Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blogging Art in 2007 - A Review (Part 1)

[image to be inserted when Blogger gets over its current malfunction and allows me to upload one!]

Last year I did a review of blogging art in 2006. This post is the beginning of my Review of Blogging Art in 2007 which comprises:
  • Part 1 (this post) which is about the blogging practices of artists and illustrators in 2007 - in other words blogging art from the perspective of the individual blogger.
  • Part 2 is about the influence of art blogs in 2007 - blogs vs websites, blogging communities and the role of blogs in marketing artwork. This will be posted tomorrow on 23rd December
  • On Monday 24th December I post the nominations and final short list for the best artwork completed and posted on an art/illustrated blog in 2007 - and the poll opens for voting (winner to be announced 30th December) and then I'm having a seasonal break before posting..........
  • Part 3 which is The Making A Mark Awards - which also comes in two parts (because there's a lot of them!). The Awards will be posted on the 29th and 30th December.
  • Part 4 is 2007: A Personal Review - of what I did in 2007! This will be posted on 31st December.
PART ONE: Blogging practices by artists and illustrators in 2007

This is the first part of my review of blogging art in 2007 and represents my observations on what has stayed the same, what has changed and then, finally, a few predictions for blogging art in 2008. It's essentially my take on blogging art in 2007 from the perspective of the individual artist and/or illustrator - whether professional, semi-professional or hobbyist.

Pausing at the end of the year to look back at what has happened, I know I'm always struck by things which continue to endure - both good and bad - and by how much has managed to change during the course of 12 months. So it seems sensible to try and divide my observations into three parts:
  • what has stayed the same
  • what has changed
  • a few predictions for blogging art in 2008
Of course, this is only my perspective and like most reviews you're bound to agree with some of it and disagree with other parts. Do feel free to make comment on anything you think I've got wrong or left out - and anything which you feel has been particularly significant in 2007.

BLOGGING ART in 2007: What has stayed the same?

A lot of practices related to blogging art have stayed the same.

Blogging art = improved art
I notice again and again that art posted by a blogger often improves significantly over time. It happened last year and it’s happened again in 2007. Reasons for this include:
  • artists get feedback about what stimulates a very positive reaction;
  • lots of practice – regular drawing/painting for your blog;
  • looking at other people’s blogs may take some time but it continues to provide stimulation and can also stimulate new ideas or identify new ways of doing something which have a beneficial impact.
If you like the art, chances are you’ll like the blogroll
I continue to find lots of new blogs in the blogrolls of artists whose work I like. Which is good because……

It continues to be difficult for new art and illustrated blogs to get noticed by potential readers.
Some of the reasons why that happens are:
  • New bloggers don't always understand how to get their blog posts noticed by search engines and/or grow an audience for their blogs (see Blogging for Artists for tips).
  • Use of the bookmarking mechanisms (e.g. and stumbleupon) facilities offered by many blogs (e.g. see end of this post) continues to be limited.
  • We still lack a decent directory for art and illustrated blogs which helps to point people in the direction of communities of interest within the art blogging world. Sites which allow people to nominate themselves rarely provide more than just a list and often include blogs which died in the first three months. More seriously, a number of sites supposedly dedicated to art blogs are regularly targeted by and infiltrated by the spammers, the shopping blogs, the 'soft porn art' and have also managed to accumulate many dead blogs along the way. I'm not saying which but I have endeavoured to remove them all from my site.
People continue to start art blogs with good intentions and/or a 'good idea' - and continue to give up on blogging within the first 3 months.
  • People still continue to start blogs with good intentions (eg a 'painting a day') and good ideas but not necessarily a lot of planning or thought beforehand.
  • Blog numbers continue to grow even if the exponential growth of 'real' blogs (as opposed to spam blogs) seems to have slowed overall. However lots of art blog 'babies' continue to die before they reach 3 months old.
  • Blog attrition also continues to be adversely affected by excessive levels of spam blog activity which exploded into the blogosphere in 2007. The 'natural death' coupled with the massive growth in spam blogs in 2007 means that blog directories and search engines and directories continue to be clogged up with 'dead wood'. Periodic clear-outs only seem to have a partial impact.
Writing text for blog posts is still evidently a challenge for some artists.
Too many art bloggers are not thinking enough about how popular words used in searches help people find their blog and their post.
  • I continue to see lots of blog posts (far too many!) with really terrific content which is effectively 'thrown away' because too little attention was paid to the title of the post and the headline introduction (ie the first few lines which should say something about what the post is about).
  • Working out a simple and accessible headline which tells people what your post is about and includes popular keywords if relevant and possible is worth doing in terms of the traffic it generates.
  • It is no coincidence that my most popular post this year by a very long way is called Daily painters, paintings and paintworks - and where you can see them.
Google/Blogger rules [sigh!]
Blogger continues to create as many problems as it solves. Most of the blogs I read use Blogger and I don’t think I’m the only person who is not enamoured with the way they test new developments or provide user support.

BLOGGING ART in 2007: What has changed?

'Blog' was picked as 'word of the year' in 2004. Technological innovation continues to drive new ways of communicating and it's taken just three years for some people to start talking about the end of the blog. However, I'm personally less convinced.

Here's some of the things I've noticed about how people have changed their use of the blog in 2007.

Scope of the art/illustrated blog – generating income
Full time artists rarely derive all their income from selling their artwork. I’ve seen evidence of more thought being given to the use of blogs in relation to other potential income streams - such as workshops and publications.
  • Experienced artists are beginning to integrate the use of their blogs with the marketing of and feedback from workshops they run. I think this is hugely beneficial for all prospective participants particularly those who've never yet tried a workshop. It really helps people to appreciate what's involved and how different artists vary in their approaches. Irene Brady's posts about her Nature Journal workshops were a good example of this.
  • More people are beginning to think about the potential for publication of all or part of their blog - either self-publication or by publishing houses. A number of artists have published a book of their blog during the course of the year - or have started to plan one.
  • These activities may be limited to relatively few artist bloggers but they seem to be showing signs of becoming a distinct trend in 2008. Readers who don’t pursue this sort of content on their own blogs may well become the consumers in future.
A new type of art blog
Traditional publications are beginning to understand they need to have a blog presence as well as be on the newsstand. They vary in the extent to which they behave like blogs run by individuals.

The Techie bit
We're getting better but still have some way to go!
  • One of the major changes in 2007 has been the increase in use of other tools for presenting images. I've been very impressed by more adventurous and technically able bloggers who are increasingly using video blogging to demonstrate how they paint or draw. (However, some of us have still only got as far as buying the new tripod which will work better for videoing how I work, without any assistance from "he who must not be bored while I sketch"!)
  • Sensible use of labels and categories integrates extremely well with search engines – more people are using them (and yet more still need to appreciate the value of using them!).
  • 2007 continued to spawn new widgets for your blog - and we continued to try them out. Fast load times are good but widgets can dramatically slow down the load time for your blog. I think some of us need to get diet conscious in 2008 - fewer widgets means faster load times. Make sure your widgets have value/work for you. Give yourself a limit - and stick to it otherwise the more widgets you include, the slower your blog takes to load and the fewer visitors you will get.
Content of art/illustrated blogs
  • Art blogs bear witness to the progression of a number of artists in 2007 – from drawing to watercolour and/or pastels and/or oils and/or print-making
  • More projects by artists – working on their knowledge, skill or a series
  • More artists looking beyond their own art and around the art world in general - highlighting the art or artists they like on their blogs.
  • Artists thinking much more about the visual image side of their blogs and the different ways this can be presented. More blog posts now include slideshows and/or videos and/or links to YouTube.
  • Experienced artists are also increasingly sharing their techniques and approaches with their readers - with lots of WIP images and photos/videos/slideshows of how they do things - and are enthusing people with that information. It's nice to see people doing this for free.
  • memes - how many times did you get tagged to provide 7 little known facts about you or whatever in 2007? How many times did you enhance blog traffic for the person who initiated the meme? While I enjoyed them to start with I think I'm now close to declaring my blog a "meme free zone".
The splog (spam blog) explosion
Regular splog explosions within the blogosphere during 2007 seem to have generated an increasing amount of theft of content from blogs. The techie blog gurus also seem have stopped counting blogs. The last figure I saw was 70 million. Personally, I think the problem is that nobody is sure any longer how many there are because of all the splogs. I remember reading an estimate in 2007 that 90% of e-mail is now spam and I can't but think that the blogging arena is maybe suffering a similar fate. All the search engines and all the blog directories need to get very much better at stripping splogs out of their particular index.

BLOGGING ART IN 2008: a few speculations and predictions

This bit is more difficult - however some of the changes I expect to see happening in 2008.
  • Fewer new art blogs than in the past. The sort of person who starts blogging and then gives up quickly is much more likely to go straight for the interactive communities in future. Here communication tends to be two to three lines and a link to the Flickr album.
  • More experienced bloggers giving up on blogging as blog fatigue sets in. I think the remedy for this is to pace yourself and to plan and give yourself regular breaks. However I'm sure people would welcome more suggestions for how best to keep going if you love blogging.
  • Art/illustration communities on places like Flickr becoming more active as more and more people realise that Flickr now accepts images of artwork as well as reference photos
  • Continued development of video-blogging as more people get the necessary hardware/software to help them to do this. I expect to see many more 'this is how I did it' in place of staged WIPs. (This particular prediction should be one embraced by me - at some point!)
  • New corporate blogs introduced by companies marketing art materials to artists and illustrators. I find it very difficult to understand why this particular aspect of corporate blogging has not yet taken off. I'm guessing lack of confidence and/or expertise.
  • More art societies embracing blogging in place of or as well as regular newsletters. It adds to a society's 'green' credentials (never a bad thing) and more importantly saves both money and time stuffing/stamping envelopes.
  • More art tutors will begin to use blogs to communicate effectively about what their art holidays and workshops.
  • the credit crunch will have a significant impact on the art market and what gets blogged by those marketing their art online. The credit crunch is already having an impact on the housing market and the purchase of decorative art. I predict that it will continue to bite and a recession may be just around the corner - which will inevitably impact on those selling art and using their blog to do so. Those who will do well and survive/continue to sell during a difficult period are those who keep focused on the customer and the bottom line in both the short and longer term. In other words success will come from examining and finding the most cost-effective way of selling art and thinking about how to look after their customers and make it easy for them to continue buying.
What I’d like to see in 2008:
  • More use of art/illustrated blogs as a way of developing knowledge and skills
  • More recognition of art/illustrated blogs within the blogging world and the art marketplace
  • A directory of art/illustrated blogs that only includes those that have had a consistent track record of blogging for more than 3 months complemented by quality control which removes all those blogs which ‘die’
  • Fewer Spam blogs and less theft.
Tomorrow I comment on blogging art in a web 2.0 world and the influence of the art/illustrated blog in 2007.


Jeanette said...

Excellent comments Katherine - as always. I agree very much with your statements. The art blog and blogger are well worth in-depth study.

Edition Handdruck said...

What is your analysis in view of country or nationality ? As to Germany I think that only very few artists have discovered blogging at all, it seems not to be part of their practise (yet). Would you agree that art blogs are 90% a US-phenomenon?

Katherine said...

Thanks Jeanette

Martin - I think it's a language based issue. I'm guessing but I think you probably need to have at least a certain population interested to generate a buzz - and then once you've got that buzz it can really take off.

English is spoken around the world in the USA, Canada, Australasia and in a number of other countries - and is taught as a second language in a number of others. It provides a huge base of people with a common language - and there are no accents on the Internet!

I'll check it out by my impression is that blogging has taken off hugely in Japan, China and the latest country to adopt blogging in a big way is India. I do know the number of hits I get from India has increased dramatically in the last year.

I'll see if I can check the stats and comment further in the post tomorrow.

Casey Klahn said...

When I added my translation tools, I did increase the hits from foreign (to me) countries. Including Germany. I'm not sure the volume of traffic had bumped much overall, but I think Statcounter is not completely effective at showing traffic.

Katherine said...

I hadn't ever thought of adding translation tools. Anybody got any recommendations?

At the moment when trying to read a blog in another language I just whack a post into the Google translate tool and see what comes out. It's very funny at times!

janabouc said...

Great post Katherine. I clicked right over to my blog and made the title of today's post more descriptive. I'm sorry I wasn't able to properly nominate art for your competition--I was just too wiped out from trying to finish everything up at work before starting my vacation. And also, I'm still thinking about it and still haven't been able to pick one painting or one drawing -- though I think Kate's drawing that Laura nominated was a really good choice.

Elijah said...

Very insightful and interesting review.

I have been thinking about adding a translation plugin but encountered some negative responses to the quality of the translation.

Japanese and Chinese readers also say the translations are funny and often incomprehensible. There doesn't seem to be much point in such traffic, at least not in blogs with texts as the primary content.

Katherine said...

Elijah - good point about the negative feedback. I don't think that translations which don't translate properly are very helpful.

I've not seen a translation tool which works well.

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