Substack recently introduced a new feature called Notes. In the past, the introduction of new features has led to dozens of authors sending out newsletters encouraging everyone to try or adopt the newly added capability. I still remember receiving probably a dozen e-mails when they introduced the Chat feature. Each e-mail would explain what it was and how to use it. I do want to talk about Notes, but my focus is different.
Rather than trying to talk you into using Notes, I would like to explain why I’m enjoying it and I’d like to do this by talking about art.
The Orientalist Art Movement
One of my favorite artistic movement is Orientalism. This was a period of time when European artists traveled to the Middle East to document the locations, life, and society as they encountered it on their travels. These paintings would be sent back to London, Paris, or New York where they would be photographed and printed in leading newspapers of the day. Those photographs, newspaper articles, and exhibits were the very first experience the general public had with Middle Eastern culture.
The aspect I enjoy most about these paintings and this movement is the sense of wonder and romance that these artists succeeded in capturing of their time in those lands. Even now, hundreds of years later, you can still feel the awe that these men felt as they gazed upon the pyramids, a bazaar, or a camel train for the first time. It’s that feeling of seeing the world anew and just being overwhelmed with how exotic and wondrous it all is that appeals to me most.
Here are some of my favorite paintings. All of these images are from The Orientalists by Kristian Davies, copyright 2005. If you can find a copy of this book, do yourself a favor and buy it.
What does any of this have to do with Notes? Am I saying that these short messages will magically transport you to Cairo the way some of these paintings do for me? No, but those messages do offer a window into the lives and interests of other writers and readers on this platform. They will expand your horizon and introduce you to people and ideas you haven’t before encountered.
For me, that’s the magic that’s happening there. I have discovered so many new voices and met a cadre of individuals who share an interest in topics that fascinate me. I’ve participated in discussions about complicated issues that have really made me evaluate how I feel about different topics. I’ve met people who have disagreed with me, but have been civil while explaining their point of view. Notes offers an expanding horizon of possible interactions and a rich ecosystem full of interesting people.
I hope that that you’ll consider giving it a shot. If you do, please let me know. I want to follow you and see the things you’re sharing. I’d like to learn more about you and get a peek at what life is like in whatever exotic clime you may call home.
You can learn more about Notes here:
Thanks for reading!
Great connection. For me, The Desert by Guillaumet is my favorite Orientalist painting.
I never even imagined connecting Notes to the Orientalist Art Movement. Very smart!
One thing I’ve been wondering with Notes recently is something you brought up over the weekend. And I was curious where you are with it:
Do you think discovery on Notes will translate to active engagement on your posts? I’ve noticed a lot of the engagement so far stays on Notes.