Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Opportunities and Audiences

Thanks to the Internet, there are now countless opportunities for us to share every thought, idea, and action with others. Believe me when I say, venues like Facebook, Blogger, and websites are so seductive, and you can easily squander (yes, I confess, I've been squandering!) away countless hours with any or all of them. But given that we're artists who want to and should be spending most of our time painting, we have to ask ourselves what we're really accomplishing with these activities. In my opinion, it all comes down to purpose. Who are you trying to communicate with, and why? 

I think it's pretty much understood by now that your website should be your professional presence on the internet. This is an opportunity to show off your work to potential collectors/buyers/customers (call them what you will). And yet, I still come across the occasional artist's website that includes a page about the grandkids. I would recommend keeping the professional stuff and the personal stuff separate, and using something other than your website (like a social networking site) to share all the fun stuff that goes on in your personal life. One other tip: I don't think it's necessary to include every painting you've ever done on your website. Approach your choice of paintings much as you would curate a show -- 20 or 30 of your best pieces ought to do it.

Blogging, Facebooking, and Twittering are different animals, however. The lines between personal and professional can become blurred even more easily... unless you decide up-front what your purpose in using them will be. If your objective is to communicate with buyers, once again, you've got to keep it professional. You'll probably want to stay focused on how and why you create your work, and mostly you'll want to show only your best work. 

Or maybe you want to create a forum (like this little blog right here) in which you can communicate with your fellow artists. If you know your audience is only going to be fellow artists (which is possible with Facebook, which gives you the power to control who sees your page), you might even use it as a forum to solicit feedback and advice. If your purpose is social networking with the possibility of using it to promote something to your fellow artists on occasion, such as a workshop, you can probably also get a little more personal (like me sharing my painting block a while back). But still, the totally personal silly stuff should remain elsewhere. 

Now, if you just wanna have fun, I strongly urge you to restrict that to a Facebook page. All of the other formats allow anyone to have access to the material you put out there. With Facebook, again, you can control who has access to your page, bio stuff, and materials. Restricting the personal to this private forum will allow you to maintain your professional image everywhere else.

My personal decision is to use my website and Twitter to attract potential customers, the blog for artist-to-artist stuff, and my Facebook page for a free-for-all of personal and professional stuff. (Translation: if you want to see pictures of my cats or my recent weekend in St Louis, friend me on Facebook.) If a possible collector should come across my blog, I won't mind because there isn't anything on here that I'd be uncomfortable having anyone see.

Why is it important to keep things categorized like this? I can think of several reasons. First, there is so much stuff out on the internet that you'll still have to promote your website or blog or social networking page if you want people to find you. Therefore, it's a good idea to be clear on who you're going to promote to so that you use the most effective means. It'll also help you deliver what you promised when your viewers/readers -- be they friends or strangers -- arrive at your site or page. And finally, clarity of focus also helps you control how much time you're investing in any or all of these venues.

Communicating through the internet is so fabulous, and I'm convinced that it will be THE art marketing tool of the future. We just have to be smart about how we use it.


  1. It's seductive as you mentioned and one can spend lots of time doing whatever on the internet. I have found, however that it is a nice way to "hook up" with people I might not have gotten to know otherwise.

  2. I completely agree. I'm a Facebook addict. It's like going to a party and meeting all of your friend's friends. I really encourage artists to sign on because there is just so much great camaraderie and encouragement and information sharing happening there.

  3. Hi Jennifer! This is a great bit of discussion as the general public (friends, et al) wantonly recommend or invite me to Facebook or Linkdin (spelling appology.) Coming from a background of photography me thinks these pop. internet venues are suspicious from the point of copyrights. Reading the fine print on them uncovers the ownership issues, theirs not ours. Worth protecting our creative efforts since making one's way in art is an uphill push without giving one's creative/intellectual efforts away. 'Nother issue is the proliferation of private data, privacy is still important for many reasons. Sometimes these social networking sites are harvested for personal data that can be compiled for security penetration ... we use familiar things and sometimes that means our pets and favorite colors et al. Pandora's Box and all, proceed cautiously. Jennifer, I love that you're out painting, but so far away. "Ars longa, vita brevis." (Hippocrates)

  4. You are so right about the privacy and the copyright issues! That reminds me that I've been meaning to look into the latest copyright laws. I know there have been some changes lately, and it's really important to stay informed. That'll make a good future post. Love you! Jennifer

  5. Hi, Jennifer, I just saw you had posted to my blog and I've set it up now to be moderated so have still to check regularly, sorry for the tardy posting of the comment. Another thing with this Facebook stuff that is on my mind these days is consciousness and thinking through things – something I need a lot more practice doing. Such an interesting edge to build closeness by revealing but to have sensible boundaries about the pertinence of what I say, and still think through the outcomes. Maybe I'm more reticent and prefer my little spot in the cedar swamp with a close circle of connections to broad popularity. Me and my painting wrestle, keeps me busy but I would benefit from a more balanced social life, for certain! :) Love and love and love.