Home Arts & Entertainment How I hopped on – and off – the Tumblr bandwagon

How I hopped on – and off – the Tumblr bandwagon


By Jonathan D. Lopez – Photo Editor

I still remember the day I showed my first claymation at the end of my sociology class for fun.

“Wow, what a waste of time,” came a snarky voice from the back of the room.

People like that made me not want to share my work with others.

I especially hated showing my animations to kids at school and seeing that they weren’t even slightly interested.  To further complicate things, I was living in a quiet subdivision in Wyoming – not exactly an artist hotspot.

Fortunately, on a summer day in 2009 my brother encouraged me to create a blog on some website called Tumblr.  No one I knew was on it, but it was easier to use than WordPress and it had a strong art community.

The first year, I was astounded that I had racked up a few thousand followers, but I mainly got a kick from seeing fellow artists liking and reblogging (sharing) my work.

In college, it seemed that everyone in the photo department was hopping on the Tumblr micro-blogging bandwagon.  For once, I was actually ahead of the game.  Partly due to being an early adopter of Tumblr, I was inducted into the Spotlight for Illustrators, a directory for popular Tumblr users. Thanks to the exposure, my following increased by 1,000 people per week for over a year.

At that point, I noticed my following shifting from the creative bloggers to the weird, the potheads and those obsessed with porn GIFs. I stopped clicking through to see where my work was being reblogged from there on.

Despite having over 50,000 followers, I knew I had lost my audience and my love for Tumblr. It was around this time that having a Tumblr account became common, and most people were following over 100 blogs.

In January 2012, I made a mad attempt to create a new sculpture, document the process with a time lapse, photograph the sculpture, then publicizing both the sculpture and time lapse on Tumblr – daily.  The entire process consumed between six and eight hours a day.

My plan was successful in bringing in more people from the art community, but possibly 10 times more successful at attracting folks from the shady part of Tumblr.

I would have continued this slavish routine had I not slipped on a patch of black ice which left me suffering with back pain for a few days. The injury gave me a breather to realize that my blog was consuming every last minute of my free time.

I slowed down drastically, but surprisingly, my numbers rose to over 100,000 followers after a couple more years.  Honestly, I didn’t feel any more satisfied.  Likes.  Reblogs.  It didn’t really matter, and I felt like having my work in blog format made my work dated a day after I posted it.

Since then I’ve reconsidered how I get my name out there.  I created a portfolio website featuring everything from my plasticine sculptures to illustration and documentary photography.

I have continued blogging on my website about personal experiences and behind the scenes of my clay work.  Still, I try to share an illustration on Tumblr from time to time, but it’s usually an afterthought.

Though traffic on my personal website is significantly less than that on Tumblr, I am able to direct my content directly to the people I want through Twitter and Facebook.

While I have mixed feelings about Tumblr as a veteran user, I am thankful that it has allowed me to be a little more vulnerable with my art.  To anyone interested in starting a blog, be aware that the web is full of “interesting” people.

See Jonathan’s work at jonathandlopez.com.
Follow @clay.alchemist on Instagram.