The Surprising Reason Art Giveaways Can Make You Money

Whether you’re a designer, a digital artist, a painter, or an artist of any kind, you’ve been asked at least once (probably many more times) to give away your artwork for free, in return for “exposure”.

This wouldn’t be acceptable in any other field, and asking for free work is just plain unethical, right? Well, I recently spoke with two artists who managed to change my mind — at least partially — on this. The key is, if you’re an artist giving away your work, you have to have a strategy and make sure you’re giving it to the right people.

While that statement is deceptively simple, it’s a major challenge for artists to put into action. Who do I give the artwork to? Why is this a good idea? When is it a good idea to give away artwork? And when is it enough? After all, you have to start making money off your artwork at some point!

If you’re struggling with this concept, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.

Those two successful, full-time artists I spoke to gave answers that were seriously surprising.

“The people that fund charities, the people that help nonprofits, the people that have free time to go to these things, are also the people that support the arts because they have the time and money to be able to do it.

I didn’t think about that at the start. People would say “thank you so much for coming out for our cause” and then in the same breath they’re saying “hey, by the way, I like your art and I want to commission a piece”. I think that’s a great way to get started.” — John Bramblit, read the full interview here.

John Bramblit is a blind visual artist who paints using his sense of touch and “cane skills”. When he started painting, he didn’t have a network of galleries supporting him or any big contacts in the art world. But with each charity event he volunteered for, he got commissions in return.

By giving away something for free, he gained access to people who were interested in the arts AND had the money to pay for it.

He went on in our interview to say that pieces at charity art auctions often sell for prices that far exceed your normal range. While art galleries and collectors are aware of this, it still places a higher value on your work, which you can use to your advantage.

“You have to talk to people! Beyond that, it’s all about self-promotion and putting yourself out there. Set up a portfolio, make postcards with your art and go to your local city hall to request public space. Donate art to benefit nonprofit organizations. Use your art to make a difference! That’s something I’m very passionate about — it’s just a bonus that it also happens to be a great way to promote your work.” — Michael Dergar, read the full interview here.

Michael is devoted to creating equality in art. He regularly donates 50% of his exhibition sales and has founded a charity that helps disabled artists make a living. Like Bramblit, he suggests you donate your art to non-profits. By doing this your artwork will either be auctioned or displayed in a prominent public space raising your profile.

Beyond whether or not a gallery owner ‘likes’ your art, they also want to know that your work has an audience that’s willing to pay for it. At the end of the day, a gallery only has so much wall space — and they have bills to pay. By showing that your art has been bought at auctions or displayed by charities, you also prove that you’re a good investment of time.

So to answer the original question, yes, giving away your art for free can make you money. Especially if you donate it to a worthy cause. It’s a win-win situation and proves that if you go into it with a plan, giving away artwork for exposure really can be worth the investment.

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Where we make D Emptyspace

As you might guess, as a company that’s creating a virtual gallery app, we pay very careful attention to spaces.

In our app, D Emptyspace, you don’t just upload photos into an album to share. The app encourages you to take time to arrange the photos, to tell a story, and to set the context so that fans and potential patrons can become a part of that story.

When we went in search of an office, we knew it had to be inspiring, to fit our aesthetic and, of course, help us tell a story. Here is a quick peek inside of our office. What story do you think it tells?

Our office is part of a space in Seoul called Hyundai Card Studio Black, which caters primarily to startups like us.

We have a tradition that when someone visits our office for the first time, they leave us a note wishing us good luck. This one, written in Korean, reads, next time I visit, I’ll come with my hands full, implying that we can expect some office warming gifts!

Here are a few pictures of us getting down to work, attempting to make D Emptyspace great.

We couldn’t possibly design an app for artists without some actual “art” in our office. You’re welcome to suggest some names for the pieces below.

Stick with us. We’re more than just a pretty office. The D Emptyspace app will let you create immersive virtual art galleries on your phone and unleash your creativity!

Download the app on iOS:

Android version coming soon!

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Why You’re Wrong if You Think VR Art is a Gimmick

Why You’re Wrong if You Think VR Art is a Gimmick

Photo by from Pexels

Most artists — at some point in their creative journey — fantasize about creating their own world… their own reality. A place born from their imagination and will.

“I paint flowers so they will not die.” — Frida Kahlo

Humans have been fascinated with the concept of virtual reality since 1935 when American science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum presented the idea in his short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”. And since the Oculus Rift (a popular VR headset) was launched in 2012, VR is becoming more immersive and more prevalent with every passing year.

Cover of Pygmalion’s Spectacles short story

And with software like Google’s tilt brush becoming more intuitive and easy to use, artists are starting to create works that live exclusively in the digital realm.

And no, it’s not only digital artists who are doing so. Fine artists are taking up the mantle as well.

“In short: technology provides new tools for expression and it changes the way we think about the world. It has the power to fundamentally change our collective understanding of art. But technology alone does not have that power. Certain historic and philosophical conditions had to be in place as well.” — Dalibor Polivka, The Real Politics of Art

Artists are building a ‘portal’ into a reality of their own making

This is a major VR art installation at Círculo de Bellas Artes titled “Temperate Forest” presented by Cristina Garcia-Lasuen. And she’s coined the term “Portal Art” to encapsulate a genre she describes as “3D, VR, immersive, interactive, realistic, multi-sensory, of the world.”

She also states that for virtual reality art to be considered as “fine art” it should fall under these criteria:

Criteria 1

For a creation to be a work of art, it must be done by an art professional: an artist.

Criteria 2

The objective must respond to very elaborate intellectual criteria and not merely aesthetic ones. The exclusively aesthetic, without previous intellectual development, is not art; it is ‘something decorative’.

Criteria 3

For conceptual art, as an essential priority, the work must be the result of a long reflexive process, in accordance with artistic, philosophical, literary and art history concepts. The concept that has inspired the reflexive work is the most important thing — much more than the final result or aesthetics.”

One of the most difficult things about promoting and sharing virtual art is that it can only be done in virtual reality. However, the video above depicts exactly how an artist can go about creating a portrait with Google’s tilt brush.

“The Chalkroom” by Laurie Anderson

Fine artists are setting up installations at well-known museums. And their popularity is overwhelming. “The Chalkroom” by Laurie Anderson at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) is booked out up to 30 days in advance. And Jon Rafman’s “View of Harbor” by Jon Rafman(where a tsunami sweeps you out into the ocean) is capturing the imagination of thousands at the Institute of Contemporary Art

The Artistic community is excited and gearing up to keep improving the tech

“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.” — Victor Pinchuk

Google’s serious about getting on board with the artistic community. They’re working with 60 professional artists to explore and improve the current tools available.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Other Realities is an exclusive VR museum that hires, pays, and promotes artists across multiple disciplines.

And there’s many, many more VR projects,art pieces, and worlds out there — most in their infancy — for you to experience.

And here’s the good news — people are investing in and collecting VR art installations

The bad news is that it can be a little tricky to purchase, install, maintain exclusivity, and keep the tech working for years to come.

Private art buyers can now purchase a VR art installation for either investment or display in their home. All that’s needed to view the piece? A headset and a 3×3 block of empty space.

Galleries focusing on new media (like TRANSFER Gallery in the US) are actively supporting VR artists by providing funding, promotion, and installation.

“TRANSFER offers support for artists who are experimenting with new forms of installation and exhibition of Virtual Reality works.”

However, once you’ve purchased an artwork, how do collectors and investors retain and preserve their exclusivity? And how do you ensure the art remains viewable as new technologies emerge and may not be backward compatible. The answer deserves a whole article of its own, but this quote describes the underlying problem clearly.

“Let’s say you’re acquiring a Wolfgang Tillmans photograph. The work would be editioned, perhaps with additional artist’s proofs — but the gallery representing the artist would probably not concurrently post a high-resolution file of the image, welcoming anyone to reprint it at their local copy shop. For some working on the cutting-edge of VR art, collecting such material involves letting go of some of the preconceptions we have surrounding unique art objects and their attendant value.” — Scott Indrisek, contributing writer for Artsy. Link to the full article.

So do you want to create your own VR artworks?

All the equipment and software you need to get started will set you back around $1000. But from there, all you need is an internet connection and power. You have an unlimited virtual canvas that can be as big (or as small) as you want it to be.

If you want to get started with taking your art digital, head on over to the app store and download D Emptyspace. It’s a virtual gallery app that’ll give you a taste of what you can accomplish in a new, virtual world.

Download the app on iOS:

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

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