Helen Klebesadel, Borromean Knot Mandala II, watercolor, 20x18

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how everything is connected. I’m sharing images of my new watercolors of ‘Knot Mandalas ’ currently on display in the community gallery of the Wendt Engineering Library on the UW-Madison campus in an exhibition entitles ‘Knots, Braids, and Twinings.’ Check it out if you are in Madison. It will be up until January. I will include the exhibition statement for the show at the end of this blog entry, but first I want to discuss social networking and share some materials I put together for a presentation (recycling at its best).

Last week I was asked to present to speak to the Art Matters Art Network (a group of artists and arts organizations in Racine and Kenosha coming together to share promotion of the arts in their communities) at the Racine Art Museum (a beautiful facility in a community that clearly values the arts) on the topic of using social media to further your career as an artist. The visit was arranged by Wisconsin Arts Board staff person Mark Fraire as part of his work with other WAB staff to support and grow Wisconsin Creative Communities.  If you would like to hear about WAB events and gatherings, or receive the daily arts newsletter sign up for the mailing ist here.

We had a rousing evening discussing the difference between using social media for ‘marketing’ your art and using it to build creative community (I’m an advocate for the latter). One participant, Francisco Loyola, who maintains the website Expose Kenosha, ask what I thought was a key question, “What would you have been doing before social networking tools were available differently than you are doing now with them?” The key word in that question was ‘tools.’ Francisco and I agreed that the impulse to build creative community, share our art, and make our organizations and the work they do visible was the same. What is different now is access to the incredible social networking tools at our disposal to help us do it.

I am doing the same things I did before just more effectively. I would have been sharing and working to make my art and teaching visible to those people I thought of as my audience.  I would have been seeking creative community through organizations and groups that shared my interests and concerns, and I would have been sharing the information I came across along the way on my journey in the hopes that others would join me in celebrating and supporting the importance of the arts to our humanity.

I am not an expert but I have been slowly working my way through the social networking maze and I am willing to share what I have discovered so far. It is important that each artist that starts out on this journey remember to go at their own pace, and to do one thing at a time. I started with a website and have developed from there as my time and attention allow. Using my own journey as a template I shared the following with the Art Matters group:

Create an Artist Website:
My first website was the free Portal Wisconsin On-line Gallery available to all Wisconsin artists to apply to. Most states probably have some venue like this or an arts organization that will help you develop your firsts web presence.

The visibility the Portal Wisconsin Gallery has provided has led to several opportunities for me, from being invited to use my art for a book cover to being asked to allow the use of my art on CDs given as pledge premiums for one of my favorite Wisconsin Public Radio shows, To the Best of Our Knowledge.

The Portal Wisconsin website is sponsored collaboratively by the members of the Wisconsin Cultural Coalition, and made up our most important public cultural organizations that all Wisconsinites should know about. Use the website to add your events and find out what’s happening across the state. The Cultural Coalition of Wisconsin is made up of partner members  that include the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; Wisconsin Arts Board; Wisconsin Historical Society; Wisconsin Humanities Council; Wisconsin Library Association; Wisconsin Public Radio; Wisconsin Public Television; and University of Wisconsin-Extension–Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning.

I maintain my presence in the Portal Wisconsin Gallery even though I now have me own website and blog. I am lucky enough to have a web savvy sister who helped me develop my personal website (thanks Deb) but there are now tons of venues available to artists now. Look for other artists who have websites you like and ask them how they did it.

The Art Matters group talked about the incredible resources, opportunities, and information now available through blogs, and I shared the tool Google Reader, which allows you to follow many blogs on your own schedule.

Image Management.

Flickr is an on-line image management system developed for photographers to share their images, but it has become much, much more. It is an invaluable tool for all visual artists with an on-line presence. I’ve just started to explore its potential, which includes creating small slide shows of some of my art which can be shared in other web applications.

©2010 Helen R Klebesadel, Knot Mandela IV, Watercolor, 20x18

Art Sales Sites:
I have several places I make my paintings, prints and related items available on-line:

I am pleased to have my watercolors and giclees prints available for sale on the Artful Home website (previously GUILD.com). This site functions like a brick and mortar gallery in that after an artists is juried in and pays an initial fee to join the site takes 50% of sales. I think the fee is well worth it because of the international reach of site’s art collecting audience and the work they do to market and make the site and its artists visible.

I also have two self-maintained on-line stores. This kind of venue is useful for artists willing to work hard to drive traffic to their stores themselves. They are very easy to use in terms of uploading art and maintaining a sales site that is easy for a buyer to use, but your audience will only find you there if you show them where to go yourself.

Etsy is an on-line community for Do It Yourself (DIY) artists and crafters, and people selling art supplies and vintage goods. My shop is called NiceHarpy: Watercolors and Prints by Helen Klebesadel.

I have also just begun to explore a new on-line sales venue called Meylah, which does a great job of integrating blog technology in their shops. This venue is especially designed to allow the inclusion and sales of tutorials and craft patterns as well as art. I have a free tutorial on this site that shows artists how they can turn their artworks into fabric designs.

Fabric and Related Item Sites
As mentioned above I have spent a fair amount of time exploring turning my paintings and watercolor experiments developed in my teaching into fabrics. I have over 100 designs that can be found on my page at Spoonflower.com

I also have taken the plunge and used on-line vehicles like Zazzle.com and CafePress.com to put my images on a few objects. I am particularly happy with my morel mushroom covered shoes!

Social Networking sites:
I love my Facebook Fan Page, which allows me to announce my art events to those who have chosen to sign up to receive the announcements. Unlike a regular Facebook Page your followers don’t have to become ‘friends’ and share all their personal information to follow you on a Fan Page.

I have my blog, Facebook, and sales sites all automatically attached to a Twitter Account that let me share my postings to my followers with one post.

I also a LinkedIn participant. A more professional business oriented site that ha you make ‘connections’ rather than ‘friends,’ I have found it to have lots of useful groups I have joined that share useful comments and share resources that have helped me expand my web presence.

Memberships, Registries and other useful sites:
Some of the organizations with web registries I have found to be very useful to me are:
Wisconsin Visual Artists
Professional Fine Art Network
TAFA: Textile and Fiber Artists
Feminist Art Base
Varo Art Registry
Behance Network
Women’s Caucus for Art

Other Useful Tools:

CAFÉ: Call For Art Entry is a site that allows you to upload a portfolio of images and easily apply with it for posted on-line opportunities.

GYST (Get Your Sh’t Together) is an amazing data management system for artists that works great with MACs!

A very useful E-Book written by Canadian theater publicist  Rebecca Coleman on Social Networking and Marketing for Artists worth the modest cost of purchase is: Guide to Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations Version 2.2

©2010 Helen Klebesadel, Borromean Knot Mandala III, watercolor 20x19

Artist Statement

Knots, Braids, and Twinings:  Watercolors by Helen Klebesadel

As an artist I approach art making as a creative and critical thinking process. My paintings document my thinking as I explore a topic.  In general I am one of those people who considers mathematics to be a foreign language, but there is one aspect of mathematics that has begun to intrigue me…Knot Theory.

In mathematics, knot theory is the area of topology that studies mathematical knots. It is more concerned with structure than measurement.  While it is inspired by knots which appear in daily life, such as shoelaces, string and rope, a mathematician’s knot differs in that the ends are joined together into a circle to prevent it from becoming undone. Topologists consider knots, and other entanglements such as links and braids, as if the space surrounding them were a viscous fluid in which the knot can be pushed about smoothly without intersecting itself despite twists, twines, and manipulations.  Two mathematical knots are equivalent if one can be transformed into the other via manipulations that do not involve cutting or passing the ‘string’ through itself, meaning, two knots can be essentially the same even though they may have been twisted into very different shapes.  A fundamental problem in knot theory is determining when two variant descriptions represent the same knot.  Knots, links, braids, tangles, and twinings all are concerns of this type of mathematics.  While mathematical studies of knots began in the 19th century more recently knot theory has been used to study the action of DNA, and it may be very important to the construction of quantum computers.

Knots, braids, and twinings have many historical and cultural meanings.  Archaeologists have discovered knot tying dating back to prehistoric times. Knots have been used as recording information, for tying objects together, to create lace and nets, and they have long interested humans for their aesthetics and spiritual symbolism. Knots appear in various forms of Chinese artwork dating from several centuries BC; there is the endless knot in Tibetan Buddhism, and Borromean rings have made repeated appearances in different cultures, usually representing strength in unity. The Celts created the Book of Kells and covered entire pages with intricate Celtic knot work.  The knot was often seen as a symbol of infinity and of continuity. Ornamental knot work borders were used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and many other civilizations.

As an artist I am interested in the scientific and cultural aspects of knots, twinings, and braids, and I am intrigues with exploring their symbolic potential.  These watercolors are the early artifacts of my research.  I have painted them to better understand and conceptualize what I am learning.  They are the beginning of a new journey in my work.

•    Topology is the mathematical study of the properties that are preserved through deformations, twistings, and stretchings of objects.
•    Tibetan Endless Knot represents the interweaving of the spiritual path, the flowing of time and movement within that which is eternal
•    Borromean rings consist of three topological circles which are linked in a way that removing any ring results in two unlinked rings.
•    Book of Kells is generally considered the finest surviving illuminated manuscript to have been produced in medieval Europe.