Tuesday, May 31, 2016

February 2015 - May 2016, Big Update Dump

It's been a ridiculously long time since I last posted here. More than a year. And while it's been an eventful year, I haven't really done that much art-wise. I've done a handful of paintings, I've gotten into doing RedditGetsDrawn portraits, and I've done some doodles, but overall my time has been devoured by /r/ArtFundamentals, which since the time of my last post has evolved into a proper website, drawabox.com. It eats up a lot of my time, but I've been able to monetize it reasonably well, with both ad revenue and a patreon campaign.

Before I get into all of it, I'm gonna warn you - this is a really, REALLY long post and if you want to get to the art, jump all the way to the end.


It's strange to think about - I'm offering a largely free service that is quite involved, putting in at least an average of an hour a day fielding homework submissions, and then more creating bits of content here and there - I'd say my monthly investment is at least 40 hours, if not more. That said, my patreon campaign is at a little over $800 USD per month after fees, which is totally unexpected. I started it in March 2015, and I didn't really expect to make all that much, since I didn't have much to offer in the way of rewards. Turns out that for the most part, if you put in the work doing something valuable, people are willing to ensure that you keep doing it.

Now, I do take breaks. It started off when I took the month of August off, because things at work got rough during the first half of the month, and I was heading back home on vacation during the second half. Then in December, my landlord asked me to look for a new place to live, and I suddenly had a lot of stress on my shoulders.

Housing Nonsense

I won't get too much into that enormous, frustrating, infuriating mess, but I will summarize it. She moved back into the other bedroom, where she'd been living when I first moved in (it was a 2 bedroom condo), she changed her mind and had me sign another lease which she then tried to break within a week upon changing her mind AGAIN. Of course, I had the legal power in this situation, so I agreed to move out but would do so on my own time, once I'd found a decent apartment rather than jumping into the first barn I saw. Once I'd put down another deposit, she changed her mind once again and asked me to stay (realizing that I was about as good a tenant as she'd hope to find and that the rent I was paying was helping her make ends meet). Of course, I was done with that garbage. I'm fairly certain she was becoming more and more unhinged (at one point the police smashed down our apartment door to respond to a drunken call to 911 she'd made. Part of me was concerned for her well-being, but at this point I was as worried for my own.

Back to Drawabox

And that brings us to the next break I took, as I moved out in March (to a fantastic 1 bedroom apartment). At this point, I've pretty much made it a regular thing - two months on, one month off. And now I'm on the eve of another month off.

Sort of.

Being the workaholic that I am, I never really take those months off in the true sense. I merely limit homework submissions to my patreon supporters, who pledge at the very least $1/month, which reduces the number of homework submissions from 150-200 per month to about 40-50. So far I haven't had much trouble despite Patreon's infuriatingly easily abused system, and have only had one person pledge on such a month to receive a critique, but not follow through with it. I've had declined charges and whatnot, but generally those individuals haven't received anything significant for it. This one person however bugged me inecessantly with questions and then on March 30th, cancelled his pledge instead of paying the measely $3 he owed me. Man, I just don't understand some people.

Anyway, Drawabox is doing great. The subreddit /r/ArtFundamentals, which is obviously still a major part of the project, now has over 23,000 subscribers, and the website receives 1000-1500 unique users per day. Last April, I uploaded a flyer-type thing to imgur (a blatant advertisement, really) and it seriously blew up - 15000 points, generated loads of traffic and made me something like $100 in ad revenue in just two days. I barely ever even make that much in a month. I tried to replicate that with another flyer later on, but it didn't work out nearly as well, garnered maybe 500 points and never really took off (though 500's still pretty decent).

More recently in terms of marketing I've tried to take a different angle - I made a little comic called "Uncomfortable's Unsolicited Advice" that seems to have been reasonably well received by my current audience. I threw it up on imgur and it didn't do particularly well, but this is more of a long-con. I hope to make more every now and then, and every time I do I'll upload the whole growing set. At the very least, it's a nice introduction to comic-making, and I'm finding crisp lineart to be a very awkward and difficult, yet fulfilling pursuit.



Anyway, so what else do I do? Well, I am still working on that text-based game I've been building and rebuilding god knows how many times at this point. Anathema Online, Legend, Age of Avarice... all the same concept, and now my working title is very poetic - textgame2. At this point it's not as much a text game as its previous incarnations. The others all had their graphical elements - dynamic avatars, visual maps, floorplans, item art, etc. - but this one certainly takes the cake in terms of being way too ambitious. I'll surely abandon it, and it's a little absurd that I'm still technically working on the same branch of the project as I was over a year ago. Anyway, this one's got an actual world that your character can walk around in. You know, like a REAL video game. Absurd.

I started off trying to build it using threejs, figuring a 3D engine would offer me the most flexibility. Wasted a lot of time on that, then switched to phaser with an isometric plugin, and hand-painted a bunch of isometric tiles. It's actually in a surprising state right now - nothing playable of course, but I've got an environment that a character can walk around in (as well as a simple character with 8-directional walk cycles, and a rather neat system that allows me to colour their clothing dynamically). I recently more or less (actually more less than more, there's still some things to iron out) finished off what I call my "caves" system, which took a world where only one tile could exist at any given x,y coordinate and changed it so you could have a tile directly below another one - ultimately allowing me to build caves or underground tunnels. While all of this is now possible, I only intend to use it to create little insets that will eventually link off to a completely separate model of the cave itself, rather than having everything exist in the same space. A lot of work for such a petty feature.

All of this world business has been created specifically through the development of a tool that allows me to build the world in 32x32 sections. There's not a whole lot to it - just being able to place tiles, place props (like trees) and mess with the topography. One interesting thing I threw in there was the ability to plant a seed and have it grow into a forest procedurally - largely to help me avoid putting down loads of trees manually. When I do it by hand, they rarely look natural.


Of course, then there's the art I've been doing. I did a fair bit for work (though not nearly as much as I'd hope - at this point it's become a bit of a joke that I'm a concept artist at all, and not a professional level designer or programmer or whatever else). Still, while I can't share any of the work I did profesionally just yet, I hope to do so in the coming months.

But here's a big dump of the things I've done as personal work. Also something of note - I bought a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD back in October and it's THE BEST THING I'VE EVER BOUGHT. It was ridiculously expensive, but I absolutely adore it. This photo of it was from my old place:

And here's the artwork:

Anyway, that's my massive dump. I'll try to update more frequently, and hopefully I'll avoid writing novellas in the future.

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