Losing my Identity as Illustrator with Social Media
I have a question for artists:
With the way Social Media is evolving in recent times, we illustrators — and honestly any other creator out there that really only depended on posting pictures of their work for about decade— with the way things are evolving we are kind of being forced to embrace video content.
So, to all of you that have chosen to embrace video, one way or another, I want to ask: Do you feel like you are losing your identity as an artist by changing the way in which you present yourself online?
Here is where I’m coming from:
For those that do not know me, my name is Lissy Marlin. I have been a freelance illustrator for a decade, and have been posting my art online way longer. Its always been the same though— pictures, carousels, blog posts, tweets etc. So, with the new changes, I have decided to give video a try. If you follow me on TikTok or Instagram you perhaps have seen more of myself recently for this reason. I won’t ever know what works and doesn’t work for me if I don’t give things an honest try!
However, this experiment has brought up some feelings of restlessness, irritability and frustration my way. And I didn’t understand why.
I caught myself in the middle of a downward spiral that truly shook me. At that moment all I was thinking was “I just want to be an artist” “I just want to be able to draw, paint, be creative.” “I don’t care about social media, I don’t care about going viral, I don’t care about views, I just want to paint and be creative. I just want to be me”. So I had to ask myself— what is going on? Why does it feel like I’m losing my identity as illustrator now that I’ve chosen to present myself differently online?
You see, for as long as I can remember, those that have been video content creators are regarded as influencers. People that want to be in the spotlight, that want to welcome an audience into their lives. They romanticize their lives by showing their experiences through a perfectly aesthetic point of view, they are always in high energy (or high spirits), always beautiful in appearance and always trendy. As you can see, my understanding of what a content creator truly is… was very stereotypical and quite limited. And very sexist and ableist.
So, when I decided to give video a try, I thought I had to change myself. I thought I needed makeup, lose a few pounds, get new clothes, have a beautiful studio. I thought I needed to talk fast, establish myself as the authority in a certain niche. I thought I needed to post every day on tiktok, worry about hashtags, worry about metrics, think about SEO… while also joining in on funny trends, act funny, act silly and hope others will laugh and respond to it. But none of this was about Art, none of this was about being creative, none of this was about things that mattered to me. Everything also felt very out of character, unauthentic and staged. I felt fake.
This is when I decided to do the “Casual Friday” series on tiktok and Instagram. I decided to show myself as I am, no make up, nothing fancy, just me, crafts and having a conversation about the art experience, experiences as freelance artist, lessons learned from 10 years of experience… and just have nice relaxing time at home.
The result? This series was a failure by influencer standards. It was not flashy, it was slow paced, barely any likes or views and very few resonated with what I was saying. In the other hand, this was a total success to me, personally, because it showed me what I needed: To slow down, to be authentic, to allow myself to be creative and to talk about things that matter to me. I don’t care about going viral, I don’t care about having a niche, I don't care about showing every single aspect of my life or show every single aspect of my creative process either. Honestly, some parts of the creative process are personal, some parts are ugly and messy, some are fun… but I want to determine for myself when it is ok to bring an audience. I don’t want social media to decide that for me.
I also found something else I needed: To rest — Creating video content is hard work, but showing more of myself meant content was produced faster and without too much mental effort, and as a result I had more time and energy to make art.
The reality is that, even though I want all videos online to be about art, I can’t be expected to illustrate something new every day. All tiktok videos are 3 minutes max where, in reality, art takes countless hours. So working at a pace where I was desperate to create new art at maximum speed meant I will get burnout, without a doubt, within the first few weeks of starting.
So, This is what brings me to YouTube.
After trying video for a while I realized—- video is very fun!
It is very fun to feel like yourself and talk to an audience that might listen. It is fun and meaningful to have reflections about the creative experience and even more rewarding to have a community to relate to. I want to create a community that is welcoming, that is wholesome and supportive and I truly believe that presenting myself as I am will allow me to become more than my art. I am an artist, I am an illustrator, but I am more than my art. My life is more than my passion for my work. And I want to embrace that side of myself.
I also want to redefine what an “influencer” or “content creator” means for myself. I want to break my own stereotypes and toxic misconceptions about this side of the internet. This is hard work, I admire and have heaps of respect to those that have made a name for themselves in this fashion over the years.
Perhaps, the fast pace of TikTok is not for me… but I still feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to teach and so much more to experience to share, perhaps a new way of doing this could be fun. So I will transfer my Casual Friday video series into Youtube and see where it leads. I will try to teach new things I’ve learned from being a freelance artist with ADHD for 10+ years, maybe share more insider knowledge from the publishing industry and answer questions. Maybe even livestream, have sketch dates or play games with a community. Who knows!
And to those that resonated with my question at the beginning — I encourage you to ponder on this question and find your own answer. I haven’t found my answer… but here is where I find myself:
Change is inevitable. It is a part of life.
Whenever we are presented with the possibility to change we will always have internal push-back because, after all, what feels familiar is what feels the safest. We might not like the changes coming to the art community, (I don't), but we can also collectively influence the path things take— change is not always out of our control.
I felt reluctant to embrace the “influencer” trend all social media seem to be pushing us to be… but the truth is… you do not need to be an influencer. My personal push-back in this regard had to do with my own toxic misconceptions and judgment about this style of content while also clashing with the fact that I felt my identity was being lost because my own self-image and self-worth are so closely related with my own art that, if I eliminate my artwork from my social media, I no longer know who I am. But I am my art, and at the same time… I am more than my art as well.
You do not need to be an influencer to be creative, to reinvent the way you show yourself online, you do not need to be a content creator… and if you want to be, perhaps redefining what this lifestyle means to you and identifying your own misconceptions could be the first step. You can break the rules of what it means to be a content creator and do things that feel right for you.
To me, changing the way I present myself online is a choice I’m making because I have figured out what I need out of this experience. I need to step out of my comfort zone in order to grow, I need to bring people in and learn from them, be influenced by their life experiences and I need a community to relate to.
I encourage you to figure out what your needs are and try to see if there is a way to meet your own needs without having to sacrifice your own sense of self. Be authentic, be creative and allow yourself to test new things and embrace change when possible.
You got this!
Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you next time. Lissy M <3