Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Balancing Act

I spent this past weekend updating my Art Blog Directory, which now lists 490 links to creative blogs. The update included deleting over 90 former links or nearly 20% of the original total. I deleted links to those blogs that were no longer in existence, that were password protected, and that had no new posts within the last 6 months. There also seemed to be a trend to shifting platforms from a blog-only site (think Blogger or Wordpress) to a link within a website -- and these links were updated too.

As I clicked through the hundreds of links for the update, I took the time to (quickly) scan each blog. I was struck by the fact that some posts captured my attention and others less so. My favorite posts were those that focused on one or more of the following: highlighting artwork - whether completed or in progress, sharing detailed content about the artist's process, discussing issues (positive or negative) related to creativity and life as an artist, presenting tutorials, and reviewing topics (for example, a list of 10 favorite art books or 5 ways to prevent creative block).

My least favorite posts seemed to be those that were overly self promoting. HOWEVER, it is these types of posts that got me to thinking about the balancing act that many bloggers -- including myself -- go through. For those of us who have a blog that supports a creative career and an income generating business, our blogs are almost by definition advertisements. The trick is to find a way to be able to share what you have to offer to your readers in a way that does not become overly self promoting. Not an easy balance to achieve.

I am curious to hear thoughts from other bloggers who may be grappling with a similar issue and thoughts from readers who have experienced both compelling posts and those that are, well...not so much. In other words: what turns you on and what turns you off in a blog?


Birdie said...

I haven't commented here for ages, I lurk at a lot of blogs these days, but this is a topic that often crosses my mind - I too am turned off by blogs which are mostly about selling. I tend to regard those as just like any other advertisement and move on past to something with real content - mostly about the subjects you list above. I suppose the popularity of FB also contributes to the growing move towards blogs as selling platforms - people post the more interesting stuff there!

I do have a blog on my site - something I started when I put my site togather, but it's not for selling so much as a place where I enjoy sharing work, talking about things connected to creativity and also mental and emotional health. I like writing a blog because in this age of ever shorter and shorted content, I can write at length about subjects that interest me.

And I suppose ultimately that what I like in other people's blogs is to see people writing well about what interests them.

die amelie said...

Another important issue to discuss, Seth! Thanks for bringing it up (and thanks for taking the time and effort on updating your blog links...it must have been really hard labour I assume).

I only recently set up a new (second) blog to show my (more serious, less "entertaining" and less "easily consumable") art on as I found that my original blog (which still is my home, but has become rather crowded with Design Team stuff) was too "noisy" and "crammed" in a way....which does the more quiet and earnest creations no justice at all. And I think this isn't just an issue only I have encountered:

I found that a lot of crafters who started blogging around the same time as I did, have gone through the same sort of "crafty blogger career" - they became members of (just for fun and/or selling) design teams and started doing tutorials. With time the number of projects created for selling purposes increased and - as time to create freely decreased - outnumbered the projects that are created as a matter of the artistic heart and soul. And I think it is that same old "need": they want to feel that they are (and stay!) well known to a wide public. But it also makes you a seller rather than an artist...of which the latter I believe was the original motivation for most crafty bloggers at the start. Just to make this clear: I am not talking about those who are completely happy with their selling job as a blogging crafter (who gets goodies in return for his advertising them) - it isn't a bad thing at all if it really is what you are heading for. I do this stuff too - although I try to do it as decently as possible. I have never been good at throwing myself into others' faces and I have chosen the DTs of manufacturers I am on very carefully therefore.

But it is easy to loose track of your path as an artist once you have started heading towards that DTs stuff direction and if you create, mix and show both with one blog, either the fun (and selling) DT stuff scares off the artistically interested readers or the serious art stuff scares (or bores) off the more fun and crafts consuming ones.

It takes courage to put your art out there - rather truly and quietly - and leave it alone so it can (really slowly but steadily) make its way to the eyes and hearts of those who are willing to search for the more quiet makes (that most of the time make the deeper impact as they are a lot more "personal"). And it can't be done if surrounded by a "noisy bunch" of fun and selling makes. Artwork is the artist's voice in a way - and a true dialogue between the artist and the audience can only work in a silent place. That's why I set up a new and more "silent spot" for my artwork instead of sharing it on the same blog with all the DT and happily communicating stuff I am into. My new blog is in his first steps still...and going at a much more relaxed pace than my "fun/selling" blog of course. So you can't compare followers numbers and such. It's a totally different world. So I think those blogs turn me off that are that mixture - it makes finding the true art hard labour.

I think we have to know how we want our artwork to be seen - and in which "visual environment". It is part of the artistic message how we present it. And it tells about our very own motives behind the art how we present it. I see that there is a learning curve to finding one's way - we all (me too) are on a learning curve still when it comes to using the world wide web and social media it provides. Facebook is the visible proof.

Waving "Servus" from Vienna,

Claudia x

Sue said...

Hello Seth,
I do not mind blogs that self promote to sell their products as long as it is balanced by tutorials on the products; the blog has to be informative and educational.
I enjoy blogging as it is an outlet for me as someone who is retired from the work force, I also like to write and in the early years I did so, but soon realised that fellow crafters were interested in the creation moreso than what is happening in another part of the world, I do not talk of personal stuff as my blog is for my creativity and nothing more, albeit I do sneak in little snippets on the only Grand-daughter occasionally.
To clarify; I follow many blogs as I enjoy being inspired by all the talent out there. I do not mind reading about peoples lives as long as the post is not too drawn out.

die amelie said...

Forgot to add: I really admire how you manage to balance your "selling" business and the art on your blog, Seth!

I know it isn't easy to do (as I think I fail with it myself at the moment) - but you do it really well!

Claudia x

Rosemoo said...


I also recently went through my list and deleted a bunch of links, since I recently returned to blogging, and... to answer your question... it's complicated. After my hiatus I have decided to put a lot less personal stuff on my blog. I find long personal rants fairly offputting, and dropped a few blogs who spend pages upon pages in 'rant mode'.

That said, I find I'm pretty open to bloggers selling if I like the products. If they engage me and are beautiful I don't mind links to etsy shops and tutorials. There are a few blogs I follow uneasily, as they skew a bit TOO commercial for me, but the tidbits from their lives or the beauty of their art is just compelling enough to keep me.

For instance, I'm aware that you use your blog as a selling tool, but to me it feels like you put a lot of energy and effort into being honest about both your work and what you do, and that balances the 'self promotion' side. Buried Treasure for instance is a great link sharing concept, and drives people to both your page and others. That could be seen as pure marketing, but the way you present it makes it palatable, means I don't mind.

Shrug, I think you're doing a good job Seth. I still have you on my list.



Roberta said...

Wow. 90 links. That is a lot to delete. I keep blogging although I tried selling from my blog once but it just didn't feel right. I had a "buy now" button but it didn't really work anyway. So I gave up. And now I just talk about the work at hand. Nothing else really. Unless I am going away. Then maybe I talk about what supplies I am bringing etc. My posts are getting a little shorter but it feels more like a diary to me anyway. In fact someday I should print it all out. Now that would be a job!

elle said...

That was a big job! :O I also regularly edit my blog list. I think you have a good mix as you are a 'keeper'. ;~) I like to be able to relate to the blogger but not get all involved in rants and drama. I want to see processes and inspiration. I want to contemplate questions, ideas and meanings. I appreciate good recommendations.
As my own abilities evolve I would want to find that great mix on my own blog but at the moment it is pretty much a mix of diary, trial and error processes a few questions and hopefully a lot of motivation.

Susan Salyer said...

Hi Seth
I am in your process but not as quick. I realized as I had been doing DT work I was learning but promoting others it has been eight years learning and now I have a journal passion and have recently started a blog I am happy with ..for me.Balancing is tough and I am in beginning stages..but glad to know it can be wow.
susan s.

Claudine Criner said...

You are so right Seth, I think it's tough for a lot of bloggers to balance selling and just showing your craft. I have had this issue and am still really struggling with this. I am on two design teams and I have sort of slipped from doing posts that explain the process and I really want to get back to doing that again. I think I need to take a step back and regroup myself, my craft and what I really want to throw out there. I have come to the realization that if it's not fun and relaxing for you anymore that you have gone in the wrong direction.

~*~Patty S said...

At the risk of sounding shallow I am not drawn to blog posts that have lots and lots of writing...I guess I am more visually stimulated and trying to keep up here in blogland is challenging with things moving at a fairly fast pace.
Updating your Art Blog Directory sounds like a daunting task for sure ...
I really admire you Seth for all you do and so very well to boot!

Lin Collette said...

I don't want my blog to be a self-promoting machine at all. I want it to share my creative journey, as well as how my health issues impact that journey. Once in a while I'll refer to an item in my Etsy shop if it is relevant to a point I've been making. Most of my recent posts have to do with how I create different pieces and the decision process. One post, which I'm highlghting on the buried treasure thread this Thursday, is about how things went very wrong with a piece. And today's post is about me finishing Day Hospital yesterday and what I intend to do now with my art (http://stirringupghosts.blogspot.com/2014/06/it-is-finished.html).
I'm the same way with my business FB page and twitter. Up until recently I was posting several items a day about art, science, creativity, and funny stuff. I did ONE post a day that promoted 1 item. Now that I'm taking a bit of a sabbatical from the business, I still intend to post something daily, usually something funny and an item from my shop, plus a link to the blog posts and other things I find interesting.

Changing the subject mildly to Twitter, I abhor twitters who are RT machines - all they do is RT other people but there's never anything about THEM. I will RT someone who RTs one of my tweets and sometimes it's hard to find something worth RTing. And often when I do find something worth RTing, it's only a product they're selling. I realize we're in the business to sell our stuff, but don't people have anything else to say than buy my stuff?

I love Seth's blog and others I've read because they write about the art of making art. I get inspired, my hunger is fed, and I love it.

Thank you to the bloggers who continue to feed me. Don't ever go away

angi eharis said...

I love and always go back to blogs that love to share their art and the process/technique used to achieve the beautiful art, the common bond I find among artist is their generosity, I also feel after a while a friendship so I don't mind their personnel stuff including selling, it is probably how I purchase a lot of my art supplies and goodies, aloha, angi in hana

Lorri Scott said...

I need to think about this a while. I find that some of the blogs I see the most comments on and that I find interesting are those artists who really share their lives. People live vicariously you know. But it's hard for me to always put my personal life out there for all the read. Another issue I have about blogging is the fact that it's so easy to "throw" something up on FB. I have several followers who don't do FB so I have to consolidate and remember to post on my blog also which takes more time. Seth, you are right about us using blogs as a promotional tool but it does require balancing to make them interesting and that's the hard part. xo

The Creative Beast said...

Seth, kudos to you for taking the time to work through your extensive list of blogs and deleting those that are now inactive. That is a daunting task, though I'm sure also fun to peruse favorite blogs and re-discover what you love about them!
You certainly present an interesting question, one that I have been struggling with myself as a creative artist and a fledgling instructor with creative items to sell. It IS a difficult balancing act to 1) keep a blog going and keep it 'fresh', 2) to figure out where to draw the line at sharing personal tidbits of life since, as Lorri Scott aptly pointed out, many folks DO live vicariously, 3) how often to post about events/items available for purchase without appearing to look like one long 'commercial' but mostly 4) sharing the struggles and challenges of life as a working artist...
The last component is one that I feel strongly about because I don't think it's fair to artful 'consumers' (and anyone who views blogs for visual content, if not for workshops or product to purchase, is STILL consuming) to present a 'shiny happy' picture of creativity as fun and play all day. Those of us who use our creative skills to earn our living have come by these skills by much WORK and PRACTICE, and those hours of practice are not always fun (which makes me contemplate that is why so many abandon their creative pursuits at an early age). But that is how skills are gained, by PRACTICE, whether daily or weekly, and practice is something that is available to us all, which is why I share my process on my blog, in the hopes it will INSPIRE others to try things out and practice their creativity. And I share the challenges I encounter because I don't want artful consumers to begin their own journey to reclaim/regain their creativity only to hit a bump in the road and choose to stop exercising their creativity because of that bump - for myself, that is a huge disservice to anyone who stops by my blog for a jolt of inspiration.
I'm sure there is more I could say on this topic, so perhaps I should consider a series on my blog for it! You have certainly posed an interesting question to ponder Seth, but you always do!

PS: glad to see my blog made the cut - thanks Seth!! =-)

Jo Murray said...

That's a massive exercise...and one I should do too. As a blogger, time constraints dictate how often, or what, I post. I beat myself up at leaving too long between posts. As a blog follower, I'm attracted by images of other's work. If there is no image I tend to pass by. Definitely information about a process, or tips, are my favourites.....personal stuff less so. My blog is simply a way to communicate what artistic endeavours I am immersed in at the time.

Marjie Kemper said...

I'm sure that was a massive undertaking... and another example of why your blog is so good - you curate your content and keep it up to date and interesting.

I understand the need for selling and find several bloggers do it seamlessly and they're usually the ones who promote/pitch once a week or less, and more as an ending paragraph in a post about art, rather than a whole post about the sell. That's my 2 cents!

Bridgette Mills said...

Good topic Seth. I find that I most attracted to blogs that feature artwork that I admire and where the artist discusses the concept behind their work. I also like seeing in process works. not tutorials. just images, really. I also read art marketing articles. There are some blogs that I read that I just love the writing style. Like Jude Hill's blog. Her images of her work + words is like a multimedia poem.

It is a fine balance with the promotional. I think it's necessary to have a blog that shares what the artist is about, their process, etc. alongside the promotional. Otherwise it comes off as just a sales pitch.

PamelaArtsinSF said...

Wow -- what an interesting post with really interesting comments. I love blogs where I can see artwork I like and read a bit about the creative process behind it. I don't mind some "selling" -- if I like the art I might want the book -- as long as things are balanced. I certainly enjoy your blog, Seth -- think you've go the balance down pat. Thanks for the post.

Tami said...

Great topic, Seth. I have been pondering that subject myself. I recently realized that I had been just posting my new items in my Etsy shop, without commentary. I was part of a daily listing club, which was very helpful in getting me motivated to list designs, but that’s all I really focused on. Since that realization, I’ve tried to post pictures of my stencils as part of a design, which I think people appreciate a little more.
My blog is pretty much about my art work, projects, and many practical art ideas in the form of tutorials. I love when I think of a “new-to-me” technique, and it delights me to share about it. I do very little sharing of my personal life because I’m not sure people are really interested. I guess there are so many blogs, and mainly I’m looking to see what other people are doing, art-wise.
My personal opinion is that like most everything else in life, there needs to be a balance.
Fondly, Tami

Kip Kozlowski said...

There is no better advertisement than connecting with your "audience" and show
ing your beautiful work.

JackieP Neal said...

Another great topic Seth! I love how you engage your readers! After reading everyone's comments,and they really are good ones,there is not much more I could input;although I will say 'die amelie' was spot on with my thoughts and 'Kip Kozlowski's comment was the cherry on top! Wow that was easy! teehee
okay, I will say one thing, that I try to add a bit of humor with my posts that have more writing- to keep the viewer entertained and not turned off by words- as I feel most viewers are more visual. ")

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I have eliminated all blogs on my left sidebar that are only self-promoting. I got tired reading about when the artist's book was coming out, or their latest DVD would be available, without content or an updated image to keep me interested. Stock photos only last so long!

Unless my art is self explanatory, I always try to let people know what and how I made something. One thing I don't do, as a rule though, is name products by brand. Since most of my art comes from cast offs and found objects, I seldom know the name of the color, etc. I am using. I always skip over those details, anyway, since I realize I'll probably never buy the specific product anyway.

You do a fantastic job of balancing your art with your workshops and sales. You also do a fantastic service to us, the blogging community. This must have been a very, very busy weekend for you, because of all the changes you had to make. Thank you for that, and keep up the good "fight."

Emily Cline said...

Interesting thoughts, thank you Seth and everyone who commented! Blogs help me feel not so alone -- it's where I hear the victories and struggles of others. I try to share mine too, without being too windy!

I don't make a living off my art, but selling, for me personally, is for stores, not blogs. Blogs are for stories and processes (with links to sell of course). I have an Etsy site and a place on Society 6, and people sometimes just contact me directly if they want to buy something. Someday I'll have a studio shop and if there's a blog attached to it, then I'll probably sing a different tune!

jinxxxygirl said...

Hmmmm.... Art is not my career.... So, i only have a little link on my sidebar to take you Zazzle where i have some of my images..

I like well rounded blogs. If i feel that a blog is too self promoting or selling their wares then i will not go back.... Some is okay and to be expected but there is a line.....

I like blogs that are a good mix of personal life, art and craft pursuits and the blogs that balance that best get the most visits from me......

I try to accomplish that balance on my blog.....if you've been around to all the blogs you'll have to tell me if i achieved that balance...... :)I talk about day to day life, my art and craft projects, my attempts to get published and get my art out there, my flower garden, my travels around CA with hubby, my cat Jinx, just you know ME....

I like blogs that asks some questions...draw me in...

What a job that must have been going thru all those blogs! I often peruse your Directory looking for new blogs to follow! Hugs! deb

Gallery Juana said...

That was quite a task! Thanks for the link updates.

I am impressed by bloggers who can promote themselves and do it in a way that is giving at the same time.

It's like a commercial that I enjoy watching at the same time that I'm being sold something, but I notice the enjoyment that I am getting first and the selling comes second.

I guess it comes down to giving the viewer a story that can build a connection between the blogger and the reader.

I appreciate the stories you bring to us!

Kelly Kilmer said...

Thank you, Seth, for opening up this discussion. It is something that I have spoken about with those close to me.

My blog is about my life. My life involves being an artist and an art teacher. I make my living by being an artist and art teacher. Since I share my life on my blog, this involves my art and how I make my living. It is all a balancing act. I don't want to inundate my blog with posts about my upcoming classes or what I'm selling but I do want to make sure that folks receive the information that they need be it info on new classes (mine or other favorite artists), new ideas, a new book I found that I think others may be interested in, work in progress shots, finished pieces to encourage others, messy table shots, new products that I've bought, fallen in love with (or hated) and want to share, etc... I want it to be honest, real and interesting. I want my blog to be reflective of my life and my interests. I try my best to make sure that it does just this!

I subscribe to over 500 blogs. I blog because I love blogging. I love reading and seeing posts about other artists. Eye candy. Information. Inspiration. Honesty. Sharing. That's what I'm after and what I want my blog to be.

MeOfCourse said...

Hi Seth. Great post. I'm not a regular here but do know about you and your wonderful creativity. Yes it's time for me to clear some of my blogs as well, but there are some that I just can't delete. I don't know why they can't be deleted but I'll try again. I pretty much agree about blogs that are there to just "sell" their wares. In any event, I stopped at Rebeca's of Obtainium Art and seen your name mentioned and thought I'd stop by. Great post, have a great rest of the week.

Vicki Miller said...

I am of the same opinion as you, Seth. I like blogs that aren't self promoting. I am very careful not to do it myself because I really feel my job is to share ideas rather than sell them, but I also worry about who my audience is,since my content is varied. Do I put some off with post that don't interest, but really, my blog is essentially a way to keep myself on track. I also find that selling work tends to interfere with the muse. Art is better when made from the heart.

dorit said...

photos! photos! photos!
That's what I am looking for = inspiration!
and that's what I am posting.
No words needed..

fairyrocks said...

So many blogs, so little time. I love to surf the blogs and am always inspired by what the 'real artists' are doing. I find I loose interest when things become to commercial. As a designer for online stores, it is a thin line to walk. Between trying to inspire as well as getting the reader to want to purchase product. I don't sell anything personally and won't endorse a product I don't like. Thanks for keeping it real and inspiring!

Kimberly Santini said...

Couple things -

Why is is not ok for us to highlight our art and also market it on our blogs? Many artists are currently working directly with collectors now, and that stigma needs to be evaluated in the changing climate of the art world.

That said, blogging is a great piece of direct marketing, which is partly telling a story and partly creating a desire to have those objects that are part of the story. So it isn't enough to just include a jpg and pricing information. There needs to be some background.

It's interesting to me to view the variety of blogs out there, how they have evolved over time (or dissolved, as you discovered this weekend!), and how what visitors are looking for has also changed.

Thank you so much for giving us a forum to discuss such a fascinating and huge topic!

die amelie said...

Came back to read all the comments so far! Thanks for all those who participated and speak so openly - I enjoyed reading all of the comments and it helped me a lot with choosing my own blogging path (which has arrived at a crossroads in a way). Thank you, Seth, for bringing up this topic!

What a treat to read!

Claudia - aka die amelie x