Tabletop Adjustable Drawing Surface

Art is a full contact sport.

As I mentioned in my previous video on the One Fantastic Week YouTube channel, I managed to sustain a (thankfully mild) injury because I was drawing in a way that was unhealthy for my body. I don’t want you to end up in my place or worse, so I’m about to introduce you to an amazing and relatively inexpensive product that I feel is a real game changer for me.

US Art Supply Extra Large Adjustable Wood Artist Drawing & Sketching Board!

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I ordered this one from Amazon because I wanted the option of easily returning it if it was at all wobbly. As you can see in the above image, I have an older, generic art table that doesn’t work for me at all. When inking, I need a very stable surface, and the old table was wobbly as all hell.

There are other sizes, both smaller and larger, but I snagged the 26” wide x 20.5” tall surface so I could work on drawings that were 14” tall with space for my lamp and camera/phone holder thing that I tend to clip to the top. Like so!

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This has been super convenient so that I can have a small lamp on directly over my drawing. (On a side note, I prefer these lamps that I also use to light my setup at conventions! Thanks for the recommendation, Elaine!)

I am really impressed with this drawing surface. It has six settings so you can lay it nearly flat and tilt it nearly straight up. It comes with a T ruler that I use to push my sketchbook up a couple of inches higher. The surface is smooth and pretty basic, which I like. Being that it’s made of wood, it would be pretty easy to sand down anything that might end up dinging it.

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Another thing I like is that there is space beneath it to stash a couple of sketchbooks or other supplies! Being that I keep it tilted at about the angle pictured above, I can place a lot of supplies back there that would be easy to reach if I needed it, like that green ellipse template you can see peeking out on top of that yellow sketchbook. I can shove my Inktober pencil/pen pouch under the surface so I have more elbow room when working on blog posts like this one!


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All in all, I really feel this thing was a good purchase for me and my drawing style. It’s sturdy, not ugly, convenient, and inexpensive. If you want to get one, or if you want to search for a size you think you’ll like, click this link and take a look! (I do get a bit of a kickback if you use this link, however, I am not being paid for this review. I truly adore this product!)

No matter what you end up doing for your own style of creation, make sure you’re keeping your back as straight as you can and you’re taking breaks to stretch and strength train to avoid injury!

Arteza Art Supply Review

Arteza Supplies

What's UP angel kittens?! Ok the big exciting news was that Arteza sent me some free shit to review. I wrote up the post over on Instagram if you want to see what the plebians see. But for YOU ALL, we're gonna dive a little deeper into my thoughts and feelings on these supplies.

Here is what they sent, and these are links to Amazon affiliate products, so if you do choose to snag these, full disclosure, I get a kickback. Now, let's dig in:

2 x 11"x14" Mixed Media Sketchbook
12 pack 0.4 Fineliner Pens
48 dual tip TwiMarkers 

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Let's do this in bullet point format, shall we?! 

Paper:

Pros -
◆ Thicc
◆ Double sided, in a way. One side is super textured, the other side less so. I used the less textured side for the drawing, and it still had a bit of tooth, which I like.
◆ 11x14 was the size I prefer to work in, so that was a nice bonus

Cons -
◆ Weird warping when exposed to air?
◆ A little bit of feathering in spots. Unpredictable.
◆ I did NOT like the texture on the rougher side. 

Fineliners:

I did not like using these fineliners on this specific paper. I tried them on Strathmore paper and enjoyed them much more. I wish I had some smaller sizes to try out, but the 0.4 is relatively equivalent to my size S Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens, and honestly... they flow smoother. I haven't tested to see if they're waterproof though.

Pros:
◆ Smooth to draw with, almost too smooth! Very easy to draw with it.
◆ Inexpensive. For the price of 4 Faber Castell, you get 12 Arteza pens. 

Cons:
◆ The triangle shape is strange, but it may be something that's more comfortable for those with carpal tunnel?
◆ They're longer in length than other fineliners, so it takes getting used to. 

TwiMarkers:

It was a challenge to figure out how to incorporate color into what i usually draw, but I think I did a decent job of it. 

Pros:
◆ SO PIGMENTED! Seriously, these markers are SUPER pigmented, especially the brush tip side.
◆ Nice array of colors from bright neon style colors to muted pastels.
◆ You can get some cool watercolor type effects if you work fast and practice with them.

Cons:
◆ The fine tip sometimes has a hard time getting started
◆ If you draw over a line you've already put down, these markers will bleed into each other in undesirable ways, so let the ink dry

All in all, these are decent supplies for the price they're offered at (pens and markers, not the sketchbook IMO). Here's what I created with them:

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I hope you liked this review and let me know if you want to see more!

The Five C's of Instagram: CONSISTENCY

The Five Cs: CONSISTENCY

Originally posted to Patreon in February 2019

There are 2 major categories of CONSISTENCY:

  • Posting schedule

  • Consistency in the art (style, subject matter, technique...)

Today, I'll talk about consistency in POSTING to Social Media. It's up to you to figure out your own brand consistency, that's a whole other ball of marbles. 

Here is an update as to my current numbers. If you remember, in the very first Instagram methods blog post, I was sitting at 5000 followers. I'm now at almost 10.3k and it's been just about a month and a half. 

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Consistency is crucial. Everyone says so and everyone listening agrees. Yet, of the 100 people who agree that consistency is important, only a few will take it to heart and try it out. Of those few, another small number will stick with it beyond a few days.

It's frustrating to post every day and see no growth immediately. However, the marathon part of this is that you're not going to see a skyrocket simply because you posted 3 days in a row. That's why I suggest pacing yourself, knowing your own limitations, and setting a schedule based on what you know you can follow through with. 

The below image show those numbers above again, but this time, check out the far right column (ignore the middle column, that's how many accounts I'm following). Those are the posts I made. Now, SocialBlade has some glitches and it doesn't reflect the exact dates. The Friday and Monday that it appears I didn't post are inaccurate. Sometimes SocialBlade's numbers are slightly off, although I've noticed they aren't ever off by much. My purpose for showing you this image is to show you that I post one image almost every single day. At this point, I take Sunday off. But that media I'm posting every single day could be from the same piece of art multiple times. Sometimes it's a WIP, sometimes it's a time lapse video, eventually it'll be the final image. Sometimes it's a #ThrowbackThursday post!

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Here's how the consistency aspect helps, and I'll try to take the cluttered up cluster of info in my brainmeats and sort it out in a way that makes sense to humans...

The Instagram algorithm responds when people see your work a lot. It responds when people pause and look at your art for longer than just a scroll past. So, to get people seeing your art more, you need to be posting it regularly, to give them the chance to see it more. 

Now, we'll talk about how to get people to pause on your work (or better yet, click and share) in later posts, but none of that matters if you aren't even posting anything! This isn't to say you have to post 3 times a day (ideal) or even every single day (still good). So long as you have a regular posting schedule that you can maintain, you're good. It just may be slower if you can only post 3 times a week vs 3 times a day, so keep that in mind as well. 

Planning your content in advance helps tremendously with Consistency. One big factor I had to overcome when figuring all of this out was the super strong urge to show something I created immediately. We all want that instant feedback. Look at this thing I made! However, taking lots and lots of photos and videos during the process of creating generates content that you can be posting consistently until you're ready to release the final piece. There's a timing aspect regarding prints for sale etc, but that's a whole other topic.

A bullet list!

  • Take a LOT of photos

  • Take more photos than that

  • Still more photos

  • Ideally, post 2-3 times per day, once a day at least

  • Plan your posts in advance

  • ???

  • Profit

Market Research: Hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags. They are crucial in reaching new followers on Instagram and there are millions of hashtags out there. How do you know which hashtags are good? How do you know if a hashtag is effective? 

Here are some tips on how to maximize your use of Hashtags on Instagram.

1 - 30 Hashtags

You can use UP TO 30 hashtags in your caption, but do not exceed 30 hashtags or Instagram will post your image without a caption at all. That's infuriating. I generally keep it between 10 (because I get tired of typing) and 25 or so. Whatever you do... DO NOT LOSE COUNT of the hashtags you've sat there and typed out. 

2 - Relevance

Make sure the hashtags you're using are relevant to your art and/or your subject matter. Users can report an image as not relevant to the hashtag they found it under, so you want to be careful not to abuse hashtags just because they're poppin'. The most relevant hashtags that are not directly art related will be individualized to your specific art. What works for my swooshy ladies with flowers won't work for Blake Edward Davis's orcs.  

I'll list some examples of hashtags relevant to this piece:

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Relevant hashtags: #inkart #inkartist  #inkedart #inkdrawing   #artemis #greekgoddess   #mythicalart #greekmythology   #goddess #goddesses  #inkdoodle  #inkdoodle #sketcheveryday #inkartwork #finelinerart #sketchbookpage #inkedart #inkdrawings #inkdrawing #drawsketch #sketchbookartist #sketchart #inkyart #sketchbookdrawing #sketchbookart   

Generally, art related hashtags like #inkdrawing are going to attract mostly other artists, which is great! However, if you're looking to grow a following that will collect your work, you want to tap into the communities who aren't necessarily searching for the art you're creating, but who would be delighted to feel like they've discovered a magical art unicorn who makes things they like. 

As an example, Samuel Flegal creates amazing pieces both in ink and oils (and sometimes other mediums). Artists love his work, but more importantly, his art based on Norse Mythology has found a home in a pretty niche community that loves Norse and Viking art. That community gobbles up his art because they WANT more Norse and Viking stuff, and here he is providing amazing work they can decorate their homes with. 

Annabelle Lewis, one of the mentees on the show One Fantastic Week, creates simpler, less complicated ink wash pieces based on "witchy stuff." Artists love her work, but she has managed to tap into the Instagram witch community, and they love finding things related to what they are into! 

SO. That said, look at your art as though you are not an artist and evaluate what subject matters and what communities your work taps into. 

Now, go to Instagram and find a piece of art that has that same type of subject matter. 

For instance, I would first search #artemis ( 367,804 posts ). From there, I'd find a piece of art that shows up high in the ranking  and click that image. I'd see what other hashtags they're using. #greekmythology ( 348,922 posts ) 

If your current goal is growing a following, feel free to use and abuse those art related hashtags though. Growing an audience that engages is the most critical thing, and artists will engage with other artists.

You can go down a veritable rabbit hole finding hashtags related to your art. So how do you know which hashtags are worth jotting down for later use?

3 - Hashtag Popularity

Generally, it depends on your current followers count and engagement level. There are no hard and fast numbers for this, you have to kind of feel it out for yourself with trial and error. But here are some starting points.

  • 0-1000 followers, focus on hashtags with 5k-15k posts.

  • 1000-5000 - hashtags with 10k-200k posts.

  • 5000-10k - hashtags with 10k-1m posts.

  • 10k+ - hashtags with 20k-3m+ posts.

Sidebar: Use a variety of hashtags based on the above guidelines, and even if you only have 50 followers, sprinkle in hashtags with millions of posts here and there. You never know what can happen.

WHY should you pay attention to the number of posts a hashtag has? I'll tell ya!

Hashtags that have very few posts are not used by very many people.
Hashtags with millions of posts are oversaturated and hard to get featured in.

You're essentially competing with everyone else who uses those hashtags, and Instagram decides what to feature in the top posts based on engagement (likes and comments) and followers. So if you have 50 followers and they never really comment, you're competing with high follower accounts who have a lot of engagement. Your post will get pushed to the bottom quickly.

4 - Paying Attention

One of the biggest things I need to emphasize is that if you want to capitalize on your hashtag usage, you have to pay attention to which hashtags are working. Rumors abound that Instagram plans to implement a feature that SHOWS you which hashtags worked for you, but it hasn't been (widely) implemented yet, so we have to do some grunt work until it happens. Maybe this section will be irrelevant tomorrow... we can hope!

I had a piece hit pretty hot with over 400 likes and quite a number of comments back in 2017. I didn't know then that I had an opportunity to jump on that moment and make it work for my future pieces. So, I did some reading and watched a lot of YouTube videos about Instagram growth (organic - there are a LOT of BS videos out there that suggest follow for follow and buying followers etc) and I learned how to pay attention for when it happened again.

And then in December 2018, a work in progress hit the top 9 of a popular hashtag and everything started to snowball. 

HOW do you know when this happens and what do you do when it does? 

Check your notifications. At least once a day, check your notifications and when you notice a certain piece getting more likes and comments than normal, go through every single hashtag and see if your piece is being featured in the top 9, 12, 15, and 18 posts. If it shows up, mark that hashtag as one you should use as often as you can (remember relevance, don't use it if it's not relevant to your next piece). Do this for every hashtag you notice your work is showing up near the top. 

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The ultimate goal is to see your video content featured on a hashtag that has a whole lot of posts, like what happened to me once LOL 

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 Even further, as evidenced by the bottom of the image below which is the insights for the video above that was featured, you want to show up in people's EXPLORE, which is when you hit the lil magnifying glass and see what Instagram thinks you might be interested in. That's what happened with this video (see "FROM OTHER"): 

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5 - Upward Slope vs Peaks and Valleys

In the beginning, you will see a lot of peaks and valleys. That's ok. As long as you're continuing to post content and paying attention to what works, you will eventually notice the valleys ironing themselves out until you start seeing a steady upward slope. 

The ultimate goal is to have such a steady upward slope that you no longer notice any lost followers. Once you start gaining more followers than you lose each day, that slope will happen and it's great!

Peaks and Valleys beginning to slope upward:

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Dat Upward Slope doe:

I hope these tips help you in your market research!

What are your questions? What hashtags have you found worked well for you?

The Five C's of Instagram: CONTENT

In this post, I'll talk about what I know regarding content and what makes decent content.

How to generate maximum content: Take lots of photos during the process of creating the piece. From sketch to finish, photograph it in decent light (I can talk about image editing apps at a later time but taking a decent photograph is the first step). It can be taken with a phone, considering it's not going to be viewed larger than, say, an iPad screen. But you still want to at least try for a relatively decent image. Set up your phone to be able to take a few videos, or if you have the capability, film the entire process. These videos will be chopped and shredded and used up until it's compost! But videos are the best content on Instagram. IG loves videos and will push it to the top of your followers timelines. 

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The above video hit the discover page on the hashtag for #draweveryday, which has 3+ million uses. I'll get deeper into hashtags in another post. 

So. What is "good content"? Here are a few examples of great images of an artist's work, that took no longer than a few seconds to set up and maybe a few more minutes to adjust in, say, Afterlight or Photoshop Express.

If you're a digital artist, never fear! There are plenty of ways to showcase your work on Instagram without going through extra hoops.

Another way to showcase content is to include works in progress shots of you actually working on the thing!

Image editing is important so that the image is clear and crisp. Even if you create dark imagery, the picture itself has to be featured in a way that is pleasing to the viewer's eye. Check out Christopher Lovell's dark fantasy/horror art photos:

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The best course of action, as I said above, is to document the whole process. Then, sit down when you have, say, an hour, and go through each image you'd like to post and make any adjustments in image editing programs to brighten or desaturate the image.  Create a backlog of dozens of images ready to post. This will help you maintain consistency and have a lot of content to post.

All of that said, I want to emphasize something: None of this matters if you aren't creating new art! Focus on creating art, and while you're creating the art, take a few seconds here and there to snap some photos. It doesn't interrupt the workflow as much as you think, because honestly, you should probably be stopping every hour to stretch anyway 😉

What will you create today? 

Instagram Growth

How I gained 2000 followers in 6 days (plus 4 years)

THE FIVE C'S OF INSTAGRAM

Hey everyone! I've had a recent surge of growth on my Instagram and have had a lot of questions about how this happened. I thought an overview blog post would be beneficial to some of you! As a follow-up, I will be getting more in-depth for each of the Cs. 

First off, let me just say that I'm probably more shocked than anyone else that this is happening while simultaneously incredibly grateful! As of the writing of this post, I have 5737 followers, with the average image garnering over 800+ likes (a few have breached 2k and one is at 15k and rising wtf). I started 2019 with 3008 followers. 

To begin, the first thing I want you to do is evaluate why you want followers on Instagram. Is it to be able to reach a wider audience? Why? To what end? Do you have a product to sell to those followers? Do you want to be able to put links in your Instagram stories? Do you want to be sponsored and become an influencer? 

Knowing the reason you want followers is critical to gearing your content and your schedule to that goal. It will also help you maintain momentum in the duldrums of this process. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It also fluctuates. This growth may slow down for me, but I will continue to do these things regardless.

I want to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram in order to link my store in stories so that followers can purchase merchandise like prints and pins. That's my goal, so with that in mind, I began creating CONTENT. 

CONTENT:

What is content? This is the thing you are creating. And you want to create a lot of it. Now, this doesn't mean you have to work eleventy seven hours and never sleep, this simply means you need to maximize the mileage you get out of your content. If you produce work quickly, good, you're golden, do not pass go lol. If you're slower or you work larger and do not have finished pieces quite as often, you may need to tweak your process ever so slightly to generate more content based on the piece you're working on. Take photos during the process. Even better, set up your phone and take short clips of video. Document as much as you can and post those WIPs as you go. 

I cannot tell you the frustration of having someone ask "How do I get followers" and when you go to their page, they have 4 images posted over the course of a year. Make art, y'all! The world needs it!

Having a backlog of images to be able to post will help you maintain CONSISTENCY.

CONSISTENCY:

How many times have we heard a successful artist harp on about consistency? Endlessly. It's because it's the simple truth that consistency not only tells your followers/viewers that you are still here and you are not disappearing, but it also helps develop good habits for you

Consider your schedule and what you feel you can reasonably maintain. I had been highly inconsistent for, well, years, and it was getting nowhere. Once I started posting regularly, even if it was just quick WIPs, the ball started to sssslllloooowwwwllllyyyy roll forward. After that first image hit a hot hashtag and I started getting a LOT of engagement, I felt more encouraged and worked out a schedule to maintain that engagement. I started with 3 posts a day every day, but realized quickly that's not going to be something I can personally maintain, so now I'm down to 2 posts on weekdays, 1 post on weekend days. 

It's weird how, even though my followers are international, the best times to post are still between 12pm - 3pm. So I post my images between those times daily. I have an alarm set on my phone. I have images ready to fire off. I'm all set. 

While posting this content consistently, you're going to be considering CONTEXT.

CONTEXT:

Our followers fall into 2 basic categories (these do not count the "Superfan" who becomes a long time supporter, and eventually friend). 

  • The follower who relates to you and has things in common  😎  

  • The follower who looks up to you and believes you're some sort of art sorcerer  💖  

Keeping these 2 categories in mind, you will want to provide context around your art to show how you and your art live. Relating followers will see your image and think "I like that too! We have that in common!" For instance, sometimes I will post an image that shows a coffee mug in the image somewhere. 

Looking-up-to-you followers are people who are either non-artists or new-artists. Both of these subcategories see your work and see magic. Showing things like the tools you use or your workspace fascinates these followers as they get to see the "inside world" of an art wizard and that's exciting for them! 

These 2 categories apply to ANY public figure, like a celebrity. We follow a celebrity because we either relate to them (my example: Jennifer Lawrence) or we look up to them (my example: Margot Robbie).

Another way to provide context on your consistent content is... CAPTIONS.

CAPTIONS:

These are the part of the image that encourages engagement, and it will vary for each user. Generally, you will want to start thinking of your image in terms of what the user is looking at, and try to gear your caption toward them in a way that results in them thinking about themselves in relation to the art. 

For example, instead of saying "Here is my latest piece," you might consider "I drew a bird! What's your favorite bird? *insert bird emoji*"

The first goal is to show your follower you are interested in their thoughts on the piece. The ultimate goal is seeing followers tag people in your image. If you can work in a request to tag others into your caption without it coming across hokey, that's a great caption! "Tag someone who likes birds!" isn't a bad thing. 

Captions can be long and thoughtful or short and sweet. I've found a mix of both works well, as different followers are drawn to different styles of captioning. The bottom line is to remain authentic to yourself, as that's what the COMMUNITY will want.

COMMUNITY:

This one is the C that connects you and results in friendships, good working relationships, and networking, if that's where it takes you. This is the C that makes you feel less alone, less lost, and more seen. Really seen. Engaging in the community with good, quality comments and conversations makes you an invaluable resource. It's also supposed to be fun! There are great community challenges you can take part in, like #drawthisinyourstyle or #creatuanuary or #inktober.

When someone comments, especially within the first hour of you posting an image, with a good comment, respond in kind. You don't have to write a book, but your followers want to be seen and if you acknowledge them and show gratitude that they're not only viewing your work but taking time to comment, it works wonders.

Also, comments and replies shows Instagram this content is good and IG will then boost your content to a wider audience. *winky*

Take a few minutes, and it doesn't have to be a lot of minutes, to go comment on work you love as well. If I've learned nothing else this year, it's that showing kindness and gratitude will bring good things back to you. If that sounds too woo-woo for ya, take the word of Gary Vaynerchuck 


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The only way to encourage others to share your work is to be someone your followers and other artists want to be associated with. 

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Ok, all of that said, there is one key point we cannot ignore. This growth may seem sudden and overnight but... it includes the previous 4 years of trudging through a wasteland. 

I will not ignore nor deny the fact that all of this is a set up for the moment your art hits a hot hashtag at the right moment. That's the one factor we cannot control, we must simply create, post, engage and... wait. 

So make the content and do not be discouraged that it will be slow until it isn't!

-- 

This is the first in a series of posts about Instagram. I will dive into the details of each category as well as how to do market research into hashtags. 

If you want to make sure you do not miss out on these posts, either become a patron or sign up for my newsletter!

http://eepurl.com/gdsqh9 

In the meantime, create art! The worlds needs it!