TOP TIPS for starting your art career and growing your audience online

Iona Rowland is a multi-disciplinary artist creating pop-art-inspired works for both public commissions and private collectors. She was shortlisted for the Derwent Art Prize 2018 for her portrait of Solange Knowles.

Credit: Iona Rowland

In a recent Live Talk on the Derwent Art Prize Instagram, Iona shared her advice for anyone looking to start their career in the arts or to grow their audience as an artist on social media. Here’s our recap of the top five tips!

Starting out in your journey

  1. Experiment with your art practice.

“When I first started my journey in art-school, I was making very large photo-realistic portraits” Iona explains. “After one of my tutors suggested to try and break out of this style and see what happens, I began experimenting with every workshop they offered in the university. It was in the screen-printing workshop where I learnt how to screen-print in an improvised way and incorporate this into my practice. Since that discovery, this process had underpinned everything I’ve done so far in my career.”

So, tip number one: don’t be afraid to branch out creatively… you might be pleasantly surprised with the results!

  • Be patient in the early stages of your careers.

“If you have a passion for making art you must keep on doing it, however it fits into your life. There’s no shame in being an artist along a part-time or full-time job. For example, working part-time in galleries as an assistant was a major source of inspiration for me in the beginning of my career” the young artist explains.

Credit: Iona Rowland
Credit: Iona Rowland

Learning how to market yourself as an artist online

  1. Target your audience.

“In order to grow your audience, you have to firstly understand it. Try to be very targeted in your approach to find individuals interested in what you do. You can’t conquer all at once.”

Iona’s top insight here is: as an artist, you can’t be everything to everyone. But if you know your niche, your fans will find you!

  • Be authentic and collaborate.

“For me, it was crucial to learn about my own voice as an artist on social media and sticking with it. It’s important to stay true to yourself and your own values.”

“Partnering with someone on Instagram works well to reach new and broad audiences. It usually just starts with me approaching people I want to work with. It’s a bold move but if you’ve done your research, it will work wonders. Collaborating with other artists gave me a real step up – not just visual artists but writers, musicians and performers. Working with them, I began to understand my work in a broader context.”

  • Enter open calls such as the Derwent Art Prize

“The Derwent Art Prize has been a catalyst for all the commissions I’ve completed so far. Exhibiting on an international scale has helped me present my work to audiences I never had the opportunity to before explains the young artist.

Last but not least, Iona’s expert advice when entering art competitions: Curate your submission.

“If you’re entering art competitions with different works – make sure there’s a certain visual cohesion between them, that’s the key thing I learnt in my experience. You want the judges to look at your works and feel confident in their choice” she concludes.

Do you want to follow Iona’s advice and enter the Derwent Art Prize? The 2022 edition is calling for your entries until Tuesday, 4th January, 5pm GMT. Learn more and enter via