Dear Artwork Archive,
I’m a multi-disciplinary artist trying to figure out how to best show my work on my website. Right now my website is a mess. The fact that I have years of work in all sorts of different contexts doesn’t help either.
I want viewers to look at my website and be able to see my range but also understand my artistic perspective and current work.
How should I structure my site to showcase the breadth of my work without it getting confusing? Should I order chronologically, by media, or by collection? And, what about an “about me?” Should my about me be more of an artist statement or a CV?
I’m wondering since I am an artist if my website should be more creatively interactive for the viewer. Is this a plus or would this be distracting?
Tied Up in the Interwebs
Never fear, we are here to help you get untangled and to make your breadth of work and years of experience shine on your website.
There are a few different ways you could go about re-organizing your website. Before you start the process, think about what you want your website to do for you so that you can organize strategically.
Are you interested in showcasing new works? Are you creating a record of your art-making history? Does your information need updating? Who will be viewing and contacting you from your website?
You could organize by art medium, by major projects or series, or chronologically. Your website should be easy to navigate and should present your art in its best light—perhaps literally! You want to make sure that all of your artwork on your website is well photographed with artwork details prominently displayed.
An easy way to create a simple and clean gallery look is to use your Artwork Archive public profile embed. You can embed your Artwork Archive public profile onto a website. That embed will automatically update as you work in your Artwork Archive account—that way you can keep an active catalog of your artworks and publish them to an online gallery. Easy peasy.
You should have a separate page or section for your CV or resume and then another “about” with some information about you as an artist and your practice. You could have this “about” section be more about an artist statement, but since statements are often specified for projects or exhibits you can’t go wrong by generally explaining your art career and perspective.
A good “about” gives your reader an introduction to you as an artist and primes them to explore your work and to want to learn more about you while still giving them concrete information.
Arguably, the most important part of an artist website is having contact information up-to-date and prominently displayed. You should have your email address, Facebook page, Instagram account, galleries you are represented at, and any other means of contact or art showcasing on your website.
To your question about getting creative with website navigation and display, remember that the most important aspect of your artwork is the artwork itself. The point of your website is to have a record of your past and present work and to have a way for viewers to connect and engage.
Unless you yourself are a technological wizard or trying to also showcase your web design skills, don’t worry too much about getting fancy with your website development. The time you spend on your website is time well spent, but sometimes less can be more when it comes to letting your artwork shine. Let your art do the impressing.
Dear Artwork Archive,
I was a decently successful artist for a few years and I actually made a full living with my art. I was mainly represented by a gallery that closed some years ago. My work even made it into several museum collections.
I’m not sure where to go from here. I’ve found myself in a bit of a standstill. I am still creating but I don’t have the same buyers that I did a few years ago.
I’m not ready to be retired into some art world dead space. I want to make sure that my art career continues to be active. The peak of my success was years ago, so I don’t have a strong online presence for my work. The gallery representing me at the time actively discouraged me from having a website and promoting on my own.
Since I’m no longer represented by the gallery that gave me my start, how do I go about finding buyers and collectors for my new works? Should I be focusing on museums or trying to find new galleries to represent my work? And do I need gallery representation to approach a curator?
Where do I go from here
Dear Where do I go,
There are always new challenges and twists and turns on your path in an art career. Working as a creative keeps you nimble!
There are a few different places you “could go from here,” and some general career way-finding guidelines that can help you and all other artists navigate their career trajectories.
You can always directly and savvily approach past buyers, collectors, and curators that you have worked with before. When you approach these people keep in mind your past relationships with them. Softly approach and update your contacts about what’s been happening in your art career. Building relationships leads to sales, leading with a sale is not necessarily the best way to build a sustained client relationship.
Whenever you reach out electronically, it's a good idea to have a website or portfolio of work to share. Artwork Archive’s public profile is an easy way to publicly present your work, especially if you are just now getting your artworks organized. The Artwork Archive Prive Rooms would also be a good tool to share specific works for a potential client as you continue your conversations.
All artists should have a web presence and system for organizing their art and business. Having your art ducks in a row not only helps you build your career, but it also creates your legacy.
Trying to promote your art career without artist tools is like going to a job interview without a resume. If you represent yourself this will allow you to create income and find collectors and if you are seeking representation, this will help you establish yourself and share your work.
Finding new gallery representation is also a strategy to build art buyers. Likewise, think of galleries as relationships. You want to make sure that a gallery is a good fit, style-wise and people-wise, for your art.
There are other non-traditional and non-gallery and non-collector centric ways to sell your art. Don’t forget that there are many options to help you continue to show and sell work.
The world is your oyster!
Dear Artwork Archive,
What do you say to someone when they expect you to give them art or create for them without paying you? Recently a friend saw a painting I’ve been sketching out and said to me, “Oooh I love it. Can I have it?!” This has happened with friends, family, and even casual acquaintances!
When I share work I often get enthusiastic responses, but sometimes I feel like the people in my life don’t take me seriously as a working artist. How can I tell my viewers that while I appreciate positive responses that my art is my work and not a casual hobby?
I’m thinking through how to approach the holidays this year. In the past, I’ve given artwork for a special occasion or as a commission. However, I don’t want to feel the pressure to give art or like anyone in my life can demand it from me.
Does giving art de-value my art career? I want to be able to selectively share my work with my loved ones while maintaining boundaries and the monetary integrity of my work.
Biting my tongue
Unfortunately, oftentimes the work that goes into art is often misunderstood or underappreciated.
Remember that the person requesting your time, skill, and art attention likely does not understand that they are out of line. They may be thinking of their misguided requests as casually as asking someone if they can taste their famous chocolate chip cookies sometime.
Your viewers are ultimately expressing that they like your work, so react directly—but with kindness.
If someone says, “Can I have that?” or hints at you giving them your art, you can sidestep and redirect. Take this as an opportunity to share about your art-making process and engage your viewer.
Tell them about how you create or what you are making that work for to begin with. Maybe a work is a part of a series or is a commission. You can always tell them that you’d love to make something else for them and direct them to your website and price list. You can even say that you’d do a "friends and family discount," a soft way of letting them know that you are expecting to be paid for your work.
As far as art as gifts, artists have a variety of approaches. Some artists as a rule do not gift their art. Others find a middle ground and will give art for special occasions.
If your art has a high monetary value it makes sense not to have lots of it freely floating around in the world. On the other hand, giving a work of art is a very personal and intimate gift that may be meaningful or might be a good way to contribute to a cause you care about while raising awareness for that cause.
Creating and thinking through those boundaries varies from person to person.
Dear Artwork Archive,
I’m wondering about tips for hosting or attending in-person art openings or shows during this pandemic…
I’ve been invited to an outdoor reception from a gallery that shows my work. Usually, I would be ecstatic about bringing my friends and family to an event like this.
I know that professionally it would be important for me to be there. At openings I usually speak to people about my art, hand out my cars, and have a presence to put my face to my photography.
This event is supposed to be outdoors with plenty of room for social distancing. I’ve asked to be on the small artist panel. My question is, how can we stay safely apart from each other while asking viewers to congregate and listen to artist responses to questions? I also want to maintain a good relationship with this gallery.
I would hate to put my family and friends or myself in an uncomfortable situation. Is there a way to properly have gatherings like this? When I think about art events I think about wine, cheese, and chatting. All of these seem hard to do right now.
Six Feet Apart Art
Dear Six Feet Apart Art,
These are strange times, it seems like everyone is operating within different spheres of comfort with various levels of contact with other people.
It can be hard to know how to personally act and how to make others feel safe at the same time.
Many galleries have opted to go the way of online openings, artist talks, and programming during the pandemic. Museums are going online. Artists are taking their businesses online in new ways as well.
As the world begins to operate within our “new normal” there will be so many factors to take into account. Depending on where in the world you are and at what point cases are in this pandemic, our behaviors may be constantly changing.
The best thing you can do now is to be clear with your family and friends, your gallery, and yourself.
If you are comfortable with attending and speaking, make sure that you ask all the questions you need to feel confident in your decision. If anything, the gallery representing you will respect your thoroughness and attention to detail. If you choose not to attend and speak on the panel, your gallery will understand.
No matter how thought out an event is, there is always human variability. An event can be set up for people to be wearing masks, but if there are appetizers or drinks there will inevitably be moments where people are not masked. The only thing you can control now is your own actions.
You can always include your family and friends without an explicit invite or without making anyone feel pressed to attend.
Send out a digital room of your artwork to your friends and family in your newsletter, or write a blog post about being included in this exhibit and the other artists to give a taste of what it's like.
We are afraid there is no straightforward right answer, except to trust your gut, act with kindness, and know that everyone else is acknowledging the strangeness we are living in this summer.
Waiting for your opening Zoom room code,
Dear Artwork Archive,
I was planning on starting an MFA this fall, 2020.
I really need some advice, this pandemic has derailed my life plan. I’m not sure if I am up for starting school when the state of the world is so unsure.
School is so expensive and I don’t know what type of learning experience I will have or if it would be worth the cost. I know not all career artists go to art school but I’m craving some type of structure.
Is an online MFA worth it? When the economy is bad, people go back to school. But, is going back to school for an art degree a good idea? Help!
Shaking my Art Eight Ball
Dear Art Eight Ball,
What a question! Even in non-pandemic times, there is a debate over whether going to art school is a necessary step for artists in their art career.
Like you said, going to art school is not a guaranteed recipe for art world success. There are many artists who go to art school and go on to have strong careers. There are other artists who go to art school and stop pursuing art as a career after.
And then, of course, there are many successful artists who are self-taught. One of the major benefits of art school is the time and resources available to you and the community that you would build. Many artists can find these elements outside of school. You don’t need to be enrolled in an art program to participate in an art critique, there are other ways of finding mentorship, learning opportunities, and support outside of an MFA. Residency programs offer a great way to create a community with other artists.
There are books and podcasts that will help you not just improve your art-making but teach your art business skills that art school is often criticized for not preparing students. Even if you do an art program, you will be continually learning within your art practice and career after school.
You’re not the only one struggling with a back-to-school choice, art advice Facebook groups are full of these questions right now.
Our two cents, deciding whether or not pursuing an MFA is a very personal decision. If art school makes sense for you and your art depends on many different factors regardless of if the world is experiencing a pandemic or not.
Can you afford school? Do you have a plan for debt or are there grant options available to you? Will you be able to support yourself and any other people that depend on you while you are in school?
If you have already weighed practical factors involved in an art school decision like financial support, logistics like moving, your goals, and timeline, then it's time to think about how pursuing a degree in a remote or online learning environment might look like.
Many art schools went digital in March of 2020. So what will Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 look like?
Some art schools are already preparing with “low-residency” options for their art students. Some art schools are making exceptions to in-person teaching for students like studio artists and science students who need to be in a lab.
Art school in Fall 2020 has the benefit of a semester of pandemic-learning experience for staff. If you go to art school, your program likely has a plan for how to teach. However, know that despite well-laid plans, things may change.
Think through your options and know yourself through this decision-making process. Can you defer for a year if you are not sure? Is there an option for part-time learning? Do you know that you work well with online learning and are you flexible enough to be able to work well within a potentially always changing learning environment?
Shaking the art eight ball with you,