To everyone who enjoys this site, learns here, and has helped CA be what it is today.
I am humbly coming to all the members and supporters of CA. This is a time of importance in the art community as we begin to move to the future of opportunity and education for everyone here. I am going to share more of what we are doing must ask..would you please read on to the end and contemplate what is happening. I will start with comments on where we have been, for those who are new, and where we are going too.
In March of 2002, I announced CA as a place I was making for artists to get together and truly learn together. In those days there was nowhere to really learn art online at all and I was absolutely stuck in my attempts to grow as an artist. I designed the site, and the plans for how everything, including the culture, would work and went on a quest around the industry to gather up the artists I most wanted to learn with and who I believed in. In April 2002 I spent the weekend with my true friend Johan Pontemonti Broberg designing, and creating this site. I had never made a website before and had to get books to figure it out.
We went live with a humble little gallery and forums which gathered together a small group of artists who were also wishing to have a safe place to learn, including El Coro, Android Jones, Sparth, Bengal, and others. Andrew's 1000 person self portrait quest began as a way to keep the ideas going on that day. The vibrant sketchbook forums took off as El Coro began uploading images to the boards. Our first admin Davi Blight came in and carried the ban hammer which would keep the culture here from being over run by trolls and problems every other site online faced and his persistent im's to fix things or change things or make the place better were always helpful to keep things going. A frustrated young artist with a family and a dead end job named MindCandyMan joined us back then and asked for help. He was stuck. He was melancholy and wanted to be an artist. From Jonathan MindCandyMan we all learned that no matter how noobie an artist is, they can be destined for success if they just buckle down and keep at it no matter what. Years later MindCandy cares for his family, his soul, and his students with his art he began right here.
Many people had early effects on me and this site and there are too many to name but I love you all. Years later hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted in a positive way. Lives have been changed and my own life took a sense of purpose and creative beauty that I never anticipated.
Over the years, industry icons like Marko Djurdjevic of Marvel, James Hawkins of Epic and tons of others got their start after being discovered here. Where would Gears of War be without Hawkprey's vision? I watched like a proud brother as the much of the crew that now dominates at ArenaNet grew up around here. Entertainment has changed for the better because we built what we set out to make. Digital painting has been legitimized as a media for art, which was not the case when we began. Representational drawing and painting is now something artists expect to do, rather than struggle to find bits and pieces of information about. Careers have been made by the thousands. Relationships have grown, marriages formed, and babies born because we all gathered to share, learn, and participate here. Years back, I even fell in love on these boards. Without CA there would be no Massive Black, no ADAPT, No CGCon, No Gnomon Live, and all the other things which came from ideas created right here, in this community. I look at how this community has changed the world and realize that we have an opportunity to become so much more, and know that is going to happen naturally. It is our fate here. I am thankful.
Since we began we have had more than 50 million visitors to this site, which was created with a meager fifty bucks from my savings. It was not the money that built it..but heart and soul from all the 180,000 registered members who have joined in that quest to have such a place. We created culture from the ground up. When the site had thousands of guys and so few women we turned the keys to the place over to the ladies and watched as they not only won "last man standing" but ran their own contests, voluntarily created a calendar to help pay the bandwidth, and did a great job with all the activities. In many ways the root of what we created is exactly the same then, as it is today.
First and foremost, we began here with a mindset to create opportunity and to free the grammar of art for those who could not afford the massive price of tuition at the art schools. I had seen so many artists that did not realize how many were really out there just like themselves. When we created the workshops we found the taste for how many there might actually be. Personally, the idea that I was a strange person, different from the world, was erased that day.
Along the way, changes happened to the digital and traditional art community that I glow to think about. Look at art history. Has there ever been a time where artists have had such success in creating from imagination? Ever? The answer is no. The face of the movement we share here is revealed in that thought. Believe it. We are, as a whole, as a community of artists, seeing something that has never been achieved in the thousands of years since men and women began expressing themselves visually. We are but only beginning...and just wish to keep on this path.
I ask of you, to consider what CA has done for your life, your art, your career, your personal relationships and friends you have met, and any impact you have felt because of the hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours put in by all our fantastic mods, admins, leaders, and teachers. I ask because we genuinely need support, now, more than ever, to complete our quest that will take us all forward for the coming decade of opportunity and change.
I can say, for me, that it has given me a sense of purpose, a place in this universe, a shred of dignity and integrity as I was unbending against companies trying to take advantage of artists here, those attempting to make changes in copyright law, and more. I was tasked with saving this community back in April when piracy had brought us to the brink of closure. I was faced with a pile of server bills, hardware costs, and looming debt because of the torrenting of the videos which were created as a way for artists here, including you, to have a way to not just learn, but to teach, support yourself and help this community. I had spent the previous 18 months trying to convince people here to not harm an effort that was volunteer run and keeping this place free. After so many failed tries to stop it, I was forced to implement an anti-piracy program designed by my brother and I to locate those who were doing so. We had a job to do, and we did it, unhappily.
It was a dark time for me and this site. For the first time ever, I thought I might have to give it all up. For a guy who began his art path as an orphan with no money and built his life struggling to find nuggets of art information, and later from within this community, that was a terrifying thought. All my closest people are here, as is the place my visions of possibility start. I watched as 15000+ volunteer hours of my own and hundreds of thousands of the ca community were at the point of disappearing from art history if the plug was pulled. I had to try. I was not willing to fail. I believed in what we were doing, and when members told me I could never stop it and should just give it away, it made me even more determined. Then, what I had spent all those months researching and creating to put a stop to the piracy, was a success. We tracked down the top 300 offenders and began banning those who worked against our efforts to offer the lowest priced art education on the planet.
Four days later, we became the first video producer to stop piracy and protect the rights of the artists who created that content. We knew that artists here would be in an uproar if someone stole a painting. It did not make sense to us that a fraction of those same artists thought it would be ok to do that to videos of that art. We were literally fighting for rights of artists to be independent and successful, aside from our efforts just to save the community. We were losing 3500 uploads every day, for every video we created. I watched as Marko Djurdjevic and Jason Chan saw over a million downloads on their first videos. When the torrenting of new content stopped, my heart lifted. I thought everything we worked for was going to end.
My research into streaming content led to my plans to create the live streaming education presentations which so many have seen. And that led to what is going to become a major force in art education and with luck, will put a stop to private art schools who sell their students a dream at the price of indentured servitude and parents mortgages, in exchange for a quarter of the information needed to actually make it as an artist. Without the stopping of piracy here, our biggest mission would never have began. To anyone who had uploaded videos and stopped, and to those who decided against doing so, we owe you a thanks. Lives changed for the better because of that. Artists entire careers and the things we share here will see success, in part, because we fought tooth and nail and protected that artwork.
In a few short days we are going to be announcing The Art Department, a 30 month online and real world art education program with branches in San Francisco, Kansas City, Richmond VA, and Austin TX. We are taking the big art schools head on with a program run by leaders in the fields of Concept Art, Representational Painting and Illustration. The illustration faculty have more awards from the Society of Illustrators than all other art schools combined. The Fine Art faculty are represented by the best galleries in the world, and the Concept dept. is run by faculty behind the biggest movies, games, toys, comics, and entertainment in the world.
We do this for a reason--a very personal reason. The private art schools have, for years, taken grants, loans, and time from students around the world as they enriched themselves to the point of shame, and at the expense of art history. Going to art school has become a right for the rich, here in the United States and other locations around the world. These institutions have been taking in combined profits in the billions of dollars and an estimated 80 percent of their students fail to succeed as promised. In San Francisco, we watch and read with disappointment as a high net-worth family runs and takes funds for the largest land grab in the history of that city by buying and then leasing properties to that school, which is then rented from tuition coming from public grants, student loans, and the life savings of it's students families. Public funds and personal savings flow into those coffers and the students get far less than they pay for and teachers are taken advantage of. This is but one example but all the private art schools averaging 120,000 USD for four years (tuition only), are on the path of institutional greed. These schools work to keep their faculty down with embarrassingly low salaries, enrich their corporate directors, and grow like cancer on the always developing art history, choking off the flow of information to creatives, who for the most part, are usually poor and would otherwise be learning earlier.
I was told when I was 22, by one of the more selfish people I have ever met, that I did not deserve to go to art school because I could not afford it. Nowadays, I wonder where I would have been if I had access to information on art..to the grammar of art..from an early age. CA began as a place for that to happen openly, so we could all get better, build creative lives, and make our dreams real. Artists took it into their own hands, to have such a place. But without the huge funds of the schools, we had to figure out ways to make it all work. We created the workshops, the atelier, the online education programs and gave scholarships. The workshops saw every penny of it's proceeds put toward learning. The Atelier, run by one of my oldest friends Carl Dobsky, won the award as the top digital painting school worldwide The downloads and streaming content have provided information which could not be had in any art school and were given out for the price of a hot date or big dinner. The days of artists not deserving to learn because they cannot afford it are over. The years of the over-priced, dream promising, under-delivering art schools having a monopoly on visual language and thus causing a massive negative impact on art history are finished. I mean, I have to seriously wonder where artists would be and where art history would be, if the language of art was within reach from a young age for the past decades, instead of being horded like spoils only to be shared by the privileged.
This June we are opening the Art Department. In Jan we will begin our scholarship program and admissions. We open with this moment of foundations with heart and integrity by beginning the granting of one million dollars in art scholarships. We are offering the full program for about a 25 percent of the cost of the art institutions and are paying the faculty salaries deserved for changing the lives of their students, are offering a host of no interest and fractional percentage financial aid options. We have a youth program in the works and being presented to high schools which will better prepare artists grow from an early age. Ever wonder where you would be if you got all the best information this community has to offer from the ninth grade on? We do, and with the help of a group of the worlds greatest talents, led by a man I consider to be a true genius in education, this is now real. We have much to share and the announcement will come soon.
As we move forward into the new year, we are releasing the next iteration of conceptart.org as a new domain which we call The Art Mobs. We have been building the single most comprehensive artist social network, gallery system, profiles, promotional and self-marketing tools, career services, and communication tools which exist in any one place for artists to share. These tools are to be FREE to use for anyone here, viewers, lurkers, or full on members who wish to reach their chosen world of art. ConceptArt.Org will retain it's soul and the forums will be as they are, but with expansions for all other artists, who need the room to grow in their respective fields. The new mobs like Fine Art Mob or Sketch Mob will be cared for by the leading artists in those areas. The current traffic of millions will grow, enabling more opportunity.
One of those opportunities, which I have not announced, is a program which will enable artists here in the community to support themselves in a variety of ways, regardless of their having jobs or bosses or people telling them what to paint. This includes a development section where we will be creating content which will be pushed out into the world of entertainment, prints, and more. We are no longer looking to just have a place which is supported by the community. The Art Mobs will be a place where talented and ready artists can see this community support themselves regardless of the economy in their local area. We are going to pull out all the stops over this coming year. The life's work of those who have volunteered here, helped here, given time, is going to pay off with more opportunity and exposure. Artists need a place to learn, find other talent like themselves, build relationships, create companies and careers, and push their work out into the world at a push of a button. All of this adds up to the bigger vision that I have designed over the years, and thanks to the recent additions to the Board of Directors here, and to the efforts of all those who help, we are finally going to see the dreams realized.
Another issue I have been trying to solve these past two years is my deep feeling that the artists here have the power to change the world and not just make it feel entertained. Many of the greatest artists of all time had the ability to impact social change. This past summer I began working with a charity organization called Project Hope, which is run by the gentleman who was the first western witness to the Darfur Genocides and his wife, an old friend, Andi Skull, whom Andrew Jones had introduced me to. One of the things they do is teach the poor in Africa to create screen prints on shirts and posters and other items. Shephard Fairey is also assisting them, as are artists like Common and Dave Matthews. The group brings art to be used to generate awareness over extremely important causes like the slave mines and child labor mines in the Congo where they mine a good percentage of the tin and other raw materials that end up in the computers and cel phones you are using right now. The artists make art, the people make shirts, the stars wear the art on the shirts, money is raised, and they grow the charity and raise awareness. Amazing. Power amongst the creatives. With that in mind I began putting together a yearly contest as a way for the artists here to create work which was related to causes that they are a part of. If we want to be taken as a serious art movement when history looks back, we must be responsible to history and not just be a forgotten place in it.
All of this comes at a price for the founders and Board of CA who make sure the bills get paid, and the efforts continue even though they have jobs, lives, and their own works to pursue cannot do it alone. The reality is that the price of running a community which sees more traffic than all but 9-15k websites on the internet is steeper than we ever imagined when we began. We transfer five terabytes of data each month, have anti piracy measures to pay for which keep us from financial failure, and staff to support who do things like fix broken code, design technology and add all the new software. The cost of running this community is about the price of a new corvette every single month now. With that being said, you should probably know that I don't even own a car. My vehicle is right here. It doesn't get me around town but it does get all of us around the world with ease...this is where my investment has gone all these years and I am proud of that. CA has been my baby, and has thousands of surrogate parents taking care of it too.
Well, our baby is about to grow up and go off to college in order to support itself without help from home and so I must ask, humbly, on bended knee, if you would please support the site over these next months, starting with the streaming classes, especially this next one with Mark English and those that follow. This class will prove the interest this community has to support bringing in the biggest artists in the world to help us, not just from the industry. Please. It is of note, that Jon Foster's was wonderful today and is On Demand if you need some inspiration and ideas on improving too.
Until then, exactly like public radio or television we require support of the viewers and listeners to move on. Without we have to stop..to delay our mission, and our struggle to succeed could be hindered. Truly. We have pushed to reach for greatness by bringing in artists we consider heroes to teach live in the streaming classes. This Wednesday Dec. 2 we are honored with the words and mind of one of the greatest illustrators in history and he joins us to teach live. This is but a sample of what is to come and if we can see the support of the artists wishing to learn and improve we can continue to bring such talent to you and everyone here. http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=175763 is a worthy click.
My own personal desire to help artists and my ability to learn started the movement but it is all happening because so many of you..so many of US have put fuel in the engines and planted the seeds of creativity which we all share on the journey. For this, I thank you all deeply.
We are as always, a self funded community. The coming programs will, as we have hoped for years, bring CA off the support from home and move it out on it's own.
Godspeed and heart felt thanks. May the inspiration which drives us on, bring even more than we dream today, and have wished for since that very first weekend we went online. My life would not feel of value without all the time helping to see opportunity and learning shared, and I know that others here feel the same. Together we have made the world a better place. For that, I love you all.
P.S. If you cannot spare more than words, I hope that you might take a moment to say how CA has made an impact on your life, your work or your career. For me it has meant my world. Love, learning, hope, happiness, and confidence. It has given me my business, my dreams, my travels, my world. I owe much to CA and am working hard to always repay what gifts it has shared with me. With that said, thank you for reading and all that you do.