Get Up Off Of Your Hash(tag) by Mary Jennings

Note: This post is to complement my informal discussion with my local business networking group, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  It's a group of wonderful friends and business owners.  I am delighted to share what I know about the subject of hashtags. #

Let me start off saying that I am not a Digital Ninja or any sort of #Professional #Poundsign #Prophetess.  I am simply a artist/business woman who is interested in serving my customers and bringing them the best product I am able to deliver.  I do my best to keep up with the latest in hip hyperspace.  However, I will confess that just a few months ago I was anxiously visiting my mailbox everyday checking to see if the ebooks that I ordered had come in yet.  I found myself getting annoyed at their delay in arrival and the poor customer service of the provider. ..... You did hear me say that they were eBOOKs, right.  In a out-dated data daze I was checking the wrong mailbox.  They were sitting pretty in my electronic mailbox, waiting for me to download and dive into.

The reason I am presenting this description in hashtags in plain english is to help us all get out of our digital daze.  Certain things, hashtags being one, are part and parcel of the digital age.  You need to know how to use them.

We know all about tools in a toolbox, well hashtags (#) are a tool; like the kind you would find in a toolbox.  We can all agree that tools are very helpful.  Some know how to use every tool in the box.  Some only know how to use the key essential tools and some simply hire someone to use the tools for them.  It would be careless to avoid know what tools are out there and what they are capable of achieving even when you are not the one using them in the end.  It helps to be well-rounded.

I am here to brief you on the multi-purpose tool, the hashtag in this blog.  As a matter of fact, I will be making a presentation to my local business networking group on this topic.  As a business owner, it’s particularly challenging to keep track of all the latest and greatest ways to reach your customers.  I will do my best to make this short and simple.

Dear Business Owner: 

Do you want customers?

Do you want to grow in your field?

Do you want to check on you competition?

Do you want people to know how great you are?

Do you want to correct your message to people?

Do you want quick results?

Do you want to connect with your customers and colleagues?

Do you want to expand your territory?

Do you want support?

Do you want your event promoted?

Do you want to be hip at all to what is part and parcel of digital culture?

Then pay attention..

Hashtag Origin:

We really don’t need to know, but you can equate a hashtag (#) to a these terms:

group, topic or channel.  They look like this: #art #hashtag #DC #businessnetworking #bringbacklawandorder #nothashtagbutpoundsign.  You might also hear them paralleled with “trending topic” or “mini-meme”.

In the end, all of this is designed to bring people together and make information easier to find.  Hashtags now are compatible with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to name a few.  It’s close to what a tag is in the blogging world.  Hashtags are a great tool, but all tools need to come with a tool safety manual.

Safety First (you don’t want to lose a finger with this tool): 

Using hashtags is fairly simple and risk-free for the user, but they do require some creative thought and risk analysis before putting out there is cyberspace.  There are some hashtag bullies out there.  They are capable of putting together a “bashtag”.  Comedians love the creative use of hashtags that allow them to give emphasis or punchline to their otherwise average message.

Example: The (former) Food Network star, Paula Dean's career has been destroyed by the trending topic #PaulaDeanBestDishes where food and racism were combined to make for a terrible, unmarketable image.  The people’s voices were heard.

Similarly, hashtags like #OccupyWallStreet and #LibyaFeb17 have been used for political purposes to organize groups for promotion and discussion.

Branded hashtags can gain enough interest if they are clever and are free from the potential of backfiring on the beneficiary.  You also need to keep in mind some of the mistakes people make when developing a presence online and avoid those.  One of the biggest mistakes is to leave your profile picture blank or as an egg (twitter).  People will never trust a blank photo.

Benefits of Using Hashtags:

You will experience better ways to search for conversations that matter to you.  Using hashtags on Twitter and now, Facebook will allow you to locate and participate in a real-time networking environment with a focus of others that are in your field.

You can organize your own chat by simply typing your topic with a hashtag like #art, #HVAC and/or #finance.  Doing research is now made easier with hashtags.  You are able to even locate your competition and see what their customers might be saying about them.  You also have an opportunity to contribute to that conversation when you find the right time and content.

One of the best feelings is the feeling of locating your “tribe” online.  It doesn’t have to be a tribe of people in the same region, social, ethic, or religious background.  It can be simply about the direction and the interest common to you that has been identified with a hashtag.

The fact that the potential for hashtags is great and the cost is nothing should be all of the benefit you need to know.

Life without hashtags (from the customer's point of view): 

Your customers might be saying or asking:

“I will lose a piece of paper, but I will never lose my internet service.”  Your marketing is available at anytime and at any hour.

“Let me Google this person and see what I find.”  The more you work on your online presence the easier you will be able to find when you are looked up by your customer.

“Does this person really know what they’re doing?”  The more you write and the more you contribute to conversations, the easier it will be for a customer to see your credibility.

“Are all these testimonials real?”  The testimonials on websites are very nice, but the good word that is not from a controlled source is amazing.

Typical criticisms by the business owner/hashtag creator:

I don’t have time for this.

It’s free, how good can it be?

I get consumed by it and get nothing else done.

All of my customers don’t even use internet, why would I bother.

Who cares?

To hashtag or not to hashtag, that is the question.  It’s completely up to you, but at least, now you know what the heck they’re all about. #enjoy


Feature Friday: One Painting, Many Stories "Ascend" by Mary Jennings


"Upward"Oil on Canvas12"x12"x2" In most cases, a painting has many sources of inspiration behind it’s creation.  It’s always important for an artist to share those stories with the viewer in order to deepen their experience of the art.

This particular piece of work, “Ascend” has a story for it’s creation and even more of a story after it’s creation.

I happen to love looking up (and down) spiral staircases.  I love the design and the craftsmanship as well as the destination in sight.  They afford you with your end in sight as you are going up.  Kinda nice to know when you are out of breath.  I am always out of breath.

Visiting the Arc de Triumph, Paris, France.

Looking up in the Arc de Triumph

This particular painting of a spiral was inspired by the view up the stairs leading to the top of the Arc de Triumph in Paris, France.  With every echoing step upwards, I was thinking about the history behind this small journey I was currently enjoying.

The day I finished the work, it was sitting wet in my studio when a visitor came by and was overtaken with the desire to touch it.  She was devastated that she had smudged some purple on the side of the freshly painted work.  I told her not to worry, the smudge gave it even more character.

“Ascend” has also been published with an article by Rev. Dean Miller of The Falls Church Anglican in Northern Virginia.  Here is the perfectly pared article in The Current, Nov-Dec. 2012 issue p.22. Note the name change of the art in this ARTicle to protect the innocent (I guess).

For a small 12”x12”x2”, oil on canvas painting, this work (for sale on sure has quite a story to tell.....and climb.

I would love your feedback on my art in the comments below.  You are welcome to share this post or my etsy shop with a friend.  I would love to have my art and their stories passed around and even owned.

Experiencing Observation: Restorative by Mary Jennings

Have you ever been in so much pain that you are looking for anything to relieve it?  I have.  I could be referring to physical pain and but there is also emotion pain.  I think there are more remedies for physical pain than there are for pain experienced by the heart and soul.  With physical pain you can pinpoint the cause a bit easier and treat it as recommended.  In this case, I am talking about more of an emotional ache.  I have had times when my heart hurt and I was broken down like a an abandoned ride on the side of the road.  This sounds like lyrics for a Country Music song performed on Dr. Phil. Oil on Canvas by Mary Jennings

I approach these times differently now with some experience under my belt.  There have been times when I have lifted myself up and taken myself OUT of my misery; OUT of my WOE by putting one foot in front of the other in search of relief.  I was overly humbled and looking for a glimpse of encouragement.  I think we tend to hang on to our woe sometimes until we are done with sitting in it.  It’s like poking a bruise to remember it hurts.   I think putting the mental hand out, making the physical steps to receive a new direction for our hearts and heads to go into through this use of observation.

None of this can happen at times like this without a look up, a hand out or a first step.  Take one and the others will follow.

Through this action, the pain turns to a celebration of gratitude.  None of this can happen at times like this without a look up, a hand out or a first step.  Take one and the others will follow.  Great creativity can be born from these low places, but it’s not where I  personally want to dwell.  At this point in my life, it’s nice to recognize these times and turn them around pretty quickly.

"Boasting Promise" Oil on Canvas by Mary Jennings

This is a time when you see the sky in a whole new way.  Images are etched in your mind.  The process of observing people, places and things is restorative.  It’s like that first drink of water after being thirsty for a long time.  You're amazed at how delicious it really is.  If you encounter a time like this, consider it an invitation to go see things.  Average sightings are glorious.  You will look at yourself (sitting in self-pity) in contrast with the tree that has barely one good limb and still manages to boast such promise with a brilliant display of buds on that branch, in the dead of a bitter cold winter.  You can do this.  You can.

I would love to know about any observations you may have made during a time like this.  Leave a comment below or email me to share.

Feature Friday: My Sketchbook Project 2013 by Mary Jennings

Sketchbook Project 2012 detail

With the great pleasure I took in “releasing” my sketchbook in Jan. 2012 and creating and uploading the accompanying video in March, I have even more delight in knowing that over a thousand people have watched my (almost too long) video.  It was great to be able to show how it was made and the thought process behind all of the art. “Even though art is considered to be representational, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t very abstract messages embedded deep within those familiar images.  Artist’s statements are always very helpful to bring the audience closer to your work.

Sketchbook Project 2012


Preview Sketchbook Project 2013

8+8=16 16+16=32.... No, I am not performing The Inchworm.  I am counting the pages that are in this year’s blank sketchbook.  Thirty-two pages are waiting for me to fill them.  The theme of my book this year is, UPSTAIRS.  You will be a part of the process, just like before with another video on it’s way.  The book has to be completed and shipped January 15, 2013.  So, I better get to work!

Think about me and if you would like, leave an encouraging word for me in the comment section below.

I will be creating a blog specifically on Brooklyn Art Library and The Sketchbook Project 2013 on one of my Spotlight Saturday postings.

Experiencing Observation: Making Memories by Mary Jennings

My new trend in travel is to not bring anything home except a clear memory of my experience.  In that case, I better pay attention.

When packing for a holiday in an exciting destination, I briefly entertained the thought of leaving room in my suitcase to accommodate all the great purchases from my travels I will need to bring home.  Then I remember that I am on personal campaign not to bring another thing into my house.  Being a person who creates thing from things and nothing, I am on battle with clutter and stuff.  I don’t want to make my battle any harder than it already is by bringing anything else to manage.  So that leaves me with the question. How do I remember my travels.  What will I show people?

Cover of travel journal, sketchbook for Jennings trip to Europe 2012

I’ve come up with the perfect solution.  I am able to capture every minute with full color, sound and vivid memory by mentally taking in every detail I can about the whole experience through careful observation.  Talking, laughter, smells, stories, frustrations, images, history and bits and pieces that will fit into a small, almost pocket sized sketchbook is how I preserve the memory and experience of my travels.

I’m in the process of creating this now for a trip I enjoyed with my family this past Winter Break.  We went to Europe.  We visited Brussels, Belgium; London, England and Paris, France in a period from December 24, to December 30.  It was an extremely face paced trip and I am so glad I didn’t feel torn about spending my time in souvenir shops.  We all took tons of photos and thinks like tickets, labels and tags will become future art and will contribute to the finished book of observations from the entire travel experience.  It will reflect the voice and show the hand of the people who experienced it first hand.

I have done these types of sketchbooks before.  I have a video on youtube expressing how the book was created and the mindset behind it.  Since I am still in the process of creating my lovely travel journal sketchbook from Europe, I will share with you the Sketchbook Project 2012.  This documents the release of my childhood home and the transformational struggles that went with it.  At the time this blog was posted, this YouTube video has over a thousand views.

In closing, I would like to encourage the act of experiencing observation to collect information or data that will serve you in some capacity in the future.  It is certainly better than a shot glass with the British flag on it.  I’m just saying.  One (the shot glass) can be broken or lost and might be a headache (or the cause of one) to have around, the other (journal sketchbook) can be enjoyed and shared with a broad audience through generations and will inspire and encourage growth of the head and heart.


Note: This is part two of a six part series.  You can find part one of six here.