Many people consider college the final years before their “real lives” start – lives with respectable jobs, mortgages, spouses and even having to clean our own bathrooms. To others, however, college years are spent building businesses that will carry them into their lives following graduation. Students becoming college entrepreneurs have discovered their passion (sometimes even outside of their field of study) and are creating innovative ideas to succeed beyond the classroom.
Megan Wyreweden, a senior at the University of Washington, is one such entrepreneur, using the Internet to sell her handcrafted digital art through her shops on deviantArt.com and Etsy.com
Wyreweden takes commissions on the art she creates for a wide customer base – basically, anyone with a computer. “In the past, I’ve done many things from tattoo designs, book covers, CD covers, to name a few,” Wyreweden said. Some of her clientele includes indie musicians, game developers, and authors, but anyone with a “taste for sci-fi, fantasy, geekery, and all things dark” would find her work enticing.
She first realized she had the potential to turn a profit from her art when she attended Sakura-con, an anime convention in Seattle. She set up shop at the convention to sell her art and was surprised by the widely positive reception. Wyreweden recognizes Sakura-con as the “encouraging push” to take her art business to the next level.
Her art encompasses a unique, beautiful dark quality to it, as the images are so crisp and vibrant that sometimes, it’s hard to determine exactly how she created them – by hand or by computer? Wyreweden uses the help of both to express herself. “Ninety percent of what I draw is done on either Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter,” Wyreweden said. “I use a drawing table, which is pretty much just like regular painting except with an undo button. As a digital painter, I still had to learn all the ropes, such as lighting, proportions, and composition.”
Though Wyreweden has always had an interest in art and drawing, it wasn’t until she opened her shop and began selling her work that she realized what her post-college dreams were. She’ll graduate with a B.A. in psychology, but her ambitions have since changed, thanks to her art. Her new goal is to get a job in the gaming industry as an artist. “This was a recent decision,” Wyreweden said. “I realized that a psychology degree might not bring me success and happiness. Art, however, has always been constant all my life. There are lots of options where I live, so I really do think that it’s possible.”
Wyreweden is thankful for her supportive friends including a handful of “artist friends” who do similar work as her. However, sometimes she admits it’s hard to relate to most of her classmates. “I’ve gotten weird looks from some of them when I say I want to be an artist in the gaming industry, which I can understand,” says Wyreweden. “I go to a predominantly business, engineering and medical school, so it’s hard to make ‘drawing pictures for a living’ sound legit.” Thankfully, the support she gets and the promise of her own goals far outweigh any dubious misgivings thrown her way.
With her art and her business merging, concern over one overpowering the other has surfaced. “Whenever I draw something new, I do consider things like size options for printing, whether it’s ‘sellable’, stuff like that,” Wyreweden said. “I try not to let that eat too much into my creative process. I want to keep things true to myself, but I also want to sell.” For Wyreweden, the secret is to keep a steady balance between the want to sell and the need to create art she is passionate about.
Megan may graduate with a degree in psychology, but she’s earned much more in her years of college. She’s discovered something sincere about her art. “This is my world,” she said excitedly. “I put real work into this, and I make real money as a result. Why not continue, especially if it makes me happy?”