Are you an artrepreneur?

Dig­i­tal digs Where to find your on­line home and how to make a suc­cess of it: we ask artists and ex­perts who make it hap­pen

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de­viantART re­ceives many mil­lions more vis­i­tors than the Lou­vre in Paris. It’s time to make your on­line gallery a suc­cess.

Around 10 mil­lion people a year visit the Lou­vre. The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art man­ages al­most seven. The Tate Mod­ern, just over six. These are the world’s mostvis­ited art gal­leries.

Now imag­ine a gallery that at­tracts over 60 mil­lion vis­i­tors – a month. That’s the fig­ure de­viantART boasts, trump­ing Paris, New York and Lon­don’s finest. The venue may be vir­tual, its artists some­what less distin­guished, but it puts into per­spec­tive the power of on­line art com­mu­ni­ties.

“de­viantART has given rise to the artrepreneur,” says the CEO of the highly suc­cess­ful art com­mu­nity, An­gelo Sotira. “These are artists who no longer have to rely on gal­leries, shows or pave­ments to earn fans. “We have top sell­ers in our print pro­gramme. We have top sell­ers us­ing our dig­i­tal down­load tools and vir­tual cur­rency. Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­ers buy art from the site di­rectly from mem­bers. Book pub­lish­ers scour the site for il­lus­tra­tors. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery comic book pub­lisher in the world ac­cesses talent through de­viantART – as do CGI stu­dios, an­i­ma­tion stu­dios, gam­ing com­pa­nies and cre­ative de­part­ments in ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions.”

de­viantART is just one of many thriv­ing on­line art com­mu­ni­ties. Behance, Cargo, Cre­ative Finder, Dribb­ble, our very own Imag­ with so many sites vy­ing for your art, and so many artists shar­ing work within those sites, which one do you choose and how do you make yourself heard?

“Re­mem­ber,” An­gelo says, “de­viantART is a com­mu­nity, not a com­ment ma­chine. You don’t get any­thing out of it if you don’t put some­thing into it. We’ve seen an up­surge in the ca­reers of artists who have learnt to build their own brand, and it’s paid so­cial and fi­nan­cial div­i­dends.”

go be­yond self-pro­mo­tion

Build­ing your brand may not sound like an artist’s en­deav­our, but it’s key to the suc­cess of any 21st-century cre­ative. An­gelo ex­plains that this means not just self-pro­mot­ing, but also par­tic­i­pat­ing. Com­ment on art­work and user pages. Use the chat room and the shout box. Of­fer con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and people will re­turn the favour. This is brand build­ing.

“Depend­ing on the art you want to do,” To­bias Kwan says, “some sites will ben­e­fit you

You should start up­load­ing as early as pos­si­ble and take in the feed­back so that you can hone your craft

more than oth­ers: CGHub, Con­cep­ and CG­so­ci­ety are tai­lored to­wards game and movie art; de­viantART or Tum­blr cover a broader range of artists and styles. Share your work on all these sites, but fo­cus on the com­mu­nity that matches your work.”

To­bias, a con­cept artist at Californian game de­vel­oper Ready at Dawn, main­tains profiles and pages on de­viantART, CGHub, Tum­blr, Blogspot, Twit­ter, Face­book and In­sta­gram. He’s found work – or work’s found him – on ev­ery one of those sites. “I like to think that when you put out enough qual­ity work,” he says, “people will even­tu­ally no­tice it and op­por­tu­ni­ties will present them­selves.”

Once you’ve selected which site or sites to sign up for, you have to de­cide what to post. To­bias says it’s good to share sketches and WIPs as well as fin­ished pieces. It gives art di­rec­tors and em­ploy­ers in­valu­able in­sight into your cre­ative process. “You should start up­load­ing as early as pos­si­ble and take in the feed­back so that you can hone your craft.”

Your port­fo­lio – if you keep one – should be dis­tinctly and ex­clu­sively your best work, demon­strat­ing the full breadth of your abil­i­ties as an artist. To­bias also ad­vises against over­do­ing it with per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Give just enough to tell people who you are and what you do.

Andrew ‘An­droid’ Jones says the in­ter­net is both the best and worst thing to

hap­pen to art: “The in­ter­change of ideas, tech­niques and skills is re­mark­able. You now have ac­cess to more artists, im­ages and ed­u­ca­tion than any­one has ever had in the his­tory of the world.” An­droid – a for­mer ILM and Nin­tendo em­ployee who co-founded Mas­sive Black Inc – says his on­line pres­ence has been in­te­gral to his rise. But he also ad­vises ex­er­cis­ing re­straint. “Prac­tise dis­ci­pline and dis­cern­ment in your ac­tions. If you’re spend­ing more time on­line than you are at the draw­ing ta­ble, then I sug­gest it’s time to re-ex­am­ine your pri­or­i­ties. If you ref­er­ence more pho­tos of na­ture than ac­tual na­ture, take a walk.”

With the cost of fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion – es­pe­cially art schools – in­creas­ingly out of reach to most, com­mu­nity art sites can take up the slack, of­fer­ing tute­lage from firstrate teach­ers at a frac­tion of the cost of for­mal stud­ies.

In 2002, An­droid founded non-profit Con­cep­ with Ja­son Man­ley. The site has over 80,000 reg­is­tered users and at­tracts more than 1.3 mil­lion vis­its per month.

“Con­cep­ is where artists come to learn,” Ja­son says. “The site was the first of its kind to of­fer live stream­ing of on­line ed­u­ca­tion, the first to of­fer mas­sive schol­ar­ship pro­grammes, the first to do down­load­able ed­u­ca­tional con­tent for artists. We cre­ated the Con­cep­ Work­shops and even a full col­lege from within the com­mu­nity.”

fo­rums still mat­ter

Con­cep­ is a fo­rum-based com­mu­nity. While it has re­cently been given a facelift, the site has stuck to its orig­i­nal for­mat. Ja­son main­tains that fo­rums, far from be­ing anachro­nis­tic, of­fer artists a more con­sid­ered, con­tem­pla­tive

Post­ing on Con­cep­ gets an artist em­bed­ded in Google, where you can be found for years to come

al­ter­na­tive to so­cial me­dia’s in­stant but fleet­ing feed­back.

“Face­book and Twit­ter,” Ja­son says, “can be a waste of time. Your posts just dis­ap­pear. Post­ing on Con­cep­ gets an artist deeply em­bed­ded in Google, where you can be found for years to come.”

Ja­son points to Jonathan Hardesty – aka MindCandyMan – as an ex­am­ple. The artist, with no for­mal art train­ing, be­gan post­ing im­ages of his work as a be­gin­ner back in 2002. The thread is still live to­day. It’s at­tracted over 2,000 posts and three mil­lion hits, and shows how he’s grown into a gifted pro­fes­sional.

“If an artist posts and gives back to the com­mu­nity,” Ja­son says, “we help them to suc­ceed. It’s a pay-it-for­ward men­tal­ity.”

They’re sen­ti­ments echoed by Andrew Plumer, head of Bal­lis­tic Me­dia and the Com­puter Graph­ics So­ci­ety. The fo­rum, he says, is far from fin­ished.

“We haven’t seen any dra­matic de­cline in traf­fic to our fo­rums,” says Andrew. “The web has be­come very noisy and we be­lieve people will con­tinue to seek in­formed dis­cus­sion and ad­vice, which is what well-mod­er­ated fo­rums of­fer. I feel that as so­cial plat­forms con­tinue to evolve, be­come busier and at­tempt to find ways to com­mer­cialise their op­er­a­tions, we’ll see more people move back to fo­rums, search­ing for sig­nal over noise.”

Even with a swell of noise, Andrew says there are steps you can take to aid suc­cess on­line. It’s a num­bers game: pro­duce enough good work and some­body will even­tu­ally take no­tice. Chal­lenges and com­pe­ti­tion are a good way of get­ting no­ticed and to prac­tise work­ing to dead­lines. Make the most of learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties such as these.

But the key is to share, not spam: cri­tiquing and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers raises your pro­file among peers and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers, and can also pro­vide a link to your he­roes.

“What never ceases to ex­cite me is see­ing the good­will that’s shared by artists on our site,” Andrew adds, “es­pe­cially be­tween es­tab­lished and emerg­ing artists.”

Ex­change, by An­droid Jones – the artist who says the

in­ter­net is the best and worst thing to hap­pen to art.

To­bias Kwan’s Braid paint­ing comes from his fan­tasy art­book project, Moth­er­land Chron­i­cles.

Skull­tula Am­bush! by Nate Hal­li­nan, who found suc­cess on CG­So­ci­ety.

To­bias Kwan’s Fire­walker. The con­cept artist ad­vises show­cas­ing your work on as many sites as pos­si­ble. de­viantART at­tracts an amaz­ing 60 mil­lion vis­i­tors per month, cre­at­ing 2.5 bil­lion page views. Phew!

An­droid Jones says you can have too much of a good thing, and the in­ter­net is no ex­cep­tion. You Picked up the Wrong Bed Monster, by Aamir, as seen on IT’S ART.

Yeti by Bryan Wy­nia, one of the stars of fo­rum-based art com­mu­nity CG­So­ci­ety.

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