Artists lean into social media

One common rationale for people not appreciating art is that it’s not easily understood. Artists are sometimes viewed as inaccessible individuals with talents that are unknowable to those not employed in artistic professions.

There are negative ramifications for social media’s ubiquitous use, but this isn’t the article to discuss those. A social media net positive is providing a visually compelling platform for presenting artwork and providing insight into materials and techniques.

Ceramic artist Terri Kern and muralist Joshua Stout discuss their work, as well as how they lean into Instagram to create buzz.

Life experience meets whimsy
Terri Kern has worked as an artist or art teacher for more than 30 years. She graduated from Xavier with a BFA in 1989 and an MFA from Ohio University in 1991, while producing some studio work to master her ceramics process. In 1996, she returned to Cincinnati from a stint as an adjunct professor at Morehead State and opened a full-time studio at Pendelton Art Studio. She wrote her own business plan and gave herself a decade to make her own business work.

“If I didn’t achieve my financial goals within that time frame, I was going to find another line of work,” she said.

Plan B was never required. Kern continues to ply her trade at Pendleton, and has doubled her space to roughly 1,500 sq. ft. Her work alternately manifests what she lives and sees juxtaposed to what she imagines – her portfolio includes an eclectic mix of flora and fauna, mythological creatures, and experiences with marriage and insomnia may manifest into artwork. Her work has evolved from emphasizing functional to creative pieces, especially vessels and jewelry.

When COVID-19 hit and the local and regional art and craft sales where she sold her pieces were suspended, she had to consider another business model. She knew the importance of social media, but wasn’t well versed in leveraging it. Kern hired a media company to manage social media, which emphasizes Instagram and a YouTube channel, and learned how to effectively conduct Zoom classes to showcase her skills.

“Instagram allows people to examine facets of art that they’ve never connected with, to develop a better understanding of art, and get involved by taking a class or learning more about technique,” Kern said. “Everywhere you look in your life, something has been touched by an artist. From typefaces to computers to clothes, design is having an influence on your life.”

She continued, “It’s an exciting time to be an artist, creating a small business that can connect with anyone anywhere. People in all occupations are learning to monetize YouTube pages, and helping make art more accessible to the public provides a fantastic opportunity to connect. If you can’t connect to a buyer, you’re just a hobbyist.”

Her work will be featured at the Taft Museum of Art beginning in October. The show will be called Resilience, focusing on pieces that celebrate beings that endure trauma when resuming life appears impossible, yet they endure.

Follow Terri Kern @terrikernstudios

Walls telling stories
When he was academic advisor at UC, Joshua Stout imagined a creatively-aligned career. He took a six-month job with Life Formations in Madeira, which produces statues and animatronic figures. He gained a position through ArtWorks to manage and curate the production of light sculptures for the inaugural BLINK Festival.

Buoyed by his experience, Joshua established Makeshift Mammoth, his Covington-based studio, and followed up on a relationship with the owner of Algin Furniture, which sells mid-century digs, to paint a mural outside its 8th and Main store. He continued to build his reputation by painting 19 murals at cost for property owners who couldn’t afford to bedeck their walls.

After a second BLINK Festival installation, he gradually built his business through the kitschy, such as a depiction of Audrey II, the carnivorous plant from Little Shop of Horrors, at Covington’s Garden Grove Organics and the understated, such as embellishing the exterior of the downtown Public Library’s Brutalist exterior with a colorful geometric pattern. Public exposure led to individual commissions, such as decorating children’s bedrooms and man caves.

To date, Joshua has produced 63 murals, but complacency is death to artists. Creativity requires constant sustenance, and the audience is prone to forget unless an artist is intention and consistent with promotion. Enter Instagram.

“Instagram is the ideal format for an artist because it is purely visual,” Joshua said. “I have a four-year-old, so TikTok is a lot more demanding in feeding content, and requires more energy than I have.”

Instagram provided the perfect forum for Joshua Stout's expression of Bengals fandom.One art form in Joshua’s repertoire is digital artwork, and Instagram provided the perfect forum for his expression of Bengals fandom. When the Bengals were on their way to a playoff run during the 2022 season, he created weekly graphics that rendered amusing renderings of a stylized tiger mascot doing battle with the opposing team’s talisman. A few times, the team picked up his artwork, providing his creations with as many as 250,000 views.

Although the team has tabbed another resource for digital art for next season, Joshua is continuing to create artwork for the Bengals Talk Fan Group, a legion of striped superfans. The publicity from broadcasting his work has helped Joshua engage in conversations with several other NFL teams, and he’s optimistic about gaining additional grand-format or digital work.

“I’ve done work in five states,” Joshua said. “It’s my dream to work in all 50.”

Follow Joshua Stout @joshuastoutart

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Steve Aust.

Steve is a freelance writer and editor, father, and husband who enjoys cooking, exercise, travel, and reading. A native of Fort Thomas who spent his collegiate and early-adulthood years in Georgia, marriage brought him across the river, where he now resides in Oakley.