HotTakes: Illma Gore

What not to do if you are an artist

Last night a dear friend almost got themselves unfriended, blocked, and reported to the authorities. What was their crime, and what was the trigger? They posted a painting/drawing of a naked Donald Trump via Instagram, plus had it cross-post to Facebook.

When scrolling the last thing one expects to find, or has ever, is art that is particularly challenging. Jarring one at first glance, and yet satirically funny, it was still enough to reflexively reach for the block button.

The piece in a barely-SFW is below the fold:

SFW Donald Trump Make America Great Again Illma Gore

Make America Great Again by Illma Gore

Now, when you are finished being revolted, or tittering like you were in high school again, consider the artists’ statement, as presented on her website:

“Make America Great Again” is about the significance we place on our physical selves. One should not feel emasculated by their penis size or vagina, as it does not define who you are. Your genitals do not define your gender, your power, or your status.


Simply put you can be a massive prick, despite what is in your pants.

This artist probably had not expected such a flood of attention. The piece is at once simple and yet horribly complex. While usually artists’ statements either sound like too much PR bullshit or vacuous navel-gazing, the accompanying explanation for this piece made it both intersectional and rather enlarged upon what could be seen as a ribald attempt at shock-and-awe.

This made me respect the artist so much more, and see the piece, with The Donald’s typical facial expression, his macho pose, all unmasked or exposed by removing the respectability that comes with clothing, reputation, perceived ‘worth’ conveyed upon you by being both a ‘billionaire’ and public celebrity.

It is, if allowed some latitude, a 21st satirist take on the political election cycle. One that moves light-years ahead of the dyed-in-wool approaches that are still very much alive. While not resorting to comic book, or industrial/machine age, tropes that we are so inured with in the modern technological age. This at once is very historical and made contemporary by the full-frontal aspect.

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How to manage a viral sensation

So upon someone dropping this image into my email this morning, which was not suitable for viewing over morning coffee. Not because it is vile, but because it is so confrontational, so unvarnished & lacquered as to require a more active brain to process. So bearing in mind that it was sent on Facebook, and had a link to the artist’s page, we sauntered over there to find out who this enfant terrible was.

Okay there is a statement saying we can go to the website to download the full poster. Nice freemium/giveaway to something that has gone viral. [NOTE: also a way for people to freeboot your stuff & take credit/make money off of] Yet, that is the first message we see, and it should not go unnoticed that putting that for the people who follow you is a nice touch, yet Facebook does allow you to edit your previous posts, so revising the original photo (which is how we found the work) would have been most beneficial. Since obviously more people will see/interact/engage with that one than the sole stand alone status update on your page. Which honestly the bulk or 90%+ will never see.

The artist signature is in the bottom, and that is a plus. Yet no watermark, no website address, no IG/FB/Tumblr links, nothing. This is of course a matter of much discussion. Certainly we aren’t suggesting there is one right way or method. It is as personal as any choice an artist has to make.

What inspired this post however was a very amateur mistake. When we clicked the “About” tab, which is going to be the #1 response to people who want to know more, other ways to follow you, and generally engage more deeply with you than to laugh & share your piece.

What irritated us most was this:

how not to do things

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This was the starting point:

website url error on facebook Illma Gore

The actual address is similar: the gore being the missing piece. This is why it is ESSENTIAL best practice, and the first thing you do is to optimize these spaces to best represent how a person who has just found you, your work, company/brand, has a launching point for greater involvement in what you do. This includes optimizing it for zealous supporters, people who want to commission you to do work, and also press & media types who may want to profile you and the art you do. Especially if it goes viral. The email address is here, that is good. But no other information, and we must admit to being stumped as to why she chose to classify the page under “Community Page about…” that seems rather disingenuous, since she is an artist, a public figure, and there are those choices for the page.

Further Annoying Facebook points go to:
under MORE tab_shop not setup (comp)

With a Buy My Art tab that leads to a dead-end. It shouldn’t require so much hard work for me to buy your stuff, to follow you or to engage with you on a deeper level. Big No-No. The other two tabs work, and are branded Instagram & Twitter tabs. They display a list of recent posts on those respective platforms. So they can or will offset to some extent the bad web url, and the non-working tab for purchasing art directly (technically thru 3rd party app SaaS)

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After a quick review of all the above platforms, it is clear to see the most followers, and engagements come for this artist from Instagram & Facebook. On Twitter at this moment the artist is engaging with conversations, accolades, discourses from none other than Perez Hilton (*spits 3x on fingers*). Which is good given it makes the artist seem responsive, and she says she is answering emails, etc…and the number of followers on Twitter is respectable, and not conflated by purchased followers.

Clearly, she was not expecting this level of reaction. Having previously gotten much coverage last year for a gimmick** (read: conceptual art piece) where she would have a stranger’s name tattooed on her body for the sum of $10 this level of excitement generated around a piece shouldn’t be new. Which makes the above noted elements of her brand/online identity troubling. Pieces have been written about that earlier this year in The Guardian, and the piece was actually crowd-funded on GoFundMe so the artist is neither new to the Social Media impact or its uses in promoting your cause. Otherwise, she’d not have raised the 17,000+ dollars needed to propel the piece. So it is curious how so many best practices could be overlooked.

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Certainly it is a boon that such a piece would be seen globally by tens of millions* and is creating such a stir. What follows are some guidelines for what to do before your piece goes viral, but these are great practices even IF you never have anything go viral:

  1. Make sure you optimize all of your profiles, and preferably direct all of them to one singular and personally branded property (i.e. your own hosted website)
  2. When Cross-posting (IG > Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter) keep the message consistent, but flexible enough to be uniform across each platform
  3. Even if you’ve done #1, revisit it frequently, and especially as things change. Make sure the information stays current, and gets revised, never stop evolving and honing this message
  4. Review your analytics, if you can’t understand them, math is not in your wheelhouse, get someone who can
  5. Pay a professional: to the above note, it should go much farther than how many likes/share you get, those are vanity metrics
  6. If you value your work, and want to be paid for it, then you should have exactly the same attitude towards someone who works on the internet
  7. That means specifically not to let your cousin who is a gamer and writes cool scripts, your friend who is a Website Creator, or that kooky graphic artist who tells you they are a Social Media specialist
  8. Those people above mentioned are quacks; Many of whom will charge you for a service they provide that is sub-par; Don’t listen to growth-hacking internet gurus or influencers either (they are not artists); Those people are doing it for themselves or to be invited to the next tech conference not to help you with your book or artwork
  9. Don’t try to do it all yourself; Don’t rely solely on your friends’ advice/impressions; Don’t trust family
  10. This is not to say you can’t do all those things and still succeed, many people in the internet age win while also failing

What this artist didn’t do, but you should:

  1. Update your profiles; Make sure they work in concert; Use a sole tracking link or several to identify where most of the traffic to your website is coming from
  2. By identifying where you get the most inquiries (FB, Twitter, IG) and looking at them longitudinally then you know better where to expend the effort (and cost if need be)
  3. Check your Analytics and then check the again, don’t know what that is or where to find them? Drop us a line
  4. If you don’t understand why you should be checking your analytics, or think they are useless then you might not want to have a social media presence at all; There is no use in using these tools if you aren’t going to also measure what they really have to offer you besides likes/shares/comments those things do not translate into getting more money
  5. With the right attention, one that is not centered in your ego as an artist/writer/company, you can better know what will and won’t work on social media by studying the activity & engagement available through metrics or demographics
  6. Can you sell your art on Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Certainly someone can express the desire to buy, make you an offer, or kick the tires. What they can’t do is, while motivated or strictly on impulse, click a button that says Purchase & put it in their cart. So if they can’t do that, then why not make every post or profile lead somewhere they have a chance of doing that?Illma Gore gofundme_updates
  7. If you get a lot of press, no matter who you are, and you have a website, then some portion of that website talking about your art/article/book should be dedicated to press, not just on your gofundme as an image:
  8. new piece Illma Gore_dang mindsWhen you have this much media generated about you previously, you can expect the next item to get even more attention:
  9. Certainly with Dangerous Minds (purveryors of all viral things & FB freebooter extraordiaire), dailydot, and others this will surely be seen by zillions. I’m guessing at that number don’t quote me. MANY, if not all will not be on her website
  10. But should see much more traffic, interest, and possibly offers/sales, or even connections. What is your plan for handling such high volume traffic/interest? Have a plan.
  11. While posted & shared tons of times on IG + FB, it wasn’t posted on Tumblr and that space seemed to be abandoned; If you have these spaces, maintain them, otherwise leave a post there directing them to your most active one
  12. While she has IG & Twitter on her website, there is no link to Facebook, even though that is where the piece is getting the most traction & it is the most visited/used social platform
  13. Despite having a site for the tattoo project & a ‘coming soon’ interstitial introduction to her website with an amazing video, you aren’t directed there first. Why? In fact the piece is not mentioned, just a video under works, even though the crowdufunding still accepts donations. Big Disconnect. There should be a link to that in order to continue to raise funds, and stretch goals of financing the piece
  14. In fact there is also a YouTube version (vs the Vimeo one linked above)  and no link on her website to that platform either; Despite there being two other videos
  15. Artist are particularly curious about curating their own work for public consumption, they are reticent to put it all out there or index it for general consumption, but if you have sub-sites, and so many platforms creating a unified whole or narrative is key to success
  16. On these other platforms no effort was made to optimize or maximize them or loop them back to the hub or central websiteYOUTUBE_illma gore human canvas project_no links to other properties_only text not hotlinks in desrip
  17. On the Human Canvas Exhibition website ( signing up for the emails failed, the Facebook link didn’t work, and the twitter handle worked but is ill-formatted; An amateur job all around, and one that people have paid $17,000 for already should 17k GoFundMe_Feb 2016 live (comp)be better presented, in the updates on GoFundMe again she creates more confusion than clear message, but at least tells people how to stay up-to-date and in-touch; Even if those tactics are designed for ease for the artist and not ease of sale or further promotion
  18. Stop bouncing from project to project with no sense of the whole macrocosm; Stop getting a new profile/site somewhere investing all this time into it and then forgetting about it when it doesn’t give you what you wanted; Moving on to the next hot thing, as it were, while the old ones lay there fallow and full of mis-information (ie: Tumblr, ello, etc…)
  19. Unify them into a whole web of connections; Utilize them each for different benefits; Maintain them or take them down
  20. Understand each not from what you get from it but from what its most powerful and influential users (to you & your art) do and share; Noting this piece wasn’t posted by the artist on their Tumblr and this is the sort of art on Tumblr that will get a million notes in no time (speaking from experience to a Trump2016 poster posted months ago that is still circulating and getting more engagement than anything the original artist has experienced on any of their shares)

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In closing, stumbling upon this artist in the most alarming ways, being initially revolted and then drawn into their vision is not unusual, following up on that passion shouldn’t be made more difficult by outdated links and messy a social media presence.

* This is a guesstimate, back of the napkin, non-scientific figure based solely on the viewable metrics for the original post(s) by the artist. It is factoring in that the ones that are visible are only the ones on that piece, the vanity metrics as it were which in no way account for the millions more comments on & engagement with on all the various platforms.

** We mention “GIMMICK” above in reference to the tattoo piece’s promotion/funding, let it be clear that is not an art critique, but a media representation of the conceptual art piece that straddles crowd-funding & crowdsourcing an art piece in the 21st Century along with a documentary & show that is planned to accompany it Those seem genuine, etc… but having watched the video & read the GoFundMe page we aren’t sure if we can speak to the voracity of a conceptual piece that hasn’t been completed yet

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