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 ImpressionsI'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: