Do you feel like no one cares about your artwork? That no matter how hard you try, you'll never improve? Well, I've been there before.
A little less than a year ago, I didn't even have 100 watchers. It was tough trying to find commissions, even though I priced them around 10 - 100 an hour. Sure, I had some wonderful people supporting me (thank you very much for that!), but when I looked at the thousands of diehard fans the "popular" artists had, I felt kinda useless. It seemed like even a thousand watchers, or just being able to earn minimum wage was impossible. Sometimes I wanted to cry from all the effort I put in. I kept drawing and drawing but barely improving. I was frustrated and felt useless. But instead of giving up, I pushed myself even harder, and by God's grace it's starting to work out for me.
I now have over 16,000 amazing people encouraging me, and I know it's only a matter of time before I'm earning enough to be a full-time artist! Sure, I'm not super popular yet, and I might not have what's considered "professional" quality art, but there's a lot that I've learned these last few months. And I pray it can be of use and encouragement to other struggling artists.
Disclaimer and Credit:
This advice is only from my own perspective, and is by no means 100% accurate or at all professional. This is simply what has worked for me. I've often been asked about commissions, exposure, and such, so I hope this answers everyone's questions.
All images are linked back to the original artists. Added them for artist features, inspiration, and to make my rambling a little less dreary.
You CAN Improve Your Artwork!
"Practice makes perfect." I'm sure you're as tired of hearing it as I am, but this is the best advice I have ever received. Certainly, no one will ever be perfect, no matter how "pro" we get, there's always more improvement to be made. But practicing drawing is the only way you will actually become better at drawing. Not practicing your craft but expecting to improve is like trying to win a race with a parked car.
Draw as often as you can.
I draw almost every single day. If you think you don't have time for artwork, that's simply not true. You don't have time because you don't make time. This might mean sometimes giving up watching tv, spending time with friends, going out to eat... If you really want to improve at something, you have to make sacrifices. Even the busiest person with a family and a full-time job, ask yourself, can't you put aside just five minutes a day to sketch in a notepad? It might not seem like much, but before you know it, those five minutes will add up into hours, days, months, even years of experience!
You don't need fancy lessons.
This might be considered bad advice by a lot of professional artists, but you don't have to go to school to become an amazing artist. Yes, schooling can help you improve much faster. You have access to trained, seasoned professionals who can work directly with you. But not everyone has access to, or can afford a professional education.
Instead, check out some of the awesome, free tutorials offered on deviantART alone. They're made by wonderful people who started out just the same as you and I, why not benefit from their experience and further your own path? It might save you a little time and struggle trying to figure it out on your own.
For instance, I found this one on colour theory particularly helpful in improving my adoptable designs:
Study and search for inspiration!
Study things in real life, like how shadows form around objects, how colours reflect off of surfaces, how a cat moves. If you're an adoptable artist, try mixing weird things together. If you like drawing cats, try drawing some made of unusual things... like bubbles, rocks, newspaper, socks... Don't be afraid to experiment!
Study artists you admire, find out exactly what it is about their art that you love. Then don't be afraid to try similar techniques in your own work. Just try not to directly copy them. For instance, as a child, I loved Lisa Frank, Sanrio, and Pokemon. If I drew a rainbow Pikachu with a bow on its head and called it "Hello Mouse", that would be copying. But if I drew a colourful picture with imaginary creatures in bows... it might be in a similar style, but it's still completely my own thing. There's a difference between copying someone or being inspired by them. Definitely don't be afraid to get inspired. It's how everyone builds their art style. It's done over years of taking tiny bits of inspiration and melding it all together. I'm still finding mine.
"I can't" actually means "I won't".
If Bob attempts a painting ten times before he perfects it, but Mary tries a hundred times but still can't do it, does that mean that Bob is better than Mary? No! Everyone matures at different speeds, some things just come more easily to some people. And what if Mary says, "oh well, I tried a hundred times, I'll never get it, I give up!" but she doesn't know that on her very next try, it would have been the time she finally painted that award winning masterpiece?
If you tell yourself you can't do something, then most likely you will give up. It could be right before that amazing breakthrough, but you'll never know. Yes, we might take one step forward, then feel like we've fallen back three. But if we keep trying, there's no way to move but forward. Your artwork WILL improve, because there's no other way for it to go. You just have to be patient and give it some time.
You CAN Gain More Exposure!
"All the popular artists get all the commissions! No one will even look at my art!" Throw that negative attitude out the window. You CAN gain more watchers, you CAN receive commissions, and you most definitely DON'T have to under price to do it.
Check these out:
They were my first commissions. Maybe you think they're good, or maybe you think they're dreadful. Either way, they're not what I consider high-end, front page deviantART material. So how did I gain so many watchers and higher paid commissions? Here's some tips.
Make your profile interesting.
Think like a potential customer. If you were someone else, why would you want to watch you? They aren't going to dig through your gallery and find that reason for you. Find some way to display your best and most interesting work. Even without premium, you can still decorate with the deviant ID widget and latest gallery submissions widget. If you have an open giveaway, or if you are offering a special promotion like discounted commissions, free sketches, etc., be sure to write a journal and display it with the profile journal widget.
Keep your profile clean, organized, and easy to understand. Try not to ramble on too much, use proper grammar, and punctuation. Upload an attractive icon and have a simple, memorable username. Your profile is usually your first impression on others, so be sure to make it a good and lasting one.
Be unique and attractive.
If you want more watchers and hopefully commissions, you need to try to offer something they can't get any place else. For instance, I'm not particularly skilled in anatomy or high definition artwork in general, so I came up with my own icon style. It's not particularly jaw dropping, but this is an example of how I worked with my strengths and around my weaknesses. Because I'm not great with high quality, I kept them simple. They're cute and colourful because that's what I like most. And best of all, there may be similar icons, but mine were still different enough to gain some attention.
You won't gain watchers by sitting on your behind. There are SO many ways to get exposure, here are just a few:
- Critique and comment on others' artwork; be active in the community.
- Llama badge spam! They make others happy, and give you the opportunity to attract more profile visitors.
- Submit artwork as often as you can. Bonus points for fan art, it gives others something to relate to!
- Host free raffles/giveaways. Everyone loves free stuff, right?
- Join groups and fill up their galleries! The more places your art is, the better chance you have of being noticed.
- Submit to less popular categories. It's much easier to make it to the front page of deviantART with an icon (especially if it's free-to-use and a fan art), than it is to make it with something submitted to the Digital Drawings/Paintings category.
- Give back to the community. Whether it's through encouraging journals, picture tutorials, or free-to-use resources, there's so many ways to help others, and gain a little exposure for you too.
Out of all of those methods, I've found the free-use artwork and llama method the most effective, but see what works for you! And don't give up if you've given out a hundred llamas, or made five icons, and nothing's happening for you. I've given out almost a hundred thousand llamas, and by the end of the year I hope to have a hundred free icons. Everything takes time and effort.
Don't sell yourself short.
Try to estimate the time you spend on each type of commission. Then price it according to what you would like to earn per hour. I would recommend no less than minimum wage per hour, however, it's always up to you! And ignore people who complain and badger you to death that your prices are too high, it's no one's business but your own. No need to lower your self worth and standards! After all, it takes years of practice to become a professional quality artist; you shouldn't undervalue all your blood, sweat, and tears.
If you have trouble receiving commissions, then either A) you need to advertise more, or B) you might need a little more practice. Don't let it get you down though, both things are super simple to fix, you just have to work hard and be patient! Because, again, I'm no Pixar quality artist, and if I can sell my simple little doodles, you can too! It just took me a few years of practice, and half a year of advertising.
Here's some more of my old stuff to encourage you:
You ARE Special!
No matter what anyone says, you are the only YOU in the whole entire world. You're the only you that will ever exist! There's no one who can do what you do, exactly how you do it, and don't let them tell you otherwise. And most importantly, God already loves you, exactly how you are. You don't have to struggle to meet impossible standards set by some strangers who don't even know you.
My favourite Bible verse is Zephaniah 3:17 :
I'm always encouraged and amazed over the fact that the Creator of the entire universe, could possible care enough about me to not only remember my name, watch over me... but singing? Like celebrating and being proud kind of thing? Wow. I must be pretty special.
And because we're so super special, there's one more thing to remember.
Don't let others define your originality.
This is especially prominent with adoptable artists. There's always someone who leaves a nasty comment arguing that your species or designs aren't original enough, and you're just trying to rob people of their hard earned money. Nonsense! What is originality? According to Merriam Webster, originality is "the quality of being new and different in a good and appealing way" and "the power of independent thought or constructive imagination". So it basically means different, right? Well, if everyone else decides that the only "original" adoptables are some super complicated freaky creatures, doesn't this in turn become unoriginal because everyone's doing it? Besides, there's nothing truly "original", there's always something similar that has been done before.
Instead, celebrate who you are, and enjoy drawing what you like to draw. With enough practice, your passion will show and it will attract others. There's always someone else who's into what you're into. So draw your pudding cats, jello dogs, and super complicated freaky creatures! Your originality is for YOU to decide. After all, if your designs are "so simple anyone could do it", then why don't they?
In conclusion, there are NO secrets, NO shortcuts to becoming a successful artist. It's nothing more than sheer determination, effort, and for me, constant prayer. How hard are you willing to work for what you want?
You CAN do it! You are amazing and one of a kind, never forget that!