Friday, January 06, 2017

My YouTube Channel Just Hit 5,000 Subs!

Several years ago I thought I might try doing some art tutorials on YouTube.  I made an opportunity for myself to get an audience by doing a cross promotional project with work.  I was leading a project on Guild Wars 2, and we were brainstorming with the PR team about stuff we could send to the press to get attention for the release.  Part of the game involved fighting giant monstrous worms, and the idea of gummy worms came up.  Then I thought how cool it would be to MAKE our own custom gummy worms based on the creatures from the game.  Everyone agreed that would be cool, and then I had the idea to record it all and make a tutorial that we could promote the release with in addition to the actual gummy worms we were sending out.  I hoped they would put the video on the official Guild Wars 2 page or something, but for whatever reason it worked out that they just had me put it on my own YouTube channel and they promoted it.  So it was a pretty lucky break for me, getting the marketing team of a AAA game studio to promote my channel.  I don’t think I could have built up my platform like I have without that initial kickstart.  

In the years since, I’ve done a couple more cross promotional videos.  One with a band, and another with ArenaNet AND a 3D printing company called Shapeways.  I’ve tried doing stuff related to other IP as well; a Fallout 4 Pipboy repaint and a The Last Guardian statue mod.  But mostly I’ve done sculpting and painting tutorials that are focused on teaching with my own stuff.

At some point a couple months ago YouTube’s algorithm decided to start putting my videos in the ‘Related’ column that appears next to videos you are watching.  Meaning that anyone who searches for “Sculpting tutorial” can find my videos, or if they are watching someone else’s sculpting vids, they might see mine next to the one they're watching a click on it next.  What that did was shoot my subscriptions up from one or two a week to almost 10 a day.  

The tutorials I’ve been producing are pretty different than most of what I’ve seen on YouTube.  Most of the sculpting tutorials are fast-paced overviews that just show clips of the work with either text, or the artist’s voice over it explaining the process, but never in a very detailed way.  My videos are MUCH longer and every excruciating detail is shown and explained.  I’ve had two separate people now compare me to Bob Ross now.  Sadly, the analytics show that people only watch my videos for an average of 7-10 minutes.  That explains why all the other artists keep their videos so short.  There’s just no point in spending the amount of time and energy making longer stuff if so few people will watch it.  But… for me there IS!  I LIKE teaching.  I like providing something of value to people that doesn’t exist out there.  Well, it does, but it’s not free like mine.  Which brings up another issue.

I almost feel guilty for making art tutorials.  Because I’m not a really fantastic artist.  [Sidebar: This is NOT an attempt to fish for compliments or positive reinforcement.  I’m actually totally emotionally FINE with being simply an OK artist.  I do not base my self worth on how talented I am.  I know that I’m a GREAT artist compared to non-artists, so it’s easy for a non-artist to look at my art and think I’m amazing.  But I work with many many artists, and I can clearly see where I land on the spectrum of skill, and it’s not super high.]  Being a merely OK artist means that the quality of my teaching is going to be less than that of a master.  So in a way, I’m muddying the waters when it comes to disseminating great art education.  I know there are far more qualified individuals who should do what I’m doing.  But that’s the thing.  Those better artists are either not interested in teaching, or they do it for price.  And so I guess my discomfort stems from the fact that I’m producing lower quality education, and so people who don’t want to, or can’t afford to pay money for quality art education are getting my inferior product.  I guess that can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.  One way to look at it is the way Bob Ross did.  Seeing how people are making that connection anyway, I might as well lean into it.  Bob Ross was not a great artist either.  He knew a bunch of fun techniques that appear magical to non-artists, and so watching him work is kind of like watching a really happy, positive magic act.  He obviously took great joy from demonstrating these tricks and giving positive vibes to his fans.  

And that’s the thing that pushes me to keep doing this.  I’m seeing positive vibes from viewers in the comments of my tutorials.

Josh, absolutely loving the detail and depth you go into describing and explaining everything-- with the tips and tricks and all that... which is missing from all other videos. Absolutely fantastic video and series.. my favorite by far.

Kelly Porter4 months ago
Thank you for taking the time to film this! I am taking a 3D art class in college and this was EXACTLY what I needed to know.
I'm a noob about it but maaan you're unbelievable, nice, clear and really detailed !

thank you! I learned so much from you!

Hi Josh,  I just watched video #1.  I've been looking for exactly this.  So grateful that you are sharing your skills.
I've subscribed and will follow along with everything!  ❤
great idea for a series. was looking for something like that for quite some time now
man this is a good video , seriously thank u so much it helps a lot
This was really enjoyable to watch for some reason even though I'm not an artist! Great video looking forward to the next ones
thank you for making these videos. really inspiring and informational for a starting sculptor entrepreneur like me. keep up the amazing work you do :)
Josh, thanks for all your great sculpey videos. I've watched them all and they have transformed my sculpey work. You're my hero!
Thank you for sharing so many tips and techniques!
So impressive Josh. You are an inspiring artist. Thank you for another lesson.

leeeah2 hours agoHighlighted comment

This is by far the best tutorial I found on this subject! Thanks!!
Josh, sorry to hear about your technical difficulties. If possible, I'd like to donate a couple hundred bucks to your cause. Your video series has helped me more than any other I've found! I really appreciate all the time and commitment you've put into these videos and would love to help you out. Let me know the best way to contribute and I'll float a couple hundred your way brother.👍🏻
And so these kinds of comments (That’s just a tiny sample) lead me to believe that just because the average view time is less than 10 minutes, there are still plenty of people who DO appreciate the long format and detailed work I put in.  

Even though my long term plan is to shift the content on my channel to more disscusion around world building for my Tales From Talifar work, I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep making these tutorials every now and then because there are clearly plenty of people who’s lives are enriched by that work.  And that’s a great feeling.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

30 Days of Sculpting

I took the month of december off to try to finish the sculpture of a Colossus I’ve been working on (and off and on and off…) for over 4 years now.  We get a week off anyway, so it only took 3 weeks of PTO to get that 30 days.  I wanted to record the results for future reference.  This post isn’t really meant for others to read, so don’t expect to be entertained.  

Ok, now that all the losers left, you and I can have a BLAST reminiscing.  

Oh, for the record, this sculpture is a monster from a game called Shadow of the Colossus.  Look it up if you don’t know it.

First, let’s look at the big picture.  How close did I come to my goal?  That’s easy.  I don’t know.  I’ve never done anything this big and complex and detailed before.  At the beginning of December I had done that thing where you sort of imagine all the steps left on a project, and your brain does that thing where it only thinks about the cool parts and represses the repetitive grinding parts. That’s how the Planning Fallacy works.

For this project, I have the problem that I had done MOST of the complex armor bits years ago.  It was not fresh in my mind how long and grueling the process of making them was.  And I didn’t think about just how how large the pieces I hadn’t done were.  See, I did all the pieces that could work for both the left and right side.  The outer thighs, feet, shoulder pads, etc.  Because I could mold and cast those parts so I wouldn’t have to sculpt the same thing twice.  But the front thighs slope inward in such a way that I couldn’t do that.  And I knew it was such a hairy task I think I repressed it.  Well, those bits ended up taking almost half my 30 days!  


Speaking of 30 days, how many of the hours in that 30 days ended up actually going towards this sculpting?  Well, since I’m recording the whole thing for a video, I’ve been keeping track.  I have a count up timer I use whenever I’m working.  It was at 30 days and 3 hours when I started.  Now it’s at 36 days and 6 hours.  So 147 hours.  If I’m doing my math right.  And that’s never a guarantee.  A typical workweek is 40 hours, so four of those would be 160 hours.  So I did a bit less than 8 hours a day.  No.  That’s not right because I worked weekends as well.  The only day I did no work on it was Christmas Eve.  But I FEEL like I worked MUCH harder than I do at my desk job.  Sculpting this thing is incredibly physical.  First of all, it’s in my unheated garage.  I’ve got two little space heaters that barely keep my fingers and toes from being numb.  Any more heat that that and a fuse blows.  
Secondly, 100% of the time my hands/arms/shoulders/back/neck are CLAMPED like a vice around whatever it is I’m sculpting/carving/sanding.  I think I’m holding my breath about 80% of the time too.  
And finally the sculpture is big and HEAVY and awkward.  I had enough forethought to build it in pieces so it’s modular, but it’s still a brute.  So any time I have to move it around I’m forced to lift with my back at awkward angles.  

Speaking of my back… this was a really big problem the first couple weeks.  I was in complete agony.  I was going to both a PT and massage therapy and even that barely made a dent.  I did all my stretches and rolling on the rolly thingy, ice and heat, etc. etc. and still agony.  I was downing Ibuprofen like an addict.  But… apparently it really was just a matter of wearing my back muscles out from all that sustained clamping.  Think of it like doing a plank but with your back and neck for hours straight.  I think that’s what was doing it.  Now, at the end of the 30th day, I’m a bit sore, but overall the past week has been quite mild pain-wise, and I’ve been doing fewer stretches and no pills.

Since I’ve never taken this much time off, I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of schedule my body/brain likes where there are no time requirements.  It turned out to be pretty wonky, but I like to be up for about 20 hours and sleep for 12.  Now, if you do your math right, you’ll notice that doesn’t add up to 24. I think it’s closer to 28, or maybe 87.  I don’t know.  I’m not getting the calculator out again!  Anyway that meant that there were days I was getting up at 6am, and going to bed at 2am, and days I was going to bed at 9am and waking up at 9pm.  Fortunately I have the coolest wife in the world who never complained once about this madness.  I did squash and stretch my natural tendencies a bit here and there so that there was almost always SOME time we’d have together every day.  

Burnout was something I was concerned about.  Since it’s so cold and painful to work, I thought there might be days where I’d just play games all day instead.  But it turns out the pressure to fully take advantage of my PTO pushed me just the right amount.  There was a day or two, around the middle, where I was fully aware that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the sculpture, and I was hitting a logistical/creative roadblock where I started to feel hopeless and unmotivated.  But I guess being 41 and having done much harder things in life prepared me to just power through it, and in no time I figured out the roadblock and got my second wind.  Speaking of figuring things out.  Here’s what I overcame: A final painting technique, attaching and interlinking the armor pieces, and the final technique for the skin.  Now the only other unknown that I unknow of is the fur.  But I don’t find that problem to be nearly as hairy as the others.  

One thing I did during the beginning of the staycation was to completely finish the base.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense because I still have to do a lot of work on the colossus while it’s standing on the base.  (There are two giant iron rods sticking out of it that slot into the feet to hold it up.)  So once it’s all painted and pretty now I have to be careful and protect it from blades, hammers, spray paint, glue, etc. However, the insight I gained from bringing one part of the sculpture to completion was great and exhilarating.  Look how good it looks!  


Those weird cracks are emulating what happens in the game when the colossus stomps around and breaks the ground.  Here’s the unfinished feet so you can see what I mean.



Being able to do a lot of experimentation with how to add super subtle color, aging and specularity variation was great for coming up with my final plan for doing the colossus’ stone armor.

Anyway, here’s where the colossus is at as of the first of the year of our Lord 2017.

I’ve got him entered in the Norwescon Art Show on Easter weekend, so he HAS to be done by then.  THIS time, I’m actually legitimately confident he will be!