At this point, almost everyone knows the feeling. The obsessive double tap. Whether it's a friend, a crush, a celeb or some random person who happens to post cool stuff, if you're on social media, chances are there's someone whose posts you just can't miss.
Instagram is one of the best marketing and branding tools visual artists have today. That's not a novel thesis, but some artists are better at Instagram than others. Some artists don't post enough. Some post too much. Some only post their completed works. Some post too much personal stuff and not enough art (another food pic? Really?). Some don't engage with people who leave comments. Some do, but come across as insincere. Really, it's all about having a balance.
“I like seeing artists' inspiration, sketches and references,” says Meegan Nolan, owner and curator of Low Gallery and director of youth programs at the San Diego Art Institute. “I like to see the process (#wip) and I love it when artists post videos and time lapse photos of the evolution of works. I also like that Instagram gives artists a chance to show off their personality and sense of humor which helps people link up with those they would get on well with professionally.”
With that in mind, here are five regional artists doing Instagram right.
Started a few months ago by artist Brandy Bell and musician Mitch Wilson, the concept behind Strangers in a Fire is simple enough: Use nude people as canvases or, more accurately, screens for highly vibrant, almost psychedelic projections. The duo works with both a digital and an oldschool slide projector to cast patterns and even landscape pictures on models. They're consistently posting new content (at least one a day) and have gained enough followers that people are inquiring as to where they can buy prints of the pictures. “Strangers are contacting us to shoot them,” says Bell, who says she and Wilson started the project after she discovered some of her father's old image slides from the '70s. “We started it as just something we'd like to do with friends, but people have really responded to it on Instagram.”
Mark Murphy has been a staple on the local art scene for more than two decades now and is known mainly for his comic- and cartoon-inspired art and illustrations. He's also a book publisher, graphic designer and independent curator, so Instagram is a useful tool to help market whatever he's working on at the moment. “It's invaluable, and authentic people win,” says Murphy, who posts a healthy mix of his works and other people's art that he find inspiring. When it comes to his own pieces, rather than simply post finished works, Murphy posts pics of sketches and works-in-progress, offering followers a glimpse into his artistic process. “You need to be purposeful in how you use it for yourself,” says Murphy. “To me the social game has always been about outreach and connection.”
The work of Taylor Marie Prendergast was made for Instagram. Whether she's dabbling in '80s-inspired photography or her large-scale, surrealist-inspired portraits, she loves to post the finished product, but doesn't mix in too many pics of herself (when she does, they're contrarily playful compared to her paintings). While this kind of tactic might not work for some artists, or could come across as inauthentic, it adds a layer of mystery to her work and the artist herself. Whatever it is, it seems to work for her. “I think it helps when posting art on any web platform to photograph the work in an environment so the viewer can see the work in scale,” says Prendergast, who spent three months in Croatia studying under the direction of artist Joze Ciuha. “Seeing the work hung on a wall next to furniture helps the viewer see it in a more realistic light. That has been the most impactful response.”
Inspired by “crossborder folklore” and the “effects of sociocultural disintegration,” the work of Tijuana-based artist Luis Alonso Sánchez Varela can be heavy in nature. That it comes across as accessible on a forum like Instagram is a testament to his talent. He works in a variety of mediums, but it's his sculptural and neon work that people seem to respond to the most. A large reflective piece he recently installed in the desert at The Joshua Treenial was certainly a highlight from this year's contemporary art fair. Still, he balances that seriousness with inspired portraits of himself out on the streets of TJ, finding inspiration wherever it comes to him. He may not always have a smile on his face, but one definitely gets the sense that he's a serious artist who doesn't take himself too seriously.
If you've been paying attention at all to the local art scene over the last five years, Celeste Byers is certainly a name that should have come up by now. A tireless painter and illustrator (really, we're not sure when or if she actually sleeps), the O.B.-raised “nature worshipper and dream recaller” has had her work published in the New York Times and Lucky Peach, but it seems much more likely that locals have seen one of her murals around town whether it's “Superhuman Nature” in O.B. or “Las Dimensiones” on the border fence in TJ. Both she and partner-in-crime @aaronglasson are prolific Instagrammers, proving one doesn't need to sacrifice quantity for quality. “It's cool seeing people post process shots of their work to build anticipation for the final thing,” says Byers. Using that logic, Byers and Glasson use the app to take viewers on a journey through the artistic process, allowing followers a chance to see how giant murals are erected via time-lapse video and stunningly colorful pictures. #Nofilter needed.