What Makes a Great Art Blog?

If you've been a follower of this blog (ha ha, just kidding), you'll have noticed that, starting last summer, I changed the format and theme of my articles. I started writing more in-depth stuff.

My aim is to turn my blog into something that's useful for both me and my readers, a collection of information and stories that will be built as a long-term project. To get started I jotted down these thoughts on art blogs, including a list of this things that make for interesting content.

When I wrote my first blog post in 2012 (I'm not counting my brief, abandoned attempt at Tumblr), the shift from blogs to social media platforms was well underway.

Since then the list of artists who maintain a blog has shrunk exponentially.

It's easy to see why: engagement on social media is far greater and its picture-driven format is ideal for artists. On the other hand, writing compelling blog content takes time and effort (and it's difficult!).

Artists have always been drawn together. Before the internet it was through sketch clubs and open studios, in the 1990's it was DeviantArt, in the 2000's it was Wet Canvas, and since 2008 or so it has been Facebook and Instagram. Artists now build global relationships with other artists and their customer base with relative ease—something that would have taken serious time, effort and travel in the past.

So why do I continue to maintain an art blog?

  1. It helps me to keep a record of the story behind each painting and details of things like the color palette and techniques used—information that would otherwise be lost.
  2. Writing about something lets me begin to really understand it.
  3.  But most importantly, as Noah Berlatsky wrote in The Atlantic: "one of the nice things about the Internet is that it provides venues where you can natter on, unfiltered by editors, and largely unencumbered by an audience".

I looked at many other art blogs while trying to find a model for my own. A few stood out (although what I don't find interesting are the blogs that make it to the top of lists of popular art blogs), but in the end I decided to follow my own path and not worry about what anyone else was doing.

All of this got me to thinking: what makes a great art blog (or any blog, for that matter), in particular what makes me keep coming back to read it?

In no particular order, my list would be:


Well-written articles. I'm not looking for Nobel prize-winning literature or even work that's done under the guidance of an ink-smudged editor, just something halfway good.

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 who write in that 1. he has an English Lit degree, and 2. he's already a best -selling author.

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 push the boundaries:

An example:


3.Story Driven

In most articles about art we lead with a picture then write about it. That always forces the narrative into a pattern and it came become awfully repetitive and 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:


What Stapleton does in this article is to provide a bridge between the past and present generations of painters. His use of storytelling provides the perfect vehicle for his own insight and experience.

Follow Up Note: April 2024

It has been seven years since I reworked my blog and six since I originally wrote this article.

Since then, I've only written some 40 articles, but the length of each one has increased. Each blog post now requires more effort and research, and they often start from a place of interest rather than outright knowledge.

It turns out that I must write about something to understand it more fully.

Did I ever turn the blog into the kind of writing I hope it would become?  No, not even close. But I do find it very fulfilling, and so the project will continue.



Stay in Touch

Get information about events and special offers delivered to your inbox.

Your Email

Enter your email address to receive occasional emails from Portraits by Simon Bland. You must be at least 18 years old to sign up for the newsletter. Your data will be managed in keeping with our Privacy Policy.