At the time of writing, former architect-turned-cartoonist Charles “Chaz” Hutton has over 163,000 followers on his Instagram account (@instachaaz), all eager to see what sketches he will come up with next – on sticky notes.
Chaz was encouraged by friends to share his hilarious, bite-sized musings online and, after amassing a huge number of social media fans, the London-based Australian has published a book, A Sticky Note Guide To Life (HarperCollins). The book contains hundreds of relatable drawings across a number of themes such as work, home, and technology, providing large doses of laughter with each page turn.
In an e-mail interview with Star2, Chaz tells us how his ideas and book came about, and gives his reaction to the incredible popularity of his work, which began as a means to “waste as much time as possible” in his former 9-5 job.
Anyone who buys this book thinking it’ll guide them through life will likely feel lost (though heartily amused!) by page 10. How would you describe your book?
I’d like to point out that I willingly jettison that “guide to life” claim within the first paragraph of the first page! While people might indeed feel “lost” by page 10, I do hope they’ll at least feel like they’re not the only ones who are lost.
Most of the drawings deal with the kind of day-to-day mundanity that we all encounter; to know that you’re not the only one encountering it can sometimes be quite cathartic, I think.
What was the inspiration behind your drawings? How did it all start?
My own experiences serve as most of the inspiration. Conversations that touched on subjects would then become graphical representations, and Post-It notes just seemed to be the closest thing at hand on which to draw them. The Instagram started after a few friends convinced me to start putting those drawings onto an Instagram. I told them it was a terrible idea and that nothing would come of it.
When did you realise your collection of sketches could be made into a book?
When some publishers e-mailed me and said they thought my collection of sketches could be made into a book, haha.
How long does it take you to come up with your ideas? Do you sketch one at a time, or do they come in batches?
Some of them come to me quickly and I can get them onto paper in 10 minutes or so. Others will loiter around in my mind for months at a time before I eventually figure out how to get them to work.
Your social media has gained an incredible following and reaction to your work. Did you ever expect it to reach such heights?
Absolutely not. I thought 5,000 followers was pretty amazing when I got there, so the number of followers now is a little overwhelming to say the least.
You’ve mentioned previously that you moved from Melbourne to London to escape having to be beholden to any major responsibilities – are you really a grand master of procrastination?
I don’t know if it was a means of escaping responsibility. My thought process at the time was that, if you’re in a stable job and a comfortable place, nothing really happens. However, if you throw yourself into an unfamiliar environment with no job, then interesting stuff will probably happen to you.
(As it turns out, this is not the case – in actual fact, you spend a lot of time living in relative poverty with no friends.)
In your introduction, you mention that your book offers a lot of “general idiocy”, which trumps any good advice which we probably wouldn’t take anyway. Why do you think we struggle so much to get to grips with everyday life?
The whole idea of Generation Y or millennials having existential crises and “struggling at life” is actually a myth. While it’s certainly harder to get ahead thanks to the cost of higher education and the housing market (a gripe for another time) now, the idea that we’re all suffering some kind of inability to grow up is a misguided one.
I think that’s just a standard human trait, on a par with going grey or the fact that you can’t deal with hangovers quite as well as you used to. Everyone feels those doubts, or anxiety and general fear, and anyone who claims they don’t is probably lying.Why do we feel it’s a larger question? I guess the world is a much bigger place than it used to be, and thanks to the Internet you’ve now got access to a larger pool of people in the world with which to compare yourself, and ultimately feel like you’re “failing” in comparison.
When I was growing up, architecture seemed like an awesome career to have – one of the more grown-up, responsible choices that meant you could shop in fancy supermarkets. It looks like you got plenty of support on your decision to focus on your sketch-drawing at the expense of your career. Was there any point you thought that it might be a crazy path to take?
Architecture is one of the few careers to have all the appearances of being a well-paid, respectable job – while not possessing any of those qualities. In actual fact, it’s generally a low-paying slog of a job, which, if you’ve got the tenacity to deal with, can result in some amazingly rewarding work.
However, I never really had that commitment to it so, if anything, discovering I could get paid drawing nonsense on Post-It notes was more of a relief than anything else.
Do you have any plans to create a themed series of “Sticky Note” guides (eg, surviving networking events, navigating first dates)?
I do actually! I’m in the early stages of trying to put together a weekly newsletter e-mail that would be a themed take on a subject. (You can sign up for it at tinyurl.com/star2-chaz.)
Now that you have a completed book and an impressive following, do your friends (to whom you insisted nothing would come of your sketches) gloat much or take the opportunity to say “We told you so”? Also, have you felt obliged to shout them a few drinks following your success?
Funnily enough, they’ve never once said “I told you so”, but rather continue to suggest other things I should be doing which, given their advice to date, I should probably listen to. As for buying them drinks, all the drinks in the world wouldn’t be payment enough! (But I’ll try.)