Blog / 2022 / Social Media Is Bad for Art

August 2, 2022

A lot of artists hate commission work. They can’t stand the idea of someone telling them what to do when they’re making art.

But many of those same artists are also devoting way too much energy figuring out how to get the most “likes” and comments on social media. They’re drafting posts based on what they think someone (or something like the platform’s algorithm) values. Sometimes artists are going so far as to create the artwork they post based on what they think will do better on a given app!

And that’s so much worse than making art for a specific client.

When you make custom art, you can set boundaries with the people who hire you, laying out what you will and will not do for them. This video details many of mine.

When you’re chasing “likes” and comments, there’s no one to communicate your boundaries with, meaning that you may never have to think through exactly what they are. In other words, you better hope that you know yourself well and that you’re disciplined enough to rigorously deny the very normal human urge to be liked (and “liked”), or you’ll end up attempting to people-please for the masses.

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I’ve been making custom work like this dog portrait from the beginning of my career, almost twenty years ago. It’s what allowed me to become a full-time artist, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s not always an easy gig.

Whenever I find myself resenting the work, I take it as a cue to learn, asking myself:

  • What is it about this particular commission that I don’t like?
  • Does it qualify as a new boundary I need to establish with future clients?
  • Or is it that I need to ask for more money?
  • Could it be time for me to pause my commission practice or maybe even end it?

Do creatives who court the “likes” and comments on social media examine how it harms their work? I know some artists are reevaluating their relationships with Instagram and Facebook, but I’m hoping that, for the sake of art, more will try to imagine how marketing can happen outside of the corporate social media scene.

Golden Retriever painting, commissioned artwork by pet portraitist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on panel
7 x 5 inches

For more about how to hire me to paint you, your loved one, your pet, your home, or your dream, check out this page!

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