I have spent the last two weeks doing everything but writing blog posts. Let me catch you up on what I’ve been up to, as I hope that you will be a beneficiary of my efforts.
Last fall, we presented SketchKon, the first Sketchbook Skool convention, and when it was over, we did a lot of stock taking. It had been a wonderful opportunity to meet many of the people who had taken kourses with us and who had formed our vibrant community. We learned so much in those few days and came away even more determined to give you exactly what you want and need to make art making a joyful part of your lives.
One of the things that was abundantly clear is that we should try to do this again. So we set to work immediately to make plans for another SketchKon, this time on the East Coast so Yankees and folks from Europe would find it easier to attend. The ink is still drying and we’re not quite ready to share the details yet, but I can say that we have an even better event in the works and that it will take place in mid October. We’ll make a formal announcement in a few weeks and launch a new website. I wanted to let you in on this early as I don’t want you to miss out — they’re telling me this event will sell out fast. If you are at all interested in joining, I’d urge you to mark your calendar for the second or third week in October and signup right away to take advantage of the early bird pricing.
Another conclusion we drew from SketchKon is that people are very interested in drawing each other. Our life drawing workshops and portrait parties were huge successes and when we polled our attendees afterwards, there was rabid consensus that drawing the figure, drawing people in motion, foreshortening, portraits and such was something we’d all like to learn more about.
To that end, we’ve set about making our first kourse devoted entirely to this subject. We’ve spent months thinking about the best way to teach and present it and finally decided to get together a large group of our favorite people-sketchers and compare and contrast their approaches. As we worked on this survey, we confirmed that, despite what Bridgman and Nicolaides and all those manga books and YouTube videos might have you think, there is no one way to draw people. In fact, there are as many ways to draw people as there are people to draw. This perspective helped us plan out the structure of the kourse.
Koosje and I pulled a bunch of models and artists from the US and Europe onto a soundstage and we spent days and days filming our exploration of the subject. We shot dozens of demos and recorded in-depth conversations full of tips and techniques. The resulting kourse, People Drawing People, will debut in a month or so and it is fascinating and inspiring. I’ll let you know more very soon when we make it available.
It’s been more than five years since we launched the first kourse at Sketchbook Skool and things have developed beyond our wildest expectations. People Drawing People will be our 25th kourse (I think), more than 50,000 people have enrolled in the Skool, we have 49 teachers, and the 19,000th person just joined our community on Facebook. We have six full-time people on our team now as well as a huge virtual support staff of cinematographers, editors, bookkeepers, marketeers, and all the folks who help us put on SketchKon.
We’ve come a long way since I was working in an LA garage and Koosje was still a part-time barista. Neither of us had ever run a company before and we have improvised all sorts of kluge-y solutions to deal with new challenges. It’s been a wonderful creative exercise but we have had to finally sit down with some experts to get a handle on the whole thing and get ourselves organized. To that end, we have been working on long lists and flowcharts and spreadsheets and ventured way out of our comfort zone as artists. Our goal is to keep Sketchbook Skool manageable so we have the time and resources to keep on making cool things and we have made some real headway in the last few months.
Have you ever run a business? It’s a fascinating and terrifying experience and I have had to do a huge amount of soul-searching in the process. My monkey has struggled wildly with me throughout, screeching at each new step into the unknown. Sometimes I feel like a poseur pretending that this humble enterprise is a bonafide company. I worked with so many CEOs over my years in advertising and they seemed like a species apart from me, with huge offices and expensive haircuts and legions at their command. But like most creative folks, trying to figure out how to make something in collaboration with others is something I am used to doing. It’s not magic or rocket science. I just need to remind myself of why we are doing this, who we are serving, and that doing it decently is a matter of mastering some new skills and tools, getting advice from wise mentors, and putting in the work.
Oh, and I have this new book bubbling on the stove. My publisher tells me that there’s been loads of interest in How To Draw Without Talent and they are itching to get it out there. That’s encouraging. Now I just need to find a day or two to do some final work on my design files and we will be able to send it off to the printers. The book will be out in September and I can’t wait.
What else? Oh, yes, we have three other new kourses in development. We will be heading to Europe to film the first one next month, we will finish outlining the next one in a few weeks, and the third one is morphing into new shapes and forms as we talk to a gang of new collaborators. Whew.
I hope this report doesn’t come off as hubris. I really enjoy writing this blog and sharing ideas with you and figured I should let you in on why I’ve been absent. Despite all the stuff going on, I have been eager to get back to it and I plan to return to the normal bi-weekly schedule next week. I promise it will contain less advertising and more helpful new ideas. Thanks for your patience.