A Rise of Online Activism: The Golden Age of Digital Art on Instagram

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Arvilla Mae Moret/@Arvillamae_Designs on Instagram

This piece, created by Arvilla Mae Moret on Instagram, has been used by Little Justice Leaders, a subscription where subscribers receive a box of carefully selected materials in order to help young children better understand a specific social justice issue.

The rise of online activism, especially due to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, has led to a surge of digital art on Instagram, the current hotspot for fast news. There has never been a better time for digital artists to showcase their work while promoting awareness of various social issues. Although the art community has always prospered on social media, artists are now moving beyond the scope of Instagram as their art is now being used on front pages of newspapers, on clothes, and even on skateboards.

Instagram is one of the quickest ways to gain insight into the latest news stories and the most pressing social injustices of our time. Due to the app being heavily influenced by visuals, posts with the brightest colors, the most appealing designs, and the most engaging art styles receive the most attention. Digital artists have been taking advantage of this trend in order to spread their messages and their content across the app. From the explore page to private stories, drawings, doodles, and comics highlighting social and political issues have been traveling through every corner of the platform.

My art page didn’t grow significantly until I got into digital art. I will admit, my art was powerful with traditional acrylic paint as well, but the rise of digital art in social media played a huge role in my success with it,” said Mohuya Khan, a digital artist on Instagram with a following of more than 3,000 people. “Digital art allowed me to have easy access to my materials, be more creative with my work, and stay connected with current events,” she said.

With a drawing tablet, stylus, and the right software, artists have immediate access to thousands of different mediums, materials, and textures that would otherwise cost a fortune. Uploading pieces from a software is only a matter of downloading the piece with the right dimensions, writing popular hashtags, and clicking the post button.

“The recent surge in online activism had a huge positive impact on my art page,” Khan continued. She explains that one of her first digital illustrations, #PayUp Movement, reached over 6,000 likes and was trending as one of the top posts in the world. Her art has become so popular that people often request drawings painted on their clothes, backpacks, and skateboard decks.

“#PayUp Movement”: A piece by Mohuya Khan addresses the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh, the problems with fast fashion, and the role that popular American corporations have in perpetuating unsafe working conditions abroad. This piece was specifically directed at companies such as Forever21, Walmart, and Urban Outfitters for failing to pay their workers a reasonable wage in Bangladesh. (Mohuya Khan/@labyrinthave on Instagram)

“Now, many people use social media in order to spread awareness of atrocities happening around the world and it was something that I never expected to happen with my art,” she said. 

Activism art has always existed on Instagram, but the Black Lives Matter movement sparked something undeniably colossal, an explosion of oppressed voices and built up social frustration. The reverberations have yet to fade away, as most abrupt social outbursts usually do. In fact, BLM has broadened the doors for ways to fight injustice and spread awareness without even stepping outside.

Another Instagram artist, Arvilla Mae Moret, with a following of over 500 people and over 800 posts, said “Instagram is a fun, quick place to find people. It’s like a portfolio, and if you like them you follow up on more of who they are, which is the ultimate goal. I have art that I want people to see, and this feels like a global place to find and meet people and artists like myself.

Throughout history, art and politics have always been entangled, but the structure of Instagram makes political art much more accessible than newspapers and books. The constant input, exchange, and output of posts flowing through the hands of millions around the world creates the possibilities for a worldwide audience. 

Moret recently collaborated with a subscription service called Little Justice Leaders, which provides subscribers with a box of carefully selected materials in order to help young children better understand a specific social justice issue. Her piece “To those Accustomed privilege, Equality feels like Oppression” was chosen to be a part of their first teacher box of the school year. She describes the piece as an illustration of an African American woman who is “a powerful muscle-woman not afraid to speak her mind or fight her own battles,” in her post’s caption.

I feel with the inspirational people in my life, they have given me the strength to find my true voice through social media. I can’t please everyone, and I finally stopped trying. I make art that I want to see in the world, trying to inspire and make people think,” said Moret while describing the role that activism has played in her life.

Although Moret and other digital artists have recently gained popularity, the process of growing an art account is often long and arduous. “I know that I have been actively working by posting regularly, working hard to post content that I want to see in the world and making sure to write for my reader instead of for myself,” said Moret. Most Instagram artists do not see much, if any, growth overnight, and it can take years in order to gain even a few hundred genuine followers. 

While there is no single formula other than hard work and consistency in order to increase audience engagement, the recent social injustice eruptions have definitely moved digital artists on Instagram to a new era.

“Digital art allowed me to have easy access to my materials, be more creative with my work, and stay connected with current events,” said Mohuya Khan, a digital artist on Instagram with a following of more than 3,000 people.

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