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The Artists’ Guide To Starting a Blog
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
So how do you start an art blog?
Well, brilliant art bloggers do not rise up from the sea, fully formed, like Venus.
Most likely any art blogger you admire didn’t know what they were doing at first.
They probably spent years bumping about in the dark.
Many great art bloggers have told me they began one blog and abandoned another until they learned how to write better, or host a podcast effectively — or just plain figure out what their unique gifts were and how best to share them.
“If you want to get good at blogging, accept that you are going to endure a long awkward adolescence made up of trial and error,” said Antrese Wood, host of the Savvy Painter Podcast.
It’s sane to ask, ‘Why should I work so hard and risk exposing vulnerabilities if it could take years before I see real results?’
Because the benefits of blogging for artists are tremendous.
Art blogging can help you to:
- Make better art.
- Establish a nursery to grow ideas for future art.
- Become a better writer.
- Give you a place to grow relationships with readers and buyers via your lively comment section.
- Help you grow and evolve as a person.
- Uncover your true brand which leads to more art sales.
- Explore and master new technology.
- And greatly lessen your feelings of isolation by creating ideal community for yourself.
Not bad right?
Start Your Art Blog By Asking Yourself 2 Questions
If you are starting, shoring up, or wanting to breathe new life into a neglected blog here are two questions you want to ask yourself.
1. What is my passion now? In other words, what topic am I so excited about right now that I have almost a physical need to explore it for the next year or two?
2. How exactly do I want to be changed by the experience of creating and working on this idea in blog form?
Great, now let’s move on to questions about who you want to write for.
Then Identify Which Group Of Readers Your Art Blog is For
A big mistake bloggers make is not identifying who they are writing for.
You can’t be everything to everyone in a blog. And you don’t want to.
Because when we try to please everybody, we usually turn out safe content that offends no one but delights no one either.
That’s why mega blogger/writing guru Jeff Goins insists, “The more you narrow your focus, the more you broaden your audience.”
As artists, we can get a head start on the narrowing by asking specific audience-identifying questions.
Answer these three questions to start.
1. Will your art blog be for fellow artists?
Blogs focused on serving a readership of fellow artists typically are built around the how of making art.
Ask yourself: What would I like my ideal reader to be thinking, feeling, or making after she reads my blog? How do I see her evolving as she reads the blog, say, over the course of a year or two?
This type of blog is well-suited to natural-born teachers.
“If you are writing for other artists, you’re taking on a teacher role,” Wood said.
“Be bold in your purpose, which is to help. You’re leading other artists somewhere. Have a place for them to go. That’s your job with this kind of blog, and it can be a wonderful experience. But don’t expect, that by default, you are also speaking to collectors,” Wood said.
(Although I would add many of us creatives are both artists and collectors, right?
We artists often buy art from other artists.)
2. Or will your art blog be for art collectors?
“I have written as if communicating to a collector from the beginning,” said art blogger Kristen Kieffer.
“I do write to my fellow makers at times, but selling my work is my primary passion. So I write from the perspective of sharing ideas of the why as a maker, more than the how,” said Kieffer.
Kieffer’s choice of subject and voice allows non-makers a fun, romantic, day-in-the-life glimpse into the studio (and mind) of a professional artist.
Here’s an example from Keiffer’s blog:
“I recently unloaded a kiln load of work that included bunches of handled cups and mugs with varying and new decoration, and decided to group them for pix, which immediately and delightfully felt like family portraits,” said Kieffer.
“I like the idea of capturing my current cup designs and glaze color palette at this arbitrary point in time. Meet my cup family!”
You may enjoy writing a traditional collector-oriented blog if you want to focus on how you see things as opposed to how you make things.
3. Or maybe your art blog can serve both artists and collectors?
One week Australian painter Sara Paxton may pen a how-to article for artists.
The next week she may publish a post that collectors enjoy; with work that will be featured in her upcoming gallery show.
Some marketing gurus might say having a split-focus audience as Paxton does, won’t work.
But at ten galleries, five thousand Twitter followers and two hundred daily visits to her site, Paxton’s blog gives those gurus the ole’ Bronx cheer.
Paxton’s artist/collector blog works because her appealing art and accessible voice are a perfect fit for the specific audience she’s built over many years. Paxton writes about her work and herself in an honest, accessible way that encourages creativity in others.
Encouraging creativity is great, but what about sales?
Why Successful Art Bloggers Don’t Try To Sell From Their Art Blogs
I hope you are sitting down for this part.
Most successful art bloggers don’t sell a lick of art from their blog.
And … they couldn’t care less.
Don’t worry about sales on your blog.
“I certainly don’t blog to generate sales because it doesn’t,” said Paxton. “But I find that by building up relationships with people and building up trust, it inadvertently leads to sales down the road. Usually in other online or offline venues.”
Kieffer agrees. “I don’t sell on my blog, I only sell through my Etsy shop. I still consider my blog an important part of my marketing practice though. It allows me to flesh out ideas more thoroughly than is possible in an Instagram post.”
So what do the most successful art bloggers focus on instead of sales?
What One Thing Successful Art Bloggers Focus on Instead
Don’t worry about sales, worry about your email list instead.
Ironically, freeing your blog from the burden of selling often results in greater sales down the road; but only if you keep that all-important email list.
And you don’t need a big mailing list to succeed, just an active one.
Repeated exposure to your art via your mailing list can lead to later sales. The more a reader sees your product, the more likely they are to want to purchase it down the road.
Digital marketers call the transition from awareness of your product to the purchase of your product a sales funnel.
Some funnels are short, others long.
Art tends to have a longer sales funnel.
By making your e-newsletter sign-up form clearly visible on your site you increase your chance of future sales in galleries and on your Facebook page, by giving readers repeated chances to eyeball your work.
One of the biggest mistakes art bloggers make is not having an email sign up form visible in a sidebar or in the text of every post they write.
If this is you, just head over to my How To Put an Email Sign Up Form On Your Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or Artist’s Website in Ten Minutes.
What Do I Write About in My Art Blog?
What do I write about?
“Initially you won’t really know what to write about, so you start with general posts,” Paxton said.
“No one can ever know exactly who their audience is, so I think it’s just fine to experiment, especially when you begin.
“I did some taping of live demos of art products I loved early on,” said Paxton. “Then I went on to do short video snapshots of my paintings in progress.”
“Now I turn them into time-lapse videos that show people how I do what I do, from beginning to end. Both artists and collectors enjoy these, they’re easier to do than you think,” said Paxton.
Want to painlessly start making videos?
Check out The Charmed Studio’s 6 Videos You Can Make on Your Smartphone to Market Your Art.
Okay, now you know who you’re writing for, where can you get topic ideas from?
And how can you make your blog writing shine?
The Secret Source of the Best Topic Ideas for Your Art Blog
Where do the best art blog post ideas come from?
The best ideas for your unique audience often come from… your unique audience.
“Oddly enough, my most popular post was an article I wrote on how to get oil paint to dry quicker,” Paxton said.
“It was in response to a reader question. Eventually, you figure out to just ask people to email you and tell you what they want to learn.”
What’s the Secret To Making Your Blog Writing Shine?
Your actual, true self.
Blogging is the perfect venue for storytelling, so it’s OK to surprise readers with your unique brand of narrative in between rounds of technique sharing.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s pretend you’re a Plein-air painter and you happen to also be a subscriber to Antrese Wood’s original blog that documented her Plein-air project, “A Portrait of Argentina.”
You sit down at your computer with your coffee mug in hand and check your inbox.
Parsing through your new mail you see that a few new posts from art bloggers have arrived last night.
You go down through the subject lines.
What topic would you click on first?
A or B?
A. How to Depict Rocky Outcroppings In Pastels.
B. I Punched a Llama in the Face Today.
I pick the llama too.
Wood’s most popular post ever, entitled, It’s Only a Llama! described her being attacked by a llama in Argentina.
When it comes to blogging, all those old ABC “Afterschool Specials” had it right: be yourself.
Why Readers Love Vulnerable Writing in an Art Blog
Is it OK to show your soft underbelly online?
You might fear you’ll be laughed at when you display vulnerability in a post, but usually, fellow artists can relate to and appreciate it.
You may get record responses from posts that tell stories of financial or emotional frustrations that we artists tend to encounter.
And I have spoken to several art bloggers who were shocked at the popularity of posts they made that displayed a painting they were having difficulty with.
Artists/readers are glad to offer fairly gentle advice on fixing things.
Many artists report this kind of feedback from readers has greatly improved their painting.
So, get personal.
Read this piece to get help allowing more vulnerability in your writing.
But just don’t make it all about you.
“I’d suggest having a ratio of 80/20 where — at most — only 20 percent of your posts are personal or off the topic of art, leaving the majority of your blog to be about your art, your process, or about art in general,” writes Dan Duhrkoop founder of emptyeasel.com.
Most likely, the more you focus your content on the needs of your readers, the more readers you’ll have.
But what if I’m not a good writer?
You may have an advantage blogging if you’re not a writer.
Being a professional writer can dam a whimsical, free-flowing blogging fountain with clods of perfectionism, judgment, and resistance.
As Paxton, a self-described “non-writer” explains, “I’ve never been a writer, so when I started the blog I just wrote what I thought. I didn’t spend hours editing or rethinking it. I let it be.
When you do that and keep up at it, you get better eventually anyway.”
How Do I Write An Art Blog if I Hate To Write?
But don’t write if you hate to write.
Many artists abandon their potentially good blog because they think they have to write it.
In this new era of shortening attention spans and multitasking, more of us prefer taking in our inspiration and information via videos and podcasts anyway.
If writing is not your preferred method of communication read Leanne Regalla’s “49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art.“
Many of the artists on Regalla’s list aren’t writers and use all kinds of visual alternatives to writing, to get the word out.
How often do I have to post?
Once a week is great, once a month is great — if you post regularly.
Consistency will improve your writing and deepen your investigation of why you make what you make. Try to treat blogging as a leg of your art business and schedule in regular times to write and edit your work.
You can also overcome some of the initial resistance, fear, and nausea of writing in public by rewarding yourself each time you post on your blog.
If consistency (due to lack of organization) is your stumbling block, look at my writing coaching page for artists.
The Charmed Studio has a package that supports new bloggers to launch their blog, as well as a package to give your old blog a radical makeover.
Don’t Give Up on Writing an Art Blog, Here’s Why
Don’t give up.
“I know blogging isn’t easy. I know occasionally you’ll really want to quit,” Wood said.
“But I just want to give you one example of why you shouldn’t.
“Seven people heard the very first episode of the Savvy Painter Podcast — six if you count my mom.
Two years passed before people began to find the podcast and care about it.
At the moment “Savvy Painter” gets upwards of 10,000 downloads — per episode.
“It took years of being awkward, weird, and uncomfortable — my hands shaking every time I sent an email asking somebody to be on the show.
But I believe that when you’re authentic and passionate about something and you come to it from a place of, ‘I want to help other artists, we’re all in this together so let’s share information,’ great things are going to happen for you as well.”
This post originally appeared as a feature article in a 2016 edition of Professional Artist Magazine.
Do you write an art blog?
What do you love doing on your blog? What do you dread doing?
Let me know in the comments below.
For help writing actual posts check out my post: How Do I Write an Art Blog Post? The EASIEST Kind of Post for Artists to Write, Plus Instructions.