Female Illustrators On Instagram

Kimberly discovers the power of Instagram and sets off a Double-Mirror “see yourself as an artist” discussion with Jane that puts women in the picture asking, “Who Gets to Call It Art?”

(featured image above by Frances Cannon)

KC: One cannot jump on Instagram these days without seeing the mass influx of female illustrators that have begun to use the platform as a viable way to gain exposure for, and sell, their artwork. Instagram as portfolio, gallery, and viable source of income has become a way for women to become a credible part of the art world that has never been historically available. Some of my favorites are Frances Cannon, Polly Nor,  Robin Eisenberg, Agatha Sorlet, and Bodil Jane.

JAS: We started this conversation thinking about how women artists are being inspired to new bursts of creativity by the sophisticated techniques of illustration now available to them. Now we’re talking about how new techniques are opening a whole new world. The line between illustration and fine art is getting really blurry.  Illustration has been defined primarily as a commercial product. It’s been “illustration as depiction,” as for a story in a book or product in a magazine while art was reserved for “an idea brought to life” like Van Gogh making an invisible wind in a landscape become visible. Now Instagram can turn illustration into art, a stand-alone piece of art with the world as its gallery and that changes the game.  It gives women artists an immediate audience, an immediate venue for acknowledgment. They don’t have to wait for a gallery or museum to get their art seen and regarded. It’s fairly common knowledge now that women have historically been excluded or set to the side in the art world. I’m fascinated by the new opportunities open to women and look forward to where women will take art with this technique at their fingertips. Definitely, women are making up new answers to the age-old question “Who Gets to Call It Art”. 

Bodil Jane

KC: One thing that amazes me about the Instagram platform is its immediacy. As an artist myself, I sketch a lot. I use my drawings as a way to expand upon current ideas I am rolling around in my brain surrounding my performance art. Now I have the means to develop these drawings and get them seen — and potentially even bought. I tested this recently, throwing up a few of my drawings with strategic hashtags, and I ended up selling a drawing. The person who bought it was a stranger who only found me through a hashtag. This is something that was never possible before.

JAS: Incredible. There’s something about how fast that can all happen that seems particularly suited to how women feel and think. With these new techniques, women artists can move quickly from feeling, intuition or idea to manifestation. All the drawings that women have been doing for years to capture their emotions can move quickly from sketchbook to audience.  Considering the long history of women artists not being considered “real” artists, I have to believe changes are in the air. It’s not just about how women artists are regarded but also how they’re going to affect critical judgment of art. I know David Hockney has been making art on the iPad. 

KC: This is so different. This platform delivers an audience with very little effort. And the ease of transformation from idea to image is so freeing. 

Agatha Sorlet

JAS: You are talking about the way in which art is becoming a viable way of life, supported and monetized on a more diplomatic and populous level. Art has often been demoted to being a commercial art when it appeared as an illustration. Now illustration may find itself elevated. I wonder what Beatrix Potter would’ve done with these new techniques!   

KC: And to go even further. Women could always make money being illustrators in the traditional form. And many of these women on Instagram probably DO make a living in some form or another, offline, with their illustrations. Yet, the illustrators who are fascinating me the most right now are the ones who are using this platform to expose their more personal work in a fine art light. Many of them are using this platform as a sort of visual journal in drawings, too, which is highly entertaining and enlightening about the inner workings of an artist’s mind. It also shows us a glimpse of the artist’s life and culture.

JAS: I love how you always come from the art side and the personal side while I come from the psychological and cultural side. What I find especially interesting is that people have been journal drawing forever. Think about pictographs, drawn on rocks with only the tribe or passers-by for an audience. Now art from the heart and soul of women who want to express themselves can leap continents! 

Polly Nor

KC: Exactly. An illustrator’s work might be seen in a gallery in the rare case they found a space that appreciated drawing. Or work could be found in magazines. Yet here, people are finding a new source of a career that has built-in exposure on such a phenomenally vast level. One of my favorite illustrators is Broken Isn’t Bad, a Croatian woman who does minimalist black and white drawings that focus on intimacy between men and women, nature, and being a flawed human looking for connection and enlightenment in today’s world. Her message has really touched a lot of people and now she is running an entire business selling live prints of her illustrations.

JAS: That is a decidedly modern and exciting story. It’s also empowering because she’s able to express and deliver the same kind of integrity of emotionality that falls in a realm usually reserved for fine art. Blurring that line I was talking about. 

KC: Yes. But…or and there is something else that is huge. On Instagram, these women are not merely showcasing their art. They are also showcasing their selves. Look at Frances Cannon who shoots live photos of herself so she can draw from. She may be sitting on a chair in only her bra and panties eating a mango, and we get to see that inspirational shot right next to her illustrated depiction that was created from it. We get to know the artists in ways we never have before when purchasing art through galleries.  We see their lifestyle, their interests, and we feel connected to them intimately as people. I believe that connection enriches our viewing of the art. They are curating themselves along with their art and giving us a full picture of what we are buying and what we resonate with beyond just looking at a piece on a white wall. We know who these artists are. We understand their missions.

JAS: What you are touching on is the way that this platform lends itself to personal empowerment. It is, in fact, an articulation of empowerment. It offers choice. 

Robin Eisenberg

KC: So much so. You create. You have an audience. You connect to people and can dialogue with them about your art. And you can sell it.

JAS: It really opens up an encouragement and venue for every modern female artist who has been pushed aside by the art world.

KC: You can put yourself front and center without permission from, or validation from, anyone else.

JAS: A way to come forth, to personally open your own door. And, last but not least, perhaps to affect who gets to call it art. 

4 thoughts on “Female Illustrators On Instagram”

  1. Fascinating topic . . . that led me to take a look at a friend of mine’s artwork, @irenerafael on Instagram, that I didn’t feel motivated to look at before, since I don’t really participate in social media.
    Her work is fantastic and as you mentioned I could explore her various mediums and journals too. What a find. And then I checked out the art of other women as well. Amazing!

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