Instagram for illustrators - 10 basic tips for gaining great followers

There's a theory that goes if you perform a certain task every day for 30 days, new pathways are formed in your brain, so it becomes a habit. This can be applied advantageously to many areas of your life. I also feel this is a great approach for gaining great follows on Instagram. Today I have just over 4,600 follows...granted it's not quite as much as August Wren, but a girl has to start somewhere. I have received many enquiries via IG for commissions, some of which have transpired. There are a surprising number of art directors and editors on Instagram who may not state they are art directors and use personal accounts to follow your work !!

Instagram for illustrators

This is not a definitive guide for gaining follows - it’s based on my own personal experience since I started in September 2014. Please do not be tempted to 'buy' follows or likes - a few clicks in the profile link will reveal if someone has 200 FB follows and 10K on IG...something doesn't add up! Here are 10 quite simple tips...

1) Make art everyday. Start a habit of putting aside 10-30 mins each day to create art & post. Just a doodle, hand lettering, sketch or collage. Set yourself a monthly task perhaps - I started with pen and ink sketches of fruit and veg. I've also done 'dessert a day' for a month. Join in with #artdaily2015 or use #sketchaday#painteveryday. I've been making a quick watercolour sketch (almost) everyday for about 7 months.

2) Aim to post 2-3 times a day roughly 4/5 hours apart so followers see fresh images throughout the day on your feed.

3) Content. Folks who follow artists primarily want to see their art, but you can include things like your work materials or studio space ( as well as shoes or your coffee) Keep your feed well curated & relevant.

Instagram for illustrators 2

4) Post a mixture of old, new, & work in progress. By 'old' I mean from your website portfolio. Also any features on other blogs can be put on your profile link.

5) Caption your work - tell folks what inspired you or how it was made.

Instagram for illustrators 3

6) Like & comment other artists work, especially those who may be using the same hashtag eg surfacepattern. A comment really bouys me up even if it’s 3 hearts. Try to thank or reply to all comments.

7) Hashtag your work appropriately - the most popular ones are...#art #artist #painting #illustration #drawing #draw #sketch #sketchbook#artoftheday #instaart #instaartist #wip #artistsoninstagram #sketchbook #watercolours (or whatever medium you've used) #yourname #illustration

8) Uploading your work - send screenshots or jpegs to your phone email or Dropbox for easy uploads. If you take photos of your work use natural light.

9) Watermark your work (install iWatermark app) use the adjust/ vignette/ tilt shift function if you are worried about unscrupulous use of your art.

10) Be professional & use a positive tone. Avoid complaining or bad mouthing anyone.

Do not underestimate the power of Instagram!!  I find it very satisfying following fellow creatives and seeing everyones amazing work, which inspires me even further. Please be mindful that gaining followers takes time, be patient, keep posting good content and support other artists. If this is sustained like a good habit, the momentum will start & it will be most worthwhile.

Surtex observations

One of the great advantages of taking several years to grasp the English language as a young girl in the Midlands was having to rely on body language for clues if I was particularly perplexed by a conversation. I feel I can still read body language well despite now having a great command of English. I'm going somewhere with this...indulge me.

Having followed many many artists online for several years, then finding myself physically in their presence in New York / Surtex was quite a revelation. No amount of !!!! or ; ) or :P on FB or IG can compare with seeing the glittery lipstick, glasses, accents or tone of voice of various artists and clients that I met during my 4 days at the Javits Center.

I need a better filter...!

I need a better filter...!

Firstly meeting my agent Brenda Manley for the very first time, watching her discuss her artists work with potential clients or just interact with anyone was a absolute joy. She was just so enthusiastic, vivacious and friendly in her approach. These pics where taken at Brenda's booth ...

on set up day sorting out postcards for swag bags with Emma Schonenberg and Andrea Strongwater

on set up day sorting out postcards for swag bags with Emma Schonenberg and Andrea Strongwater

Brenda with Tatyana Starikova Harris and Andrea Strongwater

Brenda with Tatyana Starikova Harris and Andrea Strongwater

Below we have myself with Emma Schonenberg (check out her amazing doodles on Instagram) and Victoria Johnson at her booth where I helped out a few days.

Again I've known Victoria on-line for a few years and is was such a delight to meet her in person. She was extremely knowledgeable, generous and has a great sense of humour. I was also pleased to meet her agent Jennifer Nelson who was very charming and enthusiastic.

Back in the days when I used to meet and talk to editorial art directors I soon learnt how to converse earnestly about my work - there would be much charm offensive in a very short space of time. Standing in Victoria's booth watching potential customers approach felt the same - timing and mindset were important. If their eyes lingered for more than 3 seconds with their bodies turned towards her booth (not just their heads) I was quick to say a cheery Hello ( in my most British accent) and offer them a postcard or seat.

There were two other occasions when I COULD NOT conceal my delight. The first was seeing my Christmas notecard set on Studio Oh booth at the National Stationary Show. It turned out their designer followed me on IG and was just lovely. When she let me handle the notecards I think I actually danced a little jig on the spot, I was just so excited. I think my jig made quite an impression on them.

The other high light was meeting Nate and Salli the dynamic duo behind They Draw and Cook and They Draw and Travel . Both of them have been so very supportive of my art and I feel they understand my journey since they art artists themselves. It was wonderful to talk to Salli and Nate on so many levels, and very honored they came over for a chat.

I didn't want this post to read as a who's who of artists I'd met at Surtex. Rather I wanted to share my experience of walking and talking with fellow artists and Brenda and how it created a palpable positive mood. I feel confident I can take my art to the next level and very much hope all the amazing & talented artists who exhibited and those whom I met felt the same too.

In today's age with various technological tools for communication its easy to forget about something simple like eye contact. Sometimes emails ( if you can find the right address) may not convey as much empathy or trust needed in a good working relationship. For me connecting with everyone I had the good fortune to meet with during Surtex was a real honor and was grateful to have been in that position.

Este Macleod was a fabulous room mate for the duration of my stay on New York (Union City) here with the rather wonderful Gabriella Buckingham.

Above are the terrific trio that make up the Happy Happy Collective, Tammie Bennett, Emily Balsley and Jill Howorth in front of their terrific booth.

Two of the nicest people you could hope to meet Susan Brand and Claire Lordon who has just signed a great children's book deal

These cheerful ladies are long time on- line friends, quirky Rachael Schafer and Jo Chambers.


Who Inspires Me...? Bloghop

A few weeks back the amazing and lovely, Rachael Schafer asked if I wanted to be part of the ' Whats Inspires Me' blog hop - I was honoured and also rather gobsmaked. Read Rachael's post about myself & Jo Chambers here.

I first met Rachael on Lilla Rogers Make Art That Sells course last autumn. Part of the course was a friendly online community that supported and bounced ideas off each other. We had all come from different backgrounds, careers and experiences and we were all looking to further our creative journeys. I feel Rachael's work reflects her fun loving and blithe nature. Look at these...

...aren't those monkey so gleeful  and having a great time with the giant ice lollies !

...that ship is certainly on a cheerful adventure.

I love this theme..the colours are super happy and joyful.


I am putting together foodie related images that I feel would do well in my portfolio and in a on-line shop I'm aiming to open in a few months. Since taking the MATS course I have realised images/ icons do not necessarily have to be stuck within one market and can actually overlap quite easily & successfully. 


I've been pinning on Pinterest for about 2 years and after a while realised I was just naturally drawn (no pun) to food and travel images. At the time I had a toddler and was pondering if I should change career. I feel very lucky that I stuck to my guns because I just LOVE TO DRAW- simple as that. I've entered two Spoonflower competitions on a whim, one based on fishing, a past time which I've never done, BUT I loved researching the images, and just draw draw draw with pen and ink. I'm now hoping to turn those images into a collection. So although my primary interest is food and travel there is SO much I feel I could turn into art simply because I'm always eager to learn.


Whether the brief is one I set myself or for a competition I usually mull over it for a day or two making mental and actual notes ( I carry a notebook and pen everywhere). I start with a pile of sketches from photos or other reference using pen and ink (it so much easier to scan) I'll see where I'm at after this stage - whether there is a theme or a germ of an idea emerging. Sometimes the sketches go to Ai, but more and more often they are taken to Photoshop for lots of playing around with textures.

Enough about me already. I want to move onto TWO remarkable artists. Each of them has their own unique approach to art. But what strikes me the most is their fearless attitude getting their art out there - I just go along for the ride sometimes.

First off we have the uber talented Wendy Brightbill of A Girl and Her Brush fame. She literally paints her joy, its also therapy for her. Again I met her on MATS last year and she just has not looked back since. Wendy was always breaking through comfort zones and is highly prolific - I've never known anyone work to fast. Added to which is smart and perceptive nature. Take a closer look....

...her examination of colour was featured in Upppercase magazine !!!

....she can combine photos with paint with linework to create gorgeousness

....arn't these animal characters sassy. Wendy had never done characters until a few a months ago - like WOW!!

Now I want to move onto the lovely Harriet Mellor who delights us with fabulous details in all her work. I was lucky enough to meet her on MATS. The funny thing was we would often appear on the same 'page' of Lilla's reviews - similar but different. Harriets work sometimes seems to have a luminosity that gives her art a beautiful depth. Her work is easily recognisable with stunning linework and thoughtfully placed overlapping icons. See what I mean....

...I adore this piece and the similar one featured in They Draw and Cook dreamy and atmospheric - just sheer magic

...what a wonderful idea, colours that pop and beautiful, delightful details


So there we have it. I've throughly enjoyed writing about 3 equally amazing artists, who have had the pleasure of sharing my MATS journey, and now beyond !! They are so creative on many levels, super supportive & caring in different areas and best of all quick to laugh. I do look forward to their blog posts about what inspires them.