By Kelly Klapstein (@kellycreates)
Many people don’t realize that I’ve had a blog and YouTube channel for quite a long time and started using them actively when I began designing and teaching paper crafts, like scrapbooking and card making, in the creative industry 10 years ago.
Then I discovered Instagram. About 5 years ago, I took an online iPhone photography class with some friends and began sharing on Instagram. I was smitten! I fell in love with the platform and truly enjoyed spending time scrolling through inspiring art and crafting accounts. Connecting with people in this online class resulting in a number of special friendships that continue to this day.
I soon realized that I needed a different account where I could share my paper crafting projects and art. I launched my Kelly Creates account and began posting my work. After about a year of building a decent following of a few thousand, I came across a video of a brush lettering. I was entranced. I had a set of brush pens unopened and untouched in my studio, so I pulled them out and began to teach myself calligraphy. I felt an immediate profound connection with the pens and experienced a quiet joy and peacefulness whenever I sat down to write. I joined lettering challenges on Instagram and pushed myself to improve and practice every day and felt so inspired by the creative calligraphy community online. My following was growing nicely, and I began garnering attention from some pen companies.
Then I decided to make some simple short videos writing words on Instagram. That changed everything. My calligraphy videos went viral. My numbers suddenly climbed to 10,000 followers, and my kids said I was Insta-famous…and we laughed! Who knew that half a year later, I would have 250,000 followers! I remember the day I hit that number. For the first time I felt a pang of anxiety. Suddenly, I thought about all these people showing up every day waiting for a video, watching me and judging my art work. A lot of my creative time was taken up with making and posting videos. I wanted to spend more time on my teaching business and also wanted to simply share photos of my brush lettering instead of constantly producing videos. I was struggling to find a balance of work and play.
When I had a little free time, I would play with watercolor…painting, sketching and also lettering. I started following Instagrammers who did urban sketching and watercolor painting and bought my first Pentalic Aqua Journal that I had seen someone using online. I already had a portable watercolor set, so on my next workshop trip, I excitedly packed my new Aqua Journal, black pen, and watercolors. Sitting quietly and capturing a moment in time in my Aqua Journal became my favorite thing to do while traveling. Whether I am in an outdoor café, lying on the beach, or exploring the ruins of an old city, I truly love the using my sketch book to preserve those experiences, sights, and feelings. To date, my Aqua Journal has been to the desert sand dunes outside of Dubai, the urban cityscape of Manhattan NYC, the beaches of Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and the cafes in Paris, to name a few. I feel so blessed to follow my passion and teach workshops around the world.
Since I haven’t taken a class on watercolor painting, sketching, drawing, or anything similar, I have always felt ‘amateur’ and almost afraid to share my Aqua Journal online. But one day, during a workshop trip, I thought, “Why not?” Maybe I can inspire people with my sketching just like I do with my calligraphy videos. Well, I can tell you that putting up that first post was really scary. I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt. Once again, my Instagram community and Facebook following encouraged and supported me and gave my first Aqua Journal watercolor sketch lots of likes. Whew. I was relieved. But this experience and nervousness made me step back and really reflect on what was going on inside my head. I didn’t like feeling afraid and anxious about what I was sharing.
One thing I have come to understand as a teacher of creative classes is that many, many people are afraid of expressing themselves through art, trying something new and especially sharing it online. When people ask me about how I manage to build a following on social media, I explain that it has been a very positive experience for me because my following has grown organically. Somehow my lettering videos have international and widespread appeal. In fact, I feel very hopeful that in some small way I am helping create a global community of artistic lettering where borders and languages and races do not exist.
When people ask me for advice about Instagram and social media platforms, I share these 10 guidelines:
- Don’t check your analytics. Social media requires a strong and stable mental attitude. If you’re watching your numbers all the time, you will often feel discouraged or worried. I never look at my analytics on ANY of my social media platforms. EVER.
- Share what you love and share the love too. Comment and encourage others on social media. Be a positive influence.
- Be fearless. Try something new and if it excites you, then share it. Probably it will excite and inspire someone else too. If I hadn’t taken the risk to post my Aqua Journal sketches, then I wouldn’t be here today as the guest artist of the month!
- Give up on figuring out the algorithm. The number of likes or views you get on your posts are not an indicator of your talent or a reflection of who you are as a person. Don’t take it personally if you think your art work didn’t seem popular or get many likes.
- Collaborate with other like-minded creatives to help build your followers together. Maybe it’s a Giveaway or a Challenge that you help organize to grow your community.
- Stop scrolling and unplug. Take time every day away from social media to recharge. Sometimes this means taking a few days off.
- Be mindful of your creative head space. You’ll end up thinking you’re not as good or your numbers aren’t as high as the next person’s account. I actually don’t spend much time looking at other people’s social media so that my ideas remain fresh and original. You would be surprised how easily someone else’s art work can sneak into your brain and stick there.
- Uplift and inspire. Drama, rants, and negativity don’t belong on your social media platforms. You will attract the energy you put out there so keep things positive. If you get a negative comment, delete it, don’t respond to it.
- Let go of perfection. If I only shared my perfect calligraphy or doodles or sketches, my social media platforms would be empty.
- Work on your photography and filming skills. Are your photos and videos visually appealing? Weak lighting, bad angles, shaky cameras will be off putting and not present your art in the best possible way.
Do I have Instagram and social media figured out? Not really. I just try to manage my time and artistic vision and try to find a healthy balance of being online and offline. It can be tricky. And the bottom line is that if you want your numbers to grow, then you do have to share what people like to see. I would love to post photos every day instead of videos. But the videos are what people like the most, so I have accepted that and grown my following accordingly.
I am feeling braver and happier sharing my watercolour sketch book online now. I don’t always feel compelled to post for the Likes. My Pentalic Aqua Journal is still my steadfast companion on all my trips and is now making regular appearances on my social media platforms. Someday I hope to teach sketching and help others enjoy the art of watercolour in their Aqua Journals as much as I do because creating brings beauty and joy into our lives.
Thank you, Pentalic, for making these wonderful art supplies and products that help all of us feel creative and pursue our artistic dreams.