F1CD: Good day! Hundreds of people every day, every hour and even every minute express their emotions with Your smileys. But who is actually hidden beyond the mysterious pseudonym “Aiwan”? Introduce Yourself to us, please, what is Your real name?
Aiwan: Hello. My name is Mantsurov Ivan. Historically nearly every person that communicates in the net has a pseudonym, or a nick. I got my pseudonym from the real life. My real name is actually pronounced in the English language like “Aiwan”, my friends found it very funny and I just spelled it. So, this nick was fixated for me in the net space. I should mention that in the real life I had no nicknames because my real name and surname are very simple and common for Russia. My pseudonym I perceive as a real name. But in the last time I often write my real name and surname because it allows me to protect copyrights. So, there are no secrets left.
F1CD: Tell something about Yourself. How old are You? Where do You live and work?
Aiwan: The older You are, the harder You can write about it. Ten or fifteen years ago I would say that I was nearly 36, but now I'll say honestly, I am only 35 years old. I’m married, have a son. I have been living my whole life in the far North in a small town Nadim, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, except of two years field duty. I work as a fire engine driver, I work far from my house in a small village Zapolyarniy. One month I work, one month I'm home. Someone would find such way of life strange, but it's very common for us. And I have much free time to paint my koloboks.
F1CD: What do You feel when You see Your works somewhere in the net? What does it feel like to be a creator of emotions for a great amount of complete strangers, who speak 10 different languages and live in different places?
Aiwan: My feelings change with time. When I only started to paint, I was very proud of it and it was pleasant for me to realize, that my works are popular. I watched how many times my archives were downloaded, I knew how many works I had painted. But it didn’t last long. Soon I lost interest in statistics and began to understand the whole responsibility of such popularity. Letters from my fans and different comments left on my site let me know that people attracts in my work mostly the fact that they exude optimism and positive emotions. I become self-consciously for some works made by me at request of visitors, which behaved vulgarly. As I once visited one religious site, which recommended my smileys, I saw that some of sections were forbidden. It was a number of pages with vulgar smileys. Exactly at this moment I decided not to paint such kolobok representing sexual actions, vulgarity. And I suddenly recognize that my popularity has its reverse side – big responsibility. Now I deleted some kolobok from my galleries and tell other painters, that kolobok should only exude positive emotions. Now I jokingly say that those, who paint kolobok, should swear: “We are kind and merry and bring joy to others!”.
F1CD: If it’s not a secret, tell us please, what is Your wife’s attitude to Your creation? Isn’t she jealous? You spend indeed much time painting kolobok?
Aiwan: My wife is a very smart woman and she understands, that if I don’t sit and paint, I’ll find another occupation: garage, car, beer, friends, late returns home, strange lipstick, strange perfume… She is not against my hobby, she is for it. And no she has no other way. Actually the relationships in our family are built on the old family principles, that the husband plays the key role.
F1CD: I cannot by ask about AOL. It’s a great success for You as an author, because with their integration in the ICQ 6 Your smileys will live by 90% of all ICQ-customers all over the world! It is of course wonderful and it is a great success! Congratulations! But has the telecommunication giant given You no pay-off for Your great work... All the more so, because kolobok in the new style can be only in ICQ 6 and further versions.
Aiwan: Thank You for congratulations. The question of pay is interesting for many people. The point is, that any large corporation usually loses in innovations and acts more clumsy and slower, than a simple affinity group. Consequently, ICQ got as last one the innovations, which have already been in other clients. By this I mean animation smileys and extra smiley packets. I understood, that the new packet of smileys is actually an initiative of those, with whom I have spoken. The leadership wasn’t interested in this idea and even less wanted to pay for it. We decided, that we’ll discuss the question of pay-off when ICQ express the wish to place new galleries. This all is my private opinion to this problem IMHO as a common expression for the net. may be I am mistaking in any way, but it is so and I don't regret it. Because I got no money, I fully preserved the copyright on my works’ usage in Internet and other format except pagers. Consequently, every company, that wants to replace these smileys on its site, can get my permission by concluding a treaty. Common visitors have no limitations. Actually a question of a new ICQ gallery creation was already opened, but I haven’t agreed yet.
F1CD: More about the new kolobok – this format, reverse of classic colors and sizes – is it a requirement (a ) of AOL, or is it just an escalated issue, that was waiting for its hour?
Aiwan: No, it’s only my wish. AOL wanted all the galleries to be painted in the old format. I couldn't give it them consequently. I have an agreement with QIP and other contracts not connected with internet. I couldn’t act like that. Physically I could sign a contract - I have actually no papers limiting my rights – but it would be dishonorable. That’s why I discussed this question with everyone, who uses my works in projects and programs, and nobody minded my wish to remake all my pictures. I have formed the idea of a new format for a long time. Formerly I wanted to remake everything, even ideas. But AOL had as usual its terms and plans.
F1CD: New kolobok became brighter and “juicier”, but don’t You think, that they have lost something that classic kolobok had?
Aiwan: I don’t think, that they lost something. They have just changed a little bit, but it’s normal, that someone likes them and someone not. In some works I changed something, but in some cases I changed everything. You can compare it with songs. If You several years listen to one melody and suddenly author changes its arrangement, You may feel disappointment or vexation. You like the old version more. And You don’t care if author has corrected some mistakes in the new one, because Your emotions and thoughts are connected with old rhyme and music. It’s ok.
F1CD: A year or two ago You said, that not many Your acquaintances know You as an author of those emotions, that they may see and express every day by sending and receiving e-mails and reading forums. Has something changed since that time?
Aiwan: No. Nothing has changed. Those, who know, what I’m doing, are far from it and it doesn’t mean for them anything. My wife, several friends at home and at work. The others has no idea of it. I can imagine which reaction this news could arouse – I would hear only “And what is it?“ or “Yeah. Cool.” I’m not a public person. It likes me well, that my creation is so popular, but I don't want any excitement for me.
F1CD: How did You come to the idea of making a set of mini-kolobok? Can we hope to see new works in this format?
Aiwan: Once I tried to draw a mini-smiley, but no good came of it. I left everything in archive and waited for the right time. And then an author of one CMS-engine asked me to draw a set. I said, that I’ve already tried, but nothing came of it, and that I never paint by order. Time went by, I’ve already forgotten about the letter and felt, that I can try to draw it. And I succeed! I've already forgotten about that talk till I found out, that the author of the CMS-engine took them (smileys) and used. I had to explain to him, that he had to ask for permission, the engine was on a paid basis withal. We haven't eventually come to terms, thank God. Recently another person from another pager spoke to me, and I firstly told them where to go. But they happened to be persistent, and soon the mini-smileys will appear in a very popular client. I can’t say it’s name, because we haven’t signed any documents yet. The only think I can tell you, it is not the ICQ protocol. They offered me a cooperation like I waited from AOL: gallery, pay for my work, help and support. If it is as it seems to be a new format of kolobok will appear. But it’s too early to speak about it.
F1CD: And how often does it happen, that Your kolobok are used without permission for commercial purposes? What "breaker" do You remember the best?
Aiwan: It happens everywhere. Some time ago I tried to organize a crusade against breakers. But I realized, that it takes a lot of energy and time. Now I clamor only if I see obvious disregard of my rights by high-profile persons. I’ve never searched for breakers myself, my fans tell me who does it, where and when. Actually I don’t know , what I can do against infringers. Theoretically I could of course bring a case before the court and so on. But how can I fight against the whole Internet? I have found an easier way. I have just opened a topic and put there the whole text of the correspondence. Do You know? It works! But some people simply ignore my letters, like for example www.24open.ru. I sent them letters many times, but they simply gave no answer. The most famous case was to my mind connected with www.liveinternet.ru. But we have decided the issue with its leadership and are now on friendly terms. Because Live Journal is a public portal, and everything was completed by visitors. I no more fight actively, letters and my authority in the net are enough.
My creation doesn’t depend on my earnings. But I want my earnings to balance my losses. And of course I won’t be against, if other people earn something using my pictures. Just a simple example. My sim-card was blocked. I visited the site of my mobile operator to know how can I get my 500 rubles back, which I had on my sim-card. And what do I see? My works are used on forum. Is it fair? I don’t mean so. But truth has triumphed at the end…
F1CD: Which IM-net do You use and which client?
Aiwan: My main protocol is of course ICQ. But at work I often have to deal with different people from different countries. That’s why I have also Miranda IM with protocols like ICQ, MSN, Mail.ru, Jabber. And the second pager QIP with five-unit number (a present from ICQ) for close friends. My Miranda contact list is so big (very small print – 10px), it doesn't fit my 19 inch monitor. I can’t say, how many people do I have in it, I haven’t counted. Also I don’t count how many works have I painted. Can’t say even roughly speaking.
F1CD: I would like to use opportunity and to ask You at request of my wife to tell me, how was this extraordinary kolobok – ?
Aiwan: This one is a prototype of one of Fools works ( http://www.foolstown.com/ ). Fool is a great animator retired from smuley business. Many of his works became classic like the one that you have shown. The author himself doesn’t mind such rebirth of his his works. I have discussed this topic with him. Of course you must not only have an idea, you have to paint it well, but in this case both idea and its realization appeared good. It is one of the most popular smileys.
F1CD: How did it happen, that real kolobok are painted not only by You? Who as first began to work in this KOLOBOK style? Who can You mark especially?
Aiwan: At a certain moment I had a writer’s block. I had painted everything I wanted, and I had nothing more to say. What could I aim at? I'm not interested in painting others' orders. It is harder and harder to make people stare. Everyone became accustomed to kolobok. May be everyone has such period in his/her life and many decide to stop working. I thought a little bit and made a provocative step. I tried to organize a kind of community. I published a part of sources of my works and it had its results. Besides the kolobok’ expansion in internet and beyond it, I got many followers. Now there are several talented person from different countries painting their own works and giving me a motivation for my creation. Looking at their works I want to draw my own ones. I just list the most distinguished animators: Laie (Spain), Just Cuz (USA), ViShenk@ (Russia), Connie (USA), snoozer (Russia,) viannen (Canada).
F1CD: What would You advise the beginning painters, who are trying to draw smileys?
Aiwan: You should leave illusions, that it's "simple" or "impossible". You should have patience, read a lot of literature on this subject (animation), you should have a big “sit-upon” and you should never give up, even if something is going wrong. Paint, paint and paint. That’s all. If one of these steps is beyond your capacity, just tread new ground.
F1CD: There are a lot of people in Russia drawing smileys, do You like any works? I ask about native animators, because everybody knows, that You prefer their works.
Aiwan: If I have not misunderstood you, your question is about other works and other styles that I like? Everything has changed. But I was very shocked when I visited at the beginning of my career Fool’s site. At that time I didn’t know about him anything at all, but my own paintings were quite successful. When I saw his works I was so shocked that I couldn't recover from my astonishment. I was under the impression of what I have seen. I understood at that time what the idea is, how it can be realized and how difficult it is to animate a work. A little bit later I came around and decided, that my works can be not worse. So I got my spiritual ancestor. I couldn't paint worse. Than it became not so important, we got acquainted and talked with Fool. I had nothing to prove. But his creation has ignited me as a beginner. By the way, the logo for my site – Godfather – was painted by Fool.
F1CD: Tell us about those, who are now close to You – about Your fans (or rather friends), who help you with site and forum. Are there many of them, who would You like to mark especially.
Aiwan: I thank everyone, who has helped me anyhow and is helping now. My main helpmate is Dilia, she has already helped me to answer many questions of visitors, to maintain order and helps me with everything concerning forum and site. Iris, my friend, helps me from the very beginning, from the first archive published by me in the net. Thanks to her I could buy a license for the program, in which I’m now working (Ulead GIF Animator 5.05), for forums and so on, what I couldn't do because I live in Russia. Just Cuz helps me a lot. He doesn’t speak Russian and deals with English-speaking site visitors, that make a half of the whole mass. I thank everyone, who helped me with site scripts: Igor Nesterov, 11 Ezhikaff, SlavaZ, Anti SP and Neo, Nikita. And those, who simply supported me during the whole creative development and who constitute now the backbone of the community visiting forum and site regularly. I thank all of them.
F1CD: You are most certainly a good person (and your works are just precious), but do you have any hobby beside kolobok?
Aiwan: If you want to be respected in the net you gotta be tough sometimes. I can get pretty angry at times, hence the godfather title, but when I think about it I calm down. Cause I’m a kind man! I have several projects in the net at the moment, I do some mods for the neverwinter nights 2 engine. I like creative people that do things with their own hands. In the game you can create your own heroes, your world, adventures and stories. If you’re interested you can find my work on this page: www.city-of-masters.ru – module developers forums and my team’s page www.wrg.ru. By the way the story of kolobok began with me needing smileys for a dark background. Sadly I don’t have much time for my family or job.
F1CD: What are Your plans for future? Can we hope to see new classic smileys, or will all Your works represent the new tendency?
Aiwan: Frankly speaking, I want to have a rest. Feel myself like a squeezed orange. I’ve painted a lot, and it told on me. I’ve also prepared a new packet of mini-works for one pager, as I’ve already mentioned above. But I still don’t know when it will appear. Be watchful for my news. If everything goes well, you can wait a new format. Classics I will paint only because it will be popular and actual as other formats showed. Of course if I feel good. I don’t paint being in no temper for it. It is necessary to make a real kolobok.
Questions: Voevoda Denis. Interview for site F1CD 2008г.