In some ways, deviantART is the driving force driving Artist Alley's at comic book and anime conventions across the nation. The online artist community doesn't typically sponsor booths or have any other sort of official presence at the cons. However, the illustrators, digital artists and craftspeople inside the booths are quite frequently deviantART users, or Deviants as they are called. You can see their personalized user addresses on business cards and contact sheets. Maybe you'll pick up a card, go home, look up the user and then end up in an hours-long time suck, scrolling through pages of fan art, photography, character designs and whatever else piques your interest. It's an easy addiction.

deviantART user Leah Mangue at Comic-Con; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

deviantART user Leah Mangue at Comic-Con; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

Last week at Comic-Con, the Hollywood-based web firm/art appreciators headed over to the Artist's Alley to meet their fellow Deviants. When we spoke with CEO/co-founder Angelo Sotira, he estimated coming into contact with at least 100 artist's in the tiny corner of the Exhibit Hall.

Over the past nine years, deviantART has changed the way artists work as much as it's changed the way we view art with its part -online portfolio, part -DIY shop and part-social networking format. Like the BBS's that influenced Sotira as a teenager, deviantART thrives on interaction.

deviantART user Ruben Martinez at Comic-Con; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

deviantART user Ruben Martinez at Comic-Con; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

“The most attractive part of deviantART is the feedback that's almost immediate,” he explains. “You post your work and you're surprised to be getting feedback.”

The community has it's own etiquette. Specifically, if someone comments on your work, you should certainly return the favor. “So this feedback loop starts to grow and you start to get a lot of motivation for creating your next piece,” Sotira adds.

The “feedback loop” is crucial to deviantART. It's also the major reason why the firm hasn't made an major marketing moves in its almost decade-long existence.

“If you grow the traffic loop too fast, then the feedback loop breaks, as people who are less interested start showing up in large numbers,” says Sotira. “So, you want to watch the population growth if you're building a smart, sensible society structure.”

As deviantART quickly approaches its ninth anniversary on August 7, the team has been working on major upgrades to the site, including the development of more discussion areas so that traffic can increase “without disturbing the feedback loop” and a newbie-friendly front page. After that, we'll probably start seeing even more of the Deviants.

Check out these artists on deviantART:

Meghan McMahon

Leah Mangue

Ruben Martinez

LA Weekly