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How Old Art Guy Became an Online Magazine

If you had told me five years ago that I would have an online magazine, I would have laughed derisively.  For that matter, if you would have told me five years ago that I would have a website at all, again I would have doubled up laughing.


After I dipped my toe into the art world, fellow artists kept telling me that I needed a website.  My response was always the same: “I don’t need no stinkin’ website.”  I assumed---and I think correctly---that folks aren’t likely to purchase art while viewing it on a computer or even worse a telephone.  I sure as heck didn’t want to waste my energy on a project which wasn’t going to profit me in some way.


As fate would have it, my nice new computer crashed.  Upon reflection, I think the cause of the crash was me: “I have met the enemy and it’s me.”  Anyway, I lost my hard drive.  It died: I was able to save nothing, nada, zip.  I assure you that if this happens again, I’ve got it covered.  I have Carbonite and a backup hard drive.  In other words, I’m wearing a belt and suspenders.


I was able to find sources---old emails, DVD’s, flashdrives, etc.--- for most of the important stuff I lost.


I took my moribund computer off to Bryan to get a new hard drive and replace all the programs I had lost.  After a couple of days, Mac Resources called to say that the job had been completed.  I rushed off to Bryan, paid the piper, and rushed home with my computer and its new hard drive.  Shoot!  Mac Resources forgot to load the iPhoto program.  My computer and I rushed back to Bryan to have them load the program.  When I got there, they told me I would have to wait about thirty minutes.  Impatience got the best of me, and I asked if they had a disc with the program on it.  “Yeah, it’s over there on a disc with a couple of other programs.”  I paid them, picked up my computer, rushed home, and loaded the iPhoto program.  I was at peace with the world once again.


After loading the iPhoto program, I took a better look at the disc I had purchased.  “Garageband,” that sounds useless to me.  Hmmm...Iweb.  That sounds like a website creator.  As you probably realize, computer programs don’t come with written instructions, so I loaded the program and began to explore this Pandora’s box.  Interesting.  The program had all kinds of bells and whistles, and I had soon mocked up a page.  After a couple of weeks, I had a decent looking potential website sitting on my desktop.  The Apple program is different from most website creators: to create most  sites, one goes to the server, wherever that might be, and one works on it there.  The Apple program allows one to create a website on one’s desktop and send it to a server.  Because the program was so different, Apple acted as its own server.  The server was a
temporary arrangement to allow other servers who were in the server business to catch up.  After a few months, Apple notified me that it was time to move on; other servers were available.  I chose one in Canada, Webhost.  After a few misunderstandings and dozens of telephone calls and emails, I was able to get my website name transferred from GoDaddy to Webhost and my website also transfered to Webhost.  Truthfully, it was a nightmare which tested my endurance.  When Apple was my server, I just clicked on a button and there my website was on the internet.  I suppose I paid Apple something for publishing my website; it must have been a pretty small amount because I don’t recall.  After all, they never wanted to be in the business in the first place.


A word of advice to anyone who potentially may consider creating a website: purchase your website name from the same company you wish to publish your site.  It’s certainly not impossible to transfer the title to another company, but it will strain the patience of a billy goat.


Okay, I have a website.  I decided that it would be a good place to promote my “art.”  Instinctively, I knew it was a terrible place to try to sell art.  Who in their right mind is going to purchase art based on a digital image on a computer, but I thought it would be a good place to share my art with others...it couldn’t hurt.


Along the way, I became a member of a local art group, Arts at the Lake.  They had purchased a domain name a couple of years before I became aware that they intended to have a website.  They didn’t seem to be making much progress in creating one, so I volunteered to act as the webmaster and did create a site for them which I piggybacked on my Iweb program.  After the nightmare I had come to expect in dealing with title sellers and servers, I had them up and running, artsatthelake.org.  I still maintain the site for them.


Okay, I have a website.  So?  It was about ten pages long.  The opening page carried the bulk of the information: biographical information, a list of the galleries I had at the time, the website and email addresses of artist friends from Somerville, and then I had a few pages of galleries of paintings of mine broken down into groups such as cats, dogs, roundheads, oldie-modies, etc.


It was a pretty website with basically a black background, good for displaying images against.  I emailed the few people I had on my contact list.  I didn’t have a counter on the site so I didn’t have any idea how few people actually found the site.


Once again, I have a website.  So?


I had begun to write essays.  The purpose of writing these was to have something for my pallbearers to read at my funeral.  I thought perhaps I’d have a small book published and have them available so that they could have a chuckle or two, not that they wouldn’t be chuckling anyway.  It was a way of having the last word...something all of us want.


One day, an epiphany: I could place these on my website and perhaps tweak the interest of potential viewers.  Besides it gave me a place to put my essays so that someone might read them.  That’s the purpose of writing, isn’t it, to have someone read the writing?  The pallbearers will just have to settle for a soft drink and a nice sandwich.


Okay.  Once again, so?  Once again an epiphany: I’m not the only person in the world who can write essays.  Surely some of my friends would like to express themselves in this format.  I wrote several encouraging them to make an essay contribution.  Many were in the sixty to one foot in the grave age, but many
others were mere youngsters, thirty to fifty.  You would have thought that I had asked them to become pedophiles.  Finally, my friend, Bill, whom I worked with as a fellow teacher in Somerville and with whom I have maintained a lasting friendship, came through with an essay, “Dreams of a Frustrated Gardener,” exactly what I was looking for: not overly intellectual, something that almost anyone could relate to.


I was still thinking of my website as a place to show my art and stick my essays with friends making contributions.


The number of friends making essay contributions grew after Bill’s essay: Paul Hord, Milton Watts, Grady Arnold, Marc Lockard, Sue Ann Lockard, Bill Neinast, Robert Pankey, Samantha DeMont, Elsa, Hendrik Bergen, and John Grant.  I also had some poets join my website: Lisa Hughes, David Carlton, Hendrik Bergen (also an essayist), and Tami Bachert.


Another epiphany: it doesn’t cost me anything extra to include as many people as possible.  What about other artists whom I know and like.  I put together a prototype page for my artist friend Cheryl Wooten.  I asked her permission to
add it to my website.  “Go for it.”  In spite of the goofy photo I had available for the site, she gave me her blessing.  I kept asking friends if they would like a page, and once they understood what I was doing, readily approved their inclusion.  Many of them already had websites.  Some of them had no idea how to make changes to their sites because someone else had originally set up the site for them.  Others simply didn’t have a website and being computer handicapped didn’t encourage them to create one.  Today, we have thirty-six “guest artists” on the site.

Another epiphany: my site is beginning to resemble a magazine. 


Well, if I’m going to try to present my website as an online magazine, I’ll need to push my “art” way to the back.  I did that by having only a couple of obscure points from which to acquire my stuff.


I tried to make the homepage look more like a traditional magazine and am constantly trying to simplify the layout so folks won’t get lost in the maze of pages, about 300 presently.  Heck, there are over a hundred guest essays, nearly a hundred of my own essays, fifteen guest authors, and thirty-five guest artists with their own pages.


The website is truly a labor of love for me.  Most of the folks who contribute to the website I seldom see in person, but do have regular conversations with them via the internet.  It makes an old guy feel as though he’s still relevant, even if it’s just an illusion.  There’s a story behind each contributor to the website.  Some times they’re old friends like Bill Tune (We taught together for several years.) and Cheryl Wooten (She and her partner sponsored my first art show.).  Other times they’re just folks I fortuitously bump into like Bill Neinast (I met Bill when he was a greeter at the hospital where Linda was having an operation on her broken foot.) and Robert Pankey (A fellow I met by banging on the locked door of his wife’s studio.).  Other times they’re people from the past like Tami Bachert (A student of mine from the 80’s who just showed up one day in an email.).  Often the artists I seek out are folks whose work I really admire when I see them in galleries.  Some times they just show up wanting to be on the site.  As I say on the website, “These guys are good.”


So I went from, “I don’t need no stinkin’ website,” to oops, I have a website for my “art,” to I have a website for my essays, to I have a website for other folk’s writing, to I have a website for other people’s art, to...I have an online magazine.


Very cool.

enough