If you ask someone to describe what he or she sees when thinking of art, you will probably hear things like “big galleries with thousands of paintings, people chatting and taking pictures of those works of art; admiring and visiting every corner of the room”, or maybe “conferences where you can meet the artists, ask questions and buy everything your wallet affords”. Well, the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything regarding this form of interaction between people and art, but, as art itself changes continuously and adapts to the present, so do the artists such as Maria Ștefan, an artist that can be found on Instagram under the name axelis.art. She states that she definitely noticed that her engagement did rise up since the pandemic started, saying that this form of art behind the glass affected her, but in a positive way mostly: “I am a student, so I spent 90% of my time in classes and doing homework. I did make art for school but I didn’t really pursue my own style (the one on Instagram) too much. So during the pandemic I did have more time to experiment and practice, although the commissions did drop quite a bit, I don’t really mind that at the moment.”
Honey, we have galleries at home
Many of the places where art was displayed had to put a lock on their doors, and take the exhibitions away, but some of them adapted to the new art going online phenomenon. For example, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam had two million less visitors in 2020, but the digital audience grew rapidly, as its social media following increased by 23%, meaning 1.4 million more online visitors. Or even the Louvre in Paris: after losing three quarters of its annual visitors and around 90 million euros, the museum decides that is time to go online and provide a gallery at one click away. They came with ideas such as a New Year’s Eve concert featuring DJ David Guetta, or distributing the documentary “A Night at the Louvre: Leonardo da Vinci” online, that ended up raising millions of euros.
Go big and stay home
An artist who promotes themselves on social media means an artist that has a direct contact with their audience; one who is always engaged in communicating and delivering, as Artwork Archive states. Using the power of Instagram, Facebook or even TikTok, an artist will be able to get in touch with a lot more people and even sell their art with one click. This brings with itself a lot more pressure, as the eyes of this industry ask for more and more content on a daily basis. Artists came up with small interactive competitions to be capable of getting to a larger audience, and for their followers to be able to get in touch with their artist by winning different artworks or personalized prizes, such as portraits, autographed artwork, mentioning the winner on the artist’s page or even the chance for fans to talk to their idols.
Make ‘em money
Artwork Archive also states that artists have less control when it comes to social media. Their work can be shared and shaped as people want, meaning they can end up losing the credit for it. But being this free also has its advantages. Being present on a lot of online platforms makes them more visible to future financing. Artists even have sites where their fans, or even strangers, can donate to support their work or get more diverse or limited content. They make their own way, not being limited by bosses, critics or rules. Whatever financial support potential buyers will bring, will all go one-way: to the artist, such as commissions.
The lockdown has its ups
Cosmin Grigoraș, found on Instagram under the name cosmin_grga, is an art student who also shares his creations online. When asked about what he thinks about art moving behind a screen, he said that there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration: “It depends on the type of art you make, it depends on what you want to convey through it, it also depends on the kind of interaction you want to have with people. Besides, depending on what you do, the way of presenting the works also matters a lot, and here I mean online versus offline, as there is a difference between a work of art in reality in comparison with a simple picture of it”.
Regarding the possible negative aspects of promoting it online, Cosmin does not believe this can steal from the essence of someone’s art. “I don’t think that exhibiting works online is something negative. After all, social media is a very good way to make yourself known and promoted and I don’t think we will only talk in the future about online art or only about offline art, because they work in tandem nowadays”.
Cosmin also said that, even though he has a small number of followers, people actually contacted him for his work: “I don’t consider myself so relevant on social media, because I don’t have many followers, but I’ve received orders in the past from people who found me on Instagram. I don’t necessarily post on Instagram to sell works. I like to share with the world what I do, first of all, and if people resonate with what I do, they contact me. As for the exposure of artworks on Instagram, it certainly has an effect on all artists”. He also continued with one of the negative sides of posting on social media as a young artist: “It’s very easy to fall into the trap of doing works that fit well on Instagram and thus to limit yourself and stop looking to grow as an artist. Honestly, lately, I haven’t posted so much on Instagram / social media and when I do, I post works that I like and not necessarily what is trendy and good”.
On the other side of the world of artists and their struggle of keeping the fine line when it comes to their works, we have Alex Andrei, a self-taught artist at the beginning of the road. He states that he wouldn’t be able to do all of this without the art that is shared online, from whole lessons to simple photos that he takes inspiration from: “This is the main way self-taught artists learn, by looking at other better artists. “I usually don’t just… look at art. I try to analyse it and learn from it. I have followed so many good artists and art that I like on Instagram lately. Other than the fact that it’s amazing to look at, if you want to do art, in any way, you can’t if you don’t see what the ones better than you are doing. It’s literally how you learn anything. It’s fun to look at art and examine it, because, as people would expect, it’s not always about the details – most of the time they don’t even matter – it’s about art as a whole. It’s the colors, composition, form and balance”.
For an artist, staying inside and being kept away from so many things and activities than can inspire them can become a huge impediment in creating constant work, but not for Maria Ștefan. “Personally, it’s not. I get inspiration from everything I see, and if I don’t, I just start sketching anyways. Sometimes I really don’t have energy, but I don’t give up and continue to push forward. I set a schedule for myself so I can keep being on track.”
Being present on as many social platform as possible, even though extremely demanding, is the best way to be noticed by the audience, and get promoted. Maria says that she doesn’t know at the moment if she will expand on other platforms. “If I will, I’d probably choose TikTok, though I will need more free time to make videos. But I have been working on creating an online store. I am pretty sure my work will mostly be based online anyways, but I’d love to interact with people in person too, at conventions for example.
When asked if she thinks the Romanian market is a favourable place to do this, compared to other countries, Maria’s answer was shaped by unexpected positivism: “Commission wise 100% of my customers were from abroad, so I imagine that most of the purchases will also be made by people abroad. I don’t think the Romanian market is the worst, it does have potential. It depends on what kind of art and products we are selling. I am a children’s book illustrator in the Romanian market, and the books sell really well, but of course I do work with a publishing house. I have yet to see the outcome as an independent artist, but I feel hopeful.”
From artist to artist, Maria had a wonderful message to send to the ones that have a hard time pursuing this passion when obstacles are coming from all over, day by day. “Keep pushing forward. If you are passionate about what you do, keep sharing your art with the world. If you feel discouraged or unmotivated, just stick to a schedule, and don’t wait for inspiration to strike you. Grab a pen and do anything you can think of at the moment. Lockdown won’t last forever, thank God, so take this time to practice and reflect on your art. And if you ever need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone, whether it’s a fellow artist like me, a friend or even family”.