Great artists are careful not to do all of their art for public consumption, so that their creativity is not unduly determined by external motives, e.g. trends, accolades, money. — Tom Neal

I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram.

On the one hand, I really enjoy the community of friends and acquaintances with whom I interact. I have met so many wonderful people! Everyday, I see work by people like Alicia Schultz, Kelly Ann Powers, and Annamieka Hopps Davidson and I feel inspired. Even though I’ve never met these lovelies in person, they encourage me from afar and I feel as if we’re part of a real community that’s vibrant and loving and creative.

Often, though, I spend hours scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Worse still, I sometimes become an artistic stalker, wasting my own energy and creativity as I obsess over the work of other artists. My admiration sometimes morphs into jealousy or discouragement as I compare their work and apparent success with my own.

And then there’s the frustration of trying to grow my following. I try not to get caught up in the numbers game but it’s hard not to. I look at someone else’s 85K and another’s 2,065 and then I see my little band of 750 or so and I feel discouraged.

I have to remind myself over and over that I have many truly loyal followers who actually care about me. But then I see someone else’s painting that doesn’t even look like a real bird and she got 3,572 likes for it and I think: WTF?!? And I’m right back into the jealousy trap again.

Sometimes, I believe it would be better for me if I didn’t use Instagram at all but I feel stuck. All my “marketing” for my artwork is in one basket, so to speak. The only visibility I have for my art is on that one platform.

I try to post everyday but sometimes I don’t have the energy or the imagination or the productivity. I go through periods of desperate art production to keep up with posting every day. Then I find myself suffocating creatively because everything I make is for public consumption—there’s no space for experimentation.

The worst part of this for me artistically is that I do more than just paint birds but I find myself feeling afraid to share those images because I might lose followers. Authenticity is integral to me yet I, like so many others, I tailor my feed to create a unified brand image. In an effort to be consistent, my brand image has gotten more and more specific. As a result, more and more of my creative self is left out. And I hate that—I wind up feeling smothered and small.

As I wrote this piece I stopped and asked myself: “What is it I really want from being on Instagram?” I suddenly realized that what I really want is an artful life —which I already have.

What’s really necessary, I think, is to let go of if, or how, others respond to me. In the end, it’s my job to open my heart, to be authentic, and to share my gifts.

What about you? What’s your relationship with Instagram or other social media like? I’d love to know.


  • Trust me when I say that I too have been through all the same emotions you are having about Instagram and social media in general. I am not trying to market my work for selling, so it might be slightly different for me than for you, but as an aspiring artist myself, I look at it purely as a place to express myself and Instagram for me is a good place to do that. I don’t have thousands of followers and that’s ok, the ones I do have often send me messages of encouragement which I love and that means so much to me. I have a very mixed gallery and I let people know it from my description – I love everything beautiful and I make art, which takes the pressure off feeling like I need to keep a uniform gallery. I say that if you make ANYTHING you are proud of, post it, share it with the world, uniformity isn’t necessary when it comes to selling a brand. Why can’t your brand be a talented artist who can do many things?

    • Hi Angela,

      I think my biggest problem is getting caught up in the numbers game. Sometimes, I post something I love and then lose followers so it becomes this game of trying to guess what people are going to like. In the end, I want to just be myself and share because I love to share, not because I think sharing has some other end to it. And you’re totally right! My brand can be “someone who does many things.” 🙂

      With love and gratitude,

  • I use Instagram as a place to express myself and put my work out there for viewing. I have slightly less followers than you but my numbers continue to grow (sometimes they fall). My account is not there to please anyone other than myself. I went through a period where I worried if what I made was saleable but now I’m over that. If people drop off because I’m not appealing to them then I’m okay with that. And I don’t always follow back nor will I buy followers.
    I have noticed lately that there are catfishers on the site.

    • Hi Shelley,

      I think I’ve made some progress in my attitude toward IG lately. I’ve made a special effort to ignore the numbers and just focus on enjoying the experience of sharing. And I know what you mean about catfishers–I block them regularly.

      Lotsa hugs,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *