Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting Your Work Out There - Part 3

Monkey drew this to be funny, but now he's seriously considering investing in a squid suit..

Today, we wanted to talk about the importance of getting your work out there into the world. For more on the getting yourself psyched up to show, check out Part 1, and for the business side of why you should get out there, check out Part 2. This is Part 3 (of 3) and will be about some practical ways to actually have your work seen.

While craft fairs/art shows, comic conventions are cool ways to get out there and sell some stuff, they do cost money to register for booths. If you really want to get out there though, these really are the best ways to do it. If you can't afford it now, try to save up, or sell art to friends, or even apply for artist grants. If you aren't ready because you don't have anything to sell, we recommend signing up for an event a while off, that way you can make a concrete deadline for those that need them.

If showing at one of these events isn't for you, however, there are a lot of ways that you can start getting the word out, most of them for very little cost. You could start a blog of your art for free on a site like blogger (what we currently use), wordpress (what we're going to migrate to eventually), or flickr or tumblr. There are lots of options and besides the cost of a computer and access to the internet (which you can access for free at most libraries), are all free.

Ideally, if you want to make a profession out of your art, you'll eventually want a website with your own personal URL or something, as it looks more professional. To start out, if you can afford it, I would even go and register a domain that you want (ie.,,, you get the idea), and you can even have it just redirect to your blogspot or tumblr account.

An example of this domain forwarding is Monkey's collaboration with his friend Matt Na Sal - their project can be found over at, but is actually just a tumblr blog.

Other key ways of getting out there is just having business cards made. You'd be surprised how often we ask artists for their card, and they don't have any. Make sure your name, website/blog, and your email and phone are all on there so they can get a hold of you! Monkey and Seal have both had business opportunities come up to a year later of giving someone a business card. It's a quick and easy way for people to find you, and you can get them printed quite inexpensively at someplace like PsPrint. If you're going to use them, we always appreciate you using our affiliate link here, but if not, no worries. You can get them even less expensive at Vistaprint, but we don't recommend them as their quality isn't quite up to snuff.

Along with business cards, if your budget can handle it, print up some postcards with your work on it. People always love free stuff, and if you leave them in coffee shops, stores, etc. (just make sure you get permission first - you don't want the owners dumping your cards), you'll find your audience as people who like your style will gravitate towards your cards, pick one up, and most likely will check out your website, later if not sooner.

Another way to show off your work in by participating in online forums and art communities. DeviantArt is one of the largest, and if you're into concept art, is unparalleled. Most of these communities have weekly/monthly challenges to get your inspired, and winners have gone on even to be hired by other companies! You can also get your weekly illustration topic on at Illustration Friday. Fun!

While all that online activity is free, once you're more confident in exposing your work, you should think about entering into contests. While there are a lot of contests out there that are sort of sketchy (ie. high entry fees for little-known contests), entry into annuals such as Spectrum and Society of Illustrator's Annual are big deals, and can pay back their entry fees tenfold - that is, if you can get in. Competition is quite stiff - you'll be competing with illustrators from around the globe - but it is frequently used by art directors to scout up-and-coming talent.

If you're not quite there yet, there are a lot of other ways to get your work seen. You can always show your portfolio to various coffee shops and bars to see if they'd be willing to hang some of your work. In San Francisco, the opportunities are nearly endless.

For those with organizational experience or are up for a challenge, you could always curate/organize/promote your own show. Monkey + Seal created Paper Hat Productions just for that reason - we wanted to get out and have really fun, super packed shows that people would remember. Seal ended up selling some of her originals as well as being commissioned for a personal piece, while Monkey has sold some paintings and picked up graphic design gigs through it. That said, it is quite a bit of work to put on a show, but if you are determined and willing to work hard, much can be gained from it.

Of course, once you get enough work (or you could always collaborate with a large group of your artist friends), you can always publish a zine or book about your art. Print-on-demand sites like Lulu and Blurb (two of the largest) make it easy to publish your own art book. If anything, you can use them to professionally print one or two copies of your portfolio. Having your own hard-bound, professionally printed portfolio can never hurt. If you're on a tight budget, you can always make color photo copies, staple it together, and sell it.

Finally, you can't underestimate the power of family and friends. Between facebook, twitter, myspace, and whatever other social media sites you and your friends use to keep in touch, make sure that you're sharing your links. Of course, you don't want to turn your FB wall into a billboard, but updates that tell a bit of backstory to your work will intrigue people who see your post and if they like it can share your links. Also, if you have family and friends who are supportive of your art, make sure that you keep them in the loop to what you're up to. We are fortunate to have some great networking-type friends who say "oh yeah, I met this animator at a business conference, let me give you their info."

So that's it. There are probably a lot more ways of getting your stuff out there (please leave suggestions we forgot in the comments for others to read!), but those are some of the basics, and if you work everything on the list (or even 50% of the list), you'll most definitely start making waves and people will start to recognize you and your style. Thanks for following along in our series, and if you'd like more (or less) multiple-part entries like this in the future, let us know!

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