-By Arnie Fenner

Five years ago Dan dos Santos gathered a disparate group of artists, designers, educators, and art directors and launched this blog site. The purpose was simple: to share and talk about art and subjects that concern artists (artsy or otherwise).

The internet, of course, is overflowing with websites, chatrooms, blogs, podcasts, and social media platforms: some are valuable, many are bland, and there are plenty that show just how full of crap some people really are. Everybody has opinions and most everybody on the web likes to share theirs, whether sound or silly.

But it’s one thing to have an opinion and quite another to be able to back it up.

I think that’s the nicest aspect of Muddy Colors: whether anyone agrees with the writer or not, the posts are thought out and the opinions expressed carefully considered. The posters to MC can “back it up,” either with due diligence research or, often, first-hand experiences.

Naturally there are no absolutes; certainly there’s always room for disagreement or alternative views. But at the end of the day, what helps separate Muddy Colors from the pack is the respect the bloggers have for the audience—which is most often returned in kind. As a rule of thumb, Dan doesn’t block naughty people and leaves outlandish comments on the threads (up to a point, I imagine), just so readers will be able to recognize an asshat when they see one.

Overall, though, Muddy Colors is a place for the sincere exchange of ideas and polite conversation, not for cage-match fisticuffs; even in the instances when opinions are strongly expressed (particularly in the comments thread), courtesy generally prevails. Not always, but usually.

That’s a rare thing these days.

And when the Muddies disagree with each other (and we do) it never devolves into a public donnybrook: this isn’t a place for the fan game of “let’s you and him fight” for the amusement of all to be played out. This isn’t Facebook. Muddy Colors makes it easy to observe a certain sense of decorum and everyone—we Muddies and you readers—benefits as a result.

Dan’s idea was that a new post would appear every day, five days a week, by a rotating group of contributors. He’s stuck to that schedule and, though a few Muddies are occasionally slow to get out of bed, has never missed a date; in fact he’s expanded the schedule to posts six days and it’s not unheard of for something to sneak in on a Sunday here and there.

MC has steadily grown since its inception, routinely attracting something in the area of 10,000 unique visitors a day—primarily from the U.S., though residents of Canada, Brazil, Australia, Europe, and Russia are all frequent browsers, too. Those sorts of figures would greatly excite paying advertisers, but Dan has elected to forego that model: it doesn’t fit with his purpose for or vision of the blog.

For several years Muddy Colors sponsored a “Rising Stars” booth at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. We ran out of time (and space) to do it properly this year, but there are plans to do it again in San Francisco. The Spectrum Rising Star Award that was created by Kristine and Colin Poole and presented at SFAL4 in May is an outgrowth of the MC recognition and Dan was one of the judges that determined the 2015 winner, Wylie Beckert.

So far the posts have generated 12,354,343 page views. And the most popular? “What Women Want…in Women Characters” by Lauren Panepinto with 152,542 looks and 256 comments. There were happy readers, there were unhappy readers, but either way the number of eyes looking at Lauren’s post is pretty astonishing. Her post “Artist Selfies: Everybody’s Doing It” wasn’t the least bit controversial but was extremely popular as well with 52,147 page views. Several of Greg Manchess’ “10 Things…” posts are appropriately in the top ten for visitors and there are many anxiously waiting for Greg’s next installments. And for a reason I can’t begin to fathom, my post about the various TV/film incarnations of Batman (because I couldn’t think of anything to write about on my day) was the view-leader for many months with 69,343 hits until Lauren’s women characters essay blew it out of the water. The scamp. The fairly recent additions of Greg Ruth, Howard Lyon, William O’Connor, Vanessa and Ron Lemen, and Dave Palumbo to the roster of regular posters increases MC’s diversity and adds greatly to the conversation.

What will happen in the future?

More, I guess. More new contributors will continue to be added; regulars will stay or pop in or out and, a few, will go. Subject matter will continue to be eclectic, usually informative, sometimes eccentric, but definitely unique. There will be more advice, more tips, more suggestions, and most probably more posts that will get at least a few people’s panties in a wad.

Today we are 5.

Join me in raising a glass to our founder Dan dos Santos (our fearless leader photographed above by Greg Preston), to the Muddy Crew, and to all of you readers for making this blog what it is. Salute!