I Want To Be An Artist, Not A Content Creator

March 30, 2022

Do Artists Need Social Media?

I don’t know about you but I have noticed a sharp deterioration of my attention span over the last few years.

I was born in 1976, which means that I had no access to the internet to speak of until my early 20’s, and back then it was dial-up, not broadband, which as those of you who are familiar will remember, was sloth-like. Life in general felt slower then, I often watch movies that are set pre-internet/mobile phones and long for them again, sadly I don’t think it would be possible currently for me to ditch my smartphone… not yet anyway. These days if a browser page doesn’t come up within 2 seconds I get impatient! I didn’t even own a mobile phone till I was around 21, and it was very basic… just texts and calls (although I never used it to text back then). Type in ‘Nokia 1997’ to google and you’ll get the idea. Now we hold super-computers at our fingertips.

This is me demonstrating the blistering speeds of early internet dial-up

The Evolution Of Social Media

I have been watching a lot of artists on Youtube talking about deleting their Instagram accounts, one of the creators said something that really resonated with me which inspired this blog post, ‘I want to be an artist, not a content creator’.

Being self employed means that there are already dozens of things you have to do AS WELL as making art, but social media now feels like it is stealing too much of my time. Social media makes art disposable and fast and isn’t appreciated because of it. Someone will look at an image that took me a week to create and maybe only spend a couple of seconds looking at it before scrolling on. It’s no wonder that people often expect to be able to commission an artist to paint a picture for them for $50 when they are so used to this type of interaction with it. They’re not seeing the hard work.

Social media is an amazing tool and a gift for those of us trying to get eyes on our work, especially if one is in a niche which isn’t something you could sell easily in a local gallery (unlike landscapes, nudes and wildlife art which are still some of the most popular genres sold in galleries). We have created our own little worlds and followings in this intangible online space and at first, it was great, it was chronological (I’m looking at you, Instagram) and the algorithms didn’t seem to hamper one’s reach at all. It is designed to keep you hooked and stay on the platform for as long as possible (all social media is this way of course) AND if you’re a creator, they want you to make content using ALL the tools they have on their platform or you don’t get views. I would be happy to pay a small monthly fee to use Instagram if it meant that my reach wasn’t stifled and Instagram would still be able to make piles of cash!

Now you have to be an expert editor and videographer!

Instagram announced last year that they are no longer a ‘photo sharing platform’ but have been pushing ‘reels’ (copied from TikTok’s short video style) instead. If you don’t play their game and make lots of short videos, (60 seconds, you’d better make it interesting!), then your photos hardly ever get seen, at least mine don’t. I have approximately 23,000 followers on Instagram but the average number of people who see a post is around 300-400! I have to pay now if I want to be able to reach the people who are already following me. Even TikTok financially incentivises its creators but Instagram does no such thing. Social media moves too fast to keep up – each time it changes, it adds yet another thing you need to get good at or learn in order to be visible. It’s exhausting and unsustainable.

Making videos is very time consuming, it’s also distracting to have to set up a camera or phone to film yourself painting when all you want to do is just paint without having to pause the video, change the angle of the camera etc. This doesn’t even take into account the time that is then necessary to edit and upload said video. So when this video is going to be consumed in a matter of seconds, is it worth it? I don’t think so. For a long video it’s a different matter.

‘Social media moves too fast to keep up – each time it changes, it adds yet another thing you need to get good at or learn in order to be visible. It’s exhausting and unsustainable.’

I’ve been building my Instagram since around 2013 but it now feels like a Sisyphean task to make ‘content’ for it (the sort that they want – video). I used to post regularly (every day pretty much) using tailwindapp.com which allowed me to schedule posts in advance. I’d get two weeks scheduled in a couple of hours and then forget about it (other than replying to comments when they were posted). I am no longer going to do this, I won’t be deleting my account but I will post occasionally instead of trying to beat algorithms with everyday posts.

Quality Not Quantity & Conscious Consumption

It’s time for me to slow down and try a new (or old school) tactic! First of all I will make more long form content like this in blog form, very old school. I love writing and putting my thoughts down in written form and my blog is a great way to do it. I will also be trying to make more effort with YouTube. If I’m going to spend time making a video I don’t want it to be on a platform where people can’t search for it – plus once I reach 1000 followers there I can then monetise my video content. People find and watch videos that have been on YouTube for years – this makes much more sense than putting it somewhere which will be forgotten about tomorrow. I will also continue to use Twitter, despite it being a steaming cesspool of lunatics, it does get quite good reach occasionally!

Overall I want to try and stop consuming social media so unconsciously, in that I can lose a lot of time just scrolling and interacting (especially feeling the need to reply to ANY comment on a post I make) and I think of all the time I could have been making art, sewing a new pair of fancy pants, or gardening! Since deleting tiktok a week or so ago now I have noticed a big difference already.

So DO artists need social media? Can we have success without it?

Yes and no. I think all artists should have a website of some kind to showcase their work – especially if they are looking for client work or trying to sell their own work, it’s useful to have a base. Fortunately this is very easy to set up now with many sites making it super easy even for the tech-awkward. I think if you’re wanting art industry jobs and illustrating for clients then other than your website I don’t know that it would be really necessary to have a social media presence if you didn’t want one since when looking for work it is very unusual to just be found randomly, you’re more likely to have success from contacting the companies you want to work for directly with your portfolio. Feel free to correct me in the comments below if you don’t agree! (After all I am not seeking client work anymore so am out of the loop!).

If you’re like me and you’ve got your own IP and you want people to find it, then I think having some presence online is essential but try not to stress over the numbers. It’s always better to have 100 super fans than to have 100,000 followers who just scroll past. It’s definitely worth building a newsletter however, a great way to reach people who are actively interested in what you do. In future I hope to go back to doing some in-person events but I need to seek out the right ones for my work.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts? Are you an artist who is sick of social media or is it working well for you? Let me know below!

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103 Comments

  1. You’re spot on, Emily. We want to tell stories with our work, and this takes time. Art is not a commodity, yet, Instagram etc. have turned it into one. Burnout is a thing, though. Social Media has given us ample opportunity to show our work to the world without having to spend money on advertising. But the platforms keep changing the goalposts mid-game. It’s exhausting.

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    • Yeah I would love to spend much more time on each piece than I do but feel the need to keep producing work! I hope that I can reach enough people with my new book even with reduced social media activity. I checked and my average instagram daily time is 36 mins which isn’t too bad! Before I deleted tiktok I know it was waaaay worse LOL

      I don’t mind paying to be on a platform but the amount of money they expect for you to reach your followers is insane, especially knowing the numbers of people using instagram – surely it would be better to have a low fee to use instagram, say £5 or £10 a month in the knowledge that your stuff will be seen by all your followers and not choked!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  2. I find that content creation has taken over artistic value as of late and such a shame because it adds so much stress and pressure on the timing of posting. I don’t agree with the frequency demanded by social media in order to be popular. It has become overwhelming and stressful . I would rather be small in number and create at my own pace. Cheers Emily…x

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    • So spot on. I have always struggled with the question ‘why do I have to spend 50% of my time on marketing to be a successful artist.’ Added with why was marketing not taught when I was in college getting my art degree.

      It is refreshing to read about this trend and I hope to find my own balance.

      Thank you!

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      • AMEN Amanda. Yeah I didn’t do an art degree but did do an ‘art foundation course’ (which was a year long thing meant to prepare you for university and help you choose what you wanted to study) and it totally lost my interest in art as it concentrated on one type of art (late nineties it was all about conceptual installation modern art stuff) and didn’t take illustrative art seriously at all. But no art course back then (and I don’t know if there is now) seems to teach how to make a living as an artist! It seems mad that it isn’t part of it. Let’s hope we all find a balance – it does seem that this story is coming up over and over again of how fed up artists are with making ‘content’. ‘Content Creator’ is now a job in itself so I don’t know how we are expected to do it as part of ours!

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      • Agree with all what you say, Emily. I never used social media to it’s full extend myself, I found for me the far better way to promote and sell my work was at ‘in person’ events, conventions and art shows, where I could personally interact with the people who are generally interested. It’s hard work, exhausting and often expensive, but it’s usually only a weekend at the time, while I can use the rest of the week uninterrupted to make art and recover (I’m not an overly social animal, I’m normally quite drained after a show). Also, the few amazing clients I picked up in the past were all from seeing me at shows.

        I can’t even get myself into galleries, because – despite you mentioning it: galleries usually don’t take wildlife art, unless it’s specialised on it. The average gallery considers what I do (wildlife art) not to be sellable. But: there are specialised art shows and even galleries for it around. Artists and wildlife enthusiasts have grouped together and organise pop up art shows and events, all over the place.
        Which makes me wonder, if that might be the case as well for your genre? Might be worth looking into.

        Amanda is spot on in saying ‘why wasn’t marketing taught in art school’. For something which is so important to be successful, it was completely ignored, wasn’t it? Shows how little most of these tutors actually know about what is really going on out there… of course not all, but I keep hearing this from so many people, regardless in which country they studied.

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        • To Claudia Hahn, I don’t know where you live, but I wanted to send you this info:
          https://thomasvillearts.org/wildlife-arts-festival/
          just in case you do not know about it.
          Greetings from Biological Illustrator and Lover of Emily’s art.

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          • Claudia is in the UK like me so sadly she wouldn’t be able to get to that show easily. It looks gorgeous!

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        • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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      • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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    • Yeah it is a crazy stress. Interestingly in the last two weeks since making the decision to not worry about it anymore I’ve had more comments on my last two instagram posts (a week apart from one another), than I did in the last 4 months of trying to post more regularly LOL.
      I agree, a small keen following is the best way I think over thousands of hungry short attention spans!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  3. Agreed – social media is overwhelming and even with one’s best intentions, it’s hard not to be sucked in by its vortex of distraction and comparison. As a writer, I want to focus on writing books or short stories. I am not necessarily interested in learning copy. Yet, here it seems that one must actively pursue mastering the art of copy to attract the ‘ideal client.’ It’s very exhausting. Thanks for writing about this.

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    • Oh god yeah… copy is so hard! I can’t imagine how you are expected to use social media as a writer either – that seems hard when it is on the whole a very visual thing.

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  4. I don’t seem to understand when some say that in order to reach followers on IG and beat the algorithm, you need to pay. Does this mean that you have to buy sponsored ads to promote your account, or is it something else? IG doesn’t seem to offer paid “premium” accounts.

    I may be missing the mark entirely with my question, but I have an IG account where I post my art as “wb8979”. While I do like showing my artwork there, I don’t know what other alternative there is to IG and I’m not experienced enough to launch my own portfolio or website yet. I am considering a blog, but who will read it when most browse social media? The only alternatives to post art are rather few, such as DeviantArt or Artfol.

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    • Hiya Wade, yeah it seems that in order to be seen by the followers on instagram you already have (or rather, for most of them to see you, rather than one or two) then you need to ‘boost your post’ – which of course is all facebook connected and of course FB owns Instagram. I haven’t ever boosted a post on instagram (I have on fb but it was pointless, I think you have to spend big money to get it to work). IG doesn’t offer premium accounts, I think it should do rather than this boost post thing – 10 quid a month would be good to let all your followers see you!

      I guess my question to you would be who are you wanting to see your work, are you wanting to get illustration jobs? Are you just wanting to develop a following and then maybe create your own books using Kickstarter like I have?

      If you’re wanting illustration work then it is def worth having a portfolio (you can make one for free on artstation) or set up a simple portfolio on wordpress (I’m pretty sure you can do that for free, also on Wix.com I believe). It might be worth starting a blog just for you – people find these things using search terms in google, but yeah, I’m not sure how many folks are really looking for blogs anymore, but who knows, maybe the wind will change as everyone is so sick of social media! Your work looks like it would suit children’s books, so looking into something like https://www.hireanillustrator.com could be good when you feel ready (I used to put my work on there a few years ago).

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      • Thank you for your thoughts. Right now, I’m still trying to get my drawing style down, but I do like what I am drawing. I notice improvement with each drawing I do, so I try to draw every day when possible. I don’t feel I am ready to take on illustration jobs right now since I need to balance my day job and find out the best way to manage time.

        As for what kind of field I want to go into, I haven’t decided yet. I do aspire to become a freelance illustrator for children’s books, but I also have in mind starting a web-comic, or even a blog where I just tell stories with my animal characters. I also haven’t decided whether or not I will seek an agent and go for a traditionally published book, or if I will do a crowdfunded book, or go the self publishing route. It’s going to be a few years yet before I know which type of publishing will work best for me.

        I will keep those two free services you mentioned in mind when the time comes for me to build a portfolio.

        If I do start a blog, I will promote it through my IG page and my Twitter. I don’t know how many people will read it, but with a blog, I will be putting my stories and ideas out into the world.

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        • Drawing every day is absolutely brilliant. It sounds like you are totally on track and that you know the pace you need to go at which is half the battle honestly! I look forward to seeing your journey (that’s if IG will show me on my feed lol).

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      • Thanks, Emily, for your interesting reply to Wade Brandis, I am not on any “social Media”, don’t even own a cellphone. I am a 60 year old German and live in the USA several decades. I am trained as an Biological Illustrator, used to make illustrations for Research Papers in the past. I always feel that it would be nice to make some money with my art in my – now -later years, but have not found the right venue jet. Of course I never even learnt how to make these portfolios on-line you were talking about. The only group I am in right now is the studio Membership of https://www.papergardenworkshop.com
        One of the young Ladies in there gave a wonderful Procreate course I am just completing:
        https://prettypurpledoor.teachable.com/courses
        I will have to check out the things you mentioned here when time. Thanks so much, and yes, I supported one of your fun books with the Kickstarter Program. I love your fun art.

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        • Thank you Angela!! Those courses look really great – it must be rather refreshing not to be stuck in social media land! I wish I could leave it for good but at the moment it’s just not possible sadly! Thanks so much for supporting me on Kickstarter too, I hope you enjoyed the book, whichever one it was! X

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  5. I find that the current Instagram model is in direct conflict with what art brings, for both creator and audience.
    I LOVE reading your blog, love seeing your process and getting an understanding of how you work, keeping updated as via your newsletter (and one day when I leave this life of permanent student-ness) I can hopefully contribute more meaningfully via membership. Having had to essentially leave my art practice for the better part of a decade due to the conflict between creativity and earning an income, I can only say that just make the right decision for yourself at the time. If you leave IG, I will still be stalking you via your website, Youtube and wherever else you publish. And I am sure I am not the only one!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and it is particularly interesting to read it from someone who has built their business model (apologies for the crass term) from connecting with people, using Social Media platforms (among other things). It feels like a really cynical move from IG, to suddenly monetise content like this, after engineering a totally captive market for many people who’s livelihood depends on their IG reach (not just artists) – that you gotta pay for what was once their very operating model

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    • Thank you Emma – so glad you like the blog! I do wonder sometimes if what I’m saying is of any interest, I guess it’s the old imposter syndrome or something giving me a wee tickle!

      I am not planning on leaving IG just yet, I don’t think I could even if I wanted to as I need to drum up some excitement (hopefully!) for my next book so I will be using IG for that, as well as facebook and twitter of course. And yes, it is a bit of dilemma the old ‘well I built my following here, why would I leave it’ – I don’t think I could have had the success I have now without a social media following – but honestly I only had around 1500 followers on Instagram back when I did my first Kickstarter, but the reach on Facebook back then (just via my personal page, not my art page) was huge and wasn’t restricted so I got lots of re-sharing on there that happened but hasn’t happened since to the same degree.

      The saying goes if the platform is free then YOU are the product and it’s true. This is why I would happily pay to have m y profile on IG – IF – they then stopped strangling reach like they do now. Instead of getting people to pay for individual post reach I think this would make more sense. We can’t really complain that they want to monetise it, but it’s difficult when they didn’t at first and then the way they did monetise it wasn’t really very scaleable (not for small biz anyway). I think I said somewhere else on here or maybe on a thread on twitter, that there are people who’s main job is content creation, so I don’t see how we can do that AS WELL AS being artists/creatives. There’s just not enough time!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  6. Thank you for your thoughts. I Aam an artist and also sick of social media! I had a burn out some months ago and have promised myself that if my stress level is higher then a 5 (on a scale from a 0 being no stress to 10 most stressful) I will take a day off the next day 😀 and I love it. Social media lets my stress rise super fast so I log out from the app every time after using it. Try to not open it more then 2 or 3 times a day…. growing my newsletter every day a bit more and focusing on other ways to market… still I will follow you on ig 🙂 take good care!

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    • I’ve just had a look at your website, how gorgeous!! I love the vibe of your work, there’s lots of love in it, I can see.
      I’ve followed you on IG too, I too am trying to grow my newsletter, just need to figure out how (I mean, how do you if you don’t post on social media!?). An interesting journey to be sure.

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  7. You are absolutely correct! A brilliant summation of the feelings many artists have been feeling as pain points for years.

    -SkellyScribbles

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    • Thanks Skelly – yeah I don’t know what the answer is to it all but hoping that having sort of made a move towards doing it all differently that I can find a way to succeed without it. I have no idea how at the moment!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  8. I would actually love to connect to more artists like you any me, feeling sick of social media and try to come up with creative ways to be seen!

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    • Ilka me too! I wonder how easy it is to set up a group like that, maybe a discord group (although generally I don’t get on with discord as if I miss threads then it’s very hard to keep up with people in different time zones!), or maybe a message board could work, something more old school. I have the means to make a forum on this website but not sure how much bandwidth would be needed if it got particularly active! Maybe, ironically, a facebook group for people to vent and share ideas on how to reach without social media would work too.

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      • Yeah! So happy to read that you are interested in a group to exchange alternative ideas too! The HOW to do that is a good question. I do not have experience with discord or other formus. I only know basecamp for things like that. Do you know basecamp?

        I would love to help setting up place that works for us. Here is my email. Maybe we can connect there and see how we organize ourselfs hello@artfromilkasheart.com

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        • I’m not familiar with Basecamp but I just had a look and it seems that it’s pretty expensive ($99 for a year if you want over 20 people in it) so I don’t know that that’s a possibility. Pretty sure Discord is free, but I’m not sure about the layout (it’s like a chat, rather than a forum). I haven’t used Discord in a while though so they may have a forum type setup now? I’ll have a look!

          On this site here I can set up a forum but I’ve not figured out how to make it so that people can just post in it without being a member (or making the registering separate from my membership). I have a friend who’s brilliant with wordpress so I will ask them how it would work. I also don’t know how much bandwidth it would take up. Maybe I could make it so that people have to be my lowest member to join, then that will pay for hosting perhaps. I will have a think! I could even maybe set up a much cheaper membership (like 50p!) for t hose who want to join in with the anti social media thing. Or maybe a facebook group is the easiest option, despite being on social media (although groups are imperfect for discussions too!).

          Lots to think about!

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          • Ah I did not know about the prices of basecamp.I guess and easy solution like a fb group will be good for the beginning. Even though I really dont like to spend time on fb and never really do. 😀 but if you find an easy way to make it possible on your platform that would be great too! Let me know if I can support you!

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            • I think I might be able to do it on here – but I will need my clever friend’s help and can’t do it at the moment (might even need to wait till after i’ve finished my book!). But I think there’s clearly a desire for it isn’t there 🙂

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  9. Oh, reading this is fantastic! I too feel that this constant coercion to post and post and post to be able to get any kind of traction is not only crazy, but detrimental to the actual work we should be doing.

    I am relatively new to the art community, having left behind a couple decades as a software engineer/product manager. That makes me both aware of my lack of knowledge, and open to trying avenues that diverge from the ones considered “normal” within the community.

    I would love to connect and throw some ideas around. A small discord could be manageable, depending on how many people join, and of course, a self-hosted forum would work, but as you said, it would require not only effort to set it up, but maintenance. Heck, at this point, if there are less than 10 people working on it, even a shared Google Doc could work!

    Hopefully something will come out of this, but even if it doesn’t, reading your post made me realize I’m not the only one tired of the hamster wheel! Thank you for that!

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    • Thanks Julian! That’s exactly it isn’t it, the constant coercion! Hamster wheel is spot on!

      My only issue with discord is that it is chat based, so anyone on a different time zone is going to miss out on lots of chat. I used to be on a discord with mostly USA folks and I just couldn’t keep up and so left it in the end as I’d log in and have ’58 new messages’ in chat form to sift through! argh! More stress…
      The old forum format would be best I think, I have the means to set it up in here but need to figure out how to do that and separate it from my membership.

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      • Oh, that makes complete sense. Communication through a forum is way more asynchronous by design, so that would solve the problem. I was concerned about the amount o setup work that it would require, but if you ara ok with it, a forum should work beautifully.

        Please let me know i there’s something I can help with. My past life as an engineer made me quite adept to solving technical issues. At least I can help google the answers, hahaha.

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        • Thank you Julian! Yeah I would love a forum setup. I might need to set up some kind of tip jar for it to be able to run it but I’ll see.

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          • Fantastic! Please do let me know if and when you are able to set it up. I’d love to be a part of this conversation. And again, if I can be of any help, just shout!

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            • I’ve found a free place to make a forum… quite exciting!! Just got to think of a name now… HMMM.

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              • Oh, that’s awesome news! It’s too bad it’s a written thing, or you could call it “The Content Creators Network”, with “Content” as in happy. The joke is lost in written form, tho.

                Anyway, it’s great that the technical/cost-related aspects have been solved. It’s gonna be fantastic!

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                • Ooh that’s good! I’ve gone with mysterious corner as I couldn’t think of a good title. I was thinking ‘ArtySocial’ as a riff on antisocial lol – but it’s trying a bit hard I think. I’ve got the board set up now and will do another blog post about it at some point when it’s ready to go!

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                • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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                  • That’s awesome! And fast, hahaha! Thanks for doing it, and for posting the link. I’m off to register!

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                    • Well, if I make my mind up about something I have to do it RIGHT NOW, or I forget about it! I can’t help it LOL

  10. I’ve basically stopped posting. It feels like exploitation, I create content for free for theoretical exposure and then I get revision notes from a corporation that creates nothing. Every useful thing is excessively difficult, it took literal years for them to integrate shopping, even now it’s way more complicated than it needs to be, all so they could be the middleman. They finally returned chronological order, but it’s too late. The video thing is the last straw, I’m too tired to keep jumping and asking how high. What will be next, you have to make NFTs to get views.

    I wish I had a solutions rather than just gripes.

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    • Yeah I don’t really have many solutions at the moment, although blogging and newsletters are things I will spend more time crafting rather than SM posts. I already feel better from not over thinking social media for a couple of weeks now. I had last month collected loads of ‘tips’ on how to grow on social media and I will now be ignoring that completely! It seems a thankless task. Like you say, absolutely everything is excessively difficult.

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  11. As an avid consumer of art, I am on IG purely to see creators I want to see content from, which isn’t what happens in the feed at all, so I just end up going to their individual IG pages to see things. I would honestly much rather go to a webpage, but so many seem tied into the IG/FB model as their ONLY form of reaching people. Patreon helped with that, especially finding new creators, and now some creators have moved to individual spaces, like yours. But it is mostly just a hot mess all around.

    As someone who actively wants to pay artists fairly, for all their efforts, it is exhausting on this end too. The harder it is to support/purchase/find/etc., the less likely I am to make the effort. It shouldn’t be onerous work on my part to give a creator my money… I don’t blame the creators, so much as the limited platforms that seem to be available.

    I always love suggestions from creators I already follow/support, which you totally do, but there might be room there for something to help artists help each other reach more people. From my end that seems to be a big missing piece. I tend to find artists by luck mostly because I’m not one myself.

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    • Yeah we need to ask the question ‘there is a gap in the market but is there a market in the gap’! I heard this recently and loved it!
      There definitely needs to be a shift but no idea how to make it work – like you say for the customer it is hard to see what you want to see. I hardly ever get shown the artists I follow on IG and it’s infuriating if you can’t remember their name or handle!

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  12. Totally totally with you on this. I want to step away from Instagram as I literally struggle to browse content (in a desire to keep up with artists) when there are so many videos flashing by – I find it physically makes me sick to see so many moving pictures. But it’s where I have seen the most growth and success of late. I’m hoping to move to a membership platform like you have here and streamline a bit. I enjoy discovering art on Instagram and other socials but I hate when I can feel the machine chomping at my Heels. Weirdly for me (At the moment) I’ve found that if I post regularly on Instagram it doesn’t seem to care if it’s video or not (which I refuse to spend much time on at all) it is Facebook that has taken a nose dive.

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    • Yeah the moving pictures are very distracting (for me it doesn’t make me sick but I get sucked into dog and animal videos LOL). I like that description of the machine chomping at your heels, it definitely feels that way. Facebook has way less reach for me too. Twitter I find gets more interaction than anywhere, but it seems hit and miss in most places!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  13. A great article Emily, I agree with you on this. Our attention span has been greatly reduced by the speed at which we consume content. Instagram led to me burning out with my comic and made me abandon it because I couldn’t produce work quickly enough for it to matter (to the algorythm). Since then I’ve been a lot more detached from the platfrom and focused more on creating and developing skills than rushing to post. It constantly feels like we need to jump through hoops to make the platform work properly for us.

    Your comparison to Youtube is quite interesting, I never thought of it that a piece of media on there can be viewed for a long time in comparison to instagram. All the best for moving forward 🙂

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    • Thanks Mike – yeah it is impossible to keep up with the algorithm I think, it changes so flipping fast! I’m glad you’ve found a place to create without feeling like you have to keep up with it. I think we are all realising how damaging it is.

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  14. Emily! Your a goddess for posting this! I was born in the 80s and have great pride that I didn’t even own a computer till I was in my late teens! Let alone a phone until I was in my late 20s.
    I agree with your post whole heartedly. Glad to know I’m one of many who feel the same.

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    • Thanks April! THat’s good going to avoid the phone till your late 20’s!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  15. Hi Emily. Your words have hit home with me. I love your work and have most of your books.

    Born 6 years earlier than you I have found the social media game a soul-destroying pointless task.
    I have been creating a daily character creation since the start of 2022, which I enjoy doing about 60% of the time, but I am starting to realise I am just content creating for the sake of it. With only 40 followers I am lucky if most of my Instagram posts likes get into double figures.

    Your blog has made me think that maybe it is time to start working on a bigger project and release teaser images from that rather than solely creating for Instagram.

    Thank You for helping me consider what in my heart I already felt anyway.

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    • Thanks Jason. Wow, a daily character! I can’t imagine being able to do that (i know that I couldn’t, my brain just would rebel immediately LOL). It sounds like a good idea to start a bigger project and then sneaky peek parts of it, it is so fun getting properly engrossed in a larger project!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  16. Well said, my friend!
    It’s a subject that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, so your blog was perfectly timed. As you know, I was late to the game even with a website, as my reputation within the industry was enough to secure me all the business I needed. Even today, I get very few enquiries from it, but lately, some have borne fruit, so I would agree that an online portfolio is essential.

    However, the social media situation is frustrating and no mistake!

    I follow another artist, the daughter of a family friend, who is young (20) and trying to establish herself. I’m very supportive of her; she has a nice style with potential and, like you, a large following. Unlike us, she has grown up in a social media world, so for her, it is part of the natural order of things, but even she has been complaining loudly lately of feeling flogged by the need to feed the algorithms!

    She has openly stated several times that she will be ‘taking a break’ and ‘looking after (her) mental health’; despite that, she is still up there almost every day, flogging herself even harder!

    This goes way beyond mere dopamine; these kids are victims of conditioning.

    I also see a lot of regurgitation. People repost the work of others (which, okay, is a nice thing to do) and continuously repost their old work, but a lot of the time, this is only to keep their own conversation going when they have nothing new to say. It’s just littering, and the net result is that others learn to ignore them.

    The only way to look at all of this stuff is as a toolkit. A way to get one’s work out there and using social media as a delivery system, to create and service one’s niche, but not as a way of life.

    The only social media I use now are Instagram (which is still quite friendly), and I’m trialling TikTok (which isn’t, but it’s the platform of the moment).

    As to “going viral” and “blowing up”, I don’t care. I believe that if you create from your heart to the best of your ability and always put your best foot forward, the right audience (for you) will find you.

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    • Yeah have you seen ‘the social dilemma’ on netflix? About how the algorithms work and how they basically want to keep you hooked on their platform for as long as possible? So scary – i mean it’s obvious as it IS addictive, but yeah, hearing from people who were working in that world is sobering to say the least.

      I too will repost stuff things from months or years ago, just to post something, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that much anymore, now that I’m not trying to post daily! Littering is an interesting way to look at it…

      I had to delete Tiktok as it was SO addictive (more than instagram for me), and i had done a few videos, but i was losing my spare time on that page. I still have my profile on there incase someone stumbled on it and so could find links, but won’t be making videos for there. Good luck with it though, it works really well for musicians as I was following many on there.

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  17. Love these blog posts of yours. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I’ve noticed that I start to get very anxious and insecure when I spend regular time on Social Media—even if I don’t post anything myself. By consuming too much art from too many other artists at once, I start to forget what it is I actually like to create myself and my own artistic voice/whisper gets drowned out. Once I spend time away from Social Media, all of that good stuff naturally comes back and I get inspired again. It’s funny because I initially wanted to use my Instagram feed to get inspired by all these other amazing artists and take my own art to the next level, but it actually has the opposite effect if I’m not careful about it. These days, I hardly use the feed at all, but instead manually go to a certain artist’s account or website in order to avoid HSP overstimulation. I’ve had the same approach with Facebook for years. Also, I’ve started using books for inspiration a lot more instead. They’re much more naturally paced and it’s harder to fatigue yourself, because they’re not addictive—only collecting them can be very addictive. ^_^

    I feel like it’s not that different from real life really. I’m much better with small groups of like-minded people than large groups where you have to fight for people’s attention in order to participate in the conversation. Similarly, I much prefer meaningful, deep connection and well thought out blog posts like these. 🙂

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    • Yeah I hadn’t really thought about the effect it has when one sees loads of other artists work before I started watching a few artists on youtube talk about their giving up the feeds! Books are SO great for inspiration, in fact, you have reminded me I have a really great collection of art books that I need to sit and look at more often! You’re right though, collecting them can be super addictive!

      I’m super touched that you like my blog posts! I always feel like I’m sort of shouting into the void when writing them and have the thoughts ‘would anyone even really care what I said’ LOL – stuff like that. So it means a lot when you say that, thank you.

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      • The struggle is real. ^_^ I have an animator friend who only allows creators in totally different creative fields to fill her feed. She’s muted everyone else to keep herself sane and get inspired without the insecurities and comparison that may follow.

        I’d love to get a glimpse of your book collection!

        You’re definitely not shouting into the void. You’re shouting into our hearts. 🙂 And it looks like there’s plenty folks who feel the same way. It’s so refreshing and wonderful with a voice that’s honest and authentic and brave enough to share it—even when it goes against popular beliefs/habits. So by all means, don’t stop! 🙂

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        • That’s a really good idea using the feed for different creators. I have separate instagram account (@gardenerding) where I post my garden stuff, I love growing veggies (although not growing this year as we are trying to move house) and it’s so interesting how different my feed is on that other account, filled with gardens! It really does learn what you like and show you more of the same.

          Uh oh, I don’t need that much encouragement to keep blogging… such a rambler I am! I’m not afraid to go against the popular stuff if that’s where it leads me. Maybe it comes from when I was a teenager and was always saying no to drugs haha! I didn’t care that they called me square!

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          • That sounds really wonderful! I’ll have to follow that account and maybe some more like it! I’m looking at dancers and silly animal accounts at the moment. ^_^

            Haha. Good on you! Square… *eye roll* It’s really interesting how intense people can get about trying to make you follow the same habits as themselves. o.0 I’m glad you kept walking your own path. 🙂

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  18. Culture wants us to believe that if you don’t live life in the fast lane, you’re not living! We consume “things” so fast, is there really anytime to appreciate them?
    SM makes it hard for artists. The variety of platforms draw us in as a way to market and advertise our work. Work is the key here as you brilliantly pointed out: artists live to create and this process is not work for us. SM forces us to almost become directors and producers of our story. Yikes, I want to be back riding my tricycle and living low tech! Surely there are more of us in the world? Or are we on the endangered species list?

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    • Oh to live low tech and maybe have some artwork in a local gallery, pottering about in a big studio and making things! I mean I do potter about and make things, but the social media madness really does impede it and I’m SO glad to be taking a step back. I think there are loads of us who feel this way honestly…

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  19. THANK YOU Emily and all ya’ll who posted so helpfully!! My website crashed and burned a while back and I’ve been torturing myself over whether to just superglue it back together or to try even harder to “establish an online presence”. Online stuff has seemed like very little bang-for-the-buck of effort and I was blaming myself for my lack of skill at being a 21st century promoter. All of these options take so much time/energy away from what I really love to do… ART… particularly some new illustrated book projects I’m all excited about!! After reading your very insightful comments, I’m leaning toward having a website for the convenience of being able to say “Lookee here!” and just using social media mostly to be, well, SOCIAL. Art is my life, so a great deal will, inevitably, be included between grandbaby photos and grumbling about the mud season called spring here in Vermont. This decision feels like a huge gift of time that I could give myself. I’m turning 73 next month, so I need to be fairly picky about my use of time. THANKS!!

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    • Thanks Lynn! Yeah it’s totally worth having a website and there are options to do it super cheaply and you don’t NEED to have a shop if you don’t want to, there are so many options. That is a really lovely way to put it though ‘a huge gift of time’ – I like that a lot. Huge luck with your arty decisions!

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    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  20. You and I are about the same age. I am exactly on the same page. Creatively, my level of focus, love and passions have dwindled in lieu of social media (and I’m also a full time art professor which can do a similar thing to an artist)….so trying to make my art a priority is seemingly always pushed back. Social media has transformed from something simple and fun to a beast in competition and design for attention.
    Sigh! Love this article, can’t wait to share with my students. It is nice to see we aren’t alone!

    ❤️ To you Emily!

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    • Hey Jime!
      Wow yeah full time art professor must be full on! Super flattered that you want to share the article with my students! I’d love to hear the thoughts of those who have been brought up with social media as the norm.
      I hope you find time for your own art amongst the teaching and the hopefully avoiding socials…

      Reply
    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply
  21. I burned myself out big time trying to keep up with social media & everything else.. it’s made me realise that the cost to me of trying to conform to everyone else’s idea of a professional artist is not pay off. I feel so much happier since letting all my plates drop and taking a step back, getting a part time job in a shop & now I just create what I want when I want and don’t stress if anyone sees it… at some point I would like to hire an assistant to help me build things back up but for now I just can’t be arsed… it’s WAY a more hassle than it’s worth z.z

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    • It sounds like you made a brilliant choice for yourself. It must be quite nice having that part time job to take the pressure off, do you find you do more art now that you’re not trying to ‘make content’?

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      • No, quite the opposite, but I am still trying to re-find my love for it after YEARS after chronic burn out… I still have a ways to go but at least being able to create purely for fun and not worrying about selling /pimping / posting / hustling is a bonus! /:)

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        • Well it sounds like you’re being very sensible in your journey. There is no rush after all 🙂
          Must be lovely not having the hustle!

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          • Yes… it made me realise how crazy I must have been before! 😂

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            • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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              • Thanks em 👍

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  22. I post on social media but I’m not stressing about trying to do the latest, greatest thing. It’s just not worth the time suck in my opinion. So yes, I agree with you! Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been thinking .
    ❤️Cecilia

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    • Thank you Cecilia! Sounds like you’re way ahead with the anti social media sentiment! BRAVO!

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  23. I think there are way too many platforms now and it is hard because you’re told the more exposure you have the more people will find you but I disagree. I think you pick one or two and you make those the best you possibly can. Then let time do the rest. ♡

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    • SO wise – let time do the rest. Yes. I agree, I think I felt like I SHOULD do x and y on as many platforms as possible but I’m going to let the dust settle a bit after this blog post (it’s gone crazy and the replies have given me so much to think about!), but I think a couple of places is definitely enough. But which ones!?

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      • That is the question. Trial and Error and a lot of communicating with other artists and what they do. ♡

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  24. I have a Twitter account, never use it. I have an Instagram account to post doodles that I create for my granddaughter [on rare occasions]. In the beginning, I paid a lot more attention to Social Media. Now it is a strange place where people go to try and ruin each other’s lives. I am a professional artist, and most of my work is traditional; and I make my living using both the traditional and digital worlds for MY ART. You can’t beat the feel of a good fountain pen scratching the paper, though. I was asked just yesterday if I could share a link to my portfolio. I sent them the address to my studio. So, no, Social Media is not necessary. I follow artists and scroll quickly through their posts, but if something catches my eye, I spend the time looking at it. However, looking at something in its digital form can’t replace seeing the art in real life. The texture, the papers, the ink, and the paint make the art come alive. Again I do digital work, but it is treated like art in its final form.
    So, what was once the fun has become a chore, and now I ignore it. I walked away, and it has not affected me the slightest.

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    • It does feel like people are angry and argumentative continuously on social media doesn’t it! Absolutely exhausting! I wish you did have your work online so I could see it, I love that you can send folks to your studio, what a lovely thing for it all to be old school! How do people find you now, do you show in galleries etc?

      And thank you so much for joining my membership! I should ask you how you found me now and how you found this post so I know where I’m going right!

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      • How I found you, well, it is a bit ironic. I started following you on Twitter in 2018. I saw a bit of your work and loved it! It is a style that fits into my wheelhouse. You penned a post that you were working on a book, and I wanted to see how it all came out. I was/am working on a book that I started for my daughters (now my grandchildren) thirty years ago, and it is somewhat in your genre. I always thought your style would be the perfect fit for the illustrations in my book (do you collaborate?). Anyway, I started following you. So naturally, Twitter gets my attention in the update emails (never click on it). I saw that you started this blog, so I signed up and have followed your posts for a while. This one hit home, and I thought I would say something. Saying something means doing something, and you not only inspired me to do something but gave me the space to post it, and in turn, I wanted to do the favor of joining your site.

        Anyway, I ordered your Kickstarter book Cauldron back in 2018. The wrapping is a work of art, and I never wanted to destroy it. To this day, it sits on a shelf unopened. The tiny bottle, feather, small key, and wax seal all stay intact. Someday, when the moment is right, I shall open it for all to enjoy. Like a fine bottle of wine.

        My clients all come from word of mouth. So I honestly try to keep a low profile. I enjoy what I do, and it took a long time to get to this place. So I no longer take on anything that I don’t want to do. Some days it is watercolor, others pen and ink. Sometimes it is a digital doodle or a 3D cartoon in ZBrush. I enjoy art in all forms and the artists that create it. There is no bad art. I love to be inspired and appreciate looking at art that I cannot do.

        Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

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        • Yeah I don’t think I’d ever NOT use social media, but I am definitely using it less already since making this post which is rather nice (at least, less for my art, and not fretting over posting about it all the time!).

          I am not working with clients/collaborating at the moment because I’ve got a list as long as my arm of things that I am trying to work on myself, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t ever!

          Saying something means a lot – I’m sure a lot of people mean to say something and then don’t post or don’t comment so it’s greatly appreciated that you have, and super chuffed that you joined mysterious corner.

          I can’t believe you’ve not yet opened cauldron! I thought I recognised your name, I loved offering those special wrapped books, not sure I’d do it again though, but who knows! It’s lovely that you clearly really enjoyed it!

          Word of mouth is a great way to get clients (depending on what genre you’re in of course), and I’d like to go down that route again one day. I used to get my animal portrait work 20 odd years ago that way. You’re right, there is no bad art and there is inspiration everywhere!

          LOVE the Twyla Tharp quote!

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        • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

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  25. Hi Emily! Just wanted to say thank you SO much for this post. These past few months I’ve felt like social media has been controlling my life, so it’s so reassuring to see other artists experiencing similar things!

    I recently deleted social media off my phone, and I’m spending way less time checking it each day. Instead, I’m transitioning to reading newsletters and blog posts, so you can be sure that I’ll be reading every single one of your future emails!!

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    • Thank you Bailey! I like your idea of getting rid of social media on the phone. I might do the same thing so I’m not tempted to scroll mindlessly. Very good tip indeed, just got to take the leap (I did it with tiktok so why not the others, right?).

      Reply
    • I have made an old school message board/forum for artists! I’ve made it so I have to approve folks to come in (to make sure it’s all artists and aspiring artists, nothing else) so there will be instructions after sign up. If you fancy joining then here’s the link! https://mysteriouscorner.boards.net

      Reply

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