Channel Changes

I’ve decided to revamp and refocus my YouTube channel. The focus will be less about a chronological vlog about me paintings, and will instead be more geared towards sharing ideas and advice I’ve heard and learned from the many mistakes I’ve made along the way.

Talking at TIFF: What it Took to Prepare Our SoOnCon Talk

Ever wondered exactly what it takes to put together a 30 minute presentation?

Brad and I knew that the opportunity to speak at SoOnCon was something that is unlikely to happen again any time soon. We also knew that we had nothing to talk about. We had given a lightning talk at Toronto Mini Maker Faire just months earlier, and we haven’t really done any new projects since then. But we still really wanted to do something.

I was on the phone with Brad, pacing around my apartment, trying to throw ideas back and forth, but nothing was coming to mind. Our conversation wandered off on some bizarre tangent. Then we started complaining about how horrible artists are, and how terrible a lot of art projects are. That’s when a little light bulb clicked on in my brain.

I suggested, “why people hate art”.

We frequently have long conversations about this very topic whenever we get together, so generating material wont be a problem. We’ve experienced enough art-BS first-hand to burn through 30 minutes without having to prepare a thing! This talk would be little different than any of our normal meeting, with one little difference: instead of ranting to each other in private about how horrible the art world is, we will be ranting in public! Brad thought I might be on to something. He prepared the application form and sent it off. We received our acceptance notice the next day.

That meant that we had to get to work.
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The DRM BOX: Rough Copy of the Promo Video.

This is the same rough copy of the promo video that I put together for the DRM BOX. Since we planned on showing this video during our SoOnCon presentation at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I had to have this video done and ready to go.

This has been sitting around quietly on YouTube as an ‘unlisted video’, but it’s been two weeks now, why keep it locked up?

Enjoy!

Don’t Let Yourself Become Some Company’s Bitch

Google recently announced that it will be closing down 10 services that get little use. I don’t have a problem with that. Google is a company, they can do what they want. There are people, however, who rely on these services, and are about to have them swept out from under their feet. If you find yourself in that situation, or if you fear that something similar could happen to you one day, it is because you’ve allowed yourself to become some company’s bitch. Building your business on their platform is like building your house on someone else’s land: sure, it’s easier and cheaper, but you just never know when they will come by and force you to leave.

Control of social media seems to be concentrating into the hands of a small number of big players. Twitter, Facebook, Google plus one, etc.

I used to participate in a number of online message boards. But not so much any more. It’s not from a lack of interest on my part, but a lack of replies coming from everyone else as the number of active users dwindles.
Some message boards have closed down, while others have slowly faded away as the majority of users migrate towards facebook groups. I imagine convenience is a primary motivator here, as facebook represents a one-stop solution for email, texting, message-boarding, posting ideas, ranting, and sharing links. The old way involved navigating between multiple websites, each with a different layout or design to figure out and navigate. This does seem to take more mental energy. Facebook made it far easier to do all of these things, and do them all in one place.

I fear that people forget that with the increase in convenience comes a loss of control. When a page, or a group is created on one of these third party services, you are agreeing to play by their rules. They could shut down your group, or close ‘groups’ in general. The whole company could collapse, close, be sold off, and you’ve lost everything.

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The Reddit Bump

Several days ago, I launched the Artist Statement Generator, an online tool that spits out a paragraph of generic meaningless fluffy art language. This project’s background is explained in greater detail in my previous entry, Online Artist Statement Generator. Since posting that article, I’ve corrected a few typos, and added some social media widgets to the page; a facebook “like” button, a google “plus one”, and a flatter “tip jar”. I also added the usual header and navigation links that appear on all of my website’s pages.

After getting this artist statement generator to the point where I was happy with it, I updated my main website, then submitted the page to the popular link-sharing website Reddit. I’ve typically had bad luck with getting my work on reddit; while my comments typically gain a fair amount of positive attention, my submissions are most often ignored. (I guess I don’t have a knack for generating eye catching headlines.) I figured I had little to lose, so before firing my computer down for the night, I shared my project with the art sub-directory, then went to bed.

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Free Prize Inside

Last week, Brad and I had a few sales of our photo book, Illuminated Landscapes. Through a complicated series of relatives and acquaintances, the purchaser was able to have the books delivered to me, so Brad and I could sign them.

It’s always flattering to be asked to sign something. (well, I assume it’s always flattering, I don’t really know for certain; this is one of the first things I’ve been asked to sign…)

In the last several months, through a series of flukes and random good luck, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several well-known people in action. One thing that struck me was how cool they were. They weren’t arrogant celebrity divas, they were regular people who, upon meeting me, went out of their way to make a tiny gesture to make me feel cool.

This gave me a brilliant marketing idea: don’t be a dick.

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An Experiment with Micro-Payments

I know artists aren’t supposed to talk about money, but I’m going to break that rule in this post to talk about a little experiment I’m going to be running for the next few months.

See that little box in the right hand sidebar, above the archive? That is my Flattr Box. Let me explain what that is and why I put it there.

There is a micro-payment service known as “flattr”, and it seems like a really neat idea. Flattr hasn’t really broken into the North-American market yet, but I think this service has the potential to really go somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s a very social thing. Like a fax machine or facebook account, Flattr is utterly useless if only one person has it. It’s value will increase with its popularity.

You know how you can “like” something on facebook? Flattr is sort of like that.

Let’s say you are on a web page, and you want to show the author that you appreciate their work. They could have a “Like” button that is similar to what you see on facebook. But what if you are an extremely altruistic person who wants to do more than give some virtual props?

Let’s say you want to do more than offer moral support. Let’s say you want to send a small donation to the creators to show them your appreciation. But…you can’ be bothered to go through Paypay., because let’s face it, it’s a hassle to log in, enter all the info. Why can’t you just click a button and be done with it? Someone needs to design a system where a single click is all it takes to send a small token of support to a content creator.

That’s where flatter comes in.

You register an account. You set your monthly allowance. You flatter the pages you like. Your monthly allowance is split between those pages. That’s all there is to it.
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A Whole Lotta Blog Love

Half of being an artist is what takes place outside the studio. No one is going to randomly knock on my apartment door, just to see if an interesting artist happens to be living there. Marketing and promotion matter!

The most labour-intensive project I have been involved with to date is my collaborative project with Brad Blucher, Take a Picture

A few days ago, I was talking to my friend Jonathan (a maker of fantastic things) and he suggested that I try submitting Take a Picture to the Make Blog and Hack a Day.

Long story short, this was wonderful advice, and it started a snowball rolling, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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Staying Critical and Selling Stories

I find that artists are often drawn towards some very bad ideas; ideas that might seem beautiful or inspiring on the surface, but upon closer inspection are just a load of B.S.
For this reason, I try to stay critical of the new ideas I come across until I see some sort of real-world evidence to back it up. Anyone can have an idea. Any idea can be true or false.
In casual conversation, and in the art circles, some ideas are very popular, or easy to write about, or lead to good-sounding grant applications; but I don’t see popularity as a good reason to hold on to an idea. Testing an idea against nature, and having that idea confirmed by evidence is the only method I know of which ensures that a idea is not wrong.

“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled” -Richard Feynman

The new idea that I have been mulling over in my head lately is from Seth Godin, and his ideas on marketing. The man is very charismatic, very entertaining. He has a way of explaining things simply and directly, with a certain irreverence towards the traditional way of doing things (sort of like the attitude Kevin Smith has when he describes his interactions with people in the movie industry). It’s the story of the beloved outsider who comes in, challenges the good old boys, and changes everything. He makes it all sound so easy, once you accept that you are going to have to do the work yourself.

This, of course, has my warning flags raised.
“Anyone who is this easy to like has to be wrong”, says the alarm bells in my head.
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Do You Sell Originals, or Reproductions?

In the last entry in the “Photographing Art” series, Don’t Bother With Image Protection, I covered some reasons why I think that allowing images of art work to be freely shared isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people want to photograph art, or download images of art, and for artists dealing with one-of-a-kind images, like painters, the benefits of this infringement can outweigh the risks.

The last entry was rather one-sided, however. Freely allowing copies isn’t going to be beneficial in all situations. If you are in the selling reproductions business, file sharing has the potential to eat away at sales. I can sympathize with this. I have made money licensing images for prints myself. As a struggling artist, I know that every source of income, no matter how small it might seem, is very significant.

How many image makers are in the business of selling reproductions? Photographers certainly are, but I believe that it is important for artists to decide on the main focus of their practice: are they about selling originals, or selling reproductions.
If you are in the business of selling reproductions, this series is probably not for you. If you are more interested in selling originals, please come with me as I take you through the weird world of infinite goods.
Continue reading Do You Sell Originals, or Reproductions?