Twitter and artists

by     /    June 25, 2008   

As Twitter gains popularity, there have been suggestions that artists should embrace it as a way of promoting themselves. But I’ve decided that it doesn’t make sense for me.

When I first heard of Twitter, I thought it might be an interesting way to give people a glimpse into the daily activities and thoughts of an artist… as if they were sitting in at my studio as I worked on a piece. But as I jotted down ideas about what I might talk about, I quickly realized how mundane those activities really are. The thousand little tasks that go into making a piece of art are at best dull, and at worst tedious. “Spent half an hour contemplating whether to shift the camera one inch to the left.” “Made the tenth print trying to get the perfect shade of brown. Didn’t work. Tried again.” “Sat there thinking.” “Second-guessing my ability to make art for the seventh time today.”

It’s a corollary to the maxim that you don’t want to know how hot dogs are made: you really don’t want to know how art is made, because it might just ruin it for you. Art can be transcendent, but the creation of art is pretty drab nose-to-the-grindstone kind of stuff. I can only imagine a collector showing a new artwork to a friend and saying “yes, you see area of blue in the corner? The artist twittered for a whole afternoon going back and forth about whether it was the right shade.” The whole mystique is blown. The image of inspiration is replaced by indecision and waffling.

But even if I could figure out what to say, I have another problem with Twitter. I have yet to find a tweet (is that what you call them?) that I find interesting. Most are dull, a few are cute, but all become tiresome very quickly. It’s just the hyperactive nature of the medium. It’s information overload. The only people I want to hear from so frequently are my friends. With them, it’s great to hear their little comments and asides throughout the day. But for most others, I just don’t care. I can’t imagine anyone whom I’d want to be that in touch with.

I much prefer blogs. Blogs give people a chance to collect their thoughts. Blogs have a pace that is more conducive to thought and conversation. And on a practical level, I can find something to blog about every couple weeks, that might actually be worth saying. But Twitter? Too much noise, too much distraction. So for now, I’m avoiding Twitter. Yes, I may be missing the next big thing in online marketing. And I may change my mind later, and eat these words. Whatever. Right now, I’ve got art to make. (Oh and if you cared, I’m about to go to stare out the window for a while looking for inspiration. I’ll let you know when I’m finished.)

If either you or an artist you know found good way to use Twitter, post a comment below. Oh, and thank you to Empty Easel for posting this article on his site.

Update 5/18/09: After saying all that, a few months ago, I decided to give Twitter the old college try. I have been using it almost daily since, and have revised my opinion of it somewhat. I’ll be posting an update soon.

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Comments on 'Twitter and artists'

Betty  (June 25th, 2008):

Dan, I’m not familiar with Twitter but from what you describe I can’t imagine how I could make it work. Mostly I can’t imagine how it would make my art more interesting to anybody.

On the other hand, it would be interesting to try to be more mindful of what goes on in my mind while I am working. I also suspect that a large part of it is suffocatingly mundane and off topic.

But I will definitely check it out, to see what other artists put on theirs – how much of it is for real – if they don’t start rambling about the laundry I will be suspicious.

Angela Rockett  (June 25th, 2008):

I just recently started Twitter, just so I could keep in easy contact with my husband while he was away on a business trip. Now that it’s there, I’ll “tweet” maybe once a day, or every other day, but it’s just little notes for my husband and friends. I definitely don’t see it as a means for making my art more interesting, or marketing it in some way.

It is kinda cool as an artist to know that your day is also filled with minutia and long pauses, just like mine. 🙂

Jean Levert Hood  (June 25th, 2008):

Daniel, this is just tooo funny!! I am glad that I’m not the only one who thinks things like this!
love this one:
“Spent half an hour contemplating whether to shift the camera one inch to the left.”
This sounds pretty familiar:
“Second-guessing my ability to make art for the seventh time today.”

Betty, let us know what you find out!
Jean

Sheila  (June 26th, 2008):

If you read my comment on artbizblog, then you know I agree with everything you’ve said here.

I take it one further. I even feel a bit uncomfortable about potential customers following my blog. I’m still selective about who I let know about it, and mostly maintain it for the benefits to me (keeping me on track and accountable, working through issues, recording progress), to share process with other artists who ARE interested in how you arrived at the end product, and family/friends who are curious about what I do. Like you, I fear removing the mystique and thus devaluing my art to the general public.

I’m using Twitter pretty much like Angela, to keep in touch with a family member far away. I found it really made me feel more connected on a recent solo trip and also more observant. Really enhanced that experience.

But twitter as an artist? As marketing? No way!

Kirsty  (June 27th, 2008):

Although I’m sure that some people can make it work for them, I tried it briefly and it’s not for me. I don’t even use IM because I need to control the rate and flow of information that bombards me. When it comes right down to it, I just don’t need any more distractions from my work.I already have plenty of blogs that I follow and forums where I read and post – there’s a limit on how much online stuff I can do and I’ve found that if I get involved with too much stuff then something ends up suffering and being neglected.

I could see maybe using it as a way of connecting with family and friends if I was off travelling but if I was off travelling then I might not have access to the net anyway.

Daniel Sroka  (June 27th, 2008):

Sheila, good points. One of the benefits of having all these different methods of communication (email, newsletters, blogs, forums, twitter) is that you can customize them to suit different needs. I use my newsletters as my “serious” communication to collectors and potential buyers, those who only want an occasional update on my work. My blog is more conversational and behind the scenes, for colleagues (like you all) and collectors who want to be closer to the “action”. And I use Facebook (instead of Twitter) as a way to be a little closer to friends.

Kristy, very true. I already feel overwhelmed by the volume of information out there from all the blogs and forums I follow. I feel The constant pinging of Twitter (from incoming tweets and the pressure to tweet back) would just push me over the edge! I can only allocate so much of the day to reading and writing (my “communication time), and if anything need to be more selective.

Kim Hambric  (June 27th, 2008):

Daniel, thanks for the reminder that I am really a relic of the dark (perhaps ice) ages. Just as I felt puffed up and proud about my blogging, I realize how little I know of the information world. I’m just going to pretend I have never heard the word Twitter. I hadn’t as of 90 seconds ago.

I am a computer Sasquatch.

Great post, though. No, I would not want to watch the production of a hot dog. It would definitely devalue the frankfurter even more.

cynthia  (June 27th, 2008):

Hahaha – okay, I’m not really laughing hysterically, but I just signed up for twitter yesterday. I’m not really sure how to use it and can’t find anyone I know!

I also recently signed up for Facebook after letting myspace page die. It is all really so distracting and time consuming.

My blog is my best and most doted on Internet tool.

Mark  (June 28th, 2008):

I can fully relate Dan. I simply just can’t keep up with another information tool. I know some have this stuff tied into their cell phone and are going at it all day long even away from a computer.

Zak  (June 28th, 2008):

It’s a sad state of affairs when *blogs* represent careful, thought-out communication!

Lisa B.  (July 10th, 2008):

Seems like a big time waster to me. I wonder how long it will be before users start referring to themselves as “twits.”

Lisa Call  (July 10th, 2008):

The current use of twitter doesn’t excite me but I’m not convinced it has no value. I believe it’s value has yet been discovered and there is value in keeping an open mind on the subject. I signed up several months back to watch, think and learn. Some day I suspect I will begin participating when the benefits become more obvious.

Corinne  (September 9th, 2008):

Twitter is not to be used as a marketing tool. It is a way for people who are friends and acquaintances to keep up to date on the goings-ons with their lives.

It only works if the group of people you keep in touch with buy into it. If not, then it’s useless.

It’s a form of “micro blogging” and I find it useful especially for people who do not live near me.

I never follow anyone I don’t know b/c it is useless to read about unimportant chatter from strangers.

If you don’t like texting or iming then it’s a difficult thing to adopt. I like it because I don’t have to send the same im to all my friends if I want a message to go out.

Also, thinking about what you are going to twitter about is as pointless as thinking critically about what you are going to say in casual conversation with friends….if you think that deeply about each sentence, you wouldn’t speak at all.

Paul Baines  (October 20th, 2008):

My only problem with Twitter is the audience is somewhat broad, so like a fool I’ve attempted to create a Twitter clone for artists – not going well though – it’s just me shouting at myself at the moment – still at least it’s a move in the right direction.

Twitter and artists, part 2 | Daniel Sroka Open Studio  (May 22nd, 2009):

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