The Big Draw Review

It is already a week ago that I traveled to Nijmegen to participate in The Big Draw‘s Artist Alley at the Mariënburg Library. After doing OK at TomoFair, I was curious how this would go: I expected a different kind of public here.

Saturday

big draw table saturday

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good: I arrived with a wet suitcase and a soaked coat. This must have had it’s effect on the visitor’s count, though it’s hard to say to what account. On the other hand, hosting the Artist Alley in the library, we also had people browsing who didn’t know about the event at all and just came to lend a book. In fact, at the start of the day, there was only a A4 taped to the door about the event, it wasn’t advertised very clearly, so I wonder how many people visited the library with the intent of browsing the Artist Alley vs. regular library visitors who stumbled upon us.

big draw artist alley
Following the arrow I drew here is not intuitive at all, you probably would go straight ahead where most tables are.

To be honest, I also didn’t have the best table spot in the library. Most tables were in the large space in the center of the building, and we were kind of behind that between the bookshelves. There must have been visitors that have missed us because of that.

Nevertheless, I sold a few prints, one of them to a little girl who kept telling her mother that she really really wanted that print. Those are the best customers! I also met a lot of new fellow illustrators and creatives that are still studying or just graduated. I think half of tables were from artists from the St. Joost Academy from Breda / Den Bosch. A different community than Rotterdam, and fun to meet!

Sunday

big draw table sunday

The weather was much better now and we could move our tables outside. That was the good news! I suddenly had to flip my table design as I now expected people walking past from right to left instead of left to right, though. I had thought I needed half an hour max to prepare my table, now the library was already open and I was still setting up. Stressful!

Instead of being tucked away, now were were right at the entrance, no one could miss us! There were banners about the event too, it felt like a much larger event now. And The Big Draw is actually quite a big event with workshops and expositions all around the city! The Artist Alley is just one thing on the program.

Unfortunately though, I only sold one print and two stickers on Sunday, despite the weather being much better. In my experience Sunday is always more quiet than Saturday on two-day conventions, though, although I hoped differently now we had a better spot. It proves once more how much uncertainty is involved in this business.

The Verdict

The Big Draw is much more than just the Artist Alley and being part of an event about all things drawing is rewarding in itself too. I wish Rotterdam would get its own edition, so I could see more of the event myself instead having to leave early to travel back home.

If I sold one more sticker, I would have hit break even. Tables were free but traveling from Rotterdam to Nijmegen both ways is around 45 euros. That’s a shame, but on the other hand this is the cheapest convention I’ve attended, the location was great and there was even lunch and snacks provided at no costs. No way you get something like that at a regular convention. I probably would attend again if I got the chance!

Nevertheless I will take a break from conventions until I have more original prints and merchandise to sell. Tables were only 120 cm wide and I worried if I would be able to display all my prints, but in the end I had actually quite some spare space. It made me realize I actually don’t have that much to sell, and simple business sense tells me that I automatically will sell more if I simply have more to offer. Conventions take quite some time to prepare, so I think it isn’t a bad idea to step back once more and use that time to create more personal work. After all, I should do that more regardless of creating merchandise of it!

TomoFair Rotterdam Review

The first one-day convention I tabled at! I picked TomoFair Rotterdam as my sister @empoh expressed her wish to try to table at conventions too, so I looked for a small, affordable convention nearby. The sports hall it was organised was only 30 minutes from my home, perfect for a test of our joint venture!

tomofair stand
Left is Emma’s work, right is mine.

The Good

hanging prints

We had a good space, on the corner near the entrace. Having a which enabled us to hang some prints on the side of our stand, which worked out nicely! I saw people walking by and pointing at the prints multiple times.

Like at many conventions, some products did very well and others didn’t sell at all. The Pokémon Snap print did quite well, just like Grovyle and the Hollow Knight stickers. My sister sold a lot of her Rayquaza prints and Snom stickers. I’m happily surprised I sold my Harpy Bonfire print twice, which has never happened before!

Using the Tikkie app for customers who didn’t have cash on hand was a genius tip of my boyfriend, if I didn’t have it installed we would have missed out on half of our sales. I’m still undecided whenever I should get a card reader: do the transaction costs hold up to more sales?

The Bad

zinemadness zine

I have reasons to believe one of my Zinemadness zines was stolen from our stand. I counted all my stock before the convention and after, and one is missing despite I’m sure I didn’t sell one. It hasn’t happened to me before but I have heard stories of colleagues that this does happen at conventions sometimes. It is hard to prevent too, unfortunately: at times there are a lot of people before your stand and even with the two of us it is impossible to keep our eyes on all the things on the table. Still it is a shame people do such things.

All in all, I think we did good, although I hoped on a little better turnover. I sold a many stickers, but they’re only €3, so I didn’t make a lot of profit to be honest. And TomoFair itself is also not very cheap with stands starting at €119. But I might be inpatient again, expecting to have figured out this already! I think what I need is just more stuff to sell.

Conclusion

My sister and I both really enjoyed tabling together like this! I didn’t bring my largest prints, if I did the space might be too small for me, but this way it worked out nicely. There’s another TomoFair Rotterdam in december, we might do this again like this.

Next up: The Big Draw Nijmegen! A larger event with a different focus (all things drawing), so I’m excited to see how that will go. I’ll make sure to have some more prints for sale.

Reviewing My Social Media Strategy

With all the commotion around Instagram’s new features, I have been thinking whenever I feel happy being on the platform and if my time spend there is worthwhile.

Using social media is part of my marketing strategy as a business, how commercial that may sound – it is something to review every now and then. In a recent newsletter Rengin Tümer wrote how she analyzes her social media strategy every year and leaves platforms that don’t perform well. After all, being on social media takes a lot of time and that time cannot be spend on other things.

So let’s do a thourough analysis of my social media strategy and platforms I’m on! Let’s start with why I’m even spending time there: my goal is to gather a community of people interested in my (personal) work and be visible for freelance opportunities. It’s a twofold goal, which creates a problem: these two different target audiences may not be interested in the same content I share. Posting about tabling at a comic convention is interesting to fans of my work, but clients not so much. So for each platform, it is important to keep in mind which target audience is present and what content or information is most interesting to them.

The data

Social Media PlatformFollowers (11th August)Joined sinceInquiriesEngagement
Instagram504December 2016No inquiries whatsoever, only spamLess and less (20 likes per post)
Twitter137October 20202 inquiries, too little budgetLittle (0-5 likes) unless #artshare posts or trending hashtags
Pinterest6June 2021NoneAround 8k views per month, 50 saves to boards
DeviantArt577May 2009Two tattoo inquiriesLittle, but ongoing likes on evergreens
Tumblr155July 2016One unpaid inquiry, sold one zineVery little, unless Etsy review (?) or random evergreen post
ArtStation292019?1 inquiry, too little budgetVery little (0-3 likes)
LinkedIn4872017?3 inquiries, 1 job10-15 reactions on posts

This table shows all the social media platforms I’m on, in order of active-ness. I use Instagram the most and LinkedIn the least. There are some patterns visible: the platforms I’m the longest on seem to have gathered more followers, which is understandable. But it also shows that engagement and followers do not always collerate, and some platforms are much better in showing my work to prospecting clients than others.

Let’s have a more in-depth look at each platform.

Instagram

I check Instagram three to five times daily. Though looking at the table, it seems that freelance-wise, it is a waste of time to be on there. Though I have the second most followers on that platform, it never has led to a paid opportunity. All I got were scammy DMs telling me I was selected for a sponsor deal to promote jewelry or makeup, but I had to “react fast as there were only 3 places left!!!!”. Yeah, sure.

Thing is, I don’t know how much of the following I have on Instagram is part of the community I’m trying to build. So it might not generate leads, in business speak, but does it foster Etsy sales for example? Google Analytics and Etsy’s analytics also don’t seem to strenghten that hypothetis, unfortunately. And engagement wise, I get on average about 25 likes per post, which is less than the recommended 10% of your following count. And it keeps dwindling down.

So all in all, I could say I should either 1) improve my strategy for that platform, meaning I would have to post a lot more, and probably videos too. I don’t want that as videos are super time consuming to create, which leaves 2) leave the platform and focus my efforts somewhere else.

A lot of friends of mine use Instagram and no other platforms I use regularly, so I’m stuck on there if I want to see their updates. But I should think about putting my focus elsewhere.

Twitter

Looking at the table, the follower count I gathered on Twitter in less than two years isn’t half bad, it took me way longer on Instagram to reach the same number. Follower count is not everything of course, I don’t have much engagement on my tweets (yet); still I had more conversations about tweets than I had on Instagram – there seems to be more community there.

Apart from that, people have found my work via Twitter, which is one of my reasons to be on social media in the first place. And additionally, I have found numerous opportunities through it’s search and in my feed through people I follow. That’s all making quite a strong case to start using Twitter more.

Pinterest

So far I’ve only used Pinterest to promoting my Etsy products. Many Etsy marketing Youtubers suggest its by far the best platform to promote your products on. Pinterest is very lifestyle focused, 80% of its user base is female and fashion, home design and crafts are top interests. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with my fantasy illustration and game art, but for Etsy I see traffic coming in through Pinterest, and I’m sure that I sold at least one product through Pinterest.

I think it would be worthwhile to try Pinterest for general interest in my work, not just products. Why? Because Pinterest is first and foremost a search engine. That means that content has a much longer lifespan than less search-centric platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. I rarely get likes on posts older than a month on Instagram, but on Pinterest my best performing pin is more than a year old. That means that in the long run, it’s less about being constantly active and more about creating a lot of content so you have more opportunities to be found. To paraphrase Kelsey Rodriguez: where Instagram is a grind to keep appearing in your follower’s feeds, every pin (like every Youtube video) adds to your collection of findable content.

And as Pinterest lets you link towards your own website or other platforms, I think it could work quite nicely in addition to other platforms.

DeviantArt

DeviantArt I have mostly abandoned since 2018, but it was the first place on the internet I posted my art. A lot of the people I followed moved to other platforms and the community has changed since then. Now I’m not active at all and new posts get little engagement as a result.

Older work keeps getting found, though, as I have been contacted twice by people wanting to get this old Zelda piece I made in 2015 tattooed and that person was willing to pay for a licence fee. So I feel checking it every now and then doesn’t hurt.

Tumblr

I joined Tumblr when it was the first platform competing with DeviantArt, and many users started to move to Tumblr. I never gave it as much time and energy as DeviantArt, which is probably why it underperforms in terms of account age and follower count.

recent tumblr activity
All the recent engagement comes from older posts, or Etsy review thank-yous

I also feel like I have never gotten the hang of Tumblr. New art posts never get much engagement, but posts about Etsy reviews always do. Is my following more interested in that? Or does a post with a link always better in terms of likes? Whatever the case, I was approached for an unpaid opportunity recently, and older posts sometimes get attention out of nowhere, which makes me wonder if it is more search-centric than I initially thought. There are also visitors on Etsy coming through Tumblr, but they are so little that I wonder if it actually is worth the effort. It won’t hurt to post new work on there, though I’m not expecting too much of it.

Artstation

I rarely post work on ArtStation. To be honest, I don’t like the site very much. It is the celebrated art platform for the entertainment industry, and while they organise great contests and sponsor events and things, the site itself is still treated as a portfolio. I just don’t see how I can be active on there without posting non-portfolio work, which defeats the purpose of the website, doesn’t it? When people ask me if I have an ArtStation, I tell them “yes, but please follow me elsewhere too because I post three times a year there!”.

That said; I have a personal portfolio website, so I don’t have to keep ArtStation ‘clean’ of less-than-perfect work and studies (which everyone seems to post on there anyway). And yes, because it is the celebrated industry platform there will be relevant eyes on my work. I suppose it would be better to post more work on there.

LinkedIn

One could discuss whenever this is a ‘social’ platform or whenever it belongs to the list, but as I have started to post on there since beginning of this year, I have to review it too. I check in every week or so and only post about project releases with my art or other ‘professional achievements’, so wouldn’t call myself active on the platform.

Freelance-wise, it has been the most fruitful: people have reached out to me three times, one of which I had met earlier during a network lunch (so she hasn’t found me through LinkedIn but I’m not sure if she had found my email without it). And it did lead to a paid opportunity! One opportunity I respectfully declined as I wasn’t the right person for it, and the other is still in limbo. All in all valuable leads so far, which is to be expected of a ‘professional’ platform.

As for ‘followers’, these are all people you actively connect with, which makes them much more valuable than followers on other social platforms. LinkedIn is quite search-centric too in design, so I will definitely keep posting about these ‘professional achievements’ and add projects I’m proud of so I keep appearing in search results!

The Verdict

Looking at my two goals; building a community around my work and being visible for freelance opportunities, it is clear that some platforms work for one goal but not for another. It is safe to say that clients find me through Twitter, Artstation and LinkedIn. Especially the latter two are valuable for being visible for opportunities.

When it comes to building a following, Instagram could work, but not for me. I’m putting my hopes up for Twitter and Pinterest, while occasionally posting on Tumblr and DeviantArt too. Overall, I’d like to focus on search-centric platforms more.

TL;DR:

  • Checking daily, posting multiple times a week: Twitter
  • Post any new work but not checking daily: Instagram, DeviantArt, Tumblr
  • Post new work when relevant: Artstation, LinkedIn

I want to end this article with a disclaimer that your mileage may vary. What works and doesn’t work for me is not the one-and-only way to use social media. I know plenty of illustrators getting a lot of opportunities through Instagram, for example. If you like creating videos, go for it. Still I hope my experience and attempts to measure succes in my social media strategy helps you weed down through the things that only cost time and focus on things that actually bring you something!

Stylization Experiments

This is the view I wish I had! I’m only 165 cm so I saw mostly other people’s heads. Still enjoyed it though! My boyfriend took this picture.

I had the pleasure to attend a rock concert again after years! I had given me and my boyfriend tickets to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers last Christmas, and a few weeks back it was finally time. I’m in no way a regular, but when I attend I always immensely enjoy it – live music is really a totally different experience than listening to the same song on record. Though it was kinda short, the end felt a bit rushed and they didn’t play Under The Bridge for some reason, I had an amazing time.

This experience led me to draw the band members and experiment with simplification. I love adding little details, but I feel my work van be stronger by leaving out more and focus on what matters.

I’ve only finished Anthony, because finding the look I wanted proved to be quite the challenge. I changed the pose and shapes countless times, going back even after I started blocking in colour.

When I felt I had the pose figured out, I might have gone astray again by creating more visual noise with detailed shading and tattoos.

I like the result! But I’m afraid I won’t finish the other band members!

#PleinAirpril2022

Is May the month with the most art challenges? I think #mermay has been around the longest, but now there is also #myticmay and #misadventuremay… I’m skipping all of them, as I need to rest a bit from the challenge I undertook during April: Plein Airpril!

As the name suggests, Plein Airpril is all about completing a plein-air painting each day during April. It’s initiated by Warrior Painters and there are prizes to be won for both traditional and digital painters. You don’t have to do all your paintings outside from life (which is the definition of working en plein air), but it is encouraged. I did a mix of both painting from life and from photographs (I shot myself).

I hadn’t planned to join this challenge but when I saw Audra Auclair joining on Instagram (and had read there were prizes involved), I decided I wanted to do this too. I really enjoyed painting studies earlier this year and this could be just the thing I needed to pick that up again.

I hoped I wouldn’t regret this hasty descision; April looked already like it was going to be a busy month. It sure has been a hassle to make time for the paintings from time to time. Luckily I could finish a few in advance so I didn’t have to paint during my vacation in the last week of April. But overall, I’m glad I did it! I tried a lot of new brushes in Procreate, and I think I found a new favorite. I also learned that when painting form life, you don’t have to get the colours exactly right to achieve likeliness, as long as the relationship between them is accurate. Technically speaking: if the values are right and the colour temperature is in the ballpark, you can increase contrast or saturation, it will still look ‘right’.

I experimented with simplifying shapes too, especially in noisy backgrounds. Sometimes it looked nice and stylized, othertimes like the blur from a photograph with a shallow depth of field – and sometimes it didn’t work. But that’s what experimenting is for!

If you want to see all the paintings, go to my Instagram page where they were posted daily in order!