ILLUSTRATORS & ARTISTS AS DIGITAL INFLUENCERS. Who, where, how?
I’m useless at networking, it brings me out in a cold sweat. I once signed up to a large conference in Bristol called ‘Vision', with the hope of overcoming the fear. I worked out who I would introduce myself to and went along with bags of determination and a box full of business cards. I spent the entire time sitting in the corner almost frozen to the chair, turning people’s speeches in to little doodled infographics. I spoke to about 3 people all day, and they were the ones serving tea. But I tweeted the illustrations I’d done to the speakers, and the following day printed them out on to card and popped them in the post. And voila, I was in touch with some major figures in the world of advertising. All of them replied personally too. This proved to me that I'm a great communicator after all, just not in a traditional way.
So for the many illustrators and artists (who, like me, often feature somewhere on the introvert scale), social media is the perfect way to confidently and creatively network. It’s possible to tell an idol that we love their work, we can tag a brand into the illustration we’ve done of their new range, or we can share a new project with a simple little RT and a clever hashtag. We can show process videos on Instagram Stories and we can talk to thousands of people on Twitter without actually having to say a word or leave the comfort of our studio. And thankfully this natural and instinctive use of social media is turning heads.
There was a time that the majority of social media stars were young, female and confident (thin, white, pretty should probably be added to the list too). We started to see their faces everywhere and brands were falling over themselves to pay to feature on their channels. But times have changed and social media has made household names of people from all demographics. Social has become more sophisticated and it isn’t just all about numbers anymore. It’s about true engagement, relevance and trust. And it’s about unique and creative content.
So now illustrators and artists are stepping into the limelight, partnering with brands and being considered digital influencers themselves. And there's hardly a selfie in sight.
There are artists who have risen to an almost God-like status now on Instagram. Helen Downie (@UnskilledWorker), was commissioned by Gucci to paint portraits of their collection for an exhibition in Shanghai and has since become an Instagram sensation, amassing 223k Instagram followers. Recently Gill Button (@buttonfruit) worked with Dries Van Noten on beautiful ink pieces for use as invitations, in their stores, as a printed book, and as illustrated videos shared on Instagram. The process video on Instagram attracted more than double the amount of any other video I spotted on the Dries feed. And just last week at New York Fashion Week Julie Verhoeven’s graphic illustrations featured on accessories for Marc Jacobs, the images of which were shared with his 5 million Instagram fans. That's a big deal.
And it doesn’t stop there. Emma Block joined the Stylist Mag team and a whole host of influencers on a weekend trip to a chateau in France, where she was commissioned to paint scenes from the event. Amidst a sea of photographs the illustrations captured something that a camera couldn’t and were a real success on the magazine's Insta page. But not only that, people wanted to know what Emma was wearing, what watercolours she was using and they commented on her Instagram page with questions galore. She now speaks to her followers daily on Instagram Stories, sharing details of her projects and art materials.
I love following Meagan Morrison (@travelwritedraw) for similar reasons. One minute she’s on holiday in Croatia, the next at New York Fashion Week…and she’s painting the whole time as well as sharing details about what store her dress is from and where she’s having a coffee. As well as admiring her talent I'm interested in her as a person, as are thousands of her fans.
And with the increased popularity of illustration on Instagram we are seeing a rise in enquiries to our live illustration group LIL Collective. People want us at their events to illustrate portraits on to postcards, customise tote bags, or paint on to windows because they want to watch us draw, they want to meet us, and they want to share that unique content with their followers. It’s a very exciting time to be someone in love with drawing I can tell you!
So I feel really hopeful and excited about the future. I’m very happy to have myself been nominated for a Digital Influencer Award recently by InStyle Magazine and featured in their Best Illustrators to Follow article (sorry, shameless plug!!!), and I’m hoping it’s just the start. I’m in talks about offering my illustrated Instagram collage to brands and I have some really exciting news too that I can reveal later in the year. It really feels like things are changing and that brands are realising there’s huge value in partnering with illustrators. I can’t wait to see how things develop, for me and for other artists too.
Thanks for reading!
To contact me directly please email me (Niki Groom) at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Helen Cowley at Dutch Uncle at email@example.com (personally I’d pick Helen, she’s much faster at responding to emails!)
To contact us at LIL Collective for live illustration at events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org