Stagnation is a dire problem in our age, where new content and information is constantly pumped out. I was experiencing some stagnation in my social media feeds, so I took some advice from a friend and started looking up artists on Instagram and Tumblr.
In my perusal of these art communities, I was delighted to find how vibrant and diverse they were. I saw all kinds of art, ranging from pencil drawings to paintings to pixel art. I followed several artists and was excited to see my dashboard explode with fun art.
But soon I started to see other things cropping up — artists asking people to please credit their work when reposting, or bloggers complaining about how Tumblr updates have hindered the ability of their audience to view their work.
Leah Suntok is a smaller artist on Instagram under the handle @collar.full.art. She calls her pieces “lil doodles” and posts colorful drawings combining flowers with women’s bodies. Suntok said that “having a place to put it [her art] was really encouraging and helped me stick to drawing more often.” She derives her passion from feminist theory, her love for plants, and \ other sources.
For Suntok, posting art is a hobby as she pursues her bachelor’s, so she takes less issue with the open format of Instagram. Suntok said ,“I don’t take my account super seriously so I haven’t felt many downsides.” She posts because it drives her to continue pursuing her hobby, not to further a career in art.
Suntok also said that “the feedback and responses [she’s] gotten are all generally very uplifting things.”
The feedback seems to be the main reason many artists love posting on social media. Elysia Case, @elyvescent, is a considerably more popular artist, boasting roughly 14,000 followers-. Case has similar reasons for posting, saying, “Something I love about social media for art is that it allows me to get my work out there pretty easily and gives me a reason to continue creating.”
Case has posted her art on several social media sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt, and she enjoys how, once created, her art lives on online. But she’s noted some downsides of having an audience follow her art, saying she feels a bit trapped by the Instagram algorithm.
“Instagram only values users who post constantly all the time. So when I draw something I like, I feel like I need to post it, but that means I can’t experiment because when I post things that are different than what’s normally on my account I get way less likes than I do when I’m posting the same sort of thing over and over and over again.”
Another small artist, Zoe Bennington goes by @smurdles on Instagram. “I started because I wanted to get criticism from people who don’t know me […] I want to improve and work on the mistakes I make.”
The social media art community is very active, and many artists I talked to enjoyed the interaction with other artists. It has helped them grow and see their art in new ways, and gain inspiration and motivation. Bennington pointed out some consequences, saying, “The biggest downside for me is people who don’t see any effort in the stuff I’m doing.”
She noted that it took her a lot of effort and time to get to the place she’s at, and she feels that those commenters that say things akin to “I’ll never be good” don’t realize the work she’s put in, or that anyone can create art, as long as they are dedicated to getting there.
There are great and new benefits to social media art, but also frightening downsides. Despite these, art communities online are thriving. I am glad they are, because I know that for me, having access to all types of art is one of the great joys of social media. No longer is art locked away behind museum doors or in private galleries — it is online for everyone to enjoy. So go exploring — there’s a lot to see.