Cleopatra In Space by Mike MaihackThis is part 5 of a 6-part series designed to help you decide which type of personal project you want to pursue and how you might make money from it when you do.

We recommend reading the series in order:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4

So far, we’ve discussed three types of personal project.

…and how each type leads to a specific type of prize:

  • The Geek-Out: provides a sense of community for fans and catharsis for the creator.
  • The Skill-Builder: levels-up a specific skill, improving the creator’s reputation in the process.
  • The Showcase: proves that the creator is the best person for a dream job or brings in better gigs.

Before you lose hope that you can make a living directly from your personal projects, please consider: The Fan-Base Project.

The Fan-Base Project differs from The Showcase Project.

Both can cultivate a following and raise your reputation as an expert.

…but The Showcase Project convinces someone to hire you to do similar work while The Fan-Base Project provides creative freedom.

So how do you make a living from Fan Base Projects?

Today we will reveal the secret.

Are you ready?

Get ready…

Here it is:

…you need fans.

(A lot of fans.)

My Paper Wings co-host Lora Innes has seven-years of experience with her fan-fueled comic, The Dreamer and she’s one of the best communicators I know.

So I’ll pass the mic to her now and she’ll share wisdom gained from years of working for her fans and discuss two of her favorite, financially successful Fan-Base projects…

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'Not To Be Reproduced' by René MagritteCraig Mullins, Iain McCaig and Neville Page got it all wrong…

If you want to be a successful concept artist, don’t follow their example.

It’s far too risky.

If they knew anything about concept art, they would stop producing such ground-breaking/ mind-blowing/ industry-defining work and just stick to slight variations of the familiar…

Of course, I’m being facetious.

In part one of this series, I challenged aspiring concept artists to consider the “concept” part of “concept art.”

As expected, some of them got defensive (some got mean) and insisted that the only way to succeed is to play it safe and propagate clichés.

These argumentative artists are half-right.

Some clients will pay for clichés.

But clichés are a race to the bottom.

…the boring, low-paying, highly-competetive bottom.

(Please understand that you can create relevant work without being cliché. The three artists I mentioned in my intro are ideal examples.)

But the truth is, your wild ideas float far above the big-fat-bottom.

You’re aiming higher and dreaming bigger.

Last week we talked about the “concept” part…

This week we’ll talk about the “art” part.

If you’re eager to take your surprising, new ideas and begin visualizing them with surprising, new designs, read on…

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Find something that’s big. Find a big, cultural phenomenon and say something about it in a beautiful way. I think that’s part of the reason for [our film's] success.”

-Prescott Harvey

Soon after Disney announced that JJ Abrams would direct the next Star Wars trilogy, the clever creatives at Sincerely Truman responded with a beautifully-directed film called 4 Rules To Make Star Wars Great Again.

The film speaks with the collective voice of practically every Star Wars fan in the universe: “Dear, JJ Abrams, please don’t mess this up.”

The video went viral.

Over 126,000 Star Wars fans have signed the petition at the main site

Sincerely Truman (a small creative agency in Portland, Oregon) was nominated for a Webby Award.

JJ Abrams got the message.

…and director Prescott Harvey was invited to pitch one of his original feature film ideas to JJ’s team at Bad Robot Productions.

In this interview, Prescott Harvey and art director Robert Perez share their personal success stories and take us behind the scenes of ’4 Rules For Star Wars’…

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magritte-curtainIf I see one more green-tinted, over-textured digital painting of a wrecked spaceship I’m going to…

…do absolutely nothing.

I won’t tell any of my friends about it.

I won’t share it online.

…and I certainly won’t buy a book full of similar images.

Not because I’ll hate it.

…because it won’t make me feel anything at all.

Today I begin a series filled with some of the toughest love I’ve ever posted here at

Each part reveals one of the three most common problems I’ve found in concept art portfolios from all over the world.

If you’re worried that your work is being ignored by potential employers and fans, brace yourself and read on…

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5 Costly Mistakes That Will Stop You From Selling Your Art

You and I – and pretty much every professional artist in the history of the universe – understand how hard it is to make a living from original work… The pain comes in different ways: The disappointment of boxing up your books after a slow convention. The extended embarrassment of a failed crowdfunding campaign. The […]

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Top 10 Essential Concept Art Books: Part 2

This is part two in a series about my top 10 favorite concept art books (in no particular order). In part one, I explained that, to make the top 10, these books had to meet two criteria. I won’t repeat myself here except to say that they all possess both inspirational and educational qualities. I know […]

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Top 10 Essential Concept Art Books: Part 1

My favorite concept art books have two things in common: 1.) The work inside is so inspiring that every time I open one of them, I’m overtaken by a wave of pure, tingling fandom. 2.) They each contain a unique revelation of the actual filmmaking (or game-making) process. By popular demand (and in no particular […]

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Creating A Professional Storyboard Portfolio :: Paper Wings Show #27

Paper Wings is back! Marvel Animation storyboard artist Justin Copeland joins the team as the newest co-host of the Paper Wings Show. In this podcast episode, Justin explains the necessary steps to creating a professional storyboard portfolio and responds to some great listener questions. Lora‘s “Lofty Thought” segment offers a healthier way to compare your work to others […]

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Breaking In At Riot Games & How To Get A Concept Artist Internship: Interview With Chris Campbell :: ArtCast #69

“If there’s truth behind the art, it will resonate.” -Chris Campbell Most professional artists have been drawing since they first picked up a crayon. As a kid, Chris Campbell drew the occasional doodle but he never took his art seriously. …not until his late twenties, anyway. Abandoning his career as a journalist, Chris enrolled in […]

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Ongoing Crowdfunding For Artists: Interview With The Team From :: ArtCast #68

Making a living as an artist has never been easy but Patreon will be, for many of you, a total financial game-changer. Jack Conte and Tyler Palmer join me for an empowering conversation about their innovative new approach to crowdfunding for artists…

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Easier Edge Control For Digital Painters (Part 2): Rotate Brushes In Photoshop With Custom Wacom Settings

In part one of this tutorial, I explained how to combine custom Brush Presets, Keyboard Shortcuts and Actions to quickly and easily rotate your Photoshop Brushes as you paint. That trick alone can make your brush technique smoother, more intuitive and more like traditional painting. However, there are two points of friction that can be relieved if […]

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The Showcase: Will Your Personal Project Make Money? (Part 4)

This is part 4 of a 6-part series designed to help you decide which type of personal project you want to pursue and how you might make money from it when you do. Click here if you missed part 1, part 2 or part 3. “Projects are the new résumés.” -Seth Godin While the Geek-Out and Skill-Builder projects we’ve discussed […]

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Easier Edge Control For Digital Painters (Part 1): Rotate Brushes In Photoshop With Hotkeys

Interpretive edges are one of the most appealing and beautiful aspects of oil painting and watercolor techniques. Edge control isn’t easy in traditional painting but when it comes to digital painting in Photoshop, edge control has been almost mechanically impossible. The angle of a brush stroke is essential for sophisticated edges. Before I designed the […]

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Animation Jobs Go Fast (And Why You Must Go Faster)

There are many new ways to break into the animation and games industry. While personal projects, conventions and gathering a fan base are, in my opinion, essential, we need to remember that artists still break in the old fashioned way. …by responding to a “Help Wanted” ad. Animation and games studios announce job openings all the time. […]

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The Skill-Builder: Will Your Personal Project Make Money? (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a 6-part series designed to help you decide which type of personal project you want to pursue and how you might make money from it when you do. In part one of this series we learned how money, though often a reasonable and appropriate goal for a personal project, can also […]

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Good Character Design Goes Deep

Think about your best friend. How long did it take for you to really get to know each other? Hopes and fears, experiences and expectations, strengths and weaknesses, victories, failures, pet peeves and passions… Whether he or she is your spouse, partner, close family member, colleague or high school BFF, the friendship has taught you […]

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