Ah, the internet. It could be shortlisted for the top five humankind-changing inventions: the wheel, the printing press, the hypodermic needle, sliced bread. It’s changed everything from how we research to how we socialize and even how we buy art. Despite the fact that art remains one of the last analogue strongholds, the internet via an artist’s website remains one of an artist’s top promotional tools. An artist’s website should serve multiple yet distinct roles: part studio visit, part exhibition, part catalogue, part biography, part media center. On top of these utilitarian functions, the aesthetics of an artist’s site have a higher ante because, after all, you’re in the business of form, composition and color. As we at Nine dot Arts spend a good 75% of our time trolling artists’ websites, we’ve seen pretty much every iteration possible. The good: easy navigation, beautiful images, straight-forward descriptions. The bad: auto-play music that gives everyone in the office a heart attack, no contact info ANYWHERE. The ugly: busy background patterns and colors, text in unreadable fonts, pixelated images.
Luckily for you, we’ve collected a few tips for making a kick-ass artist website below.
Do your due diligence. Step one: view as many artist websites as possible so you can see what you do and don’t want to do with yours. Make a list of features you like so you can implement them yourself. Step two: figure out your goals not just for your website but for your career. Do you want to be in a museum exhibition? Score gallery representation? Get looped into the Blogosphere? Land a teaching gig? Make sure your website aids in those goals rather than hinder them.
Look professional. The saying to dress for the job you want not the one you have applies to websites. If you’re an emerging artist, having a top-notch website is going to get you to the next level in your career that much faster than having a shoddy, slapdash, built-by-your-high-school-nephew website. Think of your website as the technological equivalent of creative business attire. Sure, you’re wearing a three-piece suit but you’ve also got on a polka-dot bowtie and emerald green socks! You’ll want to make sure everything on the site gives an accurate and personal reflection of who you are and what your art is about. If you’re a traditional landscape oil painter, you don’t want your website to feel like an Andy Warhol screen print and vice versa. Your website should seamlessly meld you with your art and feel like a natural extension of both. It’s branding at its most basic.
The easiest way to look professional is to hire a professional. Tracy Weil, Denver artist, art district consultant, Denver County Fair co-founder and heirloom tomato grower, also designs websites. Cirro designed our own super-swanky scrolling site. Of course, you may not have the budget to hire a professional, but don’t let that stop you! Other People’s Pixels gives you a one-stop shop: web-hosting, templates, personal domain names and an email address all in one for as low as $16/month. The key, regardless of who creates the site, is to make sure you can make edits and updates yourself – any time and place – without having to rely on someone to do it for you. Make sure the images of your work are of the highest quality and edit, edit, edit when it comes to text and fix any typos ASAP!
Get back to basics. Often, we forget the simplest things in life. When it comes to baseline information on your site, you want the five Ws and maybe even an H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. These are the bread and butter of journalists, researchers and police officers, but it’s also the informational currency of potential buyers.
You should include a brief biography that summarizes your most significant accomplishments from your résumé/CV as well as a few additional pieces of personal information such as where you were born and where you currently live and even your obsession with Utopias, that you’ve hiked every 14er in Colorado or that you speak Chinese. You can also include a sentence or so from your artist statement. Often at Nine dot Arts, we’ll have specific parameters for a particular collection and your bio is often how we can gauge if your work will fit a particular project. In addition to a bio, you’ll also want to include your résumé/CV which helps collectors, dealers and curators determine where you are in your career. Most importantly, tell us how to contact you! At the very least, provide a direct email address versus a contact form. That way, we can be sure our message was sent to you to the first time. Your bio and CV should adequately cover the Who, Where and When, but you may also want to include press releases, publications and links to gallery representation to flesh those Ws out. Your artist statement should cover the Why. Writing the artist statement is a whole other blog post, but, in the meantime, know that your artist statement provides the viewer with insight into your sources, ideas and inspiration in about three to four succinct, well-written paragraphs. Now for the What – ostensibly the most important W – your art! Make sure that each image is clearly identified, especially if you have detail shots of a piece. List the title, medium, size and year of the piece in addition to listing if the work is available or sold. You may even want to add additional comments or describe the process behind a piece, i.e. How the work came to be.
Make it easy peasy. Your website should be intuitive for the viewer to use and clearly legible. Everything we need to know about you and your art should be easy to spot and access. Things we love in websites: white backgrounds and black text in a simple font, thumbnail versions of each artwork, a navigation bar at the top of the home page, the ability to go back to the previous section. We’re always searching for that one perfect piece, and our eyes are eagle-trained to spot it. We don’t always have the time to decipher your hot pink text on a lime green background, click through your site one image at a time, spend minutes trying to find out how to contact you or get lost in so many new open tabs and link mazes we don’t even know where we began.
Keep your website up to date. Get in the habit of updating your site every three to six months at the least. This keeps your content fresh which ensures you’ll get picked up by search engines. And you’ll also show potential buyers you’re actively making work. More and more art consultants, buyers and curators are using the internet to find new talent. You want to make sure you’re putting yourself in a position for them to find you and once they do, to like what they see and dive deeper into your work.
Have non-artist types review your site before it goes live. Constructive criticism, as most of us know, is powerful stuff. Often, we’re too close to our own work and efforts to see them on their own terms. Having several sets of fresh eyes on your site will alert you to broken links, typos, awkward sentences and poor-quality images. You’ll also learn if various web browsers present your site differently. Send your site to anyone and everyone you think will give you honest, detailed feedback: your mom, significant other, best friend, high school English teacher, mortgage broker, etc. The goal is to get a 360 degree view so you can collate all the feedback, find the common denominators and address those issues now so you don’t jeopardize potential sales later on.
We know what you may be thinking: “Sheez Louise, this is a lot! How am I supposed to make art and a website at the same time?” We get it, for reals. Life is complicated and it just keeps getting busier and busier. But here’s the thing that successful artists know: there’s a time for artistic creation and there’s a separate time for business. Think of the business side of all that you do (creating your price list, updating your inventory, writing your artist statement, developing your website) as Art, Inc. All that seemingly banal stuff keeps your creative practice not just alive but thriving. It’s as essential to your art practice as paint and brushes. However you carve out time for Art, Inc., keep it regular and consistent whether it’s an hour or two a week or it’s a day each month. You already know you have the stamina and discipline to create great artwork, so now it’s just a matter of transitioning that same devotion and work ethic to your website. We can’t wait to google you!