March Meet The Maker Instagram Challenge
This year I took part in Joanne Hawker's #MarchMeetTheMaker – an annual Instagram challenge celebrating makers and artists throughout the month of March, with daily prompts – in an effort to put more content on social media and interact with others. Here's a round-up of my posts, and what I learned in the process. I'll add the best posts to the blog in due course, as everything disappears so quickly on social media!
Week One: Introducing Yourself
In the first week, I wrote about my brand, style and values, and shared my attic studio space and latest work. Posting every day was a challenge, and took up more time than expected – even using free mock-ups in some of the photos to speed things up. Deciding on content to use, setting up or editing images, writing mini blogposts, and researching hashtags, all takes longer than you realise. I must admit, I didn't reach out and comment on many other accounts taking part in the challenge, because I worried about taking more time away from the "real" work of illustration, reaching out directly to potential clients, and maintaining a website presence.
During the challenge, singer-songwriter Dolly Mavies reached out to ask if I would take part in a series of interviews with inspiring women for International Women's Day on 8th March. I was so nervous – I've never felt comfortable with public speaking, and wasn't sure I had anything valuable to say. I did get a bit tongue-tied on the day but I got through it. It took place on Instagram, and there is an off-putting feature on the app that shows you how many people are watching, so every time someone left it would knock my confidence. Imagine speaking in a room and noticing people get up to leave! The experience taught me that if this is something I want to do again, it will take practice to get over my nerves and speak in a way that people find interesting.
Week Two: In Progress
The second week encouraged me to share behind the scenes, work in progress, and thought processes. I usually don't share many sketches because they can make a profile look messy if you're not careful. Changing the sketch from black and white to monotone pinks made a big difference, though, and I enjoyed letting people in on the magic that goes into making a finished piece of work. Instagram's carousel feature lets you 'hide' more photos behind the first one, so this way I was able to show rougher sketches without compromising the look of my profile page. Making the handwritten infographic and self-portrait was fun too, and reminded me to play with art and social media more, than always striving to complete more time-intensive pieces of work.
Week Three: Your Background
By week three, I got into more of a routine with posting to Instagram without taking up too much of my work day. I combined the first prompt of this week (focus and priorities) with a lettering challenge from Lauren Hom. Lauren shared the piece online and I was thrilled! I loved how the March challenge pushed me to dive deep into my practice and analyse my inspiration and experiences. For example, the prompt "from the archives" got me to look back at past sketchbook work and realise my style had been sitting quietly waiting there for me, while the "colour" prompt made me think about where my favourite colours come from, and realising they mostly come from childhood holidays in Port Meirion, Wales. The "silver linings" illustration is from a First Mother's Day card. However, by this point I started noticing a small fear – with these more casual posts I didn't feel pressured by how many likes something received, but realised I would feel bad to get the same engagement rate on a finished illustration. It's silly I know, but it can often feel like a judgement on my work. I'm happier sharing snippets like the photo of work in progress on my iPad.
Week Four: General Overview
By the final week I'd had enough of the challenge and was looking forward to a break from social media! I think the constant updates were part of why I didn't interact with many people on the platform. I'm wondering if it would be better to go back to posting consistently twice a week and making connections instead. I don't like some of the low quality posts I ended up putting out, and spending more time on a caption than the image itself. This week also made me realise the performative nature of Instagram. Whereas I am always true to myself on this blog, on social media there is a pressure to be relentlessly positive, to look more successful than you are in reality, and to sprinkle everything with a generous helping of emojis. Or to go the opposite direction, and overshare in an attempt to be authentic or for catharsis. My punk-rock teenage self would be mortified if she knew! While I don't subscribe to the "fake it til you make it" or post unrealistic images and text myself, I think there is something about the very nature of Instagram that gives off false impressions regardless, and it's very hard to change the default tone of voice. It's a bit like trying to change the atmosphere at a party.
I think I will always have a tricky relationship with social media. I would like to step away from it completely, but worry that I won't be relevant or it may be harder to find work, or I will miss out on connecting with other illustrators and artists. I think the key for me will be to set aside a realistic amount of time each week, only post something I really want to share, and to keep the captions short, posting to my blog instead.