Will Your Personal Project Make Money?

Scrooge McDuck takes a dive into his money bin.Maybe you want your illustrations to attract the attention of a big, sexy studio like Pixar or Riot Games…

Maybe you dream of making indie comics or self-published children’s books full-time.

Maybe you’re one of the thousands of full-time freelancers who long for the freedom to fire your bad clients

Whatever your plight, let’s assume you’re finally convinced that the best way to gather an audience and attract better clients is to initiate a personal project like an art book, webcomicstorybook app etc.

Buzzing with inspiration, you begin brainstorming and blocking-in your favorite ideas but there’s one question that keeps bugging you…

Will this project succeed financially?

I get at least one email a week from a subscriber who is struggling with this exact question.

My response: Does it have to?

This post kicks-off a six-part series about the different kinds of personal projects and how each one makes (or doesn’t make) money…

Meet Ophelia:

Detail from Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret's 'Ophelia'

Ophelia is an aspiring concept artist?

Because their stories are so similar, I’m going to combine several real artists into one fictional artist.

We’ll call her Ophelia.

We’re going to help Ophelia decide which kind of personal project is right for her.

But before we can help her, we must first understand her struggle…

Ophelia’s True Passion:

Ophelia has been working hard on a concept art portfolio so she can quit her graphic design day job, move to Santa Monica and work for Riot Games

Despite having watched hundreds of free digital painting tutorials, she’s frustrated that her art still looks generic and lifeless.

After listening to my podcast episodes with Noah Bradley, Brett BeanNoah BradleyWill Terry and Wouter Tulp Ophelia realizes that she doesn’t actually want to be a concept artist at all.

She has only been pursuing a career in concept art because, ironically, concept art is a convenient career choice.

Making Comics by Scott McCloudGiving thoughtful consideration to the wise words of my podcast guests, she remembers how much she loves comics and how she loved them even more when she was a teenager.

She decides that comics are her true, creative passion and springs into action.

She orders a Scott McCloud book from Amazon.com and stays up all night brainstorming ideas for an OGN (original graphic novel).

Around 3:30 am, the buzz wears off as she begins to fear the amount of time and energy she will have to invest to do this well.

Worried that this project might not make enough money to free her from her day job, she sends a frenzied email to me, asking if her comic project will be worth the work.

At 11am the next day, the FedEx guy wakes her up with a doorbell ring and a triple-knock.

It’s her new copy of ‘Making Comics’ by Scott McCloud.

Ophelia flips through the book and sets it on her desk where it remains for six weeks until she moves it to the shelf with the rest of her unread reference books…

Ophelia’s Failure:

Why did Ophelia’s inspiration fail?

Because she doesn’t think for herself.

Think about it: She never actually decided which creative career to pursue. She just followed the current, popular obsession: Concept art.

Once she realized this, she took decisive action.

…but less than 24 hours later she was back where she started. Why?

Instead of taking the time to define success for herself (and for her own personal project), Ophelia thoughtlessly followed the current, popular obsession: Money.

Don’t get me wrong. I love concept art. It’s a great gig. Ophelia’s the one who decided it wasn’t for her.

Check out Matt Kohr's Awesome New 'Concept Co-Op' Project!

Check out Matt Kohr’s Awesome New ‘Concept Co-Op’ Project!

I’m also not suggesting that it’s wrong to hope your personal project makes money. I sincerely hope it does.

What I’m trying to say is that money isn’t always the prize.

Ophelia never considered that.

She let money barge it’s way in and ruin the party (as it tends to do).

…and because of that, her OGN fizzled and now she feels a little bit like a failure every time she looks at her bookshelf.

Maybe your “Riot Games” is “Wizards Of The Coast” or your “OGN” is “Animated TV Pitch.” Regardless, I think we’ve both been Ophelia at some point. Maybe you’re her right now.

…and we both might be her again.

The key to avoiding Ophelia’s fate is the answer to one important question:

What is the prize?

What Is The Prize?

The deadline for 'Spectrum 21' is January 25th. Acceptance into the book is, for many artists, a worthwhile prize...

The deadline for ‘Spectrum 21′ is January 25th. Acceptance into the book is, for many artists, a worthwhile prize…

Because Ophelia didn’t think for herself, she never defined the prize for her personal project.

…and because she never defined the prize, her expectations defaulted to the most convenient choice: money.

…and because she knows enough about comics to know that they don’t typically make much money, she gave up.

The success of a personal project is defined by the prize.

Different types of projects lead to different types of prizes…

In the rest of this blog series, we will explore five different types of personal project. We’ll consider the benefits, the inherent problems and the potential prizes.

Here’s a preview of what’s to come:

The Five Types Of Personal Project (And The Primary Prize):

  1. The Geek-Out: Community & Catharsis [ learn more ]
  2. The Skill-Builder: Reputation [ learn more ]
  3. The Showcase: Better Gigs [ learn more ]
  4. The Fan-Base: Creative Freedom [ coming soon ]
  5. The Soft Startup: Creative Freedom [ coming soon ]

I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t mention money in the list of prizes…

Art Vs. Money:

Ignore-Everybody-700w
About a decade ago, artist Hugh MacLeod changed my life with his essay How To Be Creative.

(For those of you who are familiar with Hugh’s work, this is the essay that became his inspiring book Ignore Everybody which is now available in all the various digital formats.)

In the essay, Hugh says “Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it.”

Whether you agree with this statement depends on your definition of art.

But if you give Hugh enough time to explain, most of you will see that he has a bigger, more important point:

“The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bull$#!! you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.”

I bring this up to pose a (mostly) rhetorical question…

Would You Do It For Free?

If Ophelia really loves comics as much as she says she does, why does she need me to tell her it’s worth her time and energy?

wouldn’t she just do it anyway?

Her OGN was a project that she, in a moment of private honesty, identified as her true passion…

This isn’t one of those B.S. “It’ll be great exposure!” offers from some rando on Craigslist who is asking her to illustrate his personal project for free…

Sure, it’s possible that right now is simply just a bad time for her to take on a personal project of this magnitude. (This is why I put my own comic on hold. It’s wise to start something you can finish.)

…but judging from what she wrote in her email to me, it just sounds like she was really on to something before money messed things up.

Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeodWhat if Ophelia had defined her prize in this way: “My finished OGN is my true, creative passion in a physical form.”

…or how about: “My finished OGN is irrefutable proof – to myself and others – that I have what it takes to be an indie comics creator.”

…or how about this one: “A self-published OGN is the only way to get publishers to take me seriously.”

What if she just stopped worrying about profit and finished her OGN?

She’d probably feel happier and more creatively fulfilled.

She’d definitely feel even more passion for making comics.

…and she’d probably be selling some books.

Passion Before Profit:

Every profitable personal project I know of began as a passion project.

We do call them “Passion Projects”and not”Profit Projects,”don’t we?

Don’t sacrifice one for the other. That’s not what personal projects are about.

If your personal passion does make money, it will probably become an additional revenue stream, not a total, financial game-changer. (Although the financial game-changers are becoming increasingly more common…)

Your passion is the real game-changer.

…because your passion sustains your reputation, your ideas and your craft.

Whether the prize of your personal project is the attention of a big studio, consistent income from a self-published storybook app or the final email you’ll ever send to your nightmare, make passion the priority.

Share Your Passion!

What passion project are you currently pursuing?

If your passion project is stalled, what would it take to get it moving again?

Click here for Part Two: The Geek-Out!

Subscribe & Get My FREE Digital Painting Kit!

[ I will never spam you or share your information ]

{ 163 comments… read them below or add one }

Petra van Berkum

Wow, this is exactly what I concluded after spending time and time thinking about what would ‘make money’ instead of ‘what do I want to make’. It almost gave me a burn-out. I can assure that when you let the money-thing go there will be more room for creativity and passion! So, wow, good article :)!
Sometimes it’s hard though, because most people still need money and you have to get it from somewhere, but it’s just not the right thing to let that depend on your art for the biggest part.

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Chris Oatley

Right on, Petra. We will get into specifics about the ways different kinds of projects can generate revenue.

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Kristina

“Money isn’t always the prize”. Daaaamn right!
So damn right.
This is why I’m happily pulling 60-hour-weeks to work on my own comic project, which is now at 5 finished chapters out of 6! :)
(financial success optional)

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Chris Oatley

Oh wow! Congrats for being almost to the finish line! That is awesome, Kristina!

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kammi

Thanks so much about addressing this topic. It’s so practical and yet it is hardly spoken about in art schools. I think that the financial focus should be cultivating good financial habits (ie living below your means so that you have the freedom even during the lean times to still pursue your passion and have your basic expenses covered) and the rest is up the person’s drive and passion. To me (as in, my opinion), pursuing an artistic career is so much about just having a lot more ‘street sense’ than people admit; we can find examples throughout history like that of art and the Medicis, Bouguereau, etc. I totally agree on the ‘thinking for yourself’ part; that is HUGE, and it’s lacking in a lot of art education today. What sorts of artists will we really have if we have scores of artists who just want to do things because ‘they’ve heard it makes money’ and ‘the teacher told them so’ and they’ve never questioned it for themselves? I’ve been reading books by artists (sculptors, painters, architects, etc) and it has been shocking to me just how many of them used to just go out into the world and draw and observe and study. It was expected that as an artist there would be a great deal of self-study, even if you were a part of an academy/atelier, and that you would bring back questions without ego and that both teachers and students could learn from each other and from nature. I’m a bit jealous of the people who lived in those times because although they were limited by materials they used, they were unemcumbered by the use of technological progression, understanding that it is a tool, but that the artist (and the idea) is what creates and brings forth questions..Anyways..enough philosophy…great post!

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Chris Oatley

Great stuff, Kammi. Great, great stuff.

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Bill Dobbs

This is a great post, thanks! Where can I find the rest of this series?

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Bill!

We’re going to try to publish them every Wednesday for the next five weeks. I have some guest authors helping out so the schedule will depend somewhat on their availability.

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Gurrupurru

Yes, passion is important. But it’s hard to nurture your passion when you have no money or you have to spend lots of time on non-related jobs to sustain yourself.

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Chris Oatley

Very true. Being a professional artist is super-hard. As the saying goes: “If it was easy then everyone would do it.”

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Maggie Appleton

Thrilled to see this topic being given a full series of blog posts – strategizing over personal projects has been a serious struggle for me (and clearly the vast majority of other freelancing creatives out there). Walking the balance between being practical, action-oriented, & “business-minded” in order to get stuff done without continually coming back to the reductive question “but how will it make me money?” gets really complicated. Does anyone else find themselves sucked into the blogging worlds of entrepreneurs and start-ups that overly focus on reaping financial gains instead of what you’re producing? Of course the artist stereotype is that we’re all resistant to viewing our work in an economic sense, but I at least have found it’s hard not to swing too far in the other direction. Have killed many an exciting idea after doing some financial math and subsequently writing the whole thing off.
In summary, thank you for the mind-shifting point that we need to explicitly define the “prize” of a project for ourselves. And that the “prize” is probably not one big exclusive thing (eg. a ton of money OR extravagant fame & exposure) but made up of a combination of small wins (eg. some money AND new community connections AND improved skills & techniques) that add up to a greater whole. Am going to go mull over what the “prizes” I’m chasing are now… and explicitly write them down! Haha.

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Chris Oatley

You nailed it, Maggie! I wish I had been able to wrap it up that succinctly.

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Spacerogue

This hits hard at the homefront, I was looking for a project that I wanted to do ,and perhaps sell some prints. But not 24 hours later I remembered I already had one, I’m just going to keep worldbuilding, paint stuff from said world and write it down for the future comic. If I manage to sell a print then thats awesome but its not the main goal. My main goal would be the improvement that comes from it, that hopefully I could bundle a work like James Gurney’s books about Dinotopia with the ones that are good, and actually offer commissions in my own niche. However small that one is.

One of the reasons this hits home is because I HAVE tried to sell for money and I’m so glad I didn’t burn to much of my own funds with this. Here in Belgium we only have very few cons, one of them is FACTS and one of my dearest friends kept ‘pushing’ me into making art to sell at the artist tables.
Thats pretty much where the problems already arose, not only is drawing with the mindset of ‘this better sell’ weird, I quickly became bored with my own work, and the quality suffered a ton. On top of that, the works I made that featured ‘generic stuff to be sold’ where often boring, and downright did not had the life nor quality then my personal works. As expected, the works my friend asked me to make where the ones selling the least.

Tho that kinda concludes that selling at cons or aimed at a general public isn’t for me, my friends can make buttons, calenders, and zodiac’s but when I try to do these they really don’t look like something anyone in their right mind would purchase. To each their own, but it does prove that finding your project is a journey of self discovery as well. Know what you love ,know what like, know what you want to put time in and pursue that.

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Chris Oatley

“To each their own, but it does prove that finding your project is a journey of self discovery as well. Know what you love ,know what like, know what you want to put time in and pursue that.”

So true, Spacerogue…

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Nick Chrissis

I agree 100% with what you say here. But one question remains: how is Ophelia gonna pay her rent while she works on her ogn? Now the obvious answer is of course other jobs but i would love it if you included some tips and guidelines on how to balance the two.

Regardless your thoughts on this stuff have and continue to inspire me! Look forward to the rest of this series!

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Chris Oatley

Fortunately for Ophelia, she has a job that pays the rent. If she didn’t have a job of any kind that would be a whole ‘nother problem.

In regard to the day job/ personal project balance: Have you listened to our Paper Wings episodes on Time Management?

http://www.paperwingspodcast.com/7timeaccelerate/

http://www.paperwingspodcast.com/pwp7morespace/

http://www.paperwingspodcast.com/pwp-14-how-to-pick-your-next-personal-project/

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Nela

Great post. It really got me thinking.

My passion project is stalled because I have too many passion projects I want to pursue, and can’t decide which one to take on. I already listened to your Paper Wings episode on “how to choose a passion project”, and well… I guess I don’t really know what I want. So before I can pick a passion project to stick with, I have to find out what it is that I really want to do. It’s hard for a jack-of-all-trades to do something like that.

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Nela

To clarify this comment a bit… The reason it’s so hard to choose a passion project is that I get thrilled about NEW things all the time, and if I try to stick with something, after a short while (a few weeks? days?) passion runs out and the project becomes a chore and I don’t want to do it anymore.

I haven’t found a single thing to do where passion would drive me continuously. I mean sure I love drawing & painting, but it’s not always the same kind of drawing & painting that thrills me. That’s my portfolio looks like a collage made by a crazy person with no sense of color.

Now *that* is what I’d really like to find a solution for.

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Steve

Nela.

I HEAR WHAT YOU’RE SAYING! Am I ‘strange’ for thinking that it’s not quite so easy to ‘find your passion’? I’m probably not the only creative person who gets all excited about a certain idea (graphic novel, political cartoon series, character development, editorial illustration, children’s’ books), but then can’t sustain any interest beyond a few weeks before moving onto another creative idea. To make things worse, I spend SO much time reading ebooks or blogs on art, watching instructional, online videos, and taking courses, that I can probably say that I have MORE PASSION participating in the passive consumption of art-related topics than I have in actually producing art. I guess that’s the classic definition of someone living life on the sidelines, not willing to get their hands dirty.

Each evening when I sit down after a day as a freelance graphic designer, I have a choice… go to the gym and play some hoops, stay home and watch old music videos online of my favourite bands from the 70s and 80s, watch sports on TV, spend some time with my wife or play with the kids a bit… or start working on a personal project. I’ve buried my art so deep in the ‘to do’ list pile that it even comes after doing the laundry!

I suppose that once you ‘find your passion’, all of the superfluous stuff just falls by the wayside. I haven’t gotten to that point yet, and I’m already 53 with a wife and 4 kids.

Maybe I’ll be the next Grandma Moses, and only dedicate myself to my art once I’m well into my 80s.

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Chris Oatley

I can relate to you both. I’m interested in everything and passionate about most forms of art – visual and otherwise. …which is why my current job (which was just a personal project for 4-5 years beforehand) is a better fit than my last one (Disney).

Nela – there is a discipline to it as well. You have to know yourself too and that might require a lot of experimentation. …and you might just have to find a way to make that work – consider the most recent podcast interview with Wouter Tulp. He figured it out: http://chrisoatley.com/wouter-tulp/

Lora Innes always tells artists who are struggling with this to work on small projects. Quick wins. That can help to clarify things.

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Nela

Hi Chris,
yeah I do feel your new job is the perfect job for you! Everything you ever said in “The death of freelance illustration” resonated perfectly with me. I love the idea of being an independent creator. But it requires discipline, yes. Something I chronically lack.

I was listening to that podcast yesterday, got to about 75% before I had to stop listening, but I just heard the part where he describes this issue and I really felt I could relate! Ie. I thought “Oh so I guess I’m not the only one with this ‘problem’, and probably not a completely lost case?”
I’ll listen it to the end and make note on how he does this.

Oh small projects, right :) Mine are always grandiose… I’m not used to thinking small. I guess I should get a metaphorical axe and chop those up a bit until I get something I can reasonably finish in a month or so.

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Nela

Oh yes, we’re pretty much in the same boat Steve.

I do find myself reading about art & related subjects more often than doing it. I’m even buying courses that should help me get better and get lazy with homework.

I work primarily as a web/graphic designer as well. And I don’t do the best job of using my spare time, even though I don’t have kids yet…
Well, I hope you’ll find that passion of yours that will make everything else fade in comparison :) (except the wife and kids, of course!)
I hope we’ll both manage it well before 80.

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Steve Menard

I hear ya Nela! Good luck with your ‘passion quest’.

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Carole Pivarnik

@gurrupurru: This is true, but sometimes just means that you simply have to accept that progress on passion projects will take longer when other unavoidable activities steal time from them. It might even be true that you have to delay the start of a passion project while you take on side work to fund it. But never forget how much can be accomplished even in small bits of time here and there with a pencil and an inexpensive sketchbook if you just stick with it and devote a multitude of small time slices to your passion project over a period of time. May raindrops add up to a river, so to speak…

@chris: While I have the (dubious) luxury of being “old” and retired from my tech career and thus able to pursue art full time…I had no consistent or substantive body of work to demonstrate my abilities in painting pet portraits when I decided to pursue that full time. I decided to paint 36 watercolor dog portraits and self-publish them in a book to showcase my work. The actual out-of-pocket cost of this effort–including art supplies and publication costs–was probably less than $250. The amount of time it took to do the planning, actual painting, and research into self-publishing processes and tools was far more substantial. I spent the better part of a year to define the project, create the portraits, write content, design the book, run a (successful) Kickstarter to fund promotional copies, publish the book, organize book launch signings, and market the project.

Did the book make a lot of money? Nope, nor did I expect it to. What I did expect it to do was give me a powerful marketing tool aimed right at the market I was targeting for portrait commissions. That it most certainly has done! As a result, my portrait queue has stayed relatively busy–and in fact, busier than I prefer because now I have another project in the works and I have to manage finding time for that around getting pet portrait commissions done! Be careful what you wish for, right? :)

It’s also worth noting that I’m not making a “living wage” from this effort yet, with two years of effort invested. However, the income is gradually creeping upward. Success is a process…it doesn’t happen overnight and you just have to be in it for the long haul–no matter what creative discipline we’re talking about. From the outside looking in, it may seem as if it happens that way for some people but on closer examination of what it really took for an artist to reach a point of success, I think we’d find that it never happens overnight or by some amazing twist of fortune. It always takes a lot of hard–and smart, savvy, assessing, adaptable–effort.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, it’s interesting how an indie artist career is like building a house without blueprints. You’re just trying to build it with knowledge you’ve gained from all the stories you’ve heard in the past and what you’ve been able to understand by looking at other houses… It’s a tremendous test of patience…

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Pancho

Oh, well… I want see more about this.
Very inspirational, but as far I concerned, just passion couldn’t be enough. Follow this example, OGN, have a most correctly way to be done, just make a OGN, post in personal site sounds ok to me, but Ophelia need how to show this link and find the right audience, advertisse her Project and get recognition.

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Chris Oatley

You’re absolutely right. …and there’s the issue of craft too. Is her OGN good enough that people will buy it or publishers will read it?

There are many different aspects to creating a financially successful creative project. …and we’ll look into the specifics of each one.

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Excessit

This article is so honest and true! I was making a webcomic to practice deadlines and scripts and whatnot, but since I had the mindset of working for an audience (and implicitly, getting published) it only came out as an exercise in frustration. Now I’m working on making short stories and getting them finished for my own pleasure and I rediscovered the fun and excitement of making comics, I have better ideas and I feel good about my skills. Even all the practice and routines have become pleasant, it’s improvement for the sake of improvement rather than the need to match someone else. I don’t know if I’ll ever make money with what I’m doing right now but I wasn’t any closer to making it when I worried about it.

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Chris Oatley

Yep! There are different seasons of life for different kinds of focus. Different kinds of focus allow different kinds of projects…

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rachael

I just started mine. I suffer depression ever winter. For some reason, I felt the need to visually describe how it makes me feel this year, so I started taking photos expressing my relationship with the season.

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Chris Oatley

I’d be interested to see if this project becomes cathartic. I tend to think it will be.

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Dan

Great article. I can really relate to this and look forward to reading further. Oh yeah and getting back to all those books on my shelf !

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Chris Oatley

Oh yeah. I love that feeling of pulling a forgotten tome off the shelf…

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Allison

For the past nine months I have been fighting this question of money and passion. Right now I work for free as a producer/ co owner of an indie cloud based animation studio named Skynamics. We have a solid crew of about 30 people from all over he country and world .We are about to release our pilot for our animated series True Tail in May and finish our production animatic in Febuary. My dream has been to be a producer and I always believed free was never the option. School to me that… However after working for free I have say I agree with you Chris. Passion is all you need along with talent and luck. Thanks for writing this blog. I look forward to your thought on this installment.

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Chris Oatley

Have you read Chris Anderson’s book?

Free: The Future Of Radical Price: http://www.amazon.com/Free-The-Future-Radical-Price-ebook/dp/B002DYJR4G

PS: The Audio version is… You guessed it: FREE!

It’s uhMAYzing.

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George C

Another great article to bookmark and come back to later, thanks Chris. This is something I’m struggling with now, having graduated last summer and only had fleeting success with freelance work since. I’d like to create content that could help me support my self financially, but pressure from others and a bit of a lack of faith in my work has kind of paralyzed me from starting anything, since all that runs through my head is if I will ever make anything from it. I know once I DO get started it’ll help immensely, its just getting through that mental roadblock.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, George, you’re actually highlighting an important aspect of all this that I managed to completely overlook…

Sometimes the Art Vs. Money issue is a simple matter of “Both things are too much to think about at the same time.” If we have to choose which one to focus on in order to avoid overwhelm, then that’s an easy choice…

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Dave

Believe it or not, you’ll be doing your clients a favor if you give in and tackle that “personal project.”
I work full-time as a freelance illustrator. When you make other people’s ideas happen all day long, you start to feel yourself feel irritated, resentful. You may even become a bit “snappy.”
Consider your personal project as “downtime.”
After a hard day’s work, you don’t worry about if a bit of hitting the game console will make you money. Do you?
Well, replace the tv or console with your project. You’re entitled!
You’ll feel more relaxed and fulfilled and less likely to burn out on your day job, even if it’s not art related.

Oh, another thing, I know a lot of people say that creating art for others “sucks it out of you.” It’s all in how you perceive things. I’ve used working with other people’s ideas to further define myself.
By working with ‘what isn’t you’ so much, you begin to find you in the negative space therein. Every time I have to do something for a client and say, “I would have done it this way or that way,” snap, there it is. You’re personal work is that opportunity. “How could I have done it better?” “Why did I hate doing that so much?” “Why was this person’s idea so great?” “Could that have gone further?”
At the end of the day, I’m ready to go!!!

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Chris Oatley

Fantastic.

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Chris Perry

My passion project is building up my portfolio with children’s illustration. It must be a passion because I have been doing it for years and haven’t made dime-one yet. But on the bright side I am getting better.

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Chris Oatley

Chris – I’ve been very interested in this topic for a couple years. Trying to figure out where the children’s industry is going… Are you trying to get freelance from children’s publishers or are you trying to get your own books published? …or something else entirely?

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Nick Patton

Brilliantly said! For the first time in my history I don’t need gatekeepers to share my stories … I shouldn’t let money stop me.

But besides the issue of money … one of my big hang-ups I constantly fight is worthiness. Since traditional publishers aren’t venting my personal projects, will the story be worth the viewer’s attention? Or will I just be adding more noise and clutter to the endless pit of available content?

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Chris Oatley

Hey, Nick! Interesting point. Maybe try a combination of listening to your audience (paying extremely close attention, in fact) and staying in close communication with your circle of trust. …see if that helps to clear up your perception of your own work. It’ll probably give you some much needed objectivity. Thoughts?

http://paperwingspodcast.com/critique-groups/

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Angela R. Sasser

Ah, Chris! You do know how to cut to the heart of the things that I am battling with currently in my illustration career. I can say from personal experience that I’ve been Ophelia, right down to the consideration of Concept Art as a career move (though I thought of it for a mix of passion AND money).

I will say this to anyone considering Concpet Art – before you see dollar signs, go talk to an actual artist in the biz. They will set you straight about the hardships of the job, the work schedule, etc. Ultimately, I decided to stick with my passion of Illustration because my family unit just isn’t able to move where the studios are currently (perhaps in the future, though, once timing is better for us!).

Recently, I realized I have a GIANT backlog of ‘those art projects I’d like to do if I’ve only had the time!’ That bit about ‘if only I had the time’ is especially ridiculous, for I realized I was putting off these projects ONLY because I felt that my ‘fun time’ was time I could be extending my work schedule and working on portfolio boosting things instead of actually creating with a pure, no strings attached intention of ‘drawing for fun and the pure joy of it’.

This PORTFOLIO OR DIE attitude assumes I’m some kind of machine that should be so career/money focused that THERE WILL BE NO TIME FOR JOY, ONLY MONEY! I know for a fact my creativity has suffered for this attitude and that needs to change. Doing something just because you can is one of the most gratifying and re-energizing experiences. I’m determined to allow myself to do this without feeling so guilty all of the time because not every minute should be spent on thinking of how to make money! It’s a constant struggle to maintain focus between money, guilt, time, and passion.

It also doesn’t help to be in an environment of negative people (close and extended family) who pressure me to do something ‘more worthwhile’ with my time (ie. be a school teacher, have children, etc. Any number of things better suited and more socially respectable for women). I know in my heart what’s worthwhile to me, but these outside voices can cloud my judgement a lot of the time. My advice to others with that problem is to try to find an environment you can work in where you avoid these kind of people as much as possible. Coffee shops and places with free wifi are your friends!

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this series. It’s real encouragement with a stinging helping of truth to kick me and others out of our bad habits and excuses as to why we don’t do the projects we’re really passionate about.

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Chris Oatley

Well said as usual, Angela. Yeah, I hear a recurring theme in what you’re talking about – external motivations vs internal motivations. Interesting how the two conflict.

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Nera

I will be pursuing small freelance jobs while I work on my passion project (though that won’t be for another year and a half or so because I want to finish BA first). You might say I’m in a better position than most as I’m still living with my parents (during the summer at least) so my living expenses are…covered. (which makes me feel extra guilty and propagates my need to make money somehow)

The main goal and success would probably be to just finish a project and learn from it as my first OGN it will teach me how to work with all the things I only know theoretically about, like you said when talking to 2DBean ‘I’ve seen it, but I’ve never actually drawn it’

Looking forward to other parts,
Nera

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Chris Oatley

Go for it, Nera! Summer break is, for many artists, an ideal time to make EPIC progress on an OGN! GO GO GO!!! :)

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Louie Roybal

Such a great article…I would have to say though: being married with kids throws a monkey wrench into life. I think this article is great advise in moderation….you should never compromise your family by solely producing passion projects, but also never stop trying to do those passion projects in between what currently buys bread:)

Thanks Chris

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Chris Oatley

You’re exactly right, Louie. I try to, as often as possible, remind everyone that none of this matters if you blow up your life in the process.

Passion fuels the fire but it can also turn into unhealthy obsession if we’re not careful. I’ve had a WIP blog post about “The Dark Side Of Creative Passion” saved in my drafts for a couple years now. …maybe I’ll revisit that one.

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Chris Oatley

I also want to say that most of the artists I hear from are concerned about money BECAUSE they want to take care of their families and friends.

When Ophelia identified her passion, she didn’t immediately quit her day job – which probably would have been irresponsible and self-destructive. We have to give her credit for that.

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Jessica Doll

Great article!! I’m excited to read the rest of this series; it’s so important. I didn’t realize it until recently (this past year), but one of my biggest personal struggles is seeking permission from others to justify creating personal work. (I think it came from being scolded for drawing in class one too many times, and the guilt finally stuck.) Occasionally, that justification would come from a monetary perspective – “does it make money?” – so after awhile I equated personal work with freelance work. I’d feel weirdly guilty if I ever did actual personal work, and a lot of stuff went unfinished.
Thankfully I recognized that, and this past year I’ve focused on listening to my heart, and my personal work has felt wholly fulfilling again. A stagnated passion project (a long-form comic) a close friend and I started is currently running the best it ever has, and after listening to the paper wings podcast “how to choose a personal project,” we’ve both made it a permanent fixture in our work schedules. It will be up in a couple of months.
If I hadn’t started listening to my inner voice, this comic and my other art wouldn’t be happening. Now, not only do I fully feel better for working on it, but there’s a chance that someone out there may be positively affected by my/our work too, and that, for me, would be the greatest reward imaginable.

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Chris Oatley

You’re so awesome, Jessica! Yes indeed. Most of us are pursuing our passion to help affect positive change in the world.

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David

Great article! It is so true and fits well to some issues I stumbled upon in general (while talking to others and listening to problems they have).

My personal project, to share the passion, is an own huge fictional world. Many stories, and at least one or three big stories shall become a readable kind of graphic novel. (So my passion is to illustrate my imaginative worlds via text, drawing, painting and maybe even sculpting, to tell the stories and to explore what lies deep within my dreams, which often helps to solve problems as well)
However, I know about the amount of work, so I will go step by step: The upcoming two years, until 2016, I want to have the whole story’s script written and readable for people who are interested in it, while having conceptual work for characters, landscapes etc. available.

For this year, 2014, I want to have the first half of the story written as a script. I already managed to create a way to follow and develop my plot, so when I think about it, it is no giant heap of unknown work, I can overview the whole plot and just have to start writing and filling gaps.
Meanwhile, besides client work, I will improve my fundamentals and think more positive.
There will be enough time to finish it, I just have to take the time and get rid of my negative thinking.

As for this year’s beginning and my soon birthday, I concider myself being “reborn” or something. I don’t want my negative thoughts and fears to consume my time and energy anymore.

My goal from now on: If I need time, I will take the time I need.

Last year, my project was stuck, and still I have to fight negative thoughts. I start with doing what makes me feel better: A good ritual for myself is to print my finished digital work on A3 paper, put a stamp on it and call this “the original”. It feels better to have my work on paper. The same goes for my texts for the script-writing. Printing them on paper feels good, maybe it is the digital age that makes me feel as if nothing can be touched anymore (not even a goal, as everything seems to float on some storage media and worse, on clouds, that isn’t meant to have a longer timespan than 2-5 years or if it crashes, and it will, things are gone). This might be the reason I started to dislike working digital. One reason was that I isolated myself too much. Working with an offline-pc is what I do, I don’t want viruses, or hackers or whatever screwing up with my stuff. (It is the fear of not having enough money to repair the maintool I need for my client work, and also personal work). I have an old internet-pc, that is meant for the rest (Emails, listening to your podcasts, watching videos (walkthroughs, great listening material while working). So… isolating myself was bad, but now I managed to be able to talk to friends and listening while sitting at the work-pc that is offline, it feels a lot better. (As for the risk-topic: I cannot risk my pc to be screwed, it is my most important tool for client work, but when I have enough money left that is needed to keep my way of an illustrator running, that kind of fear will be gone too. On the other hand it is the risk I took because I don’t want to spend my time with work I do not want to do, and I do not want to spend my time with doing “any other work” instead of taking the time to improve, to learn, to practice, otherwise I will never step forward. (Reminds me at the podcast that was recently)

All in all I kinda enjoy having my stuff secure on stacks of paper. It feels like I can touch my dreams now. Taking the time for what I want to do is something that’s only in my hands.

I do not want to regret wasting my time with negative thoughts, nor do I want to regret to watch the time flowing without me taking it. Because I can. And I do with each step I need to move forward. If I don’t take the time, I will just stand still.

That is my way of life from now. I hope that somehow makes sense and maybe someone else will be able to do the same.

Have a good day, bye bye! I hope you have had a great start into this new year.

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Chris Oatley

Thank you for sharing, David. I look forward to hearing how this project evolves. Sounds a bit like Tolkien! …which RULES!

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Frank M Hansen

Awesome post Chris. Why have I stayed away from your inspiring work you do for so many people. This post hit at just the right time and reminded why I have passion projects in the first place. Also some great comments. A lot of intelligent people following you with their own words of wisdom. Thanks again for giving me the tools and inspiration I needed.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Frank, great to hear from you! I guess it has been a while since we caught up. Didn’t see you at CTN-X either… What personal projects are you doing? I was loving your webcomic…

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Beki

I think this is a brilliant series. It’s already making me evaluate where I stand and how I can set myself up for success instead of pulling an Ophelia.

All I have right now is my passion project as I am “stuck” in day-job-to-pay-student-loans with very few, if any, freelance offers coming my way. That said, my goal with my current project is 1. Tell the Story and 2. Build the Portfolio/Build a Reputation. I will see it as a success if 1. I finish it in a timely manner (This year maybe?) and 2. If upon finish, I get a thumbs up from at least two people (Not just my mom). I am already feeling much more confident about my chances, which is inspiring me to work on it even more. :)

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Chris Oatley

It’s only a matter of time for you, Beki. It’s only a matter of time…

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Brett 2DBean

Chris, great advice! I’ll read that article, “How to be creative” too. Thanks again for mentioning little ol me as well. You know my pet project and it took about a year to finish. But it’s done and I am happy. I am already writing a series of short stories to start making art for as my next mountain. Always something….. Great post.
cheers,
Bean

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Chris Oatley

You’re gonna love the ‘How To Be Creative’ article. It’s funny and poignant. Like you.

RE: Short Stories: is this the series of shorts you were working on as sort of a book o’ pitches?

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Brooke Gillette

Great article Chris!
Without without passion, a person will never take the extra step, or go the extra mile, or “suffer the slings and arrows” of the business to improve and become successful.

Thank you for writing an informative and inspiring article!

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Chris Oatley

Wow! Very well put! It IS passion that keeps us going.

Thanks, Brooke!

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Davd Wilson

Chris, way to call out the paralysis that generally occurs when we use unimportant motives (money) for projects. Although we all really enjoy having more change in our pockets, it’s far more satisfying and motivating to have more skill, more friends, more self-confidence.

My current personal project: Club Dino a mobile app that I’m Producing, Art Directing and Animating with a bunch of great friends. What could be more fun that playing with friends and dinosaurs?
https://www.facebook.com/pages/CLUB-DINO-by-MARV-Entertainment/470350446414450

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Chris Oatley

Awesome, dude! Great to see this project coming together!

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Jake

Great article! I’m looking forward to reading the whole series. I’ve got my passion project and your words have been a great check list to make sure I’m on track.

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Chris Oatley

Sweet, Jake! Is the project a secret or can you share some deets?

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Jake

No it’s no secret, I want to do my own OGNs. I set that goal over two years ago. At the time I didn’t feel that I had the skills to pull it off in a way I’d be happy with. So I set some smaller goals of taking some online art classes, making 10 mini comics, start exhibiting at conventions and building up my online presence some.

It’s been a fun road. I’m 5 pages away from finishing inking my 7th comic, but the first 5 I felt were so embarrassing I took them offline. I exhibited for the first time at APE this past October and had a lot of fun. I enrolled in your Magic Box course in July in order to teach painting and I’ve already learned a ton. You can read comics number 4 to 6 one my webpage

http://www.jakekalsbeek.com/comics/comics.html

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Zach Bosteel

Been a while since I commented on here, my friend. But I just had to chime in and let you know how much I love this post. In my experience, “being an artist” is a state of mind rather than employment. I believe I’m an artist if I feel like an artist. And you know what makes me feel like an artist? Doing art. Simple as that. And that’s where my joy in the craft lies.

I have that impossible dream that many have where, somehow, the world has decided to pay me to just do what I want I want to do all the time. Fortunately for me, I guess, what I want to do is actually produce things; comics, games, illustrations, stories. But, even if I believe in my project’s quality, nobody in the world will pay me for my idea of a thing. The burden of creation, with all its pain, disappointment, and struggle, lies with me. And that IS certainly daunting.

But if I imagine lying on my death bed, looking back on my life, I can clearly picture the regret that would come from never attempting to give my creative visions real shape. It’s like working out. Does the idea of spending an hour on the brink of physical pain sound super appealing? No. But do I ever, ever regret having done it? No.

That feeling I crave, and the lifestyle I dream of, lie in the midst of the minefield that is any creative endeavor. Not on the other side. And that’s what I feel you’re getting at here with your prizes. They’re all about engaging with people through your work, and the rewarding interactions that come from the act of just making stuff.

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Chris Oatley

Please write every ChrisOatley.com blog post from now on.

Amazing, buddy.

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Tom Parsons

My passion project right now is just learning how to draw and paint better. Trying to focus DEEPLY on what I’m doing and why (while looking at a lot of great paintings from other artists). Not worried too much about timeline or goals other than maybe submitting to some competitions. Currently taking an illo class and hope to take a couple more…

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Chris Oatley

Nice and simple, Tom. This stuff is so easy to over-complicate. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the “Skill-builder” project.

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Joshua Meehan

Awesome blog. I am currently creating a passion project with game design partner. When we started it was just sketches on notecards but the past few months I have been making those sketches into paintings and then into cards. It is because the game was fun and creative that made me want to create it first.

Though having financial security with each of us having day jobs, and creating physical goals allow the passion project to have an end date and not stammer to a halt.

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Chris Oatley

Yes. Often, the decision to keep the day job is actually a decision to support the true passion.

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Jody Hughes

I love using your articles and podcast as flue for my fire of passion! They really get me motivated to work on my personal projects in my free time. With the way things are going I’m hoping to finish my OGN this year! Thanks you do much!

J_Hughes

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Chris Oatley

Oh yeah! Ever time I hear about someone finishing an OGN I get excited. It’s an impressive accomplishment. Congrats.

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Alex Schumacher

This looks to be the beginning of a really wonderful series Chris! It is so relatable and applicable to anyone in the creative field as everyone has been there, still is there, etc.

I myself have toiled in the independent comic world for the past few years whilst also pursuing my dreams of writing/illustrating children’s books and creating animated series. All while working 40 hour a week day jobs as none of these aspirations paid the bills as of yet. Therein lies what I feel is one of the most important lessons in this first part of your series: You only fail if you give up and you only give up if you haven’t set a clear goal, or prize, for yourself.

After almost a decade of unrelenting and dedicated work I am now poised to pitch a few animated series with an agent whom I’ve been developing ideas with for the past year or so as well as on the verge of releasing my first picture book through an independent publisher. I tried the route of querying literary agents but was met with opposition at every turn. Be it my ideas were too left of center or they didn’t want to take a chance on a new idea, no agent would touch my manuscripts. Reading this first post has helped clarify that this is actually a blessing in disguise. “The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have.” The publisher I’m now working with gives me almost total creative freedom which I highly doubt I would have received from a literary agent and/or big name publishing company. Point is I’m actually happy where I am currently and very excited about the prospects on the horizon which would have never come to fruition had I not set clear prizes for myself.

It’s always a pleasure to read your blog and I look very forward to the next installment of this series!

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Chris Oatley

So awesome, Alex! Yeah, the term “Keep your eye on the prize” indicates that one’s eye might wander at times… It’s a whole ‘nother deal to KEEP pursuing the prize throughout (and beyond) the project.

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Michael

I say BS!

a great disservice to existing and aspiring artists all over the world. How you can you say money is not important? Art school BS. If you are not thinking about how to get paid than I guarantee you that someone else will. If you think that just because you are an artist that you do not have to worry about money then someone has sold you a snake oil dream. You think your dreams and scribbles will put a roof over your head and support a family? Think again.

It is a cruel and unforgiving world.

Its about time that artists stop looking at the 20th century for inspiration. You need to go back and find that artist were once respected professionals – not tourists who think it is more impotant to “look” like an artist than to actually be one. This is how a great deal of artists are looked upon today. I believe this to be in direct correlation to the irresponsibility of artists in the 20th Century and the loss of the definition of artist to music.

Still image painting is dead. I am a painter and it hurts me to say this but it is true. Creativity is not enough. Traditional skills ( while necessary) are not enough. Artists need to move past the teachings of the 20th century and look top the past and think of themselves as respected business people, selling a service or product aimed for consumption by the general public. It is a little self indulgent to think people will respect you if you hide your work or your process. I think most of the population have had just about enough of abstract art, art films and art for arts sake. Art is about communicating ideas and emotions – to an audience – not trying to get attention, although its great to get the attention.

These are all art school dreams and ideals that every artist should aspire too but are really not that practical in the long run. Art is nothing without and audience and quite often you are going to need some type of patron to achieve that goal. Dreaming and believing are not enough. You have to be ready when the opportunity arises, and that means working your craft and cultivating the fact that there are at least two parts to success (you define this with your own definition but it is most often defined in terms of return on investment – money) commercial and personal. You have to be able to work with other people and realize their ideas, concepts and dreams in order to one day realize you own.

Follow your heart. Work your craft – and expect to get paid. Break the cycle. Otherwise you will never survive as an artist and you will probably quit after a few short years. You can argue with me all you like. Wait ten years and see if you are still in the game, or how many of your classmates are.

That being said, follow your heart, be true to your craft and never stop learning. Tenacity is the key to success.

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Chris Oatley

Michael, you started out calling “BS” but you ended up confirming everything I said (and all the rest of us who have posted here in the comments).

You’re putting words in our mouths that we never said. Your prejudice and bitterness has skewed your paradigm to the point that you can’t even tell when someone is agreeing with you.

Or maybe you just didn’t read the post…

Probably a little bit of both.

But we never said money isn’t important. I provided a sobering default expectation for the financial return on personal projects. Though there are hundreds of artists making a crazy-good living from the exact kinds of “scribbles” and “still images” you condemn.

Could it be that this reactive, divisive behavior is a pattern in your life and the consequences of said behavior have led to your subjective (albeit definitively stated) assessment that the world is a “cruel and unforgiving place?”

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Alex Schumacher

Haha, you beat me to the punch Chris. Well said!

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Alex Schumacher

No one is saying money is not important. The point of the series is to set realistic goals for PASSION PROJECTS, not careers, be that financial gain or personal expression. If your sole intention for creating art is to make money then you’ve already failed. You might as well choose a “safe” job like accountant or lawyer.

You say: “Art is nothing without an audience…”. It is an obvious fact that if you intend or expect to make money from your art then an audience is what you need. However, art is for the self. To say that a piece created for your own pleasure is not to be considered art, as there is no audience, is insulting and comes off as very jaded.

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Chris Oatley

Yep.

…and I think it’s a self-destructive mistake to attempt to define what should or shouldn’t be a valuable prize for someone’s art.

Although this post is about balance, it’s still entirely possible for an artist to be struggling financially but still happy and creatively fulfilled.

“It seems so simple when it’s somebody else’s life…”

Everyone here is trying to balance Art and Money, not replace one with the other.

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Alex Schumacher

100% agree!

I also think it’s self-destructive to attempt to define what should or shouldn’t be considered art. I’m not making a full time living from art as of yet but that doesn’t make me any less of an artist (as some would imply) and I’m creatively fulfilled whether or not that ever happens.

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Jose-Luis Segura

Great post Professor! I’ll have to keep this in mind as I move forward.

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Chris Oatley

You’re a champ, Jose!

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Thiago rocha

This is absolutly AMAZING!

I simply Freaked out when i read “Then she quit her graphic design day job”

i want to share my story here.

I’m a graduated graphic designer here in brasil, and i was in the same situation, i simply don’t want to make a living of graphic design, nothing against it but the way the this is in brasil, it is not graphic design anymore, it is propaganda/marketing, and i didn’t aply to a marketing/propaganda program! i aplyed for graphic design! and on top of that, i was making an income of 305 US$ a month. I freaked out and find in concept art a scape goat for the “money for passion” issue i was having. I quit my day “job” and aply to some digital painting courses, and than the questions appears: Can i make a living out of this? Am i good enough? Is this for me? should i get back to the graphic deisgn?! Am i going to be a starvin artist with no talent for the business??!

Now, that i made some money with coloring comic books for a friend i found that, coloring is not my passion, but is a good income, it is not like i’m out of my passion road and i doomed for the rest of my life, but i need to pay some bills ya’ know. and that doesn’t afect my will to start a project of my passion, i can my fan art merging semiotic modes of typography with ilustration(I did this as a project for the conclusion of my bachelor, so awesome!), i can make games! i can caticatures, i can make whatever i want!

It is so helpful to hear the opinion and theexperience of artist who have trail the path thats ahead of us!
Thanks Chris! your articles and podcasts are simply inspiring, engaging and full of love for the craft that the ones that have it and try to hide (my case) cannot shut up about it!
Can’t wait for the next part of the series.

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Chris Oatley

I’m happy to hear that you’re inspired, Thiago.

Just to clarify, Ophelia did not actually quit her graphic design day job. She just wants to…

It’s also great to hear you saying you can’t hide your passion for the craft. I love that. The most successful artists I know are all full of contagious enthusiasm.

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Orlando Jr.

My 2013 was divided by working on my studio’s first mobile game and a passion project of teaching drawing, storytelling and game design to poor kids at a local school through making a board game. The whole year was very stressful when it was about the game, that was released at least. But on the other side, the passion project was a blessing, kids surprised us every week, and now we are trying to make it bigger through crowdfunding.

Reading this was awesome, because as many artist i felt just like the described character at times, but i can attest to the conclusion of the article.

Thanks for this great reading Chris.

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Chris Oatley

Wow, Orlando, this is awesome. I love that your personal project is so centered on others. It’s quite humbling to hear.

Do you know the Comic Book Classroom folks in Denver? They’re amazing. They do the Denver Comic Con every year. If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. It’s an amazing con and you’d get to connect with them and see what they’re up to…

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Mandy

Great article. I am just starting out of college, trying freelance sites and noticed that very “bad client” issue is also on there. It annoys me seeing people apply for them, but since my main freelance job has been delayed to February, I will be get some personal projects going and hopefully begin to feel a bit better knowing I am working on my passion instead of low-balling for something that will stress me. I am lucky as I am staying with my parents while getting going and my loan payments from my student loans don’t start till June. If I don’t get off the ground by mid-February, I will have to get a part-time job. The main reason I am waiting till then is I know noone is hiring part-time workers for long term till pass then in this area due to Mardi Gras season has begun.

Though, as some people mentions in the comments, the external motivations vs. internal motivations is a big problem. Especially when your parents seem to be more worried about your job than yourself. I been being asked everyday from them about my freelancing and I realized it is making me on edge because it making me think “can I really do this?” instead of “I want to do this.” Issue, though, I got no money and gotta stay around instead of going out a lot. Upside, my aunt(my family lives on her property) has allowed me to make an office in her backroom where I can escape to and relax… Though, I will definitely also take back on knitting to help with the stress for this year as I try to keep from the McArtist route and get my footing on the road ahead.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Mandy, I almost always recommend just getting an average day job to pay the bills instead of chasing a bunch of uninspiring, low-paying freelance jobs from bad clients. Good for you.

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Alex

I needed to see this article! I had a serious burn out moment over the holidays. Sure, it’s cool that I can sort of maybe kinda support myself on individual commissions, but the market’s been really low lately and it’s not work I’m passionate about anymore. Not when I want to tell stories. But things are still rough financially so it’s hard to find that foothold to move forward with what I’d *really* want to do.

I look forward to the other parts of this article!

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Alex. It’s all a balancing act. Different seasons of life allow different mixtures of passion and money.

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Maria

Hey Chris, Thanks for this post. I really needed it. I’m thinking hard about what I want to do with my life, what is the next step for me… I’m trying to decide if I should stall the looking for a job part and focus on my artistic career or should I try to do both or what. To be honest, I’m very much lost right now. I do want to work on a couple of personal projects that I’ve been ignoring for too long.

For me, the “making money with my personal projects” has never been on the table. I’ve always been clear that passion projects are exactly that, and if it makes money “yay!”… However, now that the day is gone I’m starting to think that maybe I should have an idea on how to monetize them. I might be prey to this line of thought because of the change in my circumstances. I find it ironic how before I had no time to work on this passion project but all the interest in them and now I have all the time to work on them but the need to make them profit projects.

So thanks for warning me about this pitfall. This is definitely food for thought!

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Chris Oatley

I know what you mean, Maria.

Although it’s entirely possible for a personal project to become profitable enough to make a living over a short amount of time, I don’t think we can plan for that unless we have a huge, loyal fan base.

…even then, it’s still a gamble.

When attempting to make a living from personal projects, slow and steady wins the race…

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Dusty

I guess I’m kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place here.

What I would love to do is write a web serial. But if writing novels for a living is hard to do, making a living writing a web serial would be near-impossible because you stick it up online for free anyway. Which is totally fine with me, I WANT my stuff to be available to people for free, it’s just hard to make money by giving stuff away. ;)

I want to write a web serial because my story ideas just won’t work for traditional publishing because they tend to stick to what’s safe, I want to be able to have freedom with my ideas and I just like doing a thing where I update it once a week. Plus I could illustrate it!

I realise how ironic it is to say “I’m going into art because what I REALLY want to do doesn’t make money”, but yeah, pretty much every interest I have is something that’s incredibly risky and time-consuming, and art is just the interest I’m choosing to pursue. The thing is, every moment I spend on this web serial is a moment I’m not practicing my art skills, and frankly I deal with enough procrastination without giving myself an actual valid reason to. If I don’t practice my art skills, that’s me set back in a career.

So at the moment my plan is to work like heck on my art skills, build that up, then eventually when I’m at the stage where I’m making a living from it without worrying *too* much about rent, and start working on the web serial on the side. That’ll be a long time from today, though.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks for sharing, Dusty. Skill building is always a worthy prize. Also, the more skilled you become, the faster you’ll be able to work (in general).

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Dusty

That is very reassuring to hear.

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Caitlin

I can relate a lot to Ophelia. I stressed a lot trying to get my art to make money for me. Once I let go of that idea, it became a lot more enjoyable to create stuff. I’ve been blessed that I finally found a day job that I love, and even though it is a job that has nothing to do with my art, it inspires me to go home and create stuff in my free time. I’ve finally set foot into creating an OGN and now that I’ve let go of the idea of making money with it, I’m actually getting serious work done on it! I don’t have to be caught up with, “is it good enough”. I’m creating my OGN for the sake of sharing a story and bringing my original characters to life. It has been a lot of fun so far and I look forward to sharing it for free ;) in the near future! Who knows, it may very well open doors and windows for me to crawl through in the future, but that isn’t why I’m creating art anymore. I create to share my gift with others.

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Chris Oatley

Caitlin, it sounds like you’ve identified what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. I’m excited for you to discover which doors your passion projects will eventually open.

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Stephanie Hovden

Hey Chris!

Great post!! I’ve been really encouraged by your podcasts here and at paperwings to do a personal project and see it through.

I was also going to do a webcomic but can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to do a long form story with several arcs which is a little daunting…. I also was working on a game with my husband who’s a programmer but he recently got a job and doesn’t have the motivation for it right now. Setting those two aside for the time being I designed a smaller project I could accomplish on my own in about a month’s time. I’m much happier for it and as soon as I get through this first “dip” (just listened to that ebook by the way!) I think it will be smooth sailing to the finish line :)

Looking forward to the rest of this series!!

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Stephanie Hovden

Thanks again for all the awesome content!

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Chris Oatley

Thank YOU.

1.) “The Dip” is AWESOME. Love love LOVE that book.

2.) Your art is AWESOME. I would LOVE to see a hand-drawn project (comic, game etc.) in your pen & ink style (like your avatar).

3.) Lora Innes always advises this – do small projects to rack up a bunch of little wins. …to prepare you for the big projects.

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Stephanie Hovden

:D

1.) It really is! It made me realize why I kept jumping around to different things. It was described incredibly well in that book with the bit about constantly changing lines to get to the front faster.

2.) Thank you so much Chris! I’ll keep that in mind! I was just skimming through some of the comments and saw Jake’s post about building up to doing a long comic with 10 short ones. That’s such a great idea I might do it as well since I don’t have that much experience with comics yet. Oh, I wanted to mention, I picked up Three Shadows today from the library :) I can see why you love that comic the stylization is amazing!

3.) Completely agree but I got the assumption she went head first into The Dreamer and hasn’t regretted it either :)

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John

Hey Chris,

Another great topic. I really enjoyed this and would recommend the Artistic Growth podcast. I started working on a story…not sure if it will be a web comic or what but focusing on finishing the story or at least defining what the story is. I got the Invisible Ink book and it is a great way to take small steps. Thanks for all the good practical encouragement. I am enjoying my artistic process so much more since I started taking this advice.

John

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Chris Oatley

Thank you, John. I’m so happy to hear that our efforts are making a positive difference in your life.

Invisible Ink is one of my favorite books ever.

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Jehan Aziz Deliar Noor

Hi Mr. Chris,
There’s actually another type of paralysis that happened to some people namely “college students” or to be more precise “visual design college students” like me. From what I’m feeling right now, I feel torn by two important things : academic and (as you said) passion project. The problem is now the time I spent on pursuing my academic in my major makes me feel fed up and scared to even start a passion project. Note that this isn’t about money. My passion project is now to start making passion projects. Not that I don’t have real personal projects I want to pursue, I just don’t know if I’m even going to start anything anyway. It’s still holiday till February, but right now I’m still just learning how to improve my skills on illustration and character design (and sometimes fiddling with 3D modelling). I think one way I’m gonna get through this is to force myself more since I can’t sacrifice either on them. Oh and thanks for posting this article, it has opened my eyes that I really have to do something about my situation.

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Chris Oatley

Definitely, Jehan. There’s a season for everything. Maybe this is just a season for learning and focus on your course work… That will serve personal projects in the future.

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Jehan Aziz Deliar Noor

so I just have to sit back and wait? maybe you’re right, but still, I feel like I’m going to burst. I know this is a problem I have to solve alone, but thanks for listening. I really need to let that out for a change :D

Thank you Mr. Chris and stay awesome!

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Chris Oatley

Working isn’t waiting, is it?

If you’re building skills, then those will support your future personal projects. If they’re helping, your courses aren’t a waste of time.

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Jehan Aziz Deliar Noor

that’s right, I forgot about that. So maybe I’ll just keep working on sharpening my skills and wait till there’s opportunity. I didn’t realize how obvious this is. Thanks for your responses, it helps me a lot :)

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Andrea K Haid

I’ve been working on a passion project since January 2009. It’s a hand animated short film called Pickled. I basically just chip away on it in my spare time and it’s just taking such a long time to get anywhere with it that way. I want to start working on it more hours per week. To accomplish this I will need to socialize less, cut out a lot of TV (damn you 30 Rock!) and wake up earlier and just do it! Frustratingly however I don’t even have the time to do that right now. I’m working on a bit of a career change by learning to do 3D animation. (As opposed to 2D.) I will honor my passion project by putting my all into my career choices for now.

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Chris Oatley

Awesome, Andrea. This sounds like a very balanced and focused approach. One thing at a time. Great focus!

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Natasha Jacobs

I’m amazed sometimes at how you find what you’re looking for when you truly need it. I’ve always been stuck wanting to do a Web comic and a published art book. Problem is I’m scared of failure and how long it will take me to get there only to fail and have waisted my life trying. In my mind I’m already too old and all the young kids are so much better than I am already so why try. Maybe it’s truly best to just do it and what happens happens.Thanks for this post, looking forward to the next few.

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Chris Oatley

Yeah, Natasha. I think you’ll find that you can apply what you’ve learned in other areas to your art and end up with intriguing, unique results. Furthermore, most first projects are about learning. But it’s the subsequent projects where you start to form a more specific vision for your art and business…

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Rachel Kimberly

This is some great, inspiring stuff. I look forward to the rest of the series!

My current passion project is an 8-page comic based on the first chapter of my YA fantasy novel. And it really is borne out of my passion for storytelling. I’ll tell my own stories like this no matter what my main “career” turns out to be.

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Chris Oatley

Yes! Awesome, Rachel!

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Edgar Hernandez

This is great!! I just decided to publish my own illustrated book of poems/stories in the near future. I’ve never been more passionate about anything in my life. It’s made me feel like I can finally give back to the world and maybe even inspire someone else like the illustrators and writers who inspired me (mainly Shaun Tan and Ray Bradbury). This series is exactly what I need right now. A lot of what you’ve written here has been bouncing around in my head for the last week. Especially since thinking about the grueling business/marketing end of trying to get my book read by as many people as possible, I felt my excitement dwindle. Luckily, I realized I have to stop worrying about those upcoming steps until I finish my book. Then, if my book flops completely, I will still have a collection of illustrations and writings that only I could have made.

Thank you so much, Chris.

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Chris Oatley

Thanks, Edgar. You’re such an encouragement.

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Chuck Raeke

OK so I already know that my passion project is not a money maker, it might be a money deterrent. It is a Christian comic book series about ghosts, as you can see I will probably alienate non-Christians for the subject manner and Christians will not like the ghost thing. The real passion behind the project is, as a Christian myself to get people back into the bible through comics. I to feel as many here do that I will spend so much time on this project and fail. But I feel that there is something powerful in my story that has not been said before and with so many ways to self publish why not. As I have read and listened to this podcast and a few others, careers in the arts full time is dead. I am going to be pursuing a job that makes my family the money we need to live off of and spend my down time making my passion project a reality. My first step is the Oatley Academy which in am in month 2. I already have learned so much to apply to my current passion project and other projects I will do if I ever finish my first project.

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Mark Keller

All the best, Chuck! I think it is a great idea! I have a few ideas of my own that would shock the Christian community – in a good way.

Keep it going!

I agree, The Oatley Academy has taught me so much – I’m in the Magic Box and gain insight every time.

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Chris Oatley

Happy to have you in The Magic Box, Mark. You’re awesome.

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Chuck Raeke

Thanks for the encouragement, would like to see what you have in store, when you have something to show let me know! I’m raek78 on Magic Box.

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Chris Oatley

When I decided to do a comic called ‘Greg The Megabeaver’s Prehistoric Sideshow’ which is a PG-13 cartoon with talking animals, I knew I was severely limiting the potential “reach” that my project would have.

But you know what? The folks who DO “get it” will love it. …it’ll be like our own, communal inside joke.

Of course, I had to put that project on hold for a very long time because I didn’t want to weigh it down with unrealistic financial expectations. So I had to wait on my comic, spend a year building up to the launch of The Oatley Academy, quit my job at Disney and then focus on growing the business to the point where I can eventually pick my comic back up.

My point is, it’s fine for a personal project to have a super-small audience. The artist just needs to make sure he doesn’t drive himself crazy with unrealistic financial expectations.

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Chuck Raeke

Thanks for the advice, I am trying to get art on paper this year to get things rolling on my project. Good the hear that “Prehistoric Sideshow,” is coming back eventually!!!

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Mark Keller

Another great post and sure to reach a lot of people in these same situations!

I want to add one thing to your passion projects post and that is purpose.

Is the purpose to prove to ourselves (or others) we can become a great artist? Is your purpose to communicate your message in a new and unique way – maybe breakdown stereotypes? Is your purpose to stand up for a cause no one else will – by using your gifts (such as art)?

If we can take a step back and ask ourselves “why” we care so much about completing that personal project and who (or whom) benefits, it may surprise us.

Are we trying to convey a message for a grand audience or is it an audience of one (just us)? It may not make much of a difference if it is either or both but it might surprise us.

I know the purpose to why I do my art: to leave a legacy that is bigger than me! I want to affect people (in a positive way)! I want to make them think! I want to take them deeper into a story than they ever imagined!

Understanding my purpose didn’t happen overnight – it took a long time (for me). One thing that helped me is to really know who I am, what I care deeply about. “You have to be true to yourself!” – and the only way I did was to never give up (and I have faltered many times but kept getting back on track). (And don’t listen to naysayers!)

I want to add one more thing; sometimes you have to take a leap of faith – you may never know if it will ever work unless you do. Such as starting an online art revolution called The Oatley Academy.

Thanks Chris!

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Beki

So much awesome in this! I am right there with you. :)

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Chris Oatley

Some of the greatest animation storytellers in history – The Termite Terrace Guys and the original Pixar group – had the same mindset. They all made the films for themselves and just trusted that the audience would get it. And the audience did. …and now those films have become some of the most memorable films in the history of visual storytelling.

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Colin

I can totally relate to this as I was going through the same type of thinking not to long ago. As someone who is relatively new to drawing/painting, what I currently produce is no where near professional or even good compared to what the industry’s best creates, so the idea of being a concept artist designing games and films ect and earning money from it felt so far from reality that it left me feeling like “forget it all, It will be ages before I can earn money from my art”.

But of course I didn’t “forget it”and was back to drawing the next day, because there is a feeling deep down, that says I HAVE to CREATE and not purely for the purpose of money, but for YOU! and your human desire for self expression. Of course earning lots of money doing what I love would be great right now, but the important part of that sentence is “doing what I love” and enjoying the “process” of becoming who I want to be, I no longer care how rubbish an image comes out, as long as it comes out, I no longer look at the pro’s and let that be the basis for judging if I will be good enough, and I no longer create for the purpose of fitting into something that already exists, I just create what I feel like creating, some days it could be the website my idea will be presented on, other days it could be a portrait or anatomy studies, I’ve even started enjoying practicing ellipses.

My point of saying all this is, if your gonna take on a mountain find a way of enjoying the steps that lead you to the top and detach yourself from the outcomes that bring you down. Just by persistently working towards a worthy ideal/ goal/ dream, even if there is no pot of gold at the end of it, you are already successful and Im sure everything else will follow : )

take care my fellow dream chasers

p.s sorry for the rant Chris lol

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Chris Oatley

No need to apologize, Colin. You’re talking to a fellow ranter here! Hahaha. Inspiring stuff.

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Drezz

Artists forget what’s important – in order to create something truly awesome, there needs to be equal parts passion, motivation & skill. Money doesn’t even factor into it.

My HS art teacher told me that if you create to receive the reward you’ll never create anything of worth.

Worry less about making money, and focus more on producing something of value to ‘you.’ That’s worth way more than any dollar amount. Eventually, people will take notice of your work and reward you for it.

There’s no shortcuts when it comes to this – there’s always a sacrifice and compromise. Even the most successful artists had to take their share of grunt work in order to pay bills and continue doing ‘what they love.’ It’s the nature of the beast when you’re an artist. Until you’re in a position where you call the shots, you have to grind it out and fire yourself up to stay motivated and productive.

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Chris Oatley

Well put, Drezz. It’s not just a balance between Art & Money, it’s a balance of many different factors including, as you stated, passion, motivation & skill.

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Joanna Davidovich

This is wonderful- thank you for addressing this! This is important for people to realize, but also important to reinforce for people who are struggling with this already. I went through school with everybody telling me I wouldn’t get a good job doing what I wanted to do (traditional animation vs. CG). They were sort of right- my work isn’t glamorous, but then I haven’t starved in the eight years I’ve been working. I just finished a short that took me four years of night and weekend work, and over and over I’ve been asked what I’m going to “do” with it because it has no commercial value. I’m still grappling with the choices I’ve made in my career- I never know if I’m doing the right thing or just being obstinate. I suppose time will tell, but its advice such as your that gives me comfort that I’m not necessarily out of my mind.

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Chris Oatley

Hahahaha! I think every professional artist feels that way most of the time… So funny. Thank you, Joanna. Great stuff.

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Andrea K Haid

I know how you feel Joanna!!

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Mave

Great article Chris! I am studying at a design college right now. And up until now I made the mistake and took graphic design classes, instead of writing my own stories and illustrating them. I thought “that is where the money is”. Of course I will need to pay my rent and food, but isnt the purpose of higher education to have the freedom to develop and experiment (and fail) before thinking about business and jobs and money?! So I guess I will pay a huge prize for prioritizing money over passion right now.

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Matt Ashcraft

Awesome stuff as always, Chris. I really like the idea of setting the prize for yourself… I’ve always focused on just working on the project because I had a NEED to, but I never outlined the exact rewards I was craving.

My passion project is to publish art and stories for my Civil War era Gothic world I’ve toyed around with for a few years. Most of my time and energy will go to the web comic I plan to launch this summer, called Torch Row. Yet I’m also looking into smaller mini-projects that I can build little successes with in the same setting. These will include short stories, gazette-style guides, RPG adventures and supplements, and general art pieces.

I don’t expect to be able to do this for a living and support my family, but if I can do it at all and have something to be proud of and show my children, I find it fully worth the sacrifice and effort.

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Cetriya

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’d finish much of anything without money. Once I complete the thought in my head, I’m “satisfied” and no longer Want to work on my project. What keeps me going is that I want to share my work. I rarely consider “comments” as recognition Unless it’s a well thought out one (time). Otherwise Money is the other form. Not thinking of making lot of money, but time and money are 2 things that a person has to activity decide to participate (and not just mush a ‘like’ button)

theres only so much you can do each day and so much you can cut out. so if i cant ‘buy out’ the time to work on my project, then years later, its still not done.

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Meg Burk

Chris,

Thank you for this post. It’s right on track with some things that I’ve been mulling over lately.

As a college student with a goal career of working in the visual arts, I’ve been struggling with the choice of going all-out and for my dreams, goals, and plans…and the fact that I can’t really afford to do so. I feel a lot of pressure from friends and family to go full-time at a local college and get a degree of any kind, but I feel that it’s not right for me. Actually, I know it’s not. There aren’t many art classes and I know that right now, I just need to focus on really improving my art foundations.

The choice won’t be an easy one, but I’m still going to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to be. Maybe I’ll have a lot less money for awhile because I’m working less to have the time to get some personal projects rolling, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end.

Thanks.

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Elena

Something like that I have noted in people in deviantart. Some of them do just what they feel pasion for and people start to following them. Is an excellent way to state own’s goals. I will start thinking like this.

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A.D.

Passion vs. Money The best of both worlds. A very hard question, but once you know what you’re passionate about, it wouldn’t be that hard to answer. I guess. ha. It is very nice that this was tackled here because sometimes when I only think about making money it becomes creatively smothering.
I’ve just graduated from school and I am thinking almost everyday about this, as I am not making any money while building my portfolio, which is basically empty as of now.haha A big thanks for addressing this overlooked dilemma in art, Chris!
P.S.
I try to think that money is and always should be on passion’s tail, it shouldn’t be the one leading you on, if you get rich and famous it is probably the big bonus you get for following your passion or maybe I’m just idealistic and insane.haha.

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Jocelyn

I definitely agree that using money as an end goal messes me up big time as an artist. I have an online graphic novel that I update regularly, and my only reason for doing it is because I want to. It’s my way of sharing a piece of me with the world in a fun way, and also improving/exploring my artist brain in the process of making every page.
It’s very much like you said, Chris; money is not quite an end goal that directly relates to what you’re doing. At that point, all you’re thinking in your head is “is it done yet, is it done yet…can I have my paycheck pleaaaase?”. I think working on something because you’re passionate about it has more of that “happy drug” feeling. When you feel satisfied about your work, you can’t help but want more of that satisfaction feeling so you keep on working.
That being said, I do think that most of the time, passion and money butt heads because the two don’t mix so well together. I’m going through that right now in my artistic career where I’m questioning is it worth giving up passion for more money, or is it worth searching for something that will let your passion shine, but less rewarding money-wise. There’s a happy balance somewhere out there, but it seems to differ for everyone.

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Christine

I agree and have learned the hard way- I listened to my parents for years tell me to get a “proper job” and stop wasting time with art, applied to admin jobs and did website jobs just for the money. It made me miserable and the money was not enough to justify being so down so I made a stand recently and am doing what I want to do no matter what (they did come around eventually when they realised how unhappy I was). I’m the sort of person who has to do art- it’s part of who I am.

I also think that you have to be careful what jobs you accept whether art or anything else because if the money is good but the job makes you miserable you will not do a good job. If the money is rubbish and the job is rubbish as was in my case with data entry jobs etc then it is soul destroying. Of course I did draw and paint in my spare time but the passion was lacking because I kept listening to people tell me I was wasting my time as they considered money more important.

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Jen

It seems we are in the same boat.
Good on you for getting out of the color-draining, soul-destroying, brain-tethering gray world of Admin work! I hope I get to do that too, soon…

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Elly Medeiros

Thank you for such a GREAT post Mr. Oatley! This will a great link to go back to when I sometimes get carried away and worry about the least important aspect of why we started creating art in the first place. One thing I’m trying to think of every time I start anything is that how much fun I had doodling anything when I was a kid. From then on, I have great positive experience, where I don’t need to be so harsh on myself and even surprise myself at times when I see improvement! Your artcasts and posts have been a great help towards those experiences. Thank you for the great inspiration!

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Terry Kirk

I am so glad I read this, I have just run out of the forrest on this topic. Thanks for posting this and I plan on reading the rest of this series. I think Chris is so right when it comes to his answers on the different things he covers on this. I have felt the sting of this topic almost trading creativity for money. I find that when I am creative and not concerned with money a whole new window of freedom opens up. I want my creative projects to be successful, but they seem to offer more reward when I know I got really creative on a project. I found when I got concerned with money my work got stale and I wasn’t happy with anything I did no matter how original or great I thought it was, why because I put money in front of being creative. I realize that’s not the way to go I am more valuable to myself and other people when I put my creativity before money which I am keeping a real focus on that if I am creative and apply myself the money will come one day. Thank you Chris for posting this!

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Ric Lumb

I took the plunge on a personal project last year, EVERY DAY! I’ve been wanting to make a comic for years but it’s hard to set aside time for something like this with no income, so I thought, why not make one panel a day! I wanted to keep it fresh and fun, so I scribbled down a rough character and posted it to twitter, and then every day of 2013 I posted another doodle based on what happened the previous day. After a month I started putting them together into little PDF comics. Dinki comic was born! I now have 12 comics which I can sell digitally on my website and I also did a little kickstarter to get the first couple printed to see how they looked. It was a fun project as I only had to draw what I wanted for a few minutes a day and was in full control. I didn’t get any financial reward but picked up new followers and friends along the way. Looking forward to trying more new things in 2014 :D

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Jen

Holy cow! This is my story!
Money ALWAYS comes along and RUINS EVERYTHING for me. I guess I need to take a step back and change my mode of thinking, my goals and put my eyes on a new prize. Being stuck in a dead-end job puts money at the forefront because there’s bills to pay, etc. However, that job pays for my art stuff. I guess I should quit twiddling my thumbs, wishing for more time and just scrape it together. I have lots of passion-projects on hold, for various reasons. I should start tooling around with one or two a little more.

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Hamstimus

This blogpost resonates a lot with the ryan woodward interview on the paperwings podcast. I remember toward the end of the podcast ryan speaking on the success of Thought of you, how although it was a project not in any way intended to be any source of financial leverage, it exposed him to people and relationships that have resulted into experiences more valuable than money, and also in a way has served as a portfolio piece(which if you connect the dots, points to getting better gigs and hence more money at the end of the day) . Chris I’m not sure you know the magnitude of help you offer to aspiring professional artists, its Huge! Words only won’t define my gratitude, thank you for this article(and the follow-ups which I’m itching badly to see) its very enlightening

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crystal

I agree that money isn’t THE prize, but it’s a nice ending. But what if you’ve self published, spent long hours and lots of tears over your project only to have it sell a mere 2 copies? That happened to me, and it was so disheartening. Felt like a bit of a failure, and I’m struggling a bit to convince myself to do another. Can you address that Chris?

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Kevin Allen

Wow, Ophelia and I could really get along. What you wrote in the intro is exactly what I’m struggling with. I find myself hyped, then disenchanted about my OGN. At my core, I know I want it to pour out of me, but I’m worried about it looking “good” enough for the masses. It’s really a liberating thought… just forgetting about others and money. It’s also sad that this occurs so quickly and attacks creativity. But I think I am armed with a new mental technique to practice. I just need to get this pony running and let my passion drive it.

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Jordan

Very insightful Chris!
I was wondering if you have written an article about Writing vs Illustrating comics? I have some skill at both but don’t know if I can/should DO them both, or instead, find a very talented writer or artist to team up with me.

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Erin

One of my favorite posts so far!

I love how none of the prizes you listed were monetary. One of the greatest prizes, I’ve found, from finishing a personal project is a feeling of empowerment. Whenever I contemplate beginning a personal project, I always start out with feelings of inadequacy. I fear I won’t have the drive to finish it, or that I will burn out early. I wonder if anyone will support my endeavor, or whether I’ll be met with a lot of raised eyebrows. But, when I push past those feelings and finish something I started, I get a confidence boost reminding me that I can do anything I want to do. I can do hard things.

Over the last couple years, I worked on writing a book for middle grade readers. I finished it, revised it (like 20 times), and polished it. Now that I know I can write a whole book, I’ve decided to raise the bar. Now I’m going to do a graphic novel. If I can write a book, I sure as heck can illustrate one too.

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Ciaran Lucas

Hey Chris,

You’ve put this out at a wonderful time for me. I find that every time I’m in a studio role my personal work really suffers, and knowing I’m heading in to a pretty long production now (woo!) I decided that it was time to settle on a personal project and see it through to the end. I toyed with doing a short film, and after a lot of help from my circle of trust I was at a point where I was happy enough to move forward. I designed the characters to a point where I was happy, I had my key locations roughed out and the whole thing colour scripted… and then the wall hit me. Not losing passion for the project, I still wanted to go with the story and see it out, but the prospect of animating a film, doing sound recording, editing and all the other bits just seemed like a whole heap of things that felt too much like work; particularly if it was to carry on around an existing production. I took a week off from thinking about it (which was really just giving my subconscious a week to think about it without stressing) and when I came back to it I realised that I was more interested in the landscapes and the journey. The shifting palettes and the different architecture. I didn’t need to make a film, I needed to make some snapshots of a journey.
Knowing that I get stressed or tired and the call of the backburner is strong I decided to work on it every single Monday, and try to get a portfolio-quality painting done every week, so that by October I would have about 35-40 paintings that could go into an artbook. I’d even stream the Monday sessions, so I couldn’t chicken out or put it on the long finger. The first few weeks were tough, but now it’s habit and I’m loving it. My brain’s kicked in with extra content, side stories (in comics) and little text blurbs to round out the story into something I’m really excited to be working on even if my midnight oil supplies take the odd battering.
This is totally what I’m in it for.

…then I looked at printing costs, several weeks in. I was working out the per book cost and trying to figure the size of my print run when I realised I wasn’t even AIMING to make a profit- just to put out the best product I can. When that clicked it stopped me in my tracks- shouldn’t this be making me money? If not, does that mean I’m literally a hobbyist? If the price point is too high will I be left with stacks of books and debt? Is this all a waste of my time?

I’ve been wrestling with that for a few days now, and have come to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing it for money, which means I’d do it for free, which means I’m enjoying it so don’t dwell. When it becomes work I can reassess the cost (in all its forms) but for now it’s a professional hobby project and I couldn’t be happier.

All the best,

Ciaran

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Jesi

I LOVE reading your articles! They are filled with such inspiration and soul-searching motivational boosts that I release all the negative energy that pools up throughout my week. But here’s a tough question:

I’m working on my thesis for my Master’s in 3D Modeling, and my characters must be themed (story-based). I know what I love, and I have a passion for it, but in solid writing in the guidelines it says: “If it looks anything similar to what you have already seen out there, don’t do it.” Am I to follow the wise teachings of you and MacLeod (which I deep down feel is right) and disregard these guidelines for the sake of doing something I LOVE that may be something similar to what others do? Or rack my brain to come up with an idea that no man has yet thought of? (which seems impossible)

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Adelaida

I would go with what I love. Because something that is created straight from the heart surely is not the same as other things we can find in the web or animation features.

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Adelaida

That is so true. Thinking about money when preparing a personal project can really mess things up. But one’s got to think about money so the creating process of the project can stay money-stress free.

Right now I’m working on my passion project – a web comic. And I love working on it BECAUSE I don’t have to think about it earning money or even lots of readers. I just want to see if I’m right to think that I’m good at it ;) And I have no expectations for it except giving the best of myself.

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Crystal Williams-Brown

I’m working on this silly comic strip about a girl named Hollow who’s just entered middle school and is friendless. It’s based on my experiences, but isn’t a total downer. I found that without having friends at school I paid more attention to what people were doing and thought a lot about the person I wanted to be. I started developing a friendship with myself. My goal is to reach kids of all ages who feel strange and out of place. I want to show them that even if no one gets you, you can still understand and appreciate yourself. Plus, it’s just good to laugh. The comic is called The Big Book of Hollow, I plan to put it up on my website and deviantArt. I already finished a few installments but have delayed putting them up. I guess I’ve been afraid of what people will say. It’s a really honest comic and it’s done in black and white, so that makes me nervous as well because there are no distractions. But I’ll do it anyway.

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Ada

This article really speaks to me! I can easily relate myself with the Ophelia example. Money always ruin the flow of projects for me, whether it’s design or art. Glad to have this blog series to help me reflect on how to laser focus on the passion driven attitude!

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Cory Kerr

Great article. I love the term “passion project.” I’ve been working on The Mixed, a OGN comic now for a year. People are often confused with my answer to their question of why I do it. The truth is that I’m not sure. I like telling stories. I like drawing. It schedules me in my art, driving me to get better, while still finishing pages. It’s out there for all to see, which adds a degree of vulnerability and accountability.

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Bonnie Pang

I enjoy this series about personal projects a lot – it’s extremely helpful and makes me think again about my true passion.

I’m currently drawing a webcomic named MindBound for my passion project. It’s my 2014 personal project, and it aims to raise environmental awareness through the weird and unexpected adventure of an imaginative girl. I guess I can call it a passion project because I’m concerned with environmental issues and want to use my art to spread certain messages. I’ve got 2 chapters done so far, though I want to be more productive.

I can’t say I’m extremely devoted and passionate about this project, but it’s something I feel like I *should* do. So I guess it is my conscience that pushes me to work when the project gets stalled. I’d also like to thank Chris and this amazing website – my project wouldn’t exist if I did not come across your blog! :)

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a

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Elinore

This post felt super relevant to me right now. Just recently, I came up with an idea for a project that I’m super pumped on bringing to fruition. I’ve done this a lot, and can relate to Ophelia. I think the difference with this one, is that I’m very cognizant of the fact that the thing I want right now is a project that will help me get better as an artist and a story teller, not a project that will help me make money or leave my current job. I don’t even know if it’s a concept for a game or a comic or a movie (all of the above?), but it’s a world that has all sorts of elements in it that I love. Last night I stayed up late drawing just because I was having so much fun bringing this world/story to life and knowing there is so much inspiration in it to keep me going. (It’s still an infant personal project, so I’m nervous about sharing specifics just yet.) So, I guess the passion comes from not being too attached to the outcome, but being excited about and not overwhelmed by the process.

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