As we learned from one of our Open Discussion topics, networking is a touchy subject for artists. One of the best assets professional artists can have is a solid, consistent group of peers to critique your work. If you have a group of friends or other artists who you can regularly show your work to before you send it off, it’ll help immensely.
The beauty of starting your own networks to help edit and refine artwork is that you can hand pick your dream team of critics. Try and pick other artists who you know will be as enthusiastic as you, and are in their creative lives for the long haul (like you). It’s also a good idea to stress the importance of everyone giving back as much as they take from criticism groups. If you create a great group, it’s a golden resource that can help give you confidence before you send work off for exhibition, jobs, to clients or to competitions. It’s also a wonderful place to meet new artists and make new friends.
This post is filled with ideas about how to practically start up your own advice networks so you can send off work to help you develop faster than if you slogged it out alone in your studio. So let’s get together now.
1. Get involved in the RB community
Redbubble has an incredibly active community of like-minded artists ready to help, critique and support you with your work. If you’re reading this, you probably make up the fabric of this community already and are awesome. If you haven’t yet dived into our community, you can do so right here! It’s a great resource for sharing, commenting and showcasing your newest works. There are groups you can join filled with artists just like you, with a group for every taste and preference in art.
If you want to get to know many classic RB faces, check out Friends of Redbubble. Drawn to Cotton – Art on T-shirts is a good place if you love drawing and particularly have an interest in illustration. Check out Graphic Arts for everything design, ever. For lush, high quality design Premium iCovers is a great place to stop over. Poster Art and The Designers Corner give a good sense of a solid RB group, and Design Is reveals a lot about the potential of groups and how you can get involved. And if you prefer to see the world through a rectangle, this photography group The Redbubble Curated Art Gallery is for you.
2. Start a private Facebook group
One of the most effective (and fast) ways to get feedback is to start a private Facebook group with other friends and artists who have shared passions and interests. It helps if you have a similar subject matter or use the same materials too (all oil painters, or all comic book artists), to keep everyone interested. Facebook groups work well as platforms to receive feedback if everyone involved feels like they are getting something back for them. You can post interesting links or articles relevant to your artwork too, and use it as a sounding-board for potential submissions or concept work. Groups like this on social media are especially good for recruiting new artists and for finding partners to collaborate with or exhibit with.
3. Start an email circulation chain letter
In the age of instant messaging, it seems like email is the snail mail of the new century, but starting a good old fashioned email group can help with critiquing your work. Successful email critique groups usually insist that everybody has to pitch in with criticism. You could treat it as a virtual show and tell, doing a round-robin of “showing” and asking everyone on the email list to contribute feedback for each member of the group. With enough interest and momentum this can be effective to pinpoint weaknesses or larger areas for development in your work.
These kinds of groups require everyone to be committed, and super keeno-beano. If everyone is willing to take 15 minutes once a week to critique someone else’s work in the group, you can be assured that when you need advice, you have a team with you to help out.
4. Make weekly or monthly phone calls with friends and peers
If others artists you respect and want to hear from are far away, lock in Skype calls or phone calls with them so you can keep in touch regularly. Having a scheduled time to meet means you might actually do it, since you’re treating it like a deadline. I know a few artists that call each other every Thursday night to update each other on what they are doing and propel each other along.
It’s also a good way to stay in contact with others who may share the same dreams and frustrations as you, and keep you from going nutty in your studio alone. You could bring new friends to these calls, introducing people, or consider them mini-conferences on art that you can do from your couch. Use products that let you call for free or cheaply or hangout or send video liberally. There’s so many rad internet calling and messaging systems available now that you could adapt these kinds of meetings to suit you and your friends to become whatever you want.