Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Going Pro: Don't Portfolio Here...

If you ask me what the most influential blog post of last year was, I'd have to say this amazing post by Kalliopi Monoyios of Symbiartic. In it she hits on three major mistakes many of us artists make online, and it is a must read for anyone hoping to have their work break out...

I wanted to expand a bit more on some of her points over the next little while. Today we look at how NOT to get a central online portfolio up and running. There are many options for us artists to post our work online, but in the past year I've been finding some that are not as promising as they might seem.


Getting a clear and central online presence for your art is key these days if you want to be discovered. Up until this time last year, I was myself without a clear Craig Dylke's art site, and this I think can be directly tied to my lack of success up until Kalliopi posted getting me to rethink this strategy. I put up a proper portfolio blog, and within a month I was contacted by an author interested in some of my NZ Dinosaurs (it was just a bite sadly, but more than I'd ever gotten before). Since then I've had two museum commission my stuff, and fans order prints.

The form your portfolio takes on is up to you, there is no one solution. Rather a happy spectrum of workable venues ranging from free blog sites to custom URL websites. I'm not an expert in these, and won't waste your time speculating about does work (I just went the lazy route and setup a standard blog for this purpose).

What I have gotten a grip on in the past 5 or so years are sites that are not your best bet for being your art flagship. I highly recommend not putting your main hopes and dreams into the following sites. Do feel free to disagree in the comment section, and I'd love to entertain debate and discussion.

DeviantArt

 Kalliopi hits on some of the problems she's had with DeviantArt in her post, but I am going to go further. She suggests against it, I tell you straight up don't set up your main portfolio on DeviantArt (there are uses for the site mind you, and I'll emphasis that at the end of this post, but serving as your  main portfolio is not one of them).

DeviantArt is not a user friendly laid out site. Getting around it is not clear if you've never used it before, and you should never make a potential client work to look at your stuff. While these days I can mostly get around, I still recall the days when looking around DeviantArt drove me up the wall, and I still don't like it. This is not me telling you this due to an inflated sense of my importance. If even just one person like me doesn't like using DeviantArt, that is one less person who'll find your stuff.

Worse the inbuilt DeviantArt search engine is terrible, and even when looking for posts you know exists on the site it is damn near impossible to find them. I've done searches to try and find a John Conway post many of his annoyed fans insisted I needed to read... They claimed I'd been an idiot for not finding it in my Googling his stuff. Not only did it not turn up on Google, but it didn't turn up in DeviantArt when I typed in everything from the key words all the way to the exact title in the Deviant search engine!!! That is not a site or search engine you want to count on as your main artisitc base of operations!

A lesser, but still important thing to remember is that DeviantArt (and the other sites I'm going to look at in a moment) is that it is a uniform community site. This means that overall you're corner of DeviantArt won't make you stick out as an individual, and in all likelihood won't leave any impression with a visitor other than "they're just another DeviantArt user".

Finally DeviantArt is covered in ads. It is never good to having someone else's ad competing with your work. Additionally some people are instantly turned off by the sight of an ad, and this could easily effect their option/take on your work.

Renderocity

Is much like DeviantArt only it is even less popular. It is not the easiest site to navigate, it's internal search engine is nearly useless (unless you are looking to buy 3D model files... which unless this is what you're trying to sell isn't much help), accounts display identically to each other making you just another user, and it is covered in ads (and as most of these are internal ads, they end up being for 3D models of nearly naked girls... not a good initial impression for a potential client).

The format of the site is a hold over to the site's origins in the late 90's, and it still feels like a bit of a 90's site in places. This also adds navigation and use problems for more modern net users.

The biggest reason not use Renderocity as your central portfolio is that pieces from this site do not readily show up in Google searches!!! Nuff said really.

Flickr

If I had to pick Flickr or DeviantArt I'd go (and have) with Flickr. It is a much friendlier to navigate site than DeviantArt for new users, its account display is much cleaner than DeviantArt, and it doesn't have ads. All this said don't use it as your main portfolio!

While easier to get around intuitively than DeviantArt, Flickr still suffers some navigation problems. These are mostly due to bell and whistle options on the sidebar. Flickr gives too many options that have the potential to send your visitors away from work and even worse possibly to other peoples work!

Flickr also really suffers the uniformity problem. Your account displays exactly the same to a visitor as every other Flickr user's.

I've had a flickr account for 5 years now, and I've gotten no action off it other than that Alien archeology show wanting to use my stuff... for free no less GRRRRRR!!!


ART Evolved (or any other joint community blog)

I've got to be honest, we here at AE are not a good option as a central portfolio (I tried it). Here you are competing with everyone else on the blog, and while we provide an individual flair from other palaeo-blogs, we can't do so for our individual members within the site. While we label all the work on this site, if a visitor isn't paying close attention they might miss who the artist of an individual piece was.

Best again to get your own site or blog, and use us as an auxiliary form of advertisement for it.

These sites do have their uses though!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying never use these or similar site (especially ART Evolved :P) at all. They all definitely serve purposes a dedicated portfolio site never could.

They are all great means of networking with other artists (DeviantArt and AE in particular). There certainly can be no replacement for the feedback, idea sharing, and inspiration of discussing art with like minded peers on venues like these.

They are definitely a good secondary advertising and promotion location. In fact when it comes to getting soft hits on your portfolio and main site all the above are great places to have a secondary galleries up and running. Just make sure you link back to your main site on all of them.

All I'm saying is that when it comes to getting yourself out, make sure it is just you you're putting out there! Start up your very own site...

 Use all the sites I listed here as backups and/or supplementary tools in promoting your art. Just remember if you want to stand out, you typically need to stand alone.

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