Promoting yourself shouldn’t feel like a daunting task, and at the end of the day your work will always speak for itself, but with so many more ways to present yourself online, showing it in the right places is essential.
Choose a name and stick with it for all promotional purposes. It might sound obvious, this includes your web address, Instagram, Twitter and email. It’s a good idea to Google yourself (this isn’t a joke) before confirming the name you use. Two of my artists share names with famous people – Robert Hunter with a former member of The Grateful Dead and Tom Cole with the US Representative for Oklahoma’s fourth congressional district! Both artists have adapted their names as a result, ensuring they are always easily traceable.
Create an Instagram account. It goes without saying that Instagram is by far the most effective self-promotion tool. It’s also where I have found many of the artists that I now represent (like Cécile Dormeau). Use your feed as an online portfolio and mainly showcase your own work. If you are addicted to selfies and holiday spam – we’re all guilty of it – then it might be worth setting up a separate personal account too!
Use your Instagram as regularly as possible (within reason). It should feel like your digital sketchbook. People are likely to respond to work that is witty, has an idea, or has social or political commentary. However, don’t feel any pressure to always be making a point; just post stuff that you like and others are likely to like it too. Make sure you use hashtags, so that you and your work will be searchable. It’s also a good idea to hashtag your name and also words or phrases that link to the content and nature of your work. You can also tag or mention people, or direct message anyone who you’d really like to see it – even brands and clients if you’re feeling bold!
Make your work really jump out from the page and have a good flow. Try putting different flat colours behind images that were originally created on a white background – you’ll be amazed at the difference this can make. As an example, take a look at Al Murphy’s page on Blink Art’s website. You can also give black-and-white line drawings a colour background by reversing the line out as white. We did this with some of Daniel Frost’s images and it worked so well.
In terms of self promotion beyond online (becoming great content to be able to share), use editorial commissions as essential personal exposure. The budgets can sometimes be small, but the reach in people seeing your work is worth it. The weekend papers are the obvious choice, but look also to smaller publications too that will be appealing to niche but far reaching audiences in fashion, music, sport or food.
Take part in as many group exhibitions and shows that you can. It’s all promotion at the end of the day, and you will probably meet some lovely people too. Many of the artists I have signed I have discovered at shows (Sam Dunn for instance was part of a fantastic show at KK Outlet; Print Club also put on great shows). Follow the exhibitors on Instagram to be the first to hear about open submissions!
Helen Parker is Head of Illustration at Blink Art, a creative agency representing photography, illustration, set design, film, animation and installation.