An Artist’s Blog Can Be Good For You

Yesterday I had a long conversation with one of my professors about my blog. First of all, I was very happy that this professor was acknowledging my blog as an integral part of my art practice. Up until yesterday we had not had a frank conversation about this aspect of my work. As with all of my professors I respect their opinion and had to really consider the shared viewpoints on this matter. Things got a little sticky between us.

Suzanne Gibbs. Encaustic
Suzanne Gibbs, Grid Askew, 2012. Encaustic and mini oil paint swatches on canvas on panel, 24 x 24.

If you look at the art above in “Grid Askew” imagine it as a neighborhood map. At one time, not too long ago, I knew enough people in my neighborhood to relate each of the dark squares as a person or family whom I knew and came into contact with regularly. I lived in Napa at the time. Not only was I connected to the community, but the community was reaching out to me asking me to share my time as an art teacher and to show my work in various venues. I did not at any point expect to know everyone, however my grid was full and getting fuller the more I shared my passion around art.

Fast forward 18+ months. Today. I am now living in Los Angeles county in Long Beach California. In “Grid Askew” the representation of people I know would make this work much more minimal. Possibly almost blank, if you think in ratios. My blog serves as a way for me to begin to fill the grid with connections to people.

As I explore the art world through my graduate studies, and beyond, I expect to build my own community. The world is not going to come out and say, “here Suzanne, hold my hand and I’ll show you how to navigate this great place called Los Angeles or even bigger, this amazing capital A, Art World.” Instead, my blog is my way of reaching my hand out into the world. Those that take hold will have much to teach me, and hopefully I them.

As I venture out into new, to me, territories and write about my experiences, I am growing and learning. During the past 18 months I have often felt like a baby learning to crawl. I first had to learn how to drive on the freeways of Southern California (extremely different from Napa California). Then, I had to learn how to get to different places using the said freeways (I have resisted a navigation system for my car, because I prefer to build the neighborhood grid in my mind). I had to learn not to be scared of the crazy fast “swervy” drivers. Once I got to certain places, like high-end galleries such as the Gagosian Gallery or Shoshana Wayne Gallery, I had to learn that it was OK to walk into them and feel comfortable looking at the artwork on display. Yes, 18 months ago fancy galleries were alien territory to me!

I now have my toddler legs. Yesterday, as I spoke to my instructor, I had to hang onto the coffee table, my toddler legs feeling a bit wobbly. Yes, I do research that is integral to my blog becoming a place full of content, not just drivel. I have visited countless galleries in Los Angeles County and Orange County. I read with a voracious appetite. I watch many art documentaries. I have watched almost every Art 21 film. I read at least one article out of a stash of art magazines or newspapers every month. In fact, I’d like to brag a little bit here. Over the Christams holiday, I read Art Forum from cover to cover for my first time ever. Did I understand all of it? Heck no! But compared to 18 months ago it was a breeze and a joy to read.

Have you ever had a time in your life that the world opened up and you wanted to soak it all in? I am in that place. Have you ever watched a puppy discover grass for the first time? Delightful, yes? I am often asked by my readers how I find the time to write so much, make work, attend school, take care of my family, and attend to the many other things on my agenda and in my life. I can because my life is full and exciting right now. I am full of the joy and wonder that comes with a willingness to fail and keep on trying. Not all my blog posts are meant to be “perfect.” A child walks before they run. My search for quality is rushing out in quantity at this juncture in my life. Can there be quality in quantity? I will let my readers be the judge of that.

I opened this post explaining that “things got a little sticky between us.” Sticky can be looked at as bad, like the sap from a tree stuck on your fingers and collecting dirt. Or sticky can be good, like honey in hot tea. I will, and have, spent time looking at my blog through my professors eyes. Our conversation from yesterday will linger in my thoughts as I move forward in my art practice. As I continue to post: Notes On Art, Interviews, Influences and In The Studio, I will continue to consider what others may think about the stories I share. I called the blog Notes On Art, because they are notes, not essays, not critiques, and not scholarly papers. In the meantime, think of my blog is a filter. I give my readers a glimpse of the world and all things art through my eyes.

Suzanne Gibbs, Uber Plaid, 2013, Encaustic on panel, 10 x 10.
Suzanne Gibbs, Uber Plaid, 2013, Encaustic on panel, 10 x 10.

In the end:

  • I blog to share.
  • I blog to connect to the people who know my work.
  • I blog to reach new fans who have not heard of me and my work.
  • I blog expecting an exchange of information.
  • I blog, because through writing I learn.
  • My blog is an extension of my teaching.
  • I blog because I learn from my readers.
  • I blog knowing I will be seen (my art) and be known (through what I say).

The consequences of the freedom to share my notes in the form of a blog could become larger than I am currently able to comprehend. In the United States we have a gift of freedom of speech. This freedom does not exist around the globe. For example, Ai WeiWei a well established Chinese artist, is not as lucky as I am. His government incarcerated him for his blog posts not too long ago. He is free now, but not to continue his blog.

Take a look at Alyson Stanfield’s post about blogs: An artist’s blog can be good for you. I am open to learning other ways that people make meaning and create connections for themselves. Do you write a blog? Is it good for you? Your readers? What else can you say to me about this post? But, most of all thanks for reading, dear professor, and thank you for your insightful and tough questions that will undoubtedly make me a stronger artist!





4 Replies to “An Artist’s Blog Can Be Good For You”

  1. Hello Suzanne,
    I read your post on Allison’s blog and just had to see what you’d written. I had an unfortunate experience in HS with an art teacher that haunts me to this day, decades later so I wanted to see how you approached it.
    Kudos to you! Well done. You managed to address, I’m imagining, everything that you wanted to address around the issue in a very neutral and informative way…not easy when you’ve been so roundly insulted. Congratulations.

    PS (You may not have read this but there’s been some evidence to show that the most read blogs are between 300 and 500 words. Just something to consider.)

    1. Victoria – most of my posts are much shorter, this one need a bit more space to, as you say, address the issue in a neutral way. I very much appreciate that you came over to my blog to read this post. Thanks!

  2. Hello Suzanne,
    Interesting blog post. I find myself blogging for the same reasons that you do, and have had input from students, patrons and fellow artists that they find my blog informative and interesting. I admire you for answering the critique of your blog with an open mind, yet explaining your motivations and frequency of posts so calmly and eloquently.

    We could all probably benefit from a critique of our blogs! I know I often find myself debating myself over how much to share, how much time to put into a post, etc. These self-debates melt away when someone says they used my blog as a resource to help them find a local show, learn a new perspective or make them feel like part of the artistic community. Good on you for reaching out to the art community with your blog 🙂

    1. Hi Ruth – thanks for reading. Blog Critiques, now that’s a class to consider teaching! And yes I agree, the positive has outweighed the negative so far for me, so I will keep blogging. I took a look at your web site I like “Fire and Water” ©Ruth Armitage 22″x30″ Watercolor on Paper very much. Did it sell at Paso Robles? One of my artists friends in school comes from there. Suzanne

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