Hi! Sorry it took so long to answer this, but I didn’t realize my inbox was FULL of messages as Tumblr was emailing my junk email whenever an ask was sent. There are thousands of ways to get noticed, so here are just a FEW tips that I can think of at 2 in the morning.
OK, so first of all, POST ART! It sounds silly, but very frequently artists will only post a doodle here, or a doodle there, and remain inactive for long periods of time, because they worry that they’re not yet good enough. We’re all constantly growing as artists, so it’s acceptable if everything isn’t perfect. And the thing is, that even a few imperfect pieces will help a casual viewer start to remember you and what you bring. Also, with each new piece of artwork submitted, you have another chance to catch some new viewers. Casual fans may become more active if you post frequently with art, or advice, or information.
Secondly, whether it’s on Deviantart, Tumblr, or anywhere else, properly tag your artwork! Tagging artwork creates yet another venue for people who have never seen your stuff before to find it! And think of some tags that might be a little odd, but still define you. It’s not just “pokemon” but “pokemon art” more specific tags will have less views, but you’re also less likely to get lost in a deluge of other posts.
Become active in a community. Whether it’s a community you create, or a community you’re already a part of, if you become more active, people will be likely to come visit your page just by merit if you being there. As the community grows, your visibility can grow, too! For example, Sketch Dailies on Twitter was just a small group, but exploded overnight! Now just by merit of them reposting occasional artwork, I have found a ton of new artists I otherwise never would have heard of.
Put your art EVERYWHERE! You never know where someone can find you! Put your art on Deviantart, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, etcetcetc. Some times people will follow you across multiple platforms, but often I find that people have 1-2 platforms they primarily use to view artwork, and if an artist isn’t a part of those platforms, they really won’t actively follow their work. Even if you don’t post much, just having your art on a platform can be good. I got my children’s book illustration gig from some scattered art that had been posted to Instagram that I had totally forgotten. Since then, I’ve been more active in posting.
Go to conventions and network!! This is less of a “How to get fans online” and more of a “How to get noticed by people who can PAY YOU for your art!” Look up local conventions and go to them and talk to all of the artists there. Often, they can give you advice, or even possibly will ask you to go to a sketch crawl with them. By following artists you meet locally you can start to see into their network, and befriend other people, too. The art world is rather small, and everyone eventually knows everyone, which is actually kind of nice! If you’re friendly and open, you can meet a ton of people. If you feel confident with your artwork, sell at a convention! Even if you don’t make a ton (or any) money at first, you can meet very valuable contacts and make business deals! I’ve gotten multiple job offers even from conventions I never would have thought that possible. I met Laila from Girls Make Games (learndistrict.com) at Fanime, met the guy I’m doing a children’s book for through Wondercon as well as met several publishers there, and just met another possible job lead through SF ZineFest. A friend of mine had her comic picked up by Cartoon Network through APE! These conventions give you tons of opportunities to meet professional people, get advice, and also show your best face for potential work! It often takes 2-3 years to get comfortable enough showing your artwork at conventions to make an impact on strangers, so it’s best to start early, and make your mistakes then before it’s as big of a deal.
Talk to everyone. Artists are generally pretty friendly and open about helping people and answering questions. There are the occasional sour pusses out there, but for the most part, we all started off somewhere, and are willing to go out of our way to help people.
A few recommendations, though: When approaching an artist to ask a question, research your own question first. If your question can easily be answered by a google search, you need to think of more specific, or JUICY questions to get better and more useful answers. If you ask a pointed and interesting enough question, you never know what you might learn.
also: submit stuff to local real world fine art shows! Your local arts council often has a mailing list or website with all the upcoming shows that are looking for art. Might be for the city, might be county, might be whole state depending on where you live.
Even if you don’t get in to THAT show, jurors may well send you opportunities for different shows OR introduce you to someone else they think will like your work. word of mouth is very powerful.
I did about a year of group shows where I had one piece semi-consistently, did a mini solo show, did an open studio event end of last year, and then this year I had a month long show with two other artists that I was introduced to through the open studio day, and then just hung a solo show last week that’ll be up for two months. which is all monsters.
and I have another solo show going up at City Hall for two months to finish out year. (in city of about 82K people) and that solo show is basically one big Sharktopus party. seriously, they booked the show for two months, JUST ME, based entirely on shark monsters fighting squid and other sea monsters. That was what I had lying around as “recent work” that fit the specs when they did the call for submissions.
Just because you don’t feel like you aren’t doing “fine art” does not mean you won’t get into those spaces. Read the prospectus and send stuff in. They tend to see stuff from the same few people over and over and if you’re doing something DIFFERENT that works both for and against you. For a large group show, they may not add you because you don’t fit. (say if everything else submitted was landscapes they’re probably not going to put in your portrait) But it also works FOR you as even if it didn’t fit THIS show, they often will send you a prospectus for a different show they think fits and they want fresh blood in it. Regional groups are more likely to send you a follow up because they tend to be filling much more diverse spaces than a specific gallery is.
TLDR: don’t assume fine art spaces are closed to you. respond to their calls for submission! yes, even with the cray-cray stuff. I had three headed werewolf graphically disemboweling and devouring a sheep on display for two months at one point.
(for those interested in the crazy ass solo shows, there’s info on Anomalous Animals of the Americas and What Lies Beneath (aka Sharktopus) over at my just art tumblr hconeillart they’re in southwestern CT, accessible on the NYC train line)