7 Ways to Survive Social Media as an Artist
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Being an artist on social media can be challenging — there are a lot of ways the online world can stifle your creativity and hold you back. Here are 7 tips to get the most out of social media as an artist.
A Double-Edged Sword
Social media has provided an incredible opportunity for artists of all types. You get to share your work with a wider audience, build a following, and engage in a positive art community online.
But social media comes at a price. You get to follow other incredible creators and draw inspiration from their work, but you also can get sucked into a comparison loop that brings forth your worst insecurities.
How can you get the most out of social media without falling into its most prickly traps? After being a professional artist online for over five years, I have come up with a few tips to help you navigate this tricky issue.
The Drawbacks of Social Media
Social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Tiktok are great places to participate in artistic communities, find inspiring ideas, and grow your own following, there are a few major drawbacks to be mindful of.
The Comparison Conundrum
One of the biggest traps for artists on social media is comparison. Some days you may look at your favorite creator’s work and feel inspired. Other days, it might leave you feeling ashamed that your work isn’t as good as theirs.
As the old saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. You simply cannot compare your journey with someone else’s journey. The artists you compare yourself to might have more external financial support, more formal education, or simply more years of experience. You should only ever compare your current work against your previous work. As long as you feel you are making improvements, you are doing amazing.
The Time Suck
Social media is designed to catch and hold your attention for as long as possible. While it might be nice to turn off your brain sometimes and just scroll, we can often fall into a hole of new posts, stories, and videos. Hopping onto Instagram for a bit of inspiration can quickly turn into a half hour or more wasted.
When you’re an artist on social media, you need to find a way to break the grip on your attention and step away so you can actually make some art. You can’t get better as an artist if you waste all your spare time lost in the endless scroll.
While most of the art communities I’ve seen on social media are positive, encouraging, and giving, there will always be some people who insist on trying to tear artists down. Some trolls might be downright mean while others might hide their nastiness in a nicer package, like:
“I think the colors are pretty, but my five year old could make this.”
And, of course, there are the folks who try to rip off hard working artists and pass your work off as their own, or simply don’t credit you properly.
Social media shows some of the best parts of the human race while clearly displaying some of the worst. I can’t just tell you to develop a thick skin — I myself don’t have a very thick skin when it comes to this sort of thing.
The trick is weighing all the positive comments, likes, and messages against the one or two trolls. If ten people love your work and one person is an ass, then it’s safe to say that the issue lies with the troll and not you.
It’s Never Enough
The final big downside of social media as an artist is that you can never get enough. No matter how many follows, likes, comments, messages, and share you have, you will always crave more. And while it’s good to have goals, you can’t let this growth-hungry mindset dictate what you create or how you feel about your art.
Joseph Gordon Levitt has a Ted Talk where he explores this problem beautifully. He points out how this craving for attention can actually start to kill your creativity, and offers some great insight on how to get back to the point of it all — creation.
7 Tips for Making the Most of Social Media
Despite these pitfalls of social media, you can still get a ton of benefit from sharing your work and engaging in these online art communities. Here are my best tips to help you find the right balance with your social media experience.
Share Your Victories
On social media, you will of course want to put out your best work. You want to share the things you made and feel proud of what you have accomplished. Do that! Share your favorite pieces to your heart’s content and put yourself out there. It’s a great way to build confidence in your art.
Share Your Mistakes
Ever feel like your favorite creators are flawless? Like everything they touch turns out amazing with no effort at all? It’s all a lie! Behind every successful account, there is a human who has bad days, bad drawings, and bad ideas. That stuff is almost never shown on social media, adding to the feeling that you are the only imperfect person while everyone else is effortlessly successful.
Help combat the illusion of perfection by sharing some of your failures and rough work. Show your concept sketches, your ugly artwork, your fizzled out projects. Talk about some of the struggles you faced. Share your best work, yes — but show that you’re human, too. Your followers will relate to you more and you will be rewarded for sharing this vulnerable side.
Keep Some Things Private
Once you start sharing on social media, you might feel like anything you create is fair game to share. However, this mentality can end up making you feel hesitant to try new ideas, mediums, or techniques because you might be bad at it. You might end up only making art that you know your followers will enjoy.
This can stick you in a cycle of only making art for the following you have. If you feel like you can’t experiment and try new things, your art will grow stale and you’ll feel stuck in a rut. Trust me, I’ve been there.
The best way to avoid this is to adopt the mentality that not everything you make must be shared. Keep some things private and allow yourself the space to try new things and suck a bit. I have a sketchbook that is for my eyes only, and it gives me breathing room to make terrible art. Try getting yourself a “bad art” sketchbook and allow yourself to make a mess and keep it totally private. You’ll love the freedom this simple adjustment will give you.
Take a Break
It’s great to engage with social media, talk to your online friends, and support other artists. But remember to take a break from time to time. Leave your phone in the other room while you’re drawing, or at least put it on silent so you aren’t distracted by it. I’ve turned off all my social media push notifications completely to help keep my scrolling in check.
And don’t be afraid to step away from social media for a few days, weeks, or even months if you need it. It’s okay to unplug and take a breather. Your followers will understand.
There are so many incredible artists to follow on social media, and they can be a vital wellspring for your own inspiration. Save posts that inspire you to a separate folder so you can visit it later when you need a boost of inspiration.
Instead of feeling overcome with comparison anxiety, try to think critically about what you like about the art. Is it the color? The form? The subject matter? See what you can incorporate into your own art and grow your skills that way!
Whenever you draw inspiration from another artist and incorporate their style a bit into your own work, it’s always a good idea to credit the artist. I have tried recreating another artist’s forms, color schemes, or other styles into my own work as a means of play and experimentation. There is nothing wrong with this!
Your art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All artists draw inspiration from other artists. That’s the point of being in art communities together. But if you are ever making work that is obviously inspired by another artist, simply mention that fact in the post’s description. Tag the artist, talk about what you love about their work, and be open about it.
This makes sure that no one can accuse you of copying another artist’s style. It also helps point potential new followers to the original artist, who will certainly appreciate it. And who knows? You might end up gaining a fellow admirer from the artist you love. No matter what, it’s a win-win-win.
Engage in the Community
One way to grow your artistic skills, make new friends, and gain new followers is to actively engage in the art communities on social media. Participate in big challenges like Inktober or MerMay. Do Draw This In Your Style challenges. Share other artist’s work and celebrate all the amazing creativity on the platform. There is so much to gain from being an active member of your community.
Social Media is a Wild Animal
No matter how much you try, you will never tame social media. It has the power to strike out and hurt you, but if you learn how to interact with it properly, it will reward you.
Just remember that regardless of what’s going on online, you are an artist. You love the act of making things — it’s why you started in the first place. Keep true to your artistic roots and you should be able to find the right balance as an artist on social media.
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I’ve actually held off sharing anything because of all the points you raised above. It’s so time consuming I would rather be creating than scrolling and I am the most delicate watercolor flower I know I won’t be able to handle the trolls. Oh I forgot the marketing… How do you combat imposter syndrome? Lol clearly I have issues hahahaha
I’ve been there, Emma! I have a post where I talk about my experiences with impostor syndrome here that you might find helpful. As for marketing, I can’t say for sure! The algorithms, they’re always a-changin’. I just know that posting often and taking good photos (I have a tutorial on that here) helps tremendously.