Recently Tish Lowe of Columbia, SC asked, “Can you give an example of ‘a stand-alone artist’s site that is rockin”?”
Thanks Tish. Truly excellent work is the best thing for your website. If you have that, a lot of other things take care of themselves. Question is whether Richard Schmid’s site, for example, is rockin’ because his work is excellent or because he’s famous.
My observations have always been troubled by the fact that some other rockin’ sites have work that is lousy but the artists are famous.
No matter what the objective of an artist’s site, by “rockin'” I mean a high degree of connectivity and at least some accomplishment of the artist’s particular goals.
While I fully understand this is not going to be possible for all, I might draw your attention to a website system that many artists are now embracing. It’s where the artist offers nothing directly for sale on his site but draws attention to his galleries or agents who do. The system works for artists with only minimal representation, but more than anything it encourages further galleries to make enquiries to the artist.
On completing a recent sale, one of my galleries asked the client how they’d come to buy a painting from them. The client wrote:
“We had been interested in getting a painting for some time and we happened to see one by Robert Genn on a friend’s wall and decided to Google the artist. This took us to www.robertgenn.com where we saw the various galleries representing him. From there we got to your website. Yours was not the closest gallery to us, but you had several Genns that appealed to us. As you know we made our choice over the phone and when you offered to take it back at no charge if it turned out not to be suitable, we made the deal. It arrived beautifully packaged in two days and we love it. Thank you again.”
As most readers know, I’m a painter who prefers the act of painting to the business of selling, wrapping, shipping and collecting, so this concept is not for everybody. Most of my galleries are at the cutting edge of customer service and courtesy, so every day my modest site goes quietly to work for them.
PS: “There is calm, harmony, and music inside of me.” (Vincent van Gogh)
Esoterica: While it’s obviously possible to produce your own excellent art, blow your own horn and cut your own deals, the concept misses one of the main principles of placing art. You really need excellent art as well as someone who thinks it’s excellent art–besides yourself. And just so you know things aren’t always straightforward in the “gallery-empowering-artist-website” game, a client recently wrote a gallery, “We originally went online to see the Genns but they were so expensive that, as you know, we bought one of your other artists’ instead.” Makes you think, doesn’t it?
by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia
I have gone against the trend by recently taking down my website. It is no more. However, I do have a blog site that just about does the same job and more. It is interactive – viewers can leave moderated comments. I have several ‘pages’ on the blog such as a testimonial page, an achievements page and a where-to-buy page. There is an about-me section, an email link, a Pinterest link, and an opt-in form for my newsletter. The nicest thing about a blog is that it can be a diary of works and, what’s more, it’s free and easy to use.
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Prices on websites?
by Terrel Jones, Troy, MT, USA
Should one put prices on their website? Someone just told me that many artists are not doing this anymore. My website seems to act more as advertising and a general portfolio than an actual selling site. I have never sold a painting directly from my website without some connection to the buyer who may have met me and/or seen my work.
I am represented in one local artists’ co-op in a small Montana town, have exhibited in many shows, and know a lot of people dispersed around the world as a result of teaching and travel. It would simplify my life to remove prices from my website so that I don’t have to constantly adjust them depending on where I am showing. I pay a webmaster for every change made so seem to be paying out more than I make. What are your thoughts on this?
(RG note) Thanks, Terrel. You certainly don’t need to put prices by every painting on your site, but a current list of prices (generally by sizes) keeps everyone informed, no matter where they live or how they’re accessing your work. While viewers love to see your work online, in my experience many people coming to websites are interested in finding out approximately how much your work sells for.
Sharing the journey
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The thing we all have to remember here is you are a smashing success as a Canadian painter. You make your living as an artist with several galleries across the country marketing and selling your works. I also know you paint like two paintings a day. So, that says to me, you love what you do! You also seem to get a great thrill out of this blog we all follow (although I seem to stir the pot more than most). A website is important, but not really a crucial tool for you as a painter.
For the rest of us, a website is ESSENTIAL! I started my website about 20 years ago, back when the earth was cooling and 90% of the internet was pornography. We used a dial-up service and it took several minutes for one image to load. Monthly I would get reports telling me of the demographic that was viewing my site. I was very impressed one day to read that 37% of my viewers were from Germany and, of that, they spent an average of 29 minutes viewing my site. It’s a BIG DEAL!
Today my site has been overhauled three times now. My site is sleek and refined with clear concise pictures of my works. While I am dyslexic and write terribly, I have numerous artist statements that explain and unravel the voice behind my works. There are also numerous videos and interviews. But a client can also buy right off my site, not only art, but books and prints as well, with a credit card or paypal!. These are crucial elements for an artist in this day and age to work with. My site is also a critical tool for working directly with a client. And once, a 15 year old girl named Stephanie Fromstein, from Chicago Illinois wrote her high school report on me after she found my website.
Not all artists are with galleries. Nor is it important that they are. Buyers are pretty savvy these days and people do a great deal of research when they are making an art purchase. The best thing any artist can do is give as much information as they possibly can. The biggest mistake artists make is to go for those cheesy “artist run websites” where for $500.00 you can join a giant coral of artists and have two whole pages with five images of works. When you see the index of over 5,000 artists all clamouring for attention, it reminds me of a giant ant hill with everyone trying to get to the top.
“If you have a bit of knack, great, then it is another 10,000 hours.” If you want to be rich and famous, go sell real estate. It is all part of an incredible journey.
Promoting vs. creating
by Pat Spencer, North Bay, ON, Canada
When I was starting out my business in the ’90s, I read a book called The Emyth by Michael Gerber which helped me sort out the importance of separating what I did well from the promotion and responsibilities of business. I believe that it applies to the field of art. We may be great painters with great focus on, and dreams of, our creation of art but need to arrange the promotion and responsibilities of the business of selling managed with those with the expertise to do so well – a competent art gallery.
As Gerber puts it: “Suddenly the job he knew how to do so well becomes one job he knows how to do plus a dozen others he doesn’t know how to do at all.” He discovers he must become three people in one:
The Technician — the person actually doing the work itself
The Manager — making sure everything is organized, pushing the Technician to ensure goals are met
The Entrepreneur — the visionary or dreamer charting the overall direction of the company.
Each of these selves does battle with the other, and most people have a lopsided balance within them. The most common breakdown of someone who starts a small business is 10% entrepreneur, 20% manager and 70% technician. Source: Tom Butler Bowdon: Prosperity Classics
How to price art
by Robert Brosche, Erie, PA, USA
What did you price your early art at, and when did the light bulb come on for you to raise it? You speakof galleries bla, bla. What did you start out pricing your paintings way back. How have your prices eventually gone higher? Or how did you push the price of your art work, or how were you able to increase your prices?
(RG note) Thanks, Robert. When I started out my prices were very low. I mean low. By the time galleries wanted my work I realized that I wanted to my prices to be the same in Toronto as in Vancouver. As my gallery affiliations grew, I asked them to be consistent in pricing to be fair to customers. Gradually, over the years, we have advanced prices about ten percent or less every year, so as well as a painting the collectors got a modest investment. One year (1982) business was so bad we didn’t raise them at all. Each time we plan a price increase it is done with the guidance of one or more key dealers. Steady does it. The last thing you want is wild gyrations or big jumps. Ten percent per annum over fifty years would be a very good mutual fund indeed. While art is art, and great fun for both the artist and the collector, it is also, I’m afraid, a commodity.
Hope for the future
by E. Melinda Morrison, Denver, CO, USA
Your voice and wisdom over the past years has been one that has validated so many of my thoughts and one that has reminded me, I am not alone in this journey. Many others took these steps in their quests for art way before I came along. I am not the only one who thinks as I do and there is comfort in that. I have often wondered why I put myself through this roller coaster ride. In the end, I am not only compelled to paint, but know it was what I was created to do.
I am fortunate to have friends who are very accomplished painters and have had success in their careers, and they also have helped me through my journey. However, you have put words to the aspects of being a painter that I can identify with and that I can’t always articulate myself. I will always be grateful to you for that and always appreciative of your letters. They give hope!
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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Elihu Edelson of Tyler, TX, USA who wrote, “Galleries should give you a commission for the work by someone else that got sold.”
And also Gavin Logan of London, England who wrote, “The way your website is set up it helps all artists, not just you.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Effective artists’ websites…