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Data, engagement and image analysis (LOL)

Don’t worry, I won’t be writing anything serious about data or whatever. That kind of analysis isn’t my bag, but I do start to get an impression of what does and doesn’t work on Instagram.

There are certain types of paintings I make that just won’t do well on social media platforms. They don’t photograph so well, their aspect ratio and size might not be so great for the platform, the content and subject definitely are more niche based on the conventions of Instagram popularity when it comes to art. Finally, the painting could be rubbish. I don’t think it is, though I am but one opinion in a sea of minimal engagement.

Every time I’ve posted a painting featuring a car, it has performed quite poorly online. Does that mean the paintings are bad? Hell no! It just means it doesn't appeal as much. Ok, fair enough. Should I stop painting the occasional car in a painting? Hell no! I’m not changing what I paint because of how it performs online. I’m not an Instagram artist. I paint what I like. And often I paint what I don’t like too. The point is, one creates from the heart and and place of genuine interest. If it doesn’t get numbers, I really don’t mind.

I should also add that there is something quite remarkable about looking at a piece of artwork in a 2x3” screen setting on a device and forming an opinion about it. If people make artwork that is designed to photograph well, and perform well with the effects of digital backlighting, crystal-clear OLED image correction, etc, then as far as I’m concerned, that’s a mixed media piece as reliant on the digital platform as the paint for its overall effect. It's as much NFT as it is a painting.

I don’t even consider what the painting is going to look like in a photo. I can't. The photo is never going to capture the immersive sensation of the painting, nor the size and ability of the viewer to step back and forwards to appreciate how the relationship they have with the work can be affected by the proximity, lighting, and relationship it might have with other works, or the setting it finds itself in.

And that is part of the problem with social media, digital platforms and online galleries. It's a mistake to believe it is an extension of our lives. It cannot and will not be. It is an alternative view, but not through our own eyes. The viewing device (phone, tablet, computer etc), is the original filter. And we cannot pretend it isn't. The backlight, the layout and the screen's sharpness and colour are all additional ingredients that an artist cannot and doesn't include in their palette or material list when creating a painting, sculpture, print etc. Even photographers and film makers I have spoken to get annoyed with how digital platforms inadvertently mess with the original intentions of how the maker wishes the work to be seen.

So there is a lot of food for thought here about the creative process. Rarely does it factor in the final plating up of how the work is viewed. But the online view, and the in person view are not closely related. More like distant cousins.

No artist worth their salt would ever make a physical piece of art with the intention of its online presence, performance and appearance bettering the impact of the actual piece itself. Therefore, the expectations, desires and moods online users bring to a piece of art often has very little to do with how or where art is often viewed. Instagram art isn't a white cube, or a National Gallery, Met, Guggenheim, Louvre, etc. In fact, based on what and who people follow, viewing art in social media is far more akin to shopping in a Walmart, Tesco or Carrefour than a gallery. The art pops up in between food, holiday images, clothes, cats, soft porn, health and beauty, etc etc etc.

With that being said, should we be worried about why people aren't viewing our paintings online with the same enjoyment and excitement as we had as we brought them from our imagination to physical realisation? Come on now, the answer is clear.

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