Instagram and What Artists Should Hope to Get Out of It

Hi, everyone. I wrote this in response to Lindy’s article on Medium about her own experience with Instagram as an artist (link). I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.


What she writes about the pitfalls of the platform (the follow-for-follows, needing a consistency to your style and having to post almost constantly to build a following) is all true.


Ultimately, your definition of success may be the biggest factor in terms of how satisfied you are with the platform. What do you want to get out of it? By far the easiest goal to achieve (and I’d argue, the whole point of the platform) is the emotional lift you get from attention, be it a like, a comment or a follow. Getting that lift has value, as being happy is a very important thing. But it’ll do next to nothing to further your career as an artist.


You still need to put the hard work in to make progress on that front. What that entails will depend upon what type of stuff you do, but training, practice, networking, and business acumen are always going to be part of the recipe. You can use Instagram as part of your overall strategy, but it’s not a magic potion. It has the lure of one, though, and that’s where artists can get tripped up.


It’s like the lottery. Seems simple, right? Do the easy thing, buy a cheap ticket for a huge payday. Does that actually ever work? Sure. Just enough to keep people buying those tickets. Do art buyers, magazine editors, gallerists and others who could buy your work or hire you for a job look at Instagram, and are they more likely to see your work if you post constantly and have lots of followers? Sure. But it’s not a magic potion. Keep your goals realistic and do all of the other things you need to do to grow your career as an artist, and you’ll not only increase your chance of realizing your goals but you’ll come out of it a more well-rounded artist (and yes, businessperson).


A couple of final thoughts, and they’re pertinent both on Instagram and in the real world:

  1. Don’t let yourself be influenced by what other people like. As artists, we create art because that’s the way we’re wired. We ultimately do it for ourselves. You need to create art which makes you feel happy and fulfilled. If you start creating a specific type of art because you think other people will like you (and it) more, you’ve ceased being an artist and instead become a salesperson. Yes, you need to pay the bills somehow. But make the art which gives you personal fulfillment. There is no more important goal.

  2. Networking in real life or in the digital world can open doors, and it can also introduce you to wonderful artists and human beings who can inspire you to go further with your art, and to make leaps forward in your creativity that had never occurred to you. Don’t be an island. If you’re an introvert in person, do your networking online. But do it. It’ll help you grow as a human being and as an artist, and you’ll be happier because of it.


Bottom line: if you decide to use Instagram, have realistic expectations for it. Whether you use it or not, do the other things you need to further your artistic career. Also, don’t lose sight of your own happiness and fulfillment as an artist. That’s the most important thing.


- Steven Louis Ray, who in spite of all of the above does have an Instagram account.

You can interact with it here: @stevenlouisray

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