Smile Politely

Five artists you should be following on Instagram

As we come closer to in-person encounters with artists and their work, now’s the time to expand your knowledge of local artists and what they do. To that end, here is a list of five artists you should be following on Instagram. 

Jodi Birdwell

Where you might know them from:  2017 ‘Artists around the block’ Annual Exhibition at Parkland College’s Giertz Gallery. 

Brief bio: MFA in Printmaking from the University of Illinois.  According to their website bio “Birdwell is a mulit-media artist who lives and works in Urbana, Illinois. Art installation, multi-media, Sculpture, Printmaking, Drawing and Painting are areas of her continued research. Jo exhibits nationally and internationally, and her Professorial work is in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional studies. She teaches at Lake Land College Fine and Applied Arts, in Illinois.”

What to expect on their feed: Birdwell’s IG is a masterclass in composition. Photos from local spots are framed new and suprising ways that challenge you to see the beauty of shape and form in everyday places and things. 

Overall vibe:  Bold. Geometric. Inspiring. 

Handle: jodibirdwell

Emmaline Loren

Where you might know them from: Misfit Market and loren made jewelry.

Brief bio: Self-described as “a photographer with too many hobbies,” she double majored in photography and graphic design.

What to expect on their feed: Gorgeous photos. Cool new handmade jewerly. Variety.  Fun and accessible process videos. Don’t miss the gouache and watercolor ones.

Overall vibe: Bursting with bright color, enthusiasm, and creative energy. 

Handle: emmaloren

Sarah Marjanovic






A post shared by Sarah (

Where you might know them from: Comrades in Arts, Parkland’s Gietz Gallery 

Brief bio: MFA from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Designer/Illustrator and Fine Artist. As her website bio states, “Marjanovic is devoted to conservation of our natural resources. Much of her inspiration is drawn from the experiences of working in land stewardship with her family.” She is currently “engaged in mixed media, producing evocative earthy abstractions through a unique process of drawing with thread, collaging, and allowing paint to flow unhindered upon paper.”

What to expect on their feed: Gorgeous textures and colors. Process shots. Lovely pics of inspiration from the natural world.

Overall vibe: Artist as ecowarrior. Multimedia made by nature. 


Guen Montgomery

Where you might know them from: Urbana-Champaign Crochet Coral Reef Satellite, the Show Me Your Junk Drawer project, and Illinois School of Art + Design faculty. 

Brief bio: MFA in Studio Art, Printmaking, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Award-winning instructor who has shown in solo and group exhibitions across the country since 2014. 

What to expect on their feed: Montgomery’s work “investigates identity through studies of gender, regional narrative, and family mythology. ” Her most recent work “looks at the queer life of things, the longing to acquire, and how objects perform identity. She works in “the intersections between printmaking, performance, and sculpture.”

Overall vibe: Smart. The personal as the political. The elevation of everyday objects as provocative social statements.   

Handle: guenstagram

Apolonia Wielgus

Where you might know them from: 8 to Create’s organizing committee and the Smile Politely arts section

Brief bio: Recent grad of Illinois School of Art + Design. Fine artist, graphic designer/ illustrator, and poet. 

What to expect on their feed: Following Wielgus at this point in time is both a look back at four years of work and growth, and a look a head at what’s next for this multidisciplinary talent. 

Overall vibe: Goth with a smile. 

Handle: apolonia_design_co

Top image from Sarah Marjanovic/Marjanovic Studio Instagram.

Arts Editor

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