With a flick of a digital pencil, junior Ava Pilcher begins a new sketch right in front of our eyes. Twenty minutes later, it’s likely to be sold for $150 to one of Pilcher’s over 27,000 fans online.
In the fast-moving world of online art, Pilcher has found a niche by designing characters and selling them on an internet auction site. When we spoke mid-afternoon, three of the designs that they’d created in the morning had sold for $150 each.
“I kind of made it up in 15 minutes or so,” Pilcher said. “And I put it up on my site, and, you know, people started bidding and it sold.”
The process starts with Pilcher’s iPad and Apple Pencil, drawing line art in an art program called ProCreate. Within a few minutes, the character starts to take shape — while we watched, a shaggy haired creature started to be formed.
“Mainly I get my inspiration from animals — like a lot of animals — a lot of foods, kind of different cultures. For this specific one, it was kind of like more of a fantasy design.”
After drawing and doing some shading, Pilcher’s ready to share the artwork on their popular Instagram that has over 27,000 followers or directly to a buyer via a website called Toyhou.se. The site is currently in an invitation-only beta mode but has already proven lucrative to Pilcher, where her designs have made thousands — one recent sale was valued at $2,050.
“I pay all my bills just with my art,” Pilcher said. “Two or three of my characters have been like cosplay like people of cosplay for, I’ve had a couple that were commissioned into badges like little key chains. And then one of them was actually I think it was on a backpack, like they made it onto a backpack. But it was like embroidered by them.”
For the buyers, it’s about more than a piece of art. Many of the character deisgns are “adopted” by the buyers for use in online games, cosplay, or merchandising. Buyers are getting the whole character design from Pilcher, meaning once it’s sold, though they might get credit, Pilcher doesn’t own the design anymore. They look at the process as a stepping stone to where they’d like to end up.
“Well, I definitely want to go to college for graphic design, and character design,” Pilcher said. “I’ve always really wanted to be like a visual visual development artist for like Pixar like Disney. So I think that’s the route that I want to kind of head down.”
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