Sunday, December 29, 2013

Generating Art - The Making A Mark Art Blog Awards 2013

This is the first post in The Making A Mark Art Blog Awards 2013 to announce who has won an award this year.

The Making A Mark Awards are for Art Blogs and for blogging about art on art blogs.

A year of transition

This year seems to be a period of transition!

What's very clear is that during 2013 fewer people have been keeping up with their blogs compared to times past and fewer people have been visiting blogs to comment.  So we've seen:
  • fewer blog posts, 
  • less visits to art blogs (although changes in the Google algorithm certainly affected stats re. visits), and 
  • people reading fewer blog posts (the loss of Google Reader has been significant). 
At the same time I'm also seeing evidence of people working out a clear social media strategy for displaying their art which involves their blogs alongside websites and a presence on social media sites and vlogging (video blogging).

What I need to do is work out whether I continue to limit these awards in future to just art blogs or take on board the wider social media aspects as well.  Time will tell - I've certainly not made any decision as yet.

The Generating Art category 

There are three awards in this category - all associated with  with making, displaying and exhibiting art.
  • The Best Art Blog Project Virtual Challenge Cup
  • The Best Art Society Blog Prize
  • The Showcase Shield (which replaces The Painting A Day Stickability Shield )
First however there is a an announcement of a retirement - and it marks the end of an era.

The Painting A Day Stickability Shield - RETIRED

This year I have retired The Painting A Day Stickability Shield and replaced it with The Showcase Shield. Previous winners of this award include:
Last year I noticed that many fewer people had any sort of legitimate claim to be doing a painting a day - compared to earlier years.

In 2013, seven years later, I think we can now officially declare the "painting a day" phase well and truly past its peak.  

It will continue - with those for whom this is their preferred way of working - and for those who have got a well established following. However it's wrong to characterise the frequent production of small works as "a painting a day" when the origins of the movement lay in something very much more demanding in terms of blogging art (and these are, after all, awards for blogging art!).

"Painting every day" is however something that lots of people will continue to do - mostly on rather larger works!  Painting regularly every week is good too!

The Best Art Blog Project Virtual Challenge Cup

Art can be quite a lonely activity and it's noticeable that people often like to have some sort of involvement in groups and projects related to art!  Often these are informal because of the nature of the project or as an organisational preamble to the formation of a more formal group. This award is designed to provide recognition to those who set up and keep such projects going so that they are able to create and achieve.

The Best Art Blog Project Virtual Challenge Cup
This award is for

  • EITHER a major and reputable new project which adds value and involves a large number of bloggers  
  • OR or a project which has grown over the course of the year in question or otherwise had some significant impact during the course of the year

Previous winners are:
2011: The Help Japan Challenge Auction (Keiko Tanabe, David Marine and the Daily Paintworks Art Bloggers)
2010: The Virtual Paintout2009: Urban Sketchers2008: Different Strokes from Different Folks
2007: the International Sketchcrawl drawing marathons
2006: the Crackskull Bob Self-Portrait Marathon and the Daily Painters Blog
Last year I had Women Painting Women in my sights as a project which was certainly worthy of an award - and was upset to find that their blog seemed to have died.  Little did I know at the time that they were planning bigger and better things for 2013!

First a bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with this blog and project
Women Painting Women is a blog that was started in 2008 by artists Sadie JerniganValeri (blog), Alia El-Bermani (blog) and Diane Feissel (blog) to highlight underrepresented female artists working in the figurative tradition with this theme.
From this they managed to:
  • organise a juried exhibition of works by 50 female painters in 2010 at the Robert Lange Studio in Charleston, SC titled, "Women Painting Women."  (Click the link - the very impressive paintings in the exhibition are still online)
Images from the first exhibition
  • develop a one week residency in 2010
During a one-week residency outside Charleston, 14 artists- Mia Bergeron, Alia El-Bermani, Linda Tracey Brandon, Rachel Constantine, Diane Feissel, Lisa Gloria, Catherine Prescott, Cindy Procious, Shannon Runquist, Katherine Stone, Terry Moore Strickland, Stefani Tewes, Alexandra Tyng, and Sadie Jernigan Valeri painted together, taking on technical challenges as well as finding a space to voice their concerns and hopes as women making art in the twenty first century.
  • In April 2012, they were asked to hold another exhibition in Charleston - "Women Painting Women: The Expedition and Beyond." at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA (it's a pity a record of this exhibtion is not online) - and then it all went quiet
However, what the women had planned for 2013 fell only a little short of world domination! Here's the very simple concept they had in mind for their exhibition(s) in 2013
The goal of this show—as with the group's past shows—is to expand the collective sense of what a woman is and means in the realm of art. Each artist that had exhibited at the previous WPW exhibition at Principle Gallery has been asked to invite one female artist to exhibit alongside them, thus multiplying the power and vision of the group twofold. We are also asking other venues to host their own Women Painting Women exhibitions or events concurrently with this September show. We envision that in September and October of 2013 we will see a rash of exhibitions celebrating and promoting the amazing figurative works we see coming from today's women artists.
In the end, in 2013, the project organised and held SEVEN concurrent exhibitions and went international in 
Where do they go from here?  Some National Portrait Gallery has got to pick them up at some point surely?

This is an art blog project which started with an admirable set of values, achieved its goals and then changed up a gear and created a significant movement amongst painters.  In all of this the art blog has proved a valuable tool for showcasing the work of various women artists and providing a place of reference and an accessible identity for their work.

I salute them!

The absolutely undisputed 2013 winner of
The Best Art Blog Project Virtual Challenge Cup
the group of women artists who work together as 

The Best Art Society Blog Prize

The Best Art Society Blog Prize 2013

This prize is for the Art Society Blog which demonstrates - in both text and images - how best to
  • promote the aims and activities of the art society and
  • AND widen the audience for the images of its member artists.

Below are my criteria for assessing art society blogs.

The characteristics of a good Art Society Blog

An EFFECTIVE Art Society Blog will:
  • Be useful to current and prospective members
    • Basic data about how become a member is always included (i.e. assumes a readership beyond existing members). 
    • Information about events and activities include enough information for people to be able to locate the society's activities (e.g. does not assume "everybody knows"). 
  • Always be Current - that means all content is up to date and timely - announcements about events and exhibitions will allow time for people to plan and arrange to visit! 
  • Emphasise the Visual - Art rather than words dominate the blog. Images of artwork or event posters should always be included whenever possible and relevant. An art society blog without images says something about how important visual images and the artists' artwork really are! (This factor is the main reason why some art society blogs are NOT shortlisted. A little bit of persistence is all that is required). 
  • Highlight what the Art Society does - blog posts can show people what the society does and what it has to offer through the use of photographs of activities and artwork 
  • Supports Artists and their career development through highlighting their exhibitions and websites. Blog posts profile members, their artwork and their exhibitions - regular updates throughout the year generate extra marketing for artist members, extra traffic for the websites of the artist, art society and gallery associated with members.
The problem at the moment is that by and large most art society blogs have not yet achieved this

One key issue is an apparent lack of understanding of how important the visual image is - which is really surprising given these are art society blogs.  However this year I have seen a lot more use being made of flyers and posters relating to exhibitions on some art blogs

One of the main problems relating to lack of progress seems to be a lack of skills at the Committee level in terms of blogging.  Possibly this relates to the average age of the committee members of some art societies.  Those with a younger profile seem to do rather better at getting to grips with the Internet.

In 2013, one blog and its associated art society started from scratch and reached a good standard of activity and blogging in a very short time.  The Pencil Art Society launched in Canada in March 2013 and it was immediately apparent that a brand new approach was being adopted to communicating with members and the wider art world - and it felt like a breath of fresh air.  The website was in effect a blog which made very good use of the static page functionality. The first blog post stated
Our website is now active and fully functional. We have a blog, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. We will be very active on social media and we hope you will be there with us!
In 9 months, the Pencil Art Society has gone international, held their first online exhibition and built a membership of over 5,000 members in their Facebook Group.  What I particularly like about the blog is it's making an effort to open people's eyes to the scope for pencil art and increasing awareness of the different approaches and styles. Leading members have also written blog posts with an educational slant which is a very welcome development and one which other art society blogs might usefully review.

The 2013 winner of
The Best Art Society Blog Prize 2013
is The Pencil Society Art Blog

Much is due to the efforts of the founding members - namely Alexandra Bastien, Erica Walker and Lissa Rachelle Robillard are founding members.

By now some of you will appreciate that one of the themes of this post is that I've been very impressed by women artists this year!

NEW IN 2013 - The Showcase Shield

The Showcase Shield 2013 for
  • EITHER art blogs which consistently showcase good quality artwork of other artists - with words as well as images
  • AND/OR the work of one artist who maintains and displays a consistently high output of consistently good quality paintings over the course of the year (i.e. it doesn't have to be daily - but it does have to be lots!)

Two nominations were received with respect to two artists - one for his output and one for general showcasing of the work of the artist and others.
He posts consistently amazing small daily paintings of UK and French subjects - mostly plein air landscapes and still lifes - in oil and watercolour.
She posts photos of her beautiful work, images of the process and highlights shows and other arty events.
However I want to place more emphasis in this first year on the curation of art and artists by art bloggers.  This is also an award which I'm thinking of opening up to social media generally rather than just art blogs.  Or maybe I'll make the generic showcase bit social media oriented and the artist part art blog focused?  We'll see......

For example, on Facebook, I follow Jonty Hurwitz (Facebook: Art of Jonty Hurwitz) who posts very regularly and constantly amazes me with the contemporary art he finds and highlights on his page.  I also particularly like it because he finds sculpture and installations which I like but don't tend to look for as much as drawings, paintings and prints.  He also reveals the level of innovation and quality that provide strong competition for more conventional artists when it comes to art collectors' $/£/€.

I do think this type of curation is something which Facebook is excels at. I'm inclining very much towards doing more of this in the New Year - which means I better start liking some more Facebook Pages (NOT accounts) to make sure I see what's on offer for our delectation.

However, if I'm limiting the Showcase Award to art blogs in 2013 then there can be only one winner in my eyes.

That's Lines and Colors by Charley Parker - which is one of the top art blogs in the world. He describes it thus
Lines and Colors is a blog about drawing, sketching, painting, comics, cartoons, webcomics, illustration, digital art, concept art, gallery art, artist tools and techniques, motion graphics, animation, sci-fi and fantasy illustration, paleo art, storyboards, matte painting, 3d graphics and anything else I find visually interesting. If it has lines and/or colors, it's fair game.
More importantly, what Charley has been doing since August 2005 is writing about fine artists and illustrators past and present. Here's some of the features of his blog
  • he posts regularly - and creates a lot of posts each month - I counted 31 to date this month.  This is somebody who you really have to have a feedreader for if you know you'll need to plan what to read. (I'm now using Feedly and am finding it very easy on the eye.).  This is one of the very important factors as to why his art blog regularly features in the top ten in the world.
  • he makes very good use of images of artwork - there's a lot of them and they're generally large. He also makes very good use of a macro crops to illustrate a point. I particularly like the way he assembles a compilation which means it's not easy to copy artwork off his website
  • he showcases and reviews the work of contemporary artists who post their work online.  A number of artists who are also art bloggers have been reviewed over time (including me!).  What I'd really like to see on the site is a listing - linked to blog posts - of every artist covered in alphabetical order
  • he posts accessible but authoritative posts about artists from the past who are worth knowing about.  Although he has the odd eye candy post, most of his art history posts provide good quality and reliable links to online resources and relevant publications. I've learned a lot about artists who I otherwise might not have come across.
  • he highlights exhibitions where good quality art can be seen and gives us feedback on the ones he's seen.
  • He provides helpful posts on practical matters from time to time and/or focuses on a theme of contemporary relevance eg he's recently been contrasting the sudden vogue for the "selfie" with the development of the self portrait over time.
The 2013 Winner of
The Art Blog Showcase Shield
is "Lines and Colors"
written by Charley Park


  1. Thanks for the post. I just started an art blog so keeping all of this in mind will be super helpful. Hvae a happy new year.

  2. Great choices, Katherine. All worthy.


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