Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ninja Mountain Episode #20 - The Listeners Strike Back!

It's a very special week on the Mountain! This time out, thanks to the magic of the Skype machine, we were able to take our first calls from listeners, and some SUPERB calls they were too! Listen to Jan's very nice praise, Chelsea's good site suggestions, Micheal's extremely fun performance art, and Elin's seemingly innocent question which ended up sparking prolonged conversation and an... interesting debate. Join Jon, Jeremy, Patrick, Ralph and Socar as we get to hear what YOU are thinking.

We had a great time doing this, so if you found it interesting please join in the fun next week by calling Jon.Hodgson on Skype and leaving a message.

Subscribe for free on iTunes, or Jon will eat a bug!

This week's mighty cast of stalwart callers:
Jan Pospisil

Chelsea Conlin

Michael Jaecks

Elin Josefsson

Honorary Ninjas all!!

Show notes:

Stanley Morrison

Jason Braun


Jon Hodgson said...

Well I at least LOLed on listening.

Its been an interesting experience these 20 episodes (the ones I've been on at least), that you always come away wishing you could have said more, or been more succinct, or covered all three sides of the issues you actually believe in. But hey ho, those kinds of thoughts lead to madness and no podcast!

And they are also glum and reflective, when we should we firing party poppers in each other's faces with scant regard for health and safety! 20 Episodes! Woot! KAPOW STREAMERS IN YOUR FACE!!!


Jan said...

Damn, I sound like I just woke up.
I should've spent more time thinking of what I was going to say - put in some suggestions or tricky questions.
My "letter" was much longer and I just kinda rambled on about the various ninjas, my nerdy crush on Socar and how much I adore the show, but I decided to cut that out. Less is sometimes more than enough. ;)

I would agree that is a strange place. I'm still trying to get some critique or at least response, but I think one has to be much more involved in the community itself to get feedback. I made a Sketchbook thread and currently the ratio of my:other posts is 4:1, which is probably the opposite of what I was hoping for.

Also, DeviantArt did a funny thing recently - with the "Critique" plugin for subscribed premium members which Socar mentioned.
I guess they wanted to encourage people to actually post critique instead of the usual patting on the back present in the comments.
Well, good for them. 99% of critiques I've read so far were pats on the back. ;)

Discussion about nudity was interesting. Reminds me of an article I've read recently on DA - "what should I do to get a Daily Deviation or lots of pageviews?" The answer is simple:
- nudity. Nude photos/ pinup profiles have hundreds of thousands of pageviews and get DDs very often.
- fanart. Draw something people like - Naruto, Bleach, Ironman, Spiderman etc. Whatever's hot.

It's a generalisation for DA and there are of course the exceptions - images you'd never think people would be interested in.

I like how the discussion got from selling prints to Socar talking about prostitutes. :D

"DnD = Satan" Socar mentioned makes me think of this:

Wow, that's a long post, quickly, some ending -
Nice episode!

Jan said...

One more thing - how do I donate? The "Donate" button leads (at least for me) to PayPal. So, PayPal is fine, I have PayPal. But who do I send the donation to?

Michael Jaecks said...

But Jan, *is* less really *more*? I'm inclined to think that my own call into the podcast might disprove that rule. One thing is for certain is that I will not call again without a writer, producer, director and technical staff at my side. And a best boy. I'm quite certain much of my performance could have been saved by an experienced best boy. But, the usually articulate and flamboyant Michael Jaecks digresses...

The discussion about vs. DA really interested me a lot. As the moderator of Creature of the Week on CA (and thank you SO MUCH Jon for trying to redeem me with that plug! )I can tell you that (for me) finding any kind of notoriety on there really required finding a niche (creatures) and sort of paying only passing attention to the rest. It required focus and specialization (again, for me). And you can even switch your niche from time to time participating this activity or that forum. But there really is a LOT there. It's like a Megamall of concept art and illustration and you can't possibly shop for it all in a single lifetime. I always suggest to new people who want to get involved to try one (or more) of the weekly activities that suits them, or perhaps makes them work outside their comfort zone, if that is the sort of experience they are looking for. A lot of times you can prompt people towards giving you crits by GIVING a few out. It's surprising how well quid pro quo works on there.

I'm in agreement that DA has changed a lot and for the better. 4 years ago when I started hanging out at CA, I was sort of 'taught' to avoid DA which was thought of as just a community of amateurs, kids and general ass-patting. But I totally disagree now. There's a lot to be gained with regular participation. My own view is that it is really vast, so you have to be pretty proactive about collecting favorites and artists you want to watch... because if you don't bookmark them when they catch your eye, it may be months before you see new work from them. Eventually all the faves, watches and comments starts to gel as a little community of support around you...comments crossbreed, folks start recognizing you and your work from other forums and voila, your DA identity is born.

But as with anything, it only gives back what you put into it.

Well, anyway. That's just my two cents. Congratulations on the 20th episode! And just think, next week the podcast will be 21! Which, I guess is a more significant age in the US than the UK. Just wait till the podcast turns FORTY! That's when your knees start to ache, you start taking naps on a daily basis and new pieces of free software befuddle. ;)

Seriously Ninjas, you guys have done an AWESOME job with the show. Please keep going; you help those of us still in the early years of our careers more than you can know.

Thanks again,


Michael Jaecks said...

Ha! Jan is right. That's why you've gotten zero donations. The donate button just takes a person to the Paypal site. You log in and all you see is your own account. You have no idea where to send the money. People have probably been trying to give you mountains of cash these last twenty episodes!

Usually it should direct you (after the secure log in) to a page that tells one where you're donating the money... like an eBay check-out.

Otherwise you'll have to tell us where to send it just manually from our own accounts. But really, you'll probably get more people to do it if the Paypal site brings them to a proper Ninja Mountain page where they can make the donation. Convenience at the point of sale!

Get that fixed and I'll send you ten bucks plus a bug for Jon to eat. ;)


Ninja Mountain said...

Aha! I thought something might be wrong with the stupid Paypal button. We'll attempt to fix it very soonly, then money will come pouring in like clones from an imperial cruiser.


Ninja Mountain said...

OK!! I think I've got donations working now. Now, all we need is someone to test it... ;)

Why didn't anyone tell me it was borked?? We could be recording on a flying yacht by now!


Cacodaemonia said...

Haha! Jon, I have made you feel cheap. Take that!

I'll leave a more intelligent comments after I've finished listening to the show. :P

Ninja Mountain said...

Jan, Micheal and Chelsea - thanks for the great comments and thanks for leaving those messages! You're the greatest. Group hug!

And Micheal, get ready to send that bug to Jon by overnight delivery, because I got the stupid Donations thing fixed for sure now. :D


Michael Jaecks said...

Badda boom badda bing. I just doubled my pledge. $20... one dollar for every episode people couldn't donate money to.

Maybe no one said anything because they felt like they just couldn't figure it out. Like me with the Skype. But I am always happy to both make a fool of myself with technology as well as share what I do happen to know about it. I just happened to spend more time in the banking industry and not the broadcasting industry. :)

Cheers guys!

Joe Slucher said...

Someone mentioned occasionally AD's are turned off by seeing cheesecake work in portfolios. When I was pouring through portfolios as an AD for Dark Skull Studios, I'll admit it affected my judgement when I saw cheesecake work. Not because it was offensive or chauvinistic. Cheesecake stuff is often done in a sort of generic looking style. More importantly when I'm having to look at a ton of portfolios and the rest look like artists with a serious concentrated passion for fantasy or sci-fi and then there's someone whom has a lot of cheesecake stuff, I might be more prone to go with the person whom I know loves the genre.

I worked with Stan but I have to admit I was hesitant to contact him at first because his entire website seems to consist of artwork created for the purpose of selling prints. Part of me worried, is he going to try to put scantily clad women or dragons in here so it will sell as a print? Is he going to put the focus on a woman's butt cheeks rather than the scene,etc? Does he even work well with clients? Now, he turned out to be great to work with and helped me out in a pinch but he was probably much lower on the "go to" list than he should have been with his rendering skills.

Just my experience. So, maybe I'd just suggest keeping that work separate. I know of an absolutely amazing painter that does romance novel covers but he does it under another name. Might be a good idea to keep the cheesecake separate from your name where you do what you love.

Ninja Mountain said...

Cheers, Michael. You're like a god! A Money-God of Love!

Ninja Mountain said...

Great post, Joe. It's good to hear about that from the AD side of things.


Ralph Horsley said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I have found it very interesting going through, and reading everything you have had to say.

Joe it was especially interesting to have the comments made to me about cheesecake reinforced by your own experiences.



Michael Jaecks said...

Patrick: Just a demi-god. One of my parents was mortal. ;)

Joe Wilson said...

I'm only ten minutes into this weeks podcast and I'm already blown away. Socar doesn't drink? Hmmm, can we set aside a portion of the new donation money to entice her to? I always find Socar very entertaining to listen to, and now I desperately need to see (or hear rather) her after 1 or 2 drinks. I've found a few drinks is ideal to make fun people an absolute BLAST!

Jan said...

Remember kids, alcohol is bad! Mmkay?


Jan said...

Ralph mentioned that characters can be sexy and powerful or interesting in some other way than just by having large breasts or tentacled friends. Immediately I thought of Dan Howard's work:

He paints strong women (not bodybuilders! :D) who don't look like the typical fantasy damsels in distress or Red Sonja clones. Or eastern-influenced/manga ladies.
Actually, his style IS eastern influenced, but the ladies seem very real to me. Not realistic as "rendered to look like the reality", but like real girls look, not the usual fantasy perfection.

Cacodaemonia said...

I definitely laughed a lot while listening to this episode. :)

I was interested to hear what you all thought about different forums. I've been on dA for a little over three years, and CA for a couple, I think. I only started posting much on CA in the past few months, however. It seems like the sketchbook section gets the most views, and it's also motivating for me to feel like I need to post something there at least a couple times a week. The SB section is also where a lot of encouragement and critiquing seems to happen, so I think it makes a pretty good, low-pressure balance. I've also noticed that I've gotten a lot more constructive criticism from people on dA in the last few months, but that may be less due to dA changing and more due to me being more proactive about asking for crits.

I feel compelled to point out, however, that you guys did not actually address my question about sending physical mailers to current and potential clients. ;) I know you talked about contacting clients (emails, cold calls, etc.) in a previous podcast, but I don't recall the topic of physical mailers actually coming up. The guys on BIPT really go on about how well they work, so I just wanted to hear your opinions.

Thanks for a great show! :)


Ninja Mountain said...

Oh yeah, we completely forgot about that, didn't we? Well, as for me, I've never gotten work from cold mailers, they're expensive, and I haven't done them for years. Email is much more cost-effective, IMO, followed by going to cons and meeting with potential clients face-to-face.


Jon Hodgson said...

Aye, we addressed mail outs in episode one I think. Perhaps two. Mostly just in passing as we all fondly remembered the days of steam when you had to physically mail things to people. ;)

Since the advent of the intarwebz mail outs have never really worked for me either. These days they feel pretty expensive and inefficient when you can send out pdf newsletters to a mailing list, or simply run a well kept blog. I'm mindful of the carbon footprint of my business too, so being in the eurozone I don't like to air mail paper unnecessarily if I can avoid it.

I also have pretty bad memories of working my cruddy retail job and saving up every month to go to the copy shop and photocopy my mailshots. It was an expensive business back then (1843), and it was very hit and miss.

Something I love about the net is that you can extend an invitation to view more content at a time that suits your target, and that information is very fluid and manageable, and has a low buy-in for the viewer. So whilst its a nice thought that a postcard might end up pinned to an ADs monitor and one day they might just hire you... I dunno. I'm not convinced of the cost/benefit ratio within the markets I work in for the most part, which seem very web savvy. As well as low take up on physical mail shots, a big concern is that the digital equivalent of a physical mail-out it is designed and sent out with a few clicks. Whereas the physical stuff still has to be ordered, or domestically printed, paid for, taken delivery of, mailed back out at a cost in both monetary terms and, more significant to me, at a time cost.

However all that said, like many tactics if they work for you, then they work, you know? My experience is only that. If the guys on BIPT are getting traction with them then cool! I'll have to go listen and check out more of the context to see what they're doing.

I guess if it were something you got into doing regularly, and with some style it could be effective.

I can also think of a number of more mainstream clients on my books who would probably dig it. I'm thinking a lot of the genre/niche/game geek clients have quite well entrenched submission routes.

I do hear of more and more people using Lulu and the like to make funky books to send to ADs. I made one myself with an eye to that - but I'm yet to have a dry spell in which to send any out! Doh. (you can check it out here: Must get round to making the 2009 edition.

A lot of the time if you have really good quality work /however/ you get it to an AD it will stand you in good stead. A post card of a great image is as arresting as a jpeg sent in via email.

Equally a lot of these tactics are smaller pieces of the whole - all those little things you do which build up the critical mass which gets you work.

Gees was that long enough?

Unknown said...

Ouch. Hurting in brain from much words. Too many smart word stuff in head. Ow. Make words to stop!

Jan said...

Words of wisdom - we love it! Yes.

Ninja Mountain said...

Ah, yes indeed! That reminds me to mention: that was one of Jon's new sound sting thingies he created last week. I only got a chance to put in a couple of them (plus the new "phone-in" sound), but there will be more coming next time. He's great with those things!


Unknown said...

It felt so great, but scary to hear my own voice on the podcast. I was a bit sorry to hear that I sounded very Swedish though...

I liked your discussion about my topic, and I felt that it gave me a lot of things to think about. I want to point out that the artists I was talking about are very talented and had quality to their half-naked girls.

Tank you for the opportunity to be in the podcast. Will you give us this opportunity again, because I think I might have more questions and topics...

Ninja Mountain said...

It was great having you call in, Elin. We're going to have the message recording up for at least a few months, so please feel free to call again.

And that goes for everyone else! We'd like to make the call-ins a regular part of the show if we keep getting more.


furman said...

Great podcasts. Personally I would like to hear more about the Brandywine school which Patrick mentioned in an earlier show as well as picking everyones brains about Wyeth, St. John, Rackham etc... These guys are the forefathers of American fantasy art and we are all working in their shadows. I guess a fantasy illustrators history webisode is what I am trying to say. Think it is important for the guys ( and gals) just starting out to have a clear idea of where they are really pulling from when they are emulating the previous couple of generations.
Nathan Furman

Unknown said...

Well, I know that would be a great topic from MY standpoint. I can't talk enough about that Golden Age of illustration. I don't know if the other Ninjas are ask keen to discuss it (or hear ME going on about it). I should run that one by them and see what they thing. (Or they can chime in here as well!)

Nicole Cardiff said...

I think you're absolutely right about the subject matter winning out over its execution in terms of sales, Patrick, and I think it's one of the tensions inherent in genre business - you can opt to do more generic stuff, go to cons, and flog it to the public, or do primarily commissioned illustration that's specific to the brief and cater to art directors. I'd be curious to know which group makes more on average, since I don't know enough people in the former group to make much of an assessment.

I quit hanging out much on CA several years ago, when I realized that I got more jobs/licensed more work off of DA for far less time input, and the critiques started heading into nonexistence. IMO, it's good for occasional work promotion, but that's about it.

Jon Hodgson said...

I feel much the same about prints Nicole. I've always been intrigued by people who make a living from prints. I've personally found it a fair pocket money sideline, but the revenue on commercial commissions has always been larger and more profitable. And that's kept commissions as my main focus.

Again with the waffle, but the time and materials outlay on prints, or else the loss of revenue if you get someone else to do it seems limiting.

I also find that the kind of promo one does to get commission work can lead to several gigs which snowball. I haven't felt the same way about promoting print sales. But then I know I've never really commited to it in full, so with development and more targeted stock perhaps it could work far better.

Anyone out there making a majority of their (full time?) living from prints?

Spencer G said...

I have to thank Chels for the plug of the Monkeyslunch Forums. We're really trying to create a friendly environment for people where you can receive helpful feedback and not just pats on the back or flames.

We're slowly growing in size, and whenever myself and a couple other programmers and designers get the time we are working on making things better, and on a new design.

Post your work, chat, get crits, post jobs, you know how it works!

Check us out at:
Mmm... bananas.

Great podcast, guys! It was actually Chels again that turned me onto Ninja Mountain, so she's been doing great promoting all around. I'd really recommend checking out her work, she gets better every time I see something she does.

Chels and I on DA:

Cacodaemonia said...

I was glad to hear your thoughts on self-promotion, Jon! Thanks. :)

Spencer, you flatter me! ;)

Erika "Thrivis" Harm said...

I think it was this episode where Socar talked about a website that has a random phrase or prompt and folks draw it. What was that website?

Broken pencil or something?

Anonymous said...

I think I was talking about the Daily Sketch Group on CA--don't know if they have it any more, as it was YEARS ago when I used to participate.

The speedpainting threads on Sijun used to be awesome, too...but is Sijun even still there? Ha, ha. Man, I am SO out of the loop.

Ninja Mountain said...

I wonder if you were thinking of the one Jeremy mentioned a few months back:

Ninja Mountain said...

PS - thanks Spencer!!

Erika "Thrivis" Harm said...

LOL I listened back when I had a free minute - Broken Picture Telephone!

It takes a while to load though.

Jaybird said...

(Cross-posted on and NM)

The anticipation was killing me, so I cheated and skipped ahead to number 20!

It was awesome to be called out within the first scant minutes of the show. :D Even though she was being sardonic, I would like to point out to Socar that I professed an appreciation for her work in the NM threads looooong before the topic of swearing came up. I've admired her unique style for years (though it's nothing I'm interested in owning, so she wins the challenge). Even when the topic of language in the podcast did come up, I don't believe that I named her specifically. She must be getting more comfortable with the podcasts though, as I think the only F-bomb she dropped was the one she purposely placed at the end of her F-52 joke.

My previous opinions on the cleanliness of dialogue were not meant as a personal attack on her or anyone else, nor am I a prude. ATOM or Purdy could each supply a stack of my emails which are slathered with four-letter frosting. I am very liberal with the F-bomb and am quite creative in using various other euphemisms to express my disdain or excitement on a certain topic. The difference is that those are private correspondences and not a public forum.

Specifically, a stray F-bomb or five sprinkled throughout the episode doesn't even register. Hell, I'd even go so far as to say it lends some casual flavor. But when the dialogue breaks down into a line of *bleeps* straight out of an Eddie Murphy HBO special, or a suggestion to Jeremy of "up your ass with a broken glass", I stand by my opinion that it debases the quality of the programming.

As stated previously, I tune in to be inspired by the joviality, the camaraderie and the very insightful professional anecdotes. I'll continue to tune in regardless. Unless you all start broadcasting in Portuguese or something - I don't have time to learn a new language.

On to one of the topics from episode 20: Reputation

I'm friends with one of the bigger TSR artists from the 1980's, and I was very surprised to learn that he does a lot of historical work for various publishers who are located in America's "bible belt". The work he does for them is under a pseudonym, as he's concerned that they would stop hiring him if they ever found out about his work with a "satanic" game like D&D.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the response, Jay!

I'd say that since we are all new to this crazy world of podcasting, we're sort of learning about it as we go. Is it radio? Not really, as it's a far more self-selecting audience. Is it a blog? No, because it's much more off-the-cuff and improvised. Is it simply conversation - no again, as it's too directed.

So I guess we're figuring out what both we and the listenership both wants and needs in our shows. Obviously we can't stifle the good times (and no one wants us to) but also we don't want to make people so uncomfortable they can't listen. So it's probably bound to remain a bit of a push and pull.

As Socar mentioned, we're finding our own comfort zone as we continue, and that's a good thing.

Now, here's a part that does NOT apply to you, Jaybird, but I feel I should bring up based on what I just said:

I will point out that while I mentioned the "comfort" of the listeners - I DO NOT think we will ever worry about "offensive" language or thought. That is, none of us really minds mentioning things that may, on occasion, offend some listeners as long as we think it's germane to the conversation. We have no responsibility to the lowest common denominator, only to our integrity. Such as it is!

And finally: Thanks for sharing that story about the TSR artist! I think it jibes with some things I've heard over the years, and also really fits in with what we were discussing in an interesting AND disturbing way.

Jaybird said...

Absolutely, Patrick.

I really don't think there's a way for 4-6 creative, intelligent people to express their opinions off-the-cuff and not have it rub someone the wrong way. Especially on such passionate and subjective topics as fantasy fandom and art. Censoring the expression of those views and opinions would really be counterproductive to the entire point of the program.

Socar's admission that she swears when she's nervous is completely valid as well. It's been great to hear all of you warm up to the forum as you hit your comfortable stride. It's also nice when you're not afraid to voice contrary opinions to one another - there seemed to be a good deal of that in episode 20, but it always remains civil and insightful.

I'm a huge fan, as always.

Now I just need to carve out the time to give #19 a proper listen. I burned it to a CD in hopes of giving it a listen on my way out to a week-long camping trip, but the road noise in my Jeep Wrangler is terrible. I had to abandon the effort during Jon's great interview with Ben; If I cranked the volume high enough (possibly to eleven) to understand Jon's lilting tones, I'd get my ears blown out any time Ben came back with a response. Only headphones (or a quiter ride) will do them justice.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Jaybird, hope you realised I was kidding, with the on-air callout. I actually had not read any of the threads, at the time, and only had heard of your comment second-hand. So, I thought I'd have a little fun with it. (In fact, I presumed you were probably kidding, as well--apparently not, hm?)

A lot of byplay between us doesn't make it to air--in fact, I had presumed the "up the arse with a broken glass" line would not. Ha, ha.

But, yeah, it's a lot easier not to use the F word, or other inappropriate material, when feeling more comfortable with the situation.

Jaybird said...

Cheers for the reply, Socar.

I definitely didn't mean it as a personal slight, so hopefully you didn't take it that way. I guess the context of my original posting does come off as snide.

A really lame example and rationalization for me is that Most Haunted ghost hunting show on the Travel Channel. There was so much screaming and bleeping in every episode that it detracted, for me, from the prescribed flow and comprehensiveness of their intended purpose. Eventually, I just stopped watching as the signal got lost in the noise.

Granted, this is a different situation. The podcast contains much more meritorious and pertinent information than some cheesy cable show. All the same, I found myself distracted in a similar way by the tangential raucousness. That is what elicited my initial call for decorum. You lot have so many great things to say and to share that I hate missing any of it.

I hadn't thought of the point of post-production editing, or the fact that you are all jawing for much longer than the finished product. That's a very good thing to keep in mind.

On a personal level, I have the opposite reaction to comfort and familiarity. Once I'm settled in is when the filth really starts to fly (poor ATOM)!

At any rate, I hope no harm was done. The podcasts are great and I'll continue tuning in religiously.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think maybe my reaction to nerves is weird; it's like my brain/mouth filter takes a leave of absence, and any silly or rude thing that happens to pop into my head jumps out onto the podcast. But, with getting used to the format, and remembering to tell Patrick, when I've said something I don't think should be on there, things are improving. ;-)

I really will get around to reading the threads eventually. I forgot my login information for there, so I haven't visited in a while.

Char Reed said...

I totally agree with you guys about, it just seems too big and crowded. I agree with Socar, it is hard to get critique. Unless you have a very popular sketchbook on the Sketchbook forums, then it's almost impossible to get a comment on it, it just gets buried as soon as you post. I just find forums in general hard to keep up with, it's hard to find the time to post to it as easily as it's your blog.

I really like It's very picture-centric, which as a visual person, is a great thing. Also so many industry professionals are there, which is just insane since I never really hear people talk about it. Here's my page there-

You guys really made me laugh out loud in this episode. Curse away Socar! It's hilarious ;D