Once Again, The Room Fell Away
The prodigious artistic and cultural exchange that we have all committed ourselves to building, to participating in and to sharing with each other every day at deviantART often occurs in RL on the decks of HQ as well. One of the best aspects of being in my position here at deviantART is the privilege to curate salons with artists of every medium and success level imaginable, art appreciators, writers, and educators from all points of light within the deviantART community inviting them to make the trek to HQ for what always manifests as an inspiring, thoughtful, educative, and enlightening dialogue. But sometimes, sometimes, things rise to a whole other level. You suddenly find yourself magically reaching that special deviantART “destination” that is a connection point of art, life, community and communication that has no specific Office # designation. The room falls away…
Recently, in a case in point, artists Jeff Wamester and Chris Copeland came by and shared a vision of and insight into their deviantART experience that was so inspiring that we decided right there on the spot to build an article together and share our conversation with you. jeffwamester and chriscopeland spoke to us about having built lifelong friendships, finding their first industry mentors, procuring their first professional jobs, and generally growing up alongside the deviantART community.
As two of the most widely and wildly admired and emulated deviantARTists, Jeff and Chris have also been infinitely inspired by you, the deviantART community. They have managed to return that unprecedented amount of love and admiration in abundance, cementing their reputations forever as artists who live to give back to other artists and help them grow and achieve their own unique personal greatness. In this, they embody the living spirit of deviantART community, living the life and walking the walk every day, always going the extra mile to help one more artist have a positive and inspiring experience. Jeff and Chris are the embodiment par excellence of what I like to call "authentic citizenship" in the deviantART community.
The focus of our most recent conversation, was the importance of deviant artists’ profile pages being built up and presented in such a way as to really allow the artist to be viewed – to be really “seen” – as the fullest portrait possible when the artist is considered for a job in the myriad arts entertainment fields. There is too often the idea that simply displaying the art up onto the page will be enough to get a young artists spotted and hired. But there’s just so much more that must go into the holistic representation of our deviants in order that they get the best shot at gainful employment, recognition and arts careers. Jeff and Chris have been through this process. They are both top professionals with top jobs. Here's what they had to say.
Notice to the Reader
This will be our first two part article. Next week I will publish the second half of my interview with Jeff Wamester and Chris Copeland in addition to more of their tips for new artists. jeffwamester and chriscopeland have also made a list of the up and coming powerhouse artists on deviantART that they feel are ready to take their careers to the next level. Before we publish that list Wednesday (5/27), can you please list your personal choices for the top five undiscovered powerhouse artists on deviantART?
An Interview with
Jeff Wamester & Christopher Copeland
Being employed professionally at Cartoon Network & Film Roman, you have achieved a genuine level of success, the dream and goal of multitudes of deviantART community members. How much of your current success do you attribute to your being an active deviant for the past 5+ years?
In terms of networking and relationships, I would say around 90%. In reality, it could have been a much longer road if it weren't for the relationships I was blessed to develop through deviantart. I think a VERY important part of success as an artist comes from the relationships developed through the course of a career as people need to feel they can depend on you to deliver and/or be easy/fun/inspiring to work with.
I mean, I don’t know how much I can attribute without sounding too fanatical about it, but deviantART certainly accounts for a VAST majority of my success, and most importantly with my getting IN to TV animation. I mean over the course of 8 years its insane how many fans and supporters that I have had the pleasure of being exposed to (artistically people, artistically, lol) and due to that type of exposure, the amounts of encouragement and affirmation of my style and my vision artistically has contributed SO much to who I am as an artist. So yeah, I could go on trying to paint the picture, but as far as a number goes, I would say that deviantART is about 85-90 percent responsible for me getting in. Also being able to talk with guys that were in the industry through the wall that deviantART offered was amazing, and I use the word wall, because the professional guys felt safe with communication to me through deviantART, and also, I felt safe to be able to be honest as to where I was with the ideas we would speak about as well as be honest with who I was as a person, that way, they got to know me through my art as well as through who I am individually, without risk of any kind.
What are the special networking elements and other tools and resources that were made available to you as dA members that made the leap from amateur to professional artist possible? How valuable is the emotional currency invested in an artist and his/her work in an artist’s eventual success?
Well, there are few things specifically as well as a few generic ideas that deviantart provide...
Specifically: Favorites ( good work allows a viral nature to exposing the work that you do ), Galleries ( they are really versatile and professional looking allowing a nice dynamic presentation ) and strange as it seems, comments. Comments are great because they allow for a nice comfortable place to discuss art, work that you do and at least start a nice rapport with people you would not otherwise meet.
Generically speaking: Overall community; having previously lived in Connecticut, meeting or having places where I could meet and get to know people who loved cartoons, comics and games was extremely limited. Most of the time I felt like a tiny little island in the middle of the ocean. Not to mention the doubtful looks I would get from people who asked me what my career goals were. "Animator" and/or "comic book artist" sure did get me a lot of, "Oh that's wonderful" or "wow, thats great" accompanied by the "when will he ever grow up and get a job" look of disapproval. DeviantART meanwhile was something that definitely provided that connection, feeling of hope and encouragement that I craved. The sheer number and passion of the DeviantART members really has no equal and has been a huge source of inspiration.
I think when looking at deviantART, its easy to think about how many people travel through the site, and even on top of that, how many decision making industry professionals must travel through the site. With that idea alone, its easy to see that in all of its most basic offerings, that deviantART offers you a space to be yourself in a context of others doing the same and allows “your space” to be viewed by industry pros that are able to get a good idea as to how you do what you do. That’s just the basic format and resource, not even mentioning the gallery set up and how it helps for an individual to take a nice trip through your progression (or lack thereof, which also helps) and see where you have come from as far as your expression goes artistically. Its also a great place to be expressive in ways outside of your art, the journal area is probably the most telling of how an individual is in real life, definitely more of tell-tell about what type of personality traits that you will possibly be bringing into the workplace you might be being considered for. It also allows for individuals whom are more of the introverted framework, personality-wise, to reach out to an artist that they might admire, and be able to be themselves without feeling too intimidated about having to approach that person in real life. These are all things that helped me in one way or another.
It's unbelievable how amazing it is to have some of these professional artists say things to you like “hey great piece”, or to have another budding artist stop through your gallery and give you a nod or something like that. I know for me being a guy that is very verbally expressive, it meant the world to me to have someone SAY something to me, especially in the times where I was going through an art slump or something. Taking a step further, and having a group of people hitting me up for commissions, that stuff is MONUMENTAL for me man. I mean, just as an artist to have a community accept you through your art and your online persona is amazing enough, but them to run into these folks at conventions and whatnot, its just flat out phenomenal, and I cant be more thankful for it all. The value is definitely up there in terms of what it does for the artist to receive those types of nods and props, its as simple as an individual puts their work up here to get feedback, and when that happens, and the feedback is positive, it really makes you feel like you are (at least for the moment) on the right track, it means a lot.
Were there instances of moments of depression or despair in which you considered giving up and getting a “straight” job – and what did you do, mentally and literally physically, to snap out of it and to stay on course to fulfilling your artistic dreams and visions?
Whew... now that's a question...
Well, the trail was not a straight line and yes there were terrible moments of depression and despair. I did take day jobs, I had to, the bills were piling up while I was making $20 a page for comics. It was tough but I was determined to stay with it even if I was gonna have to make big sacrifices to make it happen ( like sleep, a social life, friends, a car that wasn't a rust bucket and video games ).
And at times I would drop into low points in my life, where the sacrifices seemed overwhelming, where there seemed to be no way any of what I was working towards would happen. I would just push through, believing it would work out. But as the years went by and I starting getting older, those push throughs got harder. My time shrank, my obligations grew and the sacrifices became larger. Then in a very short period in my life, I got married, bought a house and had a son. These were wonderful WONDERFUL things, however I still felt that something was wrong. All these major life changes and a key component was missing. I knew what it was but, it was at that point I had to decide to, for lack of a better expression, "Sh!t or get off the pot." So with the support of my wife we went all in. We booked a one way trip to California and its been incredible ride ever since.
Oh God yes, there were and still sometimes where im just like “why do I do this?” Haha! Seriously man, its something that I think we all go through, and there is not much you can do about it in terms of avoiding it as an artist. I think I have been blessed to have people around me that continue to encourage me to push forward, and even more important, pushed me when I thought about giving up before even getting in. As far as pushing through it, I mean it’s the idea that I KNOW that im going to get better if I keep drawing, and keep exposing myself to new materials, im bound to improve, its impossible not to. Once I became addicted tot hat idea, I became addicted to drawing more and trying nw things, and as I tried those new things, it seriously wasn’t about “how”, it became about “when”. Also another tip and a great resource that DA offers is the ability to ask people that are involved in the industry about that respective industry. There were so many times that I spoke with guys that are in the animation business even before I got it, and through those conversations, I learned so much that I was able to apply before even getting in, lol. There were lots of cool cats that are willing to answer as many questions and things that they can, but you have to be approachable, and they might not be, but if you persist with respect and a little bit of moderation, I think in time, you will see it all pay off.
What’s the most important thing on a deviant’s profile page for getting that deviant’s art noticed by potential professional employers? What is it beyond doing great art that finally gets that great art actually noticed?
First and most importantly, just like a portfolio, put your best piece front and center. I use the "featured" widget. On the web, attention spans are REALLY short so when they land on your page it gotta catch their eye so they will look for more with a better attention level.
Beyond doing great art, it is important to be yourself ( but professional ), authentic and interact with people. You need to develop relationships and build trust with people. Besides the fact that it will make you a better person, a better artist and inspire you, it will let people know you are a stand up person that they can trust and maybe even inspire them. And realize, you never know who's watching you. Your potential employer ( and/or person that may recommend you ) may have their eye on you before you even know it.
I think seeing the passion and commitment through the piece that is being presented. There are so many “good” artists that do work sometimes and the works is just dead, emotionally exhausted, and all around boring, but the execution is great. And that’s the area that I think a lot of the rookie guys have the benefit of, and that is still being passionate about the prtoperties that they are seeking to draw and put on display. A lot of times the professional guys are just burned out with the same ol’ same ol’ and these up and comers are in a place where they just want to draw the dopest stuff imaginable and they do it, and its great and sometimes they get snatched up on that one piece that they took advantage of having a vision of. That stuff happens all the time on DA, but you have to have that passion for that piece first, YOU HAVE TO. As far as great art getting noticed, I mean, some of my more popular pieces are those that the community takes notice of on their own. Some pieces just have an attraction to them that you cant even predict they will have, and when the people take notice, its time for you take notice of their reaction and try to see what t is that they respond to. I know sometimes I will do a piece of a character from a popular series or genre, and the people just react to it so positively, and it’s a mixture of my vision and the characters that they actually already like, its beautiful when it does happen.
What’s the most inspiring, gratifying or helpful comment you’ve ever received as an artist from another deviant on dA (or anyone, for that matter)?
I don't think it was any one comment in particular, rather it was the comments of many. To be able to connect with so many passionate people who love this kind of art, especially so many that I respect has really filled me with a sense of pride about what I do that I never had before. I guess it makes me feel like the sacrifices mean more, that they were really worth every penny.
So that’s a good question – it’s hard to find or think of one comment. There have been a lot of people who have complimented me at separate times that have meant something different to me at that time. I know I can say in a general sense, receiving compliments from guys I look up to means a lot. These are guys I try to emulate style-wise, so to receive a compliment from them validates a lot of my pursuits. Simultaneously, receiving compliments or words of adoration from a fan who has looked up to my stuff means just as much if not more to me. To know there are people out there looking up to my stuff the way I looked up to the guys I admired, is pretty huge. But, I can think of one I got from Joaquim Dos Santos (www.2-cents.deviantart.com) before I moved out to LA to get into animation, I posted a comment on his page thanking him for giving me a tour of WB, and his response was “hey, you’re a really cool guy, with a great outlook and positive attitude and great art work, and I definitely think you have the chops to make it in animation.” And, speaking specifically about animation, that was the one. But, there are tons that I can think of that I’ve gotten from guys that have pushed me forward.
How many days a week do you work, and for how many hours? Do you keep a regular routine or await your muse to guide you? What are essential elements or aspects that must be present in your workspace for your maximum function? How important is music to fueling your inner artistic eye? Which music?
Work: I usually work 5 days during the week, anywhere from 10-16 hours per day. On the weekends I work, 6-10. Which means I do not have the luxury of "inspiration".
Equipment: My Mac and cintiq ( although I love pencil,pen and paper ) and a good chair. And yes, maybe a bit of caffeine ( my life's blood ).
Music: I do listen to music at times but I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. I'm a storyteller at heart and I get very jazzed up and creative when I listen to a good book. And of course being a good storyteller requires experiencing a lot of stories.
Every day all day, non-stop EVER! Kind of joking, but honestly because my work is so imagination driven, my brain is always searching out that “muse” and is always trying to stalk pile imagery for later use. Although, my studio hours are usually 9-6, then 6-10, family time, and 5 days out of the week 10-4/5am on work or other independent stuff.
Ahh.. a little bit of both. Because I’m professional, I can’t afford to not have a routine. You have a deadline, dammit – get your work done. But, there is room for a muse, there is room for inspiration to kick in and kind of guide you. So, it’s a little bit of both.
Cintiq. iMac. Art Books. Candy. Caffeine. And…love (wink)
How important is music to fueling your inner artistic eye? EXTREMELY important. I cannot emphasize it enough. I think our generation is very musically inclined. And, for me personally growing up listening to hip hop, jazz, rock, electronic and house the more music, the more new music I have around me, the better.
Mostly everything (minus country), but, right now, Feist “Metals” – her newest album is just unstoppable. I cannot stop playing that album when I draw. And, on the hip hop side, Phonte’s album “Charity Starts at Home” is just as unstoppable and amazing. So, those two make me really get excited to sit down and go, playing those on repeat. I’ll do that a lot. I’ll take an album, and each song speaks to me and puts me in their world. And, sometimes that world defines whatever I’m doing at that time. So, yes, music is REALLY important…really.
Best Tips for Your Profile Page (Tips 1-5)
by *jeffwamester & *chriscopeland
Have your best piece featured on your front page.
It's an immediate turn on or turn off, why not make it an amazing turn on.
That's your first impression, we all know how important that is.
Identify yourself! Use your deviantID to your advantage!
Again, its another opportunity to show what you have as far as art, or even how look and allow people to attach a name to a face and vice versa.
Let people know who you are and what you do. Would you hire someone if they didn't say who they were or what they did. Might be odd to hire a brew master to be your x-ray technician.
Have your email displayed prominently. You want a prospective employer able to contact you easily.
It’s a no-brainer that I see a lot of people neglecting to do. Make sure that if a client wants to contact you they can do just it with ease.
Most people who would recommend you or would hire do not have the time to find a way to contact you. Trust me, they are way too busy. Remove every possible obstacle and create as many ways possible to contact you.
Journal Entries should be authentic.
No one likes a negative Nancy, and if they do, they usually are not the ones that are going to be giving you a job. Try to be objective in your approach, pose questions as opposed to slamming a person.
No bemoaning a studio or their products, they may want to hire you.
At the very least respond to the comments on your front page.
I know guys that are probably 10 times busier than anyone you know and they manage to respond to as many comments as they can. It says something about you and your ability to hear what people are saying. So again, I emphasize, try.
When you answer, be yourself and let your sense of humor show.