Ask the Art Prof: When is it Too Early for a Visual Artist to Promote Their Artwork on the Internet?

Final Crit

“I know many people post their artwork on Facebook, RISD Portfolios, or Tumblr, etc. and I’ve seen how some of their work has been plagiarized or re-posted without permission. When is it “too early” to start promoting your work via the Internet, or does the overall publicity override any negative effects? Should I be flattered that people are using my images with/without permission since I am still an amateur artist? Or am I just being paranoid?”

The reality is that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for visual artists today, especially for ones who are at the beginning of their careers. The Internet is this vast resource that is so accessible that it’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t want to use it to get their artwork out there. I hear young artists saying all the time that they won’t post their artwork online because they worry about people stealing their work. Yes, that can be a concern, but in my experience the benefits of having your artwork online significantly outweigh the negatives.  I’ve made connections with people all around the world, I’ve received wonderful comments on my work, and I’ve sold artwork. None of that would have happened if I had refused to post my artwork online.

Accept that once your artwork is posted online, there’s pretty much nothing that you can do about your work being reposted without permission. When I Google myself, I see tons of websites that have posted my work.   I myself have no problem with that as long as they’re giving me credit and using my name with the image. In essence, it’s just more free publicity for me. For me so far, being online has been a really good experience.

I think the best way to have some degree of control over this is to establish a strong online presence for yourself so that you are the one generating content that is associated with your name and work.  For example, I’ve made sure that I have a presence on all of the major social networks and portfolio websites so that when someone Googles me, the sites that pop up are the ones that I am control of. (Google me and you’ll see) This way, I can make sure that my work is always presented professionally when seen online. It is a tremendous amount of work to establish a comprehensive online presence, but it’s well worth the investment of your time and energy.

As for when to starting promoting your work online, my suggestion would be to start in college. I don’t recommend posting your work online when you’re in high school.  The work is too immature at that stage and could actually be detrimental to your online presence later because the work doesn’t look professional enough. During your college years, you’ll likely be applying for summer jobs, internships, etc.  and many employers will want the chance to be able to see a portfolio online right away. You never know when something could come up that will require this, so it’s best to be prepared in advance.

I was once looking to hire someone to teach a workshop, and one of the applicants, who was a recent college graduate had no online portfolio.  It was a pain because I wasn’t able to quickly and conveniently access their portfolio and information. Have an online portfolio ready to go at all times so that you are prepared for situations like this.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

Video Critique Program
I offer 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for aspiring/professional artists working on a body of artwork, and for students working on an art portfolio for college admission. Watch sample video critiques and get more info here.

Related articles
“How do you know when your artwork is good enough to show to the world?”
“How do you get people to notice your artwork online?”
“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?”


3 thoughts on “Ask the Art Prof: When is it Too Early for a Visual Artist to Promote Their Artwork on the Internet?

  1. Such an Great question and an Excellent response. I wish I would of gotten this advice earlier in my years ;p

  2. From my Website blog…My Art in the Digital Age.
    From the conception of an idea for a subject of a painting it’s often a personal struggle and often throughout the painting stage it’s often another struggle, so when it all comes together and works it’s oh so good and it’s a great feeling. As a purely creative artist I have two motivations: one to create art for the sake of its creation and two to share, via the internet, that art to connect me and my art to the outside world for all to find.

    Copyright protection can be cited to keep my art and its digital image in a strictly regulated prison cell. This is my art, I have made it & it’s too precious to share so I’m not showing it to you sort of thing. So in effect I have both total ownership & total control over that digital image until the moment that I unleash it on the internet. I use the internet fairly and I have to hope that all using the internet fairly.

  3. Thanks for this blog post – I have just begun to share my work via online sources – and it can be a scary business, but also a joy – with new contacts and feedback from around the world.

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