Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Timothy was born and raised in rural New England, where he was exposed to an appreciation of heritage and surroundings that greatly affected his work. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), in addition to pursuing brief programs at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Grand Central Academy. Timothy worked as a creative designer at Rogues Gallery before recently venturing into the fine art world. Since then, he has been the recipient of two fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center, the premiere recipient of the Carlo Pittore Foundation grant, as well as being recently collected with the updated rededication of Moby Dick, curated by Philip Hoare. He shows work at locations throughout coastal New England in addition to San Francisco. He currently lives with his cat, Luna, in Portland, Maine. He has a turquoise Nishiki bike that apparently everyone is jealous of.
Fictitious Facebook names, interrupting the process, and social media brain candy
As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
"Well, I definitely used AOL and MSN chat and everything, but I think my first extensive use was conceptart.org. It's for game designers and character artists and you post your sketch book and get feedback on your art. I started doing that when I was at RISD. I was about 17. I thought that the site was really cool because it gave me an opportunity to have my work critiqued and looked at by people who I thought at the time were pretty cool and worked in professions that I wanted to go into. It was an interesting way to communicate with them when otherwise they were not in my daily surroundings. I really liked that. When I first moved to Portland I got an apartment with someone I met through conceptart.org."
"I've been through a lot of blogs and each corresponded with different styles of things I was doing. With each iteration I would have my blog. I eventually realized that Tumblr was the most effective for me. Being a visual artist, because Tumblr so visual. Also, people will share and reblog your work if they like it. I mean, I have 1,100 or so Tumblr followers now, which I think is great. It's interesting to see where my work will get to. I'm not going to people and saying, 'Hey, exploit me!' but it's out there and Tumblr is a great resource that really allows people to spread the word."
"I got Facebook at the same time but I really used Tumblr more than Facebook. With Facebook I always wondered if posts should be personal or public. I've since moved into realizing that it's important for me to use Facebook as a public persona and every couple days I'll get random friend requests from artists and I'll realize they've seen my work, which is great. I used to have kind of a fictitious Facebook name and I realized that I should change it to my real name so that people can find me. There's something really interesting about—and I go through this as a visual artist in the same way—seeing artists studios and meeting artists. There's something interesting about when you've been exposed to their work and then you get to see who they are as a person. Facebook helps with that."
"I've just never used Twitter or Instagram because I don't have a good cell phone, but I think they're useful. At the same time I kind of want the work to speak for itself. I think it would be interesting to let people know when I was having a show or something, but at the same time I still would like to have a little bit of privacy. But, that's just me personally."
What do you like about social media?
"Let me see, I'm thinking in the broader sense, I feel like I'm probably so accustomed to it being sort of ubiquitous. Honestly, I think it's had such a profound impact overall that it's hard to pinpoint something in particular. But, just the fact that it's so easy to communicate ideas, and thoughts, and opinions. As opposed to when we read a news article. Those aren't supposed to have an opinion. Now, everyone is able to voice their own thoughts on a matter and reach out to other people that share that opinion. Everybody has the ability to have a voice."
"As an artist, it's great just because being an artist is such a solitary thing in most cases and it's made the process so much more accessible to people. For artists who don't live in larger cities you now can create work and expose it to lots of people and get some terrific notoriety without having to go to the place where everything is happening. You can really do your own thing and still have it resonate with the world."
"Because of social media I've also seen so much work that I wouldn't have been able to see which has been really inspiring. It's great in terms of the artistic scene. There are artists that I really idolize and respect, and just by being friends on Facebook I get to see the work that inspires them and how it effects their work. It's interesting to be able to tie together those influences and to see how their inspiration occurs. It puts a nice spotlight on their lives that really educates me."
What do you dislike about social media?
"There's a few things I can go over. In general, it frustrates me when I feel like people are ashamed to say they saw something (work or an idea) on Facebook. They'll say they saw it online instead of acknowledging that it was social media that exposed them. Overall, I think we just need to accept the fact that this is the new standard and there's nothing wrong with it. I mean, why be embarrassed that you were exposed to something that inspired you on social media?"
"Along the same lines, I know for myself as an artist, something I've had issues with is how sometimes I'll interrupt my process just to take a photo so that people can see what I'm working on. So that they can be excited about it. And, in doing so, I take myself out of what I'm doing and spend a half an hour trying to get the right lighting and the right photo instead of it just being a quick snapshot. And, then I post it and a half an hour later I realize that I hate it and I delete it. Now, I've just wasted an hour. Then I get frustrated with my own mindset for wanting to do it in the first place. It's tough because there is a lot of excitement in the desire to share things, but for me, I need to come to terms with setting up a better structure to do that."
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
"You know, I've tried doing that before and it's always so funny, I feel great for a few days and then there will be something I need, like someone's email that they sent me through a Facebook message, and than I sign back on and it's like, 'Ooooohhh, here's that brain candy I haven't had for so long!'"
"Even when I did this residency in Vermont, and I was determined that I was going to totally disconnect and focus on my work, the first thing that happened when I got there was, it was so beautiful that I wanted to take a photo and show everyone. I also had a show coming up that I wanted to publicize a little bit, so then I was like, 'Screw it, that didn't last very long.'"
"I think that if I were to actively negate social media from my life for a few months it would be healthy and I would be able to focus more. But, at the same time, there's always the 'what if.' You know, thinking that, 'If I don't post this painting how will someone reblog it, so that a gallery sees it, so I get a show?' I would love a lifestyle without social media but I feel like I need it for my career and to keep things going forward. I would love to be at the point where I didn't have to think about any of that. I'd be happy to get rid of Facebook and all of that stuff and really focus on the meaningful things that are in my surroundings, but it's just not where I am right now. So, I'm not going to even think about that."
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
"Entertaining. Addictive. Diversion."
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
Taylor Stitch Facebook
Martin Wittfooth @martinwittfooth
I want to thank Timothy for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Timothy on Facebook at: MrTimothyPowers
You can find Timothy on Tumblr at: BriefBits
Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.
Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).
Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg
His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).