Maybe it was the approach of the new year, but a few days ago I found myself looking through some of my digital art from the last eighteen months. This wasn’t an arbitrarily chosen period of time to revisit. A year and a half ago I left a job I had been in for a long while and since then, the art has become an important part of my life. Looking back over my work, I was surprised by how much I had developed and even more so by how much I had found myself. The art I am creating now feels congruent with who I am, my interests and my influences. It feels like a good place to start building and developing from.
I began to think that it might be nice to put these images together somewhere. Not quite a story, more a collection. I already have quite a lot of photos on Facebook: Pictures taken during my travels around Yorkshire where I’m lucky enough to live, snapshots of nights out when I’m still clinging to my dignity and a fair few cat photos (I don’t care if it’s not original, my cats are amazing!). I thought about creating a folder on there for my art. There were well over a hundred images but, assuming nothing crashed, it wouldn’t take long to load them up. But I didn’t really like that idea. Somehow it seemed like drawing a line under the art, consigning it to the past rather than allowing for it to keep developing.
So after some thought – and a few cups of coffee – I decided to create a Facebook page for them. I knew I had friends on Facebook that liked my work and I felt sure they would support a page devoted to it. I also felt excited by the idea of creating a space where I could share my evolution as a digital artist. I am still at very early stages after all. As I see my art as something of a journey through nature and technology, colour and shape, why not share that journey?
Facebook can be a difficult place for showing creative work. The myriad ways that the site determines which posts appear on timelines – which are now so complex and ever-changing that they probably represent a whole new form of chaos theory – can make it hard to get work seen. It’s also worth bearing in mind that for many people it isn’t a place to look at art but an opportunity to catch up with friends, hit on strangers and see what’s happening in the world. Several artists I’ve followed on Facebook have seemed quite bitter that their work hasn’t had as many likes as a photo of someone’s homemade rocky road but that’s just the nature of the beast. As with self-publishing, I feel it’s best to go into setting up an art page on Facebook with open eyes and reasonable expectations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ambitious but once you stop waiting for Charles Saatchi to discover your page, you can have more fun with it. Though if he does, well done.
The first decision was what to call my page. I could have opted for Damian Mark Whittle Art but that sounded so stiff. It also seemed to foreground me rather than the work which somehow seemed counterintuitive. I don’t feel that my work is overly autobiographical or at least not consciously so. I liked the idea of something with both words and numbers in it. A name that sounded slightly alien but also quite dramatic. I’ve recently been reading a book about Op Art, which I absolutely love. As long time readers of my blog will probably have guessed, I’m fascinated by a lot of art and design from the 1960’s and Op Art is one of my favourite movements from that multi-coloured decade. I was also aware of the playful way that performers like Lady Gaga had taken the names of existing movements and changed them round to create something new. I knew I wanted a name that acknowledged both my creative debt to the past and my wish to be working in the here and now. And I wanted something that would make for a fun avatar.
Bringing all these thoughts together, I settled on Art Op 21.
Selecting the art to go on the page presented a few challenges. Some pieces represented avenues I had gone down once but not pursued further. These didn’t fit. And there were some that existed in several different versions, meaning that I had to select the best one. There were some pieces that I liked more than I remembered and some I liked less. There were a few I had forgotten even existed. Eventually though, I had the selection that felt right.
I created the avatar – a consciously retro image – and uploaded the header. At last the page was ready to be unveiled.
And here it is!
It was great fun to create Art Op 21. I’ve had more likes in the first week than I expected, including some from people who aren’t on my friends list. It’s good to know that it’s there as part of an ongoing record of where I’ve been and where I might go.
If any of you are also using Facebook to share creative work – be it art, fashion, photography, creative writing or fan art, I’d be very interested to read your experiences in the comments section!