Interview: Meet Pencil Kings Founder Mitch Bowler and Find Out How it All Began

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Hello there! I’m Mitch, founder of Pencil Kings, and I’d like to tell you a bit more about me and why I started this site.

Before I launched Pencil Kings, I’d already enjoyed a great career as a digital artist. But I didn’t have any special privileges or lucky breaks when I was just starting out. In fact, I grew up in a small town in Manitoba, Canada, and went to my nearest local art college…

But here’s the thing. When I was getting started, there really wasn’t much information out there about being a digital artist.  And there certainly weren’t any decent (or affordable) courses I could take.

Going to college cost more than $15,000 a year, but I still had to seek out specialized books and DVDs (which themselves were rare) and would often have to pay up to $120 per item! Even then, I found the training still left holes, so I mostly learned on my own, working late into the night, and spending any spare moments I had just learning and enjoying the whole experience of digital art.

 

gr_academyaward[1]I’m a HUGE fan of cartoons, and I ended up working as a cartoon animator for television and online commercials in a really small village – I think it only had just over 300 people at the time! Anyway, while I was making cartoon animation, I also became really interested in 3D animation and wanted to develop my skills in this area.

About two years later, I got my big break. I had just three days to prepare a video showing my skills and to earn a spot working on X-Men 2 the movie!

I didn’t sleep much during those three days, because I was trying to learn as much as I possibly could. But those sleepless nights paid off – I got the job and began my first day putting together the Ikea desks that had been ordered for our small team!

Along my travels, I had access to some of the top talents in the creative industry and, thanks to this, I know what it takes to land a job in this area. I’ve worked alongside artists who have won Academy Awards and worked on all the major game franchises and movies of this past decade.

But here’s the bottom line – I know the level of art required to get into the game and film industries and I want to share this with you.

After my work on X-Men 2 came to an end, I decided to broaden my horizons and take a slightly different approach. On a whim, I went to China to be an English teacher where I learned a whole lot about teaching cartooning…

Learning Language through Drawing

 

teaching art in chinaIn China, I found that one of the best ways to keep kids attention was to teach language through drawing lessons. Almost everyone loves to draw when you give them the confidence and instruction they need to feel good about what they are doing.

Sometimes, I would sit and draw on the street, and it wasn’t uncommon for lots of people to stop whatever they were doing and just stand around and watch me draw. That was pretty cool and word of my drawing skills got around pretty fast. Eventually, I was asked to illustrate a weekly cartoon for the city’s newspaper to help local Chinese people learn English.

Returning to the Film Industry

I loved working in China, but eventually it was time to return home. Shortly after arriving back in Canada, I went back to work for the same company. It was OK, it was a reliable income…but something was calling me back to the East…

 

starting a video game companyStarting a Video Game Art Company

So, after working at home for a while, I eventually returned to China to fulfil one of my dreams: to start a video game company.

It was a great experience, and I was able to lead several artists there working on creative projects – both 2D and 3D. In fact, most of them went on to work at the world’s largest and coolest game companies, while others became college professors. I gave them everything I could each day and I wish them all continued success!

Later on, our small company joined a larger company and I was often in charge of 30-50 artists at a time! I helped guide them and ensure their artwork was up to par for the super-high standards of the video game industry.

Teaching People How to Draw Online

During this time, I started a little website, Drawing Coach, that helped young kids learn how to draw and develop as artists.

And, what started out as a little site has now developed into something pretty big, with thousands of people a day coming to learn from the lessons and videos on that site. Some of you might even have been on there, or done an image search and seen some of my pictures.

drawing coach websiteI loved working on Drawing Coach, but one of the things I’d always wanted to do was create a really professional version of the small site I’d started a few years back.

And that’s what brings us to Pencil Kings! With your continued support, I’m hoping to make this a one-of-a-kind site of pure awesomeness.

The kind of art site that ultimately benefits its members the most by giving them a whole lot more than they asked for.

So, what do you think? I’d love to get your feedback or answer any of your questions, so feel free to get in touch and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Here’s to your Artistic Success!

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