It seems to me we are living in a Golden Age, or perhaps we just lived through one that is passing, or has passed. The Golden Age to which I refer is of course the Golden Age of Painting Blogs.
Back in the mid-80s a friend of mine, a super-early adopter who lugged around an Osborne 1, tried to sell me on the virtues of computer networking by talking up an aspect of it that I’d never then considered: the possibility of using things like chatrooms and BBS’s to form geographically dispersed communities of interest. Knowing my interest in painting, he suggested I might be able to network together an online community of like-minded painters. I have to confess I was more than a bit dubious, and nothing ever came of his suggestion. And it might have been a little premature given that at the time ASCII art represented the most sophisticated computer graphics that would likely have been available to me. But it’s a fine line between premature and prescient.
Of course in the 90s and early oughts a bunch of painters did turn up online, but mostly in the form of online galleries and shopfronts. It wasn’t until the mid-late oughts that we had the widespread formation of online painting communities, congruent with the rise of blogging services like WordPress and Blogspot.
Admittedly, I have yet to find a painting community that precisely matches my particular interests, which is one of my reasons for starting this blog. But what is out there is pretty amazing, in no small part because it makes the shoptalk of painters globally accessible. That’s never happened before. As someone who paints, I find it hugely interesting to find out what other contemporary painters are thinking about.
In general, painting blogs tend to fall into one of two broadly defined categories: traditionalist ones like Stapleton Kearns’ and Marc Dalessio’s, or more contemporary ones like Joanne Mattera’s or Painters Progress. But there is some crossover; Philip Koch, to take one example, seems to turn up in both communities, and Painting Perceptions seems open to both traditional and contemporary approaches to representation.
I enjoy all the blogs I’ve so far mentioned, but I have to confess a certain partiality for the traditionalist ones, even though I have a strong suspicion the traditionalists wouldn’t esteem my work that highly. Having thought about it, I’ve come up with two reasons for that preference:
- The traditionalists tend to deal most directly with the craft of painting. Although my starting point is different from theirs, there is a lot of overlap between their practical problems and my own, both in terms of formal issues like composition and colour, and the nuts and bolts things like what studio lighting works best.
- They write a lot about the problems of maintaining a tradition in the face of cultural institutions that no longer value or support it. Given my interest in building a tradition from early/mid-20th century modernism, I find this kind of relevant too, even if they blame my tradition for wrecking their tradition.
It was four or five years ago I started following the abovementioned blogs, plus a bunch of others. Back then it seemed there was a constant flow of interesting content, but lately it seems to have slackened off a bit. To some extent this is to be expected; the amount of uncompensated labour it takes to deliver the volume and quality of content you get from the best blogs will lead inevitably to a certain amount of burnout. So while it’s regrettable that Stapleton Kearns no longer posts every day, it’s not exactly surprising. What’s incredible is that he managed to keep up the daily posts for over three years, particularly given how good they were. And once you’re finished admiring him for that, you have to admire him for sticking to the program he established early on, to say what he had to say and then wind it down before he started repeating himself.
One site that isn’t a blog, but which I’ve found incredibly helpful is AMIEN, a collection of well-moderated forums providing a wealth of information about art materials and conservation. There was a worrisome time last fall when I thought it might be offline permanently following the death of its founder Mark David Gottsegen, but it seems to be back now under new management. Thankfully.
I don’t know of too many local painters blogs. I suspect there are some, but so far they’ve eluded me. There’s a lot of good painting-related content over at exhibit-v though.
Update March 2015: Sadly, AMIEN is indeed no more. I think there was an attempt to keep it going after its founder passed on, but it was apparently not successful, and now the amien.org domain is being used to flog e-cigarettes. I’ve removed the link.