Updated: May 28, 2019
There’s a very common stereotype going around. The ‘real’ artist very rarely leaves home, prefers the company of their working tools and survives on ramen noodles and donations from the increasingly worried friends. The Introverted Artist at his/her best, Comics ArtistTM being the superior version.
Now, it doesn't have to be this way. What if I told you that you can keep your reclusiveness but also communicate with the outside world and maybe, just maybe, get some money out of it? It’s possible you might have already pushed yourself to get more out there, but the effect was minimal. That’s why we will talk about how the most well-intended steps lead to the most common mistakes as well.
Without further ado, here are three tips for artists too shy to network their way to the top:
Tip n. 1:
How can potential clients or real-life fans reach you? I bet a lot of you fantasize about the good old times, when you could just toss a bottle into the sea and hope the message within will get to the recipient... eventually. And yes, using a carrier pigeon might prove viable once the society collapses, but in the meantime, how about we, I don’t know, created an email address…?
Giving portfolio consultations to emerging artist is what partly pays my bills and I have to say, some of you are hiding you own identity better than any witness protection program could ever do. On one hand, there’s simply not putting up any contact whatsoever. I’ve seen business cards lacking the telephone number and upon inquiring why, it turned out to be a precaution. Said artist really didn’t like answering phone to unidentified callers.
But on more serious (and common) note. Take a look at your website and locate your contact info. Where is it? Is there a tab in the main section called CONTACT ME? Maybe you prefer to use your own words. COMMISSION ME, MESSAGE ME or WRITE ME A LETTER are fine as well. The thing is that, after clicking on it, nothing else than a communication template or an email address appears. The most common mistake I often see is burying the email address under layers and layers of text explaining how seeing a dead cat when you were three years old influenced your art. Your contact info must be the first thing the visitor sees. Or they will go looking somewhere else, wandering endlessly from a section to a section, eventually leaving your page for good.
If you don’t like mixing your personal and work life, there’s still hope for you. The flagship of your art can be a social media account! Be it Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr, all these platforms have their own messaging systems (and some offer an option to buy a clean domain as well). Meaning you can have an inbox reserved for work mail. It might discourage some clients, but those are probably not the people you want to reach anyway.
Tip n. 2:
Network online. This might sound like a fairly obvious piece of advice, but I am talking about the real thing. It’s not about posting your work online and from time to time liking a friend’s Instagram Story.
Gone are the days of meeting your client in person. You might get a face to face conversation in the beginning of the work relationship, but most of the time, your customer exists in your mind as their profile picture or email address. Being articulate yet personal in digital space is becoming a skill needed to survive in today’s economy either way.
Keep in mind that each platform requires a different tactic. Good Ol’ Email is like a phone for people who don’t like making phone calls. It’s still the most formal means of communication though. But being formal takes time! Time to check spelling, find the addressee’s full name, google that one word that you never learnt to type and don’t plan to...
Create two or three templates. The text must be carefully crafted to serve the needs of each group, i.e.: Publishing Houses, Upscale Magazines, Comics conventions. Each of these requires a different tone of speech, choice of words and most importantly: different pieces of your work! They can get a more rounded idea of what you can do from your online portfolio, which you mustn’t forget to attach.
Now you can just copy-paste the template with every new email address you come across. Take it one step further and create a spreadsheet to keep track of those you’ve already reached out to. Don’t be discouraged by rejection letters. Instead be glad they took the time to reply. This is a numbers game.
Everyday social media have a lot in common. Have you ever noticed that right after you post a photo on Instagram, you get bunch of likes from people you don’t know? One of the most common tactics for getting Instagram followers is to search for a general tag (i.e. #comics) and then just browse through it mindlessly, hearting every picture coming your way. You can pick the option to see the most recent posts, meaning your ‘heart’ might reach the user while they are still active on the app. They notice and immediately want to see who is this person with the tremendously good taste.
A comment will get you an even higher ratio of exposure. Do you think it’s fake? It is! Unless you take time to do it properly. Well-constructed feedback is priceless in art community and if you give something first, you’ll feel like you earned the attention once it comes your way. Just don’t be like those Instagram bots that follow you just to unfollow you week later. Nobody likes those.
Tip n. 3:
Share you experience! The idea that artists don’t like to go outside didn’t come up out of nowhere. Do you feel stupid having to shove your art into peoples’ faces? A lot of people around the world feel the same. The easiest way to connect with them is to draw how it feels when you have to read tips online to get people appreciate art more. Make a comic book! Draw a caricature!
Do you think this topic has been done over a thousand times? You are not wrong! But it hasn’t been done by you. Find what’s unique about your experience and let everyone know. You’ll be surprised how quickly people bond over shared quirks.
Author: Štěpánka Jislová
Štěpánka Jislová is a Czech Illustrator and Comics artist. Born in 1992, she resides in Prague and apart from numerous illustrated books and two stand-alone graphic novels, she enjoys doing tattoo and cloths designs, teaches, writes and gives talks and presentations. She participated in the comics symposium The Superheroes of Eastern Bloc (2015) and was awarded a prestigious Getting to know Europe grant at Wilkinson College, CA. She’s a co-founder of the Czech branch of Laydeez do Comics. Main focus of her work is storytelling via symbolism and archetypes, which she explores through carefully crafted compositions and precise line-work.