Dropbox: a box without hinges, key, or lid …

For all you tech novices out there, I know things can get a bit confusing with so many apps to choose from. What to pick, where to start? Don’t fret … there is hope! I’m far from being a techy myself — just a curious artsy person, trying to pick out a few morsels from the smorgasbord in cyberspace. In my previous blog post, I discussed the usefulness of Evernote, a cloud-based note taking & clipping service that remembers everything!

In this blog, I’ll talk about another nifty little app for storing photos, docs and videos in a virtual box. So what is this thing called Dropbox?

A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid. (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien)

Well, it’s not an egg like in Bilbo’s riddle, but it does contain a treasure: our files! Don’t we all believe our documents and pictures are “PRESCIOUS”? Why else would we save them?

Dropbox and Evernote are similar in many ways: both provide network storage and allow us to keep and share files using file synchronization.

Brat Kelly explains it really well in his blog post, “Evernote and Dropbox: Why I Use (and Love) Both”. The focus of Dropbox is on files, while Evernote deals primarily with text and image content. He provides some examples on how to use both:

Dropbox is how I move files easily between computers, Evernote is how I move text easily between computers.

In other words, Dropbox is best suited for file storage, while Evernote is ideal for notes, memos, copies of receipts and other little bitty things to keep.

Dropbox has folders for files and photos — these can be shared with anyone, even non-Dropbox users.

Dropbox is very userfriendly — it actually took me less time to figure out how to use it than Evernote. Places to learn more about both apps:

Bridging the Nerdgap: Evernote and Dropbox: Why I Use (and Love) Both

Dropbox and Evernote Prezi by Douglas Shouga

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In the Cloud with Evernote

Click-clack, clickety-clack, save document … send via email to other computer or device.
Click-clack, clickety-clack, save same document and email back again.

Does this scenario sound familiar? These days, we store information on phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and servers — wouldn’t it be nice to keep notes or pictures in one place and have them at your fingertips regardless of where you are during the day?

Let’s enlist the help of the Great Wise Cloud!

There are a number of free tools available for cloud productivity; I currently use Evernote. The exciting part about this application is the storing of information through syncing. Let’s say you are working on a document from a home PC … Evernote will instantly sync data across computers and mobile devices you access daily.

All notes, clips, ideas and photos are automatically indexed and can be searched by keywords, tags, or titles.  If you want to share some files, it’s easily done by email or via social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Many artists spend time away from the studio visiting galleries, taking photographs, sketching, or presenting workshops. Evernote is a convenient way to save records, notes, pics, etc. on a phone and then instantly have files available when working at a home PC or laptop.

I keep reference images handy, create to do lists, make memos to self, or record cool stuff I might need down the road. Let’s face it, we can all use a some help getting our life organized. Evernote is like my own personal assistant, making sure files are easily accessible, no matter where the day takes me.

So here is your incentive to get rid of the paper clutter and electronic file jungle — off you go to the digital filing cabinet in the cloud! But don’t forget to bring the elephant …

 Related Posts:

Get Busy Doing: Productivity Tool #1: Evernote

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Twitter for Artists

Or should I say twartists? Back in the 90’s, it was a great thing for artists to showcase their work in an online gallery. I had my first website designed in 1994 and was mighty proud of it. These days, linking a website or blog to the social media network is just as important.

For the longest time, I was reluctant to explore what Twitter had to offer. My first reaction was similar to that of my circle of friends: “Why would I want to tell the public what I’m up to every minute of the day?”

Well, I must admit … I just didn’t know how to use Twitter properly. Now that I have learned the lingo, I know the difference between #hashtags and @usernames, and how to write down a thought in no more than 140 characters. The true value of Twitter becomes more apparent to me as I understand its potential as a microblogging/networking/news-feeding platform that provides information and connections about my life’s passion: visual arts and the environment.

A survival guide for Twitter novices is the Twitter Dictionary: A Guide to Understanding Twitter Lingo by Vangie Beal. 

Should you still be on the fence about Twitter, I suggest reading the blog articles by Lori McNee, an artist who is ranked one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter. Follow her tweets @lorimcneeartist — she provides tons of useful information on a wide range of topics related to art. Her site is like a Wikipedia for artists!

Here are some of Lori’s posts that helped me through the Twitter-jitter:

12 Compelling Reasons Why Artists Should Use Twitter

How To Reach Beyond Your Niche on Twitter

Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Twitter Image & Following

14 Art Business Tips from the Top Pros on Twitter

Finally, a bit of creative humour about Twitter — a cartoon titled “Zigfried & Gingerale”, based on my two feline friends. Zigfried & Gingerale

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Encyclopedias and Wikis

On Tuesday, March 13, 2012, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced the end of publishing the 32-volume printed edition. As stated on their website, the company is moving forward to a digital age where learning goes beyond the use of reference works.

The hardbound paper copies that adorned our bookshelves for many years will become a part of history. I don’t have a problem with that: paperless copies will save trees and can be kept current in a world that is changing every day.

Many of us have also started using the free information available on sites such as Wikipedia and Google and won’t be inclined purchasing information either in book format or online. 

But what about accuracy of content on the free wiki sites? The new buzzword these days is crowd-sourcing and wikis are thriving on this concept. It’s great that we all join in to become contributors and collaborators, but we also need to keep in perspective that not everyone is an expert … therefore, approach with caution when using wikis for facts and information.

Take wikiHow for example, the how to manual that you can edit.

I checked out the how to’s in the Exhibited Arts categories. The information presented is at times rather sketchy and lacks depth. Here is one example:

 How to build a Sculpture in your Garage

The instructions are adventurous to say the least … step #2 asks you to …

 ‘collect a blowtorch (make sure you follow all necessary safety procedures while using the blowtorch)’ .

This step needs some serious editing, or perhaps one has to find another article on how to use a blowtorch? In any case, I would certainly prefer someone showing me in person how to use a blowtorch before I burn the house down using such a tool for the first time.

Next, I checked out Wikiquote for some inspirational words related to art. I found a quote by the German Romantic writer Jean Paul Richter:

  • Die Kunst ist zwar nicht das Brot, aber der Wein des Lebens.

It was translated as:

  • Art is indeed not the bread, but the wine of life.

The word ‘indeed’ contained in the English translation is likely a result of  Google translator – it’s simply wrong. This quote cannot be translated literally and a better  translation would be:

  • Art is not the bread, but the wine of life.

Over at Wikigallery, the world’s largest virtual gallery in the world, I came across an artwork by my favourite Northern Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer: Study of Hands.

The medium for this artwork is listed as ‘Oil on Canvas’, which is incorrect. It is an ink brush drawing, with white highlights, on blue Venetian paper.

I am not against wikis — they are a great tool for collaborative projects, teamwork and learning. But we need to be vigilant when using these sources to research factual information. The challenge for open wikis will be to improve the quality of writing and respect copyright laws.

And don’t forget, there is still the digital form of Encyclopaedia Britannica … but it’s not free!

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Bellycast with Orchids

I love painting on surfaces other than canvas … that’s one reason why I enjoy creating bellycasts. Many pregnant women treasure this special time in their life and wish to preserve the ‘shape’ of their belly with child.

The title for this particular sculpture is ‘Paphiopedilum Hellas’, a flowering plant in the Orchid family. The word ‘Orchid’ comes from the Greek and literally means ‘testicle’ — fitting for a male child. I had a strong feeling that it was going to be a boy, so I took a gamble … the child has been born in the meantime, and he was indeed a beautiful baby boy!

I approach the painting of a bellycast just like I would a work on canvas … the aesthetics have to be evident in a well-executed design. My style can be classified as expressive or painterly, showing visible brushstrokes and freely executed lines, with a focus on colour, texture, and movement.

A focal point is just as important for a sculptural piece as it is for a painting. I chose the three orchid cluster on the belly as the main area, but also wanted to achieve an interesting view from a different angle, which is important when dealing with a 3-dimensional piece — hence the placement of the single orchid on top. The secondary design elements of swirly lines and patterns allow the eye to move around the composition without getting ‘stuck’ in one area.

The bellycast has a picture wire on the back allowing it to hang on a wall, or it can be displayed on a flat surface like a sculpture.

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My New Online Art Gallery

A fresh new look for an artist’s website is just as important as the occasional living room makeover. If you sit on the same sofa for 10 years, it may become a bit worn and in need of a new cover, to say the least …

While I’m not particularly interested in following the latest trends in web design, my first online gallery was created in the 1990’s and started to appear outdated. Styles change continuously and it’s important to choose a design you can be happy with for a number of years. After all, most of us don’t have the funds to pay for a re-design on an annual basis.

The challenge for an artist lies in finding a good web designer: someone who understands your style and vision. I am fortunate to know such a person. Diana Rodriguez has an artistic background and it comes natural for her to combine good design with functionality.

I envisioned a beautiful online gallery space with a touch of elegance; a place where I showcase my love for swirly, organic lines, textures, and bold colour schemes, all found in my selection of paintings, mixed media, and mosaics. Diana successfully designed a feel and look for my gallery that complements my work. In the end, it is important that an artist’s website reflects the intended image.

Websites are all about visual communication and it should be easy for visitors to navigate the site.  Like the sofa in your living room — if the cushions are saggy, cluttered and uncomfortable, chances are your visitors will not return!

Here’s a screen shot of my online gallery: gamppart.com

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How Delicious is your Stack?

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make navigating the web less time-consuming. Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows me to store, share and discover new links online. The bookmarks are organized in stacks. I have the option of keeping my stack private or making it public. Other users can browse my public stacks and bookmark the links of interest.

The stacks were easy to set up and you can add tags to each link, which I find more user-friendly than keeping things in folders.

Even though I’m new to Delicious, I was instantly drawn to the fact that I can connect with others who share similar web preferences. Given the high volume of information available, I find this social bookmarking site a bonus.

My current stacks are: Artists and Designers, Mosaic Art, Eclectic FashionThe Green Garden, and Urban Chickens.

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