Coyotes and Creativity: Markus Pierson

“There’s no doubt in my mind that my success has more to do with luck than talent, more to do with stubbornness than vision, more to do with ignorance than insight, but the fact remains that I pursued my dream and attained it against staggering odds. I say this now to anyone who will listen: even if I had failed, it would have been worth it. Better to face a brutal truth than to grow old wondering what might have been.”Markus Pierson


I first saw the amazing work of artist Markus Pierson on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. His depictions of Coyotes, often dressed in zoot suits, resonated with me immediately. I grew up in West Texas with a great love of the desert southwest and the animals that roam the landscape. Pierson’s art, particularly his early pieces, were full of southwestern imagery, complete with towering saguaro cactus’, enchanted moons with wistful faces and wide open, tumbleweed lined highways. So I bought a lithograph, taped a few of his images from a calendar to my drawing board and added this statue to a shelf at home.


Clearly this was an artist who knew something about long drives across desert vistas that lead you a thousand miles to nowhere, and I could relate to that. Another reason I found Pierson’s work so compelling, is it’s almost, but not quite, humorous illustration, which is one of the genres I practice and love a lot. So I connected with his art on that level as well. But there was one more element that sealed the deal for me about Markus Pierson. It was the words.


“That many had ventured farther and done so in finer style bothered me not. My journey was my own and I found it to be quite spectacular.” from the Pierson painting Spectacular Journey.

Pierson’s paintings are always accompanied by words. Intriguing sayings that seem to call out to that part of us that says “Live Fully”. And I love that.

Markus Pierson grew up in Lansing, Michigan. Not exactly the southwestern artist I had envisioned painting Coyotes next to a Kiva fireplace in Taos and driving a 57 Cadillac through the back roads of New Mexico. A near death experience at 24 left him in a place of deep reflection. He decided that life was too short not to be doing what he loved. So he quit his job as an accountant to pursue his passion to create art rather than to crunch numbers for the rest of his life. The idea to draw and paint Coyotes was inspired by a song by Joni Mitchell called Coyote. He worked as a billboard painter during the day to build a bridge to his dream, and to pay the bills. At night he painted and bonded with the Coyotes . His breakthrough came after painting of a couple of Coyotes in the throes of passion as a wedding present for some friends, simply because he couldn’t afford to buy them one. The wedding party loved it and before you know it, Pierson goes from starving artist to selling in hundreds of galleries seemingly overnight. Well, not quite overnight, but you get the idea.

Here’s Five Creative tips from the art and life of Markus Pierson:

1. Be Courageous. Markus made the defining decision of his life on from a hospital bed. Some thought he was crazy to abandon a good paying job with a relatively secure future, to follow the artists soul inside of him. Crazy? No. Courageous. Very. But it was the right choice.
2. Be in preparation for Inspiration. A song. Markus Pierson’s entire life’s work was inspired by a song. As creatives we must always be open to inspiration no matter where it comes from. John Lennon’s song “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” was inspired by a poster in an antique store, almost word for word. The inspiration for the Peanuts comic strip character, Lucy, was inspired by Charles Schulz’s ex-wife. Could it be a billboard or a movie poster or a t-shirt, or a painting that inspires your next project. It could if we are open to the possibilities all around us everyday.
3. Be willing to Sacrifice. Each act of creation takes sacrifice. For Pierson it meant leaving his career in search of his calling. It meant late nights alone in a dingy, small apartment cranking out Coyotes. It meant taking that job as a billboard painter to build the bridge he needed until his paintings could pay the bills. For some of us, it may mean something as simple as setting aside an hour or two a day, completely dedicated to pursuing our dreams.
4. Create for Your Contentment. Don’t create something just because you think it will sell, because, it often won’t. Entertain yourself. Create something completely for you own amusement, your own satisfaction. Pierson found drawing and painting Coyotes was something he wanted to do. Actually something he had to do. He didn’t really care if no one else liked them. He did. That is all that mattered. When we create from this part of our souls, we create something totally unique. And that passion, that joy that we feel when we create at that level is what invites people to like it. They don’t see the art. They see the soul in the art.
5. Live Fully. Create Boldly. This is probably the biggest thing we can learn from the art and life of Marcus Pierson. Life is short. The chances we don’t take now are the regrets that haunt us later. When the race is over, don’t we want to know we’ve run it?

“No one works this hard and this smart – and has it come to nothing.”Markus Pierson

For more on the works of Markus Pierson you can see his website here.

A look into the brilliant art and wisdom of Sandra Boynton


Photo by Phil Mansfield for The New York Times

“If you don’t know the answer, fill up the space joyfully anyhow.”

I have long been a fan of the art and words of Sandra Boynton. The simplicity in her line work and drawings communicates in an amazing way to a great many people. How many? We’re talking about a woman who has sold over 19 million books and over half a billion greeting cards. And here’s the key. For her it was never about the numbers, the money, the fame, the accolades, or in her case, the chocolate. OK, maybe a little about the chocolate. But what It was, and still is, is all about the art of self expression without compromise, without concessions.

Boynton says in a recent article in the New York times “I don’t do things differently to be different; I do what works for me,” she says. “To me, the commodity that we consistently overvalue is money, and what we undervalue is our precious and irreplaceable time. “

Time. As I grow older I’m more aware of the clock ticking on the time I have left on this planet. I’ve lost enough loved ones in the last few years to know that time is precious. It’s one of the reasons I’m relishing this season of creative reinvention. I want to make the most of it. For 26 years I’ve been a sports cartoonist. But I have always wanted to do more with these gifts and talents. Something more than a cartoon about some recent sports story. Something that impacts people in a very real and authentic way. I want to create something, as Hugh MacLeod best explains it, that doesn’t require someone else’s money, or someone else’s approval.

“The Sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will. Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours alone.”

Hugh Macleod from his bestselling book “Ignore Everybody”

Read that quote again. Let it sink in for a moment.

Sandra Boynton is the perfect shining example of someone who has held steadfast in her quest for creative sovereignty.
not the hippo

Boynton’s career started with selling her own line of Greeting cards while still and English major at Yale. She hit a trade show in New York city with her designs, signed on with a company called Recycled Paper Greetings, did the cards her way and the rest is history. Billions of greeting cards, books and CD’s later she still has no agent, no super fancy business set up, no one else calling the shots. When she started merchandising her work with things like stuffed animals, mugs, jewelry, sheets or towels, she maintained control over the finished product so it didn’t stray from her vision. What she has is, in a nutshell, is freedom. I think that is what all creative people crave.


Boynton didn’t stop at cards and books. Her first love was always music and she set out to create songs for her children’s books that didn’t make parents go crazy having to listen to it. Her book and CD packages are not only great but they fill a niche that is still somewhat untapped.

Here’s a great peek into that musical direction and creative process she is following.

And now a few creative insights that we can learn from Sandra Boynton:

  • Write for yourself. Strive to stay in touch with your own childhood. That is where the voice of authenticity speaks loudest.
  • Read and look at other creatives who inspire you most. Think Sponge Bob here. Soak it up but don’t fixate on it. That way you can find your own voice in the mix of the inspiration.
  • Work at it. Though it may look that way Boynton was not an overnight success. She worked at her craft hard. Hard work is a common thread in creative work. Good stuff doesn’t come without some long hours and focused effort.
  • Stay true to yourself. Do your art or writing for yourself first and foremost. One thing I love about Boynton is the underlying personal passions she shares in her cards and stories, hence the love of Chocolate. It’s what make her stuff real and authentic.
  • Do what comes naturally. Boynton has never professed to be the greatest artist of all time. She played to her strengths, which in her case happened to be adorable Hippos with a lust for chocolate.
  • Creative in a good environment. For her it’s an old barn next to her home, filled with old jukeboxes and stuff that sparks her to create. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But like your art, make that space yours.
  • Innovate, innovate. Sandra didn’t stop at greeting cards. She went to books, After books she went to her music and book compilations. Next. She’s talking about Broadway.
  • Don’t sell yourself or your talent short. Respect your creative talent enough to fight for it and stand up for it. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Strive for freedom and sovereignty over your own creative work.

For more on Sandra Boynton click on the icon below. Trust me, her world is worth the trip.

boyntonbarnyard dance

And to see the rest of the New York Times article about her go to

“Sandy Boynton is someone who understands the profound importance of nonsense and silly beans.” – Meryl Streep