Being an indie painter is basically like being an indie filmmaker, indie musician or indie game developer. You have to give up a certain amount of stability and safety in order to gain both creative and financial control of your work. To me, that trade off is essential but I often feel like it’s not clear to people what I’m doing or how it fits into the landscape of this industry.
For around 8 years, I worked at a series of jobs around game development and publishing. It was a period in my life where I learned a lot, but I always needed to steal time away to try to find fulfillment. It was a constant tug of war where my employers would pull me to make artwork which was valuable to them, while I would pull to make it more meaningful for me. Ultimately, neither side really got what they wanted, so I worked to find a better way.
A lot of people thought I moved on to do freelance after I stopped having a job. There was this assumption that if I’m working from home and that I’m not broke, I must be making art for someone else. The truth is, I went indie and if I can help it, I’m never going back.
The first glimmer of how I would go indie came about a year before I left employment. My buddy (and now webshow co-host) Sam Flegal had successfully raised $1,200 on Kickstarter to create a print run for his latest personal painting. Despite being a small sample, I got unreasonably excited by this. In my imagination, if that model could be scaled up, that there was potentially a platform that could support an artist’s entire life without the need for employment. Writing that out, it sounds like I’m blowing it out of proportion, but I might have been right.
The Kickstarter I’m running right now is a direct descendant of that idea and it’s supporting that notion pretty well. I’m currently raising about $3,000 per day and I’ve got about 30 days left to go in my current campaign, which would leave me at a total of around $160,000. That sounds like I’m getting rich but it’s revealing just a single column on a much larger ledger. Since being indie is not at all like being employed, this money is NOT pay. I am obligated to my backers to spend the majority of it on things like production and fulfillment. The remainder will go to my corporation Mohrbacher Art Ltd, which will use that money to continue operation and pay its employees. After all the dust settles, it might have enough surplus to pay me. I say ‘probably’ because being indie means owning your own risk. There is a long enough trail of successful Kickstarters leading to failed projects for you to know what I’m talking about.
Riding that line between success and failure without a safety net is made easier by fans who support my projects. This is why campaigns like the ones I’m running on Kickstarter and Patreon are so important to me. They aren’t a means to get rich and famous but they are a path to create something that would be otherwise impossible. So, once again, thanks to everyone who has pledged their support and thanks to all my fellow creators who have been helping me to promote these campaigns organically.