Instagram for Illustrators: Here’s How to Make it Work for YOU

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Artists shown here, in rows from left to right: David Litchfield, Gemma Correll, Fiona Woodcock, John Bond, Kate Pugsley, Maya Ish Shalom, Becca Stadtlander, Oliver Jeffers, Owen Davey, Richard Jones, Aura Lewis, Jane Newland, Jon Klassen, Benji Davies, Jean Julien, Mike Lowery.

Exactly what constitutes a great Instagram account, and is it important in terms of helping your career?

Well it absolutely can be — but it’s also completely up to the individual. As an artist, you can use Instagram to your advantage — it is the perfect visual platform to showcase what you do, and there are some brilliant examples of this, some of which are shown above.


For anyone about to embark upon an illustration career, or for those who are just a bit baffled by social media, this might help a little. As I write this, I am thinking about my own account, and have to say, it’s not up to scratch. I do, however look at Instagram accounts everyday, and I see some of the best, and some of the not so good. So for anybody in need of direction and inspiration, here’s some ideas on using Instagram and how to make it show you at your best. LM

If you have decided to use Instagram as a platform to showcase your illustration, there are some things worth considering:

What to post: Your amazing artwork and things about you.

It’s worth taking the time to present things nicely, and Insta really helps with that in terms of filters and the fact that it has a neat frame work already. It’s good to make sure pictures, be they artwork or lifestyle shots, are well framed. Bad examples are when an artist has drawn onto a sketchbook, takes a photo, but the angle is all odd. Now when I say this, it is a very loose example, and there are always exceptions. But below on the left is an exaggerated example. It hasn’t been thought about and it looks messy. Design comes into this in quite a big way. If you think of  your Instagram as a whole, or if you look at it — is it pleasing to the eye, or a bit of a mess?

Bad and Good

Above left is the said bad example, and on the right is a sketch by the brilliant illustrator, Lorna Scobie. The latter is a simple sketch, but it’s framed beautifully, with that brilliant pee and pen detail. The image on the left is poorly framed, at an odd, uncomfortable angle, with a messy background distracting the focus. I guess one way of looking at it, is that your social media platforms (can be) an exhibition of your work. Think of Instagram as being a gallery or a beautiful room, exhibiting you and your art.

For the sake of this blog I’ve volunteered my own Insta account to set a bad example and show how not to use Instagram (!)
Below is a snapshot of my somewhat messy Instagram feed: There are some interesting lifestyle pics in there, coupled with some terrible paintings I did, and a picture I posted twice (quite clearly no idea) and other bits and bobs. It’s not the absolute worst in terms of palette, but it could look so much better. Palette is something to be aware of too, and just like a painting, you want the viewer to be drawn around the whole image. So when you click onto an Insta feed, it needs to catch your eye. It’s like the use of triangles in fine art: Triangles are used in paintings to get the observer to follow solid objects and lead them where the artist wants them to go. Constable was very good at this. 

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And it gets worse still. THERE they are those AWFUL scruffy sketches on notepaper…

So you see, my own account needs a little more work — I certainly would give it more thought in composition if I wanted to get noticed by the right people in publishing or licensing by showcasing my work as best as I can! 

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Below are examples of Instagram feeds that are consistent, with an incredible colour palette: from the top, Jane Newland, Richard Jones and Vivien Mildenberger.

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More things to consider:

Balance: A visual lifestyle gallery can also work really well — people who love your work might be interested in your own interests and hobbies. It really needn’t be all static images of artwork. But again, remember that you are sharing photos that everyone can see. So save the best ones for Instagram. Again, think about how you create an illustration for a book, or a card design. It’s about framing, and point of interest. Good examples of artists who have an account where life and art mix are: Jon Klassen (23.4k followers); Carson Ellis (42.3k followers); David Litchfield (4,302 followers); Benji Davies (22k followers).

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Jon Klassen’s account featuring artwork and beautiful photography.

Fighting the good fight: Instagram can be a way of sharing how you stand on world views, but remember, everyone is watching. A really fantastic example of someone with a strong and moral political stance is Oliver Jeffers. He has a massive following (110k followers) and he writes intelligently and accompanies his thoughts and views with incredible artwork and photography.

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Your Name: When you set up your account, have a think about your name. If you are not using your own name, whatever you do use needs to be easy to remember and not too tricky to find. 

Lastly, keep posting — keep people interested and you are sure to gain a fantastic following.

Some interesting articles to read about top Instagram accounts:

Maker Mentors: 30 Artists you should follow on Instagram

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Brown Paper Bag: 12 Inspiring Illustrators to Follow on Instagram

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