Selfie of Shantell Martin, @shantell_martin
Selfie of Shantell Martin, @shantell_martin @shantell_martin

An Instagram artist finds her visual voice

Jul 09, 2014

For more read Jessi Hempel's feature story Instagram is ready to take its shot.

Growing up was kind of tough. I grew up in a predominantly white, working-class area, and I was tan with an Afro. Drawing was something I initially did as an escape, to deal with issues that I had as a kid.

Instagram posting of Shantell Martin art work. @zorinaprice @zorinaprice

I went to an art school in London. In 2003 I moved to Japan to teach English. I lasted seven months and then I quit. I made friends and I started to draw. A friend asked if I could do some drawing at one of his events. Around 2004 I did my first gig. There was an avant-garde Japanese noise band playing, and I drew to their music. That’s when I realized I’m a performer because I love drawing in real time with an audience, not knowing what’s going to happen. I started doing this at clubs. I used my laptop connected to a drawing tablet and some simple software. I projected it. At the time, I called it Live Club Illustration, and it became extremely popular in Japan.

Instagram posting of Shantell Martin art work. @INSTAGRAM @INSTAGRAM

In 2008 I came to New York. I naively thought that my career would transition here. Things didn’t fall in my lap as I thought they would. I realized I would have to create my own opportunities by using what I had access to. I started to do my own events. I’d call up friends [and ask for spaces if they had them]. I started to pick up pens again. I can draw in a performance way so people can come and watch me. It’s important that the audience is a part of the work.

Instagram posting of Shantell Martin art work. @iamreggieblack@iamreggieblack

I started Instagram later than most people. I don’t have any traditional photography experience, but I like taking pictures. There are definitely Instagram moments in my work. When I’m working, a part of me says, “That’s a really great Instagram moment.” I try to post once or twice a day.

Instagram connects people and builds communities. You’re starting to see working relationships happening because of people who are aware of one another’s work from Instagram.

Instagram posting of Shantell Martin. @MOCADA_MUSEUM@MOCADA_MUSEUM

I have shows and events. I get hit up a lot by people who say, “I discovered you on Instagram and I like your work.” Then they’ll have a pitch or job for me. I’ve met a couple big clients through Instagram.

ADVICE: Your Instagram is a reflection of you. It’s important for your personality and interests to come through. If you let that shine through, other people will be interested.    

More as-told-to and video profiles of successful Instagrammers:
Joel Strong: Adding Leonardo DiCaprio to every party
Anthony Danielle: How a hobby became highly profitable
Ali Jardine: From stay-at-home mom, to full-time Instagrammer
Dave Krugman: Bringing art outside of The Met

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