Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
YouTube isn’t Carrah Aldridge‘s full-time job.
But with rise of Shorts, TikTok, and short-form content as a whole, she’s hoping that someday–maybe even someday soon–it will be.
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Aldridge, who’s 26 and a self-taught artist based in central Ohio, has always loved art. Her original creative path was theatre, but after a particularly scarring experience onstage, she turned her efforts to drawing. And though she picked up some foundational skills from broad-based middle and high school art classes, when it came to learning everything else (namely her preferred media, alcohol-based markers like those made by Copic and Caliart) she was pretty much on her own.
So, like many kids of the digital age, she turned to the internet.
The thousands of artists posting on YouTube and Instagram, school supply queen Lisa Frank, and a healthy dose of essentials like Graphic-sha‘s instructional books How to Draw Manga all had a hand in helping Aldridge develop her artistic skillset. But YouTube artists like MissKerrieJ and Baylee Jae were particularly impactful for Aldridge–so when it came time to share her art, it seemed natural to start her own YouTube channel.
Establishing her digital presence was slow going at first. Aldridge tried her hand at vlog-style videos, posting uploads like art hauls, but never settled into a niche she really liked. She started a handful of channels and ended up moving on from most of them, unhappy with her content.
Things are a lot different nowadays–and for that, Aldridge credits YouTube Shorts.
Outside of YouTube, Aldridge has a full-time job at a craft store that usually sees her up in the wee hours, restocking shelf upon shelf of art supplies. That’s why Shorts works for her: even when she’s exhausted from work, she can make quick videos on her phone using Shorts’ in-app suite of editing tools. Not having to spend hours on a single video and not having to splash out for expensive camera equipment and editing software is what makes her able continue her channel as a hobby.
At least…for now.
In the past few months, Aldridge’s channel has taken off thanks to the popularity of her fanart for Disney‘s newest animated featured Encanto. Her vibrant alcohol-marker portraits of the movie’s main characters singlehandedly took her channel from a few thousand views a month to 13.8 million in January and more than 32 million so far this month.
Aldridge hopes that the audience being drawn in by her Encanto art will stick around for her original pieces–and perhaps provide a way to turn her passion from a hobby into a full-time career.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: First, tell us a little about you! Where did you grow up? How did you fall in love with art?
Carrah Aldridge: My name is Carrah and I’m a 26-year-old self-taught artist/illustrator (at least for the type of stuff I like to draw). I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but spent most of my life (about 22 years) in central Ohio. I’ve always been interested in art, doodling here or there as a kid, but my huge love for art came around the time I was 13.
Before then, I was a theater and choir kid, but I encountered a traumatic thing (at least for a 12-year-old) onstage that made me stray away from my passion of singing. To put it simply, I got sick and my voice didn’t come out on stage for my singing parts that I worked so hard for. This event led me to my middle school art classes because no way was I getting onstage again. Slowly, my love for art grew and grew.
Tubefilter: As you mentioned, you’re a self-taught artist. How did self-teaching work for you? Did you find tutorials online, find inspiration from other artists…?
CA: Obviously, you are taught some things in middle and high school, mostly centered around realism, still life, or materials. Alcohol markers nor my style of drawing were really discussed when I was in school. For this reason, I title myself self-taught. Most of what I do now, I learned myself!
As a young teen, I’d watch all sorts of tutorials on YouTube or rent out How to Draw Manga books or just experiment with supplies. I was using books and surfing YouTube back in 2012 or so.
My biggest inspirations during this time period were MissKerrieJ and Baylee Jae (formally known as zkittyz—yes, I’m an OG supporter LOL). I later found inspiration, in 2014, from an Instagram artist named Kristina Webb. Also QinniArt, Lord_Gris, and Lisa Frank were pretty large inspirations for me.
Tubefilter: You’ve been uploading to YouTube occasionally since 2014, but things really took off in the past year or so. What changed? What made you decide to start posting videos more regularly?
CA: YouTube introduced Shorts! That’s the main thing that changed and encouraged me to start posting again. Due to my work schedule, limited filming/editing supplies, and difficulty with life balance, I really enjoy making shorter videos. A few years ago, short videos on YouTube weren’t exactly frowned upon, but just posting short vids made it difficult for anything to come of it, you know?
Tubefilter: YouTube was your starting platform. When did you start posting on TikTok? When did you start growing an audience on both platforms?
CA: I was on YouTube first. I have an older account or two that I started around 2012. I was doing more vlog-type stuff on those channels, where I’d show off some of my drawings or do art hauls, and I frankly just didn’t like what I posted, so I started the account you see today.
I eventually moved to Instagram, which led me to going viral for my Starbucks cup art back in 2015-2016. Then, later in 2016, I started on musical.ly, which is now TikTok.
My growth on TikTok has been up and down. I gained 300,000 or so followers within the first three months on musical.ly, took a hiatus, came back in 2018, and grew a TON! 2018 was the year I hit one million, I believe…it’s difficult to remember. In 2019-2020, things were relatively quiet, then activity picked up again in 2021.
Tubefilter: Your YouTube channel has recently seen a big boost in number of views and subscribers. Do you know if there was one specific video that took off, or did numbers go up across a bunch of videos simultaneously?
CA: I know exactly what led to the growth. I was drawing characters from the popular new film Encanto. I don’t typically draw fanart because I prefer creating my own original characters and designs, but if you are the type of person who wants quick growth, get into fanart.
I cared a lot about views and numbers in the past, but over time, I’ve just not paid attention to them and decided to post what I’m interested in and passionate about. This is part of why my growth is so up and down. When I’m posting original art I’m personally passionate about, it doesn’t do quite as well, but that’s okay!
Tubefilter: We notice that a lot of your videos are helpful to new artists, or even seasoned artists looking to grow their skills. Why is it important to you to show step-by-step processes for your art, and to make tutorial-esque videos?
CA: I just enjoy showing little tips here or there. I don’t feel I’m quite skilled enough to be fully teaching anyone anything technical, but I can show ways I enjoy doing things. I know several people are interested in my own personal style and want to try it themselves. Also, it’s come to my attention that several people didn’t know how to use alcohol markers, so I like sharing my findings.
Tubefilter: How has the growth in your online audience changed things for you? Has content creation become your full-time job? Have you gotten any sponsorships/cool partnerships or teamed up with any other creators?
CA: Content creation is not my full-time job, though that’d certainly be cool! I feel like I need a better setup and a better schedule to make it my main income. For now, I work at Michaels craft store as a replenishment employee (fancy way to say truck unloader/stocker). I haven’t earned very much money from my content in the past, so I couldn’t afford to ever live solely relying on that income…but YouTube might change that, and that’d be pretty cool.
As far as sponsorships go, I try to stick to art-related brands or brands I personally enjoy. I’ve had numerous companies reach out to me, some even offering upwards of $1,500, but if they aren’t a brand I vibe with or an art-related brand, I turn them down. As much as anyone would enjoy an extra dollar, I just feel icky creating content for money. I’d rather put out videos that I’m proud of and be paid a little less than put out forced content.
And as far as other creators, I’m a pretty shy individual, so I haven’t reached out to anyone nor have I been reached out to as of recently. I wouldn’t be against a collaboration with another artist, though!
Tubefilter: What has the overall rise of short-form content done for you, and for other artists showing their skills? Do you think you would be making videos so regularly if it weren’t for TikTok and YouTube Shorts?
CA: Short-form content has made it easier for me to show what I’ve been working on and give inspiration without having to spend hours and hours editing videos.
What I love so much about Shorts and TikTok is I can record and edit within the app. Nothing else fancy is needed! All I need is my phone. This style of video has definitely made it easier for creators who may not have the extra money to buy a camera or editing software to create videos and content. Also, it’s great for creators who work a job—whether it’s an office, retail, trade, etc. sort of job.
Tubefilter: What does the average day look like for you? How much time do you spend making art, making videos…?
CA: Haha well…I usually am up by 5 a.m. to go to work. Some days I don’t get home until 3 or 4 p.m. By then, I’m just too tired to create. Some nights, after work, I have enough energy to sketch and do a lineart, but save the coloring for another day.
I usually do the majority of my creation on my days off. I’ll get up, have breakfast, jog for 45-ish minutes, then sit down to create. My creation process may take a few hours. Usually anywhere from two to 10 hours depending on the drawing complexity, detail, and whether I have the sketch or linework done yet.
Once recorded, I choose music, spend far too long trying to do a voiceover, and try to add captions to my voiceover videos. I’ve been slacking on captions on YouTube. I keep forgetting it’s a different process from TikTok, so I’ll have to get better at remembering to add them so my videos are accessible.
I can’t wait to post, typically, so I tend to always post my videos the same day I make them! Because I post the same day I make videos, this leads to periods of silence on my platforms, which isn’t great if you want consistent views, but my followers understand that art takes some time. 🙂
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite thing about making videos?
CA: Honestly, I love the feedback. I love hearing how I’ve helped start some artistic journeys, I love seeing people recreate my characters…I just enjoy seeing how I can inspire others. I think my heart flutters even more when I get comments saying, “They look like me, I never see my nose, body, etcetera represented in art.” That is special to me and I cannot express, in words, how warm my heart feels seeing those comments.
@creative_carrah Sketch With Me! 💕 Pencil: Bic Mechanical pencil 0.7 lead HB#2 ♬ original sound – 🎨Carrah🎨
Tubefilter: What do you hope people take away from your videos?
CA: I hope they can find inspiration and not be afraid to get into art, no matter their age and skill level. I am far from perfect, and yet so many enjoy what I do, despite the flaws in my work.
Tubefilter: What’s next in the immediate future for you? Where do you see yourself in five years?
CA: Honestly, I’m hoping to finally be able to afford an iPad soon. That’s been a dream item, for me, for five years or so? I want to make stickers, enamel pins, coloring books, all sorts of stuff! I’m excited to see what I’ll create next, because even I’m not sure. I always surprise myself. I’ll just start drawing and it turns into something. In a lot of cases, I do not plan out what I create. I just pick up a pencil and see what I’m feeling like in that particular moment.
In five years, I’m hoping to finally have a booth at a convention or have a small business going. It’d be even more wild to have an official coloring book. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve got dreams.
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