Make your Art go Viral: The 7 steps to increase your chances

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Make your Art go Viral:
The 7 steps to increase your chances

We all have our own personal reasons for creating art. Some of us produce art for ourselves only, to satisfy that gnawing feeling inside, to scratch that itch that never seems to go away. For many of us, part of the creative journey is to show our work to as many people as possible. The reasons are different for all of us.

For some, getting caught up in a sudden wave of online popularity sounds like a rush. Those 3 words “It’s going viral!” has become synonymous with excitement and intrigue. ‘Going viral’ has even become regarded to many as the magic bullet for fame and (hopefully) fortune.

When it comes to building an online presence, everyone’s motivations are different. Perhaps you may want your art to go viral in hopes it will bring you more work. Or maybe you like the idea of becoming well known and growing your list of friends and followers. Regardless of your reasons, here are some steps I’ve learned that can quickly increase your online popularity.

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Step 1 – Be true to your work
First, focus on what YOU like, what YOU want to create, rather than trying to create images solely for appealing to the masses. Ya that sounds like the opposite of “going viral” doesnt it? It’s not, really. You dont want to just go viral and then disappear after 5 minutes. By building a portfolio based on artistic integrity and being true to yourself, the people who get introduced to you from a viral post will more likely stay around and become a fan.

Think of it this way – imagine you are a beverage company. Think of your artwork as your beverage line sitting in a 7-11. Your artwork that goes viral is the good-looking promo girl catching people’s attention at a packed event. She will draw attention to your product, but if there’s no ‘substance’, you wont have people buying your product at the store and you will be forgotten.

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Step 2 – Combine, distort, and/or parody popular themes.
From observation of other artist’s work that has gone viral, and from my own experience, there seems to be a common trend with artwork that gets shared quickly. Most often it is work that takes a popular theme that most people are familiar with, and either twists it in a way that people have not thought of, or combines it with other themes. I look at it like tossing an anchor into the viewers brain, then hooking the other end into another part of their psyche, creating a link that causes the viewer to have a stronger and more memorable connection with your artwork.

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An example of combining themes would be Damon Hellandbrand’s Zodiac Monsters, beautifully merging 2 popular themes, zodiac symbols and monsters, into one. I’m sure if he simply illustrated random monsters the work would still be beautiful, but would not have nearly became as popular.

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Or take Brian Kesinger’s artwork that went viral, ““Star Wars” Reimagined As “Calvin & Hobbes” Characters”. Again, joining 2 different themes that everyone knows and loves to create something unique.

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Distorting popular themes is another method of creating artwork that seems to catch on with the masses. Take Dina Goldstein’s series ‘Fallen Princesses’, which takes the popular Disney Princesses and realizes them with the pessimistic, hard truths of life.

I’ve found this simple concept of merging, distorting, and parodying popular themes is one of the key factors in making artwork go viral. You could paint the greatest still-life bowl of fruit and there would be a slim chance you would ever get massively recognized (unless you already have a sizable following). But if you made the fruit in your still-life look like, well, popular world leaders for example, you can bet your images (and name) would travel a lot quicker through the web.

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Step 3 – Create a series of images
Something that I have found that helps to increase your chances of being discovered, is not to just make a ‘one-off’ image, but instead focus on a series of images fitting your theme. One of the reasons your images are displayed and talked about on other blog sites is because those bloggers are looking for content to fill a page. By giving someone more to look at and talk about, you are increasing your chances of your work being picked up on a high traffic website. (Note that all the examples I’ve shown in Step 2 have been part of a series as well).

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Step 4 – Write about your work
This ties in a bit to the previous step. Again, bloggers are looking for content, and not just images. These news and blog sites exist for them to run google ads on. The ads function better when there is more text body to read from. This is why many times when a website reposts your work, they may make up content or put things in their own words. By writing this content yourself, this increases your chance to have your work written about, as well as being more accurate as well.

 

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Step 5 – Dedicate a page on your website for your Artwork series
Well it goes without saying that if you don’t have a website, then you definitely need one. This is crucial. You NEED to have a central place where people can link back to your images and find all the information they need about you. Another important reason for having a website is that you can monitor your traffic statistics. If all you have is a social media page, how can you see how many people are visiting your website every day? How do you know which blog site they came from? Or how long they spent looking at the images, or which they looked at the most?

Also, if you want people to re-share and blog about your work, you are going to want a central place where they can see high-quality versions of your images that have not had their resolution murdered by social media websites.

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Step 6 – Share Share Share!
Now that you have your artwork completed and up on your website, it is time to share away. Post to Facebook, Instagram (use relevant hashtags), Tumblr, Google +, Pinterest, and any portfolio sites you have an account with (500px, Deviantart, etc). Do as much as you can to get your work in front of as many people as you can.

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Step 7 – Wait.
That’s right, you can’t make things go viral in a day. But sometimes it does happen. In the end, it comes down to your creativity in how well you have executed your concept. It could take a week, a month, or even 6 months, but all it takes is that certain someone to post it to a relatively high traffic website, and then it all snowballs from there. Once that happens, in a matter of days other bloggers and website owners will take your content and make their own pages about you. People on social media will share these articles en mass and it will spread like wildfire.

From my own experience, my Disney Warrior Princess series didn’t really go viral until about 4 or 5 months after I started posting the images. With my Internet Browser series it happened much faster, and within a month it was featured on hundreds of different websites in about a dozen or so languages. However the speed of that series going viral was attributed to the following I had gathered from my previous viral images.

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(Probably the most gratifying thing of watching my Disney Warrior Princess Series go viral, was seeing cosplayers putting their time and money into recreating my designs. Absolutely flattering! (Jasmine #1 cosplayer: Aspen, Jasmine #2 cosplayer: Jacqueline Soto, Tiana cosplayer: Natalia) )

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Final Thoughts
As you ponder the ways to get your artwork out there, remember that in the end, ‘going viral’ isn’t the be-all and end-all of internet fame and fortune, and is in no way a measure of your artistic skill. This quick exposure doesn’t necessarily translate equally into dollars either. You can expect to see a surge in your social media following, maybe some extra print or book sales, but nothing to retire on.

We’ve all seen some amazing artwork being shared again and again, but I’m sure you’ve also seen some pretty ridiculous stuff go viral as well. Sometimes we can’t even predict what will take off and what won’t. It’s like throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks. Though hopefully with what you’ve read here you’ve gained a better idea of what will stick.

Your reasons and motivations to go viral are your own. But whatever they may be, I hope you find success in what ever you set out to achieve!