I wanted to post about this since it’s currently something I’ve been thinking about and trying to get a handle on. Now I love the internet (I mean, who doesn’t?!), and generally, I love social media too. It’s amazing being able to connect/share with people from around the world, see there are others out there like me, and take in the all-you-can-eat buffet of art/inspiration.
The thing is, (like any good old fashioned addictive substance) when we have anything so good, we have a tendency to overindulge, and rather than take a sip, we inject in it via an IV connected to a firehose. This, unsurprisingly, can in turn take something that was helpful and twist it into something that does more harm than good.
I’m completely writing this from the angle of being an artist online and keep in mind, I’m generally referring to myself. If you connect to this post, awesome, if you don’t, then hey, I give you kudos on your fine restraint.
Let’s start by saying, the internet has everything we could want as artists. It has all the tutorials, resources, books, and online courses you could ask for. It has all the reference imagery you will ever need and more. What’s a horse look like? Done. What’s a horse look like wearing a suit? No problem. What’s a horse look like after being cursed into a half man, half robotic lion body by a norwegian warlock in the 18th century? Pshhh Easy. Need some inspiration? How about an ever growing collection of every artist’s work in the world? The networking and connecting tools, the outlets and means to get instant exposure, the peers and professional to ask any needed questions. The Everything.
And though the internet has everything at our ink stained fingertips, it still in no way makes us a good artist. That part will always come down to us sitting down and actually *not* using the internet.
“But Cale, shut up for a minute, I just posted my latest piece and it’s already killing it at 200 likes! The internet has been great for helping me improve and see what the people like.” Ok, first of all, no need to tell me to shut up. Second of all, while that can totally be the case, I’ve found it can also do the opposite. Let’s dig in.
Twitter, instagram, facebook, tumblr, behance, dribbble, snapchat...
In today’s artist enviroment, social media seems to be king. More and more people are joining, following and posting on all the different sites, making it a great area to share your work.
In doing this you’re also able to get what I like to refer to as ‘Artist Heroin’, which is the instant gratification of people seeing and ‘liking’ your work. Once a piece has run the course of it’s attention lifespan, what do you do? Same thing as Heroin Hank, you go search out your next hit.
Let’s take a brief moment to explore ‘likes, favs, retweets, reblogs, etc.’
I’m just like you guys, I like getting likes. I like seeing that folks enjoy my work, how can you not?! Who doesn’t?! Liar, I say! Liar! I mean as artists we all hunger for attention and praise on some level. The thing is, with the social media system, we can start to judge and aim our own work based on these random ‘likes’.
If a piece of art you did gets 300 likes do you then consider it a success? If another piece you did only gets 5 likes, then do you view it as more of a failure and something you are less proud of? Let me say, that you should not.
The pride you have in a piece will always long outweigh and outlast the attention it did or did not receive. Many of the things I am most proud of have had the least amount of popularity on social media.
I’ve begun to find the ‘hunt for likes’ is sort of like the rich man’s greed. No matter how many you get, you just want more without any real fulfillment along the way. We start becoming so caught up in these numbers, comparing ourselves to what others get, focussing our art towards what is popular, only to look over and see any random cat post garners a billion likes. It’s really not worth getting too caught up or attached in the ‘likes’.
I think it’s important to sit back at certain times and remember a ‘like’ is a click of a button that has no consequence for the clicker. “Click” “click, click” “click”
A split second ‘click’ from some random people should not be one of your deciding factors on what you create, how you create, and the worth of your creations. If you can, stay grounded in knowing that your art, and how you feel about it, is much more important than the internet reaction it receives. Not to say it’s bad thing to want likes or have your pieces be popular, just try not to get tooooo caught up in what the internet craves.
Social media can be an overload of everything. Overload of information, inspiration, and general noise, where as you look at everything but actually aren’t absorbing anything. Depending how many artists you follow, you can easily have new artwork landing on your feed every refresh.
I think a common switch can happen with this, where instead of feeling inspired by all the art, you begin to feel stressed, guilty, and panicked that you need to get something out there to stay relevant in the chaos. A fear of being forgotten in the abyss of the internets. Feeds that lack of focus and short attention span I think. “Get something out now!” “No time to think or work areas I’m not good at!” “I don’t want to disappear like Marty McFly!” It’s ok to not post all the time. The comparison problem can really devour you if you let it sink it’s teeth in. There will always be people on your feed posting new amazing art, winning awards, getting attention, and breaking the internet with likes/retweets. None of those people are you (clones excluded), and that’s the only person you should be comparing against. We are all striving for something more and every one of us, successful or not, can easily lose ourselves in the comparison of what others have.
With so many people devouring content like gummy bears, the lifespan of a piece of art on social media can be pretty damn short. If your primary destination for art is social media then it can be hard to persuade yourself to spend buckets of time on a new piece, when it’s likely going to be off the radar in a couple hours. The other situation many of us have found is the piece you spent 30 minutes on get’s tons more attention than the piece you poured your heart and time into. “It seems that everyone likes it when I do quick ‘speed painting’ pieces, well guess that’s my thing!” No! Dammit Cunningham. You can’t take the attention you do or don’t receive as critique of your work. If you want actual feedback to learn from, you need to find peers or mentors that will spend the time to look at your piece and say more than “cool!” “OMG” “awesome!” “What brush did you use?”.
While on the topic of posting, just because you drew something, it doesn’t mean you need to post it. Remember the Chuck Jones quote
'Every artist has thousands of bad drawings in them and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out.'?
You do need to do thousands of bad drawings as you grow and learn (and thousands more after that) but honestly no one needs to see all those drawings. It is ok to have artwork you’ve done not posted on the internet.
I just mention that because it almost seems like the two are connected these days, you draw and then you post. I know I do…more than I should o_o
The other aspect of posting and sharing is you don’t want to seem like a car salesman or robot of self promotion. "look at me!" "Buy my thing!" "I said look at meeeeee!"
Obviously you don’t want to waste away your day on social media, but if you only come on to hawk your latest art or product without ever engaging or giving that love back, then who really wants to keep paying attention or showering you with admiration. It’s a two way street and I would say it’s always nice to spend some time to give other’s work the attention you hope to get.
You’re an artist, and as an artist, you need to grow, and growing takes time.
As it stands I think most of us can’t go 15 minutes without taking a break to look at our phones or check our feeds. I think this is a problem. To create you need to get your head in a separate space, in your own creative space, not in a space constantly buzzing with random opinions, perspectives and influences. You need time and a space for you, to make things that come from you. It can take time to get in this space, but you need to give yourself that time. If you break off and take a second to go check all your sites you instantly throw yourself out of that space, filling your head back up with other things, other art, other ideas.
When you’re given a pencil and a piece of paper, you draw. When you’re given every conceivable and inconceivable thing at your fingertips, how are you expected to just draw?
There needs to a be a balance.
In today's world you pretty much need to be using the internet to establish a presence and get yourself out there, you should be!
It’s an amazing tool with free resources abound to share your work. I've personally self educated myself, built my career, and met many a inspiring and great people through it.
Some things I’m doing:
- I installed ‘StayFocused’ to my browser to block sites for certain times of the day to prevent the subconscious habit of taking breaks to check feeds and instantly sink an hour.
- I don’t keep social media feeds open as tabs on my browser and turned off notifications on my phone! We’re gonna be checking every 10 minutes anyway, so no need to also have it constantly vying for your attention and taking you out of your zone.
- Devote certain times to posting, commenting and replying.
- I’m trying to get better at sketching away from the screen (though of course this can be hard if you need reference imagery).
- When I see art, imagery, photos, reference that jumps out to me, I have it to a inspiration folder I save them to in order to actually spend time looking at them later on.
There is an endless supply of things to get out of the internet - the inspiration, the resources, the information, the contacts, the exposure, the ability to easily share your work, the everything.
Just try to use the internet, not be consumed by it.
Now time to check if I got any likes on this post… refresh… refresh...