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The Creative Comfort Zone

The success of free sites like Deviant Art shows how many artists don’t want to be bothered with making their own site. Sure, some of them do have their own site in addition to Deviant Art, but most don’t and many of the ones that do rarely update their own sites.

I am not saying that Deviant Art “sucks”. Deviant Art is awesome. For no investment, anyone of any skill level can experiment with online publishing. This is a great way for someone new to the field to figure out if this is something that they would like to do. Probably every artist should have some sort of presence there – just like MySpace and Facebook – simply because you can. More exposure is always better.

However, Deviant Art should NOT be your main website.

I say this because:

1. Their interface is quite confusing for the end user. You cannot customize it to make your work easier to view by someone who is not familiar with the Deviant Art culture. The first 20 times someone linked me to their Deviant Art page I left without seeing their art because I couldn’t figure out where the gallery was. It can be very annoying.

2. When Deviant Art is down…it’s down. You can’t fix it. If your work is unavailable for weeks you have no recourse because you don’t control it.

3. Your URL is YourName.deviantart.com. This might be good for networking with others on the site, but it is not so professional for people who aren’t.

4. Passive ad revenue is one of the the largest and easiest source of income – and you can’t do that on Deviant Art. You actually are making them rich – not yourself. Of course since the cost to host your stuff is free, it’s a balance–but still, eventually you’ll want to make money (I assume) off your work.

You might say, “Hey, Oni! I get a lot of people buying commissions from me on Deviant Art. Why do I need ad revenue?”

There are two ways of thinking about it:

1. Working yourself to carpal tunnel cranking out as many commissions as you can for a small amount of dollars. Generally you will probably find that this leaves you too busy to augment your brand. Oompa loompa doopity doo…

2. Do commissions for x amount of dollars when you feel like it and collect far more than x dollars for doing nothing but getting people looking at your work. Have tine to build your brand and a social life.

For my purposes, I choose 2.

If jumping right into working with something like WordPress is daunting, a good thing to do is to at least buy your own URL/domain name that redirects to your Deviant Art. This way, when you finally take the plunge you won’t lose your hard-earned fans out of confusion. They’ll go to where you direct them.

I am a big advocate of controlling where and how my work is presented on the web because it is just that important. Nobody else cares if your work is represented well. You need to care.

They say that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This is very true. It is also very true for how you “dress” your work.

I urge you to try out free sites like Deviant Art and to even maintain a presence there. Just remember that the end game is about making money for you by developing a healthy career. If you hope to achieve that, you need to take control of your work. Too many artists are concerned about the immediate future and don’t invest in a holistic approach to career development that will give them strength 30 years from now. A balance needs to be understood if one hopes to thrive.


  1. Sounds like you’ve latched on to my strategy! (See my web link for evidence.)

    Here’s something users of free and near-free sites should also remember: These places are not immortal. F’rinstance, among other places to host my music that have gone under are: mp3.com (first incarnation), ampcast.com, amp3.net, raw42.com ….

    As I often say, maintaining a web presence is like being a multi-legged critter crossing a fast-moving stream. You have to keep looking for new places to plant your weight, because anything you’re standing on may wash away without warning.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more – this also applies to job seekers as well. There are several times where I’ve been looking over a potential artist hire’s portfolio and the instant I see deviantart mentioned I just cringe. I’ve had several instances where I honestly couldn’t find whatever work they supposedly wanted to show us, or found their really old work first and it was so bad I stopped looking.

  3. @ just john: Very true! I hadn’t thought of MP3.com but that’s a great example!

    @ Christy: Oh wow…people submitted a DevArt on their resume. Seriously. OMG. OMG. T_T

  4. I personally use Deviantart and Elfwood to boost the traffic to my website. That, in turn boosts exposure for my cafepress store where I sell t-shirts, mugs, prints, mouse pads, etc… I don’t update the social artwork sites much at all, but I update my website regularly. As far as I’m concerned they exist to get me more traffic.

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