The digitalization of art is here and now. The Freer/Sackler museum has digitalized over 40,000 works of art and made them available for download. More and more art is sold online, thanks to platforms such as Google Art Project, Amazon Art or Artprice. But how can an artist, the creator of this art, adapt to this digitalization?
Matthieu Fouchier is a 25-year-old concept artist working for a mobile and social gaming company, Pretty Simple. Because the subject of the digitalization of art is such a broad subject, we decided to zoom in on social media. As a young artist of the Y generation, he had the perfect profile for me to pick his brains on how social media has changed the way artists today work.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path?
So I grew up in France and after high school, I went to an animation arts school where I learned the basics I needed to know about fine arts/animation/illustration. Then I went to another school to reorient myself into concept art for video games, cinema, etc… After a few internships, I got a job at Pretty Simple.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
As many children do, I was drawing as a child and I never stopped. I got a feel for it in high school and even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to do exactly, I knew I wanted to create stuff. There was no real switch between traditional and digital art, between drawing with a pen and paper and drawing on a computer. We learn traditional art during our high school art classes, but at that time I already had a Wacom tablet to paint digitally. Then in superior art schools, artists do both traditional and digital art, because it is important to know the basics of traditional drawing, but know how to work in digital as well. The thing is that digital and traditional art are mediums you choose for yourself. There are very good artists in digital and they have the same job as some very good people who do everything traditionally.
What social media tools do you use as an artist and how do they affect your way of working?
We quickly learn that we have to be everywhere, because we have to show our work on different platforms. I deleted almost everyone I had on Facebook and kept only the artists so my feed is artists only, same for Twitter… I have a Tumblr for my personal stuff and inspiration, I can search Pinterest for a photo or a reference, I talk to people on art forums… Companies search different platforms so if you’re everywhere, there are lots of chances they will find you. Sharing your work and having feedback from fellow artists is THE main advantage of social media.
How do you think social media has changed the way people view artists?
Nowadays I see a lot of artists, like video game artists, that mainstream people don’t know, that have a lot of followers because the people who play the games can see the art and can appreciate it more. They see the process of people working on the games. There’s a guy I follow on Instagram who has 60 000 followers and he’s an artist for video games. That also goes for writing or any aspect of the creation of a game or film. It makes people feel closer to the process, the industry and the artist. It also shows that it is a possible way to earn money to the younger generations and goes against the typical stereotype of the starving bohemian artist.
How do you think social media inspires artists, if it does at all?
Social media is part of our lives now, and some artist make statements about it in art. Just look at people like Banksy or TV shows like Black Mirror. Social media is part of pop culture, so it influences artists but overall it’s mostly a tool that artists use to showcase their work. Even if you don’t use it, it’s there and so people will talk about it and react to it.
Do you think it’s easier to market yourself on the internet than using traditional means?
You have to go to workshops and talk shows and meet other artists and companies. But if you’re showing stuff online, there’s a chance they’ll know you already. Even if you’re not talking to people in real life, you have to have a presence online. Some people though are so good that they will not show any of their work and still be hired and known. But for new artists, you have to market yourself online as well as using traditional means. There’s a community so you can share with other people who do the same work you do and you can also show your work to companies in other countries.
We see a lot of people used to things being free on the internet and stealing artists’ work to reuse or make money out of. Do you think social media and the digitalization of art has lessened its value?
I don’t think it has to do with the value of the art itself. If someone is stealing work from someone else, it’s because they saw a value in it. The problem stems from the concept of the internet itself, not the users. Copyright for artists who post their stuff online is still very vague and blurry. They have no protection, and the community has all the time an artist who sees his artwork stolen or reused without his agreement. Artists can add a watermark, like a signature, but anyone can take the art and erase the watermark or slightly change the art. The only thing they can do is complain to the person who stole it. If the artist has a following, a backup, it can work but otherwise there’s not much you can do. So it’s a double-edged sword. You have to share your work online to be successful at the risk of getting it stolen. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages: but the explosion of extremely talented artist we see today is due to the openness of the internet and social media.
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