The other day I was lamenting about how everyone has an endearing nickname, but I don’t. I am called Cory. That’s what everyone calls me; it is not endearing or anything. I told my niece that I am her Uncle and she replied, “No, you’re not my Uncle.” She looked confused.
“Oh really, then what am I to you?”
I kind of love the pen names that writers and illustrators think up for themselves. On the positive side, pen names can be hard to forget, and contribute to good branding. On the negative side, pen names are not used in professional settings, and so it can be harder to create impressionable experiences with editors at conferences when your name tag says one thing, but your work says another.
When I first started sharing my art online, I wanted to hide my identity. I was embarrassed about my work. Don’t worry, I have social anxiety, it is completely normal for me to feel embarrassed about everything. So, I called myself GRADosi, which simplymeans “degrees” in Russian. Silly. I signed my art that way too. I thought in English, GRADosi sounded robotic. And when I capitalized the first four letters it also looked more robotic. Fun Fact: I love robots and spaceships, but I don’t draw or write science fiction. My thing is nature and animals. Maybe someday I will discover a way to combine the two interests like Dan Brown’s “Wild Robot.”
Anyway, my favorite pen names are listed below. I want to point out a few patterns. Mononyms are always appealing because they stand out and somehow seem royal or legendary. I appear to like repetition, rhyming, and alliteration. Lastly, pen names like "The Bronte Sisters" make me feel closer to them, as if they are my sisters, just as I feel like "Dr. Suess" is my doctor.
Probably the most interesting essay I ran into this week was “Romancing the Looky-Loos” by Dave Hickey. It was interesting primarily because I wondered if it was still relevant today.
Social media has changed the art scene irrecoverably. It is no longer "LIVE and in-person.” It is no longer intimate. But, it is the future of sharing art and making money as an artist. So, is social media about luring spectators or inviting like-minded people to participate in something they are passionate about? I think it is both, and in many ways making a living as an artist has always been about both, but in the age of social media, spectating and participating go hand-in-hand. You can't hate the spectators like Mr. Dave seems to; you need them in order to have any chance at earning participation.
Social media creates a venue for people to participate and share. The best example I can think of are these Tik Toks where one artist begins a tune and other artists build on it. That is participation and it is amazing. My part is spectatorship. By the time I see a video, it has been viewed a million times and remixed a thousand times. I may see three or four different versions, but I only see them because the reach is so high. I may only get the opportunity to participate because the reach is so high.
Social media cultivates a mindset of rapidly consuming a lot of material. "Liking" is not participating, but it is extremely valuable, even a measure of success. Likes are so important that some users pay for them because likes beget more likes. Likes increase your reach and as a result, increase participation even if only a little.
Without a doubt, there is much more spectatorship on social media than participation, but the fact that they go hand-in-hand leadsmarketing experts to suggest that you focus on reach over participation, precisely because reach leads to brand loyalty. Today "Romancing the Looky-loos" is a part of building a community of passionate, like-minded people.
Since it is Black History Month you may be wondering what it is and how you can celebrate on Social Media. I will focus more attention than usual to amplify the Black voices that I admire, those I have used for inspiration, and my friends who have really good things to share. You may choose to extend this strategy beyond Black History Month to build your social platforms on positivity and inclusivity.
I discovered last year that there is controversy around these subjects, so I will say this: I feel it is important to amplify Black voices during Black History Month and I am not ashamed about the reminder. I feel that I am often guided away from Black creators by marketing tactics that favor certain demographics and limit the availability of their products. I cannot point to why with facts; I feel this way simply because of what is evidenced by my personal experience as a consumer. I consume much less content by Black creators. Therefore, amplification is necessary for my life if I want to discover all the amazing creators that I am missing out on.
I enjoyed this blog post by Dante Nicholas, which goes into detail about Black History Month and celebrating on social media platforms.
Finally, I would like to show you an example of a Black creator that I have recently discovered, but have been drawing inspiration from for a long time. Pamela Colman Smith, illustrator of the standard Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck. Her illustrations have been an inspiration to many people around the world and yet her name is often forgotten. The deck itself is often referred to as the Rider-Waite deck or the Waite deck. The Rider Company was the publisher and AE Waite authored the companion guide or instructions. Pamela was responsible for the illustrations, which arguably are the cornerstone of the product. Many people would be surprised to discover that Pamela was a Black woman, primarily because her illustrations are often colored in such a way that depicts a severe lack of diversity (the originals were black and white,) and because of the "erasure of black women in metaphysics," described beautifully here.
How will you be celebrating Black History Month?
"The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Card Copyright FAQ" Sacred-Texts.com
Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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