How deviantART Works


deviantART's home page randomly displays works of art created by its members. See more pictures of popular web sites.
Screenshot by Nathan Chandler

Starving artists may still have it rough, but thanks to the social networking power of the Web, at least they have each other. More specifically, they can congregate en masse through online communities such as deviantART. deviantART is one of the largest artist gatherings ever, touting more than nine million members (called "deviants" in site parlance) who upload more than 100,000 videos and photographs every day.

Although members use digital photos to display the results of their labor, deviantART isn't focused only on digital imaging. Art categories cover just about anything you can imagine, including photography, film and animation, poetry, and anime, as well as traditional crafts like sculpture, pottery, painting and drawing. Members upload pictures or videos of their work to personal galleries that guests or other members can peruse.

Similar to other social networking Web sites, deviantART continually evolves and adds new features to satisfy current members and draw new devotees. You can interact with other artists in a plethora of ways: share comments on artwork, join discussion forums, engage in real-time chat, and much more. In that sense, the site is a work of art in and of itself, continually transforming and changing into a premier online destination much different than the fledgling site that launched in Hollywood, Calif., in 2000.

These days, deviantART needs 50 employees and a group of dedicated volunteers to keep the massive site running smoothly. Their collective efforts ensure that this vibrant artist community continues to benefit both artists and art lovers alike. Keep reading to see how deviantART works to serve artists in what may be the ultimate hipster hangout.

Using deviantART

You must create an account before you can use deviantART.
You must create an account before you can use deviantART.
Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com

As with most social networking Web sites, using deviantART requires you to create a personal account. To begin, you select a user name identifying you from the hordes of other artists on the site. Next, registration gives you a custom URL that looks like this: http://username.deviantArt.com, where username is replaced by your chosen moniker.

In tandem with your password, your login name helps you control your personal gallery of artwork (aptly called deviations) and account settings. And each account comes with a customizable profile that lets you update personal information and tailor your user settings. You can upload a deviantID (a picture that's displayed next to your user name) and input personal details, such as your favorite band or favorite artists, in your Devious Info section. You can also write in your Journal, which is basically a blog where you can discuss your art or anything else that's on your mind.

Your profile also features a Newest section that highlights the most recent pictures you've uploaded. Anyone who browses your profile will immediately see these works. Those who appreciate your talent may click +deviantWATCH, which is the deviantART equivalent of bookmarking a Web site in your browser. People who watch your work are listed in your Watchers list, and they'll receive updates each time you upload new work.

You can watch other users, as well, and add particularly interesting works to your Favorites section. When you're browsing artwork throughout the site, you can simply click and drag an image into your Favorites. Those favorites appear in your personal profile so you can remember the artist and their work at a later date, and so other users can see what sort of art you prefer.

Your profile is totally customizable thanks to oodles of so-called modules that you can swap in and out of your page. You can add a Collections module that helps you organize work by projects, News, Polls, Webcams, Twitter, and Visitor modules, among others, thus tweaking the breadth and depth of information you share.

Benefits of deviantART

Just like other online social networking sites, you can pay for a monthly or yearly subscription that gives you access to extra features and capabilities. Because artists evolve through feedback from their peers, perhaps the most vital paid feature is Critiques, which lets you solicit in-depth observations on a specific piece of work you created. In addition, you can write critiques for other artists and help them hone their craft.

The tremendous volume of digitized artwork flowing into deviantART's services requires a lot of hard disk space and bandwidth, meaning the site incurs substantial infrastructure bills. To offset those expenses, deviantART posts banner ads on many of its pages. Although a basic membership is free, deviants with paid subscriptions can browse the site ad-free.

There are other benefits for paying members, too. You can apply journal skins to your blog to personalize its appearance, access your gallery's visitor statistics, participate in the beta testing of unreleased features, start polls and more. You can also sell prints of your work through deviantART's online store, although the site does take a percentage of your earnings.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of deviantART is that you become part of an online community that provides exposure for its members. Each day, site administrators post Daily Deviations, which are hand-selected works from artists who create unique works and who actively participate in the community. And simply having a gallery of your best work online is important, too, letting you show off your creative skills to potential employers or fans with deep pockets and a love of interesting art.

Although garnering more profile views doesn't necessarily mean more accolades or paid work, marketing-savvy artists can use the site's many interactive networking features (and deviantART's embedded paid advertising links) to increase gallery traffic.

Membership also lets you participate in DEVmeets, which are offline gatherings where deviants meet, network and brainstorm their projects.

deviantART and the Artist's Life

The power of deviantART's online community is undeniable. With so many artists sharing so much information, the site is a great place to share your work and improve as an artist. But there are just as many ways to get lost in the huge volume of features found on the site, and unconscionable users prey on artists naïve to the Web's reach and power.

One sticking point for many users is copyright enforcement. Once you upload a picture to the site, it's easy for other users to copy the image to their own computers; then they can potentially use that image for any imaginable purpose, including commercial gain. You can resize your images to a lower quality or add watermarks making them less tempting for thieves, but doing so means viewers see fewer details in your work, too.

DeviantART relies on site members to report copyright infringement. The site's copyright policy gives examples of copyrighted works and tells members what steps to take if they believe someone else has used their artwork without permission.

As with all social networks, both online and off, deviantART sometimes receives negative attention for attracting people who use their anonymity to criticize others and their work. Given the immensity of this community, you'll have to expect that you'll encounter some less-savory types who feel the need to criticize your work in an unproductive manner. However, as the site's proponents like to say, the more positive feedback you offer to your fellow artists, the more you'll receive in return.

In spite of the possible challenges you may face in this sprawling online community, deviantART offers a multitude of features and tools useful to artists.

For more information on social networking and related topics, deviate to the next page.

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Sources

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