Friday, January 02, 2009

Don’t Expect Your Art to be Discovered. Make it Happen Online

Don’t Expect Your Art to be Discovered. Make it Happen Online.

After over a decade of researching online strategies for gaining exposure and selling art online I have noticed that many artists tend to embrace romantic notions of how the art market works. These fantasies are fueled by literature and films that depict the magic moment at which point an artist becomes “discovered”. The scenario often involves an artist working years in solitude only to be discovered by chance-- with fame and fortune just around the corner. Unfortunately, the art world does not exactly work that way. To put it bluntly, artists need to put the bedtime stories aside and learn to make it happen for themselves.

An artist can’t stay hidden in his or her studio and expect fame and fortune to appear out of nowhere. I can't stress this enough-- the idea of being picked up by an influential art collector or gallerist out of the blue is best left for the movies. It can happen, but the odds are it will not happen to you, anyone you know, or anyone you will meet in the near future. Yes, it is that rare. There are only so many brick & mortar galleries to go around-- and millions of artists worldwide who desire to be represented by them. In that sense the internet serves a need while offering great opportunity to artists who embrace it. It is a new frontier that the art world is only now starting to explore in detail.

I base my observations on the conversations I've had with hundreds of emerging and established artists. This is why I know that reality works very different than what we read in a novel or view on the big screen concerning the art world and ideas of being "discovered". Thus, it is my opinion that an artist can’t wait to be discovered. An artist must take the bull by the horns and utilize every opportunity in order to promote his or her artwork-- again, he or she must make it happen.

Luckily there is great opportunity to be found online. The potential for gaining exposure and marketing online is limitless. In other words, there is a world of opportunity at our fingertips. All it takes is an entrepreneurial spirit, the initiative to get started and maintain a presence online, and raw ambition. These factors are crucial to establishing a successful online promotion / market strategy.

An emerging artist must do everything he or she can-- as far as online promotion is concerned-- in order to help him(her)self be discovered or simply to carve out his or her own destiny. In other words, artists today don’t have to wait to be “discovered” in order to have their work placed before the public. An artist today can display his or her artwork online in order to reach the public at large-- including potential patrons and art collectors in general. The artist must be relentless in establishing a presence online.

In that sense artists are bypassing the traditional route of brick & mortar marketing by representing themselves and using the internet as a vehicle toward a marketing path that can be just as successful. As mentioned, this online art marketing path has the potential to be very successful in the long-run and has the added benefit of potentially opening career doors in ways that emerging artists in the past would not have had access to.

Getting started is simple enough. Buying a decent computer and enduring the monthly expense of internet connection is a good investment for a visual artist when you consider that he or she can reach more people online per month than he or she ever would buying an expensive ad in an art publication or other magazine. Another thought-- technically an internet savvy artist has the potential to reach more viewers per month than he or she ever would in a traditional gallery setting.

True, if you can afford it you can have the best of both worlds-- but you will find that many artists are focusing on online efforts rather than traditional forms of gaining exposure-- just as many who have been successful within the traditional model have stated that the internet is opening new doors. The methods of art marketing are changing and artists are leading the charge.

The simple fact is that artwork is being seen in ways that would not have been possible years ago. For example, some artist blogs have more unique traffic per month than physical exhibit spaces do in a year. True, you can debate the value of viewing art in person compared to viewing art online, but when it comes down to the line traffic is traffic no matter how much you try to philosophically slice it. To put it bluntly, today artists don't have to cling to fantasies of being discovered-- they can make it happen simply by following their ambition and utilizing the internet. A little initiative can go a long way online. Make it happen.

A few suggestions:

* Answer email that you receive about your art promptly. When a buyer or other interested person has a question about your art it is always best to answer it within 24 hours. After all, if you wait a month to answer a potential buyer her or she may have already purchased from another artist who was more prompt. Thus, you will want to set time aside each day to check your email and answer any questions that viewers may have.

* Be smart about how you list your contact info. Make sure that interested individuals can contact you with relative ease. Include an email address on your website, blog, art community profiles, and so on. You may want to list your email as ‘myhandle AT’ instead of ‘’ in order to ward off bot programs that harvest email addresses. That step will help you to cut back on the amount of spam you receive at the address you have listed. However, keep in mind that some individuals and companies will harvest emails manually. Thus, it is always good to create an email address specifically for your online promotional and marketing efforts instead of listing your personal email address.

* Have a website or online community profile that is devoted to your artwork. Remember that your personal website does not have to be fancy to get the job done. Your main focus should be to provide a site that is easy to navigate and allows images to be viewed quickly. In other words, people are not going to waste time figuring out a puzzle just to view your work nor are they going to wait over a minute for your images to upload.

Remember that in most cases if you have a personal website it will be your responsibility to maintain it. So if something ‘breaks’ you need to know how to fix it or be able to afford the expense of having someone fix it. Hiring someone to design a website can be very expensive and the cost of minor fixes throughout the year can add up quickly. Keep that in mind before your personal website runs you instead of you running your personal website. In other words, learn the skills, find a friend who has the skills, or find alternative ways to display your art online.

If you lack the skills or resources needed to create your own website you can instead use an online art community profile as the hub of you online activity. If you take that path be selective and choose the art community that works best for your needs. To put it bluntly, if you create fine art you might think twice before uploading your artwork to an online art community that appears to focus on anime/manga fan art. Remember that your online associations can reflect on your professionalism in the opinion of some individuals.

*Create free accounts on online art communities. Online art communities can be a valuable resource for artists as far as exposure and marketing is concerned. You should maintain a few regardless if you have a personal website. The simple fact is that an online art community will most likely have more traffic than your personal website will be able to obtain on its own. Which means that you can increase traffic to your personal website by including a link to it on your online art community profile.

Online art communities that offer messaging, comments, forums, blogs and other aspects of social networking can be a valuable resource for keeping in contact with fellow artists and other individuals who are interested in your work. Never forget that having strong connections with fellow artists can lead to exhibit inclusion and provide valuable insight into the market as well. To put it bluntly, you can learn from fellow artists and might even receive a helping hand in the process-- just be sure to spread the knowledge on with open hand.

*Maintain an active blog for your art. A great way to obtain exposure for your art is to create a blog that is focused on your art, the exhibits you have been in, and so on. Choose a blog service that has high traffic-- such as Blogger or Wordpress. Try to post at least two entries per week. If you are selling art online be sure to make a post about it on your blog with a link back to the site where your are selling the art. If you have an upcoming exhibit be sure to post a press release about the exhibit on your blog.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but it is actually easy to find something to talk about as far as your work is concerned. Just remember that each entry helps improve your presence online. Be sure to utilize free services like Pingomatic in order to help spread your blog content on the World Wide Web.

*Establish yourself on social networking sites. Social networking sites-- such as Facebook-- can make it possible for you to connect with professionals with backgrounds in various industries. It is not hard to discover journalists, scientists, politicians, and others who are willing to network with you. These individuals may be willing to give you advice on how to improve your presence online and offline. Just be respectful. Remember that establishing online rapport with influential art bloggers can be very valuable as well. The feedback that you can obtain will be very helpful for your growth.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Unknown said...

Great info. As a person who works in marketing daily, I can't stress these points enough. When something good happens for my biz and peers say, "Oh you're so lucky..." I say, "I make my luck." Same thing here. Kudos.

Unknown said...

I talk about this a bit on my post: City Vs. Islands:

Very true on all points. So many artists are still coming onto the web and learning what all of this is all about. Many people still think that websites are the key to success, but even that is only going to work with a combination of tools and media.

dBouchette said...

I suggest if you have Office, make your own art website with Microsoft Publisher. It's easy to insert and label pictures, link to other pages, and save to html. It's not flashy, but you don't have to be a programmer.

Anonymous said...

You left out a couple of things. Read art-related blogs and post comments. Also, include your website and/or blog in the signature you use for those comments.

Clifford VanMeter |

Balhatain said...

Good advice Deb. There are many options for creating free websites-- just be wary of making them tacky. A lot of flash and two or three tracks of music playing at the same time can be annoying. You don't want to be hard on the eyes and ears of those who visit your site. Thus, it is important not to distract from the images of your art.

Clifford, I've mentioned that before on past entries. The important thing about leaving blog comments is to leave a 'real' comment. Meaning that if you leave a comment make sure that it is something more than "great blog" followed by a link.

Anonymous said...

Good points all, although I'd argue that artists should have both a website for their work (under their own .com) as well as using free art websites for promotion. While it's true that free sites attract more traffic, many people are just going to expect you to have a website of your own outside of the artist community websites. Participating in the community will allow artists to interact with a wide range of people, plus it can also be a vehicle for getting more people to come to the website. And the website is good for brand building and for beginning to build a list of interested buyers and collectors.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think he said not to have a personal website. He said to have a website or online community profile that is devoted to your art. So I think it is implied that you should have a personal website or at the least an online profile if you are unable to create one. He also says to use profiles to bring more traffic to your personal website or community profile that you use most and to be selective and choose an art community profile that works best for you if you decide to use it over having a personal website. Is anyone even reading what he said?

Anonymous said...

A lot of good advice in what you write. I actually wrote about art promotion as well which covers some additional promotional tactics:

I think the main problem that most artists are running into is the amount of time required to successfully promote ones art online and the minimal gain all that promotion brings.

I believe that to become successful (sell enough art to make a living) one should probably set aside a few years to concentrate on online art marketing - to really find out what works and what doesn't. Learn, experiment and apply.

Initially it takes time and effort, but the more you know about it the more likely you are to succeed in the future.

Anonymous said...

How do I get stains our of my synthetic brushes from using acrylic?

NanSeesArt said...

Anonymous asked how to get stains out of synthetic paint brushes. Good luck! I don't think you can get stains out completely, but, you can try soaking them for a while in regular rubbing alcohol. Just don't do it too long. I"m not sure what "too long" is. Just keep checking them. Then rinse them out in water, so the residue doesn't stay in them.

Sometimes, I clean out my brushes and leave them soapy and shape them into a point, or whatever their normal shape is supposed to be, and let them dry in that shape. The soap helps them hold their shape better. But, don't forget to rinse them well before painting! This would be okay for synthetic brushes, but, the soap probably wouldn't be a good idea with natural hair brushes, because soap would damage the natural oils of the hairs. This is all my opinion, not written in stone. Remember, to take all tips with a grain of salt. Some tips are really good, and others, well.....

Zee artist: Nancy

Paula Ann Ford said...

Hello, Great article! I've never heard of Pingomatic before. Can you tell us a little more about it? Thank you, Paula

ScalesofJustice said...

I have a painting given to me that is between 60-70 years old. It was made in New York, but it not signed... The person who gave it to me sold pictures to national geographic. How do I find out who paited it and how much it's worth.

kozachekart said...

I found that Facebook backfired for me. I started with them and quickly gained a lot of cyber "friends." Then Facebook would not recognized my e-mail address nor would they allow me to register under a new one. So I have been unable to log on for some months now and there appears to be no way to correct the problem. Now all my cyber friends may be assuming that they are being snubbed!

Anonymous said...

I've found the online way somewhat problematic - especially Facebook. I'm presently unable to log on because they do not recognize my e-mail address. But they don't allow me to register under a different e-mail address and due to the high volume of people on Facebook they do not answer requests to fix the problem. Very frustrating

madpotter said...

I've found that an ever-increasing amount of time is being soaked away on the computer with blogging, website maintenance, email correspondence, etc. Plus, new skills in all areas of software utillization, like MS Office Suite, PowerPoint, Adobe this and that, and on and on.
For any artist, this is new territory that one must upgrade computer skills to effectively use. You can acquire some of these skills on your own if you are sharp and capable of reading countless hours of help file drivel.
Most of us have eyes that simply glaze over when presented with this over-whelming amount of material. What to do? Take money and time to scurry off for software training? Not in my world or budget! A real help would be some FREE seminars for artists in applicable software and related skills. Ehh?
So far, the countless hours of devotion I've given to the electronic computer gods have sent me almost zip in return (excepting all of the enlargement offers). As long as I'm at it, let me plug my pottery blog at:
Or, check my website( one of those cheap free ones)
Good luck to every one, especially if you're getting old like me! All of this sure takes much time away from playing with mud, which I dearly love!

Anonymous said...

I am woirking on my website and have a question. When you display your artwork, should it the slide show begin with the oldest and proceed to the newest or vice versa. ANd also how old is too old? I have some work that I still love, however the concept is different that where I am now. But I do think it is strong work. And finally should I put dates of the work on the website?

Thank you,

Balhatain said...

Paula, is a free service that allows you to send pings to several of the most popular rss sites on the net. Thus, it has the potential to bring more traffic to your blog.

ScalesofJustice, you will want to find an art appraiser.

Sandra, it is really up to you concerning how you arrange your art in a flash gallery. I do think that showing the dates of creation can help a collector to see how you have grown. Some are interested in that sort of things-- others don't care. If they like it they will buy it no matter when it was created.

I notice a lot of artists have an area for 'past works' and 'current works' on their site. So that might be something to think about. Just remember to keep your 'current works' current. :)

Balhatain said...

You might also want to keep track of traffic to your site by using However, you won't get detailed information until your site makes it past 100,000 in ranking. Which can be very hard for a personal website.

Art Biz said...

Keep in mind that 99% of the people that visit any art or artist site are just other artists, art students or wanna' be artists. Artists looking at artists.

All potential customers or buyers come to your website because they saw the art in a real gallery or other venue.
No one is searching the zillions of art websites looking for art to buy.
If you aren't showing your art in real venues your chances of being successful are slim.

Balhatain said...

Art Biz, I think it is important to show in physical spaces-- I often say that it is great to establish a regional presence by exhibiting in college galleries, small museums, and local galleries. Waiting around for a major gallery to knock on your door is simply not rational. So yes, it is important to exhibit where you can in physical “real” spaces.

That said, suggesting that potential customers only visit a website after visiting a physical space is not exactly true today. In fact, a number of artists have had galleries contact them after establishing themselves online. For example, most of the artists Lazarides represents would not be where they are today had it not been for the internet and the exposure they gained from it.

I don’t agree with your suggestion that 99% of art site traffic is from 'just' artists. On myartspace people can choose different member types when they sign up-- for example, they can choose artist, art buyer/collector, corporate, reviewer/critic, museum and so on. That said, I know for a fact that there are thousands on the site who have listed themselves as a type other than just ‘artist’-- meaning that not everyone is on the site to upload art, some are their to view, contact, and potentially buy from artists they meet on the network. I’m sure other art sites experience the same kind of traffic.

Unknown said...

all good points.
i myself could do better at blogging.
but its important to re- emphasize : use the free accounts. don't bother with the costly ones. don't pay to play.