Yesterday Laura Wambsgans of Santa Clarita, California wrote, “Last week I joined the artful soldiers painting ‘A Painting a Day,’ blogging each new work by the stroke of midnight. I’m learning more than I had imagined. The pressure is tremendous. All the while I’m wondering, is the Internet the new ‘Wild, Wild West,’ with rampant lawlessness and a new century gold rush? Or is it a speck on the sleeve of history? Then my mind drifts to you and what your thoughts might be?”
Thanks, Laura. You’re a pioneer in one of history’s great events. We now have the potential to connect our images, sounds and written words to every being on planet Earth. This democratization cuts across all traditional lines — of nation, religion, race, language and gender. Theoretically, it gives equal opportunity to all. For those who have a passion, wish a broader education, want to be part of something greater, or merely need to proclaim their presence, the Internet is here to stay.
The Internet is the New Frontier of friendship and brotherhood. It’s an instrument of understanding that holds out the promise of a more peaceful world. Its galloping neurons will eventually penetrate every hut, tent, igloo, bungalow, saloon and bunker. Like the Wild West, its early lawlessness will be brought to order and tamed. Machine translations will let everyone know what’s happening. As guardians of the new order we must try to keep the hucksters at bay and the bad guys out. We also need to neutralize those big players who would manage the menu.
Apart from the nascent commercial bonanza, creative people are suddenly swapping photos, paintings, poems, pedagogy and paradigms. A new blog floats into the blogosphere every second, a new idea every nanosecond. Without even getting into your flivver, you can now see what others in the Great Electronic Art Club have done in the last half hour. A tune composed in Perth, Australia, is immediately whistled, hummed and committed to an orchestra in London, England. Today, the lone artist rides with a hundred thousand others. The message of the medium is that the competition is tough and getting tougher. And quality finds friends. And different folks from different lands are not so different after all. Our Global Village is learning to share.
PS: “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” (Baha’u’llah)
Esoterica: As the Internet celebrates sharing, we are now in the process of reprogramming ourselves to a universal human experience. At the same time, the idealists among us still feel that diversity will prevail. In the words of Dr. Michael Beckwith of the International Spiritual Center, “We are on the planet to wrap our consciousness around the divine treasure within each of us.” This implies individual empowerment, responsibility, and the need to be the best we can. “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.” (Marshall McLuhan)
Internet smashes boundaries
by Clint Watson, San Antonio, TX, USA
We do need to minimize the effect of the big players who would attempt to exercise control over this technological medium. Fortunately the Internet itself makes such neutralizing control easier for the small guy to achieve. Gone are the days when a gallery, agent or other player can exercise too much control over an artist. Today’s painters can reach patrons worldwide via technology if necessary. This allows the Artist/Gallery relationship to be built upon a foundation of mutual respect, trust and teamwork rather than control, greed, suspicion or a number of other negative factors that unfortunately creep into some (not all) relationships. If one is wary of over-hype and utilizes the medium with realistic expectations, realizing that marketing is still about forging personal connections with other people, then the Internet truly smashes boundaries and aids in relationship building.
Can a ‘local’ artist have success?
by David Reeves, Quispamsis, NB, Canada
I just got back home to New Brunswick from a one week vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was prepared for beaches and bicycle trails, but hadn’t expected their large dynamic art community. I was told there are more than 70 art galleries in Provincetown alone, many of them artist-run. There are more art galleries in the tiny town of Wellfleet than all of New Brunswick. Is it necessary in this Internet age for an artist to first be well known locally to be successful elsewhere?
(RG note) Thanks, David. In the free-for-all of the Internet there are no prerequisites. Quality, rarity, uniqueness and availability are valuable virtues, online or not. There is no such thing as an undiscovered genius.
Internet robs of time and reality
by Suzette Fram, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
The Internet is here to stay. Things will never go back to where they were. And it is wonderful to be able to share your work, see what others are doing and make friends in discussion forums where people share the same interests. The latest craze now is ‘blogging.’ There’re also Internet sales on Ebay and other places like it. So much can be done that couldn’t be done before. But it is a double-edged sword. The Internet can rob you of a couple of very important things. One is time. You can spend a lot of time there, maintaining your own site, searching and viewing others’ sites, not to mention auctions and discussion forums. It can become yet another thing that one uses to avoid going to the studio and working. The other thing it can rob you of is reality. Internet friendships are not real. They must not take the place of real people and real friends in your life. Relying too much on the Internet should not become a substitute for living a real life with real people.
A painting a minute
by Janet Lee Sellers, Monument, CO, USA
Instead of a painting a day, I set out to do a painting a minute and only do it for 10 minutes because it is such a sprint. These exercises in watercolor stem from my practice of a drawing a minute to capture the essence of what I am seeing before the light changes, the dog moves, etc. The first ones were unintelligible, and the timer was distracting, but then I hit on an idea. I use the slide show feature on my computer to change images every 60 seconds. It worked. By the time I got to number 6 or 7, I could move quickly, and paint what I now call my haiku/waka paintings (waka, at 5-7-5-7-7, is about double the syllables of haiku of 5-7-5,) – 17 – 31 strokes. Then I can do a longer study if I like, or just enjoy the haiku painting. It is a real breakthrough technique. I put them on the web, too, but they are mainly for my own enrichment. I actually like them the best out of all my work. I originally was inspired by zen painters and calligraphers who are able to depict a whole world in a moment.
Art and the prophet Baha’u’llah
by Ivan Lloyd, Tucson, AZ, USA
I know you have a treasure trove of quotes in your Resource of Art Quotations database but I was amazed to see the quote by Baha’u’llah at the bottom of your letter. I have devoted many years of my painting career to illustrating some of the historical events pertaining to his life. Many of his teachings relate to the arts and I have often puzzled over the advice to “Avoid the prostitution of Art.” I can’t imagine what that means. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?
(RG note) Thanks, Ivan. Baha’u’llah, highly evolved as he was, was against the prostitution of practically everything. Taking it in context, it’s my opinion that he meant that art ought not to be made for “base purposes.” The idea that art should not be done for sale, or commissioned to please someone is a later idea. Ivan Lloyd’s Website is at IvanLloyd.com. An understanding of the Baha’i faith, illustrated by Ivan Lloyd, can be found at BahaiFaithArt.com.
by Alev Oguz, Istanbul, Turkey
In the beginning, man had a consciousness at the physical level. He was a hunter and a survivor. During the High Renaissance, his consciousness was deepened. He experienced sensuality through arts, music, poetry, literature and so on. With the Internet, age of communication began. We are sharing information at every level with no limitations. The consciousness moved from our hearts to our minds. However, we are much more than this. We are much bigger than our physical bodies, much bigger than our emotions and logic. Our awareness is at the level of all our being — each cell in our body is conscious. It is time to move on into a new world without fear, without hate and without judgment. It is our choice: being in the whirlpool or reaching enlightenment.
Computer a ‘First World’ phenomenon
by Eric Allen Montgomery, Roberts Creek, BC, Canada
I’ve been talking a lot recently to various friends all over the planet that I’ve met online or who I at least keep contact with from other cities I’ve lived in, about how we share our lives through this medium, be it through blogs or online communities. While we have been making light of some of the aspects of blogging (do we really care that you flossed this morning or how your kitties mange is doing?). We revel in our ability to share our latest creation, and we’re in awe of the ability to meet various folks across the globe… we also have had to keep reminding ourselves that only 1% of the global population owns a computer, and only slightly more have access. It is still very much a tool of, if not the just wealthy, at least the comparatively well off, with the lions share of that being within the so-called First World. There’s a whole lot of folk out there who will never be in the position to share a tune, a picture, or a dream online. Sobering thought.
More than we need
by Caroline Stengl, Victoria, BC, Canada
Personally I’m glad there are still people out there who haven’t even heard of a computer or seen a “civilized” person because they live so remotely tucked away in the wilderness. And there are a growing number of people who are now choosing to live without technology and keep their needs simple. One less jumble of toxic computer parts in our landfills. Here I sit typing on my Mac laptop playing devil’s advocate, but it’s important to note that there are many different perspectives in the world. I think that we should be careful not to assume that everyone shares our particular view or our privileges that come from having more than we need.
Hazards of multi-lingual marketing
by Cyd Madsen, Henderson, NV, USA
As our world has become more overwhelming, isolating, polarized, and extremists of all sorts are banding together in an effort to tear the world apart, here comes this mysterious little box with an open door for each of us to participate in that which is universal in all of us. The Internet also proves my point that God has a sense of humor. One of the photography sites I deal with recently launched in four new languages. The keywording of our images has proved to be the source of both confusion and doubled-over laughter. Barriers from one language to another still exist, especially in the area of concepts. Some photographers are finding their carefully planned and photographed groups of ethically diverse business people now tagged as herds of cattle, and one of my shots of a young woman in a polka dot dress now has the tag of connect the dots. As more and more sites attempt to market in different languages, more and more of our fundamental differences in concepts are being uncovered and, hopefully, resolved. It will be a difficult transition that may take a few years to iron out, but the end result could be much more than simply multi-lingual marketing.
Images linked worldwide
by Bill Fahey, Seattle, WA, USA
Out of curiosity, I recently took a look at the statistics page for my website. I paint images from mythology and world religion, so among the frequent referrer links were a lot of Google image search pages. Following some of the other links, I found, to my amazement and chagrin, that people had been hot-linking to jpegs on my site from all over the world. Images of a Bird Goddess, a Halloween Tree and a Cosmic Man were to be found in blogs and MySpace-type pages in the US, Canada, the UK, various EU countries, and even the Seychelles! I came upon my Girl with a Red Fish (a la Vermeer) on a Persian blog page with a love poem in Farsi. (An Iranian acquaintance translated.) My Quetzalcoatl was found supporting some very dubious archaeological/racial drivel on another page.
The most interesting bit concerns my Muhammad and the Angel. It had five times as many hits as any of my other pages, 10,000 plus. Also, my traffic spiked hugely in the last week of January and the first of February. What was happening then? Moslems were rioting in Europe and Asia over those cartoons of Muhammad from that Danish newspaper. Whew. I can only assume that I did not offend. In accordance with their tradition, I had not painted his face. Also, that picture showed up on several blogs in Russia along with writings from Rumi, as near as I can tell.
I was flabbergasted. I was annoyed that they were ripping off my bandwidth, though I have it to spare, and that I wasn’t getting an attribution or a link. Only the picture was pulled from my server when someone loaded their page. On the other hand, these were all personal pages. No one was making money from it. It’s like sampling in hip-hop songs. These are compliments in the fast-and-loose ethos of the Web. In a most unanticipated manner, my art has become part of the global conversation. In a weird way, I’m glad.
(RG note) Thanks, Bill. Essentially the visitor at the site goes temporarily onto your own site while he or she views your illustration using your bandwidth. While normally a small cost to you–it can nevertheless add up when visits come in the thousands. To frustrate these bandits you can simply remove the active illustration and substitute another. This will bring up an error on the bandit’s site. Pay attention to your stats and you can nip them in the bud.
Way of the future
by John Hulsey, KS, USA
My artist-wife Ann Trusty and I have both been traveling the painting-a-day road and publishing to our website since June, and while we are working to get connected to the largest audience possible, it is slow going. We have our regulars, of course, and sell work every week, but the ultimate goal is to reach the “viral marketing” threshold, where the work is bought as soon as it is posted. A few fortunate artists out there have achieved this level, largely due to write-ups about their sites on big Internet blogs, like Boing Boing. When this tipping point is reached, the site needs no more promotion, because the blogging world spreads the word the same way a virus grows exponentially. Amazing, isn’t it? We love the idea that one can take one’s work to the world directly, thus freeing oneself forever from the gallery system, if one so chooses. Granted, the little paintings each day are basically “loss-leaders” very inexpensive but labor-intensive pictures — however, the potential exists at every given moment, day or night, for a collector anywhere in the world to purchase something larger from the regular gallery page on the site. This can free the artist from the need to be concerned about deriving an income from selling in other ways a real plus, unless one is only driven by that need to pay bills!
We are also planning to shoot video of our paintings being created on location in the many beautiful places that we travel, and uploading those images the same day to our website. The possibility even exists in some locations to do a live webcam feed, enabling people anywhere in the world to watch as a painting is being made, say, in a National Park, or the south of France, perhaps. (I don’t mind the camera watching as I work I’m used to demonstrating to students during workshops). We fully realize also, that to reach the largest Internet audience will take time, effort, and some expense in promotion and press relations work, especially since the first artists to explore this idea have already been written up in the press, so the story is not fresh news anymore. But each person has something different to say about their work and their motivations, so finding a way to tell that is key. The reality is that we are taking on the jobs of marketing as well as painting and managing our website, photographing the art, color-correcting in Photoshop, and loading the site and email campaign each day. Not every artist will want to be so free from the work their galleries handle for them. However, we do believe, as you do, that the Internet is the way of the future, and the possibilities are very exciting.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2006.
That includes Jan Blencowe of Clinton, CT, USA who wrote, “As a Daily Painter/Blogger for well over a year I was recently asked whether I felt that there was a lot of competition among the numerous artists who have joined the ranks of daily painters. I said, ‘No, not competition, community.’ And so it is. Among this group I have found encouragement, and generosity and most of all a love of painting. It’s all good!”
And also Shanti Marie of Lake Wylie, SC, USA who wrote, “I read the comments regularly on my ‘Painting a Day’ blog and find the appreciation for art extends all borders and, like music, visual art is a universal language.”
And also Barbara Callow of Brentwood Bay, BC, Canada who wrote, “When I was 4 years old my maternal grandfather was talking about one world instead of countries. He was from Wales but believed in no boundaries. He thought that technology would eventually allow for free communication throughout the world.”