It’s been ten years since I posted my first video on YouTube. It came out of a moment when I was in a school classroom. The bell rang just as I was about to show the class how to draw The Ginger Ninja, the hero of the same-named book. I asked the teacher if their smart board was connected to the internet. Unusually, for those days, it was.
I told the children I’d make a video for them so they could watch how to draw the character I’d been telling them about, in their own time.
I had an old, mini DV, iMovie and a computer just powerful enough to work it all. I put the camera tripod on my desk and drew in the cramped space underneath. It was so dark. I sellotaped some lights onto the tripod – in my second video, they fell off just before the end! You can still see the video here.
I learned so much about cameras and lighting and editing after that.
My original intention was to make videos about my books, but I was soon asked how to draw different things – my drawing channel took off.
Soon I was a Youtube Partner and in 2011, I won the YouTube NextUp Europe award. I then began the DrawStuffRealEasy channel, to try and make short snappy , how-to-draw videos, almost as a split-test, to see which was best, a long or short video – they turned out to have almost exactly the same results.
I’ve made over 1500 drawing videos since then. I’ve added advice for creatives, how to illustrate and video blogs. I’ve done Christmas videos, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Talking to my subscribers everyday has opened my eyes to differences and similarities of cultures around the world and the characteristics of different interest groups. I stopped making car videos – they encouraged a lot of trolling – airplanes people are quite different!
Watching that first video again, I realise that I am still preaching the very same message. Practice, practice, practice – and still teaching the same basic drawing principles.
Meanwhile Brexit and the Global Financial Crash has been and gone, Amazon and Trump have taken over, and the world of children’s books has changed dramatically.
Recently, my statistics have been telling me that my most loyal subscribers are mostly adults. That’s not a problem in itself, but they are not so interested in my children’s books. I’ve found myself being split more and more between two audiences.
I felt I was faced with a choice between being a drawing teacher or a children’s author. Being both is exhausting and unsustainable.
I actually set up a website and systems to become a full-time online drawing teacher. I put a huge amount of thought into the marketing and direction of it.
I was about to press the button and say goodbye to my old career, when I took a moment to have a final think. My eye was caught by a leaflet I’d posted on my studio wall. It was for last year’s Robot Exhibition at the Science Museum.
“I was going to write a robot story,” I told myself. “And then a bunch of other, unwritten stories jumped into my head, “You haven’t written us either!” they clamoured.
I took the day off to think. Then the week off to think. Then I realised my YouTube tenth anniversary was coming up and that really got me thinking.
I make children’s books. That’s what I do. I think up ideas, write the stories and illustrate them. That’s what I do.
YouTube is now awash with drawing teachers. Many are better drawers than I am, and many are better teachers.
My work as a drawing teacher is done.
Now it’s time to get back to telling stories in words and pictures. I’m not giving up YouTube – Youtube is a great love of mine and it’s ingrained in my life now, but my videos will be about my work and my life as a children’s author.
I will continue sketching, as that is the heart and powerhouse of illustration, I’ll be telling stories, going places and sharing my thoughts and ideas as well as introducing you to old and new stories and characters.
I am a children’s author. It’s what I do and I hope you will enjoy the new direction of the channel.
music by http://www.youtube.com/cleffernotes