I’ve been meaning to start this blog for ages. I’ve procrastinated, avoided, made plans only to break them but finally the time has come for me to take the time to sit and write.
There is a timer on my phone and I’ve just poured myself a g&t.
As an artist I have made work for over 10 years since graduating from my MA in Theatre at Wimbledon School of Art. My MA course (Visual Language of Performance) encompassed interdisciplinary practices from theatre to digital arts, site specific sculpture, live and performance art and drawing. I created interventionist performances and drawings which became over time, the backbone of my research and practice which now encompasses engagement, outdoor arts, theatre and a studio based drawing practice.
In my studio (which is what I hope to elaborate on further here) I create drawings inspired by the intersections between architectural history, geometry, mathematics, nature and recently the patterns of complexity within emergent biological systems. This evolving collection of drawings manipulate traditional mathematical ideas of perspective, scale and pattern in order to create microcosmic architectural forms recognisable as miniature skylines and cities. I draw in layers of 0.2 to 0.05 pen on paper, keeping my studio environment pristine and controlled – the space I create when I draw is intimate, contemplative and encourages a deep personal connection between my hand, mind and city outside. So far so good?
If you are curious then visit my website: http://www.alexanderevans.net
In 2014 I was extremely lucky to be accepted onto Space Studio’s business development programme ‘New Creative Markets’ lead by Lena Nix and the fantastic team at Space. I became accepted into a dynamic and supportive cohort of artists and designers where I met and made friends with an exciting arrangement of people. Together we embarked upon 18 months of informal training opportunities in funding, marketing, publishing etc. We received quality 1 to 1 support from amazing experts and I gained a huge amount of confidence and support from the people around me. One of the seminars, run by Social Media specialist Abby Kirby addressed the complexities, challenges, pitfalls and successes surrounding using Social Media as an artist.
Social Media can engender so many diverse responses ranging from total disdain through avoidance to total and consuming obsession, so I respect totally the individual’s right to manage their own way through it all of course (I’m not here to indoctrinate anyone!) Personally I was already using Twitter (@evansalexevans) and I really enjoy ed much of the contact and context it gave me. I was attempting to avoid Facebook as much as possible for my art and dubiously curious about copyright when it comes to sharing images on Instagram and Pinterest. We suitably discussed all these things in the workshop, but one point emerged that struck a chord: What if Social Media for artists is less about promoting the ‘art object’ as a commodity to be approved, sold and traded and more about the artist effectively and comfortably promoting audience engagement through the PROCESS of SHARING the making of their art?
This struck a chord with me as I had often been asked by people to share my making process as an artist, so I decided to embark upon my own foray into Social Media as a way of bringing my audience closer to my work and of letting them see exactly the reality of my studio as I draw…
I started in October 2014 by adopting the alias ‘Alex Draws’ and using the video sharing platform ‘Vine’ – a U.S. based social media app in which the 40 million globally registered users could upload 6.4 second videos onto their profile and then Re-Vine (share), like or comment on the content in their networks (Vine is now owned by Twitter and has all the benefits of embedding vines into tweets for further ‘reach’ and interaction. The platform is still growing hugely) The endless permutations of 6.4 seconds to me was immediately pretty incredible – comedy, music, sports – virtually every genre represented (and whilst there is a fair amount of people twerking, pranking and LOL cat’ing) there also emerged – through my deepening journey into the network – a very active and very supportive network of global artists making art vines – published onto the Art Vine channel and followed and shared by huge numbers of people.
I could name many of them here: Noah Kalina, Ian Regier, Joanie LeMercier, Alicia Herbert, Xaviera Lopez, Mystery Mansion, BjudMigInte, Lawrence Becker, Tom Shea, Anne Horel, kidinatandystore, Mirza Talovic, Molehill, Danorst… the list goes on and on… An amazing and ever expanding group of passionate photographers, painters, animators, film-makers and artists whose output of incredible looping imagery is quite simply astounding. Immediately I was hooked on Vine – the gaps in my day were suddenly occupied by this wonderful digital space where the discovery of new and tantalising art was always possible. It became a place where my ongoing research into architecture and complex systems of natural growth were being also expressed by motion graphic designers, nature photographers and artists. I had found my community, I was involved in conversations with makers of all disciplines, I began to feel more and more at home.
The Vines I made simply charted my process of drawing in the studio armed with my iPhone, a selfie stick and some cheap macro and fish-eye lenses I bought off amazon. Its been 18 months since I started sharing online and I regularly now use time-lapse, Macro detailed photography, slow motion, projection and performance elements. I started to put music I was listening to in the studio behind the images to explore the aural rhythms of my loops and use different techniques to tell stories of my time in the studio. Somehow I have amassed a very modest but dedicated following of about 700 people who seem to like what I do and my view count has steadily increased over time (my most popular loop being ‘re-Vined’ about 75 times with approx 25,000 loops That was a thrilling bus journey.
Check my account here if you like?: https://vine.co/Alex.Evans.Drawing?mode=grid
Heres a compilation of my Vines on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/153261838
I was enjoying the process of meeting new people and quietly getting to explore my filmmaking skills when I realised that this was forming an exciting new intersection in my practice – my storytelling work from theatre (I did my BA in Drama at the University of Hull) and my narrative arts skills from my facilitation practice was suddenly in the room with my drawing!! It felt like a creative awakening, a synthesis of my practice and an opportunity to explore the moving image not just as a vehicle to get people into the studio, but then also as a legitimate activity that took place there when they arrived. I started to set up more complex shots and dedicate days when I was going to the studio to Vine and when I was going to draw – they became more distinctive and separate activities. I found myself wanting to draw without the distraction of working on camera angles, and this distinction has become more and more important as time has passed.
So important were my vines that the raw footage became part of my last exhibition at the Anise Gallery in SE1 – I displayed an 8 minute looping video which shared these stories and the reception was incredible – people loved seeing the filmed process and the original drawings shown together – it exposed the incredibly detailed and time consuming nature of my work, somehow you could even say that my work became more valued due to the explicit display of the effort involved. Others I am sure might say that it cheapens or degrades the process, turning something already valuable or private into something performed, edited, easy (or is that my own insecure internal monologue?) Honestly I’m still exploring what all of that means, but lets just say it was all going well. I was already starting to think about what might happen next
Then I got the email which changed things slightly.
It transpires that someone somewhere had seen my account and decided it worthy of greater recognition and so now I find myself nominated for a ‘Shorty Award’ – a U.S. based award (in its 8th year) which honours the best in short form web content. With nominees including some of the most famous and noted global celebrities, actors, musicians alongside categories such as ‘Best Youtuber’, ‘Best Instagrammer’ etc. I have been nominated as an ‘influencer’ the category ‘Best Vine Artist’ alongside 11 fellow Vine Artists, people I have followed for the last 18 months with awe and admiration.
Comparison in this instance is of course unfavourable, especially when you view my ‘competitors’ statistics (a number of them run lucrative advertising campaigns with Disney, Microsoft and more, employing studios of people to construct their hugely professional output) whereas I use my phone and edit on the 188 on the way home. All of a sudden I am now thrust into participating in a voting process whereby people can vote online for their ‘Best Vine Artist’ to go through to the final 6 at the awards ceremony in New York. NEW YORK! WTF!?
The email set me into a straight panic… All of a sudden I felt compared, scrutinised, judged for something that is deeply personal and connected to my sense of self. I wished I hadn’t turned on that camera. My insecurities bubbled to the fore and soon I was sleepless, without appetite, proper meltdown mode… Its an honour to represent my art on this platform and its incredible that out of all the amazing artists on Vine, I have been acknowledged in this way. With a little research, I started to determine how it all works – when voting closes on the 18th Feb, everything will be algorithmically sorted, taking a number of factors into account – my global reach, impact on the vine platform, dedicated following (votes), social interactions, artistic merit etc. This means that with such a small following as mine I have to play the game in order to stand a chance of going to NYC.
The Shorty Awards could be instrumental in my career now and thats completely terrifying. But after much wrestling and emotional wrangling I’ve concluded that if this is a way to get to New York (and I have ALWAYS wanted to go) then I should regard it as an opportunity to do my best, to expand my networks and to maybe sell some of the drawings that I have been making over the years… so then… Bring it on Shorty. I now find myself in the midst of a ‘vote for me’ kind of campaign with Facebook, Twitter and Vine at the end of my fingertips. I am dedicating time to being in the studio in the creation of new content and I am in constant dialogue on Social Media and in real life with people either encouraging or thanking them for their votes. In short I am playing the game and with voting closing on the 18th Feb there is still some way to go. I made contact with the other nominees and had some great support with them all offering similar advice – to take it easy and keep doing what I was doing before. The prospect of an award shouldn’t change the very thing which gave me merit in the first place – the Vine community are behind me no matter the outcome here and that feels pretty cool.
I realise now that I started this process as a way of bringing people into the studio and sharing my artistic practice. I realise now that the Social Media ‘strategy’ that I conceived and executed worked (beyond my wildest expectations) so much so that there are now people in my studio with me whenever they choose just by watching a Vine. I don’t know who, where or what they are but I know that the private little world that I so carefully constructed is suddenly somehow OUT THERE…BEYOND ME… IN THE CLOUD. Somehow, somewhere I am still drawing… these moments that are so focussed and so rare and intimate are constantly replaying for my audience. Am I in control anymore?! Of course I am, but somehow knowing that my fate (or one of my life’s many fates) is now in the hands of voters across the world it doesn’t make me feel secure or easy but somehow it is what I asked for. I got what I wanted. I wanted to be recognised.
Overwhelmingly the support from people on all sides has been phenomenal: Votes, Shares, Likes, Tweets, Retweets, Mentions, Comments, ReVines – the lot. Its exhausting. I am exhausted. Its taken over my life but the process of Vining and now Voting has necessitated such a strong engagement with people and has undoubtedly succeeded in bringing me closer to my audience. People comment that they feel like they are now part of the journey with me, that they can play a role in the making of my art with me, that they are championningmy art to succeed and that feels priceless. Its something that I am only just acknowledging as I type.
I needed to type up this experience. I needed to share this anxiety at being exposed and having my artistic practice laid bare. I needed I guess to take an hour out of it all and just type how I feel.
I don’t know whether anyone is still going to be reading this blog 2,000 words later (the timer has chimed and snoozed 4 times and the gin is well drunk by the way) but if you have then thank you, its been important to share and to do a bit of self recognition amidst this weird and surreal experience. I’ll update on here with the outcome. I’m sure that I won’t be going to the Big Apple in April but that was never the goal… I wanted to make the making of my art more reciprocal, involved and recognised, I wanted to be closer to people and feel less isolated. I wanted to connect and if it has happened to happen this way, then so be it.
Oh, and yes… vote here if you want! http://shortyawards.com/8th/evansalexevans You can vote once per day until the 18th Feb – If you share on FB or Twitter it counts twice! I am so thankful for your support.
Oh and hopefully see you on Vine sometime?! I’m sure you must be curious! It would be great to connect and deepen the already thriving community of artists on Vine making, sharing and recognising each others work.
Thanks for reading