Is Social Media Killing Painting?


Just kidding about the clickbait of course. This is actually a serious question. I talk to painters all over the globe frequently and the same theme is coming up in conversations across the board: "I feel like Facebook has ruined the community and I miss the days of the forum!"

I'll be honest, I've felt this way for a while. I've wondered if social media, in general, has done more harm than good to our little community. From my point of view, I've seen the evolution of our community from the beginning of the Golden Era of Forums to now, where Facebook is King! Let me describe for you what I've observed. 

Forums were a great place to go. You had an entire global community at your fingertips that wasn't easily accessible before. Forums are also great repositories of information. Someone asked a question about how to paint leather, for instance, and if someone came on later to ask the same, they could do a forum search first and find ALL THE ADVICE! It was a great repository of knowledge. 

Also, you could post your photos, leave the thread for a day, go to class or work or whatever, then come back and have a heap of information that you could always find. It never got buried because it was in your notifications as well as listed in your current threads. Easy to go back and reference and you could save thread topics as favorites. 

I made so many friends on the Reaper and CoolMiniOrNot forums. Friends that I still have 10 years later. Friends I've now met face to face or will be meeting in a few days time in Europe! The forums changed my life in a very positive way. They also helped me get through a really dark time in my life by friends really being there for me when I needed it. 

I felt that the community was really friendly and people were more invested in work, not the person producing the work. 

Fast forward to where we are today. Forums are dead. Revivals have been tried but I think we won't go back to forums until the coding changes for them a bit to make them easier to use. Let's face it, that's one of the pluses of Facebook! It's super easy to upload a photo and get instantaneous feedback. 

But is that a good thing?

I'm not entirely sold. I've had my Facebook pages for a few years now. Over the last few years in particular, it seems to be the attitudes across the community are very negative in general. Where once, you posted in the forums and people would give kudos AND constructive criticism and that was the expectation for behavior. Now, people post things up and because all of us are able to be inundated with beautiful work all the time, comments aren't left, you get thumbs up and if anyone tries to give constructive criticism, someone usually gets their knickers in a twist and you get accused of being mean. It's happened to me and I've seen it happen to other painters as well. 

Unfortunately, it seems like criticism of any kid other than "hey, that looks great" is not appropriate on social media. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?! And how are we supposed to grow as artists? The reason miniature painting has changed so drastically in 10 years is because more artists being drawn to the artform and applying classical techniques and sharing the works as well as advice on forums. That's where the growing happened: Forums!

Facebook also allows painters, such as myself, gather a following which essentially turns you into a celebrity. This is my first time in Folkestone at Euromilitaire, meeting people I've never met before and people knew who I was because of my exposure on social media. It's great and I love meeting new people. At the same time, it's suuuuuuuper weird! I have zero anonymity in our community. And that puts me and others like me at the fore and others have certain, a lot of times, unfair, expectations of us. 

I've seen it happen with so many artists too where social media jetisons their exposure through follows and allows more exposure in the community at greater speed. So people end up having epic rises in the ranks, but it means equally epic falls when something may happen or politicking gets involved in the scene. 

I actively follow a handful of artists, those who inspire me with their painting as well as their attitude. Facebook has made it difficult to get a good spread of everyone's work though, without having an overwhelming and cluttered feed. Everyone has their own studio page now which means you have to follow, like, a bazillion pages to find the great work out there. Once upon a time, you logged into one spot, looked at the new posts and saw everyone's work. And had pages advertising upcoming events all over the world. No more! Now you open Facebook on your phone and it's a PAINTSPLOSION!

I find it overwhelming and many I've talked to, including my husband, have said that it actually kills their motivation to paint because they see TOO MUCH painted stuff. By seeing too much, they see cool models but then they see 20 copies painted and think, "Well, it's already been done. Why do I need to paint it?! So n So Famous Name has painted it so well. Mine will look like crap!" I fall into this trap! Mark and I are making the conscious decision to unplug and turn painting back into a For Fun hobby activity again. As opposed to trying to produce the next coolest thing the fastest way possible because you have to market yourself. It's exhausting and demoralizing. Facebook has killed my motivation so much. Additionally, it's hard to make actual friends on Social Media any more. Everyone is just concerned with being The Next Big Thing (tm) as opposed to just being real. 

I miss the feeling I had when I was a part of the forums. I feel like I actually got to know people more personally because sharing a part of your private life was more meaningful. You didn't have a constant window into someone's life and what they were doing. Today, it's like everyone has to be a Reality TV Star. They are "on" all the time and they don't ever shut the public persona off. It's one of the reasons I've actually gotten a bit more private in the last year. My life doesn't need to be an open book. If people ask questions, I'll answer them truthfully, but it doesn't need to be broadcast all over the place. 

Instead, I want to focus on publishing my professional exploits: working with Steam Forged Games, going to awesome shows, teaching events and producing great looking minis. Because I am an artist publicly. That's what people should see. I should be judged on my work. Nothing else. 

Painting shouldn't be a popularity contest and unfortunately, it's turned into that. It's about who has the biggest and best name a lot of the time, not the substance. And we are doing ourselves a disservice by continuning that falacy. 

I'd love to see the forums come back. I miss the forums. I miss the friendships. I miss the professionalism that came with them. We need to hold ourselves and our community to a higher standard and perhaps, take our painting and community building BACK to the forums and ditch the facebook groups.