25: Building a Mobile Art Business with Blue Collar Boneyard

25: Building a Mobile Art Business with Blue Collar Boneyard

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Hannah, otherwise known as Blue Collar Boneyard, joins me today to talk about locally sourced merchandise, developing a traveling art gallery, and all things Clip Studio Paint.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:

A Conversation with Blue Collar Boneyard

Chain Assembly: Welcome to another podcast episode. I am trying to try out different ways to intro this because I have no idea what feels natural to me. But one thing I can tell you is that I'm excited to have Hannah of Blue Collar, sorry, Hannah of Blue Collar Boneyard from Orlando with me on the podcast. I was in a pretty big art event last Sunday. Art. Shout out to Ellen Chastain from episode four, I want to say. She's the organizer of it. And when I finished setting up, I walked around to see what kind of other artists were there. And I was blown away by the presentation that Hannah of Blue Collar Boneyard had. So Hannah, thank you so much for taking time to talk to me. 

Blue Collar Boneyard: Oh, thank you so much for having me. 

CA: So just for the listeners, I would describe your art style as...Slavic folklore. At least that's kind of the feel I get for it, like a children's book from the mid to late 80s, designed in Eastern Europe. Very symmetrical, very linework heavy, very clean, and very kind of graphic. Almost Art Nouveau, but more rustic.

BCB: I absolutely love that summary. I've always, the terms I've usually used have been spooky Alphonse Mucha. And I think that if you've seen Art Nouveau, you've seen Alphonse Mucha. But he, you know, he never drew possums. So that's one way I tend to differentiate myself. 

CA: OK, so if you were to describe how, say you're at a party, you meet someone and they say, so what do you do? How would you describe your art business? 

BCB: OK, well, I I think the most succinct way to describe what I do is that I am a digital illustrator who works with small media, usually in the realms of self-publishing, as well as small local art events. And I do work that is inspired very heavily by folklore, by nature, and by the Art Nouveau illustrators of the past. 

CA: Okay. So I guess the output of your business at this point is primarily prints, I would assume. 

BCB: Yeah, mostly, you know, prints and wall art and things of that nature, aside from the publishing side of it, I also do, I lean a little bit into the merchandise side of things, but I do try to create things that are utilitarian in nature, if that makes sense. 

CA: Yeah, when I saw your booth, it was, from what I recall, mostly prints of different sizes, large framed ones, smaller paper ones, or just paper ones. And then I guess you also had some stickers, right? 

BCB: Oh yeah, I mean, for Art Crawl especially, it is a very art focused festival. It's not a local craft fair where you're gonna find people making candles or selling jewelry. It is a, you know, very much an art focused event. And so that's...definitely what I wanted to bring to the table for that event. 

CA: Yeah, that's a good point. Cause like my setup was definitely different than it would be at say the punk rock flea market. So, um, so tell me a bit about, um, I guess at what point, so, uh, according to the form you filled out, you have been in business since 2018, if that is the birth of the brand you created, the blue collar, um, sorry, the blue collar bone yard. That started in 2018. At what point in his life did you say, I'm going to do an event and I'm going to get a tent. I'm going to get a table and I'm going to sell my shit. 

BCB: Well, that was sort of the intent with the creation of the business. And it took a lot of prep and a lot of research, but I finally did my first event in 2019 with the first, the first annual central Florida Comic Con, which. Coincidentally also took place in Lakeland, just like the punk rock flea market and the art crawl. And that was the first year of that convention. And it was also my first time selling my work at an event. Okay. 

CA: And how did that go for you? I asked that because I did a Comic-Con once and it was a complete waste of time. I was unhappy the entire weekend. 

BCB: You know, all things considered, especially considering it being my first show as well as the first year of that con in particular, I think it went really well. Ben Penrod is the organizer of that event and it was very well put together. It was organized and I really felt at ease and I did all right. I met a lot of really amazing people and it was a great time. 

CA: Okay. So the experience I had was Tampa Bay Comic Con. And it was Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It was, I want to say like, I was there from like eight to six each day. And I think I paid like $350 for a small table. 

BCB: Oh, bless your heart. 

CA: And like the biggest takeaway I had from that was. People only want to buy characters and art that they recognize at a comic.Nobody wants anything original.

BCB: Yeah. That is sort of a fine line you have to walk when you're doing conventions. And I'm fortunate in that a lot of my work does, if you dip into folklore, you oftentimes dip into fantasy. And so I have a dragon or two at my table. And I fit in very well with sort of the tabletop RPG crowd, the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, the Lord of the Rings crowd. And so I can usually wedge myself into any given Comic-Con, even if I don't, you know, I've never drawn Spider-Man in my life. 

CA: Well, so I've also done a board game convention specifically, I've done Origins, and it was a way more welcoming and excited crowd to see things that they hadn't seen before. And I think that's really kind of the delineation that I discovered. If you're at a board game convention, if you're at a tarot convention, at least those are the things I've been to, people want to find something new. If you're at a Comic-Con specifically, they don't want something new. They want a different take on something that they're already familiar with, but they're not really open to coming home with something that they are, that is completely new to them. So at least that's the takeaway I had.

BCB: Oh no, I completely agree. And I think that is one thing that I absolutely adore about board gaming conventions, tabletop gaming conventions, because it is a place where small press gathers, it is a place where everyone's a creator and everyone is excited to see new things and to see what other people are coming up with. And I think it's a really great place to get your foot in the door 

CA: Very well said, thank you. Yeah, they do really tend to kind of nurture creation. I've, I've left each one of those events just excited to create new things. And I had the opposite feeling leaving the comic con that I've ended at. I was mad at the things I had created, because none of them got sold. So let's wind it back then. So you started off with the idea of vending from the beginning and your first event was that Central Florida Comic-Con. What kind of products did you bring to that initial event? 

BCB: It was a pretty limited selection, but I had prints. I had, and for the most part, I had things that were relatively low cost for me to produce at that time, because I didn't have money coming in from this business yet. And so all the money that was going into it, was coming out of my pocket. It was coming from my day job. I believe I was working in custom picture framing at the time, which if you've ever done that, you know it does not pay. So I believe I had prints, I had stickers, I had bookmarks, which you can get a great number of bookmarks made very cheaply. And you can sell them for about a buck. That's roughly about that's as much as anyone's going to be willing to pay for a bookmark made of paper. But if you created it for about 20 cents, you're making a little bit off of it. And I think I did have journals at that first con, but I had maybe a half dozen of them. And I literally was pasting prints of my work onto pre-made journals as a way of making a custom product.

CA: Okay, well that's some good ingenuity there. But I guess since then, have you, I want to say, up your merch game, maybe? 

BCB: I believe I have. And it's taken, it has taken a lot of research, looking at different vendors, ordering a lot of samples. I have drawers of samples from, you know, publishing companies and print shops and things of that nature. But I have always really wanted to offer a good product.

I've always wanted to offer something that I would want to buy myself. And so, yeah, my range of merchandise has expanded exponentially. And I think I'm really proud of the quality of products that I'm putting out these days. 

CA: So what kind of products do you have planned for the future? And then how do you go about finding sources?

BCB: Well, as someone who is an, I am an artist myself, I'm also a writer and a lot of the people I know are artists and writers and creatives of some kind, I try to find products that those kind of people would find use out of. Not that there's anything wrong with making something that is purely decorative. I mean, that's what, you know, a lot of art is, but I like to take it a step further and try to you know, find things that I would be able to use in my life. And so one thing that I've worked on recently is, I forget where they're located, but I've partnered with Poole and Sons Woodworking. It's a small family-owned woodworking company to create a line of pencil boxes. They are just pine wood boxes that I have been able to print my artwork onto, and they're perfectly sized to hold things like pencils, pens, paint brushes, things of that nature. So it's a utilitarian product, but it's also, I think, a beautiful product.

CA: Oh, that's exciting. Are you selling those only at pop-up events or do you have plans to sell them online or do you sell them online?

BCB: I haven't put them online yet. I've sold a few at a couple of my shows recently, but I do have plans to sell them online at a later time. Shipping can be a little bit tricky on items of that size, but I'm working it out. 

CA: Yeah, that's a good point. So taking it back to journals, for a recent project, as just like a Kickstarter add-on, I got some custom Moleskine notebooks printed and that worked out a lot better than I had expected. So I was just, I browsed Alibaba for different manufacturers in China that make the custom Moleskine notebook. And the one I ended up settling on, I think I ordered 200 and they ended up being a unit cost of around $2, which was pretty amazing because I'm selling them for 10. No wait, I think I'm selling them for 20 or 10. I don't know, either way, it's a pretty good markup on those but what I loved about doing this through the manufacturer is I was able to fully design the whole thing. So I chose the exact color of black, the exact texture of fake leather on it. I added edge printing, so all the edges of the pages are red. I was able to do an embossed logo on the front and custom lines for the pages themselves. So what I did was I added my logo on the corner of each page as well as doing a dot matrix on all of them instead of lines. So in my mind, it's a journal designed for dungeon masters to create maps for their games. 

BCB: So there you go, utilitarian product.

CA: Yeah, and with that pricing, it's exciting. But I've only brought it to a couple of markets so far and no one's really been interested in buying it, which is okay because I already made my money back just by having it as an add-on for a crowdfunding campaign. And I'm definitely gonna be, until I completely sell out, I'll keep adding that as an add-on for my crowdfunding campaigns.

BCB:  Fantastic. 

CA: I can tell you- Oh, sorry, go for it. Oh, go ahead.

BCB: I was gonna say, that is one hurdle that I've come across in sourcing manufacturers for my pieces, is that I've actually made it a point to not-have any of my products made in China or made I think in any country where labor laws are not really what I would prefer them to be. And that is a difficult hurdle to overcome because your selection suddenly goes from, wow, you have thousands of manufacturers to choose from, to you may have a few dozen that are within your price range. Everything that I sell is made either in the United States or in the United Kingdom. And that's something I've made a point of doing. And I know it most definitely cuts into my margins. For example, the journals, the journals I'm selling right now, they're absolutely lovely. I love the way they came out, but they are being produced at $9 a piece. And if I'm selling them for 20, I am still making a profit certaining not making nearly as much as you would with yours. But that's kind of a hard line I've drawn in the sand, honestly, as far as my work goes, because it's something that's important to me.

CA: Um, there are some, not just limitations on price, but like, for example, a lot of the card printing and board game manufacturing is just not done well in the United States. Uh, cause all of the highest quality printing equipment is done, is in China or in India. And it's just, there are no manufacturers in the U S that can pull things off there. For example, um, one of my tarot decks, I did get printed in the U S and the cards were great but the box itself leaves a little to be desired. And I found that manufacturer because they printed a board game that I have. And the game, again, quality wasn't the best as far as the printing goes. So there's some things you just have to accept when you limit yourself. Yeah, it's a tough balance. I mean, ideally I'd have everything made locally too, but it's not in the cards for me.

BCB: I am hoping that if there is a need for high quality, high volume printing and there's a demand for it to be made locally, I think those manufacturers will come along if there's a demand for it. So I think in the future, that's something we can look forward to being more widely available to small creatives like us. 

CA: Well, that $9 a unit is not as bad as I would have guessed. So how many... What's your minimum order quantity on that to get the $9 a unit?

BCB: I believe I only had to order 25. It was either 25 or 50, but it was not, you know, it was not crippling at all. 

CA: Yeah, that's definitely something worth exploring there. I'm a big fan of Mixam. I've been using them a lot lately for flyers. 

BCB: My dude, that is my journal manufacturer. I will slip that trade secret. I absolutely love them.

CA: They're a delight. My wife's also a real estate agent. So her and all of the people in her like real estate circle constantly get things printed. And then when I told her about Mixam, she realized that they're like undercutting all of the other manufacturers that her friends use for printing by like 50%. So it's- Oh, they're there. 

BCB: And the quality is there. The quality is- 

CA: Oh, it's wonderful. 

BCB: Is fantastic. 

CA: Wonderful. I have this kind of an art book.that I've been loosely planning out and the pricing from Mixam for a full-color hardcover art book is totally within reach. So let's talk about how you started the business and where it is now. So in the beginning you said you wanted to, according to your form that you filled out, gain access to digital arts industry in the hopes of finding full-time work at publishing house, game studio, but now you're focusing more on the art side. So can you can you explain to me like how you thought it would begin and then when you decided to make that change and focus on where you are now?

BCB: Yeah, so I think this does go all the way back to my university days. I was a traditional art student. I have a BFA in painting and drawing. And I went into that with the hopes of becoming an illustrator. And that's technically, I do do that now. It's just not in the same capacity that I had always imagined it. And part of the reason I did start doing digital illustration is that I saw that there is a big market out there for digital illustrators, digital artists, especially in industries like the video game industry, publishing, large media like Netflix and Hulu and even Disney. And I'd hoped by starting this company and sort of getting my name out there and building that skill in the digital medium, I would be able to...one day get my foot in the door at one of those companies and get one of those much sought after full-time studio positions. And I think what really sent that flying off the rails was the pandemic.

CA: That makes sense. I actually had a pretty similar trajectory too. I went to an art-based high school, an art magnet school in Miami, and I pictured myself going to Ringling studying computer graphics and working at Pixar. But then when I had to weigh the fact of going to Ringling versus getting the two full-paid scholarships I had to my local state college, it really seemed like a no-brainer in that regard. So I'm happy that I ended up with a bachelor's in fine arts in sculpture rather than this possible future in computer graphics, which means I would then probably have to move to Korea to stay in a competitive market because that's where all the work left. 

BCB: Seems like it. 

CA: But yeah, I'm happy being in this more of a fine art environment. It feels so...nurturing, I guess you could say. And :it's, it's a great community of like, going to these pop-up events, going to art events. So aside from the markets, are you a member of any like, local arts organizations? 

BCB: Not as of now. I've worked a couple of times. There's a local group here in Orlando called City Arts, and they do a lot of monthly shows. They do a lot of charity work and I've had my work in a couple of their shows, but I'm not a member in any sort of card-holding respect.

CA: Do you find, well, let's talk about the gallery side then. Do you find...I guess value in presenting your art in a traditional art environment, a traditional fine art environment. Do you find a need to do that? 

BCB: That is an interesting one. And that is, I do find value in that because that is sort of where my pedigree lies is I was trained up in the ways of the gallery artist in, you know, doing traditional...oils and things of that nature that you, when you're that young and you're first getting into art school, you have these high aspirations of one day seeing your art on a wall in New York City or at Art Basel or, you know, one of these well-established institutions and maybe one in a million of us ever actually get there, but the, you know, the desire is there. And I think there is a big divide. people who do illustrative art and people who do art for publishing and people who show their art in galleries. It's almost seen, you know, there's a question of legitimacy there that I've always thought was a very silly question, that one is seen sort of as more legitimately art, and the other is seen as a product. And I believe that they're both an art on a gallery wall is as much a product as is an illustration made for a book cover. I do like to try to break down those barriers whenever I can. You'll see my art in the pages of some self-published Dungeons and Dragons module, and maybe you'll also see it on a gallery wall in some downtown with people sipping wine. I feel like we can exist in both worlds, absolutely. 

CA: Okay, so what about where you are professionally? How much attention, emotionally, mentally, or physically do you allocate towards applying to art shows, bringing in prints, framing prints, hanging them for the art show in the hopes that it sells, and then taking it home because it doesn't? Because that's kinda how I see them. I see it as a huge waste of time with not much of a return on my investment. And so it's always kind of a struggle for me whether or not I need to care. But I don't know. I don't know if you're feeling the same draw that I have. 

BCB: No, that's fair. I understand that completely. To me, the biggest, what I get out of doing gallery shows and doing in-person events is measured less in dollars and it's measured more in the captive audience that I'm able to get. Whereas the internet, is vast and it is full of thousands upon thousands of artists who are all, you know, sort of vying for attention from the algorithm. Whereas if I can get my foot in the door in that gallery, people are going to see it. It's not going to be buried under an algorithm. People are going to see it. And then I have the chance to talk to them about it. I actually have the chance to engage with people about my art in a way that I really can't get anywhere else. And so all of the framing and the wrapping and driving, it's all worth it to me.

CA: Do you think you get to do that interaction more in a market setting than you do in a fine art gallery setting? 

BCB: No, honestly, I think the fine art setting really gets me the kind of people who want to talk about art. And as much as I love doing markets, the crowd there are a little more interested in finding things to spend their money on than really engaging with what they're seeing. Not hating on markets at all. I love markets, but it really is a different crowd. 

CA: I think for me, I see my art piece isn't the illustration, it's the product. that the illustration is on. So maybe I'm thinking of this kind of in a different way or approaching it in a different way than you are. Not saying one's wrong or the other. I'm just saying maybe that's why I don't put as much stock in sharing the illustration in a gallery setting because like the tarot deck is more valuable to me than the illustration I did to put in the tarot. Interesting. 

BCB: Oh, absolutely. You've created that complete product that has a utility and has a purpose and that you can get people really excited about. That is your, that's your piece. That's your complete piece. 

CA: You got me thinking about myself now, so. 

BCB: No. 

CA: So, okay, so I actually wanna ask another, since we're going here, another question. And the preface for this is, again, when I was in high school, going through catalogs of different art, colleges to apply to. I remember, I want to say it was CIA's catalog, the Chicago Institute of Art. They had a catalog describing like examples of stuff from the painting school and then pieces from the illustration school and I couldn't tell the difference. So in my high school mind, there is no difference between illustration and traditional art. But I guess as I've grown older and started describing myself as an illustrator, I started to find a difference. How would you define a difference between illustrator and whatever you'd want to call an artist who's not an illustrator? 

BCB: Well, I think the main difference, especially when at the time I went to school, I graduated in 2012. And around that time, there was a very big pushback against representational art in the fine arts sphere. And the thing to be doing at that time was most definitely performance art. And art with some form of interactivity you know, Marina Abramovicon everyone's mind at that time. 

CA: She did a lecture at my non art school state college, and it was wonderful. 

BCB: Oh, yeah, I attended one of her lectures in Atlanta. It was, you know, it was a lot of fun. And I I don't really remember what she talked about except for her marriage falling apart. But no, I that was sort of the vibe back then was that, yeah, you could do representative you know, art if you wanted to, but no one was really going to take you seriously asnd, you know, in some ways I understand that. I understand that we should definitely be, you know, pushing the boundaries of art and what art can be and what art could be. And sometimes it's more interesting to. You know drop the idea of representation, but at the same time, I, you know, I love representational art, I love seeing things that are more than just things, if that makes any sense.

CA: Well, I guess it's also a question of who's your intended audience. Is it yourself and your colleagues or is it someone else? I guess I can ask you that. Who is your intended audience at this point for your business? 

BCB: I think my intended audience is people who really respond with their imaginations rather with what, with their eyes and that can be, and I think that's why me and the tabletop gaming crowd get along so well is that we are constantly playing pretend. We are constantly imagining and looking at things and seeing them as so much more than what they are. And I think that's something that I feel like I have in common with the golden age illustrators. Their art is, I think it's fine art at its finest. Arthur Rackham. I believe Alan Lee, the watercolorist who was responsible for a lot of Tolkien's work, absolutely awe-inspiring pieces. And they just kind of tickle something in the very back of the mind that you can't really get from...You know, you can't really get from, I'm blanking on his name now. What was his name? Jackson Pollock

CA: Oh, yeah, I see what you're saying. I was thinking the paint on canvas man. 

BCB: I was thinking the paint on canvas man. I know his name. 

CA: I like that.

BCB: I swear I went to art school.

CA: I forgot most of it. 

BCB: Oh, for sure. 

CA: So, okay, so. When you picture the definition of an illustrator, it's someone who is trying to convey a sense of wonder, maybe? Like a sense of chronology with your work? Is that what you might say? 

BCB: I think they're trying to convey an idea and it's an idea that's in their head. It's an image, a world, a question even that only exists in their head. And they're doing their absolute best to convey that using imagery that we recognize, that human beings will recognize.

CA: Okay. So I guess for your definition of illustration, recognizable imagery is I guess what anchors it.

BCB: I believe so because I believe- Okay all fine art has the capacity to evoke. It has the capacity to evoke a feeling, to invoke an idea without necessarily representing it. And I think illustration just goes a different route. 

CA: Okay. So when I think of illustration compared to traditional fine art, or whatever you'd wanna call it, the alternative to illustration, I always think of it as art that is in service of a story in service of some other type of product. So for example, I'm making a role playing game. I write the whole thing out and then I create art to convey what I've already written. I don't know if, I rarely, if ever find myself doing an art piece that exists on its own independent of something else that is written.

BCB: That is interesting because I think it can work both ways. I have sometimes created art from which, you know, later a story emerges out of my head because I had, I just had an idea or I just had a feeling and it somehow came out in the form of an image. And then, you know, later on I might look back at that image and say, oh, there's a story there. Where did this come from? And I start asking questions in my head and sometimes things come out of it. Um, definitely one of the, I think the biggest example of this would be I, there's a character that I've been drawing. I want to say since I was a senior in college, maybe back in 2012, and it is the, uh, the image of a cloak draped deer skull holding a cup of steaming coffee. And you see this imagery over and over again in my work. And I don't know why I started drawing this creature.

But I did. And out of that creature, he gained a name. He's gained kind of his own little lore inside my head. And that never would have materialized if I hadn't just drawn the damn thing first.

CA: All right. So how often then would you say you find yourself just opening up your computer or tablet, starting on a blank screen, and then just seeing what happens?

without working in service of a story? 

BCB: All the time.

CA: Okay. 

BCB: All the time. Usually I'm working in service of a feeling. In service of a feeling or an idea or even a sentence. You know, but to be fair, an idea- 

CA: But you do generally have a prompt, I guess. And the prompt would be, even if it's internal, not written down, it is something that you are doing the art towards. 

BCB: Oh yeah, for sure. I think even something as simple as a stray thought or two words put together can be a story. 

CA: It's weird because I, like, I've never really investigated this until now, but I-You can't just open up a blank image and just start doodling or drawing or whatever. I have to have first a dedicated folder on my computer. So I have to label that folder. I have to put that folder in my years folder, which has to go in my chain assembly business folder. And then in that folder, I have to decide which piece of software I'm gonna use. And then I'm gonna create a file, label it, then open up that file, then customize it. I have to set my templates and then once I have an idea of what this is in service of, then I can actually start my first piece of art. And then from that first piece of art, I'll build more templates so that everything else matches it thematically. So like the gammas match, the colors match, the fonts match. I guess I'd be right-brained, maybe. Yeah. Everything has to be its own specific place. I can't just be free weirdly 

BCB: Yeah, see I think I fit the archetype of the, you know, the artist who lives in the attic, who simply cannot create if he is not inspired. And so, you know, spend six months drinking Absinthe and gazing wistfully out the window until something happens. 

CA: Well, let's talk a bit about then what your materials are. You do digital primarily, right? 

BCB: These days I do. 

CA: Okay.And so what software are you using and what devices are you using? 

BCB: Oh, well, so I started out using Krita because it is free. But first and foremost, because when I put my pen tablet to the screen and I started drawing in Krita, it felt like I was drawing on paper. And that was the biggest disconnect for me when I started, when I made the transition from traditional art to digital art was, oh my God, this does not feel like drawing. It felt like a video game. It felt like, what is this? It's too slidey, yeah. It was so odd. But Krita kind of scratched that itch in a way that nothing else did. I never clicked with Photoshop. I've dabbled in it. I just never really clicked with me. And so I used Krita for quite a few years. And about two years ago, I would say I switched to Clip Studio Paint

CA: Oh, that's what I use. It's a delight. 

BCB: It really is. I think it has a lot of the tools that are present in Adobe products, but in a much simpler, much more user-friendly way. And it does have that traditional drawing feeling. Now it obviously depends on which brushes you're using and things of that nature. And if I'm being honest, I have purchased many brush packs. I have thousands and thousands of brushes. I use the default charcoal brush. 

CA: Oh, OK. 

BCB: For practically everything. 

CA: I really love the default thick oil paint brush. That one is so fun. Yeah, but I've bought a friend in his pack, which is. 

BCB: I have that pack. 

CA: Yeah, it's so fun. I really love the pens in there for like scratchy stuff. I'm not a big fan of like how his things usually they don't emulate paint as well as the default oil paint does. It doesn't like pick up colors as much, but he's not a painter. He's an illustrator. So 

BCB: I do love I do love jazza brush set

CA: I don't know that one, but I'm a look that up. 

BCB: It's it's very good. I think I got it on sale last year. Sometime he was doing a great promo along with Clip Studio Paint, where you could get that brush set for very, very reasonable price. And it does have a very good traditional feel to it, but I still keep going back to that just charcoal brush because what it feels like the most to me is a graphite pencil on a piece of paper. And that's the feeling I love. 

CA: So I have a, I work on a Microsoft Surface Studio laptop. Is that what it's called? Microsoft Surface Pro Studio. Yeah. Studio.

BCB: Okay. 

CA: It's kind of like the Microsoft version of the MacBook Studio. But like the screen pops back and folds down to become a tablet. But I have a paper-like screen protector on it. So it feels like paper. It's got a little bit of a grit to the screen protector. And on top of that, this latest version of the Microsoft Surface Studio has haptic feedback in the pen itself. So that also provides a little bit of resistance when giving you that graphite feel. So between those two things, I can't really tell the difference if I was blind. If I was blind with my eyes closed. Yeah, it's a lot of fun. 

BCB: That is fantastic. I'm over here using, I have a Gaomon tablet

CA: Okay.

BCB:  I believe it's a 20 inch, no, 18 to 20. It's fairly big sized, but I have been using the same tablet since 2018. And I believe I bought this bad boy on Amazon for $400. And so I think the barrier for entry in digital art is not nearly as high as people seem to think it is. You don't have to get away com. You don't have to spring for an iPad. You don't have to spring for the newest and best of everything. I think this is a very good product. And I haven't had a single product with it in...Five years. 

CA: I tried the XP Pen. So before I had this new Microsoft laptop, I was using the, just the regular Microsoft Surface Pro, which is like a super powerful tablet that can run the Adobe suite, but it's a tablet. And so it's got a small screen. So I did buy the XP Pen. I forgot which one of those monitors you draw on. And I tried it for like two days and hated it and returned it. Like the issues I had was that I was so used to onscreen gestures, like with Clip Studio Paint, if I tap the screen with two fingers, it undoes. If I pinch to zoom, I can zoom in, I can rotate just by touching the screen. And I wasn't able to do any of that with the drawing tablet. So that's just one of the reasons why I just upgraded to a more powerful Windows machine with a larger screen.

BCB: Now you get used to those so quickly. And the minute they're taken away, it feels like you're learning again. 

CA: So one thing I love too from Clip Studio Paint, I don't know if you're still seeing me on video, is I have the little handheld, do you have one of these little handheld wand? Tabmate 

BCB: I don't, what in the world is that? 

CA: So Clip Studio Paint actually makes it. They don't really sell it a lot of places. I think I bought it from the CSP website, but it was like 40 bucks, came from Japan. And it's just a whole bunch of buttons you can program to work specifically with Clip Studio Paint. It's got a scroll wheel that you can use to control like brush size. It's got a big clicker on the bottom that I use to switch to like my paint color picker. And it's awesome. It's got buttons on the front too. It's really fun. 

BCB: Okay, I've never seen that before. 

CA: You teach me new things. But I know people have also been able to just jerry-rig the Nintendo Switch controllers to work for Clip Studio Paint too.

BCB: Okay, that I have to look up. 

CA: Yeah. 

BCB: That's ingenuity right there. 

CA: I'm also with Clip Studio Paint, for example. I am a huge fan of everything that comes out from Retro Supply. I-

BCB: Yeah, I've bought their packs. I love them. 

CA: Yeah. So I'm using the hell out of them right now for this tarot project I'm working on. Where I'm making each card look like a fake Italian horror movie poster from the 70s. So I'm using the hell out of the Rizograph features and like the paper scuffing and like the folds and the water stains. So everything looks aged and old. It's a delight. 

BCB: No, the older and more traditional things look, the more I'm going to like them. You are speaking my language. 

CA: And one thing I love about Clip Studio Paint too, is it does such a wonderful job oF allocating memory where it needs to be. Like I'm working at 1200 DPI on these tarot cards and my computer doesn't bat an eye. It's perfectly fine. If I tried to do that in Photoshop, it would cry and explode and sparks would fly. 

BCB: Oh, for sure. And I can tell you that that isn't the main reason I did switch from Krita. Love you Krita, but you were crashing every 10 minutes. I'm very sorry.

CA: So are you working on a Windows machine that's connected to your Galmon tablet or is it a... 

BCB: Yeah, now I've just got a big chunky desktop computer. I like to have an all-in-one machine that I can do my art on it, I can do my writing work on it, and then I can go and play video games on it when I'm done. An all-purpose machine. 

BCB: Yeah, this Microsoft tablet I have, or Microsoft Surface Studio laptop I have has a very powerful Nvidia card in it and I just never find time to play games aside from, I just recently beat Dredge, which was a delightfully fun game. 

BCB: I loved Dredge. Can we gush about Dredge for a moment? 

CA: Yes, why isn't it longer? I want like a whole archipelago. 

BCB: Yes, I want more of this, please. Did you get both endings? No spoilers, but did you get both endings? 

CA: No, just the bad one. 

BCB: Oh, I'm so sorry.

CA: No, it's okay. Like, I mean, I did all the other stuff to get the good one. I just didn't do that action at the end. That would have given me the good ending. But like, I didn't. 

BCB: I had a wonderful time with that game. Shout out to the devs. You did a wonderful job. 

CA: And it's a gorgeous art style too that made me wanna try and emulate it also. It's like splotchy acrylic paint looking style.

BCB:  I love that. I eat that up like candy.

CA: All right, so let's go back to actually why we're having this podcast. You can't talk about video games. I don't want people tuning out yet. Plus, there's so many great and so much information hidden in you. I'm trying to pull out. So so let's talk a bit about the small media publishing. So you've mentioned a lot that you have a love for role playing games and a love for illustration. And you also recently did the special edition book cover for Luna Publishing's Victorian Gothic campaign for D&D fifth edition. What was that? How did that start to happen and how did you get involved in that? 

BCB: Oh, yeah. So the it is a campaign guide known as Memento Mori. They're coming out with their second edition. I believe the first edition Kickstarter wrapped up back. It began just before the pandemic and so it took a little longer to come out than was expected, but it came out, I believe, in 2020. And actually, the publishers are a husband and wife team who are very good friends of mine. And they asked me to do some work for their Kickstarter. They are also my dungeon masters. So I knew they were going to come out with something great. And I've been working with them ever since. I've been working alongside quite a few other talented artists an extremely talented map artist named Naomi. She does beautiful, beautiful world maps. Sick Joe is the main illustrator on that project. And he does very, you know, creepy art that is very, very fitting for a sort of Victorian Gothic campaign. And you know, what started out as...sort of doing a favor for a friend turned into this partnership that I'm really glad to have. And it's really kind of, you know, opened the door to a lot of other things.

CA: So do you have a plan to run Kickstarter projects for your own designs? 

BCB: I have a few, you know, plans in mind. I've always wanted to do a tarot deck. I know that you probably know from experience that is a massive undertaking. I've had, I have a few ideas for, um, some small card games, some board games and things of that nature. Unfortunately, I just have, I, I believe I suffer from an overabundance of ideas and an underabundance of time. 

CA: Hmm. That's, that's every artist in general, isn't it? 

BCB: Oh, for sure. For sure. 

CA: Yeah. I've probably got like four games that are like 90% designed and just at the play testing phase because I don't have time to play test.

BCB: Yeah, I um I also I have an interest in herbalism. It's something that i've been dabbling in over the past few years and I um, I have an idea to create um Either an herbalism book or an herbalism based oracle deck or tarot deck of something of that nature because again, a lot of my work is very, you know, nature inspired and I think that would be a really fun project to work on But you know, I I just have to narrow it down to let's let's start with one Let's let's let's crowdfund one thing and then we'll move on to the others.

CA: Well, well shout out to herbalism there is This story I recently read it was might take me a minute to dig it up. But there you go. The USDA in the 1850s or so hired a whole bunch of illustrators to do illustrations of all of the vegetables and fruit and herbs that were native to North America. And they just recently put all of those illustrations up on their website in super high quality, free for anyone to use, downloadable

BCB: Oh yeah, that's public domain now. And I forget some of the artists who worked on that project, but it's basically the botanical equivalent of John Audubon, you know? 

CA: Yeah, exactly. And the illustrations are gorgeous.

BCB: They really are. That kind of work does inspire me. 

CA: And also, somewhat related to that, I finally just got in the mail Septima from Kickstarter. It is a board game where everyone runs a different witch coven and a big part of that game is foraging for ingredients and then making your potions in a big ass plastic pot in the game. 

BCB: Oh, life goals. 

CA: Yeah, life goals. So if you're thinking about, if you picture what your business is gonna be in the future, not necessarily when you made it, but say five years from now, you've gotten the handle on manufacturers and you have like a whole system in place on things that you're getting done and things that you're gonna be selling. What do you picture your inventory at a booth or store or online store to look like five years from now.

BCB:  I would like a booth that looks like one part studio gallery and one part art supply store. I want a booth where people who appreciate art and create art are interested in coming in what that looks like exactly. I don't know if I could, you know, I don't know if I could tell you, but it's a, you know, it's the kind of people I want to attract. I want to attract people like myself who both appreciate, you know, looking at art and, you know, all the art that's around them every day, but also feel the urge to create it as well. I don't think.

CA: Do you think in that five years from now scenario, you're going to be returning to traditional hand-painted art, or are you still going to be doing digital primarily?

BCB: I would love to do a mixture of both. My traditional art practice informed the kind of digital art that I do and the style that I work in. And I think that everything that I've learned doing digital art can be applied to a traditional medium. And so I would love to...I could use a little bit more studio space and a little bit of a higher budget for materials. But once I can get that rolling, I think there are plenty of ways that those two mediums can be combined. 

CA: Well, let's talk a bit about budget. So when you think about your business as an entity, how much do you separate it from your other income?

BCB: I do. So as far as my other income goes, I do work a full time job. I'm actually a bookkeeper, very boring, very dry. You might not, you know, if you saw me at work, I don't know if you would believe that I was actually an artist in disguise. But I also do side projects such as I've been doing copywriting for the past few years, just as a side gig, writing articles and thought pieces for a few different companies. But usually what I will do is the money that I make from my side income as a copywriter usually goes directly into my art business. And my main income, that's for bills. That's for the mortgage. It's for the bills. It's for medical bills, car repairs, things of that nature. And there's usually not a whole lot left over to invest into my business. But

I try to pull money from, you know, I have a wide skill set. I try to use it and pull money from wherever I can to invest it into what I'd really like to be doing. Gotcha. 

CA: So you're, I guess in your organizational structure, the copywriting and the art business are rolled in together. And at this point, the copywriting is supporting a lot of the art stuff. 

BCB: It is.

CA: Okay. 

BCB: I also occasionally do, you know, the work that I do for Luna Publishing, that is commission-based work. I do get paid for that work, as well as other commissions from individuals and clients that I might take on. That money gets rolled back into the business as well. 

CA: Okay. Now, as a bookkeeper though, so I guess you definitely know the value of tracking your expenditure and your output and keeping all that stuff separate from your main income. Do you have like a, do you have a business structure in place for any of that yet?

BCB: I have an LLC. 

CA: Okay. 

BCB: I mean, it's a very simple, if anyone out there is looking to do it, it's very, very simple to set up. You do have to pay a little bit of money yearly just to keep it up and rolling, but that gets you a lot of benefits. You can apply for a tax ID number. There are some sales or there are some shows where you actually have to have a state tax ID number to be allowed to sell. 

CA: Oh.

BCB: So it's a very good thing to have and to have a good knowledge of. And it's simpler than you may think. It sounds scary, but it's really not. 

CA: When I first started doing markets, I was researching all the things. And some of the things I came across that were absolutely not the case was, one, a lot of places said that you need to have a white tent because some events will only allow white tents. That has not been a requirement in any event I've been to. You don't have to have a white tent. If you're in Florida, it helps to have a white tent because it's hot as hell. 

BCB: Oh, for sure. 

CA: But I wish I didn't have a white tent because it looks so dirty. I want more of a peach color, but. 

BCB: I would like a Renaissance Faire tent with stripes and tenants and little flags hanging off of it. That's what I would like, I deeply.

CA: Yes, yes, please. And then some guards situate on the other side of it just to hand out business cards. And then the other thing is too, a lot of things that I read online said that you have to have event insurance or you have to have some type of insurance to cover liability within the tent. Yeah, I guess technically. And I've signed a couple of events that like, I mean, I've been to events where the, you have to sign a thing saying you do have it, but no one checks. And I've never known anyone who actually had insurance.

BCB: That's never something I've run into. And my assumption is that a lot of the events have insurance of their own. So that if anything happens on premises, either they or the hosting site are the party responsible. I have never had to have my own individual insurance for my 10-foot space. 

CA: Do you plan on, again, in that five-year future plan, having a permanent physical location for your art business or do you think you'll always stay mobile or working from home?

BCB: I I Don't see myself having you know a sort of a permanent base I really love the mobility partially because I do love to travel I love to if I can bring you know if I can bring my art to a new city every month That sounds like a dream come true And so I do have I know I did purchase a van I'd like to purchase a maybe a teardrop trailer or something along those lines so that I can have more of a mobile hub. I could even go on the road and do, you know, several shows in a row, the way that convention artists do. They, you know, they're on the road for eight months, nine months out of the year. 

CA: It's an interesting plan. I haven't talked to anyone who mentioned that as one of their future plans.

BCB: Oh, I love the idea of doing it. And that is one thing I think that attracted me to doing conventions in the first place was this opportunity to travel from city to city to city to show your work and then and that's your full time job and that sounds very exhausting but it does sound like an enriching experience at least. 

CA: So do you feel like you have any loyalty or ownership to Orlando, Florida?

BCB: That is an interesting question. Ah, you know, one thing I do love about Orlando is that there are so many opportunities to show your art here in a city this size. And part of it is due to the size of the city. You could go to a city of comparable size and probably find a lot of the same opportunities, but Orlando is such a weird little mishmash of different cultures and different kinds of people. All kinds of people come here. And so there is definitely a market for any kind of art here. And that's one thing that I appreciate about it. 

CA: I say, I definitely feel a loyalty to St. Petersburg that I never felt growing up in Miami or when I lived in Nashville. So I- 

BCB: You lived in Nashville? 

CA: Yeah, yeah. 

BCB: I grew up in Tallahoma. 

CA: Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I grew up in Miami, but I just lived in Nashville for a couple of years. 

BCB: Okay.

CA: And I enjoyed it, but when I go back to visit, it is not at all the city I lived in. 

BCB: It's so different now. I know. I know it's it's growing very, very fast. 

CA: Yeah. But St. Pete, I adore this city. And so like I I picture a future where I have a facility for learning, where I teach digital art classes, I teach classes on self-publishing tarot decks. Meanwhile, I'm also selling my own art or I'm doing podcasts live or things like that. So I do want to have a physical location, mostly for the educational aspects and some sales on the side. And the- That's awesome. Like I would like to travel for board game conventions, but I definitely don't want to be traveling as an art entity. That sounds exhausting to me. 

BCB: Sometimes exhausting can be fun. She says on her day off. 

CA: I'm 40. I mean, I'm not 40, but I'm basically 40. And so, yeah, it just... 

BCB: Now for me, I'm not from Florida originally, and I never intended to end up here. That's just sort of where life took me. And so I think... 

CA: That's Orlando, isn't it? 

BCB: That's how you get to Orlando, honestly. 

CA: It's all an accident. 

BCB: You trip and fall into it, face first. But...No, I never intended to stay here. And so I feel that my kind of hold on the art scene here has always been kind of tentative because I've always, I stepped into the door with one foot already out of it. 

CA: Well, that's interesting. It's a good point, because then you probably need to plan or have a business plan that involves mobility. 

BCB: Yes. 

CA: Because, I mean, we talked about, you mentioned how easy it is to start an LLC. That's kind of a Florida specific thing. Because it is very hard, not very hard, but there's a lot more steps in other states. Florida just makes it super easy to start an LLC. 

BCB: I found it very easy, but that was also, that was Baby's first LLC. 

CA: Yeah. 

BCB: And I have plans within the next year or so to move to Maryland, and that might be an entirely different experience.

CA: When I did a board game convention in Ohio, I stupidly paid all that sales tax to Florida, like a schmuck. 

BCB: Oh no. 

CA: I know, so dumb. I didn't even question what I was doing until like two months later. I'm like, wait, why did, I don't, what? So if you are doing all that travel, you're gonna have to figure out how to do your taxes before someone gets in trouble. 

BCB: It's a whole different animal. 

CA: Yeah, good thing you're a bookkeeper.

BCB: Yeah, well, thank goodness for Google. No, you should trust everything you read on Google, but it helps.

CA: So is there anyone that you would say has been a inspiration to you on the business side of Blue Collar Boneyard? 

BCB: I can tell you, and I don't know if you'll recognize this name. Do you do you know of Christopher Cayco? His last name is C-A-Y-C-O and he, right around the time I was thinking about starting to do this, he had started his YouTube channel and he was getting started. I believe he worked, he was a mechanic. He worked as a mechanic, but he loved to draw. And he decided that this is what he wanted to do. He didn't want to be a mechanic anymore. He felt that it was kind of soul numbing and that he was...kind of slowly dying a creative death. And so he just started doing art shows. And what he's notable for, and you may have seen these posters before, he does large digital pieces where he will take a fandom and he will draw every single character that has ever shown up in an episode or in that media. Like he did...He has done every single Dragon Ball Z character, every single Pokemon, which unfortunately he has to redo every few years. Really intense work. Like just looking at it, the level of effort that goes into those pieces is astounding. But his YouTube channel is just a documentation of his journey from being a mechanic to, you know, starting to become convention artist and the pandemic hit, it hit him, you know, just as hard as it hit the rest of us. And he's still doing it to this day. And that was a very inspirational thing for me to watch. Like we literally, you know, watched him pay off his student loans in real time from becoming a convention artist. And that was just such a great thing to see.

CA: Awesome. Well, on that positive note, I've had a wonderful time chatting with you, Hannah. So thank you so much for giving me your time. 

BCB: Thank you so much for stopping by and inviting me to come on. I had a great time. 

CA: Great. So for all the listeners, everyone can find you on Instagram as Blue Collar Boneyard and on Twitter or X, formerly known as Twitte Twitter @ bluecollarbone1r. 

BCB: We don't say that

CA: on prints, formerly known as the artist, at Blue Collar Bone 1. And you can also find the art that you did for on Luna Publishing's Victorian Gothic campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. I'll put all these links in the show notes. And again, thank you so much for taking time to talk to me.

BCB: Yeah, thank you too, Nick. You have a great one. 

CA: Thanks.


Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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