Blood Draugr

An Anonymous Artist Balancing Life Goals And Professional Goals In Music, Art & Digital Media

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April 9, 2022

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Greetings from my dark corner of the creative underworld! I am Blood Draugr, a dealer in the dastardly and maker of macabre media! I have worked for nearly two decades in various capacities within professional film and television, such as directing, shooting, editing, animation, and voiceover.

I have been fortunate enough to participate in many award-winning productions and have seen my photography featured internationally. In addition, I also create music and artwork, both hand-drawn and digital. Blood Draugr as both a brand name and an artist identity came from my love for Gothic fiction (hence, Blood) and the fantastical (Draugr, a type of undead creature from Nordic lore).

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

My fascination with digital media began when I obtained my first video camera ages ago. The ability to capture moments and compile them together to tell a greater story truly resonated with me. I committed myself to learning as much as I could about my chosen craft and haven’t looked back!

After freelancing and working part-time gigs for some years, I was fortunate to find a full-time position at a film studio. The job position has allowed me the flexibility and resources to branch out into different art forms that I had always found interesting. So, I launched a brand that I operate anonymously, separate from my professional work where I focus on experimenting with music, drawing, writing, gaming, and other such content. Thus, from the bleak depths of my mind, Blood Draugr was born.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and what is your advice in getting the creative juices flowing?

As a filmmaker, classic horror films in the vein of “Nosferatu” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligiari”, together with modern auteurs such as Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro have informed my aesthetic sensibilities. My drawing style has a much more lighthearted origin, however: the Golden Age of Comic Books.

I would never have developed my sense of style in any of those mediums without simply experiencing new art. It is imperative to immerse yourself in unfamiliar ideas to discover what appeals to you. You may witness a cinematic shot that leaves you wondering how the filmmakers accomplished it or see an art panel drawn out in a way you hadn't thought of before. Inspiration comes about by expanding your idea of what is possible.

From a musical standpoint, when I approach writing a song, I typically start with the beat. The music that inspires me is often very groove-oriented, from industrial metal like Rob Zombie, to nu-metal like Slipknot. Sometimes I'll even notice weird noises as I'm going throughout my day (construction or machinery, for example) that sound cool and attempt to recreate them through sound design. Once I have laid out the beats for the verses and chorus, I can then conceptualize riffs and synth parts to complement them.

When dealing with writer's block, I have found it is shocking how taking a moment to remove yourself can grant you a different perspective when you return to your project. An action as simple as merely stepping outside, grabbing something to eat, or sleeping on it can permit you a fresh outlook. Of course, this does not always work with time-sensitive projects, but that's what coffee is for, right?

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I use Adobe Premiere paired with After Effects for video editing and animation. For my drawings, I use Photoshop to edit and touch up the raw scans after vectoring them in Illustrator. My videos are uploaded on YouTube, and my artwork is available through DeviantArt and TeePublic.

When writing music, I use LMMS, a free, easy-to-use DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for composing. I use virtual instruments (VSTs) such as Shreddage II: Absolute Electric Guitar, The Loki Bass II, and Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra to generate realistic sounds with MIDI. Once I have locked everything down, I will import the stems into a multitrack project within Adobe Audition. Here I can then record my vocals, add effects, and do more thorough mixing and mastering.

Soundrop is my go-to for distributing my tracks to all major music platforms. This site is a great resource for musicians because it also allows you to license cover songs (for an affordable price) and get your tunes out there to an audience.

I promote my creative media across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@BloodDraugr) and often create promotional videos and graphics specific to those platforms to draw awareness to my works.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

In the beginning, detractors attempted to persuade me that a media career wasn’t worth pursuing because it supposedly couldn't make money. The perception that making videos wasn't a ‘real job’ was disheartening initially. That mentality kept me from working on projects I was passionate about in favor of what I felt like people wanted to see for the longest time. Additionally, the lifestyle of a freelancer is volatile, and there was the ever-present fear of ultimately having to choose between my professional goals and my life goals.

I realized this: the people who were discouraging me in every instance were unfortunately not happy with their lives or professions. It seemed fair to reason that taking their advice would lead me down a similarly unsatisfying path. That realization led me to run towards my dreams! The journey was not easy but was well worth the effort in the end.

How did you build your brand to where it is now? Take us through your process.

The first step was constructing a web portfolio that showcased my best pieces, then using that site to market myself to clients, and finally rolling in current projects to improve my body of work. I started with primarily local companies, eventually moving to work with more prominent brands like Nerdist. Word of mouth was the most important thing for me to build my client base. If you exhibit a solid work ethic and maintain a high standard of quality, people inevitably take notice.

Once you have recurring customers, you can then start to use your regular income to acquire tools that allow you to offer additional services. Don’t be afraid to raise your rates as you gain experience and equipment! It can be very easy to undervalue yourself, but your gear will pay for itself over time if you factor these upgrades into your price. It’s a snowball effect that paves the way for new sources of revenue.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

In both pitching yourself as a candidate for a gig, as well as dealing with feedback on a project you produce, you will invariably find yourself up on the receiving end of criticism.

Art is, by nature, an emotional craft.

You put a lot of yourself into everything you create, and it can be tough to separate your self-worth from how your creations are perceived. The most important thing I try to remember is that what people think about what you've made is not personal and their opinion is entirely subjective. The negative commentary doesn't mean what you made is bad, nor does it mean that you are not good enough. It is paramount to surround yourself with supportive friends and family who will remind you of this.

Tell us the biggest obstacles you have experienced in your content creation journey. And how did you bounce back?

It has been said that if you choose a job you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life. However, the reality is that building a career is fraught with struggle. You will have lean times when you wonder where your next paycheck or meal is coming from. Projects you have poured your heart and soul into will be ripped to shreds and sometimes never see the light of day. You will second-guess yourself time and time again. But ultimately, few accomplishments in life are more fulfilling, and succeeding is entirely possible through perseverance, the support of loved ones (my wife and fur babies, in this instance), and just a pinch of dark sorcery. Just kidding! Or am I?

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

In deciding to make my debut album, I reached out to a couple of vocalists who I very much admired and some wonderful music production personnel. Together, we produced Darkest Magic: A Tribute to Disney Villians”, an album of heavy metal covers of Disney Villian songs. Yeah, I know. It's weird. We also shot a music video for the single for “The Mob Song” from Disney's “Beauty and the Beast”.

The album has since received hundreds of thousands of plays across various music streaming platforms, including Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. The music video garnered over 500,000 views and was featured on the popular Disney blog Inside the Magic. Following up after the positive reception, I unveiled my first original song, "Gray Host Arise!". The feat of having written all the music and lyrics by myself, instead of covering another musician’s piece, was a proud moment for me.

Furthermore, the rush of joy when I made my earliest sale on my merch store was delightful. It's both flattering and amusing to think about the fact that people are walking around in the world wearing and displaying my artwork.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

One strategy I used with the music video for “The Mob Song” was to release it when the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie arrived in theaters. By having the premieres coincide, I harnessed the heightened attention that the film had generated to my benefit. People were already searching for the song and covers of it, which directed copious traffic to both my cover and its video.

Additionally, I released the final Darkest Magic album on Halloween and a separate cover of “Making Christmas” from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Christmas Day proper. The latter was also a part of a compilation album with other artists, increasing my exposure. Being intentional about when I shared my music caught the ear of some festive listeners who perhaps otherwise would not have been as inclined to tune in. Every year I notice a definitive seasonal boost in streams around those holidays.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I will often reach out to brands and artists whose sense of artistry is complementary to mine and whose work I respect. It is imperative when choosing who you partner with to do your research. You will want to know if they are easy to work with and consistent, so you don’t become burned out.

If everything checks out, sometimes it is best to start small, such as joining forces on a short video to see how you get along professionally. If the team-up works out and you don’t notice any red flags, it may be a sign that bodes well for future creative collaboration!

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