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.


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!

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.

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

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!

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.

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