Artist of Instagram


Dear Artist,

My friend Sam emailed some work from her latest series. Before I knew it, I was writing back, “You need a show.” “I was going to contact you about that,” she replied. “Maybe you can help me a little bit with the foreign language of portfolios and galleries and what to do.” No problem, Sam. Here are a couple of time-tested ideas:

Make a list of suitable dream galleries in your area and get to know how each does business before asking to submit.


acrylic painting
by Louise de Weger

Commit to a regular online search for local, national and international competitions. Be selective and choose what you can put your heart into and where you can get your work in front of a qualified crowd. My New York dealer bought a small watercolour I’d donated to a fundraiser in support of the oldest artist-run space in New York. I was new in town and hustling for a wall. She lived with the painting for a year before writing and introducing herself — by then I had a studio full of big stuff to show her.


acrylic painting
by Louise de Weger

But these tips come from a time known as “Before Instagram.” Thirty-eight-year-old Louise de Weger was a struggling single mom in Brisbane, Australia when her mother enrolled her in a visual arts course at the local technical institute. Even after winning some prestigious awards, Louise took her instructor’s advice and went back to work in hospitality. Soon, though, she re-thought her path. After stumbling across Instagram — the image-sharing app — Louise started posting small paintings and found she could sell a few per week, for a couple of hundred dollars.

These days, with almost 14,000 followers and a steady stream of commissions, Louise paints in a converted shipping container in her parents’ backyard while her mom does the books and her dad prepares custom Tasmanian Oak frames. With an exclusively online collector base, she’s showing all over the world.


Louise de Weger Design



PS: “I slowly learnt how to use it, for example, posting on Sunday is better than Friday, no more than two posts a day. I’d really encourage people to persevere.” (Louise de Weger)

Esoterica: Instagram attracts art-lovers hungry for the new and with an eye for quality. Museums, designers, galleries, fashionistas, collectors and aspirers mingle with artists who are building personal online portfolios in real time. Images of installations, process, studio dogs and finished work are made accessible to millions, scrolling on a feed that refreshes by the second. Consistency, colour, engagement and authenticity seem to be the boosters for savvy artists now enjoying dream-like levels of popularity. “Usually people take years and years to get to this point. I feel guilty sometimes, and I feel very privileged because not many people get to do what they love.” (Louise de Weger)


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“Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)



  1. Sorry. I was going to really like Ms de Weger’s paintings… right up until I discovered she lives at home and her parents are her business partners. I left home at 17 due to a toxic relationship with ignorant religious parents- and I’ve pretty much had to make it on my own. And that means I still can’t afford a smart phone- and the internet connection that I use on my hand-me-down computer is borrowed. So cest le vie to Instagram. Unless- of course- you want to pay for all of that for me- Sara. Now- I mounted my 9th One-Man show in January. And I made $2500 on my most recent sale- 16 years after I made that piece- and $2300 on a brand new piece- the sale just before that- but it’s not enough to support me in a manner that I might like to become accustomed to- if I still lived with my parents. So whatever. And who cares anyway.

    • You simply need a shift in mindset. This comment is oozing with being a “victim” of your circumstances and negativity. You sold those pieces for lots of money, and you can do it again! Keep at it! Save up your money, slowly but surely and you can pay for a smartphone. It may not happen overnight, but you can’t let the blocks and resistance in life halt you. If you have the passion and the drive, then the obstacles and hurdles are things you can look right past and see things with possibility instead of IMpossibility. That’s the difference between those who find success and those who don’t. You have to go after it and KEEP going after it. That’s the hustle. You have complete power over your choices. For example, you can work 2 or 3 jobs for a while and save up a bunch of money to pay for the equipment you need, and then quit them and focus on your art again. You can sit around and come up with excuses as to why you can’t do something, or you can figure it out and move forward. Change that mindset!

      • Susan Archibald on

        I appreciate your thoughtful comments and suggestions. I hope the artist in question heeds your advice. I also hope I can find someone as wise as yourself the next time my mind falls into the self pity abyss.

    • If you do not have a computer, how can you be responding? ( …. Answer…. use the same internet you used to be rude to Sara, and go to Instagram… and start being more positive……! Or continue on with your life as is… without being so rude … Totally not necessary…

    • Nowhere in this article does it say Louise lives at home. It is not at all uncommon for an artist’s studio to be part of shared property and resources. It is also not uncommon for artists to have partners and philanthropists helping get their art to market. The fact that Louise’s business partners are her parents is great but irrelevant.

    • Becki Hesedahl on

      Your Pitiful Pete attitude isn’t going to help you! You got out and made the choice to make it on your own so you must have had the courage to “man up” at one point. Do it again!

    • Instagram is not the be-all and end-all. You have to be good at marketing there in order for it to work. And if you want to be on Instagram (and get good at that marketing) there are free, third party apps that will help with that. Disliking an artist because they have what you are missing is counterproductive. Believe me, I know the feelings of envy and dashed hopes when you get handed decade long roadblocks on the road to making a living. I can’t hand you a roadmap, because everyone’s journey is different. But it does start to make more progress when you begin to look at what you DO have, and what your strengths are. Work with those, and be suggestible to what might come.

    • Well you sure have convinced me to never ever think like this…and I COULD. Abuse? Lets not compare abuse, okay?
      I am an artist and a printmaker to add to the confusion! All these FAKE prints like giclees leave me constantly explaining myself, but I find as I am explaining, the joy of the process comes back to me. Whomever is my audience gets my enthusiasm and that is where it lives for me. Oh and I was the child and now I am the parent and soon a grandparent. And yes, I have sold a single print, at times, for 2500…but it was the right time and place for that.
      Of course, you are probably so comfortable with your thinking, you are not reading these responses that have hijacked this whole article…but if you do, please take some advise from the people who took the time to tell you, you are running in place and going no where with your negativity and self pity.

    • Well, well, Mr. Wilcox…..seems to me that you need a new line of work, if you are so negatively set against your current one. You seem not to have one thing to say about, for instance a love of your craft or that sheer excitement that is there to find when you know a piece of work has “made it”.

      A friend of mine once included this line in one of his songs….”Make a new plan, Stan, get on the bus, Gus.” Seems like good advice for one so disheartened with his current situation. And at the risk of seeming tendentious, here is Leonard Cohen come singing….”Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

      Son, I have been a painter, and a damned good one for fifty five of my seventy five years. Never made a lot of money. Some, but never a LOT. It has been a wonderful, exciting, and fulfilling journey. I have learned a couple of things along the path, and here is one I will leave you with..if you don’t love to distraction, and to the exclusion of all else this painting gig, you in the wrong line of work. And it will make you heartsick in the end. I have seen that in too many folk over the years.

      Namu Amida Butsu,


    • J. Bruce, I felt sadness and great compassion towards you yet again as I read your post (and previous posts of yours). I know that doesn’t pay the bills but it is what I can offer. I will deliberately hold you in my good thoughts in the next while.

      As I have also said before, one way to improve our condition is through appreciation. As we look around and practice the art of appreciation, consciously noticing and being in awe of simple things – the trees, flowers, the people who drive our transit buses, stop signs, beautiful buildings, a baby in a buggy in the park, older folks lawn bowling, just everything – we can’t help but to begin to shift our perceptions. This in turn, can’t help but elevate our BE-ingness.

      I once suggested to a total stranger who told me she was depressed, that she visit a greenhouse or plant nursery (they’re free) for awhile every day and inhale the goodness of the positive energy therein. Maybe you could try that, too. As Henry Ford once said, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

      As Red Green says, “We’re all in this together.”

      Stay in the Light,


    • I follow a lot of artists whos work speaks for themselves and they hardly if ever post personal pictures. Sure, model looking artists, as you said may become popular but it doesnt mean they will sell more work or be more successful as an artist. Success isnt measured by followers.

    • Whooooa! So this young woman has found a way to market her work, has put in the hours to learn her craft and create her art, has supportive parents and is beautiful. And for these reasons — she’s under attack? This is wrong on so many levels. Less snark, please. These comments do NOT seem
      in the encouraging spirit of the founders of The Painter’s Key. Let’s read between the lines — she is (or has been) a single mom, was discouraged by one of her instructors, worked in another line of work to support herself before her art career took off — in other words, she’s done the work! No one handed her success, she earned it. Let her be a great example!

  2. Marty Cochrane on

    Looks like J.Bruce Wilcox is a bitter man. Louise’s parents supported her and believed in her. Now she’s able to repay her family and help return that support. Louise is right “not everyone gets to do what they love”
    Me Wilcox needs to keep looking

    • Hi Judy, I just started doing regular posting on Instagram about 3 months ago. I read a helpful book call Instagram Power by Jason Miles, but I also gleaned from various online people that you need to post regularly, post good work, and through the search feature, find other artists whose work you like and give their posts a like and follow them if you would like to see them in your feed. Quite often they will follow you back (maybe not the ones who already have a huge following – they may not notice you right away). Making comments in posts of other artists work you like is also helpful. Also use hashtags when you post so your work will show up on other search feeds. I am still just a beginner with Instagram, but so far I have about 280 followers in just 3 months – not a massive following but growing regularly. It is a gradual process like anything else, takes time to build up. I checked out your work on your website and it is lovely. If you are on instagram find me @margarethorvatart and I will be happy to follow you! Good luck with it.

  3. It took me awhile to realize not all Instagram photos are done with a smart phone. A photo made with a dslr camera is used a lot for these photos. I’m an amateur photographer and learn by doing, reading, and observing others work on Instagram. I would hope for sales one day.

  4. Gabriella Morrison on

    A like on Instagram doesn’t necessarily translate to sales, and popularity through anonymity is suspect, anyways. What’s with all this obsession of ‘keeping score’? How much time are any of us willing to sacrifice to keep checking ratings? All that time and energy would be better applied to living and making.

    • I do agree somewhat, although Instagram has to got to be the easiest of all the “Social Media” app’s out there. Quick and simple to post, and great to browse through. No need to “keep score”, just do what you love to do – create – and spend a minimal amount of time posting to Instagram if your intent is to ultimately “get known” or to make some sales. If you care for neither then NONE of the social media posting is for you.

  5. the gallery that now represents me find out about my work through instagram. And I also sell small pieces online mostly through exposure it gets me. Honestly it’s a godsend for artists. And no you don’t need to be a model, if people like your work you never even need to post a picture of yourself. People who buy don’t care what you look like. It’s also great to network with other artists.

  6. There is a small percentage of artists who make a decent living just with their art. The majority have other jobs, some art related, to support themselves. Which allows them to continue to pursue their creative passion. Wilcox is often the first to post replies and they are self-centered instead of being insightful.

  7. Excellent article and nudge for me, dear Sara! I have my fingers crossed I’ll return to the Instagram acct. I opened a year ago and…post work! Thanks…

    • I thought this was going to be an article on how to use Instagram…as in how to get started, what do you do to set it up etc., that would be helpful.

      • Hey Susie–I’m just a few steps ahead of you. My suggestion is to google around for getting started tips. Many generous folks are out there sharing info. This is my plot (rubbing hands together)! Then…just dive in and try. What the heck, what have we to lose? ;-)

  8. Hi, I read the comment from the perwson who can’t afford it. He says nobody cares. Well, I do! Why, because I have walked in similar shoes, and while I am not comparing to him, Van Gogh had some similar barriers. I would ask people to think that maybe this is a cry of despair. Probablyl not directed at Sara but at a system that gives some people such discouragement it becomes impossible to deal with.

    I am a 69 year old woman and I am for the first time in my life wanting to say such things. It is hard and ruins health to have passions and duties and creativity without resources. So to this man who is being called many things, I would say, “I hear you. I believe you. If I had it I migiht buy you an account.” after getting to know him. But I don’t have resources either. I hope you can find some friends maybe on who can encourage you. There are alwasys things to hope for. And I’m sorry the art world can’t find a place for you. I believe it can change. So hang in.

    • Dear Jane Doe….

      Van Gogh was a whining wimp. Not half the struggling artists of his time that .”succeeded ” ( read actually sold paintings) had the kind of loving support given to him. For all my fifty five years as a painter, I have heard about his”misfortunes”. Bullcrap!

  9. would somebody please explain in detail how to use Instagram on a computer; I don’t want/don’t have a phone.
    I did sign up for an Instagram account – on the computer – but – now what? tks. By the way I do not want to spend much hours and hours managing, if poss.

  10. Shane Conant on

    Wow alot of angst out there! Good letter Sara! Definately informative and timely! Keep up the good work!

  11. Funny how these comments always bring out the worst in people. I thought this one – for example – was to talk about artists and how they pursued their dreams. Instead, it turned into piling on to the first commentor about his attitude and his wrong-thinking. It’s just his opinion. He’s probably releasing frustrations in what he thought was a safe format. Talk about keeping your eye on the target! Last time I checked, it’s not possible to change someone’s opinion by piling on. More encouragement, people. Not more criticism, please.

  12. Many thanks for this – I’ve spent 50 years doing outdoor shows and would like to find a less strenuous venue. Galleries would be nice, but I do enjoy selling directly, and Instagram sounds promising. And thanks for these twice-weekly newsletters!

  13. Susan Kellogg on

    Returning to this site after a few years, I find it amazing that nice people are still nice and bitter people are still bitter.
    I am happy to be back. Susan K.

  14. Everyone feels down sometime, about lack of sales, exposure etc. However we are all so lucky to be doing what we love to do and seeing the results, which I hope will be around for others to enjoy for many years.

  15. What artist can do it all alone? i’m always asking for help. I have learned to weed out the not-so-helpful advice. We all have our own roads to travel. We all are (hopefully) growing in our art. This artist will have her tough times also.

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