Who decides if you are popular, semi-popular or not popular at all?
The one qestion about popularity is: who decides if someone is popular?
Is it when you hit reddit and got featured everywhere on the internet?
OR is it a 5 million pageviews on deviantart, or a a million profile views on google+ or youtube?
Maybe it is a when you make $40.000 a month on Patreon?
The other question; if you are that popular, what are you going to do with it?
In the music industry, getting a hit has cost many artists their life. Either with drugs that had destroyed them or suicide or even both. I think we as visual artists are nowhere near such a risk. Even if we might be succesful. But in times like these when you can make $2000 a week just by donations, I´m not that sure anymore.
My definition of popularity
My definition of being “popular” is a different one. In my opinion every plumber or bakery has to be a certain kind of popular. They need to be visible enough that you make a call and that as many people know they are around. This has more to do with marketing efforts and in any other business this is a necissity.
The internet takes things for granted and free content was king. But that changed.
And in some way one could argue that it is pure luck that my work appeals to many people. I would say that luck might have to do with it but is an aspect that I´d title as uncontrolable force. But I rather like to concentrate on the the controlable aspect. That one involves experimentation, evolving, changing and evaluating feedback.
The Advantages of being not popular at a glance:
I know some are aware of a certain witchhunt among another artist right now. I don´t want to distract with adding more information here than necessary. The issue at hand will be without meaning in a few weeks. But this issue pushed me to publish this post about the advantages of being not so popular.
Being popular makes you an easy target. Most often it is one person or a few. Some kind of internet trolls with too much time on their hands can be the cause. Time they´d better use to get the kind of skills like the artists they use to throw shit at. Most likely these trolls have a reason. The most valid one is that the artists in question don´t listen to them.
Let´s be real, everyone makes mistakes, there are rules for two reasons:
#1 to learn them and to not offend anyone
#2 to learn them and get to know how to break them to get on top of your field
Fake it until you make it
The biggest advantage is that you can fake things and learn from others by copying. The saying “fake it until you make it” becomes new meaning viewed this way.
Important note: I don´t want anyone to fake things. If you copy other artists work, credit them in the description. Or even better send your work to them for approval and work with that attitude in mind.
Later along the way you learn the right way to use references anyways. But if you come across moral apostles early on it will raise doubt. Doubt about your work and decisions. Doubt will work like a brake and does not help you to get better.
Style variety and artistic liberties
In that regard semi-popularity has its benefits as well. As you can see in another article, I´ve started out with different styles as well.
I keep up with that tradition to keep as much fun in my personal work as possible.
I´ve seen many artists suffer from the success of their own style.
Many artists are sick of seeing their own work after a while.
It tends to be normal but it is not.
This happens when their business forces them to stick with a particular style. Or because of popular demand. Sometimes these artists vanish or do something different – which is a sad thing.
Copying an artists style to make a living as commercial illustrator
Another thing to note comes from an intersting talk that I found on youtube the other day. (see video/recording below)
Dan and Dave talk about how to get through the middle of their career. While one of them (Dave Rapoza) has to deal with copycats,the other artist makes money because he had to illustrate in a style of another artist.
I´ve been there and done that too. This is common practice in the book illustration field. And I guess in many other fields as well. Right now I consider myself to be in the middle and not getting asked to copy anyone anymore. Which could make me doubt if interpreted wrong.
But since I´m onto something with my own work, I guess it is how things work if you are patient.
So I can recommend this talk to anyone feeling similar about their artistic path.
The general gist of things is that it seems to be uber-useful if you are popular. But that might be a shallow observation.
The point most people tend to forget is the scale of things. You have to adapt quite quick to a certain demand if orders rise from 0 to 1000 overnight. Most likely you are not able to fullfil that demand without the help of employees.
Being semi-popular would be the best position to be. On one hand you get valuable feedback from people that will help you get better. On the other hand you still have freedom to experiment with a style and technique.