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Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Established collage artist Michael Anderson with his work on display at the Claire Oliver Gallery in Manhattan, where he currently has a solo show. (Photo By Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

USA Today

March 21, 2011

El Mac’s graffiti art — spray-painted on walls across the globe — sometimes stretches multiple stories high and half a city block long. His larger-than-life portraits are inspired by Mexican and Chicano art, religious iconography, local personalities in the neighborhoods where he paints, and the classical artists he has studied since childhood, such as Vermeer and Caravaggio.

But on Facebook, his massive murals look more like postage stamps. Though the Web allows for slightly larger images, seeing his work online can’t compare with the real thing. And without the context of a location, his cultural or political message is sometimes diminished or lost.

For the Los Angeles-born artist, now based in Phoenix, figuring out how to best use social media and other virtual platforms has been a conundrum.

“I think I’m still trying to figure it all out,” says El Mac, 30, whose real name is Miles MacGregor. “It’s got to be a sign of the future, but it’s a devilish sort.”

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By Joey Veltkamp 'Joey and Dave (at Kim's 40th bday), 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20.” Painter Joey Veltkamp is an artist based in Seattle.

El Mac is like a lot of visual artists wondering how much weight a Web presence carries. Artists — like scores of others in less visual fields — are struggling with how to use the potential of the new media for marketing, networking, selling their wares and, for some, making their solitary workday a little less lonely.

Many artists say they value the beauty of Web surfing and discovering a gem of a painting, the pleasure of meeting other creative souls they might otherwise never have known, and debating critics and bloggers. But they also see the limitations of the virtual world and grapple with how much time to spend online away from their studios.

For many visual artists online, one of the biggest hurdles is that the aesthetic experience is lost on the viewer. A picture online doesn’t translate size, as El Mac discovered. The thickness of paint, the way sunlight plays on a surface and changes throughout the day, the texture of a sculpture or woven fabric against your hand — diminished or nil.

Some fields, though, such as photography, are less affected. Photographer Marco Di Lauro says he got on Facebook “about two or three years ago without having a specific aim in mind.”

“As I was adding people, I realized that most of the photo editors at magazines and newspapers are on Facebook. I have about 3,900 ‘friends’ now — most involved in the photo industry,” says Di Lauro, who’s based in Rome and shoots for Getty Images around the world.

While jobs come through his agency, Di Lauro uses Facebook to show his photos and network. For instance, last month he posted a link to a photo that earned him an international award. He says colleagues and friends also use Facebook to send him messages now. “Facebook is becoming like an e-mail service, plus a lot of other things,” he says.

And while he uses it mostly professionally, Di Lauro admits to a little non-work surftime. “It’s fun to look at the women,” he says with a laugh.

Soho painter and photographer Laura Levine says she jumped on Facebook a few years ago to reconnect with musicians she hung out with 20-some years ago. Levine, 52, one of New York’s prolific rock ‘n’ roll photographers in the 1980s, shot for Rolling Stone, among others.

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