Selling art on the Web
Selected Responses to The Art Web
Please Note: The variety and volume of correspondence has lit up my studio computer for three days. Artists from up the road and around the world have had something to say. Thank you for responding so fast and so forcefully. I also appreciate your frankness and willingness to share. This is after all an exercise in trying to understand the medium and where it’s going for us artists. It was not possible to put up everyone’s letter, but I have put up a bit of many of them.
I have included several responses in their entirety because they were authoritative or because they added to my knowledge. For those of you who gave wise and candid counsel, I thank you. For those of you who surprised and amused us, thanks too.
I’m also including a touching, unedited letter from Russia for which I’ve included the URL. It just brought on my sense of humility and good fortune, and seemed to put the whole exercise into perspective.
In the event that you wish to print out all of the collected material — it will be about twenty-two pages.
I’ve had my site up for almost two years. I have had over three thousand looky-loos. Some wrote and said my work was great. So far I have had no sales. Is it my work?
There may be a few people cruising the web to buy art. I haven’t seen many. If any. Mostly I think they’re just looking for free things. My stuff isn’t free.
People like looking at my site but they don’t buy my sculptures very much.
If I search my name on google.com my site comes up right away so I know that it is accessible to anyone who is interested in finding me.
There is so much bad art on the web that people are discouraged.
Bad art on the web is good because it helps people develop taste and make up their minds better.
The web is loaded with artists who can’t get galleries.
The web is full of artists who are too timid to ask galleries to represent them.
There are some wonderfully slick websites out there where it looks like the art was put up as an afterthought. “Hey, we need some art for this site. Do you think you could knock some off this weekend?”
Some online galleries have thrown a lot of money (sometimes millions) on advertising in order to bring visitors to their site, but they seem to be laying off now because it’s just not yet cost effective.
It’s easier to get money out of internet gallery speculators than internet gallery art buyers.
Buying real art is a personal thing. People like to talk to artists or dealers, and even though art looks darned good on the screen, people generally want to see the real thing. Except for the dummies who are buying the reproductions. They know what they’re like and want them because their neighbors already have them.
One of the main benefits that has come out of internet art is that critics are now more redundant than ever. We can see it perfectly well for ourselves.
The more bad art there is on the web the better mine looks.
Artists of the world arise—It’s time to dump your dealers!
I get a pretty good number of so-called hits and/or visits. I deal with all queries and sales myself. I dump all junk mail and I spend too much time on line where I would be better employed painting. But I guess that I am now a bit of an addict!
A sale still has to be worked on and delivered. Am I doing things right? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Is my product right? Is my pricing? I do not have to be on the net to face the same dilemma.
I’m off to France and Spain for the next two months to paint. I will probably not have much access to the net as I may have to go to cafes to access it. Will I suffer as a result? Probably not. Will my paintings be better as a result of not having access to the net? The answer is a definite YES!
I have my own website, managed by a webmaster because I do not yet have the knowledge to do it myself. Having a webmaster is only a drawback when you want something added and are impatient to get it out there, as I am!
The first few months after I was online with the site I received no sales, but since then I have been very happy with the results. I am physically and financially handicapped and cannot get out to do shows and exhibits often and the site has given me an avenue for exposure. I have sold a few originals and more prints and notecards from it to people all over the world. Last year I made up a Christmas card and did great selling exclusively from the website.
I also have my work in several online galleries and so far have had no sales from these.
The funny thing is that although my site is on the ‘World Wide Web’ the leads I’m getting sales from are all local!
My work is entirely computer generated and shown on the web at Art.Net, a gallery of over 100 artists. I have a link on my site that catalogs my images and gives a price list for prints or booklets. Sales were VERY slow, and the books were quite labor intensive for the $15 I charged for them, so this past year I have closed out that link and show my art for the pleasure of sharing only. I do get a fair amount of feedback and average over 100 visitors a day. One problem is the fugitive quality of home printer inks. They all fade after a few years in the light, similar to water colors but more so. So I have gotten some negative feedback from prints I sold five years ago, very discouraging. I am sure the quality of the inks will improve with new technology, but so will the cost. (For collectors) it’s like trying to find four-leaf clovers in acres of dried grass.
Some online galleries have juries and this can be a good thing because at least some people who don’t have the confidence can at least know that someone who knows something about art is taking a look at them first.
The great thing about internet art is that anything goes. Good, bad, indifferent. It’s all there. As you say Robert, “It’s democratic.”
There’s no such thing as an undiscovered genius.
The internet is the Salieri of painting.
If you can’t get galleries, don’t think the internet will attract customers.
My work is very good. So far I have sold three of them (oil paintings) on the web. But it’s quite disappointing after the work I’ve put in.
Net commerce is driven by price. If people can save money by dealing on line, they will. Art, with its inherent arbitrary pricing, does not lend itself to the net. online art auctions are another thing. There’s excitement there.
I have galleries who handle my work. Some of them send out packets of photos of my work by email to clients who are already familiar with my work. If they happen to be ready to buy, this system works well.
I have listed paintings on eBay, a year or so back, but people did not want to bid over $50 for an original painting. I was solicited by a few of the so called “bigger” art sales sites, but with at least one they had a change in “management” after accepting my work, and decided not to carry my art. Now all they carry are “popular” and “known” artists, or lithos, etc. The implosion of the commercial bricks-and-mortar art gallery system as we know it is going to be more impressive than the demise of the Seattle Kingdome.
Most galleries are asleep at the switch. There’s a world wide sleeping giant out there if they would stir him up.
For specific, regional material, or very esoteric items where you’re the only outlet in the world for say a certain type of native-decorated shell that is only available on one remote south-seas island, then I think it would work if there was a magazine article saying that these things were desirable to collect and were going up in value.
The better art sites have content like how to paint, where to line up seminars, and sorts of things like your letters, Robert, and this at least brings in some traffic because people are interested in what you have to say.
If the art is good enough it finds a way to the right person in spite of the all the efforts of bad marketing on the part of the artist.
I don’t care if I sell my work. I just like to have it up so the world can see it. It’s good for the world to see my stuff. I get my money by working night shift at Dairy Queen.
The general public is not allowed to actually buy my paintings anyway.
I do my work for me and I would rather meet girls through my work on the internet than sell them things there.
The internet is a vehicle for communication, interaction, information and mutual understanding. All this commerce is going to press it out of shape. I particularly dislike the blinking banners.
No bites yet.
I have forgotten where my site is.
I’d forgotten I have a site.
Having had my site up for three years they’re are a few things I have noticed. First of all direct sales of work on the Internet seems to be an elusive myth. Secondly that having a site is a great reference tool for an artists career. And finally if you are not participating in this new medium “Internet” then you are missing the proverbial boat! Getting the site up in 1997 was not a big deal. I had a friend set it up and host it. That was great, seeing my work for sale in my “own” gallery on the net! Then reality crept in. I had a site but only 10 people a week were stopping by to see the greatest artwork available on the “NET.” After learning how to promote a site, i.e.: banners, search engine registration, and links, the hits were pouring in. Had over 100,000 hit with-in the first year and one half. Well with all those hits I still didn’t generate a sale.
However I have been invited to do a few commissions and everyone seems to want my opinion on just about any subject including but not limited to ART. Now here is the revelation. It looks good on the C.V. and hey I am getting far better exposure than if I had no site at all. Secondly the internet is like having a portfolio that is available for perusal 24/7. It is a great place to keep your C.V. as well as a place for photos of new and old work! The artists’ site provides the artist with the opportunity to talk to potential collectors in a one on one basis, and it eliminates the middle man, those “gallery types.” When doing shows I have noticed that my work sells better if I refer collectors to my web site. The Internet is the best calling card a new millennium artist can carry so get out there. “Why not be out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” The way today to distinguish a great artist from a good one is if they have a site on the “NET.” From a purely esoteric point of view if you have site these days you are considered by other artists to be upwardly mobile. And if you don’t have a site how else are you going to reach potentially millions of people with your work, without the pain of being in a gallery that doesn’t promote your work and then disappears in the night! Whatever happens in your career as a creative person “DO NOT MISS THE BOAT.” Get a site up today and be patient. It takes awhile for the contacts to come pouring in!
The Internet in the greatest tool available to artists today. Use it. To avoid the inevitable is to die a slow death.
Art sells well online. As customer acceptance of the Internet grows, more people use it more often every day. Buying low priced items from trusted sources such as amazon.com or Barnes and Noble or ToysRUs has built customer confidence in the system itself. Art in many forms – posters, T-shirts, ceramics, home decor, etc. has sold extremely well over the Internet.
But would you buy a $35,000 original sculpture by clicking on a “Buy Me” button. I doubt it. I have yet to see a customer do it either.
There are several ways to approach selling online. All are probably good ways if the person doing the site has the expertise to build, maintain, and market the site and it’s artist/s.
The first is to put your own art on the Web. Of course, we need to know how to produce html to do that. We can of course use something like Front Page, or Page Mill, or even Netscape to produce the site without any real knowledge of html. But for some reason, things don’t always go where we want them to go or stay where we put them. And it seems Microcsoft and Netscape can’t get together on what standard to use, so our site doesn’t
appear the same in Internet Explorer that it does in Netscape.
You must also have skills in producing digital images that are properly designed for the Web. A large detailed high-resolution image that really shows off your work is near useless on the Internet. On a standard 56K modem this image may take from 5 minutes to as long as an hour to download and appear on your screen. Sorry, but no one is going to wait that long to see your work. Okay, so we use small thumbnails so it loads fast and we can show a lot of images on one page. Now we have the viewer wishing to see some detail because he really cannot tell much of anything from the thumbnail except that it is a landscape with lots of blue in it.
Secondly, we can get together with the “pro” in our group of artists and let him put it on the Web in a group gallery. Now we have a large presence and look much more professional because we are part of an art community. Of course, it would really be a lot better if the Internet guru that is doing this wasn’t quite so crazy about background jazz that requires you to download a plugin. And all those little animations make it really hard to
focus on the art.
Third, we can go to the real professionals. Those big galleries that show hundreds of artists. That is, if we can afford the setup and maintenance fees to get listed. But, since your art is so outstanding that you know it will really sell if you can only get it exposed to the public. These guys have millions of hits every day. After all, your local gallery where you show your work is doing good to get 5 visitors a day. But, it seems your work gets lost in the masses and becomes only one of hundreds. Your actual traffic to your own pages of art get only 5 visitors a day.
And last, we can always hire the Internet professionals right here in town to build us a fantastic well designed professional site with lots of pages and properly presented images. It really looks great. It presents you as the outstanding artist you really are. Finally, the world will see your work – and buy!
Not quite. You find that despite your time, efforts, and monthly expense, your work still does not sell. You have been on the Internet for years and never sold a piece. The only email you have received was two organizations asking for a donation to their fund raiser, one college student wanting you to write their research paper for them on the skills and techniques required to produce award winning teapots, and a lady looking for a large subdued colors framed still life under $50 with a money back guarantee.
So, what does it take to sell your art?
First, it should be art that will sell in a brick and mortar gallery. You should not expect art to sell on the Web that does not sell anywhere else. Your problem may not be exposure, but content. Think about it. If the only person who has your art on their walls are relatives – back to the drawing board.
Secondly, if all your art that has been sold has been through a dealer, architect, or interior designer, and not from hanging in a gallery, then it stands to reason you not only need exposure, but you need a professional salesman to go with that exposure.
Maybe you have also realized that all your potential customers look at your great work, compliment you on how fabulous it is, and then say, “Do you have some post cards?” Your prints are the only thing you have sold in six months. The third thing to think about is what does the buying public really want?
Oh, but that is “commercial.” I want to sell “my art” from the heart of the artist. That is wonderful if your heart produces work that the viewer can’t live without. But if you notice they pass by your booth at the show like they are being paged by someone two booths down, maybe you should paint for yourself, admire your work, and enjoy it. But don’t quit your day job.
Now, considering that your art is in demand, you have good sales, but you would like a whole lot more just like it. The Internet may be a gold mine for you . . . if you can find the right way to market it!
Art is being sold on the Internet every day. Lots of it. But only a small segment of the total that is presented on the Internet. As is typical of most things – 10% of the artists have 90% of the sales. It takes a lot of doing things right, a lot of marketing time, a lot of planning, and a lot of the “right stuff.” It is no overnight miracle for the starving artist.
I have had a web site up now for several years. My first attempt was having someone else do it, and found it costly to have the necessary updates added. I then dove into designing my own, and I have been much more pleased. I have had numerous responses from folks all over, which has been fun. As far as sales, I can’t say that they have been great, but enough to make it worth my time. Although my form of art differs some from perhaps others, as I do awards etc. in glass as part of my work. I think it’s a wonderful media for sharing beauty, God knows there is much on the web that it not beautiful! I love (the rare times that I can take the time to do it!) to surf, looking for, particularly dogs, horses and wildlife art, which is my particular love. I have found INSPIRING work and had the opportunity to share with other artists.
Selling artistic products online is like anything else: It’s a coin and there are two sides to it.
Art galleries, per se, are only one way to get public exposure. It’s a good idea for anyone interested in marketing an artistic product to try this kind of exposure, if only to get a better understanding of what it does or doesn’t have to offer. Nowadays, it has less and less to offer, especially to the unestablished or emerging artist. The individual needs to make that assessment and determine whether this route is worth the time and effort it takes to have an effective website.
As the internet takes hold and expands, art galleries, naturally, are finding even more competition in the marketplace. Thousands of artists are already taking to the internet in an attempt to make sales, as opposed to going through the outside art gallery. In the long run, it remains to be seen whether or not the art galleries, as we knew them, can survive, or whether individual artists can get better and more lucrative exposure by putting their own portfolios on the web.
One thing is clear. In order to survive, art galleries will have to go with the flow, and the greatest advertising avenue now is on the internet. Most art galleries already have difficulty advertising or providing any kind of coverage for the artists they promote, and doing websites is expensive, unless gallery owners do their own webmastering. So whether or not they should have a website is a question many gallery owners are finding difficult to answer. It’s like anything else in the market place where we find ourselves asking: Can we afford it?
If the typical gallery decides to promote artists via a website, then getting the site up and running is only part of the job. The other part is marketing it, and that is a whole different ball game. As most of us know, just having a website isn’t much help if we don’t get the word out. And getting the word out amounts to marketing. And if the typical gallery can’t afford to market before they decide to have website, then what’s going to change their financial status to make it possible to advertise before they become blue chip, internet outlets?
No matter who we are or how we look at the proposition of selling artistic and aesthetic products from websites, the real key to success comes in the approaches we take to marketing. But equally important is the decision we have to make concerning where we will display and keep our products: In our own galleries, or someone else’s. It won’t work to have our products in someone else’s gallery and offer the same pieces for sale over our own websites. This is the mutually exclusive decision I found myself making at the very outset.
There are other important decisions to make if we are going to choose to have our own websites. We must understand how to ship art when it is bought. We must establish trust and faith in our services. And so on. But one thing that has happened to hundreds of artists, who decided to go online with a portfolio or virtual gallery, is that because of a lack of income they have become full time web masters. That’s a decision that’s not so easy to make anymore, because there are millions of would-be web masters who are infinitely better qualified to program websites than your average artist. Competition in webmastering is so fierce that an artist has to be exceedingly savvy to get any web work as an alternate source of income. I shrug everytime I see an artist cross the line, however, because that’s one less person in our ranks. It kind of says: It’s too tough to be an artist, and webmastering is open, so I’ll do that instead. It’s a personal decision. But it says to me that before we discuss marketing artwork over the web, we need to discuss the security behind being an artist, and how to cope with it.
As to actually selling art work over the internet, it’s being done. I personally have made my biggest sale from my website, which is far greater than anything I sold before I had a website. But, like any other business, promoting a website takes time and a solid awareness of how to market in this newest medium. It’s time-consuming and slow. And there is a lot of competition. Much of the competition, and many of the artists’ who don’t sell anything off their websites, consists of poor promoters, but even if we are good at promoting, sales are slow. There are few exceptions, and those artists (like Thomas Kinkade, for example) have established niches. The rest of us can’t expect similar returns.
No matter which way an artist chooses to get exposure, it’s a hard row to hoe. But, assuming that most will opt for websites of their own, there has to be a basic understanding of how to market our wares. The internet has a tremendous potential for a lot of businesses, but for the artist it’s a mixed bag. There are a number of questions or issues that should be addressed to help all artists understand how the internet works and what they can expect from it. A few questions are:
1. Is it best to be associated with a site that represents a lot of artists, or is it better for an artist to have his/her own site?
2. What are the best ways for an artist to market on the internet? (Note: what’s good for one kind of business is not necessarily good for
3. Can the internet be used to establish artistic niches?
4. Can an artist define a clientele through internet usage? (What are the internet demographics that define art buyers and, then, how do you reach them ethically?)
5. What is known about the art market on the street, so to speak, and how does it apply to marketing on the web (if at all)?
6. As the art gallery scene declines (assuming it will) what are the alternatives to marketing artwork? (even if this is a hypothetical question, it poses some interesting possibilities)
And so on. Summarily, art sells on the internet. Not all art, not most art. But some. That will change in the near future. There is no doubt that it will be the best outlet for most of us, for a lot of reasons. But the art of marketing art over the internet is barely into the gestation stage. There is a long way to go to perfecting this art, and until it gets fleshed out and takes on a real character, thousands of artists will continue to start a race they will never finish.
I am astounded with the results I have had with the net. I created my own webpage with a gallery and have it on about 3 art sites as well. It is amazing to me the number of people that visit each week, and I have sold 13 paintings all over North America. May not sound like much to some, but to me it is. I also have a notecard site online and I do very well with that too…in fact the sales keep me in paper and paint, which is wonderful.
My internet web site is a useful adjunct to my art sales. It informs people where I am exhibiting so they can visit it and see it first hand. They also can order a work they have seen at a show but didn’t purchase for some reason, or when they have thought about it, or have the money they buy. If I market particular works through newsgroups that are looking for a particular image, that works also. I email last year’s customers about upcoming shows in their area. These are all valuable sales tools. I do not think people trust computer monitors with portraying the colors and values which are important in a work of art. I also believe many people value the experience of going to a show, meeting the artist and asking questions, which are best done in person. I do think that heavily promoted “know quality” art work can be sold on the web because it has a know market value and quality. I’m not there yet, but someday I hope to sell completely, directly on the web.
I have a website, which is registered with several large search engines. I do not know how many people visit the site, as there is no counter. It has proven very useful when making a new contact to refer people to the site. However, I have made only one sale in two years through the site. This sale came as a result of a client seeing my work in a gallery and going to the website, seeing another painting she liked and contacting the gallery where
it was located. I do not believe clients will buy original art through a website, unless they are familiar with the artist’s work and have seen the originals elsewhere. However, they may purchase prints online, from personal experience I don’t know yet, but will be updating my site to show prints available. I’ll let you know how successful it is.
The site is only as good as the advertising you do to get people there. Without the advertising, it hangs in cyberspace. I also think that there is such a preponderance of artists’ websites that it is becoming overkill. Sites that show hundreds of artists, in my opinion are useless. Surfers have notoriously short attention spans, and unless the site loads very quickly and shows almost immediate images, people get bored and move on. It’s also like going into a candy store. When there is too much to chose from, people get overwhelmed and leave without making any choice. Too many artists spend money to put one or two images on a group website based on slick advertising promising big sales and exposure to millions of clients. The fact is real art buyers shop in galleries or shows, they’re not surfing the internet. It’s mainly other artists surfing the net. People will buy computers, books, and art supplies online, perhaps prints, but rarely original art.
Sorry for the apparent note of cynicism. I think the internet is an incredible tool. I use it constantly. But people have certain unrealistic expectations about what it can do, or can be used for. I think too many hopeful artists are taken in by unscrupulous marketers, promising to sell their art, while the only ones making any profits are the companies running the website.
I look forward to hearing what others think. I would like to be proven wrong.
Though I am not in my studio in the traditional sense I have adopted the entire net as my studio – I post images on the net but am more interested in using the interactive nature of the net to create new forms of artwork – artwork I cannot describe because I do not know what it is.
As I understand it, and I am not computer literate, it is not the number of hits you get to your site but it is the number of visitors that counts. I have been getting 10,000+ hits a month but that only means that people are just surfing and not staying in the site too long. I need to be in the top 10 list of the major search engines and that takes time and constant upkeep to get your product out there.
I have had sales as a result of the site but I get a lot more inquires about the work then actual sales at this point. Some of the contacts have led to other avenues in the marketing of the work such as companies asking to use images, for a price, for some of their products.
I think the way of the future is the internet but at this point with security problems and positioning of sites and cost it is still the desire of people to see the work personally and to have in a lot of cases a contact with the artist to purchase the work.
Since I’m a portrait painter, the advanage of my site is so prospective customers can view samples of my work. This saves them time from coming by the gallery, especially if out of town until they make a decision. They can also make copies of my prices and procedure, this saves me postage and time. Most local customers are online and they can share the experience with friends in the comfort of their home or work. This gives me more exposure with people that may not have thought of commissioning a painting or may have heard of me but never viewed any of my work. The portraits leave the studio and people never get to see most of them. Customers think you are successful with a .com address. Yes, I have received a Portrait commission online with a local person who drove everyday within a mile of my studio/gallery and didn’t know about me till finding me on the web one day! Then this pass Christmas I lost 3 very expensive commissions because (local also) they wanted to do every aspect by the web. I just didn’t think the photos and art checks could be done this way. Also I didn’t have a scanner or enough computer knowledge to fool with it. Maybe in the future.
One cannot ignore the internet. Like it or not it will become an absolute necessity for communication and commerce. Like a blue chip stock, however, the investor has to be patient while the value grows with ups and downs. If an artist has art on the internet and nothing has “happened” it’s probably more a reflection of their work than the medium.
Although an extremely powerful one, the internet is simply another tool to effectively become a better business artist. To achieve direct sales is only one way of analyzing the success of the internet. The real success comes with the credibility of having a professional site and using it as an effective portfolio.
Good business is about convenience for the customer. Home or office internet access is very convenient and a nice “soft sell.” Also, the more consumers buy other things on the internet the easier it will become to sell art.
If a confident customer already has an artist’s work they often only need a slide, snap shot or internet image to make another acquisition. This recently happened to me. A new customer saw some of my originals at a friends’ office. He went back to his home in Colorado, viewed my website then purchased a $9000 oil. I feel this is only a start of things to come on the internet.
Get on it.
I have sold about twenty original pieces directly from my web site and have had four commissions, but I think of the web as a marketing rather than sales tool. I thought of it strategically and this has paid off. The gist of it is that I designed not for looks but for functionality, and utilize the web resources peripheral to the topic of my art to reach those that might be interested but would probably not find me if I presented pure art. I use my writing skills and decades of flyfishing experience to offer viewers a pleasant experience and some value beyond just looking at pictures.
I was one of the very first artists on the web in 1994. When our network manager showed me the first Mosaic browser and a few things that were listed in their directory, I looked at the HTML code and saw it was very simple and easy to put up text and graphics and had mine ready in a week. Friends of mine have an Internet service provider and they needed something on their site to be able to show people what the web was, and they hosted my site for free. They also hosted for free a site for ProArts East Bay Open Studios for four or five years. In January 1995 I offered through the newsletter of 510, an Oakland arts organization, to help put any artists work up on the web and my friends offered to host their sites for free. I included a short description that through the Internet artists could reach a global audience, and was very surprised when only two local artists responded. They still
have their work up for free, and one Sonya Rapaport has won awards with her innovative pieces – she uses the web as her medium now. Anyone who got on back then has a big advantage over those trying to catch up, but the ignorance of most artists to this opportunity struck me as absurd.
In 1994, Netscape was founded and soon their directory grew and commercial interested started sprouting up. On the original Mosaic and Netscape directories there were about ten categories, one of which was Art, and when you clicked on that there were about ten museums listed and my own gallery. As the Web grew, I was on every directory as back then hey all started with those first Mosaic directories and built from that. It was great exposure, far beyond what any gallery system (other than perhaps Kincaid’s) could reach. I received emails from many foreign countries as well as all over the USA. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for an artist.
Although I had been selling my art at local open studio events, I had never sold in a traditional gallery. I consider their commissions and exclusivity contracts abhorrent, an obsolete situation that served neither artist nor patron. I prefer to sell directly, and my resultant low prices open up my market to people who do not typically shop at galleries. (I will begin selling at a gallery this summer, now that my exposure can draw higher prices). I had always sold most of what I had time to paint, as I was also in a technical career.
For the first four years I considered the web to be a marketing rather than sales vehicle. I didn’t have much to sell as they all sell pretty quickly at open studios, to friends and acquaintances. I also didn’t want to have to be updating it all of the time as works sold. I didn’t have time to reply to emails so I didn’t even put in a link or guest page or anything, just listed my email address for folks who wanted to take the time to write. It was my goal purely to get people to see my art, with the goal of someday in the far off future being able to let go of technical work to fish and paint freely. I still think it is best for marketing rather than sales. I find there is a reluctance to spend more than a hundred dollars or so on art sight unseen. I have always sold my art on approval, with a self-addressed mailer in case they don’t like it, and this helps.
I used other internet services to help draw attention to my site. I had been active in a fly fishing list-server and a Usenet group. Most of my paintings are done on location at rivers and mountain lakes where I fish, because I generally do the two together. Instead of aggressive marketing that bothers people and has become the norm, all I did was provide good flyfishing advice freely just list my URL below my signature. Occasionally when the topic of discussion was a place I had painted, I’d mention that. This subtle approach proved far more effective than most artists’ strategies I have heard about. Editors found me this way, and when someone posted asking for gift suggestions other than fishing tackle, a few readers recommended my paintings. This is far more effective than if I were to push my paintings directly.
The design of my site was very simple, on purpose, to minimize bandwidth and provide a fast and easy browsing experience. In my opinion this is a combination of courtesy for peoples’ time, and strategy. I still adhere to a few simple rules: No superflous graphics. The graphics are my paintings. Many people don’t know that search engines work on text and won’t find words imbedded in a graphic, which most artists feel the need to do to make their site have an interesting design. Originally I had no graphics on the home page, so it would load instantly. As modems have become faster, I now have a very small image on the home page. I use the slowest modem myself so I always see the worst possible performance and design for that.
Graphics are made with the web in mind. I scan directly at 72 dpi to avoid the resizing of images, and keep them small enough so they will fit in the browser screen of any monitor. It is poor design to waste the viewers’ time with a highly detailed and slow loading image, and then have them try to scroll to see it. Most artists with high-res monitors don’t understand that not everyone has them. Again, I design for the lowest common denominator.
These low-res graphics also prevent people from unauthorized use of my work. Watercolors in my opinion look the best of any art on a computer, because the light coming through the screen does exactly what we try to do with transparent watercolors.
Text is key. Text streams across instantly while graphics always take time to load. I put a short piece of text, with an anecdote or observation or short piece about the place or my experience there. Knowing about search engines, I kept in mind the keywords that people interested in my work search on. This included place names, local history or geography, types of fish, flies I used, painting styles and artists I followed, etc. The text loads instantly and draws the viewers attention and occupies them briefly so they don’t notice any delay of the picture loading. Many artists embed titles and topics in graphics to “design” their site. This is the opposite of design in my opinion as it ignores the functionality of the site and how the web works. Search engines work on text, and will not find words that are embedded in text. I still find some artists sites that do not even include their name in text – a search engine would not even find the site if the searcher typed in their name.
Change and growth help draw return visitors. My big advance came in 1997 when I traveled around the west painting and fishing for four months, updating “A Painter’s Journal” ever week or two with a magazine-like article with new paintings and travel and fishing journal. This drew very good response. I continued with this style afterwards when I have traveled and will do it again this summer as I move to Alaska and concentrate more on my art than I have been able to in the last few years. Now that there are thousands of artists on the web, it remains to be seen whether I can still draw a large viewership. I am confident that by sending a friendly and personal email to those who wrote me before, I can draw them back and they tell their friends. I tell them to visit to take a “Virtual Vacation” and that is a good draw for folks at work, where most web browsing takes place.
The strategy of most web commerce fits neatly into a quote I read from David Bowie when asked about the future of the Internet: “It’s all about shouting,” he said. The folks who are drawn to noise are not at all my target audience. I say – “People listen more closely when you WHISPER.”
I created and maintain my own web site and use it mainly as an aid to my “brick-and-mortar” galleries, who also display my work on their web sites. I don’t try to sell work directly from the site. (I have sold work from the site but only to collectors who already have other pieces of mine.) The main use I’ve found for the site is in making contacts with collectors, galleries, universities and museums–proposals for exhibitions, etc.,–without having to send slides. If the Internet contributes to the obsolescence of artists’ slides, that alone will have justified its existence in my opinion!
But there’s another possible justification for an artist’s Web site that you didn’t mention. As Walter Benjamin said, fine art lies mostly outside of the world of useful objects. The same can be said for a website, especially if an artist is his or her own webmaster. It exists for itself alone, as a sort of art object. I think if I didn’t have this underlying attitude about my site (even though it just occurred to me) I wouldn’t have maintained it for so long. Besides, all artists are exhibitionists, and there’s a certain thrill in knowing that by putting your work on the Internet you are–at least potentially–showing it to the whole world.
I had a website on IMALL for 2 years and got lots of hits but not one sale from it. The only people who made money was the people at “IMALL” so this only cost me $2000, and around $800 for the set up fee etc. Not a good experience for me or my pocket book!
I sell directly through my website, by e-mail, and checks or money orders. About 1 in 3 “confirmed” orders actually delivers the money – the other two seem to forget, or never get around to it. My assumption is that a site with e-commerce interactivity would net those other two buyers, more than doubling the site income.
On average, I’d say I sell $300 US a month, though is is an average, with a high of $1700 and a low of $0 being the range per month. 100% of this revenue is retained by me, as I own the site.
I have had my paintings on the internet for about three years. I started with my work on a nonprofit site called art.net. It costs about $60 a year and you make your own site. It’s a great community of artists from all over the world. One problem is that because it’s nonprofit, you can’t post prices. Another problem is the length and obscurity of the URL. I now have my own and it is clearer and easier to remember. That site is very good for telling people about, or if I want to post prices, but art.net generated a lot of traffic, so I maintain that site, too. All of the business that I’ve gotten on the web has been through my site at art.net. My site at art.net has resulted in a gallery relationship, as well as many inquiries for slides. I found it very expensive to deal with individuals, because I’d have to send out slides and most of the time they would not get returned. I decided to just post the galleries on my site so anyone interested in my work can contact a gallery near them. Soon I’ll take my site to the next level and start selling something. There are many interested people out there. It’s just a LOT of work; maintaining the site, publicizing, dealing with inquires, accepting payment, shipping work. I’m curious as to how artists who actively sell on the net handle it all.
I am looking into hooking up perhaps with some of the many online galleries that have approached me and my question to all of them is ‘are you selling?’ Some claim much success – others don’t say. I also do not wish to pay any kind of fee for these services – if they expect to do well they can take a commission only. I find that there must be literally thousands of ‘artists’ offering their wares on the internet and this may indeed be an obstacle to sales this way since ‘brick and mortar’ galleries, as you put it are more selective.
I have not sold anything from my home page at all. I have sold some paintings on eBay for very low prices $20.00 to $75.00 old work done long ago. My newer regular work on eBay did not do well and I did not sell at the low bid prices offered. I think only artists with a name and known reputation do well there.
This is certainly a timely topic for me. I have had a website since before last August. I manage my own site-I am the webmistress and artist. My own art is there and I also have my art in several web galleries. I upgraded my site in December to be able to transact “e-commerce,” thinking that was the key. I periodically send out a newsletter (one every month or two). I’ve tried meta tags. A real brick and mortar gallery has my work too and I have allowed them to place some of my work on their web site. I have diversified into very affordable greeting cards on my site too. (I have a day job and so I am an artist in the evenings and on the weekends. I would love to be a full time artist.)
It has turned out that the web site has been more of a gallery or portfolio to view than a gallery from which to purchase. In fact, I’ve made no web sales yet. I have made sales where there is personal contact such as at art shows and fairs. I have received lovely comments about my work but no web purchases. I am about to be featured in ArtsFusion Magazine in April and hope that a listing in the magazine will improve web sales.
Over the years I have had thousands of “hits” on the piece, but only one sale…to the kind lady who built the site!
I feel that artists who have a wide network of dealers and sell well probably don’t need a site. Unless someone is very familiar with the artists’ work I cannot see a work being purchased with the internet image as the only frame of reference. However I am learning not to predict what people may or may not do. My goal is to leave most of it in the hands of enthusiastic dealers and concentrate on the business of painting.
I manage my own website and use it in lieu of a brochure. I have had it up and running for three years. I receive numerous requests for help with foundry techniques as well as inquiries of suppliers of sculpting materials. I have actually received several commissions as a result of my site. Each time the commissions were for custom work. It would not be enough to pay the rent but I am encouraged by these few sales. The fact that a client is willing to pay several thousand dollars for a sculpture they have not seen in person off the Internet by an unknown sculptor leads me to believe this may eventually become more common place.
I sell on line all the time. I sell posters on Ebay of my work through a fellow that handles all of that for me. I have just started selling originals online. It’s a much harder sell because people still want to see slides and it takes a little longer. The marketing and networking are the hardest parts of ecommerce but no harder than doing your own ads in newspapers and magazines, although less expensive, and networking in the real world. It all comes down to consistency and PR. And the help of very good people who although they share in the profits make it much easier than trying to do it all yourself.
I had many requests, spent time answering them, but ultimately made few direct sales. I attribute that to the fact that artwork really needs to be seen and maybe touched.
One thing the web doesn’t provide well is the relationship that a gallery owner has with a client – the “recommendation” factor. Anyone can put their work on the web, but no one knows the reputation of the individual artist.
Overall, I have still enjoyed my web experiences, but possibly more for the community of artists I have met than for actual sales.
In very short order after I set up my site I had contact from several other art web site operators asking if they could link my site to theirs, some for a fee but most for free. I took up the offers of the free ones and that expanded the exposure.
I expect the development of online galleries to proliferate and will look to participate at that level this year. That is the way of the future and the opportunities are endless. Traditional galleries and traditional collectors will still be around but the fast lane is on the net.
My site generates a lot of hits but the hits number is tainted by the fact that I have the word nude in the key words so almost all of my top ten search references include the word nude. As far as sales are concerned, I’d say my web site is a bust.
I’ve only had my own site available for about 16-18 months. However, I see it as a revolutionary development for now and the future. Therefore, knowing absolutely nothing, I became involved to a small degree and got a “dot-com” address. To date, I can only credit selling a sculpture just once on my web site. Yet, I do enter competitions and art-in-public-places awards with some consistency and see more and more of these utilizing email and web addresses to access information. I see the medium, cyberspace, as a future method for making my work viewable to a far greater audience than galleries and exhibits. And, hopefully and likely, future competitions will request email pictures and website references to enter rather than last centuries’ request for slides and snail mail forms.
Through the magic of the internet, I can display some samples of my works, and for those who care to read it, information about my philosophy of art and background, and still have everything available here at my studio. I enjoy looking at my work installed all around my yard in the house instead of elsewhere waiting to be purchased.
It’s a very fast and convenient way to show potential new clients what you are doing.
I create and maintain my own Web site for art. It is a good marketing tool to help increase my mail list and to access quickly and inexpensively those interested in my work. To some people, having a Web site seems to lend an air of “credibility” to my professionalism. Although I have made art sales from my Internet site that I would not have made without the site, I believe the site’s strongest role is in marketing. The bottom line is that if people do not know my work exists, they cannot inquire about it. My Web site is an affordable addition to my marketing efforts.
We live in extraordinary times. Art buying is quite healthy. Everything to do with the internet is based on expectations. For me, while I have a presence on the net, I concentrate on doing better work and I invest my spare change in .coms.
[Excuse me for break English, we are learning to speak.]
It was pleasant surprise to receive the regards from You. I had answer not Your letter just past we have received it because we were going to change the NEWS-page of our site. But the FTP-type access to the site is not wide, many users need it at the same time. So it was demanding the time. Now we have placed some new photos at this page. I know not what is the Russia for Canadian peoples, but our life is different I think. The Internet is not so widespread yet. Many artists have no enough money to buy the simple Internet-usable computer. We are belonging to the minority of artists having our own site in the Russia. It is because I am a scientist who always looks for not standard ways of the problem solving. The Internet-access in the Russia is expensive. For example, 1 hour of Internet-access costs approximately 30 rubles. For comparison, 30 dollars for one hour of Internet-access is not expensive for people of Your country? And our Internet work is to jump in and jump out to economize money. However, for today I have spent a money for Internet but no one sale we have no yet. The site exists approximately 2 months. Before its creating the site I have mailed the peoples about sale of our tapestries and have sending the pictures. Nobody answered to order, but one man wrote strictly to us it was not polite to send e-mail without previous agreement. That time I was beginner in the Net and knew not about spam and not polite behavior to propose unsolicited goods. Then I have changed the way of action. It was the auction [ http://www.molotok.ru ] and again – no results. Now we have experimenting with initial prices 39 USD and 100 USD at the other auction [ http://www.STAVKA.ru ], no results again. Therefore, no one sale we have to now with the use of the Internet. Our sales are traditional with art saloons and galleries in Moscow. Olga ( my wife and chief-artist ) swears me because money, I usually mumble about technical progress and future sales, but she is right the Internet is the interesting toy yet in the Russia as to sales. And it is the favorite toy for our 8-year son too. I suppose we need from 2 to 5 years to activate Internet commerce in the Russia. We look for art exporters from Russia, but we are not large wholesale art organization, so we are not interesting for large exporters. We even were answering the large USA Aid to Artists (ATA) about cooperation in the field of sales, but initial costs were about thousands USD, those are large money for the Russia.
Next step was I decided to leave Russian Internet-problems and integrate to the World art community. It is the present task I had determined for myself and it is the present Internet work that we must do. We have addresses of some large art dealers sites but I must determine the most useful for our category. We must to build the Internet-money account, but I not decided about most effective choose for the Russia.
The previous our contracts were concluded in Moscow without Internet, we were interesting for people from other countries. Therefore with the Internet it must be the same. Although we know not yet the real ways.
Of course, we shall develop and improve our site, at first the Site Gallery. I hope in April to add 30 new photos of the previous tapestries. The scanner is the expensive toy in the Russia too, so we had no possibility to do it before. Some people help us, some other vice versa. But we always are looking for entrance and sometime have posiblity to do the next step.
Thank You for Your attention.
Author’s Russian Tapestries,
Yaroslaw & Olga
The current Internet is the embryonic stage of a vast revolution. It will eventually effect all areas of commerce, including art. There are already some art successes on the medium. Success most often depends on the coming together of acceptable art and the intelligent, active and patient use of the medium.
Thanks for your participation.