Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How To Make A Mark on Art; by acclaimed art blogger Katherine Tyrrell...

The strapline of my blog Making A Mark says that Artist and writer Katherine Tyrrell writes about art for artists and art lovers.  

I’ve been writing about art rather a lot since I went public in January 2006.  I’ve posted to Making A Mark nearly every day generating well over 2k published posts read by more than 1.5 million visitors. It now has nearly 4k subscribers and, as an art blog, is currently rated#3 art blog in the UK and #11 in the world.  Traffic is on an exponential and upward trajectory.

I’ve had a wonderful time blogging about art and made lots of friends as a result.

Highlights of my blogging over the last six and half years have also included:
  • Promoting artwork I like and helping great artists get a better profile online
  • Predicting winners of major art competitions online - and getting it right about 75% of the time!
  • Artists telling me they’ve won an award - but  only entered after they read about the art competition on my blog
  • Matching up artists with galleries and going to their solo or group shows
  • Getting to video an exhibition before it opens and sharing that video on YouTube
  • Interviewing artists who’ve won a major prize
  • Photographing and filming artwork in museums that some people will never ever get to see except via my blog
  • Demystifying open exhibitions for artists who want to submit work - by showing them online what an exhibition looks like, what size the work is and how it’s framed
  • Being able to open people’s eyes to what it’s possible to see and do
  • Feedback from artists telling me that their website/blog traffic has rocketed after getting a mention on my blog
  • Informal consultations with artists about ‘the best way forward’ - leading to improved sales, recognition and awards
  • Being invited to awards ceremonies and awards dinners!
It can however be quite unnerving at times when introducing myself to artists only to find out that they all know about my blog and what I do!

So what do I write about which generates so many visitors?  

Simple - in short I write about what interests me for people like me - all the time.

Essentially I’m very much focused on writing for my peers - who are pretty similar to me. These are people around the world who are serious about art - and 
  • Produce drawings, painting and sculpture grounded in more traditional skills 
  • Lean towards the figurative rather than the totally abstract
  • Exhibit and sell their art
  • Aim to develop their artistic knowledge and skills, 
  • Love going to see art plus a not insignificant group who
  • Earn a living from their art 
  • Enter art competitions and major open exhibitions
I also have distinct maven-like qualities and know a lot about a lot of different aspects of art - or know somebody who does.  I’ve become the “go to” person for a lot of artists wanting to find out about a topic.

Having made a deliberate decision to have a “sensible career” when I was young, means I’ve now got a lots of scope to round out my art education and learn a lot more about art.  For my readers that means they get to share in my approach to tackling key topics within art education - and share in my learning online.

While I’ve taken classes at art schools and workshops with tutors, my degrees and work experience are actually in education, business and government.  As a result, I guess I tend to look at the art world from the perspective of somebody who has spent many years having to unpick organisations to work out what made them tick and whether they were functioning well and how they might best learn to do better.  

I like understanding what makes somebody or something excellent and sharing the lessons learned.  One of the ‘added value’ aspects of my blog is I tend to ask questions other people might not ask - and apply my analytical background in finance and business management to art business issues which crop up from time to time.  Hence I’m not in the least bit averse to trying to analyse what’s going on within eg the art economy.  Plus I crunch the numbers on anything and everything - eg the % chance of getting selected for an exhibition - at every available opportunity!  It does tend to provide for an alternative perspective and so far as I’m aware there is very little competition!

Over time Making A Mark has become more structured and more magazine like.  More than a few of my regular readers have commented that they much prefer my weekly round-up each Sunday to the Sunday papers!  

Weekly, monthly and annual routines provide a backbone to Making A Mark:  
  • Every week I do a round up of things which have caught my eye (“who’s made a mark this week?”).  
  • Every month I run an opinion poll on a topic of interest to artists 
  • Every year, for the last five years, I’ve run an awards scheme.  This aims to highlight all those artists who have ‘added value’ in some way during the course of the year.  
  • I promote and review all the major open exhibitions (in London) and each year produce a timetable for all the major art competitions in the UK and all the open exhibitions of the national art societies 
  • Plus I’ve created a portfolio of topic-specific websites for every aspect that I’ve researched online - from individual artists to how to ship your artwork or write an artist statement
  • Plus I’ve floated off specific interests and specialised activities into three additional blogs - such as my sketchbook blog Travels with a Sketchbook which has been recommended by The Times
Much of what I do only happens because I “had a go” and then developed a track record of being somebody who provides good coverage. That gave me the credibility when I started to expand and helped enormously in terms of getting permission to attend press views and restricted access events.  Which is how I am able to photograph major exhibitions before they open and get to meet the prizewinning artists.

My tip for those who want to make a mark writing about art is pursue your interests and write about what you know about or what you’re learning about.

I’ve personally never had a problem working out what to write about.  If anything the problem is sorting through the hundreds of ideas I’ve got stacked up as draft posts ready to go any time I need them!

Aleah Chapin - Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2012
(left to right: Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery,
Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, Aleah Chapin and Sir Michael Parkinson)

Katherine Tyrrell is based in London and has been blogging about art since January 2006 as well as making and exhibiting drawings in dry media.