Anyone who knows me could tell you I’m no kind of artist. However, as a professional project manager, I frequently work with artists, and one of the most frequent challenges we end up dealing with is lost work due to technical issues, unforeseen circumstances, or just plain carelessness. I’ve seen projects that have lost dozens, in some cases literally hundreds of hours due to lost or damaged artwork needing to be redone - which isn’t great news for either a budget or a timeline!
Of course, this is an even bigger issue for artists who are working solo, since you typically won’t have anything to fall back on when things go south. Lost or damaged art may set back a big project’s timeline, but when you’re working for yourself, it can be an absolute show-stopper; most solo projects that suffer significant lost work never recover at all. So here’s a basic disaster mitigation and recovery plan that anybody with a working computer can set up:
1. Sign up for a Google account if you don’t already have one. The free version gets you 15GB of storage, which should be more than enough for your current projects unless you’re working with ungodly huge files; if you are, the 100GB version is only like twenty bucks a year.
2. Download and install the Google Drive sync client - I believe they’re calling it “Drive Everywhere” these days.
3. Set up a special folder on your hard drive that you’re going to keep all of your working files in, and point the sync client at that folder.
4. Configure your art program to autosave every 20 minutes or so. How exactly you do this will vary depending on the program you’re using - you can Google for instructions easily enough.
Blam. Now you have continuously updated offsite backups; hard drive crashes, lost media, or even - heaven forfend - stolen equipment will no longer wipe out your work in progress.
Plus, go into the web console for your Google Drive and right-click a file. See that menu option that says “Manage Versions”? That’s right: Google Drive keeps separate copies of every individual version of the file that’s ever existed (or for the past 30 days, if you’re using the free version). Unwittingly saved over your lineart two hours ago? Working file irrecoverably corrupted because your questionably legal copy of Photoshop barfed? No problem: just walk backwards through your version history until you find a version that’s still good.
Now, this is by no stretch of the imagination a particularly robust offsite backup and version management scheme - I’d certainly recommend additional measures for anyone who’s doing digital art as their regular paying gig - but it’s better than nothing, and it has the benefits that a. it requires no particular expertise to set up, and b. it’s free.