An Artist’s reflection on building a website, blogging and social media
Bob Claytor writes about the energy he gets when producing and writing about art online.
What kind of artist was I?
My speciality had always been painting and drawing since my time at Central St Martins in the 1980’s and by the early 90’s I had a large catalogue of work. Various creative commissions were coming in. My relationship with computers and the internet goes back a long way. From 1993 onwards I spent much time building and playing with them. I was an early user of email, communicating (via modem) with an academic friend at UCLA. His response I still remember was “Let’s get this thing to work”. Well, we never really got much further than that ourselves for a while, but eventually….
I completed an M.A. in Art and Design and exhibited the paintings of that period several times before putting them into a very basic home made website. It was crude and it worked but nobody (apart from a few valiant friends) ever looked at it!
The site sat there for 7 or 8 years until I rebuilt it during my training to be a teacher in 2001. It was hard work maintaining it and and it remained unwieldy and difficult to navigate.
Artist, teacher, technologist?
I decided that ArtDesignTechnology.com was going to be my main site idea. I had taken on a whole load of new ideas and skills related to the area of Product Design and the application of both Photoshop for Graphics work and vector programs such as CorelDRAW for running laser cutters in particular.
I began to throw my creative efforts at all things technological, from CAD/CAM and electronics to using hand tools and even sewing machines. The range of
Technological skills taught in school is quite overwhelming and teaching itself very demanding. As such I did very little with the site for many more years, whilst maintaining a faith in it as some kind of long term investment.
Hacking out a teaching carear and helping to bring up 3 kids was an education and inspiration in itself, that fed into my creative life, whilst eating away at the time availlable to make art. My practice though was genuinely starting to bridge the gap between Art and Technology. Teaching helped me to do that.
What kind of artist and designer did I want to be?
Despite my forays into technology and education I have always looked with a painters eye and whilst I explored all sorts of different activities as described above, they were always filtered in that way. I intended the website to work at best as a genuine creative phenomena in its own right and if nothing else, as a gallery for displaying my creative work to anyone who would look at it.
I still had the problem of no-one visiting the site though, so what was the point of it? This brings me to the last two years when I have been doing much more painting. I saw my own kids on Twitter all the time and whilst intrigued by their obsession, failed to see its relevence for myself. Facebook had put me off social media, with its sense of obligation and (with some exceptions) mundane self-promotion.
One way or another though, I felt the need to re-invest in painting. I had a lot to say and it still seemed like the best way to do so. I trusted that things would fall into place.
What kind of artist am I becoming?
Buying a Mac a few years previously had improved the speed and quality of the photography I was doing as well as the school based digital work that I produced. But it did not help me with the more coherent and wholistic personal creative process that I was seeking. I felt lumbered when going out with expensive camera equipment. I had a disjointed vision of myself; making art because I felt obliged to rather than from a need or passion. I am capeable of making paintings that express an inner dialogue with myself, that draw on experience and theory. But I think they would become ever more parochial and self-referencing. I do not want that as I realise the importance of people in this equation.
One way or another, the paintings have started to return and I have set up my website again and begun writing a blog. I use the blog as a record of my creative thinking and don’t worry about anybody else reading it. It seemed to develop a life of it’s own as I explored the structure and other features of the blog. It felt like the main website had become the personal library containing the history of my painting and other creative work under the banner of “artdesigntechnology”. I liked that idea and now I’m not even sure that it needs much more organising.
I have developed the blog and begun to enjoy reflecting on things around me with references to previous paintings from my “library”. I tell stories of my creative thinking combined with images that seem appropriate. Photos that record, ones that make a statement or images of work that is long completed or just completed or even ongoing. The energy offered me from this process was quite startling. Baring in mind that this was before I had any established sense of an audience. There is a paradox here, I think, about potential and communication.
It’s important not to care too much about who one’s art is going to be seen by, as this makes the creative process less inhibited. I have always done things that way, but I’m painfully aware that without feedback then the impetus behind the whole phenomena can die out.
When I write my blog, it has the potential to be seen in seconds by the whole world, whilst realistically I know that I am largely writing it for myself. I get an energy from the process of writing about my art and the basic form of the blog gives me the enthusiasm to engage in the first place. There is perhaps an extra 20% of significance in the act of blogging that goes beyond simply writing about ones creative process anyway.
When I started to link this with Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest an even greater sense of purpose began to unfold. With genuine humility I can say that Twitter affords me a window on other artists and designers’ work that is invaluable. Like the process of writing, we all know that looking at other peoples’ work is helpful to our own understanding and creative development. But what I see in Twitter though is something that is more akin to the dynamic creative entity that I had always wanted for my personal website. So I can “like” things that I want to return to later, I can build up a community of “followed” and “following” creative people and I can show off a bit with my own latest artwork.
In the time honoured sense I went to the Tate Modern, to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition recently and gained a great deal from looking at her paintings. But I got more from them than I might have done 20 years ago because I was thinking about how I might share this with the Twitter community also. This sharing and reflection then feeds back into whatever making process is unfolding at a personal level for me.
So in conclusion I see my use of social media as an artist as the gateway into the blog and website that represents who I am as an artist. I can then adjust and project that as I see fit whilst benefitting at an ongoing, energetic and motivational level from the social media as I make my own art work.
2003 to present: artist, designer and teacher.
2001 to 2003: teacher training, specialising in CAD/CAM.
1985 to 2001: large-scale public art works, and series of paintings.
1989 to 1991: M.A. Art and Design at Sheffield Hallam University.
1980 to 1985: B.A. (Hons) Fine Art Painting: Central Saint Martins School of Art.
1979 to 1980: Foundation, Chesterfield College.