Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A new blog - Making a Mark Reviews

Next week I'm launching a new blog - Making a Mark reviews......

It's going to be a consumer oriented blog which will review quality and value in art books, art supplies and other products and services used by artists.

Read reviews about art books, art supplies and other products and services used by artists. This blog highlights
- book reviews (art instruction and art history)
- reviews of art media, art materials and art equipment
- reviews of places where you buy art shops, online art suppliers and art bookshops
- reviews of other products or services used by artists
- summaries of good quality and relevant reviews by other practising artists
My aim is to try and identify good quality and good value.
Making a Mark reviews......
Why a new blog?

As anybody who has visited the Making A Mark website will know I have three passions - drawing, writing and sharing information. The new blog will support the makeover and the major development of the 'sharing' part of that website to create a digest of information.

There are lots of reasons why I decided I wanted to make a change. In my view this is not a "big bang" change so much as a logical progression of how I've developed my activities in sharing information about books, products and services for artists.

Currently, places where you can see information about art books, art supplies and other products and services relevant to artists include the following:
  • Art Materials and other resources on my portfolio website gets a lot of traffic. I started it after I realised how much I appreciated the pages on other artist's website where they showed you what they used and how they worked. I guess other people like visiting my version! :)
  • my Making A Mark - Resources for Artists website on Squidoo is the home base for over 50 individual 'resources for artists' websites that i've developed. All are dedicated to specific aspects of my artistic interests as a practising artist. They provide access to and share information and advice from various websites for artists wanting to understand more about a specific topic.
  • My 'Sharing' page on my Making A Mark website. I'm working on a makeover and expansion of this 'sharing' part of the website. This will create a dedicated resource for specific areas of interest - starting with media and subject matter. Each page will provide summaries of useful information plus images of and links to art books, art supplies and other products and services relevant to artists in a different format to the squidoo sites.
A passion for quality AND value
value noun 1 worth in monetary terms. 2 the quality of being useful or desirable; the degree of usefulness or desirability. 3 the exact amount of a variable quantity in a particular case. 4 the quality of being a fair exchange • value for money. 5 (values) moral principles or standards.
My career meant I spent a lot of time focused on cost-effectiveness - otherwise known as value for money. I'm always been absolutely passionate about consumers getting a fair deal - people should be able to get good quality products for a reasonable price. As soon as we were hit by the prospect of a recession, value for money instantly became an even more important priority for an awful lot of people (see summary of results from a New York Times below.)
70 percent of respondents were very or somewhat concerned that someone in their household would be out of work and looking for a job in the next 12 months. Forty percent said they had cut spending on luxuries, and 10 percent said they had cut back on necessities; 31 percent said they had cut both.
New York Times/CBS News Poll - Poll Finds New Optimism on Economy Since Inauguration 7th April 2009
In my view there's just no place for shoddy production values, wasteful products, poor quality materials and disrespect for the financial constraints of customers no matter what you're buying. Producers' profits are maximised when they get customers to return again and again for repeat buys - not by ripping people off.
I used to have a policy of not reviewing a book unless I thought it was good ("If you can't say anything good, don't say anything" etc). However with a recession upon us, I'm going to have to revise that policy and start indicating more clearly where books fall short
Book review: The Coloured Pencil Artist's drawing bible
I was also very motivated by some of the responses received to this post Book review: The Coloured Pencil Artist's drawing bible and earlier comments on posts about art instruction books in general. I've concluded that there is a very definite audience for the sort of review which is rather more direct about any short-comings and in particular highlights whether or not the majority of the book is likely to be of interest or value to its potential audience.

10 different ways of promoting a community of well-informed consumers

I see so many questions on my travels around the Internet about 'where can I find' or 'can you recommend...?'

I'm hoping to help promote a community of well-informed consumers in a number of different ways. The new blog will:
  • check claims made and provide a fair and independent perspective
  • avoid the use of weasel words.
  • channel the "wisdom of crowds" by:
    • asking you for suggestions of useful books, products, suppliers that you've found.
    • running opinion polls from time to time
  • ask readers to provide useful tips about ways you've found of saving money without compromising quality - which I'll summarise on a regular basis
  • reference good quality reviews on other blogs
  • invite guest reviewers to contribute posts about specific products outside my area of expertise
  • invite experienced artists to offer their views on their favourite products.
  • provide a blogroll dedicated to bloggers who regularly provide product reviews
  • ask manufacturers and publishers to keep me up to date
Well informed producers?

I know that one of the things which artists love to talk about is the things they buy - but comments tend to be scattered around. The new blog will create a focus and it could provide a voice for the consumer who wants something to change. I'm thinking here about all the comments received in the series of posts about art instruction books on this blog earlier in the year

It's quite conceivable - depending on the comments that you leave on the new blog - that it might also become a major resource for the book publishers and the manufacturers of art materials. Hopefully as consumers, you'll be highlighting what you do and don't like!

Time efficiency for blog consumers

I guess most of the people who currently subscribe to Making A Mark will find the new blog interesting.

However it's obviously not going to provide you with topics that you're interested in all the time. So you can be reassured that I'll always indicate clearly in headlines and opening sentences what the post is about so as not to waste your time. Also, in the interests of time efficiency, I'm developing templates for summaries of reviews which will be posted at the beginning of each post - which you scan and then decide whether you want to bin or mark to read in more detail later.

What will the new blog cover - and what happens to Making a Mark?

To take the last one first. This blog will carry on much as before and will still focus more on my art, art projects, notable artists, art exhibitions, art careers and aspects influencing art business and the art economy - plus techie bits about the web and blogging from time to time.

Essentially what the change does is remove any reviews of art commodities (specific products or services) from this blog. That particular aspect will in future live on the new blog. There may well be less posts on this blog - although I'll link to reviews on the other blog.

I can tell you that two of the early book reviews will be new books by two leading coloured pencil artists:

There will also be interviews with both Ann and Alyona on Making A Mark. These will published be on the same day as the review of their new book is published on Making a Mark reviews .

Let me know what you think

I'm very interested to know what you're interested in - so do leave a comment below. I'll probably publish a poll early on to get a sense of people's interests. After that I'll work out whether it's something I can handle or whether I need to look to other people for contributions.

Do leave a comment and let me know what you think.


Felicity Grace said...

It's a super idea Katherine and one no doubt that will have the same quality we've come to expect here! I've hardly spent any money this year on books or art materials and it's certainly not going to be spent on novelties or impulse buys in the future so this will be very timely. Colour pencil reviews would be interesting (very little is written about Lyra Rembrandt as far as I know) but otherwise art books/magazines and papers/pads/sketchbooks are the things I'm interested in most.

Jeannette Cuevas said...

That's tremendous! There are so many art books and supplies I am not even aware of, not to mention have no time to browse through or explore. I work in pastel and would love to know more about the differences in their qualities and value as well as the comparisons of different supports. How great it will be to find this all at one site. What a great idea, I can't wait to explore it for myself! Thanks, Katherine.

Marion said...

Brilliant idea. Especially for colour pencil books and supplies. Just one problem I can foresee is that you will point me in the direction of books etc about which I was unaware and I then find I cannot do without it.
At least I know that you will give things a fair review and if you say it is a must have it will be.

Nithya Swaminathan said...

It is a great idea and will be very beneficial to artists. I'd like to see reviews of Coloured pencils, in a way that will enable an artist to choose an alternative in a country where say Prismas are not available. It holds good for various supports too, what to do when a particular paper/board is not available. This would mean in general reviewing supplies in various locations and enabling artists choose the best available, instead of spending unimaginable amounts on shipping. You could probably get others to contribute, so that more stuff gets reviewed.

Robyn Sinclair said...

I'm sure your new blog will become a very popular resource, Katherine. I imagine it will also very quickly become a forum for artists who have heard of a new book/product and wonder if any other reader has experienced it.

Brava for taking this one on and I look forward to the launch.

Making A Mark said...

Thanks for the positive comments - I don't want to get people's expectations up - this is going to be a slow lift-off

My intention is to stick pretty much to the way I've been operating on Making A Mark which is to write about what I know and to include alerts from time to time about aspects which look of interest to some of the people who read this blog.

The difference in content in terms of range will begin to emerge as I get a handle on asking people to contribute their own reviews to the blog.

Other than that it's probably about seeing rather more reviews from me in future then you get at present. There are after all all those stacks and stacks (and stacks!) of books just sitting there..........

suessketchblog said...

There's nothing I like better than a good old waffle about art materials! I'm like a kid in a sweetshop when it comes to art supplies, perhaps this will save me spending money on things I don't really need ;), (though I doubt it). I look forward to the launch.

Lindsay said...

This will be a really useful blog. I like the idea that you will be more direct also in critique of a book.

I'm shifting my focus from books about technique to books about artist's work.

My favorite book in the last 6 months is "The Drawing Book" ed Tania Kovats.

Looking forward to this!!

df said...

i always enjoy new information about books and art supplies. Sounds like a good idea, but alot of work. thanks for doing it. I would love to be on the list to read it.

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