Looking at how artists use Instagram to curate their work, is this an art form?: Karen Nicol

For my own research and to inform my writing, such as essays, I decided to look at the tool of Instagram.  Is it simply a way to advertise yourself as an artist, or is there more to it, can the Instagram post become an expressive form of art in itself?

The question arises in my mind, as I have recently begun blogging, as you can see, for this course.  I wondered about other ways to convey my learning and thought of using Instagram.  Maybe I may think of creating an Instagram account for my next course.  It is not suitable as a “learning log” as it is imposable to write enough on each post and would be disorderly for examiners to look at.  Yet I wondered about using it as a tool to carefully curate your artwork.

Having looked through many artists websites, sometimes I struggle to see what has gone on behind the finished piece.  Many artists don’t include images of their sketchbooks or the concept designs.  Often images of final pieces are titled simply, for example: ‘Digitally printed cloth on linen backing’.  Yet this doesn’t tell me what techniques went on to create the piece originally, before it was printed on the cloth!

I have noticed that through Instagram, some artists do give away small details about their WIP.  Using Karen Nicol as an example, I will illustrate this:


Above:  A mood board from her studio.  This challenges my concept of a mood board; it is a collection which could be an archive, not the traditional “school taught” style of board we may have been taught to make.

Again here is another example, this time of a supposed sketchbook page which she has also embroidered:


Seeing an image like the above, helps me to understand the realisation of her ideas.  It also helps to inform my own sketchbook keeping practice.  This has the air of a mood board and collage.  Maybe collage is something I can revisit too, having been inspired my her material choices.  Yet the point derived here, is that she is using Instagram as a way of conveying her work to the public, yet at times in a more informal manner.  I think her comment when I asked her about social media is worth repeating in this context:

karen nicol9

I glean from this, that due to her designer presence and really how she is held in high esteem, Instagram has a relaxing influence on her.  A place where not every image must be catwalk ready.  She doesn’t view it as a vehicle to sell, she has already established herself, so lacks this pressure.

There are very few interviews or images of her working, rather more on her work itself, thus Instagram again proves insightful:

Above are a selection of my favourites.  Notice that there is not a “bad photograph” here.  Yet they are not “finished” as it were.  Thus Instagram has allowed her to have a more relaxed presence, yet she has not sacrificed in image quality.  Rather the has simply allowed the public a small window into her working life.

One thing to mention, is that often there are questions raised about her techniques by viewers to her posts.  However she tends not to answer the questions directly.  This shows a guarding to her methods, which of course is natural too.

In the above selection, we see her using an Irish machine.  I would never have known what one looked like or thought about one, if I hadn’t seen this image.  It made me research further, which shows how a clever image can evoke interest and make us question.  I wondered often how her creatures come about; thus again we are allowed a peek into the planning, with the drawing as seen above of the fox.

Not all posts on her page are WIP.  Admittedly most are more finished and look like the images taken from her book ‘Embellished’.  Here is one example:

karen nicol8

I notice that many artists post every day, yet she is more choosey.  I think its the carful thinking that goes into her posts, which really makes her account worth looking at.  In my opinion like her book and website, it becomes a useful resource for students and those studying Textiles.

What can be taken from my findings?

My initial intention, posed in my title, was to see if the Instagram concept could be seen as an art form.  From my evidence, I believe that yes, it can be another vent for self expression, which can be controlled to become an art form, an online gallery in itself.  Images can be cropped and altered, to become a new piece, or even just a particle of a whole piece, depending on the desired look.

In Nicol’s case, I perceive it to be a fun outing for her, as a designer with a serious reputation.

What can I personally take from my findings?

  1. Instagram can be a way of conveying ideas in a thoughtful manner and can serve as inspiration to ourselves as well as others.  When we can look at our work in a “selected” manner, such as what we have posted in image form, it can help us see the wood from the trees.
  2. Quality must outweigh quantity.  Many artists post numerous images with no real thought or aesthetic quality.  Artists like Nicol preserves her art form by posting less often, but well.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s