Hello! Or should I say happy holidays? Either way it's the end of the year and there's a lot to talk about so let's get down to it!
2014 has probably been one of the most pivotal points in my life. A lot of good happened and a lot of bad happened. I think the good has outweighed the bad, but it was certainly (and still is) a struggle trying to make the right moves to reach my goals. "But Kyle", you inquire "how do you look back on your year and qualify if it was a good or bad one"? The simple answer is to use the time-trusted list. Right now, I value my mental health and progress to achieving my goals so whatever assisted on that front goes to the good side and whatever else will be moved to the bad or 'there's got to be a life lesson to this' side.
I think it's good to do these reviews because it lets you get a better understanding of how you're progressing with your goals and to find out what your weakest links are so you can strengthen them and do better in the future. Sometimes we get so lost in what we are doing that we take for granted all of the things we learned, and writing those life lessons down helps me not make those same mistakes, or if I do, there will be far less damage done to me as I was already prepared. So without further ado, here is the good and bad of my 2014.
Created a year's worth of illustrations, spread around 4+ social networks
Created my first product: 100% Inked
Launched my website
Launched a web-comic
Built an audience
By proxy of building that audience, I was able to better understand what they like and don't like so I can provide them better content.
Made the decision to pursue the road of an independent artist, and to make money doing what I love by providing people with entertainment and inspiration.
Started animating again
Entered loop de loop 2x and on the second time, my loop was shown at Nickelodeon studios.
Created multiple pipelines so that I can consistently release content.
In summation the good things that happened this year all contributed to me growing myself as an artist. For reasons that are too long to go into in this blog, I've always had a problem consistently releasing work and this year I smashed that bad habit into pieces. Another way to sum it up was that it felt like I turned on the ignition to an old car, and when you didn't expect it to work, it did.
My company, Stellar Universe was dissolved.
I still work a retail job that doesn't take advantages of my skills, and I feel stuck.
Mental exhaustion and breakdowns over what I've been doing.
I am not financially stable at all, still owe a lot of money for school loans and I constantly feel like there's a financial crisis around the corner.
I expected more growth with my audience, but that didn't happen.
I spent a lot of time fumbling around with my art instead of making a plan. Too much research and not enough action.
Exclusive focus on growth of my brand limits my life experiences for now.
In summation, the bad things that have happened to me are split into two categories: Money and expectations. As far as expectations, when I started getting into this independent art thing, I didn't have a plan and just expected the world to wake up to the fact that I had made a decision about my life. Obviously those are wild and crazy ideas in hind sight and as the year went on I began to temper those expectations. Unfortunately as the year was going on, this change of expectations led to a lot of internal conflict over what I was doing with my time and resulted in a lot of unhappiness. On the other hand, money has always been a problem for me in the sense that I've never really had any. This year I had a little something, but not enough where I could quit whatever jobs I've been working so I dedicate myself 100% to my art. I've told myself as soon as I can make a consistent income from my website, I'll quit my jobs, but unfortunately I'm not there yet.
What I've learned
The most important thing to take away from these lists is the life lessons. I've had a lot of learning experiences this year and I've certainly learned a lot, but I think it can be summed up in a couple of simple points.
1. Have a plan.
Even if it's a broad one or a short one for the year. It doesn't have to be a five year plan or something so far away, but you need a road map of what you're going to be spending your time on. I stumbled a lot this year because I had no idea what to expect, so I figured if I just made art, people will come. Maybe in a vacuum that is true, but there are a lot of variables in the real world that prohibited that from happening (such as facebook's truncating of a page's reach, changing algorithms on the big social networks). While you can't possibly know all the variables contributing to the troubles you may face, you must have a road map so that when those problems do arise, and they certainly will, you can keep a level head, assess the situation and come up with an appropriate response.
2. Mind your expectations
Another problem is the expectations I had when doing this, which I admitted earlier were out of control. Try to keep your expectations in check so you know where you can focus your energy so you can grow. Wild expectations will usually lead to disappointment and I think that's why a lot of artists bow out as independent artists. This is a very, very important thing to remember and a subject that I could spend hours on talking about.
3. Make great content and talk about it
This one may seem obvious, but it isn't. Throughout the year, I began to slog with my updates and for someone who doesn't just do one type or genre of art, this lack of quality control caused me to lose a lot of my audience. Granted people's taste changes as time goes on, but I think if you give someone your best, they'll stick with you on grounds that you'll make something they like. I got lazy and it cost me a lot, and while I didn't move back to square one, I feel that if I kept the quality up, I would be in a better position now. The second part- talking about it is equally important. Assume nobody knows you. You have to let the world know that you're an artist with something to say. You can't expect people to just know what you do or who you are, you have to tell them, show them and beat it into they're system. Everybody has their own priorities in life and you have to make them feel invested in you when you talk to them about your artwork.
Going forward, I plan to incorporate all of these lessons into my life to make year two even better. Since I have a website up and the money to sustain it for a bit, I plan to load my dreamspace with great content, and give my audience a real reason to stick with me. I already have my plan for 2015 that accommodates large projects (which I will talk about in a bit) and leaves room for research and experimentation. I really think if I take the lessons I learned this year and apply them with an actual, solid plan, I'll be able to make up for any lost time and mistakes that I have made this year. In the case where I have to seek out a full time job to live, at least I'll have also have a pipeline that's set up so I can continue chipping away at my goals.
So all of this leads me to look into the future. I'm excited to announce several projects that I am working on for next year. I can't announce every single detail now, but I want to say just enough so that there's something to look forward to. Obviously as time goes on, I'll be able to reveal more about these projects and I have dates for when public announcements and advertising will take place. So to begin here is the list:
Quarter 1- Quarter 2 2015
- Short film 'A bad day'. Traditionally animated. (March-April)
- Kyle's Dreamspace website redesign (winter)
- Prints for sale (winter)
- Apparel for sale (winter)
- New web series (June). Premieres first on Dreamspace. Youtube and Vimeo later
Quarter 3 2015
- Fantasy Bros. graphic novel and comic strip (September)
- Limited edition prints.
- Signed prints.
Quarter 4 2015
- Dark comedy book release (December)
- Misc. merchandise
There's a lot of other little stuff I have planned for next year, but they're not solid yet. As you can see, I have quite a lot of work cut out for me, but I think all of the projects are going to be great. I want to very high quality content to keep people coming back to this website. I want the illustrations I put out to also be high quality. Basically I don't want anything that I'll be working on to be lacking in anyway. I'm trying to give my 100% in everything that I do, and when these projects materialize I hope it's clear the amount of love and effort I would have put in them.
I have a lot of goals next year, but I want to incentivize email captures with exclusive content, deals, first looks and more. I think those who sign up should have some special goodies. I really want to build a great relationship with my customers and fans, and give them great content to keep visiting. This is all part of my intent to monetize my website through the products, apparel and even ads (eventually and unobtrusively) so I can continue to spend more time making better art that people can enjoy.
I know this was a long read, but I am very thankful that I am able to do this with my life. I'm grateful to all of the people who stuck by in 2014 and pushed me to do my best. I hope next year is even better and I am looking forward to continue to grow as an artist and entertainer.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for a great year.
- Reading- One Piece (Amazon)
- Watching- Penny Dreadful (Amazon, iTunes)
- Listening to- Wonderful Christmas Time- Kelly Rowland (Amazon)
- Playing- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Amazon)
- Recent purchases- none