Paul Catanese, Assistant Professor of New Media at San Francisco State University kindly sent me info about a panel on art blogging that he's chairing at the College Art Association Conference in Dallas in February 2008.

He brings up some interesting questions in the panel blurb:

An explosion of new blogs from artists, collectors, galleries, residency programs and museums are reshaping notions of professional practice within the arts. Though promotion is certainly a major driver in this arena, sites such as Art.Blogging.LA, Walker Blogs, Art Fever and PORT are especially good at projecting a local arts scene into a broader context. Other models investigate blog as sketchbook, establishing a new format for the open atelier. Does art blogging indicate the emergence of a dislocated, yet thoroughly local arts scene? Can blogs shift the space of studio practice while retaining its capability to be unstructured? Is the quest for site traffic inherently at odds with healthy periods of gestation and dormancy? What models exist for balancing these forces? What are the implications for establishing or maintaining an art practice for those who remain virtually present, yet physically distant?

This jumped out at me: Is the quest for site traffic inherently at odds with healthy periods of gestation and dormancy? This is a particularly interesting question to me right now since I'm currently not at my best health-wise and I'm trying to balance regular updating here with a need for large amounts of sleep and cold medicine (could make for some funky blogging this week!) It's great to see someone recognising that art practice does require these dormant periods where you're cooking up new work and aren't ready to talk about it yet and I can certainly see how that could make keeping a sketchbook type blog difficult. Indeed, I've noticed that it's not uncommon for artists who're doing a blog that's focused on their own work to go a bit quiet on occasion.

Anyway, if you're interested, Paul's currently looking for panel members and the deadline for abstracts is the November 9, 2007.


Sorry about the lack of posts over the weekend, we had visitors and I just didn't get a spare minute to update.

I'm a big fan of Tara Donovan's art. I love the way she uses vast accumulations of objects like polystyrene cups, pins, sheets of glass and drinking straws to make dense, layered sculptures. She stacks the objects but then lets them find their own pattern and form.

Tara Donovan - Haze
Tara Donovan: Haze, 2003

I find the way her work refracts colour very interesting, she often uses translucent materials that become subtly coloured when layered in such large quantities. It seems to me that there's something about the importance of revealing the hidden in her work.

Tara Donovan - Haze
Tara Donovan: Haze, detail, 2003

I must admit that I was envious when I saw her huge block of pins - although I just don't work on that sort of scale, I love that she does. The pins aren't held together with anything other than gravity and their own interlocking chaotic mass.

Tara Donovan - Untitled, 2001
Tara Donovan: Untitled, 2001

If you want to read more about her work, there's a good review here by Paul Brewer and an artnet interview with Donovan here.

Sorry about the odd formatting on a couple of the images in this post, I can't work out why it's doing that or how to fix it.


The Diary Project suffered its first real casualty recently when this envelope came back so mauled that the Royal Mail put it in a special 'oh dear, we're incredibly sorry' plastic bag. Amazingly, the contents are still inside.

Kirsty Hall - Diary Project envelope from Sept 10th, drawing on damaged envelope
Kirsty Hall: Diary Project envelope from the 10th September 2007

Kirsty Hall: plastic bag from the Royal Mail

I was totally thrilled, it's the most exciting thing that's happened so far!

The project blog is currently up to date until the 16th September and should be updated again over the weekend, although we have house guests this weekend so it might not happen until Monday. I've been a bit behind with it lately but I'm attempting to get back onto a regular schedule with updates. If I leave it too long it gets completely overwhelming.

I got an interesting email from someone a couple of weeks ago asking me why I post the letters to myself and not to another person. I won't post their original letter because they haven't responded to my request to do so but here's an extract from my reply:

Why do I post the letters? Well, I like the sense of risk involved - the envelopes might get lost in the post or damaged. I'm a bit of a control freak so posting the letters is an interesting way for me to let go a bit. My work has always involved a certain amount of 'letting nature take its course' - in the past I've often made sculptures that rot, decay or slowly change. I like to open myself up to chaos a little because it challenges me and the posting does that. Plus, I've always been interested in the idea of journeys and I love the fact that the envelopes take these little journeys without me.

I wanted to send the envelopes to myself rather than someone else because I wanted to have them all to exhibit at the end of the year. Also, there's just something very absurd about sending letters to yourself for a year and that aspect of the project makes me laugh. And on a completely mundane level, I absolutely love getting post and because of this project, I get a year's worth of letters, which just delights me. I get a little bit excited every time a letter comes home safely.

Oh, and I think that posting the letters also stops me cheating. It's a firm deadline - I absolutely have to get the letter in the postbox by midnight or I've failed for that day. It's good to have that sense of 'I must get this done'. I know that no one but me would know if I did the letter after midnight but somehow having to go out and post them keeps me honest about the project. I don't know why, but somehow it works as an external control.


Artist Annie Vought meticulously cuts paper to make her beautiful and witty wall pieces. Her recent work has concentrated on writing, while previous work explored the human body through cut up anatomy drawings.

Annie Vought - To Do
Annie Vought: To Do, 2006

As a compulsive list-maker, I just adore the absurdity of this piece - just think of the hours it must have taken to cut away the paper from something as transitory and throwaway as a to-do list. She's clearly a woman after my own heart!

The use of shadows in these works interests me and I see obvious parallels with my own thread drawings where the shadows also work to complete the image. Unsurprisingly, it also delights me that she uses pins to attach the delicate cut paper to the wall.

Annie Vought - Slightly
Annie Vought: Slightly, 2006

Kirsty Hall, art, thread drawing
Kirsty Hall: Thread drawing - work in progress


Vought is also involved in a radical form of curating in public spaces through her involvement with the Budget Gallery.

The Budget Gallery is not in a specific place. We don’t have a building, so we’re beyond low-rent. We don’t even pay rent. We set up our gallery in co-opted public spaces like vacant walls and fences. The shows are carefully co-ordinated, prepared, and publicized. The pieces are displayed much like a traditional gallery. We paint walls white, install art works and labels. We announce openings that are attended by hundreds. Refreshments are served and one can often hear jazz playing in the background. Of course, this is no traditional gallery - it’s all taking place on the sidewalk. In the end it’s a blend of all the greatest things about attending an art show, a garage sale, and a block party rolled into one.

Check out their project rules:

1. We use underutilized public spaces for our exhibitions.
2. If work doesn’t sell at the opening, it stays, in public, unguarded, for at least 1 week.
3. After the opening the unguarded work is sold on the honor system.
4. All art work in our shows will be sold, stolen*, or vandalized** and we can not pre-determine the outcome.
5. Our commission is arbitrary, optional, and determined by the artist.

*Having a work stolen is the highest honor of the Budget Gallery because it means someone wanted the work so badly they were willing to abandon personal and societal mores to acquire your piece of art. In our eyes, this may be considered a more valuable compliment to you than a simple monetary transaction.

**We suggest you consider vandalism a form a collaboration.

I find that a fascinating concept but also very challenging: it certainly brings up a lot of issues around letting go of control.

How would you feel about your work being shown in these circumstances? Could you deal with it? Would it upset you to have your work stolen from an unguarded public wall? Would it upset you more to have it vandalised?

I think I would have to make work especially for that space, with those aims in mind because if my regular art was stolen or vandalised I'd be upset. I actually had my degree show vandalised and even though I'd known beforehand that it was a possibility because of the extreme delicacy of the piece, I still had to go and cry in the toilets for a while!


I promised a round-up of the comments that other artists have left about their experiences with blogging and here it is, although much later than I'd planned...

Usiku from Writer's Whirlpool writes:

Blogging has allowed me to reach and meet people that possess a range and depth of human experience, yet it reminds me there is a sameness to us all.

What a lovely sentiment, Usiku. One of the things I love most about blogging is the way it can encourage people reach out and help each other - I've seen everything from people offering words of sympathy to people giving real life support such as organising online baby showers, paying medical bills for ill bloggers, supporting families through bereavement or other difficult times, raising funds for charities or coming together to sponsor art projects.

I get so fed up of all the negative portrayals of the internet because it just doesn't reflect my online experience. Blogging is frequently portrayed as a selfish and egotistical thing to do but I've often seen it used as a powerful and meaningful way to connect with other people.

Michelle from Pencil Portraits brings up a point I hadn't considered:

Another benefit to blogging (for me anyway) is that when I am focussed on updating my blog regularly I am more productive in my art, because I can't wait to post it. But I have noticed a definite correlation in lower productivity when I get slack about updating my blog, so even though it takes a bit of time to post, it is definitely worth it for so many reasons.

I love the idea of using a blog as a way of giving yourself motivation - great idea, Michelle!

Mark from Graf Nature Photography: Notes From The Woods writes:

I use my own blog for connecting with viewers of my own work, as well as exploration of my own feelings and analysis of why I do what I do. Turns out, a lot of readers often wonder the same about their own work. Sometimes it helps just to write things down to work out what you are thinking.

Oh, I couldn't agree more, Mark. I've always used writing, and indeed, making my art, as a way to work out what I'm really thinking and feeling. I've always written about my work a lot so writing on a blog wasn't that big a step for me. I think that so many artists work in isolation and having that link with viewers and other artists can be so helpful - just to get an extra set of eyes on the work, if nothing else. One of the reasons I like exhibiting is because of the dialogue and additional perspective that you can get on the work - I guess you can think of blogging as an informal sort of exhibiting process.

That leads us neatly onto Katherine from Making A Mark, who makes a similar point:

1) Blogging can also be thought of as the virtual equivalent of the 'private view'. Thinking of it like that helps people to pitch their remarks - one to one, helpful, informative - but also professional.

2) I like supporting galleries, exhibitions and other artists on my blog - and they come back and tell me they've sold work as a result. More co-operative support for one another would give a nice artistic twist to "the wisdom of crowds"

3) It should never be under-estimated how much slog blogging can feel like at the beginning - but it is habit-forming and it does get easier the more you do it and the more frequently you post. The growth in visitors is also exponential - my second tranche of 50,000 visitors arrived a lot more quickly than the first 50,000!

Woah Katherine - 50,000 visitors! I can't even imagine that yet but maybe I'll get there one day. I do agree that blogging is habit-forming although I think a lot of bloggers get dispirited at the initial 'writing in a vacuum' feeling. I think you've got to be writing for yourself as well as an audience - if you're getting some personal reward that isn't dependant on other people reading or commenting then it's a lot easier to continue. In that respect it's a lot like making art.

Tina from The Cycling Artist blog brings up the importance of regular blogging:

I've been blogging a while but only recently made a pact with myself to do it *every day*. Strangely enough it gets easier. I used to wonder what to blog about, what was interesting enough to write and direct my fans, collectors and other artists too that wasn't just a rambling self-journal. I didn't want it to be for artists only, so had to find a happy balance. Sometimes I get on a bit of a soapbox but hopefully not too often. :)

It's about 20 minutes each day typing up, copying into two blogs (I duplicate my tina-m.blogspot.com blog over to my MySpace account too). It's a nice start to the day actually. And I've just recently found out about RSS feeds and used feedburner.com to set them up - in case any other artists are as mystified about it as I was!

Tina, I'm interested in the fact that you duplicate your blog over at MySpace - do you find using MySpace works in terms of visitor numbers? I've been wondering about setting up an 'outpost' over in MySpace but I don't want to commit to something that's going to take lots of time.

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Deanna from Artist, Emerging writes about damage to a piece of her artwork that was returned to her by a gallery.

Deanna is obviously very careful about packaging her work - she makes up special foamcore boxes and wraps her work carefully in archival paper first to protect the delicate wax surfaces of her encaustic paintings. She was pretty unlucky to have a piece damaged.

I don't want to sound as though I'm making excuses for the gallery - they should definitely have been more careful - but I do have some advice on avoiding this situation. Having packaged up loads of works as a curator, I'd strongly recommend that artists include a sheet of packing directions, especially if there are any special requirements for repacking the work. Don't leave things to chance; spell it out in black and white. Wrapping up works to send back is a pig of a job: it's boring and tedious and when you're packaging up 20 or 30 pieces at the end of a show it's often difficult to remember how it looked when it arrived. You also can't guarantee that the people who unwrapped the work will be the ones repackaging it - at the Here Gallery we rely on volunteers and sometimes the people wrapping the work don't have any art experience at all. What seems like common sense to an artist might not be so obvious to someone who isn't an artist. Written directions make life a lot simpler for everyone, plus if the gallery doesn't follow the instructions then you have more ammunition to complain to them.

Unfortunately not all artists are as meticulous as Deanna: I've unpacked work that I was amazed survived the trip through the postal system - work sandwiched between two ill fitting bits of cardboard, work that wasn't well wrapped, even work that wasn't protectively wrapped at all.

Work being sent anywhere should be properly wrapped in bubble wrap (and any other protective packaging that the work needs) before being placed in a strong, well-fitting box.

Please buy or make the correct size of box: don't hack together several bits of cardboard. I know it's good from an environmental point of view but bits of cardboard taped together are a nightmare to get into, even worse to reuse and they tend not to provide enough support to the work, especially around the edges. It's OK to cut down a box that's too large though.

With bubble wrap, you should use larger pieces rather than taping together smaller pieces - the later are horrible to reuse. If you've only just had enough bubble wrap to wrap your work, then the curator probably won't have enough to securely re-wrap it because bubble wrap invariably gets damaged where it's been taped. I know that money is an issue for all artists but please don't skimp on protecting your precious work.

If you're packing more than one piece in a single box, you'll need plenty of packaging between them and you'll also need to consider weight issues. For example, if you're packing a lot of framed pieces then they're usually better stacked upright rather than in a pile with one unfortunate piece on the bottom. Reinforcing the base of the box with extra cardboard can be a good idea when sending heavier work, although if the work is very heavy then you'll need to use wooden packing crates.

Your box should also include: instructions on how to repack the box, a return address label (including postage if required), written instructions on how to install the piece (especially important for sculptural works) and any fittings needed to install the work. Obviously, you should make sure the box is properly taped shut but using too much tape on the box can actually increase the risk of damage because the person will have to use more force if it's very difficult to open. Now mark your box to show which way is up. Boxes should also be marked 'fragile, handle with care' although frankly I'm not sure if that makes any difference to the way the post office treats them!

If I get all that, I'm in heaven.

Professionally packed work containing clear instructions and fittings lets the curator know that you respect and value your own work, so they should too. In addition, by making things easy for them, you also demonstrate that you're courteous enough to care about their time. Knowing that I'm following the artist's wishes and don't have to sit around worrying about how a piece should be hung takes a lot of stress out of the process for me. Then all I have to decide is where it should be hung. Believe me, I much prefer that!

I liked this post by ceramicist Shannon Garson on her blog, Strange Fragments.

This is a lesson I learn time and time again, if I have misgivings about a project it is not superstition, it is because I am experienced. Those misgivings are all my years of experience telling me "This project is not right. Stay Away!"

Isn't that great! I absolutely love that line about it being experience not superstition. It's so true, yet unfortunately it's a lesson that I also seem to have trouble learning and I bet I'm not the only one. Why do we second guess ourselves in this way? Is it lack of confidence in our abilities or blind optimism that hey, things will turn out just fine if we ignore that little niggling voice?

Shannon goes on to say:

I think it's important for artists who speak about their practice to tell emerging artists and their peers about their frustrations as well as successes.

I totally agree and it's one of the reasons that I'm very open on this blog about the times when I mess up. I hope that people can learn from my mistakes. I also hope that if I publicly confess them then maybe I might learn from them!

I am slowly learning though. For example, I've learnt to ask myself "is this a gesso moment?" in the run up to an exhibition: this is my personal code for 'am I about to stress myself out by attempting something monumentally stupid right before a deadline?" This comes from an experience I had last year when I tried to learn proper old fashioned gesso (the sort you make with plaster and rabbit skin glue) a month before my solo show with the crazy idea that I would make a series of brand new drawings on gessoed boards - a medium, let me repeat, that I had never used before. I'm sure you can imagine how well that went... I still have a bunch of gessoed boards sitting in my studio, waiting to be sanded and then drawn on. Goodness only knows what I was thinking but it's quite a frequent trap for me - my optimism always seems to outweigh my sanity in these situations and I get carried away with a 'good idea'. The trouble is that it often really is a good idea - if I'd had it six months earlier!

I was delighted to discover the lovely Rag And Bone blog today. I've just spent several happy hours reading their entire archives. If you're interested in paper as an art medium, journalling, book artists or bookbinding, then you definitely need to check them out.

They're also a great example of a small craft business (they make delicious handmade journals and albums) using blogging to increase awareness of their business but without being constantly 'in your face' about it. Sure, they mention their own work now and again but mostly they link to other people and their passion and enthusiasm for paper and book arts really shines through in their generous and knowledgeable promotion of other artists in their field.


Since I seem to have been on an 'art made from books' theme this week, I thought I'd share one of the few pieces that I've made using books.

Burn was a small sculpture I did for an exhibition in a church in Gloucester in May 2004.

Kirsty Hall, art, sculpture, bible burning, Burn
Kirsty Hall: Burn, May 2004

It's a glass bottle engraved with the word 'burn' and it contains handmade ink that I made from the burnt and ground up ashes of a Bible. Although it sounds rather blasphemous the piece was actually about William Tyndale, who translated the Bible from Latin to English and was strangled and then burnt by the Catholic Church for his efforts.

Kirsty Hall, art, sculpture, bible burning, Burn
Kirsty Hall: Burn, May 2004

I was trying to convey the idea that although you can burn both books and people, once an idea has been expressed you can rarely eradicate it completely - even if you burn the books the words will be rewritten and if you burn the people who wrote the words, others will pick up the pen. So to me, it's a very hopeful and positive piece and I liked it a lot. However, it was tiny and was completely dwarfed by the space. One day I'll do something with it and the lovely series of photos that I took of the burning Bible and the ashes. Ironically enough, I quite fancy making a book...

Kirsty Hall - Burning, art, sculpture, photograph of burning bible
Kirsty Hall: Burnt Bible, May 2004

As a dedicated bookworm, I had a bit of moral trouble with the book burning part but it was so integral to the piece that I couldn't not do it and I have to confess that once I got going, I took a wicked glee in the process. I was also worried that Christians might be offended that I'd burnt their holy book, but I've yet to get any complaints.

The following is the text I wrote for the exhibition brochure:

Glass, ink made from the ashes of a bible

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings."
Heinrich Heine

"The paper burns, but the words fly away."
Ben Joseph Akiba

The Catholic Church burnt not only Tyndale’s Bible, but also more than 1,000 people found with the forbidden text. This work is a memorial to everyone who has been killed for reading the wrong books.


Erin from the Sculptress blog asked:

Would you clarify something for me? How do I know for sure I am hosting an image, do you mean save the image as a file on my computer and then repost it from the computer file?

Good question, Erin - it was something that confused me a bit at first and my web designer had to walk me through it several times until I got it.

...do you mean save the image as a file on my computer and then repost it from the computer file?

Yes, that's exactly what you do, Erin - from the way you've phrased the question it sounds like you may know how to do that already but I'll run through the exact steps just in case other people are a bit unsure about it.

What I do is this:
1) Find an image I'd like to use
2) Drag and drop the image to my desktop
I do this by left-clicking on the image, holding down the mouse button and dragging the image until it's off the browser and onto my desktop. You can also do it by hitting the right mouse button and clicking on 'copy image' but I think dragging and dropping is quicker. Make sure that you're dragging a reasonably sized image and not a thumbnail.

The image file is now on my computer. If it's too large and I need to make it smaller I can edit the size in Photoshop but I usually don't need to do this.

Next I need to get it onto my web server:

In WordPress there's an upload section just beneath the text box where you write posts. Hit the 'browse' button, locate the image on your desktop and click on it to select it, write the artist's name and the title of the work where it says 'title' (this is optional but I always do it), then hit upload. After a few moments a thumbnail of the image will appear in the 'Browse All' page - the file is now loaded onto your server. You can put the image in a post by selecting 'show fullsize', followed by 'link to file' and then hitting 'send to editor'. You'll see that a bunch of html appears in your post, this is the image file, it'll become an image when you publish the post.

If you're using Blogger you do the following: Go into dashboard and select new post. Now hit the little image button on your blogger toolbar - this is the 6th button along or the second from last. This will bring up an image page. You'll see that it says 'add an image from your computer' on the left, hit the browse button next to it and select the image from your desktop by clicking on it. Now choose the size and layout you want and then hit the 'upload image' button at the bottom of the page. Your image or the image html should now appear in your blogger editing software. This article from Blogger give more details on uploading images, including where the images are stored and how you can check how much room you've got.

The only thing left to do is to add the artists name and the title of the work - oh, and write the rest of the post, of course!

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If you'd like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.

I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.