Creative use of Instagram | The Open College of the Arts
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Creative use of Instagram

My OCA students are very adept at using online platforms to guide and influence their creative practice and so it is possible that I am writing to people who know more about this subject than I do…..however, this is not an instruction guide, it is a reflection on my experience of using Instagram to build and inspire my creative practice. I will reflect on how I have developed an online portfolio which reaches a far wider audience than my web site.
Instagram can be many things, from a social diary to a sharing of every day happenings. For me it is a professional outlet and networking tool – wait – that sounds very dull, okay, let’s re-phrase that as a ‘dynamic public gallery of ideas and inspiration’. Artists and designers think visually and so Instagram is a perfect tool for communicating with pictures. It’s a free app, it’s easy and it works well.
I have been using Instagram for little more than a year but have realised the following key benefits for my practice as an artist:
1. It is the easiest way to create an online folio linked to my web site.
2. It keeps contacts ‘warm’ by giving glimpses of new work I am making.
3. It provides me with a selected feed of pictures from people who inspire me (the people I choose to ‘follow’).
My approach is to keep my Instagram page professional – it exists for the purposes of my business rather than my social network. But….professional does not mean dry and serious – people prefer to collaborate with people rather than with organisations so be yourself! I am looking for collaborations and commissions and so I want my audience to understand who I am and how I work. Everyone is their own brand and to promote that brand is to tap into your individuality. I hope my Instagram page says as much about me as a person as it does about my work. It is an opportunity to expand on my web site by adding inspiration, events, creative moments, meetings, travel and my approach to making artwork.
For those reading this who have not used Instagram this is not a tutorial on how to do so (there are plenty on you tube!) but in short, I try to post one picture / day of something loosely connected to my artwork and I have a quick scan of what others have posted and ‘like’ various pictures to show appreciation and further spread awareness of my own page. Several of my followers could potentially commission work and so knowing that they are watching what I am doing is both encouraging and healthy. I can’t keep writing to all of my business contacts saying ‘do you remember me?’ but I can link to them on Instagram which is effectively doing the same thing through pictures.
So judge for yourself; go to and search Neil_Musson – now compare this to my web site and you will see how I have used many of the same images and mixed them with content which adds a more personal feel and widens the audience. Your comments are welcome; I am not pretending to be an expert but I am encouraging the use of this app as an effective creative tool. Have a go!
Use #WeAreOCA to share your work on OCA’s instagram page.

Posted by author: Neil Musson
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7 thoughts on “Creative use of Instagram

  • I like the flexibility that Instagram offers. As a photography student I post phone photographs of inspirations, props, locations, set-up, my work in progress, visual notes on how my work is developing. I’m not too worried about the quality of what I post there, it’s more about how I work rather than a showcase for the finished product (I have my blog for that). I have used it to gauge interest in projects where I’ll need participation from others, and I follow OCA students across many creative disciplines – it is such a quick and convenient way to scan what work is being made. For a quick fix, it’s provided some long term thinking and inspiration. I don’t post daily but I do read daily.

  • Hi Neil,
    I thought your name was familiar as I just started following you yesterday. My account is miniarora111. I am on Instagram for pretty much all the reasons you mentioned. I love it. For a private person I was a little hesitant of what to add but as I have gone along I feel more in touch with people from all over the world. It gives me a real sense of unity, considering it can also be seen as a distancing from the real that is happening around us. I post little work, but more of what I see as those are the things that inspire me to create. And if anyone is itnterested they can go to my website which is in the profile. My tutor told me I should add it to my OCA student blog too as it is a part of who I am as an artist. Maybe others would like to do that.

  • Hi Kate and Minty,
    Glad to hear that you share my positive experience of Instagram. I believe that sharing inspiration is far more exciting than keeping ideas hidden and the more we become part of a wider creative community the better!

    • It’s very different. I “know” most of the people on my Facebook, and am ruthless with my settings. Despite that it often fills with the unwanted and the mundane. The ads annoy me too, as does being in a walled garden. Instagram posts from those I follow are generally far more about creativity and inspiration and far less (indeed not at all) about remembering the next non-uniform day or “news” stories from dubious stories.

  • Hi Jennifer,
    I guess it depends who you are and how you use these platforms – personally I find Facebook full of distracting comments, adverts and irrelevant images. I am a rare breed who use the term ‘friends’ literally when it comes to Facebook while my Instagram account is open to everyone. The format of Instagram is like a folio of images which can be made to look professional. It’s about pictures rather than text. That is just my opinion!

    • Thanks for the responses. I’ve had a couple of spells of using Facebook and don’t have an account at present. I’ve wondered whether to use Instagram so am interested in hearing how it works for different people.

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