What's up art gangsters?! In my last article, 10 insider tips for applying for game art jobs, one of the key pieces of advice I had was that your portfolio needs to be on ArtStation. Today, I'm gonna even take it a step further into the hyperbolic and say that if you are a digital artist and are not taking advantage of the platform, you are shooting yourself in the foot. This doesn't apply to just those looking for their first job, I would argue it applies to everyone producing art and looking to stay relevant and make a living doing what they love in 2018 and beyond.
Many artists look at ArtStaion simply as an easy/quick/free way to display their portfolio, and fail to look at the big picture. Make no mistake, ArtStation is a social media platform first and foremost. It is THE social media platform that can benefit digital artists the most. I would argue more than Instagram, especially when it comes to leveraging job opportunities and the power of a like minded audience. Almost all the biggest names in the digital art community have been quick to jump on board and are thriving, but I still keep seeing students posting links to personal website portfolios, a big mistake in 2018. Market yourself like it's the year you actually live in, not 2003. let's dive in!

It's where the most RELEVANT attention is.

One of the best things about ArtStation is that as I mentioned above, it's a social media network. More importantly, they smartly niched down into being a social media network for artists. This means unlike Instagram where people go to consume all sorts of content, when people visit ArtStation they are going there directly to see badass art, or present their art, or talk about art...or hire artists. That means a huge chunk of your target audience is gathered in one place.
Grabbing people's attention and cutting through the sheer amount of noise these days on all the various social platforms is harder than ever, so going where the majority of engaged art lovers, lead artists, HR managers and industry recruiters have moved to is one of the quickest "hacks" to getting someone to notice your work. This can lead to job offers or thousands of potential customers if you release a paid tutorial or asset pack. This is a huge opportunity should you catch the right persons eye and they decided to reach out. More on this later.
Shockingly effective when done right...
Apply this little formula to your mindset and you should start to see dramatic results over time: Attention + Exposure = Opportunity. ArtStation already has people's relevant attention, and you can certainly leverage getting into the trending or picks galleries to give you huge amounts of free exposure, and assuming your work is great, this means plenty of potential opportunities for you. We live in the age of 10 second attention spans (statistically 4 seconds on Instagram), so it's probably a good idea to go where you at least have a hope of capturing some of it. 

The book Hitmakers: The science of popularity in an age of distraction goes over the idea of why both exposure AND attention are important. There are some fantastic examples of that formula,from why only 5 out of the hundreds of impressionist artists of that era are really famous, to how certain songs get insanely popular. Or how about how Donald Trump leveraged these principles to get 2 BILLION dollars worth of media coverage for free during the election while his opponents were forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep up. Truly an eye opening read, and lots of useful info that is directly applicable to artists. 

When you post new art, people actually see it...

ArtStation is in the top 800 websites on the internet in terms of traffic. To put this in perspective: there are millions of websites out there, all struggling to get eyeballs on their content. If you are creating your own personal portfolio website, chances are it is going to have either a URL that 99% of people will never remember. It could be on some free platform that is loaded with ads, tiny bandwidth limitations that will stop displaying your portfolio images halfway through each month, and if you are really cheap, has a URL along the lines of: myportfolio.freehosting.com. Yuck! Again, what is this, 2001?! Check out this old screenshot of my first portfolio. Something seem a little...off??
Moving on to the next applicant...

One of the best things about ArtStation is the ability for people that like your work to simply click follow. And from that point on, whenever you post a new piece of art, everyone who is following you gets a notification that's easily clickable and can instantly bring their eyeballs back to your new work. Over time, more and more people will follow you if your work is good, and this creates an exponential level of exposure for you. Below are 2 realistic examples that should paint a clearer picture for you.

Example A - Using ArtStation for your portfolio

Let's say you are a super talented vehicle artist and are looking for your first job. You have been consistently posting high quality, finished vehicle models for the last 6 months and have steadily built up an audience of 400 followers in ArtStation. Maybe "Bob the art lead" at Infinity Ward is one of those followers, and has seen your work before and liked it, and took 2 seconds to hit the follow button next to your name. 2 months later, you post your latest military style vehicle to your gallery. 

Maybe Infinity Ward is currently ramping up for the next Call of Duty and they are about to post a job opening for a vehicle artist. Suddenly Bob the art lead sees a cool thumbnail of your vehicle in his notifications tab. He clicks, remembers being impressed with your work in the past, sees you just happen to live nearby (or maybe not) and sends you a private message asking if you would be interested in hopping on the phone or coming down to the studio for an interview. All before the job positing even goes live to the public. Remember what I said about attacking from the side in my last article?

The best part: Bob doesn't even have to be one of your followers. The fact that 400 people are following you means more than likely the power of their engagement (likes and comments), when you post new work will push it into the trending gallery, and good ol' Bob will still most likely see it there. I can tell you from looking at my own behavior I almost habitually check my notifications feed and the trending gallery 99% of the time when I visit ArtStation.
Don't fixate on your number of followers, even a small amount can help get things trending. Focus on producing great art and you will naturally gain followers and fans over time. Much like compound interest, it starts small but the numbers can really start to add up. 
I think a lot of people underestimate just how powerful this is...

Example B - The random portfolio website...

You post new work, and either sit around hoping you have some fans that possibly remember your website URL and come back to visit every now and then, or spend hours going and posting all over the internet you added new work and begging people to go check it out. Even if you go to the extra effort of building an email list, the open rate is going to be extremely low, not to mention the time investment + technical headaches. More often than not, you could be launching the most badass artwork or tutorial of all time, but the response will be...crickets. That's a really good way to take the wind out of your sails and waste a lot of energy that could be deployed towards making new art.
I literally got my first job in the industry because someone saw my art posted on a random forum and sent me a message. This was before ArtStation even existed and artists were scattered across the web. All it takes is the right person to see your work and you are off to the races. Hopefully on the merits of these first 2 points alone you are starting to see the value of moving your portfolio there if it isn't already. But we're just getting started!

A social media network for introverts...

I know there are a huge variety of personality types that make up the game industry, however, I do think there is a fairly large chunk that would identify as introverts. Depending on your level of comfort, social anxiety etc, traditional social media can be frustrating and emotionally draining for some. 

Here's the thing I like about ArtStation: while I would classify it as a social media platform, your art is doing the talking. You are not required to make videos or images of yourself. This isn't Instagram or Facebook. People see your art first and foremost. You can effectively hide behind it. While I would recommend 1000% using your real name on your profile, you could still succeed if you were to create an online nickname and build your brand around that. People will still see your work and have the ability to private message you with job opportunities. It puts your art first, and that goes a long way to democratizing skill and talent. 

Instant context to how your work stacks up against the competition

A huge benefit of posting your work in a community environment is you can instantly see where you stand against the competition. You can see your thumbnail in a grid of 100's of other pieces of art and get instant visual feedback on the quality difference. I always see people saying it's hard to stand out on ArtStation. This can be true, it's hard to feed the algorithm if you have a fresh account with no fanbase/followers to boost your engagement and get you trending. But why should you get instant results without putting in any time or extra effort? That's like starting a backyard football team and expecting to win the superbowl after your first game. But by putting in the hours, a ton of hard work and the right strategy you might have a shot.

Personally, I think most of the time that's simply a fear based excuse. Some people would rather have their own little world to present their work (the random website) where they feel they can somehow hide the fact they are not hitting the AAA quality bar from recruiters without the risk of being overshadowed by other amazing artists. That strategy is never going to work and is a horrible mindset. It's the equivalent of strapping horse blinders on,  telling yourself you are the best artist ever and everyone who disagrees is just a hater who can't see your genius.

As painful as it can be in the short term, looking at your work next to that of more advanced artists can really help you quickly identify what is causing the gap. If you can, take the blow to the ego and try to re-frame it mentally. Go from "oh wow I suck compared to jimmy badass" to "hmmm, there is a bit of a character anatomy or lighting in my scene compared to this amazing piece, maybe I should focus on improving those skills", I guarantee you will grow as an artist much faster. Short term pain, long term gains.

How does your work compare to the competition?

 ArtStation is mobile friendly and FAST.

Think about where the average person spends a majority of their time and attention on a daily, hourly and almost minute by minute basis. On the bus, on the subway, laying in bed when they wake up and before they go to sleep. Their phone. People are spending more and more of their time consuming all their content and working via their phones. If you create your own website or blog, hopefully the theme and layout you pick is mobile friendly, otherwise you are probably losing at least half your audience, as well as wasting a ton of time on picking a design and setting up hosting, and keeping your website up to date. Reverse engineer how, when, and where people are consuming content and leverage that to your advantage.
In the example above you have no idea when Bob the art lead is going to find your work. Most likely he is busy making art and managing people during the day, but on his commute home he has the opportunity to catch up and see what/who is hot in the art community. Same for recruiters and people in HR at game studios. People are busy and want to consume content at their own pace, which is usually in small spurts, on their phone. Assuming they are only going to be searching for candidates from their work or home computer in a web browser is a huge mistake.
ArtStation is designed to be extremely mobile friendly (Side note: It has it's own app, which I find myself popping open almost as much as the Facebook app while sitting on the bus). Images are nicely laid out in a grid, your name and contact details are large and at the top of the screen, and images expand to take up as much screen real estate as possible. Most mobile personal website layouts I have come across, image galleries appear small and barely legible. What a great way to have someone click away before even looking at your art! You have 10 seconds to grab their attention, make the most of it. 
Finally, ArtStation is fast! I have never seen images loading a warning about exceeded bandwidth instead of the actual picture. The up time of the site is probably a lot better than most small hosts, and the free accounts cost you nothing compared to most hosting plans. Think of how annoyed you get when your Netflix stream interrupts to buffer for 3 seconds (it's kinda hilarious when you actually stop to think about that...) but that is the reality of the age we live in, regardless how insane it sounds. Never inflict needless annoyance on people who potentially want to hire you or give you money for a product.
More and more people will be viewing your portfolio like this.

It allows you to build an audience and join in the conversation easily

Anyone with a little experience in the world of marketing will tell you that their audience of loyal fans/followers is one of their most valuable assets. If you are an artist in 2018, you need to think of yourself as a media company or personal brand first, and not just a creative who likes making pretty pictures. Every piece of content you put out paints a picture of who you are, and what you are passionate about. Chances are other people are passionate about similar things and are interested in following you. Put out enough great content on a consistent basis and those followers will turn into loyal fans, hungry to consume and promote your work or buy that tutorial you just spent hours making, especially easy now that ArtStation is adding the ability to sell digital products directly within the platform. And your fans will always know where to find you.
This means maybe 2 years down the road if you get laid off and switch your job title to "looking for work", potentially hundreds of other people could take note and slide your portfolio to HR or friends at other studios, simply because they are fans of your art and you have been providing them little hits of value over time. Maybe you spend a couple weeks to create a set of useful substance materials and launch it to an existing group of followers. Think an extra couple thousand dollars a month in income from that pack could help tide you over until you find a new job? What happens when you have 3-4 of those packs released and making you a decent side income?

It also means when you reach out to another artist in their direct message, they can click on your profile picture and instantly have context to who you are and what you are all about. No hopping over to LinkedIn to get info or trying to find your random portfolio link should you accidentally forget to attach it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if ArtStation arbitrages LinkedIn out of the game for digital art job recruitment in the near future. It gives instant visual context with zero extra effort and makes networking easy. Just prepare yourself for the inbox spam when commission hungry 3rd party "recruiters" realize this.

Not only can you get/leave feedback directly next to your work that others can learn from as well, but if you have a pro account it allows you to easily create more long form content and document works in progress with the new blogging features. Industry veterans like Rogelio Olguin are embracing this to provide value to their audience and demonstrate they are thought leaders in the community by joining in the conversation about a wide variety of industry topics. In my experience, studios tend be eager to hire experts or recognized thought leaders.
Hopefully you can recognize that this is a huge opportunity to show you are an aware of what is going on in the industry, build relationships with other artists via discussion in the comments, and over time, be seen as an expert in your field. Companies want people who are passionate enough about what they do to join in the conversation. If people value your art, chances are they will value your opinion. Don't just say you have good written communication skills in the interview, by doing this you can simply point to your existing track record. Just like posting new art, your followers get a notification when you add a new blog post, which brings back their attention and builds awareness of your personal brand.

ArtStation Has officially become a noun.

What do you say when you order up a "taxi" from your phone. If you are like a majority of people you say:
"Alright, I'll grab an Uber" or "ok cool, I'll Uber over"
Even if you are using Lyft, or Halo or even just calling an old fashioned taxi. The brand awareness and behavior has penetrated mainstream culture and has become a verb/noun. This has now happened to the gamedev/CG/digital art industry.
More and more I am seeing people use the phrase "post your ArtStation" or "send me your ArtStation" instead of using the word portfolio. Even most job postings have an input field that now reads: Portfolio/ArtStation Link. If you are even thinking of sending in a big fat ZIP file with your portfolio images or a 6 minute demo reel, for your own sake, please think again. People are most likely not going to open that, or even take the time to email you back asking for a web based portfolio link. It's much easier to just move on to the next applicant. Again, operate like its actually 2018. HR and recruitment agency's know and trust ArtStation links. Don't put needless obstacles in your own path. 

The 2 Biggest arguments (excuses) I see from people against using ArtStation

Usually when I drop a portfolio critique to a game art student eager for feedback I tell them to switch to ArtStation instead of a personal website/blog. 9/10 take the advice and run with it, but every now and then there is some resistance. The "it's hard to stand out" argument I can understand, but that still doesn't change reality. With time and effort you will stand out. The worst is when it comes in the form of these 2 arguments, or just the laziness of being unwilling to invest a couple hours to set up a profile.
  1. What happens if ArtStation disappears or becomes paid only? 
As I said in the beginning, this particular website is in the top 800 visited websites on the internet and they are just getting started. That makes it an extremely valuable company. Trust me, it's not going to disappear over night. If they were to become a paid only platform, they would see a huge drop off in user numbers and their value would plummet. It's the same reason that Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are free. These companies are focused on building a huge user base above all else. They know if they provide enough value, chances are you are going to end up giving them money at some point for a product or feature because you are a fan of them. The more users and visitors a website has, the more valuable it is. Slamming the door in free the users faces is just bad business.
The irony is often the people with that argument is they are worried about MAYBE one day having spending $60 on a fast and reliable portfolio solution.....after dropping $20k for a 2 year game art diploma and are frantically trying to get an industry job to pay off their student loans. 


"Get your mind right, get your grind right"
  1. If I post my work there ArtStation owns it, or people will steal it!
No. Just no. These are probably the same people who copy/paste those ridiculously long legalese Facebook statuses about not giving their consent to Facebook to use their content. You know, the ones that accomplish exactly.....nothing. Or they go to extreme lengths to add huge, ugly watermarks to their portfolio work, or make it so you cant right click and save the images. Trust me, you WANT art leads to be able to right click and save your images to the "potential candidates" folder on their desktop/iphone/pinterest. It clearly states in the ArtStation terms of service, you retain the ownership of all your content.
Art theft is no joke, but if someone is really intent on stealing you art, the print screen button or the windows snipping tool is going to work in 99/100 cases. Would you really rather lose all the potential employment benefits listed above just to stop someone from trying to sell your artwork on a mug/shirt on some random scammy website and maybe make...$100 over a couple years? Letting the theoretical fear of losing a couple hundred bucks to some lame ass art thief VS the realistic potential of netting a career where you are making 40-100k+ a year is the definition of self sabotage. Besides, if your work is really that baller, YOU should be the one finding cool ways to sell your art to your passionate fan base. You know, the one you have been building up steadily over 3+ years. On ArtStation. 😉

The best time to get on board was 2014, the second best time is now.

As with any online platform, those who are quick to embrace it will gobble up a large audience. When there is less people posting, there are fewer options to follow and early adopters tend to amass large followings rather quickly. If their work is good of course.
Like building any type of audience or online following, it's going to take time. Just remember that everyone starts from 0. The best time to start is now, and consistently posting good artwork, giving out good advice, and joining in the conversation will allow you to steadily grow your audience over time. I would recommend not putting too much focus on the number of followers you have, but rather the consistency and quality of the content you are putting out.
Focus on those 2 aspects and with a little patience, you should have a group of fans eager to see your next piece or engage with your opinion when you deliver a well thought out blog post. Putting in the work and grinding it over the months and YEARS (don't expect immediate results in a couple months) will not only benefit you, but the CG community as a whole. The more value you provide to your followers the quicker your growth will be. 
There is a reason all the big names like Sparth, Raphael Lacoste, Jonas Ronnegard, Tor Frick, Josh Lynch and Daniel Thiger have huge followings. Their galleries are bursting at the seams with gorgeous content that arrives on a consistent basis. They go out of their way to create tutorials and provide insightful feedback and breakdowns for the community. At the end of the day, do you really think these widely known artists would have a hard time finding work?
Reverse engineer what successful artists are doing and apply it to your own ArtStation and you should see an exponential level of growth and more importantly, engagement. Reply to every comment someone leaves on your work, even if it is just thanking them for stopping by. Answer every question that gets asked. Spending 1-2 mins to drop some knowledge could make a huge positive impact on someones day or help shortcut their learning curve. Yes it's time consuming and you probably won't see instant results. But I promise, over time it has the potential to create so much opportunity for you.

Final Thoughts

The goal with this article was to shed some light on what I consider to be the standard for portfolio presentation in 2018, and more importantly the WHY behind it. I hope I have given you some behind the scenes food for thought to think about. What was your biggest takeaway from this article? Let me know in the comments below!
Regardless if you are a student or pro already on board, there are so many advantages to embracing and maximizing all the benefits of ArtStation to really showcase your passion and create opportunities for yourself in 2018 and beyond. As always, a big thanks for reading, especially if you got this far!
Stay tuned, I've already started hammering out a in depth tactical guide on how to efficiently grow your following to compliment this more high level theory. If you really want to stay in the loop when I post new articles and tutorials, feel free to drop your email in the follow box below, I'll never spam your inbox and look forward to giving my insiders some extra love 🙂 - Tim
* I should probably state that this article is NOT sponsored, endorsed or in any way paid for by ArtStation, it's purely me trying to give the younglings the most relevant info, useful tactics and career advice.
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