The Journey of EWG - Day 1 of 5

December 11, 2014

The Journey of EWG - Day 1 of 5
By Eryck Webb and Kristina Webb

Today we look back at the idea that would become EWG and the first year of trying to make that idea a business

December 11th, 2009

In August 2009, I accompanied my then, girlfriend to the Raleigh-Durham triangle area in pursuit of a new teaching opportunity she received. I had racked up a good 3+ years of experience at an advertising agency and was doing well at that point. She had struggled in the Pennsylvania job market and it was high time she got her foot in a door and on her way down the ol' career path. So I left my job in Morgantown West Virginia and moved south with her. A couple months had gone by, and I absolutely relished and loved being in North Carolina with time off from July through September, but come November I had had enough. I ramped up the job search. I went on interviews, cold called print shops and design agencies, and sent resumes and portfolios everywhere.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend lost her teaching job at the end of the first quarter due to budget cuts. This left us without an income. As my girlfriend took whatever mundane call center jobs she could to get us by, I was still without work and saved up funds were running low. Towards the end of November, with Christmas coming and the toll of working at a very poorly run call center wearing on my girlfriend, the final straw was plucked. I was no longer able to pay my way. I had gone on several more fruitless job interviews where they wanted to meet me but had no open positions or actual work for me. Then my girlfriend had to pay December's loan payment for my truck. This was a moment of clarity for me. From that moment on, I was determined to at least make enough money to pay for my own truck, and as much of my portion of the rent and bills that I could. But the truck definitely.

I spent another week or so cold calling every place that would be able to use my talents and experience in the graphic design field. But a 4 year degree and almost 4 years of experience in a fast paced advertising agency did not help me get any job at all. Finally, after an epiphany, due in part from our financial stress and the impending expenses of Christmas coming, I rallied myself to think outside the box. I knew I had experience from college and the years working at the advertising agency. I was talented, resourceful, and smart. I had to be able to come up with something.

I remembered that in college, I did the occasional commission through ebay about once or twice a month to create some extra spending money for miscellaneous things. After college, I still did it every so often for some extra pocket money. As a result, I already knew how to put up an ebay ad and how to sell and ship items. Ebay and PayPal were already all setup. On Friday, December 11th, after a long and fruitless final week of job hunting, I experimented with something else. That day I drew a couple pencil art pieces on 8.5x11 Bristol board and put them on ebay for auction.

First 'EWG' piece sold.

The first of these, and the first official piece EWG sold, was an original fan art piece of HellBoy. It sold for $10 + shipping. That officially started me on the path I'm on today. Everyday after, I tried to do 4 to 5 finished character art pieces a day. I researched popular trending characters and what other pieces were selling on ebay. It was slow beginnings, and it took a while to get my girlfriend (now wife)'s confidence. I eventually gave up job hunting all together and focused 100% on pushing this makeshift commission business as far as I could.

Little did I know that five years later, Eryck Webb Graphics would be an official tax paying small business recognized by the U.S. Government, with dozens of clients and thousands of works to its name. It is a successful creative business with consistently more work than I can handle and a handful of clients that provide work on a weekly basis. I'm making the latest truck's payments just fine on my own and my now wife even helps me with finances, job coordination and is my go to voice of wisdom and reason in EWG decision making.

Now as we head into 2015, that same hand penciled work on Bristol that started this business for a mere $10 would be closer to $25 dollars and done completely digitally via Wacom stylus and Photoshop on an 11x17inch, 300dpi canvas.

2009-2010:  From Idea to Work

The beginnings of EWG were simple, and 2009 existed only long enough to launch the venture. The business model was simply draw as many pencil drawings, as good as I could, from the point Kristina left for work in the morning till the point that I stopped to make dinner before she got home. I would work on a daily quota of 4-5 pencil drawings. At the end of the day, I would scan them and clean them up in Photoshop. These digital images would be used to create ebay auctions and sell the artwork. Previous auctions ended daily and new ones were added daily, each running 7 days. The ones that sold would be shipped in a group the next Friday. If a buyer didn't pay until after Friday, that piece would be pushed to the next week. Any artworks that did not sell were renewed for another week of auctions on Ebay.

After a month of refreshing the auctions, the piece would be put in an envelope and filed away. I setup a folder on Deviant Art showing ones that were not sold and offering them for a few bucks less so that folks could buy directly from me via paypal without going through Ebay. Every once and a while I would reevaluate the filed away pieces and determine if it was worth putting them up for auction again or if it made more sense to toss them and come up with new ones that would sell better. 

Original Ebay Listing Ad Designs
Regular customers developed on ebay and occasionally I'd get a request to upgrade an already drawn pencil art. Requests to send an inked version or to color it digitally and send a hires file would pop up every so often. A customer would like a pencil work but want to see it fully inked and colored. Ocassionally, clients wanted a picture of one character to include another complimenting character so they can frame or display them together.

Heading through 2010, the main revenue was still the pencil character art, but the requests for custom orders or completely original commission orders were increasing every month. Every day I would make sure to post something on ebay, and post one 'available for commissions' ad on Deviant Art forums. Posting something every day, showed I was working, and helped maintain interest and daily traffic. That was the idea at least, and it seemed to work at the time.

Times were a little different then. Based on my preexisting graphic design knowledge in Photoshop, I taught myself a quick and easy way to flat and shade using a single flat shade effect for my works, not like the highly rendered look I go for today. Ebay was different then too, at that time you could have ebay's TurboLister put up 20 auctions of the same item. So I'd be able to control what I was available for in a coming week, (4 drawings a day 5 days a week) and I'd design a listing for that item, and put up 20 of them. Then, if people wanted to commission me for more than one, all they had to do was bid on more than one auction. Fortunately my business has evolved to where I no longer depend on this multiple auction format, since they no longer offer it, or ebay for that matter. These Ebay auctions began including more options, with a set base price for custom pencil drawings or inked drawings and then additional fees could be added on at checkout for inking and coloring upgrades. At this time I was still selling the occasional pre-drawn pencil art piece but more and more the popularity of the custom art auctions began to sell more than the pre-drawn art.

First logo I used. Also note the different name.
There was no main website, just ebay and deviant art at the time. Later in the year, Facebook and Twitter became incorporated into the array of sites I used to promote the business and draw attention to auctions. As the one year anniversary of what was then named EW!Graphics approached, pencil art was less the emphasis and the digital colors were catching the eye of onlookers scouting out an artist for their projects. Taking on this new type of work would ultimately move EWG to work exclusively in digital artwork and the end of the traditional ebay auctions.

On my start down the self-employment path, I would always be reevaluating myself as a brand. EWG was my brand, but the brand's main product was me. My own original projects would assist in getting my name out there. Within this brand, I began to recognize two important aspects. My own personal projects that would get my name out there more publicly, and the continuing customer commissions that would make the money. The personal projects help to practice and develop my skills for use on client projects as well as serve as existing examples of comic and illustration work that have, in many instances, inspired clients to hire me to work on similar style projects of theirs.

"I started buying Eryck Webb's pieces from E-Bay before I started to buy his commission slots. Over the years, I have requested short comics, single character, and group pictures. The artwork has improved with each passing commission. However, the pictures truly shine when you allow Eryck to be an artist. For example, his series of 'What If *character* joined Cobra.' Let his imagination run loose and you’ll be greatly satisfied; he never disappoints. "
- D.M.

I credit Bump On A Log to the inspiration for several webcomic jobs I've gotten over the years.
2009-2010 Notables:

    Winter 2010 - Bump On A Log - First in-house webcomic. Originally a 12 strip pitch to newspaper syndicates, it failed to get picked up and went on to be a regular web comic for many years. The webcomic stopped in 2013. This original production would go on to inspire Delusions of Normalsy and TnC Comics in years to come!

    Spring 2010 - Possessed - My full color commissions caught the eye of a comic writer looking for an artist. 'Possessed' was both the first comic strip commission and webcomic commission EWG took on, and is cited as the main influence on moving to digital work. After the first two strips were drawn/ inked traditionally and the results failed to be as professional looking as I wanted, EWG made the jump to inking digitally for a cleaner more professional look. This would later lead to all works being done digitally instead of traditionally.

    Summer 2010 - Cartel - A 5 page pitch of Cartel, with creator/ writer Drew Miami, was commissioned. This would be the first comic EWG would be commissioned for. And was penciled and inked traditionally.

    ● Regular weekly art commissions and sales were the main source of revenue this year.

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