How This Sellout Artist Uses Tech to Disrupt a Traditional Industry

Candace Little
on November 7, 2021

We sat down with mixed media artist Monique Storey to talk about her latest collection titled The Ground Below, and how she uses tech to expand her community and create new works using Augmented Reality.

Two years ago, after a false start as a print artist, Monique Storey launched her first abstract collection to her Instagram followers. Four minutes later, her collection sold out.

As a former Apple Distinguished teacher and app designer, leveraging technology was a big part of Monique’s business and marketing strategy. But launching her collection on Instagram was a gamble and when it paid off, she began experimenting with other ways she could engage her audience on the platform.

Tell me about your first launch, what challenges did you face selling your work via Instagram? 

It was an incredibly vulnerable experience. I had absolutely no indication of whether anything was going to sell. Doing a live online launch is very public, there’s no hiding if you fail and nothing sells. But I never intended for my work to sell out so quickly. I anticipated the launch day simply as a starting point and that I would need to market my work for the month following. Suddenly people were messaging me about sneaky pre-sales and organising baby sitters so that they could be available for when my collection went live at 10am.  By 10:04 it was basically all over. It was the most intense four minutes as I tried to navigate all the messages coming through. It totally blew me away and I knew I was onto something.

Was using technology and apps always part of your business plan? 

My intention was to approach galleries with my work. I hadn’t really considered any other avenue. I assumed that that was what it would look like to be a successful artist. When the world went into lockdown and galleries shut their doors it felt like an enormous mountain suddenly landed in between me and what I wanted to achieve for the year. I had a decision to make, I could either wait for the mountain to move or be proactive, and go around the mountain. 

That must have been a difficult period. For those that are facing their own uphill battle getting their work out there, how do you approach and overcome obstacles?

I think when obstacles come our way we need to harness our strengths and experiences and work around our limitations. My passion and experience has always lay in using technology in transformative ways so I think it was inevitable that I was going to end up harnessing that part of myself to pivot my business. Technology is an incredible tool to problem solve, connect and innovate.

Alongside your artwork, you’ve also designed and shared folder icon designs for people’s desktops through your Love To Look At email newsletter. What inspired you to create these, and give them away for free?

It amazes me how many people don’t realise that those blue folders are optional! The wallpapers and desktop icons serve two purposes in my business. I give them away for free as a way to serve those people on my email list and also to continue to grow my email list. Email marketing has been a massive driver to my success. It works in tandem with Instagram. Instead of looking at what I didn’t have (an email list) I focused on what I did have – which was design sense – and used that as a way to build my list and serve my audience. Very few people will sign up to an email list to receive a newsletter. It needs to be worth their while and the free wallpapers and icons are a part of this.

One of your pieces was recently exhibited at the Sydney Road Gallery in the Northern Beaches, Sydney. You were the only artist there that had an AR component to your work, can you tell us a bit about this?

I feel like I’m a broken record, but once again I stoped focusing on what I didn’t have (a fine arts degree!) and used what I did have to make my work unique. When I was teaching I used tools like Augmented Reality and animation to make learning irresistible to kids. Even though being a teacher at an Apple Distinguished School and being an artist seem completely unrelated, I believe no experience is wasted, it made sense for me to bring that skill over into my artwork. I love the idea of art as a visceral experience that engages all our senses. With Augmented reality, viewers can hold their phone up to a pieces of art and see it come alive. All of my work has a meaning and a story and the AR helps me get the narrative across in a way that surprises and delights.

Do you intend to continue creating AR pieces?

They are incredibly time consuming so not all my work has an AR element. The animations are done frame by frame using my iPad and Apple Pencil. I’m also mum to two tiny humans so life is very busy, but one day I’d love to have the time to do a complete exhibition where all the paintings have an AR component.

You are launching a new collection soon, what can you tell us about these new pieces? Any surprises?

I am! The collection is called The Ground Below. It’s inspired by my fascination with the world that exists below our feet.We spend our lives on such a small percentage of the earth, forgetting everything happening kilometres below, it’s a beautiful reminder not to be limited by what we can see. The work is soft, full of texture and a message of hope! It feels like perfect timing coming out of lockdown, to lead with a collection full of hope and encouragement. This week I will begin revealing paintings on my social channels and then they will go live for collection Saturday November 13th at 10am. Of course, subscribers get early access to the collection the night before. Gotta be looking after my email list!

And finally, it would be remiss of me not to ask, what are your top productivity apps?

Don’t get me started!

After my last launch I bought myself and iPad Pro with a magic keyboard and Apple Pencil. The multitasking features on this has been life changing. I love it. In terms of apps, I use Pro Create to do all my digital art and animations for the AR. I use Pixelmator for quick and easy editing. I’ve just started using Monday as a project managing tool and I love it! I post almost nothing in real time so having a social media manager is massive. I was using Buffer and I am currently giving Latr a go.  Mailchimp is my go to for all my email marketing. I use the Clips app to create a lot of reel style videos. Also, I cannot live without AnyList. It’s my grocery/meal planning app. My very clever husband has set up a Siri shortcut so I can ask Siri to add stuff to my grocery list from anywhere in the house or in the car.I feel very productive writing the shopping list while also painting the next collection!

If you want early access to Monique’s latest collection, sign up to her mailing list here.

Follow Monique on Instagram for updates on her collection and commissions.

For more from Women Love Tech on art and artistry, visit here.

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