There are many wonderful artists out there who struggle with sustaining themselves by doing what they love. I’m sure quite a few readers of this article fall into the same boat. Obviously, there are people who have found ways to profit from their art; some whose work might be inferior in comparison to your own. What does it take then to get your work noticed and marketable?
At WonderCon’s “Making a Living Off Your Art” panel, Lee Kohse, Sean Glumace, David DePasquale, and Ruolin Li all discussed the ways they found to make art their fulltime jobs and then shared their advice for those wanting to do the same.
Lee Kohse, who currently runs his own Twitch channel and has worked for the likes of Disney and Dreamworks, said that the most important talent development one can work on is that of how to market yourself. “You have to be down to sell yourself.” Kohse recalled his first time with a space in the artist alley. “Others were making more money than me. So, I watched them. Those who just looked up and said ‘hi’ probably did just as well as me, but the people who were talking and engaging were the ones who were making the money. Ultimately, I’d say it’s 20% art and 80% marketing.”
Sean Glumace is an Adobe educator. He said there’s about “10,000 ways” to make a living with art. “I know a guy who puts booths together for other people, photographs them, and runs across the world doing it.” Of course, for those who want to do something more in line with selling their art, Glumace added, “Try ‘Behance.’ It’s Adobe’s free portfolio site. Also, you better get on LinkedIn and you better have a good profile.” Glumace explained how even in the art industry, employers will check your LinkedIn when you submit work, so it’s important to have that set and showcasing your work just in case.
For David DePasquale, currently working at DreamWorks Tv Animation, he wanted to work in the industry for a long time but didn’t know how to get noticed. “Figuring out how to market myself on social media has always been my concern,” said DePasquale. In many ways, one’s art will get them noticed, but like Lee Kohse said, it’s an artist’s personality that will get them work. This was also the case for DePasquale, who learned he needed to “market my work and market myself as a human being.” Kohse commented on this, saying, “You cannot be shy. Your networking is your largest tool.”
We are living in a time where the internet has allowed previously unknown artists to elevate their work. The downside to this is that it has then become harder to get noticed in the crowd. For Glumace, his best advice is to “be professional with your social media and be active.” Even if you don’t immediately get the attention of industry professionals, you’ll be cultivating a fanbase who will begin to look for your art.
Continuing with the idea of marketing oneself, Ruolin Li, who works with DreamWorks Animation, says that it’s important to be “really nice” to everyone. “It’s a small industry. You don’t know who will be popular in the future and who you may have to work with.” As to the art itself, Li had to say, “Try to find the focus of your strength.”
Adding to this, Sean Glumace discussed how important it is to put continuous time and energy into developing one’s artistic skills. “You need to continue to learn,” said Glumace. “You got to put the time in.” For him, it’s important to stay active with adding to one’s artistic skill set, staying relevant in the artistic job market. He cited sites like Linda.com, Vimeo, Twitch, and YouTube as all great resources to help with this.
The importance of portfolios must also be stressed here. There are great free-spaces for this, such as Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogspot. Even if your work is featured online, it would still be a good idea to create physical portfolio. Sean Glumace said when he sees artists with physical portfolios, it shows to him the effort and time they put into it.
In the end, these various artists have found in their own ways that it’s above all important to market yourself to fans and people who will potentially get you work. Continuously growing your artistic skills is also a must, but keep in mind that people will often buy your art because they are ultimately buying you.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.