I guess the big news here is that, at least for now, we’ve “crushed” the virus and plans for a partial reopening of businesses are being developed. We’ve only had a couple of new cases in the last couple of weeks for a total of 54. No deaths, currently no hospitalizations. We are required to wear masks now when out in public and to observe social distancing. Our public health dept. is doing a wonderful job, not only in dealing with Covid-19, but in the quantity and quality of their public communications about it. Locals can currently take a survey on what businesses they think should open first.
We’re going out for groceries, but otherwise keeping busy at home. On Sunday we’ll swing by the North Coast Native Plant Society place to pick up an order of….native plants. The ordering was done using a plant list on their website to make one’s choices of plant and quantity, then you downloaded the order form posted on their website, filled it out, photographed it and attached it to an email back to them. This was only one of four ordering options they offered. We will drive onto the property being used for the sale at noon on Sunday, pay with a check and then load up our plants. Everyone has a separate pick-up slot. It’s all been very well-thought out and organized so that they can still have their sale, but keep everyone safe.
In art news, I’ve been doing extensive repaints on some older paintings I’ve done of African subjects. I’ve entered three in an online animal art show and will get the results on the 5th. Here’s one of them:
And for serious fun I was invited a week or so ago to join a Facebook group called “Draw Breath”. Since live figure drawing isn’t an option now, a group of mostly illustrators who also attended or teach at my alma mater, the Academy of Art University, have arranged Monday, Wednesday and Friday livestreamed “virtual” sessions from 4-6pm. It’s a three way split screen with the model in the middle and an artist on either side drawing in real time and chatting about what they’re doing and why.
And, here’s some photos of the garden I just shot this morning. Things are really starting to take off. We’re supposed to get “real” rain tomorrow which is great.
And down by the pond on an old chunk of stump…
Finally (I have to pay attention to what my last image is because WordPress’ or some algorithm uses the final image in a post for the preview on other sites) here’s another of my Kenya pieces, a warthog…
I’ve been down for two weeks with a really nasty chest cold. Finally over the symptoms, but still need to take it easy, which is why there was no Friday post. Much better today. Now we have a heck of a rain storm rolling into northern California, so working in the garden is out.Internet to the rescue!
Here’s some sites to check out if you’re sick or weather-bound:
Looking at art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has recently created what it calls Open Access, through which images of 375,000 (yes, that’s right) works in their collections are available for use without restriction. More information on that here.
Learning to draw: If you’re interested in drawing and want to learn the basics or pick up new skills, Pencil Kings may be what you’re looking for. They have pro instructors from a variety of backgrounds. Access to everything is $29.95/month or $299.95 a year. If you sign on and take any courses, please let me know what you think. Painting instruction is easy to find, drawing not so much.
Competitions, courses, community and more: The Artist’s Network site has plenty to poke around on. It’s run by the company that publishes The Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Artist, Pastel Journal, Drawing Magazine, Acrylic Artist and also runs North Light Books. They’re also the home of the well-known art forum Wet Canvas.
Learning about art: Underpaintings is an online art magazine which publishes articles on contemporary and past artists, art materials and overviews of upcoming art auctions, which is my favorite feature since it’s a chance to see a wide range of work from working artists, some famous, some not so much, that is good but not museum or art book quality. One can take comfort in realizing that even the best didn’t hit a grand slam every time or even a triple, but mostly it’s a fun way to see a lot of art which has been gathered together for auction from private collections that would otherwise not be seen by the public. He includes illustration also, which, since my formal training is in illustration, is a bonus. There is free content but full access is worth the $24 a year. The “proprietor” Mathew Innis, is himself an accomplished artist.
Finally, there’s a ton of art groups to check out on Facebook, of course. I created one last week “The Art of Animal Fieldwork” which is for artists who draw and paint from live animals, surprisingly a quite specialized part of the animal art genre. There’s already been some extraordinary work posted by some of the over 50 members from the USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Israel, France, India and Denmark, including field studies done in Ladakh of a wild snow leopard.
I was at 30,000 ft when the global economy melted down. I don’t think there’s a connection, but the truth is that everything was fine when I left for my late summer/early fall 2008 trip to Mongolia and by the time I landed about five weeks later in San Francisco everything, well, wasn’t. With a vengeance.
My plan had been to send out packets to galleries over the winter but, knowing there was likely to be a shakeout with some to many going out of business, that didn’t seem like a smart move. What to do? What to do? I needed to keep some career momentum going without spending a lot (read “any, if possible”) money.
Social media to the rescue. I had already started this blog, but decided to join Facebook and Twitter, then also added LinkedIn. I wasn’t sure how beneficial any or all of this would be, but they existed, they were free and it seemed to be a direction the online world was heading.
It’s been four years now. All the original sites are still going strong and others have come along, some of which I’ve tried and dropped, some of which I’ve added to the mix.
I’ve been reviewing my social media choices in light of Instagram’s Terms of Service face plant earlier this week. I had downloaded the app some time ago, did one photo, Facebook bought them and I quit using it. Then I recently connected with a young journalist, Faine Greenwood, who works for the GlobalPost news site. They pay her to post photos and she uses Instagram to give them a little special visual omph. Hum, I thought. Maybe I ought to take another look, so I did. And was impressed by the social media aspect they had evolved while I was away.
I reinstalled the app and started to post some images and familiarize myself with how to best use them. Then came the announcement a few days ago of their new Terms of Service (TOS). Suffice to say they were completely unacceptable and outrageous. Life is too short to worry about what idiotic thing they/Facebook will do to try to monetize the site. They could just try charging their users and providing value, but that option seems to have completely escaped Zuckerberg. There’s plenty out there about it on the web, so a google of “Instagram TOS” will probably unearth far more links than you have any interest in reading. But do check it out. And see the note and link below.
Upshot was that I deleted my account and the apps. Now I wanted to find another photo tweaking app and also a way to use them on some kind of social media platform. This led me to….taking a look all the social media I use and what kind of synergy I can create between them because that is one of the truly powerful changes in the off-line vs. the online world- the connections that can be made (there’s a reason why it’s called the “web”).
I ended up downloading a photo effects app called Camera Awesome to both my iPad and iPhone. I love it, but it doesn’t have a social component. I had been hearing some good things about Flickr, which I’d also quit over a year ago because I was suspicious of how difficult they made it to delete an image. But I heard that it had been greatly improved across the board. And, of course, they are already owned by a mega tech company, Yahoo who has, so far, never stumbled into any of the mallet-headed mistakes that some of the others have. And they really can’t afford to make anyone unhappy at this point.
So I looked at Flickr and saw that they’ve added all kinds of image controls. I found that, in fact, my images from before had been “archived” not deleted. Argh. But this time when I deleted one, I got a message in red saying that it was truly gone. So clearly they made a needed change from the sneaky thing they were doing before.
Then I took another look at Tumblr, which had fallen by the blogging wayside for me due to time and not being really sure what benefit I was getting. Now, since it’s an image-centric platform with a lot of creative people using it, it’s the perfect place to post my Camera Awesome enhanced images, which currently includes both actual photos and images of my iPad art.
Note (12pm, Dec. 21): it appears that Instagram has gone back to its previous Terms of Service with all kinds of statements about how the new one didn’t really say what it clearly did and some other “dog ate my homework” excuses. I don’t regret deleting my account because I wanted them to know there was a consequence, even though I wasn’t even a minnow in their quite large pond. I might start there again. Stay tuned.
So here’s my current list of the social media sites I use, along with the benefits I feel I get from them.
1. WordPress blog– I chose WP over Google’s Blogger because it was much more sophisticated in how it does things, at least at the time, and I didn’t really want to be more involved with a big company like Google than necessary. Their support is quite good, both written and through email. I’ve been able to customize my choice of theme to my liking and the new media uploading and display function is a big improvement over what they had before. I faithfully blog twice a week, unless I simply cannot due to travel or illness. That frequency feels about right to me for what I blog about: Mongolia on Mondays and everything else on Fridays. It has become invaluable to me as a repository to link to for all kinds of content about what I do. Write it once, link to it forever. What’s not to like? https://foxstudio.wordpress.com/
2. Facebook– What can I say? It’s a love-hate relationship shared by tens of millions. I have valuable and valued connections that I wouldn’t have any other way, but the stuff they do behind the scenes drives me crazy. I’m hanging in for now, but if they really start to insert video ads with sound into my newsfeed and I can’t block them, then I’ll be open to picking up my toys and moving to another sandbox. In the meantime, Christine Lin, a writer for The Epoch Times, left a message through my public page a few weeks ago, requesting an interview. We spoke on the phone for an hour, which resulted in a 1500 word story, “American Artist Susan Fox Paints Genghis Khan’s Mongolia” that appeared in all their English language editions in both print and online versions. The latter included six images of my paintings.
3. Twitter– Clearly valuable. Clearly and equally has serious time-suck potential, but cannot be ignored if one is serious about social media. Answer? Auto-post from other sites I use and check in at least once a week to see what’s up. It’s the site that is most connected to all my other sites. I should probably look into one of the utilities that lets one queue up and schedule tweets. Ah, something to add on the app that is my bonus item below. https://twitter.com/s_fox
4. LinkedIn– Focused on professional networking, but has a lot of artists and other art professionals on it. Hadn’t been using it or going to it much except to post the latest book I was reading. Entries with links to my blog posts show up there automatically, so there is always fresh content, which is important on any social media site. I recently started to go through the suggested connection list and found an American journalist who had written part of her information in Mongolian cyrilic, which got my attention. Within a day or so after connecting, Allyson Seaborn, who is an editor for the UB Post, wrote to me asking if she could interview me for a feature, which we did via email. You must have an account to view my profile, but here’s the link to the LinkedIn home page. http://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=hb_tab_home_top
5. Pinterest– This was 2012’s social media darling and as a visual artist I had to check out a social media platform that was all about…images. I like it although I’m not sure what its best use will be for me yet. It’s definitely eye candy to visit and there are a lot of artists using it. It is also possible and quite easy to offer things for sale, like paintings and prints. This is the one that seems to be the most demanding as far as keeping the new content coming due to the high volume of pins. http://pinterest.com/foxstudio/
6. Tumblr– It’s a quick and easy to use blogging platform, much simpler than say, WordPress. It’s also very image-centric, but in a different way than Pinterest. I’ve seen very little of this kind of longer post. It could be a perfect way for someone to try out blogging since it’s very simple and straightforward to post text, images and video. There are a wide range of bloggers from artists like me to institutions like the American Museum of Natural History to typographers, photographers, book sellers, musicians and writers. As I said above, it’s the perfect platform for my “enhanced” images. http://www.tumblr.com/blog/beyondtheredwoodcurtain
7. Flickr– I’m back on the site after a long hiatus. I like what they’ve done about protecting user’s rights. You can reserve all rights or post under a Creative Commons license. They also have an agreement with Getty Images, under which Getty can invite you to sell image rights to them, so there is a potential, and attractive, revenue stream there. I will definitely be hoping to take advantage of that with some of the 60,000 images I’ve shot in seven trips to Mongolia, plus two trips to Kenya and some to Yellowstone. Heck, I’ve got great shots from right here in Humboldt County. http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanfoxart/
8. YouTube– I’m personally just not that into video, except for Mongol music videos and Henri, Le Chat Noir, but that clearly puts me in a minority position. I’ve got a lot of great footage from my last trip to Mongolia and would also like to post painting demos. All I need is that eighth day the Beatles sang about. But, like Twitter, YouTube is too popular to ignore and I don’t intend to. http://www.youtube.com/user/MsReynard?feature=mhee
9. Constant Contact– The days of mailing out “real” newsletters are over. Sites like Constant Contact are a BIG improvement. While not strictly “social media’, you can’t beat being able to send news directly to people who you know are interested in what you’re doing. And you know that because they choose to continue to get your newsletter. Opting out is only a click away. With snail mail, you never knew for sure if you were wasting time and postage. This one I do pay for since my newsletters are image-intensive, requiring me to pay for the necessary storage capacity. There are other good options out there like Mail Chimp, but Constant Contact was the first out the gate and they have given me no reason to go elsewhere. http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
UPDATE 1-15-13: 10. Google+- As you can see below, when I originally wrote this post, I wasn’t using Google+, but that has changed. It dawned on me that, having acquired over 1000 people who had liked what I had posted enough to put me in their circles, that Google+ isn’t about socializing for me, it’s feeding content about me and my work to all those people who have indicated an interest. So I don’t really look at the news feed much, if at all, but I post all my blog links and anything else I’ve been putting on other sites.
Some of you may have noticed that Google+ is missing. I have a presence there, but I find it pretty useless and only check it once or twice a month. I really dislike the interface, hardly anyone I know is on it and there seem to be a lot of people, including artists, who are using it purely for marketing, which is a bore. Google+ is not a threat to Facebook at this point.
So now having looked all these sites over, I’m going to make a graph of which ones are connected and which aren’t and see how best to create the optimum synergy between them. Then I can just kick back and, as the spider-in-chief, survey my wonderful web.
BONUS APP!- Priorities, the best organizing, list-making app for the Apple world that I’ve found. Good user interface, pretty colors, highly customizable, connects to iCal, the Apple calendar app. I plan to start using it to track my social media “schedule”. It syncs on all my devices…iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro and iMac through their website. http://handcarvedcode.com/apps/priorities/
I know a lot of artists are wondering if getting on a social networking site like Facebook is worth it. They know they “ought” to, but see it as just another time suck when they can’t get everything done that needs doing anyway.
I decided to test drive it as part of my low (as in “no”) budget marketing plan. Here’s what’s happened since January:
After starting with a few people I knew in high school and art school, the number of friends I have has exploded to 173, mostly artists, some nationally known. But there are also local friends, some of whom are also gardeners, and people involved in animal welfare/rescue issues. So there I already have two groups that are potential buyers, except I don’t really think of them that way anymore. Another friend is the editor of a major national art magazine, one writes every month for another art magazine and one is a gallery owner.
People are always posting about their work, interesting links, the shows they’re doing, the trips they’re taking, the new studio they’ve just moved into or an award they’ve won. Their friends hit the “Like” button or leave supportive comments. So if you feel isolated as an artist, Facebook is a great way to get connected and become part of a worldwide community of other artists. We cheer each other on, send virtual chocolate, flowers and sunshine to congratulate or commiserate and just generally enjoy each other’s “company”.
I “Share” my new blog posts and my Ebay auctions each week and I can see the spike in traffic on my blog and the click-throughs to my website after I’ve done so. When I post an image of a new painting, I get lots of strokes and compliments, which I really appreciate and which make the day a little brighter.
I’ve had one sale so far from a Facebook listing. The buyer was a fellow artist, who I originally connected with because we both have and love rough collies. She saw my eBay auction listing, bid and won.
I have friends in 18 countries, besides the USA. Most of them are fellow artists and it’s fun to see what’s going on elsewhere. Yesterday a new friend liked a painting of mine so much that she shared it on her Wall. She is from Argentina and now 59 of her friends, none of whom I know, will see my work. I was very please and flattered.
The countries I currently have friends in are: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya, Italy, France, Spain, England and Scotland (UK), Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, India and Mongolia. Plus two friends who don’t list where they live.
Honestly, what other way is there to make those kinds of connections for free? And I get so much more than just an marketing opportunity out of it. That, it turns out, was really only a starting point.
I have set limits on how I participate. I don’t get involved in any of the on-going games. I only use a few of the apps, either to send a “gift” to someone or when participating benefits a good cause like the Surfrider Foundation, bed nets for malaria prevention or saving the Rainforest. I do give in on some of the fun, silly quizzes, finding out that my aura is red, that I would be in Ravenclaw and that if I was a Star Trek character it would be Capt. Picard.
I get the feeds from sources as diverse as the White House (yes, THAT White House) and The Onion.
I have joined a variety of art-related groups, which I haven’t participated in as much as I would like. There also seem to be “fan” pages for just about every artist who ever lived that anyone has heard of. I’m a fan of, among others, Mucha, Sorolla and Waterhouse. These pages do post show and other information about the artists, along with images of their work.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a fan of Facebook. I believe that we are rapidly approaching the point where having a presence on a social networking site will be every bit as necessary as having a phone and a website. Oh, and I’m now on Twitter at http://twitter.com/s_fox too. Still working on what the best use of that will be for me, but I invite you come follow along!
I’m just about a month away from Mongolia and this (I hope)….
It took about 48 hours, but a pretty satisfactory response has come from Zuckerberg and company. This was posted on one of the Groups that formed to fight the change. The Facebook-formed Group mentioned below has almost 30,000 members as of 7am PST.
I do believe they’ve got it:
OFFICIAL RESPONSE FROM FB SPOKESPERSON BARRY SCHNITT:
First, I want to apologize for the delay in response. It’s been a long day with lots of interesting and constructive discussions. Second, I want to thank you for your questions and concerns. As Mark expressed in his blog post on Monday, it was never our intention to confuse people or make them uneasy about sharing on Facebook. I also want to be very clear that Facebook does not, nor have we ever, claimed ownership over people’s content. Your content belongs to you.
I hope you don’t think your participation in this discussion was a waste of time. Honestly, your questions were very helpful to us in arriving at what we believe is the right decision. Also, I think your questions will continue to be useful as we’re crafting a new Terms.
Again, thanks for the fruitful discussion and a special thanks to Anne Katherine and Julius for setting up this feedback forum. We hope you’ll all join our “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” ( http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=69048030774 ) group and continue discussing these issues there.
Regardless of the fact that we all might as well accept that anything we put up on the Internet is there forever and can’t really be controlled, that does not give someone like Facebook the right to appropriate their user community’s intellectual and copyrighted property for their own possible future profit. That’s not sharing, it’s theft.
Who’s Your Buyer and how do you get your work in front of them? We’re pretty much all going to have to be lean and mean in promoting our art. It’s called “targeted marketing”. Which means knowing who your buyer is.
When I went through the process of creating my marketing plan with a counselor from our local Small Business Development Administration (SBDC) office, the first homework I was given was to pretend that my buyer was sitting in a chair across from me and then describe them. Beyond the general question of who buys original art, who do you think will be interested in YOUR art? In my case, we somewhat humorously pegged my target buyers as “rich celebrity environmentalists”.
More realistically, it’s someone with a certain income level and probable interests in nature, environmental issues, travel and the outdoors. If you request advertising rate cards from a national magazine, they usually include demographic information on who their readers are to demonstrate the kind of eyeballs you can expect to view your ad. You can create the same kind of thing yourself to help decide where it makes the most sense to put your efforts.
I was talking about marketing approaches with an established artist at a wildlife art festival a few years ago. My specific question was where to look for galleries. His advice was to try place my work in locations where there were people “needing” to furnish second and third (!) homes. I’ve got to say, living in a county where the average income is $38,000 a year, that thought truly hadn’t crossed my mind.
Use the Internet- The world’s going digital. The US Postmaster just asked Congress for permission to cut the number of mail delivery days in the future because they are losing so much money. One reason is email and other types of online communication. I know that there are a lot of technophobic artists out there, but you’ve somehow got to suck it up and check it out, if for no other reason that using the internet takes time, but next to no money. At this point everyone pretty much knows that you have to have a website, same as you need a phone.
But when you bring up blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. the reaction usually seems to be a cri de coeur that there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is. My objection was that I couldn’t imagine that anyone would care what I had for breakfast (homemade muesli with berries from our garden, usually), so why should I take the time to do a blog. But……..when I evaluated it in terms of my marketing plan and learned how easy they are to do and that, unlike the website, I can update it myself at will in a far more dynamic way, I decided to give it a try. I approached signing on to Facebook the same way. An unexpected fringe benefit is the pleasant, informal contact with artists all over the country and the world.
Twitter I’m not sold on yet, but I monitor it with the idea that it will probably be just the thing at some point.
I encourage you to set aside an evening and check out Google’s Blogspot and also WordPress, which is what I use. Blogspot is probably easier to get started with, WordPress is more sophisticated in how it does things. You can register on both Facebook and Twitter, then just lurk around and see what you think. None of this is permanent. You don’t have to tell anyone. You can register and then cancel if you want. Be aware though that Twitter currently makes it very difficult to sign up again if you close your account.
Let me know if you start a blog or get on Facebook. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.
TWO NEW SMALL PAINTINGS
I originally started this as a demo for my painting class and thought it would be fun to finish it. I also have a commission that involves Herefords, so it’s doing double duty.
I did this one yesterday in a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s fun just to smoosh the paint around.
And, finally, a drawing of some grouse that I photographed in Mongolia. Not sure of the species yet.
I really like the work of Mark Eberhard, who has a background in graphic design and uses it to great effect in his paintings. When I saw the image I shot of what was a good-sized flock, I was struck by the pure design possibilities. To be continued…..