Social Media and the Effect on Art
There was a time when I wasn’t considered an old fart. Seeing all these new social media popping up by the second, however, it ages me like nothing else.
There was a time when forums were the full extent of how art was being shown to the world. While I can’t speak for the super early internet culture, I’ve lived through the late 90s and 2000s of endless Anime forums and all its creative inhabitants eager to show off their latest creations. It was only until later when “hardcore” art forums like Conceptart.org which really started pushing the envelope with quality art, filtering art seen as weaker in favour of giving exposure to the best of the best.
Social media came soon after. It gave rise to exposure nothing like forums before. Whereas forums were confined to its community and moderators, social media could garner fans from all facets of life without any filters. Superstar artists, who used to only gain publicity based on mainstream media exposure and work in major companies, could now appear if fans speak for them.
There has never been another age where artists could be independent as they could in this age. However, I will post my personal list of advantages and disadvantages of using social media for art. I will admit that, as an old fart, these opinions are based on what I felt were better in the past as well as what’s better in the present.
Popularity of Styles
The most apparent effect of social media is the rise of certain styles. With social media, there’s now a hard number on whether your art resonates with people. There is a factor of not getting lucky given how fast social media flies and arguably “using” social media better. Generally speaking, I believe the cream always rises to the top. Whether this is a good or bad thing is entirely up to the individual.
While I don’t have the exact stats, it’s fairly obvious some styles dominate social media. Anime and Disney-esque styles are always guaranteed to get more likes, and this is something that started even in the forum lurking days.
A big part of it is I (personally) believe there are a lot more teenagers using the internet and that’s mostly the target audience for those types of styles. In fact, I can attest those styles are inspirational; I started drawing and posted art early in my teens solely because of Anime. Numerically, there’s just a massive population of people who would enjoy seeing that stuff.
In contrast, there are a lot of styles which, while more technical, do not get the same amount of likes and followers. This is especially true for many professionals in major companies, who are incredible but have a social media presence a fraction of some of the superstar Anime artists. Just make a note of how many people even on art-centric platforms like Artstation get more exposure for drawing big-eyed, chested girls than technical environments.
Keep in mind that I am not saying one style is better than another. One thing I’ve noticed is some artists being too hard on themselves for not getting likes and equating that to the quality of their art. This is not the case. The reverse is true as well; do not get complacent if something gets a ton of likes!
Quick and Flashy over Quality
As stated before, social media comes and goes very quickly. What’s a safer strategy: taking the time to make a 200 hour masterpiece, or creating quick digital paintings to constantly post on Instagram?
One thing I’ve noticed as digital painting came into prominence is just how the process of art became faster. I feel social media has fueled this approach. It’s just statistical fact that in order to grow your social media platforms, you have to constantly remind people you exist!
If anybody has followed my tutorials, they’ll know I absolutely favour GREAT paintings done over a long period of time over merely acceptable paintings done quickly. This is especially true if you’re looking to learn; why condition your muscles to do something bad consistently, but quickly?
That’s not to say artists cannot do something quick AND great. For improving your work, however, starving your piece due to time can destroy any potential for pushing yourself.
One compromise I like is to post WIPs (“Work in Progresses”) while taking the time to finish a grander piece. If I had my way, I would not want artists to post anything but their absolute best. Posting for the sake of posting is absolutely something I would never advise as an artist.
Breaking the Vacuum
Now, let’s talk about something that social media really helped.
The “vacuum” is a term people at Conceptart.org aptly coined. It describes a situation where an artist doesn’t get exposed to outside influences. Without professional standards, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they’re better than they actually are as there’s nothing to compare to! In a hypothetical situation, an artist in the past didn’t have to lurk any art forum.
Social media is incredible at exposing an ungodly amount of art. It is almost impossible nowadays for anyone, barring a situation of not using the internet, to not stumble upon professional work. With a click of the mouse, you can sift through artwork from people all over the world, even if you’re not on art-centric platforms.
There has been reports of Facebook users facing depression due to the pressure of seeing other people’s lives. I certainly feel that way when it comes to art as well. With the constant exposure to people who are incredible artists, it’s hard not to be a bit resentful of not being on their level. However, it is more likely you become inspired and know what you have to do to achieve that level, leading to a higher caliber of skill.
I think it goes without saying while social media likes doesn’t always indicate the top of the food chain, I do feel on average the skill level of artists have gone up exponentially over time. Kids nowadays are exposed to fantastic art and endless galleries of tutorials younger and younger. Just look at video game art in the past; they’re ripe with mistakes most teenagers would have been conditioned out of today!
Rise of Memes, Fan Art and Lewd Art
To finish off this blog post, let me make a note that there’s nothing wrong with memes, fan art and lewd art. I make those myself! I do want to make a section to put the importance of branding as a priority.
All of the three types of art will garner you views very quickly. Comedy through memes is a great retweet for audiences. Fan art is more likely to be searched on Google than something original. And, of course, lewd art is pretty self-explanatory.
It goes without saying these types of art tend to spread like wildfire on the internet.
It’s entirely up to you on whether you want to use these as tools for your brand. However, there comes a point when if you do enough of any of these, you become branded and expected to create these types of artwork. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing; with Patreon and other avenues of income, it’s entirely possible to make a career out of it. Lewd art is a legitimate art form in itself!
The important thing is to know what your audience perceives you as. Ask yourself if you are okay with the perception. Social media will often tell you, with likes, that they want more of these types of artwork but, even for myself, it’s almost a cheap way to get publicity no matter the quality of the art.
Don’t let the likes tell you what you want to achieve as an artist. Always know what your end game is, even if you do the occasional fan art. Treat it as good fun and advertisement at best!
As always, take these blog posts as a grain of salt. These are my personal experiences and, as with art, everything comes down to individual preferences and circumstances. The real lesson here is to remember that social media is just a tool and don’t let it define who you are as an artist. If you keep your head up high and know its boons and shortcomings, you can use it efficiently in furthering your career.