Ep.160: Think before you start drawing with Modern Day James

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jul 12, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Modern Day James, an artist, designer, and musician known for his popular YouTube channel and Patreon. James creates weekly tutorial videos, live streams and teaches artists in person.

Get in touch with James

Key Takeaways

“When drawing, think consciously and make series of decisions. It’s not a process out of your control.”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to James for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Modern Day James, used with permission

This episode is sponsored by

Episode Transcript

Announcer

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles

Hello everyone, Iva here and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create variety ad related videos. Before we introduce our guests and go to the interview, let’s thank our sponsors. If you’re looking for a top quality print shop and online store to sell your art prints then you should definitely check out imprint imprint has been helping artists print and sell gallery quality prints of their work all over the world for over a decade. Go to artsideoflife.com/imprint and use promo code artside to get 10% discount. Have you heard of arts Next I take this subscription box of unique high quality art supplies. Every month you discover new art products, limited edition tools, exclusive supplies and useful techniques. Go to aartsideoflife.com/art snakes and use promo code artside10 to get 10% discount. If you are a digital artist, you will love our stupid app which turns your iPad Pro into a virus graphics tablet for your Mac. So you can use all the programs like Photoshop right on your iPad, go to artsideoflife.com/astropad and use promo code artside to get 10% discount. And now let’s go back to the interview. My guest today is modern dating James. And in this episode, we also talk about why it’s important to think about the design challenges before you start growing. James is an artist designer and musician known for his popular YouTube channel and Patreon. He started his career as a guitarist in a band when MySpace was still a thing, then studied at the medical school before he decided to fully pursue art. With his YouTube channel and Patreon. His goal is to create a forum where artists at all stages of their journey can come and learn and discuss fundamental skills necessary to creating successful art. James creates weekly tutorial videos, live streams and teaches artists in person. And now please welcome James and let’s get to the interview.

Iva Mikles

So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have James here.

James Douglas

Hi.

Iva Mikles

Hi. So cool. And I hope everyone is super excited as well. And let’s just start with your background right away. And maybe you can tell us like, what was it like when you were a child and you decided okay, I want to do art or was it much later?

James Douglas

Oh, it was so much later. The whole process was really weird. I’ve kind of throughout my whole life. I’ve been like jumping back and forth between three different things. So like, when I was young, my mom was really insistent that I worked hard in school did well in school, you know, anything below in a was not good. So yeah, and I remember I actually started playing music first. That was like my first passion. And she would sit there with like flashcards making sure I studied, you know, scales and all that stuff and learning how to read music. And you know, when I was young, I didn’t really know the value of it, I didn’t realize how important I was going to become. And then when I got into my teenage years, I started focusing on music pretty much exclusively. And I did that just like I would pretty much moonlight in between going to high school, I would stay up at night to like three or four in the morning and started playing guitar. And I just I got super obsessed with it. I started out just trying to you know, trying to do it for fun trying to play like some green day songs or something. But then after a while, I realized that I could get really good at fundamentals and be able to play whatever it was that I wanted to do. And it’s kind of the same progression with art. Art kind of came as a side effect of that because when I was touring with my band and doing that we didn’t have a lot of money and we were young, so we needed to get T shirts and album artwork and whatnot. So I just started drawing like in between playing music so that I could have t shirts and album stuff. Yeah. So then while we were doing that, I started making some money doing album covers for some other local bands, you know, nothing too great or anything like that. But it was just just a fun way to draw and get some practice in while making some money. And what else did you I did some tattoo designs nothing. I feel bad for ever got those but I look back I’m like, That person has that like high school drawing tattooed onto their arm, and I feel really bad about it. But it was cool. It was cool. So that was like the I’m sorry going

Iva Mikles

through. Oh, sorry. Yeah. How did you then find these first jobs? It was Like you were somewhere on the, you know, a tour, and then you just mentioned to someone like, oh, by the way I do art.

James Douglas

Yeah, you know, I had the band actually did pretty well. Because, you know, and before we get into like social media marketing, marketing and all that we had done well via MySpace. And so when we would play shows, we’d have the T shirts available, and the album covers and stuff. And some people liked them. And they would ask, Oh, who did your artwork? And I’d be like, Oh, I did it. So just just from word of mouth and stuff at first.

Iva Mikles

Oh, really? Cool. And so how did it go from that? You know, or how do you split your time, you know, like, with your patients, or how much time you were like, What is the biggest percentage?

James Douglas

Well, I really didn’t spend that much time drawing, it’s like, it would go in waves where I’d start and I draw, like, I have like a week where I just drew all the time. And then I go back to writing music. And it kind of went based on what we needed to do for the band, because that was the main focus for everything. So it’d be when we were writing for the album, I wouldn’t draw at all, I wouldn’t do any drawing. And I would just sit there and write music all the time. Once that was recorded and done, then it was Okay time to make merchandise time to market ourselves as like, Alright, get to the drawing board. And I started out by just, you know, ripping off other artists that I liked, it wasn’t anything creative, I would just kind of copy people and be like, alright, I like their line work. I’ll just copy that. Copy this. I didn’t know any fundamentals or perspective or anything. And I would just kind of study by ripping people off. But I thought that was it ended up being nice, because it helped develop my style kind of early on. But yeah, it was a weird balance. And it really didn’t like art didn’t become the forefront of my life for a very long time after that.

Iva Mikles

So how old were you were you were decided, okay, I’m willing to spend maybe more time on art or start a YouTube channel or all of that.

James Douglas

Alright, so I was, there’s more to the story. So I ended up leaving the band went to college. When I was in college, I, you know, I took biochemistry. And once you get into that program that kind of leads you along the path of going to medical school, I went all the way got two years, like into my second year of medical school. And finally I said, You know what, I hate this, I need to do something creative. And I, I came home one day, I said, Mom, Dad, I quit, I’m not doing it anymore. And I said, I always wanted to do something in video games, and I really liked video game design. And I said, Screw it, I’m just gonna focus on that. And so that was I think I was 23.

Iva Mikles

And how was the conversation that you had with your parents, you know, about the week change?

James Douglas

Not good. They were? Yeah, at first, they were really pissed for lack of a better word. They were, they were not pleased. But I think they had seen how driven I was. And you know, with the band early on, I had kind of had some sort of experience doing creative stuff and kind of making a living off of that. So they were immediately really shocked. But then after, you know, within a few weeks, they were they were pretty. Okay, they were on board with it. And they’re such, you know, great loving parents that they they wouldn’t, you know, they were just very nice about it,

Iva Mikles

and what was going on in your head, you know, in this kind of transition, you know, like, what are you thinking about, and

James Douglas

I was freaking out, I was like, I was like MIT today just make the worst decision of my life that I decided to leave this future path that I spent six years because you have to go through undergrad, and then applications and stuff. And, you know, I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I knew immediately that I was so much happier doing it. And I felt like I for the first time in my life, I kind of made a decision that was exclusively for myself and not to please anybody else. And so

Iva Mikles

in what helped you to progress the most?

James Douglas

Oh, that’s that’s tough. I think. I think honestly, just reading books and studying for people that are much better than I am. I I’m sorry, I picked up Scott Robertson’s how to draw and from then I was just like, it was just that for hours.

Iva Mikles

And did you have like a special process of studying you know, or like going book by book or did you take it like as an anatomy then I would study something else or kind of like what helped you to improve the most?

James Douglas

I think so I tried to break it down in steps. I’m still doing that where I I thought back to how I learned guitar and music when when you learn music, the way you do it is you start out by learning scales. You start out by developing in that way you develop your fundamental skills. And I always thought it’s like okay, if you’re trying to write a song, well, you’re not going to write any good songs until you understand style until you understand scales. All that’s all the fundamental stuff. So I didn’t really I think what helped me was that I didn’t get bogged down with trying to make finished pieces because I knew all my finished pieces within the first five years are gonna suck. And I still think that I’m just like alright, I still think every finished work is going to be garbage. I’m just going to keep doing my fundamentals and studying. So I would do it step by step where I started out with Scott Robertson’s, how to draw and I said, Alright, I can really see the benefit of perspective. Because if you look at Kim Jong Gi, or any of those artists that really have mastered perspective, you can see how liberating it is when you can draw in any angle. So I said, Yeah, so I said, Okay, I’m going to spend as much time as I need to hone this skill of being able to rotate primitive forms and these basics. So I can, I don’t want to just know it, I want to be able to, I want to have it so comfortable that I don’t need to think about it every. And so um, I feel like I’m just finally getting to the point where I don’t need to think about it. And now it’s like the horizons open. I’m focused on all of the things now.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. So you can create whatever you want. And so how was he, you know, to finding, you know, like sources of income when you did this transition, or maybe finding new clients or kind of combining different sources of income.

James Douglas

It wasn’t easy. I did a lot of construction, I did a lot of what else I do. My friends all work in the music industry. So we did, I did banned rodeoing, I did all sorts of just manual labor, jobs, just nothing, nothing too great. And then the first job ended up getting an art. After I left school was, I had set up my Instagram account, and somebody reached out to me to illustrate their Dungeons and Dragons character. And that was the most exciting thing for me was like, someone’s paying me to make a drawing. And it’s just, I’m so happy about it.

Iva Mikles

So did you ask someone maybe how much do you charge for this first thing? Or, you know, like, because sometimes they struggle when you do the first one is like, how much do they ask? You? Should I ask about?

James Douglas

I honestly didn’t ask anybody. I had watched YouTube videos, and I watched Cycra and cynics all that. But I figured, I’m just gonna charge based on how good I think I am and how much work I’m gonna put into this. I think I ended up charging him like $150, which I don’t know, I think it ended up being a pretty low hourly wage for how much time I spent on it. But that’s fine. You don’t want to charge too much right off the bat anyway, you just want to get paid for actually, like, there’s something very satisfying. And it’s very reassuring to have somebody employ you for the work that kind of shows that you’re doing. You’re on the right path.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, you’re doing something creative, and someone values your work. And then you can continue creating more art. So yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so how was it for you to start YouTube? And why did you decide to study the maybe?

James Douglas

Okay, so Yeah, same thing. Everything is, my whole path always comes back to how I started with music. And I remember when we started the band, my good friend, Marcus, and I would just make YouTube videos every week, we would just make it was back when the first year YouTube came out. Yeah, we like it. I think it was 2005 or six or something. Just for oh, maybe yeah, it was pretty, it was pretty early on in YouTube. And we would spend every week we would just put up a new YouTube video of us playing music, I don’t know who was watching it, or if anybody was watching it. But over time, we and we ended up getting I think we had 500 subscribers, I don’t know. And some of the videos when I would do these, like, cover songs I would play. You know, I played Metal, so I would always cover bands that I was into. And eventually that started getting, you know, it helped us get our initial following with the band. And so I said, alright, I’ll just do the same thing. It’s a good way to practice it’s a good way to develop your your skill. I think. Anytime you have to teach something to somebody, you need to be really comfortable. You need to understand it well enough to convey it to somebody else. So I said this would be a good way to kind of get my work out there while also spending as much time as possible practicing.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, and now you do also live streams, do you do it through YouTube or Twitch or some other platforms?

James Douglas

I mostly do it. I live stream through YouTube because just because I have all the content there. I have the YouTube videos and it kind of gets everybody going there. I also do the Gumroad videos, which is nice because you can get a longer premium video. And I sometimes I stream on Twitch playing video games, but that’s not for anything serious.

Iva Mikles

And so when do you spend the most focus? Is it YouTube? Or where can people find you on social media the most?

James Douglas

Mostly YouTube Yeah.

Iva Mikles

And do you have some tips maybe what to avoid or what is the good thing which worked for you?

James Douglas

Alright, so if you’re gonna if you’re gonna make a YouTube channel I’d say avoid vlogging avoid vlogging in the Suicide Forest. Logan Logan Paul taught us all lesson. Not good. Yeah, no, I A good tip is I think, try to find something that like if you’re watching a video, try to find what you don’t like about it and then say okay, well, what would I do better? And that goes for anybody watching My Videos say hey, you do this wrong? Or you I think you could do this a little bit better, and then try to improve on that. You know, and there’s no right way to do anything there’s always going to be variations on some sort of subject. I think I started watching things zoos videos if you don’t know if you know him. I remember in one video, he said he was talking about teaching art fundamentals like perspective and all that stuff. And he said, Oh, I but I don’t think anybody would want to watch it here on YouTube. And I was like, I don’t think so. I think there’s a big I think there’s a big market for it. And don’t get me wrong I love his channel is like, my, that was kind of like my favorite YouTube channel at first. But I said, I think there, there’s definitely a market for fundamentals. And I just started like, I started pretty simple just doing boxes and duplicating curves and perspective, like, kind of like the super fundamental stuff. And there’s other videos on there like that, but it helped me get like, it helped me when I just put out some videos that were “beep” just to get those bad videos out of the way. But But yeah, I think you need to find fun, like, try to find a problem and then try to address that problem.

Iva Mikles

Before we continue, let’s thank our sponsors again. If you’re looking for a top quality print shop and online store to sell your art prints, then you should definitely check out in print in print has been helping artists print and sell gallery quality prints of their work all over the world for over a decade, created by artists for artists in print ensures that you as an artist get your artworks printed in a highest quality and you earn the highest percentage compared to the others in the industry. The online gallery@imprint.com is curated by the members, resulting in a beautiful and unique collection of work. So for their favorite artists, discover new ones and start selling through your own gallery today. What is more as an Art Side of Life listener, you will get a special 10% discount with the promo code artside so don’t wait visit artsideoflife.com/imprint and use promo code artside. If you love discovering and trying out new art tools, you should check out art snakes when you subscribe, you will get the books of high quality art supplies every month. I have already discovered so many amazing new products, limited edition tools and exclusive supplies only available to subscribers. I’d say it’s definitely helps me to get more creative, and try different art techniques every month. There is also artistic challenge where you can share your artworks using only the tools in the monthly box. You also get to join the art sex mix community where you can talk with other artists like you inspire each other and improve together. And because you are part of Art Side of Life community, you will get a special 10% discount with the promo code artside then so don’t wait visit artsideoflife.com/art legs and use a promo code artside then if you’re a digital artist, you will love Astro pad. Astro pad is an app that turns your iPad Pro into professional viral is graphics tablet for your Mac. I use it to work with Photoshop and Illustrator to create highly rendered artworks for my clients directly on my iPad. I was super excited to discover AstroPad because the painting apps available on iPad don’t have all the functionality like Photoshop with Astro pad, I can use all my favorite and custom made Photoshop brushes, which is super cool. And because you’re part of artside of life community, you will get an exclusive 10% discount on a stupid studio licenses. To get started, go to artsideoflife.com/aster. vet and enter the promo code artside. And now let’s go back to the interview.

Iva Mikles

And what do you think it’s your specialty? You know, like, what can you bring to the Creative Market of you know all the artists and help them improve?

James Douglas

I don’t know I think I think I just talk a lot and then I think like I just I say things and then I sound like I’m competent about them. So then people believe them. I don’t know. I think maybe either that or I approach it in somewhat of like a scientific structural kind of way. I think that’s maybe that’s the thing is like I’ll I’ll boil it down as best as I can into to like digestible steps like step one, step two, step three.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, because sometimes when we know a lot of stuff, then it seems obvious, right? But then if you teach it to someone completely new to the subject, then it’s like Oh, actually, yeah, issued stock motive also the obvious stuff. Yeah,

James Douglas

I find that too when I’m because now I’m teaching a brainstorm and I’m teaching in person, I find that I’ll go about something or I’ll think I know a way to teach this or I know it well, and then I’ll stump myself or I’ll be like, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m talking about here. And then it’s kind of it’s kind of a really good feeling because you get that rush of adrenaline and you’re like alright, well now I have to figure this out because I have everybody watching me here. I really don’t want to mess this up. So then you kind of logic your way back into answering their question. And yeah, I don’t know, I think that’s been like, the best thing is kind of pushing myself and putting myself in situations that are really stressful. And then having to rise to that occasion.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. Because definitely when you’re teaching, because also, when I started to teach, it was like, Yeah, I actually have to think about my process, like, what do I think about when I do that? Or, you know, something? Which like, yeah, it just do it? And then you’re like, okay, but actually, I think about this composition, the value structure, the color or other stuff.

James Douglas

Yeah. Yeah, that’s actually like I used to when I first left school, I started just doing digital all the time. And maybe I could get something that looked kind of all right. But I realized I was spending so many hours, just because I wasn’t thinking, but now when I draw, the whole thing is thinking, and I’m never just pretty much never just noodling. It’s usually there’s some sort of idea. And I’m trying to boil it down to the simplest thing possible.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. Because actually, yeah, a lot of artists like to doodle also when they are at school, or maybe when they are, like teenager. So you’ve never done that.

James Douglas

I mean, I sort of did. And I’m like, trying to reintroduce that back into my process a little more like, I think, in general, when you first started, like, if you’re starting a drawing, you can start really loose and with a nice, like, gesture drawing, and that gets a lot of energy and life into it. But after that, you should, it should, in my opinion, there should be thought about the rest of it. There’s so many artists that, that I know and love that don’t think that way. So that’s just my opinion on it. I don’t want to say that there’s one right way to do it. But I think in general, I try to go about it, where I’m thinking about each thing consciously and, and making, like it’s a series of decisions that I’m making, not just some sort of process that’s happening without my control.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because every art these are everyone creative has different process. So maybe you can share some of the the big steps of your artistic process.

James Douglas

Sure. I mean, if I’m talking about the way I draw now, usually it’s I try to think like I’m a director, I think, where’s my camera position? What’s the lens that I’m going to be using? And then what’s the character doing? For me, I part of the the flaws of this process is that it’s, it’s inherently stiff. And it like for me, the whole struggle is trying to loosen up and be a little bit like get get more gesture and life into the drawings. But I think the benefit of working this way is that I can start to, I can start to draw in any angle. So I kind of go back and forth. Whereas like when I’m studying, I’ll try doing gesture drawings really loose. At work, I wake up in the morning, and I just, I’ll sit on YouTube and just sketch gestures and stuff. Sometimes I’ll do a process where I’ll just do a gesture drawing and then do a final line work over it. Other times, I just, I think the ultimate challenge for me is then stripping all that away, and then trying to make a cool drawing, just making like starting with my final marks. And I’ve heard that referred to as direct drawing. That’s how I that’s what I call it. I don’t know if that’s what it is. But like when you when you watch a chem junkie, and you sit certain every line that says yep, that’s where I want to be. I’m definitely lightyears away from it. But that’s kind of like, where I’m trying to go. I want to do it in my own style. But I think the the ability to think before you make your mark is really cool. And that’s kind of approach it right. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

And so how do you plan your time? You know, as you mentioned, you know, do you do some something like daily ritual like, which helps you to, like, be successful, you know, maybe meditation or something like that.

James Douglas

I should probably meditate a little bit more. I was doing yoga for a while I’ve been slacking but yeah, I think daily schedule is probably the most important part to do anything successfully. It doesn’t need to be so strict, but have a general breakup of how you’re going to be doing it. For me, the with the YouTube channel, it was it was really great because I my goal at first was to have a video every week. And that’s something you know, if you hit or not, like if you upload that video, you know, if you upload it or not, it’s not an it’s not an amorphous goal. Like if you say, Oh, my goal this week is to get better at art. Well, what What the hell does that mean? I it’s it’s so amorphous. Yeah, yeah, and there’s no concrete steps to do that. So for me if it was take take it step by step say every week you have to have a new video then you put the video out and even if it’s not up to your standards, that least you work towards that and you know, sometimes you have to pay the consequences of video that’s not so good and go on Reddit and 4chan and then they start hating on you, but it’s like it’s there. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

And how do you plan maybe your week or kind of put together timings or like a schedule like okay, this is the time for editing or you know, video making and music and art or music

James Douglas

You can take it a sacrifice, but usually I do. So when I first started, it was Monday through Wednesday morning was all just getting footage. Then Wednesday and Thursday was editing and voiceover. And then Friday would be the release date. Or maybe it would be Thursday night. Sometimes if I finish the video early, I get too hyped up and I’m just like, I’m just gonna release it early. But now I have to balance it out because a teaching in person so it’s now I go Monday through Wednesday, I’m trying to to make a Gumroad video. Wednesday night I have to teach at brainstorm. Thursday is maybe editing or voiceovers Fridays teaching a brainstorm again. And then Saturday morning teaching at brainstorm. So it’s like, I’m really just kind of trying to cram everything in, in one week. And then Sunday. I’m like, I need to I need to take a break at this point.

Iva Mikles

So you take a break, like once a week at least, like Yeah, it’s gotta be Yeah, all weekend. So one day at least.

James Douglas

Yeah, I try. I try yatta yatta. Make sure you take some breaks, otherwise, life becomes a little too boring. And you become too focused on art. And you get there all the time.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. Yeah, it shows in the work. I think also taking a taking the time to go out and sketch in public is really important to me, because when you mentioned that you did like sketches of the characters on YouTube. So you watch like this life drawing thing when the the turnaround or change poses?

James Douglas

Yeah. Yeah, I do that. There’s, there’s the what the croaky cafe. One of my favorite artists Evan Amundson mentioned that he used to watch these, like, he used to watch ballet dancers, and then he would go frame by frame and do the gestures of those. So I’ve been trying to rip that off. And anytime I like, I’ll look for something that has cool gestures to it. And now I’ll go frame by frame and capture those gestures.

Iva Mikles

Have you read the book drawn to live?

James Douglas

No, I haven’t actually,

Iva Mikles

yes, you might like that one. It’s also all about gestures. And you know, like, how they approach this observation of figure drawing and like this need, like, a long time ago when they started even. Oh, that’s awesome. All right, I’m gonna write that down. So that one is the there’s actually two edition, this is like really thick book, like, dry.

James Douglas

Okay, so I definitely need that. I definitely need that because my gestures are, are lacking in my opinion. But he’s like, Oh, it can, everything can be always better. So I was trying to improve that. But they tried to go to life drawings as well. But I haven’t tried these ones on YouTube. So I have to try that.

James Douglas

Yeah, I think I think it’s fun. Because when you go on YouTube, you can get, you know, you can get weird frames or weird poses that you normally wouldn’t see, I think drawing from life is probably more beneficial in terms of like, I don’t know, it’s just there’s something different about drawing from life versus drawing from on the computer, but they both have their benefit. And, you know, if you don’t have time to go out to a live drawing thing, it’s always good to just click online or something.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because also you need to go out sometimes because we are editing all the time. And because when you mentioned your teaching, is it online? Is it in person one to one? Or how does it work?

James Douglas

It’s a class of 20. So I go, I go over to brainstorm. And then I teach in front of a bunch of people they put I have a piece of paper, I sketch and then it projects on the screen behind me. And so yeah, it’s it’s in person. And then I teach I do patron one on ones online, that’s via the internet, and then group lessons as well. So it’s a lot of teaching.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah. So then you have different types of subscriptions on Patreon, like, just support or how did you decide on the split up for the Patreon?

James Douglas

I tried to figure it out based on like, what I knew what I was going to be doing anyway, I was going to be making videos, it started out with our five the $5 option was you can get all the playbacks to the live streams. But I’ve been doing less live streams and doing more Gumroad. So now it’s just if you subscribe for five bucks, you just get whatever Gumroad is I make during the month. There’s an $8, which is critiques. And then we have the group lessons, which I got the idea from just because like brainstorming stuff, they have these classes where everybody comes together, the group lessons are fun, because it’s we do him every Saturday, it’s 30 bucks a month, but it’s four lessons, which is like the hourly rate of that’s not so bad. And it kind of benefits them and benefits me as well. And so that’s the thing, too, is anytime you’re like, I don’t want to focus too much on the monetization of art, but I think it’s important to be able to subsist the lifestyle of of being creative and, and making art. And you know, I think you can be just as creative about the way you monetize it and the way you can. I don’t know, I think it’s beneficial to both parties.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because as many people as you can help, you know, then that can get better in art and also then you can create more stuff and you can continue teaching them because if you cannot make money out of it, how would you continue? Like actually helping them? You know, so?

James Douglas

Yeah, exactly, exactly. I mean, the more the more support we get, the more like more we can put out content. And the less I have to live in my mother’s basement forever. So, you know, that’s one of the the arguments because some people will always I read too much of the online stuff, and they’ll they’ll be like, oh, you know, your, your focus too much on money.

Iva Mikles

But it’s, you have to it’s a job as well.

James Douglas

Yeah, exactly. I mean, if you’re spending, I usually spend around 60 hours a week. So I mean, if you’re doing that much, you’re not gonna have time to do anything else. Yeah, so definitely,

Iva Mikles

because also when people want to get some ideas how to can make our living as an artist, you know, so do you have some other tips for someone just starting out, you know, like, selling art brains? We talked about Patreon. Maybe YouTube advertising? Do you do other stuff out? Gumroad as well?

James Douglas

Yeah. Yeah. Gumroad is good, I think. So for me, I’m most of the monetization comes from teaching, which is a little bit easier to sell, because it’s kind of a service. But it also benefits me because I get to learn if you’re trying to sell your own individual art. I think that’s a step further, I think that’s the next most difficult goal. Because, for me, some of my artwork can be not that great, but I can I can help people learn because I’m, you know, we’re all in the same process of learning together. I, I have the approach that, again, taking things and breaking them down into steps. I think, for me, my first step is teaching and starting my career which I’ve, which I’m doing now in teaching, and then gradually, I want to phase into just doing pure illustration. I think that’s a really a really hard position to get into. But you can you can do it with things like prints, putting your work out there online and trying to be active and engaged in audience.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because if you talk with your community, you can, you know, just help more people. And when you’re creating your artworks, is there are some tools you cannot live without, you know, maybe your favorite 10 or some brand, you’re like, Okay, this is the best thing ever.

James Douglas

Well, I’m always changing. I, I’ve been like, I like these really, these witless pencils, I think a really good there’s this Paper Mate pen that I found is really like it’s this kind of a brush pen type thing that one of my students just gave to me. And I’ve just been using it every day. I I’ve gone through so many different drawing tablets. I have the Wacom Intuos medium, which is kind of I thought I really liked it at first, but now I’m realizing I kind of hate drawing without being able to see where my hands going. And then I have two other tablets, which I’m not going to name because they’re there. They’ve just I bought them or like one of them sent sent tablet to me for a promotional thing. And then it just exploded. Oh. So I’m not going to get involved in that. So I’m not going to recommend that. But I would say the watchman call it the the what’s the Wacom with the displays. The Cintiq is the best one. Yeah. But I sold the Cintiq. So I can start the YouTube channel. So I have to now work back up to getting a Cintiq again.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Because then if you kind of start on bed, and then you have to get used to something else. But yeah, but other options. There are a lot of other tablets, which are good. So

James Douglas

yeah, some of them are good. Yeah, some of them are good. Be careful with them. Like I said, mine. They were working absolutely fine. The tablets were great. They felt really nice. And then all of a sudden, I gotta think that’s a driver error. And then the tablet wouldn’t work on any other computer.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, well, that’s that’s weird. Because now I’m using an iPad, you know, for drawing? Oh, yeah. And yeah, because I’m using it either, you know, with AstroPad, where you can like actually use Photoshop on the on the actual drawing. So I can have all my Photoshop brushes, which is really cool. And then you can use the other apps which you like so.

James Douglas

Okay, yeah. Well, the iPad I heard is amazing. I heard I haven’t used it yet. But I heard it’s really good. I went to try it to the shop. And they were like, okay, yeah, I like it.

Iva Mikles

And so do you still prefer more digital or more traditional media?

James Douglas

I go back and forth. I think it I think traditional always is gonna feel nicer. There’s something about having that texture of the pen on the paper. I like the fact that I like if I’m drawing and pen I really can’t erase. So it kind of pushes me a little bit further to, you know, be decisive with my decision making. And I think traditional is always going to be nicer if you’re always gonna have that connection. Whereas digital, the closest you can get is having, you know, having your display tablet, but then one of the issues is you can get in those control Z loops where you just keep making a mark ctrl z one of those marks undo. And I used to spend so much time doing that. That’s why I started drawing more in traditional.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, that happened to me last time as well. I was sitting near the computer, I was doing something traditionally. And there was just Oh, and then I went to computer and just press that. And I’m like,

James Douglas

oh, yeah, that’s that’s how you know you have a problem. I did the same thing. I was drawing on pencil. And then my hand started doing this. I’m like, I’m at a cafe right now drawing with a pencil. I can’t control z this. Yeah.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, that’s just not good. Yeah, but if you think about your artwork, was there something or the project? Was there? Like the most memorable artwork or a project? You know, maybe because of the time of your life or the project detail?

James Douglas

Oh, I don’t know. It’s been so like, everything has been so brief with with my career here, because it’s, I started on YouTube about nine months ago. And yeah, I only started, I only started making money from it about five months ago. And I mean, so far has been making these videos has been the most intense project because it feels like a blur, where I’m just struggling and trying to wrap my head around all these new ideas and concepts, and then teach them to people. I think right now, I have a lot of projects that I’m excited about in the future. But before we get into that, let’s say there’s brainstorm, which is which I’m teaching at right now. And it’s really, you know, it’s been a really crazy experience. I think the most finished work is actually not even artwork. I’m working on the, I’m working on creating a drawing book. And that’s been an interesting process. Because, again, going with the idea of like breaking each of your, your processes down into steps. It’s been cool to do that, and sort of just go and write out my thoughts. And it’s, I don’t know, it’s very enlightening.

Iva Mikles

And when you are creating the story, or like your world or something like that, do you start from the character or from the environment or a moment, which happened to you?

James Douglas

I think, I think I typically start with characters, but I think it can be cool to start with your environments, because so much of the environment is what affects how characters are developed. I mean, the materials you use for clothing, the types of clothing, you’d be wearing, all that all that stuff is dictated by the environment. So I think, in general, were I to start creating more worlds, I would definitely start with the environments first.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, super cool. And so what about the projects you are, you know, excited about for in the future, you know, what you mentioned.

James Douglas

Alright, so I have, I have these rule sets that I have created for a board game, which I’m really excited I’m going to do, I want to illustrate that and maybe get a team together. And we will create all these different pieces for board game. I’ve tested it out with, I’ve taken like Settlers of Catan, risk, a couple other board games and mash all the pieces together. And we’ve we’ve been playing this and like, kind of beta testing this board game, and it’s a ton of fun. So we have the rulebook written up, and we’re just gonna get on making those illustrations and then hopefully have that out maybe sometime next year. Oh, cool. That’s quite soon. Yeah, hopefully, hopefully. I mean, I say that, but it might end up being two years from now. Who knows?

Iva Mikles

Yeah, that might be a tight schedule to create everything. Yeah, definitely. And so how do you do your networking? Or how do you you know, start these new projects, or, you know, as you mentioned, that starting teaching and all of these, these kind of finding new opportunities for yourself?

James Douglas

Yeah, it’s all been really kind of organic and sort of way, like, not entirely organic, because that when I started the, when I started the YouTube channel, most of the networking that I made in the art world has been through the YouTube channel. So when I started it, I was, you know, creating these videos, and I was pretty shameless about advertising or post them all over Facebook and be like, check it out, look at this video, you know, watch it. And I didn’t mind I didn’t feel bad about advertising or spamming because I was really kind of happy with the work I was putting out. So I, I felt like, you know, let me just get that out there. And then over time, it started, you know, building and I think, because I was very consistent with the uploads, it got more traction. And then when I when I knew I was kind of onto something was when I was doing my live streams and a lot of the professionals, the people that I looked up to you started showing up and be like, Hey, what’s going on? Like what you’re doing here? You know, I remember, cynics showed up Proko if you’ve heard of his channel, and

Iva Mikles

he was also in the interview here.

James Douglas

Oh, okay. Yeah, he’s a mate. Yeah, he’s amazing. And he showed up and I was like, oh, now I’m like, I feel like I’m doing something right. And then I John Park. I don’t know if you’re aware him either. He showed up on the live stream and then he ended up eat we ended up emailing each other after the live stream and He came on in for an interview. And then in the interview, he offered me a job. Which I thought he was kidding. At first, I was like, Are you serious? And yeah, that just all sort of fell into place over time. And now, since I’ve been here in California, it’s kind of like the haven of artists. So everybody’s so many people around here. It’s ridiculous.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. And do you go also for some other events, you know, like some cones or like festivals, or like, I don’t know, live sketching as you’re talking about.

James Douglas

I haven’t gone to any of the conventions yet. We’re trying to set up a genre, you’re trying to set up a booth for CTN. So I’m going to try to get the book finished before that, so we can release it there and everything. But so far, I haven’t been doing any of that.

Iva Mikles

Oh, cool. So maybe see you next time on CTN, and I quite like the convention.

James Douglas

Yeah, that would be really cool. If I could, you know, finish up for that. Yeah, it’s right now, I haven’t been doing too much. Mostly like, any my life drawing stuff. We just go out. I take my class out, and we go to cafes, or we’ll go. There’s an arboretum nearby where we just go and sketch.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, I’d love that place. That’s so beautiful. There.

Iva Mikles

Oh, yeah. So nice. It’s so nice. So yeah, and then you have all good weather all the time. So that’s also if we think about like, far ahead in the future, you know, five to 10 years, what would be your dream scenario, you know, if you cannot fail, and everything is going according to plan.

James Douglas

So I think in Alright, so let’s say five years, I kind of want to have a group of artists working on this channel with me like the modern day James channel, and mobile all contribute things that we’re better at, like, there’s so many people that are way better at painting, and I’d love to have them contribute, I kind of want that to be like its own running entity. And then I want to be kind of taking the the Carl Karpinski Kim Jong gi route where like, releasing sketchbooks, and you know, selling sketchbooks like that, because that allows, there’s so much freedom to that because I can, whatever I feel like drawing that day, you can sketch it, and you know, compile that and release that as a sketchbook. And I think with that, you’re never, not really bogged down to do styles or things that you don’t necessarily want to do. And that’s something I’m kind of loving about illustration for, because that’s probably my main focus is trying to become a just a better illustrator. I love that. One, I can share my work and I have any non disclosures to, I can really just hone down on fundamentals. And three, I can never have to draw in a style that I’m not comfortable with or don’t feel like doing. Because my initial goal was to work in video games, but I really didn’t take very well to photo bashing and all that stuff. And, and it’s not that I mind it there. It’s I think it’s an amazing tool. And I think when you see what some people can do with it, it’s incredible. I’m not, I can’t do that. I’m just not into it. But there’s some artists that are so amazing with it. But for me, I want to be able to I just want to draw, I just want to draw traditionally I want to draw and just, you know, really sketchbooks and stuff.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, do what do you enjoy. And as you mentioned, these sketchbooks that you can also avoid art vlogs you know, or these kinds of things because you just draw all the time. Yeah,

James Douglas

exactly. Exactly. I you know, maybe in the future, I would make some sort of small indie video game project because I had done that some like game design work in the past where you code all the gate like all the assets and stuff. And it’s, it’s really a ton of fun. But I don’t know, for me, the future is like, completely open. You know, I might even I might even start doing some music again. I’ve been I have something in the works for that.

Iva Mikles

Yeah. And do you include the music on the YouTube video somehow somewhere? Or how do you do you know music.

James Douglas

There’s I haven’t been doing a lot of music. Sadly, there’s a I do have a separate YouTube channel, which is the modern day James music, where I just have some snippets from new music that I have that I just didn’t release. And some videos of me when I was like 10 years old playing guitar. I’m trying to bring it I’m trying to incorporate that more and more into my life a little bit.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, that’d be nice.

James Douglas

Also do heavy been your YouTube channel. Also connected with art, you know, maybe inspired from a music how you feel. And then you have the type of artwork, or even doing something like an animation would be really nice because then I can you can score it out. And yeah, I don’t know. There’s so many different types of things that I just kind of dabbled with everything.

Iva Mikles

And right now for your YouTube videos with art do you use like free music? Or where do you find music because sometimes a lot of people ask about that.

James Douglas

Sometimes I just use like, I’ll just pirate gonna pirate music but I’ll download it off YouTube videos. And then I just won’t monetize the video because I just want I like the way a certain song fits over it. Otherwise I just use the they have creator studio on YouTube where you can just go in there. They’re free music library. But I don’t really care. I don’t I think YouTube monetization is kind of screwed anyway, if you’ve you’ve probably used variances, sometimes the best. Yeah, it’s not really the best. So I just kind of said To hell with it, I’m gonna use whatever songs I feel like. And that might be some, you know, I think I did a cloth video and I use Jordi Savall. Who’s this amazing, I forget what instrument he plays, it’s like a lute or something. And he plays this medieval music that it sounds so fantasy based, and it’s great. And I just throw that in there even if the video is going to be demonetised because I use the tubebuddy, which is also another one where they kind of offer you like this library of music, and then they help you with statistics and stuff. So that’s actually quite nice, too. So maybe it was like, okay, yeah, that

Iva Mikles

sounds like a good idea. I’ve heard some people use theirs that the YouTube channel Vsauce, which is why one of my favorites. And they were talking about how they have all these different subscriptions that they can use for music. And I kind of I quite liked the way that they go about their videos, because they start with the music and how it makes them feel. And then they write the script based on the soundtrack, which I think is so cool.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, because you can do also character designs like this, you know, the music when it’s like really strong music, but the connector can be really tough and this kind of thing.

James Douglas

Yeah, I think music is plays such a big role in the whole process. You know, and even if I’m, if I’m designing the music plays a part, even if it’s, I’m doing something that’s different from the style of music I’m listening to it’s usually I listen to very heavy music. So it gets me pumped up. I feel like I’m, it makes me feel very competent makes me not second guessing myself as much. Other times I’ll listen to music that you know, just kind of fits that vibe, if I’m doing something that’s very fantasy based. Like I said, I listen to some sort of medieval music. And it kind of it just sets that tone. It builds that ambiance it almost makes you feel like you’re you’re sitting in a director’s chair, you’re directing a movie, and you can kind of just sketch based on that. Yeah,

Iva Mikles

that’s a really good idea. Yeah. And if we think about like, really far, far in the future, what would you like to be remembered for?

James Douglas

I want to be remembered as a crotchety old grandpa who sat on his porch, sketching people in the weirdest perspectives, yelling at children passing by? Sounds like fun. Yeah, no, I think. I don’t know. I think that’s that’s a really tough question. There’s so many things I would want to do. I think I would just want to be remembered for somebody who put his all into whatever work he was doing, be it music or art, and maybe have some pieces that people look back and go, yeah, it was pretty good.

Iva Mikles

That sounds nice. And I’m looking forward to see your projects, which hopefully come like next year, right. Yeah, hopefully. And all of that we they are awesome YouTube channel. So thank you so much, again, for being here. It was so nice.

James Douglas

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Iva Mikles

Oh, thanks again. And thanks, everyone who was watching today or listening and see you guys in the next episode.

James Douglas

Take care.

Iva Mikles

Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can region inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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