leah giberson : artists who blog

Leah Giberson's paintings are beautiful, and how I wish I could see them in person! I'd love to hop over to Boston and have a studio visit, but for the time being I'll have to be happy with the possibilites the Internet offers us ;) Leah is not only a gifted artist herself, she is also one of those artists who encourages others. It's been great to get to know her online this year, so I am especially happy to have her as a guest this week. Leah sells top quality archival prints of her work, as well as a selection of originals in her Etsy shop. She has a blog, and posts frequently on flickr. Enjoy, and please don't miss my questions for you, dear readers, at the end of the interview :)

Why did you decide to start a blog?

To tell you the truth I really hadn't paid much attention to blogs up
until last March when I opened my etsy shop. Not only did I soon
discover a world of other artists selling their work online, but I also
found a seemingly endless world of inspiration on their blogs. I've had
never had any interest in public journaling about my personal family
life or reading about others quite frankly, but when I discovered how
artists were using their blogs to share artistic inspiration, new work
and news, I was thrilled. Then when I started getting visitors to my own
blog with their clicks, views and comments I was hooked.

I should give a bit of a disclaimer at this point. I'm not a great blogger. By that I mostly mean I'm not a frequent blogger - at least not on my blog site. I struggle to maintain momentum with my postings. Over the past few months, however, flickr has become a kind of blog alternative for me. I started using it on a daily basis when I was commissioned to make a large painting this past September and wanted to be able to post images of my progress for my client to see. Before I knew it, there were lots of other people leaving comments as well and some very interesting dialogs began. I discovered that I was reaching a MUCH larger and rapidly expanding audience than I had been with my real blog. I also realized that I was accomplishing what I had set out to do with my blog in the first place - to connect with other artists by sharing what I do in my studio and getting to see what they're up to as well.

How has blogging affected your work as an artist/designer?

To begin with, it's amazing to be able to post my work in progress or finished pieces and moments later start getting feedback. I admit that I'm an instant gratification addict, so (blogging on flickr) is a perfect fit for me. And while I usually love working from home, I can also feel isolated here in my tiny studio - especially this time of year when the sun sets so early. It really brightens my day to have these kinds of mini studio visits with other artists from all around the world.

In addition and in an unexpected way it's also led to a new series of somewhat collaborative work. As an artist, I fall somewhere between a photographer and painter. All my paintings begin with photographs printed out onto photo rag paper. I adhere the prints to pieces of canvas and then begin painting directly on this surface. Up until this past summer, I had only used my own photographs to begin paintings. Then last July I came across a photo on flickr that completely captivated me.

I desperately wanted to make a painting based on it, so I contacted the photographer and asked her permission. It turned out that she was thrilled with the idea and (I'm happy to say) with the results. Since then, I have completed at least 10 paintings based on other people's photographs and continue to look for new photos out there that resonate with me. The photographers who have allowed me to use their images have been incredible to work with - generous, enthusiastic and appreciative. I always give them an archival print of each finished piece and make sure to include credit to them as the photographer as well as a link to their site. It's been a wonderfully positive and inspiring experience and has connected me with people and places I would never have found on my own.

What are your favorite artist/designer blogs? Why?

Well as far as straight up artist blogs go, some of my favorites include
Kelly Lynn Jones, Brandi Strickland, Jennifer Judd McGee, Nathan Abels and the oh so marvelous Stephanie Levy :-).

I am motivated and inspired by all of them. Each of these artists/designers is wonderfully talented, generous, insightful and prolific. Now I have to add that almost all of them (I'm still working on you, Stephanie) post their blog images to flickr as well, usually with a caption and link saying, "as posted on (blog name)" and some have additional brief descriptions.

This brings me to my next confession. I like to think of myself as an avid reader. The truth is I'm really more of a picture person and a fairly slow, albeit careful reader. I like headlines, captions and book jackets. So usually when I find myself at a real blog it's because I've clicked on a photo that interests me from my contact list on flickr and that's what brought me to read more. It's become a kind of blog digest of sorts for me. With three kids and never ending piles of laundry and dishes to battle, this also helps me be more efficient with my time, because ultimately what I really want to do most of all is paint.

My flickr list is far too long to include everyone here and I encourage you to come take a peek at my contacts, favorites and groups and explore for yourself. Some flickr "blogs" that I love to check out on a regular basis include those by Lisa Congdon, Faythe Levine, Michele Maule,
Anthony Zinonos, Hadley Hutton, Julie Beck, Amanda Blake, Alika CooperAmy Rice, Vivienne Strauss, Matte Stephens, Jessica Ann Mills, Brad McMurray, Denizen8...

See it's too long and I haven't even made a dent in the list, but my morning wouldn't be complete without taking a peek at what my flickr contacts have posted.

Why do you think blogs have now become so popular with artists and designers?

As I mentioned earlier, I think most of us work in rather isolated environments and are looking for ways to connect with other artists and share our inspirations and motivations with one another.

Do you have any advice for artists/designers who are starting a blog?

Make sure to post your blog images to flickr along with a link to your blog.

What has been the most positive and inspirational aspect of having a blog for you?

These days I am painting almost full time thanks in no small part to the experience I've had online this year with etsy, my blog and flickr.

I have learned over the years that I do my best work under deadlines and that I thrive on positive feedback. Just a fact. Up until opening my etsy shop, I painted only when I was invited to be in group shows and at best that happened every other year or so. In other words, there were some years that I only produced a couple paintings all year. I kept reminding myself that I had a lot on my plate between work and three kids. I reassured myself that lots of my favorite women artists didn't really hit their stride until they were in their 40's, 50's, 60's or even beyond. The truth was I was pretty passive about developing my career as an artist and didn't have a clue how to get my foot in the door.

The combination of starting to sell work (originals and prints) on etsy and also keeping a kind of visual journal on both flickr and my blog has helped me reach an audience of artists, customers, gallery owners and bloggers from around the world, which in turn has provided me with a constant incentive to make new work. It's been a remarkable experience and when I'm asked what I do for work these days, I now respond (without reservation), I'm a painter.

What are your main goals for 2009?

I suppose I should have some concrete goals, but for the most part I just want to keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where that takes me. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks Leah for your heartfelt words! I know I can relate very well to everything you have shared, and wish you much continued success with your artwork!


And thank you readers for joining me and sharing your comments on the "artists who blog" interview series this year. I will be changing and adding some new questions for my new set of artist interviews starting again in 2009, and I would like to ask you to give me some feedback as well.

Are there any particular questions you would like me to add to the interviews? What would you most like to know about your favorite artists? And - which artists would you most like to see interviewed next year? I look forward to hearing from you :)


A little note on holiday shipping from Leah - all orders placed this weekend will be sent by Priority Mail on Monday! Happy shopping!