Jacob Johnson, of Gray, started My Art Is Real as an Instagram account around five years ago. He started sharing different artwork that he liked and some of his own.
But he didn’t start taking it seriously until about two years ago, and the 2,000 follower account has now grown to more than 176,000 followers.
“I just wanted a way to share art, and I was sharing art I was into, and the next thing you know I started getting some followers and a lot of likes,” he said.
Johnson, 20, said the name of the Instagram account came after a more established artist stole some of his work and told people that Johnson’s art was a fake copy of his own. Johnson then came up with the name “My Art Is Real.”
He said as a kid he didn’t really like art because it seemed pretentious, but he watched the documentary “Exit Through The Gift Shop” and realized that art was more than a painting on a wall.
“It got me into street art and showed me that art isn’t just art that’s hanging in museums. Art is a lot more than that, and it has more meaning than just some portrait,” Johnson said.
He said the account plateaued at around 2,000 followers when he was in high school. He decided to reach out to other artists with pages that had a large following to ask for advice, and one artist responded to him.
Johnson said he followed the artist’s advice, and once he reached 10,000 followers, he kept receiving around 1,000 new followers a week.
He also reached out to artist John Paul Fauves, of Costa Rica, about doing a blog piece about him on My Art Is Real Magazine. Fauves invited him to his gallery opening in New York City, and that is where he learned about curating art shows.
Marcus “Revolue” Coelho, an artist based out of São Paulo, Brazil, said he and Johnson found each other on Instagram. Coelho said one aspect of Johnson that he likes is his passion for curation.
“He works so professionally,” Coelho said. “It’s not easy to find someone who really cares about curation.”
The two have worked together since Johnson got Coelho’s artwork in a gallery with Fauves in New York, and Johnson sells some of Coelho’s artwork exclusively on My Art Is Real.
“He has so many ideas that sometimes it’s difficult to say to him, ‘You know, like, get focused on this one,’” he said, with a laugh. “On the other hand, I see it as a talent.”
Although Johnson said he still does artwork himself, he is not ready to release it to the public.
“I’d rather keep it private and make it and show it to my art friends, but not release it until I feel satisfied with it I guess,” Johnson said.
He is releasing a My Art Is Real podcast on Nov. 11, during which he will talk to artists about the art world, how they got started in art and the business side of being an artist.
“For me, I think that art is one of the only, and if not the most important, ways that we can change culture,” he said. “It’s one of the only things that lasts throughout time, and it seems to be always preserved, and it always has an impact.”