Art, the Internet, and Whatever Else that Doesn’t Make Sense

Sorry, but I’ve been in a mood. If you’ve emailed me recently, or even far past recently, and I haven’t gotten back to you, I really apologize. But this is just how I get.

I let my inbox pile up with emails–messages I want to answer with thoughtful responses, but once there are more than several, I get totally overwhelmed and can’t exert the social energy. My brain gets scrambled and tired, and I want to escape to anywhere else.

Instead, I get into some kind of shame spiral. (Hey, I’m just being honest here.) I feel so guilty I’m not in touch with my friends that I beat myself up. This only keeps me more out of touch with my friends. It’s so dumb. Welcome to mental illness.

On the positive, I recently saw Leslie Jones’s stand-up special and I hurt my guts from laughing so hard. I seriously thought my stomach was going to tear open and bleed out, Jesus Christ oh Lord have mercy. There were some parts where I almost had to leave the room because it just got too fucking funny–too many jokes in a row, ya know? It was torturous. Needless to say, my face still hurts. I also got to be mjp’s only audience participant while he did his last podcast. I curled up under a blanket, sat in his cozy executive’s chair, and tried to keep from laughing while he went on a tangent about kites and corn. That hurt my stomach too. 

And I’ve actually been working on two paintings. I can’t believe it. One has that pey on it.

Of course, I’m doing them at a goddamn snail’s pace, working on the compositions, making decisions (probably overthinking everything), and making some fabric patterns for the smaller of the two. Then, I got into a giant fight with my color printer. We duked it out about cyans again. Second time in a row. The whole thing made me dizzy and realized I still must be sick. Enough already, right? 

Yesterday my doc called me to give me the “results” of my throat scan and said how my lymph nodes were very swollen. I asked what that meant and he asked me, “well, are you sick?” I said, “Yes. I have been for a long time now.” And he said, “Well that’s probably why. It will go away.”

Well, alright. Thanks, Genius.

I only care about being well enough to make some art again, even if I make one mark a day, I decided it doesn’t matter, as long as I do something! I miss it. That son of a bitch watercolor taped to my drawing table has only been an impediment because it takes up the counter space, so I put a bunch of paper over it so I can work on the 12 x 12 inch panel. I put the 24 x 24 inch canvas (the one with the pey on it) on the easel. Because a lot of my supplies are at the storage space, I didn’t have any dot maker paper. I’d planned on using that (you can kind of see it in the layout above), so I actually had to make some in Photoshop. It was kind of a pain, but this is what it looks like:

I wanted a small portion of this stuff on the painting. I don’t know why, but it was important to me for the composition. Sometimes I can’t explain my decisions. It just needs to be there.

Meanwhile this 12 x 12 will have fabric on the blue parts. Isn’t that fantastic? Yeah, big news that is. The rest will be paper and oil.

Okay, onto advice, websites, the Internet, and purpose. Why? I don’t know. 
I’ve been thinking about art advice. I know, I’m not exactly in a position to give any out at the moment. I haven’t been feeling so “alive.” But people have asked me for it, and I do have a life under my belt, I guess. I’ve been asked questions about websites, being an artist, how to get into a gallery, getting an Internet presence–which I think is funny, considering I am not very active on social media. Not anymore. I don’t think I ever was either.

But anyway.

I can talk about my website, but my blog, the thing you’re looking at now, was built in WordPress and was made to look a bit like my website. My website is another story. People ask, what program or template did you use to make it? No programs were used to build it. Michael mostly built from scratch it and we both designed it. Okay, I designed it. It’s mostly CSS and php/html and runs off a database. It’s actually quite extensive because there are about 1000 artworks cross-referenced with who, what, where, and lots of other data. Then there’s all the data you see, which are all the specs (size, price, medium, detailed images, descriptions, etc.). And lastly, no, we can’t build you a website like it.

But should you have a website at all?

I was once very adamant about all artists having websites with their own hosted domains that include a blog, a sign-up feature for a mailing list to tout their latest news, with a news page, social media links, and all that, but that’s what has served me. It was a selfish view.

The Internet has changed over time, and so have people. I have changed. There are different options for different people. Not all creative people need their own domain, website, blog, mailing list, or mass social media presence. I’ve seen people do fine by just posting their work on Instagram and only that. I know artists that have sold their work right off of Facebook and have no website at all. Or like, if you really don’t have anything to say on a blog, or don’t have any news or shows, a free page would probably do you fine. A static page with a short bio and a few images would be sufficient. Not everyone wants to live on the Internet. Not everyone should have a blog or a podcast. I don’t think people should be so stressed out about it anymore, especially if they’re clear about their goals. Yes, goals.

I’ll get back to that part. 

It can all be done easily (and for free) with WordPress. I’ll admit though, I’ve been frustrated with WordPress myself. Though, I think once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. WordPress has the most options, the most plug-ins and automated widgets, and there are a ton of tutorials on line. Wix is okay; they have templates to build a free site that aren’t bad and they’ll host your domain. I’ve heard Squarespace is pretty good too, but I’ve never played with that one. However, here’s an example of a well-designed Squarespace site, IMO: amhartadvisory.com

The reason why it’s been important to me to build a mailing list is because I’ve been sending out seasonal newsletters for more than 20 years. I don’t know. Some people seem to like them. I also like to blog (when I can). But I’ve always been a little old skool. I like having a hub to drive traffic to where all my info can be found in one place. It’s all part of my purpose. I think as an artist, you have to ask yourself, where you want your audience to go. Perhaps before that you should probably ask, what is the purpose of my work? I think it’s a legitimate question. I’m not trying to sound preachy. I just think you have to ask yourself that question before you can know what you’re doing with yourself on the Internet. Figure out your purpose before your goals. 

That might be too overwhelming of a question for some people. Especially if I tell you it’s vastly wide open. It’s whatever you want it to be. You can say that your purpose is to “make art.” I guess that counts. But add the word “for” and it starts to get tricky. To make art for? For whom? For what? That’s where the purpose starts to come in. I will tell you that, if you think it’s for making money, you are most likely 99% wrong. I mean, everyone has to make money, but how is that a purpose to make art? The sentence doesn’t even make sense: “to make art for to make money.” See? Ha ha. Bad grammar.

No one in their right mind set out to make art to make money. It’s an oxymoron. Maybe after you figure out the purpose, one of the (many) byproducts of your art can be money, but if your purpose in life is to make money, art may not be the best route. Maybe you’d like to be a dollar bill. Makes about as much sense.  

Don’t you want to be you? You either want to invest in yourself (time, money, creativity, etc.), or not. You will only get back what you give into it, and like real life, it’s a risk. There’s no guarantee you’ll get anything back, but if you’re clear as to what you’re doing, you’re not going to be as disappointed if you’re doing what you know you’re supposed to do. Now, if only I can apply this same principal to my own self! I know how to apply it to my purpose, just not my goddamn psyche.

The point is, once you know what you’re really making art for, then you can deal with the small things, like if you want it to be accessible to every man, woman, and child, to sell to a high-end market, get people to invest in your ideas, give it a commercial appeal, mass market your work as posters, wallpaper, textiles, one of a kinds, belt buckles, limited editions, toys, murals, clothes, automotive dashboards, shoes, wheelchairs, furniture, whateverthefuck. You’ll know what to make, what to price it, all that shit–if you know what or who it’s for. Does any of this make sense?

Maybe it’s been somewhat easy for me because I have never placed a separation between myself and my art–a blessing and a curse. But my purpose has to do with surviving as myself. To be. And I see the Internet as just another universe like the real one, just another arena to be me. In fact, it’s easier for the bigger part of my purpose because everything I’m doing on the Internet isn’t tangible. Does that make even less sense? I think I’m digging a hole.

I don’t know if this bodes as advice or just a way to confuse people in a terrible way. If I am not helping, then please, don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just making this shit up as I go.

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