Today we grab a few minutes with GESSO founder, Lianne Williams and ask some common questions about the group and what it's all about.
Why did you setup GESSO?
I've been blogging about my art for around a decade now and during that time I've never managed to find a reliable or active community that allowed me to collaborate with other creative bloggers or to ask specific questions about our style of blogs.
A lot of the groups out there seemed to cater to photography bloggers, which was sort of helpful, but there were so many different factors that made our blogs, schedules, needs and output so different that I could never really get involved. I couldn't relate. When they were posting every day a single piece of my work could take weeks to finish. Where could I go to ask for opinions on the latest tablet or which brand does the best white oil paint? Who had advice on commission contracts or how to take time lapse videos of me working? It was also becoming increasingly apparent that a lot of creatives suffer with loneliness and isolation and I wanted to change that about my life, as well as offer an opportunity to others to connect.
I'm sorry, this is an example of my dreadful sense of humour. It's another word for paint primer! Artist's use it to prepare their canvas before painting. I played on the words a bit to create 'GESSO: Primed Creatives', y'kno, primed and ready for action. I like that. I want this group to be active and full of people doing stuff rather then just hoping and thinking about it. It's pronounced 'jesso' for anyone wondering. I got it wrong myself for YEARS!!
Where is the group based?
We are ONLINE. But many of or members are from the UK. You can find out more about us and how to join here.
What do you hope the group will achieve?
I want it to be a safe, fun place for creatives to come for advice regarding their blogs and their artwork. I want the group to develop a really strong expectation that it's members ARE going to act on their goals and aspirations and we are here to support and hold them accountable. I don't want just another lethargic chat group where people whine about how hard it is. Whining is FINE but if you don't do anything about it, THAT'S NOT GESSO. I want to get stuff done. I want the group to help others get stuff done. I want GESSO to give people the chance to be a part of something.
Why wouldn't a creative just join a normal blogging group or an art group?
Like i mentioned earlier, I think creatives face a unique set of challenges as bloggers. Not to mention our group is focused on helping creatives develop their blogs to sell their creativity, NOT how to be bloggers. Although we do take into consideration affiliate links, advertising, sponsored posts and all those 'blogging' things, our group wants our creatives to remain creatives. To benefit from GESSO your number one priority is making more art. That's your passion. Not blogging. There are plenty of groups out there that teach you how to be professional blogger. That's not what GESSO does. Likewise, a standard art group may not have the experience on technical blogging related things, nor may you find other artists who are willing to collaborate on projects with you, guest post or help promote your latest giveaway. Our group combines the two worlds.
Should Creatives blog?
In today's environment, with the internet and social media being so powerful and far reaching, I really think so. It's not the blog necessarily that brings in success, it's the whole package of an online presence. If an artist has a portfolio, and a blog and promotes their work and services regularly through social media, and uses blogging and the internet to find opportunities themselves, it can be a HUGE benefit to their career. Even if they do it as a hobby, the internet is a rabbit warren of information, tutorials, free tools... it creates better artists. I say this a lot but if it wasn't for the internet I probably wouldn't haven become an artist.
What sort of things does the group do?
Our main function is our chat group. We have various topics under discussion from social media chat to our gallery page where people can show their latest work. We use the blog and our social media to share members content, promotions and artwork. We run our annual blogging challenge which helps creatives create quality content for their blog. We're also hoping to extend into real life workshops and events once the group has grown a little. We're still VERY new.
It's very simple, and just a bit of fun really, but ultimately if you follow through with all the tasks you'll have some great new content for your site. If you complete a challenge you get a little badge to put on your site to show how well you've done. I LOVE the bragging rights of that. It's very retro-blog-style!
Have you been in a group/collective before?
Not one like this. I've been part of art groups, blogging groups, accountability groups, but not one that blends them all together. I think I've had a lot of experience on what works and what doesn't. It's one of the reasons why I really wanted the leadership of the group to be shared by members. I noticed that some groups would fizzle out because only one person was taking responsibility for its success. Groups thrive when EVERYONE has a chance to make it work for them and when they care about it personally.
What sort of creatives are allowed to join?
We decided early on that most types of creatives can join. We focus on much of the traditional styles of visual art and crafts, design and digital arts. We have a lot of members who enjoy writing too, although this isn't their primary form of creativity. Currently we don't accept fan art, photography or musicians. However that might change in time. I just think blogging about those things is unique in itself and they should probably have their own community. As much as I want the group to be inclusive, I don't want it to lose its individual purpose.
I personally vet each application to make sure they create their own work and that they are actually relevant to our group too. I believe very strongly in having quality, active members, not lurkers or creatives who share inappropriate or irrelevant content. I also like to get a feel for their behaviour and whether or not I think they'll be a genuine, kind member of the group. Some applications have clearly not read the guidelines and just want to spam with their content and not reciprocate. That's NOT what we're about. We are NOT a follow train.
It takes longer to add members but I prefer it that way.
Why do you use Slack and not Whatsapp or Facebook?
We are actually in the middle of deciding what will work best for us as a group chat format. Originally we were on Whatsapp but conversations got lost very quickly so we moved to Slack where conversations can be filtered into 'channels', a bit like a forum, but not everyone has heard of that. Facebook is a possibility for the future but I know a lot of people, myself included, have left Facebook recently so it's a challenge finding something that works for everyone. I have rejoined Facebook especially so at least we have some options! Our own forum might be possible in the long term future. It really depends on how the group grows.
What do you recommend to creatives who don't have a blog?
One of two things. If you choose not to blog because you don't want to, then good luck. Make sure you have other ways of promoting your work and networking because it's essential to your career and development as an artist. Indeed some people are lucky enough to live in communities, or have contacts, that allow them to share their work without the need of a website or blog, but the internet has allowed so many people to share their creative talents and that should be celebrated and not used as a weapon to divide. We're ALL creatives. It's not a case of us versus them. Whether you blog or not doesn't make you a better or worse artist.
If you don't have a blog but would like too and you're feeling overwhelmed or just frightened, then fear not. We do have a course for beginners in the works which will show you how to set up your first art blog for free, or if you have some funds, what you can do to give your blog a boost and maximise what you can do online. I promise. It's not as terrifying as it looks. And setting up something that's free and non-committal might ease you gently into a blogging routine, and then a habit. It doesn't ever need to become a passion, but if it can help your career or let you sell your services or products, then what's not to love?
CLICK HERE to join our waiting list for our Blogging for Artists or fill in the form below and we will email you with further info later on.