80 Resources for Black Digital Artists
Header by Prince Mahlangu
Being based on another current event, this could be considered a follow-up to “Artist Resources: So Your Con Was Cancelled.”
I wrote this one without asking or a guarantee of payment, just because I thought it would be the best use of the platform. Although Wacom’s social media team has done an excellent job signal boosting black creators and causes lately, I knew I had to pitch in however I could.
The journalistic infrastructure that covers black creators focuses on gallery art, especially when it’s political or about identity. It’s concentrated in places like Brooklyn. Most grants are aimed at, and most black arts nonprofits serve, traditional artists. Good for them, but it tends to leave digital artists high and dry. There are entire subcultures of black creatives who are unknown even to woke media: like African animators and the black anime art community, which many other otaku don’t even know exists.
By Monte Miller
This list is intended both to help people who’ve gained an interest in black art from the massive wave of exposure we’re enjoying to help find our work, and to let BIPOC creators know there are more resources and ways to promote out there than they ever could’ve thought.
Digital artists live by word of mouth and online sales, so the first step to supporting them is facilitating those.
Young Black Artists. Covers both traditional and digital. Also has an Instagram of the same name. If you’re interested in your work being shared with their 114k followers, you can tag it #youngblackartists and, their website promises, they’ll at least take a look at it. Although they get a lot, and quality will determine whether or not they share it.
Dope Black Art. A network of “hundreds of talented artists all over the world” that focuses more on younger artists, and as such, heavily incorporates digital. Their Instagram has 700k followers, and like Young Black Artists, they’ll look at artists who @ them or tag posts with #dopeblackart.
Support Black Art. Focused on gallery and traditional art, but they also make a lot of space for digital artists, especially ones who make prints. They also have a monthly or annual subscription. Their Insta is @supportblackart, with 205k followers, and two hashtags, #supportblackart (338k) and #supportblackartists (82k).
African Digital Art. One of the most exciting up-and-coming online communities I’ve seen in a while. Provides stunning examples of not just illustration, but film, 3d modeling, and animation, and photomanips, out of Africa. Instagram: @africandigitalart.
In case you’re wondering the kind of quality we’re dealing with. By Symone Seven.
- Cartoonists of Color. Not exclusive to black people, of course.
- Black Game Developers. A repository for any black freelancers in the games industry, but can be filtered for artists and animators.
- Women Who Draw’s list of 207 black female artists for hire. See also their lists of Hispanic, Asian, Native, Arabic, and mixed ones.
- Society of Illustrators’ list of articles and artist features on diversity.
- Afropunk’s art tag, although mostly focused on gallery and installation art, sometimes covers digital illustration.
Some aren’t entirely black-run, and size wasn’t a factor in inclusion, although the bigger ones I know of are bolded. When real life becomes a thing again, simply attending or tabling at these will support POC-run events with both money and the attendance numbers that prove they’re viable.
- African-American Children’s Book Fair — Philadelphia, PA
- Atlanta Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo — Decatur, GA
- BAM Black Comix Expo — New York, NY; was suspended for 2020, uncertain whether it will resume in 2021.
- Black Comix Day — San Diego, CA
- BlerdCon — Arlington, VA
- Diversity Comic Con — New York, NY; not until November, but it’s uncertain whether it will be held this year.
- East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention — Philadelphia, PA
- Game Devs of Color Expo New York, NY
- J1-Con — Atlantic City, NJ
- Khem Fest — Newark, NJ
- Motor City Black Age of Comics & Manga — Detroit, MI
- Schomburg Center Black Comic Book Festival — New York, NY
- Sol-Con — Columbus, OH
See this list from The Blerdgurl for intersectional cons, although it’s from 2017, so some of them are defunct.
On social media
Although I haven’t been involved in it, I’m amazed at the number of black artists and resources @Wacom has been tweeting out. We can’t promote every POC artist ourselves, though. (You might have noticed there are a lot of them.) So here are some ways you can do it yourself.
Instagram accounts not connected to the websites already mentioned
These are all fair ones that credit the artists and link to their profiles, and are at least inclusive of digital art. Instructions for how to get featured can usually be found in descriptions.
- @blackart365 (159k followers)
- @blackartexpo (110k)
- @blackartistspace (258k)
- @blackartistsspeak (1.5k)
- @blackcomicscollective (2.9k)
- @blackgirlsillustrate (32k)
The hottest current one is #drawingwhileblack, although It’s been going since 2017. Recently, its popularity has resulted in the Drawing While Black Directory, a list compiled by the hashtag’s starter Abelle Hayford, of participating artists who are available for hire.
[RT are appeciated] the #drawingwhileblack directory is now updated !✨ This is a great resource to find a black artists in fields like Illustration,Animation, Graphic Design, Comics,etc! please check it out!https://t.co/EU3H2XvamK pic.twitter.com/rO2GPquy39
— Abelle✨ (@abellehayford) May 31, 2020
As of this publication, submissions are closed while they port it to a website, but once the site goes up—which Hayford says should happen in the next few days, they’ll be “open…FOREVER!!!!!!!!”
And for some general ones black artists can tag their work with, depending on what category it fits in. Numbers from Instagram, but all of them are used on Twitter as well.
- #blackart (3.2m)
- #blackartist (1.2m)
- #africanart (1m)
- #blackartists (487k)
- #blackartmatters (119k)
- #africanamericanart (99k)
- #blackcomics (48k)
Most people don’t know that there’s a burgeoning digital art scene and emerging animation houses in Nigeria—in fact, more and more inbetweening and other production jobs are being done there. If you happen to be involved in it, #WeAreNigerianCreatives is for you.
It’s much harder to find black art sharing accounts on Twitter than Insta due to the way their search function works, and I was running out of time by the time I got to this section, so I couldn’t give it the deep dive it deserves. If anyone has any they want to share, please DM me at @thecsjones, and I’ll see if I can either edit them into this article or give them a section in another one.
Also, promotional and retweet threads for POC artists have been popping up all over Twitter for the past couple of weeks. Due to the fast-moving nature of Twitter, I can’t link these either, as they’ll be hopelessly outdated by the time you read this, but searching for “black artists,” “black creators,” and “black illustrators,” or scanning #drawingwhileblack should yield some newer ones.
I want to do a thread here about some black people in comics that are amazing and deserve your support if you can. Some are people I have worked with, others are just folks I am in awe of.
Black creators, retailers, publishers, PLEASE add your work to the thread if you can!
— Gail Simone (@GailSimone) June 1, 2020
And if you have any following or platform, please start your own.
Also, new artists interested in going into comics or animation would be well-advised to check out #publishingpaidme and #animationpaidme on Twitter, which were started to highlight the pay disparities between white and nonwhite artists; men and women. There’s plenty of advice for negotiating better rates—and what constitutes a good rate in the first place—that will be useful to new artists.
Groups for black artists:
- Black American Art (43k)
- Black Artists Connected (262k)
- Black Artists United (12k)
- Black Comic Book Artists, Writers, Creators (3.4k)
- Black Writers, Readers, Artists and Thinkers (1.8k)
- Buy Black Art Here (4.9k)
And most art Facebook groups I’ve visited recently have had threads for BIPOC artists to promote their work.
Pages are thin on the ground, though. When I ran the various black art aggregators by my criteria—link/credit the original artist, over 1k followers, active in the last month, and inclusive of digital art—I came up with just two: Black Table Arts and Black Girls Anime, although there are loads more for traditional art.
- R/Blackladies and r/blackfellas. General discussion subs, but art of and by black people are welcomed.
Organizations and funding
Specifically, those who make significant space for digital art, digital illustration, and computer-aided design.
Afrotectopia. Describing themselves as an Afrofuturist “social institution featuring interdisciplinary innovation” in tech, it can also be hard to discern what this means from their mission statement alone, but a deeper look into their actual programs reveals they’re doing incredible things for digital art. In addition to leading summer camps for the underprivileged, they’ve started running a series of courses for adults called the School of Afrotectopia, in which black people in the tech industry led panels on 3D animation, data visualization, Cinema 4D, and printing custom face masks, among others. 2020’s has already passed, but it’s worth seeing what 2021’s will offer.
We Need Diverse Books. A POC-run, and black co-run, association of children’s book creators devoted to diversity. Currently offering a variety of services, including The Walter Awards for best representation in children’s books, mentorships, publishing opportunities, $2,000 grants for unpublished POC writers and illustrators, and emergency funds for creators who’ve been affected by 2020.
The Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund is offering stimulus checks of $200 to artists who’ve been put out of work by COVID-19. You can apply here or donate to the effort here.
Finally, author-illustrator Victoria Ying recently raised $50,000 in scholarship money for black artists, which will be used to buy subscriptions to the tutorial website Schoolism. So far, they have enough for almost three hundred people. Stay tuned.
Animation/Comics/Illustration Fam, we raised approx 50,000 dollars in scholarship money for Black artists. 50k! We will be able to gift a world class educational experience to more than 200 artists who I hope we will see in the industry very soon!
— Victoria Ying – City of Secrets July 28 2020 (@victoriaying) May 30, 2020
Portfolio reviews and advice
I’m over a week late to this trend, but a lot of arts industry professionals have opened their DM’s to black or other POC artists who need portfolio reviews or advice for getting into the industry. For example, animator, writer, small dog, burger clown, and most famously, previous interview subject Lindsay Small-Butera is doing it.
Hello dear ones. I'm offering free portfolio/pitch/script reviews/critique to BIPOC
If you are a BIPOC interested, please email Boo @ smallbu dot com with the subject: Lindsay Reviews.
Please have all materials uploaded somewhere so I don't have to download them*
*very important pic.twitter.com/8Bufu5I0O6
— Smallbu Animation (@SmallBuStudio) June 5, 2020
Here’s the list of as many as I could find. Most were via @akemiart’s excellent curated list, so thanks to her for that. Please check to see if they’re still accepting portfolios or able to give advice by the time you read this. I imagine some of them have been overwhelmed.
- Bianca Ansems — storyboarding
- Stephanie Gonzaga — storyboarding
- Amy Hudkins — storyboarding
- Nord Storm — storyboarding — Note: Not currently open, but he says he’ll be opening it up again in the future. Check in with him sometime.
- Layron DeJarnette — 2d animation
- Jenny Calabro — animation character design
- Nick Winn — animation character and prop design
- Dean Cunniffe — comics coloring
- Jason Rainville — fantasy art
- April Prime — fantasy art
- Justin Cherry — concept and VFX art
- Melissa Coleman — 3d modeling
- Benjamin Hale — video game background art
- Marianne Khalil —background design and painting for animation
This is a good lead-in to the follow-up I’m planning, which will be about how aspiring allies can help black and other POC artists in a meaningful way. Look for it within the week.
This was supposed to be for all POC, but it turns out that the separate networks of resources for Hispanic and Asian artists alone, as well as the general sphere of QPOC, were too vast to fit into the same article, so I had to narrow my focus. It’s also an Americentric list for the same reason. Apologies to all the people I couldn’t get to. Maybe in a future article.
About the Author
I’m a West-Philadelphia-based freelance writer and illustrator. I’ve always used a drawn avatar because when I started freelancing in 2014, it was commonly said that black freelancers were less likely to be hired for writing jobs than any other race—in fact, my 2019 avatar, seen in my other articles, was the first to represent skin tone. But this is the first time I’ve shown my face here, as well as the most personal voice I’ve used in a bio. Anyway, my writing is best seen at thecsjones.com and my art is best seen at @thecsjones on Instagram, both of which I’ll update soon.