Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ART PRODUCT REVIEW - Etsy Card Reader

Etsy recently announced their own gadget for taking credit cards, but with a new twist from other card readers.  It's meant to sync with your Etsy shop and provide a branded smooth experience for your in-person sales.  I got mine in the mail yesterday (it's free if you request one) and put it through a quick test run.

Packaging


First off, their packaging was excellent, as I would expect from the premiere handmade marketplace.  I got a few ideas just from their clever and simple presentation.

Here's the envelope it came in.  I love the idea of a branded envelope sticker.


The reader itself came in a sturdy reusable custom cut box made of what looks like composite wood.  Again, I love the brand consistency of the reader and insert cards with the orange and white.



Extra bonus!  The box itself has a slot on the underside where you can place the card to make a stand up sign.  One side of the card shows that you take credit cards while the other side is a "I'll be right back." sign with a spot for you to write in shop's address.


The Nuts and Bolts


I ran two test transactions, one of an item which was already up in my online shop and another which was a new 'quick sale' item not already present in my online shop.

You will need to let the app access your location and your microphone.  Your location is recorded and inserted into the receipt e-mailed to the customer later on, should they elect to receive one.  The hub of the app looks like this on an iphone.


You can control your inventory from within the app, which connects to your online Etsy shop (ie. renewing listings, creating new listings, putting your shop on vacation, checking orders, etc.).  The app is available for both Android and iOS markets, but not for the iPad, oddly enough

Be aware that a minimum $1 transaction is required for a customer to use a credit card.  You can also set your sales tax rate in the Settings so that this is automatically calculated when making your sales.  The funds from your credit card are added to your Shop Payments account (the same place as your Direct Checkout funds), so you will need to wait the usual time for the money to be deposited after your sales.  This usually isn't more than a couple of days, in my experience.

When selling an item in-person that is also in your shop:

  •  You choose the item in your online shop to sell in-person via a list.
  •  The shipping fee is automatically waived when an item is sold in-person.
  • The item is also removed from your online shop when it is sold, which will help save headaches on syncing inventory automatically instead of manually (ie. if you've ever had an item sell while you're out at an event and had to deal with the headache of explaining that it sold when you get back home).
  • There is no Etsy transaction fee like there are for online sales, only the credit card processing fee, which is comparable to other readers (2.75%).


When selling an item in-person via a quick sale where you type in a brief description and cost:

  • It is still counted towards your sold items stats, but only you as a seller can see those transactions in the Orders section of your shop.
  • There is no transaction fee or listing fee, only the credit card processing fee.


Promotional Automation


Now here's the really powerful feature of this reader.  After you make your sale and get to the point at which you can offer your customer an e-mail receipt, there is a checkbox which is automatically selected (you have to manually deselect it). The checkbox says this:


After you make the sale and the customer elects to be e-mailed their receipt and is opted in to Etsy's updates about your shop, the customer will get an e-mail like this:

Location map blurred for privacy.

I've asked my test customer to let me know what kinds of e-mail he receives in the future so I can see just how often these e-mails are sent out and what kind of info they include.  I will edit this post with an update once I know more about these communications.

Why is this powerful, you ask?  The items suggested at the bottom of the e-mail offer the customer a tantalizing glimpse at your other items, some of which they might be interested in that you might not have had on display where they were shopping in-person.  Because these images actually link to the items, they encourage further purchases without the seller having to lift a finger.

This e-mail communication is a powerful addition to simply handing out a business card, since business cards are easily lost and most shoppers require repetition of information before they truly retain that information.  So far, this is the only e-mail my test customer has received, which gives me hope that these won't turn into spammy communications.

Also, Etsy's current online market doesn't have a function that lets you automatically add your past customers to a mailing list, which is a feature I've always wanted.  I currently have to first ask for the customer's permission to add them to my mailing list, then add them in mailchimp manually, which takes up valuable time I could be working instead.  My newsletter only goes out once every 3 months, so I am curious to see how often this Etsy-managed newsletter will be sent out and how they might mesh with the information I already send out in my newsletter.

Bottom Line


The Etsy card reader doesn't do anything vastly different from other card readers, but it does allow powerful synchronization options between your online Etsy shop and your physical inventory that could save you time if your Etsy shop is your main outlet for sales.

It also allows for promotional automation that doesn't require you to lift a finger, saving you time, especially if you do not yet send out your own newsletter yet.

More updates to follow when I have them!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wordpress & Artists: My Favorite Plugins and Themes


EDIT:  I've updated this list on 2/17/2017!

A couple of years back, I did a series of posts on Wordpress and its value as a CMS (content management system) for artists wishing to create their own websites.  I am still using Wordpress to manage my site to this day and thought I'd share a few of my favorite plugins and themes!

Plugins


All In One SEO Pack - Lets you add custom tags and meta info to your pages very easily to make it more easily found by search engines.

Duplicator - Lets you copy your site and database so you can move your entire site from one location to another.  Handy if you've been building in a private test folder before moving it onto your main domain.  This plugin can also create a snapshot of your site at any time for backup purposes.

The Events Calendar - Great for adding your upcoming appearances into a calendar on your Sidebar.

Jetpack - This plugin combines a full suite of features for your Wordpress site, which I like to use the features that allow you to link to thumbnails of related posts, show my site stats in my Admin dash, and publicize each blog post to my favorite social networks.  The rest I don't use.

MailChimp by MailChimp and Crowd Favorite - Lets you add a widget with a customizable MailChimp sign up form into your site's Sidebar.

NextGen Gallery by Photocrati - A wonderful gallery management tool that lets you create taggable images with sleek layouts.  The pro version nets you extra layouts and social sharing links bundled in.  If you decide on the pro version, give me al ittle kickback by using my referral link!

WooCommerce - In the few years since I've originally tried this plugin, it's been much improved and stabilized.  Stripe and Paypal integration come right out of the box and it provides a sleek, professional looking shop.  The new shipping classes are much improved and easier to understand than they were a couple of years ago as well!

WP Hide Post - I use this plugin to hide Pages and/or Posts from my site's search and navigation function.  This is handy when you're linking people (ie. Patreon Patrons) to exclusive content.

WP-Spamshield - I get an insane amount of spam on my Wordpress based blog and this plugin helped me keep most of the bots out.  When it had conflicts with another plugin (namely that troublemaker NextGen), the creator of the plugin was friendly and responsive to help me sort out the problems and even helped me to make my site run faster.  The conflicts have since been resolved as of this writing and this plugin continues to be my site's spam blocking warrior.

Themes

All of the themes mentioned here are mobile phone friendly.

Make - What I'm currently using on my latest site.  Make comes with a free version you can use as-is.  I love the integrated social icons bar (I was hard coding them all before into a Sidebar widget) and it's very sleek looking.  The packaged Builder templates for creating Pages on your site allows you to do Pages with columns, image sliders, galleries, etc. very easily without requiring a lot of coding knowledge. It is e-commerce ready with WooCommerce integration in mind.

The Pro version lets you get rid of the template tag on the bottom as well as opens up extra Page layouts and pre-made templates where you can toggle Sidebars on and off and auto-populate Pages based on their intended use for quick Page building.  You also get access to more type kits that let you change the font style of your whole website at once.

The free and pro versions both have a ton of customizable Widget areas such as multiple Footers and Menu locations.  Buying the Pro version also lets me use this theme on all of the sites I own.

Virtue - Has a free and pro version.  The free version lets you create grids using Portfolio items.  I almost went with this one for my site, but I found the Portfolio setup a little confusing.  If you can manage it though, it seems like a pretty versatile theme.  Just like Make, you get tons of customizable Widget areas, such as multiple Footers and Menu locations.  It is also e-commerce ready with WooCommerce integration in mind.

Wave - I never got to test this one out on my own, but the demo site looks good and it's also e-commerce ready.  I'm including it here as an option because it was reviewed highly, is a decent price, and might be an option others might want to try.

So what are some of your favorite plugins and themes?  Share in comments!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Patreon 6 Month Follow-Up Report

I'm nearing the 6 month mark of my existence on Patreon and wanted to share my thoughts!

For the most part, I still stand behind my positive first impressions of Patreon.  I believe it's an amazing way for artists to connect directly with their audiences in a uniquely intimate way that's only going to gain momentum as time goes on, especially with the infusion of funding that Patreon has recently received from investors.  They're well on their way to making this format bigger and better!

My Art page on Patreon.  See my Artisan page here.

Building Audience Engagement


Hosting on Patreon has only made me grow fonder and closer to the special few who have sought to support me not just with their words, but with their wallets.  This is important as I feel like I am nurturing an important list of clientele who, due to their relationship with me, will also feel more motivated to spread the word about my art, word of mouth still being the most powerful marketing method available beyond any method we could pay for.

Engaging with people on Patreon has also had the wonderful side effect of motivating me to finish work not just for myself, but so I can have something amazing and worthwhile to share with my patrons.  It's a positive form of pressure that really energizes me as an artist.

The funds I do get from Patreon have had real results, such as allowing me to upgrade my old paints and to purchase a yearly membership to Artist Market Online.  Again, I've created engagement because my Patrons are a part of helping me succeed, further building a rapport between us.

Doing the Math


As of this writing, I am making $50 per painting thanks to 4 patrons and they have helped me to meet 2 of my goals.  This generally results in $50 extra a month on top of my current income because I usually only produce one detailed painting a month.

For those who say that this isn't a lot, I still believe my time on Patreon to be worthwhile because I have built my rewards in such a way that I am not doing too much extra work that I wasn't already doing before to share with my fans (more on this in the next section).

Chances are that my current patrons will stay if I can keep my material meaningful and engaging to them, meaning that my Patreon page is more than likely to gain exponentially higher return on investment as time goes by.

EDIT:  I had a question about charging per Creation or per Month, as you are able to choose either method on Patreon.  I have my Patreon set up per creation since that seems to work the best for me.

I am not always sure I'll have time to finish something, so that removes any pressure from me if I don't deliver, as I'd hate people to pitch
in and then get nothing that month either because I wasn't able to produce, or I was working on a project under an NDA that couldn't be shared on Patreon. If I don't produce anything, patrons won't have to worry about spending any money and being disappointed in their investment in me, which could lead to a bad reputation on my part.

However, I can see a monthly pledge working really well for comic creators who have very concrete schedules of production and releases. They'll always know when they're going to have pages out and exactly how many they can expect for a month so that their patrons will never be disappointed or feel like their investment was misplaced.


Patron Rewards


The way I have crafted my rewards by fashioning them as a natural extension of what I am (or planning) to do with my art business has made them much more manageable and proactive for my business.

For instance, I host Q&A sessions each month which are meant for my Patreon patrons, but are open to the public, so I'm not completely excluding a large part of my audience.  I had planned to do this before, but had never gotten around to it.  Patreon provided important motivation for me to get serious about sticking to a video production and broadcast schedule, which is a great move for my art business.

I also provide my Patreon patrons with sketch diaries of my paintings, which I used to do on this very same blog.  However, they are private and only for Patreon patrons now.  To make up for this loss to my blog, I still produce a video compilation of my creative process for the public at large which covers much (but not all) of what I talk about in the sketch diaries so that my regular fanbase won't feel neglected.

My Patreon patrons also get to see these process videos a week ahead of my regular fanbase, which still helps them to feel special.  My patrons also get to interact with me privately on these sketch diaries, which are open to their comments, where they can engage with me directly during my creative process.

Sketch diaries and videos were already part of my business model, but I have monetized them in such a way that is more friendly to my fanbase rather than alienating them.  I advise others to consider doing the same on Patreon.  Find a way to make interesting exclusives and consider doing time-based releases that still help your patrons feel special, while still leaving material for your non-Patreon fanbase.

Web comics on Patreon use this strategy to great effect by providing rewards for patrons such as exclusive stories, week early releases, and other such enticing digital content (ie. My $5+ patrons also get exclusive wallpapers!).

Conclusions


Patreon is a wonderful way to create engagement with your audience and is especially smart for creators who produce regular ongoing digital content, such as podcasts and web comics.  It is less effective for painters and other 2D one-off creators, unless you can find a way to create rewards that do not take you too much time to fulfill or that work in synergy with your current promotion efforts.

Even though it may not be as effective for painters as it is for podcasters, this may change in the future as Patreon becomes more widespread and improves their format, especially their currently limited categories.

Patreon also represents an opportunity for painters to get creative with what they're offering.  Just because it doesn't seem as good for us now as it is for others doesn't mean we can't discover brand new ways to creatively engage our fanbase!

That's what I'm planning to do and why I have no intention of leaving Patreon any time soon.

Reader Questions



  1. Are you on Patreon (or a patron)?  What are you creating there and who are you sponsoring?
  2. How do you handle your rewards?  If you're a 2D artist, what rewards are you offering for your patrons?
  3. What are some particularly groovy rewards you've received on Patreon?

(I'll share my answers in comments!)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Using a Mailing List to Promote Your Art


Reading this great post about mailing lists by Sam Flegal inspired me to share my own two cents about mailing lists and their uses for artists.  Now that I've returned to conventions, I've been sharpening my marketing strategies and trying to figure out more efficient ways to keep in touch with my fanbase as a freelance artist.

While I do hope to work with more studios and publishers in the future, it's useful for me to nurture my independent career by also nurturing my direct relationship with my fans as well.  After all, I have a lot of personal projects that I do for no one else but myself and the fans that offer me opportunities under my control instead of at the whims of another entity.

Benefits of a Mailing List


For one, I've realized that the advantage of a mailing list is that while not everyone is on every social media outlet ever, most everyone has an e-mail.  Even if my newsletter gets put in the Trash, it's still a central method at which I can communicate directly with everyone without relying on the sporadic shotgun method of hitting all of the social networks and hoping someone sees it.

This is especially relevant in an age where our posts are getting lost to social network feeds that now require small businesses to pay to even be seen (ie. the recent neutering of the reach of unpaid posts on Facebook Fan Pages).

What to Use


I personally use Mailchimp, which is free to use up until you hit 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. After which, I'd be happy to pay, considering the usefulness of this service!

Essential Setup of Your Mailing List


After setting up your mailing list, these are the two essential parts of your list that you need to set up as well.

The Signup Form

The signup form is a form you create that is linked to your specific mailing list.  Mailchimp lets you customize it with a theme that you can match to your website and gives you a short link which you can share by linking directly to customers.  Mailchimp also provides signup form integration with Facebook and Wordpress widgets.

Check out my signup form to see an example of one in action!  You can also see the Wordpress signup Widget in action on my website.

The Autoresponder


An autoresponder is also linked to your unique list and is the automatic e-mail which is sent out after a subscriber signs up for your list.  Mailchimp has a default one, but it's wise to customize this e-mail to your business to make a more personal connection with your fans.  I use my autoresponder to inform my new fans about what kind of updates they can expect from me, provide quick links to my social networks, and pitch my Patreon page in an unobtrusive way.

The autoresponder is also a great way to reward your new fans and make them feel special!  For instance, I offer a link in my autoresponder to a free gift of a coloring book that would usually be a paid item.  Other ideas for shareable promo items could be downloads of your art as wallpapers or a discount code to your shop.

Here's a screenshot of my autoresponder (or you can see it in live action by signing up for my list, if you like!)

Click to enlarge.
EDIT 8-25-2012  I've discovered the use of Segments and Groups within Mailchimp!
 
Utilizing Groups within your mailing list's subscribers means you can have a Sign Up form with checkboxes detailing what kinds of updates the person would like to receive (aka. the Groups that you can make dictate the kinds of updates) while also cutting down the number of lists you have and redundant signups.

I made a Group and corresponding list Segment in my mailing list for people who might be interested in following my Ladies of the Months series outside of Kickstarter to test this out.

You can see the checkboxes/Groups in action here.

 You'll have to remember to update your Automation/Autoresponder to respond to the individual list segment/Group too!

For the full technical instructions for this process, check out Mailchimp's documentation on the subject.

 

Promoting Your List


So now that you have a list, don't forget that it exists!  Here are some ideas to gain new subscribers.

- Etsy Shop - Include a link to your singup form in your shop announcement and in your automatic sale letters so your customers can remember to keep up with you.  (The same goes for your social network links!)

- Giveaways at Conventions - Host an exclusive giveaway at conventions to entice people to sign up for your mailing list.  Doing this also encourages people to come back to visit against, which provides an extra opportunity for them to be tempted by your shinies.

- Monthly Giveaways for List Members - I already do exclusive monthly giveaways for my Patreon patrons, but I have seen other artists encourage signups on their mailing lists by offering exclusive giveaways only for those on their mailing lists.  This makes your fans feel extra special!

Maintaining a Newsletter Schedule


One of my biggest mistakes was to overshoot my goal and try to keep a really active newsletter.  Create a schedule for yourself that you know you can maintain!

For instance, I used to do a mailing list every month, but the fact is because I work so slowly, I didn't have a lot to share each month.  In the end, it was easier for me to do a quarterly (once every 3 months) newsletter instead.

It's also smart to keep your newsletter text short and sweet!  Big chunks of text do okay in journal entries, but people have very short attention spans for e-mails.  Keep your text relevant and to the point!

I hope this info helps some of you out there who might be struggling with how to communicate with your fanbase or who were just not sure what to do with a mailing list in the first place.

If you have any tips for mailing lists I didn't mention, please do share in comments.  Good luck, everyone!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FIRST IMPRESSION: Proko's Figure Drawing Fundamentals Course NSFW

I've been a huge fan of ProkoTV's figure drawing videos on YouTube ever since I first watched his amazingly helpful "Draw a Head at Any Angle" tutorial, which I still look back on for reference to this day!

For those who don't know him, ProkoTV is hosted by artist, Stan Prokopenko, a talented figurative artist who teaches at the Watts Atelier of the Arts.

I enjoy the way Stan's videos appeal to my visually-minded nature with comparative examples and his very lighthearted and entertaining teaching style.  Rather than focus on the science of anatomy, his videos teach how to break the body down into simple shapes and emphasize expression over 'correctness'.  If you've read Michael Hampton's Figure Drawing: Design and Invention, Stan's methods are very similar.

Lately, all of my portfolio reviewers have pointed to the same thing that keeps holding my work back - anatomy.  Sure, I know how to draw a human figure, for the most part.  But my anatomy is missing that special something, that secret ingredient!

I notice that when I start adding detail, some of the energy and life drains right out of my figures.  My rendition of the joints of the figure also lack definition and understanding, leaving my figures feeling too smooth and ultimately unconvincing.

You might be asking why would someone who's not a beginner want to purchase a 'fundamentals' course?  Now, I've read and looked at many an anatomy book in my day in college and for my own study, but I find that I just can't remember anatomy.  No amount of drawing the skeleton and muscles and labeling the parts really helps me retain how to draw the figure.

My brain needs spatial geometric understanding and hands on training (being the kinesthestic learner that I am), which makes the structure of Proko's course appealing with its simplistic approach and many, many extra examples for tactile learners like me.  Also, as an artist, I am never done learning.  There is too much to know about anatomy to ever be done learning!

And so it was I decided to invest in Stan's Figure Drawing Fundamentals course for $79, including two pose photo packs (one male and one female) at $10 a piece (spending a total of $100).  These packs are a great value considering they include 300 poses in each one.  The poses are very well-lit and professionally photographed.  Once purchased, the pose pack download page includes a convenient link for you to download your choice of a .zip containing high res or lower res versions of the photos, for those of us studying with tablets which benefit from smaller file sizes.



Though Stan offers his figure drawing videos for free on YouTube, his course includes the longer premium content versions of his lessons.  For example, his first lesson on gesture is only 9 minutes for the free version, while the premium content version is 27 minutes.

Here's a look at the download page for just ONE of the lessons (of which you an view the full lesson list here).  I am impressed by the sheer amount of demos available to help students wrap their brain around how to apply the technique to various poses.


Also included are critiques of student homework, which is useful for learning not only what is correct, but what is incorrect along with the common mistakes that most people make in their figure drawing techniques.  As icing on the cake, Proko also brings in other experts, such as Marshall Vandruff and Glenn Vilpuu.

Under each video is a download link, allowing you to store the videos for your own reference or carry them with you for study on the go.  This is priceless and encourages me to invest knowing that even if for some terrible reason Stan's site goes down that I will still have access to my lessons.  Once you pay for premium content, you are granted unlimited access to your poses and lessons for the foreseeable future.

I've only just started this course and am looking forward to seeing how this affects my work!  I'll be sharing my progress and studies here with you, as well as a follow-up review of the overall course when I am finished with it.  So far, I am very impressed by the thought and care put into providing such well-priced and detailed learning resources for artists and I expect to learn a lot from this course!

Till then, go watch some ProkoTV and tell me what you think!

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Impressions of Patreon

The word 'Patreon' has been buzzing around my creative circles for the past few weeks now. I had heard a lot of comparisons to Kickstarter, but I soon learned it's something different than that, something vastly more personal. Instead of focusing around the one big project an artist might have in mind, Patreon encourages individuals to support an artist in a persistent way, funding their journey of creativity day by day.

Patreon harkens back to the days of yore when affluent individuals and institutions would sponsor artists very directly not just through commission work, but through constant financial support on a more personal level. This kind of system in modern times hasn't been widely available to every artist and has been more about chance and networking than any specific website.

Now, with the internet and Patreon, it's possible to find that niche of sponsors who might both love your work and be able to support you directly via Patreon using its unique giving system, which removes one more roadblock between artists and their prospective patrons.  Chris Oatley's ArtCast #68 has an informative interview with the founders of Patreon, if you'd like to hear their thoughts on why they started up this site.

How Does it Work, Again? 

Patreon is centered around a sort of tip system in which a patron can sponsor an artist for any amount they wish, usually starting at a $1. Tips are only given when an artist completes a new work, which is wonderful encouragement to keep an artist creating. Patrons can set a monthly limit so they will never spend more than they have allocated in their budget.  In return, artists usually provide a number of rewards based on your contribution level.

For instance, at my Patreon, I offer access to a patrons-only work-in-progress journal, exclusive updates and sneak peeks, a 15% off coupon at my shop that never expires, access to a Q&A, the ability to help me choose a theme for a future set of Patreon-only collectible paintings, and other goodies depending on your contribution amount.

How Does this Help an Artist?

Patreon seems to work bests for artists who aren't planning to make a large amount of money fast and who plan to keep on creating no matter what.  Contributions, though they might seem small until they build up, can help an artist in so many ways.  The little expenses of art supplies, paying for one's own health insurance, attending online classes, attending cons, etc. can add up!  Even if these are expected costs of doing business, Patreon is a way to have a nice little bonus each time an artist creates new content that could help an artist feel more able to expand their creative horizons and make important investments in their future.

For example, some of the milestone goals I hope to reach at my Patreon are to receive enough patronage to attend more conventions out of state, which are usually a luxury I can't afford and that would help me greatly in my career, as well as help me to connect more directly with my fans who don't live in the Southeast.  I am also hoping to reach a patronage level where I can start providing some fun things for my fans, such as a way to send out my yearly Christmas card to everyone, which is usually reserved for members of my family.

First Impressions

I've only been a part of Patreon for a short while and am still hoping for my first patron!  My first impressions so far are positive based solely on the potential of this site alone and the tips I've seen other creators receiving on their work.  I'm excited to see how this format might benefit my career and bring me closer to my fans.  The only downside I can sense so far is that I may get carried away with fulfilling rewards, though I've tried to keep them manageable for my own sake and my patrons'.

One of the most encouraging things, so far, is that should I happen to simply be too busy to produce work to share on Patreon, there is no harm done.  Patrons are not charged and there isn't a soul-crushing, reputation ruining hole in my life as there would be if I did not fulfill the goal of a Kickstarter project.

And finally, some shameless plugging!  Check out my Patreon page and let me know what you think!  Since it's so new, I'm looking for ways to improve it and make the rewards more worthwhile for future patrons:


Right now, this Patreon page is only for my art. One for my Artisan Crafts is coming soon! (EDIT: A Patreon page for my crafts is now up, here!)
Once I have more experience with Patreon, I'll be sure to make a follow-up report here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Artists and Tumblr

If you're like me, you've heard about Tumblr, or that 'weird blog place with all the random animated gifs'.  I remember when I first joined it.  I hooked it up to copy the RSS feed from this blog and then left it there, never thinking about it again.  I didn't get much traffic from it nor see much activity on the tumblr blog itself.  Meh, I thought, it's just a waste of time, anyways!

A year later, I came back to it after talking to other artists and doing a bit of research.  I realized there was a whole world of art and fun (and animated gifs) I was missing!

Short and Sweet

The thing about Tumblr is that it's geared for a particular kind of quick consumption, mainly images or short bursts of information.  I've heard it described by another artist as like 'twitter for artists', or in essence, quick bursts of images with a caption.  By hooking my text heavy blog up to it, I wasn't really garnering much interest because most people look at Tumblr for images and not text.  This is something to consider should you wish to share your art on Tumblr.  Keep it short and sweet!

When I have a text heavy post, I'll post an image and a paragraph quote from my longer blog entry and link it to this blog instead of directly sharing a giant wall of text in Tumblr.

The only exception I've seen to the 'don't share a giant wall of text' rule on Tumblr are Tumblr blogs intended for writers and researchers.  There are several great writing and historical research Tumblrs out there, but I think it's assumed their target readers don't mind reading, while artists and art appreciators would rather look at pretty pictures. (Hey I'm just sayin'! Even I admit this fact to myself.)

You Are What you Follow

One of the biggest complaints against Tumblr I hear from people is how much of a waste of time it is.  It's just full of pointless information and animated gifs!  It is true that Tumblr has a certain expectation of a casual ease to it.  It's meant to be a fun site and not necessarily professional. However, that doesn't mean people don't post culturally relevant and interesting things.  Follow the right blogs and your feed will be what you make it!

But What About Image Theft?

It is true there are a lot of instances on Tumblr where your work may get re-blogged (or re-posted) without the accompanying credit to your work.  This is where I recommend most folks include a simple watermark of the title, artist, and website (or at least artist name and website) on their work which goes up on Tumblr.  I also make sure to include my name, website, and credits in the caption of any image or post since it's easier to hit 're-blog', which copies all of that information except for your tags, than it is to purposefully go and delete my info from a description.  Laziness, for the win!

Let's be honest about the phenomenon of image sharing on the net too, especially with places like Tumblr and Pinterest becoming so popular.  If your art exists on the internet at all, it is going to get stolen.  That doesn't mean your work being stolen is right, it just means that it's bound to happen to you.  Tumblr is a varied community and the art sub-community there does its best to make sure people know to include a credit to the original artist.

That being said, you have to ask yourself one question.  Is the exposure for your work that you might get via Tumblr (or Pinterest, or the internet at large) worth the chance that someone might steal it?  For me, the answer is yes.  I pay part of my bills with art and the risk of gaining more exposure, and possibly more sales, outweighs the risk of art theft.  If the answer is no for you, I don't recommend sharing your work online.  Ever.  You're just in for a world of stress.  You can be sure, however, that if theft does happen, I'll be among the army of informed artists ready to fight it with you!  Artists tend to stick together like that and that's something we can all rely on when sharing our work online.

Tags?

So you're cool with it. You're on Tumblr now sharing your art.  What means this Tags area?  Think of them like search terms for people to more easily locate your work.  However, I'd recommend being less specific and thinking more along the lines of what fanbases or research topics would your work appeal to.

For instance, when tagging my artwork, Lady of December, I might include tags like 'Art Nouveau', 'Mucha', 'Birthstones', 'monthly flowers', 'Saint Lucia', and 'Christmas traditions'.  You may also want to include the tag 'Artists on Tumblr', which sometimes will get you a re-blog from Tumblrs that were made specifically to give more artists exposures by re-blogging work with this tag.  Tags are searchable within Tumblr's search engine and you can also program a feed to show you targeted tags, making it easy to find what you're looking for and give it a bump of exposure.

For instance, my Kushiel's Legacy related art on Tumblr is almost always re-blogged by fuckyeahkushielslegacy because I'm pretty sure their feed shows them every single Kushiel related piece of work on Tumblr, which they automatically or selectively re-blog.  It's the best kind of organic discovery of your work because it is targeted to those with a specific interest.


But No Comments? (EDIT I forgot this section. Adding it now!)

By default, Tumblr posts don't allow comments. However, there is a nifty plugin for all blogs called DISQUS. It lets people comment on your posts with the comments displaying at the bottom. The comments also show up as Notes on your post. You can see DISQUS in action on any of my Tumblr posts at the bottom of each post's page.

Time Saving

Yes, Tumblr actually can save you time!  Tumblr will automatically post to Twitter and Facebook for you (you can toggle this on and off each time).  On Twitter, it includes the first bit of text from your post plus a url to your Tumblr post, while Facebook generally only sends a thumbnail from your post, which isn't ideal, as I suspect these activity posts from Tumblr within Facebook don't get near as much favoritism from Facebook's newsfeed algorithms as an image posted directly into an album on a person's Facebook Page or personal account.

Guilt Free Blogging

It's easy to start up a blog for anything your little heart desires on Tumblr since you can have multiple blogs under one username.  Just remember that whatever your first blog is named, that is what your main username will be!  That's how I got stuck with TheProjectFairy, which nobody ever recognizes as me since it's so different from my usual handle and the name for my personal fun Tumblr.  Note that you can choose not to show your username on a blog you start too, if you don't want to be associated with it for some reason.

Ideas for Artists

So what can you post on Tumblr?  I generally post or re-blog about things that inspire me as an artist (ie. video games, movies, other artists) and of course, my own art.  Tumblr has a really cool multiple photo setup where you can include a gallery of up to ten images with some of them appearing larger or smaller depending on how you arrange them.  I often use this multiple gallery setup to feature my finished image as the largest thumbnail, while the smaller thumbnails are work in progress shots.  You can see an example of what I'm talking about here.

It's safe to say Tumblr is not for everyone, but it serves a particular target market who love to look at things on their tablets, phones, and computers when they're bored and they are people primed to consume and share your work!  These other folks aren't just artists either, but people who just like looking at cool stuff.  One of the biggest failings of sharing in artist specific communities, I've found, is that you are marketing to other artists and not necessarily potential customers or a somewhat broader range of people.

Fan Art, Pop Art, and Geekery do especially well on Tumblr, if you're in that area and aren't sure where to share!  The world is a highly mobile and interconnected place now with tablets, mobile phones, and computers.  Tumblr taps into the heart of all of these formats, making it an easy way to discover new art and information and that is it's true power.

Tumblrs of Interest

If you're sold on the idea of Tumblr, here are some suggestions to start filling up your feed with inspiring stuff!

Shameless Self Promotion
Art by Angela Sasser - The place to find my art and inspirations on Tumblr.
Angelic Artisan - Crafts by Angela R. Sasser - Where I post my masks plus other cool masky type things I find as well as mask artisan features.
The Project Fairy - My personal fun Tumblr of random things I like.
Kushiel Concepts - My Kushiel's Legacy book illustration project.

Art and Artists
Figures for Drawing - A collection of figure photos with credits for drawing practice.
The Silmarillion Project - An amazing fan project depicting an illustration for each chapter of the Silmarillion with especial focus on developing its own visual identity apart from the movies.
FuckYeahVintageIllustration - Beautiful art from the golden age often featuring unknown illustrators.
TheArtofAnimation - I've found so many amazing artists I've never heard of through their features!

Inspirational
Anime-Backgrounds - Gorgeous backgrounds from anime movies that take your breath away.
FairyTaleMood - An exposé of all kinds of fairy tale art and photography.
Character Model - Inspiring models of characters from games, illustration, etc.
Disney Concepts and Stuff - Disney concept art and news collected from around the web.

Fashion
Phe-nominal - Haute Couture at its best! Dresses and fashions that will make you drool.
FairyTaleFashion - Fashion of the fantastical fairy tale variety!

Writing
How to Fight Write - A blog ran by a martial artist and Eagle scout with advice on writing fight scenes.
Reference for Writers - Advice for writers on every topic you can think of, usually uncommon topics asked by readers.
Music for Writers - Random music to create to!

Research
Art of Swords - Beautiful weaponry from around the world with thoroughly researched notes and sources.
WomenFighters - Women in practical armor!
MedievalPOC - Focusing on representation and obscure history of people of color within society, including medieval.
Missed in History - What you didn't learn in history class.

Geekery
The Mary Sue - My fave place for hilarious gifs and geek news with feminist interests in mind.