Until we hit the big time and move into our studio on the Embarcadero (yes, we have super-sized dreams), Pam, Amy and I work from our own home studios. As you can imagine, this presents some challenges for sharing and keeping track of all the work we’re producing… especially now that we’re in overdrive, preparing for Surtex. We are so grateful for all the amazing free or very low-cost tools available on the web that make it feasible for us to work together... but separately!
Now, I have no idea if anyone reads this blog (Hey, Pam and Amy!… Mom?... Dad?), but in case this is useful someday to any other artists out there who are trying to work the way we are, I am excited to pass along two of the best things we’ve discovered and tailored specifically for our own purposes.
Most people know about Flickr, of course. It’s being put to all sorts of cool and creative uses that its founders probably never imagined. I don’t know if our use is particularly new or creative, but it sure is helpful to us. We use it as a virtual bulletin board to keep track of work in progress. Before it dawned on us that we could use Flickr this way, we were just firing off emails (with image attachments) to one another all day long. Although we could each keep track of these on our own computers, there wasn’t an easy way to reference stuff we’d already shared.
“It’s that bird I did a few weeks ago. You know, the one on the crazy tree... No, not the blue tree. Well, I’m not sure you’d even call it a tree, it’s more like a … I think I sent the email around February 9th, can you look it up that way?”
Yes, we wasted a fair bit of time this way.
We still send one another our files via email (because it’s useful to see the images in detail when they’re being shared for the first time). But now I upload them immediately to a private page on Flickr. Flickr’s batch upload tool makes this really fast and simple, and I can quickly assign tags so that we can narrow our searches to a specific artist or subject, as needed. Now, when we want to find that exact crazy bird that Amy’s talking about, or when we’re trying to figure out if we’re on track with the 24 new Christmas images that we need for Surtex, we can quickly and easily do a search in our Flickr photostream to get the answer.
Then we get to the point where we’re satisfied with an image and ready to call it “done.” We wanted a way to catalog all those completed images so, for example, when Groovy Bed Linens calls us to say, “We want to put that crazy bird on a duvet cover,” we can easily look up the image (even if we don’t know the exact file name), make sure that it hasn’t been licensed for bed linens already, get the file name so Amy can locate the high-resolution art on her computer. And then, after we have a signed licensing agreement with Groovy Bed Linens, we need a place to store the details of that agreement, to keep track of that particular license. And, of course, we needed to include thumbnails of every image, for easy visual reference. Tall order, right? Especially since we have no money to pay for fancy database software.
Well, for all this (and way more), we are so glad to have found blist.com.* With Blist, we’ve created an online catalog of all our completed images that allows us to easily filter and sort these assets to see, for example: which are licensed, which licenses are about to expire, which are by Pam, which contain the color blue, which were created in 2008, which are good for baby showers, which contain peacocks… and on and on. And, we can keep the whole thing private so it’s only accessible by us. It’s an incredibly powerful tool and, although it’s still in beta and a little buggy, I’m not sure there’s an option out there that could do all this for us, and be available to all three of us in our own studios, instantly updatable by any one of us, 24/7… for free.
For all the enthusiasm I’ve just unleashed, I do have to admit that I’m still a little old-school in my attitude about all these online services. Putting private and/or proprietary information on the internet, particularly with unproven companies, freaks me out just a touch. I try to be very careful about how and what I post online. I always keep our data private and never upload high resolution images, for example. With these precautions, a good read of the terms of service, and a little trust in the goodwill of the folks Flickr and Blist, I feel relatively confident about the way we're using the sites. (Then, I hear the news about Facebook trying to change its TOS and get all jittery again…. )
But, until we can afford to be in the same space together and have in-house software (and good, old-fashioned bulletin boards) for keeping track of all this stuff, I’ve decided to trust and step gingerly into this brave new world.
*Three cheers for our good friend, Katy, at Cardstore.com. She’s the one who introduced us to blist.com.
1/6/11 postscript: blist.com is now opendata.socrata.com and they've made many improvements to the (still free) online software.