deviantART

Latest Update: After quite a long time away, I’ve been having a bit more of a play with dA recently, so I’ve added a few more notes – down at the bottom…


PigPog is all about being creative, and sharing your creativity. DeviantART is a site where you can share your art with a community. Seems like a pretty good fit, but it’s taken a long time to get around to writing about it. The reason is that we’ve never used deviantART, and it’s not as easy to understand and get to grips with as other similar sites, like Flickr.

I’ve been playing since then, though…

So What Is It?

At the simplest level, it’s just a site where you can upload images, and other people can leave comments on them – much like Flickr or others. DeviantART goes a bit further than that, though, and has a bit more of its own personality.

How Is It Different?

Features for Art

Flickr lets you upload photos. Those photos can be photos of your artwork, or crafted items, or whatever else, but the site’s focus (heh) is on photos. There’s even been talk of Flickr stopping people’s pictures from showing up in public areas if they post too many drawings and not enough photos. DeviantART is about art – that includes photography, but isn’t at all limited to it.

Uploading in deviantART is a much longer process – you have to fully categorise and sub-categorise your art before uploading it, and confirm that you have checked the categories. There are lots of notes to help you with their categories, but the first few times you do it, you might find it takes a while to pick just the right category. How abstract does something have to be to actually count as an abstract? How much modification in Photoshop or The GIMP can you get away with before something stops being a photograph and becomes digital art. And that’s after you’ve already grappled with deciding if your art is good enough to call it art, or if you should just hide it away in your ‘Scraps’ section.

The result of all this, though, is better organisation. People can find the sort of thing they’re interested in more easily, and you can see your work alongside similar things.

With photography, for example, to upload a photo, I first have to tell the site that I want to upload a ‘Deviation’ – a finished, polished, piece of art, that is – not just a ‘Scrap’ – which could be anything. I then have to pick ‘Photograph’ as the type of art, then decide on the ‘motivation’ for taking it – is it art, commercial, photo-journalism or just a snapshot. If I say it’s a snapshot, it will ignore the fact that I picked ‘Deviation’ at the start, and send the upload to my ‘Scraps’. All this seems like a bit of a hassle, but I can see the point. If I’ve clicked through at least three times to say that the thing I’m about to upload is art, not just a snapshot, it’s a bit more likely that I’ll think about what I’m uploading. The snapshots of our cats won’t get thrown in with people’s carefully-taken art shots.

One simple feature I like a lot is that you can decide for each ‘Deviation’ you upload how much you want feedback and criticism. The default is that critiques are welcome. You can choose to encourage them, or to discourage them if you prefer, or even turn off comments entirely if you’re really feeling anti-social.

‘Feel’

Flickr is pretty professional-looking. Its design is simple and straightforward – inoffensive. DeviantART is dark, with dull colours – black on a mid-grey background, and a favicon with horns. Although there’s all sorts of art on the site, there’s a definite tendency towards darker stuff – there’s plenty of angst, and you’ll be sharing the space with goths, vampires and even furries. If you can handle that, they seem to be a friendly sort of bunch generally.

Free vs Paid

Basic access to deviantART is free. If you use it a lot, though, you might like to pay them – it gets rid of the ads for starters, and enables a few more advanced features on your journal. It’s not a lot, but considering it only costs $30 for a year at the time of writing, it seems like pretty decent value.

Alternatives

After trying out deviantART, the most obvious alternative seems to be Flickr, but you could also compare it with having your own blog hosted elsewhere. Any of these options should work well enough for letting you share your creations. If you’re mainly wanting somewhere to stick your digital snaps, then Flickr is probably your best option. If your main thing is going to be ‘journal’ style posts, then a blog would be better. If you’re mainly wanting to share art – even if that art is photography – then deviantART could be a good alternative.

Lots of attention has been paid to making it suitable for sharing all kinds of art, whilst Flickr tends to discourage things other than photography. You could do pretty much anything with your own blog that you could do on deviantART, but it can be very difficult to get a sense of community, especially when you’re just starting out. I created an account at deviantART just a couple of days ago, and have only posted a few photos, but I’ve already had quite a few comments from people (all nice ones so far). If I’d created my own blog a couple of days ago, I certainly wouldn’t have expected anyone to have found it or commented on it yet.

Community

Although the features available aren’t bad at all, it strikes me that the real reason to use deviantART instead of the alternatives is that sense of community. There’s lots of people already signed up. One of the first things I did after signing up was to fill in my location by latitude and longitude. The site will then list the closest users to you. Bearing in mind that we live in a small town/village in Nottinghamshire, UK, I didn’t expect anyone to be within the first few kilometres – the nearest town of much size is around fifteen km from us. There were actually four users within 3km of us – which would put them in the same small town – I knew deviantART was a fairly big community, but that really surprised me. A couple of those didn’t appear to be active users, but at least one or two were drawing and posting things regularly.

Conclusions

I actually liked deviantART more than I thought I would. I get the feeling that it’s aimed a bit more at angsty teens, or people who consider themselves to be vampires, and there’s definitely those on the site who really qualify for the term ‘deviant’, but I quite like that mix. For some reason, I find it kind of inspiring to be ‘hanging around’ with such different people.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Flickr when I first started posting there was that I felt comfortable, but pushed at the same time. There were plenty of people just posting snaps of their dogs, so I didn’t feel I was lowering the tone by posting my pictures there. At the same time, there were those who were posting some amazing artistic photos that really challenged me.

DeviantART feels a bit more challenging still – there’s less rubbish, so it’s easier to feel like you’re lowering the tone if your stuff isn’t good, but there’s enough beginners around to keep you encouraged too. Some of the best people, though, are really good.

Using Flickr inspired me to a different style of photography – the pictures I found most impressive myself changed what I was doing and what I was seeing. I could quite see deviantART having a similar effect on me – taking my pictures to darker places, and perhaps finally persuading me to start learning to do a bit more with The GIMP.

In the end, the important thing about a site like this is that it encourages you, inspires you, and helps to bring out your creativity – I think deviantART manages all of these things.


Update…

I found myself looking around for sites that let you sell prints and stock photos recently, and remembered after a while that you can sell prints through deviantART now. Even free accounts can sell prints for a profit, which seems to be a reasonably unusual thing. I’ve set up my own shop and added a few of the best photos to it. Doubt I’ll make any sales – previous experience with other such services has never had any success, but since it’s easy and free, it’s worth a go. I keep being impressed by what an encouraging community deviantART have built up, too, which can be a difficult thing to do.

Also, the process for submitting new art (‘deviations’) has been improved a lot. You still have to make similar selections, but the redundancy has been cut away, and selecting categories is wonderfully quick and easy now. Your most used categories are in a handy drop-down box, and the rest can be picked with a nice pop-up layer tool, so you don’t click through pages of forms. The whole submission process is now on one page, and interactive. There’s only an extra page to fill in if you want to make the work available as a print, and most of that is filled in for you already.

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