For most artists, reaching international fame for their work is an accomplishment that can take years, even a lifetime. For Gold Coast artist Chanelle Rose, it became a reality overnight.
At first, success was steady for Chanelle. Last year she was a finalist in both the Marie Ellis OAM Prize for Drawing and the City of Hobart Art Prize. But as fate would have it, a single Instagram comment was the catalyst in transforming her from a local talent to exclusive international artist.
After a stress-filled day, Chanelle came to her mother’s house exhausted and desperately in need of some rest and relaxation. Before going to sleep, she was scrolling through Instagram’s ‘suggested photos’ section and commented a single OK Hand emoji (pictured above) on a random photo of artwork that caught her attention.
The next morning, Chanelle woke up to a bombardment of notifications on her phone.
“500+ new followers, private messages, everything,” she explained.
“At first, I thought… “Had someone just bought a whole tonne of followers for me as a joke?’ I didn’t get what had happened.”
As it turns out, whilst Chanelle slept through the night, her comment was picked up by a man that operates under the handle SwizzBeats. For those who don’t know, SwizzBeats is a prominent figure in the American music scene. He has worked with artists such as Beyoncé, Jay Z and Alicia Keys (who also happens to be his wife).
Swizz (as Chanelle now refers to him) saw the comment that night, checked out her artwork and was inspired to reach out to her.
“Chanelle Rose, your work is epic. I see you, keep up the good work” Swizz commented on one of her photos.
He shared a photo of her art on his personal Instagram page, directly exhibiting and creating a channel to Chanelle’s work with the 1.3 million people following his profile.
“I was really overwhelmed because my inbox was flooded and I still had to work over the weekend,” she said, joyfully reliving the experience.
“I was at work having to serve customers, meanwhile, my phone’s still going off and I’m standing there in a daydream”.
Chanelle’s humble start to her instant coming to prominence is a phenomenon that has only recently been possible, and it’s due to a continuing global convergence of social media.
Senior Curator of the Gold Coast Art Gallery, Virginia Rigney, expanded on this by saying that because of the internet, artists here on the Gold Coast are able to make a career for themselves like never before.
“If [artists] had tried to stay and make a career here prior to the internet, it would have been very difficult. If not impossible,” she said.
For artists, the Gold Coast can present itself as a place of inspiration and influence. But there is little market for contemporary art and often artists are better off displaying their work in capitals like Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney. However, with the rise of social media and the internet, the game changes entirely.
“This [is a phenomenon that] has really only happened in the last two years, with the explosion of Instagram… [For some artists] now all you need is an Instagram and an email contact,”continued Ms Rigney.
For Chanelle now, “It’s all American”. The majority of her drawings have been bought online in the US, with SwizzBeats and another famous rapper (whose name was not disclosed) purchasing her work for their own personal collections.
Rewinding back to her childhood, Chanelle inherited her artistic skills from her mother and grandmother, who were talented artists themselves and helped to hone her abilities from a young age. She also spoke whole-heartedly about her mother as an influence in her life and also her art, inspiring the Warrior Women drawings she is currently working on; that reflect the strength the two have shared through life.
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of cool contemporary stuff from a very little age. So I feel that’s my style, a bit more edgy and cool because of my mum’s influence,” she said.
What is more, all of Chanelle’s drawings are done entirely with ballpoint pens. This form of art became her niche during her years as a university student.
“When I was a Uni student doing my art, I’d get paint everywhere and my mum wasn’t too impressed,” she said candidly.
“One day, I was sick of getting in trouble and I was playing around with a ballpoint pen, when I thought, ‘oh I can actually shade with this and I can do my work anywhere’… from there it became my main thing.”
“Normally I go through 40 or 60 Pens [in a single drawing]… I’m really into trying to show the different textures that can be created with ink”.
Chanelle’s short career as an artist has not only been rapid but also experienced and showcased in a range of vastly different creative environments. Starting with the underground feel of Jugglers Art Space in Brisbane showcasing her work to friends; to a more prestigious event, exhibited in a room of critics at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery; to now being viewed on a global scale through social media and with some help from SwizzBeats.
Along with social media’s benefits, issues of plagiarism can arise for unknown artists and it’s an issue Chanelle found herself contemplating when she initially decided to post her work on Instagram.
“It was a big deal for me because I was scared of people copying my work and concepts before I can make a name for myself,” she said.
This is only the start of Chanelle’s career, although it may prove to be a blueprint of how the modern day artist finds success. Through utilising a global connection that social media can offer, whilst still finding recognition through traditional means such as art galleries or art competitions.
That being said, her story seems like something straight out of a fantasy and it’s a wonder how a simple emoticon could turn into worldwide exposure for Chanelle Rose.