It’s been one week now since CG Hub, the popular portfolio site and social network for digital artists, shut down without warning, leaving its users angry and confused. In an instant, thousands of artists who relied on CG Hub’s free and paid services lost their online portfolios, networking contacts, and years’ worth of bookmarks.
The website, which had been in operation since 2007, began redirecting users last Thursday to a placeholder site called CGHug.com. The site simultaneously shuttered its Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Many users assumed at first that the site had been hacked or was experiencing technical problems, but after three days of silence from its unknown owners, the website’s Ukranian web developer Shakuro felt compelled to post a message on their Facebook page:
No more CGHUB.
Sad day. Project CGHUB is officially closed.
The reason behind this extremely tough decision is personal and will remain private. It’s absolutely not connected with business or any kind of technical difficulties.
On behalf of development team I would like to apologize to CGHUB users and fans for abrupt project closure and delay with its announcement.
If you have any kind of questions please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org . Can’t promise replies to everyone though.
CGHUB wasn’t ideal, but we loved it SO MUCH! :*(
Shakuro issued a follow-up statement explaining that they didn’t actually operate the site and were only responsible for its development. In this lengthier message, they expressed their own frustration for being mislabeled as the people who were responsible for shutting down the site:
The site’s sudden disappearance has left many artists in the online community wondering who had operated the site for all these years. In their second Facebook post, Shakuro identified an American company called Full Spectrum Digital. Full Spectrum was registered as a Nevada limited liability company (LLC) in 2007 by an individual named Ryan Duncan. Last January, just a few months before the shutdown, Full Spectrum re-registered as a California LLC based out of Toluca Lake, which is a neighborhood near Burbank, California.
Various online forums have identified Duncan as a Ringling College of Art and Design graduate who has most recently worked at Disney Feature Animation on films like Frozen and Tangled. Duncan is also listed as the domain owner of other CG Hub-related domains.
Two other names have been associated with the site in the past. Jennifer Yu listed herself as a founder on this website last year, and Jeff Fowler is listed on Shakuro’s portfolio page as the commissioning client for CG Hub. Fowler, a director at Blur Studio, co-directed the Oscar-nominated short Gopher Broke. He was a classmate of Duncan’s at Ringling, and they both graduated in 2002. It should be stressed that we do not know whether Fowler, Yu, or Duncan were the parties who ran the site at the time of its closure.
CG Hub’s unannounced shutdown leads one to believe that something tragically unexpected (or unexpectedly tragic) occurred in the lives of the site operators. Those issues, personal as they may be, do not excuse the site’s unprofessional shutdown which showed a callous disregard for its community, many of whom relied on the site for professional reasons. If the shutdown was indeed for truly personal reasons, then the people who run the site, whoever they may be, should have made the announcement themselves instead of going into hiding and letting their web developer take the blame.
The website Concept Art World has posted a lengthy list of similar online communities for hosting online portfolios, but the real takeaway from the CG Hub fiasco is for artists to think twice about using such third-party sites as the primary home for their online portfolio. When a long-established forum like CG Hub can disappear overnight without leaving a trace, it’s a wake-up call that the best investment for any artist is a personal web domain.
UPDATE: Matt Kohr writes on Ctrl+Paint about the impact that CG Hub’s abrupt shutdown had on the community:
Some lost their contacts, others lost artwork, but nearly everyone lost something. And from the artists I talked to, no one saw it coming…Some of my peers lost their artwork when CGHUB dissapeared. As in literally didn’t have backed up copies of their paintings. You may be rolling your eyes at this, but I’m willing to bet you have some documents that only exist in “the cloud.”…The worst CGHUB assets I lost were my “favorites”. As a great convenience, the site allowed me to collect a list of my favorite paintings and artists. This list slowly grew over the years I enjoyed the site, eventually serving as my primary directory of concept art inspiration. Now it’s lost forever.