You may have already noticed the series of video blogs Artworks by Simon Fell that have been appearing on the video channel on Instagram. It took me a long time to build up the courage to try putting myself on video but the first covid lockdown weighed the scales in favour of risking it.

In the event it was easier than I expected. It seems the informal style of talking unscripted to an iPhone lends itself to conveying a fairly intimate way of presenting yourself and your ideas. I say unscripted but while I am not reading a script, I did develop a kind of bullet point list to remind me to include a whole list of information about each work.

Just start talking

Until you start talking about something you don’t realise just how much background information you need to work through for the really interesting stuff to make any sense. For instance – what the artworks are made of, the processes leading up to a finished ceramic object and the way I work out how to make things. For me the most interesting bit is how the ideas come across and what issues the work evokes. It’s about motivation, inspiration and communication. But this aspect of the work is never entirely up to me as it involves what other people think as much as what I intend when I make something. I hope I may get questions and other feedback as the series develops – please feel free to get involved if the spirit moves you or there is anything you are curious about.

The unforgiving medium?

Some friends are helping to review my efforts and work out what works and what doesn’t so I hope the process will start to develop and improve as it goes along. I find the medium is pretty unforgiving in some ways, it shows all the pauses, ums, errs and passing mistakes that you don’t really notice when you are there and which you wish you could edit out. If you did edit all this ‘live action’ out of course the thing would be slick but flat, empty of life really, so it seems important in making videos to keep most of the errors and gaps as it keeps it real and down to earth.

Critical voices

It seems worth reflecting on why it has taken me so long to get to this point. I think I have a parental voice in my head that says things like: “Don’t show off”, and “Avoid the modern tendency towards narcissism” and I have to answer it by saying there are no prizes for modesty in the age of Social Media. Social Media is an American invention, it rewards outgoing, successful looking, young, active people – as you would expect, it was originally designed as a way of dating other young people. In many ways it’s almost completely unsuitable to introverts like me. If you want it to work for you, you have to accept it’s defining parameters which are essentially: show yourself. Using Social Media does not mean showing every single thing you do online or pretending to be someone else, it does mean making your work available and accentuating the positive.

Kittens, puppies and narcissists

As for the narcissism, this medium works when people have the sense that they know you, that they are familiar with your ideas and share some of your views so you have to be visible to some degree. I have tried making video of my work and it just is not as engaging as seeing someone talk about it. Other people are the thing we like watching most, even more than kittens and puppies! We live in an age when we are all encouraged to reveal everything online. Clearly this is neither possible nor healthy for most of us, our boundaries are one of the things that keep us safe and healthy. Having a clear sense of what you want to show and what you need to keep private is vital in this process, I assume young people now have to learn that very early on, I certainly hope they do.

The video learning curve

So I have had to deal with a lot of internal questions and inhibitions about taking this step. Having the focus of talking about the work is what grounds this series of videos on IGTV and what really propels the content. I think I have found a way of using the medium that does not involve pretending to be an extrovert or a jolly TV presenter. What I like about the medium of video are the bits that have real energy and clarity, when the ideas start flowing. I guess those bits only occur because of everything else that has gone before. This is definitely a learning curve, so watch this space, I expect it will get better as time goes on and I worry less about being a show-off.

Screenshot of the Instagram Profile grid for of Simon Fell Artworks channel on IGTV