It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since I decided to dedicate a website to The Cyber Art Show! I’m sure my Boomer friends can relate to the feeling that lately the days, weeks and years are flying by like leaves in a windstorm. Once upon a time I had visions of writing a weekly blog, but the hours and days of the week go by so quickly, I barely have time to meet my daily deadlines.
TCAS Sees Steady Growth
I am happy to report that The Cyber Art Show has quadrupled its subscriber base in one year, from 300 to 1200+!
The More Things Change...
The basic formula for the series hasn’t changed much. TCAS still features a dozen images of nature landscape Impressionism each day by artists I find deserving of wider exposure. Using Facebook as a home base, I post these artworks at regular intervals, interspersing the work of contemporary artists with those of public domain artists from the past 150 years or so. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from new, exciting painters as well as the rich and varied history of previous landscape Impressionists.
While skill levels vary from relative beginners to world-class painters, I continue to try and select those artists and artworks which I feel my growing audience will find interesting or compelling. Occasionally I will have the honor of featuring a true master, a Richard Schmid or a Marc Hanson, but most of the series is dedicated to those everyday painters who ply their craft hoping to get better and display their work to a wider audience. As much as I admire a world-class artist, I have long championed the artistic underdogs—those painters and poets and musicians driven as much by passion as by expertise. As a curator, the biggest thrill I get personally is introducing an artist’s work to my audience for the first time.
One Year Later: State of the Art Show
Why Nature Landscape Impressionism?
I am routinely asked why TCAS doesn’t branch out into other painting genres. This is a fair question with a multi-faceted answer. The simplest explanation is that nature landscape art is my personal favorite type of visual expression. But having a fully-developed philosophy of aesthetics, I can offer a deeper answer.
The Artist as Aesthete
The cornerstone of my personal philosophy of aesthetics is the belief that any true artist is an aesthete—an appreciator of physical beauty in one form or another. There are ontological and teleological theories which support the idea that man is equipped with higher cognitive function in order to comprehend God and/or creation. This is why one can go anywhere on earth and find people who can appreciate the natural beauty of land and sky and water. Earth’s physical nature is the very manifestation of creation, and artists, perhaps more than other people, realize that our own sentient perception is an extension of creation. Instead of using their higher cognitive function to separate themselves from the animals on one end and ideas of divinity on the other, many artists use their artistic expression to forge an existential connection to themselves, creation and other people. In the context of their own personal creativity, artists recognize the overarching ideas of nature’s universal form, design and structure.
Beauty is Truth
The ancient Greeks handed down an adage which still resonates with me centuries later: “Where there is Beauty, Truth is near.” More specifically, I believe that physical beauty itself is a form of truth and can be expressed in infinite ways. Because each person experiences reality via their own unique sentient perception, all truth is realized individually. Unlike consensus reality, which is a social contract, perception and expression are individual human characteristics.
If we were to line up a dozen artists in a field and have them each paint the same tree, we would get a dozen different, unique artworks. This subjectivism is what gives art its considerable power. It is also why those who follow TCAS never seem to tire of seeing depictions of trees and fields, oceans and mountains, sunrises and sunsets.
Genre Counts: Context versus White Noise
TCAS does not feature portrait, still-life or figurative works, as these genres are exhaustively displayed on other sites. By featuring nature landscape Impressionism exclusively, I am mining a niche that I recognized from the very beginning of my Facebook experience.
In terms of subject matter, I find much of what passes for postmodern art is expression I consider self-indulgent and pointless. Much of this expression is bereft of discernible meaning or context, more white noise in a world suffering the ill effects of informational entropy. This observation is not meant to condemn any painter, style or genre, but offered as a contrast with The Cyber Art Show’s solid context of nature landscape Impressionism. Nor do I feel my choice of genres is somehow limited. Within TCAS’s one specific genre are found numerous painting styles which range from hyper-realism to abstract works, and mediums from watercolors to oil to pastels.
I Need Your Support More Than Ever
Make no mistake, The Cyber Art Show is labor-intensive. I still average about 5-6 hours a day researching new art and artists, establishing connections and permissions, downloading digital images, researching biographical information and doing the actual web-page layout. Updating the monthly archives is also time-consuming.
Recently I approached the Maine Art Commission to see if they could get me some help but they declined, maintaining that unless my series featured Maine artists exclusively, they could not support it. I was hoping to find a high school or college student who is well-versed in Search Engine Optimization and could kick The Cyber Art Show into viral orbit. No such luck. If anyone can refer me to someone with this knowledge, I would greatly appreciate it. As I do the series for the love of art and have no operational budget, I would need someone else motivated by the same thing.
And finally...after putting together an Art Show for 1,300 consecutive days and surviving a harrowing and relentless Maine winter, I recently noticed the tell-tale signs of burn-out. So instead of working seven days a week, I have decided to take Sundays off. I need to take advantage of any good weather and nourish my soul by hiking the beautiful Maine woods. And while Maine is a gorgeous, inspirational place to live, it has a very-short warm season. For two consecutive years we have lost April, May and October to cold and rain. So this makes my off-time even more valuable.
In addition to communing with nature, I also need to attend to my own art. Like Sisyphus rolling the damn rock up the hill, I am always doing battle with my own novel. In terms of producing music, I am between projects right now, but writing music for a solo album.
As long as I feel there is an audience and an appetite for it, I will continue to curate a daily Cyber Art Show. I will remind you that TCAS is FREE to both viewers and artists. As I still wish to preserve a pristine aesthetic environment in which to display artworks, I have chosen not to rely on commercial advertising. If you enjoy my daily efforts, financial donations of any size are greatly appreciated. I am on a fixed income now, so any and all contributions help.
ART IS SANITY, so as always, I wish to thank every single one of you for supporting the Arts!
General Guidelines For Future Potential TCAS Artists
Here are just a few basic TCAS guidelines for consideration:
1. I prefer square digital images rather than horizontal or vertical ones. I don’t wish to get into cropping an artist’s work.
2. All images must be titled, even if the title of the piece is “Untitled.”
3. All Artist Bios must be written in the third-person. I reserve any first-person quotes for the “Artist’s Statement.” The Bio doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just 3-5 paragraphs detailing your education (formal or informal), influences and art-group affiliations. If you need help rewriting your Bio, I am glad to assist. I once made my living as a freelance copyeditor.
4. I favor artists who have an active presence on Facebook. When I see that artwork folders haven’t been updated for over a year, I usually move on.
As The Cyber Art Show is based on Facebook, I prefer artists who interact with those who offer their comments. It is not essential that this happens in real time, but preferably within a week of when their Feature appears.
5. I favor those artists who have a website dedicated to their art. This shows both professionalism and the desire for exposure.
Meet The Curator
Keith Linwood Stover
A multi-faceted creative expressionist, Keith Linwood Stover has refined his artistry for four decades. A novelist, musician, lyricist, art curator and philosopher, Stover has explored the horizons of various art-forms, including novels, short stories, song lyrics, essays, newspaper journalism, rock music and photography, challenging himself in each medium by pushing the boundaries of his craft.
A freelance writer, Stover, 59, has published journalism and criticism on music, sports, politics and popular culture throughout New England for three decades. He studied English Literature, creative writing and philosophy at the University of Maine.
Stover completed his first literary novel, Whistler’s Father, in 2005. Pig Nation, his second novel, is a cross-genre political thriller, science fiction and urban fantasy, completed in April of 2010. The author’s current novel-in-progress is titled Saint Nothing, a paranormal fiction story about an eccentric young artist.
After 40 years in the music field, Keith recently produced The Stockton Project's debut album, American Rock. In addition to composing 10 of the 15 songs, he sang lead vocals, played bass guitar and keyboards on the recording.
Keith is a resident of coastal Maine and a member of the Maine Arts Commission.
So here is the maiden voyage of the new improved TCAS! Or at least I am hoping it is improved. I feel like the kid who has a nice new bike, but requires training wheels to ride it. Obviously it is going to take some time for me to tweak the finer points of web design. But I can share with you my thought process in the meantime.
Facebook was beginning to feel cramped for me. The simple issue of repetitively typing the words CLICK ON INDIVIDUAL IMAGES was a pain because so often, people didn't bother. I knew this because some of these same viewers would come on the TCAS thread later and exclaim, "Wow! I just saw the full image. What a difference!" So there was that.
The biggest motivation for me to go offsite was simply the size of the digital image display (yes, sometimes size DOES matter). Instead of posting 15-30 smaller images a day, I will now look to feature 6-10 high-quality digital images a day. The expanded image area affords the viewer a much-closer look at all the elements that make up a great painting--composition, framing, brushstroke technique, etc.
This leads us to the discussion of display presentation. The design tools for this particular website, like most, are powerful and versatile. There are numerous display options, ranging from cascading tiles, to masonry walls to slide-show presentations. I tried many of these features and ultimately chose none of them, opting instead for a simple scroll-down display of TCAS paintings. In keeping with our new motto, "Bringing the Museum to You," I think this old-school style is fitting. And while I also have the option of putting an actual digital "frame" around these paintings, I would never choose to. This is simply a matter of personal preference. I do not like the look of these picture frames in a digital display. They take up valuable layout space, add nothing to the paintings themselves and can sometimes detract from the on-line viewing experience. This is one of the times I am glad I am the boss. :)
Beyond this, I see no advantage in making wholesale changes to TCAS. I think the series has become popular for several reasons, one of them being the fact that I keep things fairly simple and consistently uniform. TCAS is a known quantity, in many respects, to many viewers. The emphasis has always been on featuring quality works by wonderfully-gifted artists. While I could go into deeper details about the technical aspects of each painting, I choose not to. Part of the reason for this is that I do not paint or draw myself. As curator, I feel that in some respects this actually gives me the advantage of some form of objectivity. They say "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing;" sometimes it can be a good thing, too.
For me, the ultimate criteria of a superior painting is the visceral reaction it produces in me. I don't need a detailed knowledge of either materials or technique to ascertain this. If I were a REAL curator, of course, I would need as much knowledge as I could gather about each piece. But face it, these are but small digital images on a computer. Anyone who is serious about painting and curious about these artists and their works can and will research them further on their own.
The same thing applies to the Artist Bio. The internet has spawned a state of informational entropy that is mind-numbing. Too much information is a form of attrition which daily wears us all down. A couple of paragraphs of key information about a given painter should suffice for the purpose of calling attention to his or her respective artworks. Anyone thoroughly intrigued by a TCAS artist always has the option of going to Google for more background information. And this allows the site to move with cat-feet fluidity on a daily basis.
While my personal Philosophy of Aesthetics is deep and complex, my philosophy of web-page design and layout is not. I wish to keep it clean, simple and easy-on the eye. In researching art each day, I visit dozens of sites a week. Many of them are so busy that they make my head hurt. I believe that clean space, easy-to-read fonts and simple, user-friendly layout will afford TCAS viewers a better artistic experience. I want the emphasis to be on great art, not a circus of bells and whistles. Ultimately, of course, YOU will be the judge. As always, I will be relying on your input and feedback to judge what is working and what isn't and why. Comments are welcome both here and on my Facebook page. I believe the comment section here is limited for now (they want more $$ to accommodate more comments), so Facebook is still the best place for interactive discussion.
The reasons behind this momentous move are spelled out in even greater detail below, in The History of The Cyber Art Show. Anyone interested in how the series began and why we are transitioning to our own site should read it.
And lastly, I wish to personally thank my good friend Greta Sproul, who actually did much of the technical layout for this site. She has basically done the design work I have suggested, while I have concerned myself with text and images. Please keep in mind this maiden voyage is a shakedown cruise in many ways. In six months or a year it may look and be totally different. But I think it's a great starting point for the next part of our epic creative and artistic journey together. I look forward to learning and exploring along-side all my good cyber friends! BON VOYAGE!!
The History of the Cyber Art Show
March 31, 2014 marks four years since I joined Facebook. Right from the beginning, my social media interaction revolved around the sharing, appreciation and analysis of all types of art. In my fifth decade as a freelance writer, musician and conceptual artist, I found the internet a remarkably-powerful tool for the exchange of creative ideas and information. As a veritable repository for human civilization, the web offers instantaneous access to a treasure trove of digital text, images and music files. Advances in technology and sites like Facebook have enabled virtually any computer user to tap into this repository and share the information that shapes our daily lives. For me, these posts have taken the form of essays, commentaries, short stories, novel excerpts, song files, photos and art images—thousands of them.
Concentrating on Impressionistic nature landscapes in the Public Domain, I began dedicating four hours each day to researching art and artists, posting and sharing 10-50 images a day. After posting 5-10,000 images the first two years on Facebook, I refined the displays by formatting them into a daily series of featured artists. Thus was born The Perpetual Cyber Art Show. As the original name is too unwieldy for cyber-space, this is a perfect time to change the series name to “The Cyber Art Show” (abbreviated TCAS).
While TCAS began as simply an expression of my appreciation for visual artwork, over time it has taken on mission and purpose: to expose to the world great artworks and artists, past and present, both those who have been swallowed by time and forgotten and those who today labor in relative obscurity. While bringing beauty into the daily lives of my friends, it also affords working artists free exposure for their works and websites. Today, features by contemporary artists from around the world comprise about 25% of The Cyber Art Show. I am hoping that this percentage grows in the future. While TCAS continues to celebrate legendary artists like Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir, the series seeks to shed light on numerous works by lesser-known artists.
I am proud to say that four years since joining Facebook, thousands of users see The Cyber Art Show on a daily basis. Over 300 are regular subscribers to this content. As the popularity of the series has grown, I have endeavored to expand the series beyond Impressionism to include genres such as Realism, Expressionism and contemporary works. While getting legal permissions to publicly display artworks can be tedious and time-consuming, I am also hoping to include more photography in the future.
The Purpose of this Website
After receiving input, support and suggestions from my Facebook audience, I have decided to feature The Cyber Art Show in an environment outside of Facebook—this sister site:
The reasons for this move are several:
1. To preserve the integrity of TCAS.
2. To offer TCAS in a context free of my other daily Facebook posts, which often include politics, music, literature, sports and popular culture.
3. To exhibit larger display images than is possible on Facebook.
4. To host an archived record of each TCAS series.
5. To enable anyone who wishes to donate funds to support my efforts as a viable, creative, freelance artist.
While I have sometimes been asked by viewers how they could financially support TCAS, I have always resisted such a notion. But due to several recent illnesses, I find myself in an untenable financial situation. Any donations will help enable me to continue to dedicate time and energy to preserving the quality of The Cyber Art Show.
Be assured that I have no interest in corporatizing TCAS. I intend to keep the series free and accessible to ALL who wish to appreciate great Art. Indeed, the freedom of Art itself has defined my life as a viable, working freelance artist. It has been very gratifying watching the popularity of the series grow with each passing month. I have made countless friendships as a result of The Cyber Art Show, which continues to be a daily labor of love. Thank you all so much for appreciating and supporting great Art!!
- K.L. Stover, Curator