Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote in crowdfunding,
Ellen Million

Sketch Fest at one year...

What is Sketch Fest?

Sketch Fest involves artists from all over the world, working on a pool of prompts and ideas for up to - but no more than! - one hour an any given sketch. For 24 hours, we creatively jam, share our results with each other, and sell our work. Artists can work in any media, for any part of the 24 hours, on any of the prompts, and are welcome to sell or crowdfund their work themselves, or donate them to the Sketch Fest project to fund our website improvements.

A little complete history

Sketch Fest sprouted from Torn World's Muse Fusions, which were inspired by ysabetwordsmith's Poetry Fishbowls, which were spawned by Harlan Ellison's Stories Under Glass.

Our first event was hosted at livejournal, about a year ago on March 26th, 2010. 20 people left prompts, between 1 and about dozen apiece, 19 artists participated with sketches. It ran for 12 hours, and about 75 sketches were posted. I say 'about' because it was spread out over 239 comments, and very chaotic, indeed.

The next fest was cancelled, because I went in for abdominal surgery on the day it was scheduled.

We made up for it with the next one (May 2010)! Before the event, I asked for donations to build an uploading form, and received them from selinafenech, draken_art and Jeffrey! It was very bare-bones, nothing fancy, just a way to upload pictures to my server so they could be posted in the comments at the livejournal post. (I also put together a post with recommendations for artists looking to sell their Sketch Fest artwork!)

For Sketch Fest #3 (June 2010), I got enough donations to put together a basic database that generated a 'wall' of thumbnails of all the sketches we made. See the original Sketch Fest / Sketch Fest #3 at the new site

For Sketch Fest #4 (July 2010), we had an actual site. It was still pretty ugly (no background, no style), and pretty simple, but it let people leave prompts in the database and post work attached to those prompts, as well as let artists 'claim' prompts (so artists could see what other artists were working on), and comment on artwork. The countdown feature was particularly appreciated. I also added a feature that let artists donate the original of their sketch to support more features for the site. Sketch Fest #4

For Sketch Fest #5 (August 2010), we had enough donations to add email alerts - folks who left prompts could (optionally) get notification when someone claimed their prompt, and again when the artist uploaded the sketch. Registration was made possible, and very basic artist pages were built. Sketch Fest #5

Sketch Fest #6 (September 2010) got us improvements to the system that prevented file overwrites, a navigation header (because the browsing to that point had been pretty wretched!), artists pages showed which prompts they'd claimed, next and previous thumbnails on the artwork, and an enlarged comment box. Sketch Fest #6

For Sketch Fest #7 (October 2010), I made several shiny improvements that I do not seem to have specific notes for. Sketch Fest #7

There was no Sketch Fest in November, because so many of us were doing NaNoWriMo.

For Sketch Fest #8 (December 2010), we got counting tools that showed how many folks participated each time, and added random to the way you could sort prompts, and better uploading tools, plus artists could edit their work and upload pieces that they'd finished from sketches they started at a fest. Sketch Fest #8

For Sketch Fest #9 (January 2011), April Vansickle put some CSS together to take the site from its still-ugly no-style state to the sleek, lovely look it has now. Registered users could now edit their accounts, and artist pages showed webpage links and short bios. I gave folks a way to log out, and a link to their own page. You could also comment on a prompt with or without claiming it. And the email notifications became more useful and less vague. Sketch Fest #9

For Sketch Fest #10 (January 2011), I tackled the slow-loading prompts page problem - we were getting so many prompts that the page took a ridiculous amount of time to download. I failed to solve the problem before that Sketch Fest, but wrestled it into shape soon after. At the close of this fest, I opened up nominations for prizes in a few categories - winners in a few specific categories got a free pack of blank ACEO cards. Sketch Fest #10

Prizes continued through Sketch Fest #11, which was greatly improved by the new prompts page. Additionally, I rewarded supporters by adding a star by their name (so artists knew which prompts came from folks who made Sketch Fest possible!) and allowing them 15 prompts, as opposed to just 5. I also added the ability to claim work from older Sketch Fests (which enabled artists to edit them and add finished work for them), and turned the prompt into a link so you could easily browse to see the other pieces created for a prompt. The prizes for this Sketch Fest included 'best prompt', and a 'Rock Star of Year One,' which went to Jenny Heidewald, who had participated in every singe one, created a whooping 38 pieces for a single sketch fest, and donated nearly all of her pieces to fund the site, as well as commenting enthusiastically and helping me find bugs in the updates. Sketch Fest #11

In short? It's been a wild first year, and we've come a long, long way.

Where are we going?

Where are we going for our second year? Already, the site got a bit of a brush up for Sketch Fest #12 - some of it was backend work improving the buying process (so pieces couldn't accidentally be bought more than once, as was starting to happen...), also, artists got a link directly to their claims, and there were some browsing improvements. A new landing page is under review, and a 'quick snag' method of claiming available artwork has been requested.

Other things I'd like to see include comment threading, and links on comments, more options for artists when uploading their work (including being able to flag ACEOs, and add keywords, and add a link to buy off-site), and a way to allow partial donations, where the artist can take a 'cut' of the donation - we're discussing that last feature in my journal here. I'd also like to discuss opening the project to other forms of art, such as writing (still bound by the one-hour limit!).

Spawning out of the partial funding discussion is some talk about a cross-platform credits feature I would very much like to develop across my network of sites. One of the bummers of micro-funding things is that so much gets lost in the transfer - the ones really making out are services like Paypal, who take a big cut from small payments. I would very much like to set it up so that people can sell their artwork done through Sketch Fest, get some percentage of the sale back in credits (up to 90%, they set their rate), and use those credits to tip writers and artists at EMG-Zine or Torn World, or the critics at Fantastic Portfolios, as well as have the option to buy things or cash out their credits.

I've worked on ambitious projects a lot over the years (a LOT *shakes cane*), and often find that I come out at the end with things that are close to what I had in mind, but won't pay off for years and years (if they ever do!). Sketch Fest is vastly different in that it was entirely front-funded - and has exceeded my vision. I was paid professional programming rates at every step of the way to create exactly what was needed and requested. The project itself makes me wildly happy because it's getting people to do art, and love doing it again. I've gotten a lot of feedback from people who rediscovered their muses through Sketch Fest, and that's the very best part of the project.

I welcome input, ideas, and suggestions! Come and play at Sketch Fest #13 (lucky 13!) on April 22-23, noon to noon Alaska time.

ETA: Also, I've got a poll up now looking at new features, timing and other bits and bobs: http://ellenmillion.livejournal.com/1178349.html
Tags: art, community, cyberfunded creativity, cyberspace theory, discussion, economics, fishbowl, networking, news

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