We’ve probably all shared a photo we’ve found online somewhere. Maybe it was a cool illustration, a really beautiful photograph, or an impressive painting, and we have probably at least once not given credit to whom created it. Of course this isn’t done with malice, but what people don’t realise it does a huge disservice to the artist.
The art world is difficult to break into – that’s not exactly news. In fact the term ‘starving artist’ reiterates this, and for those of us brave (or stupid, if we’re going to be frank) enough to choose the path of art means we’re likely to go through a lot of unpaid days. In fact, some of the most famous artists only reached fame in death. Of course when Van Gogh was painting, there wasn’t the creation of the internet.
The internet is a fantastic thing, as we all know. For artists it can simultaneously be the best and worst thing. The internet can be a great source of information, but more importantly it can be a place to display work- there are countless websites: from blogs, Instagram, Twitter to specialist sites such as Cargo Collective that allow artists to curate their work online for anyone, anywhere to see. Once upon a time, artists would have to try and get their work into an exhibition and hope that someone at the exhibition of power would see their work and pass it on, and so on and so forth, essentially their career would be based on word of mouth. That is no longer the case, and artists now have the power to display their work both in physical galleries and online, where anyone is free to see the work.
With that, and the growing independent selling sites such as Etsy, it’s easy for artists to also sell, and commission work – no longer to do patrons have to travel to the artist’s studio, they can do it in just a matter of clicks. This is one of the main ways that artists can make a living or at least have some pocket change to spend on materials. In other words, it’s of huge importance.
But whilst social media is a great platform for artists, it can also be a hindrance. There’s a Catch-22 in sharing work online – to begin with, it puts your work out there and you can get recognition from it, but on the flip side it puts your work out there, and people can take your work and claim it as their own or they can post it online and not give credit. The tricky thing about work being posted without permission is that yes, it was posted for all to see, however say a person with a large following posted someone’s work without crediting them, the artist has lost out on potential customers, or potential followers – both massively important things to an artist in the 21st century.
In 2015 we heard of musicians taking their music off of Spotify because musicians weren’t making enough money, and how difficult it is in particular for young, emerging musicians where even thousands of plays amount to just pennies. It doesn’t sound ideal at all, does it? Musicians work endlessly hard to produce their music and touring and so on and so fourth, and more often than not it costs them more than they make until they make it big. The same can go for other forms of art, however, no matter how many times a piece is viewed, the monetary value is still nothing.
In a field where you’re getting very little, if anything at all, support is key. Artists will have to buy supplies, whatever they may be in correspondence with their practice, and these things aren’t cheap at all. Money aside, artists spend a long time coming up with an idea and executing it. Most work can take anything from days to months to complete – it’s a time consuming thing to be involved with, so not only is money lost, but a lot of time can be lost too.
It might sound pretty doom and gloom, but remember, people go into the arts because of a drive and passion to do so, it’s an acceptance that things will be difficult, but knowing the final outcome will be more than worth it. Artists in all the forms they come in truly do dedicate their lives to their art. But not being given the recognition they deserve can be disheartening to say the least.
To support an artist is easy, if you like their work you can retweet, reblog, or regram directly from them. You can ask them permission to repost and give them credit. If the situation arises that you find a piece of work online somewhere and you really want to post it, you can always do a google image search – you will find the creator easily, and you can the do either the first or second option. Another way that will really help an artist is that when you need to buy a present for someone or you fancy buying yourself a treat, buy from their shop. Not only will you have a nice, say original print for your room you will have helped an artist that really needs it, and help them carry on creating more things you like.
If you’re a lover of art, anything from music to fine art you can make a huge difference in the way artists operate, simply by showing small signs of support, and if you haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, then you can resolve something that’s easy to keep up then supporting young and new artists is the perfect thing to do. Without artists posting their work online, the internet would be a very dull and uninspiring place.
Words by Selene Mortimore