The internet for artists: a student perspective on the pros and cons

Art student Laura Brookes is using the blogging platform Tumblr as a space to record and reflect on her practice. Here, she shares her thoughts on how artists can boost their presence online… and what to watch out for!

I’ve used Tumblr for a number of years, mindlessly reblogging other people’s posts, but it wasn’t until starting university that I realised the value of such platforms for an aspiring artist.

My first step towards sharing my work on social media was setting up an Instagram account. For me and many others in my position, the internet is great for building up the confidence to bare your soul, and share your work with the world – an often daunting prospect.

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While Instagram is incredibly well-suited to sharing pictures and viewing the work of others, I don’t feel that it’s always geared towards writers.

Tumblr on the other hand has become something of a diary to me. The site gives me headspace to gather my thoughts, and is a great receptacle for them. I’ve posted work on Tumblr and after typing only a few paragraphs, I’ve been encouraged to think more about my practice, and inspired to spin on a dime and change elements of my current project.

I am a self-confessed sketchbook hoarder, and when riddled with self-doubt I flick through some of my older books, to soothe my worry and inflate my (at best delicate) ego by seeing how far I’ve advanced.

But pouring through sketchbooks takes up a lot of time. In comparison, social media, though at times a little self-absorbed, is a great way to keep track of and document work.

With a phone or tablet it only takes seconds to find a post that is weeks old.

I think it’s vital for an artist or maker to be able to reflect upon their practice, and we all deserve a quiet corner where we can stop, clear our heads and be a little more mindful.

Tumblr has become my quiet corner.

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Unfortunately, nothing comes without a downside. A large pitfall of sharing on social media is its greatest triumph – anybody can see it.

While on personal accounts it’s easy to remain private, when you’re trying get your work out there you do leave yourself at the mercy of the wider public.

Only last year I saw a post on Instagram where an understandably disgruntled illustrator vented about how somebody had stolen her work. Not only had the thief entered it into and won a competition, but they’d even won a scholarship.

Still, artists gain popularity from websites like Tumblr, and have been able to market and sell their work. They also gain help for projects from sites like Kickstarter, with the support of the aforementioned terrifying general public.

Many of the illustrators I most admire I’ve encountered purely with the help of the internet. They are discoveries beyond the boundaries of art works in galleries or books featuring established names.

I can only imagine how my own work would currently be if I didn’t have any of these internet artists as influences. In a bizarre way, I don’t think my art would have as much of me in it.

By Laura Brookes

Biography

Laura Brookes is a foundation year student at the Wolverhampton School of Art, which is part of the University of Wolverhampton. She is 21-years-old and is planning a career as an illustrator.

 

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