Several days ago, I launched the Artist Statement Generator, an online tool that spits out a paragraph of generic meaningless fluffy art language. This project’s background is explained in greater detail in my previous entry, Online Artist Statement Generator. Since posting that article, I’ve corrected a few typos, and added some social media widgets to the page; a facebook “like” button, a google “plus one”, and a flatter “tip jar”. I also added the usual header and navigation links that appear on all of my website’s pages.
After getting this artist statement generator to the point where I was happy with it, I updated my main website, then submitted the page to the popular link-sharing website Reddit. I’ve typically had bad luck with getting my work on reddit; while my comments typically gain a fair amount of positive attention, my submissions are most often ignored. (I guess I don’t have a knack for generating eye catching headlines.) I figured I had little to lose, so before firing my computer down for the night, I shared my project with the art sub-directory, then went to bed.
The next morning, I fired up my laptop, navigated over to reddit, and noticed that my karma was a bit higher than it was the night before, (karma is awarded for submitting good posts, as decided by your fellow users, who can vote anything up or down.) I looked at my submission. While I had been sleeping, it had taken off. I received 24 up votes within hours, and about 5 or 6 comments. That may not seem like much of anything, but keep in mind that on most websites, the majority of users are lurkers, not contributors.
I went to my website to check out the actual page. I wanted to see if any little bugs had slipped through my editing last night, since mistakes always seem to emerge after hitting submit, never before. While I was checking my page, I noticed that the generator had 21 likes on facebook! 21 complete strangers liked my page enough to share it with their friends.
Then I looked at the analytics data for my page. It was a hockey stick: a long horizontal line for a while, then it went straight up. That day, I had 100X more traffic than usual. But much to my surprize, it wasn’t just the generator that was generating all the extra page views. Roughly 25% of everyone who went to by website to try out the generator also checked out my image gallery. Putting that header on the page turned out to be a great idea; 1 out of every four people clicked “gallery” instead of the little “X” in the top corner of their screen. Out of everyone who saw my page, a quarter of them wanted to see more of my work.
I had more eyeballs looking at my paintings after submitting this one text-based project than I ever had submitting my actual paintings.
I thought about this for a while, and I realized something. I had submitted something a little different; something that stood out from the norm. Things that stand out from the norm get noticed. And getting noticed is a very good thing.
The art world is very much a reputation economy. Getting yourself noticed is a primary concern. That’s why so many students and recent grads are willing to work for next to nothing: the promise of ‘exposure’ and ‘getting your name out there’ is hard to turn down. This ends with the realization that you can’t pay rent with ‘exposure’. The artist responds by charging more for their services, and the companies move on to exploit the next batch of students.
But that high from seeing lots of people consuming something that I created doesn’t go away. Watching people enjoy my work always feels good. Watching their reactions when I try something completely different feels even better. And I had that with this project.
Some reddit commenters mentioned that this page could be useful to them. My page isn’t overly funny. it’s not brilliant and in-depth like the postmodernist essay generator, but my page is interesting enough to give a viewer a quick three-second chuckle, maybe share the link with their friends, and move on. It provides them with a very small hit of entertainment. And having a viewer share that bit of entertainment with their friends makes them look cool. And some of that viewers friends go to my image gallery, and check out a painting or two (or, on average, 5.33) This quirky little thing that didn’t take me all that long got me some attention.
I guess the moral of the story is, if you want to bring attention to your work, don’t always promote your work. Sometimes, do something fun on the side, and have it link to your main body of work in a non-obtrusive way.
And most importantly, whatever you do, make it easy to share.