Non-fungible toys: Amrit Pal Singh's 3D cartoon network

This visual artist started creating digital portraits for fun, but got serious about promoting them on social media. Now, his fans are snapping them up as NFTs – earning him more than $1 million.

Amrit Pal Singh's career has come full circle. After graduating with a degree in 3D animation in 2011, he explored multiple design directions, only to come back to his first artistic passion, 3D art, almost a decade later. Amrit initially chose to study 3D animation at Vancouver Film School because he was keen to work in the film industry. While there, he found himself gravitating towards brand design and UI/UX for mobile apps. This interest, coupled with the growth of the iPhone and mobile apps market at the time, convinced Amrit that pursuing design as a career, despite graduating with a degree in 3D animation, would be the right choice for him. For the past decade, he's worked as a designer across different media and industries – until the recent NFT boom led him back to his love of 3D art, that is.

Taking back control 

The choice to pursue design as a career, even though he graduated with a degree in 3D animation, was a pragmatic one, according to Amrit: ‘I didn't see a lot of opportunities in 3D animation back then, and I really liked design anyway,’ he says. He thought that he'd be able to add more value through interactive design for apps and startups compared to the contribution he felt he could make in the 3D animation industry. ‘I always have more fun when I have more control over what I'm doing. On a movie, no matter the size, there's always a lot of people working on it. But when it comes to design, or personal projects, it's mostly a small team. I like that approach,’ he explains. 

Running a studio

Amrit ran his own design studio, with three others, publishing productivity and storytelling apps, as well as designing apps for clients, for almost four years. This experience helped him hone his design skills but also taught him the financial side of running a business. ‘As a creative person, when you set out to pursue this career, you mostly think that you want to have fun doing what you're passionate about,’ he says. ‘But when finances are included and you're in charge of other people's livelihoods, you see the other side.’ Amrit realized that running a design studio is as much about marketing and managing finances carefully in order to build a sustainable business as it is about being creative. 

The power of promotion

The final turning point in Amrit's career came when he stepped back from the day-to-day running of his design studio and started to focus on creating his own work. He began designing and selling card games, then started creating Toy Faces, cartoonish 3D portraits of people and characters who've inspired him, such as artist Frida Kahlo and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He spent a good amount of time promoting them, too: ‘I realized that it's part of the job and you have to just do it,’ he says. ‘I was very active on all the social networks, just pushing the product, pushing my process and talking about it a lot.’ 

All the self-promotion helped: Amrit was flooded with work. It wasn't just individuals asking him to create Toy Face portraits for them; Google got him to design 150 Toy Faces for its employees. Then came the NFT boom and Amrit decided to sell his designs and illustrations as NFTs. Now his Toy Face NFTs are reportedly worth around $1 million. ‘I realized that just showing up every day and doing whatever is necessary to showcase what I can do with illustrations of my artwork is important,’ says Amrit. ‘People have to understand, no matter how talented they are, they still have to find their niche and have a unique style, whatever they're doing.’

This article was first published in 100 Ways to Make a Living 2022. To purchase a copy or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

You might like these, too