“The art was no commodity. You were doing it because you believed in it. There was so much purity and innocence.” —Marina Abramović
The other day I realized that I’d written 2020 in the header to a journal entry. So much feels eerily—and wearily—familiar, except for the balmy 59ºF weather last week and a vaccination card with three stamps in it; the passport of our times.
Still, a revolution around the sun—that’s a fact. In this issue, I look at what came of putting one thing on top of another for 365 days. Turns out to be a pretty tall stack! And, I’m surprised to find, the scaffolding of a new life.
Today I’ll share how my transition from being a design consultant to making art full time unfolded over the course of 12 months. Plus, what I learned and what’s next for the newsletter and studio:
2021, a visual timeline
There are a lot of images in this post; if you’re reading this in an email it may cut off at the end. Either “view entire message” when you get there, or go read this in full now.
As 2020 wound on I found myself yearning to create my own content, engage with other artists, have more control over my time. Could I do what I dream? And could that pay the rent? I wanted to start trying.
In January of 2021, I began working on a What’s Next Deck to help me chart the first year of a long game. I leveraged the exercise to review what I know of myself, revise goals, vet ideas, and set myself up for follow-through.
Where I am today against 2021 goals:
✅ Said yes 0 times to distracting opportunities
✅ Finished animating Tuscany early spring (1 min short film)
✅ Submitted it to 10 festivals/publications
↗️ Rejected 9 times, got 1 nod (I’ll take it)
✅ Began animating Chamoe late spring (2 min short film)
↗️ Got it to 40% completion with preliminary sound, lines to 50%
✅ Launched The Line Between (TLB) on Substack
✅ Published every 2 weeks like clockwork
✅ Turned on subscriptions
↗️ Paid for studio equipment and classes with art-only income
✅ Engaged in 2 writer collabs (1 paid)
↗️ Kicked off sound collab (full engagement 2022 🤞)
✅ Watched over 100 animated short films
✅ Read 21 books
↗️ Reach my EOY subscriber goal—but close! Just shy, by 29 people.
❌ Launch shop: failed to procure key manufacturers.
❌ Publish a book: wasn’t able to prioritize.
2021, a visual timeline
Highlights, in chronological order. News and life events for broader context and orientation (in italics).
Dec 14, 2020 – Begin brainstorming for 2021
Jan 6, 2021 - Capitol Insurrection
Jan 30 - Present What’s Next Deck to my partner and sounding board
Mar 3 - Finish Tuscany
Mar 9 - Featured in ILT’s Women of Letters interview series 🙏
Mar 23 - Mint first NFT
Begin interviewing Mom for Chamoe
Mar 30 - Hot vax summer meme in full effect
Apr 1 - Nod from Motionographer for Tuscany-my first industry recognition!
Apr 26 - Youn Yuh-Jung, first Korean female actor to win Oscar
Apr 27 - Soft launch on Substack
Apr 29 - Begin editing voice track and storyboarding Chamoe
Find, vet, organize placeholder sounds; subtitles v1
Jun 8 - Issue 03 “Listening”
Jun 13 - Recommended to animation community by Animation Obsessive 🙏
Jun 15 - 70%+ of adult New Yorkers vaxxed, Cuomo lifts most restrictions
Jun 18 - Substack spotlight via Animation Obsessive
Jun 22 - Issue 04 “Sustenance”
Jun 23 - Sequence 01 of Chamoe + style primer finished. 320 frames, 13.3s
Jun 29 - 6 month review
Aug 3 - Issue 07 “Direction”
Aug 10 - Cuomo resigns as governor of NY
Aug 15 - Sequence 02p01 finished. 192 frames, 8s
Sep 20 - Sequence 02p02 finished. 86 frames, 3.6s
Sep 25 - First time at Broadway in almost 2 years
Sep 28 - Issue 11 “Still” and 11s, first member-only supplemental
Oct 11 - Re-recommended by Animation Obsessive 🙏😭
Oct 12 - Issue 12 “Ruthlessly” and supplemental
Camera work on Sequence 03 outside Photoshop
Dec 6 - Studio upgrade paid for by members ❤️ (lamp with phone mount, new laptop)
Dec 7 - Sequence 03 completed in 3 parts. 488 frames total, 20.3s
Dec 9 - Begin studies and lines for Sequence 04
Dec 14 - Convo with folks at Stir, “conceptualizing the future of creative work”
Dec 16 - Issue 16 “Give” and supplemental
Dec 17 - Chamoe 50% finished with lines, 38% finished with color and texture
Dec 18 - Begin retro!!
Dec 20 - Omicron accounts for over 90% of cases in NY. Restaurant closures increase.
Dec 21 - Last (this) issue of 2021 ✨
My biggest takeaway from the past 12 months is holy shit I’m actually doing this!
I stuck to what I wanted to make, not what I thought people wanted to see.
I was afraid that having “investors” (people who pay for The Line Between) would influence what I write about and how. I struggled with this for a long time but I’m increasingly invested in growing an audience that fits me, not the other way around. The fact that memberships have been substantial enough to pay for big studio expenses this year, as well as to finance a soundtrack to Chamoe in 2022, has been thrilling and reaffirming.
I gave members more instead of giving free subscribers less.
When I first thought about memberships, I thought I’d split each issue in half, sending the first as a teaser to free subscribers and the unabridged version to paying subscribers (members). I ended up writing bonus content for members instead, while keeping main newsletters fully available to all. Everyone gets to see the show, but members get backstage passes. Everyone gets value. I hope that’s how it’s been feeling for you.
I’m going with the flow.
I’m a huge fan of iteration. TLB is turning out to be a larger conversation about making art and the practices that nourish it (versus just animation). I played (and continue to play) with structure, framework, down to smaller things like headers and footers which change almost every issue. I wrote a bit about direction in an eponymous issue, and would still like to dive into some of those ideas.
Priority one is to chill out for the holidays after I send this out. I recently finished lines for the fourth, quite meaty sequence of Chamoe and want to be able to look at it with fresh eyes.
I think I’ll make granola with dried cherries and coconut chips, watch the new Matrix movie (as bad as I imagine it’ll be), read Anil’s Ghost while hanging out with my partner, and try to make it to 2022 without getting sick.
Quick thoughts on the upcoming year:
Finish Chamoe 🤞 I technically have until May to make my “one film a year” goal.
Promote, rest, experiment. Play with shorter-term commitments.
Integrate the blockchain into my membership offering? Fun to explore.
TLB is still primarily a monologue while I crave dialogue and critique. This could point to pursuing fellowships and residencies.
Lastly, I want to grow my audience and get the word out more.
Public speaking about process and creativity might be fun. My work as performance, a la Pop Up Magazine or Moth Radio Hour? Get on a podcast? (What I do and make may not cleanly fit into an existing bucket; this is both an anxiety and a delight.)
I heartily welcome suggestions and ideas! Feel free to send by email or comment 🙏
Writing The Line Between has been immensely rewarding. I reconnected with old friends and colleagues. I’ve been bowled over by the emotional and financial support I received.
I honestly thought I’d only have a few founding members, but they comprise almost 40% of my paid subscriptions. Some have paid many times the suggested amount for founding membership. What blows me away even more is that many of these folks are not even family or close friends.
In an age of discouragement and division, I feel recognized and unalone in my belief that art and dreams are worth supporting. Special thanks to:
Jared Erondu, my brilliant partner and closest friend. Thanks for sanity-checking every issue, and for being my biggest cheerleader ❤️
Folks at Animation Obsessive. Thank you for recommending TLB multiple times this year! I learn so much from your incredible newsletter and appreciate our exchanges.
And of course, members, friends, and family:
Thanks for for investing in me—even if animation may not have been a high topic of interest for you! You helped me set a solid foundation for The Line Between in its inaugural year and I feel incredibly blessed.
Ok that’s A WRAP!!
Everything feels surreal and strange! Happy holidays! Thanks for reading!
I’ll be back in the new year with an update on Chamoe. A lot of work remains but things should move faster now that there’s no overhead + I hope to hand sound off to a professional 😎
The next issue will likely come to you mid January. I hope you manage to stay healthy, and that you can indulge in a quiet moment alone before welcoming 2022.
Until next time.