They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to writing an art blog are a thousand words enough? How many pictures and words should a good art blog have and, more importantly, do the same rules of journalism apply when it comes to writing about art in cyberspace? Together with Terence Dick, in a discussion lead by our own Akimbloggers, I'm hosting our monthly Akimbo TweetChat next Wednesday, May 30th at 1pm EST to talk about art blogs and ask these kinds of questions. In preparation for this momentous event, I did some poking around to see what art critics, editors, journalists, and bloggers think of the current state of art blogs - what makes a good one, what should be expected, and what could lead to a blog's demise.
Like any medium covering current events, an art blog should be updated on a regular and frequent schedule and keep up to date with what's happening. Reading a great review of an exhibition after it is over is like looking at a menu when the dish you want is either sold out or served cold. It would be no surprise to anyone if a place like that went under inside of a year, so we should hold a good art blog to the same standard.
Besides Terence and the team of writers who contribute to Akimblog, there are plenty of obviously artful bloggers around Canada. Andrea Carson's View on Canadian Art is always on top of things. Lorna Mills and Sally McKay are a crowd favourite at digitalmediatree. Blackflash Magazine editor John Shelling admits some of his favourite blogs are by artists and offers Jessica Eaton and Luke Seimens as good examples where one can often find insights into the artist's creative process and frequent project updates. Personal blog sites have their own voice and offer up fresh works for hungry art lovers.
As for larger art blogs, Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic and Jeff Hamada of Booooooom! have both created robust art blog sites and accrued large audiences. The blue ribbon for the art blog with a strong and fearless critical voice goes to ArtFagCity. It is the site many, including Leah Sandals, managing online editor at Canadianart.ca, consistently returns to. "Paddy Johnson," she says, "has done an amazing job of basically creating a new outlet for art media." Her stellar blog ranks high on Blog Rank's ultimate art blogs list, second only to Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog. So where does this queen blogger spend her time? "I go to In the Air for breaking news and gossip", and she points reflectively back at Hyperallergic and McKay & Mills. "I tend to like a lot of the single-authored blogs, since they tend to be more idiosyncratic." Johnson lists c-monster, Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes, John Powers' Star Wars Modern, Tom Moody and Greg.org at the top of her go-to sites.
There has been much debate and coverage lately around art blogs. Benjamin Bruneau recently wrote about them in Noteworthy, an article for C Magazine, Issue 113. For keeping up with what's really new, his two biggest go-tos are Contemporary Art Daily and I Like This Art, although he also follows a horde of art microblog sites such as those on Tumblr including Banana Leaves, VoodooVoodoo, 3000km, art-documents, very large buildings, and future mountains. Microblog sites are great for niche bloggers and artists who want to offer visual content without the hassle of maintaining a full site.
With so many art blogs serving up the next big thing, is keeping up with the latest and greatest the only way to go? Does it always have to be about the new? While they can address the past, Bruneau suggests blogs are more suited to rapid response: "That's the best use of the internet - getting there before the big publications, institutions, etc. clue in." That said, while we all like to hear about current developments, the ephemeral nature of art openings, exhibitions, and trends can sometimes leave us feeling exhausted. It's important to keep an eye on what's permanent. When does a trend become a movement? Those who recognize big transitions and carry these observations into their blogs do well as art critics.
What else makes a good art blog? "Pictures!" says Lorna Mills. Good ones. Interesting ones. High quality ones. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you want those words to count! And when it comes to the written word, there is not a lot of wiggle room for bad writing. A strong critical voice is key to a successful and well respected art blog. All agree: stale writing is a killer.
Next to writing is style. Debra Usher, President and Editor-In-Chief of Arabella said, "A good art blog must be informative, but should not become bogged down with factual detail." Her favourite blogs for art business news from a buyer/seller perspective are Nic Forrest's Art Market Blog and Art Biz Blog. A good blogger creates a clear understanding for the reader what the blog is about and delivers this sort of content consistently. John Shilling adds, "A blog reader or visitor needs to know what to expect if they are going to return, but they should also be entertained, inspired, or informed by the content when they visit." Kate Wilson sums it up best in saying, "A good arts blog is part information, part critique, with a little bit of controversy thrown in."
With 70% of journalists also blogging, it's no wonder there is a rich and diverse arena of art blogs. But why write for a paper or magazine and blog? Are all art blogs created equal? How many kinds of art blogs are there and how do they differ from their offline counterparts like magazine articles and newspaper columns?
Many bloggers come from art journalism and sometimes use their blogs to cover art and artists off the beaten path. As I mentioned, blogging also allows a writer to be stealthier in delivering the word on the street before it lands everywhere else; niche writing can quickly earn an extensive following. When asked what the difference is between a column and a blog, answers varied. It allows a writer more freedom to write about things closer to their own interest and be more creative with formatting elements, layout, writing style, and length as well as report more thoroughly and go deeper into a story. While most answered with descriptions of format and content, from a writer's perspective, RM Vaughan's wry answer may have summed it up best. The difference between a column and a blog is, "about five hundred dollars."
Join the discussion about Art Blogs during Akimbo's monthly TweetChat on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 1pm EST. More details here.
James Fowler worked in public relations with organizations in various industries to achieve their communications goals and streamline their media messaging, monitoring and metrics. James currently maintains a fulltime studio practice in Toronto and has taken a keen interest in social media and eMarketing. He joined Akimbo last spring as Social Media Director.
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