Episode 217 — Instagram for Artists


Episode 217 — Instagram for Artists

Welcome to Episode 217! One of the things I will be talking a lot down the road is building your personal brand. I think there is nothing more important than networking and building your brand. I just interviewed an expert on the topic. I wanted to talk specifically about Instagram: my experience of growing from 0 to 50K. I want to talk a lot about Instagram because it’s the perfect medium for artists and other creatives.

Let me know what you think about this Episode. Please take a second to share this Episode.

Let’s dive in!


[04:46] I have a new VFX Training Course on how to become a Technical Director available right now at www.VFXCourse.com. This is a massive Course and you can download all the assets! I’m not sure how long I will have it available, so take advantage of it now! It will take you from start to finish through the whole VFX process.

[41:08] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!



[02:32] I’m Allan McKay. I’ve been in the VFX industry for nearly 25 years, working for studios like ILM, Ubisoft — and I have a confession to make: I’ve signed up for Instagram years ago! I let it stay idle for a long time. It’s only in the last few months that I focused on building my account by staying consistent and focused on specific subjects.

[03:03] Before I would post random posts about being out with buddies, drinking, hanging out at lunch. My account wasn’t getting much traction. It’s only recently that I went from 2K to 50K followers, just by having more intentional content. It became a more focused community as well: I could put out posts about my upcoming talks or Podcasts; things that I hope everyone can consume. This became really effective. [04:00] The key two things with everything Instagram related are: relevance and consistency with everything I posted. I also want to share all the mistakes I’ve made.


[04:16] I want to approach this from the angle of building our brand, as well as posting with intention and how we post. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about Instagram. I want to create a series on this subject that allows you to get more work from your brand. We all hear that social media is something that we have to be active with, but most of us suffer from paralysis by analysis. We get distracted by too many things: should we post on Instagram or Facebook? But what’s stopping most of us is that when we try something — and we don’t get the results that we want — we give up and move on. I know better now: It’s about consistency, seeing it through and nurturing it. We all have those friends whose stuff goes viral! [05:42] There is good content and bad content; but you have to have your finger on the pulse to see what’s working — and double down on that. But it’s not just about what’s working. Something had a lot of value — rather than it being about ourselves. We get caught up about posting content that we think is relevant, not realizing that there are certain subjects that people want to consume. When you give value to others — that’s when it changes everything!

[06:26] One of the key things around social media is realizing that especially when it comes to us as creatives — as artists — that there are certain platforms that are great for communicating and talking. But when it comes to showing our work, it’s a very different thing altogether. And feel like ArtStation is a great platform for that but it doesn’t have the followers. The difference with something like Facebook is that when you’re posting your artwork, it’s going to show up in the right feed for the right person to consume it but they’re not people looking for cool things to engage in.

[07:13] Instagram is built around visual content. It’s videos and images, and it [targets] people who are specifically looking for creative content. When you’re looking for design content, more of that is going to show up. It’s easy to train Instagram to show you the content you’re interested in. That’s what most of us are doing. The more you’re looking at creative content, the more your experience will be customized to that. Which is great for creatives: When you put out your content, if people like it, more similar people will consume it. It’s a very tailored platform. (Of course, we have YouTube for consuming video, but it’s all optimized around viewing time. I like that Instagram is limited to 1 minutes. That means that our content has to be laser focused. People go to YouTube to have longer content.) Which means Instagram is the perfect platform to host your portfolio. There are different ways to present it.

[09:30] The main thing is that you don’t need to show just polished work! It can be your work in progress too. A lot of us get caught up with presenting finished work, and dismiss all the work that goes into it. If you’re only putting out your finished portfolio, you will be publishing less frequently. A lot of us [as viewers] find that the process just as fun: We get to sit on the sidelines and watch the work get better and better. I love posting VFX breakdowns! I love doing stories and tutorials on Instagram TV. I like the journey that goes along the way. I like posting all day long if I could. Most of the time, 10-20% of your followers will get to see you work. Which means it’s good to post it more than once.


[11:10] Let’s get into the meat of this video. For me, there is a lot of people who want to get started — but then talk themselves out of it. I want to cover a lot of the mistakes and what stops us from getting that momentum, getting that traction. I want to get into those things here.


[11:33] Treat your account like a folder in your camera directory. A lot of us just spew our content and put out random things (drinking beer, pictures of food). Think about your followers: They follow you because there was a specific post that caught your attention and made them want to follow you. If they see a Z-Brush sculpt and then they see your content is all over the place — they start following someone else. You’re building a directory of images. If they don’t know who they are, this is a chance for them to decide if they want to consume your content. If you create a folder that’s exclusively that content, it’s very different if you were to have other personal stuff. It’s okay to have different accounts for specific content. [13:29] But if you want a bigger following, to build connections and to build your brand — it’s better to minimize the personal stuff and focus on the creative stuff.

[13:55] In the beginning, I got frustrated by that a lot. I posted a lot of VFX content, work on my students, but also career related stuff from my Podcast. I would post it and I would get a hundred people unfollow me. It’s not the subject they signed up for! It didn’t align with the content they signed up for. It’s okay to have some stuff sprinkled in, but your account has to be laser focused content. It has to convey who you are and the services you provide. My friend earned 700K with almost 2 posts, but now, he’s a prisoner to that. He can’t post as often because his content has to be on the level of those original posts. This could be a negative thing. When you’re posting your content, don’t be afraid to lose followers if they aren’t going to be true followers all along. I don’t feel that’s a loss to me. It’s a loss for them to miss out on my content. Keep that in mind! If anything, I feel like I should be posting more personal stuff now. It’s more of a balance. But I’m developing other accounts for that.


[17:44] One of the other key resistance points we confront is that we feel that we don’t have anything interesting to post. A lot of us make excuses not to try in the first place. That’s convenient to let ourselves off the hook! You have to be in it — to win it. If you aren’t trying — there is a chance you won’t succeed. If you get paid to do something for a living, chances are there is a need for it out there. Keep in mind there are other people doing what you do and they’re struggling, and they want to see other people having the same struggles. It doesn’t matter because at least you’re putting out content people can align with. You can also provide tips to how you do things. You may be able to share some insights. The amount of people on Instagram is massive! Because of that, you have more a chance to finding people with the same interest.

[19:39] Going back to the subject roto: It’s an introductory job, but you’re still working with images. You get to work with negative space. There are so options of what you could post! If you’re using roto all day long, it’s a chance to convey something. You can showcase the behind-the-scenes too. You can show the pain and the ridiculousness of what you do day to day. These are just ideas I’m throwing out. It’s important to mention that if you have something interesting to show, there’s always going to be something. One of my friends is at id Software. They’re creating the new DOOM at the moment. She had an Instagram for when she was learning math. She managed to put all the formula on that account, to get intricate patterns. I thought that was interesting! A lot of us would consider math boring, but she found a way to make it visually interesting. If you can make math interesting — anything is possible.

[22:07] Also, look at WHAT IF: “What if my job wasn’t boring?” What would that look like? Don’t be afraid to put stuff out! If no one consumes it, you can always take it down. More importantly, you will see a trend. You’ll learn to double down on successful posts. I posted behind the scenes, and it got eaten up. When I posted stuff from the Podcast, people weren’t that interested. The more you learn about what people want to consume, the more you can double down on that.

[23:39] Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re doing something that’s unique, keep in mind that there is still an audience for it. It means you will have less competition. You will find your niche. Instagram is the platform that will take everything over. See what works and you learn about what people like. You have to be in it — to win it!

[24:45] What if you aren’t getting paid to do anything? You could be a student right now. Everyone loves the underdog and they want to see their journey. You could decide to learn Maya. Whatever you’re interested in doing, it’s a chance for your to document your journey. It’s fun to watch: where you struggle and what your wins are. That way people don’t feel alone. Someone who is experienced can also offer you guidance when they see your account. “What gets measured — gets managed!” This is a chance for your to measure your success along the way. You will get to see your own growth, which is really important. The accountability of having to post everyday will create the pressure for you to get up every day and do the work!


[26:43] The last thing I want to focus on is: When you’re posting your work and no one is getting engaged, you should think about if you’re engaging with them or are you making it all about you? There is a guy on Instagram I really want to hire. Occasionally, I will see him post something like, “I’m the greatest CG Artist”. It drives me nuts! He continues making posts like that. I keep wanting to reach out about his work and I want to hire him. But I can’t hire someone who’s obsessed with himself. [28:03] The more you show vulnerability and transparency, the more it helps you get ahead. It’s okay to mess up and talk about failures. If you’re documenting your journey, people want to see your vulnerability. Look at your content: Does it say more about you or more about them? One of the key things I love is posting my students’ work. We get to show off the cool things we’re doing. It’s a chance to get their name out there and get them jobs. It works on so many levels!

[30:04] Why not make your content about your audience? This is a chance for you to make it about the other person. Share the behind-the-scenes, the problems you run into — and how you resolve them. That’s the hidden value. More recently, I started playing with tutorials: Putting the content into one minute. I can see what people find valuable and what they don’t. I still get frustrated when people un-follow me when I post something about building your brand. People like the content I’m posting, but they may not be interested in that stuff from my account. There are other places I can post that. It’s about finding the right audience.

[33:01] It’s critical to engage with your audience. If people send a message or post a comment, I go out of my way to respond. Instagram is moving to have Messenger and I will be even more on top of it. It’s valuable to respond and give some value back to that person.


[34:11] I’m just scratching the surface here but I will be doing more stuff on this topic. There will be a lot of us who think it’s not for them. Or that one cares about their content. Or that they will never get followers. I want to stop that! I want everyone to crush it. Be in it — to win it! You can start posting now and see where you’re at. You have a chance to interact with everyone. When you get 50K followers, you will get flooded and it will be harder to interact with everyone. In the beginning, you have a chance to create that connection and network on a micro level. It’s an advantage in the beginning.

[35:54] I hope that resonates with you. I hope you realize that Instagram is a platform for creatives. Be aware and make your content consistent with what your followers signed up to follow. You have to stay congruent. Build other accounts for your other stuff. I want to build my main account which has to do with visual effects. But I will create another account about career related content — and I can cross-promote. No matter what it is — there will always be an audience. If math can be exciting, anything can be! It’s a matter of deciding how to do it: through humor or frustration. Use your imagination and creativity. Possibilities are endless! And remember to make it about your audience!

[38:08] If you found this valuable, please share this with other people. At the same time, let me know what other topics you may be interested in. I want to get really in-depth in regards to this subject. I want to remove all the obstacles for all of us. There will always be people interested in your content and I would love to see what you’re doing!

I hope you found this valuable and you’re inspired to crush your Instagram. Please shoot me an email with any success stories that you’ve had or any questions: [email protected]. There are so many great Episodes coming up!

  • Next week’s Episode is a secret. But the one after that, I will be interviewing the Head of ILM Rob Bredow.
  • Also coming up: A Podcast with the director of the upcoming film DOOM, as well as companies like Blackmagic, Cinesite and many more!


Please share this Episode with others. Until next week —

Rock on!



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