The straw that broke the camel’s back

And the kindness that unbroke it.
Thunder Bay Freighter, Carol L. Douglas

I’ve driven more than a million miles in the last three decades. I’m a good, safe driver. That doesn’t mean I’m immune from problems created by others; nobody is.

On Sunday I was rear-ended in Massachusetts. (No, it was not my trusty Prius art-cart, but our family car.) The damage was minor. One can be graceful about such setbacks when one has good insurance.
On Monday I tried to write my blog and couldn’t remember the names of common paintbrushes. What typically takes me 90 minutes took, instead, four hours. Was I simply overtired? Probably, but I began to develop a throbbing headache. In the afternoon, I saw my PCP, just to be on the safe side. Either my brain was sloshed around a mite too hard, or I was in shock. In either case, the solution was rest.
Marshes along the Ottawa River, Carol L. Douglas
I didn’t have time for this; I never do. I teach plein air on Tuesdays; I was looking forward to speaking to the Bangor Art Society yesterday evening. I have four commissions to finish, a workshop ad to rewrite, paintings to collect, paintings to display. My sign needs its seasonal lights put up. The car, of course, must be fixed.
Add a problem with this blog that resolutely resists fixing. Thousands of Blogger users report that their readership has slumped, myself included. Either our usual sources of traffic have changed their algorithms or Google has changed its counters.
The answer is for people to subscribe, not grab the blog from Facebook. However, most people now read blogs on their phones. Blogger doesn’t support subscriptions on its phone version. To subscribe, readers must go to the desktop version and click the subscription box on the right. That’s a tricky thing to ask people to do.
Great Lake Storm, Carol L. Douglas
Suddenly, it all seemed like too much. I put my head under my blanket and went to sleep. And slept until my husband came home from the Post Office.
“You have a package from Rosseau, Ontario,” he said.
Rosseau is a small village about two hours north of Toronto, where southern Ontario leaks into the wilderness of northern Canada. This is Group of Seven territory, not terribly far from Algonquin Provincial Park.
Inside was a copy of Jane Urquhart’s The Underpainter, and a note.
Dear Carol,

This may seem odd, receiving a book in the mail from a stranger in another country, but I wanted to send you this particular book because I just finished reading it, and I think it may resonate with you for many reasons, not only because the main character is an artist, but also because of the settings such as Rochester and Thunder Bay—places that I know you are familiar with. This is my very small way of saying thank you for sharing wisdom and observations so generously and eloquently. I have learned and grown so much as an artist thanks to you.

Paula Banks
Rosseau, Ontario

Eastern Manitoba Forest, Carol L. Douglas

I’ve lived near the Canadian border all my life. The notion that Canadians are nice is a stereotype, but it’s also true. It’s particularly admirable when your next-door neighbor is a brash empire like we are.

Thank you, Paula Banks from Rosseau, Ontario, for setting me back on my feet. I hope we meet someday.

So you want to be an internet star

A good online presence is focused, consistent and interesting—just like you.

Rising tide at Wadsworth Cove, by Carol L. Douglas. I selected my top Google search images for today’s blog. Seemed appropriate.

This week I’m packing for a residency at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center. I’ll be a hermit until October 1. There will be two exceptions. The first, of course, is this blog. It runs daily except weekends and holidays, except when I’m out on the ocean. There’s no phone signal out there.

I’ll also be a panel participant in the Maine Arts Commission’s Maine International Conference on the Arts. I’ll be discussing Using Technology to Document & Promote Your Work on Friday, September 28 at 2 PM.
My success on the internet has been seat-of-the-pants. I’ve never taken a class, and whenever I start looking at online marketing courses, I get lost in the jargon. Still, this blog is a success, so I’m using this panel discussion as an opportunity to think through why it works.
A FitzHugh Lane Day at Camden, by Carol L. Douglas
Be consistent
People often ask me how to get started with a blog. My answer is that, whatever they choose to do, they should commit to doing every day. For me, that’s a strict discipline. I get up at 6 AM, write for 90 minutes, publish, and then go on to live my day.
I blogged for years, randomly, as most artists do, posting whenever I had a new piece of work or a brilliant idea. I had absolutely no traction. Then I noticed something about the internet: stirring the pot attracts people, and it has an exponential effect. The more that’s going on, the more people tend to read it.
Offer real content
If you’re looking only for a way to promote your paintings, Instagram is probably a better platform. A blog requires 400-600 words of carefully crafted content every day. It needs meat on its bones.
That isn’t as tough as it sounds. Everybody has interesting experiences, and we tell each other these stories all the time. All that really happened in this postwas that my pal got a flat tire, but the circumstances made me smile. Judging by the hits, it made a lot of you smile, too.
Parker Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas
Find your own niche
I didn’t set out to write an award-winning blog; I set out to get rid of all the thoughts rolling around my head.
Nobody has the time to do everything, and a pallid, overstretched presence will do you more harm than good. Concentrate on what you like to do, and you’re probably doing what you do best.
Let your technology do the metrics for you
I don’t chart my progress, but I regularly check where my readers come from, both geographically and by platformsand traffic sources. I use this information to get the biggest bang out of my effort. I used to post on Tumblr; it was pointless and too much work. I’ve recently added Google Business to my daily posting, even though its numbers are small. It’s easy to do, and it promotes my physical studio.
Bathtime, by Carol L. Douglas. I don’t set out to sell paintings on my blog, but this one was purchased from a post. The buyer has become a friend.
Be patient
When I started Monday Morning Art School, I thought it was a bang-up idea. It went nowhere. I was just trying to figure out how to pull the plug when I noticed readership rising. Today, Monday is my top readership day.
The dreaded “you should”
If someone else isn’t telling me I should do something more, I’m telling myself that. They’re usually great ideas, but I also want time to paint. I keep a document on my laptop of all these “you should” ideas. I refer to this more than any other document except my packing list.