Cleaning House

We Be CloseIt’s hard to believe, but just five years ago I had no website or social media. My art business was based entirely on word of mouth. When I decided to start promoting my business online, I had no idea where to start. Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Twitter, and this blog — they all represented new opportunities, and I tried them all as part of a grand experiment.

Enough time has passed that I now have real data with which to analyze these platforms. I’ve made a lot of friends and attracted followers online, especially on Instagram, and I expected this following to translate into increased sales and attendance at art shows — but business has remained random, and art show attendees have never turned out because of social media. Invariably they come due to word of mouth or advertisements on third party websites. Furthermore, I can trace very few of my sales to my website or social media.

I try to make sound business decisions in my career based on real-life experience and hard data. I have to face the fact that the online platforms are not enhancing my business to the extent that I can justify their continuing expense. I’m not talking about having to pay for services, since all of the platforms aside from this blog are free to use. But the considerable hours that go into maintaining a social media presence represent unpaid labor. There is also lost income, since I could be allocating the time I spend on social media toward more profitable activities.

The experiment was worth the risk, because I answered important questions for myself; but I have already started to “clean house” in order to cut my losses. So far I have deleted Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, DeviantArt, and Twitter. I erased some of my old YouTube videos as well, most of which served as advertisements for workshops and exhibitions that have long since expired. For now, I’m keeping Instagram, Etsy, YouTube, and this blog — but I may ultimately decide to scale back even more. To be honest, there is a certain appeal to “going rogue” and getting back to underground art-making.

The lesson in all of this is look at your business strategies with detachment and reason. If something isn’t working for you, it may actually be working against you. Pull the plug on activities that suck your time and offer no commensurate reward. Most importantly, put your focus and energy on your art.

Evolution of a Design

The World Needs More Love, 2017

The World Needs More Love, 2017

I recently premiered a digital piece entitled The World Needs More Love, which you can see to the left. The piece came out of a vague desire to combine the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary with the rainbow pride flag and a message promoting love. As I see them, the Sacred Hearts represent hearts inflamed with love for humanity, despite the sufferings both receive. The pride flag embraces diversity.

These are potent symbols, now more than ever. It is so tempting to respond to violence with more violence, but as the popular saying puts it, “Fighting for peace is like f***ing for virginity.” Capisci?

The image that I premiered on August 9 was not the first attempt I made to translate my idea into reality. I went through numerous drafts before I created something I liked. But neither was the official image the last attempt I made. I probably created the official image three quarters of the way through the process.

I kept on creating additional versions so I would have lots of options to consider, and I wasn’t sure which one I would choose until the very end. To see how I varied the idea, you can view some of the alternate versions in this post. Do you have a favorite?

This experience verifies the importance of creating multiple versions of any idea. If I had stopped after just one attempt, I never would have produced the image I love.

Producing alternate versions is admittedly much easier to do with digital art than with traditional mediums, because the image on the computer screen can be edited and altered ad nauseam. Even so, a traditional medium artist can create series to fully explore an idea.