Tuesday, 14 April 2009

An introduction to "Making a Mark reviews......"

This is a new consumer oriented blog which will review quality and value in art books, art supplies and other products and services used by artists.

This new blog is a spin-off from my very popular blog Making a Mark. In future this blog - Making a Mark reviews...... will become the home of all reviews oriented towards the artist as a consumer.

This post is about
  • why I'm creating this new blog
  • what this blog will focus on and cover
  • how it will work - what principles underpin it
  • how you can get involved.
Why a new blog?

A new blog enables me to create a specific focus for each blog:
  • 'Making a Mark' (the blog) will focus more being an artist and making art. Specifically it will cover my my art, art projects, notable artists, interviews with artists, art exhibitions, art careers and aspects related to the business of being an artist - plus techie bits about the web and blogging from time to time.
  • 'Making a Mark reviews...... ' will be more consumer-oriented. It will deal with the commercial aspects of art in terms of books and products for artists and items that we as artists spend money on.
This enables me to do more reviews without squeezing out the art-making aspects which are the essential focus of Making A Mark.

As anybody who has visited my website Making A Mark (www.makingamark.co.uk) will know I have three passions - drawing, writing and sharing information.

This new blog will also link to and support the makeover and the major development of the 'sharing' part of that website to create a new digest of information which is focused around specific topics. However, due to the major hiatus I've been experiencing recently with computers misbehaving and dying, I'm very behind with this makeover. However I will start to unveil new pages in the near future and the first one - no surprises here(!) - will be about coloured pencils.

How this blog works - a focus on quality AND value
value noun 1 worth in monetary terms. 2 the quality of being useful or desirable; the degree of usefulness or desirability. 3 the exact amount of a variable quantity in a particular case. 4 the quality of being a fair exchange • value for money. 5 (values) moral principles or standards
My aim is simple - to create a consumer's guide to quality and value in art books, art supplies and services to artists
This blog covers:
- art book reviews (art instruction and art history)
- reviews of art media, art materials and art equipment
- reviews of places where you buy (art shops, online art suppliers and art bookshops)
- reviews of other products or services used by artists
- summaries of good quality and relevant reviews by other practising artists
Using this blog I want to try and identify what is good quality and what is good value in art supplies, art books and services relevant to artists. In doing so I'll also be trying to identify the places where we should be spending our cash - because they provide a cost-effective combination of competitive prices, excellent product knowledge and amazing customer service. Where possible I'll also be reviewing other services that we as spend money on as artists (eg websites, software etc).

Irrespective of whether you are on a tight budget or have no financial worries, as artists we all tend to appreciate good quality - when we know what that is - and absolutely hate wasting money. I also know that very many artists love sharing their experiences about art materials and art books and hopefully this blog will become another place where you can do that.

Here's some of the reasons why I'm interested in the consumer perspective:
  • I've always been absolutely passionate about consumers getting a fair deal. People should be able to get good quality products for a reasonable price.
  • I spent a large part of my career focused on the achievement of cost-effectiveness - otherwise known as value for money.
  • I love finding out about new materials, aids and books which aim to help us out as artists. I'm never averse to trying something new - and I'm happy to share what I find out - hopefully in co-operation with you all as readers.
  • I hate seeing people getting ripped off by poor quality books, art materials which are not fit for purpose, or OTT product claims.
  • I have a very long track record of being a very picky consumer with a pronounced tendency to ask a lot of questions. I read all the labels, the product descriptions, every review on the Internet and anything else I can find before I buy big ticket items! I'm also an inveterate researcher who aims to check out product claims and find out all I can - including the views of other consumers. There's been no stopping me since I've found out that there's absolutely no need to stay in the dark. If you ask questions producers and retailers often answer and some are very helpful!
  • I want to help you have a voice. Whenever I've highlighted and reviewed a product on my other blog, I've found that the comments it received added real value in terms of the knowledge and experience of you the consumer. I'd like to create opportunities for more of that!
How this blog works - the principles

Given that this blog is going to be talking about commercial products, I decided it would probably be a good idea to create a set of ground rules for how it works.

Basically it's all about trying to be both fair and achieve a balanced perspective.
I used to have a policy of not reviewing a book unless I thought it was good ("If you can't say anything good, don't say anything" etc). However with a recession upon us, I'm going to have to revise that policy and start indicating more clearly where books fall short
Making A Mark: Book review: The Coloured Pencil Artist's drawing bible
The basic principles of the approach which will be adopted by this blog are as follows. These will be updated as and when required.
  • I'm on the side of the consumer. My principal motivation is finding out whether you and I are getting a good deal and products which do what they claim.
  • All reviews will be honest AND fair to both producer and consumer. They will highlight both good points and aspects which might make you think again.
  • In relation to the overall content, I'm making some highly generalised assumptions about key players as follows:
    • consumers value information about products and like to be well-informed before they make a purchase
    • consumers will endeavour to be fair, accurate and precise when commenting on products and will avoid exaggerating the impact of benefits or failures
    • authors, publishers, manufacturers and producers are doing the best they can do - even if they don't always get it right.
    • producers are in business and are not a charity and hence need to make decisions about product offerings influenced by what they think will make money
    • producers want to hear about what consumers think about their products because this means that they can refine and improve what they have to offer - and sell more product!
  • All reviews will be independent. I accept both free product samples and advance review copies of books due to be published HOWEVER:
    • accepting ARCSs/product samples does not impair my judgement or my ability to write a fair review! Besides which I still have quite a few resources of my own in terms of art materials and a few hundred art books already in back catalogues!
    • if I'm sent a book to read or an art product to try I'm under no obligation to write a review about it on this blog.
  • Anybody who acts as a guest reviewer on this blog will maintain the standards set for this blog.
In a separate post which follows this, I'm going to be setting out a statement of how the comments policy will work. This will also be referenced in the side column for all new readers.

How you can get involved

Last week when previewing the introduction of this blog I wrote about some of the ways that we can use this blog to channel the 'wisdom of crowds'. Here are just some of the ways that I hope you can get involved with the development of both this blog and its reviews.
10 different ways of promoting a community of well-informed consumers

I see so many questions on my travels around the Internet about 'where can I find' or 'can you recommend...?'

I'm hoping to help promote a community of well-informed consumers in a number of different ways. The new blog will:
  • check claims made and provide a fair and independent perspective
  • avoid the use of weasel words.
  • channel the "wisdom of crowds" by:
    • asking you for suggestions of useful books, products, suppliers that you've found.
    • running opinion polls from time to time
  • ask readers to provide useful tips about ways you've found of saving money without compromising quality - which I'll summarise on a regular basis
  • reference good quality reviews on other blogs
  • invite guest reviewers to contribute posts about specific products outside my area of expertise
  • invite experienced artists to offer their views on their favourite products.
  • provide a blogroll dedicated to bloggers who regularly provide product reviews
  • ask manufacturers and publishers to keep me up to date
The advantage of this blog is that I can also create a set of tags which enable you to identify quickly and easily the type of content you're interested in and what has been said to date - whether it's soft pastels, art pens or art instructions books.

If you'd like to get involved please leave a comment below.

If you'd like to let me know that you've written a product review on your own blog leave a comment on this post. All comments are moderated so I'll always know when you've left a comment.

and finally......

Links to all the blog reviews will be added to the information, advice and reviews which can be found in my "Resources for Artists" sites.


Lindsay said...

I raise my glass to you to toast the beginning of another new and soon to be wildly successful blog. What a great resourse this is going to be!

Making A Mark said...

Thanks Lindsay - I'm hoping people will enjoy it.

Lynne said...

It sounds as if it will be another brilliant resource for artists, as good as Making a Mark.
One thing I would like to mention with regard to art books. Most reviews only talk about buying books, but for someone on a tight budget like me, the libraries are a godsend. I am fortunate to be within 5 miles of a county boundary, so belong to two county libraries, and have access to both of the full county catelogues via the internet. I can order any book from these catalogues and have it delivered to my nearest library. Sometimes this is free, sometimes a small charge is made. If I really want to look at a particular book, and neither county catalogue has that book, then I can order it 'out of county' whereby my local library will search the country for it. The current charge for this at my library is £3, but I can keep the book for a minimum of 3 weeks, and possibly 6 weeks, so I think its a bargain.
I know that many people order books from Amazon or similar, and then send them back if they are not happy with them, but I try to source books as cheaply as possible, which usually means second-hand, with no option to return them.

I just wish someone would set up a swap system for art materials - I am sure we all have (expensive) stuff we have bought, which for one reason or another is not to out taste, I have given lots away to friends, but would prefer a barter system.

Making A Mark said...

There you go - yet another example of the added value of comments on topics like this

Lynne - you've brought up a couple of topics there which are going on my 'to do' list for future blog posts!

Robyn Sinclair said...

I think you've just become my favourite art shop. :)

Adam Cope said...


I've always enjoyed your book reviews & synopsis'.

When one reads one top specialist's review of another leading specialist in reviews such as Times Literary Supplement, one realises how much poste/riposte is part of the generation/refinement of new ideas. Riposte goes beyond review & synopsis as it's more to do with the expression of an opinion.

Of course the real challenge to an artist of any art instruction book is... how to integrate what one can use into one's natural painting style. Images, not words. Practise, not theory.

Best of luck!

Parka said...

Nice new blog. Bookmarked it already.

Have also blogged about it on my blog as well.


Fee Dickson said...

Great idea for a blog - I shall be following with much interest :)

Gesa said...

I only discovered this now... wow... I'm very impressed. It's an excellent idea for a blog and I will be back often - as I've used your art blog as first point of reference for checking info on supply. All the very best for this new project of yours!

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