Click here if you missed part 1.
Today’s post is about “Geek-Out” projects that are driven almost entirely by passion.
We’ll get into more fundamentally commercial projects later in the series but don’t write off Geek-Outs just because they aren’t usually big money-makers.
While Geek-Out projects begin with no intent to make money, they can become a significant, steady revenue stream over time.
I’ll begin with a couple of Geek-Out examples then pass the mic to my buddy Seth Rutledge (that’s his painting at the top of this post).
Seth is going to share the thought process that led him to create his newly-launched ‘Artist-Of-The-Day’ project.
So, please, click through and geek-out with us…
What Is The Geek-Out Project?
In part one of this series, we learned that different types of personal projects lead to different types of prizes.
The prize of a personal project might be pure passion – the enjoyment you have for making it.
The prize is often a blend of artistic and commercial benefits.
A Geek-Out project is often, but not always, a pure expression of fandom.
A successful Geek-Out project often gathers a community and provides a catharsis for it’s creator.
Potential Revenue Streams For Geek-Out Projects:
Sponsorships: Based the personal efforts of the creator.
These revenue streams don’t typically generate a lot of income, but as the popularity of your project grows, so does revenue.
I’ll get more specific about revenue when we do the post about the “Fan Base” Personal Project.
For now, let’s stay focused and consider some different kinds of Geek-Out projects…
The Accidental Hit:
I tried to count the number of successes Axe Cop creators Ethan and Malachai Nicolle have experienced.
…and I lost count.
The artist Ethan Nicolle was 29 when his 5-year-old brother Malachi (a kid-genius) spontaneously created this character while they were playing together.
Ethan transcribed, illustrated and shared Malachi’s hilarious improvisations online.
The project, which began as pure, geeky, brotherly bonding, is a commercial success. There are graphic novels, toys and now an animated series on Fox prime-time.
Lessons From Axe Cop:
- The story-behind-the-story is a big deal.
- If it entertains a few, it will probably entertain a crowd.
- Good, clean fun is highly shareable.
- Make sure you have a kid-genius sibling.
Artist Aaron Diaz is no exception.
For those of you who don’t know, The Silmarillion is a book that explores the world of Lord Of The Rings even further.
In his Silmarillion Project, Aaron Diaz aims to create an illustration for every single chapter in the (ginormous) book.
…but his personal motivations go much deeper as this excerpt from his Tumblr explains:
“My motivation is to create a Middle-Earth visually unique from the style of the Peter Jackson films. I like the movies, but I miss the days when there was more diversity and interpretation to Tolkien illustrations.
A second motivation is to provide a greater representation of women and people of color in the narratives. While Tolkien made more than a few missteps regarding race and gender, the “everyone is white” trend in adaptations is a symptom of other people ignoring what’s in the texts.”
Aaron doesn’t mention money as a motivator but if The Silmarillion (the original) is in the public domain, the most natural way to generate revenue from this project would be to self-publish an illustrated version of the book. (A digital tablet version could be even more profitable.)
If The Silmarillion is not in the public domain, Aaron could package the art and pitch the idea to the publisher.
He also might be able to get away with publishing the art-only as a “tribute” book but I don’t know what the legal ins and outs of that would be…
If he wants to move the site off of Tumblr and over to a site he can control, he could generate revenue from all of the advertising and referral methods I listed at the beginning of this post.
Again, the more popular the project becomes, the more revenue it will generate.
Lessons From The Silmarillion Project:
- Your dissatisfaction with the status quo might be the key.
- There are lots of great stories in the public domain
- When Hollywood fails to deliver, why not show them how it’s done?
- You can often build a fan base faster if you borrow one.
The Opportunities Are Inspiring:
Something I love about The Geek-Out is the infinite flexibility.
Geek-outs also have the potential to grow so big that they collapse under their own weight (gotta look out for that).
You can revel in childlike silliness like Ethan and Malachai did with Axe Cop.
You can rebuild a world like Aaron Diaz did with The Silmarillion Project.
…or you can try something so risky and weird that nobody will ever buy it like I did with my own comic (Yes, it’s coming back eventually.)
Now I’ll pass the mic to Seth and he’ll demonstrate the decision making process behind his ambitious new project…
Case Study: Seth Rutledge’s “Artist Of The Day”
Hey, I’m Seth Rutledge, freelance environment concept artist, visual developer and member of The Oatley Academy.
I’m also a geek who throws myself into the things I love.
Chris asked me to talk today about my current passion project, “An Artist A Day.”
First, a little background…
My Two Great Drives:
I have two great drives in my life.
The first is learning. I love research, I love finding out about stuff, and knowing the seemingly trivial data points that add up to explain why things are the way they are.
When I bought my iPad One, I started collecting jpgs of artists I admired…
Now I have over 25,000 in my photo library.
For me, artists are like pro sports players, and the images of their work are like stats on baseball cards.
I can name the creators of 95% of those pictures just by looking at them. (Told you I’m a geek!)
My second drive is sharing. Finding a cool artist is awesome. SHOWING MY FRIENDS that artist makes my day. If I’m excited about something, I want as many people as possible to share that excitement and thrill.
These two personality traits both need to be fed fairly constantly for me to be a happy person.
As Chris has said, when you have things you NEED to do to feel complete, it’s good to think about how you can make a personal project out of them!
For me, that turned into the “Artist A Day” initiative.
For a whole year, every day I will pick an artist, write a little bit about them and post pictures of their work on my blog.
It forces me to think about the things I love, prioritize them, and put them out for the world to see.
Before I started, I thought about how I was going to set this project up, and what some of the challenges would be.
First off, I decided to not organize my posts in any way.
I like to surprise myself and allow for my tastes to change, so each day I would try to pick an artist without worrying about how they fit into the project as a whole.
Some would be living, some dead, and from all genres that I found appealing.
What you’re getting is a direct feed into my head, which can be a complex place!
Second, it has a definite start and end.
I reserve the right to extend it past one year, but this is not an endless death-march where I’ll never know when it’s finished.
It’s really important to have a grasp of the scope of any project you dive into.
What Is The Prize?
I also thought a bit about what I hoped to “gain” from doing this.
Obviously, my passion project would be pretty hard to monetize, but it has to help me somehow.
- As I mentioned, I get to exercise both my desires to research and to share.
- I’m hoping it will help crystallize my vast array of influences into something meaningful.
- I’d love to increase my presence on the web.
- It would be really cool to make contact with some of these artists in real life!
What Are The Challenges?
Besides the positive, if you’re going to undertake a long-term project you actually want to complete, it’s a good idea to think of the challenges you will face.
- Do I know enough artists to fill a year?
- How am I going to manage a daily post with my already busy life?
- Is anyone going to care, or am I going to be speaking into the void?
- If people DO read, are they going to think my choices (and hence me) are stupid?
As challenges go, these aren’t too bad!
I certainly know 365 artists I respect enough to share their work, and I’m learning of new ones all the time.
Posts don’t take that long to do, and if I am ever in a bind, there are utilities that let you pre-schedule blog posts for timed release, so if I know I’m going to camping in the outback for a week, I can write the necessary posts in advance.
Is Anyone Going To Care?
Well, I posted on my twitter of my intent to do this project in December, and the response was positive.
Even if only 20 people are reading at the outset, I decided that was enough, and the hope is that my numbers will increase throughout the year.
Am I Going To Look Stupid?
This is a tough one.
You gotta have a little faith in yourself, and remember that most people respond very positively to honest, heartfelt passion.
I’m sure there will be readers who don’t like the artists I post, but if that happens a lot, they’ll just stop reading. The problem in that case is not with me!
You should never be ashamed to pursue the things you love, they are what make you, well, YOU.
How’s It Going So Far?
I am very happy to report that less than two weeks into this project, my readership is increasing, I have made contact with several of the artists I’ve posted, and I’ve been given a number of new people to check out that I might not have otherwise heard of.
Best of all, I’m having fun doing it.
YOLO shouldn’t mean “be an idiot”, but hey, if I’m going to do something on my own, the first and most important measure of success should be how happy it makes me!
Thanks For Reading!
Obviously, there are many kinds of passion projects, and many different ways to approach “success” I hope this has been a helpful (or at least interesting) insight into one of those ways.
If you want to check out the “Artist A Day” project, my blog is eldritch48.blogspot.com
A Closing Word From Chris:
I loved hearing the thoughtful way that Seth evaluated each aspect of his personal project.
The benefits, the challenges, the PRIZE…
His inspiring attitude and his clear communication make it obvious why I wanted to introduce him.
Seth’s Geek-Out project promises to be a deep well of inspiration to which we can all return throughout the entire year. I honestly believe he will pull this off.
If you have any questions or encouragements for Seth or you want to process through any ideas you have for a Geek-Out project, share your thoughts in the comments below!
Check out Part Three: The Skill-Builder!