UPDATED: 26 January, 2022
Something big happened in the online art world in 2019, and this made us consider how artists network.
In March 2019, F & W Media, Inc. former owner of Wet Canvas.com filed for bankruptcy. This process was finalised in 2019 resulting in asset sales. Peak Media Properties purchased some assets – including the large art online forum – Wetcanvas.com.
It’s timely in that it led us to think how will we artists network and get advice should a major online art forum – such as WetCanvas.com be gone.
What is WetCanvas.com?
In a nutshell – WetCanvas.com is a free artists online community that has almost one million members. It started in 1998 – the same year as Google.
WetCanvas.com is a treasure trove of art information provided by artists for well over two decades. As of 23 October 2019, it has over 995,981 members, mostly with over 2,000 viewers online at any one time. It has over 12,600,000 library images, 59 art related channels, and threads that started in 1998, and one in 2001 with over 6,000 posts. Yes – that’s 18 years of contributions and knowledge.
WetCanvas.com represents a great community of artists – living and dead – who provided and continue to provide advice to other artists as they move in their art pursuit.
In addition to finding information about art, artists can connect with other like-minded artists on Wetcanvas.com. It is a great place for artists to network.
Not only members use Wetcanvas.com
WetCanvas.com’s images and content are easily found on search engines.
Although there are almost a million WetCanvas.com members, the site’s content is available for anyone to view via an online search. So, there may be many more people using WetCanvas.com other than members.
A quick search ‘how to use neocolor’ on 23 October 2019, Google bought up WetCanvas.com as the seventh article on the first page – and that directs to an entry from 2008!
If you search online for some advice about how to do an art technique, you will likely find your answer on WetCanvas.com.
However, the issue we now consider is how do we artists (of all levels) network with other artists in addition to Wetcanvas.com.
What are the artist network options?
Essentially these are what we need to consider – free and paid.
Here are the free options:
You might consider using a free arts forum. Some of the free art forums available now are:
DeviantArt.com is a free public forum where artists can meet online and discuss art and other issues. This website is a sales site with a forum that allows members to sell their art. It has a paid membership option which provides additional benefits, such as discounts off prints, extra storage, video uploads. Not only does this site have a forum, but its members can be part of interested groups, and create a personal portfolio of work. Members can create journals.
According to its website, DeviantArt.com was founded in August 2000, has over 44 million registered members and attracts over 45 million unique visitors a month – has 374 million original works of art, and prints for sale. Where DeviantArt.com differs from WetCanvas.com is its demographic and the type of advice provided.
WetCanvas.com includes artists using a range of media, but mostly traditional art mediums, and responses to questions on WetCanvas.com tend to be specific to the question asked.
Whereas, DeviantArt.com also includes artists using a range of media, many use modern media such as digital arts, photography, film, cartoons and manga. The DeviantArt.com forum is a broader social outlet for artists as members can connect with others on a range of topics – other than art.
Join or start your own artist networking group
Communities can be built in some existing forums. See below for a couple of suggestions.
1. Join or start a Facebook Group
Joining or starting a Facebook group is an option. Facebook groups require moderators or administrators.
It is worthwhile to search Facebook to see if there are groups for your art niche in place. Some Facebook groups are public, but many are private, and you are required to be accepted by the group owner. Facebook groups are places where people of interests can network and share their artwork.
These groups will certainly help artists network with others in their specific niche.
All Facebook users must be members of Facebook.com.
An alternative to starting a Facebook group is to start a group on Groups.io. This is a free service, but a premium group can be created for a price. It has integrations with other applications, such as Feeds, Facebook pages, Slack, Google Drive, Github, Trello and email. Groups can be private or public.
Once again, like other online forums, these sites need moderators or administrators.
A search on groups.io indicates that the public groups relating to art and craft are small and specific to regions and specific niches.
Specific art niche societies
You may find a society or association that promotes your art niche and provides support to artists in your niche. A quick search finds coloured pencils, watercolour, oil and acrylic painting have societies in different countries. For example, coloured pencil artists have access to the United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society – ukcps.org.uk, and the Colored Pencil Society of America in the U.S.A.
Search out the societies for your niche.
Country Specific art organisations
There are paid membership options that are available in individual countries, or through domestic state organisations. For example, the three organisations below are some that are focused on Australia.
You may find local organisations that provide similar paid memberships in your country of residence. However, these organisations may be pitched to specific groups and interests. Nevertheless, they are worth considering if they provide collaborative and networking opportunities for artists in your niche.
Paid commercial sites
There are also other paid membership sites. Some commercial sites which stream art and craft lessons for viewing or purchase, such as Artist’s Network.
Free third party membership sites
Some artists use a third party membership site such as Patreon.com, either managed by the artist, or relates solely to that artist’s work.
These sites are generally income generating sites specific for that individual artist. For example, Patreon.com is a site where artists can join and show their work for free and patrons pay a monthly subscription to view the artist’s work.
Local art societies
Don’t forget your local art societies, art schools and groups in your community. These will be paid membership groups, but you can get out and physically meet people in environments set up for artists. You can speak to other artists about art issues and swap stories. You can take an art class or teach an art class.
Other forums or information searches
Other options which will may help artists network online could be with online social media forums.
First, Google is a search engine that can find information on subjects that are typed into the search bar. However, depending on the website, the information you want may be found many pages deep into your search results. It can be time-consuming to find relevant sites.
Another option to consider finding information on art and craft is to use Quora.com. Quora is a free site on which you are required to sign in before participating. Any question can be asked on Quora. It is anticipated that all responses to Quora questions are of good quality and are provided by persons who are knowledgeable in that topic. Quora states Quora is “a platform to gain knowledge, empowering people to learn from others, and better understand the world”. This is not a networking community as such, but it replicates some of WetCanvas.com’s ability to respond to individual art questions.
Reddit.com is a free online community that covers almost every topic in the world. It is easy to join. It is simple to search for a community in your niche in the search bar. You can view the community before subscribing to see if it meets your needs.
Why have the ways artists network changed?
The introduction of better technology has meant that more than ever, it is very easy to have a digital presence online. It was only a few years ago, when uploading an image to the internet would take many minutes.
Now it is possible to have a website full of images that is relatively inexpensive to run, with a fast loading time. However, this does mean that the website owners need to learn to use digital products and other skills to support and edit a website.
More free social media and visual sites
Also, the introduction of social media – such as Facebook in 2004, has meant that more people network through that social media platform. It is much easier for an artist to network – or show – their work and progress on their work through visual based social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.
Visual Search Engines
The introduction of visual searches is also shaking up the visual arts sector. Pinterest is a visual search engine, and images on Pinterest can be searched to find images that are similar. Read this blog by Yoast.com that illustrates how visual search has progressed. Visual searches are now possible with the introduction of visual search tools such as Google Lens.
Move from group to individual setting
This increase in technology – better website building, and social media to promote work, means individuals in all niches can create an online presence.
Many artists and people interested in art are growing an online presence. This has been coming for a while. You can see that the blog Making a Mark has been operation since 2006 and this holds a wealth of information for artists.
More and more blogs and websites like Making a Mark are coming online to meet the needs of smaller niches.
Another website Empty Easel also provides a platform for artists of all levels to share their work, knowledge, and to learn art techniques, as well business tips that include marketing and selling their own artwork.
Create your own blog or website, to show work, share, promote, sell – and even have your own membership site
Your own website
You could also set up your own blog on sites such as Blogger.com.
However, if you are not too frightened of technology – you can set up an inexpensive WordPress.org website, which you manage yourself. Yoast has a free WordPress training course to help people start a wordpress.org website.
You can set up this website yourself, or there are many providers who will set up websites for you for a reasonable price, and hand you the website complete with a theme ready for you to personalise yourself.
If you have a WordPress.org website, it is also possible that you can host your own membership site. This would be by using a WordPress plugin such as Memberpress and managing the site access yourself, or linking to another commercial provider that provides a membership platform.
Marketing your art online
With the improvement of technology, all other aspects of business have changed. For example, with marketing – artists can now promote their work widely with print on demand supplies such as Redbubble.com, Zazzle.com, Society6.com and Fine Art America.com.
Artwork doesn’t need to be on a wall or a giclee print. Artwork can be on clothing, home décor and everyday items. These items are then promoted on social media, or through affiliate sellers who promote on social media.
Marketing sites’ own communities
Fine Art America has an artist’s community. It includes discussions, groups, blogs, chats and graphs.
Essentially, improved technology provides great opportunities for us artists.
How would artists network if Wetcanvas.com had gone?
There are options for us visual artists to network in addition to Wetcanvas.com. Many of us have already taken the opportunity to move to new ways of networking since WetCanvas.com was created.
It is possible to join an existing group – such as DeviantArt, or make your own groups either on Facebook, Groups.io or Reddit.com.
Other possibilities are that artists join their art niche societies, print on demand sites and use the journals facilities where they can provide updates and welcome comments.
However, all these options do not replicate the scope and information that is housed on WetCanvas.com.
Change is constant
Many forums have come and gone over the life of WetCanvas.com. It is to the credit to those who support and host the site, and to the administrators and moderators who have worked to keep the forum operating.
With the improvement of technology over the years costs have been reduced. A domain name can be bought for a few dollars a year. A website can be created easily and in a few minutes. Annual hosting costs are reasonable. The technology improvement has made it easy for us artists to showcase our artwork on visual media such as Pinterest, and to sell images to print on demand sites. We can market our work on social media and can use graphics platforms with free options, such as Canva.com to create social media graphics.
However, with the improvement in technology comes the improvement of spammers and robots. This is difficult for those of us who have websites and manage forums. With repeated attacks by spammers on comment boxes on websites, many bloggers no longer receive comments on their websites, but communicate through social media.
How do artists network?
So back to the question of how do artists network.
Artists seek out information from a range of sites. For example, depending on your art interest and demographic, you could join Wetcanvas.com or DeviantArt.com, or look for your information in social media – such as Facebook.com, Reddit.com or Quora.com. Or you could find the information from niche societies and associations, on individual websites set up by artists, art bloggers on Pinterest, or through organic Google searches.
Nevertheless, being an artist at any level can be lonely. We work alone and in an individual manner. We all need to network with other like-minded artists.
Do you like this post? Save it to your “how artists network” board on Pinterest.
This post was originally published on 23rd October 2019. It was updated on 11 August 2021, and last updated on 26th January 2022.