Get it shared
As a developing artist, whether you’re a writer, composer, photographer, fine artist, textiles designer, graphic designer or illustrator, the act of sharing your work with others – in its various states of readiness – is a critical part of your development. Social media offers myriad opportunities for that, as well as (of course) self-promotion. Despite that fact, precious few famous contemporary artists make good use of social media, preferring to remain aloof from the ‘common crowd’. The age of the deified artist has not yet left us, and that leaves an opportunity for more socially comfortable creatives. In 2017, there’s more to exhibiting your work than end of year degree shows.
Produce original sharable content
Done! As an OCA student, you will be used to keeping a blog as an online Learning Log. The material it holds is a rich seam of original content (which Google loves, by the way), and on the most basic level, opening up your blog to the public marks a firm step forwards in opening yourself up to others’ critical opinions. However, whether or not you choose to keep your blog private, there’s more to sharing your creative output than making it public.
Establish your digital presence
It used to be a given that if you wanted people to find out about you, your work or your business, you needed to invest in a website. That’s no longer the case. Increasingly you can develop a comprehensive online presence using social networks and socially-enabled blogging platforms such as WordPress.com, Tumblr, Ghost and Medium. The networks or platforms you choose come down to a combination between your personal preference and the suitability of the platform. OK, that’s perhaps a bit obvious, but try to consider more than just your media of choice when it comes to suitability. Instagram is great for sharing pictures, but it’s not so great for selling them or maintaining serious conversations about them. Twitter is good for sharing your opinions and thoughts (and drumming up potential clients), but not so good for sharing images or providing a permanent base for your archive of work. Select the tools you feel suit you, your practice and your needs best, but in so doing…
Go with what you find most comfortable
Are you used to Facebook? Yes? Then stick with it, at least as a safe cornerstone of your social presence. Each platform has its own defining characteristics which may or may not lend lend themselves to your preferred practice. Twitter is a great tool for expressing opinions if you’re well informed in certain areas, but if you struggle to condense your thoughts into sound bites and prefer to think things through, you may prefer to blog your thoughts and share links to them via Facebook or Twitter than sit for half an hour stripping away vowels and conjunctions.
What should I share?
As an art student, the best answer to this question should be EVERYTHING! It’s understandable that you may feel tentative about sharing your overworked scribbles, f-stop experiments on your pet parrot, or the late night audio exploration that combined maracas with tubas… but gaining a social following is aided immensely by sharing every painful step of your very human journey.
Every famous artist that ever was went through a journey of discovery before they became household names. Today’s social landscape enables anyone with an interest to follow artists through their daily toils, which helps to remove the perceived barriers between the mortal public and the artistic Gods they look up to. Such a policy of openness is not without its pitfalls, however; censorship is a major problem for artists, most notably on Instagram and Facebook – neatly demonstrated by the latter’s infamous censorship of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue in early 2016. If, however, you can avoid (or live with) the censorship trap and bear to share every failed exploration, then casting your social net behind you as you progress, gathering a flapping haul of acolytes as you go, will prove invaluable if and when you decide to turn your art into a trade. If you’re feeling nervous about sharing publicly, start with the OCA’s private discuss.oca-student.com forum, where you’ll find many other students in the same boat as yourself (for inspiration, check out the ‘Just because’ Photography thread!)
Sharing online tends to work best when it’s reciprocal. Find other artists whose work you like (or don’t!) and comment on what they’re producing and saying. Social blogging platforms such as Medium encourage the exchange of opinion, and by engaging with others you will find that they will follow your practice and output in kind. Communication is key with social media.
Above all else, whether you choose to push yourself into more social spaces or prefer to maintain some privacy, don’t get caught in the trap of developing your creative practice inside a bubble of your own experience and opinion. Seek out other perspectives as well as the successes and failures shared by others, and in so doing, you may begin to feel more confident in doing the same.