Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An interview with CJ Draden

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  
Today I am joined by a very talented artist, a one CJ Draden who was recently interviewed by the great Stan Lee.  He has recently launched an intriguing kickstarter called “CJ Draden’s Pinocchio.”  Thank you for talking with us today Mr Draden.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk to your audience. 

What made you decide to bring your project to Kickstarter?  It sounds like you’ve done the convention circuit and even landed an interview with Stan Lee what can Kickstarter provide for you that you haven’t done already?

I chose to launch a kickstarter campaign primarily because the content, subject matter and writing style I have inhabited that represents myself as an artist best is not conventional. I gain emotive inspiration by classic literary masters such as H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare; these are not contemporary ways of expression we convey in mainstream storytelling or in our modern ways of communication. Works from these artisans are more poetic and emotional ways of expressing one's inner desires and demons. Many artists and visionary contemporaries may appreciate the works of such masterpieces written by these icons, however I want to revive that specific ideal way of self-expression that I feel it’s more applicable to the stories I want to portray.

I entered the convention scene as a fine artist; I love to paint on glass. I never had a love for comics or a desire to be a comic artist but felt I must keep current with the times and just manipulate certain aspects of the “contemporary ordinary” of storytelling to more of the romanticism that would fit my passion within the “contemporary ordinary”. I believe that is what Stan Lee found so attractive about my work. Even my medium is an expression of myself; I’m an emotionally transparent person (hence the glass). Regardless of writing and illustrating graphic novels, I am not trying to be a comic book artist, I am not trying to mimic techniques of already established artists and comic book artisans, I am simply trying to find and express “CJ Draden”. I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into a category of being labeled as a specific artist because that’s not what art is about. I like the idea of artists being known as philosophers. It’s our job to push the boundaries of capability and provoke thought with new ideas from the psychedelic subconscious. Sure, I’ve been acclaimed by several industry professionals; actor Tony Todd (Candyman), actor Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), author Clive Barker (Hellbound Heart), that offered me beautiful gratitude in great length during conversation, but I don’t feel it’s who we are accredited by that makes a good artist.

Good art is about raising questions in order to achieve self-discovery, “self-discovery”, that’s where the war on originally is being waged. The majority of people openly throw around the statement that “originality is lacking in storytelling”, but I find that to be not true. There is an ocean of originality locked in individual consciousness, all one has to do is turn a blind eye to the mainstream and follow thy heart. I like the convention scene because it has allowed me to establish a career on the primary principle of “following my heart”. Kickstarter breaks that same paradigm away from many industries in a few ways; it allows the individual to present (without industry bias) their passion to the people with equal opportunity for success without conviction from the so called industry professionals dictating the worth of a person’s passions. Therefore it’s not about what I (or many others) haven’t accomplished, it’s what were about to accomplish. Kickstarter is a brilliant in this way.

Would you be so kind as to give the readers a description of your Kickstarter project?  

This is a story about Love and loss. This is a story about the enlightenment a man endures under the pressure of depression. This is a story about creationism, sacred geometry, higher consciousness and insanity. This is my imagining of why of Pinocchio the puppet was created.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you here, I didn’t get pretty much any of that from your Kickstarter page and even what you just said tells me little of the project.  In fact the only thing on your page that actually describes the project is one small paragraph smashed between pictures of your physical rewards and of course Pinocchio.  Heck if it wasn’t for the fact that I was specifically looking in the comics section of Kickstarter I wouldn’t even know this was for a comic!  The one “spoiler” image you’ve posted I only found by following links and searching on my own and some splashes of the image in the video.  Do you think the fact that your campaign page doesn’t really explain anything about your project is why your Kicktraq graph is so flat?  Do you have any plans to further explain your project?

I think this is a very justifiable discussion to address. As I have previously described, I love to interact with people on a personal level and make a great connections with folks that invest in my vision. However, contemporary telecommunications and the Internet are the most impersonal outlets of communication especially when dealing in fine art, a product based on passion. This its unbelievably difficult to convey this over the internet. So hosting this campaign has been a huge challenge for me to adapt to.

This is my first attempt to kickstart a project and I feel I’m kicking ass at the moment. Answering this specific question to this interview has also helped me redefine the principles of presenting the message of my product within the campaign. I have nothing but pure confidence in my artwork and vision to succeed and I have pure confidence in my supporters to back my campaign. These folks are the most extremely supportive, loyal, respectful, and beautiful people I have ever known. They have supported me for the past 4 years entirely as an independent artist so I know they will come through for me during this campaign. Alas, I do have mixed feeling about my kicktraq as you do but not for the same reasons. I’m considering the holidays. I launched my Pinocchio campaign during the peak Christmas season in which everyone is shopping, traveling and dining with their families, and I still have New Years to surpass so this will be a difficult campaign to achieve success on. Given this risky launch date of December 18th, I feel that being 42% funded for my campaign is immaculate considering my Pinocchio campaign has only been live seven days, if this was the last week and I was at 42% I would empathize with your point of view, but I don’t, I feel I will be successful. I am working night and day (with the perspective and opinions of close friends and strangers) to edit and restructure my campaign to make things legible and easy for comic and art enthusiasts to understand my message and vision for “CJ Draden’s Pinocchio”, and I respect you for challenging my campaign and myself as an artist and that’s why I decided to do this interview.

Well I’m glad you took up my challenge so openly and honestly. What inspired you to tell this tale of “Pain from the Scar on a Wooden Heart?”  

My past. I never knew my father and my stepfather was an alcoholic abusive person mentally, physically and emotionally. It was a struggle to grow up into a man while dealing with these emotions. I fell in love with stories about father son relationships and Pinocchio was the first book I wasn’t to reimagine, because of these issue. It was hard to accomplish the task of writing “Pain from the Scar on a Wooden Heart”, because my life continued to spin out of control and into a swirling vortex of anger and depression and I fell into the same alcoholic and drug addict instability I dealt with from my stepfather as a child. I left the country and traveled the world for two years in search of something beautiful I could grab on to in this life, (which in the following years became my artwork). I traveled through Mexico, Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, Italy and Spain then I soon returned to America with an enlightened sense of mystic musings that allowed me to redefined love, understand higher consciousness, archaic shamanism, creationism and science. These are all themes I touch on in my Pinocchio story. The overall theme of the book is how depression, darkness and madness acts as a canvas for creation. I don’t wish my life to be any different than what I have endured because I feel if I was never quenched with the rain from the cloud of melancholy the entire first quarter of my life I would have never be able to find myself as an artist, philosopher and author. “Pain from the Scar on a Wooden Heart: A Pinocchio story by CJ Draden”, is an autobiographical fiction of deep inner turmoil and the question that follow.

What other work have you done in the past?  

I haven’t really worked in the industry. I used to do music, in fact. I love to sing, write lyrics and play instruments. I felt on many occasions writing this graphic novel is like writing a song of the way I feel and illustrating the my main character (Salvatore) in action is the equivalent of getting a good scream or yell in a song. My passion for art and storytelling knows no bounds.

How much of the story is written?  Your estimated delivery date is in June 2013 is that going to be enough time to finish the book and get it printed?  

I have finished writing the book. Currently I am waiting on a final edit of the last act so I can finish paneling out the imagery and illustrate it. The majority of my time goes into composing beautiful shots. I chose June because I travel to conventions and shows in different cities every month (sometimes two shows a month) promoting and selling my work. I have shows booked up until April; if the campaign is successful I won’t book any shows in April and May and primarily focus on completing this project.

You are asking for $8,000 on this project, where is the money going to?  

I’m glad you asked this question. I like to let my customers know exactly what they are paying for. The products and artwork offered as rewards through my Pinocchio campaign range from glass paintings, cast molds of Pinocchio’s heart, custom wood commissions, necklaces and a lot of the materials for these products are not cheap especially the resin for the cast molds. Obviously the majority of the funds will be put towards the printing of the graphic novel, the second majority of the funds will go towards my customers products and the delivery of those products. The remainder of the funds will go towards my living expenses for the months of April and May that I will be off the convention and show circuit in order to stay in my studio and put my entire focus on the completion of this project and have it delivered by June as promised. I feel this is an extremely modest budget for an independent artist that has to pick and choose projects based on income. I want to complete this project and get it out to my audience and followers but it comes down to the support. If it gets funded I'll cancel my shows and get it done. If it doesn’t get funded I'll continue the show circuit at the start of the season in 2013.

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation.  How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

These are question I should be asking you! [Laughs] As I previously stated this is my first campaign and I’m not very savvy with how to successfully run a campaign, and I don’t have many friends that can offer that advice. I know I have good presentation and excellent showmanship so I just try to apply those same principles I use at the convention scene to my campaign. I have been posting updates and adding vlog posts. I also have several plans to make more posts about this project in regards to my writing style, reading excerpts from my graphic novel to give viewers a good taste of what to expect. Reading excerpts from Poe’s work to compare with my writing. I'm currently filming a speed painting demo of my Pinocchio with back lit glass. I’m conjuring up more pledge rewards and different ways to edit my pledges to my supports interests and artistic tastes. It’s a constant process, and I don’t really think anyone can predict the outcome of a campaign success rate. All you can do is what you know and what you learn, the rest really lays in the hands of the folks willing to support your project if they believe if your vision and I have complete confidence in my work and my ability to succeed as well as delivery a damn good product.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to help things along? Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

The majority of my following is on FB, through my “Art of CJ Draden Page”, “CJ Draden’s Pinocchio page” and my personal profile page. I use youtube, google +, twitter, wordpress, but hey… I’m not a marketing guru, I wish I was but I’m not. I get easily frustrated, lose focus and want to get back to creating a piece of art! I like the internet and all it has done for myself and business as an independent but I can focus on it all that much I truly can't. I need to have my mind buried in my creations or a good book studying for my next project. This is why my prowess is at the shows, I’m a people person, I love to paint live and get people involved in my passion and It’s a completely different experience, and that's why kickstarter is proving to be a challenge for me. However I have been busting my ass on my campaign and like I said before over the past week my kickstarter has been live I think I’m doing pretty well. I checked out kicktraq, I just don’t know how to use it to my advantage.

As for advice for anyone wanting to host a kickstarter campaign? Keep it simple. Don’t get into to detail on your promo, save the detail for the updates and blogs posts. The detail is for the people interested in your vision. The main promo is supposed to be about the facts, getting straight to the point and being clear about what you are trying to accomplish. Period. If backers like your vision they will scroll down to see what else you have to say and offer about the project and then you can get into detail. I started my Pinocchio campaign with a promo video being 9 minutes long, I managed to get it down to 1 minute and 30 seconds now and it has more information about my product and is better than everything talked about in my first video. The biggest things for people not to do is get discouraged, as much as I dislike on line promoting I do it, i learn from others and I make it happen. Stay humble, stay true to yourself, stay open to criticism and your kickstarter campaign will do just 


Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Final thoughts? I honestly believe “Pain from the Scar on a Wooden Heart”, is a piece of literature that everyone can take something away from. It is a viewer participatory text, meaning it requires the reader to put themselves into the content of the story to get something out of it, but that’s what make good art timeless. It’s the passion one feels for a good strong emotionally driven story, and a good strong message about message about the characteristics (good and bad) that make us human. I would greatly appreciate any support folks could offer. Come to my campaign check it out shoot me a message and lets discuss this graphic novel. I'll deliver powerful artwork and beautiful story about the creation of Pinocchio, all it requires is the support of the people seeking original storytelling.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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