How Creative Limitations Can Inspire You

A few days ago, I lived in California. Life has changed drastically, and it still feels a little surreal that I’ve closed a chapter in my life that was full of palm trees and a short drive to the Pacific ocean.  As I write this, I am sitting at my brother’s dining room table in Minnesota, impatiently waiting for my moving pod to arrive with all of my art supplies.

Last week, it was easy for me to do art when I had a full studio set up. I had shelves of supplies, and everything I could need to flex my creativity. Watercolor paper, mixed media paper, watercolors, canvases, every size paint brush, acrylics, a variety of inks, pens, markers, varnishes, and more.

Right now, I only have a black pen, a handful of precut watercolor paper with watercolor designs I applied before moving, and gold ink. My carry-on was filled with clothes and essentials, so I could only bring a few items to create with while I wait for the rest of my stuff.

Even though I would love to have my complete studio set up, I’m okay with this for the moment, because I’ve learned that limitations aren’t a bad thing.

Limitations can set you free

It sounds counterintuitive, but applying limitations to a situation can kickstart creativity. When we have too many choices before us, we can become paralyzed with indecision. An abundance of choice can keep us stuck in place as we evaluate every option before us. We waste energy imagining what we could have instead of deciding how to use what we already have.

When you are given limitations, you no longer have to look at what else is available. You can focus all of your energy on what is directly before you.

The limited art supplies I currently have for the next few days prevent me from getting distracted by anything else. There is power in narrowing your focus.

You don’t NEED to buy new art supplies

Have you ever experienced art supply boredom? If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of art supplies that you have accumulated that maybe don’t excite you anymore. It’s like going grocery shopping but having no idea what to make for dinner after, so you order take out instead.

With a little discipline, that boredom can be transformed.

Challenge yourself, and pick out a few supplies you haven’t used in awhile. Sit down and give yourself 15-30 minutes to explore and play with the materials. You never know what will come of it.

***

Of course, I’m itching to use my other supplies right now, and I know how exciting it can be splurge at Dick Blick–but when your budget is tight, or all of your stuff is on a truck somewhere, you have to make the most of what you already have. You never know what will send you down a new creative path.

While I get settled in Minnesota, my store is closed and I will be focusing on consulting sessions with all you lovely artists out there for the next couple of weeks. If you need help with your branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Grow Your Instagram Following

2020 Edition for Artists

I don’t know how many times I’ve written about this topic, but it is always worth revisiting as the platform continues to change. I always approach Instagram from a creative business perspective, but this advice applies to anyone looking to grow their following.

Now, I don’t want to repeat too much of the same information that I’ve gone over in previous posts, but some of you may not have read any of those posts before seeing this one, so you’ll get a little bit of new info and a little bit of old info that is still relevant.

Instagram–How can it help artists?

I’m going to start with the very basic reason why you should want to grow your online following: To make money.

I am an introvert. I hate crowds and I really dislike doing events to sell my work. Many of you know all of this about me–which is why I focus most of my energy on building an online following. Instagram connects me directly to buyers and prevents me from having to leave the house until I have art to ship.

A large following can also connect you to other businesses where you can work to promote their products and receive payment and/or free products. And when you use location tags and location based hashtags on your posts, you can build relationships with you local community and find offline opportunities, regardless of your account size.

My main point is that Instagram can be a really powerful tool to help your business and I urge literally every type of business or creative person to have some sort of social presence.

But you must always be ready for change.

Instagram continues to evolve and tweak their algorithm and app features. Last year, they rolled out a change that affected a lot of accounts’ engagement. My account, and many other artist accounts suffered, and my steady organic 100+ new followers a day turned into a trickle–and then my following actually started to drop for the first time in two years. It was a real bummer and I admit I took it harder than I wanted to, but that’s the reality of depending on any third party to connect you to your audience and buyers.

Things change, but when they do, this can push you to try new approaches. You can adapt. I took a few months to step away from social media (mostly for other mental health reasons) and just maintained my following, but this last month, I have been pushing hard and my account is starting to move forward again.

Every piece of advice I give you in my blog posts is based on my experiences. I don’t just regurgitate the information I find on the internet. I test things, and then I share what has worked.

So let’s get to it:

Instagram is a visual platform. Your content needs to look good.

1. Make sure your account is visually cohesive and branded.

If you want to sell your art online, you need to create an account that has a clear style and brand. If you want to have an art account where you just share all of the random, disconnected art you’ve been making, and you don’t care if more than friends and family see it, that is totally fine! But, if you want to grow your following and connect with art buyers, then all of your posts need to feel like they fit together in some way. You can do this by having a consistent style within all of your art, or you keep a consistent photo staging aesthetic.

Basically, your followers should recognize a post came from your account just by looking at a single photo or video you post.

2.Create attractive content–not just attractive art.

Every photo you take and video you record needs to become a new piece of art on its own. You have to be mindful of all the art principles you use within your art for your photos and videos. Negative space, contrast, balance, variety, color, texture, etc..

Stage your photos and use good lighting. Use negative space within your photos so that your profile doesn’t look cluttered. Use a variety of photo angles and staging to keep things interesting (close ups, wide shots, angled shots, photos of you with your art, etc.).

Instagram caters to a short attention span. Your content needs to pull people in.

You need to make your posts stand out and convince people to spend more time looking at your posts.

1.Focus on creating videos.

This is still my number one piece of advice to get recognized on social media. MAKE VIDEOS! Make time lapse videos, real time process videos, make short videos for stories, make long videos for IGTV. Just make videos and make them often. If you don’t want to share your techniques, then get crafty with your editing and only show small, but satisfying aspects of your process.

Videos force people to spend more time looking at your post, which then shows Instagram that your content is interesting and should be shown to a wider audience.

Recently, Instagram has given people the option to create a longer IGTV post through their normal posting process, and I have found that my recent explorations with longer IGTV posts have yielded great results. The post stays active for a longer period of time and more people have been funneled to my account. I highly recommend playing with IGTV videos.

This is how I make my videos.

2.Create carousel posts.

Carousel posts have been a feature for a while on Instagram. If you post more than one photo at a time, that post is a carousel post. You can include up to ten photos/videos on a post, and depending on the product you are selling or how you want to engage with your audience, carousel posts can force people to look through each slide and spend more time than average on that post. This can show Instagram that the post is more interesting than usual, and potentially boost it to a larger audience.

Consider showing individual videos for each part of your process, doing informative slides with text, or do closeups and wide shots of a new piece of art you just created.

3.Write engaging captions.

I have a whole post on this here, but basically, you need to offer more than “Here is a new piece of art.” or “18”x24″ acrylic on canvas, DM to purchase.”

You need to let people get to know you in your captions. Tell stories, share tips and tricks, explain what inspires you. Look at captions like the start of a conversation. You need people to comment on your posts for Instagram to see your content is interesting, so even try asking questions for your audience to respond to.

Don’t neglect captions!

4.Post frequently.

I recommended posting 1-3 times a day, 7 days a week in the past and I still stand by that. You’re not going to burn out your audience if you keep your content interesting. You are a business and people need to see your content often to remind them that you exist. You also need to keep feeding content into the Instagram machine to increase your odds of being seen by a new audience.

Read: How to create more content for social media.

5. Post at your peak time.

If you switch your account to a business or creator profile, you will be able to access insights into your posts and audience behavior. You’ll be able to see a handy bar graph that shows when your followers are most active on your posts. My current peak window is 6am-12am Pacific Time. Which means, I need to post as close to the beginning of that window as possible to maximize exposure to my following at one time.

Post when your audience is most active, and you increase the odds of getting engagement on your posts, which then increases the odds of being boosted by Instagram.

6. Use strategic hashtags.

I still research new hashtags every few months, and I still recommend using smaller niche tags when are trying to grow your following. I have a whole blog post on researching tags here.

Don’t Waste your time on these things

These are all things that I have tried and found to be way too much work for very little reward. Do yourself a favor and focus on creating good content and posting frequently instead of the following:

  1. Follows for follows: Only follow accounts that you actually want to see in your feed. Don’t follow a bunch of randos to guilt them into following you. It’s not how a business should behave.
  2. Likes for likes: Only like the content you enjoy. Again, don’t guilt people into liking your posts.
  3. Comment pods: I’ve been invited to so many of these lately. They are great if you want to connect with other artists, and they might help you grow your following a little bit, but it is a huge time commitment. I had recommended pods in the past, but I didn’t see my following change, I’m honestly too lazy for that now.
  4. Follow pods/chains: Have you seen the group messages that say “follow these 10 accounts, then add your name to the list and send to a bunch of other people”? Sure, it might help boost your following a little, but these people aren’t your target sales audience and again, it’s a lot of time spent on the app with little reward.
  5. Commenting on a bunch of posts to get people to look at your account: again, a lot of work, and little reward. Plus it’s really annoying to have “hey, check out my account for more art,” comments show up on your own posts.
  6. Giveaways: You don’t need to give your art away to grow a following. New followers gained during a giveaway will likely unfollow you after it’s done. Use a giveaway to reward existing followers only.
  7. Bots: I hate bots. Don’t pay for followers and don’t pay for bot services if you actually want your followers to be meaningful and eventually convert to sales.

I know a lot of this is content that I’ve posted before, except for utilizing carousel posts and IGTV, but honestly there will never really be a new quick trick to growing a following. Just like developing your own art style, growing a genuine, organic audience takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it to me.

I hope this post has been helpful to you, but I can help in more ways if you still need guidance. For one, I have a whole bunch of other blog posts that elaborate on this post even further. I’ve copied some of them below. Second, I offer one-on-one help through coaching and consulting services.

My Consulting Services: Instagram Assessment and Branding Assessment

I don’t advertise this often, but I love working with other artists to help them improve their Instagram accounts and refine their brand and message. As of 5/3/2020, I offer a 90 minute Instagram Assessment session where you and I can go through everything you need to know to improve your online presence and kick start your following. And, you can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

I try to keep my services affordable, but include the code 25OFF in your booking notes and I’ll give you $25 off a 90 minute branding or Instagram session.

I look forward to working with you! And if this post gave you everything you need, I wish you the best of luck on your social media journey!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Past Instagram Posts:

What is the True Value of Your Art?

I think it’s fair to say that the art is important to all cultures. Whether the art form is clothing design, dance, pottery, poetry, jewelry, wall paintings, garden design, and more, we seem to need art. Art of all forms is valuable to us–but what makes art truly valuable? And what is the true value of your art?

I was recently talking to my artist friend, @victoriasmithdavila, about the power of art, and how it can manipulate our emotions. She and I both love to use movement and bright colors in our art, and we can’t help but feel our own emotions shift as we work. Does that make our art valuable? Or does the value come from the materials used? Or maybe the price we can sell it for?

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of messages from new artists asking me if their work is good enough to sell, and I will, without hesitation, tell them that I love their work. Do I think it’s technically skilled and that you could sell it for thousands of dollars? I’m not as quick to answer that, because the potential to make money is not where the innate human drive to create comes from, and a lack of potential to sell shouldn’t stop you from creating more art in the future.

The true value of your art is not about money.

Money is the last thing I want a new artist to think about when it comes to their art and their creative process. Yes, if you plan on selling your work or being a professional artist, then you need to eventually think about how much you should charge for your work–but the price you put on your art does not determine its true value. A price tag does not communicate meaning or the story behind a piece.

True value is not about skill level or materials used.

I don’t care if you are using a Crayola crayon or a Copic Marker, a piece of printer paper or hot pressed cotton watercolor paper– the cost and quality of materials you use in your art does not give your art more or less true value. Nor does a lack or an abundance of technical skill. Sure, materials and skill level inform the the dollar value of a piece, but not the true value.

So what actually determines the true value of your art?

The true value of art comes from the following:

THe Stories, memories, and experiences That informed the art

Art is a symbol. A language. A medium used to tell stories. When you learn the context behind a piece of art, it takes on new meaning to the viewer. Who you are and what led you to the moment of creating a particular piece of art is factored into the true value of your work.

What story are you telling? What experiences led you here? How can your audience connect to you? What makes your story unique or relatable?

How the art reflects culture and society

Through the centuries of recorded art history, there have been countless movements and art styles that pop up, and eventually evolve into something new. These styles give a window into what life looked like overall during that time period. The true value of art involves what it can say about culture as a whole.

What does your art say about society? What are the priorities of the time you’re creating in? What can historians learn from your art in the decades to come? What can your viewer learn from your art about society in the present moment?

How the art can change the creator.

Like I said in the beginning, my creative process changes me. The act of painting can manipulate my emotions depending on the colors I choose and the gestures I make. The creation of art can be a selfish act, and for me, that’s where my drive to create starts.

Art can be just for you. The true value of your art can be determined solely on how your work affects you. For those that keep a journal or a sketch book that is never seen by eyes other than yours, you know how cathartic the release of creative energy can be.

How do you feel when you are done painting or writing? What did you learn about yourself? What can you interpret about your subconscious from your finished works of art or even your creative process? What trauma or stress can you disarm through creating?

This is part of your art’s true value.

How the art can manipulate and change the viewer.

Art can take control of its viewer. A piece of art can pull emotions to the surface. It can change thoughts and minds. Sometimes the purpose of art is to create a reaction from the viewer, and this is also factored into the true value of art.

When you are thinking of the true value of your art, think about the following:

How can it move the viewer? How can the art push someone to think differently? Or feel differently? How can art humanize the unknown? How can art bring people together? How can your art comfort or discomfort the viewer?

How the art can create a chain reaction or a ripple effect Through a Community

I often think about creating the energy I want to see in the world, because when we interact with the world, we rub off on it. When we create art, that art makes an impact. Sometimes intentionally, but often unintentionally in the beginning of an artist’s journey. The subjects you work with, the colors you choose, the stories you tell, the message you send–this can reach outward and change an entire community.

The simple act of smiling at a stranger in a coffee shop can create a ripple effect of kindness. That stranger smiles back, then smiles at another person and maybe holds the door for them, and that person mimics the smile and pays from someone’s coffee–and suddenly multiple people find themselves with an elevated mood because you smiled at a stranger.

Your art, your story, and how you put it into the world can have far reaching effects. The true value of art includes its ripple effect. Your art can inspire a community to think, act, and feel differently.

How the art shows creative innovation.

Sometimes true power and value of art comes from how different and exciting it is in comparison to what’s trending. This value is more volatile and slippery, and can lead to artists being different just for the sake of being different. (Which personally feels hollow to me at times.)

With art, new style movements pop up constantly, because creative people keep trying different things. Once that new thing gets overdone and more and more artists give it a try, then the styles shift again. What was valuable and new before, becomes cliché and tired. It’s part of the cycle.

I encourage you to challenge yourself to be innovative as an artist over time. Push yourself to evolve in ways that are true to you, and avoid getting stuck going through the creative motions or doing what everyone else is doing. If this is the type of value that is important to you, that is.

***

As you can see, the value of art comes from a variety of factors.

It’s easy to look at a price tag on art and be fooled into thinking that is what determines the value, but the true value of art is complex. You have to look at the layers of meaning, intention, history, and affects of art. And to make things even more complicated, value changes according to the viewer. Both true and monetary value are transient.

When you are trying to assess the true value of your art, start with the intangible qualities of your work. What does it mean? What does it contribute to the world? How does it affect the creator and the viewer? What story does it tell? How do you feel about the work? Then you can factor in the tangibles like materials used, skill level, and the current market to put a price on your work.

But if you ask me, I’m always going to tell you that your art has value, because you have value. Your story, your experiences, your memories, your culture–it all informs your art.

Even if you never sell your work–your art is truly valuable.

***

Do you feel closer to understanding the true value of your art now? Did this post change your perspective at all?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: