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INKTOBER: How to use hashtag challenges to your advantage

Being an artist is hard. Figuring out your style, finding your audience, choosing your path. There are a lot of resources out there to help us figure the art game out, but I think one of the best free resources that everyone has access to are… hashtag challenges.

There are eleventy billion hashtag challenges available to choose from, and weirdly most of them see to happen in October. I don’t know what it is about this month that artists are drawn to creating hashtag challenges. (Get it? DRAWN TO? What I’m hilarious) These challenges, especially the big popular ones, bring in a lot of new followers because people will search the hashtags to find cool art. If your art is cool, they’ll share it, especially on Twitter!

In this post, I want to talk about how an artist can use a hashtag challenge to completely renovate or further accelerate their body of work. I will use Inktober as my base, because that’s the challenge that made the world of difference for me personally. Later in the post, I will compile as many hashtag challenges as I can remember and find.

So let’s get started. What is a hashtag challenge? These challenges crop up throughout the year and encourage artists to participate in a cohesive art experience using the same hashtag. Inktober specifically began because Jake Parker wanted to challenge himself to improve his ink work. It is a 31 day challenge in October wherein the artist is to post a drawing every day in ink and tags it #inktober. It has become its own beast, however, and many artists change it up to suit their own style and needs.

One major point to remember with all hashtag challenges is: There are (usually) no  judges, this isn’t a competition. The purpose is to improve our art and have fun.

In 2014, I discovered #inktober and decided to play along. This was my very first Inktober drawing:

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Being an Artist Assistant for Dragon Con 2018

Still wiping the sleep from my eyes after a long greyhound bus ride, I stumbled into the city of Atlanta early Thursday night. It was Dragon Con and the city had sprung to life with heroes, villains, celebrities, and artists of all kinds. Everywhere I looked there were bodies rushing from place to place, eager to celebrate in the overflow of geek culture and festivities. I was excited to finally be a part of it all, in my own small way.

I met artist Sam Flegal and his wife Loraine Posadas Flegal at a nearby bar to go over our game plan in person. I would be assisting them in a roomy 10x20 booth on the second floor of the vendor hall. My job was to help sell Sam's Fateful Signs artwork and books to Norse mythology enthusiasts. My husband Tad was also present to help bring us food and drinks during the event.

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One Review at a Time: Label Maker

We've recommended switching to a thermal printer for order fulfillment numerous time on 1FW. Main reason is to ditch the ink. Without ink the majority of the expense and hassle ink jet printers create when trying to ship lots of product. Earlier this year I finally took our own advice, and got one. Through the process I chatted with the amazing artists that participate in our Facebook Group, and got feedback on what thermal printers people had purchased, if they liked them, and why.

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Take It or Leave It - Advice For Your Artistic Journey

This road we’ve chosen is a tough one. It’s filled with lots of struggle and only moments of success. We share this road with countless other artists who are aspiring to something, pushing themselves to their absolute limits. How can we find our way on a path that takes a lifetime? By learning and sharing with others who have also chosen this journey. Here are a few things I have decided to take with me and a few I’ve decided to leave behind.

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Inviting Your Audience Online at Shows

When showing at your first convention, or your 20th, grabbing your audience's attention and making sales in the moment is usually the #1 goal for any artist. But once you have them, taking that captive audience online with you for the longer journey is key to growing a sustainable business.

Inviting your audience to join you online can happen in many forms. It can be as easy as giving out a business card or mentioning the fact that you have a website or Instagram account. Here are some ways I make it easy for fans to maintain the connection past our in-person experience at the convention.

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Artist, are you making these mistakes? Frustrations of an Art Buyer

I’ve recently started collecting art & I thought I’d share with you some of the challenges I’ve run into in hopes that my experiences will help those of you who sell your personal art. You’ll notice that all of these issues are PRE-BUY. I was trying desperately to buy art for two weeks and kept running into the same issues.

As a buyer, I’m not so concerned about shipping, which artists have no control over or even about things like broken glass, etc. (I had one item damaged in shipment). As long as the artist makes me feel like they still care about their item and about me as a customer after I’ve bought from them, then I’ll not only still feel good about them, but I’ll actually feel better knowing they’ll take care of me should something go wrong.

I also included “fixes” that I, as a customer, would hope to see happen. It’s long but I tried to include as much info as possible:

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Artist as Introvert and Extravert

Artists are often thought to be introverts, working long hours in quiet reflection, keeping to themselves, and gaining energy and creative ideas from their time alone.  Though artists’ personalities may lean more toward introversion, personality traits are often thought to exist on a continuum; they are not all-or-nothing traits. Instead of being introverted all the time or extraverted all the time, artists often bounce between the two. We have to. It is the nature of our business.

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The 80/20 Rule - Focus on What Really Matters

One of the most beloved pieces of business bullshit is the “80/20 rule”, officially called the “Pareto Principle” or the “Law of the Vital Few”. It states that, "for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes". Equating that to art, you can say that 20% of the brushstrokes define 80% of a paintings impact. It's the broad strokes and the big shapes that make all the difference.

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One Review at a Time: Thermal Printer

We've recommended switching to a thermal printer for order fulfillment numerous time on 1FW. Main reason is to ditch the ink. Without ink the majority of the expense and hassle ink jet printers create when trying to ship lots of product. Earlier this year I finally took our own advice, and got one. Through the process I chatted with the amazing artists that participate in our Facebook Group, and got feedback on what thermal printers people had purchased, if they liked them, and why.

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First Year on Patreon

I had been curious about trying Patreon for a while, and wondered if the monthly crowd- funding model would generate enough support for me to live off my Terratoff earnings. After hearing about the possibilities at my first 1FW workshop, and seeing other independent artists thrive on the platform,  I was inspired to create my own campaign! Finally a "central hub" for all things Terratoff where I could create the art and write the stories while getting paid to do it! I was totally committed to making this work, my journey began with researching and building my campaign... and I fell into a unique and personal experience with my audience I never thought possible before.

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Defining Your Audience

Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone wants a hit. Every time we post something on social media we hope that it’s the one that blasts off into the stratosphere and solves all our problems. Suddenly our audience is massive - we’ve made it and the days of watching the sales roll in while we sip cocktails in the sun (or La Croix in the shade) are here! But this moment isn’t reality. The "hits" you see aren’t overnight successes, they are the results of sometimes decade-long efforts to cultivate an audience. 

Building an audience takes time, it takes dedication and discipline, but it also takes planning. We’ve committed to dedicating our lives to making art, but how do we know that we’re heading in the right direction? Sometimes it can feel like we’re adrift in the sea alone - it’s time we made ourselves a compass.

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Traveling to Conventions by Airplane

Growing up, we traveled and moved a lot as a family, packing our lives up into a handful of trunks to move between countries. This constant packing and unpacking has made me efficient at squeezing my life into a suitcase.

One of my early experiences traveling to a show was for an event while I was still living in Japan. At the time we didn't own a car, and my only option for getting there was public transportation. I packed up everything I would need for my small 4ft by 3ft space at Design Festa, including a folding table, and with the help of my mom, carried everything on the train over an hour into downtown Tokyo. That was the longest I have ever walked carrying my convention setup, and every show since then has been a breeze by comparison.

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Your Work has Value

Talking with a friend last night, I realized there’s something important that is too often left unsaid. I told him “You’re work has value, all on its own”.

When discussing business options with creators, it’s common to hear them talk about aspirations to turn their illustration into books, games, cards or other products that make use of art. On the face of it, hearing about plans to make some big beautiful thing seems straightforward enough but there can be a darker subtext to it. An inexperienced artist attempting to wrap a lot of writing or game rules around the art can be reflective of the artist’s fear that their work isn’t worthwhile all on its own. Often times when I hear a pitch for a project like that, I consider how common it is for creators to undervalue their work. The urge to build up something else around the art feels like yet another manifestation of the ever present impostor syndrome that pervades the creative community.

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One Review at a Time: Etchr Bag

This is a serious bag. It’s not some simple tote you toss your stuff into. No, this pack demands respect. It’s the kind of bag you take home and introduce to your mother!

When I first opened up my new Etchr Art Satchel is was honestly overwhelmed by all the options. I had to set it down and come back after letting it all sink in a bit. I then spent some time researching all the various "modes" to arrange the bag. I got so excited I had to show my wife! This bag is crazy customizable!

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The Power of Perceived Value

Artists are at their best when they can push their artistic vision to its fullest. However, when this runs against what the majority of people might want to purchase it can be hard to make a living. So, how do we fulfill our creative vision and still afford to live?

We start from what I call a ‘minimum effective audience’ or the smallest number of people willing to invest enough money so you can afford to focus on making art. With the right strategy we can find our minimum effective audience and make the products they want to buy at a price they are willing to pay.

In my last article I talked about crafting an experience at your convention booth. This experience needs to extend to the items you’re selling. What types of items does your audience want to purchase? What type of materials make sense to print your work on? These are great questions to ask yourself to fulfill the wants of your audience and help yourself stand out even more. Most importantly we have to price effectively and offer a range of products to allow our audience to invest what they are willing to.

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Why I Hired a Photographer

You may have heard that your portfolio is everything, and that to attract “the right kind of interest”, you need to focus on a beautiful portfolio above all else. But what if your goal, your business model, is not to attract art directors or freelance clients? What if, instead, your aim is “simply” to delight your audience and to invite your collectors into the world behind the scenes?

I recently found myself firmly in the latter camp; what follows is my experience working with a photographer, along with a few tips on what to think about if you’re considering hiring one yourself.

Last year, my website was ready for a major overhaul. My vision for a new online home included more backstage images of me in the studio, as I wanted my brand to revolve around the artist in her natural habitat. The end goal was not just a place to show off my art, but a glimpse into my life that could foster a deeper relationship with my collectors. I wanted to draw people into the whole story, not just the painting on the cover.

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Pledge Drive Mode - How to grow your Patreon

Patreon is an amazing tool for creating a passive income. Rather than pushing to build something new and involved, it allows creators to earn a living by doing the thing they want to do every day. Once you’ve got it all set up, it’s safe to leave it on the back burner. Popping in occasionally to give it a stir and check the spices is recommended but you don’t need to slave over it the way an online store requires. Patreon’s passivity is one of its greatest qualities, but it can also be one of its greatest weaknesses. After your launch, new member tend to join slowly. That’s fine if you’ve got other stuff going, but if you want to invest in Patreon more deeply then you need accelerate its growth by switching into pledge drive mode.

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Connecting Across the Con Table

I began tabling at conventions in 2016. When you’re just starting off, each new tabling experience is new and exciting; I was hungry for feedback after waiting so long before getting my work out there in that way, and seeing people come across my table for the first time and react with enthusiasm is so rewarding in itself. But each convention takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes no time at all to become aware that you’re going to have to decide which cons you want to keep doing and which ones you don’t.

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