Surprising Tips & Success Secrets from Top Art Bloggers
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
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 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 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 10 galleries, 5,000 Twitter followers and 200 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.T
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?
(This Charmed Studio post will give you 51 Blog Post Ideas for Heart-Centered Artists.)
“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.
Artist/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 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.”
Worried about rejection? Read my piece on why you should feel good if someone unsubscribes or this post on letting go of the need for approval.
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 really began to find the podcast, and to care.
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.
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Painting on Canvas Texas says
Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful.
You are very welcome. Hope it helps your blog continue to flourish.
Thank you for sharing this post. I am trying to deepen my blogging and this helps. Keep sharing amazing content.
You are welcome Mentari. Keep writing. If you want to deepen your blog I recommend Darren Rowse’s free 30 Day Blogging Course on Problogger.com and also check out this Charmed Studio article 3 Questions To Transform Your Art Blog or Newsletter Overnight to help you deepen your reader’s journey and experience on your blog.
Sharon Leah says
Hi! So, I’ve been reading some older posts here and I landed on this one today. I was reading along, enjoying your thoughts about art blogs, the encouragement you extend to bloggers, and the artwork. Then I saw my painting! I must have missed this post when you published it. I’m happy to have my artwork included with this particular post. A very belated thank you!
I think often about the conversation we had several months ago. I appreciated your encouragement then, too.
Within the last 24 hours, I made a plan for how to focus my online presence (WordPress blog, FASO blog, Instagram, and FB artist page) to do 2 things: collect email addresses and sell art from my FASO website. I just had to figure out how to use the different platforms in ways that complement each other and satisfy my goals. (The FB page is the weakest link and it currently gets the least amount of attention from me.) Things you’ve written about in this post and others helped me form the plan. Thank you for that, too. I appreciate all you do for artists.
Thanks so much for all you said. Such a treat to hear from you and mega congratulations on the plan you put together in the last few days. That’s big love for your business. Just pondering….If Facebook is the weakest link in your platform perhaps you want to look at flipping the script there and using it differently. You can justify a total change in your action plan on the site if you aren’t there much or aren’t enjoying being there or aren’t seeing the results you like. So perhaps brainstorm on paper and journal or mind map on what you would love to do on Facebook if no one was watching? What if you treated FB as a creativity chalkboard, like Instagram used to be for artists when it first started out? What would you need to do differently there to love being on it again? Don’t go in step with the crowd. Use FB in answer to the question, “What wings would you want to have the opportunity to open that you haven’t opened on other channels like your FASO site etc?”
(Here’s a good little video by Tony Buzan on mind mapping if you want backup https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5Y4pIsXTV0)
Sharon Leah says
Thank you for the positive comments you left. I’m giving some thought to how I might use Facebook differently. I go there infrequently, but I do have followers who only see my art from that platform. Whatever I do decide to do has to have a good connection to the other platforms (repurposed or expanded content, etc.) because I don’t want to start from scratch with one-off, random copy, images, etc.
I’m playing around with mindmaps for the first time since I was in grad school. I don’t know why I stopped using them. I like Tony Buzan’s videos on the topic. Thanks for that suggestion, too.
Glad you are enjoying the mind mapping idea. It has been around for ages, but it has stayed around- because it works. It works Especially well for artists who need to work creatively but plan business stuff or write books. I say don’t be afraid of random, off-topic posting. We have to experiment and be a bit weird and daring to get to what is unique about us and our art. We have to be a bit weird and daring to find out what lights up our select audience. I have found in both my art and my writing when I stay the course and do what art biz gurus tell me to do-nothing changes. Just my experience, yours may be different.ANyway keep going, you are tending to what is important.
Aisling Kiernan says
I love this Thea. I tried the “being everything to everyone type of blog” , and then I wrote several posts about what my more personal paintings were about and would go back and delete them for fear of not being understood. This post has reminded me that it’s ok to be niche. I feel excited to have a go at writing and painting from my heart again. I also found myself not wanting to post my authentic stuff on social media for fear of being ridiculed by family and people who know me but not the “real me” that I had been expressing through my writing and new series of artworks. Since reading your post on not needing social media, I have signed out of FB and Insta and removed them from my phone. I had been wanting to do it for ages and feel such a sense of relief. Thank you for your wonderful inspiring blog.
Aisling, first off CONGRATULATIONS for leaving social media behind, that is a huge achievement! To me, what you’ve done is the equivalent of winning a Fulbright or the Booker Prize or hiking Mt Fuji! It’s big. And it’s Scary as hell and great for an artist to do for themselves, but no one can hardly ever bring themselves to do it. But you did. wow.
This is such a thought-provoking, speaking truth to power comment that I am going to have to take a few days to mull this over before I respond to the rest of what you said. And in the meantime-one story in here that I am so thankful you shared- has me running to the desk to write a new blog post on a topic others have mentioned they want spoken of. I’ll be back!
Thanks so much, I appreciate you more than you know.
PS if anyone wants to read the “Bye Bye Facebook: How Artists Can Succeed Without Social Media” article that Aisling referred to the link is here.
Bye Bye Facebook: How Artists Can Succeed Without Social Media
Great article which includes useful and practical information and tips for art blog posts. Writing blog posts perhaps not the easiest thing to many of us as it needs quite a bit of knowledge and experience. Thank you for sharing the article.
Thanks for reading and taking your valuable time to comment Ezeeart! Yes, Blog writing is difficult. I think it is so hard for everyone, even seasoned bloggers don’t find it easy. Because when we get the topic down, there is the structure to contend with. Then when you get the structure laid out, you struggle with what tone you want. When you get the tone down you need to edit the content-what to leave in or take out?? Do you want to quote others? Do you want to include SEO and link to other posts on your site or other posts on the internet? Choices are endless! The thing I try to remind myself of is just to take it one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Because on the right day it all lines up when you aren’t even trying and you help others. And that is my favorite reason to blog. 🙂 Good work on your blog.
Nice post…I am working on getting a blog together in support of my online gallery. I believe a nice, picturesque, informative blog is a door opener to getting your art seen and in front of buyers that need what you have. Thanks again for your article of wealth.
The Charmed Studio says
Hi Denise, Thanks for being brave and leaving a comment here. And thanks for your kind words. Congratulations on putting your online gallery together and getting the shop up and running. That takes a ton of work right?! Awesome. Check out the free resources page on this site and scroll down to ProBlogger “31 days to build a better blog course.” That course supported and taught me so much. I just posted an article on SEO for artists that might help you too. Do the free Yoast course listed under WORDPRESS at bottom of the post. Or google SEO FOR PRODUCT PAGES, YOAST ok? That may really help you sell more via search. 🙂
Wishing you continued success!
Really nice article, Thea, just down-to-earth reality about what to expect when starting a blog and good reasons not to give up. Enjoyed reading the other artists’ blogs and checking their beautiful art, too.
Your website is my favorite to visit. It feels so calm and gentle with a wonderful sense of humor thrown in. Perfect in my eyes. Thank you for showing my watercolors in this article, I’m honored to be a part of your Charmed community.
The Charmed Studio says
Thank you so much Mickey for your kind words.
I want to take a minute to tell you what I love about your blog. You inform and entertain several seemingly disparate reader groups in this effortless, non-sales-y way. You get non-artists excited about the beauty of nature and they become interested in bringing your beauty into their world in the form of one of your paintings. No hard sell, no “buy now,” no go get this giveaway on facebook for 24 hours only; just more like, ‘here, look what I saw this week, aren’t parrot tulips miraculous?’
And they are.
I never noticed them really before I looked at the ones you painted. You know what you do with your flower studies reminds me of this quote:
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” — Georgia O’Keeffe
And if that wasn’t enough you help artists like me with painting technique info but personally I get even more out of your casual but deep exploration of philosophy along the way. 🙂