This update has been long overdue, but has been on my mind for a long time. There has been a lot of buzz about how crowdfunding and things like Kickstarter are shaking things up in the entertainment/art industry. However, I would like to share with you how exactly you (my backers) have shook things up in my own life. Warning: this is very long.
Background (The Last Five+ Years)
Just for some context, I have been an independent adult (e.g. working full-time, graduated school) for about five years. I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Visual Arts in 2008, and tried out a bunch of things, mostly in the technology/internet world. I worked as a web design and programmer for various organizations and start-up companies.
For pretty much my whole life before then, I have drawn or painted. My first nude (much to my parent’s entertainment) was drawn at the age of five. I drew and painted throughout primary, middle, and high school years, and experimented with more mediums during college. However, after graduation, that part of me that was neglected. Despite the pleasure drawing/painting gave me, there was a two or three year gap where I produced little to no art. I always knew I wanted to pursue art, but the answer has always been “not yet” or “not ready” or “when I’m older.”
In my head, pursuing art as a career was some abstract concept that required incredible skill, experience, connections, and magic. I wouldn’t know where to start, and the result would most certainly end with me starving.
Game Change (The Last Year)
Despite all this, the idea for “Cities of You” came up as a neat idea that I thought I’d try out on the side. I haven’t done serious art work in a while, and I was up for the challenge. I started out doing a city painting every month or two. Then slowly accelerated to a few per month, then to a couple per week. The project resonated with friends and family, and was probably my first art project that I felt was really “me.” I started to receive requests for custom cities, prints of cities, and suggestions to make the project into a book.
During this time, a website called Kickstarter was gaining popularity. This was only months before the record-breaking “Double-Fine Adventure” campaign was launched. I started to consider the option for crowd-funding the creation of a Cities of You book. Other than pride, there was really nothing to lose, right? I figured I could handle failure pretty well. I thought it would at least be a fun way for me to get my friends and family part of the process for creating a book. I setup my flipcam and awkwardly recorded myself in my bedroom, created the campaign page, crossed my fingers, and launched.
The response was beyond anything I could have imagined. I expected a long painful stretch to maybe, barely make my goal, while incessantly pestering my friends and family. In sharp contrast, I hit my goal in a matter of days, and ended up almost 6x my original goal. Not only that, but there were many, many folks who didn’t previously know about me or my project. Although, I endlessly appreciate and never take for granted the support of friends and family, it is a weird but amazing feeling when a stranger validates something that has only been previously seen in your bubble.
The generosity was overwhelming; I was at loss of what to say or do. I knew that I always had supportive friends and family, but seeing it manifest itself in such a massive and direct way knocked the wind out of me. My own little anxieties and insecurities became buried under the overdose of positive energy.
Questions like “Is my art good enough?” or “When will my art be good enough?” became “What should I do next?”. You (my backers), reshaped the conversation. You told me to forget about the little worries and insecurities; just make good art and the rest will eventually come.
You have brought the young artist in me back to life. Instead of making something once every couple of months at most, I’m doing art almost every day. And that is not a means to an end... that is an end that has already brought me so much joy.
Above: The introductory page of a sketch book from when I was 7
Endless Possibilities (The Next ?? Years)
The future is still uncertain, but looks very, very bright from here. I am not yet a full-time artist, but I’m doing art whenever I am not coding, eating, or sleeping. The ideas are now constantly flowing and there’s not enough time to do them all. I feel like a completely different person after this experience.
I am almost certain, when I look back years from now, I will point to this past year when things shifted dramatically both personally and professionally. And you all, my first 141 generous backers, are directly to thank.
And that is my love letter to you, my backers. I hope I expressed as sufficiently I could, how grateful I am to you and this experience. You are my joy.
p.s. if you want to follow some of my current and upcoming artworks, please find me on Facebook. I will be posting updates regularly!