“You start as a phony and become real.” - Glenn O’Brien, American writer and critic also known as the “Style Guy”. (glennobrien.com)
I have been thinking lately about my first six months as a blogger. Starting a new year does that to me. I want to feel that I am achieving the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.
As most things go, the idea of blogging didn't occur to me until April 2014, when an acquaintance, who read the travelogue I was writing while I was visiting Morocco, Spain, and Portugal, suggested that I might like to have my own blog.
And thus began a year of procrastination. I sent emails far and wide and asked if my friends knew anything about blogging. No. Not one of them did. I cursorily researched different blogs but nothing caught my attention. I was ready to just leave the whole idea on the backburner for a good long time.
Blogging was foreign to me and to people around me. It was like learning to change a spark plug on a car (do spark plugs even still exist?)...are you SURE, ABSOLUTELY SURE the car will work when I am through working on those plugs? I probably would have continued to delay a decision, but then, something changed my mind, and I just couldn't wait to get started.
In the fall of 2014, I started an online course with Sketchbook Skool (sketchbookskool.com) and this lead me to discover that I loved watercolours perhaps as much as, dare I say it, my coloured pencils. Shocker!
(my first sketch with a watercolour background for an assignment in Beginnings at Sketchbook Skool.)
Around the same time that I started this online course, (see how the stars often align?), the same acquaintance who had previously suggested the blog, was now a close friend. We had exchanged emails, had spent time together, and in conversation, I learned that she had worked in the tech industry. She volunteered to help me set up my very own blog. And that is how I ran out of excuses.
Before actually publishing my first post, there was a lot of tedious but necessary work to do.
There would be a binder full of notes that she and I would prepare before we even started the actual process of going live. There were lots of elements to consider now that I was so close to my goal.
I had had a whole year to think about blogging and ask myself a few crucial questions.
1. why blog? ( or, in other words, didn't I already have enough to do?)
The best reason to have my own blog was that it would motivate me to paint or draw on a regular basis. Having subscribers was enough incentive to make me feel very committed to producing art that could be published at least once a week.
An added bonus that I didn't think of initially is that it is gratifying to see all the posts add up, and all the art that has been done over time.
Secondly, the social connections that are possible with a blog were very enticing. How cool would it be to get feedback from friends, and from other bloggers in far away countries! Much like all the pen pals I had when I was young...so exciting to see their letters in the mailbox.
2. Who would read my blog? (or can my ego accept that I might only have a few readers)
I hoped my friends and family might read it because then it would save me the trouble of spamming them with all my art. I had become quite adept at doing that before I became a social media maven. (HA!) I also hoped to make connections with other artists and that eventually, they might also subscribe to my blog.
3. What look did I want for my blog? In other words, which template did I want? (or could I find something out of the thousands of possible "looks" that would be pleasing to the eye)
This was a bit more nebulous for me. I scrutinized many templates and narrowed them down to three or four that I really liked. I chose a template that most resembled some of the blogs I liked at that time taking into account a few other important factors like level of technical support and mobile friendly features.
I didn’t want: a junky looking blog with too much information and doodads in the sidebars. Some blogs are just overloaded with so much information that the art is lost and the temptation for the viewer is to skim over the blog post and look at everything in the sidebars, and potentially, move away from the blogger's site.
Having seen blogs that are all over the map so to speak, I wanted my blog to focus on art and art-related subjects. I wanted to sketch or paint items, places, people I saw in my travels or during a walk in the neighbourhood. If I had beautiful photos, I wanted to post them as they could be potential fodder for artistic creativity. The blog would become a record of my journey as an artist and that would be the initial intent that would have to be kept in mind at all times.
4. Was I willing to learn and invest some of my time in a blog? (or was I ready to be the student)
As a teacher, I had to learn everything before I taught it. The technical aspects of the blog were the ones that I feared the most, but with a little help from my friend, and lots of reference notes I kept in a binder, I found that I was able to manage the blog myself. And I still do.
There are features that I would like to add in the future and I am discovering what they are as I continue to blog.
5. Could I be patient enough? (ahhhh, this is the tough one)
I wanted everything to be perfect from the get-go and that was not going to happen with either the blog or the art. As I have said, both are works in progress and just as I discover new techniques, new mediums to mix in my art, so it goes with my blog. I am learning as I go about hyperlinks, RSS Feed, Widgets, SEO Tools and plug-ins, (yes, I know your eyes are wandering away) and I am still at times as befuddled as if I had to change that darned spark plug.
Each time I try something new on the blog I wonder if it will work once I have played around with it. Will I delete something important? Will I change something I really don't want to change?
I am surprised that everything usually falls into place, sometimes after a few glasses of wine.
To get the blog up and running as quickly as possible, I decided I would post the art I was creating and nurture my love of writing with accompanying texts and occasionally, I would add photographs. This would have to be enough to start.
The blog would allow me to see a progression in my work and hopefully, my readers would follow and perhaps even be inspired to try something creative of their own, another aspect I find very rewarding about blogging.
Finally, my tech-savvy friend generously gave me lots of excellent advice, first and foremost, to just dive in and start the blog and accept that there would be some tweaking from time to time. (thanks Kris!)
My first blog post was published in June 2015.
When I look at other artists and their blogs, I feel like a phony. I always see art and blogs that are so much better than my own. I suppose we are hard wired to compare our work to others and especially, to notice what we are lacking compared to others. However, I am reassured that with time, and lots of improvement to both the blog and the art, I will be a genuine artist as well as an accomplished blogger. Stay tuned!