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Coffee With Brenda Hoddinott – Founder of Art Portal – Drawspace.com – Part 4

5 June 2010 6 Comments

Dear Readers,

Please find the last & final part of the series with Brenda. What a series of interviews we have had. You can find the previews parts here: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3. So here goes the final part of the interview.

Coffee With Brenda Hoddinott – Founder of Art Portal – Drawspace.com

Me: What are the career opportunities for artists today?  What is your advice for artists?

BH: Thank you for these questions, Sundar! Hopefully, my answers can help those who wish to turn their creativity into careers, or become more creative within their current professions.
Creativity, flexibility, and education are the catalysts that will propel creative individuals into art-related careers. Opportunities are limited only by the imaginations of those who create. Maybe I can use myself, and the wonderful artists with whom I work, as examples.
In the late nineties, I was still stubbornly refusing to learn how to use a computer. As I continued reading about art-related businesses, I soon came to realize that the potential value of this technology far outweighed my fear of learning something new. So, my wonderful son (Ben) set up an old computer for me, and with his help, I taught myself how to use it. Thankfully, I conquered my fear of technology; from this point forward, my career quickly took off.
My first Web sites were simple showcases for my art, along with a few tutorials on drawing. Surprisingly, though, my early Internet presence led me toward a brand-new aspect of my career. In 2002, a literary agent in New Jersey was searching for an artist to write an instructional book on drawing. She sent me an e-mail asking if I’d be interested in writing a book. I thought it was a joke, but wrote her back anyway, and said yes. Once I realized this offer was real, trepidation and self-doubt set in. Again, I fought these feelings and decided that I had nothing to lose if I at least tried. Shortly thereafter, I had both a literary agent and a contract to write a book for the largest series publisher in the world (the For Dummies series published by Wiley, Inc., New York).
In 2003, I set up a meeting with Jeff Baur (one of Ben’s childhood friends, and an amazing artist). Jeff and his company, Skillchain Media, were working on leading-edge technology in Web site design and development. I invited him to resurrect my Web site, which had fallen into neglect during the year I was writing my book. Jeff accepted my offer, and Drawspace was soon born!
As an aside, before joining Drawspace, Jeff’s own art-related career included working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Special Projects group; filling various roles including: lead designer, lead developer, and production manager. His diverse, web-based, and cross-platform projects have been nominated for both International Emmy and Webby awards.
During the next two years (thanks to Jeff), Drawspace grew by leaps and bounds. I decided to retire from my forensic art career to focus only on authoring lessons for Drawspace and writing another book on drawing; this one was for Penguin Group (USA), (the Complete Idiot’s Guide series publisher).
In 2005, another of my son’s artistic childhood friends (Jeff Warford, better known as “Warf”), began working for Drawspace part time. In March, 2010, Warf accepted a full time position with the Drawspace team. Warf is a self-taught computer programmer with over 20 years of experience. A keen problem-solver, he became interested in Web development as a teenager, and went on to work with a diverse range of clients across industry, academia, and government as a contractor and consultant. Warf brought diverse skills to Drawspace, working within the roles of system administrator, developer, and network security specialist. We are absolutely thrilled to have Warf (a.k.a. “Worf”) working for Drawspace as “Chief of Security” (a smile for fans of Star Trek).
In 2009, I brought my artist abilities into two more career areas, as an author of electronic books, and owner of a publishing company. I soon discovered that I needed to add a professional editor to the Drawspace team (in my humble opinion, an author who edits her own books has a fool for an editor). In addition to being an incredible editor, Suzanne Beaton is an artist in the disciplines of music and performance (she plays the violin, sings, and delights in the occasional acting or voiceover opportunity.) Her left-brain experiences have included work in public relations and university administration, and she headed the first university-hospital health-research training program of its kind in North America. Having taught English (and music) both here and in Germany, her love of languages inspired her current pursuit of a degree in linguistics, which she looks forward to completing this year.
Including Suzanne, Drawspace now has a team of four, which no doubt will grow as the Web site continues to expand! In addition, Drawspace is blessed with six (with more to come) artists/authors/art educators from several different countries, who teach interactive art courses in our virtual classrooms. Aspiring artists all over the planet can now improve their skills under the guidance of the world’s leading authorities on art!
To summarize, if Drawspace can provide employment within the arts for a total of 10 artists (including myself), then obviously, numerous career opportunities exist for artists today. However, gone are the days when an artist works within one artistic discipline for their entire career. In other words, very few artists can make a decent living by focusing on one art form, full-time (such as painting, drawing, creating music, or writing books). My advice for today’s artists is that they need to be self-motivated, flexible, diversified, and constantly seeking educational and creative employment options within numerous fields of art.
Me: How should one change as time progresses?
BH: Again, thank you Sundar, a perfect question to complete our conversation!
As we age, we must be careful not to fall into a mindset that relies entirely on our old skills, habits, and experiences. Change in the world around us is inevitable, and not a process we should try to rebel against or control. Rather, we should joyfully navigate through this maze of opportunity by embracing projects that constantly challenge us and provide additional learning opportunities.
For instance, during the process of writing my first book, I had to learn how to use several unfamiliar features of Microsoft Word, and a software imaging program called Photoshop – a massive undertaking for computer-challenged me! As I soon found out, pretty much everything in today’s publishing world is done electronically; from an initial query letter to the submission of a manuscript and digital illustrations. Even something as seemingly simple as writing an electronic book demands additional technology. To design the layout for my heavily illustrated e-books, I had to teach myself how to use another program called Adobe InDesign.
In my humble opinion, we need to evolve as professionals, rather than change who we are as artists. Naturally, we should embrace and nurture our unique natures and abilities; they are invaluable possessions in the constantly moving sands of time. However, at the same time, we need to prepare for the changing world of art by constantly learning new skills and keeping up with modern technology.
In closing, a huge thank you to the readers of this interview, and a great big hug to those who took a few moments to share their comments (this is how we know somebody is actually out there – grin). Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Sundar; for his patience, guidance, and thought-provoking questions.

Me: Thank you very much Brenda for all your time. It was really amazing to have a special month long interview with you 🙂 On behalf of all the readers, a special thanks to you once again!




  • Vatsala said:

    Wow. A wonderful conclusion to the interview series.

  • Paul said:

    GREAT interview; I read all parts: 1/2/3/4! It’s nice to see that you can teach an old dog new tricks; I really admire and respect the fact that you managed to get over conquering your computer fears; in my own family, my elderly mum just doesn’t wish to know about learning computers, at all; no matter how hard I try to teach her.
    I can see why you are still going strong because you are very highly adaptable. GOOD LUCK with the future development of DrawSpace, as well as, your many other projects; which is my fav. place to go/or, direct other people to go to for FREE online drawing tutorials for beginner/intermediate/expert. Oh, and, I did buy your book called, Drawing for Dummies; as a matter of fact, I’m still reading through it, right now. You always seem to do a very brilliant job; so, it’s really good to have you; may your teachings long continue. Bye/-Paul

  • cindy wider said:

    I have absolutely loved reading these four interviews, the questions were great and Brenda’s answers gave so much insight into the life of a creative person with an ability to diversify and survive in our challenging industry. Brenda is such an inspiration and I am one of the privileged art instructor/author/artists who has been working with her and the wonderful drawspace team for over two years refining the virtual classrooms and having taught over 150 students over the past year I am very grateful that Brendas business provides well for me and my family financially. I have a wonderfuol new career that works in around my lifestyle and I get to help people from all around the world who study in my 42 week art course. I love being a part of the amazing Drawspace team! Brenda is always so motivated and uplifting and shares her knowledge so willingly but what these interviews have revealed to me is the wonderful journey that Brenda has been on – in a more personal way. Thankyou Sundar and Brenda for these enjoyable articles.

  • Arun Vallappan said:

    Excellent piece. I have been looking for a platform such as drawspace for quite some time and it’s a great find!

    Thanks a lot Sundar! 🙂

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