My Instagram, My Self

I've been reading a lot of articles about Instagram and the artist lately, and how social media has reshaped the art world, and how Instagram specifically influences and effects artists and makers. I have been talking behind the scenes with other makers, about how social media makes them feel and how it effects their mental health and their income and their ability to make art without influence. It's a fine line we tread and everyone approaches it so very differently, that it's hard to make a sweeping statement about other people, but I can tell you how I feel about it all.

Now, to preface this, I don't have a massive following but I do have a really amazing following of people who I feel like I genuinely connect with, and I love connecting with people so I feel like I know so many of our "followers" more than just the occasional comment and like. I pride myself on being the kind of person who wants to be friends with everyone, I want to be liked, I want to love, I want to connect. But also have some major self confidence hurdles I have to jump over on a daily basis and sometimes I don't make it all the way over. Newsflash, I'm just a human... Instagram makes that VERY obvious. There is no denying that I delete photos and edit captions all the time - I call it the 3am purge. I can't sleep, done with work for the day, rearrange how my Instagram feed looks. And I'm ok with that, it's my space, I do with it what I want, but since I am the face of our small business, I am constantly juggling what works for myself and for my business. I've considered making a separate IG for my personal life, but my personal life is my work & business. It always has been. I just don't want to change that, so I juggle. 

I feel like I was born to make art, I have always felt that way. I don't really know how to do anything else... I went to school to make art and to write, I taught art, I made pastry art for years, now I do a little bit of everything. But along the way, I've lost the whole confidence to share my art without apology, or to always be proud of what I do. I am an abuse survivor, and no matter how long I have fought to regain my whole self, I still struggle sometimes - like most humans I know despite what they have overcome. No stranger to oversharing, I think it's weird being an artist on Instagram because you aren't just an artist, you're an artist sharing/selling/giving art to an audience you may have never reached before which is super exciting but also scary stuff.

When I was a teenager, I made zines. I loved making them but never once finished one because I was always changing it, rearranging it, doubting its worthiness. I guess we don't really change that much in adulthood, after all.... and although this is something I would love to be better at as an adult, I won't say it isn't an ongoing struggle to change.

As a self employed maker, there are really two ways to go about social media - you make art and then treat instagram like another art form and make more art through sharing your art....or you make a looooooong advertisement that may not necessarily seem like an ad but definitely is so rather than another form of art, instagram is a tool. I don't know if there is a fluid way to do both. I know that sometimes, when we need to pay some bills or we are strapped for time, we may just post a snapshot that isn't stylized or even considered artful, and it always makes me feel a little off. I am by no means pretentious about our work - I don't take this as seriously as it may seem. This is life and it's supposed to be weird and fun and there's no fucking rules and we just figure it all out along the way - but, I also have these adult responsibilities that come along with being a self-employed artist that make it harder to "make art" for the sake of it.

In my dreams, I make art, and instagram is just another form of art - like a zine or a gallery, and if you like what you see you may go buy what we make so we can pay our bills and feed our cats but it is my art. That's the dream. And I'm not knocking the other way. I follow plenty of small businesses who are not making art on social media. They sell product. And to me there is a very blurry line between art and product these days...don't you think? I'm trying really hard to make this tool also a piece of art and vice versus and sometimes it's more complicated than just posting a photo and it fitting into the rest of the feed and it saying and sharing exactly what you wanted it to. I don't want anyone to ever mistake my messy, complicated life with something it isn't. I don't ever want anyone to think running a small business is easy and perfect, because it isn't, and I don't ever ever want anyone to think that we're running a 10 year long advertisement. We're not.  We just want to make art and make connections and friends and make sure our cats don't eat us while we're sleeping because their food bowls are empty. I want to share my friend's work, and take beautiful photos that maybe inspire just one person on a daily basis. I want to share my life with everyone. And I want to delete photos without being told I'm breaking the rules - because I promise at the end of the day, there are no rules. It's just instagram, the two sided dagger that encourages us be artists in a sea of artists all using this incredible tool in different ways, making the big picture a whole lot more beautiful. And weird.


1 comment

  • First of all, I’d like to say that if everyone in this world did business like you and Doug do, the world would be a better place…I’m sure of it. Second, from someone who really doesn’t have a massive following at all (!!), I think you’re doing it all right! I LOVE the community, the connectivity, the out reach of instagram. I went to school for art too, and I know the trials of self doubt, but (maybe it’s because I’ve gotten better about this as I’ve gotten older) I don’t fall prey to these feelings as often as I once did. I know that I grew up without social media and perhaps that has helped instill a stronger sense of self in me that maybe the younger generation doesn’t have because they’ve grown up always looking at what others say or like on their pages. I can’t say. What I can say is that I think Instagram can be both things—a tool and an art form. And I honestly think that out of most the people I follow, you guys really tickle that line quite well. If I do a promotion of some sort, I usually feel sleazy posting so many pics about my sale or offer, and will go back and delete them once the sale is up. I agree—no one wants a constant advertisement, even it if it is dressed up in a pretty picture.
    I think the MAGIC of Instagram is that it allows you to get to know WHO makes the stuff you love. And that is truly what compels me to buy. Sure, telling us that you have bills to pay probably won’t get your products sold. BUT! Telling me about who you are what your life is like, and the fact that you take up all these incredible creatures and care for them…that would get me to buy your art. I feel like Instagram has taken artists from these untouchables who can only show in galleries and brought them down to the level of the every man. We are all in this together, supporting each other, looking at each other’s work and trying to make it the best way we can. I feel like if we’re all honest about that then that is what will take things to the next level: people being people, helping people, supporting people as best they can. Perhaps it’s idealistic, but I think there needs to be a little more idealism in the world these days.
    Either way, keep it up. You guys are amazing humans and the world needs more like you. I’m glad to be privy to be a part of your life through this incredible tool.
    —julie

    julieyonder

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