Concept Artist Kirill Chepizhko—who goes by his first name— launched a Kickstarter campaign late last week in association with Shakuro and many other professionals in the digital art industry. Kirill said that getting artists interested in the (still unnamed) project was quite simple.
“People have always been interested in having a good CG community website and we are providing an opportunity for them to have it,” he said. “We let all of our artist friends know that we are bringing the great experience back and so far have seen great amount of positive feedback.”
With CGHub going dark last month, Kirill said he knew he had to act fast.
“When we learned that CGHub had shut down, it was instantly clear that it had created a huge gap in the CG community and that it was going to be missed,” Kirill said.
Kirill reached out to other professionals in the industry and soon enough he had put together an advisory board. The only thing missing was a reliable developer.
“Everyone knew Team Shakuro had the experience of building and maintaining websites of that scale,” said Kirill. “So when it was time to decide who was going to develop the new community, all of us had the same answer—the original developer of CGHub.”
The new site’s advisory board is made up of well-known artists. Artists like Dan Luvisi, who has worked for Microsoft and Universal, and who recently released his own IP, Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter; Concept Artist Ben Mauro, who worked on Elysium and The Amazing Spiderman, is also on the advisory board.
Each of them said that having a place for digital artists to come together is important for the community.
“We all need a place to go to get a pulse for the industry,” said Mauro. “And see what our friends are up to and discover new talents from around the world and a place we can all go to share, learn and grow over the years.”
CGhub was a place where many professionals in the industry gathered to be inspired by others’ art through their galleries. It was a place where artists could network and find employers or employees. CGHub made it possible for artists of any level, professionals and non-professionals alike, to interact with one another.
“It really gave many artists the opportunity to share their work and get exposure though the community, even for artists in remote areas of the globe,” said Tedeschi. “It celebrated art from all over the world, giving exposure to many artists with thumb wall, daily top rows and editor’s picks.”
But CGHub was something else, too. CGHub functioned like a symbolic watering hole for the digital art community and Shakuro and the new site’s advisory board want to bring that feeling back with this new project.
“I believe this is not just another CG artist community,” said Costa. “This is from the web developers (Shakuro) who created the best CG website available before it closed its doors , and I believe this (new) one has the potential to not only be on par with the previous incarnation, but to far surpass it, thanks to the commitment of a universe of artists who are backing it up now.”
Luvisi said that the new site would inspire a new generation of artists “to one day take our spot.”
A project this big is no small undertaking, but Kirill said he is confident that Team Shakuro can pull it off.
“It is important to understand that both Shakuro and the community representatives like me are equally working hard to make this project see the light,” he said.
Kostya Stepanov, the founder of Team Shakuro, said taking on a challenge of this size just made sense because Shakuro already had experience with the CGHub.
“We possess the same resources we had while running CGHub at full speed,” Stepanov said. “And we know exactly what made CGHub the best in the business.”
Stepanov said that although Shakuro had many offers from other companies looking to start the “next CGHub,” the team decided that they wanted to work directly with artists in the community.
“It is the best route to take so that we would not be working with individuals, but working with an advisory board that would represent the opinion of the community,” Stepanov said.
The site will be a moderated by artists to better serve artists, said Klimov. Shakuro will only run the technical side of the site like hosting and maintenance, but the advisory board will take up administrative responsibilities.
“Artists will make decisions,” said Klimov. “Artists who are part of the board of advisers (will) basically tell Shakuro the direction that the site has to take. Shakuro is the ship. The artists are the captain.”
The funds collected through the Kickstarter campaign will go directly into the development of the site. Kinnunen said that for now there would be two “owners” of the site.
“One being Shakuro with a minority stake and the majority stake will be held by a separate entity comprised of members of the art community,” he said. “The main thing is that we do not seek personal financial gain from this and are looking to utilize the Kickstarter funds in a way where Shakuro will have a budget to develop the site until ads and subscription fees cover the costs of running it.”
Kirill said that the new digital art site will be controlled by the advisory board, run by Shakuro, and will belong to the art community.
“The only interest all of us have in this is building a great website similar to CGHub to help the CG industry evolve and grow strong,” he said.
Ninety thousand dollars sounds like a lot to launch a website, but the advisory board said it has a strategic plan to use all that money. Most of the money, 44 percent, will go toward the development of the site. Kirill said that he would be updating the Kickstarter page with stretch goals so that there is a sense of transparency to the project.
But what about the new site’s features? Stepanov said that many of the community’s favorite features would make a comeback.
“We are planning to give the community back everything they loved,” he said. “The editor’s pick, all of the standard features like the ability to create and edit profiles, galleries, the forum and the most anticipated feature that has been mentioned numerous times—the WALL OF FAME aka THE MOSAIC.”
Stepanov said that certain features like “education, tools and jobs” are not planned for the first iteration of the new site, but could be introduced later.
One of the many grievances that artists had when CGHub shut down was that they had lost all their favorites, their contacts, and their work. Stepanov said that the new site would have an export feature that would allow users to keep their contacts and favorites safe.
After CGHub went down, many artists were initially upset at Shakuro. Stepanov said that when the site went dark, his team was “completely shut off” and “lost all administrative rights.”
“The nature of the relationship between Shakuro and the owner was client-developer, also known as work-for-hire,” Stepanov said. “We have not owned any percent of CGHub. We have not been authorized to make any sort of decisions.”
That means that although Shakuro may have access to the old CGHub code, it doesn’t own that code and users’ original information will never be restored unless Full Spectrum Digital, LLC – the owners of the original CGHub—allowed that to happen.
For now, the advisory board just wants to bring the community back together with a new social site to fill the gap the CGHub left behind.
“Many people underestimate the importance of CGHub in not only promotion but also recruitment of skilled artists,” said De Ro. “Even with all the new sites popping up, nothing offers what CGHub did, and we want to fill that void with something that was created by the top of the industry from across the globe.”
Fus echoed that sentiment.
“It won’t be just CGHub 2.0,” he said. “It will be something much better.”