The art scene on the internet is all about sharing, but recently, the more I think about it, it’s all pretty onesided. I can’t think of many art ‘communities’ that have really succeeded at being a community.
Even ‘successful’ art sites like DeviantArt, which, with over 19 million registered members and over 45 million unique visitors per month, lacks in one most important aspects of a community: conversation. People might disagree with me and say, but there’s tons of comments on there! But let’s face it, comments aren’t necessarily a conversation. Most of what happens on DeviantArt involves artists broadcasting their art, and spectators, singing praises or telling the artists that their art sucks. DeviantArt has forums, journals, polls and a message center, but I still find that the user interface design doesn’t invite to really participate in any discussion. Messages get lost along the way, it’s not attractive, the kind of responses are often not about the topic… and let’s say it, DeviantArt needs to unclutter if they want a chance to be succesful as a real community with engaged users who do not just come to look at the pretty pictures. It’s more of a broadcasting platform than a communication platform, even though it claims to be an art community.
I was (briefly) part a community called Artician, which has a very slick design and left me with a good first impression: it wanted to be seen as a more professional, no nonsense platform, but it never reached critical mass. Why? Uploading your art portfolio is a complete hassle, even though they let you import your galleries from DeviantArt. Categories that you can file your art into are confusing or don’t match my idea of what my art is. Here, too, there is a bit of a disconnect between the platform, the art and the conversation.
The one community that I can think of that succeeds in being a community is that of ConceptArt(.org). I once made a list of what, in my opinion, a succesful community has, and ConceptArt.org has most of them:
Art, in itself, is a way to profile. It’s part of your identity. If it’s something you’re good at, you’ll no doubt like to show it to people. Conceptart.org is a community for artists that lets them display their art with the intention of getting feedback so they can improve upon whatever they want to improve upon. Training and seminars are organised offline; artists often meet in real life at one of these events. The community is all about user generated content. It’s the core of it. I haven’t met any assholes, but have received my share of well written but sometimes harsh criticism. Basically, it has all the best keypoints. There are however, two reasons why I didn’t stay: 1. I felt intimidated by the amazing talent on there. 2. There was a huge disconnect with the rest of the internet. ConceptArt.org is a forum, but there’s no easy way to share things with people not on the forum. It felt a bit outdated in design and user interface. And it felt a little bit elite. Not always a bad thing, but I didn’t stay.
It seems all these community based art sites have part of what it takes, but I’ve yet to find one that suits my every need. One where conversation is made easy and accessible. Right now, my hopes are on Facebook, but I’d much rather see a new kind of community succeed.