Many artists regularly visit the websites of museums, galleries, art magazines, and art-material manufacturers to get information and instruction on their craft, but not everyone is aware of the increasingly popular blogs in the art world.
by Daniel Grant
Many artists regularly visit the websites of museums, galleries, art magazines, and art-material manufacturers to get information and instruction on their craft, but not everyone is aware of the increasingly popular blogs in the art world. For those new to this realm of online communication, a blog (short for web log) is an online diary of sorts, usually containing the creator’s thoughts and opinions, with new comments added as often as the writer chooses—sometimes more than once a day. Responses from readers are solicited, creating a dialogue or, depending on the number of responses, a round table. In the face of more static websites, which are updated every few weeks or every month, blogs have become the most timely and interactive area of the online world.
|"Planet Earth" by Elizabeth Torak,
40" x 48", oil on linen.
The readers of a particular blog are often like-minded individuals looking to discuss subjects of common interest. However, in the case of an artist’s blog, there may be many others—such as critics, collectors, and curators—who are more interested in learning about the artist’s process and viewing his or her work than participating in conversation, which can be such a key part of promoting your art business. In fact, many artists advise potential collectors to visit their blogs before making a purchasing decision. “I used to hold open studios and do art fairs, where I would constantly interact with collectors, but now I leave the paintings at the gallery and rarely meet the people buying my work,” admits San Francisco artist Anna L. Conti. “I started the blog so people could learn more about my work and my day-to-day life as an artist.” Included in Conti’s blog is everything from details of a painting she is putting on display in an upcoming exhibition, to the type of frame used for a particular work, to an installation view of a future show.
Another painter, Elizabeth Torak of Pawlet, Vermont, also directs her blog toward collectors “who are already familiar with my work and want to find out more about me.” She notes that people often tell her they wish they could watch her go through the process of creating a painting, so she designed her blog to show the step-by-step process of completing a new work, from preliminary drawings, to outlining the shapes on a canvas, to the finishing touches. In one instance, a couple that had previously purchased several paintings by Torak was interested in acquiring another but didn’t see anything they wanted at her gallery. The gallery director directed them to her blog, where, over the course of six weeks, they viewed the progress of a new painting and eventually purchased it. Six months later, Torak met these collectors at the opening of her show, “and they told me how much fun they had following the progress of the painting on the blog,” she says. “I had been completely unaware they were doing so and was pleasantly surprised.”
Unlike many other web bloggers, Torak sometimes allows months to go by between postings, largely because she is busy painting. She admits that blogging offers both benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, explaining her creative process on her site helps “clarify my ideas,” she explains. “Every time I write about my work, I’m amazed at how thoughts come together, and that’s a very satisfying experience.” The negative side is feeling “a pressure to continually post messages,” she says. “There are only so many hours a day I can sit in front of a computer.” Because blogging is an interactive endeavor, communication with people who expect to see a new message every day requires artists to stay on top of their sites.
Putting up new messages on a regular basis is important for another reason as well: The algorithm that the search engine Google uses to rank sites in importance is partly based on the frequency of new postings. Artists who allow long periods of time to lapse between new messages may become more difficult to find in a standard internet search. Certainly, that isn’t the only way sites are ranked; messages that contain and repeatedly use words that commonly appear on a site (such as “California coastline” or “plein air”), as well as the number of links to and from the blog, will make a site easier to find. For this reason, a website with a focused topic is always advantageous. Says Lorelle VanFossen, a search engine optimization consultant in Gaston, Oregon, who periodically teaches classes for artists on how to use the web for personal and professional advancement, “The more focused your content, the more seriously readers will take you.”