But first, a backstory:
When I first joined DA over a decade ago (seriously), I would post a colored picture every day, or every other day if I was slow. It wasn't about the popularity, and it certainly wasn't about the quality. In fact, here's a sample of the junk I was churning out at the time: Fox-Dragon
Back then, I would post anything and everything that I made - fanart, dragons, dumb anime stuff, EVERYTHING. Why did I do this? My answer would probably be "for the love of art." I just loved the idea that I could past a picture on ~*the internet*~ so that people thousands of miles away could look at it. That was just so freaking cool to me. It didn't matter that I wasn't getting any favorites or comments (in fact, the first comment I ever received on DA was from a troll giving me crap about the character's funky design) since, at the time, it was all about the sheer joy of making art and hoping that someone, somewhere would love it.
But as time went by, I became more and more jaded about my work. I started to notice that my artwork wasn't getting any attention, no matter how hard I pushed myself. I eventually left DA for 2+ years because I was tired of working my tail off on 40-hour+ paintings which only garnered 1-2 favorites and maaaaybe a comment if I was lucky. And commissions? Don't even think about it. If people didn't care enough to press a +fav button, then why would they care enough to pay money for my slop? So I quit.
During that time off, I barely drew anything. I was convinced that my artwork was horrible, and that art itself was pointless. Clearly, if the internet hated it, then what hope was there for me? I know that the art world isn't just the internet, but being ignored was still hard for me to deal with. I mean, the internet is the WHOLE WORLD, and if the WHOLE WORLD didn't like it then it must be horrible, right? ....Right? NO. Wrong, so very wrong.
Art is about much more than just ~*internet popularity*~. So if you find yourself losing heart just because no one seems to like your artwork, try to keep these tips in mind.
TIP #1: Don't worry about what's popular or not, just draw what YOU want to draw.
Seriously, this is the internet. There's probably a Subreddit forum out there dedicated to babies in funny hats, and a website that collects Bigfoot fur. So if there's something that *you* like to draw, then you can almost guarantee that there are other people out there who love the same thing. So if you post something you love and no one loves it back - don't lose hope! It might just be that you haven't reached the right audience yet. And trust me - when you reach the right audience, it's wonderful. You'll have a dedicated group of fans that will understand your passion for art and love you all the more for it.
As for selling out and pandering to what's popular, I... don't recommend it. I'm going to quote something from Scott McCloud's book here: "Just because you sell out, it doesn't mean that anyone will buy it." Basically, if you think anime art is stupid, do you really think that you'll be happy making anime paintings, or that your anime paintings will even be any good? I seriously doubt it. One thing I've learned over the years is that drawing things you don't like leads to crappier work, while the best work is made when it's something you're passionate about. So if you decide to pander to what's "popular," not only will you be shooting yourself in the foot by making crappier work, you will also screw yourself over by forcing yourself to draw things you hate. It's one thing if you're commissioned to draw one thing you don't like, but gearing your whole gallery around something you hate is like a never-ending wheel of suck. Yick.
TIP #2: Remember that it takes a while to build up a reliable fanbase.
I know some people expect to become super popular overnight, and I gotta say... it just isn't going to happen. Sorry.
If you seriously expect to become the next sakimichan by posting a single anime painting, you're only setting yourself up for a major disappointment. Even if you can somehow draw and paint at her level, you have to keep in mind that it took Sakimi YEARS to build up her current fanbase. There's simply no way you could reach the same number of people with just a single painting.
Now, let's assume you hit the jackpot (metaphorically) and get a DD on your very first post. Well, that still doesn't guarantee that you'll be super popular. I know plenty of people who got hundreds or maybe even thousands of favorites on a single DD, but their usual posts will only garner maaaybe 10-15 favorites at most. One popular picture doesn't make an artist... or a fanbase.
TIP #3: Post often! Don't go more than 2-3 weeks without posting if you can.
Okay, I'll admit that I'm a huge, giant hypocrite on this one. Sorry. |D But the thing is, the internet is like a baby - if you disappear for a while, it will completely forget that you exist. So keep posting things! Post sketches, post portraits, post works in progress, post whatever you can so that people don't forget you. And, if you're lucky, that "quick sketch" might become popular. Heck, just look at this picture:
I thought that people would ignore it since it's "just" a portrait, but it ended up becoming one of the most popular pictures in my gallery. It even got more attention than my first DD. Weird.
Now, you do have to make sure that you're not posting *too* much. If you make, say, 7 or 8 sketches a day, it might be better to compile them into a single sketch dump image and post them all together at the end of the week. My rule of thumb is that sketches (and other smaller, related pieces) get compiled into a single picture if I have more than 5 of them at a time.
TIP #4: Get a recognizable style.
As much as it's good to play around with your style, if you want people to recognize who you are, you do need to keep things consistent. This is where it's good to have a developed style, and to stick to a common theme or subject throughout your gallery. I'm not telling you to draw just dogs, or just dragons, but to have a similar look throughout your gallery. So if you enjoy painting anthros in a cartoony style, it might not be a good idea to post a still life, then a landscape, then a selfie, then a picture of your mom, etc. etc. Try to stick to what you enjoy drawing, and what you want to be known for. Drawing certain characters all the time works as well.
"Wait, you mentioned a 'developed style.' How do I get a developed style?" You ask. Well, keep drawing of course! The more you work on it, the more your style will come to light. You'll eventually land on a way to draw that is uniquely yours. Something I like to do is look at my artistic idols and ask myself "How did they make that?" and then I incorporate that into my own work. I'm not telling you to outright copy their artwork or anything, but try to break down how they paint or sketch. So if there's someone out there who paints really nice hair, try to see if they have a hair tutorial, or try to paint similar hair in one of your own paintings.
It's also a good idea to learn the fundamentals. Even if you're going for a cartoony style, it's still a good idea to learn about color theory, to learn how light and shadow works, to study perspective, and to study anatomy. You need to know the rules before you break them, and all that. I know some people will throw fits about that, but it's important that you learn the fundamentals if you want your artwork to look the way it's supposed to. I mean, if you don't understand perspective, then how will you draw your character flying through the air, or in a 3D scene, like in fox-orian's work:
Without an intimate knowledge of perspective, that whole picture would be a wonky mess.
If you need resources for something specific, just ask.
TIP #5: Ask yourself what you want to do with art.
Internet popularity might not matter at all, depending on what you want to do with your artwork. If you're someone who wants to make a living off of private internet commissions then, yeah, it is incredibly important for you to get your artwork out there online. But if you plan on working as a professional illustrator, it's more important that you have a good, professional portfolio. A studio isn't going to hire you just because you have 1,000+ watchers on deviantArt, after all. And if you're just making art as a hobby, it's only important that you enjoy yourself.
So honestly ask yourself: "What do I want to do with my artwork?" Your answer will impact what's important in your artwork.