Ten Hundred comes home: Southwest Michigan artist moves Youtube Studio from Seattle to St. Joseph

Inside the world of YouTube artist Ten Hundred everything is richly colored, meticulously designed, and extremely well lit. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty dope, too.

Peter Robinson, better known as Ten Hundred to his more than half a million subscribers on YouTube, grew up in Southwest Michigan and decided to move back to St. Joseph after living in Seattle for more than a decade, where he amassed a huge online fan base who know and love his internet alter ego and the artfully crafted videos which he creates for the channel.

With nearly 600,000 subscribers and counting on YouTube, this inventive and talented social media creator has taken the idea of working from home to a whole new level. 

From the outside, the combined studio and warehouse space that Ten Hundred now uses to create his videos in St. Joseph looks almost indistinguishable from neighboring businesses that have storefronts in the same strip mall. You would never guess that beyond the plain gray door leading from the potholed parking lot lies the meticulously crafted and artfully designed internet fantasy world of Ten Hundred. 

The space is chock full of interesting artifacts, landmarks from the course of the artist's well-documented career. Among other things, there is a diptych collage of a chameleon made out of 10,000 pompoms displayed prominently on one wall (you can watch the video of its creation here on YouTube), shelves displaying hand-painted video game consoles, art stickers, and aesthetically organized and neatly stacked crates full of spray paint cans organized by color, which add an air of surrealist cool to the vividly decorated space.

Ten Hundred, who was born near Berrien Springs and raised in Niles and South Bend, Ind., left the Midwest at around age 18. After moving around a little bit eventually he landed in Seattle, Wash., where he lived for the last 14 years. Initially, the YouTuber says, he was trying to make a name for himself in the music industry. He was in some bands and even started his own recording studio in Seattle before eventually “switching gears really hard into visual arts” at age 27.

That Ten Hundred still has that passion for music is immediately evident to anyone who watches his channel. Originally when he started making videos the multi-talented artist says he created every single piece of the music from scratch. The lengthy process could take days at a time, and he has since streamlined the process slightly by borrowing beats from a royalty-free music service, chopping them up, and singing or rapping his own lyrics over them, which could be “anything from gessoing a canvas to rapping about art supplies.”

His studio in St. Joseph displays his artistic aesthetic.One of the reasons he made the shift towards online content creation was a desire to share his creative works with a larger audience. “I was making murals for corporate offices in Seattle,” he says, “and only like 100 people would get to see my art.” He says that now the thing that keeps the process of creation fresh is that he has become “obsessed with the filmmaking aspect of it, and the chance to exercise my creativity.”

“If you want to be a YouTuber or social media person based on your talents and creativity the number one thing I would say is: make art with a compulsion. Like, just keep practicing and keep refining your skills. I think in this day and age people want to just take a shortcut and they see the success of other influencers and they want that success but they don’t want to put in the time. You should be coming at it from a place of just loving to create and being passionate about creating.”

Ten Hundred says that he sees the art project which he paints or creates during one of his videos as just a piece of the larger picture, so to speak. “It’s just one part of the real piece of art, which is the YouTube videos I’m creating,” he says.

“To make a 15-minute video takes like 10 days not only of making the piece of art but of editing the video, finding the storyline, writing songs, doing skits. The video, to me, is the art project.”  

“So, take your time,” he says, and “don’t get obsessed with all these influencers that you see on your timeline. Just do it because you love it. And keep doing it, and you’re going to get better and better every day.” And above all, he says “Put the art first.”

Peter Robinson, better known as Ten Hundred to his YouTube subscribers, grew up in Southwest Michigan and decided to move back to St. Joseph after living in Seattle for more than a decade.One particular project which Ten Hundred says had been kicking about in the back of his mind for a while and decided to tackle this year was the Vivid Kingdoms playing card project. This custom deck features 56 individually illustrated cards all designed by the artist to “tell a story of four kingdoms with individual cultures and themes.” 

The project, which wrapped up Oct. 4, 2021, was documented in a seven-part series of videos on Ten Hundred’s YouTube channel and included input from his many devoted internet followers who were able to vote on and help decide key elements of the card design process.

As the videos were released one by one, invested fans shaped the process by writing in with comments and suggestions, voting in polls to help make key artistic decisions, and some even created 3-D art renderings of the cards designs to be featured on the campaign video on Kickstarter’s website.

Viewers also suggested Ten Hundred connect with magician and playing card expert Chris Ramsay, a fellow YouTuber whose channel has over 5 million subscribers, and Ramsay made a special guest appearance early in the video series to consult, offer his support of the project, and perform an on-camera magic trick.

Viewers were captivated by the surprisingly complex process of the deck’s creation and kept coming back for more of Ten Hundred’s signature blend of sincerity, silliness, and swag. The recently relocated artist is cool, but not too cool to don a suit made out of playing cards or a wizard's costume complete with beard and pointy hat to entertain his audience. From learning about paper quality (crushed stock has a better feel), to print colors (to avoid chipping, never print cards in black), to how to design a tuck case (the box the deck comes in), the content creator’s many online fans felt that they were all on this card creation quest together.  

The Kickstarter campaign used to crowdsource funding for the project online reached its initial fundraising goal of $10,000 “within the first three minutes of the campaign,” then, “it hit $100,000 in the first thirty minutes of the campaign.” The Vivid Kingdoms Playing Cards project, features the four suits of the deck as four kingdoms with unique cultures and characters ultimately “raised $2.41 million — which is just, totally mind-boggling” says the artist, who still seems a little stunned by the overwhelming success of the project.

Ten Hundred has a distinctive color palette and drawing style.“I think maybe part of the reason for the success is the power of storytelling,” he says. “I told this sort of epic saga in a seven-part series and by the time it reached video number seven the folks who had gone along on this ride with me were really invested.” 

The other key element in the magic brew is, he says “the power of community.” By including his online viewers in the design decision-making process “people in their own small way felt like they played a part in the creation of the deck and it became kind of personal to them,” says the artist. “So I think with those two aspects, my fan base was kind of ravenous to get their hands on this deck.” 

This eager anticipation in turn drew “eyeballs from other areas of the playing card community,” finally resulting in over 23,000 orders for a total of more than 60,000 decks.

He says that “a giant seven-part video series about a deck of playing cards is definitely stepping outside of the norm for me” and that in the immediate future he’s ready to make a few more “regular old YouTube videos that people would expect to see from me on my channel.” 

Ten Hundred’s signature blend of sincerity, silliness, and swag keep his subscriber numbers growing.The lengthy and labor-intensive project is a credit to Ten Hundred’s dedication to the craft, and the inspiration he draws from collaboration with others. The artist, who recently completed another project as well, an enormous online video and painting collaboration with other YouTube artists including Jazza, Nerdforge, and Ten Hundred’s friend Slew, says that he enjoys collaborating “because there's a certain level of chaos that you have to embrace... It’s just so cool to feed off of somebody else’s energy, so it’s got this certain wildness and freedom,” that working alone just doesn't have.

The project, which the artists are referring to as The Biggest Art Collab on YouTube involved shipping a painting around the world from artist to artist, each of whom would contribute something to the collaborative canvas as well as creating a video documenting their efforts.

After recovering from the monumental playing card series, Ten Hundred says his next dream project would be to design and create a custom chess set. That venture is still on the back-burner for now, however, as the young father points out it’s “going to take even more of a tremendous amount of work and a much larger up-front additional investment.”

As for his choice to leave behind life in the big city (and the many potential benefits for the career of a budding artist like gallery shows, and access to clientele) to move back home to Michigan, the artist says he and his wife, Chelsea ultimately made the seemingly unorthodox decision to return to the Midwest because at the time they were looking to start a family.

When he first started the Ten Hundred YouTube channel he worked seven days a week, often between 10 and 12 hours a day. Now, since the birth of the young couple's first child, daughter Juniper into the family earlier this year—he has brought on a team to help slightly reduce the enormous workload including a few people to work fulfilling orders in the studio-adjacent warehouse, as well as a recently hired production assistant who “basically edit videos exactly like me,” says the artist, who now gets to take Sundays off to spend time with family.

“Why were we living in this super tiny crazy expensive house in Seattle, when we could have, like, a super freaking awesome house in Southwest Michigan, where it’s like a third of the price for double the space?” says Ten Hundred, in explanation of the choice. So as many young people from the Midwest are moving out west, Ten Hundred packed up his studio and came back home.

Ten Hundred, who has been back in the Midwest creating videos for 18 months now and has no regrets about the relocation. “Moving back to Michigan to be a creator here has been such a blessing for me,” he says, recalling how the most stressful parts of his life from before came in searching for parking, waiting in traffic, dealing with thieves, and the other complexities of living in a major metropolitan area. “Plus, I have family here,” so the move just made sense, he says.

“Now I wake up in the morning and I freaking walk out into the forest, and I go down to the shores of Lake Michigan and I just like look at this beautiful body of water to replenish myself creatively. I’m just so happy to be an artist living in this state because there are so many natural experiences that can just totally replenish me when I’m done sitting looking at a computer screen for like 10 or 12 hours a day.” And that, he says, is “Pure Michigan."


Read more articles by Caroline Bissonnette.

Caroline Bissonnette is nearly a lifelong resident who now lives in Milwood and has previously lived in the Vine for a year. By shining a light on the people working to implement solutions to local issues she hopes to amplify important voices in our midst which are often overlooked.