I've written almost 400 blog posts since the fall of 2005, and in that time I've had a lot of conversations about art blogging. The most common questions I get from other artists who don't write blogs are: is it a lot of work, is it worth it, and do you ever run out of things to talk about? The answer to all three is "yes" and in order to go into some detail, I'm devoting this entry to the topic of blogging itself.
There are many ways to blog, but I'll focus here on my own approach--which is to write from my perspective as a full time painter about my life as an artist--the ups and downs, pleasures and frustrations, and ideas that I mull over in relation to my work. I try to stay off personal, political or family topics, although once in a while I'll venture in that direction if I see a connection to my work. I prefer a tone that is friendly but not overly confidential....the person I picture as my reader is an interested acquaintance, most likely another artist. Because of that I'm likely to be pretty open about anything art related, and more circumspect about other topics. My blog is basically a look at my professional life, with just personal stuff to be engaging (I hope.)
I mention this aspect of blogging because some people believe that to write a blog is to surrender basic personal privacy, and they recoil from the idea. A typical comment to me is, "how do you handle being so out there?" But it's up to the blogger to decide about how much to reveal, and I think that having an idea of who my readers are helps natural boundaries come into play. Some of my readers make enough comments (thank you!) so that I do feel I know them, and in my mind they represent the many others who simply read and enjoy.
As for the work load, I try to write at least once a week, often twice, and usually I post an image. I really appreciate comments, and try to respond to all of them. Not only that, but if I want people to read my blog, I need to keep up with other art bloggers and leave a few comments on theirs--so yes, blogging is definitely time consuming. I put the priority on my own blog, and fit in others as I can--nowadays relying heavily on Facebook to know when someone else has posted (If you have both a Facebook account and a blog, you can set up an automatic appearance of your post on your profile page and friend's home pages.) Over time I've fallen into a rhythm that seems natural--every 4-5 days I'll get the urge to write. Sometimes a week passes and I suddenly remember to write, and figure that's OK. But I don't have any kind of schedule or calendar to remind me.
Is blogging worthwhile? For me it is, because the writing itself is an activity I'm drawn to. I've always kept journals and notes on my work, and I enjoy the process of exploring an idea through writing. I find it really satisfying to see where my thoughts and words take me, once I start writing a post. The exploratory nature of this kind of writing is a bit like painting, in that I usually don't know where I'm heading beyond a general idea. I love it when various threads coalesce into a coherent statement--much in the same way a painting eventually reaches a meaningful conclusion.
So, I do recommend blogging to other artists, but with a rather obvious caveat--you have to enjoy writing. If not it will be a chore and chances are good the blog will fade away. (I should mention that art blogs can be well done with few words, mainly images, and that's a great way to go if you don't care for writing.)
Besides the pleasure of writing and recording activities and thoughts, blogging is also worthwhile for its networking potential--for forging connections with other artists and art lovers. Through this blog, I have made good friends (and spent time with them in "real life"), sold paintings, found workshop participants and venues, and travel opportunities. Other connections and spin-offs are less easily traced to the blog, but having an online presence is part of the mix of factors that makes things happen.
The final question, the one about running out of ideas, makes me squirm a bit. Sometimes I know I want and need to post, but when I cast about for a starting point, nothing comes to mind. I have heard that you should have a list of back-up topics to turn to, but that doesn't appeal to me. I want to write about things that are actually on my mind, relevant to my immediate situation, and those kind of lists seem stale. All I can say is that I hope the posts that were hard to get going on are not too obvious in that respect (I'll admit though that this was one of them.) Again there are parallels to painting--getting started can be half the battle, and once the journey is begun it achieves its own energy and momentum.
The painting above is Lake House #3, 10"x10", oil and wax on panel, 2010.