I Will Follow You (To Your Blog and Back)
I started my first blog back in 2008. I was about to start a two month artist residency in Santa Fe and I wanted to have a way to document my experience and artwork progression. I had no expectations with this blog, it was a personal journal of sorts. Just me, writing down my daily thoughts, adventures, inspirations, etc. It was a wonderful way to stay in touch with family, friends, and students. It served my purpose well at the time and is a much needed read for me even now to see how energized and new my practice was while in Santa Fe. I still browse the old posts from time to time just to surround myself with that mental space again. It is still up, http://artistramblings.blogspot.com/,
if anyone is curious...
After the residency was over I tried to keep the blog up but didn't have the same momentum once I was back to the daily grind. I posted sporadically for years but eventually started to question the benefits of such a loose approach to blogging. I didn't want to feel forced to keep up with it. As with everything I do, if I'm going to do it I will do it full force - this blog was running on fumes.
Then in 2015, a lot of things changed and with that so did my approach to blogging. I resigned from full-time teaching, I had a 2 year old and a newborn to take care of, and I was keeping late hours at night, when I should have been catching up on sleep, to pour my heart out developing a professional business plan for my artwork. For the first time in my life I was taking myself seriously as an artist. Not only do artists have to develop a studio practice but they also have to be responsible for their professional practice. For years I had avoided the business end of things. Not my forte. But, now that I had taken the leap off the cliff so to speak (leaving a tenure track job ~ was I crazy?!), I knew I would have to buckle down and own my artwork in a way I never had before.
Blogging was and is part of my business plan. Not business as some creative types view the word as in cold and calculating but more business as in a structured road map to (reach the sky) or further my opportunities as an artist. It gives me a platform in which I can work out ideas, clear my thoughts, get organized, and help others. The ultimate goal being to use it as a springboard to launching a book in the near future. With all of this in mind I started, Digital Handmade, in 2015. I knew this one was going to be different.
I began with an overhaul to my website. It needed more than just a fresh coat of paint! I made the decision to house the blog directly on the site just to bring more traffic to my portfolio as well. It just made sense to keep it all together. The name of the blog was a given - it just felt right. "Digital Handmade" was a phrase I had in my head for a long time. As a Digital Artist I have always felt out of place because I am not a purely digital artist and I don't have the technical passion that some digital artists do. I like to keep the tools simple and the process hands on. Not to say I don't know my software inside and out - every artist has to hone their craft - but I'm not constantly seeking out the latest bells and whistles either. "Digital Handmade" implies that Digital Art can be authentic, it can be real, using the computer as a tool does not prevent this type of connection to the work. My blog was going to discuss aspects of authenticity in relation to my medium of choice but also cross-over into broader territory of artistic practice concerns in general thus building a bridge between digital and traditional. The two can and do meet on a regular basis on my blog and elsewhere.
As an artist I knew that blogs where used to build an audience but where to start. I didn't want to write and write to a black hole, I needed to make sure someone could hear me. I did not have a great way of connecting with a large audience when I began this blogging journey so I got busy researching methods of building a community and then put energy into putting these methods into practice. Over the past year I have had a steady increase in followers, subscribers, and comments. In order to promote my blog, I knew I had to grow my social media presence, my mailing list, organization memberships, and overall connections with the artistic community.
Social media for me was going to be Facebook and Instagram. I am not into much else and didn't want to spread myself thin, My first move was to join several Facebook groups that could lead me to people that could potentially connect with my work and writing. Sharing the blog posts on these group pages has definitely helped me turn up the volume on my blog in a non-invasive kind of way. I am sharing with people that care about these topics in the first place. I think that's the key. It's not my style to blanket everyone with my words - only those who need them. Again, join as many groups as possible. I'm joining new groups weekly and should really push that a bit further. I think many people just share on their personal accounts but if you don't have a large following where will that get you? Break out of your inner circle, that's a must.
Honestly, Instagram should have been a given for me for a long time now but I just recently jumped on the Instagram train. Don't ask me why it has taken me so long! So I have to wait and see how that will develop but I have high hopes. I absolutely love the idea of curating my photos and artwork. It's a beautiful way to share visual inspiration with others and again so easy for people to opt in and out of. It compliments the blog and artistic image in so many ways. Check out my https://www.instagram.com/jessica_wascak/ if you would like to follow along.
A mailing list and newsletter is a great little reminder to people that you are out there. I have found that sharing the mailing list at shows works well but also having a pop-up subscription form on your website works wonders. I noticed a marked increase in subscribers once I installed that on my site. I used MailChimp to collect the subscribers info and have found that Wix (my web host) has an easy and stylish way to get the word out - called ShoutOut. This format has suited me well for the newsletter. Not to much to it. I work on sending one out about once a month. I usually start with an artwork image and a bit of inspirational conversation about the piece. I then lead into new happenings in my artistic world (recent workshops, upcoming shows, installations, etc.). I then like to end on promoting the blog by sharing a recent post recap and link. I try to keep everything professional yet conversational.
Guest posts, online interviews, shared info on sites you are a member of, and any other means of putting that little link to your blog out there in internet universe will only bring more eyes to your posts. I will have to share more info with you on those topics someday because they are posts within themselves but I wanted to at least mention the importance of spreading the word in those ways. Always reaching out. Even bringing people in. Guest bloggers on your site would be a great way to bring other people's audiences to you. I am currently working on all of these things. Have a great line up of guest bloggers in my pocket. So watch for those in the near future!
I think the last thing I will leave you with, and perhaps the biggest thing to remember, is that if you are going to start a blog you have to have something to say! Sounds like a no-brainer but so many artists have a hard time keeping their blogs active for this reason. A little piece of advice that always stuck with me, "give people something of value for free" and they will keep coming back. If you just post images of your work and talk about yourself then you may have a few fans but people are going to keep coming back if there is something they can take away from it. I am a teacher at heart so I love the idea that I can share info and inspiration with others - giving back is amazing. But at the same time, my newfound business self, also knows that this will ultimately help me attract like minds (aka grow my audience) and this is of course what all bloggers hope to achieve.
So fellow bloggers, please share your blog links in the comments here. I'd love to follow you!