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Creatives can become digital rock stars

Do electronic media and the internet signify the death of wooden pencils and paint? On the contrary, digitalisation has helped unknown illustrators to fame, inspired millions of hobby artists and created completely new revenues of income for traditional artists.

A few years ago, the largest coloured pencil factory in the world couldn’t keep up with demand. “We were working three shifts per day, and it seemed like it was never enough,” explains Gui Almeida, Senior Social Media Manager International at Faber-Castell. He was working in Brazil at the time, where the factory in São Carlos manufactures around two billion pencils per year. The immense surge in demand in Brazil – and the rest of the world – was due to the colouring book fad. Countless adults were using colouring-in with pencils for relaxation. “Without social networks this trend would never have happened,” says Almeida in retrospect: “This whole thing was fueled by people motivating each other.”

"People used to be more alone. Nowadays, anyone can find like-minded people."

Gui Almeida, Faber-Castell Senior Social Media Manager International
Although colouring-in is not classified as art, the colouring-in fad showed what digitalisation has done for the arts, for both amateur and professional artists.
"People used to be more alone with their visual creativity," Almeida elaborates. "Nowadays, anyone can find like-minded people for every artistic style and niche. The network thus brings about a completely different group feeling,” he says. “This has a very real impact.”

“Art is becoming more diverse in different ways”

Isadora Zeferino is one such example. Internet has built the Brazilian illustrator’s career in more ways than one. She started posting work online while she was studying biomedicine. "I started drawing in class when I was bored,” she explains. People who saw her drawings gave her encouragement. Zeferino came into contact with other artists online and was soon picked up by a US agent – all online, of course. She now makes her living as an illustrator for comics, tech companies, book covers and advertising agencies. Meanwhile, she also sells her work directly via an online shop. 
All of this would not have been possible without digital media. “Even more so because I live in Brazil,” says Zeferino. A few years ago, US companies wouldn’t have been able to work with illustrators in Brazil, or even thought of it. The world wide web has led to people working with artists from all over the world. “This has opened up completely new perspectives,” Zeferino adds. “Art is becoming more diverse in different ways.
The internet allows far more than just networks. It has also given rise to platforms with constantly evolving new forms of business. “Independent creatives now have so many more opportunities to make a living from their art,” Almeida says. “Most of them were basically impossible before.” Today, cartoonists or illustrators can crowdfund, use funding tools like Patreon or simply be commissioned directly by individual fans. This gives artists access to millions of people who are potentially willing to pay. At the same time, this has helped countless hobby artists believe in themselves and become more professional. “Thanks to digitalisation, visual creatives can now become rock stars,” says Almeida. This also forms ever more niche sectors. Every art form finds an enthusiastic community. One such example is super realistic pencil drawing, where the aim is to only use graphite pencils to achieve photorealistic images.

Getting inspiration through the screen

This inspiration works in both directions: artists are not the only ones who benefit – so do art enthusiasts and people with creative hobbies. “Art lives through inspiration,” Almeida reminds us. Online tutorials, YouTube videos or live sessions mean that enthusiastic fans can experiment for themselves. In turn, the interest that this creates is perceived by manufacturers like Faber-Castell. “One of the most frequent questions asked of creative professionals is still what tools we use,” says Almeida. Those who want to emulate their idols make sure they get the right pens, brushes or colour shades. Faber-Castell’s Art & Graphic division has recently seen a 30 per cent increase in annual growth. Almeida has observed that this also leads to a better understanding of products. There used to be certain pens and pencils that were only used by professional artists, but hobby artists today often know exactly what this or that pencil can be used for. One could say that digitalisation is democratising art.
This is also quite clear to online course providers. The number of participants in online courses has seen a marked increase, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. Over the past few months, Faber-Castell has launched online courses under the title of “Creative Moments”. The first courses focus on watercolour and lettering. Participants are sent the appropriate products in advance. According to Silke Bachmann, Faber-Castell’s Head of Marketing International, Creativity & Digital, the high level of interest in online courses is not only because the pandemic made it difficult to hold face-to-face events. “It has always taken a lot of courage for people to participate when all the others can see what they’re trying to do,” says Bachmann. “But with an online course, no one has to show their artwork if they don’t want to.” The digital world offers easier and more protected access for everyone. Consequently, it is exactly this “living room atmosphere” that Faber-Castell is targeting with Creative Moments. The effect of rising interest in online courses is palpable across the globe. Artists like Isadora Zeferino from Brazil can offer online courses that open up additional sources of income. These also have the added side-effect of popularising their artwork and styles.

“Digital access has removed a lot of the hurdles that used to inhibit people from engaging in artistic activities.”

Silke Bachmann, Faber-Castell Head of Marketing International, Creativity & Digital

Being part of a community

Digitalisation brings people interested in the arts together, creating communities and sometimes also leading to these communities mixing wildly and inspiring each other. This was perfectly illustrated with the phenomenon of “challenges.” These challenges mostly start with an idea from a single individual that spreads like wildfire. Back in 2009, comic artist Jake Parker started the project of drawing an illustration with ink every day to learn more about it. Other people jumped on board. Today, Inktober (ink + October) sees the creation of over 20 million ink drawings that are shown on Instagram every year. This has long since spawned other challenges, each with their own very creative name. Mermay involves drawing mermaids in May, Huevember involves using a different shade of colour every day in November. In Almeida’s view, these kinds of collective online activities are the best promotional events for art imaginable. Often when people draw and paint, they want to inspire each other, compare and exchange ideas, they want to be part of a greater community.
Almeida points to popular activities like “Draw this in your style”, where artists challenge each other to copy, change or parody their artwork in their very own style. This results in great happenings in particular art forms, but also creates a platform for artists to show what they can do. Well-known artists share a stage with unknown artists while gathering more attention themselves. “It’s a great inspiration and very impressive to be a part of something like this,” says Almeida. “It’s in moments like these that online communities really shine. Actions like this make all the difference.”

Art can be fun

In this way, digitalisation inspires many hobby artists to use physical drawing tools and instruments even though professionals have often moved on to drawing entirely with digital tools for their everyday work. Zeferino also draws digitally on the touchscreen but says, “When I make notes or sketches, I  use pencils on paper. Pencils will never die out. We need the feeling of drawing by hand.” Professional art and hobby art have always been two spheres that overlap, she says. Digitalisation has strengthened both. “I went from doing art as a hobby to becoming a professional artist, thanks to the internet,” says Zeferino. “First and foremost, art should be fun!”

Isadora Zeferino

© Domestika
Isadora Zeferino was born in 1993 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her drawing style often combines floral patterns with figures and bold colors. Now a full-time illustrator, she left her studies in biomedicine to study graphic design instead. She now illustrates book covers for publishers from all over the world in addition to working as a freelance designer for the US computer game company Riot Games, Faber-Castell and Disney. 
Instagram: @imzeferino