As I’m writing this I’m taking today to organize my thoughts. This time last year there was a Twitter thread making the rounds about Internal Monologues. Similar to the one on astigmatism, many people were surprised to find where they sit on a subject they didn’t even realize existed. For those unfamiliar, an internal monologue is when your thoughts form clear sentences, as though you’re narrating your life in real time.
“Doesn’t everybody have that?” No, actually. Some folks don’t. This doesn’t mean they don’t think about things, rather they don’t interpret those thoughts as words until they need to communicate them to someone else. Likewise some visualize thoughts more clearly than others. Aphantasia as it’s called is the inability to form mental pictures.
I remember growing up I’d imagine stories out loud as it was easier to funnel those thoughts the way we share them with others. Eventually I got self-conscious about talking to myself, worried others would hear me and what they’d think. Internalizing took practice and felt like more work. There is a mental and emotional energy to it that’s very real. If you’ve ever sat in a class or office waiting down the clock until you don’t have to be alert anymore then you know what I’m saying. Just as we need to build up our abilities to think and process active thoughts, so too we need time to decompress.
Visualization is another mental skill I need to practice. It may come as a surprise to some that, though I decided to be an artist, I don’t tend to think in pictures. I also don’t doodle or draw as much as others or even as much as I’d like to. Like any form of exercise the problem comes down to the path of least resistance. Is it easier to do something you know is good for you but requires effort or is it easier to put off? Doodling is a constructive and experimental process. Usually I stress to know what I need to draw and then find under what conditions I need to draw it. Is it a single illustration? A comic? Show me some reference so I know I’m not making stuff up.
This is a long way of explaining I spend a lot of time in my own head and a lot of time aware with my mind switched “on” which can be problematic. It becomes an issue when I start dwelling on things due to stress. With nothing productive to focus on I whittle away at my assuredness, second and third guessing my decisions, craving validation when I’m the only one in the proper place to give it. We’re all stressed out these days. We all have expectations for ourselves, for others, and from others to deal with. Even people I enjoy being around can become a drain mentally and emotionally given enough time. For a while now life has been extremely out of the ordinary for all of us. There’s always talk of the “new normal,” how as humans we have to adapt to our situations to survive, how we settle into routine to keep going on.
2020 was an exhausting and frustrating year. 2021, though still being complicated, also shows signs of light at the end of the tunnel. We need to be able to empathize with each other as we never really know what all our neighbors put up with. At the same time we need to reinforce boundaries and expectations for our own lives. As the quote from Moïra Fowley-Doyle goes: Do no harm, but take no shit.
I don’t really feel the need to recap much. Most people reading this were there and can share their own harrowing tales. It’s only January. Every new year still has some traces of the last lingering on until it comes into its own. I feel 2021 is going to be full of surprises. Here’s hoping they’re pleasant ones and not, you know, the kind we got last year.
Let’s Talk Goals
I want to draw and animate more, sharing it online for you kind folks to enjoy. What I make and where exactly I share it, however, is still being determined. I’ve spent the last few years dealing with analysis paralysis. When I made webcomics I struggled with building an audience. I’d focus all my energy on making the comics and spend almost nothing on promoting them. Not saying this was intentional, as I fell down the rabbit hole of researching everything I was bad at, feeling like I could come out swinging if only I knew how to properly go about putting my work out there.
Obviously I’ve considered posting on my YouTube channel. The problem is the all-mighty algorithm. Animators used to do well on there until the Reply Girl saga of 2012. Monetization went from favoring views to watch time. This effectively killed short format content on the site as animators moved on to producing Let’s Plays and vlogs. Storytime videos eventually brought animation back with creators like TheOdd1sOut, Jaiden Animations, and sWooZie. Arguably these types of films are more animatic than full animations, though to me that’s akin to complaining about the limited animation in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s a cost-saving choice that facilitates the limitations of the medium while still allowing for new original material.
As far as individual creators go, there are a few like Felix Colgrave or Jae55555, drawing the toons they want, making it work with a blend of Patreon and/or commissions. Basically for anything I post to be successful would require either a large existing audience or big frequent updates with enough time to grow a following.
YouTube Shorts is essentially their answer to TikTok with vertical clips up to 60 seconds. This is problematic to me because it corrals videos into a beta feature nobody’s looking for, it’s a copycat move when they have a legit history with short content to build on, and I expect most content creators are going to repost from other similar platforms until they know how long Shorts will be sticking around.
Not a lot of people talk about Vimeo these days. That’s because in 2017 they changed their business model from being a high-end alternative to YouTube to being a software provider for video makers. It’s a good example of knowing what you want to be and working towards that goal as opposed to people’s expectations. I’ve seen a number of folks recommend hosting demo reels on there saying it looks more professional, you don’t have to worry about ads, and if you need to replace/update a popular video it can keep the same URL. I recommend checking out the Plymptoons account from Bill Plympton. He has a wealth of behind the scenes and production blogs.
I’ve used my Instagram account for work in progress material and Inktober drawings. I’m going to be honest, I find the dimension options confusing and regularly check to see what they currently are. Lots of great artists there, though I’ve heard it can be difficult to stand out these days. Best advice I’ve seen is to find specific tags that are less crowded. (i.e. instead of #art maybe try #socalpainters) I remember back when Twitter decided to start using photos and quit showing previews from links in their feeds. :V
First hyped as an alternative to YouTube, IGTV is for videos from one to sixty minutes long. Originally they needed to be vertical but now they accept horizontal as well. It has a dedicated app though on the web you need to go to the Instagram profile of a specific creator to find their videos. A lot of artists I follow post speed paints. (an easy thing to do with the record feature in Procreate or Clip Studio Paint) Mythical use it to share bonus content with their followers. I considered doing shorts for it, though the vertical requirement at launch was a bit of a creative hurdle. It didn’t seem worth designing content I couldn’t fit anywhere else, in an usual aspect ratio. Also a lip sync test I posted got removed due to copyright a year after I shared it.
Another response to TikTok, Reels is for 15-30 second videos. Like IGTV you have to hunt to find them. Considering regular videos are up to a minute long it makes technical sense to highlight shorter ones, I suppose. Now they have options for 15-30, ≤60, and 60-3600 seconds. It just feels inorganic to me. Instagram is one app that rolled out these features as afterthoughts, much like their website. They’re intended to keep existing users onboard, not bring new ones in.
TikTok is an app for videos up to a minute in length that came to the US after merging with Musical.ly, a similar Chinese app popular for dance and lip sync acts. I’ve posted a few. A big part of the appeal is using popular songs, either clips they provide or ones you’ve made yourself. The audience skews young but older folks go where the young people are. There was fear it’d get banned after a prank during the election of reserving tickets for a Trump rally and not going, though that’s probably not happening.
I mainly have two issues with the platform:
The vertical aspect ratio. It impacts design choices and makes using elsewhere look cheap.
It’s really geared toward vlogging and sharing quick vids from your phone. Animators can make content but laboring over a project gets frustrating when others can bang out 10 clips at a time.
Remember Vine? The 6-second loop service? One of the original developers announced V2 after Twitter shut it down. Following a few years in beta it finally launched as Byte. Originally sticking to the 6-second formula they’ve expanded to 15 and now offer sounds to work with. I’ve posted once so far.
It’s a different community and different vibe from TikTok. They’re smaller, more interested in being experimental and creative, and I respect that. My question is whether my stuff could gain traction on there or not.
One of the original Flash portals, (who, like Homestar Runner, are now looking to Ruffle to keep their archives going) Newgrounds is a dedicated place for artists. If they like or hate your stuff, they’ll let you know. They’ve supported non-Flash videos for some time now. I’ve shared some of my QAS shorts but haven’t made anything specifically for the site yet. I’ve had some more mature ideas that might not fly on YouTube I may host there. My concern is would original content work better there as opposed to elsewhere.
Fiyah TV is a streaming site for online animators. Creators can sign up and publish their own shows in a variety of genres. I first heard of it when the developers posted on Newgrounds. It’s an admirable goal, though I wonder how many new eyes the site actually brings.
Dribbble is a popular site for designers that was invite-only for a long time. I personally know very little about it as I don’t really travel in design circles but it seems a useful place to display and promote projects.
Bēhance is a similar yet different site to Dribbble. I’ve seen a number of articles comparing which one’s better for which purpose. I figure I’ll spend some time checking out both until I get a better feel for how they work.
I’ve actually been working on this last option a bit, off and on. For a while now I’ve felt like the current web has gone stale. The article Why the ‘Weird Internet’ of the GeoCities Era Had to Die explains how things got standardized and uniform. Experimental sites break on different devices. If you’re a big serious corporation you want your site to work every time somebody visits and you expect it to look the same on every screen. It all makes logical sense. Of course, artists aren’t necessarily known for their logic.
Currently I’m playing around with Grav as a CMS and Wick Editor for animating the HTML5 canvas. It has the ease and the energy of making things in early Flash with modern web standards. The problem now is what do I build with it? An homage to Homestar Runner? Something akin to the Space Jam website? I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel as I’ll spend all my time trying to make it perfect and never actually launch.
So I guess I’m relaunching this blog as a chronicle of my steps forward in the animation business. Building up my portfolio, demo reel, and seeing where I land finding work and/or building an audience.
Something I’ve been dealing with behind the scenes for several months is a copyright bully. I debated posting about this but decided it’s important other people know the dangers involved. At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog about my plans for 2019. I found an image online that said it was Creative Commons, pasted the info in the WordPress field for credit, and thought that was the end of it.
Couple months later I get an email from a case management address of a site I’d never heard of alerting me to Unauthorized Use of Image. Apparently there was an error in crediting the image creator and this site was claiming I needed to pay a fee. I checked to see how much they were asking for:
I decided to speak to an attorney before responding. During that time I received a second, third, and fourth notice, saying registration with the US Copyright Office entitled their client to between $750-35,000 should they seek legal escalation. Time was running out for them to negotiate a lower price. After various referrals the lawyer I consulted with told me about what I figured – that I could expect to pay at least $750 for their services and I might still have to pay out in the end.
As an artist I understand the need for creators to get paid for their work. However, this type of intimidation goes against the spirit of Creative Commons. If I found somebody using one of my works without permission I’d contact them myself first. Maybe they aren’t even aware of the mistake. I wouldn’t sick some 3rd party on them. Out of options I responded to the case manager’s email. Was their client aware they were using version 2.0 of the Creative Commons license when the site was recommending 4.0? Perhaps it had something to do with this line,
In the 4.0 licenses, your rights under the license are automatically reinstated if you correct this failure within 30 days of discovering the violation (either on your own or because the licensor or someone else has told you). Under the 3.0 and earlier licenses, there is no automatic reinstatement.
Creative Commons FAQ
I asked what the least their client would accept to resolve the matter was. While I waited for them to get back to me I discovered said client’s account was blacklisted from submitting images to Wikimedia due to sending huge invoices for minor licensing errors. This resulted in a mass deletion of images from a large number of articles. In a discussion log they decided it was best to prevent potential re-users from dealing with charges should they use the images improperly. “It may not be illegal but it’s a scam and we need to protect our users from potentially falling prey to it.”
Case management said I could pay $250. At this point I was going on a trip to Canada for several weeks. My case was forwarded to a new manager who promptly warned me of legal escalation again. Sick of the whole thing I paid their fee and told them any further contact would be considered harassment and forwarded to my representatives.
I hope everybody had a good New Year, or at the least stayed out of trouble.
I’m back in the office organizing everything for the new year, new month, new week, etc. I try to avoid making resolutions. I’m sure most of us have fallen into that trap of thinking January 1st we’re going to be an entirely different person than we were on December 31st, only to beat ourselves over staying the same and concede defeat. Instead I prefer to set goals I want to achieve and figure out the steps I need to accomplish them. As somebody with ADHD it helps to have regular check-ins with myself to see how I’m doing, remind myself what my goals are, and occasionally realize I need to change direction. It’s very easy for me to get hyper focused on a particular task because I’m comfortable carrying it out or excited by what I find. Then I have to switch gears and do something else – something different, potentially new, or just something I’m unsure about doing properly – a thing most people don’t have trouble doing. Consider playing Super Mario Bros.:
Most of us are probably familiar with this game. You move Mario from one side of the screen to the other as the camera follows him, jumping across platforms, avoiding enemies and pitfalls, collecting coins and power-ups to help you along the way. You can see what’s coming and react accordingly. This is how most people perceive time and tasks for the day. They’re aware of their environment and can judge when they need to respond to things. Now consider Mario’s point of view:
He has a vague idea of what’s in store for him after his next jump. Probably some blocks, some pipes, and a few enemies to watch out for. It feels disorienting not being able to see things pulled out, especially if you’re used to playing this level in the traditional view. How do you judge when the goomba is in the same place you’re going to land? Are you at the right distance to jump that pipe? It requires a level of awareness about your abilities. You have to internalize how high you can jump and from how far away. This is closer to how I see time, tasks, and appointments. I can zoom out and write dates down, sort them by their various properties, but when I’m in the thick of my day I have trouble concentrating on jumping the flagpole at the end because I’m preoccupied with the ledge underneath me in the moment.
It’s not necessarily that I’m forgetful. You can know all the steps to a dance but do them in the wrong order and it’s not the Macarena. Often times I’ll be carrying around too much in my head. In school I would use the fact that I couldn’t recall something as a reminder. That works well in the short term, like if you always forget one word on this week’s vocabulary list, for example. The problem comes with maintaining it in long term memory. I can memorize dates long enough to answer them on a test but keeping them straight by the end of a semester is another story.
Rote memorization isn’t always the best indicator of learning something. Boring repetition makes information difficult for me to absorb. I can repeat things back without actually thinking through what they mean. Ever read assembly instructions without illustrations to visualize what they mean? On the other hand, if it feels like I’m engaged in the conversation with an instructor, I can pick up on everything without notes. (I did this in Art History where it felt like we were gossiping about the lives of artists through the ages.)
Plans for 2019
It’s what I love to do. So why don’t I do it more often? Mostly because I’m worried about spending too much time on the wrong projects. I try to make things perfect and spend months on something I should have shipped off and shared already. This year I want to focus on smaller projects and getting better at putting them out there.
I’ve dabbled in freelancing gigs but I get so apprehensive about finding new ones. I spend too much time trying to make new material to customize a demo reel to send out when I should really be building up relationships and getting what work I have ready in front of people. This year I need to be better at how I present myself.
3. Design More Cool Stuff!
I spend a lot of time looking over specs and requirements. What DPI does this file need to be at? What aspect ratios does this site want? There comes a point where you have to get out of the measuring phase and start to cut. This year I want to spend more time drawing, making things, and sharing them online to get feedback.
4. Get Out of My Own Head and Communicate!
This is the biggest hurdle for me. I’m terrified of seeming unprepared so I spend too much time researching and trying to guess what will come up. This year I need to share what I know and what I can do. That includes posting on this site more as well as Twitter, my Facebook Page, and adding content to my Instagram, IGTV channel, and my YouTube channel.
This is my second month of being in the new office. Things have been settling into place as I’ve been developing my daily routine. Currently I’ve been working on a pitch reel for my Bottled Spirits series, adapting the idea from my original short and adding elements from other episodes. I’ve been documenting it on my Instagram.
I’m aiming to finish it by the 21st. After that I’d like to work on pieces for my freelancing reel and other less time-sensitive pitches. I want to divide my time between animating and building up diverse revenue streams. Designing various prints, shirts, and fonts will be a nice mental break from the monotony of bigger projects.
Moving from my home studio to the new office has not been without it’s hiccups. Aside from my Brother scanner the heavy equipment’s been moved. I needed to install a Wifi card for my computer which turned into an all day adventure, especially after we lost the screws that came with it. I upgraded my RAM to 24GB to replace the two original sticks that went bad. Last night I thought my speakers weren’t working. Turns out powered USB hubs work best when you bother to plug them into the machine they’re supposed to be connected to. The last lingering issue is my second display. It’s an old HDTV I have running through an HDMI/Mini DisplayPort. In my studio I had it on the right side of my Cintiq which often resulted in craning my neck to see. Once I got it in the office the power cable we had needed it to be on the left. It powers on but my computer isn’t seeing it.
Speaking of all day adventures, I needed to replace the battery in my car again. I was worried when it wouldn’t start this morning but fortunately after my dad came by we deduced I’d simply tripped the security feature. Once it started we looked for the ice scraper I’d used last night only to find it wasn’t there. Seeing snow on the passenger seat we figured my mom took it. I originally considered working in the home studio this morning but, upon seeing the weather forecast for more snow the rest of the week, I decided to make use of a clear day for an Ohio winter. It’s supposed to be in the 20s this week, which I can’t complain about because it’s been zero or below where my girlfriend lives.
All in all, though, having an office to work out of is proving to be a good thing. I’ve met a few of my neighbors who seem pretty nice. It’s fairly close to home. It’s quiet. I just need to bring some more of my studio trappings over in small loads so I’m not constantly feeling like I forgot something.
My home studio has been a real asset to me over the years. Having designated space for projects has helped keep home and work life somewhat separated. When marathoning sessions and crunching to get things finished it’s nice to be able to stay in pajamas. Next month, however, I’m moving most of my equipment to a new location where I’ll be sharing office space. I’ll keep a bare bones setup here but I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that will open up. There’s an energy you get from having others around. After college the closest I’ve come to capturing that sort of environment was my yearly trip to Calgary for the QuickDraw Animation Lockdown. “Networking” and “making connections” are buzzwords I’d like to abstain from but I am hoping to get to know new people, maybe make a few friends. That might result in future collaborations, finding somebody who can make use of what I bring to the table, or perhaps I’ll find someone who can help me out somehow.
In my previous post I said I wanted to blog on Monday, Wednesday, Friday leaving Tuesday and Thursday for posting videos on my YouTube channel. I was hoping announcing plans would kick my butt into gear. Like all New Years mistakes it was overly hopeful, presupposing I was actually ready to start sharing content regularly. Since we’re nearing the end of January it’s time for a check in to see where I’m at and where things are headed based on what’s actually in front of me and not, like, holiday season fairy dust and magic, or whatever causes us all to expect ourselves to be somebody different after midnight.
YouTube Ad-Pocalypse: Partner Program Edition
For those not keeping score, YouTube have recently changed requirements for membership of their Partner Program. In order to be a monetized partner channels must now have 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers by February 20th. This means a lot of smaller channels, such as mine, are going to lose the ability to monetize through YouTube’s AdSense system. I’m not exactly heart broken over this news as even the most successful channels cite AdSense as their lowest source of revenue. Ads only really make serious revenue with large audiences, being on the Internet causes ads to be worth significantly less than they are on traditional media, and honestly I’m conflicted about advertising in general.
I agree with Hank Green that no real competition for YouTube currently exists. If it did it would be dealing with the same issues any site of that size would. Services like Patreon and the recently relaunched Drip are going to be crucial if creators are ever going to move away from relying on ads for revenue.
Circling the conversation back, the partner changes impact me personally again in relation to Multichannel Networks, specifically my MCN the Channel Frederator Network. CFN found out about the changes at the same time the rest of us did. This left them scrambling to get things sorted for all of their members. If I’m unable to monetize my channel by the 20th, what’s my status with CFN and the tools/community it provides?
We are extremely proud to announce that although YouTube is disabling their partnership with some of you, we here at Channel Frederator consider you members in good standing. You will not be disabled from your partnership with us, you will still have access to our tools/platforms, and opportunities for growth to reach that threshold for monetization. This was decided on day one of this big change, a unanimous decision from all levels of management here at Frederator. We just needed to do some tweaking under the hood, and make sure that our dreams of still having you all with us can come true.
Below are some important notes we want to mention:
All members affected by Youtube’s new policy will still have access to the forums, all our tools, and opportunities while you’re still in contract with us.
After your contract ends, we will limit some of the services we offer until you’re able to monetize again.
For those who are interested, we’re dedicated to continue to help you reach the required 1K subs and 4K threshold. Then you’re more than welcome to be fully linked with us, and have access to everything!
I might not be the most active member of the community but I full-heartedly appreciate when they prove that “Frederator Loves You!” is more than a marketing slogan. I’ll be going into more details about plans and projects in future posts but I really want to take a moment and commend Channel Frederator on this. I planned on using their resources as I relaunch my channel with more regular content in 2018 and CFN have made me very proud to be partnered with them.
I hope everybody had a happy holiday season. The New Year is traditionally a time of reflection, making resolutions, and then giving up on them by mid February when we’ve slid back into bad habits. I’m not much of a traditionalist but I do like the idea of setting markers for yourself. This is a good time to look back, figure out what went wrong over the course of 12 months, and to set goals for improving on the next dozen.
2017 in Review
What Went Right
Without a doubt the best thing to happen to me in 2017 was meeting my girlfriend. She’s been there to listen, to encourage, and to be a reminder that life is pretty awesome sometimes.
What Went Wrong
Nothing frustrates quite like wasted potential. As is common with ADHD I had a lot of good ideas but I enacted few of them. Some of it was lack of direction but a lot of it was insecurity. The perfect time to do something rarely ever makes itself available on its own accord. Instead it is up to us to shape our lives, to make opportunities happen, and to try our damnedest.
Deadlines are something of a double-edged sword. They can bring on stress in a crunch. At the same time they’re a necessity when it comes to routine and staying on task. That’s why I’ve decided to start a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blogging regiment. I’m also relaunching my YouTube channel with a Tuesday/Thursday schedule where I’ll share each update on the blog, effectively posting five times a week.
My plan for achieving this is to produce multiple chunks at a time. Rather than write one blog post I’ll write all three. Instead of one video I’ll make two or four at a time. This system is actually preferable for me because front loading frees up more room for working later. I get less burnt out when I’m bouncing between projects. It also makes it easier to plan things when I can see them in a week by week format.
A problem I often have is falling into loops. These are important to distinguish from routines. Loops are cyclical and keep you in a rut instead of progressing forward. A loop I regularly fall into is researching. You’ve probably heard “Perfect is the enemy of good” before, meaning it’s better to get a project out the door in an acceptable state than to toil on it perpetually without ever actually releasing it. When I was younger I was more likely to start something on a whim. Of course many of those never got completed as I didn’t fit them into my schedule. As I got older I sought to plan things out in advance, to weigh my options better before getting started. Unfortunately this also led to not getting started at all.
The thing about loops is they’re comforting. They’re familiar. When you don’t look up from the wheel as long as it’s turning you think you’re going somewhere. I realized in school that talking about subjects you don’t fully understand is a quick way to show your ignorance. This got me in the habit of researching and learning everything I can on a topic if I expect to be working with it in any real capacity. Partly because my undiagnosed ADHD would make it hard to concentrate in class so I knew I’d have to study on my own and partly because of the anxiety and fear I had of embarrassment from looking stupid. ADHD isn’t simply a lack of focus, either. Sometimes I would hyperfocus on things to the point of obsession. Other times I’d see something new to learn about and be unable to fulfill my responsibilities to an older subject. Repeating the cycle of studying is safe. I know what to expect and there aren’t any repercussions for it. Eventually, however, you need to stop doing what’s comfortable in order to progress.
The unknown can be scary. If you don’t have somebody to reassure you things will be fine it can be downright petrifying. I’ve found plenty of people in life who stay in their comfort zones. And you know what? I don’t judge them for it. It’s very easy to play armchair quarterback and tell others what they should do with their lives. But are you willing to go with them to do all the things they need to do to get there? Will you help them wade through confusing paperwork and legal jargon? Will you show them healthy habits and how to prepare themselves for a better life? Or is it easier and more comfortable to sit back and point out everybody else’s problems so nobody notices yours?
Fear and danger can be managed. Whenever I do something new I can be completely terrified but I always take time to recognize what I’ve done. When I’ve planned and gone on a trip, after I’ve gotten to my destination and rested, I tell myself, “Well, I didn’t die, so that’s good.” Is my brain listing every possible thing that could go wrong the entire time? Yes. Is my family reminding me of all of these while also making a few of their own up? Of course. But I didn’t die. The further out I go and the more relaxed I let myself become the more I see the good in what I’ve done. Then I’m reminded of the line by George Carlin, “So now you can move along to your next embarrassing moment… which is probably scheduled immediately.”
I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use this blog. What to write in it that doesn’t feel like I’m standing on the street with a bullhorn, what I’m trying to say, how to say it most effectively while still actually getting in the habit of doing it regularly. I do know I need to concentrate more on doing things and less on worrying where they go before I do them.