If you’ve been an artist in the digital realm for any time, you’ve likely seen the comings and goings of several online communities trying to dedicate themselves as a way for artists to show off their work. Seasoned veterans like DeviantArt have stood the test of time, adapting to changing technology and continuing to soldier on. Others, like ConceptArt.org which was once the place to be for video game artists, seemingly vanish without a trace.
But with all the different phases of the internet forcing art communities to re-think how they give access to and serve creators, none have taken a social-media first approach to the problem until now – and that’s where Artfol comes in.
The challenge social media brings to the art world is one that lies between the abundance of options and a lack of artist-focused features. As a handful of platforms monopolize the social media sphere, squeezing out smaller rivals one by one, and then shifting focus to monetization, it becomes increasingly difficult to be seen as a creator. These days building an audience is as much of a time and money sink as doing the art itself – and that’s frustrating and quite frankly prohibitive, favoring those who already have time or money to spare.
Where Artfol promises to be different is that it is built as a social media platform for artists first, rather than adapting to social media as an afterthought. The service aims to fix some of the highly contested features other social media tries to force on their users, such as algorithm based feeds that can leave several posts going unseen. Artfol lets you curate your gallery by hiding or pinning certain art and offering a separate feed for all your other activity. Therefor, if you want to share some WiPs and sketches, you can keep your main gallery looking sharp with only your best work.
These benefits alone seem appealing enough, but Artfol adds a few other great features that prove the developers have artists front and center mind for this platform.
Artful will allow you to set up commissions on your profile, which is an extremely neat idea. I’m curious how this will work given that the service will likely be populated mostly by creators less likely to commission art from others, but I’m still happy it’s available.
The feature they seem the most excited about is Challenges, which allows anyone to create a challenge where anyone can participate. My favorite right now is the “Expose Your Old Art” challenge, which is populated by everybody’s endearing early work. Challenges are a great way to get those creative juices flowing if you’ve been experiencing any artist block.
Artfol has a few pre-set categories to help you narrow down your searches and supports hashtags to further specify what you’re looking for. The trending section is chock-full of some high-quality art but all other areas in Discover show a wide range of skill which is great to see. You can share someone else’s post easily (think Retweet!), comment, and favorite.
The app has recently come out of closed beta, and the influx of users and posts is definitely having an impact on the performance. But it’s been over a week now and stabilization is in sight. I’ve been able to navigate all the different sections with a little loading waits, but nothing that makes it unusable.
While I get hyped about new technology and platforms all the time, it’s a rare pleasure to have something crop up that is actually catered towards artists. Creatives are so central to making the world vibrant and engaging, and yet we’re often an afterthought.
This is why I have really high hopes for Artfol. It combines the best features of sites like DeviantArt and ArtStation with the power of visual platforms like Instagram. It’s very clear that the philosophy of the service keeps the artists at the heart, and that is obvious in every aspect of the user experience. For me, that’s something to be excited about.