Linnéa Andersson started a degree in design in 2018. ‘After that, everything sped up,’ she says, with a series of shows and a fast-growing online following (83,000 Instagram followers and counting).
But a growing audience isn't always good news – with it comes increased criticism, even from people who don't follow her. ‘I find it quite dehumanizing,’ Linnéa explains. ‘It's like as soon as [you] have more than, say, 50,000 followers, people forget that [you're] a human being.’
Don't feed the trolls
The criticism comes in many forms: bullies, bored teenagers, trolls looking to get a rise. Linnéa says that she can't handle the abuse but she doesn't want to come off social media entirely. For now, she's blocked people she doesn't know from commenting on her posts. She doesn't know if this is the right long-term solution, but it's working for now.
‘It's very complex because I've built my whole career around Instagram. I find so many customers that way. I love social media,’ she says. Growing up in the Swedish city of Gothenburg in the eighties, early domestic social media platforms were a formative part of her childhood. She grew up on sites such as LunarStorm and Bilddagboken – virtual communities where she would chat with friends and share photographs. But she doesn't think current social media sites like Instagram provide much of a social function anymore. ‘It's just a one-way chat nowadays,’ she says.
Although she sometimes finds criticism useful, in many ways, it's just a distraction. She finds that people will almost always critique her work unprompted. Gendered assumptions certainly don't help. ‘They ask: why are you painting leaves and not flowers? Where are the butterflies? You're a female – you should use more colors and not that blue.’
But, to live as an artist, she says, you need to think commercially. Publicly showing your work is important. Last year, Linnéa had her first major solo show. ‘Being an artist, illustrator or designer is so hard. I don't come from a very creative family; for me, just to become an artist has been quite hard,’ she says.
Saying ‘no’ to projects is always difficult, because she worries another opportunity might not come up. ‘But now I'm trying to say “yes” only to projects that sound fun.’