The dealer-friendly website


Dear Artist,

Last week, the most frequent questions jingling my inbox concerned artist’s websites. Fact is, most of them don’t work very well and artists often don’t know why. Some 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. Having said that, many artist sites are wrongheaded and poorly done. I know this because over a period of several years I’ve had some pretty smart people fine-tuning my own site with an eye to troubleshooting and making it effective. Mine, may not be fancy, but it has a fairly unique feature — it works. It’s a site that empowers the people who handle my work. I’ve always said that a site that attracted ten of the right kind of folks in a month would be a successful site, with the goal being visitors clicking through to your dealers. Believe me, it’s appreciated. Here are a few ideas to consider if you are thinking about building a site or improving the one you have:

An Aspect Above Lake McArthur (2014) 11 x 14 inches, acrylic on canvas by Robert Genn (1936-2014)

An Aspect Above Lake McArthur (2014)
11 x 14 inches, acrylic on canvas
by Robert Genn (1936-2014)

Make your site fast-loading with images of your work on the opening page. Make it a free-standing site with your own dot-com. Make it a service so that interested parties can check prices, basic history, and make the connections you want them to make. Repeat your essential key words, your name, etc., on the home page for easy search-engine collection and high placement. Give people a reason to come back. ie: change images often and keep the work you illustrate of the best quality you can muster. Make it possible for people to enlarge work. Put a face on yourself — even if you’re funny looking — let people know what you look like. Without going overboard, let your personality shine through. Include links to other sites, especially to those who handle your work. Avoid sound, flash, white-on-black lettering, weird fonts, sparkly dingbats, streaming video, too much intellectual info, pontificating and general baloney. Your site should understate and over-prove. If you have a prestigious C.V. — include it. Don’t put a counter on your site — subscribe to a simple stats report. Even if you have a small number of dealers, agents, exhibitions or groups you belong to, consider just empowering them.

Best regards,


PS: “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending and to have the two as close together as possible.” (George Burns)

Below Flying Diamond 10 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas by Robert Genn

Below Flying Diamond
10 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas
by Robert Genn

Esoterica: An update from SG:  This letter was originally published on March 11, 2003. Since then, a lot of the way we use the Internet has changed, but the idea that we can use a personal online gallery to connect to and empower others remains the same. My simple website, is built on a “drag and drop” or WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”) platform, which allows artists to tweak, update and change images and text on a template, without having to know how to code. This is especially useful for visual artists who want to change their images regularly and speedily. When used in conjunction with targeted artists listings (including here) and social media, a clean and up-to-date site can inform and direct the curious and enthusiastic to more elaborate, detailed and commercially-minded gallery sites. Website building platforms designed with artists in mind such as Squarespace and Wix are also delightfully affordable. Feel free to share what you’re using to build your site in the comments below, and don’t forget to include a link to your homepage.

This letter was originally published as “The dealer-friendly website” on March 11, 2003.

RG in the BugaboosHave you considered joining our Premium Artist Listings? Share your work with thousands of readers. 100% of your listing fee contributes to the production of The Painter’s Keys. Thanks for your friendship. 

“We artists allow others to see through our windows.” (Robert Genn)



  1. Great comments. I wish more artists knew them. I’ve been using lately, as it also comes with different “looks,” and some built-in methods to promote your work if you care to use them. It’s is extremely easy to use, as if the builders know that not all artists are internet geniuses.

  2. I always appreciate tips on improving my website. The site is powered by Squarespace and I love it. One thing I am uncertain about is the idea of having a “purchase now” button on the site and including prices. It seems, from the blog, that including prices is the most logical strategy, if one wants to sell the work.
    Thank you for sharing the wisdom offered by your dad, as well as your own insight. I would love to have some of the quotes you include, printed in large font, up in my studio.

  3. You are so right about Artist’s websites not always doing them a great service. I still see (or rather don’t see) Flash animations, small hard to read gray text, black backgrounds with white text and broken links. Having designed many websites over the years I’ve always put the viewers experience first in my navigation & design decisions. Thanks for the great advice!

  4. I like your website, Sara. It’s very clean and potent. I recently have been remodeling my own website in response to a critique I requested from a gallery professional. I admit that there are other things that need doing and so I tend to work on my art (and pontificate) rather than code. I’ve had a website almost as long as I’ve had access to the internet (back in the day when we felt compelled to spell out “www”. But, audiences have grown more sophisticated and broadband is reaching further. Used to be a notion that one size could fit all, but nothing in the world of self-promotion can ever be “good enough” (and it never really was).

  5. An important missing link to consider. I hear from hundreds of artists each year, who build a website and then wait for sales to pour in. Thats like being in the phone book (remember those) and waiting for sales to come. Though a website needs to be crafted well and optimized for success, there is more to the picture.

    Every artist needs their website to collect names, get subscribers to your mailings or newsletters because marketing is a process of repeated messages. When you have their info you can repeat with monthly newsletters, etc.

    Also everyone needs a strategy to drive traffic to websites. We assume social media is the answer, but the stats say that now only 1-3% of the people on your friend list EVER see your posts. And unless they are written to drive traffic, they won’t necessarily do so. Crafting a WHOLE strategy which is not reliant on ONE thing only is important.

  6. This is a great letter, and informative. I really like Robert’s paintings! Sorry, I had taken a break from these emails (and others) recently. I had some time, and started going through recent Painter’s Keys, to catch up. Just finished reading “Light and Shade” from January, which also featured Robert’s paintings, and some techniques. Again, I loved his paintings, and words! I realized, some things in life, we shouldn’t take breaks from. (lol.) These letters are usually, wonderful. And the paintings and letters are always interesting and encouraging. Thank you, Sara and Robert and Painter’s Keys!

  7. P.S. I’m going to check out your website, Sara. The information, from you and others, about building a successful website, is helpful. Thanks.

  8. I would like to recommend which is designed for artists. I believe it is 126$ per year including tax.
    Geoff and Rochelle are extremely responsive and helpful and CANADIAN! They are based in Vancouver area. There are a number of templates which are easy to use. It is easy to update your site with new images, blog posts, whatever. There is a free trial period as well. You can load a few images and switch around between the templates, change colours, fonts etc until you get what you like. I have used them for a number of years now and have been very happy with the personal service. They are almost always readily available on chat.

  9. This post has a good list of basic “rules” for websites. A few more I would like to add, based on 20 years as a website developer and 30 years as an art reviewer include –
    – The artist name should be in the header at the top of the site, for the benefit of both search engines and visitors, not at the bottom of the pages or in the footer.
    – The menu should be at the top of the site for the benefit of both search engines and visitors, not in the footer.
    – On mobile devices, the menu should form a “hamburger” at the top, not the in the footer.
    – ALL sites should be optimized for mobile devices and responsive (change shape and size).
    – ALL sites need to have SSL configured or the words “Not secure” will appear before the url.
    – All sites need a “Share” widget so people can share your pages on their own Facebook accounts, Instagram, Pinterest etc. – whether or not the artist has social media accounts of their own.
    – All sites need a set of “Follow” icons for every social media account an artist has, so people can follow your work elsewhere.
    – All WordPress sites should take advantage of the tagline feature for the header, such as “Canadian landscape painter”, for the benefit of search engines (which can be hidden from visitors if preferred)
    – All sites need properly optimized tags for page titles and descriptions, which can be easily found by search engines, and are done through a plugin.
    – All sites should have an xml sitemap which is submitted to Google thru a webmaster account so Google can scan and cache keywords and descriptions.
    – After an xml sitemap is submitted to Google, all subsequent additions use a “push” to prompt Google there is something new on the site.
    – Artists should include printable versions of CVs and bios for galleries and reviewers to download, in the form of Word documents or PDFs.
    – Price lists similarly should be downloadable as Word docs or PDFs.
    – All emails and gallery websites links should be done as hyperlinks, which are useful not only for artists but good for search engine positioning.
    – Sites should not be built using third party site builders like Weebly, Squarespace, etc because you will have little or no control over the search engine optimization and you will NOT own the copyright to your own images (check the fine print). This is what is meant by “Make it a free-standing site”.

    We hope this helps. There is much, much more that goes into a successful artist site but you have definitely outlined the basics and it will be very helpful to people.

  10. I use WIX. It’s not bad, but instead of a template I chose to use a blank page and build from there in the simplest manner I could think of. Adding images or making any changes is easy, but it’s important to use the preview mode to make sure the content on both the mobile and PC modes match up before publishing. Having read Robert’s letter I can see that I might need to add more text to pinpoint keywords, but that is easy to do. Having a blog page built in is also a nice feature.

    • I’ve used WIX in the past for another pursuit I was involved in. Gave up on it. How many searches do you do and find a WIX page anywhere even close to the first pages of results? None.

  11. Thank you once more, Sara! This post is quite timely for me as I’m long (loooooong) overdue to build a website. My output isn’t huge but I have not kept very good photo archives, nor have I maintained a decent mailing list. I’ve put off doing it because it seemed stupid to just put up a few images when I see other artists with pages of archives, three dozen current works and four or five galleries. I have been good about getting the last few paintings professionally shot.
    I’ve seen a couple of websites that work very well, one of which does use a black background, and his paintings really pop, but he must bold the type as I’ve had no problem reading it.
    It also seems smart to set up computer files for myself with a page each for every piece, giving title, size, ground, any exhibitions, price, when/to whom sales.

  12. I have used Weebly for years, first as entirely free and just recently upgraded because there were problems with my preferred domain name, I have a large Facebook presence with 20,000 likes and this feeds into my website and brings me international students for my online course on floral watercolours. My daughter has started an instagram account for me too. I think we need to keep up with new trends to reach as many people as possible.

  13. I have recently switched to faso for my website. I had a self-hosted website on WordPress which I created (knowing nothing about web development) in 2013. I was proud of it, mostly because I did it myself, but I found that I wasn’t “tech-y” enough to really have it organized the way I wanted. So far, I am happy with faso. It is easier to use and the tech support is wonderful.

  14. I have recently switched to faso for my website. I had a self-hosted website on WordPress which I created (knowing nothing about web development) in 2013. I was proud of it, mostly because I did it myself, but I found that I wasn’t “tech-y” enough to really have it organized the way I wanted. So far, I am happy with faso. It is easier to use and the tech support is wonderful.

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featured-workshop 47704
to the Wall
oil on canvas
24 x 30 inches, 2017

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My aim as a painter is to bring to life a slice of the world as I experience it. Light, color and form are my vocabulary.


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