The square gallery: Meet three Vegas artists using Instagram as an online Arts District


Montana Black didn’t understand Instagram at first. “[Creative business coach] RaShelle Roberts recommended it to me,” she says. “She suggested that I start posting my work there, saying what a great platform it is for artists to post their work. And she said that collectors and curators are actually looking for new artists on Instagram.”


So Black began posting her art to her Instagram feed. Black isn’t exactly a new Vegas artist; she has done dozens of local gallery shows since 1990. But she approached her Instagram feed

(@montanatblack) with the earnest enthusiasm of a new artist, posting a steady flood of her playful, exquisitely rendered pencil-and-gouache studies of animals, origami cranes and assorted Americana.

Before long, a new fan commissioned her to do a pet portrait, so that part of the experiment paid off. But more significantly, Black began to enjoy browsing Instagram herself, using it to find “artists to be inspired by,” she says. “And I’ve found several.”


She’s not alone. Amongst the YOLO selfies, food photos and vacation shots, artists are beginning to find an Instagram foothold. It’s not an ideal platform for displaying art—crucial details are lost at phone size, and the service flatly rejects vertical works—but it is an easy gallery to browse, one that never closes. And it has inspired artists like Sean C. Jones, an illustrator who teaches middle school by day, to create much more work to meet demand. In fact, Jones is posting a new drawing to his Instagram feed (@seancjonesart) every single day.

“At first, I was determined to do a drawing a day just for a year … and once I hit the year mark, I’d take a couple days off,” he jokes. Jones’ work varies from hyper-detailed pencil drawings to broad-lined, colorful 1950s comic book style illustrations, and he covers a wonderfully eccentric range of topics—everything from horror movies to local landmarks to Disneyland.

The funny thing is, in a way, he’s doing it for the kids. “I started this because, for 20 years I’ve had my students make a daily drawing in class,” he says. “Monday through Friday, when they come in, I have the daily drawing written on the board—something like “Pizza Queen” or “The Magical World of Mr. Banana.” And while I’m taking roll and reading emails, they’re working on their daily drawing. … It’s the physical act of it. I don’t know why we consider drawing to be such a huge mental process. It’s more like a dancer stretching out before they do a show.”


Drawing every day—and posting those drawings to Instagram—keeps Jones’ creative mind limber, while he waits for his turn on Vegas’ increasingly crowded gallery walls. (“I just gave up when Blackbird closed. And trying to get into the other galleries … there’s either a very long wait, or they want to charge you for the walls.”) But for Jska Priebe (@jskapriebe), Instagram is something else: a container that catches the overspill of her enthusiasm. Whenever something gets Jska fired up—whether it’s text treatments or Twin Peaks: The Return—she makes it into art and posts it.

“I’m really inspired by realism, but it takes a long time,” she says. “When I’m inspired I knock out an illustration, because it doesn’t take months to paint.”

Priebe’s quick works look anything but. Her Twin Peaks series blends the show’s bizarre dialogue (“My log has a message for you”) into portraits of the characters who spoke it. Figuratively speaking, they’re wearing their hearts on their sleeves. And it’s something we might not have seen while the show was still airing, had Priebe waited to put these on a gallery wall. In fact, she used to run a gallery—the now-defunct Spectral, at Downtown Spaces—but she’s enjoying the freedom that Instagram affords.

“Conveniently, people are into looking at art on their phones,” she says, laughing.

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