I am a fan of Instagram. As a botanical illustrator, author, and instructor I look for ways to experience creativity and think in different ways about botanical art. I follow a lot of other botanical artists on Instagram that I admire, and I decided to ask some of them about how they use Instagram to promote their work.
I first opened my Instagram account @wendyhollender several years ago, but I never really used it except to randomly post personal stuff as I would on Facebook. About a year and a half ago, Instagram started to become important as a form of communicating and reaching an audience. For me, I was hoping to attract followers to subscribe to my online drawing program and buy products from my online shop. For my first big foray into an Instagram “campaign,” I decided I needed to have a focus. I wanted my posts to be creative and interesting, and I realized it was coming up on my 20th anniversary of being a botanical artist. So I began a 365-day campaign all about my work up until now as a botanical artist. I created the hashtag #20yearsofbotanicalart and posted an image every day. Some of the images were of my work from so long ago, which was fun to see “revived” in this context, and other posts were of current work that I was doing at the time. This made for a nice combination of WIPs, “tbt”s, and finished work that really filled out my profile and gallery. When I started my “20 years” campaign, I had less than 1,000 followers and now a year later I have over 16,000! Having a focus on my posts became a creative endeavor itself and my profile feed became a personal portfolio that I could tailor however I wanted. I also realized that following other artists I knew and admired was a positive way to see what was going on with my botanical friends. Instagram quickly became so interesting and stimulating for me, and I thought it would be fun to find out from these other people who I respect how they use Instagram. I thought it would be good for my students and followers to see how you can use Instagram to expand your botanical drawing and fan base.
Here are the questions I asked and some of my favorite responses. I hope you find this insightful and enjoyable, and I recommend you follow some of these excellent folks on Instagram!
- When did you start using Instagram?
Most answered 3-5 years ago.
- How often do you post?
“I post three times a day, and include hashtags, which I think help new people discover the site.” -@botanicaetcetera
“It is totally random, but roughly once every three to four days.” -@greenasas
“Generally, I post about once or twice every two weeks, sometimes more depending on the piece that is in progress. I also use to promote classes and exhibitions.” -@carriedicostanzo
“Usually, I post twice a week.” -@vincentjeannerot
“I try to post every other day, but it’s not a big deal to me if I miss a day or two. Part of working as an illustrator means lots of client work that I can’t share right away, so I don’t think keeping a strict schedule is optimal for me and my work.” -@jessicasroux
“I aim to post on my feed three times a week and put up three/four stories a week. I do not post on the weekends and write comment responses when I put up a new post.” -@laragastinger
“Because each painting takes a long time, some more than a month, I realized posting a complete painting a day would not be sustainable. Now I post work-in-progresses, the process, products made with the images, etc.” – @karenklugein
- Do you have a theme or direction that you follow in your posts or are they random?
“I aim to post two journals and then a painting. This can make my feed look at bit “neater” but sometimes it is hard to keep that pattern.” -@laragastinger
“Actually, it is very random,too! Like my painting. I have to fall in love with the subject, so all depends on what I am falling for at that time!” -@greenasas
“I usually post images of things that I am working on, so my Instagram feed is a visual diary of my life as a botanical artist.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“I typically share client work (once it’s published), in-progress personal projects, gallery work, and stationery items / products I sell that feature my illustrations. Occasionally I’ll post a photo of myself or my dog, but I try to keep it work-focused for the most part.” -@jessicasroux
“I like to share my works in progress and finished and older pictures in accordance the season. I post especially pictures about my work or my professional trips around the world.” -@vincentjeannerot
“My posts are designed and curated with my followers in mind, and I really try to find new, interesting, quality images that are exciting and keep the page something to look forward to.” -@botanicaetcetera
“I like to show a few progress images of the current painting and then the finished result.” -@carriedicostanzo
- Do you see any trends in what your audience responds to and do you build on this?
“Generally my audience responds best to finished, completed artwork, but I think it’s important to share in-progress work as well. Things tend to get lost with the algorithmic timeline, and it’s pretty difficult to predict what my audience will connect with. I enjoy taking photographs of my work surrounded by my favorite natural collections (things like gems, flowers, feathers, skulls, etc), and those tend to get a good response as well.” -@jessicasroux
“I find that images of close-ups or works in progress get a higher response than photos of people or places. People also react to time lapse videos.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“My audience strongly responds to my journal posts and to any type of video.” -@laragastinger
“I think the followers prefer the videos of a work in progress but I am not the King of filmmakers… ! I need to practice and progress!” -@vincentjeannerot
- Do you care about building an audience of followers?
“It is wonderful to have an audience in which I can share my work and receive a response. So yes, I do care about building that audience, but it is not a priority.” -@carriedicostanzo
“Building a community is very important! It’s great to get feedback and encouragement as an artist as it really helps you stay on track. I also like encouraging other artists by responding to questions and comments, and also by showing my appreciation of their work. There is some amazing work out there- Instagram can be very inspiring!” -@shaevaundohertyartist
- Are your posts for yourself or for your audience?
“Both. I enjoy posting. It is like a building my collection of each moment of my time. Also, many of my followers have written that my post inspired them, which makes me even happier.” -@greenasas
“My posts are both for me and the audience. I’m happy to share my work and I hope the audience enjoys seeing the art.” -@carriedicostanzo
“A bit of both. I find that it helps me stay on track if I am posting daily images of a work in progress, and I also like the feedback. It’s also a good platform for advertising workshops or exhibitions.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“For me, painting is for the others, not for yourself. Painting is destined to be seen by a large number of people, like music, and Instagram is a very powerful way to widely diffuse its work. Painting is an action of sharing.” -@vincentjeannerot
“My posts are for both – I love to post so I can see how my work has developed but I also love to spread my joy of journaling and documenting the natural beauty in our environment.” -@laragastinger
“I post because I’m proud of the work I’m making, and I want to share it with the world. It’s always nice if a post does well with my audience, but I don’t take it personally if it doesn’t.” -@jessicasroux
- Are hashtags important in your posts? If so why?
“Yes, hashtags are important. I think that they can help followers find you.” -@laragastinger
“I don’t write much or use many hashtags. It is all about the image.” -@karenklugein
“I am not sure the hashtags are working or not….. But I use them instead of text. Using hashtags helped me to have a simple text. You know, instead of saying ‘The painting was painted in watercolor,’ I simply add #watercolor.” -@greenasas
“Yes, hashtags are very important because the community is building around the same selections, preferences and choices.” -@vincentjeannerot
“I very rarely use hashtags – generally only for gallery shows where the gallery encourages the artists to share their work using a certain hashtag that’s unique to the show. It can help people browsing that particular show find an artist on social media easily, and it helps me find other artists in the show that I might not have been following before. I used to use a lot of hashtags, but I don’t think it made a big difference, and I think it made my posts look a little spammy/sloppy.” -@jessicasroux
“Hashtags are very important! They make images searchable and help categorise posts, which is important for the algorithm.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“Hashtags are important because when the audience searches for a certain word or subject, they may find my work.” -@carriedicostanzo
- What makes for a good post?
“Good art makes a good post. I like to look at art that captures my attention and makes me wonder how the artist accomplished that.” -@carriedicostanzo
“I don’t know. I care the quality of my post because this is my collection. However, at the same time, I try not worry too much. It is a great platform to share the moment of your creative process.” -@greenasas
“It’s so hard to predict what makes a good post (thanks to the algorithmic timeline, who knows what my followers even see!), so I just post my work and hope for the best.” -@jessicasroux
“A good post and a good feed are very focused. I focus on seasonal native and naturalized plants that I am currently finding and painting. I tend to attract those who appreciate the environment. No cats, food pics or kids although some of those things can appear in stories.” -@laragastinger
- Do you use any special lighting for your photos?
“I intentionally do not use great lighting in my photos. This is to minimize image stealing since the photo is usually shadowed or heavily cropped. I also include a pen or brush on top of the sketchbook or painting instead of a watermark and have it cross over detailed parts of the work.” -@laragastinger
“There is a table in my studio with natural light where I take the photos.” -@karenklugein
“No, I use my light for painting. My studio has big windows, so the light is generally good here.” -@greenasas
“I use natural light for most of my photos. I have a table pushed up against a window and use the light that comes through in the morning. Occasionally I’ll use a light diffuser, and I might use some extra lights if it’s an overcast or rainy day.” -@jessicasroux
“I prefer natural light as the colours are more honest.” -@shevaundohertyartist
- Are videos a component for you and what mode do you create them with?
“I use my iPhone for the photos or videos posted.” -@karenklugein
“I mostly share process videos in my Instagram stories. I typically do a time lapse recorded on my iPhone to capture those.” -@jessicasroux
“I use the time lapse on my iPhone and edit with iMovie.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“Yes sometimes I like to share a demonstration I filmed during I am working, simply with my phone.” -@vincentjeannerot
- Do you find you get sales and or illustration work from your Instagram feed?
“Yes, I have received many requests for commissions from Instagram but I mostly gain students. My feed is really helpful (compared to my website) to show the breadth of my work. Occasionally, I will post an image of a painting that I will put on my online shop and sometimes it sells!” -@laragastinger
“I hear from people time to time, but not always what they want and what I can offer match.” -@greenasas
“I’ve had clients say they found me on Instagram, and I think it helps boost sales when I share a product from my shop on my Instagram feed.” -@jessicasroux
“Yes! It’s a great platform for sales and commissions.” -@shevaundohertyartist
“I get several contacts and a lot of invitations to teach my watercolor technique during workshops in different countries and also some sales and commissions.” -@vincentjeannerot
- When you started using Instagram did you have a reason for using it, and has that changed over time?
“The best thing about Instagram that it is easy and effortless marketing that I had not anticipated. The current generation thrives on little bits of visual images and Instagram is perfect for getting your work out there.” -@laragastinger
“Yes and no. When I started, it was only for to share among small community of friends. In a way, it didn’t change. My audience grew bigger, but i feel the same way, I am sharing with my friends who have the same passion and love to the nature. The change, or my concern is that it has become harder to catch up all the fun that people are posting because my audience grew bigger and the number I am following got bigger as well.” -@greenasas
“I started using Instagram for personal posts, vacation photos, and that kind of thing, but I slowly started sharing my artwork over the years, and now my feed is primarily my work. I have a personal account in addition to my work account to share that kind of thing now with just family and close friends.” -@jessicasroux
“After three years on this platform, I have found that it is a interesting way of connecting with other artists where I can learn and be inspired by their work. It also connects me with people who can appreciate and learn from my art. This is important for me as I work alone and Instagram is an outlet for expression and connectivity.” -@carriedicostanzo
It’s great to see what everyone is doing and to be inspired by their work. Because Instagram is so informal, it is very interesting to get insight into other people’s set-ups and working practices. Usually websites contain only static finished images, which aren’t half as fun! -@shevaundoughertyartist
What I’ve learned from this is that Instagram is, first and foremost, FUN. Some people find it useful as a business tool, and others just enjoy the creative, connective side. I found it most interesting to know how often people post to the platform. Overall, I’m happy with the responses I gathered, and I learned some new techniques that I want to try in my own feed, like time lapse videos from my iPhone and showing more works in progress. I also have started following lots of new artists based on these recommendations and they are awesome. I am inspired and grateful that these people took time out of their day to answer my questions and connect with me for a creative forum. It helps to put a real person behind that social network screen and feel connected and creative on a more personal level. Join the fun with us on Instagram!
Who do we follow?
- Looking for more artists to follow on Instagram? Here are some suggestions (botanical and otherwise) from the respondents to my questionnaire: