A year ago, Rocket and I took on the challenge of drawing some of the most iconic cartoon characters from memory and now, we've done it again, but this time we've focused on some of our favourite movies from Pixar!
You can watch the hilarity ensue, and then check out all of the drawings (Rocket's on the left, mine on the right) below. I would love for you to try this challenge, it can be a really fun exercise in drawing and in memory which can have some hilarious results!
If you can't get enough of our goofy cartoon character knockoffs, there are lots more in our video from last year:
In mid August, a video was published of a little boy covered in blood, being pulled from the rubble in Aleppo, Syria, and put into the back of an ambulance following an airstrike - this video was shocking, it was horrific and it made me feel sick to my core. Omran, the little boy, along with a handful of other Syrian children who have made the news over the past years, represent almost 8 million children affected by the conflict that has been raging in Syria for over 5 years (a lifetime for many of these children).
I am not well-versed in politics, nor would I consider my self to be immersed in world events, but I know when something feels seriously wrong. Upon seeing this video, I felt severe sorrow and helplessness - so I jumped onto Google to see what could be done from an ocean away. I found a number of organisations who were reputable and contributing emergency aid to refugees and decided to self-initiate a project in hopes of raising funds for this cause. I decided to create a series of original paintings for sale at an affordable price in which ALL proceeds will go to emergency aid for Syrian refugees.
This is what my project looks like.
Over the next week, I will release two artworks a day, inspired by the children shown in the media who have been affected by the conflict in Syria. Each artwork represents over 1,000 children who have reportedly paid for this war with their lives - that's over 14,000 innocent children who have died in the past 5 years. Each original artwork will cost $140 AUD, and that $140 AUD in full will be donated to Care Australia. I will cover the postage, and handling.
Each painting depicts a child, double exposed with fragments that represent the rubble of war. The fragments and particles scattered across the children's silhouettes fade from light to dark - the dark being the conflict, the displacement the disruption of many families lives and their livelihoods, and the brightness being a much simpler and happy future that could be. The purchase of one painting can feed a family for one month.
I am using this project to process my research and the events that have come to my attention throughout the year, and to help refugees in crisis. I hope to sell all the artworks to raise $1,960 AUD in total for this cause. Which may not sound like much but can mean a lot for refugees who's needs are as simple as food, hygiene and shelter. I will update this journal post every day with new paintings, which you can buy simply by emailing us at email@example.com - I will indicate which paintings have sold.
FRAGMENT 01 was inspired by Omran Daqneesh, the little boy who was filmed being pulled from the rubble and put into the back of an ambulance. Seeing the video of Omran prompted me to initiate this project.
FRAGMENT 02 was inspired by Alan Kurdi (originally reported as 'Aylan Kurdi'), the little boy who was discovered dead, washed ashore on a Turkish beach after attempting to flee to Greece in a rubber boat.
FRAGMENT 03 was inspired by Adi Hudea a little girl who was photographed "surrendering" to a photojournalist because she mistook his camera for a gun. This piece was bought on reserve - if you'd like to reserve a piece in advance please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
FRAGMENT 04 was inspired by an unnamed boy who was photographed sitting in a field hospital with head injuries, following an airstrike and shelling. This piece was bought on reserve - if you'd like to reserve a piece in advance please email us at email@example.com
FRAGMENT 05 was inspired by an Ghina Ahmad Wadi, a ten year old girl who was wounded by sniper fire in Madaya, Syrian government forces then blocked her evacuation to medical care. Ghina has now been evacuated to a nearby hospital. This piece was bought on reserve - if you'd like to reserve a piece in advance please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
FRAGMENT 06 was inspired by an Ali Daqneesh. One week after the video of his little brother Omran made world-wide news, Ali was wounded by a collapsing wall, resulting in broken ribs, chest wounds, internal injuries and what ultimately his death as doctor's could not repair the damage to his kidneys and liver. This piece was bought on reserve - if you'd like to reserve a piece in advance please email us at email@example.com
FRAGMENT 07 was inspired by Ahmed Tadifi, a two year old boy who was alone when he was brought to hospital (the same hospital that treated Omran), like many children in the aftermath of an attack he was separated from his family. He underwent surgery for serious injuries to his groin, head, arm and leg. Ahmed did not survive.
FRAGMENT 08 was inspired by a young girl (unnamed) who was photographed injured and covered in a layer of dust, in a makeshift hospital.
FRAGMENT 09 was inspired by a boy named Mahmoud. Mahmoud was filmed alongside his brother Amar (who inspired FRAGMENT 10) as they arrived at a hospital in Aleppo. The camera captured their final goodbye to brother Muhammad who died in the course of the video. I can't describe how heartbreaking it was to watch, please watch the video here.
FRAGMENT 10 was inspired by a young boy named Amar. Amar was filmed alongside his brother Mahmoud (who inspired FRAGMENT 09) as they arrived at a hospital in Aleppo. The camera captured their final goodbye to brother Muhammad who died in the course of the video. I can't describe how heartbreaking it was to watch, please watch the video here.
FRAGMENT 11 was inspired by an internally displaced UNNAMED BOY who was photographed selling his belongings at a makeshift stand in the rubble of rural Damascus. It was around the point of seeing this image that I began to release that these children had lost an immense part of childhood and in it's place were the burdens of being thrust into adulthood by war.
FRAGMENT 12 was inspired by an UNNAMED GIRL who was photographed sitting in a pile of rubble in the South Syrian town of Moadamiya. This was one of the less-widely seen images, released in FRAGMENTS. It was a quiet moment amidst a space that had seen a huge amount of chaos, and it touched me.
FRAGMENT 13 was inspired by a young girl named ESRAA who was photographed with her arm around her little brother Waleed on the ground near a shelter for internally displaced persons. Esraa and Waleed have not been separated like many families in areas of conflict and have been given new, warm clothes. I chose this photo because there is a glimmer of positivity, even if only in relativity to the atrocities happening elsewhere in Syria.
FRAGMENT 14 was inspired by an UNNAMED GIRL who was photographed sitting in a hospital bed wearing a dress covered in the debris of her home. None of the photographs of her in this series of images show her crying, one harrowing image of her in particular shows her looking blankly and directly through the lens of the camera while the children around her sit in hospital beds staring into the distance.
UPDATES & AVAILABILITY
FRAGMENT 01 | 12 SEPT 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 02 | 12 SEPT 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 03 | 13 SEPT 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 04 | 13 SEPT 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 05 | 14 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 06 | 14 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 07 | 15 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 08 | 15 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 09 | 16 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 10 | 16 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 11 | 17 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 12 | 17 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 13 | 18 Sept 2016 - SOLD
FRAGMENT 14 | 18 Sept 2016 - SOLD
This project was one of the most difficult I’ve ever undertaken.
Physically yes, I struggled at times creating 2 artworks a day on top of my usual workload, but the research that led to each piece shook me emotionally. I cried every single day of the project, spending hours of each day looking at photographs that had been released in the mainstream media of children suffering, dead, and who had accepted conflict as the norm, as well as hundreds of images that were deemed too much for the general public - released directly by journalists through Twitter and alternative sources of uncensored media. Of course the emotional discomfort I felt is nothing compared to what these people are experiencing every single day - some of them have never known anything else. 2.9 million in fact, have known nothing but war for their entire lives.
Call it purposeful and blissful ignorance, but I’ve always avoided exposing myself to news stories that revealed the inhumanity in humanity. I always worried, by seeing the abhorrent behaviour by individuals and governments alike which continues to happen across the globe, that my work would lose its charm - a separation from reality, it’s childlike innocence and it's playfulness.. And as I learned of countless stories from inside and the escape from the conflict, I woefully came to a realisation that was articulated by a quote I found later in my research:
“there are no children any more. Only small adults.” almost everything that constitutes a happy childhood has been ripped away from children by this 5-year civil war.
I’ve learnt a lot over the past week. I’ve read about of the horrors of war, I’ve seen death, disfiguration, mourning, desperation and helplessness - among people who are more similar to myself and those I love, than not. On a personal level I’ve been angry, felt helplessness and have realised that my work is not just a reflection of the world I keep in my head, but that it can be an optimistic view of a world I would like to live in.
I took still and moving images of children who were broken, who were injured and who are making the very best of the cards they have been dealt, and turned them into images of children who were free of suffering. Who stood in stillness. Who were saved from seeing and experiencing things many of us are lucky to have never seen or experienced. My aim wasn’t to sterilise these images for a wider audience, but to make a difference for myself and for others the only way I know how - through my work.
I wanted FRAGMENTS to be a reminder that every image or story we share for a moment, are fragments of lives that are stories too intricate to retell through an image (whether that be photography, video, or art). They are lives that are complex like ours, but that go on to live through a seemingly never ending war.
A huge thanks to those of you who bought a FRAGMENT from the series. Your contribution alone can buy a family food for one month, but together the funds donated to Care Australia can do the following:
Provide 93 women with hygiene kits
Feed 14 families for one month
Provide over 46 families with safe toilets
Provide safe accommodation for over 9 families
I have a lot of feelings about the introduction of Instagram's new and very original feature: Stories. But - spoiler - I'm mostly confused.
One of my favourite things about using Instagram as a creative person was it's simplicity. The app had one function and one format: primarily visual storytelling - it acted as a blank canvas for me to curate and art direct my process so that my audience could see what I was up to in the studio, and how my practice was evolving.
As I mentioned in my last journal post Instagram overtime has become contrived (for lack of a more positive word) in the way that we're not posting raw table-top shots anymore, we are posting our gorgeously messy workbenches that cleverly tell a story about what we were doing, as well as where/why/how we are doing it. I have zero problem with this - most of my favourite feeds are curated - I appreciate the storytelling and the considered imagery - but what this meant was there was a huge need for authenticity - not just on Instagram, but in the realm of all widely adopted social media platforms.
And Snapchat filled this void perfectly.
I began using Snapchat at the end of last year - I took a really confused selfie video on a plane en route to LA from Sydney and I was uncertain of how the app was going to fit into my ever-growing collection of social/sharing/platform applications. I was still getting used to the chaotic UX and I wasn't in the studio, so all I could show was my relatively boring, goofy self, freezing my butt off on our road-trip through the Pacific North-West. I thought, well this is not going to last for me - no one wants to see this. I was wrong - soon enough there were thousands of people watching each snap along with added engagement from followers via screenshots, messages, and plugs on other platforms.
Analytic data aside - I was loving it. It was really refreshing to use an app that made it difficult to spend a lot of time creating posts. I didn't really need to worry about arranging and editing I just needed to swipe across to add a filter, and maybe add a caption without much consideration. Part of the reason Snapchat feels so liberating is the whole disappearing in 24-hours thing (which of course Instagram now offers with their copycat Stories feature).
My opening to this journal post was that I had a lot of feelings about the new Instagram stories - but having said that - I have no idea how to feel. I'm writing this article to work through all the pros and cons, predict what this update will mean for both apps and decide how I want to use each Stories feature (or which one to drop). This may seem melodramatic to most of you, and it's definitely in my nature to over-think situations that would otherwise be simple, but as someone who uses the majority of my social media for business, to increase awareness of my personal brand and to present my work to prospective clients, it's a decision I'm not taking lightly.
Let's start with the most obvious comparison and then move on to the others.
In it's first iteration, Instagram Stories and our ability to customise the content is limited. There are six colour filters vs Snapchat's four, but this is a case where more is not always more - I've only used two of Instagram's filters in three days, one of which I only used because I felt off about my skin (boy did it do the trick - and I only had to sacrifice the existence of my nose).
Instagram Stories' text feature is limited in it's customisation, and when I say limited I mean you can't change anything but the copy. You can't change things like the colour or alignment of your caption, and Instagram's answer to Snapchat's black bar is extremely heavy type with a semi-transparent grey dropshadow. I'm not a fan.
The drawing tool is a necessary evil. I don't like the look of it, but what if I want to play Mr Squiggle with my followers or turn myself into a number of loveable Pixar characters? Instagram has chosen to add more than one line style - and I have no idea why THIS is where they wanted to add more functionality - the tilted, semi transparent pen - I will never use, and the pen with a "subtle" glow looks like something I would use in one of those kitschy but totally kawaii Japanese photo booths but without the kawaii. I like that you can adjust the thickness of the drawing tool - but I'm still unimpressed
One part of Instagram's drawing tool I do like are the colour swatches, you can swipe through to find some nice pastel blush/nudes which is actaully really helpful, because although it's possible to get pastel colours on Snapchat it's a really fiddly and the shade is almost certainly different every time. As someone who is super into consistent colour schemes and branding I would love the ability to create a handful of swatches to use every time on either app.
This is where the custom features end for Instagram Stories, but we haven't even scratched the surface of the filters and overlays available on Snapchat. I don't use the time/location/speed/temperature overlays on Snapchat THAT often, but I like that they're there. It's another way to tell a story about what you're up to/where you are/how cold it is without saying a thing - I love visual storytelling.
As well as the above, the most impressive thing to me about Snapchat is their facial recognition technology, I worked on a project once which utilised facial recognition and the outcome was significantly more shit. Impressive technology aside, the playfulness of the face filters (including of course the enhancements that make you totally bae) and the frequency in which they change keep me coming back most mornings if only out of curiosity. I feel like this is something Instagram needs to worry about - their stories feature is already significantly worse than Snapchat's, and they don't have anything to pull you back in to using the feature after the new toy sheen wears off.
Snapchat's UX is notoriously chaotic and unintuitive (both on paper and upon first using it) - and yet once you've used the app for a couple of days, the gestural interaction becomes second nature. It's rare that any company would trust and have enough faith in their users' intelligence, adaptability and exploration enough to introduce a completely foreign and invisible means of navigation. I've seen the look of horror on the faces of Snapchat n00bs while trying to explain to them how to move around the app, but in the end it works - touch gestures require less thought and are quicker to perform (if only by milliseconds) than locating and tapping a button.
As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of Instagram before its introduction of Stories was in it's simplicity of purpose and of function, but with Stories, Instagram has lost it's simplicity and in it's place is a cloud of confusion of how I should reach out and communicate with my audience. Visually it's confusing to look at - the stories module at the top of my newsfeed looks tacked on, and Instagram now has two separate cameras each with their own interface. Is the introduction of this feature making what was always a compact app too complex?
A big thing for me, and one of the only reasons I'm seriously considering moving my Stories content to Instagram is the reach. Instagram is where my work and audience really flourished so naturally my following on Instagram is substantially larger than my following on Snapchat. Consequently, this means that more people are seeing what I'm doing on Instagram Stories than they are on my Snapchat Stories (14,000 eyeballs vs 4,000 eyeballs respectively).
That's a huge difference for anyone - but let's not forget the fact that Instagram Stories is an exciting and "new" feature that Instagrammers without Snapchat are leaping to try, and that passionate Snappers are sussing out - I suspect the number of views for Instagram stories will drop over time.
Instagram encourages discovery - they did this with the popular page, then the explore feature (which I love), and they're doing this now with the ability to watch anyone's Stories regardless of whether you're following them or not. One thing I've always had a problem with on Snapchat is that you already have to know (or know of) someone to be able to follow them. There's no way to search users based on content - which I acknowledge is a difficult task considering content is changing rapidly (every 24 hours) and the simplicity of Snapchat means we aren't *liking* or bookmarking out content with hashtags.
What this means is that I need to use external resources - other apps and other sources - to grow my following on Snapchat. I need to discover someone elsewhere, find out their Snapchat handle, and then jump back into app to add them. Unfortunately Snapchat is reliant on apps like Instagram and Facebook to push users and to connect people who aren't able to exchange snapcodes in real life. It's a massive barrier that I would love for Snapchat to address.
Another reason I'm confused about this change is the purpose I've assigned to each app. Instagram quickly became a portfolio for archiving work and conveying my process, where as Snapchat is a journal where I can share what I'm up to work-related and not, and speak face-to-screen with my audience in a really casual setting. I guess this calls for adjustment on my behalf, but could I share the same kind of content on both apps' Stories?
I mean, I follow people for different reasons on both apps and it stands to reason, that other people do the same. Those who follow me on Instagram have become accustomed to manicured mess, and art direction - what if the raw, just-rolled-out-of-bed (but-with-a-dog-filter) me is repugnant to them? A great example of what I mean are celebrities - I'm not interested in seeing the Kardashians regrammed pap photos or which magazine cover they're on that day (okay maybe sometimes), but I am super interested in seeing their ridiculous lives from their own perspective on Snapchat.
It feels less dangerous for me to post something goofy, with zero art-direction on Snapchat because it'll be gone tomorrow. Over the past half-year those who follow me on Snapchat have opted into this kind of raw content and don't mind that I go on and on about things that are mundane in my work and personal life. In contrast those on Instagram have opted into a more romanticised version of my life - a big worry for me is if putting this personal content into my Instagram Stories could be more detrimental to my business and creative brand overall than sharing nothing?
On the topic of permanence, one thing I see as valuable for Instagram Stories in direct comparison to Snapchat is that when users message me from the Stories screen, the messages don't disappear. I find it really difficult to talk to people on Snapchat because the content disappears as soon as I exit the message, I mean, I get that people want to send nudes to each other without having to remember doing it the next day, but it makes it hard for nerds like me who just want to have an old fashioned conversation.
I said earlier that Instagram Stories is significantly worse than Snapchat, and performance is from where most of this opinion stems. Instagram Stories is laggy, it's slow to use, there are glitches when I'm watching people's day play out - which is totally understandable considering Instagram hasn't done any updates yet however if you're blatantly ripping someone else off - you better hope you can do it better. When the technology already exists, and the water has already been tested - why can't Instagram create a more seamless experience?
This brings me to my next point - why I'm mentioning it I'm unsure. Brand loyalty is a thing, even in software - it's why I use Netflix and not Stan or Foxtel streaming services - I'm attached to who Netflix are as a company and I have been convinced that they take my feelings as a user into major consideration when making decisions.
There was a time where Instagram could do no wrong in my eyes, (totally rolling my eyes at myself - I'm aware I sound like a ex lover) which was of course before they were sold to Facebook. Facebook is notorious for doing what makes them more money, wins them favour with advertisers at the expense of users and their rights, and cool, you're a business - I totally get it - but it also means that Snapchat is automatically the underdog in this situation even if only in relativity (cough 310 million users monthly cough worth a theoretical $19 billion).
The favourability of video in Instagram's explore page, and the new non-chronological algorithm may seem harmless, but in actual fact they are two ways that Facebook is prepping Instagram for more sponsored content and advertising. Snapchat has yet to introduce a rumoured new algorithm, but up until this point they've kept organic and sponsored content relatively separate which again puts them in the position of being more for users than Instagram.
One other thing that is terrifying is that a large so company can steal so blatantly from another large company. I'm strongly against a corporation stealing from small artists, and I'm also against a large corporation stealing from a slightly smaller company. A few years ago Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for 3 billion dollars and evidently Snapchat didn't comply - it has tried again and again (but failed) to clone Snapchat's widely popular features in the form of other apps. Now it seems they've just given up on masking their plagiarism and plonked it right into Instagram. I'm completely surprised that Snapchat hasn't filed some-sort of lawsuit even after Instagram's CEO admitted that their Instagram Stories is a complete and utter copy of Snapchat's Stories - how is this kind of plagiarism legal? I really want to know how Snapchat feels about this (if you have any articles please leave them in the comments below!).
Even after verbalising all of these points I'm still confused. On a personal level I enjoy using Snapchat - the experience is more seamless, fully-formed and less consequential to my brand (oh and the filters!) but is it wise for me to split my audience across different platforms? Over the past couple of days I've experimented with different ways to use the two Stories features, I used Instagram Stories exclusively for a day (but Snappers were not impressed), today I'm using Snapchat for more personal, vlog-type posts and Instagram for more practice-specific, studio-posts but content on both is now dismal - I'm not interesting or prolific enough to have a substantial amount of content on each and I really don't think I could produce the same amount of content on both.
I asked my audience using both Stories features which they would prefer, in hindsight I could have probably predicted the results, but I found people's more in-depth answers about why they felt the way they did really interesting. I got hundreds more responses for keeping my Stories on Instagram - but this is probably because I have a larger audience there, many of whom stated that they don't use Snapchat and/or would prefer to get all of my content in the same space. I simultaneously got lots of responses for maintaining my Stories on Snapchat (these responses came on both apps which was surprising) and while there were less of these responses, the people who wanted me to stay on Snapchat were super passionate about it. They said that they preferred it because they wouldn't check Instagram Stories and didn't want to miss my content, they felt like Snapchat was more intimate, they were frustrated by the performance of Instagram Stories, and they also liked coming to Snapchat for the specific purpose of seeing people's stories.
And here's what 106 people on Twitter thought (feel free to ignore the typo) :
So I have a difficult decision to make because I can't use both to full effect, but I don't want to disappoint a chunk of my audience. I have a substantially larger group of people who want me to continue using Instagram Stories, and a smaller but more passionate group of people who want me to stay on Snapchat. I think it's too early to say whether or not Instagram users would be more or less passionate the more I use the Stories feature, and I also think it's too early to tell whether Snappers will change their mind about seeing my stuff on Instagram's blatant rip-off.
I had a small fraction of people reassure me that ultimately it didn't matter which platform I chose, they would avidly watch my stories regardless, which I guess kind of takes the pressure off, but I still don't know what I'm going to do, or which platform I will choose to share most of my Stories content if not all. In the grander scheme of things I'm also still incredibly dedicated to getting my YouTube up to scratch and creating content there more consistently - in the realm of everything that's going on in the great balancing act that is social media, I still have a lot to think about - in other words: someone make an educated decision for me I have to get on with my life.
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on both apps' Stories feature, whether that be how you're finding each one, what you like and dislike, and/or which you would prefer me to use.
You can follow me on Instagram at @furrylittlepeach
or on Snapchat at @furrylittlpeach (no 'e' on little)
Recently I spoke at the Semi Permanent design conference in Sydney alongside Gemma O'Brien and Breana Bunce. We gave a masterclass on how to use your craft to build a community and more specifically how to use social media to foster an audience. The masterclass included a 40 minute conversation between Gemma and I (mediated by Bre), a demo from yours-truly based around the idea of using social media as a storytelling tool, and a hands-on workshop by Gemma on how to recreate her incredible hand-drawn script.
It ran really smoothly! The crowd was awesome and we got a lot of great feedback (someone said they got the more out of our two hour session than they did the whole three-day conference! Insane!) - it was a shame that the talk was only open to a fraction of the attendees of the conference. A lot of these points were covered throughout the panel, and have also been sent through to me in the form of emails, Tumblr asks, snaps, and hidden Facebook messages buried in secret inboxes that I only find out about years later, so I thought it would be useful to young creatives and creators in general to tackle the topic here on the journal.
That question: How did you first get started posting your work on social media?
I've answered this before plenty of times in interviews and podcasts so I'm sorry to those who have heard it before. For those who haven't, and for those who want to take another trip down memory lane, here it goes.. I started as everyone does, a complete amateur - hungry (still am) to learn new skills and elated by the prospect of being able to translate my ideas to paper, I had been drawing my whole life and always interested in mark-making but it wasn't until later that I began exploring new mediums and sharing my work online.
During my final year of high school, I started a Tumblr page when I should have been studying. It's become a total cliche but I had no idea what my blog would turn into or that I would even post my work there, it started as a space to store my tidbits - brief thoughts, phone photos and scans of my film photography. After posting a scan of one of my drawings online, it became really apparent that the internet was not only for embedding glitter icons and choosing which song would represent you best on your MySpace profile - but that the internet was the perfect environment for reaching a prospective audience and connecting with other like-minded creatives.
If you were to start over how would you go about it?
I don't know if I'd change anything. Things have been pretty sweet.
I get the idea that people are really terrified to share their work online, and while there are definitely risks (things like copyright infringement, copy-cats and sourceless sharing) I've found that the positives have greatly outweighed the negatives. It's a lot easier to begin sharing on any platform when you don't have an agenda - the important thing is to experience and experiment with how you use each channel and focus on creating awesome work.
Snapchat is relatively new for me, so I'm currently beginning from scratch so-to-speak. It's so new that there's no one way to post - no formula like there seems to be on Instagram. I'm just doing my thing, capturing it, having fun and everyone seems to be responding really nicely to it. The advice I always give to people with similar questions on how to approach sharing what they do online is to be genuine, show what you're interested in, and just do your thing - the internet is such a huge place that we've seen so many niches been carved out by individuals simply doing what they love.
Statistically Instagram doesn't make the top lists when it comes to sharing/engagement, why do you think Instagram meets yours and the needs of other visual artists so well?
One thing that sets Instagram apart is that its primarily a visual platform, and what I mean by that is that you need to post something visual, either a photograph or video, where as other platforms either allow you to post a range of media, or encourage text based posts in which you can attach accompanying visuals. It's this uncluttered format which means the visually-orientated creatives can focus on and experiment with creating rich imagery without really worrying about everything else. It also means that as an online space, users expect and are interested in seeing captivating visual content first and foremost.
Snapchat is one of the top 5 fastest growing platforms, what are you seeing as the strengths of this channel.
It took me a while to get onto Snapchat, I was under the impression that only tweeni-boppers used it to send nudes to each other and didn't see how it would be relevant to what I do until after I began using it. Once you get your head around the gestural navigation it's really easy to use - there isn't much pre-meditation involved from the perspective of an individual because the content will be gone in 24 hours, and that's actually very freeing. I think something that is appealing to Snapchat users, myself included, is the authenticity that the temporariness breeds. I use it mostly as a sort of BTS to what people see on Instagram and an insight into what's going on in my studio - an instant vlogging platform, useful for sharing videos of myself hanging out with other people's dogs.
Instagram has evolved from an image editing and sharing platform into something much more complex, and in doing so has become a lot more contrived.. wait, maybe that's the wrong word.. more devised(?). Even though I post in relative real-time I definitely, to some extent, art direct and curate my feed for the sake of flow and consistency. When you look at social platforms as a means for storytelling it can be useful to post thoughtfully as well as genuinely. The Instagram we've come to know is more mediated than it used to be - it's become a place where we're used to being advertised to, and a place where it's become necessary to state something is 'not a sponsored post' in order to prove your opinion is genuine. There used to be a time where Instagram acted as a little window into someone else's world, and while that's still quite true today, those windows are just a little more polished than they used to be. Snapchat is still a really young platform, and I think the rawness of posts and perceived authenticity is really, really refreshing.
How deeply should I engage with my audience? How often do you have a one to one conversation with your followers?
This really depends on how much free time I have. Being responsive to your audience can be as time consuming as having a part time job if you let it. Your social channels should compliment what you do and not obstruct your creative process, so while I think it's important to engage with your audience, not to the extent where you're spending more time managing a community than engaging with your practice. In the same vein, if your livelihood and business relies on the audience you've fostered online, answering important questions and responding to people's feedback is definitely positive - I think a lot of us sometimes forget that each unit and number is a real-life person who's experience with you is individual and not collective to how you conduct yourself across all of your social channels.
How regularly should I post?
I used to try to post daily, but that got exhausting very quickly especially while I was working an agency job four days a week. I think that consistency is important (consistency in quality of posts, and consistency in regularity of posts), but I definitely don't think you should be creating work specifically for social media if your practice doesn't call for it. Christian Watson of 1924us, an illustrator who works predominantly in branding, is a great example of someone who does this well. His feed is coherent, his storytelling is engaging, the posts are always on brand and the dude averages like 3 posts a day! This regularity does have a specific effect - I regularly visit his page even if I don't see him on my feed because I know there will always be something new. I think three posts or more a day is definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum and quality is definitely > quantity, but if you can manage both, go for it!
What kind of posts drive engagement?
Video is huge at the moment. It's most of what we're seeing on Facebook, it's heavily bumped up on Instagram's explore page and it's super-engaging content. It's also a really important storytelling vessel; people want to be involved in your process no matter how mundane you consider it to be - they aren't in your world, so the role of social media as a storytelling tool is to help them be apart of it. With video content becoming so easy to create (the timelapse feature on our iPhones, Facebook's live video and the ease of use of Snapchat) - there are no excuses to not be onto that shit.
Is offline activity important?
Offline activity is absolutely important. All social platforms have a shelf-life, so think about what you want to be left with without the followers/subscribers/likes/comments - we need to work towards something more substantial than just data. That doesn't mean that the two can't work hand in hand; things like exhibitions and conferences are two examples of "real-life" things that boost my online engagement (through magazines/digital publishing, word of mouth online etc). Experiencing something in a tactile way is so much more immersive than seeing it in a tiny square - it can be a lot more emotionally fulfilling and more likely to drive meaningful engagement online than a share or seeing a video.
Your social media following is now so strong that brands value it as an ad space, and want to associate themselves with that. How do you manage the commercial demands on your professional identity?
There's a lot of controversy around influencer content that has been paid for by brands or initiated by agencies, but I think there's a point to be made and a line to be drawn between selling your opinion and selling your services. This may be a massive generalisation (mainly because I'm an outsider looking in), but the monetisation of fashion blogging is a great example of influential people wearing and selling brand's clothing by implying these brands are who they would normally choose to wear (when in some cases this isn't true). While I don't feel personally affected by it, I can definitely understand people's ethical concerns. In the case of working with brands as an illustrator/creative - we are posting what we would be posting anyway - our solutions to creative briefs, process images and projects we were proud to be apart of. I've worked on both social and non-social based content/creative, and in the case of the former I've been very selective and specific about the kinds of briefs I take on.
I make sure to work with brands that I like and believe in, and if I plan on posting the job to social I make sure the content that I post is native to my feed, and is interesting to my audience. I do not take on social campaigns where I'm specifically asked to post or speak to my audience in a certain way, in fact the small percentage of social-based work I actually agree to, are projects that I want to work on from an experience/illustration perspective and those in which I have creative control.
What advice do you have on managing the tension between contractual demands and artistic integrity?
I think it comes down to having a strong identity and brand. If you have a strong sense of who you are as a creative and even as a person you will automatically have a distinct line drawn between what you will and will not do, and in turn a strong set of values to go along with it. This is important in situations where you're presented with a brief or a contract as you can easily spot things you'll need to change to suit who you are, which by the way is something you can do.
I find myself reading articles about the power of 'yes', but guys the power of 'no' is a fantastic thing! I've been presented with contracts or briefs that make me uncomfortable (because of things like lack of creative freedom, or the requirement that be too advertise-y) and every time I've flat-out refused. By doing so I'm not only maintaining the quality/integrity of the work I produce, but often the brief or contract will come back amended to suit my audience and I. Speaking from a non-social perspective, the power of no is important when it comes to the licensing of creative material, and budgets. Do not sell yourself short - creativity is the lifeblood of our industry and young creatives are some of our most valuable yet under-valued resources.
If there's anything I'd like you to leave with (I know there's already an information overload here) it's these four points:
1. Be yourself (sorrynotsorry for the cliche). Make your own niche, let your audience find you, and stop looking at other people as a compass - forge your own path.
2. Find consistency. Without being overtly formulaic or predictable, be consistent aesthetically (in your style of posts, in editing) and in regularity (how often you post).
3. Tell beautiful stories. The way you tell your story is super, super important - figure out how you can tell genuine stories beautifully. On Instagram I do this in a number of ways: I use time-lapses to show how I made something from start to finish giving people a literal sense of how I do what I do, and I use flat lays to show the aura of a work. Show more than just a static image of what you made, show how you made it, why you made it, the materials you used, where you were when you made it and what you were eating at the time (just for kicks).
4. Focus on creating great work. This is probably my most important point. While this entire post is about social media - at the heart of success of any kind is hard work and determination. Focus on creating something great, and the rest will fall into place.
I really hope this was useful, and I'm sorry again that all of my journal posts are so incredibly long - I talk a lot! If there's anything else you'd like to know, any follow up questions you have or anything else related to social media, building a community or puppies please leave them in the comments below. Maybe we can put together a part two!
All photographs captured by Toby Peet