Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million

Today, on the chopping block: Sketch Fest

Sketch Fest is so brand spanking new that it's still got parts of the packaging on it.

It grew out of the Torn World Muse Fusions. Those events were so inspirational, so fun and full of creative energy, that I wanted to broaden them. I was also trying out the EMG livejournal account, to see if it was a viable option for replacing the flagging forums (verdict: no), and since the Muse Fusions were a big part of the Torn World livejournal, I decided to give a general EMG artist Muse Fusion a shot.

The rules... were fairly arbitrarily decided. One of the joys of Muse Fusion is that you aimed to accomplish a LOT in a short period of time, and I personally found that making myself set something aside after a certain amount of time kept me working forward, instead of just spinning my wheels. Okay, so let's cap the time: 1 hour seems like enough time to polish a simple sketch a bit, and still keep some of the looseness I'm aiming for. Besides which, it's a REALLY easy number. Other than that, and the concept of working from the prompts provided? Anything goes!

It was hosted at the livejournal in March. 19 artists participated, and 75 sketches were posted. It was quite chaotic in that platform, and very hard to follow and standardize what was posted. I encouraged people to use crowdfunding methods to support their own work, and several people did. Being me, I could see a lot of ways to improve the system, and asked for donations to build some tools to help us - I was trying to make an actual go of being a programmer, and was getting more comfortable asking for help on projects that were fun, and less guilty about trying to stay afloat financially while still trying to help artists (she CAN be taught!). And people stepped up! I got enough donations after the first run to build us a simple image uploading script that would allow people to show off their pieces for the second one.

The second Sketch Fest was in May, not April, because I ended up having organ removal surgery at the end of the April, and that sort of upended my life.

For each successive Sketch Fest, we gathered more artists, produced more sketches, and donations continued to come steadily enough that I was actually paid a decent rate (if not my usual full rate!) to build a site and feel like the time I spent setting the events up and hosting them was actually being rewarded. This is a first for me - usually I'm the one dumping money at a project and sort of wistfully hoping that it pays off at some point. This time, I thought a little ahead, and even built in some opportunities at the webpage for artists to help out by donating their sketches for people to buy to support the site.

I gotta say, I like this model better. I feel encouraged - even inspired! - to continue to make improvements, and keep things going. I feel like making time to participate pays off in both community interaction and personal skills, and my motivation is easy to justify - I can pay my bills* with it, it's not just a feel-good opportunity to fill my personal creative well and gather good karma. It's also a very clear and powerful way for artists to express to me where they find it important for me to spend my time, and I appreciate that clarity. Is it selfish and capitalistic of me to be so pleased by this? Possibly. Or possibly, it's just realistic.


Sketch Fest is made of win. I have gotten the site to the point of almost automatic (I actually hope to automate some of the last few features today and test them this fest), and will continue to make improvements and add features as long as people continue to support it. I'm aiming for about once a month, but January will get two.

Our next Sketch Fest is this Friday and Saturday! It runs noon to noon Alaska time, and you can participate as much or as little as you like!

Please note that I am going to time out the availability of old sketches for sale at the site, because I am concerned that they are going to get lost - or finished! - and artists will forget to update their status. In the future, work will only be available until the next sketch fest is started. Get these rare and amazing pieces while you can! See ALL the sketches available here (big download!) - the pieces with heavy borders are available for purchase... but won't be after Friday!

*Maybe not the mortgage or anything, but phone and Internet, and that's important!
Tags: chopping block, emg, sketch fest

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