Friday, August 12, 2011

Artists' Websites

I often lecture that there's no reason an artist shouldn't have a web presence in the age of blogger. When the discussion comes down to brass tacks, though, (i.e., what should an artist's website look like), I feel the priorities should be:
  1. Good, large images of the artwork
  2. See item #1
  3. Easy navigation (skip the bells and whistles)
  4. Good , easily found contact information
  5. A bio, a CV, a bibliography
  6. See item #1
Apparently I'm much easier to please on this front than some others, though. In response to a series of posts on why Restaurant websites suck so much, a web designer unleashed on artists over at Andrew Sullivan's:

From my perspective, as a web programmer, if you really want to see some reliably lousy websites, then look no further than those that artists (painters, sculptors and the like) put up for themselves. They may not have the "discoey" music gaudiness of some restaurant websites, but as far as everything one shouldn't do when making a website goes, they hit all the major notes:

Using a 10 different fonts on one web page? Check.

Having a bunch of broken links on the front page? Check.

Gaudy color schemes (you know, because the website is an "extension of their work")? Check.

Uploading image files that are way too large, thereby causing any visitor to the website to have to wait ten minutes for a page to come up because each work sample is 4 megabytes? Check.

Updating the website once every six years? Check.

Putting their personal Hotmail address on the front page of the website, thereby contributing to the world-wide junk mail scourge (and not to mention making themselves look like a hack)? Check.

Forgetting to pay their web hosting fees, so that half the time their website is "down for maintenance"? Check.

Oh, and this might be the worst ... taking their visitors' emails and including them in large, un-blind-copied show announcement emails? Great big check.

The list goes on, but aside from the bad aesthetic and bad internet manners, they're lousy as customers - a lot of micro-managing, obsessive-compulsive attention to every unimportant detail (I had a woman once call me and complain that a line break was 2 millimeters lower than where it should have been ... she was holding a ruler up to her computer screen), fickleness, and of course the lack of ability to pay for any of the work they've just demanded too much of your time for.

I learned these lessons long ago and don't service many artists anymore. Unless they pay in advance and have a day job.

"[S]he was holding a ruler up to her computer screen" ... priceless.

Again, though, what I personally want to see at an artist's website are good, large images of the work. Everything else comes a distant third.

Labels: artists websites


Anonymous Gam said...

good, large images of the work

orgnaized/accessible in which manner?:

favourites (stand in for most viewed or voted)

guess Im wondering with the state of most artists calls being for work less then a year old (must be that art has a best before date or something) is art that is "career spanning" a problem.

by big do you mean details or just B I G big?


Is this most other gallerists wants too? Do collectors have other priorities? (representatives, sales history ...)

8/12/2011 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's a lot of questions, Gam! :-)

At least 800 pixels wide, obviously 72 dpi, with additional images of details if important to the work (i.e., gesture, texture, etc. is a big part of it)

Organized chronologically, but going back as far as you have good images. I'd limit images of works 10 years or older to fewer than 12 per year, and wouldn't put up more than 15 or so for any given year unless the practices is such that more is what it's about. Spanning a career is good, imho.

If the practice involves multiple media, then organize first by media, then by year.

bibliography (list of press you've received...label ti whatever makes sense to you "Selected Press" Selected reviews/articles" it's all good)

Is this most other gallerists wants too? Do collectors have other priorities?

Can't speak for other gallerists or collectors. Simply my preferences...

8/12/2011 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bigger question ,does a fantastic website help shitty art?

I just look at the fucking art i could careless if its on flikr photo bucket or some silly dated website. i actually like vintage websites. if you are trying do sell direct to the public yea the slicker the campaign the better hell get the shit on QVC .

8/12/2011 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

perfect timing, as I am working on a site. Iyho, do you prefer thumbs? More than one image per page? A next/previous gallery? All scrollable on one page? What constitutes a good browsing experience for you? How long would you wait for a page to load? Do you browse on your phone?

Just taking a pulse, and would love one more take.

8/12/2011 03:32:00 PM  
Anonymous AAS said...

Anonymous - I like browse sites where I have to click as little as possible. So if I can scroll through the images with my arrow keys, I am more likely to look at more of the work.

8/12/2011 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous zipthwung said...


Artists do not need web sites, but the general consensus is that they should emulate 1970's conceptual art documentation. this is because everyone likes John Baldessari, how tall he is, and that he once photographed the back of every truck he was behind while commuting to work or just out for a sunday drive, no one knows but him I expect.

I too appreciate the need, as GAM points to, for pull dates on art - mine goes sour a mere hour after I make it, curdling like soymilk under a curdling agent. Why on earth would I decare THE WORK done before a more famous artist's work?

WInkleman, shouldn't I be happy if some idea of mine is validated by someone who is "good"? I dunno, I;m thinking out of the box here.

Form a web designer's POV, this is pretty old hat. Flashing text and rainbows all round. You know what I am talking about. Why shouldn't the web be an extension of the artist? I can't afford a designer to brand me...or can I... NOT?

8/12/2011 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger DarthFan said...


8/12/2011 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ArtCat and ICompendium both make templates which are specifically designed for artists. Very clean design, everything you need, nothing you don't and easily updated.

8/12/2011 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Diedra Krieger said...

come into the dome....

Hi Ed!

I too love the large photo format for images of work. Got it for my front page of my website, so large you have to keep extending your window and move it over and extend some more hehe (and recently figured it out for my blog too - and now with your advice, going to see if I can do it for the rest of my website. My site is made using indexhibit.

And what a very timely and helpful post. Just yesterday I happened to post on fb looking to share links on my site and vice versa with artists. My friend Olaitan and I are working our way through the Artist's Guide and links are brought up as an important component. I finally added the links page yesterday and it's a work in progress. Let's share!

8/13/2011 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Tumblr and Posterous are simple, free and very good quality image upload. Did I mention free?

8/13/2011 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mead McLean said...

These are really good suggestions. I'll make some more refinements to my site tonight, in fact.

I hate going to an artist's site where there are broken links or really small images. That's the worst. I also like it when I can save the images I like, though I haven't implemented the ability to do that on my site yet (maybe I'll do that tonight).

I think of web presence as ease of access. Having a unique web address that's easily searchable, making sure that when people search for "yourname artist yourtown" that your site comes up first--those are really important, too.

Personally, I also like to see installation shots and shots from openings where there are people in front of the work. Scale can be confusing on the web sometimes.

I also try to make sure that people can see my work within 2-3 clicks and can easily connect with me on facebook and twitter. Easy sharing widgets help too.

I'm always refining my website, even if the blog doesn't always get updated or I'm slow to post a new series. The next big shift for me is an online store for all my minor works.

I also steal nifty design ideas from blogs or other sites that I like.

8/14/2011 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of good suggestions on this post. I wouldn't hire any web designers. It is too expensive and then you have to pay cost of maintenance of your website. So, I have finished my art-web-business-card website couple weeks ago. I was learning and trying to apply Dreamweaver. My God, what a pain in the butt... This software was very difficult to learn (for me) and it wan not intuitive like Photoshop. Even after finishing my website I'm not sure if I really comprehended this software. It is so complex! Another big no, no I would add to presentation of your art work on the web, it is no music in the background! It is a big turn off. If I come across such website, usually I never come back there.
I don't want to embarrass myself but if you are interested to see the beginner/want-be web designer check


8/14/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also steal nifty design ideas from blogs or other sites that I like."

tee hee hee... Were all theives !

8/14/2011 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger grampa2394 said...

I paid someone to do my website back in 2006 when I was going to NY to do a SOLO booth at Art Expo (big waste of money) I think t hey did a pretty good job showcasing who I am in a manner akin to my folk art painting style. I try to update it as much as possible myself. Right now, I am thinking i would like to go for a fresh new look, but don't want to do it myself because the home made one I had prior fit into many of these categories. I will stay with what I have until i have enough money for a pro to revamp to for me. You have to look at being an artists like anyone els win business. If you want people to think of your work as a quality product- present it in a quality fashion...

8/14/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous lucy mink said...

I once clicked on an artists site where things were moving and flashing all over the place, it felt like vegas, i got dizzy and left.

8/14/2011 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous marc said...

Ouch, I plead guilty to big jpegs and a general slowness to update.
On a more general, possibly misanthropic note, sharp + well shot images on a computer screen often do not resemble the physical object. More than once I've been impressed by web images, only to find the actual paintings resembling sh*t.

8/15/2011 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mead McLean said...

I use the concrete5 content management system for my stuff. It's a template-based system and mostly free. It's the right mix of speed and flexibility for me, since I have a fairly serious layman's knowledge of html and php, and because I don't enjoy writing code from scratch.

With that system, it's almost completely visual--like using MS word. It's also got a ton of useful add-ons for a wide variety of purposes. My total cost of running the site, for the two years it's been up, has been $300, including the space, domain, and site functions. It'll go up a bit now that I'm adding an online store, but that's still really really low compared to what you'd pay someone else to do.

I hear wordpress has a good design system that's easy to edit and customize to the point where it doesn't look at all like a blog site. That's what most of my social media marketing friends recommend for small business and artists who want to get started quickly and inexpensively.

8/15/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous LG said...

Back in the day, before the cookie cutter artist template services were around, I took the time to learn how to build a site because I wanted to control the design. Now I update the code/design anytime there's a change in the web, such as 2.0 or XHTML. CSS is easy and powerful. Simple, easy to use navigation is key. Large-ish, non bandwith hogging images are important and easily done in CS. I'm surprised more artists don't know how to create their own sites. One good book and a long weekend and you'll know what you need to know to make a unique site.

8/15/2011 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

good, large images of the work

Easier said than done. I've seen sites where the artist writes, "colors on the original are much more vibrant than here." Well, duh. Especially if you are offering work for sale through your website, I want to see as accurate a reproduction of your work as possible. On many sites, I see what I would call a "flat" image of a drawing or painting that fails completely to convey the texture and scale of the piece. I prefer photos that show a piece in an environment like a studio or gallery. Once, on the basis of a website, I bought from the artist a painting that, when it arrived, barely resembled the much more vibrant color scheme that the photo conveyed. I felt totally cheated, and that painting is now stored in a place of honor at the back of one of my closets.

8/15/2011 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use FASO artist websites, which is where I learned about this blog a few months ago. I know everyone says to use Wordpress and other free services to make a website but what do you do if you mess something up? I'd rather pay and get good customer service than have to spend hours learning how to do all this stuff on my own. My site also looks good when searched on phones. Everyone is mobile today so you must have a site that functions well on those devices.

8/15/2011 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Since the photographer makes decisions that impact how the art is perceived, should he or she be credited on the site? I decided not to since there are no other links or mentions made to other artists but felt sort of conflicted about it.

8/15/2011 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LG = "One good book and a long weekend and you'll know what you need to know to make a unique site."

Which is exactly why you see so many artist websites with broken links and messed up code. Most artsy types don't have time to learn all that tech crap. Not while there is art to be made.

I would not hire a site designer because if something goes wrong, and it will, you can expect paying hundreds to have it maintained/fixed.

I know people like to bash the cookie cutter template art sites. BUT, but, but.... most of them have customer support and fix problems that arise for you. The cost of those sites are not that bad when you think of how much you can end up paying a site designer to repair something.

There are some crappy art website services out there though. Look at they don't even let artists have a unique domain name. A personal website without a unique domain name is USELESS to the artist.

Time is money and I don't have time to learn website design. I know some have the "if you don't learn it you must not care about your art" mindset when it comes to this. But I'd rather spend my weekends working on art and exhibiting instead of trying to learn something that I'm all thumbs with.

8/16/2011 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Saatchi's site is quik and dirty. You can sell your dreams on there too. 10,000 screaming artists 4 sure.

8/16/2011 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took a blogger template, learned basic HTML, stripped away EVERYTHING and posted 8 images as stand alone pages. It did not take long and one can google all of the info necessary to make a smart functioning website. After changing the blogspot domain to my stand alone domain (and using the site for one year) I decided to hire a designer whose work I admire. It turns out he admires my work and a barter was made. Try that option. I have an excellent site, built by a professional. I have access to the platform, so I can add or subtract images anytime and basically alter whatever I need.

There is really no excuse to have a bad or malfunctioning website. It is just another fucking thing artists whine about.

8/17/2011 11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>good, large images of the work>

May as well post a sign saying "steal me". 800 pixels is plenty.

I've seen my images and words (including opinions not just facts) on the sites of artists presenting it as there own, some with the copyright info still on the photo!

8/18/2011 03:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dreamweaver is pretty much over; CMS is the way to go these days, which is good news for non-designers. WordPress is free and pretty manageable. Sometimes I feel like my site is a little bland relative to others' dynamic sites that use Flash, Javascript, etc., but it's clean, navigable, and it has everything I would have put in a submission packet back in the day.

9/24/2011 06:46:00 PM  

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