There’s no denying that for a lot of artists, social media has been an amazing tool. Finding an audience and people to appreciate your work from all around the world can now be done with just having access to the internet.
Social media for artists is a fickle thing. Instead of hoping for the day that your work gets shown in a gallery on the other side of the earth, you can reach an audience worldwide without ever leaving your hometown.
But it’s not quite as easy as that, you don’t automatically have 50k followers the second you put a piece of your work on a social media site, and social media isn’t all this positive wonderland of influence and impact. I asked a few artists with smaller followings how they use social media as a tool for their art, and how it impacts on their work.
Laura is a visual artist from Cardiff, currently based in Plymouth, who focuses on the temporal, ambiguous and melancholy. Her work is abstract, and somewhat ethereal, with soft edges and limited colours. Laura has a few hundred followers on her Instagram and twitter, is represented by TEN Gallery in Cardiff.
LFB: Can any artist, even one with a smaller following on social media, use it to make an impact, or do you need a massive following to get work/recognition out of it?
Laura: I think this depends on what your overall aim is as an artist/creative person. I have seen so many Instagram art stars whose work looks great when it’s diluted into a small newsfeed, but isn’t robust enough in the actual gallery/art context. For me, I want to project my creative practice and allude to the activity that takes place in my studio. I care more about garnering interaction from followers that I know personally, than random likes from accounts that I’ve never heard of, so numbers haven’t necessarily been important. It definitely is a nice feeling when a post is doing particularly well but it doesn’t really mean anything – it’s like Monopoly money!
LFB: Social media can be a great place to get recognised, especially for young and emerging artists, but can it also add to the pressure having to balance their art and a social media presence?
Laura: It can add pressure, definitely. Artists are generally very resourceful and multi-faceted people. Most artists will agree that you have to master a varied amount of skills to make things happen: project management, marketing and public relations, practical DIY skills, website building, photography, written and verbal communication skills, budget management….before you even get to the making of the art! It’s just another tool to add to your toolbox. So it’s easy to get caught up in presenting a studio practice in a trendy, beautiful way, and pay less attention to your actual practice. Chasing huge numbers of followers, shares or likes can be really distracting, but so easily done.
LFB: What do you think the future is for social media and artists?
Laura: Well we can probably agree that social media is not going to go away. I think it will become a totally essential tool for artists, if it isn’t already (whether we like it or not – that’s a different issue). Professional development workshops and degree courses are reflecting its uses as a tool for promotion, marketing and presentation. I wonder about new platforms that will emerge, and the longevity of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook. I think it’s important to make sure that even if those social media platforms disappeared overnight, that your creative practice is still strong and not overly reliant on likes, posts or shares!
Jemma is a freelance illustrator and artist based in Liverpool. She works mainly with collages, combining different mediums to make her pieces – which are very much based on her personal life and experience.
Jemma has a few hundred followers on her social media sites which are a mix of her art and her personal life
LFB: How do you feel about social media as an artist? Is it something you see as a tool to help your work?
Jemma: I think that social media as whole is a fantastic platform for myself as a graduate artist to showcase freelance and personal projects, allowing people from all over the world to see my creative work. However, I do believe that it should be used with caution. For example, when searching for inspiration for upcoming briefs, I sometimes get trapped in that vicious circle of comparing my ideas and style to other artists (who have usually been working professionally for much longer than myself!) I try to limit myself to how much social media browsing I don’t squash my own creativity.
LFB: Your Instagram and twitter accounts are a mix of your artwork and your personal life, is this because your work is quite personal?
Jemma: Definitely! The majority of my projects to date have been driven or inspired by the causes which I feel strongly about. I don’t think I can really put my heart and soul into the creation of a piece without this element of passion behind it.
LFB: How do you see your future on social media? Do you want to grow your social media around your work and gain a following, or is it something that’s going to stay more personal to you?
Jemma: I am not one for the million hash tags on every pos but I do want to continue to grow a following online; although I find the development of my practice and style to be more important than how many followers I have. Ideally in the future I will separate my personal accounts to my creative work, but for now I am happy to have them exist alongside each other.
Vartika is a Graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer based in New Delhi, India. Her work is quirky, and somewhat surreal in parts, Vartika is definitely a multi-talented artist mixing illustration with photography in many of her projects.
LFB: You use many art forms; collage photography, illustration and design, but I noticed your Instagram is mainly photography based, whereas your Tumblr has a broad mix, is there any particular reason for this?
Vartika: I love experimenting with all kinds of different medium, but photography and collage are my favourites. I make illustrations mostly for commissioned and editorial jobs, and design is something that I did for a few years right after completing art school. Tumblr was sort of my informal portfolio when I couldn’t afford a website, where I could put my artworks and other things. It’s not very personal, and now that I have a website, I tend to update it less frequently. Whereas on my Instagram account, I like to post more personal things, it is like a photo diary where I also post about my new work and I tend to post something every few days.
LFB: Do you feel any sense of pressure with social media, to keep up with a theme or style, especially when you have many different art forms?
Vartika: As I have many different art forms, I find maintaining a style kind of restrictive and boring at times. I try and not think about it too much though. I keep experimenting and I am still trying to figure out my style, I feel it is something which will eventually reflect in my work as I create more. Initially when I had started sharing my artworks and photos on Instagram, I wouldn’t think a lot about what I was posting, but looking at the works of my peers and other artists somewhat made me a little conscious about maintaining a style.
I used to think things like: am I posting it just for the sake of likes? how many hearts would it get? Like, do I want to know if what I’ve created is accepted by my followers, or will they unfollow me? Stupid thoughts like that would creep into my head. But in reality, it’s best to just keep creating and following your heart, and try and not think too much, and it’s no fun to make something just for the sake of posting.
LFB: What do you see for the future of your art and social media? Do you wish to grow your channels more to reach more people?
Vartika: Social media has made art very accessible for everyone, which is a very cool thing. I feel that Instagram is a really good way for all types of artists to promote themselves and their work and I might definitely try doing that too. Its great how many people I’ve got in touch with through Instagram because of my art, and I hope I continue to do so. But then I would also really like to be so busy creating so much more art that I just wouldn’t have time to post about it!
Though social media is a useful tool for artists in terms of collaboration, inspiration, getting more exposure and sometimes work, it’s just one of the many tools artists have. Some artists are caught in the social media bubble with hundreds of thousands of followers, but social media can work for those with a few hundred too. There is definitely still the need for collaboration offline and physical spaces for art, such as galleries and exhibitions. After all, nothing beats seeing art work up close and personal.
Featured Image:Vartika Sharma