Lianne Williams

After 7 years, I’ve quit Instagram

Business & BloggingLianne WilliamsComment
quit instagram.jpg

Blame Facebook. Blame Bots. Blame Bloggers. Either way Instagram isn't the same anymore and I quit

I was one of the early adopters of Instagram. I joined back in 2011. I remember, because the first image I posted on there was of my newborn daughters tiny feet. 

I had joined Instagram on a whim a few weeks earlier after seeing it reviewed in a Web magazine. I liked the idea of a visual social network somewhere I could share my art but also other insights from my life. Previous to that I had been using Deviant Art which was quickly becoming an embarrassment to use and I wanted something fresh. Something I could access from my new iPhone.

It was one of the first places I sold my art and quickly became a cornerstone to my creative life. I was featured on top art accounts. I went viral several times. I became friends with incredible artists I had admired for years. Instagram came first before everything. My blog, my other social media. I even painted in Instagram friendly formats and disrupted my creative time to take lots of photos.... just so my account looked it's best.

Seven years later and here we are. Frazzled, bored and hopeless. Ladies and Gents. We all know it.

Instagram is Dead.

I'll cut straight to the point. Instagram has not been the same since Facebook bought it. I don't know why, I don't care to know why, but as someone who has seen the ebb and flow of Instagram from the first time they purged accounts who bought followers to the invention of shadow bans Instagram has been able to bounce back because the community has been so strong. People really wanted Instagram to work, so they made it work. But then Facebook came along and has slowly ripped away everything users enjoyed and basically, replaced it with utter shite.

It's not the bloggers, it's not follow/unfollow, it's not bot accounts or people buying followers. All of those things have been around from day one. I remember when you could follow unlimited people. Trust me, if anything these problems were worse earlier on when it first started but despite all that it STILL didn't stop Instagram from booming. Instagram was always going to be a huge hit. And it wasn't because of the Kardashians.

What really killed Instagram was taking away the community

I look at my followers now and who I follow and 90% of them are selling things or using Instagram 'seriously'. Why? Because unless you make Instagram a full time gig (and I mean checking it and tweaking hourly, throughout the night too) your posts are never, ever, EVER getting seen. Even by your best friends. The feed has become so screwed that you are more likely to see an advert or a post from 3 days ago from a top blogger then you are from your sister who posted an hour ago. The knock on effect is that normal people, Joanna Smith who just wanted to use Instagram for fun, CAN'T BE BOTHERED anymore. Joanna, a potential customer has gone 'fuck this' and has abandoned their account.

Out of everyone I know only 2 or 3 people have active Instagram accounts. Everyone else has deleted it.

They don't have time to watch every Story or go through the 500 people they follow trying to find what they're looking for. They aren't interested in commenting on every post. They can barely be bothered to like them. Not because they don't care but because they value their time and all they want is a quick fix of entertainment. They couldn't care less about your engagement or click through rate. AND WHY SHOULD THEY?? All the clients, all the customers, all the normal people who made Instagram thrive have been scared off from how much effort is demanded of them.

Instagram does not serve them. It serves itself. 

Yet we continue to hope. For a long time there have been long-term fans of Instagram who remember how good it used to be, holding out for the day that the app see's sense and changes its ways. They wait. They persist. They try and find new ways of connecting. They propose community over competition. And it's sweet. I see what they're doing. BUT... it's still just businesses networking with other businesses. They're still grasping for their own content to be liked. To gain new followers. To get comments no matter how forced. To be seen. And where are the customers in all this? I'll tell you. They don't give a damn about community over competition. They're nowhere near all those hashtags, if they use hashtags at all. All they want is to see who they've followed in the easiest way possible. And what have Instagram done? They've made it impossible. Even if I turn on notifications there's a chance I don't see them. How is someone who's just using Instagram for fun supposed to?

It's a sad but inevitable truth. It's time to give up. Maybe, MAYBE if the app changes it's ways I'll return but I can't see that happening.

I secretly wonder if Facebook are doing it on purpose?

So I have 3 options.

1) Take Instagram very seriously and try even harder- I've done this a couple of times. I know how it works. I can grow my account. I know where the best tricks and tips are to be found. But is it worth it? Is it what I want? Can I even be bothered? In a word? No. 

2) Stay on Instagram but do it for fun- A very noble effort, but is it even really fun anymore? I know I'm getting a bit bored with the Social Media Manager voice I can't seem to escape... you know that way people talk when they take Instagram very seriously... 'thank-you-so-much-for-commenting-on-my-picture-of-a-bunch-of-flowers. I-too-think-your-picture-of-a-bunch-of-flowers-is-very-pretty. Emoticon 'love heart eyes'. You-got-this-babes!!' YAWWWWWNNNNNN It's so formulaic and predictable. It's very rare to come across someone who actually wants to talk to other people on there anymore. Unless they're in a comment pod of course. The rest of the time it's flawless images and self promotion 24hrs a day.

3) Quit. So I lose my followers. I lose the people I followed (unless I dig them all out and see if they have websites or other ways of following them) but I actually gain a LOT- time mainly. My sanity. I'm forced to move on and find another way to connect with the world. I am no longer distracted by something which is now essentially completely useless. I've had hardly any work or clients come through via Instagram over the past few years and frankly if it's not working hard for me why should I work hard at it? I don't want Instagram to become my full time job and I see more and more talented individuals being sucked into this idea that they need to invest all their energy into taming this beast to succeed. And what happens? They quit what they're gifted at and just start selling Instagram instead.

Is it me or is that very sinister? I've seen so many artists turn to selling courses on how to use Instagram instead of selling art. I even got sucked into it a few years ago. And i'm telling you now... if a service ends up making you quit your passion so you can start selling that service to your followers that's NOT okay. That's brain washing.

So whats going to happen next?

I've said my bit. I'm leaving the account up exactly as it is:

  • So curious followers can still find me if they want
  • If Instagram improves, I will return
  • I know brands and people I follow will continue to use Instagram and if I want to access their content or see their post I will still use Instagram to do that.

I've gutted and deleted my account several times over but this time I am just going to walk away and leave it in my past as a fond but distant memory.

R.I.P. Instagram. You were fun whilst you lasted.

Art vs Motherhood: How being a parent affects my art making

Creative Lifestyle, Family & LifeLianne Williams4 Comments
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Being an artist or parent is not mutually exclusive okay?

Although I most definitely won’t be trying to convince anyone to have children if they don’t want them (Honey, you are more then a reproductive organs) I DO feel the need to defend some incorrect assertions over my life status as Mother.

Yes. I have children.

But I can still make art and I still have a valid creative contribution to make to this world.

If you’re a parent wondering if you could return to a creative career after children, or you’re dealing with inner conflict over whether to choose having children or making art, here are some of my observations of life being an artist who’s used her womb a couple of times... 

Progress is slower

I’ll jump straight in with the tough truth. Looking after small people, doing the school run, being taxi at weekends and the million other jobs we have to do eats into your time like you wouldn’t believe, meaning you may have less time to dedicate to your craft and therefore you may experience slower progress professionally compared to non-parents. But this is true for ANY career or profession. Yes. You still progress (and I believe make better use of my time then I did before I had children meaning I probably progress faster now!!) but you will probably get frustrated if you compare yourself to others who only have themselves to look out for. It can be really hard sometimes. When you’re up at 6am changing nappies and they’re up at 6am already working in their sketchbook it can suck. When they’ve been up all night finishing a commission I will have been up all night (like last night) looking after a poorly baby. But I have kids who say stuff like ‘mummy, you’ve coloured your artwork in so neatly today, I’m very proud of you’ and that is 100% worth it. Their childhood is TEMPORARY. I will get my life back in a few years.

But for now I just have to accept others will succeed earlier then me.

To help me through I pick and choose my other commitments to maximise the amount of art time I get without hindering my families quality of life. I rarely watch TV. I don’t have many hobbies or clubs. I squeeze my routine to make sure I’m getting the most out of my time whether that’s by minimising my housework commitments or figuring out short cuts, multi tasking or delegating. I value every single second, a skill I didn’t have pre-children. And no, despite what I overheard in the playground, I don't get up at 4am every day.

Top tip: Get organised and look out for 5 min pockets of time where you can squeeze in extra time for your art.

Damaging labels and stereotyping 

As a parent, and especially a mother, it’s easy to succumb to labels and stereotypes that seem to come with the role. 'Dowdy', 'thrown their lives away', 'boring', are just some of the cruel words used to describe mother that I’ve heard expressed over the past few weeks. Not to mention the young lady on Twitter who believed our vaginas had all died and gone to heaven (um... no... it doesn't work like that sweetie) You also get a lot of people who assume that now you're a parent you must do toddler crafts or gentle, twee illustrations for children’s books so can be a little surprised when you don’t. Or swear. Or have sex. Or leave the house. So to state the obvious: just because I’ve had children doesn’t mean I’ve regressed to a child again myself... but sure, I’ve felt that strong need to censor myself and take on a maternal role so nobody questioned my ability to be a good parent. ‘I can’t. I’m a mother now’ echos solemnly in my ears as I put away my high heels and Garbage albums. Not that it ever achieved anything in my favour. So forget fitting in to any stereotype and just do you.

You’ll meet ignorant individuals who aren’t mature enough to see beyond your role as a parent and that’s a good sign you should avoid them. You’ll also meet others who’ll think that you’ll need to be living a tragic, self-destructive bohemian lifestyle to truly be taking seriously as an Artist which will negatively impact your role as a parent in massive way. They too can get in the bin.

Top tip: You can keep your personal life private and not tell anyone you’ve got kids but what kind of life is that? They’re not something you’re supposed to be ashamed of. Don’t censor or change yourself for anyone. It WILL backfire.

Danger in the studio

A practical point I’ve had to take into consideration since being a parent is the fact that children and art materials don’t generally mix very well and some products can be outright lethal. Oil paints, mediums, cleaning products, blades, heavy easels are all hazards for innocent sprogs, or at best, an expensive waste that stains your floor.

I’ve lost a small fortune in ink, acrylic paint, glitter and canvasses due to little hands raiding my cupboards behind my back (they’ve even broken through safety locks) to access Mummy’s special things. Then there was the time they poured glue all over the dining room table. Poured glitter all over the carpet. Drew all over my commission. Twice. And hacked their hair off when I was on the phone. I suppose it’s similar to having a small but articulate puppy, with thumbs. But worse. No word of a lie I caught my daughters sneaking scissors and paint into their bedrooms in the early hours of the morning whilst everyone was still asleep and they were clever enough for one of them to KEEP GUARD and raise the alarm when they heard me coming. They were 4 & 5! So try your best to keep things locked away safely but better yet replace any toxic/dangerous items with safer alternatives for the time being so if they’re cunning like my children you can at least protect them from themselves if they do happen to raid you. I wasn’t safe even when I had an outdoor studio either. They have their ways. You’ve been warned.

Top tip: Children aren’t stupid and know your pens/paints/paper are better then their kiddy versions so after I’d removed the particularly dangerous stuff I agreed with my children that they could use my things, but ONLY with my supervision. I then knew at least they’d know how to use them properly/safely and hopefully wait for me to assist them. So far so good. When they got older I started to buy them their own quality art materials so they didn’t feel tempted to sneak off with mine. It’s helped set boundaries, show my belief in their abilities as artists themselves (why shouldn’t children have good art materials- their creativity is just as valid as mine?) but they do still leave the lid off the glue stick and my eldest now has a very expensive taste in stationery. It’s a sacrifice I’ve had to make.

Networking

This could just be me but I’ve found most opportunities to network as an artist are completely antisocial to my life as a parent.

No. I do not want to come out at 8pm to meet you. I’ve just put my children to bed and frankly I want a bubble bath to wash baby puke out of my hair and to read a book.

No. I can’t pop up to London for lunch, as much as I’d love to, because I need to stand in a freezing playground and collect my children from school.

No I can’t sign up for that evening class or art retreat because I have children who will need to come with me and they’re really really really distracting and might escape if I’m tempted to hold a conversation or look away.

Make these events child friendly and then maybe we can talk. Babysitter??? I’d love to, but that’s not cheap. £50 a go, at least!! So if it’s one thing I’d change as an artist, is how accessible artist networking events are. The internet has been a life saver in that respect and although I can’t be as sociable as some people it’s only a matter of time before I can get back out there.

Top tip: Look out for other creative parents and network with them. They get it.

Your children can influence your work

This should be an obvious one but the process of growing and raising a child has a profound impact on who you are and what you think whether you like it or not. All of a sudden you become responsible for the survival and happiness of another human being and it changes you and it can change the art you make. 

There is wisdom to be found in becoming a parent. 

Not superiority, or a life purpose... Just wisdom. An adventure. A perspective. And those stories, lessons and feelings DO creep into your work. For instance, I found my portraits became a lot more self referential after I had children as I tried to figure out who I was after this momentous change in my life. I’ve seen other artists suddenly explore feminism or their religion or politics. I’ve seen others quit art entirely to focus on the challenge of being a mother and others who’ve done the opposite and take their art business seriously for the first time in their life now they’ve got children to provide for. Others use their artwork to process their experiences of becoming a parent- grief, joy, humour as a form of therapy. Some people carry on exactly as before but they may collaborate with brands that create children’s products or support working parents. Some might just draw or paint their children and find a new style. Or like me your art starts to reflect on what’s happening to your own understanding of life. Your world expands.

Top tip: Go with the flow. Artists are constantly evolving- why shouldn’t our work change when we experience parenthood? 

I’m 8 years into motherhood and feel that I’m a better person for it, and hopefully, as a result, a better artist.

I don’t really think of what ‘could have been’ for me if I didn’t have my children.

You make your life what it is in the moment and I rarely dwell on alternative realities. Sure I considered pushing my career more, investing in childcare, sleeping less... I could have built my career first and waited to have children later in life. But I didn’t and I still sold art and I still make art that I’m proud of.

If anything I’ve made my best work as a mother, maybe because of growing up or simply valuing my creative time more... maybe it’s completely unrelated. I don’t know. But that’s the interesting thing- it happened regardless of what I’d expected or planned because I’d put my mind to it regardless of my situation. It was never a case of having to choose between one path or another. I was always going to do both.

My challenge was to forge my own path, and that was scary.

If this is you right now rest assured there are so many paths. So many options. Whatever you’re dreaming of COULD work for you. Have kids. Don't have kids. It's a life either way.

[Feel free to ask me absolutely anything about being a mama who makes and I'll answer in the comments below- I’m happy to discuss everything and anything from labour to organisation tips. There's no such thing as TMI in my world so just go for it. I've given birth. Nothing shocks me anymore :D ]

Learning Brush Lettering with Lyssy Creates

Craft & DIY, Art & Illustration, CoursesLianne WilliamsComment
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I've been wanting to learn brush lettering for AGES.

(This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclosure policy for further info.)

It's something I've always admired and that I frequently wished I knew how to do, from writing out envelopes nicely, to just filling in my diary- pretty handwriting skills have always eluded me, so over the summer I decided to really knuckle down and get it figured out. 

Like we all do, I browsed Pinterest looking for free tutorials and guides, as I had decided I wanted to experiment first before investing in a full course. Mainly because I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to learn and I also knew from previous investigations into brush lettering that learning the skill could be expensive. I wanted to be sure that whatever I got involved in was going to help me and be worth the investment.

Luckily I ended up discovering Lyssy Creates who has these brilliant free worksheets with an email challenge which explained the basic strokes and gave me space to practice with both large and small pens. I hadn't a clue how to do anything, so it was invaluable having instruction on these points right from the very basics including what pens to buy, paper, and even how to hold the pen.

I started with the Pentel Aquash Water Brush pens and some gouache paint as that's what I had lying around, and then ordered a set of Tom Bow Dual Brush pens and the Pentel Fude Touch Pens to test out later on when they arrived. I was lucky enough to have a random Pentel Fude floating around which I quickly realised is different to the Pentel Sign pens which I initially bought. For anyone wondering, they look EXACTLY the same, but are very different pens. The nibs ARE different and they do write differently. The way you can tell them apart is that the Fude Touch have a glittery case and the Sign pens have a plain case. This immediately made me feel better because my previous attempts at brush lettering had been hindered by the pen I was using (and not through lack of ability like I feared).

I found it was very important to find a pen I felt comfortable writing with as I practised and ended up preferring the chunky flick of the larger pens. Although the smaller Fude Touch became a pen I use regularly now too. I think it's worth shopping around and finding a few different pens to see which you like the best, but these are my favourites:

Soon after my Tom Bow arrived I also came across dual tip brush pens from WHSmith which were much cheaper, came in more colours and were just as good, which I highly recommend if you can find them.

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After I spent a few weeks practising the basic strokes in both large and small pens I got a bit braver and began attempting simple letters.

I used Pinterest as a source of inspiration and tried to figure out how each letter was formed and repeated them in my notebook until I was happy with how they looked. I could definitely see improvement after a short while and it was interesting to see how my hand was willing to learn a new skill... muscle memory is fascinating thing.

Soon after I began my practice Lyssy conveniently launched a Booster Workbook which I purchased straight away to carry on my learning. This was a brilliant next step as it had all the fully formed upper and lower case letters in her style, set out in a similar format to her free worksheets, so I could continue developing my technique and understanding of the letter without much disruption. 

I noticed that when I referred to other writers they would do their letters slightly differently, or they would have their own nuances, which was interesting, but as I was learning I found it too distracting having too many different styles of brush lettering to copy from and I would forget how to do them. Focusing solely on what Lyssy taught enabled me to pick things up much faster and soon I was able to write. Once I felt more confident at my alphabet and flourishes I was happier exploring variations and looking at what others were doing and began to include little tweaks to my style.

All in all it took about a month of daily casual practice to get to a point where I felt comfortable enough to try writing my own Lettering Artwork, which you can see here. It's not perfect, I certainly don't intend to go into business, but I'm really excited at how quickly I learnt these basics and I'm looking forward to exploring the skill further in time.

I'd love to try metallic inks on dark paper next.