(Originally Published on 5/26/2016)
These days I look at what I have accomplished so far and am very happy that I don´t have to start out with doing the art-thing-for-a-living right now. The internet is hilariously full with content so that it seems, the only way to get recognized is to pay for visibility.
Nowadays I prefer to set up my booth in “real life” on a convention or fair and talk to people directly. So whenever the topic comes up about internet marketing, patreon supporters or facebook reach and you don’t hide under a rock, things have seriously changed in the past couple of years.
The Myth about Reach
I´m happy that things are like they are, the facebook or G+ bubbles where algorithms only show you what you like. This makes sure that many emerging artists get depressed before they even have the chance to show the world how great they are. It is no secret that facebook limit your reach so that you have to pay if you want more people to see what you are up to. Most businesses do well and know about that matter, but since many artists don´t see themselves as business, their reach is crippled and they blame everyone else and facebook but not themselves. If you think about it, marketers always try to find chances to infiltrate social channels. Capitalism demands it to be perpetuated and word of mouth is still the best channel for advertising.
The Social Bubbles
There is something I observed on facebook, also other platforms like G+, deviantArt and other communities make use of algorithms. At first sight that is not bad, it would just be better if it would be more transparent and if you could choose. Facebook for example only tends to show you what is interesting for you. A conversation only makes sense when at least 2 people engage. FB knows that and tries to find in realtime the best match possible at that current time, based on your interactions. Orwell would be very pleased. Actually these are all tiny bubbles in which we live and the outside world is even blocked with adblocker or through ignorance.
If you have subscribed to the right people, this might even be a good thing but the problem is that in order to promote your work you feel that you can´t really escape from these bubbles. And worse, the myth about reach is true for facebook profiles and personal profiles as well. Even when you have reached the 4000 friends limit, your reach is limited to around 10% So I would really consider twice putting much time, energy and money on these platforms. Blogging on your own website brings a lot more people to your page than social media could ever do. In the best case it is a good mix, but again, for reach on social media you have to pay.
The Myth about Prolific Artists
One other myth about social media in which a totally distorted picture of reality is burned into our heads: productivity.
Everyone around us seems to be so very productive and you feel you are not good enough. In reality there are only a few productive people out there and even then they have setbacks such as no spare time, no families or long hours to work, less paying jobs, etc. You never know how it looks on their end.
Then there are institutions that insists to be single persons such as Ilya Kuvshinov or Sakimichan. these people have built a business around their art, have hired people to do their online marketing and communication, shipping, convention attending and much more that would be impossible to do for one person alone. But on our end, it looks like they do it all alone.
The Myth about Witch-hunts
Today it is Irakli Nadar, Kyle Lambert in 2013, and countless other artists that are unfortunate enough to shape the masses against them. I´m in the process of writing an article about the photo -or hyper realism that causes so many confusion among artists and other people.
Until then, here´s my two cent about that matter:
People always love and see realism as the highest form of a visual artistic skill-set that one can imagine. The problem is that realism does heavily rely on references. If you don´t have a Down-Syndrome or be an autistic prodigy, chances are you need a model. Be it a real model that poses for you or a photograph that serves your need. The work has to be done by yourself. Big names like Dru Blair have done it traditionally and made millions with the technique and no one seems to bother. If you want to learn the technique you learn how to mix colors for 2 days straight. Btw. mixing colors and learn how to trace a picture close to 100% is all you learn in workshops of this kind. And workshops of this kind are the only possibility of making money with hyperrealism today.
Ever tried to sell an original realism painting that was not oils? Good luck with that;)
Here is the thing; when it is done digitally, people either want to believe you have done this all from imagination or they just hate you because of the amount of skill, patience and time you are able to channel into one piece. The most hate tends to come from other artists feeling sorry for the photographers that don´t were mentioned. I get that, but I don´t feel sorry for them. Professional photographers can hire a lawyer, send a cease-and-desist letter and earn some extra cash this way. It is part of their business.
But the social internet fosters, yet celebrate this hate. People on facebook click a “like” instead of going on with their lives and over a certain amount of time they will see more of the things they actually dislike. The urge to vomit bottle’s up and leads to point your finger towards one guilty person who needs to be the root of all evil in your life that has now to be punished. Witchhunts, do exactly that, they are the new opium for the people. If you are not successful in your life, there must be someone else guilty for that, there you go…
Want my advice?
Curate what you chew. Don´t click like if you don´t like something. Don´t like something from which you can imagine that it will hurt you tomorrow.
Learn to curate your life! Subscribe to the right people. Surround yourself with inspirational people, not with copycats.
The Rip-off Myth
Everything is a remix put it down in a good documentation; you can´t create anything new. Carl Sagan once said:“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you need to create the universe first.”
As artists, we often think we have to invent something new. Some do, some repeat what worked and some rip-off others. The rip-offs are either drastically bad so that you really don´t have to worry. In the best case it is studies and people don´t do damage to you. Putting things online does not mean someone makes a fortune out of it. But it sure can be a reason for you to be upset. If companies rip-off a piece and sell it, this is another topic, but even then; If you can provide details about that matter, you can forward it to your lawyer, he will earn some cash and you as well. And I learned that online rip-offs are far more paying than physical rip-offs. So if you find out that your art was stolen – do something about it and stop whining. You want to be in this business, that means you need to learn how to play with the rules.
The Branding Myth
What I feel about emerging illustrators and what I get from my students most of the time is, that as long as you build a name for yourself, you will get noticed. Yeah, that was true for about 10 years but sorry, these times are over. Companies that are looking for artists don´t have the limited amount of 150 artists online to browse through portfolios, nowadays they see 150.000 great artists to pick from.
“So branding is a key then, like Ross Tran or Bob Ross ?” Um, yeah exactly, if an art-show on television or Youtube is what you want, then yes. Not only the name similarity is hilarious, the generic imagery makes sure that even in 20 years these icons will be remembered for the way they famously painted trees or strands of hair 😉
The “Get discovered” Myth
This brings me to a trap I felt need to be addressed; “When you are good enough, you will be discovered”.
At least, I tried it, and with a combined visibility of around 4 million pageviews, G+, fb + dA, it did not happen that I got a call from Marvel or Wizards. Not that I tried to get there myself yet ( as I still think I´m not good enough yet), but as a mid-career artist, I figured that all I did so far was for study and if I really want to work for a specific company, I need to apply there, like anyone else. And if I want something I do that – until now other things were more important.
“But great fanart can get you there too!”
Wrong. Sure, you can get under the radar when you do fanart, but it has to hit a certain mark of interest (Dave Rapoza for example) or infringement, be it in sold unsolicited copies or else, that a company recognizes that it would be good to hire you if they don´t want you to be a competition. So if you have not sold 10k prints yet or made a profit of at least $ 50k a year from patreon, just realize how tiny your effort is compared to the reach you should have in order to change your future.
The Myth about Realtime
You sure are on twitter or G+ or facebook, instagram or even better snapchat, don´t you? If you use some of these platforms the impression of real-time, the urge to see what others are doing right now is one of the biggest illusions ever. With content fading on snapchat, the urge is even worse. Truth is, you can’t chew it all so why even try? For facebook there is socialfixer, with other platforms you might have to restrict yourself otherwise. We always think there might be a good timing to post our images on instagram, you eventually find that out by doing things like crazy. you can spend 2 years on perfecting this technique. Time that you could better spend on creating new artworks. And that is time you also don´t have on other platforms. In these times you can either reduce selectively where you post your art online but that is also a setback as your reach is limited. You also lose when you post everywhere and be not too active in one platform alone. From a privacy point of view, the latter is the better option as social networks don´t get to know you too deep. they can only render a shallow picture from you, which is good for you. The other reason I prefer to go this route is because you never know where someone picks up your piece and rebloggs it. You never know how far that goes. I only know that my reach is far wider this way, which results in more sales.
Evolution always makes sure that we adapt. Further generations will learn how to survive with the internet in ways we can not imagine yet. But since the internet, opposed to a real physical space, will never be full, it will eventually bring us a glimpse of how infinity feels. Not now but maybe in 20 years from now.