Internet: The Basics

The Internet is an extremely important marketing tool for artists. It’s a way for you to make connections, make money and develop a real following.

Now that you’ve gotten all of your other materials prepared it’s time to get your website up and running and your “presence” on the internet. You will need to approach it in an organized fashion and think about who “you the artist” are and how you will present it to the world. Developing a website plan can help you construct that “persona” and a brand that will help you towards success. From there you can go onto selling on sites like eBay, Yessy and Etsy, Social Networking, Blogging and so much more. You will need to have a plan just like any other business. Consider it the internet section of your marketing plan.

Just to give you some background on my qualifications on this topic, I am a website designer and am trained as a Graphic Designer and in Advertising. Before I design a website I always like to have a consultation with the artist about how they will present themselves to the world.

I will go into depth on each and every aspect of the internet and how you can use it to get publicity, network and make a profit from it. As an introduction, you will find a glossary of definitions below. They will not only give you definitions of each item in the topic but perhaps give you information on items you thought you already knew about. You will be able to refer to this again and again. However if you do find it overwhelming you can contact me for a website consultation at: info@theartistobjective.com

The Internet or World Wide Web (www.) – A network of interconnected links – websites, blogs, web pages, etc. that may include content such as text, images, video and/or audio – that are hosted and available for viewing on a computer.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)The address of a website, usually – but not always – proceeded by www. It’s also known as the Domain Name of a website. Example: http://www.smithartist.com

Domain Name – The name or address of your website – otherwise known as the URL – that is registered with a domain registration company. It is unique to you and you only. In most cases you will purchase a domain name that is registered for a certain number of years.

.html (Hyper-text Markup Language) – The basic language – or set of tags – that make a web page visible. It tells the computer where to find an image or where to place text. The color of the text or design and whether it’s centered, aligned to the left or to the right and so much more. It also instructs search engines to place your website or blog in the right category. See Meta-Tags and Meta-Descriptions below.

Tags – The “words” of .html. Usually surrounded by < > (known as ankle brackets) and give a command. Usually starting with a start tag and ending with an end tag like this this content is bolded to give it emphasis.

Java Script – a type of language (like .html) that allows for minor animated functions on web pages.

Adobe Flash – a multimedia platform that is generally used to add animation, video and interactive media to websites. Some websites are designed entirely in Flash. Note that this is not recommended for several reasons, which I’ll go into in another post.

Search Engines – A program that allows you to search for documents, websites, pages, blogs or any type of content on the internet.

Spiders, Crawlers or Robots – automated programs used by search engines to evaluate your website and “index” or categorize their content.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – process of adding, removing or placing content on a website so that it can gain higher placement on a Search Engine. Tip: Once your website is up and running you will get a few emails about SEO from companies offering to upgrade your search engine visibility. Ignore them all. They are all SPAM.

Meta-Tag – a series of up to 8 key words (no more) that helps search engines categorize web pages.

Meta-Description – a two sentence description of a website that is visible on the search engine under the title of the website.

Website – a collection of linked pages that can be static, dynamic or interactive. It can be used for personal or commercial/business purposes. A static website does not change. The content is put up and it stays the same and it doesn’t invite a visitor to do anything. A dynamic website has moving content such as video or animation and an interactive website allows your visitor to click on media, watch it or create something and much more.

Blog (Short for Web Log) – a type of website or part of a website that is updated with content. Usually writing but it can be images or video. It has followers and is actually considered a legitimate form of journalism. A good example of a blog is: http://jazzsaints.blogspot.com/

Web Traffic – Information generated by visitors to your website or blog. They click on something that leads to your page or click something on your website. Tip: This can be tracked by Google Analytics. More in a later post.

Visitor – Someone that is viewing the home or index page of your website. There are two types of visitors. New Visitors – a visitor that has not made a previous visit – and a Repeat Visitor – a visitor that has come to your website more than once.

Hit – Otherwise known as a click. A visitor comes to your website and clicks on a link. That’s a hit. The more hits a website generates, the more popular it will seem to Search Engines and they will place your website higher on the list based on your Meta-Tags.

Google Analytics – A free service offered by Google that allows you to track traffic, in detail to your website. This will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Server/Host – A huge computer owned by a company (like GoDaddy.com or Hostdime.com) that allows your website to be live 24/7 for viewing by the public. Very often hosts will give you a deal if you purchase a hosting package when you purchase a domain name. Both will be for a specific duration of time – like 3 years for example.

Email – An online communication between two or more people. I will go into how you can use email to optimize your visibility online and off in depth in another post.

Social Networking – interactive websites that allow you to connect with people, view photos, videos, join groups, gain more exposure, and keep followers interested. There are 400+ Social Networking websites but the “big three” are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even YouTube is now considered a social networking website. I’ll go into it more in depth in a series of future posts.

PayPal – The most popular ecommerce company in the world. It allows you to open an account (for free) and pay or get paid for things on the internet. (It will take a small percentage if you get paid – usually from 2-2.75%). You can create customized buttons generated through PayPal that you can add to websites, blogs and emails. PayPal is an eBay affiliated company as well and if you intend to sell anything on the internet PayPal is a MUST! They’re in the business of security and everyone knows it. You’ll get paid faster and easier because there is a level of trust with PayPal. It also allows buyers or collectors to pay via credit card, debit card, PayPal account or even a checking account. www.paypal.com

YouTube – A video sharing website (created by 3 former employees of PayPal) that allows you to share and watch videos. You can create and subscribe to “channels.” Over 10 Million people watch a day and usually more than one video. You can even see demonstrations of painting, sculpting and art making, videos of artists work and so much more. Why not create a video, post it on YouTube and get a piece of the action?

Photostreams or Photo-Hosting Websites – Websites that will host your photos for use in other mediums such as a blog. They also function in a way that is somewhere between a blog and social networking. They are public, allow people to see your images and comment on them. www.Flickr.com is a good example

eBay – An online market place where people sell things from and to all over the world usually through auction. Sellers with a track record can create an eBay store and you can also create a “buy it now” price. eBay makes their money by charging a fee for posting items up front. Start slowly and build. More in another post.

Online Stores – a website where you can sell and purchase items. There are several devoted to art and hand crafted items. Etsy.com, Fine Art America and SaatchiOnline.com are good examples

On Demand Stores – Stores where you can design items that are then created and shipped after a visitor to a website purchases it. Such as www.zazzle.com/artists or www.CanvasPress.com

Online Galleries – Galleries that function on the internet in the same manner as a gallery with four walls with one major advantage. They can reach a much larger audience and even some viewers who would never even step foot in a gallery or museum. Beware of the vanity online galleries or galleries that use unprofessional practices like audience generated jurying. Shameless Self Promotion: www.melissawolffinearts.com

Online Art Portals – Such as Fine Art America, Saatchi Online, Artnet.com. They connect your website – usually for a fee – to a designated portal of art buyers and collectors. Buyer beware! There are websites that claim to put your website in front of a larger audience but don’t deliver. Pick and choose carefully.

Website Design Software – Software that allows you to create a website on your computer and then transfer it to the host through something called a ftp (file transfer protocol – a series of web language that helps a host communicate with your computer) The best software for website design is Macromedia Dreamweaver – which can be purchased alone or as part of Adobe Creative Suite. There are other programs for website design out there but none are as easy to use or as flexible. It will even support Adobe Flash and Java Script and something called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). WordPress.com is a blogging format that you can use to create something similar to a website. It’s not a website per se, you don’t have traditional means of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engines will categorize it as a blog.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of selling online let me clear that up. This past year (2014) Sotheby’s is organizing a collaboration with eBay to make their auctions live online.  Amazon.com is now carrying expensive art by approved galleries.  By 2018 online sales of art are expected to jump to over $34 Billion a year.  Shouldn’t you be able to be a part of that statistic?  It’s time to get yourself online if you’re not already. If you are already online it’s time to hone your skills and make money!

Writing for Artists: A Few More Symbols

It occurred to me that after my last post that I’d forgotten three very important punctuation marks. The bullet point, the slash and the accent (back and forward). These will help you make your writing – and your resume especially a lot clearer.

The Bullet Point (•) – is a typographical glyph used to define items in a list. It is probably called the bullet point because of it’s resemblance to a bullet but it can take several forms. A circle, a triangle, a square, a diamond or an arrow. Bullet points are used most commonly in the following types of writing – technical, reference works, notes and presentations. They will be most effective in a resume where you will be listing items like exhibitions, press, etc. Here is a general example of how they are used:

Paintings
• Drawings
• Photographs
• Collage
• Assemblage
• Sculpture

Compare it to this and you’ll see how the bullet point makes things much clearer by indicating a separation.

Paintings
Drawings
Photographs
Collage
Assemblage
Sculpture

The Slash ( / ) The most general use of the slash is a shortcut for “and”. For example: painter/sculptor It can also mean either/or. Another use is as a line break for poetry. For example:

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter/it isn’t just one of your holiday games/you may think that at first I’m as mad as a hatter/when I tell you a cat must have three different names.” *T.S. Elliot, The Naming of Cats, Old Possums Book of Practical Cats

It is also used in abbreviations. Such as: w/o for without

To address internet issues…
When used in a URL (means Universal Resource Locater or website address) it can mean a separation of a file. Such as http://www.theartistobjective.com/listings/artistindex.html

It can also mean the end of a URL
http://www.theartistobjective.com/

The slash is also used in mathematical type for two things. (I know this is about art but…) It’s used for percentage symbols (5/0%”), in a fraction 1/2″ or to indicate the division symbol (10/2 = 5).

The Accent – There are two major accent marks you need to be aware of . The accute accent and the grave accent.

• The accute accent (´) is a forward mark placed over a vowel, usually an e. An “e” would normally be pronounced “eee” but if an accute accent is placed over it then it would be pronounced as if you were saying “A”. I.E. Resumé.

• The grave accent (’) is a back mark and is usually placed over an e to mean that it is pronounced separately. Ed at the the end of a word with a grave accent would be pronounced separately. (paint-ed vs. painted)

There are other marks that are technically called accents or diacritics but these are the most commonly used. Essentially what they all mean is that there is a difference in pronunciation in the English transliteration of a word.

In the next post I’ll go more into formatting for your resume. Stay tuned!

The Artist Statement: A Sense of Purpose

Envision yourself walking into a gallery and you are absolutely, positively fascinated by what you see. The titles, media and size are not enough. They are only a clue to the concept. The art is really well executed and thought out. You are either not sure of what it really is or you want to be sure that you get it. You want to know more.

So you walk up to the desk where the gallery director or an assistant is sitting and start asking questions. About the artist – they can only tell you about their experience with them. What made them decide on that particular artist – they can answer that. Then you ask about the art. About the concept, how the artist did it, what they were thinking and feeling at the time. You get either cursory answers or a blank stare. What to do?

You go home and get on your computer. Search for the artists name and find a website with more art, a resume, a bio and contact information and not much more. The web is about instant gratification, you get bored and lose interest.

Consider this alternative scenario. Same compelling exhibition, in the same gallery and you are drawn in, breath taken by the art. You go up to the desk and start asking those very same questions. The person behind the desk jumps up, comes out and starts speaking enthusiastically about the artist and their process. You almost can’t get a word in edgewise. It draws you in, as if you were in the studio with that artist. You ask to see a price list. You see that you can actually afford a print that moved you and you must have it. Not only because the art was beyond amazing. Not only because it would look amazing in your living room and you’d enjoy seeing it every day. Because the artist is so compelling. Done! Sold!

The print arrives and you put it on the wall. The experience of the gallery visit was so thrilling that every time you look at the piece the very same feeling comes up in your heart. You must have more. Done! You are now a collector!

Eventually you meet the artist, get to go to their studio often, wind up going to a chique bar and have a drink with the “in crowd.” Life just gets amazing!

There you have it. The power of the Artist Statement. The power to change lives. You have given the gallery the power and knowledge to sell your art. Galleries love a well written artist statement. It’s not just the commission and the sale. It’s the involvement in changing a life. Yours. I actually heard a gallery owner say that he wanted to help as many artists as possible. If you give him the tools, he’ll sell your art. The Artist Statement provides the gallery the information they need to turn a viewer into a buyer.

The Artist Statement is also used for a press release or press packet. I will go more into depth when I address reaching the press another time. A good Artist Statement is an integral part of the press packet. It also gives the writer of the press release the information they need to appeal to an editor. (An editor is the one who decides whether a story is good enough to send a reporter out.) It gives the journalist the information they need to write not only a good article about you but a compelling one. The kind of article that makes your event, exhibition, art and even you – the artist – a must see.

The Artist Statement helps you when writing grants, residencies, fellowships and all kinds of applications. By getting through the process of writing your Artist Statement, you will become more articulate about your work and become a much better writer. You will be able to knock out those applications with ease. By being more in touch with what you are doing you will also be in a better place to decide which opportunities overall suit your work the best. More about grants and applications another time.

Lastly, addressing websites and the internet. Effective exposure on the internet includes statements about what you are doing. It can turn a visitor into a “click” or a hit. It can make the difference as to whether they click on your website on a search engine. They are more likely to become a follower on social networking sites. They can become a collector or buyer and make a recommendation for you.

I hope that I haven’t put pressure on you by saying this. I only want to express the importance of completing your Artist Statement. I also want to get you excited. Writing, fiction or non-fiction, is fun! Enjoy the process.

A word about the next series of posts. They will be about grammar. Groan! you say? You are probably having bad memories from high school English class. The teacher who beat the importance of a period into your head and those boring textbooks. I say English teacher and textbooks be gone! Empowerment and a stronger artistic voice come in! I hope to take away all that boring high school garbage and the confusion or the mislead feeling that you are confused away, and show you how good and effective a writer you already are. How you can strengthen the voice you already use to speak. Grammar is simply a tool. Think of a period the same way you would think of that dab of paint carefully placed on the canvas making a painting not only good but brilliant. Not only will this help you to edit better, but it will help you understand the series of posts following that: The Resume. Stay tuned!

The Artist Statement: The Power of Words

Artists are so visual that they often overlook the power of words. Believe me when I tell you that words – the way they are written and/or said – ARE important. You CAN harness that power and use it to express yourself in a unique and effective way. To connect, create a bridge between you and your viewer. A bridge that might just turn a viewer into a buyer and a buyer into a collector.

If you are doubting what I’m saying about the power of words then think of this. Remember the saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never harm me.” It’s definitely not true. In fact, words can do lasting damage. This sounds negative but have you ever wished that someone had used one word in place of another because it would have alleviated the pain they caused or it wouldn’t have been painful in the first place. Words can go straight to your heart. They can change a meaning of everything you just said. They can change the tone of a whole book – and require the author to go back and revise the entire book. Similar to a painting. One dot of red may change the whole thing and require you to go back and rework the entire piece.

As you can see I love words. Editing has become like a creative crossword puzzle to me. Here is an exercise that incorporates using the power of words….

After you have a solid piece of writing, it answers all of the questions that a viewer may ask and you think you are satisfied then go into a room and read it out loud. Does it flow off your tongue? Does it feel good to say? Are there any words or punctuation that you stumble over? A sentence that doesn’t flow properly or convey exactly, exactly what you mean. One word can interrupt the flow of an entire sentence, an entire piece of writing.

Two of the most powerful tools I have found are the Dictionary and Thesaurus. Look up just one word and read the entire definition and suggestions of other words to use. You’ll be amazed and find things you never thought of before. Here is an example:

Inspiration: in(t)-spe-‘ra’-shan, – (,)spi-/in (14 century) 1.a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate with sacred revelation. b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions 2: the act of drawing in: specific The Drawing of air into the lungs. 3a: the quality or state of being inspired. b: something that was inspired. 4. an inspiring agent of influence.

This can also be a marvelous tool if you feel stuck. Here is another exercise:
Write a list of words that describe your art and look them up in the dictionary or thesaurus one by one. It opens the doors to your mind and your heart and suddenly the words will just flow. Start to free write about what each word means to you if you’re still stuck after that.

Another exercise is to have someone else read it out loud to you, after you’re completely finished with it. As they read it you will see if they understand the meaning of what you have written. You can also see if they stumble over words or sentences. Listen carefully. Having more than one person read it is also good because it will let you see who your artist statement resonates with.

Remember that an artist statement is never really finished. Your process and technique will change. You really should review it every three to six months and see if it needs tweaking. If you have followed the steps in the previous posts and in this post congratulations! You have completed your artist statement. Getting over the hurdle of writing your first artist statement can be the hardest thing but once it’s complete you know you will have something you can really use. It will be easier to change and keep up with. You will be able to talk and write about your work with confidence. You will be able to write grants, fellowships, residencies, press releases, exhibition proposals and so much more. Galleries like artists who can write and who can talk. This is the second major step to your success.