Why is this my most liked, viewed, downloaded and commented piece of art on dA (DeviantART) and online? With 4,625 views, 135 likes, 199 comments and 1,679 downloads, “That Girl” is an odd moment in my art career where people actually participated and took a deeper notice on my art.
I recall drawing this during a time of GCSE stress, family disputes, emotional upheaval and a sense of lack of control in my life. I was 16, with emo hair, listening to Nu-Metal all day with my bulky headphones and drawing with my graphite pencils of hyperrealism portraits. I drew, “That Girl” from one of my mother’s many Vogue fashion magazines, interested in trying to capture the feminine beauty of a model. I never intended to show this to the world nor expect it to become the most popular image on the Internet by me.
But what makes “That Girl” so popular is behind the scene. During this time, dA was at its height. The popularity of the art-sharing website was known as a front runner of the Internet’s few social forums, including MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. My brother introduced me to dA and the many Manga/Anime enthusiastic users within. Within moments of uploading your “moderately okay” looking images, you would get a least 1 or 2 likes and 10 views. Which is not the case anymore in 2020. Other art-sharing sites like Instagram, Twitter, ArtStation, etc, are more used to publicise your work. But something very personal was at play, I was young and self-confident at my ability to gain popularity and fame as a “drawer” (I used to call myself “drawer” or “graphics artist” (I clearly didn’t understand what the term meant)). I spent hours communicating, sharing other people’s art, contributing to forums and groups, and most importantly asking people to view my art. Taking personal professionalism of placing my signature on the image, dating it.
In the 10 years since “That Girl”, I have drawn thousands of illustrations and concepts to get a “following”, but to no avail, I never got to the point of popularity of this image on dA. I lost a lot of confidence and had gone through cyclical periods of loneliness, depression and anxiety which still persists today. I lost a sense of self-pride and passion trying to gain people’s response by asking for it. In the 2010s, I philosophise my career with a sentence of, “if I work hard and practice every day, I will become better and people will naturally take notice of my art”. But they never really did.
The reality is that to understand popularity of artists like Loish, ArtGerm, SakimiChan and others, is to know that they worked both consistently, professionally and marketed themselves to a specific goal. I didn’t try to attend conferences, art contests and communicate with art forums regularly. I never proactively tailored my art to a studio to gain an entry point as an artist. I was drawing every topic, every theme without direction.
The next biggest image popularity is of “Elemental HERO Necryra” drawn 3 years later in 2013, with similar 4,437 views, 65 favourites, 27 comments and 31 downloads. But the reality is that it was never an immediate success as “That Girl”. I believe this has a different reason, this was not something I proactively promoted. But it gained popularity I believe from the newly introduced hashtagings and good “searchability” of Yugioh. Fanart is one of the best ways of getting yourself out there.
You can never really tell what illustration will make you famous, or give you money. The truth I believe in is that you have to proactively work towards a specific goal and holistically aim yourself towards it. Participate in things, talk to people and gain respect from job creators.