Digital Strokes

The success of an artisan – be it an artist, wine-maker, chef, chocolate-maker or other hand-crafter – is increasingly being measured by their standing in social media. Many now retweet nice things others have tweeted or blogged about their work, through sifting the feeds for their unique hashtags. I typed in ‘cake making’ in Google and top of the list was a link to the ‘choccywoccydoodah’ site – a shop in Brighton that prides itself on unique and quirky style of cakes and chocolate. One fan, called Andy, had tweeted “Just had my first taste of @choccywoccyshop and honestly, that’s the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. Wow.” Choccywoccy straight away retweeted it.

Others show their appreciation by ‘favouriting’ (sic) – clicking on the favorites icon represented by a small star next to a Tweet. Like Facebook, this kind of digital endorsing is second nature to the masses. Funnily enough, there are no ‘dislike’ or ‘crap’ icons. Validation of an artisan’s worth is all about positive vibes in numbers. Receive 20, 30 or even 1000s of favorites or likes and you feel like a winner.

I was looking at just now, which is what every art student aspires to be recognized by and have their work uploaded to. When it was first launched back in 2008 by Jeff Hamada, it used to be easier to get noticed but not any more. It went viral quite quickly, largely through word and mouth and became one of the largest art blogs on the web. It now prides itself on having 3 million page views each month. It covers everything from art, film, photo, music, design, projects to misc. It describes itself as having a “soft spot for hand-made work by unknown people.”

In the old days of Brit-Art, having a visit from Charles Saatchi to your end of year show provided instant kudos. Now it seems that having your work showcased and favorited on Booooooom has become the gold standard of cool recognition. Understandably, the site has become terribly overcrowded with lots of artists all vying for eyeballs. It can be quite random or recent as to what the viewer looks at.

And of course the site is on Facebook and Twitter, so more thumbs up, retweeting and positive commenting. There are also a handful of old fashioned blurbs about it on the site, for example.

“There’s something about Jeff’s positivity in celebrating work that interests him, hoping to spark inspiration in others, that is both generous in spirit and refreshingly unpretentious.” – Here and Elsewhere

This kind of high-five, like, like, like, ever-so-nice, positive comments seem to be the order of the day. I looked at Sam Weber’s work first and Jeff’s comment was “A personal favourite of mine, really really fantastic stuff. I would love to see his colouring process.”

The acerbic and sharp comments of the likes of A.A. Gill and co are no longer what is followed in mainstream art that is purveyed online. I don’t mean to be cynical but at times I find the plethora of backslapping and thumbs up a tad anodyne. Who dares nowadays to put their reputation on the line when online? Whereas the paid-up professional critics (on the demise) often spend hours handcrafting pencil-sharp reviews, the unpaid Joe Public (on the rise) likes to indulge in nice digital strokes.

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