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Some thoughts on digital marketing and networking:
I was recently interviewed by a fine tumblr friend for a presentation they were doing on networking, and since I get questions about this sort of thing fairly regularly, I thought I might share my response!
The prompts were as follows:
So, to begin with could I get how old you are and if you have schooling, how long have you been in school, and how long have you been getting money from your art? In the post you did on tumblr you mentioned how you’ve basically been networking since you were 14, but when would you say you really buckled down and started doing it intentionally rather than just socially? What do you think is your most important tool with networking, and do you have any suggestions about social interaction dos and don’ts with potential clients? What would you think is something not worth bothering when it comes to networking, and on the other side what shouldn’t you forget? How much of your income would you say is from your work with art?
I am 27 years old and received my Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and East Asian Studies. I went to school for five years for my double major, including one full academic year abroad in Japan. My studio major is a traditional one, which offered nothing in the way of illustration, but gave me rock-solid fundamentals to build on.
Previous to pursuing my freelance business full-time two years ago, I’d been doing commissions on the side for about a decade. My first commissions came from family connections when I was about 16 years old, but the longer I spent cultivating my internet presence, the more business I got from my own marketing efforts. It’s difficult for me to say when it transformed from incidental to mindful networking, but I think my major turning point was in 2009 when one of the art directors from Fantasy Flight Games found one of my portfolios and offered me contract work. I knew that if I wanted to keep getting published and get in with my dream clients, I’d need to be more proactive. I was still working a full-time job at the time (in-house product and packaging design), but after another year of concentrated effort and psyching myself up, I took the leap and started supporting myself exclusively with my illustration. Art has been my sole source of income for a little over two years now.
As for which is currently the most important or effective tool, I’d have to say an art blog. With the recent surge in blogging as a widespread social networking service, rather than simply a journaling outlet, and the flexibility with which they can be set up, an art blog can now easily double as an online portfolio. It’s still important to have your own site, I think; something that is more tightly controlled and selective in its offerings that showcases the best of the best of your work. But when you’re just starting out, and all you can afford is what you can get for free, a customizable blog is basically priceless. Since it makes everything you post incredibly easy to share, and comes with the added social element that allows you to interact on a personal level, it gives you maximum PR for minimum effort.
But make sure you pick one or two outlets that you really enjoy (or can at least reasonably tolerate) updating regularly. If you pick a blogging or gallery platform that you don’t like or can’t get into just because other people talk it up, or because it’s the latest trend, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Feel at home using Facebook? Set up an artist page! Hate Facebook? Give tumblr a try! Or blogger! Or deviantArt! You could probably even get away with using Pinterest if you really wanted. These are all easy to set up, post to, navigate, and share from. The more comfortable you are with the tech you’re using, the more often you’re likely to use it. The more often you use it, the more likely you are to gain more followers, and more followers means more potential business.
Talking about blogs segues nicely into the dos and don’ts of networking, because one of the biggest mistakes I see people make with regards to these incredibly valuable networking tools is failing to separate the personal from the professional. If you really like reblogging stupid YouTubes, engaging in social justice arguments, or discussing salacious fanfictions, make a sideblog for that, and try to keep it as private as you can. The only things you should be putting on your art blog are 1) your art, 2) discussion relating directly to your art or career, and 3) relevant articles or tutorials relating to your field. Even then, items 2 and 3 should be comparatively sparse to item 1.
On a related note, keep your correspondence professional as well. It seems like a small and relatively unimportant thing in today’s casual, e-mail centric age, but making sure your spelling and grammar are correct, avoiding slang and profanities, and generally being on your best, most adult behavior (even when the person you are corresponding with doesn’t appear to be concerned with formality) always reflects well on you as a businessperson. In this field, I honestly wouldn’t get hung up on the stuffy formulas recommended by career centers for cover letters and the like. Those are boring and almost never worth reading. Just be your most polite and professional self.
Another major don’t is to shit-talk anyone in your industry. Not even on your personal accounts. Just don’t do it. The world of art and freelance is a surprisingly small one, and even if you have a major beef with another artist, and they fully deserve your criticism, it still makes you look bad to drag their name through the mud in a public setting. Calling out art thievery or copyright infringement is a slightly different matter, but still one that calls for very careful consideration. Plus, networking with your peers is just as important, if not moreso, than trying to schmooze the higher ups. The acquaintance you make today might be the art director who recommends your portfolio tomorrow.
And thirdly, never talk down your own work. There’s a big difference between modest humility and damaging self-deprecation. If you preface the public sharing of your work with, “This isn’t very good, but…” or any variation thereof, why are you bothering to share it? And furthermore, why should anyone bother to look at it? This is especially important when you are interacting directly with a potential client or employer. Every professional in this industry knows that art is a constant learning process, and that your work always has the potential to evolve and improve, but you’re not there to convince them of how humble you are, or how good your work will be. You’re there to convince them to hire you now, so be confident in your work.
There are many other common tips I could go into. Do show only your very best work when presenting your portfolio to a prospective employer, even if it means you don’t have much to show. Don’t include things just for the sake of having an example of this or that if A) it’s not your best work and B) you don’t have multiple examples of that kind of piece. Do dress somewhat conservatively when meeting clients for the first time, but don’t be afraid to let a little personal style show through. Do follow up, but don’t hound people daily for a response. However, I feel like these are the kinds of things that other artists talk about all the time, while spending comparatively less time talking about digital resources, which are cheap, readily available, and far reaching.
Lexxy's Frequently Asked Art Questions!
Since I get the same questions on a pretty regular basis during my streams and such, I thought I might catalog the most common ones in a single post for people to reference! I’ll probably start opening my askbox here for art-related questions every once in a while as well, so please read this first to avoid asking something I’ve already answered! If you’re seeing this as a reblog, you might need to check the source post for updated information.
It’s a pretty beefy wall of text, so click through the cut to read on!
where do you get your inspiration for your sculptures? Was Beam 1 just something you thought would be fun to create or was there a purpose behind it?
it’s a form exploration dealing with the relationship between solid and ethereal, as well as the relationship between the object, the viewer, and the space it exists in
an integral part of the object is the ambient light that passes through it which is interesting because it’s a physical solid that seems to capture and contain within itself a nonphysical medium
also the experience of it changes according to what position you’re in in relation to it; because of the layered quality of the planes, it’s almost opaque when viewed from one side, and as you move around it it becomes more and more translucent until you almost pass the threshold of visibility entirely. so it’s a piece that mandates a personal intimate interaction with itself. that’s one of the things that i’m all about sculpturally
Lean Into Art - LIA Cast 08 - Participatory Culture!
Can a podcast episode about artistic self determination and participatory culture be interesting?
That kind of topic exploration is developing into a pattern for our show. The Lean Into Art podcast is only 8 episodes along. However, in a way, that’s 8 iterations.
Each episode Jerzy Drozd and I are both building off what we think was working from the prior eposides and keep trying new things. It’s early to say, but I think we’re finding one of the cornerstones of the show: ask questions about a gray-area visual storytelling topic of one another and explore by constructing and deconstructing the ideas we share about the topic.
We’re sharing it in the podcast to discuss with you as well.
Full audio and video at the Lean Into Art blog.
I realized this morning, after having been on Deviantart for well over a decade, that I’m still trying to undo a lot of the toxic philosophy about art I learned on there. Things like:
- Realism is the end game, your artwork should continually strive to reach realism as your ultimate goal.
- There’s no such thing as “stylistic choice”; it’s “you did this wrong because I think it’s wrong/I don’t like it.”
- Having to accept all criticism as valid, despite evidence to the contrary, or you’re a big whiner.
- The idea that your primary artistic focus is to learn to draw “correctly”: realistic anatomy, etc.
- No one does art for fun. We’re all here to get better, make money and it’s useless if you’re not constantly trying to reach #1 and #4.
- No real celebration of unique styles or innovation.
Perhaps I’m giving Tumblr too much credit, but the artistic atmosphere here is so much more inviting and creative. At least I know my art has stylistically become what I wanted it to be in the two years I’ve been on the art side of Tumblr than in 10+ years on dA. Plus the exposure my art has seen — even original, non-fanart — has tripled what dA ever did for me. It’s hard to get seen on dA and despite a few exceptions, people want to see the same thing.
I like that on Tumblr, even though there’s a lot of trends and trend chasing, people are not stuck on this idea that there’s a “correct” way to draw and that some people are genuinely artists for fun.
The worship of the distinct, and of unusual styles is also something I adore about the art community on Tumblr. It’s refreshing.
Cheers, Tumblr!! I have grown as an artist in ways I didn’t know I wanted to since I came here. I like ya’ll.
anything you regret from your formative years as an artist? i mean, mid-late teens; mostly asking for some advice from one who is in that period as of now.
Fun fact! My formative years were very late teens to early twenties, which I’ve only just left.
One of my biggest regrets would be allowing the ego I had at the time to get in the way of my learning and achieving greater things. That, and becoming scared of failure. These two things put the biggest plug in the growth of my art and myself as a person, and both suffered greatly for it. Being able to overcome either takes considerable humility and “getting over yourself”. I would say both ego and fear of failure goes hand-in-hand, as ego produces a false sense of security that you cannot fail for as long as you do only what you do now. With too much ego you can’t accept failure, preventing expansion, growth, and fostering a dread of doing something else lest the result not stack up to what you think you can do. Having some humility allows you admit that you can do better, encouraging risk-taking, understanding that having tried and failed is better than having not tried at all, and that every attempt you make will provide you with a learning experience regardless of the outcome. Bearing that in mind though, having humility is not comparible to self-depreciation, telling yourself or other people on purpose that you suck and etc and should give up, because other artists are better than you. Personally, this is not something I have experienced, as I have just never seen the point (and re: I had an ego). I’ve gotten frustrated, extremely frustrated, but I’ve never told myself I should stop.
This is a lesser evil but it’s still produced problems that have held me back artistically or as a person in general: not choosing my art-friends wisely. This can do big damage if you’re not careful. There are some directly or indirectly poisonous people out there that can effect your confidence, your willingness to expand, and your attitude towards your art and criticism. I’ve known a couple of people that just had bad art attitudes; too wrapped up in how *great* their art was, never daring to learn new techniques; too wrapped up in how *bad* their art was, with little to say about it or themselves that was positive. There are plenty more archetypes out there but these two are the ones that I have personally run into. Both of these can drag you down a whole lot and potentially stunt your growth indirectly.
Countering that is easiest with good art-friends, people who want to expand with you and cheer you on. Thankfully, I have met three people just like this and they have helped me, and we have helped each other, more than anything else. Basic encoruagement and enthusiasm goes a long way, which you won’t get from folks like those mentioned previously. If you can’t make good art-friends, find strong inspirations - positive people, they don’t even have to be artists. My biggest art inspiration right now is Paul Richards, a fabulous Concept Artist with an equally fabulous attitude. He loves his work so damn much that you can feel it, and you feel better just seeing how much he frigging loves his work and his job. I look at his stuff at least once every other day for a boost of “fuck yeah”.
Another big thing I regret that I never knew I was doing at the time - limiting myself. I limited myself really hard not even just three years ago, and I still limit myself nowadays out of residual fear of failure. Don’t do that, whatever you do. I used to draw exclusively monsters. Just monsters, usually in some derivative of bondage gear, which isn’t exactly a wide field of interest. Many of my designs looked the same in some way, they often had similar builds or design conventions. Nowadays, I’m still pretty creature-centric, but my variation in shapes, anatomy, theme, form, and style (in that I can work in multiple outside of my signature style) have improved dramatically. There have been some forays into other subjects, and there needs to be more, but I’m making headway and that’s all that matters to me - speed isn’t a factor I’m concerned about.
Being too concerned about appearance was another thing that hit me during my formative years. Being too concerned over what your art looks like can strangle development. Anyone can mimic a “look”, but the look should never trump the information you are trying to convey - THIS is what matters. The look will come naturally over time. The same goes for style. While I personally was never concerned with style, I was very anal-retentive over things that didn’t matter in the appearance of my art at the expense of valuable visual information.
Last but not least: not. doing. enough. studies. For real this is my one biggest regret, because I didn’t understand how valuable it was. Whenever I encounter a new idea I generally do studies for it now, because I want to and enjoy it. Too often I hear artists lamenting over how boring studies are. Studies can be incredibly fun if you let them. A study has a lot to teach you, provided you’re actually willing to learn. If you’re not you won’t learn jack. I’ll do studies just because, even; just to draw for the sake of drawing and expanding my visual library. There is never a point where “there is nothing to draw”.
I didn’t experience these so I cannot comment on them very much, but I recognise them as problems in younger artists: being too concerned with style - this falls into the “look” bit above; being too concerned over your style changing / evolving into something else; being afraid that drawing from life will destroy your style (it will not, it will enrich it - the more you understand the more you can bend and break for your use); thinking a style excuses bad art habits (hint: it never does and never will, Picasso was a realist before he became a Cubist, don’t use his Cubist phase to excuse your bad habits); being afraid of what others will think of you if you try to draw something different - never give into this, you will regret it forever; being too caught-up in what your art used to look like; being too concerned over being “unique” in some way - experience alone will give you uniqueness, it can’t be forced.
“Style” is mentioned a lot up there, as it’s honestly the biggest thing I have seen artists of all kinds fret over when they seriously, seriously shouldn’t be.
Hopefully this provides some level of insight, I have a tendency to… ramble… with subjects like these.
Let me tell you about colorless blender markers
Some people know about them, some people don’t care, some people leave these to collect dust asking “how the fuck do you use these?!”
This post is for the people who ask “how the fuck do you use these?!”
Sure, there may be lots of online resources for markers, but I feel like doing a straight-to-point one for my followers.
COLORLESS BLENDERS DO NOT BLEND TWO COLORS TOGETHER.
Try all you might. You might get some that looks like two colors blended together, or maybe you just got a pale mess on your paper.
Colorless blenders DILUTE COLOR and PUSH IT AWAY
It’s basically… kind of… turning your marker into watercolor except the water is alcohol so it’s kind of becoming wateralcoholcolor or something. Some people have used a trick where you dab the end of your colorless blender onto the ends of two colors and that causes the colors to mix when you lay it on the paper with the blender. I haven’t tried this yet.
You can stop reading this entry now and toss those blenders out of they’re no use to you after all.
But what if you WANT to know what you can do with the blender???
0. Copic and Prismacolor have the same blender but different nibs to work with
I like to have one of each. The Prismacolor blender has sturdier nibs for details and texturing (discussed later) while the soft copic sketch brush nib is more comfortable for blending and gradients. If you’re a user of different/better/cheaper markers and they don’t come in brush nibs, I highly advise to add this one copic to your stash.
1. Make pretty gradients.
Mind you, this sample doesn’t look very pretty. Anyway, rub in some colorless blender over the edge of a light color and you can soften the edge into the natural white of the paper. Repeat in layers if you want to add more gradient.
1a. Blend highlights
If the highlights are the natural color of the paper, again, rub the blender with the nearest color and this will soften highlights. If your highlights are an actual marker color, like yellow, use that color to blend instead of the blender.
If requested, I will go into this in more detail with a marker shading tutorial. In the future. Maybe.
2. Lighten up mistakes
It’s pretty inevitable that when you color an inked drawing, some color may spill outside the lines. Rub some blender over it!
Dark colors will dilute into something lighter, and lighter colors will almost vanish. Make sure to direct your strokes towards the drawing. If you stroke your marker outward, you’re going to spread some faint color on the canvas.
Both Prismas and Copics can do this job, but the flat end of the copic does get destroyed a lot easier if you find yourself rubbing pretty hard, so go with Prismacolor or something sturdier, even if you’re an avid copic user.
3. Make highlights
Take whatever marker tip you’d like and draw slowly over the color. It’ll look like shit when you first make the strokes, but it’ll look nicer when it dries. You can run a little of a lighter color over the newly-faded area for some fancy effect or something.
4. Make Textures
Because fuck photoshop (not really). While the markers are still wet on the paper, take your blender and simply draw on the colors. tap in some dots, wiggle in some squiggles. Have fun experimenting. There was a lady at an Anime Expo copics class was able to make leafy textures on anime trees but I forgot how she did that. This is where having blenders from assorted marker brands has the biggest use: you can vary your textures with what each brand of blender has to offer.
I never did this much since I do mostly character sketches where I can’t find a use for textures, but hope to start making a habit of texturing in future drawings
End of Tutorial
For my markered stuff, I have about 100 Prismacolors that are about 8 years old, and 27 copics that are about four years old and I use them both together. Most of my art is digital these days so these things have been lasting me a while.
My summer project for 2011 - Create a body of work... But I need submissions!
I have been told again and again from teachers and curators and gallery owners that I need to develop a body of work.
Until this point, my style and themes have been all over the place (though I did go through that phase in 2009 that centered around eyes and sight as subject matter…). If you were to look at all of my work, for the most part, you’d think that different artists created each piece. There’s no continuity or distinctive style that sets me apart from every other artist. Believe me, I’ve tried to identify my style, and it really sucks that I don’t really have one.
But there is one thing that sets me apart from most artists… And that’s social justice.
If you follow my SJ blog, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Racism, sexism, misogyny, cissexism, heterosexism, double standards, cultural appropriation (haha), classism, ableism, binarism, monosexism, rape culture, oppression and intersectionalityyy… I deal with it all as one huge connected web of privileged bullshit.
But of course, to create a body of work, I can’t really focus on oppression as a whole. That’s a huge theme that’s way too broad.
But do I really want to use my art to communicate about oppression? I mean, yes, it would be one hell of a body of work that would probably speak loudly and make people bloody uncomfortable with their privilege… but I try to keep my SJ self and my art self different in the sense that my art is the side of me that doesn’t exhaust me. Well, it does, but not nearly as much as blogging about SJ does. Being a part of fighting oppression is so very worth it, but it’s still extremely draining of energy. For once, I kind of want to create something… happy.
Which is why I’d like to create something that won’t leave me in angry tears (because believe me, it’s happened before, both with blogging and art), but will celebrate something. I want it to be empowering.
Switching to something more personal, as I struggle to understand my own gender, I find myself basically in awe of gender as a whole… I want to explore gender through my artwork. And hell, maybe I’ll finally figure out my gender in the process, as it is a bit of a confusing mess.
My goal is to show the diversity of gender expression.
But in order for this project to happen, I need your help!
I would really appreciate it if you could submit or email a photo of yourself that follows the guidelines below!
Guidelines for submission:
- Submit here (but if trolls start pouring in, I’ll have to disable the submit box, which leaves your only option for submitting to be via email) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please include your name (I’d prefer to have your first and last, but just a first name is fine), gender identity, pronouns, words that you feel best describe your gender expression, age, and a URL (your tumblr or email address maybe) where I can credit your photograph that I use to create that piece.
- All of the above information will be displayed alongside the piece.
- Photos can be of full body, shoulder up, sitting down, standing up, etc…
- You can submit multiple photos of yourself.
- No nudity please… Sorry!
- Anyone can be a part of this! And I mean everyone when I say it. I’d like to see submissions from people of color, fat people, queer people, disabled people, trans* people (especially trans* people considering that this project’s focus is on the diversity of gender expression), neuroatypical people, and other oppressed individuals.
What I’ll do with these images: I plan on using your submissions to create a series of drawings or paintings (haven’t decided yet). I will tell you right now that the image I create will not be a carbon copy of what you submitted because I am really not that good of an artist, and I may have to tweak the composition and colors a little (but I won’t change the entire image, I promise. I’m trying to share your story through art, not create a new character based off of you)
I have no idea how many submissions I’ll get for this, but chances are that I won’t be able to use all of the submissions I get. I never promised that your photo will be used, but I’ll do my best. I plan to do maybe fifteen to twenty portraits (but this will probably change as I get deeper into the project). Feel free to ask me questions here.
Let me just say that I am extremely excited about this.