A Blog About Oil Painting

What Makes a Great Art Blog?

/ / General Writing

I was a late arrival to the blogging scene.

When I started it felt like every artist was already blogging. Yet in 2012 it had already started to fade.

Since then the surge in social media has decimated the ranks of artists who maintain a blog. Few have survived the electronic apocalypse, and for good reason: 

  • On social media platforms there is a more-or-less captive audience. Push your story out and there's a good chance it will be seen by anyone who scrolls far enough down their news feed.
  • Social media news feeds are mostly picture-driven, not story driven, so they are an ideal fit for almost every visual artist.

For a blogger, neither of those things is true: audiences must be grabbed and made to give up an email address in order to stay in touch; articles are not compelling when they're about a single painting.

To add to our troubles, a blog article shared to Facebook never seems to be as popular as one that's created directly on the site.

So why do I continue to maintain an art blog?

  • It helps me to keep a record of techniques, methods, color choices and the story behind each painting - information that would otherwise be lost.
  • Writing about something lets me begin to really understand it.

If you've been a follower of this blog (ha ha, just kidding, I know that few people read the blog), you'll have noticed that, starting last summer, I changed the format and theme of my articles. I stopped trying to emulate a Facebook feed on my own blog and started writing more in-depth stuff.

My aim is to turn the blog into a useful collection of information and stories. A long term project that I plan to work on over the next few years.

At the same time I've been trying to find new artist's blogs that I want to read, but turned up very few that are new to me (ironically, what I don't find interesting are the blogs that make it to the top of lists of popular art blogs).

All of this got me to thinking "what does makes a great art blog?".

1. Writing ability

Firstly, I want to read articles that are written by people who can write well. I'm not looking for Nobel prize-winning literature or even work that's written with the guidance of an ink-smudged editor, just something halfway good. Something that the author cares about.

Although not a blog post, here's a great example: http://www.greggkreutz.com/coping-with-sargent. Gregg has an advantage over most other artists in that 1. he has an English Lit degree, and 2. he's already a best -selling author.

Did you notice how comfortable that is to read? There are lots of ways to make blog articles more accessible:

  • use of headers
  • bullet points for lists
  • use simple words
  • use plain syntax, shorter paragraphs, etc.

All things I wish I had discovered a long time ago. My engineering reports and proposals would have been much more widely read!

2. Insight & Depth

I want to learn about other artist's techniques and experiences, but most of all I want to read about things that the writer is passionate about—especially if they are willing to go against generally accepted views.

Some examples:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/jan/09/art-criticism-fawning-hatchet-job-award

and

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/11/thomas-kincades-16-guidelines-for-making-stuff-suck

What's missing from both those articles is the dumbed-down, war on attention, Buzzfeed-level writing that's designed purely to get clicks without providing any real content.

3. Story Driven

This is the point where I'm going to differ from every list of "great art blogs" that I've read. You see, I think the most compelling content comes from story-telling.

In most articles about art we lead with the picture and write about it. That always forces the narrative into a pattern which, in my case, goes something like: location, palette, weather, anecdote, blah blah.

My point is that that kind of writing is awfully predictable. Neither interesting nor engaging.

However, when you set out to tell a story, and use the art to reinforce your narrative, you have much more freedom to create something interesting. Here's an example from a popular art blog:

https://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2016/01/arthur-wesley-dow-and-disjointed-ramble.html

What Stapleton does in this and other articles is to provide a bridge between the past and present generations of painters. His use of story telling combined with his writing ability provides the perfect vehicle for his own insight and experience.