I've been ruminating on the value of art blogs since I had a chat almost two weeks ago with Robert Genn. Art and blogging seem like a marriage made in heaven to me, and as the guru of all things art online, Bob was well aware of its existence, but wary of its value, so he rang me up, knowing that I'm an addicted blogger, to get some input from the horse's mouth.
I've known Monsieur Genn, lord and master of the brush and keyboard, for a few years, ever since the early days of his Twice-Weekly Letter when I was (a) just starting to paint again and voracious for info and guidance and (b) already firmly in the grip of the internet sirens. I don't remember how it came about but I supsect I was so in his face that it's natural that we became acquainted, and since he lives only 20 minutes from me he's had to put up with my annoying presence in his studio on several occasions since then. (In case anyone reads his letter and is wondering, he's not always the Dalai Lama of creativity that he appears to be. I can deliver my most politically incorrect, crude, tasteless comebacks and he matches me all the way down the line. Needless to say, he's always entertaining.)
Knowing Bob as I do now (even if it's just the tip of the iceberg), I can see that this man, in spite of his wide-ranging interests and talents, is a purist at heart. He believes that nothing and no one should get in the way of the creative process, and as someone whose studio is overrun with assistants, dogs, phone calls, pc ringing in the arrival of hundreds of emails a day, people like me trying to suck the creative marrow out of his bones, etc., he knows what he's talking about. So the idea of blogging being of creative benefit rather than just another distraction that keeps the artist out of the studio was somewhat suspect to him. So he wrote a letter about it. He initially thought that art blogs were all about exposure, and primarily designed as venues to sell paintings, and though some are (and do booming business), I think he discovered that, like his own venue, the best ones are about ideas and writing and the artist's need for community. We are compulsive and this is just another avenue in which work out our compulsions.
Possibly the greatest value of his twice-weekly letter is the forum it creates. The blog letter provided feedback that put into words so many of the feelings I have about doing this that I haven't been able to articulate. Here are a few of my favourites:
Blogs can be useful to the artist. They're like a self-initiated process of checks and balances. (Brad Michael Moore)
I love the idea of a brotherhood and sisterhood of artists that transcends time and space. (Todd Bonita)
I thrive on being part of the "hood." (Dyan Law)
We must be connected to like-minded people. The sharing of information is critical to our growth as creative spirits. (Len Sodenkamp)
At the end of the day the negatives are still there: art blogging does take time away from painting, if done for the love of it it does not sell paintings, and because it's such a democratic phenomenon there's a ton of crap out there. But so what? I can't help myself so I choose to look at it as 'glass half full.' And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some blogs to read...