What I don’t know

Painting is a solitary journey, but there are times when you need the help of others.

Main Street, Owl’s Head, 16X20, oil on archival canvasboard.

I’ve fussed and worried about migrating this blog to my website for close to a year now. Blogger has discontinued its subscription widget, which makes maintaining readership almost impossible. I started on WordPress, moved over here in 2007, went to the Bangor Daily News for a few years and then came back. With those moves, I just wrote off my prior content and moved on. But this blog has become too deep to do that. It’s essentially, the repository of every Great Thought I’ve ever had about painting.

Belfast Harbor, 14X18, oil on archival canvasboard, framed, $1594.

Every few weeks I’ve spent a morning trying to work out the problem. I’ve watched YouTube tutorials, read expert advice, and gotten nowhere.

I’m not computer-illiterate. Twenty-five years ago, I was a semester short of a degree in programming when my husband suggested that I take up painting full time. “The world is full of programmers,” he said, “but it needs more artists.” I’m not sure he was right, but I can, mostly, fix my own computer problems.

Last week, I folded. I called my software developer daughter and laid out the problem. By the time we ask for help, we’re usually pretty angry with ourselves. All our self-doubts come to the fore.

“First of all,” my daughter said, “you’re not stupid. This stuff is hard.” I was terribly proud of her at that moment. Whatever intellectual gifts she has, they’re dwarfed by the fact that she’s kind.

Marshall Point, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard.

She then told me what I should have realized all along: I need to hire a professional. I contacted the woman who monetized my website for me, and she’s working on it now.

(Note that all the programming in this story is being done by women. Female programmers account for just 5% of the field worldwide, so that tickles me pink.)

I have felt that same frustration in painting. After my epiphany 25 years ago, I started taking painting classes, in Rochester and at the Art Students League in New York. Some of those classes were enormously useful—with Cornelia Foss, for example—and some were less so. I’m acutely aware of the feeling of frustration when faced with a painting problem I can’t figure out.

Much of that frustration could be avoided if someone would lay out the process clearly and concisely. That’s what Foss did for me, bringing me into the 21st century in her own crusty way. It’s what I try to do for my students. Painting is a technical exercise, so it should be addressed primarily in technical terms.

Beach Erosion, 8X10, oil on archival canvasboard.

Last week, I was being bedeviled by a watercolor question. Mick McAndrews answered it for me. He sounded eerily like my daughter—what I was trying to do was hard. Sometimes, just knowing that is important, because it takes out the background chorus of negative thoughts.

Every few months I’ll ask my pal Eric Jacobsen how he makes mauve, a color he uses to fantastic effect in landscapes. Apparently, I don’t like the answer, because I immediately forget what he tells me. That’s a different problem: simple willful ignorance.

Painting is a solitary journey, but there are times when you need the help of others. How much advice varies based on your personality and level of experience, but it’s foolish to go it alone. Sometimes, taking a class or workshop is the best investment you’ll ever make.

The more you give, the more you get

Try giving it away for free. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Jonathan Submarining, by Carol L. Douglas. I painted this plein air with my pal Poppy Balser.

On Wednesday, I published a quick-and-dirty guide to teaching painting online. It was in response to a question by my friend Mira Fink; I expected she would read it and nobody else would be interested. Instead, it’s gotten responses from teachers from all over the country*. “I have been making my outline for my first online class this fall. This makes it seem so possible,” wrote Cat Pope from Mobile, Alabama.

Last month I askedwhether I was intrepid enough to move to online teaching. I think many painting teachers have been asking themselves the same thing. The current crisis may weed out many veteran teachers. At first, that seem like good news to younger artists.

Fish Beach, by Carol L. Douglas. I painted this with my pals Mary Sheehan Winn and Bobbi Heath.

But the discipline of painting is just beginning to recover from the bad teaching of the later 20th century, when technique became subservient to theory. There’s a vast repository of technical knowledge in those grey heads, and they’re part of a renaissance in American painting. This is no time to winnow the ranks.

At any rate, Mary Byromtalked me through my crisis. She did it without wanting compensation, as she so often does. So, when I wrote that blog post, I was, to use a tired old trope, just “paying it forward.”

Mary and I talked briefly about the current crisis. We got on the subject of generosity, where we’re in absolute agreement: it’s more important now than ever. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days,” wrote King Solomon. “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.” You don’t have to be religious to see the wisdom there.

More work than they bargained for, by Carol L. Douglas. I painted this alone; I don’t always travel in a pack.

On Tuesday, I told my students that they could actually learn everything they need to know about painting from reading this blog. There’s no need to take my workshop or my classes, although I’m really grateful when people do.

I earn about $200 a year in advertising sales from this blog. That’s pathetic for a blog with this one’s readership. Google is always telling me how I can improve monetization, but I can’t be bothered. I barely have time to paint as it is.

Why give it away for free? I can think of lots of reasons. First, while teachers deserve their wages, knowledge is an entity in its own right and nobody owns it—despite Pearson Education Publishing. Free content is a form of indirect marketing, of course. But most importantly, what you give away freely, you get back multiplied. That’s true everywhere in life. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised.

*I did get one negative response: “How is this not an advertisement?” wrote one arts administrator before yanking the post. I should have clarified that I was just enumerating the features that matter to painting teachers. I have no stake in Zoom, of course, and I don’t do paid product placements.

We’re going sailing again this season!

Have you wanted to take my watercolor workshop on American Eagle but the dates didn’t work out for you? We’re doing it again this autumn, September 25-29.
There’s more opportunity for sunset painting in the fall. Photo courtesy of MB Rolfe.
Captain John Foss is a true antiquarian, maintaining and sailing a lovingly-restored schooner. It’s fitting that he uses one of the last remaining flip phones in America. I was most surprised to see a message from him while I was in Nova Scotia. Would I be interested in teaching a second workshop aboard American Eagle this fall?
With him sailing up and down the coast with that ancient phone and me out of the country, it was a little difficult to work out dates, Eventually, we decided on a sail that will run from Wednesday, September 25 to Sunday, September 29.
Under sail and hard at work aboard American Eagle.
Autumn is absolutely the best time of year here on the coast of Maine. Just as large bodies of water are slow to warm up in the summer, they’re slow to cool down in the fall. Fall, with its gorgeous flaming colors and earlier sunsets, is my absolute favorite time of year to paint en plein air. It will be especially beautiful from the water, with the reds of the blueberries and trees contrasting with the dark spruces and infinite blues of the sea.
Deckhand Kevin with the lobsters.  Photo courtesy Mary Whitney.
What I’ve learned painting on American Eagle
I’ve painted on this boat in the summer and in the fall, and I will never predict what will happen; every sail is different.
Colleen Lowe drawing Paddington Bear’s secret life of debauchery. Photo courtesy Mary Whitney.
Your materials are all provided, including paints, papers, and brushes.
The trip lasts four days. Lighthouses, wildlife, and unspoiled scenery are part of every trip. The boat is a true relic of the Age of Sail, but it’s been updated so you have a comfortable berth, fresh linens, modern heads and a fresh-water shower.
And then there’s dessert.  Photo courtesy Mary Whitney.
Every meal is lovingly prepared by the cook and his messmate, my pal Sarah Collins. That includes a lobster bake, which might be at sea or on shore, depending on where we end up.
I’m providing a complete painting kit made with QoR paints, which are very high-quality, and high-end watercolor paper and sketchbooks. We’ll use waterbrushes and a waterproof pen.
Pulled up for a picnic on Russ Island. That’s the Lewis R. French in the far distance.
Is painting on a moving boat even possible?
Yes, and it’s fascinating. The water, sky and shoreline are constantly changing. In addition, we’ve scheduled this workshop for the longest days of the year so that we’ll have plenty of time to paint sunrises and sunsets while at anchor.
Who’s invited?
This workshop is aimed at watercolor or gouache painters, particularly those with an interest in the sea or sailing. No experience? You’re very welcome; we’ve got everything you need to get started.
Lobsters are the one meal that the captain cooks.
To register
The schooner trip is $745, and your tuition for the workshop is $275, for a total of $1020, all inclusive. Email me here for more information. Or email American Eagle’s offices here or call them at 1-800-648-4544 to register. If you sign their guest book, they’ll send you a copy of a DVD.
Discounts
There’s a $25 discount on tuition to members of New York Plein Air Painters, Plein Air Painters of Maine or returning students from any of my workshops.

A tough decision, clarified by ocean breezes and seawater

A real good time and the lack of cell-phone reception helped me decide to cut back on blogging.
Under sail and hard at work.

 With the spring we’ve had this year, I was understandably worried about the weather for our Age of Sail watercolor workshop aboard the schooner American Eagle. Our time on the water turned out to be perfect. My only regret was a last-minute drop-out of a returning student (due to a family emergency).

Many people think it’s impossible to paint on a moving boat, but I’ve been doing it for four years now. It’s a cinematic experience. Images are flying at you quickly, and you record just as much as your mind can retain. Surprisingly, that’s quite a bit.
Drawing lesson on a deserted island. (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)

Another misconception is that this is an opportunity to sail with a little painting thrown in. It’s actually a serious workshop on watercolor sketching. We work on composition, color theory, and the properties of watercolor. We just happen to do it in a spectacular setting, and on a magnificent boat.

Deckhand Kevin with the lobsters.  (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)
I’m the teacher, but I’ve learned a few things. When a boat is traveling at ten knots, it’s time to down brushes and simply revel in the sensation of wind and water. This year I corralled everything before someone (me, for example) lost a brush overboard. And I won’t bring books for students to peruse. There’s very little down time.

The windjammer fleet is a thing of beauty.  (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)
The big event on this trip is the gam, a raft-up of the Maine windjammer fleet. It’s always an exciting event, with music, a grog toast, and visits to other boats.
Later, we anchored at Stonington. I walked around the harbor with new friends, a couple from Louisiana. From the landing, we walked to Stonington’s beautiful old Opera House, then up to Church Street. John and Susan admired the lilacs, the architecture, and the harbor below.
The one morning of rain, we worked in the Main Cabin, drawing Paddington Bear in a secret life of debauchery. Painting by Colleen Lowe. (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)
Our captain bought lobsters in Stonington, and from there we motored to nearby Russ Island to eat the darn bugs. It was downright hot, so we tucked ourselves into the shade and painted rocks and shoreline. The next night found us in North Haven’s lovely Pulpit Harbor, with its field of lupines just opening into the June sunlight.
Farro salad, just one of an impossible number of great dishes. (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)
Captain John Foss and I agree that this is a fun event, so we’re planning to reprise it again next year. The dates are to be determined, but I expect it will be around the same week as this year’s sail. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll keep you on the list for more information.
And then there’s dessert.  (Photo courtesy Mary Whitney)
One of the nicest things about the ocean is the lack of cell-phone reception. That meant no blogging this week, which helped me reach a decision. I’ve been blogging five days a week for several years now, and that’s been very successful: this is the seventh-ranked art blog by Feedspot metrics.
Our boats, pulled up on Russ Island. That’s the Lewis R. French in the far distance.
But as I enter my busy season once again, I find I no longer want to maintain this pace. I spend about 90 minutes a day writing. This adds up to a full work-day every week. For the remainder of the season, I’ll be writing less often. I’m shooting for three days a week, and when the season has ended, I’ll reassess. Thank you for understanding.

The nuts and bolts of social media: getting readers

You’ve written an amazing post with catchy copy and valuable tips. Now, how do you get discovered?

Best Buds, by Carol L. Douglas

Before you start blogging, make sure you have a Facebook business page, separate from your personal page. There are many differences, but the most important is that your business page is always public. It is meant to be a web listing. Spend a little time making sure it’s complete.

This should remain business-like. Keep your political opinions and agit-prop off your business page, unless your art or posts are overtly political. Invite your FB friends to ‘like’ this page; they’re the core of your following.
Also, make sure your email list is up-to-date.

Cut and paste this to each repost site.

Once your blog post is published, you’ll want to fashion a new ‘hook’, different from the tagline below the headline. You’ll use this and the link every time you repost, as in the illustration above.
Reading, by Carol L. Douglas, private collection.

I repost in this order:

  1. Share photos to Pinterest. This has the longest half-life of any social media site, it’s extremely easy to post to, and it has high viewership.
  2. Google+. Why add a social media platform that nobody reads? Because what you post on Google+ is indexed on Google.
  3. Twitter. Remember to manually add a photo to your text and link here.
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Facebook business page. From there, share back to your own personal page, as well as to any user groups in which you’re a member and who might be interested.

There are three other marketing channels for related, but not duplicate, material:
  1. Google My Business, if you have a brick-and-mortar location.
  2. Newsletter—I use it only to announce upcoming workshops, 2-6 times a year, but you should definitely use it to introduce your blog to your fans. Ask them to subscribe.
  3. Instagram—related content, 1-2 times daily.
Tom Sawyer’s Fence, by Carol L. Douglas
Why hashtags? Those words are indexed by the social network and are searchable by other readers. If you click on a hashtag, you’ll be brought to a page that aggregates all posts with that tag.
All blog platforms have stats built into them. These tell you how many people are looking at your posts, which posts are the most popular, where your readers come from, and how they’re looking at your blog. Make a habit of looking at it regularly.
Regular readers of this blog know it ran under a newspaper’s aegis for about 18 months. My readership dropped during that time, so I consulted Bob Bahrof Outdoor Painter. He told me that, everything else being equal, it’s always better to work under your own brand rather than someone else’s. My own experience showed that to be true.
This is the last of a three-part series on art blogging. Part one is here, and part two is here.

UPDATE: On October 8, Google announced it is discontinuing Google+ because of a massive data breach.

The nuts and bolts of social media: what platform is best for you?

The internet is a powerful tool for artists, offering free or inexpensive direct and indirect marketing. Learn to use it.
Ocean Park Beach, by Carol L. Douglas, available through Ocean Park Association. Put your strongest visual image first.
I’m no marketing guru; I just developed this blog by the seat of my pants. I learned along the way, and you can, too.
Indirect marketinggrows awareness of you as an artist. It comes in the form of news stories, the paintings you donate to non-profit auctions, word of mouth, referrals, reviews and First Friday walkabouts.
Direct marketing is when you ask clients to buy a painting from you directly. That can take the form of an online store, a booth at an art fair, newsletters showing off your paintings, or paid advertisements.
Brand awareness is how much your name and work are recognized by potential collectors. The whole goal of indirect marketing is to increase brand awareness. The better-known you are, the more paintings you’ll sell.
 

Sunrise, by Carol L. Douglas, available through the Kelpie Gallery. Use your blog to steer your readers toward your galleries or stores.

All artists need both indirect and direct marketing channels, and it helps to be clear about what yours are. For example, my direct marketing happens through plein air painting events, my targeted mailing list, and the Plein Air Store. My indirect marketing is through this blog, public appearances, and Instagram.
Rocks, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through Camden Falls Gallery. Using your own artwork also avoids copyright issues.
Developing brand awareness is most important when you first enter the marketplace. Of course, that’s when you can least afford it. Luckily, at this juncture, there are powerful online tools you can use for free. Here are the ones 2D artists use most:
  • Blog: best for indirect marketing.
  • Instagram: for indirect and direct marketing.
  • Targeted mailing list: useful for direct marketing.
  • Facebook business page: good for indirect marketing to an older audience.
  • Google business posting: useful if you have a physical studio or gallery you want to direct traffic to.
  • Website: can be commerce enabled (direct marketing), but, as Alex Serra remarked at MICA, websites are fast becoming the online equivalent of business cards.
  • Other free listings. Maine State Tourism offers studio and gallery listings, for example; your arts council or state tourism board may as well.

What direct and indirect marketing channels are you using now? What other ones would you like to explore?

Above is an image of my blog. It is very simple in design, and hasn’t been changed since I moved it back to Blogger in 2016. To me, the art, not the design, is the most important thing. Here are the important features:

  • There is a text ad for my workshops directly below the masthead. This runs 365 days a year and links to my website.
  • Below the headline is a tag line, which is simple search engine optimization (SEO). I just treat the first 25 words as if they were an ad for the whole post. I’m not into mindless click bait, but I do try to ensure that words my readers care about are there.
  • My most compelling picture goes first. Reposters like Facebook automatically run that photo.
  • There’s almost always a link to another of my blog posts in the copy. This increases readership and is important for SEO.
  • There’s an ad at the right and at the bottom. This is the only revenue-generation I do on my blog. I do not sell endorsements or links.
  • Five days a week, I write 400-600 words of fresh copy.

Several people at Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) asked me for more detailed information on marketing on social media. That’s my subject for the next few days. 

Part three: Getting readers

Feel free to comment or ask me questions, below.


And, for those who wonder, my medical tests yesterday went great. I’m cancer-free for another year.

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.

Going by the numbers

We should all immediately switch to Instagram. But as with blogging, there’s a lot of unpredictability on the internet. There’s still plenty of room for intuition.
Joan of Arc, 1879, Jules Bastien-Lepage, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yesterday I had my left foot operated on, giving me a matched pair of incisions and some hope for less pain going into the summer.

My mind is muddled, so I’d hoped to reprise an old post. To that end, I consulted my stats for this blog. Blogger tells me what my top posts are (although this blog has been on three different platforms over the years). A few years ago, the most popular posts were The One Thing Every Painter Should Know and a recipe for scallops from my friends Berna and Harry.
Plastic bags, dethroned by art history.
Since I last checked, art history has steamrolled over them. The top view-catcher is this post about Jules Bastien-Lepage’s Joan of Arc. It’s eleven years old, it violates the modern dictums of length and language, it’s complex, and it continues to get readers. In fact, there are a number of art history posts on that top ten list, including The Adoration of the Magi in the Snow and Ingres and Napoleon.
Measured week-to-week, however, art history is a slow starter. Those posts usually have the lowest immediate readership, even when they have much to say.
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne, 1806, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, courtesy, Musée de l’Armée, Paris
After more than a decade of blogging, I still see no discernible pattern for what will be popular in a post. That’s liberating. It means I can write about whatever I care about, rather than pitching content to some ‘expert’ idea of the public’s low taste.
A surveytells us that new galleries are opening more slowly than they did a decade ago. This is part of a general decline in entrepreneurship in the United States. It’s no surprise to those of us who worry about our battered small town Main Streets, but there’s good news in that same report.
It surveyed a group of high-net-worth individuals about their collecting habits. These are people with more than $1 million but less than $5 million in assets. The vast majority (89%) spent $50,000 a year or less on art and objects. That suggests they aren’t buying from tony Manhattan galleries, but from low- and mid-tier galleries. In other words, they’re buying works by people like you and me, in places like S. Thomaston, Camden and Ogunquit.
The Adoration of the Magi in the Snow, 1567, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, courtesy Oskar Reinhart Foundation
Meanwhile, the online market for art and collectables continues to grow, but at a slower pace. That makes sense as a market matures, and it’s nothing to worry about. More than half of online art buyers said they will buy more art online in 2018 than they did last year, according to the Online Art Trade Report.
Instagram has dethroned Facebook as the preferred means of online promotion. In 2016, galleries used the two platforms almost equally. Now only 31% of respondents prefer Facebook to the 62% who liked Instagram. Instagram is also the favored platform for collectors under 35, 79% of whom said they discover new artists on Instagram and 82% of whom said they use it to keep up with artists they like.
Going by the numbers, we should all immediately switch to Instagram. But just as with blogging, there’s a lot of unpredictability in sales. There’s still plenty of room for intuition.

It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

The Internet is a control freak

There is no Fountain of Youth on the internet. Publish or perish, my friend.

Jonathan Submarining, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Earlier this month, I went sailing. That made social media almost impossible. I could have found a workaround solution, but it would have been time-consuming. Constantly searching for a phone signal to make my next tweet, post, or pin would have wrecked my trip.
I’ve written before about how important frequency is to blogging. The results of my mini-vacation were immediate and dramatic. The following week, hits to my blog dropped by half. It was as if Social Media was in a snit, refusing to speak to me. I was talking to myself in an empty room. Then, suddenly, I was forgiven and my readership went back to normal.
If Social Media were a person and had given me the silent treatment because I went sailing, I’d know exactly what to do about it. I don’t have much use for control freaks. But in our relationship, Social Media holds the whip card. I need her more than she needs me.
J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Most artists don’t have access to market research, so we end up guessing a lot, looking at successful posters and trying to figure out how they manage to get so many followers.
Guessing, of course, is just a nasty word for ‘testing.’ We read, try things, fail, and try again.
A marketing guru gives the following as his schedule:
  • Tweet 14 times a day during the week, seven times a day on weekends;
  • Post to Facebook twice a day, once at 10 AM and once at 3 PM;
  • Post to LinkedIn once each weekday, at 8 AM;
  • Post to Google+ twice each weekday, at 9 AM and 7 PM.

Obviously, there’s a big problem here for one-man shops like ours. We don’t have the staff to post at 3 AM, and we don’t have the time (or in some cases the knowledge) to automate posts to go ‘bang’ at that hour.
Storm over Lake Huron, 2016, Carol L. Douglas
Socialbakers, a media analytics company, found that the sweet spot on Facebook is five to ten posts a week. Of course, that was done in 2011, and Facebook has tweaked its algorithms many times since then.
They also say that between three and five tweets a day gives you the optimal engagement per tweet. This isn’t, of course, the optimal engagement for your brand, it’s just the point where you wring out the most value for your work. If you want to get the most value for your Twitter presence, multiply that by ten. No joke.
I’m never going to tweet 30 times a day. I haven’t got that many insights. I’m not sure I can stretch them to 3-5 times a day.
Parker dinghy, 2015, Carol L. Douglas 
Social media experts measure posts by ‘half-life,’ which is the time it takes for your post to reach half its total engagements.
Twitter’s half-life is eighteen minutes. Instagram’s is slightly less than an hour. Facebook posts have a half-life of 90 minutes. Conversely, a Pinterest post has a half-life of 3.5 months.
It helps to live in the eastern time zone. About half of Americans do, which means you get a timing advantage.
What does this tell us? Basically, that artists can use the so-called ‘free’ marketing platforms to great effect, but only if we’re constant and aggressive. Otherwise, we’ll sink without a trace.
Note: if you want to read this blog without having to find it on Social Media, you can always subscribe. There’s a subscription box right below that gold medal on the top right.

How to write a successful blog (about art or anything else)

Be brief, be consistent, know your stuff, and manage your own content.

Bicycles on Water Street, by Carol L. Douglas

That little logo to the right of this post that reads “Top 75 Painting Blog” is not based on someone’s opinion. It’s based on social metrics, and I’m very flattered to be number seven on the list.
I’m frequently asked how to blog; after all, I’ve been doing it, on and off, for more than a decade. However, until a few years ago, I wasn’t getting much traction. My friend Brad VanAuken was taking my painting class. I asked him for advice. Brad is successful author, consultant and blogger, and an expert in his field, which is brand strategy.
Brad told me that random and irregular efforts are ignored in the blogosphere; I had to post on a regular schedule if I expected anyone to pay attention. Since then I have written five days a week. I keep this schedule up whether I’m in my studio or above the Arctic Circle.
That’s the same advice I give about painting. Inspiration is less important than consistent work habits. The more you practice any discipline, the better and easier it gets.
They say “write what you know.” I know painting, and not a lot else. Photo courtesy of Margaret Burdine.
The internet reacts to pot-stirring. The more you post, the more attention you get. That’s why Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media sites matter. The good news is, you really can do them all and still have time to paint. The secret is to develop a posting protocol and follow it.
Only you can determine what social media sites works for your following. That comes from trial and error. But give them a fair shake. I regularly post on Tumblr, even though it is not my target audience. Someday, those kids will grow up.
The process takes me 90 minutes each day. If it took longer, I wouldn’t do it, because it would cut into my painting time too much.
The craft of telling a story in 400-600 words is a very specific one. It doesn’t allow for much research or for fully-realized concepts. But within it, one can convey a lot of information.
I also got excellent advice from Bob Bahr of Outdoor Painter. He said that, all other things being equal, it was best to host my own blog. That would give me control of my brand. Until then, I hadn’t realized how constrained I was writing under the flag of a daily newspaper. Since I left, my readership has risen markedly and I’m much happier.
These are the top affinity categories for my readers. I don’t tailor my writing to them.
Art is a niche market. I write about art-specific topics, so it surprises me that visual arts and design aren’t even in the top ten affinity categories for my readers. I have never been able to predict what blog posts will capture my readers’ fancy. I generally just write about what interests me.
If you only write once a month, and your writing is strictly limited to your paintings, then perhaps it is best to send newsletters directly to your client base rather than trying to maintain a blog. Instead, use online-selling websites like Fine Art America or Saatchi Art to find new buyers.
I do not send my blog to my email marketing list. Most people read it through social media. I think the email subscription list is going the same way as the postcard. Use it, but rely more on social media.