In Toronto & on deviantART
No better living functioning evolving example of the new pattern in the creation, dissemination and education in the visual arts can be found than Imaginism Studios, the online brainchild of artists Bobby Chiu & Kei Acedera. Established in Toronto in 2005, the studio has specialized in pre-production character and concept design for film, TV, gaming, and publishing. As creators of some of the most wildly creative and whimsical images ever presented on deviantART, this artistic couple has built an international fan base independent of their contracted projects. They have understood and utilized the new technologies and “ecology” of the worldwide web arts community in ways other artists are just now waking up to and becoming aware of.
Becoming part of the deviantART community a year or two after we started Imaginism Studios, we posted one image every day for about a year and through that kind of consistency and prolificacy, we were able to attract not just an amazing fan base but directors and producers as well. Our website, Imaginism Studios, helps as well but the best way to get your art in front of people is to go to places where a lot of people already are, and there has been no better forum for this then deviantART. We have no doubt that the deviantART community has always played a huge part in helping us gain the exposure that we've built up over the years.”
It was Bobby and Kei’s dream to work on Hollywood movies, but they balked at moving to L.A. from their home and families in Toronto, which the Old School dinosaurs told them was essential to succeed. They were also told they’d need to hire a Hollywood agent. They decided to do neither and instead depend on the power of the Internet information revolution. They chose wisely.
Imaginism is currently giving back to the arts community with the introduction of their Schoolism project, an online arts education site that features cutting edge artists and other experts from the vast array of arts professions who share their special knowledge, techniques and advice on how to get established in the arts industry today.
“Art has always been about sharing,”
says, Bobby Chiu.
I believe art is a conversation going on for thousands of years in which one person discovers one thing, passes it on to another, who passes it on to many more. Now, with art forums that have millions of members, we are able to contribute to that ‘conversation of art’ in a much more meaningful way. People who love to share and spread their knowledge are the ones who will be remembered the longest and make the biggest impact in their field, whether it’s art or something else.”
Imaginism’s latest project is Niko and the Sword of Light, the animated comic book, available on Android that has zoomed to #1 on iPad in 21 countries including USA, UK, China, India & Brazil in the “Kids ages 9-11” category.
So what lies in the future for these artists already inhabiting the new modules and avenues to success?
I constantly visualize how I want my future to be.
Once I have a good idea, I'll start to visualize a plan of how to get there. In five years, I see Imaginism doing more movie projects as well as independent projects. I hope to add a couple more great artists to our roster. And through Schoolism, I hope to help affect many more artists in positive ways, starting with online education, our live workshops, and through our in-house workshops.”
The visual arts will never die so long as we continue to visualize. Art will always be our visualized future, alive in the here and now, a resonating menu of our endless possibilities.
Interview with Bobby Chiu & Kei Acedera
How has your participation in the deviantART community influenced your path professionally, personally, and artistically?
by Kei Acedera
Authentic citizenship is a term that keeps coming up in community discussions about the future of online communities of artists. How would you define authentic citizenship in the deviantART community? What might be the crucial tip for young artist just beginning their journey?
I feel that authentic citizenship means that you give back to the community in some way. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to leave genuine and sincere comments of encouragement on other people’s art, and constructive and thoughtful suggestions for improvement. You can also participate in groups. Personally, I like to write helpful tips in my journals or articles about my thoughts and philosophies related to being an artist.
Posting your art on deviantART is great but I think true, authentic citizenship means genuinely trying to get to know people or do things to help others in the community.
DeviantART has helped and influenced our lives in so many positive ways. When Kei Acedera and I made our deviantART account (imaginism), we were able to create a stage from which our art could be seen by anybody from anywhere. Out of all the social media streams, deviantART is also where we have the most followers and which has allowed us to attract jobs and fans from all over the world. Furthermore, deviantART has been a wonderful tool with which we are able to meet new artists on a personal level.
While people might not know us personally, they often do know of our deviantART account, so when we meet in person, there is this wonderful instant connection that allows us to talk to each other with familiarity, building instant friendships. Artistically, contributing to the community always nets wonderful suggestions and ideas from other deviantART members that we might not have thought of otherwise. And of course, encouraging words from the community always help to inspire and motivate us to keep going and post more art.
In our conversation you brought up the fact that online communication and the deviantART community specifically has helped you to be near your family and still follow your dreams to your hearts content. Can you talk a bit about the career choice you made to stay near your roots?
When we first started Imaginism Studios, many people had their doubts. We were told that, if we wanted to work on Hollywood movies, we would naturally have to move to California. Now, California is a great place but we wanted to stay close to our family and friends here in Toronto; we didn’t want to move anywhere. So people told us, “Well, you'll have to get a Hollywood agent then.” And we said, no, we're going to use the power of the internet to attract our clients. Again, we were met with a lot of skepticism.
(Remember that this was back in 2005. To give this some context, Facebook was founded in 2004 and only went worldwide in 2005, YouTube was founded in 2005, and Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist until 2006.)
We didn’t join the deviantART community until a year or two after we started Imaginism Studios, so by the time we did, we had a lot of art to post. We posted one image every day for about a year and through that kind of consistency and prolificacy, we were able to attract not just an amazing fan base but directors and producers as well. Our website, imaginismstudios.com, helps as well but the best way to get your art in front of people is to go to places where a lot of people already are, and there has been no better forum for this then deviantART. We have no doubt that the deviantART community has always played a huge part in helping us gain the exposure that we've built up over the years.
Your "Schoolism"Enterprise keeps growing. Why is that the most artistically creative people seem to always be the forefront of sharing and spreading their knowledge of craft with newcomers to art?
For me, big part of art has always been about sharing; I believe this is a conversation has been going on for thousands of years in which one person discovers one thing, passes it on to another, who passes it on to many more. Now, with art forums that have millions of members, we are able to contribute to that "conversation of art" in a much more meaningful way. If you keep your techniques to yourself and never share any of that knowledge, you're not contributing to this "conversation", and what you've learned will mean much less once you're gone. I think the people who love to share and spread their knowledge are the ones who will be remembered the longest and have made the biggest impact in their field, whether it’s art or something else.
The masterful level of your artworks elevates the value of moments of whimsy, capturing the most basic nugget of an artist's creativity at inception. Is the stuff of daydreams as valid a subject as any other more traditional visions?
I think painting from imagination is more of a valid subject matter than traditional. Everybody knows or can be shown what life looks like but nobody can really see your ideas or your imagination unless you created it and put it down on paper or the screen.
Are you just so naturally funny that the ideas from your creatures flowed easily. Is there never a danger of an element of "force playfulness?"
As a kid, I loved to draw things that made others laugh; I guess it has followed me into my professional work as well from time to time.
by Kei Acedera
You journaled that life and career path "visualization" should be a course taught in art schools. Can you talk a bit about that and where do you see "Imaginism" in five years?
The ability to "visualize" is the most powerful way in which to think. It’s also a skill that you can strengthen. As an artist, I am constantly exercising my ability to visualize: I would try to visualize the creature or the film before sketching it out. I would often visualize the next moves in my painting and see if I like them or not; if I do, I will proceed to paint them down.
I also constantly visualize how I want my future to be. Once I have a good idea, I'll start to visualize a plan of how I got there. Of course nothing goes perfectly to plan but at least this way I have a destination in mind. In five years, I see Imaginism doing more movie projects as well as independent projects. I would hope that in five years, we would be able to add a couple more great artists to our roster. And through Schoolism, I hope to help affect many more artists in positive ways, starting with online education, our live workshops, and through our in-house workshops.
Do you see online arts education, like "Schoolism" filling the gap between prohibitively expensive art schools and those artists forced to being self taught?
Wherever there is a demand, someone somewhere will inevitably fill it—that is what I think Schoolism.com has done. The whole reason we built Schoolism in the first place was because WE wanted to know how those artists did all those wonderful things that we admired only in books and on the Internet. Living in Toronto, the best way we could do this was to ask the teachers we wanted to learn from to teach over the Internet. When artists learn from others that are really at the forefront of the evolutionary wave of art, it's a different experience from studying at a traditional art school. Not only are we much more motivated when we learn from people that we greatly admire but we are learning the most advanced, the most innovative ideas out there from the people that are doing the work that we want to do. People that knew me as a student know that my level of painting really started to excel after I built Schoolism and started to learn from the various Schoolism teachers myself. For people that need the environment of school and classmates to motivate them, the experience of a great college is hard to replace. For those artists that are very self-motivated and self-disciplined, online learning is comparatively inexpensive and a more effective tool with which to develop top-notch skills, especially for people that have busy schedules.
The major animation studios have come up with some interesting fantasy characters in recent animated films, but all have been well within children's cartoonish standards. You see movement towards darker or more intense animated creature features featuring work like yours?
Anything is possible. The line between animation and live-action will start to blur I think. With the main themes this decade being fantasy and sci-fi films, I think there is a really good chance of seeing films branch out into all sorts of innovative styles and stories that we've never seen before.
What's the secret to remaining friends and artistic collaborators and business partners? These usually tend to be mutually exclusive categories.
Believe in "win-win scenarios" and try to be a good person. Make sure that the friends you collaborate with have the skills you need for the project at hand. Stay humble, and learn to communicate well, especially with those that have trouble communicating.
Kei Acedera’s Interview
How excited are you about the “Niko” animated comic book? What sort of response are you getting from your longtime fans?
I’m Very thrilled! And also relieved that this project is getting a lot of great response not only from artists but a wider audience of app lovers too. We’re very happy and grateful of all the support from our fans.
After working on concepts for other artists like Tim Burton, what’s it like fully taking over all the creative reins on your own project?
It’s liberating, and at the same time very difficult because independent projects require even more hard work and focus. No one will tell you what looks right or wrong, or what should be in a shot…it’s total freedom so you have to keep organized and have a good clear idea of the kind of product you want to make. So having the years of experience of being independent artists helped a lot for us.
What’s the division of labor between you and bobby? Is the original story concept a mutual imagining or is one of you better at conceptual creativity and the other at execution of your vision?
The initial story was by Bobby, which was ALOT darker in theme. My part was mostly in the color scripting and some character designs. The 4 of us, (Bobby, Jim Bryson, Adam Jeffcoat and I) bounced off many ideas for the story together in the beginning, but the credit in the end goes to Jim and Adam who took charge in further developing Niko’s story. What you see in the app is really a (middle) portion of a bigger story.
Is creative partnership with someone as close as a spouse an overall positive advantage to each of you as artists?
I think it depends on the relationship and personality of the people involved. I believe good communication is key in any partnership. You need to be thoughtful in your words and be a good listener to understand what the other person’s points are, because everyone has their own perspective. Then from there you can have a better sense of which next step to take. I’m very lucky to find someone I love to work with and live with.
When did you first know you wanted to be a creative artist?
I always knew I was going to be some sort of artist since I was 2, but not exactly sure what kind. I was always into many things: painting, sculpting, dancing, music even sports. But what I was sure of is that I was very creative with my ideas and resourceful. I still think I’m still discovering the kind of artist I want to be, and I know it’ll keep changing.
When did you first know you were going to be able to achieve your dream of being a creative artist?
Hmm..I’m not really sure when I knew because I didn’t really think of it. I just kept doing art and focused on creating and improving.
Do you have any ultimate goal or project as an artist, either independently or in collaboration with team Imaginism?
Yes. Many. But ultimately they’re all about creating good art with meaning, and that can inspire.
What do you think of a young artist’s chances of being successful today, in light of tech advances and arts communities? Do the new opportunities outweigh the traditional negatives of pursuing a career in art?
I think the chances are greater (for independent artists). There are so many more avenues for artists today, alot of new ‘space’ to conquer and yet to be created. I know many artists that make a good living just from selling prints and other products because of the internet and tech like 3d printing, etc… Yes, there is way more competition so it’s important to know who your audience is, and build on that.
In the realm of entertainment art, you have to show what your passion is and do it well with a twist that will make your work unique, and help you stand out from an overwhelming pool of talent out there.
Deviants to Follow
“Sam Nielson's deviantART page is not only filled with great art but many of his posts are quite educational.”
“This Puerto Rican artist has such passion for painting, we feel he's someone to look out for.”
“Don't know too much about this wonderful French artist but he has such an appealing style. Definitely worth a watch.”
“Alexandre Diboine is another French artist that has a wonderful sense of style and design. Refreshing ideas as well!”
“Libz is a Brazilian artist that has such lovely appeal to her very cute and beautiful works. Just great!”
The CAVE Conference is an exciting, new conference hosted by Autodesk, seeking to bring together artists, designers, and storytellers to explore and celebrate the fundamental spirit that traverses creative domains and disciplines. December 1st offers a Welcome Mixer at TAO Nightclub, while December 2nd delivers a full day of keynote speeches, seminars, and networking sessions from world-renowned artists and designers sharing their methods and sources of creativity.
Las Vegas, NV
Questions For the Reader
- 1How do you feel about the revolutionary changes that are happening in prospects for careers in the arts—in the short term? In the long term?
- 4What have been your experiences, both positive and negative, in your attempts to preserve your individuality and independence as an artist?
- 2Have you taken advantage of online arts education services like “Schoolism” and if so, would you recommend other aspiring (or expanding) artists try it?
- 5Is the expression of your artistic vision the driving force behind your art?
- 3As an artist, do you concentrate on your current projects solely, or do you try to visualize where it is you want to be—artistically, professionally and spiritually—in the near future and beyond?