my morning cup of coffee. I start each day by visiting here for some inspiration.

    Here's to the first thousand cups!

  26. When I read "...the day has come..." I first thought "oh crap, no!" but then "whew! okay, he's just cutting back a bit to be like a regular person." Scared me.

    I will continue to stop by daily, so if I neglect to actually write it, you should add at least one more "thank you" to every future post you make.

  27. This blog has inspired me countless times. Thank you for all the hard work.


  28. Great work as always, Leif.



  29. ***1000th***

    Let's celebrate the jubilee. What an assiduous effort, Leif. Thanks!
    Looking forward to the 1001th...
    Alf laila wa-laila - Thousand and one Nights. Or as we here in German speaking hemisphere say:
    Erzählungen aus den 1001 Nächten.

  30. Anonymous2:13 PM


    Congratulations. I visit often but have only posted comments a couple of times. Thanks

    Tim Langenderfer

  31. Leif, you're doing a great service posting all of this beautiful material. I love to swing by and blurk but rarely leave a comment. Keep up the good work and thank again.

  32. I've been coming here for two months now (I think) and you've made me feel a bit guilty that I haven't left a comment so far. Which I'm doing now: thank you so much for posting all these great illustrations! It amazes me how you always have so many interesting things to say about the pictures, I find it really inspiring even though in my life I've got absolutely nothing to do with illustrating.
    Thanks again!

  33. Dajda; I'm sorry to have made you feel guilty - but I'm very grateful that you decided to say hello! I hope you'll continue to visit - and even if you have no immediate connection to illustration, your comments will always be welcome :^)

  34. George Stokes7:15 PM

    THANK YOU LEIF! and congratulations... I too must apologize for being such a stranger. ( Remember me I sent you the 4 cd's of Fawcetts a coupla years back) Leif thanks again for all the hard work that you do! Best wishes for a great year commercially.

  35. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Lief the Lucky, Many thanks and congratulations on your web sites 1000 posts. Hope you receive many more including this one.
    My old man whom I loved dearly passed away a few years ago. He was one of the top Canadian commercial artists of his day, at a time when illustration and illustrators were at their zenith in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. His passion was his appreciation of other illustrators works of art, and what they were doing that was new and exciting, yet driven with a quality of execution. I couldn't have had a more enlightened or distinguished father, he stood tall in everyone's eyes especially mine. What he did leave behind was a collection of files he gathered throughout his many years in the business of illustrations and illustrators. I lived in most of these pictures myself and still marvel whenever I look at them. I'm willing to share some of them with you, if I only knew how. I can scan and email if that's one of the ways you could receive the pictures. I could also send along a little copy story on some of these great artists from my perspective when I knew them and a crib note about what enthralls me the most about their work. You could use it or not. Please let me know if you're interested as there are some fantastic illustrators you haven't covered yet. Randy Ranson
    Father's name was David EL Ranson.

  36. hi Lief,
    im an amature illustrator who has just started his career in art.i always liked vintage art(thats what i call it) but had no concrete source to find it resolution big enough to study.i stumbled to ur blog searching Bob peak's work and ended up discovering this huge treasure trove.i'd like to say thank you from bottom of my heart for doing such contribution for guys like us.

    keep up the great work :)

  37. Leif-

    Congratulations on your 1000 posts and here's to 1000 more!

  38. Michael Newton12:14 PM

    Whenever I'm having a bad day. A new post always helps to put it back on track. Congratulations Leif, thanks so much for all your time and efforts to bless us all through this site. Prayerfully we'll all get to see another 1000 post in the future. Keep up the great work in helping to preserve the legacy of this great art form.

  39. Your blog is very interesting.

    S. Quimas
    from Brazil

  40. Yes, as Harry said, you've created an amazing database of information for us illustration lovers. This incredible amount of work and devotion deserves, at the very least, a comment or two now and again - even if it's just a "that's cool!" comment.
    I've also never really understood why people don't just drop a comment in response occasionally (on many great sites I frequent), which is (annoying as it may sound) sometimes the reason that I do it on sites I read - out of respect.

    Note: This is obviously a hell of a lot of work, and I've often wondered how blogs like yours are maintained along with real-world activities (i.e. family, paying gigs). I guess I'll never really understand. Anyway, inviting other authors and having weekly posts instead of dailies sounds just as good.

    Keep up the great work! What you've created here is a real inspiration!

  41. Leif, I'm one of those foreigners that not use to comment in English + a Vienna reader. Although I'm more a politics cartoonist than an illustrator, I like to visit your blog because it brings to me memories of my childhood in the sixties, when these illos inspired me to pursue a drawing career.
    Compliments on your 1000th, keep on with the good work!