“How do you get people to notice your artwork online?”
The Internet is the best thing that ever happened to visual artists in terms of getting their work out and seen by a large audience. I honestly don’t know how emerging artists got noticed before the internet came along, it must have been hideously difficult to have been limited to print media. One of the major advantages about the internet is that it’s all in your hands, waiting for you to take the initiative to make things happen.
I wish I could tell you to just make amazing artwork and that would be enough to get your work noticed online. Unfortunately, whether or not you get noticed often times has little to do with the quality of the artwork. I know a number of amazing artists with incredibly compelling work that goes unnoticed online, and I also see a lot of crappy, gimmicky art that gets posted all over the internet. It can be a hit-or-miss situation and you can never predict what kind of images will catch on. I have one drawing of mine (see below) that has been reblogged over 50,000 times on Tumblr, while many of my other works have gone relatively unnoticed on the same site.
Figure Study, lithographic rubbing ink, Clara Lieu
The best thing you can do is position yourself in as many places as possible where you can get noticed. Be prepared for this to be an enormous job, and don’t underestimate how time consuming this process can become. I frequently find myself devoting more time to marketing and promotion that on making the actual artwork. Some of you may find that depressing, but it’s the reality of being an artist. After all, like the tree that falls in the woods, does the artwork exist if no one sees it?
There are several concrete actions you can take to get your artwork seen by a broader audience online:
1) Be on several social media sites
I now have my artwork on the following sites: WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All of these sites are free, and each one provides a slightly different kind of audience. Experiment with each site and see which one gets you the results you’re looking for. In my experience, the most important ones to have are a main website (preferably with your name as the domain name), a blog, and Facebook.
2) Post on a consistent basis
This is hands down the number one most important aspect of getting noticed online; it doesn’t matter how many sites you’re on if you’re not active. People only follow websites that have strong, consistent activity. You will never build a loyal audience if you don’t supply new content. Make a point of posting consistently; there is no point to having a blog if you only post once every five months. On the other hand, don’t post three times a day, your audience will quickly get annoyed from being bombarded with your posts. When you write online, don’t be whiny, self-deprecating, or self-indulgent in your writing. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty good description of what most artist blogs are. Be the exception and write about things in a professional, engaging manner about meaningful topics that will be of interest.
If someone has taken the time to comment on your work, take the time to reply. Interaction is key to sustaining a following. Readers are more likely to frequent your sites if they see that you are responsive to their comments and questions.
3) Curate what you post
Always represent yourself in the best manner possible, it doesn’t matter whether you’re showing your work on an obscure website or on the New York Times. Once you’ve posted your work online, it’s pretty much there forever, and is therefore accessible to anyone who might want to repost the work elsewhere. This is not to say that you shouldn’t show works in progress or sketches, as the pieces that demonstrate your creative process can be highly engaging to your audience. Many readers enjoy seeing a behind-the-scenes view of an artist’s process. Curate your work and focus on images that will demonstrate some aspect of your creative process.
4) Shoot excellent photographs of your artwork
This may seem obvious, and yet when I browse art portfolio sites, I can say that for many people it is not obvious. Invest the time to shoot professional, high caliber photographs that represent the artwork accurately. This means using a high quality camera, (a smart phone is not good enough) having your artwork properly lit, making sure the photograph is in focus, etc. Invest the time to correct the images in Photoshop by adjusting the contrast, brightness, color, cropping, etc. You can read this article I wrote about how to photograph your artwork.
5) Submit your work to other sites
There are now many online publications that do features on visual artists. Some online publications I’ve submitted my work to have included Lost at E Minor, This is Colossal, Hyperallergic, Juxtapoz magazine, and Artist a Day. The major advantage of getting featured on one of these sites is you get exposure to a new audience that is already established by the publication.
6) Do interviews
Getting featured in an interview can be a great way to draw attention to your work. Don’t wait for people to come to you; take the initiative to contact online art and culture publications asking if they would be interested. The worst thing they can say is no, so you have absolutely nothing to lose by inquiring. Half of the interviews I’ve done recently were because I approached the publication myself.
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“How do you know when your artwork is good enough to show to the world?”
“When is it too early to start promoting your work on the Internet?”
“How do you retain the integrity of your artwork while promoting it?”
“How do you get to the top of the art world?”
“How can I get into art exhibitions?”
“Is the Internet necessary to being a successful artist?”
9 thoughts on “Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Get People to Notice Your Artwork Online?”
I like it when a name or URL or logo is added to photos as it means the artist/source is always evident, wherever it goes on the net.
I think it can be hard to reconcile “Post daily” and “Show your best work”. I don’t produce something that good every day…not even every week necessarily. I think you need to seek a balance between being an active submitter and posting only really good stuff. Maybe the answer is to post only when you have something good, but be active in some other way online every day (comments on others’ art, a text blog post or review, etc).
This is a great blog, by the way. I just found it via deviantART. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.
Good point, I like your amendment. Thanks for reading!
Thanks, Glenn, for that reconciliation between posting new art daily and showing your best work. While I’m on the internet daily, I certainly cannot post new work daily for I too don’t created beauty every single day. Indeed, given the cost of having my work photographed, I have stopped posting my small works in which I’m experimenting with color and design online. I will sell them; I’m just not going to bother posting them.
Best to all,
This is reasonably helpful. I figured marketing had something to do with it…Thankfully I found this post just before the holidays, when I’ll have a lot more time on my hands.
I also appreciate the list of sites where one can post artwork. I’m on deviantArt and I just got a tumblr, but I don’t get a lot of feedback on either, even when I post regularly, so I figure I need to put my work in a few more places, even to just get critical feedback.
If you read this comment and have time to answer, do you happen to know of any sites where the majority of the artists do comic illustration, animation, or graphic novels? That’s more my thing and I’d like feedback from a community of similar-genre artists.
Oh…I was also wondering…When you post on different sites, what do you put on them? Like does one put the same pieces on each site or select different ones to put on different sites? And how do you go about selecting them?
Great article Clara. I agree with your comment about “post everywhere”. I’ve used many of the sites you mentioned such as Behance and DeviantArt. I’ve also had alot of success with http://www.freelanced.com which has a really great portfolio tool as well as alot of social media features that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
I’m going to check out Saatchi Online after I finish this post. Haven’t used that one before. Thanks for the suggestion.
I don’t get a lot of encouragement from some closer people in my life to pursue my work. If I’m not selling immediately then it has no value and I should stop. I believe it takes time to get your work out there. I just enjoy getting reactions to the work. Colleagues have verbalized interest and I sold some pieces close to home. I have set a time to work on my work in spite of the negativity comments. It’s important to me to not stop creating. I think it is like breathing