Artists Use Social Media For Public Feedback After a car crash left him unable to paint for a while, pop artist Coop started taking photos and sharing them on Flickr. Now he is painting again and the photo-sharing Web site has become a critical influence in his artwork as fans offer feedback on paintings in progress. Writer John August gets nonprofessional feedback on the Internet as well. He asks his Twitter followers for comments about a short story he just published.
NPR logo

Artists Use Social Media For Public Feedback

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105620633/105620609" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Artists Use Social Media For Public Feedback

Artists Use Social Media For Public Feedback

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105620633/105620609" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Lots of artists get professional feedback on their works in progress. Writers have editors; musicians have record producers. For the public, it's more rare to get the chance to weigh in on unfinished creative endeavors. But now, some artists are getting feedback on their works in progress from fans through social networking.

From member station KPCC in Los Angeles, Alex Cohen reports.

ALEX COHEN: John August writes movies like "Corpse Bride," "Charlie's Angels" and "Big Fish."

(Soundbite of film, "Big Fish")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ALBERT FINNEY (Actor): (As Ed Bloom - Senior) Most men, they'll tell you stories straight through. It won't be complicated, but it won't be interesting either.

COHEN: Recently, August decided to write a short story, a spy-themed, science-fiction piece. When the first draft was done, he was hankering for feedback, the sort he usually gets when he test-screens a film.

Mr. JOHN AUGUST (Screenwriter): And you get to sit in that audience and hear what they're reacting to, what they think is funny, what they don't understand. I really wanted a chance to do a test-screening for the short story but didn't have a very good way to do it.

COHEN: But he did have a Twitter account with 6,000 followers.

Mr. AUGUST: What's amazing about Twitter is that you can ask a question and get a really immediate answer. So the question I asked one night, I said, hey, I wrote this short story. Could I get 10 people to read it and tell me what they think? And within 60 seconds, I got 10 yeses.

COHEN: August sent them a link to a draft of his story and asked them to fill out a survey when they finished reading it.

Unidentified Man #1: The opening pages are sort of banal. I like the cat scene, loved the ending.

Unidentified Man #2: My enjoyment tripled when we discovered that the woman was, in fact, his own wife.

Mr. AUGUST: They didn't like the title.

COHEN: Writer John August.

Mr. AUGUST: The original title for my short story was "The Egyptian Variant," and three people spontaneously said it should really be "The Variant." Get rid of that Egyptian word. And so I took their advice, and it was the right advice.

COHEN: August says the experience reminds him of writing as a kid, when he'd print out stories on his home computer and give them to his mom.

Mr. AUGUST: Twitter is sort of like my mom reading my, you know, dot matrix printer output. It's that sense of this is what is working and this is what's not working, and that to me was really crucial for this.

COHEN: Feedback from fans has also become a crucial part of Chris Cooper's work. Coop, as he's best known, does pop art paintings of voluptuous vixens, rockabilly hotrods and cigar-smoking devils. Coop wound up using the Internet in his art by accident, a car accident.

Mr. CHRIS COOPER (Artist): I had a broken leg. I was on crutches for probably four months, and unfortunately for me, these paintings are so large that I paint standing up, which of course I couldn't do.

COHEN: While he recuperated, Coop turned to a less physically demanding art form, photography, and he posted his work on Flickr. When he was able to paint again, Coop turned his camera toward his canvas.

Mr. COOPER: I started doing it purely for myself because when you're painting things that are this complex, it's often very helpful to sort of document the process so that if you need to go back and rework something, you sort of know the steps that you took to get to that point.

COHEN: But Coop's Flickr photos were also a huge hit with his fans. The artist also writes about his work, a process he calls paint-blogging.

Thirty-eight-year-old Art Fuentes(ph), an aspiring illustrator himself, visits Coop's site daily.

Mr. ART FUENTES: It's nice to see a piece where it's being added onto every day and you can see all the layers. If anything, that shows me what goes on behind the whole process. It's just great for me, yeah.

COHEN: Fuentes and other Coop fans often leave comments on the photos. For example, Coop recently did a painting called "13 Devil." It began with one of his trademark red devils.

Mr. COOPER: The photos went up, and people said, oh, wow, I love this painting. I'm so glad you're finally doing this image.

COHEN: But then he added more devils at different angles, in different colors. His canvas became a cacophony of demons.

Mr. COOPER: And then the next day, I came in and painted the dark purple line work on top of it and put a photo up, and people were like, well, why, why did you do that?

COHEN: Coop doesn't mind questioning from the public. In fact, since he began paint-blogging, he's been doing a lot more of that himself.

Mr. COOPER: In the past, I would just sort of do things, and later, I would look at them and say, oh, well, that's, I guess maybe that's what this means, this.

COHEN: Now, Coop says, he's forced to think about the meaning of his work as he paints, and he believes that's made him a better artist.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Cohen in Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.