Look what happened while my back was turned!

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When I decided to get back into the illustrator game after almost 10 years away, the first thing that hit me was how much the world had moved on. 

In the early 2000s, I jumped from working pretty much exclusively as a comic book artist to targeting wider illustration opportunities in media and entertainment. I did this for a bunch of reasons but primarily getting regular comic gigs was tougher and I was feeling burnt out after 15 years of telling stories.

Building a client list for my new little studio involved taking pages in Artist Directories. these were posted out once a year to the industry. It wasn’t cheap but they were a great way to get directly under the nose of all important art directors. And the best thing about these directories was they sat on their shelf for the whole year, to be pulled down and looked through whenever a specific art style was needed. When I designed my pages in the book, I was working to be the standout comic book illustrator. I wasn’t competing with 95% of the book. So if an art director needed a comic book illustration, I was well positioned to pitch for and win the gig.

As the client list grew, so did referrals and return business and the need for the directories lessened and I was in a virtuous sweet spot. 

Then I went away for 10 years on my grand adventure. A story for another day.

Coming back in 2021 that old client list didn’t count for much and the directories were either out of business or hanging on as something of a relic in a digital age. The name of the game was social media. 

This was going to be great! Artists like me could now show their work to the whole world through the likes of Instagram and be accessed via couple of clicks. But we all know the ironic reality.

If every artist and artist wannabe has access to the same platforms, it’s far more difficult to get seen. 

To compound the problem for me, I’m not naturally inclined to social media. I’ve never spent much time there for pleasure but understood that I needed exposure to generate first an audience and subsequently work. 

And so I started to semi reluctantly play the social media marketing game.

For the past couple of years I’ve been posting and trying different strategies.

I figured at some point everything click and I would find posting natural and easy and my audience and visibility would grow exponentially.

After three years of inconsistent posting I have a healthy but relatively small number of followers who I very much appreciate but there is no indication that art directors and the like ever see my work. 

And if they’re searching specifically for a comic book style artist, well Instagram is chock full of artists with a huge following who will be featured in a search long before I am.

The long and the short of it is, I’m not a natural fit for social media. I understand conceptually what I need to do but because I don’t feel naturally drawn to idle away spare minutes checking out my feed, I struggle with the motivation to consistently show up as a content creator.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I’m not anti social media, it just doesn’t float my boat that much on a personal level.

A couple of months ago, after one of my long breaks from instagram, I started thinking about what I do like about being on there. 

I like being in a space full of people who get me and like the stuff that I like.

I like seeing the work of artists who inspire me (and at times make me question my own ability but that’s another whole post 😁).

And I enjoy the brief interactions with people I like, even though I’ve never met them and never will.

So I’m trying to change my approach and post when just I want to throw something out there. After all, an artists life is pretty solitary and it’s always nice to get a bit of positive feedback. 🙂

Likewise I’ll comment because I genuinely want to, not because I think I should do 50 inauthentic comments a day.

I’m probably a classic case of needing someone else to bring the enthusiasm of playing the social media marketing game and maybe that’s an avenue I’ll explore. I’ll let you know and report back if I do.

As I said at the top, it’s same with this newsletter. I want to write what I feel like writing about with no agenda, just brain dumping my thoughts.

I’d love to hear from you if any of this resonates.