I’m completely delighted to talk to Sandra Apperloo whose beautiful and popular blog ArtisticMoods showcases a different contemporary artist’s work each day. Sandra has an impressive Instagram following (135k) and runs a coaching programme to help creatives develop their own audience on social media, and she’s very kindly agreed to share her experience and some of her tips with us.
Can you give us some basics about Artistic Moods? How was it born?
ArtisticMoods was born in 2013, after I graduated from university. I started planning it during my last year, got myself a part time job at an office after graduating, and then started building the blog. Funny enough, my studies weren’t really related to art (I studied Language & Culture studies with a focus on Latin America) but it just made the most sense to me. Once I got the idea, I was so excited! I’ve always had a strong passion for art and digital communication was my favorite part of my studies. Now I’m very glad that I was so determined about my plans back then.
How do you find and choose the artists whom you feature on the blog?
I find many artists online. On Instagram and Pinterest, and on other blogs too. Sometimes I meet them at events, or I come across artworks in galleries or shops. The reason I choose to feature an artist is always simple: I select the ones I love. For me it’s very important to focus on the type of arts that are closest to my heart. I feel that this gives the blog a certain aesthetic. It also keeps the job fun for me. I can get such a rush out of discovering a new artist I love. It’s such a great feeling!
Can we talk about your blog first? How did you get interested in the internet in the first place, and were you a techie person before that?
Haha, not so much. I had actually built another website before the blog, but that was long ago and I don’t even remember the name of the outdated program that I used. Getting a bit more techie was something I had to get my head around, but once the blog was online and I started using social media frequently, I really got into it. Though I must admit I try to keep most internet activities related to my blog. Because I spend a lot of time on this, I prefer to spend my free time in the “real world.” I don’t use my personal social media very frequently, for example.
You told me that you built the blog from scratch. What was your experience of doing so? Was it easy/difficult/a nightmare/really fun? Obviously you love the blogging part, but I am really thinking about at the outset when you had to create the website from scratch.
It was definitely an interesting process. I would say it was all four. Some parts were easy, some were way more difficult than I expected. Getting stuck with technical issues was a nightmare, and after that, when the site was online and I got into it, it was a lot of fun. I tried to choose a theme that allowed people to be introduced to a lot of different art when visiting the website, while still keeping it structured.
Are there any website-building tips you can pass on to others? Mistakes you made, things you wish you’d known before you began, or had done differently?
My number one advice would be to follow the instructions you are given. I often was too impatient to do this and then I would get completely stuck in a technical knot. So frustrating! When you build a website while following the steps, it’s really not that hard. But, really, DO follow those steps!
How quickly did your blog grow?
My blog grew quite consistently through the years, even though I really had no idea what to expect on that matter. The monthly amount of visitors I receive now is 30k, and I wouldn’t say that that is huge. But it’s enough to keep me going. My goal really isn’t to become the biggest blog out there. For me the main thing is that I have a big enough audience to showcase the things that I do and offer, so that I can get by and continue doing the things I love most.
Do you get a lot of interaction from your readers?
I do. And I love that. It’s really great to read comments I receive on blog updates and social media posts. It makes me feel that the work I do is appreciated. The only downside to this is that it’s hard to respond to all these messages, especially in busy times.
Have you got any advice for people wanting to start a blog?
My advice would be to make sure you write about a subject you are passionate about. Blogs are not interactive or commercial platforms when they are started – attracting an audience will take time. As it will require a lot of energy, focusing on a subject you are truly enthused about will help you push through.
What would be your best tips for growing a blog?
Social media is quite an obvious but valuable tool to help you grow your blog. Share updates, be interactive, get to know your audience and the platforms you are posting on. Also, update your blog consistently, so that your audience will know what to expect. Set yourself a goal of a certain number of posts you want to write a week, and be realistic in doing so.
What have been the most interesting experiences you’ve had since founding ArtisticMoods?
I frequently feature ceramics on my blog, which at one point made me curious. I decided to follow a ceramics course last spring and completely fell in love with the process and the artistic freedom I experienced. I now spend as much time as possible at a ceramics studio called Noot & Zo, trying out as many different techniques as possible and working towards creating my own collection. This is my most important experience, because working on ArtisticMoods has helped me grow in something I’m passionate about. Also, it makes me work with my hands more, which is something I’ve missed during busy times with the blog.
Every now and then I get asked to curate a selection of art for a gallery or publication. My most recent collaboration on this was with Create! Magazine, who asked me to select the artworks for one of their printed editions.
My most exciting, more personal blog adventure was my trip to Japan in 2015. I’m a huge fan of Japanese illustration and traveled there too meet and interview some my favorite Japan-based artists. Beside the fact that this was one of the most memorable trips of my life, I was blown away by the hospitality of the artists there. Every single person I contacted for an interview was open to welcome me, show me their studio and talk about their work. I was welcomed into such warm homes and amazing studios. And I got to meet with Hiroyuki Izutsu from the Tokyo Illustrators Society which was a huge honor!
A huge area of fascination for me is how artists use the internet to get the word out about their work and make sales. You’ve interacted with hundreds of contemporary artists through your blog… do a lot of these artists sell their work online? Do they have their own online stores? What ways do you mostly see artists using the internet to sell their art?
Yes, many artists sell their work online these days. It allows them to reach out to customers worldwide, which I think is a wonderful thing. Many artists sell through Etsy or Society6, and lots of them have their own online shop too. Some artists sell on several channels to spread out their customer network, which can be a smart thing to do
Do you see any clash between the worlds of art and technology or can they go perfectly well together?
Although some artists may disagree, I believe they can enhance each other. Being active on blogs and social media empowers artists. I do believe it can be a challenge for artists to combine the two at times though. For people who spend a lot of their time in their studio for example, this can require a lot of effort. I try to motivate people to somehow give internet activities a place in their routines as I do believe this is something they can benefit from greatly.
Social media has become a speciality of yours. When did you first get into it in a serious way?
When I decided to start a blog, about five years ago. Or actually, a little before that. I was a very active user of Pinterest. I loved how easy it was to discover new artists there. It was also my inspiration for starting a blog. Once I made up my mind to do that, I started sharing a lot of art on Facebook and Pinterest to build an audience. That way I already had a small network to whom I could announce the launch of my blog.
Which social media do you use most and why?
I’m most active on Instagram these days. It’s my favorite place to reach out to people and to get inspired by artists. Most of the people I talk to feel the same. Funnily enough I wasn’t active on Instagram until about three years ago. I hadn’t realized its potential until an artist recommended I start using it. Now it’s the most important channel I have to reach out to my audience.
What do you think your best tips would be to grow a huge social media following?
As with a blog, my advice is to be consistent with the updates that you share. Create a structure and a certain frequency so that your audience know what they can expect from you. Also, be passionate about the things that you post about.
My most important rule for sharing something on social media is that I really have to like it myself. Last, if you are an artist on social media, create a feed that expresses your art and style as adequately as possible. When someone new visits your profile on Instagram, it often does not take that person more than a few seconds to decide whether they are going to follow you or not. By presenting an accurate image of yourself it will be much easier for you to create an interactive audience that sincerely loves what you make.
Can you tell us more about your Social Media for Creatives program?
With Social Media for Creatives I give private online coaching sessions to artists who are looking to expand their online audience. I analyze their activities on channels like Instagram and Pinterest and give them suggestions on how to present themselves online and grow their network.
I have been coaching artists for about six months now and it is such a fun and rewarding thing to do. I decided to coach people through private sessions because this allows me to delve more deeply into their individual situations and goals. I love seeing their feeds blossom and grow. Many of them become more confident with their social media too, which is a lovely nice thing to see.
What have you found to be the major problems creatives come up against when using social media to promote their work?
Showcasing art in a consistent social media feed is important, and this is something I have noticed artists struggle with sometimes; sharing images that match well with each other and adequately express an artist’s voice. This can be hard for artists who don’t have much social media experience yet or who are spending a lot of time away from their computer. I help them to dedicate time to build a more consistent feed, with photo assignments for example, or by helping to define their style, so that they become more aware of this.
Have you got any plans for the future with Artistic Moods? Can you share your vision?
I enjoy working on ArtisticMoods as much as the day I started the blog. I want to continue with ArtisticMoods the way I’ve done these last years, and open an online shop as soon as I feel my ceramics are “good enough” for this. I will then most likely start sharing more of my own creations too, but I don’t think the main direction of the blog will change. Writing about my favorite artists is something that I will most likely continue to do for years to come.
Thank you, thank you, Sandra, for making time to answer my questions! You can visit Sandra’s blog at ArtisticMoods.com, find out more about her Social Media for Creatives coaching programme here, and see what she’s up to on Instagram here.