This a brief recap of how I started making art, which I began probably around the time that I could hold pencil or crayon to paper. I'd draw the characters from my favorite cartoons and video games and because others noticed what I was doing, it fueled me to do more of the same. I drew, colored, and later even expanded my repertoire to occasionally include other mediums such as pastels, charcoal, and learning the basics of Photoshop and a 3D animation software called Bryce (a part of me wonders if anyone's still using it) in my K-12 education in southern New Jersey in the U.S.
After high school, I went to the University of the Arts in 2002, and aside from the fair amount of debt that comes with a private college education, it was a mostly good experience. I was surrounded by an atmosphere of people that were as enthusiastic about the visual arts as I was from my peers to much of the faculty. I'd made some lifelong friends and even a couple of mentors. With all this in mind and with so many art education resources available that weren't at that time such as Schoolism, SVS Learn, SmArt School, Udemy, Skillshare, Linda.com, not to mention the countless hours of free tutorial content you'll find on YouTube and elsewhere online, and the ever rising cost of college tuition, I wouldn't recommend art school for most young people these days. Instead, consider what resources you can find in your local community and online.
WATCH HOW I STARTED MAKING ART | MY JOURNEY AS A CREATOR SO FAR 🎨🖌
The route to earning a living off of art can be a long, circuitous one and longer still when your passions lead you in the direction of fantasy art. I'd occasionally send-out my work, which wasn't good enough at the time, to art directors and then I sort of shifted to sending-out art to galleries. It was largely my photography that was lacking in my work- the art dolls that I make were good enough to earn the interest of a few art gallery owners around the U.S. and Canada. The downside to the gallery world is that the economics didn't seem sustainable to me (i.e. getting to a point where you can live on the money you earn) and so when my brother and I began talking about creating a role-playing game oriented YouTube channel, I was open to the suggestion.
In March 2014, my brother Dave and I started the Nerdarchy YouTube channel (in short order we added Ted, Dave's brother in-law and later Nate, who are both friends and people I've spent many an hour with at the gaming table). During this time, my art largely took a hiatus- I'd create art assets and do graphic design for the channel, but my art largely took a backseat to the other demands of being a YouTube creator. It was slow, tedious at first, with the channel getting very few views, but by that summer something fantastic for nerd niche channel happened, a large scale play test document was released for Dungeons & Dragons, arguably the biggest player in the tabletop role-playing world, and our channel honed-in on covering and playing this 5th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game. And with that, our channel started to gain some momentum, not meteoric as happens with some personalities on YouTube, but at a steady enough growth rate to assure us that we were on the right track. A fantastic community started to build-up around Nerdarchy and our content- people would send us stories about how we brought them back into the hobby or just how much they enjoyed our videos, valued our opinions, sometimes even wanting an opinion on specific issues that were having at their gaming table. We carried-on at a frenetic pace for the better part of two years, uploading 12-13 videos a week and recording our D&D sessions while also trying to figure-out how to make this whole thing make sense as a business venture. About two years into my involvement with Nerdarchy, I'd had the nagging feeling that though we were succeeding at building this business around a hobby we all love, I was feeling that for myself, I was succeeding at the wrong thing. The way the business was growing and the roles that I would have to take-on weren't what I would choose for myself and with it still being a side-business in addition to my full-time job, if you aren't passionate about a side-business, a passion project, then there's no reason to continue doing it. And besides, I was thinking of how much I missed actually making my art.
I'd acquired a ton of knowledge about how YouTube worked- from content creation, to thumbnail design, to nitty-gritty things like Search Engine Optimization on the platform. I also knew that there are few better ways for independent creators to reach people today than making YouTube videos. With this in mind, I re-dedicated myself to once again creating my dimensional illustrations and documenting the process in videos on my new channel The Dream Syndicate Art Dolls. And once again, starting a new YouTube channel's slow and tedious, but I've faith that it will take me places that I want to be in the next couple of years.
If you want to watch where the journey takes me, you can subscribe and hit the bell icon to get notifications from my channel here: https://www.youtube.com/thedreamsyndicatearts. Until next time: Make. Believe!