On Mentoring

So much for updating on a weekly basis.

Well, to be fair, I did spend most of the last two weeks on mentoring, getting back into my yoga program, and slowly reintegrating with the real world now that I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19. I was able to go hang out with some friends, and I was able to go to the dentist for the first time in years. Hoo boy—I was never so happy going to the dentist as I was last week!

It’s been a full two weeks since my last post, though, and I did say that I was going to try to update this blog more regularly so here I am.

In the span of the last two weeks, I was able to make a total of ONE finished comic strip. I’m beginning to think that this path is not what I should be on right now. What I SEEM to be more inclined to do these days is explore ways to make my streaming setup better for our CPAG mentoring sessions and prepare for the next demo.

It’s becoming clearer to me that I’m more interested in teaching other people about drawing and making art than making comics myself—which for the most part is supposed to be for self-expression—but I’ve been doing a lot more of that just by writing here and being on social media more often. I guess when it comes to writing my thoughts down into comic form, well, it seems rather redundant now.

So, given that making comics doesn’t seem to interest me as much, perhaps the best thing for me to do right now is to really lean into this whole ‘mentoring’ business.

It feels a little bit weird, calling myself a mentor. I recall a conversation with a friend sometime back that I had trouble with the word ‘mentor’ because I feel like it’s a title that people attach to you, and not you onto yourself. For me, a mentor is not just someone who helps you become more skillful but really cares about your life and your goals. So, a mentor is not just a teacher, but also a friend.

But how do I become that for almost two hundred people (and more, when CPAG decides to open more scholarship slots)?

I’m still in the process of figuring that out. While I’m likely not going to remember every single one of our scholars, I can try my best to give them the best support they can get. I also acknowledge that I’m just one person and that I am not solely responsible for their growth. They must still do the work, and I’m here to help where and when I can.

I suppose my journey is taking me onto the path of becoming an art educator. While I may not have formal training in education, everything on this path seems to align better with my values and interests. It’s going to be a lot of learning for me as well, and that’s something I love to do.

Maybe a Weekly Update?

I suppose I should try to write a blog post for today just to try and develop the habit of posting something—anything—on this site on a weekly basis.

I wish I could say I’ve made significant progress on my comics, but honestly I haven’t gotten past trying to redraw my avatar in a way that better represents me. I suppose it’s still progress. I am still in “creative recovery mode,” after all, and I have to keep reminding myself to cut me some damn slack.

The past week has kind of sent me into a rollercoaster of moods, thanks to my period—which I hate to admit kind of makes me vulnerable to feelings of rage.

I dislike the thought of my emotions being controlled by perfectly normal bodily functions, but I can’t help it when my insides feel like they’re staging a revolution and my head feels like it’s constantly about to explode. It is quite unpleasant, and on the worst days, all it makes me want to do is lie in bed and cry about nothing.

There were several other factors affecting my mood, of course, but for the most part I think I would’ve handled them with more finesse had I not been bleeding—quite literally—on the inside.

On the upside, I’m making some progress on the mentorship thing. I have a lot of thoughts about it that I still need to sort and organize. I guess I’m learning that just collecting, organizing, and replying to every single piece of work from 80+ people is… a damn challenge to manage and balance with my personal projects. I’m still figuring out a better system for this, and better ways I can help a big guild of artists of varying styles and proficiencies. Since I don’t really have any formal training in education, I’m learning this as I go. That’s kind of how I survived the past couple of decades so I suppose that’s not such a bad thing. (CPAG scholars, if you’re reading this, please be patient with me.)

Anyway, I’m still trying to navigate what it means to be independent. I have a few plans but I’m trying to be flexible, so I don’t want to make them public for now but the big goals remain the same: restart this comic, try to help other artists, and maybe make more friends along the way.

On Writing and Making Comics

So… it’s been one year since I started this blog. I know it’s been a year because I had just recieved the bill to renew my WordPress subscription. In the span of the last year, I’ve written a total of 3 posts–one of which was my “welcome to this blog” post. Good job, me?

I suppose trying to maintain a website while being knee-deep in game dev work and the crypto scene (which, everyone knows, never sleeps) was kind of a bad idea. I originally started this website because I wanted to maximize the use of my domain name and make a feeble attempt at carving out my own little place on the internet.

Well, now that I’m a little bit freer to work on my own projects, I figured one of the things I can do is to keep this website a bit more updated. Since I’ve slowly been getting back to writing comics again, this shouldn’t be too big of a problem. Hello, content!

Speaking of comics, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you have probably seen this ‘comic prototype’ I recently posted (or not, because algorithm~). It’s a prototype because I’m still testing out whether it’s a look I’m satisfied with and if it’s a style I can reproduce at a more sustainable pace.

You see, when I first started making diary comics in 2016 (you can still view these on Tapas), I didn’t really have too many plans for it to go anywhere—a recurring pattern in my pursuits, it seems. I initially intended to make them as a form of stress relief: a personal project unrelated to my game dev work that I could do on the side. Next thing I knew, my comic got featured on the site, and suddenly my little side project was getting a lot more popular than I ever expected it to be.

That sudden popularity became a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, I thought that “hey, maybe I can actually do this for a living.” On the other… well, I didn’t just get fans. I also got a substantial number of haters. Given that my mental health back then wasn’t the best, I was susceptible to the negative comments that got thrown my way—one of which was that I was a ‘bad artist’ because of the cartoon-y and simplistic style of the comic. I, being a dumbass, tried to prove my haters wrong by ‘updating’ the art style to make it look more consistent and professional. Which, of course, ended up making it unsustainable to create on a regular basis since I had a full-time job.

Now that I’m in a much better state of mental health, I’ve realized that… well, wow. What was I thinking? Why did I even want to prove anything to people who never really liked me or my work in the first place?

Looking back now, I can’t blame myself either because I had never really had that much experience being popular on the internet before. It was kind of a relief when I started and sort of stayed as a relative nobody in the cryptoart scene.

But I digress, and wow that was a lot of words to say that I’ve learned my lesson. In the realm of comics I’m still pretty much a beginner, so I am allowing myself to be a beginner again. If I want to achieve any form of success in this realm, I need to be willing to make a lot of bad comics to get to the good ones. And maybe removing some of the ‘friction’ in that process—like trying to make it look the best it can be—will help me focus on what makes good comics good: the writing.

So… be prepared for a lot of bad comics again. It’s going to be great.

I’m going on an adventure!

Bilbo Baggins running out of the shire

Well, six months since I posted about how I got into NFTs, I finally got the resources and the courage to finally leave my job in game development and become an independent artist.

I can’t say that this new adventure doesn’t fill me with both excitement and dread. I have been trying to make a living off of art for as long as I can remember, even before I graduated from college.

Before I started selling art as NFTs, I was resigned to my fate that I would always be working on other people’s projects first, personal projects second. Game development being the way it is, I never really had enough mindspace and energy to work on more complex personal projects, like keeping this blog/website updated regularly.

So… now that I have what seems like all the time in the world: now what?

Well-meaning friends have been asking me what my plans are, and the best answer I can give is that I’m still figuring that out. One of the things that I’ve learned from the past couple of years is that over-planning in a rapidly changing world (moreso due to the pandemic, but also in terms of the crypto space) will only lead to frustration. So the goal is to be a bit more flexible and just go with the flow for a bit.

That being said, one of the more immediate things I’ve been focusing on is helping out and mentoring with the CryptoPop Art Guild (CPAG): an art x Axie Infinity scholarship sponsoring underprivileged Filipino artists. I believe that this is the best way that I can give back a bit–in ways that I can– to a community that has made the dream of creative freedom come true for me.

I don’t really know where all this is going to go, or what life would be like a month/six months/six years from now, but I know that it’s going to be an adventure. In the meantime, I have a whole bunch of social media accounts and webpages I probably need to update.

How I Got into NFTs

So, in true “me” fashion, I started this blog in February and then completely ignored it for the next few months.

In my defense, I’m really busy. Most of my time is spent working as a game developer, as the Lead Technical Artist at Altitude games. When I’m not working, I’m either making even more art or learning something new—or playing Genshin Impact.

If you have no idea what the fuck an NFT is, I suggest you google it because it’s kind of a big thing. I could try to explain it myself, but 1) I’m not an expert; 2) I’m tired and lazy because it’s the weekend; 3) there’s already plenty of other smarter and more eloquent people explaining what it’s all about on the internet; and 4) that isn’t really what this post is about.

This post is about how I got into NFTs! So, let’s dive in.

I’m gonna be honest here: at first, I gave absolutely zero fucks about NFTs OR blockchain OR cryptocurrency in general. I didn’t understand it, didn’t really have the time and energy to understand it, and I just didn’t care. My philosophy was basically: if I can’t use magic internet money to pay for groceries, then why should I care? 

Considering half our company has been working on blockchain games (I’ve been working on non-blockchain projects), that was probably not really the best mindset to be in. I don’t remember what prompted me to start caring, but at some point I decided I was done not understanding the thing, so I was gonna look into it and figure it out.

Sometime in 2019, I got curious about Axie Infinity (a blockchain-based game). Gabby (@gabusch) was raving about it, I thought the Axies were really cute, and it looked like a game I could get into. I figured it was also an opportunity for me to finally learn more about blockchain because I would be viewing it through a gamer’s lens—because games, I understand. So, I bought my first few ETH, tried the game out… and quickly lost interest because it was mostly a PVP game back then and breeding Axies took forever. 

Cut to… early 2020: we were a few months into lockdown, and I was suffering from a lot of anxiety over the pandemic and my financial situation. My partner lost his line of income and our housemate’s income was irregular at best, so our whole household of three grown humans and six cats was basically reliant on my income. Mind you, I did have a bit of savings, but if any one of us were to get sick I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. 

Anyway…

The point was, I was very anxious and very unhappy, and I needed something to distract me from all of the mess in the news and in my head. Gabby then introduced me to Rarible and suggested that I mint and sell some of my art there. I knew of other art platforms at the time, but I was also feeling quite rusty and unsure about my painting style, so I didn’t want to have to go through the application process and potentially get rejected. Rarible was the easy way in because I could just mint my work and put it on sale right away. 

I didn’t really jump into it right away, though. I did some research first: I checked out the market, looked at what kind of art was already being sold, learned how people were pricing their work, explored the tech some more—at some point I had to stop researching because it was becoming a giant rabbithole of possibilities, and if I spent any more time on research I would never get anything done.

So, one weekend in July 2020, I painted a new piece, got it to a point I was happy with, minted it, and put it on sale on Rarible. I told Gabby—and then he immediately bought it. It was a 1/1 piece that I listed for like 0.8 ETH and so my friend effectively gave me PHP12-13k (which was what it was worth at the time based on ETH’s conversion rate to Philippine pesos) for that single piece of work. 

Butterflies – the first piece of art I ever minted as an NFT.

I got so excited that I made and minted a new piece the very next day: an experiment with gif animation at 5/5 editions. Gabby bought one of those too. At first I thought Gabby was just crazy giving me money like that, but then I minted some of my older works that I still liked, and then more people started buying my work: people I didn’t really know and didn’t know me. I had very little social media presence at the time. I was also very anxious about social media use so I barely tweeted about my work. 

Expelling Demons, my second NFT

Then more people started to follow me on Twitter, and then suddenly I was doing a collab with KittyBast , then I got more followers, then Pranksy started noticing me and buying a lot of my work. I got a few friends (Shelly and Marv) to join me in the craziness. More follows, more sales. I started applying to other platforms, got into a few. I made a lot of new friends, so I was a lot more active on Twitter than I used to be. It was a crazy fun time, and nobody even called NFTs “NFTs” back then. 

Then sales started to slow down, and I started to burn out. I had to take a break, slow down a little, and think about what I really wanted to do and where I wanted to take my art. I liked my day job and the people I worked with, so I couldn’t give that up. I had to figure out how to balance doing cryptoart with everything else. For a while I was doing exactly that: I didn’t mint as much work, didn’t really bother with Twitter so much, focused on just making new art or marketing my work whenever I made something new…

And then everything changed when the fire nation attacked—which in this case, was mainstream media getting wind of the NFT craze. Suddenly, everyone was talking about NFTs. And almost immediately, everybody was shitting on NFTs. That was roughly around mid-March 2021.

“Cryptoart is bad for the environment,” they cried.

Imagine my surprise one day when I found myself in a Twitter list along with my friends that had quite the threatening aura: “Mother Earth is Crying – Artists who participated in NFTs/Crypto Art while the environment is in shambles. Do what you will.”

Here I was, just minding my own fucking business, finally starting to get over my fear of social media, and then suddenly I was in a list that was basically saying: “See these people? Go and bully/cancel them.”

My entire Twitter feed was a warzone. Almost every non-crypto artist I followed was posting or retweeting hot takes, some of which encouraged actual physical harm to people trying to make crypto transactions. Big-name artists who were thinking of getting into NFTs were getting so much hate. Some people started to argue that blockchain was basically just a huge pyramid scheme.

So yeah, the very thing that was helping distract me from the shitty reality of the pandemic, bad government, uncertainty of the future, was the thing that started stressing me out. 

You might be wondering: what does all this have to do with how I got into NFTs? 

Well, it’s because prior to that … I hadn’t really made up my mind whether I was in this thing for the long run. I could’ve quit then and there. But where would that get me? I’ve made so many new friends (the cryptoart community is crazy supportive), I’ve been loving my work again, and I’ve never felt more confident in my abilities. Plus, the money from the sales and projects I’ve participated in has put me in the best financial position I could ever be in. Even if I lost my job and didn’t work for the next 5 years, I’d still be covered. 

I realized recently—given how there’s still so much confusion about NFTs, blockchain, and cryptocurrency—that I need to start talking about it. I need to start telling my story so that people don’t just have the stories from big news outlets and celebrities to draw conclusions from. Hopefully they can also see it from the point of view of someone who was just trying to make some extra cash and not go insane in the middle of a pandemic.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m some expert on blockchain. Hell, I’m not even an expert on cryptoart. I’m still wrapping my head around DeFi, I still have no idea what a DAO is, I barely understand what is going on in about 90% of the crypto space, but I know that I’m excited about making art again, and I’m excited about the Metaverse because I’m a gamer (virtual worlds? I live for that shit). I want to learn as much as I can and do as much I can with this technology.

That’s how I got into NFTs. I’m in this for the long run.

Welcome to Draw Write Play!

This is the official blog, portfolio, and general brain dump of game developer, crypto artist, and giant nerd in a small body: Caroline Dy (that’s me)!

For someone whose username is “drawwriteplay” on social media, I haven’t really written a lot lately. The name originally came from a semi-autobiographical webcomic that I used to produce (you can still find it here), and it kind of just stuck. 

I’ve kept the name partially because I couldn’t really think of a better one to use that’s still available on the social media platforms I commonly use, and partially because I’ve already gained quite a few followers on Facebook and it feels like a waste to rebrand.

While I’ve set aside the webcomic part of my life for now, I still feel the need to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. Twitter has been great for that, but I need a space that I can easily reference and organize.

I hope to express more of myself and my work through this space, and I also hope you’ll stick around!