Do I still need a website?

18

Dear Artist,

Peter Newton of Norwich, UK, wrote, “What do I need to do to make my website look professional?” For Peter, an upcoming exhibition has moved this backburner project to the fore. In some circles, social media has made an artist’s own website almost irrelevant — and data shows that these hubs are mostly where people direct their eyeballs. Also, pay-to-play selling platforms will aggregate your work with others and serve it up in an online superstore, plus take care of the advertising and sales transactions. Does a free-standing artist’s website even matter anymore? Is it worth it, to go to the trouble, time and expense, especially if one is not technologically inclined?

Garden of Dreams, 1970 Oil on canvas 91 x 108 cm by Peter Newton

Garden of Dreams, Switzerland, 1970
Oil on canvas
91 x 108 cm
by Peter Newton

Currently, there are two reasons to still have a website. The first is a matter of existence: a dedicated online portfolio of recent work not only lets the curious find you, but plants a flag of personal, creative stakeholding outside the walls of your studio. You’ll need a URL that is your name. Then, a curated selection of recent artwork and your CV. That is all. If you’re already on other platforms or social media, think of your site as a special place dedicated solely to your creative and professional endeavour. “Dress for the job you want,” wrote Austin Kleon. The second reason to have a website is for conducting business. If you’re showing, list your shows. If you’re building a mailing list, there are plug-and-play add-ons for doing just that. If you’re working with galleries, your site should direct visitors to them. And if you are selling directly, you can add a link, or inquiry form, or even a shopping plug-in, to help with transactions.

Circus of Life, 1978 Oil on canvas 162 x 192.5 cm by Peter Newton

Circus of Life, England, 1978
Oil on canvas
162 x 192.5 cm
by Peter Newton

If you’re an artist, looks should matter. It surprises me how many artists’ websites do not reflect the hard-won aesthetics of their work. When it comes to professional-looking ones, design is important, and when it comes to design, it should be labouring on your behalf, behind the scenes. Visitors want to get information in less than a minute. Keep it simple: black backgrounds, cursive fonts, flashing things, too many links, and too much work stand in the way of someone learning quickly what you’re about. Let your art shine. This is your chance to completely control the presentation of what you do. Choose a clean template. Feature one or two inspiring images: an installation, your studio, your work in situ. Keep it current. If you’re stumped, take a page from artists’ sites you admire. The biggest hint I can give you is that next to a simple, functioning design, the greatest determiner of the success of your site is going to be the quality of your work, and your photographs of your work. Both take time and practice.

Your website need not be complicated, time consuming, expensive or exhausting to maintain. My site costs eight dollars a month, I can update it myself without knowing how to code, and I refer inquiries to my galleries. I try to think of it like my paintings; a rather analogue-style, work in progress. How does one define a successful site? For me, it involves a positive response by way of a spark of curiosity to know more. After years of observation, I’ve chalked up the frequency of inquiries to an improvement in my work and then a simple site that works in concert with other professional efforts, one that does not bamboozle with too much cleverness, but instead cares to strive for the same qualities and vibe I am trying for in my paintings.

Les Avants, Switzerland, 1980 Oil on fibreboard 33 x 44 cm by Peter Newton

Les Avants, Switzerland, 1980
Oil on fibreboard
33 x 44 cm
by Peter Newton

Sincerely,

Sara

PS: “Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” (John Updike)

Esoterica: “Some websites, of course contain art that is substandard and any amount of smoke and mirrors won’t make them the dream machines that their owners desire,” wrote my Dad on the subject, in 2003. And so, the main object is to make good work. The role of the website is to provide a place to experience this good work when it’s not possible to see it in person, and for those who care to be able to check in on what my Dad used to call “the universe unfolding as it should.” Building this online world does require a little commitment and effort. It is never too late, or too early, to plant your flag. “We are what we repeatedly do,” wrote Aristotle. “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Still Life of Tomatoes, 2011 oil on canvas 46 x 55 cm by Peter Newton

Still Life of Tomatoes, Italy, 2011
oil on canvas
46 x 55 cm
by Peter Newton

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18 Comments

  1. Yes, when I’m surfing IG and come across someone I find really interesting I always expect to be able to go to their site.

  2. I can’t remember when I haven’t had a website for showcasing my art. In the beginning it was a clunky thing my husband built that required too much support from him to maintain. It saved my marriage and my art to find a web host that provides a artist-friendly experience. My art-life without a website these days is fairly unthinkable.

    When I feel isolated in my art-making, a quick glance at the analytics page reminds me there’s an audience for my work–the reassurance can be helpful. Many features, including an integrated mailing list, also prompt me to show my work (thanks again, Austin Kleon), and share my news. When my enthusiasm flags, it helps me to write and post a blog on my website, and then create a newsletter that points to it. I mostly write to learn what’s on my mind, but because of my this more or less regular contact with my email list, I’ve developed a following of people who, when they finally come to my gallery, are (mistakenly) convinced they’ve seen my work in distant cities or have already met me in person.

    I could write a book about how useful a website can be to an artist–but, wait–I already did!Whenever I meet an artist, I take note of whether or not they have a website. If they don’t–I’m always surprised that so many whose work warrants the exposure do not–I’m pretty sure they could benefit from reading my 7 Habits of Deeply Fulfilled Artists: Your Aesthetic Needs & How to Meet Them. I don’t refrain from putting a copy in their hand and telling them to buy it because I KNOW reading it will serve as a much-needed kick in their but(t)s . (Another advantage: On my website I never have to apologize about shameless self-promotion….)

    Enough already! Thanks, Sara, for priming the pump for my art writing this morning–it’s always a pleasure to be on the receiving end of your smarts!

  3. Reason #3 – you can get kicked off social media anytime for inadvertently breaking a rule – or be limited in your contacts – social media is great but a website is a “must have”.

  4. Thank you for this article. Social media is important to showcase your work , you don’t have to rent a space for people to see it. I believe also that it shows your client being a professional and serious to it. This was my dream before now it came true. It is a lot of work , dedication and effort. Follow your passion to create Be the best Artist you can Be. Good luck Peace to all Artist around the World

  5. Yes yes YES!! I completely agree on all of your points, Sara. I recall when the magic world of internet invaded the artworld way back when, when I was involved in art groups and continuous advising and competition on who was the best at self promotion. I recall the well intended meetings on how to make websites make you “look like a professional”, and quickly learned how un-savvy I was at the game. I knew then I was not a computer whiz, but I also knew I was on a learning curve with my painting journey to looking like a professional. I recall that inner voice, when all this technical know-it-all know how was battering me, saying… “but I’m more concerned to making better paintings right now”. I made an inferior website, didn’t visit it myself much, got sucked into the tentacles of social media, sucked in by the likes, sucked in and woke up one day thinking, I don’t think social media is good for me. So I decided if I was to make a presence on the internet other than the social fool I had become, I should update my inferior website. I realized by the website number ticker, many people did visit it, don’t know why, but they did. Now I have a moderately professional looking website that shows my artwork as close to how they appear in real life. I direct any interest from visitors to my gallery representation. And, after almost two years of “likes-detox”, have found a sense of peace, along with more time to paint. Great letter, Sara, my favourite quotes as well. Have a great weekend!!

  6. I had a professionally designed website that was attractive, easy to navigate, and showcased my work by categories – architecture, florals, portraits, abstracts, etc. After several years, the only contacts were bogus offers from overseas scammers. I never received a legitimate inquiry, so terminated it.

  7. I’m interested to hear you recommend showing only “recent” works on one’s site. I like to have a place where my entire history is stored. A ‘survey’ site. Also. Having gone through many styles I like to ‘show off’ my skills in other genres: I know this is not the done thing. I should hide past projects and just show the recent works. But but…

  8. This is a discussion I have with other artists. To have a website or not. Before Facebook and Instagram it was essential. Blogs are also good to have though they take real commitment. I found your comments very helpful. By the way, like many artists I am not a computer person, so I had godaddy help me set up my website. It looks good but it was expensive and the yearly costs are also pricey. I was surprised to hear you have one that only costs you $8 a month!! If you don’t mind my asking who did yours?

    • Hi Cindy,
      I use Squarespace. I looks like the current pricing starts at $12/month. I think there are discounts for multiple sites which explains my rate (I also have a site on Squarespace for my Dad.)
      For those who are interested, The Painter’s Keys, which is a much more complicated site, is hosted by WordPress, though I know Squarespace also supports blogs.
      I hope this is helpful,
      Sara

  9. I use 2min website.com… a do-it-yourself one… It took me a good deal more than 2,mins. though… it costs about $8.50 a month. It’s very basic but I can upload suff myself without paying anyone and as I don’t really sell much from it…. it’s just a showcase of my work although I sell giclees occasionally it’s there for people to view my work. I don’t have work for sale on it.. it’s all gone over the years. But interested clients then can contact me and see what I’m workng on now.
    My type of work takes ages so the idea of posting daily on Instagram is impossible… even though I have FB and Instagram accounts I don’t keep up!
    Regards Samere Tansley

  10. I use 2min website.com… a do-it-yourself one… It took me a good deal more than 2,mins. though… it costs about $8.50 a month. It’s very basic but I can upload suff myself without paying anyone and as I don’t really sell much from it…. it’s just a showcase of my work although I sell giclees occasionally, it’s there for people to view my work. I don’t have work for sale on it.. it’s all gone over the years, but interested clients then can contact me and see what I’m workng on now.
    My type of work takes ages so the idea of posting daily on Instagram is impossible… even though I have FB and Instagram accounts I just can’t post daily – as recommended.
    Regards Samere Tansley

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https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/The-23rd-Psalm-2019-24-x-30-wpcf_225x300.jpgThe 23rd Psalm, 2019
30 x 24 inches

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I grew up on a farm in Ohio, and that experience gave me a love of nature and the seasons and a deep belief in personal independence, as well as a love of experimentation. These have been the foundations of my work as a painter. I believe that learning in art or any subject is lifelong, and that the most important lessons we learn are through our personal interests and experimentation. After my husband’s death in 2018, I visited Israel the next year, and was inspired by the amazing landscape colors, and especially the old city of Jerusalem, with its crumbling walls, and its deep religious importance. I found my way out of grief by painting the Eight Gates of the old city.

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