The next section of my Artists Online Series will look at blogging.
Blogging can be a very useful promotional tool for artists. It's not a substitute for having a good online portfolio or for doing lots of offline work on your career but it can be a useful addition. Not convinced? Here are my reasons:
Blogging Raises Your Google Profile
Since Google prefers fresh content, regular blogging tends to push your Google results higher. Other people linking to your blog posts also increases your Google profile. Make sure you're blogging under your professional name to get the full benefit of this.
It's not just Google that likes new information: people are also far more likely to come and visit your website if you've got constantly changing content. How often is someone likely to blog about your really cool art? Once or twice tops. However, if you're regularly writing good blog posts then you don't just get repeat visits, you may also get repeatedly linked, which means... yes, better Google results! Rinse and repeat...
Blogging Reminds People You Exist
Promotion isn't something that you do once and then it's done forever: it's more like exercising - you need to do it little and often!
Blogging helps with that; if people are constantly coming back to read your blog, then they're naturally more aware of you. You don't even need to constantly talk about your own art; just by visiting regularly they're getting a gentle little nudge that you and your work exist.
Blogging Improves Your Website Numbers
Being able to say to a gallery or a funding body, "well, last month I had X number of visitors to my website" puts you in a better negotiating position because it proves that your work is already popular.
Of course, online popularity won't substitute for offline experience like exhibitions, publications and residencies but it can add to it. Last year I was told by someone in the know that if you're filling out a funding form and it asks about prospective audience audience numbers, you should definitely include your web hits. This had never even occurred to me but apparently Arts Council England counts online viewers as bums on seats!
Blogging Connects You With People
This is one of the most important reasons to blog: I've met some completely amazing people through blogging and some of them have turned into offline friends.
Blogging can help you find a group of people who support your art. This can include other artists, gallery owners and curators but equally importantly it can include lots of non-artists who are willing to be advocates for your work.
Cultivating a group of people who like your work is vital for any artist. Supporters will turn up at your shows, cheer you on, blog about you, tell their friends and even sometimes buy your work. Supporters are great!
Of course, you should also be cultivating a group of supporters offline through using things like mailing lists, but finding sympathetic people who genuinely want you to succeed can often be easier online.
Blogging Gets You Out Of The Garret
Many artists work in isolation and blogging can help reduce that all pervading sense of invisibility. My own studio is in my home: this is definitely the best option for my art practice but it does mean that I don't always get as many opportunities to connect with other artists as I'd like. When I graduated, I did feel very isolated, lonely and out on a limb. I lessened that by starting a artists' group with my college friends but it was a lot of work - I was the chairperson, general organiser and one of the main curators for our group shows. Now I get that all important sense of connection through blogging and online social networking spaces with a lot less effort. For real world connections, I have the Spike Island Associates Programme, local private views and my part time jewellery course.
Even if you are in a studio, there aren't always as many opportunities to connect deeply with the other artists as you might expect - they're busy, you're busy and you might not have that much in common anyway. But online you're not limited to your geographical surroundings - with a little effort, you can find a peer group with whom you truly click on an artistic and intellectual level.
Blogging Breaks Down Barriers
Sure, there's a hierarchy in the blogging world but there's also a surprisingly level playing field. You can leave comments in the blogs of 'far more important' bloggers and they'll generally reply to you on an equal basis. I've spoken in blog comments to published authors and more established artists in a way that I would never have dared to do in other mediums. Blogging opens the channels of communication in a way that feels comfortable to me: I feel much more equal online, I'm less intimidated by what someone's done and just respond to what they write and how they come across. Blogging makes me braver and that has translated into my offline promotion efforts.
In the same way, blogging can make you seem more approachable and human to people who are interested in your art. Why not do the next generation of artists a big favour and help to break down the myth that artists are all crazy, ear chopping introverts or outrageously drunken drama queens! Of course, if you do happen have that kind of personality then you might as well play to the gallery because I've been told several times that collectors just love that sort of thing...
You Can Reach A Wider Audience
People who might not be comfortable visiting a gallery are often happy to look at your work online, especially if you initially engage them with a blog post that's relevant to them. Through blogging you can often reach people who wouldn't otherwise consider looking at your art and those people can sometimes end up being incredibly supportive.
Through blogging, you can also reach a global audience who might not otherwise be able to see your work. To date, The Diary Project has had visitors from 39 countries, including places like Guam, Brunei and Malaysia, while this site has had visits from 29 countries.
I'm not saying this to boast - just the opposite, in fact. My point is that I'm not important yet. I'm very much an emerging artist rather than a well-known one: I'm only five years out of college and although I've had a steady stream of group shows, I've only had one solo show. I'm certainly getting established, through lots of hard work both on and offline but I've not exhibited my work abroad yet and I'm probably still be a couple of years away from doing so. [Although, do feel free to offer me an international show - I'm totally OK with moving it up my agenda!]
So it's quite incredible that people from all over the world have already had the opportunity to see what I do. This would never have happened without the internet - it simply isn't possible from my current position in the offline art world.
Blogging Empowers you
By being active online you take a little bit of the power away from the artistic 'gatekeepers' and put it back in your own hands. You're not just sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting to be discovered - you're out there building an audience and creating your own opportunities.
Of course, the gatekeepers aren't ever going to be redundant - artists still need gallery owners, exhibitions, audiences, collectors and funders in the offline world. I'm not trying to denigrate the artworld or its gatekeepers but particularly in the early days it can feel as though you're banging your head against a brick wall and getting nowhere. I'm not complaining about that either; there's absolutely no substitute for paying your dues and we all have to knuckle down and do it. However, a little bit of encouragement online can keep you going when it feels as though no one else knows you exist. You're still going to have to engage with the artworld offline but blogging can help to increase your confidence to deal with those interactions.
Blogging can also build confidence to take bigger and bolder steps online. I was blogging over on Livejournal for 3 1/2 years before I got my website up. Setting up a website felt huge and intimidating and quite beyond me at the time, whereas setting up a blog was quick and easy. Blogging was undoubtedly a helpful first step towards finally getting my website sorted.
Blogging Strengthens Your Voice
When you're blogging about your own work, you have to think about your work. You have to put into words what you're trying to do and that's damn good experience when you need to write artists' statements and press releases. A lot of artists hate writing about their own work and find it excruciating - blogging can help you get over that.
Blogging Can Generate New Opportunities
I know people who've been published or been offered exhibitions because of their blogging. It hasn't directly happened to me yet but I have approached people I know in the online world and scored opportunities that way.
Blogging Is Cheap
Blogging costs virtually nothing compared to other forms of promotion like postcards, poster and ads but it can be very effective. Writing a good blog post won't cost you anything except time, energy and a few pence for internet access and the electricity to run your computer but it can get distributed all around the world. Not only that but when people link to you, the information is usually replicated on their blogs plus they also usually link back to you. It's like you sent out a single postcard and someone photocopied it and gave it to all their friends. As we all know, word of mouth can be a powerful thing. Who knows how connected some of those people might be? Who knows how large the audience on their blog is?
Blogging is Fun!
OK, obviously I'm biased on this one but I think blogging is a blast. It's an effective promotional tool for me but it never feels like work because I enjoy it. Believe me, that's a world of difference to how I feel about writing press releases or designing posters!
A variety of views from other artists discussing whether blogging works:
The Painter's Keys
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