Looking back (and forward)
March 30, 2022
I’ve been meaning to write this since the beginning of this year but then uh, everything else happened in the world. I have no big changes to announce, I just wanted to ramble for a bit because I turned 40 last December, which feels like a halfway point in life, and I guess it made me think about things. If you’re in a hurry, you can safely skip over this post—but if you’re curious where I came from and where I might be going, you’re welcome to read on. Just beware, it’ll be a bit long and rambly.
Looking back all these years, I’ve never been in a life situation that felt… sustainable. School for me was thirteen years of anxiety that I couldn’t leave behind fast enough. The compulsory civilian service we had in Germany back in 2000 (as an alternative to military service) was, strangely enough, the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I was responsible for the small-scale logistics at a hospital ward: managing supplies, bringing test samples and results to the lab and back, helping patients find their way around—stuff like that. Simple work, but meaningful. I kept things running smoothly, and I felt that my work was appreciated. It meant that I was on my feet almost the entire day though, and in addition to nearly three hours of daily commute it was exhausting work that didn’t leave me much time or energy for anything else.
After that I could have gone to university, but my experience with our formal education system was so bad, I don’t think I would have fared well. I could never really see myself in a traditional career. Instead I tried to start a small freelance business with my partner Kiza: some web design, some software development, but none of it ever brought in enough money to survive. I’ll never forget the first review we got after working for months on a $15 utility app for the Mac: “Great app, but not worth paying for.”
Eventually we had to give up and both ended up working at a company that did web development and IT services for other businesses. Your typical IT job. When I started working there, it was a small and friendly family-run business. It’s difficult to describe how, as we began to work for larger clients, it slowly evolved over the years from a job that was kinda fun at first, into a neverending nightmare of mismanaged projects in a constant state of emergency.
It took us far too long to do it, but after eleven years we both just quit. We had some savings but no real plan for the future—I was simply so exhausted that I no longer cared. For a while we dabbled in software development again, making a few mobile apps and games for Android—some of which I was quite proud of—but once again it wasn’t nearly enough to survive.
One of the last projects we worked on was called River’s Rescue, and it was meant to be a 3D adventure game about a jackal stranded in the desert. I was excited about it because of the story we wanted to tell, but I slowly realized that working with the Unity game engine every day reminded me too much of that job I had quit. It’s hard to explain… programming used to be my passion ever since I was a teenager, but software development today is a huge mess and after those eleven years I was still so burned out, it only made me angry and frustrated. I couldn’t do it anymore.
A Different Path
One evening back in my school days—I was 16 and the internet was still new and exciting—I came across a fan website for The Lion King. It had everything: pictures from the film, the whole script, and the full soundtrack for download (those were innocent times). Up until that point I had always been more of a sci-fi nerd, but listening to the music of The Lion King opened up a whole new world to me, and most importantly, it introduced me to the furry community.
I joined the TLK-L mailing list (the equivalent of a web forum or subreddit today), and only a few days later I met Kiza, now my partner for 24 years. Back then I created my original fursona, Kianga, a jaguar. In 2001, Kiza and I traveled together to New York, to meet with fellow TLK fans from all over the world and watch the The Lion King on Broadway together.
It was an overwhelming experience. Both New York and the Broadway show were magnificent, but traveling for the first time without my parents (I had just turned 18), to the other side of the globe, speaking a foreign language, interacting with people I had never met in person before… I’ve always struggled with social anxiety, and this was a lot. I didn’t do so well, and I think it made me shy away from big social gatherings, but despite everything… if you had known me back then, even trying this was such a big step for me that I never would have taken if it hadn’t met Kiza and the other people from TLK-L.
Over the years I slowly drifted away from the TLK community due to my job consuming most of my energy, and other interests taking over. I got sucked into MMOs for many years, first World of Warcraft and later Guild Wars 2. These games helped me through a depressing time and I met wonderful people along the way, but I’ve come to realize that my heart was never much into the mechanical aspects of gaming. I’ve never wanted a challenge in my free time—my work has always given me enough of that. It’s the fantasy worlds, the artwork, the stories and characters around these games that have always fascinated me.
During that time I also started browsing DeviantArt more regularly (it was still a vibrant community back then), and connected with some of the furry artists there. One of them, Danero, became a dear friend and his dedication to art inspired me to try not just consuming it, but creating it myself. I tried getting into traditional art for a while, but it wasn’t until I made that 3D model of River the Jackal for our own game when things suddenly “clicked” for me. Shortly afterwards I started working on my first charr model as a practice project, and you probably know the rest of the story from here.
Fast forward to today, the past few months have been the first time in my life I was able to sustain myself with meaningful work that I actually enjoy, that doesn’t feel like it’s slowly killing me from the inside. It’s still a struggle, and my current income just barely reaches the poverty threshold for Germany (it’s not exactly a cheap country to live in), but it’s sufficient for now.
The furry community has been a part of my life for more than two decades now. I’ve always stayed in the quiet corners, just admiring all the fantastic creativity. It’s a wildly diverse community with countless subgroups (charr fans being one of them), most of them wonderful and kind, a few of them less so, but overall I’ve come to love it dearly. Just a few years ago I never would have thought that I could contribute something of my own, let alone be able to survive off it. You, my patrons, have been a huge part of this, and I can’t thank you enough for staying with me on this journey.
For now I’ve got plenty of charr projects to work on, but I’ll also try to branch out further beyond Guild Wars 2. I still love my charr and won’t stop making art with them, but I feel it’s dangerous to rely only on another company’s franchise for my own income, especially since they’ve been completely silent and unsupportive towards me, despite creating content for years and reaching out on multiple occasions to join their creative partner program.
I also want to finish my custom VRChat avatar that will be available for sale in the future. I’ve been working on this for a while, when my finances allow me to take a break from commission work, and once that is complete I’d also like to create my own jaguar fursona based on it.
In the long term, I’ve been thinking about creating my own visual novel. Many years ago I had an idea for a fantasy story (no charr, but dragons!) but never found a good way to tell it. It was only afterwards that I discovered visual novels, and I love the medium and now I wonder if I could use my 3D art for this…
In the very far future? I’ve been watching a lot of fursuiting and dance competition videos in my free time recently, and… I kinda want to get my own fursuit? Maybe even visit a con with it someday?1 It sounds crazy at the moment, but hmm… who knows.
Anyway! If you’ve made it this far, sorry for all the rambling—I hope it was at least somewhat informative. Not very epic, I know, but that’s life. Feel free to ask questions if you have any, and thank you for listening!