Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Two years ago this week....

Blooming
8"x8", coloured pencil on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Two years ago this week I started blogging.

Not on this blog. I first started with another blog which I used as a pilot. I tested how it all worked with a few blog posts - but didn't publish the posts to the world at large and didn't ping! My first concerns were mainly technical and software related - how did it work, what else did I need to know about, was this the best webware to go with etc!

Only then did I start to thinking about what I was going to blog about!

I'd already worked out that blogging on a regular basis seemed to be one of the factors which contributed to both readership and longevity. However, there's nothing quite like actually starting a blog and having a few blog posts under your belt to suddenly make you focus on what on earth you are going to blog about in the future!

I did have aspirations to be being somebody who produced artwork each day but hadn't thought through the logistics of how to package and sell - so had that on hold. I knew I needed to write about other things as well if I was going to be able to post on a regular basis - so I had a big think!

Subsequently I started a new blog (this one) with a revised URL and the new and simplified title of "Making A Mark" and reposted my first blog posts over to this blog and published them again. ( Somewhat predictably for those who know my "Interior Landscapes with food - a Sketchbook
", my very first blog post after the introduction was about "Two of my favourite occupations".

This time I made sure that I knew what I was going to do - and in order to remind myself about what I this was I wrote it out and included it just under the blog title.

Compare the original - focused just on me and rather introspective!
An art journal reflecting on how Katherine Tyrrell creates new drawings and paintings with pastels, pencils and pen and ink. It also previews new works which can be seen in galleries on my website www.pastelsandpencils.com
with what I've now got - which has remained largely unchanged since I started this blog in January 2006. I had expanded the remit of the blog to give me more topics to talk about while keeping them entirely consistent with the blog title. To my mind it's much less introspective and much more community oriented - it enables me to engage with others about things we have in common as well talk about my own work.
Katherine Tyrrell writing about: - Making marks with pastels, pencils and pen and ink - Creating new drawings and paintings - Influences on developing both artwork and art careers - Interviews with artists - Information about resources for artists and art lovers ....and best viewed in Firefox
Before I started blogging I had also learned that there tends to be a phenomenally high 'die-off' rate during the first three months of new blogs - when lots of blog authors just stop posting.
I remember thinking I needed to develop the habit in that first three months or else all the effort would be for nothing as activity would gradually tail off. I had the most amazing sense of relief when I got to three months and I realised that I could not only "blog" but that I enjoyed blogging.

It feels amazing to realise I've now reached the two year mark and have blogged almost every day for for most of that time.

How things have changed in the last two years

One of the reasons I started this blog was to drive traffic to my website as I was very conscious that it was very dependent on just one source of traffic (from the Wet Canvas forum website). In the last two years I've not only succeeded in my aim of generating traffic from many more sources but my website now drives traffic to this blog!

The intention of driving traffic was originally about generating sales however that particular objective has tended to take a backseat as I grew to enjoy writing as well as drawing.

The way I now think about the relationship between the two sites has also changed - plus I now have a third site as well (not to mention rather a lot of squidoo lenses):
  • 'Making A Mark' is about me and my artistic interests, my artistic development and things I've seen which are interesting or informative and which I want to share. The artwork is important but the blog also enables me to write and to document the process by which it comes about in a much larger sense than just what technique I used for a particular drawing. In a way it has become the most important site.
  • 'Travels with a Sketchbook in......' was born in July 2006 because I wanted to have a site which was just about my sketching and about travelling with my sketchbook - so that I had a record and you could also sit and read posts about a trip one after the other and they wouldn't be mixed up with other posts on other topics. It's broadened out to include more local and day-to-day travels but the format seems to work quite well and it now also has a lot of subscribers.
  • my website 'Pastels and Pencils' existed prior to my blogging and provided a static site which displays my artwork across a number of galleries. It's changed as a result of my blogging. It now also includes lots of links back to posts on my travel sketchbook blog for those who want to read more about the story behind the image. It has also expanded to include large sections about major topics for blog posts - art materials (ie what I use) and advice on sketching (which usefully pulls together what I've written in various places). In effect it's turning into the place where I group images and information to make it easier for people to see everything about a specific topic in one place. One day I might even get round to putting paypal icons against the images!
  • the squidoo lenses - 'Making A Mark - Resources for Artists' grew out of an awful realisation on returning from a trip that all my links to blogs and useful sites in the right hand column had disappeared. Completely. Finito. So I decided that in future all links to useful information would actually be listed at the end of blog posts and on a completely separate site - which turned out to be my new squidoo lenses. Which turned out to be a brilliant wheeze as they each had their own unique URL which meant I could then link to each of them independently in e-mails or when responding to questions or sharing information on either blog or the website as and when they were relevant to the topic under discussion!
What have I learned in two years of blogging?

Lots!

I've learned that:

I enjoy
  • writing almost as much as I like drawing
  • seeing images of my drawings on screen and suddenly realising they're better than I thought they were (it's the computer equivalent of putting them in a frame)
  • the community orientation of blogging:
    • sharing information with other artists - and learning about what other people are doing/showing/sharing
    • fostering communities of artists with specific interests
    • fostering information about local art communities
    • talking with other bloggers both on and off our blogs
    • getting feedback from other bloggers
    • and importantly - meeting up with blogging cyberchums
I think
  • Blogging about artists from the past is a great way of working your way through an artist's work in a structured way and finding approaches and techniques that can influence your own work
  • blogging has helped me to create more art! (and maybe do a little less housework as well!). The fact that I have self-imposed rule of always having an image for a blog post means I create more art than I might do otherwise!
I need
  • my fix - if I don't blog, it feels really odd!
  • a break from blogging from time to time to avoid blogging burn-out. I blog virtually daily - which means it's usually seven days a week with a bit of downtime for trips here and there. It is nice to have a break - although I do find myself working out blog posts for when I get back!
  • to think hard before I equip myself for blogging while on trips as I'll need to find another way of getting a break if I do!
  • to keep focused on what my blog is about and also to explore what that can mean.
  • to sit tight and not turn the air blue when Blogger stops working (as it did while writing this post!)
  • to keep on top of the techie stuff as the environment changes
  • to find more time to read other people's blogs as the number I visit just keeps growing!
  • to remember that the housework won't do itself!
I am rewarded by
  • all those people who keep telling me that my blog is wonderful!
  • people who like my blog enough that they want to subscribe to it
  • seeing people try out new media or techniques because I showed or shared something new on this blog
  • being part of a blogging community which is autonomous and self-regulating
  • seeing my statistics for visits and page hits follow an exponential curve
  • having a record of how my art has developed over time and the things I've done in the process.
Most of all I have enjoyed meeting - virtually and 'face to face' - all the people I have got to know through blogging. It's the best reason I know for doing it.