June 28, 2011

Tech Tuesdays - Integrating Disqus comments on your blog

Today, I would like to show you how to go about integrating the Disqus commenting system on your blog.

Why Disqus?

  • Rich features - threaded comments, reply by email, track all your comments etc.
  • Sign in with ANY id - you can sign in with Facebook, Twitter, Google and so on. Anything.
  • Well integrated with social media - You can share your comments and replies on twitter and facebook too.
  • Other add on widgets like Recent comments, popular commenters etc.
Until recently, it was not so easy to integrate disqus with blogger, it had to be done manually. But now it takes less than a minute. I would strongly recommend every serious blogger to do it. Here's how we go about it.

Step 1 - Sign up for Disqus and add your sites.
After you sign up for an account with Disqus, be sure to add your blog to the list of sites that you manage.  Then go to your Admin panel and click on the "Install" tab.
Admin -> Install
Step 2 - Choose the platform on which you have to install. Blogger, for instance.

  • When your site is already added to your disqus profile, all you need to do now is to click on the button as it is shown below, to add the widget to your blog. 
  • You will then be required to login to blogger and authorize the widget.
  • When the page element is added in blogger, you can drag and drop it to where you want. Typically, in the end of the post body. 

Install to blogger
Step 3 - Import existing comments
  • Since disqus is the default commenting system on your blog now, you have to also import the older comments in your blog so that they don't disappear now. 
  • Click on the tab "Tools" in your admin panel.
  • Now select "Import and export" and select the platform from which you have to import comments. Here, it is blogger again.
  • This will take a while, depending on how many comments you have in your blog. 
  • Once it is completed, you would be able to see your old comments in the new system.
Import comments from Blogger
Wasn't that super easy?! Try it out and let me know if you face any issues. I'd be glad to help. If you have any suggestions for posts in my "Tech Tuesdays" series, drop me a line.

June 22, 2011

Song of dusk - Textured Oil painting, a brand new subject!

I have never been drawn to painting animals. I think it boils down to the fact that I am not too much of an animal lover. Birds interest me though, I have sketched quite a few and done a couple of bird paintings way back even when I used to dabble with colored pencils. And I was drawn to these bird images recently, just to give a shot at a new subject. It was also a challenge to myself, just to see how much detail I could bring in only with the knife. And on that count I must say I am really pleased with the result! 

When I paint with the knife, I tend to work really quick, quicker than with the brush. I took it rather slow with this piece, because I did not want to less it up. I wanted to bring in as much detail as possible to the feathers and the form of the bird. What a beauty she/he is! Everything including the eye and the white little dot was done only with the knife and I gave myself a pat on the back. :) 

Song of dusk
Oil on Board, 6 by 6 inches (palette knife)
© Nithya Swaminathan

$100 and ships free worldwide
Click here to Buy
This painting was actually done before my vacation, and I just realized that I had not blogged it at all. And I listed it today on Etsy. I logged in to Etsy after more than a month and was pleasantly surprised to see the changes in the listing process. Listing was Etsy's only pain point and the change is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!

It is a recent favorite of mine, and I would be pleased to hear what you think of this piece. 

June 21, 2011

Tech Tuesdays - How to set up a custom welcome tab for your Facebook page

So here comes the first installment of my new series - How to set up a custom welcome tab for your Facebook page. If you are a blogging artist, I assume you have a business page on Facebook already. If not, get yourself one right now and come back to reading this. :) 

Here is my page on facebook - Fine Art by Nithya Swaminathan, and what you see when you click on the link is my "custom" welcome page. You will be shown this page if you are not a fan of my page already. If you are a fan of my business page, then you will be seeing the "Wall" by default and you can click on "Welcome" to your left to see the welcome page. 

Why do you need a welcome tab?
When someone visits your facebook page for the first time, this tab will give them "intro" to your work. You could list all your important links, like your blog, website, online store and so on so that a visitor is not left searching for them. 

You could include a call for action, like I have, requesting them to like the page. 

Now shall we go about building such a page in less than 30 minutes? Here you go!

Step 1 - Choose your app
  • Search for an app that builds custom tabs and add them to your fan page by giving it the necessary permissions (clicking "Allow" to authorize the app).
  • A simple search for "custom" in the facebook search bar will list many apps that provide this functionality. Examples are Pagemodo, Custom Welcome Tab, Static FBML etc. 
  • My page uses "Custom Welcome Tab" and it is very easy to use.
  • When you "add" the app to your page, you could also specify the text that is to be displayed in the left side of your page. I have just chosen "Welcome". 
Add the app to your page
Step 2 - Configure Custom Tab
After adding the app to your page, when you go back to the app you will be able to see your page listed in the dashboard. Click on the "Configure Tab" button to customize it's contents. 

Configure Tab
Step 3 - Add content to your custom tab
  • The app provides a rich text editor to add text, images, links and format them as you would like your page to be. 
  • In my page, I have added an image just like I have done in the home page of my website. I have actually added the same image as on my website. You could even add a video introducing yourself and your art. The possibilities are endless.
  • I wanted to keep it simple, so my welcome tab shows an image of my work and my links. 
  • The editor also provides an option to preview your changes so that you could make changes after previewing them. Save your changes and come back to your page admin panel.
Rich Text Editor with image added

Add links to website
Step 4 - Configure the landing tab
  • Once you have designed your custom welcome tab, it has to be configured as the "default landing tab" in your page, only after which it will be displayed when visitors land on your page.
  • Go to your fan page and click on Edit in the left side. 
  • In the admin view, click on "Manage Permissions".
  • In the option "Default landing tab", select the tab that we have just designed from the dropdown box. 
  • Save your changes.

Set as landing tab

Voila and you are done! That's it and when a new visitor, who is not a fan of your page lands there, they will be shown the welcome page first. Cool isn't it. This is how my page looks.

Custom Landing Page
Fine Art by Nithya Swaminathan
How did you like this step by step guide? Was it useful? Was it confusing? This is the first time I am trying something like this so I welcome all your feedback. Do let me know what was fine and what was not. And do come back for the next installment on the 28th of June 2011. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Introducing Tech Tuesdays - a brand new series on A Splash of Color

When I interact with other artists on various venues, one thing that I come across is that a lot of them find technology a tad confusing and even overwhelming at times. If you are one such artist, read on. 

I am starting a new series on my blog that is aimed at artists who wish to overcome the challenge of technology. A step by step approach to demystifying things. This new series is titled "Tech Tuesdays", and yes, it will be published once a week every Tuesday. 

As of now, my plan is to deal with one very specific topic every week, mostly related to maintaining an art blog, a Facebook page for your art, a website and so on. I will try to be as detailed as possible with screenshots and step by step guidelines. 

Who would benefit from this -

  • Artists and art bloggers who have very less or no knowledge of HTML, customizing your facebook page, integrating your various online presences, etc.
  • This series is NOT for people who are in front of the system all the time. It is much more basic than that. 
How you can participate?
  • Leave a comment suggesting any topic that might be of specific interest to you. 
  • I am an engineer and having worked enough in software development, there are things that I might not necessarily find "challenging" and I could ignore them. But if you have a suggestion, I am more than willing to help. 
  • Share the articles with your friends or anyone else whom you think would benefit from them.:)

June 20, 2011

Now a member of Daily Paintworks

Ever since I heard Carol Marine and her husband David on the Artists Helping Artists show a couple of months ago, I have been waiting for the Daily Paintworks site to be opened up for membership for all artists. David has been doing such a phenomenal job with the site that it is a pleasure to exhibit there. The search features are totally awesome, it is unbelievable how many improvements are being brought about in the website every other day.

Do check out my gallery at Daily Paintworks. Today, I inaugurate my DPW auction with my recent piece "Mirror mirror on the wall". This is the first time I am trying out the auction format, so I have kept the starting bid very low at just $20. Do check it out.

Mirror mirror on the wall
Acrylics on Canvas, 5 by 7 inches
Click here to Bid
I will be auctioning pieces every now and then, apart from selling in my other venues. Sign up to  my mailing list to stay up to date with the latest auctions.

June 19, 2011

Back from vacation!

Oh well, I was technically back on the 2nd of June itself, but was too immersed in the real world to even get to my blog. We were away for a good part of May spending awesome time with family at NYC. My sister lives there and it was getting together with family after a long time and every minute was well worth it. 

I cannot even begin to describe how fascinated I am with New York. What a city full of life, it was love at first sight for me. There are some places that have caught your imagination for longer than you can remember, and very few of them will actually live up to all that and more without underwhelming you. NYC certainly falls in that category. I so couldn't get enough of it that I will be painting a series of cityscapes/impressions of the city. First impressions of a tourist :) That is soon to come on the blog, stay tuned. 

My favorite part of the vacation, more than all the museum visits, was watching a play at Broadway. It is always fascinating for an artist to see other art forms, and for someone who has no knowledge of theater, this was just the best I could ask for. The set designs and the performances, everything was so impeccable. It should ideally be one of the first things to do in the city, and I would rank the experience much higher than getting to the top of the Empire State and such. Truly one of it's kind. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was such a heaven, the best museum that I have seen after the Louvre. We spent one full day at the museum, and I was wise enough to leave my little one at home so that I could spend time undisturbed. Right from the intricate tile paintings and stained glass paintings to the sculptures, every piece was so stunning. My favorite at the museum this time were the timeless ballet dancers of Edgar Degas. Those pastel sketches simple blew my mind! This was also my first time coming face to face with a Sargent. Enough said! 

Ever since we got back, we were badly jet lagged for a few days and then I have been too busy with work. Being three weeks away is a luxury in a consulting job and so the post vacation period has been a little more work than usual. This past week kept me occupied for most of the time with preparations for my little one's birthday. Our little bundle of joy just turned 5, when did my baby grow up into such a big girl!!! We had a nice party with her friends yesterday and it was a lot of fun. 

One reason why I hate vacations or any breaks is that the break invariably gets extended longer than I would like it to. This time too, it's been more than a month since I have painted and I am feeling so rusty! I started working on a piece last week and hope to post it in the next couple of days. I promise! 

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