Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Being a professional artist - Tip #Whatever

Occasionally I used to do a post about being a professional artist. I can't really tell you to do this, this and this and you will make it. What worked for me probably won't work for you and you can get that kinda information from other places anyway. There's no shortage of artists out that would rather talk about their careers than to further them. The info I try to give is the little stuff that really isn't so little. Gems like "If you're gonna to make a career out of art you have to approach it the same way as any other business", "If you wanna get your name out there you gotta use it for emails, websites, yourself etc" and "Being a professional and acting like a professional are two completely different things".

Here's the new tip: If you are going to maintain an online gallery (which you MUST do) don't depend on sites like Elfwood, deviantArt, MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket and so on and so forth. I'm gonna list a few reasons why you shouldn't use these.

1. Dependability. So say you have all your images in a Flickr gallery. This gallery address is the same one you've been giving out for five years now. It's on your business cards, your t-shirts, you even had it painted on the side of your house and, being the savvy marketer you are, you paid your 19 year old neighbor to have it tattooed on her lower back! But wait! The Wall Street Journal proclaims that Flickr has just gone bankrupt and a company run by the Norwegian Mafia has bought the domain and will now put up a porn site dedicated to transvestite amputees. So when people go to your gallery to see your wonderful watercolors of unicorns and fairies guess what they'll see now...

2. Accessibility. Some of these site requires that you sign in order to view the images. Not everyone that wants to see your pictures will want a deviantArt membership. 

3. And some of these sites are slow as hell at loading and they're plastered with obnoxious ads that are designed to draw the visitor attention away from the page at hand. It's free for you but they have to make money somehow, right?

4. Do you want an art director from Wizards of the Coast looking at your pics and seeing comments your friends and foes alike leave such as "Looks like ur mommas sxy ass" or "ur so gay"?

5. Control. You have absolutely no control over your art on these free sites. Sites like Elfwood moderate what you upload so if they don't like your stuff they won't let it on their site (see rant below). And sites like Photobucket are responsible for what is uploaded which means if someone bitches about one of your pix they delete it. No questions asked. I have my copyrighted images taken off of websites all the time. All it takes is an email. I once had some images of Nazi uniforms in a Photobucket gallery for use as reference for the Dead White & Blue Comics graphic novel. One day they were all gone. Don't know what happened to them. My guess is someone was offended or something.

6. Some of these sites now allow visitors to put your images on merchandise like coffee mugs, clocks etc. And you don't get squat for it! Someone else is making money off your work and you get no credit and no cash. You can usually opt out of this but that sometimes requires you make the gallery private which takes it out of the search engines' reach. 

These sites are social networking sites or image hosting sites. They should not be the online face of you, the artist. Your website needs to be how you want your potential clients to see you. It should be themed and easy to navigate. Doesn't have to have a ton of bells and whistles. You can get an inexpensive web host and use a pre-made layout. 

These site do have their places though. Image hosting sites are a good way to save bandwidth for your site and social networking sites are a good way to...well...network socially. Especially the art related ones. I've used a few myself over the years. Below are my assessment of some of the sites I've used.

Facebook- A good place for keeping in touch with people you know or knew in the industry.

MySpace- Not a good place to get your work out there but a great place to keep in touch with folks who are already familiar with your work. I use it as a kind of email list, sending out bulletins and posting blogs about new art or events. The down side is that once you get over 2000 friends you no longer get bulletins updates and once you get over 5000 you can no longer search your friends list. Kinda makes it less personal. Another down side is that people abuse the site and spam the livin' crap outta you! 

Several times I have friended an artist or band that I admired only to be inundated with bulletins and messages wanting me to "Check out my best bud's page" or "Add so-an-so" or "Come to my event which is over 900 miles away" or "Take my quiz" or "Join my online game" etc. If you're gonna use MySpace for your art business use it for just that. No games or quizzes or crap. And if you're gonna use it to announce an event or show, which is regional, target those people that are in the region. They are the ones that might actually make it. 

*NOTE* Keep in mind that a majority of people that frequent art sites are artists followed by art admirers and in distant third would be art directors.

deviantART- Not a bad place to connect with like minded artists. There seems to be a lot of drama with kids and amateurs but if you're selective about who you connect with you can meet some cool folks. Keep in mind that there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of cg artists and anime/manga artists here so analog (also known as traditional) and realist art tends to take a back seat. The good thing is pretty much anything goes here. You can see some of the most crudely drawn fan art to some highly professional illustrations by some of the best in the industry. 

Epilogue- A fantasy/sci-fi art site. This site is moderated which means your your submitted art must meet their "quality requirements" before it will be allowed. I understand the reasoning behind this; to raise the quality of the site. And the site does have some really nice galleries. I'm even proud of the fact that my own gallery is ranked fairly high even though the site is not horror friendly. The problem with moderated sites is that the moderators are given quality guidelines and art is very subjective which means guidelines are subjective. Here are a few of the guideline problems:
"Background / Setting All images should have at least a suggestion of setting or scene, even if it's minimal."
"Technique Because Epilogue represents the best, highest quality artwork, we will not accept artwork that is lacking on a technical level. This does not exclude stylistic or painterly techniques."

I take these "guidelines" to task because they do not take into consideration the intent of the artist. They are at the whim of what the moderator likes or dislikes. I have submitted pieces that were rejected only to have the accepted when they were re-submitted a month or two later. 

Epilogue also has a "Reject Reasons explained" page. Let me elaborate on a couple of those:
"No background or setting - Epilogue only accepts finished-looking art with some form of background or setting. This can be as complex as a full landscape, or as simple as a stylized design in the background--as long as the image looks finished and complete. No matter how good the technique is, images of characters "floating in space" will not be considered."

"Unrefined or lack of detail - This rejection message causes a little confusion. If your art is very detailed and you received this message, it means that it's the "unrefined" part that applies. If your work is highly detailed and you've still received this message, the problem may lie in one of these areas:
  1. The basic shapes underlying the details may be weak
  2. The textures aren't realistic in an image that's intended to be realistic
  3. The levels of detail are needlessly inconsistent in different parts of the image
  4. Some areas of the image appear unfinished (a gradient-fill sky in an otherwise lovingly-rendered image, for example)
  5. The style is confused or inconsistent.
Painterly styles, impressionism, and even abstraction (as long as it somehow incorporates fantasy themes) are all welcome--the "unrefined or lack of detail" message has nothing to do with style--it indicates a problem with technique."

Again, these, like the guidelines, in theory, make sense. That is until you try to upload this image:

It was rejected for no background or setting. Why the hell would I want to ruin this piece by adding a background? That would ruin the composition and drama created by the shadows. Strangely enough this image was allowed:

Even thought the former image has a white background it is not "floating in space", the neck and shoulder takes care of that. The latter, however, is most definitely "floating in space". The white outline does that little extra to show this. Yet it was allowed. Why? My only guess is because they don't have rules against images on black backgrounds.

This image was rejected because it was "Unrefined or lacking detail". 

Yes the outer edges are lacking detail. That's intentional. As an artist I use details to guide the viewer's eye. The important things here are the head and sword. That's where the story lies. 

Again I understand why site feel the guidelines are important but artist's intent should be taken into consideration. That is the folly of all moderated sites not just Epilogue. Which brings me to...

Elfwood - I have had a gallery on this moderated site for a year. Yesterday I took down all my art. Elfwood is Epilogue for amateurs. I say this not because of the quality of work but by the comments made by some of the moderators. I have had some interesting back-and-forths with them which has lead me to ask the question: How many moderators are there and where do they find them? I'm not slamming all of them but I know for a fact that there are a couple that have no business doing what they do. I'll be posting more on this drama later but for now...

Elfwood is a very poorly designed site. I'm pretty net savvy and it took me for ever to figure it out. I have yet to browse the works of other artists there because I don't have time to figure it out. I get absolutely no site traffic from here. It really isn't worth the time for the set up and the learning curve. 

Another bit of advice: Stay away from public critiques of your art in forums! If you feel the need to ask complete strangers to anonymously tell you what is wrong with your art stretch your nutsack out on a concrete block and ask your weird Uncle Frank to give it one good whack with a hammer. it amounts to about the same thing and doesn't take nearly as long. If you want critiques find an artist you admire, on one of these sites or someplace else, and ask nicely for one. And sack up because it may or may not be pretty. 

PART 2 coming soon...

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