How to be a successful Tumblr artist

Tumblr's art community has hit the spotlight this week in Paris thanks to a new campaign that has transformed department store Galeries Lafayette into a Tumblr-driven gallery (above). 

In addition to 1,000 crowd-sourced artists whose work can be seen covering the entire façade of Galeries Lafayette until 24 October, there are also five stand-out artists who were chosen by the curator of the exhibition Nicola Fomichetti, Diesel's art director and Lady Gaga's former stylist. These five artists - all discovered by Nicola through Tumblr - play a bigger part in the project, with their work shown off on an even larger scale both inside and outside of the store.

Central St Martins graduate Roxanne Gatt is among the five chosen artists, alongside French visual artist Nicolas Boillot, architect and graphic designer Eva Papamargarti from Greece, China-based Kim Laughton and artist-render avatar LaTurbo Avedon from the USA.

The five chosen artists have their work displayed on an enormous scale inside Galeries Lafayette.

I was invited to the unveiling of the exhibition, and while there, I caught up with some of the artists chosen to take part in the project to find out how they use Tumblr as digital artists, and what Tumblr has enabled them to achieve.

AA: How does it feel to see your work in the physical form on such a huge scale when you're so used to seeing it on screen?

Nicolas Boillot: "It's a change of context. We have more time to look at the pieces whereas on a screen we take only a few seconds and then pass on to another thing."

Eva Papamargarti: "You can also see the artwork in comparison to the building which is interesting. You see the juxtaposition of the many layers, which is something you don't see on the internet because then it's only you - the spectator -and the spectacle on the screen."

Kim Laughton: "You notice that something's work and some things don't. When it's on a screen it's got your undivided attention but when it's here it looks very different. You notice why advertising images are very high contrast."

Here's one of Kim Laughton's pieces currently being displayed at Galeries Lafayette.

AA: How do you use Tumblr to help you as an artist?

NB: "Tumblr is like a new place to show our work and share it."

EP: "It's a very instant way of showing your work to the public and, for me personally, since I've made my Tumblr, I'm getting invited to more and more exhibitions and projects. It has helped me a lot.

"I think it's a good thing for a platform like this to give people a chance to show their work to a large audience."

Roxanne Gatt: "Books are inspiration, galleries are inspiration, but Tumblr is like this massive online gallery. And you get to know people who aren't well known to the important people."

Roxanne Gatt's Galeries Lafayette piece was inspired by people on the internet.

AA: But Tumblr is so expansive, and hosts more than 100 million blogs. How does anyone see yours?

KL: "There's an awful lot on the internet but it is very hard to sift through. The best thing about Tumblr for me is that you can actually sift through it. You can follow people who've got interesting tastes then you see the stuff they're reposting.

"That's changed the way it works for me because it's so interesting to see my work pass through different places."

RG: "It's true that Tumblr is an enormous space but at least it's something. When there wasn't Tumblr or social media it was even more difficult to show your work. Now at least you have a small audience that appreciates your work and eventually this small audience grows. Hopefully!"

"I think many people are doing it. Technology and young people are so in sync. It helps. You can get feedback and constructive criticism."

KL: "The work most people do, if they're doing it just for Tumblr, it's going to be a little bit different from the work they do for another project because it can be a bit faster and you don't have to polish it too much, you can just put it out there, share an idea."

Eva uses new media platforms to explore 2D and 3D spaces.

AA: How important are the likes and reblogs for Tumblr success?

KL: "I think it's part of the process. If you're making art for Tumblr you're going to notice the shares whether you like it or not. Some things will work some won't."

EP: "The fact is that the more likes you get or the more notes, the easier it is to become more known to the public. That's how it works. It's a very important part of the process."

KL: "Tumblr can be quite fickle because the best stuff sometimes doesn't get noticed for a while, then someone will notice it and then it gets reblogged.  Then it'll go on hold for a while and then someone else will notice it again. Then it sort of spirals through."

EP: "Even if some thing doesn't get the notice you hope at a certain time, it might get noticed one month later or one year later. I had posts that have become known one year later."

KL: "It's really nice when people share it. The work appears in a very different context in a jumble on someone else's Tumblr, and they might have a totally different way of doing it. Especially with transparent work when you see it mixed with other stuff. It's a very new way of looking at it."

Visual artist Nicolas Boillot creates his work using code.

AA: Do you ever worry about what happens to your work on Tumblr? Has anyone ever tried to pass off your work as their own or used your work in their own art?

NB: "We don't care. It's just like digital music. And we already have the same image in higher resolution."

KL: "It's an interesting thing actually. With this new wave of art in the past few years, I think people are happier just to have it shared around and people mess around with it. It's far less precious than previously when people would put a watermark on it on their work.

"Nobody can actually genuinely pass it off as their own work. But I don't think it matters too much because you can't worry about that. For me Tumblr is interesting because you don't need to pay, you don't need to go to an art gallery. It cuts away the art industry. It's happened to the music industry, it's happening to books and now it's finally happening to art.

"I think we can all agree that a lot about the conventional art set up is not very productive to good art being made, whereas if you're making it purely for yourself to share with other people, and people are sharing it purely because they like it and there's no cash involved that really changes things."

NB: "If someone copies your work you have to be proud of it. We're one step in front if copiers."

AA: What happens if Tumblr dies?

EP: "I think that if Tumblr dies then something else will come up and takes its place."

KL: "Tumblr will die. It's a given that it'll happen in less than five years."

EP: "That's how it works. Everything dies, the internet included. You have to be prepared."

AA: Have you got any final words of advice for artists hoping to use Tumblr as a platform for sharing their work and increasing their audience?

RG: "I think artists shouldn't give up. It takes time and as long as you enjoy doing something that's the most important thing. Appreciate what you're doing. I think you should just do whatever you want to do, even if it's bad."

EP: "It takes patience and you must upload and renew your work regularly."

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