Academy Alumni Successful in Raising Funds with Kickstarter

Jim Vargas and Carla Wyzgala show off their Kickstarter projects.
© Jim Vargas / Carla Wyzgala

So, you want to be a rock star? A successful, independent artist? What to do?! Five Academy alumni turned to crowdfunding site Kickstarter to attract and engage fans, fund their latest publishing projects and advance their careers.

If you don’t know, Kickstarter ( helps many kinds of artists (fully in control of their projects) bring their visions and projects to life with the financial support of existing and new fans/backers.

The Academy artists set different contribution levels and offerings (signed copy, original artwork, etc.) in exchange for financial support. Many backers of each alumnus were complete strangers and from all over the world – a true validation of the artists’ work.

According to Kickstarter: “Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. To date, an impressive 44% of projects have reached their funding goals.”

Here are the stories of these five alumni:



Carla Wyzgala,BFA in illustration, 2009.

Independently creating comics and illustrations.

“I used Kickstarter to fund Carlations Process – a watercolor process art book of my work with tips, tricks and examples on how to use this tricky medium. The funding was for a 50-page, hard cover art book. I raised enough to publish 60 pages.”

The numbers:

·    Backers:  87

·    Goal: $1,375

·    Pledged:  $5,204

Valuable advice about Kickstarter:

“It is a great way to get feedback and learn what paying customers and others want from you as an artist, who your market audience is and to spread your name on a broader, international scale.”

Thoughts about the Academy:

“Stick it out. If this is what you love to do, you can only get better at it with time and experience. It takes a lot of work and self-motivation; but if you apply yourself, there is no reason you can’t be successful.”



Jen Brazas,BFA in Illustration, 2009.

Writing and marketing her webcomic,

&ldquo​;I was kickstarting the fourth book of my webcomic, Mystic Revolution. At the same time, I had to reprint my first book for the third time; so one of my stretch goals was also to cover the costs of that printing. I ended up meeting both goals and going beyond; so I decided to print more copies than I had intended.” 

The numbers:

·    Backers:  144

·    Goal: $5,000

·    Pledged:  $9,492

Valuable advice about Kickstarter:

“Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are simply the best ways to fund independent projects. It is the artists' responsibility to ensure that all of the stuff promised to backers gets properly fulfilled, that everyone stays updated on how the project is going and that the goods get delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Also, content is key – make sure you keep your fans updated so that they keep coming back to check out your stuff! The internet allows us to stay so connected to everyone; so utilizing tools like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Livestream to better connect and build relationships with your fans goes a long way to making sure they continue supporting your work!”

Thoughts about the Academy:

"'Art school' is typically considered the 'easy' solution to going to a normal college/university. The Academy is anything but. They expect you to treat it like a real job, and like a real job they always expect your best. It's really difficult, and will take some time to adjust to from high school, but it will make you a stronger person and a stronger artist if you can make it through. Also listen to all of your professors because they are smarter than you are.”



Caleb King, BFA in Illustration, 2009.

Comic book artist, creating his own intellectual property.

“My goal was to fund a graphic novel of short stories from my web comic Surreality. This book featured 100 percent exclusive material. The only way to see this material is to buy the book. My weekly web comic is completely free to read; so this is one avenue for me to actually make money with my property.”

The numbers:

·    Backers: 34

·    Goal: $2,500

·    Pledged: $2,526

Valuable advice about Kickstarter:

“I think that it’s very important to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers/backers/clients. It can give you a powerful perspective about your work, products, and most importantly, how you are viewed.”

Thoughts about the Academy:

“I would encourage everyone interested in attending the Academy to focus on their long-term goals. Make every decision you are faced with in school by asking yourself these questions: ‘Will this lead me closer to my goal, or farther from it? Will the choices I'm making help me to complete my education and allow me to thrive as an artist?’ Nothing worth doing is easy.”



Kyle Bice,BFA in painting, 2002.

Working as a full-time freelance illustrator.

“My project was called A Book of Dwarves. It was a fictional field guide to (fantasy) Dwarves a la Brian Froud and Alan Lee's Book of Fairies. The project was successfully funded – 200 percent greater than my original goal.”

The numbers:

·    Backers:  156

·    Goal: $2,000

·    Pledged:  $5,429

Thoughts about the Academy:

“The academy was great for me!”



Jim Vargas,BFA in Illustration, 2009.

Comic book artist.

“My project was a self-published and illustrated comic book series called Faithless. It is the unbelievable journey of Alish Karr, a unique angel human hybrid, with a shattered past and dark future.”

The numbers:

·    Backers: 50

·    Goal: $2,500

·    Pledged: $2,550

Valuable advice about Kickstarter:

“It's all about building relationships and not being afraid of putting yourself out there, and pursuing your childhood dreams and passions.”

Thoughts about the Academy:

“I think it is the best place to gain the knowledge and skills needed to drive your career dreams forward!”


Since launching in 2009, Kickstarter has attracted approximately 4.5 million people who have pledged more than $690 million, funding more than 44,000 creative projects.





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