An interesting thing happened.
I’ve written before about why you need to get off social media. One reason I didn’t discuss enough is that trying to create ‘content’ for social media is detrimental to the quality of your artistic output.
I subscribe to amazing newsletters and recently got articles on that topic.
John Weiss has a great essay on why you need to stop following likes and follows on social media.
Interestingly, like him, as you may have noticed in the recent articles I put out, I decided to stop making illustrations for these articles, unless they are relevant to the article. I understand why he did that.
Having gone through something similar, that article resonated with me. Creating things just for the likes and follows on social media is ultimately unfulfilling, and you end up making things that work for the algorithm rather than things that are good.
Because it will never be enough; there is always someone with more followers and likes. There is never a number where you think, “yes! Now I am satisfied.”
Just look at what Elon Musk does with Twitter: he bought it for 44 billion dollars and has more than one hundred million followers. And yet, it does not seem enough; he needily keeps trolling for attention.
To quote a significant insight from his article:
The more elegant your work, the fewer online followers you’ll have.
He has an interesting observation: many of his favorite writers and photographers have moderate presences online, and I found that too.
Many big-name, prominent, huge European comics creators have yet to have an online presence. They have no website and no social media accounts.
I envy them. They go to their studio daily and create amazing, elegant work without digital distractions pulling at them.
It is more common for American artists to have online presences, but even there, cartoonists worldwide — some of them legendary masters — have few followers, and that is insane.
The newsletter “The Marginalian” (Formerly Brainpickings, a name I preferred) had a quote from David Bowie.
I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations — they generally produce their worst work when they do that.
I won’t share what I am drawing in this article because it would result in unsubscribes. At least not yet. And that is my point! I need that space to develop, to figure things out, without worrying about what others would think of it.
I enjoy writing these newsletters and find pleasure in filling sketchbook pages. I become more daring in my sketchbook and experimental when I make sure no one gets to see the pages.
I often play with dip pens, creating tones through textures to add to my line work. It results in ‘elegant’ illustrations. I love them. They’re classy.
But I am not showing them!
I would not have arrived there if I had stuck to what works online.
Maybe it’s a variant of something a good artist friend and subscriber to my newsletter (hi Rob K.!) once told me.
Style is a prison.
When you make yourself too dependent on applause, it becomes impossible to try new things, to grow. You need to go through a valley where your work isn’t that good. And that works best if you do that far away from the digital limelights.