Oh the places you'll go, and the people you'll meet!
For Chicago illustrator and graphic artist Mike Segawa, joining a blogging community afforded the opportunity for immediate feedback and recognition. "I used to draw in a void," says Segawa, who started freelancing in 2005. "It wasn't until I joined a blog community that I got the affirmation and validation I needed." The blog community he joined was LiveJournal, where he connected with other artists, many of whom joined his "friends list." Through his online group of friends, Segawa promoted his own work, which led to work and continual exposure. "I've personally networked with people I otherwise never would have known," he says.
Blogs, according to Segawa, gave him a reach he could have otherwise not realized on his own. "I always undervalued my stuff — then I got people in the industry commenting on it. Blogs reach a broader audience," he observes. Four years after he started blogging, Segawa is co-curator of the upcoming exhibit, FLIST, slang for friends list, based on the friendships he's cultivated through the LiveJournal community. The show exhibits the works of 40 artists.
It was through another online social networking tool, MySpace, that Segawa reconnected with graphic artist Mike Vesper, an old high school buddy from Maine South in Park Ridge. Co-curator of FLIST, Vesper, like Segawa, is an unabashed blogging enthusiast. In his view, blogs are the precursor to the future of news. "Our society is going paperless, and the way we digest information is very reflected in this fact," Vesper says.
Both Segawa and Vesper claim that it's not only work opportunities and networks they've actualized through their friends lists. They also rely on the blogs at LiveJournal as a source of news. "There's been a cultural shift in how people communicate and network. I get everything I need — news, Hollywood gossip and comics — all from reading other people's blogs," says Segawa.
As for FLIST, the art show is a transfer of the cyber world to the "real world." "We're simply taking an online collaboration and making it physical," says Vesper, who notes that there is no common theme to the exhibit, other than a group of artists who wish to make their work more visible. Of the 40 artists showing their work for FLIST, most have never met their curators. "I've haven't met 90 percent of the artists on my friends list and I'm asking them for artwork," says Segawa. FLIST artists are photographers, designers, writers, cartoonists and graphic artists. Also included in with the assortment of professionals are housewives, college kids and accountants — in other words, unknown talent intermingled with industry folk.
Two of the artists featured in FLIST are Dean Haspiel and Dan Goldman, Brooklyn-based artists who, in a similar manner to Segawa and Vesper, have utilized LiveJournal to their advantage. They started a free, web comic book series feature on Act-i-vate, an online artist community that is part of LiveJournal. The comic books from this series were recently part of an exhibit at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York.
In this manner, what was doled out to audiences for free, i.e. the Act-i-vate web comic books, has developed into other lucrative projects for the artists. Dan Goldman, who creates the free web comic "Kelly" for Act-i-vate, has recently sold his comic "Shooting War," which was started online, to Warner Books. The book debuts in November.
"We're witnessing the future of print. Everything is going to be online," says Goldman. Posted weekly, "Kelly" is read by readers as far away as New Zealand and Vietnam. "It's faster and better than paper. I've made connections and friends all over the world," he notes.
Dean Haspiel, who currently creates web comic "Billy Dogma: Immortal," is a veteran New York comic book artist who has witnessed a significant amount of feedback and recognition through LiveJournal. Blogging gave him an immediate audience, something craved by a freelance artist. "What was great was the online feedback. Traditionally I only get feedback from my editor, writer, girlfriend and circle of friends. The response I get actually dictates where the comic is going. There is this great thing about people weighing in our stuff as you make it."
Another artist to feature his work at FLIST is Seattle-based DJ Freddy, King of Pants, who spins his pop culture-infused mashups at the art opening reception on October 5. Freddy, who has been spinning for six years, met Segawa via LiveJournal and the two eventually started collaborating, the latter designing the artwork for Freddy's posters. The two became good friends through their collaboration, and have since introduced each other to one another's social networks.
With blogs, the concept of friends has taken on a new meaning. A friend made in cyberspace is an opportunity to widen your circle of contacts, for both social and professional purposes. Entering a blog community is an adventure — you never know the places you'll end up going, or who you'll meet. Starting a blog means that you don't have to be limited by demographics. You can "befriend" people in New York and New Dehli, simultaneously, if you want.
Things that are brewed in cyberspace and then brought into the public, or "real world" are gaining momentum in other sectors, as well. As recounted in an article in Wired, an anti-Hillary Clinton group on Facebook is currently outpacing a Barack Obama support group also on Facebook, in terms of the number of members, Also, as unfolded by NPR, bloggers have played a major role in drumming up the recent Jena Six protests.
The FLIST exhibit opens on Friday, Oct. 5, at 7pm at the Happy Dog Gallery, 1542 N. Milwaukee. In addition to the exhibition, an iPod sound installation is on display, featuring the spoken words of poets and writers. Freddy, King of Pants, spins. The show runs through Oct. 12.