Interview with Graphic Designer and Illustrator Brendon Schumacker
Brendon Schumacker offers insights into the benefits of selling online classes on Udemy and graphic design using the free GIMP software.
Brendon Schumacker Bio
Brendon Schumacker has a lifetime of passion in the visual arts and a diverse range of training including Comic & Cartoon Illustration, Sci-fi Illustration, Fantasy Illustration, and Graphic Design. As an Open Source software enthusiast, Brendon started his digital career using GIMP. Today Brendon is one of the many pioneers proving GIMP to be a powerful tool for a professional illustrator.
Please tell us about your work?
I have been a freelancer for many years now, nearly a decade. I have always done odd jobs in illustration and graphic design, although my main work for years was actually web development. But I always wanted to be an illustrator, and so about 5 years ago I started to put more energy into my art and now I am predominantly working on illustration related projects. When I am not doing that, I like to make videos for my YouTube channel, and of course I continue to manage my courses. I am working on some new courses these days too.
Do you still do a lot of client commissioned art
Since I am multi-talented, and a freelancer, it is hard to provide a definitive answer for this. Sometimes I have long-term stable projects and sometimes it can be a bit more sporadic. At the moment 100% of my freelance work is illustration related and it accounts for the brunt of my income. I am working part-time on the game environment design for a start-up indie game, and some other random projects come along here and there. This year I also made a children’s book, a lot of business related graphic design, T-shirt designs, and I am currently looking into some book illustration projects.
How do you typically find your clients?
It’s a combination of word-of-mouth and searching online. If you are a little social and you tell people what you do, something will usually turn up. I believe you have to keep a really good profile, and a good portfolio too. If you leave a good impression, people will remember you. In fact, whenever I am not on a project I am usually updating my freelance profiles or portfolio.
After that, it is a matter of giving it your all and doing your best work for the client. If you do a good job they are likely to return with more work or recommend you to someone. If you continue to accumulate work like this you should eventually have more than enough to keep you busy.
Is Udemy a good platform for promoting and selling
Udemy is a good platform for making sales if you have a good course but don’t have a big audience. Udemy does a lot of marketing themselves, plus students can find your course through their search engine, and they have an affiliate program which allows for even more marketing through third parties. I think they are the biggest in this type of business. It would be quite difficult to maintain all of that marketing oneself, and people are certainly more trusting of a brand name like Udemy, as opposed to buying courses through an individual’s website. So until I branch out a little further I think I will stick with Udemy. They also have a pretty good interface which allows for all types of media, downloads, etc and I can even make quizzes to help the students test themselves.
Can you give some advice for artists considering
creating their own online art classes?
The most concise piece of advice I can give is to be professional and to be direct. Have you ever been in a hurry to learn something and then you found a 5 minute video with someone rambling on about nothing relevant to the topic? Don’t do that! 😀
Students want to learn a skill so that they can go do something with it, so you should not take it as an opportunity to ramble on, especially not in a course someone is paying for. YouTube is different of course.
With that in mind, I guess you just have to try your best to deliver the information, make it easy to understand for everyone, and challenge the students in the same way that any teacher would. The challenges are what make the course feel more interactive, and that helps to stimulate learning.
You teach courses on using the free GIMP, what are
some of the benefits of GIMP over Photoshop?
It is easy to say that Photoshop is probably a better software, but I have actually come to genuinely prefer GIMP. It does everything that I can think of and I find it to be more flexible and easier to use than Photoshop. I purchased a Photoshop license for a while and I really got frustrated that I couldn’t set up the hotkeys as I wanted. I also didn’t like the line drawing tool. I was unable to draw a continuous line from point to point with ease as I do in GIMP.
The only very noticeable limitation I have come upon with GIMP is the Text Tool. The text tool seems to be a commonly accepted limitation of GIMP users, and apparently the developers are aware of it themselves but it is simply not easy to improve upon. However, they are trying to improve upon it with each new release. In Photoshop you have a lot of detailed control over the text. You can change font in mid-sentence and bend the text around curves quite easily. These things are not available in GIMP. You can still add text with your choice of font and all that, and it is actually suitable for a lot of common design and illustration projects, but just not super professional. There are still ways to achieve the same textual effects that you can in Photoshop, but it might seem a bit laborious in comparison.
So when I compare the minor differences, and being that GIMP’s limitations don’t effect me so much, and adding the fact that GIMP is more flexible both in usage and interface, and not to mention FREE – thus, I still find myself to prefer GIMP over Photoshop.
You’ve also created a couple of children’s books,
can you tell us about them?
Somewhat surprisingly, Children’s Books is a rather hot market. I kept seeing it show up in freelance job listings and so I thought I would give it a shot. The clients I’ve had for this work were very cool and it was a lot of fun. One thing to keep in mind is that it might not be as easy as it seems. Regardless of the expectations for the children’s audience, you can’t submit lazy work and expect to get a positive reaction. And since the books often run from 20 to 30 pages, it can be tiring work that takes a lot of time.
I do enjoy making these types of books though. I am looking forward to making more in the future.
You currently live in Cambodia, what is South East
Asia like for artists?
The biggest advantage is the current cost of living here, which is very affordable. So being a freelancer, or a creative person who requires more personal time, it is a great relief to worry less about the bills.
There is definitely an art scene here. Within a short time after traveling here I have met quite a few people who go by the title “Artist”, and there are a lot of creative people here making a living in their field of passion, be it art or music. I don’t want to give the impression that it is a booming arts scene, I don’t think that is the case, I don’t think there is even such a market. But at the same time, I have been very surprised at the types of opportunities here for creative people. I guess when you consider that a lot of business here focuses on tourism, it sort of makes sense in that way.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in
an art career?
Art is an entertainment industry, and it is also a sort of hobby industry, some people even say it is spiritual, therapeutic, etc. So if you are good at teaching there is definitely work there, and I see a lot of that.
For the entertainment industry you really have to focus on your style and your portfolio. Art, Illustration, and Design really seem to be a “What you see is what you get” type of business. And it is quite competitive.
Unless people are throwing money at you from the start, you should probably have a backup source of income until things get rolling. But the good news is that this line of work seems to be hotter than ever. Because of the internet and constantly growing freelance websites, you can pick up tons of work for all types of people by drawing well.