Looking back at the findings from the 2012 Enterprising Artist Survey, one of those that most surprised me is that only just over half of the 954 respondents use blogging as a method of promotion for their art.
Of all the ways to bring more targeted traffic to a website, I would rate blogging as the number one strategy that everyone should be using in almost every industry, and art is no exception.
I’ve been blogging in one form or another since 2003, and have always found it a great way to reach more people, build a following, and engage with an audience, all of which ultimately result in more people being exposed to my art.
In an effort to convince more artists of the benefits of starting a blog, I spoke to several artists who currently write a blog, to find out more about the whys and wherefores of blogging for artists.
Why Artists Should Start a Blog
There are countless reasons why you might want to start a blog, from the simple joy of expressing yourself in writing, to building an online business to generate more income.
Simon Brushfield started blogging last year because “my art needed a greater online presence. I also felt that I had so much bottled up inside that I needed to express and my full time job at the time was not providing a satisfactory outlet for my creativity.”
Many artists cite this need for self-expression as a motivation for blogging. Sarah Marie Lacy started her blog in 2008 “as a way to start expressing all of the things I was thinking about – art, transformation, building a sustainable, happy creative life, finding purpose and meaning and joy. All of these themes and threads are a part of the art that I make and so I wanted a platform to explore and discuss that alongside the people who were attracted to my work.”
Lori McNee started her Fine Art Tips blog as a way of adapting to the economic slump of 2009 - “I have always believed that, ‘you can’t receive with a closed fist’, so during this tough time I felt that it was important for me to give back in some way. Blogging was a perfect opportunity for me to share my knowledge and my art with other artists and art enthusiasts… and to give back to my art community.”
Helen Aldous started Artonomy as a way to reach out and connect with other artists in a way which would have been impossible a few years ago. “Engaging with other peoples work and careers in this way has been inspirational for me. It has really helped me move forward as an artist as I realise that we all face the same challenges and personal doubts about our work every day. It’s great to feel more connected with other artists all over the world.”
Others are attracted to blogging mainly as a means of attracting more website visitors. Mark Anderson started his blog in 2004, before most people had even heard of the word ‘blog’. “I’d love to say it was out of a desire to connect or share or whatever, but mainly I saw it as an SEO strategy.”
Different Approaches to Blogging
There appears to be two main approaches for artists when it comes to blogging. Probably the most popular for full-time artists is to incorporate a blog into your art portfolio website, and centre your blog posts around you and your art. Sarah Marie Lacy’s blog is a good example of this approach.
Another option is to build a blog as a separate entity from your portfolio site, focusing on a wider variety of art-related subjects, which may directly or indirectly help to promote your artwork. This kind of blog is a good option for people who are interested in writing about more diverse topics in addition to their own art. Check out Lori McNee’s Fine Art Tips for an example of this approach to art blogging. Lori’s blog encompasses many different aspects of art, attracting a large and diverse audience, and the blog’s main navigation provides a link to her art portfolio, and vice-versa.
Which approach you take will probably depend on whether you want to use blogging mainly as a means of promoting your art, or if you’re also interested in writing a blog for its own sake, or possibly turning your blog into something bigger, perhaps as a way to bring in some additional income to supplement your art career.
Personally, I use both approaches. My art portfolio site features a blog which is focused on my own artwork, but I also write the blog you are reading now, Right Brain Rockstar, as I’m passionate about helping inspire people to make a living from their creativity.
Coming Up With Blog Topics
Something I hear from a lot of artists is that they would like to start a blog, but they really don’t know what to write about. Here are some suggestions from the artists I spoke to:
Emila Yusof - “Blog about your own art and art in general. For example, we can have different categories of art: ‘My Art’ with sub-categories like ‘watercolor’, ‘acrylic’, ‘scuplture’, etc. You can also have other categories like Art News, Art & Place, etc.”
Sarah Marie Lacy - “Talk about the stories behind the work. And I don’t mean stories with a beginning, middle and end. I just mean things like the inspiration behind a piece, or where you were when you painted it, or what you fell in love with that inspired you to create it. Talk about yourself a bit, talk about why you make the art. People want meaning, connection and entertainment.”
Lori McNee - “Post images of your latest painting or creative endeavor. Readers love to see a work in progress. Don’t be shy about sharing your upcoming events, announcements or even photos from your latest vacation. Share a little bit about yourself. Try using video as a way to mix up the content on your site. Video is a great way to reach a broader audience.”
Simon Brushfield also makes extensive use of video - “I love video on my blog, its very good for buyer testimonials. Video really makes things real for the visitor. Viewers can see that you are in the real world of people and their context. Visitors receive a deeper feeling or connection for the people contained in the video, much more than text can ever give. What a person looks like, what they wear and their facial expressions on video tell a story. Even the tone of voice is expressive. So videos give a lot more quality information to the website visitor. They can also be very entertaining if done well.”
The subjects of your blog posts will again depend on which approach to blogging you choose. If your blog is centred around your own art, then you might want to write about what inspired you to paint a particular piece, or what you learned from a recent exhibition. You can also write art tutorials, which can be very interesting for people who admire the way you work and want to learn from you.
If, on the other hand, you decide to start a separate art-related blog, then the sky’s the limit for potential blog topics. Pretty much anything art-related could be made into an interesting blog post. Think about your other interests, and see if you can combine them with your passion for art to come up with an interesting niche.
How a Blog Can Help Promote Your Artwork
The ultimate aim of a blog (unless you’re writing it for the sheer fun of it) is to bring more potential customers in front of your art. Let’s see how blogging can help increase your exposure.
Mark Anderson says that even spending only relatively little time blogging, the benefits are enormous. “My blog drives a crazy amount of traffic to the site.”
Emila Yusof’s blog is an essential promotional tool. “It is a platform for me to record my art progress and where I keep my artworks. When I switched to Blogspot in 2006, I discovered illustrationfriday.com and decided to join the weekly challenge. I put up my artworks, and illustrators from all around the world will come and comment on my drawings.”
Lori McNee uses her blog to share both her knowledge and her art. “When I post a painting of mine, I usually also share a bit of the painting process. Within every blog post I am sure to link to my art website. I often use my own paintings to illustrate my blog posts.”
Sarah Marie Lacy says that blogging helps the paintings to sell themselves - “By sharing my personality and the meaning behind my work, it helps people to not only fall in love with the art, but to connect with me and with the stories. People love stories – they’re a deep part of our humanity. My blog helps the selling process as well because people can self-select – they’re either into my art and my message or they’re not. And once they’ve decided that they’re one of my right people, then I don’t have to be pushy about sales. People just buy what’s right for them.”
Who Should Start a Blog?
While blogging can be a very effective way to generate website traffic and build an audience, it may not be for everyone.
Sarah Marie Lacy says “I think if you are just starting out you definitely need a blog. You need to have a way for people to get to know you. You used to be able to just get a gallery and let them do everything for you, but in the new economy I think that people want to connect with the artist who made the work. A blog allows people to do that. But like with anything, I would never say that this is right for everyone.”
Simon Brushfield agrees - “I would advise only the artists that enjoy the online environment and really want to grow their following, should start a blog. It’s not for everyone, but more and more artists are realising the importance of marketing and promotions online.”
Lori McNee advises all artists to start their own blog, warning against using third-party social media sites as alternatives to blogging - “Third party micro blogging sites, such as Facebook, are risky business. We do not have any control over the look and layout, or the content and images that have been shared on our accounts. Blogging on the other hand, combined with social media offers you the best content control, and a unique opportunity for self-promotion, expanded viewership, and contacts with prospective customers.”
I generally advise anyone and everyone to start a blog, no matter what the subject, as I believe it’s currently one of the best ways to reach and connect with a large audience. The only exception would be if you really can’t stand writing, or you’re genuinely no good at it (although I would argue that anyone can learn to write to a decent standard). If writing a blog brings you nothing but frustration and headaches, then you should probably give it a miss, or perhaps get someone else to do it for you.
What Makes a Successful Art Blog?
Simon Brushfield - “A successful artists blog is an outlet for expression. It’s an online canvas with words. So a successful blog is entirely built upon the foundation of the artists thinking, something that is unique to the artist.”
Mark Anderson - “I think you need to make sure you’re writing about things you really care about. Blogging can get to be a slog if you’re not passionate about your topics.”
Lori McNee - “It is important for artists to keep their blog alive with fresh content, great images, and interesting stories.”
So what we can tell from these artists’ insights is that for a successful blog, you need passion, interesting content, and something unique.
I think that pretty much covers it. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, you’ll lose interest, and so will your readers. Likewise if what you write is boring, nobody will want to read it. And if your blog doesn’t have a unique element to it, there’s no reason why someone should read your blog over anyone else’s. (The benefit of blogging about your own art is that the art itself is what makes your blog unique to you.)
Start a Blog That Matters
If you’ve read this far, maybe you’re convinced by now that blogging is a great way to reach a wider audience and build a following for your work.
The danger is that you will start a blog, but you won’t keep up the momentum required to make it successful, and the effort you put into it will be wasted. If you’re going to start blogging, you want to make sure you start a blog that matters.
When I started Right Brain Rockstar, I did a lot of reading about how to start a successful blog, and one of the people who I learned the most from was Corbett Barr.
Corbett has dedicated his career to blogging. He runs 3 successful blogs that bring in over 100,000 monthly visitors combined (not to mention a six-figure income!), and he has recently put all of his blogging knowledge into a 90-day course that will teach you how to start a successful blog, using the exact same formula he used for his own blogs.
The course will take you through the entire process of planning and launching a blog, including creating a social media strategy, how to create outstanding content, how to expand your reach, and even starting to make money from your blog.
I haven’t taken Corbett’s blogging course myself, but I’m happy to recommend it to anyone interested in starting a blog, because I follow Corbett’s blogs, and I see the quality of the content that he gives away for free, so I can safely say that this course is going to be awesome.
In fact, if it weren’t for the knowledge and strategies that I’ve learned from Corbett, this blog wouldn’t have anywhere near the number of subscribers and traffic that it currently gets. I started Right Brain Rockstar in November 2011, and by using several strategies that I learned from Corbett, just 6 months later it now has around 3000 monthly visits, and over 500 subscribers (not huge numbers perhaps, but a lot better than I could have done if left to my own devices.)
The course not only has a 100% no-questions-asked money-back guarantee, but Corbett will also coach you personally over the phone if you don’t get the results you were hoping for after completing the course. What have you got to lose?
(Note: If you buy the course through the links on this page, I will receive a commission, but of course there’s no obligation for you to do so, and I wouldn’t want you to buy this course unless it’s something you feel will be incredibly valuable to you.)
For more on blogging to promote your artwork, check out The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Artist’s Website.