Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Fighting for the beautifully felt thing

2018 . 01 . 15 - Comments / Commentaires (2)

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They’re doing it again.

By “they” I mean: “we” (sort of). And by “it” I mean: turning a beautifully felt thing into a brittle, impersonal financial transaction.

The Beautifully Felt Thing began in 2009 as Kickstarter, a platform for giving artists money to make their art projects happen. Over the years, Kickstarter evolved from a crowdfunding site to a pre-sale platform. It’s no longer about supporting a creative’s vision and getting a cool reward as a thank-you. It’s about a creative getting funding to produce a product by accepting pre-sales for the finished product (which is still called a “reward” on the site, but now that term feels a bit false).

And the same thing is happening in the world of ongoing microdonations, on sites like Patreon and the not-fully-launched Drip. Both these continuous crowdfuding sites are pushing creatives to think of their supporters as subscribers—or people charged on a regular basis for the content an artist provides. Drip encourages this understanding of its site directly, by using the word “subscribers” when referring to an artist’s supporters. Patreon does so by recommending the subscription concept in their how-to-succeed-on-Patreon videos.

The other major ongoing microdonation site, Tipeee, seems to be avoiding the transactional travesty so far. It calls an artist’s supporters “tippers” and, in its literature, it stands by the notion that people often support artists financially just because they like to support artists financially. Tipeee remembers that supporters usually already have access to artists’ work for free, but that they want to show their appreciation financially.

Tipeee is holding onto the Beautifully Felt Thing.

Gwenn Seemel and friend

Gabe is my oldest artist friend and this post explains more about us.

But I’m not on Tipeee and I’m not planning to use that platform at this time.

For now, I’m on Patreon and on Liberapay (a site for anonymous recurring microdonations). And I’m sad to say that in the not-so-distant past I was seduced by Patreon’s recommendations. Last fall, I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to cultivate more supporters by focusing on creating content people could see only on Patreon. I’d started doing livestreams for patrons, in part because I thought the exclusivity might attract new ones.

Gwenn Seemel and friend

Janice and I met when I created a series of portraits of public servants.

And then the Great Patreon Fee-asco of 2017 happened, and I remembered the Beautifully Felt Thing.

I remembered that, even though some people want to become subscribers to an artist’s content, other people are more focused on supporting an artist. And those are the people I adore. Those are the people I want to connect with.

Gwenn Seemel and friend

Megh has made herself a part of every piece I’ve made since we met in 1999 by constantly and lovingly asking questions about my art.

I’m staying on Patreon at this point because, even though colorless corporate thinking has infiltrated the core of the platform, I think I can hold onto the Beautifully Felt Thing while using the site.

That said, I’m changing how things work on my Patreon page. For now, supporters can still get special deals on hiring me as an art guide (normally $150 for a full month of mentoring), as well as on commissioning a drawing (normally $200) or a painting (normally starting at $800), but there’s nothing on Patreon that you can’t get outside of the platform as well.

For example, if you want to see my livestreams, all you have to do is email me and ask to be on my special update list. Through that list, you’ll receive messages every time I post on my blog, publish a new artwork, and announce a live broadcast.

This month’s livestream is about how to get your art seen by the right people while staying true to yourself.

When: January 28th at 11 AM (New York time)
How: email me to sign up for my special mailing list


CATEGORIES: - English - Business of art - Reviews -

Gwenn Seemel on Liberapay     Gwenn Seemel on Patreon

(2) Comments / Commentaires: Fighting for the beautifully felt thing

-- Libby Fife -- 2018 . 01 . 15 --


There must be something that happens in people’s brains when they go from the joy of making art/collecting art to the idea of art as a business. I am thinking about these micro donation sites (and the concept) and the thin line between supporting creatives in what they do and helping everyone to make money (including the company which wants to be profitable). Something seems to get lost and what a shame that is.

As long as you say you are sticking with Patreon then I am right there with you. If that changes for you then I will change too:)

Keep at it!

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-- Gwenn -- 2018 . 01 . 15 --

@Libby: I think that transition from joy to business on the individual level is part of the issue, but I think there’s a bigger problem. Specifically, companies like Kickstarter and Patreon are doing the capitalistic “grow or die” thing. They hire statisticians to satisfy shareholders, and it’s not long before the heart is gone. They focus on what the numbers say, forgetting that none of us follow the statistics exactly. We can’t. Because the average represents no one.

Thanks for sticking with me! It’s soothing to know that’s the case, and it’s that sort of feeling which statistics can’t touch!

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