Interviewed by Eric Johnson
Question: Were you a "computer geek" growing up?
Stobblehouse: Not at all. First of all, the Personal Computer did not arrive until I was almost an adult. Secondly, I am not a natural egg-head. I was near my mid-thirties before I even owned a computer. I was afraid it was too complex for me. And it is rather complex, but a strong desire for the possibilities in communication and creativity that the computer enables helped to thrust me through those complexities, and still does.
I don't do anything with code on a computer. I am just a user. But a very good one, for I am very interested in becoming efficient on the machine. I like for instance to learn keyboard shortcuts for things you would otherwise have to reach for the mouse to do, for instance change applications. Two seconds saved a hundred times a day adds up to over twenty hours saved in a year.
For this I read books. I warmly recommend David Pogue's books, both for Macintosh and Windows.
Question: What was your first computer?
Stobblehouse: I used DOS and Windows machines in my first office job, but I had heard that Macintosh computers were better for artists and more user-friendly (both things are true), so as soon as I could afford it, I got a Macintosh, the first generation PowerMac, model "7200" at 90Mhz. Zippity! 500 MB hard drive. (Barely enough for a year's email archives for me these days.)
Question: When did you first think you might be able to make your many interests work for you, i.e. turn profitable?
Stobblehouse: I always imagined I would become a important artist. And I might still, you never know. But one of my problems have always been "too many interests". I like to write, and to draw, and to photograph, etc. Fortuitously, when the web arrived, there came along many more opportunities for people with eclectic abilities.
The closest thing to a comprehensive word for what I do would be "web publishing", I guess. And I keep getting new ideas within that area, it is almost unlimited. (I can't use all those ideas, of course, you have to focus.)
The first profit and still the biggest is of course Domai.com. Which started in a funny way. Not at all intended to be a business site. It was just a joke about my tendency to look at girls: I had earlier created this spoof club called the Dirty Old Men's Association International, and when the web appeared, I was looking for something fun to make a web site about, and that club was an obvious idea.
So I ran it for fun and for free for about half a year. And got a astounding amount of traffic and lots and lots of really excellent email. And many new friends.
One of those friends said he might help me to make money on it. I thought he meant selling my photographs. But he imagined that one could sell memberships on my web site. The thought had never occurred to me. Not the least because I did not have any knowledge or inclination whatsoever in the way of business.
But this guy did not have any blocks on that account. He probably did not know much more than myself, but he was much more gung-ho. So we started it up, with very primitive software and setups. He soon left due to poor health, but he had shown me that even a doof like me could run a business.
Half a year after that, the company I worked for in day-time downsized, and I was "made redundant". I had four months notice, but I was thoroughly bored in that job, so I said I would leave immediately, despite the penalty in unemployment benefits that would mean. And I went full time on building and promoting Domai, and very soon made a bare living wage on it, and built it from there. And today I am making a really good living.
Question: Who are your role models?
Stobblehouse: Anybody who has greatly affected the world, especially great artists, writers, and philosophers. I always admired a really strong adherence to a single purpose. Vincent van Gogh is a good example. He was not really that great a draughtsman, but through sheer force of will he ended up making some of the best art in the world.
Question: Where did you study?
Stobblehouse: I am self-taught. I did not finish high school (12th grade). I am not a great fan of formal education, I find that it is very stiffling. It if fine for people who want to fit into existing structures, but for people who want to make new paths, it is death.
Question: Describe a typical Stobblehouse day.
Stobblehouse: Ha-ha. Boring. Get up mid-morning. Answer email and handle the work resulting from that, update the web site, open my snail mail (not much of that, everything is done on the Net). Then go to town and have a lazy lunch. Maybe a little shopping and whatever errands I may have, and a cafe visit. Enjoy urban sights, particularly the feminine parts of it.
Then back. The first thing I do when I get home is always to answer email. I answer email continually during a day. It is my lifeline to the whole world and the way I operate my business.
After that it is basically a quick and heady mix of relaxation with films and books, and educating myself by study of books and on the web, and of course more work. Mixed according to how I feel right this minute. I hear David Bowie has something of the same temper as me: he seldom does anything for more than an hour at a time, always getting new ideas all the time. So I will do whatever I am inspired to do, and then when I get bored shift to something else in a second. It seems that most people it is more effective to do something for several hours at a time. But that is not how I function best.
My Mac and the Net is the center of my home and life. I do everything on it: I do research, I communicate, I shop, I work, I create, I see films, etc etc. It is an amazing powertool for basically all those things I am interested in.
Question: Married? Single?
Stobblehouse: I honestly don't know if I will ever find that saint of a woman who would put up with my boring life and the fact that I will always love my work more than I love her...
Question: I see from one of your quotes that you're against the mood altering experiences provided by drugs and alcohol. Could you elaborate -- traditionally, the artist has an all too intimate association with these things. (On a personal note, I, too, avoid the temptations. As an emotional sort, I've always felt you were cheating yourself if you avoided the lows. You can only defer so long, and it's never good to work on credit).
Stobblehouse: Actually the "credit" thing is very apt metaphor for drugs. Maybe even more than just a metaphor. If you buy everything on credit cards, you are always in the hole, and you pay a severe interest all the time, and never get on top. Same with drugs, you are always paying now for the instant gratification you indulged in, in the past.
I actually have quite an addictive personality, but fortunately it is balanced by a natural revulsion against most drugs, and a bit of discipline. Only things like coffee and chocolate have been hard for me to kick. (I quit coffee only after I got hard proof that it caused me stomach pains. And later I found out it had also caused mood depression, I feel generally much better without it.)
I don't think it takes much of a genius to see what drugs are. You only have to look at a person who have been using them a lot. They are severely messed up.
One problem is that the Establishment, hypocritically, always rail against drugs, and so bohemian type people (like most creatives), automatically think that drugs must be a really cool thing. Very, very stupid.
Question: As an artist and photographer, you are personally in contact with nude women in a professional, non-sexual setting. Describe how that works. How do you gain the model's trust? How do you coax her personality out from behind the curtain of her nudity?
Stobblehouse: If she is experienced, it is not a problem. If she is not, she may need to be talked with a bit, and a lot of chatter and jokes. Some may need to see some results first, and see that they are quite beautiful. Most women have badly hammered self-esteem.
Question: How do you acquire the photographs on your site? Some of the brightest names in Simple Nudes are represented.
Stobblehouse: The first couple of years it was hard to find good content, due to the fact that I basically had to build and invent the Simple Nudes market myself. But nowadays I get lots of submissions from very good photographers, because the site is rather famous. And there are even many who are doing work they otherwise wouldn't, because there is now an outlet for it.
It seems that Domai.com is still the only site doing *real* simple nudes. Almost all other sites which do something similar either do soft erotica, or Fine Art Nudes. Both eroticism and Art are very strong forces, and it is a delicate balance to stand on the third stepping stone in between them.
Question: As a writer -- I write mostly fiction, by the way -- I've adopted the following rough definition of art: Art should entertain and enlighten, but never instruct. What philosophy do you base your work on?
Stobblehouse: Ooh, that is a big subject. Maybe that beauty is central to art. So much art is based on gimmicks or shock value. Or just the specifics of what it is *about*. The significance part of it, or message. Art may be about something, but more importantly it just *is*.
Question: Do you handle every aspect of your empire, or do you farm out some of the more tedious stuff? Running a premium service like DOMAI.com, at least, must take a lot of time away from your creative life.
Stobblehouse: You'd think. But somehow, through the miracle of modern computers and some ingenuity, I don't use a lot of time on routine work. I actually have so little work that is 'routine' that I am still of this writing doing everything myself. And I still have time to read books and watch movies and take walks and so on. If I did not, I probably wouldn't continue. I need space and time to think.
Question: Favorite authors?
Stobblehouse: Iain (M) Banks. William Gibson. L. Ron Hubbard. Alan Moore. Neil Gaiman. Tim Powers. Gary Trudeau. Scott Adams. Charles Schulz. And so many more.
Question: What's the one non-American book Americans need to read?
Stobblehouse: For SF fans, I recommend Scottish writer Iain M. Banks. He is criminally neglected in the US. He is one of the best science fiction writers ever, along with William Gibson and L. Ron Hubbard.
Non-fiction... The Trick To Money Is Having Some by British philosopher Stuart Wilde is a favorite of mine. It really nails the mental attitudes and the workings of the universe behind getting to be comfortable financially, so you can get your attention free for important things.
Question: Has the internet lived up to its hype, or has it fallen short of that new utopia some people thought it would be?
Stobblehouse: It has already changed the world for good. And it has only started. The Internet is surely the most important communications development since the phone. Maybe even since the printing press. And communications is probably the single most important aspect of human existence.
Question: Americans, it seems, tend to annoy the rest of the world. The demanding tourist's impatience for local customs can, I'm told, seem as bullying and boorish as our national policies. Is this a fair portrayal, do you think, or is it just an easy stereotype?
Stobblehouse: Haha, I am reminded of a day in Copenhagen many years ago, a big beefy American tourist in a loud shirt practically stepped into the road in front of my bicycle and said loudly, without any "hello" or "excuse me": "Where is the sjoer?!" I didn't recognize the Danish word "s¿er" meaning "lakes", so it took me a while to help him. That one was certainly the stereo type you are talking about. But I think they are getting further between. Almost all Americans I meet are excellent people.
Geopolitical issues are obviously huge, and I have opinions, but I have decided to stay out of politics and such, because it seems to me to be a big rat's nest of lies and insanity, and I just don't function well in such an environment. I do my best contribution just focusing on creativity.
Question: Is the shrinking of the world -- multinational corporations eating up the world's individuality, the lightning-quick culture shifts, globalization as a whole -- a good thing or a bad thing?
Stobblehouse: It is being used with good intentions, and it is also being used with bad intentions. But on the whole I don't see any doubt that increased global communications is a great and wonderful thing. In fact a vital step for mankind, if we are ever to act as one species with common goals, rather than a lot of groups competing and fighting.
Question: Could you run through the story of your name again?
Stobblehouse: This is from stobblehouse.com:
Etymology: Eo means the earliest or the original of something. Lakin or Laik comes from old English "to play" or "move around", and further back from old Norse, "toy" or "baby". Stob means, in old Scottish dialect: (1) a stick, broken off twig, (2) a stump, the remainder or remnant of a rainbow Stob-thatch - roofing consisting of broom or brushwood laid across the rafters.
... So if we want to get poetic about it, Eolake Stobblehouse would mean "The original child, son of the rainbow, living with the spirit of play in a thatch-roofed home."
But all that is just after-rationalization. I simply made it up from thin air.
Question: If you could change the world for one day just to teach the world a lesson, what would you do?
Stobblehouse: You don't believe in easy questions, do you? Maybe I would remove all the fears for a day. To show that if we are not so danged afraid of each other and the world and ourselves, maybe we can see a world bursting with potential and possibilities, a world where love and beauty and art and just plain FUN are not just possible, but are everywhere, and are not at all difficult to have, in fact the easiest things in the universe.
Question: Talk a bit about the Domai book Natural Beauties.
Stobblehouse: There was always a demand for Domai beauties in a book. But I knew that book publishing is a hard and complex business, so I was not about to go into it, no matter how successful my web business is. (Thinking you are Superman after one success in one area is a common mistake.) But then I was contacted by an international publisher, and they were interested in putting out a Domai book. I said yes, not because of the money, for there is very little of it in paper publishing due to printing and distribution costs, but because I think it might help getting the "simple nudes" philosophy out in circles who might not think to look for tasteful nudes on the web. And because advertising a book on the site might help show visitors that this is not just another nude art web site. (Some people see this immediately, but many don't.)
And after some months with rough editing by me and refining by the publisher's editor, we had a Simple Nudes book I can't imagine being better. The it is handy little book with 360 pages, and lots and lots of gorgeous models and photos.
Very pleasingly, it is getting really positive reviews, and it selling like hotcakes, so I think it is a good ambassador for the Simple Nudes philosophy.
Simple Nudes is the idea that Erotica and Fine Art Nudes are not the only options, there is a third one where the beauty of the model is paramount, and art and sexuality are both subordinate. You can read about it on Domai.com.
Even though Fine Art is central in my life, I also love Simple Nudes. I have images from Domai.com sitting on the desktop of my computer all the time, and I have had high resolution versions printed and framed and hung on my walls. Female beauty always gives me a lift.
Question: I'd like your thoughts on the idea of knowability in the information age. In this era of available documentation -- everything, it seems, can be found somewhere -- verification is nevertheless a slippery thing. Do you think there's an increased sense of skepticism since the dawn of the Information Age?
Stobblehouse: Any skepticism is just what should have been there from the beginning. We have always taken everything we're told at face value. Even big media are shown more and more to be very far from biased, which is no wonder since they are big business and obviously have to act in the interest of their owners.
Verification is tricky. In the end I think you just have to collect as much data as you can, and then go with your own perceptions. What feels true.
Question: For some people, computers are an end in themselves, a way to lose themselves in a world outside their own, yet for you a computer is a tool. Any comments.
Stobblehouse: No. You said it.
...Okay, a little bit more: Computers are wonderful tools. With one cheap Macintosh I can do 50 times more to a photo than I ever could in a darkroom, and much easier. But that is just the beginning. With the same thousand-dollar machine I can edit movies, write a novel, run a business, make drawings, shop all over the planet, do research. And most importantly, I can be part of a global, instant community, all for pennies. Not to mention the publishing capabilities of the world wide web. You can publish anything that can be digitized. It is simply so staggeringly revolutionary that you just can't really wrap your mind around it. What has happened in the last couple of decades might just be the most important evolution in human communication and creativity ever.
Question: You've written about the difficulties of capturing the female form. What do you think is the hardest aspect to re-create or interpret?
Stobblehouse: The fact that is is really a design made from one continuous line, unbroken. We tend to break things up in parts to make them easier to understand. But if you do that with the female form, you lose its most important characteristic.
It really is an amazing thing. I can get bored with sex or food or anything, but I've never been bored with beautiful women.
Question: How has your DOMAI job -- looking at pictures of the world's most naturally beautiful women, writing so eloquently about observing and appreciating beauty -- effected your relationships with women? I would think a woman friend might feel a little intimidated, perhaps even a little insecure to be with such a world-class evaluator. Obviously, with a real relationship there's so much more going on than beauty, but I'm thinking about the more casual friendships and acquaintances.
Stobblehouse: I don't see how anybody could be intimidated by me, I am a pussycat.
Question: Where were you born?
Stobblehouse: In Karrebæksminde in Denmark. A charming little town that used to be a fishing village. Beautiful place. (See photo essay on stobblehouse.com) Obviously not a great place to find many people of similar interests though, so when I had learned to read, I disappeared into books.
Question: I've found that one of the most important qualities for a successful artist is selfishness. Not necessarily in a bad sense, but in the way that great people who are doing great things need to be allowed the latitude to do what they have to do the way they have to do it. Would you agree?
Stobblehouse: Well, if one is the kind of artist who likes to push barriers, one certainly needs a good, strong... not selfishness, but... assertiveness, maybe. Belief in your work and your ideas. Look again at Vincent van Gogh. When he lived, almost everybody regarded his work as crap, because nothing like it had been seen before. But now he has for over a century been regarded as one of our greatest artists. If he had bent to the pressure of the masses (or most of his friends and family), we would have lost one of our greatest art treasures.