Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on the First Thousand Posts

Yesterday, while I was writing this sentence, someone from the Czech Republic found this blog via Google Image Search. That person was the 919,308th visitor to Today's Inspiration. Imagine that!

Here's the image, a piece by Robert Fawcett, that brought this visitor to the blog...

Out of curiosity I tried typing "Robert Fawcett book" into Google Image Search. The piece, from my January 19, 2009 post on Fawcett, is the first result. Clicking on its thumbnail in GIS takes you to that day's post.

The Czech visitor subsequently stayed on the blog for 1 hour, six minutes and 37 seconds. They looked at sixteen pages of content. The last thing they clicked on before leaving was this piece by Bob Peak.

And then, without leaving any comment, they were gone. That sort of thing used to frustrate me; people who would visit who clearly had a genuine interest in the material I present (spending a substantial amount of time, perusing several pages). I'd wonder, why does this person, who must surely be a kindred spirit, not reach out? But then, I do the same thing all the time, visiting blogs, reading interesting content or perusing the images there and leaving without comment, so who am I to talk? The Czech visitor has excellent taste. Beyond that, I have no idea if they were male or female, old or young, an illustration professional or not -- and no way to contact them.

Frankly, when I started this blog in November, 2005 I never dreamed it would get nearly a million visits in less than 4 years. But then it never occurred to me that there would be a thousand posts here in that time span, or just how much information and artwork I could amass in just three and a half years of steady posting.

Since most readers, like our Czech visitor, are "blurkers" I must rely on my Sitemeter stats to give me an idea of who you are, where you come from, and what your interests are.

Here's a snapshot of a hundred visitors who dropped by at one point during the day yesterday (perhaps you will recognize your own visit on this list).

That certainly demonstrates the remarkable power of the Internet, doesn't it? Its wonderful to know that people all over the world are discovering - or rediscovering - the work of these great mid-century illustrators.

Of course a lot of those who arrive via Google Image Search aren't actually hoping to find art or info on 50's illustrators. Try typing "Esquire Girls" into GIS and see what comes up. Go ahead, I'll wait 'til you get back.

Interesting, huh? Yeah, after all these years (as we in advertising have always known) "sex sells".

In fact, checking the stats on my Flickr archives, I discovered that the following ten images were all in the top twenty most viewed in my archives. See if you can spot the commonality:

All of those images had over 4,000 views each. But here's a quandary: the single most viewed image in my Flickr archives? This page from an Al Parker step-by-step demo I posted 10 months ago has been viewed nearly 15,000 times!

What's up with that?!

Compared to the next most popular images in my collection, that image has more than twice as many views!

I even asked at the time when I first posted the image and noticed immediately that its view-count took off like a bat outta hell, but so far no one has commented on where they found the link that brought them to this image.

And here it is again, climbing the daily rankings, beating out other more recent (and, I think, more interesting) images.

Incidentally, did you notice that stat for how many times my entire image archive has been viewed? Wow!

There are nearly 7,000 images in my Flickr archives, organized by artist name or general subject (auto ads, sports, etc.) and all but a hundred or so are mid-century illustrations.

Recently I've been corresponding with a researcher from England who's conducting a study comparing the stats of *official* institutional websites that provide digitized visual content to the sites of "amateur enthusiasts" (people like me) who provide similar content "in our spare time" (ha). I gave her access to my sitemeter statistics and she was blown away. Apparently some of these well funded full-time organizations get a fraction of the traffic in a year that Today's Inspiration gets in a week. Huh.

The researcher asked me if I would be doing this ( researching information, collecting and scanning images, and writing related content ) if no one was watching; and I had to think about that for a minute. Ultimately, I suppose I would... but I doubt it would be with such regularity. Its the many friends and acquaintances I've made by providing this "place for those with an interest in 40's and 50's illustration" that motivates me to invest the time, effort and money to pursue this endeavor so vigorously. And without the generosity with which so many have shared their knowledge, their resources and their moral support, this blog would be a pale shadow of what it is today.

Years before the TI blog there was a Today's Inspiration daily mailing list. Here's one of the scans I sent out to the group back then, when that list had less than a hundred people on it. Its by Len Steckler, a former Cooper Studio artist.:

I couldn't have imagined that one day a few years later I'd be getting an email like this:

Hi Leif
My friend Tom Sawyer sent me the image I did... I can't remember the date, and I even forgot about painting it. I want to thank you for your interest in this work it's extremely gratifying. For your information I am still creating images, as I have almost all my life .


Isn't that cool? And the friend Len referred to is another artist whose career has been showcased here on the blog, Thomas B. Sawyer. This past spring, while attending the NCS Reubens Awards in L.A., I had the immense pleasure of meeting Tom in person when he graciously invited me and my wife, Wendy, to join him and his lovely wife Holly for lunch at their beautiful home.

There, in the presence of one of my illustration idols, I was shown a portfolio of the actual originals of illustrations like the one below, which Tom drew back in the 60's and 70's.

Such are the priceless rewards of maintaining this blog from week to week and year after year.

But in spite of the pleasure I derive from this daily, um, obsession?, the day has come when I need to admit that I devote more time to TI than I ought to. Like most every other illustrator I know, the last few months of this recession have kicked the crap out of my business. Illustrators are struggling more than ever to make a living and I'm determined not to become a casualty.

That means investing more of my time to producing new samples and figuring out new marketing and promotion strategies - time I would otherwise rather devote to this blog.

So for a while, Today's Inspiration will return to more of what it began as: a scan a day, intended to inspire - but presented without commentary. Well, maybe just a little commentary. Occasionally, I'll still do a complete week on a specific artist (there are already plans under way for several such weeks) and I have enlisted several contributors to guest-author the blog now and then. This will give me some breathing room to focus more of my attention on my "real" job; being an illustrator.

There will be another thousand posts on this blog... there are too many artists whom we have not yet celebrated... too much history still left undocumented. I hope you'll join me on the journey.

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