November 7th, 2005

I do not feel virtuous, I feel winded. Words do hurt and I am not as thick skinned as I would like. This is not the first time I

November 5th, 2005

I’d like to steer this argument away from the personal and into a general discussion about blogs and advertising. I did not use the site previously mentioned as a way to judge or attack in any way, I used it because it is the most obvious example of what we are talking about and seems to have set a precident given it’s popularity.
So I’ve learned that this is an extremely personal subject, we all have strong opinions based on our own experiences. What’s right for me may NOT be right for you. I disagree that ads and specifically blog ads do not affect our society in a negative way (and that if we “tune them out” they will not affect us.) But this is *my* opinion, I am not saying you must share that opinion.
Here are more of the reasons *I* have a problem with blog ads, (and yes, I have many of my own contridictions and hypocrises wrapped up in this, given that I am a commercial illustrator). I certainly have worked for some questionable corporations. I will say that over time I have become a LOT more discerning about work that I take on, that has evolved as the confidence has grown over the years. I am learning as I go, and there are indeed many grey areas. I actually took advertising in art school and enjoyed it quite a bit. One of my heros is Tibor Kahlman, a designer who created many intelligent ads in his lifetime, who believed that advertising should not be seperate from the human experience. A contridiction, yes. I am human after all. All of this discussion is helping me to articulate what I believe in…
Many bloggers say they will not let the ads affect the editorial content. I question this statement. How long will this last? What if Apple Computers offers someone $10,000 to have an ad on their site? Are you really going to say anything negative about Apple in your ramblings? I doubt it. So now the honesty of the writing is affected. The more ads that appear on blogs the less we will all trust in honesty of the medium as a whole.
The byproduct of this is that blogging medium is now (as with many/most others forms of media in our culture, magazines, news, film, etc.) is now *influenced/controlled* by large corporations. If you don’t know why this is a problem I highly recommend the film “the corporation”, which explains in a succinct way why most large corporations have no accountablity, and are only about the bottom line throwing public wellfare and the health of the planet to the wayside.
I am opposed to widespread advertising impacting every aspect of our existence, and even now our own bodies.
I see a vast difference in someone promoting a piece of art that they created (or a book they wrote), and someone being paid to sell ad space to corporate advertisers. (I know many of you disagree with this). I also do not agree that doing a job for a magazine or newspaper is essentially ‘taking ad money’. It has to do with the direct exchange of services, I create a work of art (which has inherent value), providing a service for my client and I receive money (value) for that. My reasons for this are largely philosophical and probably another topic altogether.
An idea that was presented to me was to take the advertisers money and give a large portion to charity, thusly transforming the negative into something positive (effectively thumbing our nose at the corporation). It seems at first glance a viable option, but as I sit with it I still have some problems. This has to do with what kind of energy I want to put out into the world, and that I choose to be accountable for all of it. I do not wish to contribute more to the rampant consumeristic culture that we already find ourselves in. And, this is entirely personal.
What if I chose certain companies (ones that I believed in) to advertise on my site? Yes, this is an option. I do like to support people whose work I value. I still have a problem with recieving money for this, once again it comes down to credibility for me. I want my readers to trust that I act not only for personal gain or monetary reward.
So what do I say to the people who tell me to ‘suck it up there’s nothing you can do about it, this is just the world we live in’? I choose to believe that I am not voiceless, and that I do have some impact on the world, and if I choose to give up on the kind of society I wish for myself and my family then something is lost. The fact is, change IS occuring. New companies and organizations are starting to look at different models for business practices, (based on the betterment of the world as opposed to the destruction of it, human needs put before money), and so I do feel hopeful. I also feel the need at times to speak out against things that I question, confident that the readers I have (intelligent, discerning souls), might want to look at them too.
I started writing a bit about how advertising erodes our visual environment, but then realized that this is quite subjective and that many may feel the same about some of the ‘guerilla art’ that I put out there. Though I will say I find most ads souless, and ugly, which causes me to worry about the visual junk we are constantly exposed to on a daily basis. Again, a personal thing.
So why did I choose to write about this? I feel compelled to save a medium that I believe is for all of us from being de-valued. I realize that this is a HUGE undertaking, and that maybe this is not what people want. So I will do what I need to do for myself in this arena. I am putting up an icon that reads, “this is an ad free blog”, mainly because i would like people to know that when I recommend a site it is because I genuinely like it. With the popularity of blog ads I now feel it has become necessary to state this publicly.
As always I am learning with/from you. Thank you for your words.

November 3rd, 2005

A recent phenomenon in the blog world has caused me to look at my own beliefs on some things. Art, commerce, and the proliferation of advertising in our culture. When popular blogger Dooce started putting ads on her site to support her family I began to look at the greater implications of this, how does this affect me? what is the bigger picture here? I am still ruminating on the topic, so bear with me. As you know I have a tendency to not be overtly political in my ramblings here, but I feel this topic directly affects the future of this medium and my place in it. The question is where are we headed?
At first I found myself a bit torn. I am an artist. And while I do make a living with my art, it could be considered by many a rather meager existence at times. As those of you who are self employed will know it is far from financially secure, prone to wild fluctuations, fits and spurts, many nailbiting days spent wondering if there will be enough to pay the bills. Yes it’s true. I put work and energy out into the universe and sometimes it pays off and other times it doesn’t. Put together two people who are artists (neither with a regular income) and the tension is amplified. I am not complaining, this is the life I chose, and the one that fulfills me and I wouldn’t/can’t/choose not to do anything else.
So when I read that Dooce and her husband were able to pay for all of their expenses, (mortgage, bills, etc.) from the ads on her site I thought, “wow, good for her. This is what we all strive for. She is a great writer, and it’s wonderful that she has found a way to make a living with her writing.”
But is it? What is the greater cost?
As a blogger who has over time established a somewhat regular audience, I have been approached by many companies asking to advertise on my site, and in some cases endorse their products through my writing. I have always had a policy to not do anything that goes against my own beliefs, that goes for this site but also illustration work, (all illustrators face a moral dilemma at some point in their careers.) And so I would not advertise nor endorse any product or company that I do not fully believe in. But even then I struggle with advertising in general.
As a member of a culture that is so laden with advertising I become easily winded, oversaturated, numb to it all. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find any public space WITHOUT some form of advertising. One of the benefits of moving to the country many years ago was that I was not exposed to advertising on a daily basis, (no billboards, tv), I felt empowered being able to choose an alternative to the one that was being forced onto me. Being thrown back into the civilized world again I feel disturbed by how our culture seems to just accept it at every turn and doesn’t question the fact that we are being bombarded constantly. One grocery store I was in recently has televisions throughout the store selling products in every aisle! As one who was weaned on television at a young age, this is too much even for me. As a visual artist I am constantly tuned into the world around me, noticing details, pulling things out of the chaos to use. I have a hard time and resent being told what to look at as I walk through my day.
And so I make choices to not partake in a world that is about selling, (to me being exposed to advertising on a regular basis is the equivalent of emotional junk food and I truly care about my body, so there is an emotional cost to me). I shop at the local co-op, I only read the occasional magazine, don’t watch t.v., etc. When I first started on the web so many years ago (there were no images then only text), I was so excited about this new medium that was created by everyone, for the first time it was an even playing field. The average person had to potential to reach as many people as the large corporation. It was not so much about selling as it was about information, sharing, expressing. And in some ways it still is like that. But if I am making the choice to not clutter my mind with the chaos that is advertising, (as I choose not to put junk food into my body), then I must cut down on the sites that are saturated with it.
If I am to speak frankly here, I am saddened when I go to a site of an artist or a blogger I admire and they have ads on their site. I feel a loss of respect. When companies have approached me for the same thing I admit to a moment of “it might make my life easier, I could focus on my personal work more, finish that manuscript”, yes I could.
But I ask again, what is the greater cost? When do we put our human needs before those of the corporations?
the need to experience the world on our own, directly
the need to make decisions based on what WE feel, not what someone tells us is good
the need to trust that what we are reading is based on the true feelings of the writer (I have lost this trust in the last few years, it is widely know in the world of editorial writing that advertisers will pull an ad if an editorial piece conflicts with what they are selling and that magazines cater to this. In my own experience I learned that the colors a magazine prints with are determined by the highest paying advertisers, thus affecting my illustrations.)
the need to express ourselves
the need to live in a world based on integrity and genuine human interaction
I am still left with some questions on this subject, (would I feel differently if I had another mouth to feed as Dooce does? In it’s own way promoting as an illustrator is a form of advertising, is it any different? I “advertise” my own books on my site and would like them to sell so i can eat…) But for now I will put this out there. I’m sure you will have some interesting opinions on the matter.

November 1st, 2005
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idea #85.
Cut one random shape out of several layers of a magazine. Make a collage out of the result.

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