Between high culture and mainstream media

Just came back from the yearly BNO general meeting of members – yesterday I went to the monthly Dutch Game Garden network lunch. Both events to meet industry contacts, though very different people attending. I often wonder how many people would go to both of these very different meetings, and I feel it must be only me.

Ever since I decided to take a chance on the game industry, I felt a bit of an intern struggle to create work I feel truly fulfilled about. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on game assets and illustrations! I would be quite happy if I could draw buildings and plants for games for the coming years, sure! Thing is, my art school background nags at me when I see more ‘high culture’ designers present their work at events such as OBJECT or Dutch Design Week. It is as if I miss working towards a higher goal, bringing humanity further (which I think those designers aim for), which I cannot really achieve just drawing trees and bushes for some entertainment game.

Prints and objects sold by Studio Kars + Boom at OBJECT. This was perhaps the most illustrative project present at the fair. I think the way of presenting the work (bare wood on the concrete floor) already gives an impression of how conceptual some of the other projects were.

Being among these ‘high culture’ designers at the BNO feels weird when I think about while I sell my work at extremely low-culture places such as Dutch Comic Con. One of my teachers once even implied those conventions are not a place for schooled Creative Pioneers like me. I actually love to present at such low-brow conventions! Is it below my education when most of my fellow convention artists are hobbyists and the work presented is fan art (even though I aim long term for more original work)? That’s a quite narrow way to see it, isn’t it?

While the Dutch Design Week might be the pinnacle of ‘conceptual’ design, it does not reach the masses. I doubt all of the people at the DGG network lunch have even heard of it – which is perfectly fine, what does game development have to do with design furniture? Games need nice-looking imagery, not conceptual ideas, at least the mainstream ones.

Tapping into that, I’ve always seen it as a decifit that I didn’t study Game Art. I’m sure having done a broader Illustration Bachelor has its advantages; I just haven’t found out how to tap into those talents. It’s nice I have a better understanding of art history and contemporary design, have had freeform figure drawing lessons or did projects about the local neighborhood, but those aren’t skills the industry asks for. Those 3D modelling or C# lessons would have been much more valuable.

My graduation project was the first and last time I was able to combine what I simply love to do (drawing creatures) with a statement (representation of harpies and women alike). It seems that my art teachers where more happy about this project than the industry people I have talked about it, but it’s a start.

During this project I stumbled upon themes I found highly interesting and that I would love to develop further, such as helping people connecting more to nature, feeling more part of a whole and the role of monsters and creatures in our culture.

Now I could of course could create games about these themes myself – the medium is perfect for statements short and long. Thing is, learning how to program and design are separate disciplines in themselves. Even though I love to learn to make my own games from scratch, it seems wiser to focus on art for now until I can make a modest income with that.

I think my best bet for now is to try to combine the ‘simple things I draw for money’ and the ‘statements I want to make about the world’ in small illustration-heavy projects such as comics and zines – in such a way that they tick all the industry boxes and make me feel I’m drawing nice things and contributing ideas to the world. That’s enough challenge for now!

Looking back on 2019

What a year it has been, both personally and career-wise! Back in January, I was busy adding the final touches to my graduation project. After that I took a short holiday and I started with my freelance career. Time for a review: what have I been doing this year?

Graduation: finally into the wild

I underestimated how hard it would be to find work in the illustration field, and that made me feel quite self-concious at times. On the other hand, I knew it would take years before I would make enough of my illustration business to quit my part time job, and I was trying everything I could to make it happen. I could feel stressed and sad for not doing enough, but I was already putting in all the effort I could.

I also realized that being alone all day working by myself is something that comes naturally to me. Of course I would start feeling lonely if I didn’t speak to another human being for a week – but I really enjoy being just with myself all day.

In the end I’m still proud to do what I always wished for in five months work: creating concept art for video games! Hope to be able to show you something from that soon!

Global Game Jam

A week after graduation I participated in the Global Game Jam, which was a blast! It reminded me how great it is to work in a team, meet new people and learn from each other in such a pressure-cooked environment.

We kept on working on the game that resulted from the jam, until we finally decided to pull the plug in August.

Although we decided not to continue, I look back upon this as a happy learning experience. Looking forward to the next Global Game Jam in two weeks already!

Heroes of the Ages: A Legend of Zelda Anthology Book

This was my very first collaborative illustration project for a so-called zine, and I naturally enjoyed working on it, being a tribute to a game series I absolutely love!

In February the Kickstarter launched and it seemed to go really well, until a few hours before it would end Kickstarter took the campaign down due copyright infringement. I was quite struck by this case of bad luck, my first dive into the zine community it seemed amazingly fruitful… I guess we became to large to go unoticed.

I’d love to have another try at these community projects, though I have to select them on being for profit. After all, art is my job now!

Conventions and Etsy

2019 has also been a year I had more tables at conventions, with varying results, of course. One cannot expect to do everything well at the first try!

Overall the experience is the same: I enjoy doing it, but I feel I neither a) have artwork that fits in the scene so that it serves the masses or b) have artwork that is original and niche so I can thrive while doing by own thing. In other words, I should critically review what I want to get from these conventions.

Opening an Etsy shop however has surely paid back its efforts: right from the start I was already making a few sales! Without any advertising! I still have to learn a lot about best practises and how to optimize my products, but I’m happy so far! Still, my thoughts about convention artwork also haunts my Etsy shop, especially as Etsy doesn’t allow fan art to be sold.

Art Summary 2019

Let’s end with on happy note. On DeviantART it used to be a kind of tradition for many artist to share a ‘art summary’ whenever a year turned over.

Creating these usually left me with a feeling of not creating enough, but now looking at it, I feel excited to start creating! On to a creative 2020!

Dutch Comic Con Winter Edition 2019

Ah, Dutch Comic Con. The largest comic convention of the Netherlands. Infamous for its visitor numbers and the outrageous prices of tables. To counter that, two friends of mine, Dewy and Sarah, decided to share two tables between the three of us. That way we would pay less and still be present on this large convention.

Was this approach a succes?

One thing we quickly noticed, two tables for three people is somewhat smallish. In fact, we could all just fit all our merchandise and prints in the space. Dewy, having the largest inventory of us all, couldn’t display all her products. Next convention it’ll be probably too small.

Nevertheless, we managed to get everything kinda in place and the rest of the weekend went pretty well. I sold all my Hollow Knight stickers because I forgot to take the last bit of stock with me on Sunday. Lesson learned!

On the other hand, I notice a trend between me and my table buddies – they sell a lot more items than I do. How come? First of all, they offer more products – Sarah has more poster designs and all posters are also available as postcards, while my poster artwork is only available as posters. Dewy has so much fandoms covered with her smart customisation options, that there were almost always people going through her button designs and often people were standing in line to see what’s on offer – standing before my stand.

While the obvious solution would be just to create more (fan) artwork, I don’t really want to go that route. I fear I end up with a lot of stock, spending a lot of money on prints of which I don’t know they will sell. Besides, I don’t feel so comfortable anymore with just creating pretty pictures of someone else’s intellectual property. I fear that they’ll come to get me for that someday, and I rather draw whatever I feel like drawing than to think hard about what’s popular at the moment.

I know a few artists that seem to get by creating whatever they like to do; Evaboneva makes prints of her own artwork that seem to sell quite well. The same goes for Nikki Smits or Ines Borba.

Thing is, they all have a very recognisable style, which I don’t really have? I think my work is pretty generic digital painting; though I like to go deep with my creature designs, they are not unique enough (yet) to really stand out?

Something to work on.

Plans for the near future

Now that I’ve graduated from WdkA and I’m back from my vacation, I can put all my energy in getting illustration jobs! I’m excited to start this new adventure, though a bit nervous juggling all the tasks that come with being a freelancer. Though I plan to do mostly commissioned work for studios, I also try to keep up with the comic conventions I’ve been doing.

Two weeks ago I shared a stand with Tosca Hamel at the Netherlands’ largest comic convention, Dutch Comic Con. It went pretty good, actually! We’ve made enough to pay for the table, met a lot of new people and had generally a good time. I sold the merchandise I still had from previous conventions, but I also had a few new prints made:

Contact me if you’re interested in any of them! The Zelda prints are A3 in size, Gabite and Grovyle both A5. I plan to open an Etsy shop in the near future, so all things I have for sale can be found easily together.

In other news, I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram at the moment, ending April 16th! You can win three signed prints and a sketch drawing, please check it out if you’re interested!

Looking back on 2018

Happy new year everyone! 😀

In keeping up with the tradition, a list of memorable things happening last year!

  • I did an internship at Abbey Games! One part of my contributions are out, the last DLC of Renowned Explorers released 12 December, so I should be able to share stuff soon. :3
  • 2018 was also the year I started seriously trying to sell prints and merchandise. I did my first two conventions, and both were extremely fun! I already have plans to attend the largest Dutch convention in March, excited how that’ll turn out!
  • Back to living on my own! I became good friends with the girl that lived in the space before me, she goes to the same art school as me and we discovered we have quite some mutual friends. She introduced me to a local draw club and lots of other people too. 🙂
  • Human characters! For a long time I felt very uncomfortable drawing them, but I feel I have reached a point that I can draw a person and think, yeah, that looks like an anatomically correct human being XD Due playing pen & paper RPG’s I also made up human characters, I never really did before.
  • Started working on my graduation project in September, which revolves around the mythological harpy and character design. If everything goes well, I’m done with school by February! :O I’m really excited and a little scared at the same time, as I won’t be able to call myself a student anymore, I’ll be part of the workforce!
  • I joined my first Original Character Tournament! Though, can I really say I joined when it has not started yet? The deadline for auditions has been extended twice and I’m still far from finishing my audition comic. 🙁 I greatly underestimated the time it takes to make a comic, and with graduating and other projects I kept procastinating on it. Though as a spectator, my deadline is not the same as for competitors, so I aim for the end of Round 1 instead of January 13th.
  • Did Inktober every other day, and it was much more relaxed that way. Best way to be part of the challenge without taking too much work on my plate!
  • First year I was able to somewhat keep my Instagram updated – still forgetting to post art every now and then. Last spring I wasn’t online much on DeviantArt too, previously my most active social media account. I really want to change that, though it won’t be easy: most people I follow are less online as they start to work professionally. Still, it’s not impossible, is it? :/

What kind of great things happened to you in 2018? 🙂

Comic Con Amsterdam Recap

Last weekend my friend and I tried selling stuff at another con! The con itself was fun, though saleswise… it didn’t went as good. I actually made a loss at this con: I sold only one print and a few buttons. I do think I know why this happened, though. Firstly, almost all the things I sell are Zelda themed, and after talking with other artists, Zelda things just didn’t sell that well on this con. Perhaps there were just less people visiting this con who would like to have Zelda merchandise? It’s a thing I can’t control so I shouldn’t blame myself too much for it.. Except I better have not only Zelda prints with me next time! 

Another thing is the fact that my friend had actually printed quite some extra A5 and A3 prints for this con. I didn’t print anything extra as I still had so much stock from last con. Why spend another 50-60 euros on printing when I still have so much left? But that meant that there was more art of my friend on our table than there was mine. So perhaps we were unknowingly competing with each other for the attention of potential customers? Ultimately my friend sold wayyy more prints of her work than I did, and actually made a good profit. 

 This could be just because she sold quite some Overwatch fanart which was wildly popular during this con, and probably too because she offered prints in smaller sizes than just A2. A2 prints are maybe a little daunting for people to buy, they’re not really cheap and quite big, people might not have the space for such a print?

It makes me think whenever we should try to get two tables instead of one, so we both have our own. Everyone I talked to agrees that having your own table lets you sell much more than if you share a table with others.. Though of course the costs for standing at a con doubles, so you need to make more money to break even. :/

Or maybe I’m just too impatient, I mean: this is my second convention as a dealer and I already expect to make money out of this. 

If you’re interested in the products I sold, check out my Etsy shop!

Internship!

This is already my second week of my internship at Abbey Games, and it’s really fun so far!  I am now working on animations for a new game, but of course I’m not allowed to tell you anything about it. Non Disclosure Agreements and stuff. 

Shame is, though, that there is less time for personal art. I’m travelling two hours by bus, metro and train to get to the studio and again two hours back home, monday till friday, and on saturdays I work from ten till six, so Sunday is my only free day in the week. I don’t really mind right now, I can finally read all those books I got but never came to read! 😀

But then I looked on the calendar and noticed that the convention that my friends and I want to attend is only three weeks away… And I haven’t finished a single piece yet. Oops. 

So I suppose I’ll be sacrificing some sleep this week. And next week probably too. I have some Zelda things in the works already and some other fan art planned as well, but I’m not sure if I get everything done… 

We’ll see!