Batman 3 Rumors and My Thoughts

The dust hasn't even settled and already the rumors for the next installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman movie series are doing the rounds. Who will the villains be and who will be able to match Heath's Joker performance?

The success of The Dark Knight guarantees another film - not that they were counting on success to make a third film happen. As far back as Batman Begins it was already confirmed that Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman were all signed on for three films.

Live News is reporting in Batman buzz: Johnny Depp as The Riddler? that Johnny Depp has been approached to play The Riddler and Philip Seymour Hoffman is being considered to play The Penguin.

The story is questionable. On the one hand Johnny Depp would certainly be an exciting choice for any male villain in the Batman universe but on the other hand, mention of the Penguin suggests the source isn't reliable.

I've read direct quotes from Christopher Nolan stating that the Penguin isn't a character he's interested in. In fact Live News in this story, Jolie the perfect Catwoman, says original Catwoman, Christopher's quotes on the Penguin are, well, quoted as follows:
“In the first movie we use Ra’s Al Ghul and The Scarecrow, who had not been in the movies before, and had not been in the sixties TV show before. And there are dozens if not hundreds of other characters that fit that bill. Everyone says its gotta be the Penguin or Catwoman… well, I completely disagree,” Nolan told Totalfilm.
As much as I would like to see Catwomen in the next film hopefully that quote will kill any chance of Angelina Jolie getting the part (sorry, I just think she's too obvious a choice and doesn't have the range to bring anything new to the role that she hasn't done in other movies). I have no suggestions for Catwoman but I'd be looking for someone who has done gutsy roles and can handle the emotional baggage as well.

Back to Depp and the Riddler. I've heard it speculated that the Riddler might be a good choice as a Joker replacement (assuming the Joker was part of the third film - very likely since he didn't die in the second). If that's the case then my own thoughts are that the Joker should simply be re-cast. I think Depp could certainly fill Heath's shoes.

Heath was outstanding however, no matter how much people think no one can touch his performance, the Joker is Batman's number one arch rival. People will want to see the Joker again. Someone is going to have to play that role.

Depp is a great character actor and he puts the same amount of thought into each role as Heath did with his Joker. I think Depp would be smart enough to not only take on Heath's interpretation of the Joker but could build on it with his own ideas. Depp is 'fearless' like Heath.

All that aside, Nolan's quote reveals that another Batman movie may go for lesser known villains as he did in the first film. It would be a big gamble. The first film was an origin story, thus you'd expect lesser known villains. If the third movie doesn't have a popular villain then the story will need to be even stronger to compensate. A tough ask to pull off for a third film but Nolan's team are clearly up to it.

Nolan has also said he's not interested in bringing Robin into the series. I'm someone who wants to see Robin given the Nolan treatment. It's a difficult character to bring in but I tend to agree with this essay on the Batman on Film web site, OPINION: "Robin - To Be or Not To Be, the timing is right.

Batman lost the love of his life, Rachel Dawes, in The Dark Knight and the film ends with him being pursued as a murdering vigilante. Batman is at his lowest and could use something to help bring him back. Robin could be a good beacon of hope.

I haven't seen a good live action Robin since the 1940's cinematic series. In that Robin was played seriously, almost as an equal and was a very capable sidekick. I'd like to see Robin brought in by the very capable Nolan. It would certainly make up for the lack of a major villain. Here's hoping but I'm not holding my breath.

Getting back to the rumors...

I can't see the Riddler in the third movie because he's too similar to the Joker (at least if you go by previous, live action interpretations). I'm predicting it probably won't happen.

As much as people would like to see Catwoman, she's almost as problematic as Robin to bring into this new, more realistic Batman universe. Again, probably won't happen.

The Penguin I can see in Nolan's world (so long as you erase from your mind Tim Burton's origin story of being raised by real penguins) but he's hardly a 'super villain'. Seems more like a high society, rip off merchant side story than a major force in crime. I've read that Nolan thinks the Penguin is too campy for his universe so there's a good chance he won't be included.

I'm sure there are many more rumors out there. Surprisingly no one's talking Mr Freeze or Poison Ivy (I'm not serious - let's hope it stays that way). I could be wrong on all my conclusions.

What I do know is that it's too early to know anything about a third film for sure. I'll be looking forward to more rumors.

Your Art or Photography Web Site Made Easy

Print on demand (POD) web site Red Bubble recently added Bubble Sites to their growing list of features for artists and photographers. Bubble Sites come as part of your free Red Bubble account and give you a way to sell prints or T-shirts of your art and photography from your very own stand alone, e-commerce enabled, Red Bubble powered, web site.

Red Bubble, in a very short space of time, have become a force to be reckoned with in the POD space. By offering free Bubble Sites they are effectively moving into the Cafepress Premium (paid) shops arena.

As far as I'm aware Cafepress is the only other POD site that allows you to make a stand alone shop to sell prints of your art or photos on various products. Although Red Bubble doesn't have the range of gift items of Cafepress it does have better options for high quality art prints, specifically matte prints and prints on canvas (neither of which are available from Cafepress).

Cafepress recently acquired Imagekind, which has a great range of options for high quality art prints but doesn't offer customized shops. Will Imagekind follow Red Bubble's lead?

Whatever happens with Cafepress and Imagekind I think Red Bubble has made a smart move by offering Bubble Sites for free. Not only that but they are very easy to set up. If you already have a Red Bubble portfolio then setting up your Bubble site is as simple as:
  1. Give your site a name.
  2. Enter some homepage introductory text.
  3. Enter text for your about me page.
  4. Choose an image from your existing portfolio to feature on your homepage.
  5. Save and your done.
If you want you can split your gallery up into sub galleries which is a simple process of adding folders then dragging and dropping images into them. Easy!

Bubble Sites are very new (launched two days prior to me writing this) and will eventually be more customizable cosmetically however the very basic site is clean, reasonably professional and more than effective as an online shop. Especially since Red Bubble ships to more than 70 countries and has options to display prices in five different currencies.

An added bonus is that your shops URL is short and easy to remember (providing your Red Bubble login name is easy to remember). If you'd like to see an example of a Bubble site then mine is at:

TET's Cats
http://etourist.redbubble.com/

If you're and artist or photographer, with no idea how to set up your own e-commerce site then Red Bubble's Bubble Sites is definitely for you. So simple to sell prints of your work - you won't even need to ask the kids to manage your site for you!

If you can take a good photo or produce great artwork, upload them to Red Bubble, set up your site and start promoting and marketing. It's almost that easy.

The Dark Knight Movie - My Thoughts

The much talked about The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's sequel to 2005's, Batman Begins, continues to bring an edgy realism to the Batman legend. I've been anticipating this film since the announcement of Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker because, as I mentioned here, I had every confidence that Heath would (and could) redefine this character.

If you're looking for reviews or story outlines this isn't the post for you - especially if you haven't seen the film. This article is my thoughts after having seen The Dark Knight and I'm assuming you've seen it too - hence there may be spoilers ahead.

I didn't get to see this film until a week after its Australian release which gave me time to get a feel for how the movie was being received by critics and audiences. This doesn't influence whether I go to see a movie but if general consensus is good then it gives me confidence that I'm going to be entertained.

Thankfully The Dark Knight opened with fantastic reviews (for the most part) and broke most of the box office records held by Spiderman III - a movie that missed the mark for me with its Emo Spiderman.

Unfortunately, as a result of such a good opening week, I think my expectations were set just a notch too high. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a great movie worthy of every accolade it's been given. As a long time Batman fan with some background knowledge of these characters, I didn't expect to find the plot difficult to follow in places, but I did. There are a lot of supporting characters, particularly amongst the villains. At times I found it difficult to know who was who - catching up later or never really being clear about who was with who.

For example, I didn't get the gang of copycat Batmans right away and was confused that Batman was using a gun and shooting at people. I did get up to speed when the real Batman showed up, at the Scarecrow bust, but it threw me enough to make me wonder about whether Scarecrow was part of the Batman copycat crew or not - even now I'm not so sure?

I also didn't pick up on the fact that there was two mob bosses pitted against each other, Salvatore Maroni (who now runs Falcone's mob family) and Gamble (a Gotham crime lord at war with Maroni). I thought they were all part of the same mob - which the Joker was trying to take over.

When a movie is receiving so many good reviews I tend to look for the bad reviews so I don't have to read the same glowing accolades over and over. This review by Chris Tookey from Mail Online raises a couple of interesting points. Notably that Chris also found the plot difficult to follow at times and that The Joker is incredibly well organized for a man whose mantra is chaos.

Almost everything the Joker does in this movie, in terms of his crimes, would have to have been planned to the 'n-th' detail. Such as sewing an explosive device into a man's stomach, ready to be detonated by the Joker's one phone call, whilst in custody. That isn't something that just happens by chance - it's premeditated and would have to be planned carefully. Even if you're a psychotic, criminal mastermind.

Similarly, Batman, whom we know is well resourced and organized, seems to be able to construct some pretty amazing technology in record time. How exactly do you construct a sonar, visual monitoring station that can observe an entire city using ordinary mobile phones, without your chief gadget man (Fox) knowing about it until it's finished and installed?

All my main points of contention aside what was important for me about this movie was the Joker and whether Heath Ledger achieved what I was hoping he would. I'm happy to say Heath delivers - but you didn't need me to tell you that. You'd have to be under a rock to not know that people are gunning for him to receive a posthumous Academy award for his performance.

So many good things have been written about Heath's performance and this movie that it seems the only way to say something new is to point out the disappointments or the things you'd like to have seen.

Heath's Joker is so engaging that you just want to know more about him. Most interesting is when the Joker starts to explain how he got his facial scars. You think you're getting some insight into his past only to discover later that the Joker has many conflicting stories about the scars. In effect you don't know if you've been given a glimpse or if it's just a story for chilling effect.

Not explaining the Joker's back story is both genius and disappointing. I can't say you ever get to like the Joker during this film. You certainly don't feel for him when Batman beats the crap out of him in the police interrogation room. However, with Heath's performance and interpretation you do wonder just how did he become the Joker (both the character and Heath - rumor has it Heath kept a diary of his character development on the Joker. Maybe some day it'll be published).

Some day, let's hope there will be a big screen, Joker origin story. Something that goes against the comics and the 1989 Batman movie by Tim Burton where the Joker emerged from a vat of chemicals that scared his skin white etc. (Given that Heath's Joker wears white makeup let's hope the chemical story will be dead and buried as too cartoonish).

I do like where this movie series is going with the idea that Batman is not seen as a hero by the citizens of Gotham - despite helping to reduce crime. Given that he's been succeeding most people wouldn't have a problem with a vigilante terrorizing criminals. However Batman's presence seems to be creating as many problems for Gotham as he's trying to fix so the general distrust of Batman is some what warranted and believable.

Overall this movie is as good as people have said. In terms of plot this one is something like the Matrix Trilogy. Just like the first movie in that series, the first movie, Batman Begins, was a more self contained story. All the loose ends were tied up with an option/setup for another film. The Dark Knight is perhaps more of a self contained plot than the second Matrix film but even so the story isn't finished. There are loose ends that have to carry forward into a third film. Batman will need to be rejected even more by the citizens he is trying to serve and protect.

I would recommend seeing this film at least twice because it does move at quite a fast pace. If you're struggling with the plot, like me, then seeing the film a second time is a must. It's not as easy to digest as Batman Begins but I think the little nuances that you'd pick up in a second viewing will make that which you understood the first time shine even more.

Free Pencils for Artists at IKEA

How thoughtful is IKEA, providing free pencils for us starving artists? Here I was thinking the only time you ever get free pencils is on a government election day and today I discover you can get a pencil, free, every day at IKEA.

You can also get free, paper tape measures too - not quite as cool but still useful.

More worrying than cool is seeing a sign that says 'Pick up your kids here'. Hmmm... I didn't have kids when I came in but when you're in an IKEA super store a lot could have happened by the time you come out. You just never know. I mean, a trip through IKEA does take you through every room of the house...

If you're not familiar with IKEA furniture stores (a description which I'm sure IKEA executives would balk at - they'd probably prefer a description like a home, lifestyle store) then IKEA is that company, famous for flat pack furniture that you put together with a trusty allen key. If you need more explanation then click the link in the first paragraph.

IKEA's super store in Adelaide, South Australia, is probably one of the biggest in this country and possibly even the world. You can drop your kids off at the entrance and pick them up, flat packed, ready to be put back together with an allen key when you get home.

Well okay, not really, but you can drop your youngest kids off in the supervised, indoor play ground whilst you go watch the free movies for the older kids, eat in the cafe... or you can browse the rest of the store.

Spending a couple of hours shopping (or just browsing) a furniture store isn't my idea of a particularly exciting day but it isn't boring either. IKEA has full room displays where you can get a feel for how their furniture and furnishings might look and feel in an actual home.

You can sit in a lounge room, pretending you own the place, whilst hundreds of strangers walk past (and through) making comments about your furniture. Just like being present at a 'home open' of a house you are trying to sell.

I've been to an IKEA store before when I lived in Perth, Western Australia, but never one quite this big. What surprised me most was how crowded it was. This is a store that has to be as big as a football field, with two levels, and yet it was still crowded.

Perhaps word about the free pencils has really started to get out?

My Bank Doesn't Understand Customer Service

My bank doesn't seem to understand the appropriate level of customer service for their industry.

It spent the best part of the nineteen nineties pushing their customers out in front of the ATM machines by reducing the number of tellers and charging fees for counter withdrawals.

They then spent the best part of the new millennium promoting their outstanding customer service by bringing back all the services they'd spent the previous decade cutting back on.

I walked into my bank today, like I have many times before, and was practically accosted by a man at the Customer Service desk, "Hello, how are you? Just going to the Tellers are we?"

"Errr... yes," I was somewhat taken aback. For a minute I thought I'd walked into the wrong place.

The guy realized I had no interest in him as I, like most people, know that to deposit a cheque, you need to head straight to the teller windows. I mean it's not a boutique clothing store where you expect assistance, it's a bank.

In a bank, if you're not making a specific transaction at a teller, there's usually only one other place to go - The Customer Service Desk. You don't need the customer service people to come to you because you already know that you can go to them for anything you can't achieve at the teller windows. Why can't my bank understand this?

I suspect my bank has been taking a browse through the fast food, Would you like fries with that, customer service handbook. Their Tellers, some time ago, started trying to interest me in other products like home loans. I've no idea why? Especially after they've probably just seen my laughable account balance as I deposit yet another modest cheque. If I wanted something else I would've asked, right?

Although I appreciate friendly customer service, in a bank, staff just should be there when you need them. They don't need to get in your face and they certainly don't need to be up-selling. My Bank shouldn't be giving me more reasons not like them (bank fees - don't get me started).

I can just imagine a robber running into my bank with a sawn off shot gun and a bag...

"Hello, how are you? Just going to the tellers are we?"

Will I Love Your Blog?

I'd like to accept this I Love Your Blog award from Kristine of WenchdGrafix Designs who has labeled me her Guilty Pleasure in the blog reading world. You can read what she had to say about me here (right down the bottom of her post).

Kristine also combined another award - with the same set of rules - so, technically I received two awards. I've just chosen the one with the best graphic to display here.

The rules for both these awards say that if you receive it you're supposed to link to the blog of the person who gave it to you (done that) and choose seven more recipients whose blogs you love... oh dear... not so much a guilty pleasure any more, just guilty.

I have to admit I don't read a lot of personal/individual blogs regularly. At least not regularly enough to say 'I love your blog'.

Of the blogs I do read, the majority are boring technology, business, art news and social networking news written by collaborations of people who like to think their opinion actually matters more than cracking a smile every once in a while (hey that rhymes). Pseudo journalists and straight faced niche experts who've all had humor lobotomies.

So remember, back at the start I said, "I'd like to accept this I Love Your Blog award..." well... I'd like to but I've yet to find one guilty pleasure blog... how am I supposed to find seven?

I know quite a few people visit my blog. If you're reading this then I guess you're one of them. Do you have a blog of your own? Do you think it's something I would enjoy? Will it keep me coming back day after day? Will I subscribe to your RSS Feed?

In short, will I love your blog?

Leave your blog link in the comments below and make a comment telling me why you think I'd like your blog. Here's a tip, I may be an artist but I'm not that fascinated by 'work in progress' art blogs. I'm a thinker and I like ideas. The more imaginative the better.

No doubt I'm going to be underwhelmed with the response but, if you'd like me to mention your blog in a special post explaining why I think others will love your blog, not much will happen if you don't leave a comment.

I want to love your blog... not in an icky way either... I promise I won't read in my underwear... stop thinking about me in my underwear... I'm not that kind of guilty pleasure!

Upgrading Fading Windows with No Vista

I'm one of those people who has resisted upgrading my computer's Windows operating system to the latest version. However I'm not about to join the legion of people complaining about upgrading to Windows Vista. No I'm years away from that. I'm upgrading from Windows ME to Windows XP. Yes I'm finally leaping into the year 2001 (that's like, nearly a century ago in computer years!).

In my opinion Windows ME was actually the last really good version of Windows. It had all the trouble free plug-and-play functionality of Windows XP without all the gloss and dumbing down bloating that attempted to make finding your way around Windows XP easy for everyone.

I wouldn't even be bothering to upgrade to XP but the thing about old operating systems is, they don't die but they do slowly fade away. By that I mean less and less new software will run on older versions of Windows. For example, the latest version of Internet Explorer won't work on Windows ME (no loss really since I use Firefox). More critically though, there is quite a lot of newer versions of productivity software, that I use, coming out in the fields of graphics, video, music and more that no longer will run on anything older than Windows XP.

The good thing about upgrading to XP this late is that many of the problems new operating systems encounter upon release will have been delt with. Windows XP may not be the best version of Windows but I'm fairly certain its better than Vista right at this moment.

You see new release operating systems don't shine straight away. It takes a few years of polishing before they start to look good. Vista is in that transitional stage where many hardware and software companies are still scrambling to make their products work under Vista (patches anyone?). Meanwhile I've got a good chance that most hardware and software will work fine under XP for quite a few years yet.

Fairly recently Microsoft announced that it will no longer be selling new copies of XP. Which brings me to another good point. I paid just AU$30.00 for my licensed copy of XP on Ebay (and no it isn't a pirated version either). Which is about what I paid for my licensed copy of Windows ME. Buying an operating system at the end of its life cycle is great value for money.

I have used XP and Vista so I do know what I've been missing. This upgrade is for my own personal computer that I use every day. My work horse. The computer that I get to choose what operating system I use with. For a brief second I thought about changing to Linux but that would create far too many issues of non compatibility with my business clients - it would be easier to upgrade to Vista.

So I guess it's thanks Bill, you've finally convinced me Windows XP is the OS for me. Let's see if I can stretch XP longer than seven years past its use by date.

Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years

I've been a long time fan of legendary comedy team, Monty Python, having been introduced to them via their movies (as their famous TV Series was a bit before my time). Having seen all their movies from And Now For Something Completely Different to Monty Python's Meaning of Life a chance to go behind the scenes of these and other projects is one good reason to read Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years by Michael Palin

However Michael's Diaries are more than just Monty Python and give great insight into the life and times of one of the world's most acclaimed, yet understated, comedy writers and performers. It also touches on many of the side projects that the various Python members worked on during the same period including Michael's Ripping Yarns TV series, John Cleese and Faulty Towers, Terry Gilliam's movies Jabberwocky, Brazil and Time Bandits, Eric Idle's movie The Ruttles and more.

Along the way Michael name drops some of the world's biggest celebrities who became friends including the late Beatle, George Harison, and the late Rolling Stone, Keith Moon.

There's also some insight into the behind the scenes workings of the iconic US, TV show Saturday Night Live which Michael was invited to host three times during this particular decade.

Something Python is known for is never crediting who wrote what on their various projects. Preferring to maintain that, regardless of individual contributions, the final project is the sum total of input from everyone. Michael's diaries break the silence in this regard crediting where the initial idea for many well known Python ideas began.

For example, even though these diaries only catch the very beginnings of Monty Pythons Meaning of Life, the World War II scene, where a unit of soldiers present their commanding officer with a clock was originally conceived by Terry Jones.

The diaries are a big read and, whilst Michael's writing style is easy and fluent, occasionally I found myself powering through entries about Michael's daily life in anticipation of more inside information about the two major movies of the period Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python's Life of Brian.

It's so rare that you get to discover how a movie was made right from the very germ of an idea that will eventually become the script. I found this aspect of the diaries fascinating - particularly with Life of Brian which began as a Life of Christ movie (and could've subjected the Pythons to far more controversy than they eventually got when Brian was released).

The contrast between writing Holy Grail and Brian was also interesting. Where Grail was written mostly on British soil, the team, with more money available, decided they needed to travel to the tropics to write Brian (oh to be able to travel anywhere just to provide the best writing environment).

For me I would've liked more behind the scenes description of key Python, creative meetings but that really isn't the kind of thing you get from a diary. Diaries are more about highlights and moments that stood out from the rest of the day. In Michael's diaries you get that in spades. Each entry is fairly short and covers that which most remained in Michael's thoughts when it came time to write the diary.

Also disappointing was, as you would expect, the diaries have no real ending. We get a taste of the early stages of Monty Python's Meaning of Life and Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits and then nothing. The diary just stops at the end of 1979. Presumably leaving the way open for Michael's diaries from 1980 onwards to be published in a future tome. I think I was hoping for some closing remarks from Michael. Perhaps a reflection on these first ten years. How his thoughts on Python's future then, compare with what actually transpired.

I hope Michael will publish future diaries. Not just to feed my interest in Python but because Michael's ambition to travel is already taking shape during the Python years. I'm sure his journey from Python to Travel documentary maker is every bit as interesting, all the while, his path has kept crossing with former Pythons on various projects.

For anyone who's a Michael Palin or a Monty Python fan this will be an interesting read. For those of you trying to make a career out of writing this may well be a burst of inspiration too.

Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years by Michael Palin - Available from Amazon

Koala Grilled at 100kmph

Don't mess with the koalas over in Queensland, Australia because they build them pretty darn tough in that part of the world. At least it would seem so with this story of a koala that was hit by a car at 100kmph (about 60mph), then traveled for 12km (about 7m) with its head stuck in the cars plastic grill before anyone noticed.

The koala, whose been named Ely 'Lucky' Grills (possibly after the well known, late Australian actor Lucky Grills) by rescuers, was in shock but survived the ordeal relatively unscathed and was up and about after a few hours rest and a feed.

What I'd like to know is how do you not notice hitting a koala at speed? Anyone who's done any significant traveling by car in Australia may at some point have hit wildlife that's wandered onto the road. My partner and I once took out a dove that wasn't even on the road as such but when it took off flew straight into the path of our car. We noticed it, and felt it hit.

I wonder if the maker of the car can claim that their vehicles include wildlife protecting safety features?

Photo: Lucky Grills, Reuters

Embarrassing Yourself with Doof Doof Music

Ever since Spinal Tap popularized the notion of turning an amp up to eleven audio systems have been rising to the challenge of louder, more awesome sound.

In particular, car audio systems have embraced the notion of the bigger the noise the better the sound must surely be. What I'd like to know is, if these sound systems are so good, why do they make all music sound the same... Doof, Doof, Doof?

You've all heard them. Pimped up cars, with audio systems seemingly worth more than gold, volume blasting way past eleven. Sound waves booming long before you make a positive visual on the car... Doof, Doof, Doof.

It has to be the audio system right? Surely all these people can't be playing the same tune? Doof, Doof, Doof.

Could it be that the more money spent on a car sound system the less musical range it will actually play? Maybe these people can't afford to buy music after purchasing the audio system so they all play the same demo track? Doof, doof, doof.

In my own car I have an audio head unit that can have an awesome speaker system attached to it. Front and rear speakers, sub woofers, tweeters... in fact the whole damn bird cage. It's got all the connections to be a sound force to be reckoned with.

I have it hooked up to a single, partially torn, speaker cone located in the middle of the dash board. It sounds fantastic. My music sounds just like my music and nothing like doof, doof, doof.

I'll admit I don't have a great speaker system because I can't afford it but I'm not exactly making any effort to save up. Being an ebay convert I could probably get everything I need at half the price or less. However, based on other systems I've heard, I'd rather my music didn't sound like doof, doof, doof.

If you happen to own one of these impressive car audio systems, please do me a favor. Turn the volume up (yes way past eleven), get out of the car and shut all the doors. Run about 50 feet in any direction, turn around and listen. If the dominant sound you can hear is doof, doof, doof, then congratulations, you've installed a rubbish audio system. You should be embarrassed to have it turned up that loud.

Musicians put a lot of time and effort into creating their sounds and your audio system reduces their fantastically crafted music to doof, doof, doof. You should be ashamed of yourself.

I'm not asking you to turn it down. I'm telling you to stop embarrassing yourself. I want to hear more than the base when you drive down my street.

If you can't give me that then perhaps you should keep the volume at eleven. Any louder and you're just telling everyone you are a fool.

Print your own Cat, Dog Artwork by TET

If you like my art but for whatever reason making a purchase isn't quite for you right now then here is your chance to create your own high quality print of one of my original artworks.

If you can see the Scribd, iPaper document below of my artwork, Tangled Toys, then just click on the iPaper menu button, select print, then adjust your printer settings for high quality printing.

The document is set up to print on a standard A4 page. I recommend you use either special high resolution paper or, for a more 'arty' look, try an A4 piece of watercolor paper. Once printed, cut around the dotted line to make the page the ideal size for a standard 10 inch by 8 inch photo frame.

If you don't have a printer or you like your art to be more functional then check out my range of Tangled Toys, Cafepress Gifts which include this whimsical artwork printed onto mousepads, shirts, note cards and more.

Read this document on Scribd: tangled toys 10jun2008 10x8print

Artist tries Adwords for the first time

As an individual artist, with a web site from which I sell my own art, write a blog and run a Cafepress shop, I decided to give Google's Adwords a try to raise more awareness of my cat themed art and gifts.

I'm completely new to Adwords. I've studied everything I can on the other side of the equation - which is Google Adsense. You can see Google ads all over my web site, placed where you'll be tempted to click. Trialling Adwords is like being 'the man behind the curtain'. Suddenly I'm in control of what goes on behind the scenes, creating ads and adjusting settings, in the hope I can get a lot of targeted traffic in a big way. Adwords isn't like Adsense. You can't just set and forget.

Before you read further, I highly recommend Dan's series of five articles about Adwords on his site, Empty Easel. These will take you through the process of signing up for Adwords in a more detailed, step by step description. You can also read Dan's experience and compare it with my own.

Succeeding with Adwords is mostly down choosing the right keywords to bring targeted traffic to your site. Traffic that you know is interested in your content because they were either searching, using your keywords, or they saw your ad on a site that shares some common themes, subject matter or keywords with yours.

Before I signed up for Adwords, I looked at my own site's visitor statistics on search engine keywords. I discovered that I have a problem that relates to my blog.

My web site receives around 700-900 visitors per month, approximately 60% comes directly from search engines. My most popular keyword phrase for the first half of June 2008 was 'Krippin Virus' - What the..? (I am Legend fans will know it). The second most popular keyword phrase was Hazel Dooney - who is a great, female Aussie artist but... not me. Both keyword phrases come from posts in my blog.

My blog is an eclectic mix of topics from movie opinions to humorous personal observations on life along with art commentary and more. The problem is, most of my search engine visitors, once they've read the article they followed a link to, rarely stay on and browse. Many never see my art or visit my shop. I can tell this because of another statistic called 'bounce rate' - the number of people who leave my site from the same page they arrived.

The lesson here: If you're writing a blog for the purpose of attracting search engine traffic, make sure you are writing about your art, how you create it and, more importantly, the subjects and themes your art covers. Otherwise you'll be like me with visitors who are only interested in the specific article/post they clicked a link to.

I have very little interest in blogging about my own art. Not only that but it took me a long time to warm to the idea of writing a blog in a way that would fill a creative void for me. I like my eclectic mix of articles - they are another aspect of my creativity and not simply something I write to get search engine traffic. As well, my significant collection of articles is starting to earn a modest but very promising amount of monthly Adsense revenue (a high bounce rate does have some benefits in the form of people clicking ads).

One way I've tried to improve my search engine ranking for my art is to to write about each artwork in my Gallery. It's early days yet so it'll take a while to see if that strategy is successful with the search engines.

The majority of my art is related to whimsical cat paintings. However anyone conducting a Google search for 'Cat Art', 'Cat Painting' or 'Cat Gifts' won't find me at all because 'cats' is a huge theme online. I'm not anywhere within sight of the first two pages in search results for these keyword phrases.

This is why I'm trying Adwords. Adwords seems like it works best when you can target a specific subject or theme. By targeting cat specific keyword phrases I can get my Adwords Ads onto the first page of search results. The ads also make me look some what more professional because, people familiar with Adwords, know I've paid money to get my ads onto that page.

Cost, Pay-per-click and Payment options.

Something that deterred me from using Adwords was the idea of pay-per-click. That is, every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google money. Google has the largest ad network bar none online which gives rise to the notion that millions of people will suddenly start clicking your ad and you'll be taking out a second mortgage on your house just to cover the debt.

Thankfully this notion is unlikely, as evidenced by Dan's experience in his article, Advertising Your Artwork with Adwords But Not Getting Many Clicks? in which he received only 2 clicks (at a cost of five cents per click) on his ads in his first two week period. More importantly though, you can set a daily budget and set a specific time period your ads will run making it easy to control spending.

For example, I signed up for Adwords Standard Edition, with a budget of five cents per click, up to a maximum of one dollar per day. Doing the math, that's 20 clicks per day before my ads will stop showing across Google's network for that day.

I also chose to prepay my account via bank deposit rather than have the clicks automatically deducted from a credit/debit card. That way I can budget an exact figure and have my adds running until my prepaid amount runs out. If you pay by credit card then you'll need to pay more attention to how many days you want your ads to show up on the network for. I went for the minimum payment of AU$20.00 for my starting budget ($10.00 of which is an account activation fee).

It's important to remember that, although Adwords does cost you money every time someone clicks your ad, that is actually what you want to happen. People clicking on your ad - the more the better. The strength of Adwords is that people click on your ad because they are interested in what you have to offer. The ideal result is, for every click on your ad (costing a few cents), you make a sale that brings in a few dollars profit.

So many options

When my ad went live I didn't have to take out a second mortgage (I don't even have a first mortgage... actually). Unfortunately all my keyword choices were either lousy or pointless, or so I thought. Many of my keywords weren't active for search - meaning my ad wouldn't appear for those keywords in Google searches but they'd still appear on the content network (i.e. on related web sites).

I was completely overwhelmed by the Adwords Campaign Management pages. So many options and settings. It all made my head spin. It didn't help that I was trying to make sense of it all late in the evening either. In the end I decided to just leave everything as it was for a day - which I highly recommend.

Twenty four hours later my ad had been clicked seven times. Not earth shattering but better than I'd expected. Apparently my keywords weren't all quite so bad after all.

Closer inspection revealed that all seven clicks came from the same keyword phrase, 'pictures of cats'. To get those seven clicks my ad was served more than 1100 times on the search network. Obviously a common search phrase because the phrase became inactive for search until I significantly increased my five cent bid.

By day two, all eighteen of my keyword phrases were inactive for search, requiring me to raise my bid on each one by varying amounts. As well, eleven of my keyword phrases weren't even triggering my ad to be displayed anywhere.

My budget ran out after about a week and a half. In that time I created a second variation on my text ad (at no extra cost) which performed equally as well as my first. I created a second 'landing' page for my ads, which Google switched between automatically (again at no extra cost), to test which layouts performed better (my budget ran out before I could get any worthwhile data). I trimmed down all my keyword selections to those phrases that were most specific to my site. Finally I raised my bid on just the keyword phrases, mentioned previously in this article, to make them active for search.

In total my ads were displayed across both networks more than 29,000 times and received 47 clicks - 46 from the search network and 1 from the content network. Clearly the search network is where people are more likely to click (and why not, these people are looking for a link that will give them what they want).

None of those clicks resulted in sales or new web site subscribers. However I can safely say Adwords sent people to my site that were searching for cat art and cat gifts - which is what I set out to achieve.

At this time I haven't added any new funds to restart my ad campaign. Although I'm very encouraged by the amount of traffic I received. My budget of $1 per day means I would need to make an average of one sale in my online shop every six days to break even (this is based on my own profit margins and will likely be different for you). There are other factors that would vary these figures but for the sake of simplicity I'm excluding them. If I can get at least that kind of conversion rate I'll be happy.

Something I'm very keen to try is image ads. Considering art is a very visual medium I'm interested to see if seeing the art will encourage better quality clicks. That is, unlike text ads, people will have seen my art before clicking. If they go ahead and click then, in theory, that suggests they like the style of my art and are interested to see more.

There are other features that I'd like to experiment with too, such as video ads, but all this will have to be for another article.

For now, I hope you've seen that, whilst there is a lot to learn, budget wise Adwords is very manageable. You can learn the basics with a minimum payment then, once you feel a little more confident and understand things better, you can consider topping up your advertising budget.

Adwords is well within reach of your average artist's budget and it can certainly assist in capturing some of those first page, search result clicks when your own Search Engine Optimization isn't achieving the right kind of traffic.

Author's Note: This article is an re-edited and extended version based on three previous articles about Adwords in my blog. It includes some updated information and analysis not previously written about.
Related Posts with Thumbnails