Monday, July 13, 2009

What have you learned from blogging?

Have you ever thought about what lessons you have learned from blogging?

Two art bloggers and fellow members of Watermarks have recently been writing about what they have learned from blogging
  • Jeanette Jobson (Illustrated Life) wrote about the benefits of blogging after having created her 1,000th blog post (and a few more!) in 1,023 fingerprints. Her analysis was very succinct and to the point and is one which I very much endorse
  • Gesa Helms (paint and pastel) has written about Blogs and learning styles. It was fascinating. It also generated this post. I loved Gesa's exploration of how learning styles fit with blogging. I also did the learning style survey questionnaire which she highlighted and it turns out I'm somewhere between a Philosopher and an Analyst.
The Ecology Park Pond Series
#13 - Lily Pad Pond 21st May 2009
10" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

So what have I learned from blogging?

Who I am and what I'm interested in

The most interesting aspect of my blogging is that it has given me a much richer insight into who I am and what I'm about.

I've found out that I simply can't blog virtually every day for three and a half years without focusing on what interests me (and occasionally what bugs me).

As well as creating art I also like finding out about art and then writing and sharing what I find out - with those who are interested. Writing about different topics on my blogs has helped me to see just how interested I am in different subjects.

My output of blog posts helped enormously when I was trying to construct an infrastructure - a way of accessing 'me' - for my 'hub' website Making A Mark. The aim of this was to make sense of what I'm about - but first I had to make sense of me!

When I reviewed the content of my blogs I realised that there were and continue to be three main themes which underpin who I am and inform what I do. These are:


I'm interested in the actual process of drawing and sketching as well as the creation of drawings - how to draw people for example.

I've found that I also like drawings which are essentially about practising drawing - such as those from class - as much as sketches of my travels - and those more formal drawings for display and exhibitions. I've learned that I have a great regard for the practice of drawing as well as the outputs of drawing.

Blogging has helped me learn how to:
  • write about process and explain how I created work - which in turn provides me with an insight into what can be quite a practiced, almost automatic set of actions.
  • see the process and potential of each drawing in a new way. Writing out steps and stages always makes me think about other ways I could approach a subject and provides food for thought for next time
  • produce better images to post on my blog. This in turn has also enabled me to play about with what I've produced. Play stimulates my visual eye and leads me off in new directions. I've often had to switch topics for the planned daily blog post because I suddenly saw what I needed to do to 'finish' a drawing to my satisfaction!
Simply having a blog means that I post my art online and get feedback about it. I know an awful lot about which drawings people are most interested in and which posts generate the most interest. That has brought a few surprises and made me think seriously about what sort of art I produce.


I'd previously had jobs which involved a lot of writing for publication. I also knew I didn't find writing difficult. However I'd always tended to think of writing as just one of those things I could do.

What blogging has taught me is how much I now enjoy the actual process of writing now I'm not doing it as part of a job. So much so I know think of myself very much as a writer as well as an artist. I also get twitchy fingers if away from a keyboard for too long!

Blogging has taught me how to:
  • plan and schedule what I write about because that makes for a more efficient use of my time. I always have draft posts set up for specific dates.
  • learn to live with uncertainty. I often don't know what I'm going to blog about until the day before or even when I sit down at my computer!
  • be much more flexible and spontaneous. I can now throw my planned post 'out the window' because a better topic has come up at very short notice
  • write in terms of projects and series to create a theme or coverage of a topic area. This helps to make sometimes difficult information more accessible.
  • access external resources for blog posts (eg I'm now accredited as 'press' in quite a few major galleries)
  • create a niche for my type of blogging and the content I write about.
  • create even more niche blogs - with a very specific focus and purpose
  • enjoy small communities with shared interests through group blogs. These are - as I predicted - growing more and more.
I've also learned how to interview artists online and/or profile artists online. Blogging enables me to celebrate the achievements of the very many artists that I admire - both past and present. This is a really important one for me. Being able to write about artists whose art is notable and who have an interesting story to tell in terms of how they make their art provides us all with knowledge and inspiration.


Blogging is absolutely intrinsic to my passion for sharing information

I inherited from my father a predisposition to want to know as much as possible about all the things I'm interested in! I personally find that those who like collecting data very often also like sharing - on the basis that since we value the information we rather tend to assume others will as well.

I certainly like sharing. Consequently I don't just write my blog posts for me - although writing them certainly provides me with help for my interests - I essentially write to share. I know that the blog is going to be read by an increasing number of other people as time goes by.

One of the challenges for those of us who like to collect and share information is how to record and categorise what we know in an accessible way.

I've found again and again in my life that it's my sometimes unconscious accummulation of small items of information which enable me sometimes to understand a topic more quickly or see and scope the big picture faster than other people. Consequently I also really like collecting, sorting and arranging information to see what I make of it and whether or not I have any sort of fresh insight on a topic. Or whether I can help others to have a fresh insight when they see it presented in a unified way.

When I started to focus more on sharing information as well as making art, I soon became amazed at how much information was being held in the archives of this blog.

I also learned from Jakob Neilsen (the guru of web usability), that one way of having a positive impact is to create a way of making sure that information on a blog/website remains accessible and does not become buried. New readers and new visitors don't know what you've written about in the past!

Blogging has enabled me to learn how to:
  • take information and make a digital record
  • create a very specific post about a very specific topic - which might only be of interest to a limited number of people. I've learned how to make it easier for people to find that post in future eg through the use of very specific titles and appropriate key words. I also have learned from my stats that people do in fact find those posts long after they were written.
  • create projects on this blog about a specific art-related topic eg colour and composition. I've found it needs to be long enough to be able to cover a topic adequately. Also that breaking out information into chuncks (individual blog posts) helps to make it more accessible.
  • reference related previous posts (via post titles and specific URLs) as I build topics so that people can see it's part of a series and not just an isolated post or miss what has gone before
  • create a variety of information sites which group the most relevant posts into topic areas. I've now got over 100 information websites about very defined topics which share blog posts and other links and resources about or related to my art interests. All of them reference one or more of my blogs.
I'm very clear that this blog is popular and has had so many visitors in part because I've created a variety of ways that people can easily access blog posts written in the past but which remain relevant to their particular interest.

Overall - my pattern of blogging seems to reveal my highly structured approach to organising my art and my information about art.

However, through blogging, I've also learned how to be plan - how be comfortable with uncertainty and how to be more spontaneous and adaptable - which I have to say came as a bit of as a bit of a surprise!

My left and right brains enjoy both the analytical and the visual. I find that blogging really helps me a lot with my interest in revealing process and unpicking how art has been made and how it can be made. That in turn helps with my own creative processes.

As a result of this review today I've revised the strap line which runs under the Making A Mark title of this blog! What do you think?

What about you? What have you learned from blogging?

If you'd like to share your thoughts on what you've learned from blogging please leave a comment below.

Note: I waited for a long time for the lily pads to start appearing on Lily Pad Pond so I can start to emulate Monet! This is the first of my drawings of lily pads but I doubt if it'll be my last. Th trick seems to be getting them to 'lie down flat' on the water and to take account of the fact that they're actually a lot of different colours which change as the light changes. I think I'm beginning to see see why Monet did so many paintings. See also:


vivien said...

I second most of what you've said

I've thoroughly enjoyed gaining a network of interesting artists from all over the world

I love the way that help/information is exchanged on topics/materials/web related or IT stuff. I've learnt a lot.

I enjoy sharing the knowledge I have

Though, as you know, I'm not organised! I just write as I go and accept that I won't always write every day.

I think I'll have to join you and fellow watermarkers on writing a more thought-out version of this :>)

Stacy said...

Thanks for the interesting post Katherine! I've learned from the surveys that I don't have a single dominant learning style. I guess that in part explains how I can be comfortable as both an artist and an engineer!

After reading your thoughts about writing, I also realized that I don't consider myself a writer at all, although I am quite good at technical writing (ex. writing procedures and such). But technical writing is pretty dry and doesn't fit well in my vision for my blog. Maybe this is why I stuggle creating blog posts and finding a voice for my blog. I want my personality to come through in my blog, but I'm don't have experience writing with personality and it is not a comfortable task for me.

Like Vivien, I will have to put more thought into this and perhaps it will lead to a post of my own. :)

Robyn Sinclair said...

Very interesting summary of your blogging experience, Katherine. I will have to think about it as it relates to my own blog.

For now, I just needed to applaude loudly your Monet type study of the pond. Absolutely beautiful!

I was also very taken with the umbrella pines in yesterday's post. I had no idea there were umbrella pines in the UK. Proof that the older I get, the less I know ;)

Gesa said...

Wow - thanks for taking this further. A great post and full of insight - I fully agree about the role of self in this - both as discovery but also as development and how the blog in a way anchors this - reflexively vis-a-vis ourselves but also socially - to our friends and those who read the blog/or we imagine to be talking to...

Your reflection on writing as process/outcome is very rich, too: I discovered early on that the rules I invented for my blog for writing were deliberately very different to the academic writing I'm doing - it's allowing myself to write much more associatively and narratively and the let that develop.

Oh - and before I forget: I can strongly and clearly see the benefit of how you link each post to an original artwork - that is such a strong push for continuing with developing art, and yields great results

Anonymous said...

What an interesting post! Did you know that I still on occasion refer to some of your older posts on blogging and blog content? I agree that blogging is a good way to learn about oneself.

I have learned, similar to you, that I much enjoy writing as well as painting. I have also learned, that it seems that my content is somewhat difficult to categorize... I too will definitely need to think more about this...

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