Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reviewing art in 2010 (#1) - the art blog

Five years ago, this post was just about what happened to art blogs in 2006.  In 2010, it seems somewhat naieve to just focus on the art blog since artists are now exposed to and are becoming part of so many other platforms for encounters online.

This is a long post - so I suggest you go get a nice hot drink and settle down for a good read.  Maybe save it for later.  However I'd LOVE to hear what you have to think by the time you get to the end.

Green furry plant in need of a title | copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The critical issue for artist bloggers in 2010 has been the exponential increase in other media platforms used for channelling the news about our art - and the challenge that has created for all of us in terms of eating into the time for art.

Marketers think we are able to seamlessly move from one platform to another.  I think they’re being overly optimistic.

Too many platforms are demanding too much attention and there’s barely enough time to get to grips with them before they all start changing them again!

The most frequent comment I’ve had from art bloggers this year is about no longer having enough time to read all the art blogs which in theory they “follow”.  People also have even less time for commenting.  That can have a negative impact on our perception of how our readers enjoy our blogs if for example the number of comments reduce.  On the other hand if half the comments have moved into Facebook is that an issue?  Who knows?  However it can feel pretty lonely at times if you're not sure whether or not you're talking into space.

At a personal level I can certainly identify with that perspective.  I seem to spend less and less time reading blogs as I try to find more efficient ways of looking at more and more - in an increasing number of different places.  I hardly ever comment now even if I do read a blog - simply because of the time constraints. 

It’s very wearing.  I think 2011 will be the crunch point.

In 2011, we need to get to grips with a new model of how we need to operate for the future.  I'd like to be less driven by the technology and the software and more driven by what's important to me and what seems to get the best response for the effort employed - relative to our own specific and individual aims.

I'm still absolutely convinced of the value of a blog - although I do value the way Twitter and Facebook can channel news about new posts.

This post has three parts   
  • what stayed the same in 2010
  • what changed in 2010.  In this section I’ll be reflecting on how well my predictions did and what I missed.
  • my predictions for 2011
What stayed the same in 2010

In relation to blogging art, while much of the context has changed, the perennial themes are still the same as ever
  • Blogging art = improved art - it's the process which makes a difference and it really doesn't matter one jot if nobody ever reads it!  Just writing it out and analysing what's going on helps us sort out how we think about our own art - or the art we are reviewing.  It also helps us to be more articulate about art which in turn helps us talk to clients about our own art.  It's a win, win, win situation!
  • The quality of the content is still what attracts people to a blog.  Whether it's the quality of the art or the quality of the information, it's the quality of the content which makes the difference.  Those producing excellent art grow a following.  It might be slow to start but it almost always happens after they have been found by somebody who tells others.  The corollary is that if the quality of the content starts to drift so do the followers.
  • The art blog is like having a permanent private view - art collectors enjoy getting to know the artist, who they are as a person and what their art is about.  It helps make the art more meaningful if it's been produced by somebody you "know"
  • Most new blogs - of any type - are still abandoned within 3 months - but I see a lot fewer art new blogs on my travels and more longstanding art blogs with very few posts.  Speaking personally, I get more value from art blogs which are communicating on a regular basis - even if that's just once a week or two or three times a month.
  • Networking and commenting on blogs remain the key to getting noticed. Commenting on blogs read by a lot of people is the best way of getting noticed fast and can mean you'll start to get more visitors!  People share the new blogs they find.  People who get mentioned in "who's made a mark this week?" very often comment about how many extra visitors they get as a result of the mention.
  • If you like the art, chances are you’ll like the artists in the blogroll - so long as it's not an endless unsorted list and/or the links are not stagnant.  Directories remain pretty useless in terms of finding the type of blog you want to read and blogrolls work much better.  Be discriminating and share the blogs you like to read and the art you like to look at and you'll end up becoming part of a small community of art bloggers.  I'm particularly keen on finding brand new blogs as it very often means I find a brand new circle of bloggers as well!
  • Bloggers still struggle with blogging fatigure - I've just celebrated this blog's 5th birthday.  I confess I flag at times - but I also have learned to take regular breaks. There's a lot of long run bloggers about - although I think most of us are blogging less than we used to.  It's allowed!  To avoid becoming a blogging casualty (1) find a frequency which works for you and (2) take regular breaks.
What happened to my predictions for 2010

Here are my predictions for blogging art in 2010 made in Decmeber 20009. I hope I do well each year but genuinely approach this stage of the review of the year with some trepidation!  However, if I say so myself, my track record in predictions for 2010 is not bad at all!  At the end I identify what I missed.

Generic predictions for 2010 - and what happened

These were my generic predictions - which act as a context and background for changes to networking and art blogging.  I've left out the ones where's it's unclear what happened.

2010 PREDICTION:  people are beginning to expect that the Internet will be available to them everywhere and all the time  ACCURATE - the mobile Internet is increasingly important as more and more sophisticated technology allows wireless access using lightweight equipment.  The iPad will be identified as the most wanted bit of kit in 2010 and some 12 million will have been sold by the end of the year - one of them to me! I had absolutely no idea a piece of kit like this would be so successful!

2010 PREDICTION: the pace of change will continue to be exponential ACCURATE - the need to remain alert to how the world is being reinvented all the time remains critical to those who communicate with their customers online.

2010 PREDICTION: some existing developments will move towards the mature part of their life cycle - before they get replaced altogether.  ACCURATE - Hardware: who would have thought that consumption of desktops would decline?  Podcasts have proved less popular within the art world than many thought.  A variety of art videos exist but are not organised well online.

2010 PREDICTION: "noise" is beginning to become a major issue - it needs to be filtered out ACCURATE - one of the most frequent comments I’ve heard this year is how people are finding it very difficult to look at all the information - and artwork - coming their way from different sources./
  • Audiences are fragmenting in terms of how they consume - some stick with blogs, some consume micro digests via twitter and some are using Facebook and some are doing all to a greater or lesser degree.  Some are finding it all too much and are walking away.
  • Keeping your audience means making your blog posts available via all the different major social networks - including Facebook and Twitter as a minimum.  There are tools which can aotumate that and make life easier.  Hopefully Making A Mark also helps you digest art on the internet
  • I never envisaged developments as sophisticated as Flipboard which creates a magazine format for the iPad enabling attractive and accessible consumption of Google Reader, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. (Named Apple's iPad App of the Year and one of TIME's top 50 innovations of 2010.) see How Flipboard Turned Web Noise Into iPad Gold
2010 PREDICTION: webware is now normal and will continue to be normal ACCURATE - Use of apps on mobile devices is the absolute norm and the apps market is absolutely amazing! 

2010 PREDICTION: producers must remain alert to the fact a lot of digital delivery needs be capable of fitting three screens - the phone, the computer and the TV screen - all of which are a very different size, offering very different resolutions ACCURATE - this was major in 2010.  However I think this is an aspect that not all artists have not got to grips with yet.  However you do as soon as you start seeing your own sites on a smartphone or iPad! Despite having a 27" screen I opted to go back to a narrower format for my blog.  Blogger has this month also offered the option for the a blog to have a mobile format.

2010 PREDICTION: more people buy online than ever before - and the proportion who do will continue to increase ACCURATE - in general spending online is some 25% more than this time last year.
  • ...which is why more of a focus on the local dimension is anticipated in 2010 ACCURATE - geotagging, FourSquare and use of locations became much more prevalent in the delivery of content in 2010, sometimes without people realising it!
  • ...which means that blogs will become more important as the advertising revenue shifts online more and more ACCURATE
  • ...which leads to professional bloggers becoming more important and more numerous ACCURATE  Virtually all top ranking blogs are now run by professional bloggers and/or teams of bloggers.  But not this one!
Art Blog Predictions for 2010

This next part covers my predictions in relation to art and the Internet and specifically art blogging and other social media communication.

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION: as purchasing and advertising increasingly shifts online, leading artists / art bloggers will be asked more and more to review and/or endorse products. ACCURATE - It's certainly the case that the rate at which I get asked to review things has increased.  With limited time, my policy is to only review items which deserve a review and those where a warning is required!  I’m seeing some evidence that people are complying the rules on endorsements - but also see others who seems to be unaware of the rules.

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION:  more mini blogs will be created for marketing art. UNCLEAR The uptake of mobile blogging formats appears to be very slow.  However this is now possible with Blogger (introduced this month).  David Hockney certainly appreciates the scope to send a new piece of art to friends at the beginning of every day from his iPhone/using Brushes.

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION:  social networking will become more niche oriented UNCLEAR

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION: delivering alerts to the availability of new blog posts/artwork is vital and will become a bit of a science! ACCURATE but scope to improve.  The noise issue is still absolutely critical - people are feeling overwhelmed.  Twitter helps us make and receive comments in an efficient way. It enables us to show our appreciation for a post (by retweeting) and allows us to be brief in our comments. Twitter lists are also great for filtering tweets from different sorts of people.

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION: niche networks which target high income consumers will become more exclusive - and go behind paywalls. UNCLEAR

2010 ART BLOG PREDICTION: there will be an increased need to optimise blogs for all browsers.ACCURATE however I totally underestimated the need to optimise for mobile technology.

Other things I missed - in no particular order - are as follows:
  • how important the title of a blog post has become.  That and the first two sentences is often all we see when deciding whether or not to read a post
  • the novel development of art blogs by botanical artists who are at the leading edge when it comes to new ways to use blogs to promote art
  • the change in Google's algorythm which now makes speed of load quite critical - which means the size of the image needs to be optimised.  Given this is a very heavy weight blog in more ways than one ;) I've cut the dpi on my images to 60dpi from 72dpi and notice very little difference in qulaity but quite a lot in terms of the size of the file
  • how important stats become to provide feedback when comments reduce.  If the numbers visiting are still the same as always do you really mind if the "comments to get the comment back" really disappear?
  • how "keeping on keeping on" is not a bad mode of operation.  Those artists which have just kept blogging on a regular basis without any particular tweks other than automating the posting of blog posts to Twitter and Facebook are maybe feeling less overwhelmed than others.  After all they're not doing anything very different!
  • Software Market leaders have lost their edge:  
    • Microsoft / Windows are beginning to look like they’re lost the leading edge.
    • Flash has been shown the door by Apple and is being overtaken by developments in HTML5 - which has implications for all those running websites using Flash.

BLOGGING ART in 2011: a few predictions

Initially I didn't think I had a lot to say about what I think may happen in 2011.  Wrong!

Generic predictions - about technology, software and social media

First the context for our blogging
  • Apple will continue to rule the technology roost.  They’ve just had one of the best years in financial history! Their market capitalisation now exceeds Microsoft.  We’re talking VERY BIG and very well resourced which will enable them to remain on top.  
    • You may have noticed I’ve also become not only an Apple convert but also a complete Apple fan - having bought a 27” iMac in March and an iPad in November.  
    • One in five Americans will buy a tablet in the next three years. Most of them won't be running Windows.
    • If you’re thinking of replacing technology in 2011, I suggest you take a very long hard look at the hardware offerings from Apple.  I’m less impressed with some of their applications software that I’ve tried to date but since everybody MUST now take Apple seriously that’s much less important.
  • HTML5 will happen in 2011 - because Apple, Microsoft, and Google have all now spoken about supporting HTML5 this year.
  • Multi-touch mobile computing will increase in importance and continue to have a massive impact on how we consume information. For non-music content, functionality in terms of the iPhone and iPad are the standards which all others seek to emulate.
  • Broadband will get faster and cheaper - for those of us for whom this has not happened already
  • People will live their life in a cloud - more and more applications software will be webware and documents will be created and stored online.
  • Apps, Apps and yet more Apps! Apps are going to be where the innovation lies. 
    • mobile apps will become available on desktops
    • apps which enable monetized access to resources will only work where the content is unique or highly specialise and there is no reasonable free alternative (take a look at the Times experiment for the reasons why)
  • Shopping online via wireless technology (smartphones, iPads, notepads etc) will become much more secure as the technology catches up with market behaviour.  Mobile ecommerce will become the big driver of buisness revenue streams in 2011
  • Online advertising will take the top slot and comprehensively overtake print advertising in 2011. At the end of 2010, they are expected to be more or less on a par.
  • ebooks will consolidate their expansion in sales in 2010 and continue to increase in importance in 2011
  • the pace of change will continue to be exponential with the trend being towards diversification across channels - ie more of the same with many new ways of delivering content. 
  • Users will continue to feel overwhelmed. There’s a choice of two routes out of this
    • reduce the number of people / sites you connect to
    • use more intelligent filters and/or compendiums to focus on the sites you partticularly want to follow (such as Making A Mark’s “who’s made a mark this week” - which is in part based on using a filter for Google Reader subscriptions)
Predictions about art - blogging and social media - in 2011

I didn't think I many predictions about art blogging either. Also wrong!
  • Art Blogs are far from dead - but they are very definitely only part of the online picture for delivering art to consumers. If 2010 was the year when being mobile became a priority, 2011 will become the year where we catch up with what that means for each of us in terms of how we deliver and digest art and associated content.
  • Expect to find more and more apps which cater for artists and those who enjoy the visual arts. Specific apps which I expect will begin to emerge / become adopted by key players include:
    • The App which delivers the visual postcard every morning with associated ecommerce capability cannot be far away if not there already! Will artists make their art subscription only?
    • More and more Museums will develop apps for people to enjoy their collections either on a virtual basis or when visiting the museum. Think of the saving on all those headsets for exhibitions!
    • more art publications - including art instruction - will move online in the form of ebooks. At present there are not many art books online but that may change
    • It’s possible that we may need to start contemplating creating websites for apps for smartphones!  (Just as blogs are now developing mobile formats)
  • Maps and location orientation will become much more part of the way we deliver content. Specific developments will include:
    • development of maps of where artists studios and galleries are based in a town or city (eg the Axis Art Map of Cardiff)
    • Foursquare for art, artists, galleries and studios might take off but is unlikely to provide a coherent or comprehensive response
  • Shopping will increasingly move online - it's currently averaging 20-25% higher than the previous year in the UK in the last quarter of the year. While some artists may still prefer to sell through galleries, there’s an issue about whether the galleries are keeping up with the change in the market
    • expect to see more and more art gallery blogs.  Who they link to will be critical...
    • expect to see more and more art societies gearing up to enable online sales at annual exhibitions
  • More artists will self-publish tutorials (based on or linked to content first piloted online through blog posts) and will use a blog to build and maintain and audience for their publications. James Gurney is the leader in the field of blog to publication - and he chose his publisher rather than pitched a book.
    • the publishing houses belatedly woke up to what was happening to the structural change in the publishing business
    • artists need to work out what their USP is to if they buyers
    • I may finish my book!
  • Many artists will rationalise their involvement online. Some artists are spreading themselves too thinly - and this will trigger a move towards deciding which social media they enjoy most and get the most out of. Those who value blogging in its own right (ie as a journal / without an audience) will continue to blog in order to make a record of progress
  • Some will give up on blogging. A number of artists, usually those who didn’t post frequently, are moving more towards Facebook and Twitter and online stores as a means of social communication allied to marketing art

TOMORROW - I review what's happened to art online and how the overall economy is having an impact on art and the online artist and art blogger.

PS  Don't forget that the deadline for NOMINATION for the BEST ARTWORK on art art blog in 2010 is shortly after midnight on 24th December. Links to the nomination threads can be found at the top of the right hand column.

Links: If you like reading about what the past year look like in previous years try checking out the following:


  1. Katherine, Enjoyed your recap of the year and predictions. The world moves very quickly - and you're right, I know I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and having a time managing my hours. I haven't gotten on the ipad bandwagon for not wanting to learn yet another new thing - which is probably going to have to change (my thoughts I mean)

  2. Thankyou for this. I'm completely lost in the world of ICT - but your very first paragraph has become the important point of blogging for me - the process itself which helps me focus on my progress and to analyse my work and plan next steps. I never really did that before. And hopefully by reading your helpful information ICT and me will better aquainted.

  3. Impressive as to how astute your 2010 predictions were:)

  4. Killer post... Now off to share it! LOL!

  5. excellent insights I must say I agree with you on almost everything! A few points though
    -microsoft (in my opinion) will always dominate certian industries ex: accounting, however as you pointed out apple is definately becoming a giant. Also they always were huge in the graphic design/ art community.
    - increase in noise has made people more ADD, which in turn has made platforms like twitter and facebook popular since less attention is required
    - 100% correct with ebook publishers don't have to invest nearly as much money upfront therefore I think they will (once security issues become resolved) be strongly supportive of the switch


  6. That was one of the best posts on art blogging I've ever read. Thanks :) I really like what you said about the process of blogging. I've realized so many things about my art and how and why I create since I've started blogging. Things I wouldn't have known otherwise. That alone is a huge payoff for me.

  7. I find the level of information given out on your blog absolutely stunning and thought I should take the time to comment and congratulate you (being one of those who is reading your blog without commenting!). I chanced upon your blog via another artist's blogroll and it's been a most useful resource and interesting read. Wishing you happy continued blogging in 2011!
    (Ok, I've gone through about five attempts to post this comment and I think I'm going to manage it now by having signed into a Google account - it's all a learning process:))

  8. Good post Katherine which makes several good points. ‘Keep on keeping on’, is one comment you make that could probably sum up the whole article for me. I keep a blog these days to note the changes in direction my work takes. While it’s true that I think every artist should have one even if only to clarify their own thinking, it has not turned out to be the marketing tool I expected. Two years later with four subscribers and next to no comments, the thin skinned artist would have abandoned ship by now but my posts are getting more frequent by the month.
    I’m far from a tech expert so the thought of spending more time learning twitter, face book, mobiles and self publishing etc, all leave less time for painting and what the blog is supposed to be about. I track surges of interest on the site and have noticed that after exposure to outside sources like exhibitions or in one exceptional case a BBC radio interview, interest really rises. I do comment on other sites when I genuinely like something I see but any response via traffic to my site is minimal. I am still learning the ropes online but I will certainly, ‘keep on keeping on’, as I find the blog is as good as an online portfolio for the artist, which I can direct interested parties to to take a peek.

  9. I find your insights fascinating, and they strike a chord even with one who is relatively new to to whole online world. I started blogging regularly a couple of months ago at the same time as attempting to sort out my Twitter and facebook presence, and revamp my website. The enormity of the task and the time it has taken to manage my online time has shocked me, but I see it as an essential part of my practice now. I have also been torn between the desire to raise my online profile and the desire not to add unnecessarily to the information overload in cyberspace. Filtering and distilling whilst not missing vital information is the biggest challenge for me.

  10. Wow! Amazing post. Chock full of tons of information. Thanks!

  11. Hi Katherine, Interesting reading; I think I'm going to have to re-read it.

    The message I'm hearing right away is good content attracts readers; cultivate and nurture core readers; consistency. And, yet, it's ever changing.

    I came here looking for the standard in art blogging; you never disappoint!

    PS. I'm an apple convert and am loving it.

  12. Excellent points Katherine. I use your blog as a 'gateway' and check out sites that you talk about. I subscribe to just a few, the ones I have found that I get the most from. I too am an apple convert and will be looking more seriously at the ipad come the new year. Lots to think about, as I look at upgrading my web site in the next few weeks. Happy New Year!

  13. Katherine, you don't fool around when you tackle a subject!

    The observation you made concerning the fact that blogging about art equals improved art, whether or not anyone else reads it, is brilliant. That comment alone will prevent many of those 3 month towels from being thrown in.

    Thank you for your insights.

  14. Katherine, I read every word! Thank you for pondering and predicting. You're right on, and my guess is that you will continue with accurate predictions.

    This post is especially encouraging to me since I've already begun to produce instructional downloads and ebooks.

    I think galleries would do well to hire arts writers to interview and write articles on the gallery's artists and post for free on their websites. It'll save them a lot of money on advertising.

    Thanks again, and hope you have a wonderful holiday. Unfortunately I won't be able to tune in for your post tomorrow evening :(

  15. It's posts like this that make your insights a critical part of every artists' recommended reading list. Thanks again, Katherine!

  16. Katherine...the most helpful blog post I have read thus far. A post from Carol Weibe led me to your post. I was feeling so alone and overwhelmed but determined to give blogging a serious "last try" in 2011. Immediately, I will link my blog with my twitter and facebook and let then be one Can't wait to read your next post.

    Starting from here...


  17. This information was invaluable to me, thank you so much! I just read an article about true intelligence being measured by ability to seek and recognize patterns, and that is obviously one of your strongest suits. Congratulations, smartie! :-)


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