Instagram as a growing social media platform was built for users to communicate visually and also connect with other images and accounts. It’s therefore potentially one of the most useful spaces for artists in this current time. We’re seeing more brands acknowledge its value – The rise of advertising, sponsored media and commissioning of illustration through Instagram is apparent.
Illustrator and Artist Polly Nor describes this medium as the vital element in the making of Art as a viable career for herself. After studying at Loughborough Polly spent her free time drawing and uploading illustrations online, creating an extended series that explores identity, female expression, anxiety, complicated relationships and the struggle for self-acceptance. Illustrating from the beginning one female character and documenting her relationship with herself, by visualising thoughts and feelings as physical beings ‘demons’.
Polly Nor’s Zine: Polyester
Polly’s clients include Gucci, Complex, Dr Martens, Bloomsbury Publishing and Dazed Digital. She has been interviewed lengthly by i-D, The Creators Project, Juxtapoz, BBC Three, It’s Nice That, Dazed, ASOS, Stylist and much more.
Polly started her Instagram account to nurture this strong personal project and has carved out a firm place for herself in the arts scene, demonstrating an excellent example of someone who bridges the gap between fine artist and illustrator, and celebrates the aspects in both. Polly’s social following has now reached over 1 million on Instagram alone, with her last art show being a hit success with over 7,000 visitors in 5 days.
Returning for a second year at Protein Studios with new show ‘Airing my dirty laundry in Public’ (now open to the public until the 17th October), you can expect to see her new collection of digital illustrations with a previously unseen 36-part series, plus new ceramic sculpture work, and immersive installation room with her handmade latex skin suits. As her work is predominantly digital, the show is framed by a vast wall of a collection of all of her original hand drawn illustrations. The exhibition is free to enter, so you can support Polly by buying her merch at a dedicated art stand within the gallery.
We were thrilled to attend the private view and have gathered some questions we were dying to ask Polly for you to read. See her advice to other illustrators and our highlights below.
From the start of the series your Illustrations are known for the exploration of alternative and dark subject matter. What advice would you give to other illustrators with traditionally non-commercial Illustration in terms of carving out their own niche in the creative industries?
It can be hard for any freelance artist to attract enough work to keep themselves afloat, but particularly when your art style and subject matter isn’t very commercial. My work has always been a bit too weird for most clients and brands so I have instead focused on selling my own work online as prints and t-shirt designs. I originally started my online store Polly Nor Store a few years back to help make a bit of money in between commission work, but since opening it’s actually become my main source of income, which has given me the freedom to focus on my own ideas instead of chasing commission work.
I would definitely recommend setting up an online shop to all artists. Selling prints online is about as risk-free as you can get business wise. Most shop hosts like Big Cartel or Squarespace are pretty easy to use and cheap if you’re just selling a few items. You can start off selling on a pre-order basis which means you can wait until your orders come in before spending any money on getting them printed. Worst comes to worst, if nobody buys them, then you haven’t wasted any money and you’re not left with loads of unwanted stock.
You have an amazing social following focused on individuals (as consumers) rather than business clients, enabling you to sell prints and products decorated in personal work. How important do you feel it is to engage in different ways with your audience?
I have never been particularly great at following a brief, or compromising my ideas to suit brands. So, working on my own stuff and selling prints has been much better suited to me as an artist. Social media has been a very vital tool for me to connect and engage with my audience.
“Airing My Dirty Laundry In Public”
This is the second year you are returning to Protein Studios with a solo exhibition in London. In this digital era, do you feel you could exist with just an online gallery or is it important for you as an artist to curate physical exhibitions? What do you get from these?
I definitely think it’s possible to use Instagram as your own personal gallery and exist that way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, but at the same time I do think it puts a lot of pressure on artists to be constantly creating new work. I’ve always had this fear that if I don’t keep posting new stuff then people will suddenly lose interest and my career will disappear as quickly as it started. I think that’s a really unhealthy effect that social media has had on artists: the constant pressure to be doing the most. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been forcing it and I don’t think that’s a very healthy way to work. So, I’m trying to exercise a new way of working. I feel like taking a break from uploading new art and working towards big physical exhibitions for people to look at my artwork in real life is a healthy change for me. It challenges me to start thinking and creating in different ways.
“Airing My Dirty Laundry In Public”
Your private view had a great vibe, we were most enthusiastic to see the ‘immersive installation room’ in the new collection. Can you share the origin of these ideas?
I’ve designed a new immersive installation called ‘Laundry, Repairs And Alterations’ which will bring to life two of my illustrations from this year ‘Deep Cleanse’ and ‘Like A Stranger In My Own Skin’, featuring my human skins (made of latex). It’s pretty creepy.
AOI’s final note: This environment certainly brings alive and makes you physically engage with the devils and women in the Illustrations. Thanks for the invite, catch your next project soon!
Like A Stranger In My Own Skin
Follow Polly on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Visit the show at Protein Studios, New Inn Yard
Friday 12th to Wednesday 17th October. 11 – 7pm