Top 5 Ideas to Maintain and Increase Creativity from Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

is the artist who creates the popular What the Duck cartoon strip. I’ve been following his work for years, and have found myself regularly consuming his sense of humor – the central character being a duck photographer (a “shooting duck?”)


Johnson comes up with a new cartoon strip 5 days per week, rain or shine. As much as I appreciate all the fun photographer humor, I also respect his ability to come up with a continuous supply of new creative ideas.

How does he do it? I decided to ask. I think photographers, like any creative individuals, can benefit from his answers.

Grover: How did you come up with the idea for the strip? Are you, or were you ever, a photographer?

Aaron: Four years ago I woke up with the idea of creating the most dry, niche comic strip imaginable. A series about a duck photographer seemed to fit the bill (pun intended). I guess the best way to describe myself is to say that I’m not a professional photographer, by choice. More specifically, I work in and around the business and in my spare time (if there is such a thing) I’m a heavy hobbyist.

Grover: Coming up with ideas for a daily comic strip is a real challenge for creative people like photographers. How do you manage to keep generating ideas?

Aaron: Here are my…

Top 5 ideas on maintaining and increasing your creativity

5. After you get one good idea – force yourself to come up with four others. Don’t settle.

4. Don’t spend too much time trying to get ideas from of other people’s work. It’s a good idea to study and analyze, but too much will turn you into ‘an audience’ and not ‘the creator’.

3. Do not concern yourself with what other people will think. You’ll never please everyone, but you can please yourself.

2. Break out of your comfort zone (or zones). One easy way is by doing the opposite of what you would normally do.

1. Force yourself to do it – everyday. Think of creativity as a muscle. The more it’s used, the stronger it becomes.

Grover: How do you measure the success of a day’s comic?

Aaron: I judge my own work by several criteria:

• Did it say something?
• Can someone else relate?
• Did it make me laugh?

Grover: What have been some of the most successful “What The Duck” comics you’ve created, and why were they successful?

Aaron: I think WTD #95 (above) has been a fan favorite. What makes it “work” and successful is it’s “relateability” and recognition. What photographer hasn’t heard this before? Secondly, the answer is short, sweet, and completely nails the point of the issue.

Grover: Many photographers find it a challenge to market their work. You’ve done a great job building a following online. Which marketing efforts were/ are the most successful for you?

Aaron: The secret to WTD’s success is its fans. They’ve supported it, spread the word, and put it on the map. I’ve had to do surprisingly very little “selling” of the strip over the years. Maybe the work speaks for itself, but probably more likely is the fact that I’ve hit the jackpot of loyal readers.

You can follow Aaron and his What The Duck cartoons on the web, or on Twitter (@wtdcomics), on his Facebook fan page, or by watching the animated cartoons found in his YouTube channel.

Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

PhotoShelter co-founder and GM

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Miserere at 3:03 pm

    I’m a bit let down by this interview. I was really hoping Aaron would outline the Voodoo potion he’s been drinking all these years…or that he’s actually one of a set of sextuplets working on the strip…or that he has a time-stopping machine…or that he outsources his work to artists in Duckistan for $1/strip…or…just about anything but the fact that he’s a human being who has come up with over 1,000 hilarious cartoon strips, daily, on his own. I just don’t believe that. Aaron, we want the truth! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *