Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Art of Blogging
Opinion Piece on Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

A “blog” is a shortening of the phrase “web log”, which basically consists of a series of entries called posts - the latter appearing in a reverse chronological order (i.e. the most recent posts appear first etc.)

Charlton Heston, as Moses, came down from Mt. Sinai with “The 10 Commandments” - claimed by many bloggers as the first blog post.

There are many companies that host blogs, with companies such as Google (after acquiring “Blogger”) having the - Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Another company, Word Press also host blogs. Both companies try to make it easy for beginners by providing a - “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) text composer for people who do not understand text mark-up languages such as HTML (Hypertext Mark-Up Language) etc. Be warned - no matter how good the WYSIWYG text composers are, without a little knowledge of HTML or without a friend who possesses such knowledge, you will find that on occasions these text composers have a mindset of their own! Frustration will set in and you can spend hours trying to understand why the formatting of your text or images is just not working.

Google Blogger logo.

My Blog Spot
My blog spot began in August of 2010 (Art Quill Studio) and so far has attracted over ~220,000 visitors, even though I have only 115 “Followers” (at the time of writing this post). To be a “Follower” you need to belong to the “Blogger” family, which many visitors will refuse to do. Moreover, it is now easier just to bookmark a blog spot that you like and visit it occasionally, leisurely viewing those posts that take your fancy. Additionally, my blog spot - Art Quill Studio - is a Company blog spot as it is a division of Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd. Hence there are additional constraints: the company cannot follow other companies or individuals since the posts these sites may publish could compromise the integrity of the company itself. For example, comments that may appear on "followed" blogs may compromise the goodwill of the public towards Art Quill & Co. After all, public goodwill is a major asset of any company. This will necessarily restrict the number of "Followers" of Art Quill Studio, because of the unwritten rule in the blogosphere: "If I follow you, it is polite for you to follow me". Nevertheless, within these constraints, I have full editorial control of all the content that appears on the Art Quill Studio blog spot.

My black and white quill design is the logo for Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd.

General Observations
There are lots of sites on the internet informing you how to write great blog posts and how to attract an audience to your blog site. I find all this advice interesting, and in some cases confusing and irrelevant. My advice is to view your blogging as art therapy! You have ideas you want to express, examples of your work you want to display (i.e. now that you possess your own 24x7 art gallery) and friends you want to impress. That should be motivation enough to start your blog spot. If you get followers or visitors to your site, all the better. However, like most adventures in life, its the journey that rewards you rather than the buzz of instant popularity. Sure we like our opinions, ideas and artworks to be appreciated by the public at large, but that is not what art therapy is about - its about satisfying our artistic urges holistically in order to achieve for ourselves a happier disposition.

My art therapy - the logo I designed for "ATASDA" (Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association) when I was Vice-President of this not-for-profit organization.

Be careful, there are many charlatans out there who will try to convince you that they possess a magic wand, using simple tricks, to get visitors to your site. They claim they are experts in what is termed - Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. They claim that by describing your blog spot using clever "meta" tags, robotic search engines that patrol the world-wide-web (www), will view your posts more favourable, and so raise your priority in the search engine look-up tables (i.e. keyword searches using search engines such as Google or Yahoo will go to your site first). Don't part with your money! Google and other search engine companies are well aware of their tricks and have warned internet users that if they play these silly games, they may be rendered at the end of the queue (i.e. a keyword search may put your blog post on the twentieth page - a page that most busy people would not bother to view). My strong advice is to stay away from these so called SEO experts!

My blog spot is formal in construction, demeanour and style. It is heavily edited, and hopefully, displays as little grammatical, spelling, and errors of fact as possible. It is tightly focussed - prints on cloth and paper only - with distinct categories of content (e.g. Art Reviews, ArtCloth, Fine Art Prints, Art Essays, Art Resources etc.) - just to name a few! It rarely gives tips on creating ArtCloth or fine art prints on paper, since my workshops and my articles in magazines serve that purpose. My posts are regularly updated (once a week yielding ca. 50 blogs a year). The Glossary of Terms and Fabrics and Timelines posts have been a huge success. Creating such posts was time intensive but as with the other "Art Resource" posts, they aim to give a solid grounding in creating a knowledge base that a fiber artist needs in order to create ArtCloth. My blog spot does not contain advertisements (except for my association with the parent company and the fact that I am a co-editor of Textile Fiber Forum). Hence, it is not your typical blog spot - nor should it be!

Ancient goat-like sheep.
Timelines Entry. 9000 BC - 3000 BC: The domestication of sheep, goats and dogs dates from 9,000 BC in the uplands of Zam Chem Shanidar and from 7,000 BC at Jarmo in the Zagros Mountains of north west Iran. In Israel and south Turkey it occurred from the 7,000 to 6,000 BC. Sheep rearing became major industry in Sumeria between 3,500 to 3,000 BC, by which time both hairy and wooly sheep were known.

Most blogs are created by individuals, without resources backing them (e.g. IT experts at their disposal etc.) They are informal, chatty, and create a wonderful to and fro dialogue with their audience. These blog posts appear on an irregular basis - whenever inspiration hits the individual. They mainly feature the world of the blogger - ranging from family events, to art events, to the making of their art, to giving tips on how to create works of art etc. Minimal images appear per post, because uploading images may be a traumatic event for some. Such blog spots usually host apps (i.e. application program packages) that perform a single function such as displaying the total number of visitors who viewed the site and their country of origin etc. There is a host of wonderful blogs in that category. My favourites are many, but of those I will only mention a few. Australian - Linda Stokes - gives a great personal touch to her artwork and generates a happy chatty and professional feel to her site. Canadian/New Zealander - Lesley Turner - delivers her artwork in a creative and passionate manner. American - Jennifer Libby Fay - unfurls her artwork in a decisive but fascinating format. All understand that artwork is a personal, passionate and insightful experience.

Linda Stokes' Quilt: "Roses are Red".

Lesley Turner: "Section, Township, Range".
She cut and joined each panel to add survey lines - that roads generally follow.

Jennifer Libby Fay: "Seed Pod".
Image printed with adhesive and foil applied.

On the other hand, organizational web sites are far more structured, but not as structured as my own. For example, in this category is the American - Surface Design Association - and European Textile Network. These sites are nicely put together and contain an array of information that is pertinent to their audience. These sites also have links to their other social media outlets such as blog spots, Face Book and Twitter etc.

Surface Design Association - Changing Hands.

ETN's European Textile Routes.

There is now a yearly competition for the "best" Australian blog posts. It is operated by the "Australian Writers' Centre", which provides a number of writing courses. The Award has been running since 2011 and gives prizes to the overall winner as well as to the category winners.

Disclaimer: Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd. and Art Quill Studio have no financial interests or commercial dealings with the Australian Writers' Centre nor with any of its current sponsors (at the time this post was published). Nevertheless, this blog spot has been nominated for its 2014 "best" Australian blogs competition - see side bar.

If you doubt yourself - don't - get involved. If you feel you must have a large number of followers in order to reward your effort in maintaining your blog spot - don't - your blog spot will organize your art as well as make you reflect on it and so although having followers is fun, nevertheless it not the linch pin of your art therapy. If you feel that no one cares - don't - you care!

Life is far too short to vacillate and worry about what others may think. Free yourself and tell whoever visits your blog spot - who you are, what art you do, and how, where, when and why you did it. Don't be afraid to engage your audience by asking advice (e.g. Do you think this worked? Perhaps it could have been more effective in blue?)

What I love about the blogosphere is that most of the information out there is free to access, and more importantly, it is the only truly democratic communication and learning medium we have, where your artworks, and your ideas are as good as anyone else's. Just do it!

In 2012 Marie-Therese was invited to join a 2013 SDA Conference panel on professional practice with respect to the topic of ‘Blogging within My Professional Practice’ by Susan Taber Avila, Board Member of the Surface Design Association (SDA) and member of the 2013 SDA International Conference Steering Committee. Unfortunately due to other commitments she was unable to attend.


Linda Stokes said...

Thanks so much Marie - Therese for your informative blog posts and for featuring my blog. Your kind words are appreciated.

Lesley Turner said...

Great post. I learnt lots about blogs and blogging. Thank you for featuring my blog.

Jennifer Libby Fay said...

Great post, Marie-Therese, and great advice—I was worried about my SEO skillz (or lack thereof) your explanation was appreciated. And thank you for featuring my blog!

Art Quill Studio said...

It is my pleasure ! Keep up the wonderful dialogue on your blog sites . . . it is so inspiring to see your art works and read about your passions !