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How to Create an Artist Website

Domain Name

Choosing an effective domain is hugely important, because it can make or break whether someone remembers your website or not.  Using your name is the easiest domain name to choose.  claralieu.com, laurynwelch.com, caseyroonan.com are all simply the artist’s name.

If you have a common name like Sam Smith, consider adding “art” or “studio,” or another art related work. For example, samsmithart.com or samsmithstudio.com.

Best to keep words that are added to your name broad and generic.  Some artists shift media, so if you start with samsmithphoto.com but end up switching to oil painting later, it’s a problem if your domain name doesn’t relate anymore to your current studio practice.

Short & Easy to Remember

Keep your domain short, it’s easier to remember and prevents typos.  Compare samsmithweddingphotography.com vs. samsmithphoto.com.  The latter domain name is much, much easier to remember and type.

Complicated Names

If your name is very long or difficult to spell, think about ways to shorten your domain name so people don’t have to bother with the spelling. For example, Illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka has a name that is hard to spell for most people.  His website is studiojjk.com, using his initials which are very easy to remember.

Pay for the Domain Name

Shell out the money (and these days you don’t have to pay that much!) and pay for the domain name.  There is a giant difference between “claralieu.com” and “claralieu.squarespace.com.” This is worth the money and will make everything easier in the future when referencing your website.

websites for artists

Show that Your Website is Active

Once a website is established and coherent with a decent amount of work and information, you need to show that your website is current and active. When someone visits a site and the front page lists an “upcoming” exhibition that was 5 months ago, your site will look out of date and poorly maintained.

Update the home page with news

The quickest and easiest way to show that your website is up to date is to place 1 large image on the home page that is related to your most recent piece of news. If you have an exhibition coming up 3 months from now, list that exhibition on your home page.  Adding 1 new image plus some accompanying text takes very little effort and time. Just make sure that you remove that home page as soon as the listed exhibition is over.

RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu
Websites for Artists

Eliminate dead links

Make sure all external links on your site are live.  Your website won’t come across well if old videos that have since been deleted show up or if people click on links to sites that no longer exists.

On the right is the image you will see if a deleted YouTube video is embedded in a website.

Artist Websites

Embed all links

Never type out the URL, (example:  “http://artprof.org/”) and never type “click here.” Both of these approaches will clutter your website with unnecessary text.

Look at the differences between the text formatting on the right:

To see Clara’s resume, click here

 

 

Resume

Curate; Less is more

Resist the temptation to list every single accomplishment, piece of artwork, and idea you’ve ever had in your entire artistic career.  Viewers are easily overwhelmed when presented with too much content, especially if the content is disorganized or difficult to navigate.

Aim for fewer items of higher quality, as opposed to sheer quantity with a lower quality. Having tons of content does not necessarily make you look  better, in fact, most of the time it makes you look worse.

Graphite Drawing, Clara Lieu
Beeswax Sculpture, Clara Lieu
Etching Ink Drawing, Clara Lieu

Use plain fonts

Unless you are a graphic designer who specializes in font design, an artist website is not the place to get super creative and experimental with fonts. Unusual or decorative fonts can become a distraction from the artwork, and can create associations that weren’t intended.

The top font below is a plain font, Futura Bk.  The middle font is reminiscent of the Ancient Roman empire while the bottom font seems to imply that you are somehow involved with the roaring 20’s???

Stay away from those associations entirely and don’t call attention to the font you are using.

Clara Lieu

Artist resumes: Don’t pad

Don’t pad your resume, just don’t do it. Curators, gallery directors, journalists, etc. can spot a padded resume a mile away, and it will reek of desperation. People can see right through the padding and it will not reflect well on you.  The length of your resume is not an indication of quality, so emphasize instead only relevant, high quality experiences that will be received better.

Select exhibitions & avoid repetition

There’s no need to list every exhibition that you’ve ever participated in.  Avoid exhibitions that you participate on a regular basis. You can list them once or twice, but more than than is not necessary.

For example, if you have been the “24th Annual Member’s Exhibition,” and in the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, etc. shows, it doesn’t look good if your entire exhibition history is essentially all the same exhibition. See the exhibition on the right for an example.

Not only does it clutter your resume with redundant information, but it prevents the more distinctive shows you’ve been in from being seen.

2018
25th Annual Member’s Exhibition, Cambridge Art Association, Cambridge, MA
Printmaking Now, The Print Center, Philadelphia, MA

2017
24th Annual Member’s Exhibition, Cambridge Art Association, Cambridge, MA
The New Landscape, Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA

2016
23th Annual Member’s Exhibition, Cambridge Art Association, Cambridge, MA

2015
22nd Annual Member’s Exhibition, Cambridge Art Association, Cambridge, MA

Drawings by RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

If you don’t have it, don’t include it

There are many categories in an artist resume and don’t worry if you simply don’t have any experience in a category. Every artist who have difference categories based on their individual studio practice and experience.

If you have never done an artist residency before, that’s okay!  If you don’t lecture, and never intend to lecture, it doesn’t make you look bad to not include that category.

RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu
RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

Exhibition Listings

The most important content in your exhibition listings are the year, the title of the exhibition, the name of the venue, and the town, state, and country the venue is located in.

Extra information like the month the exhibition took place, whether it was an invitational exhibition will only clutter your exhibition listing.

The two exhibition listings below list the exact same exhibitions, but the listing on the right lists unnecessary information, therefore creating dense blocks of text that are much harder to read.

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2010
Calculated Risks, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley, MA

2009
Drawings that Work, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA
Evolution of a Shared Vision, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
Where Are We?, Chazan Gallery, Wheeler School, Providence, RI

2008
Arrivals/Departure, Jewett Gallery, Wellesley College, MA
Field Report, Gordon College, Wenham, MA

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2010
Calculated Risks, group invitational exhibition,  curated by Davis Museum curator Sara Smith, September, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley, MA

2009
Drawings that Work, juried group exhibition, juried by Sara Smith, December, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA
Evolution of a Shared Vision, May, drawings from the collection of David and Barbara Stahl, invitational group exhibition, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
Where Are We?, four person invitational exhibition, June, Chazan Gallery, Wheeler School, Providence, RI

2008
Arrivals/Departure, group invitational faculty annual exhibition, September, Jewett Gallery, Wellesley College, MA
Field Report, Boston Printmakers Member’s group invitational exhibition, July, Gordon College, Wenham, MA

Art Gallery Exhibition

Link Everything

Any time an organization, artist, or arts related website is mentioned, link to their site.  Not only is this a considerate and supportive action to do within the context of the arts community, but it will help your SEO. (Search Engine Optimization)  A site that has many external links of trusted legitimate websites will rank higher on Google than a site which has no external links at all.

You can’t count on everyone who looks at your resume to recognize every gallery or venue you show your work at, so linking to a gallery’s website lets your audience click over to the gallery’s website to see that it is indeed a legitimate gallery.

External links should open a new tab

Anytime you link to an external website,  you need to adjust your link settings so that clicking on that link automatically opens a new tab in your web browser.  Otherwise, clicking on an external link in your website means your audience has left your site and it’s harder for them to go back.

When a new tab opens automatically, it’s really easy for your audience to go back and forth between your site and the external site.

Oil Paintings, Clara Lieu

Awards

Out of all the areas of the artist resume, the awards section is the chronic culprit of major resume padding. There are many different types of awards, and it’s important to only list ones that are substantial enough that they warrant a listing. Honorable mentions, juror’s commendations, being featured on a website, attaining honor roll do not count as awards.

On the awards listing on the left are listings that do not have much substance, whereas the awards listing on the right are legitimate for an awards section.

AWARDS

2017
Honorable Mention, Danforth Museum Member’s Exhibition
Featured Artist, Artist a Day
Juror’s Commendation, Boston Printmakers North American Print Biennial

2015
Honor Roll, Boston University

AWARDS

2018
Artist Fellowship, Massachusetts Cultural Council

2017
Artist Grant, Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation

2016
Artist Grant, The Puffin Foundation

RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

Education

When listing schools you attended, the only ones that matter on an artist resume are schools where you received a degree.

There are many artists received degrees in fields that are not related to art; these degrees are still important to list in an artist resume as it speaks about you and the diversity of your experience. However, it’s not necessary to list publications, experience, etc. from a previous career.

For example, if you used to be a Chemistry professor, it’s good to list your degrees in Chemistry, but not important to list all of the science journals you published in.

On the bottom left is education listings which are cluttered with information that is not important. On the bottom right, the education listing is distilled down to the most important information.

EDUCATION

2018
MFA in Sculpture, School of the Museum of Fine Arts
Student Leadership Council

2015
BFA in Painting, School of the Visual Arts
Summa Cum Laude
Semester abroad in Madrid, Spain
GPA 3.84, Honor roll all 4 years in a row

EDUCATION

2018
MFA in Sculpture, School of the Museum of Fine Arts

2015
BFA in Painting, School of the Visual Arts

RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

Collections

Any collections listed must be by legitimate institutions and collectors.  For example, if you notice that “Sam and Sarah Lieu” are listed as collectors on claralieu.com, that’s not a coincidence.

If you are in a legitimate collection and the collector’s name is not well known, you can link their names to an article or exhibition that will demonstrate their legitimacy. To the right is a sample collections list that would be appropriate

COLLECTIONS

Terry Richards
Sam and Sarah Lieu
The Village Bank
Cafe Harmony

Contact 

Your contact form can make a break whether someone chooses to purchase a piece, or to contact you about another professional opportunity. Ever give up on a website because you couldn’t find the contact info fast enough?  The same will happen on your website if your contact page isn’t easy to find or read.

Boil your contact page down to two items:  1) your email and 2) social media icons.

On the lower left is a cluttered greeting that makes it tough to find the information you need.  In the bottom center, the links to social media are easier to find, but they all look the same. On the lower right, the colorful icons make it really easy to find the social media platform you are looking for.

Format your email on your website like this:  clara [at] claralieu.com.  This will prevent spam bots from picking up your email address, and be sure that when people click on your email that a new email message pops up.

Websites for Visual Artists
Websites for Visual Artists
Websites for Visual Artists

Email vs. Contact form

Some people have a contact form on their contact page instead of providing their email address. For some people, the contact form feels too anonymous and could prevent them from contacting you.  An email address can feel more concrete as opposed to the contact from.

Another option is to provide both your email and the contact form, however, providing both can also come across as making one feel redundant.

Listing your phone number on your artist website is your choice, however if you have any concerns, best to err on not listing your phone number as a pre caution.

Websites for Visual Artists
RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

About

Your about page is a chance to write a personal narrative about who you are as an artist and to establish a tone with your audience.  This statement is an opportunity to tell your audience something about yourself which may not be as easily communicated on your resume. Keep your personal narrative short, two paragraphs tops.

Whether you choose to write in first person or third person is up to you. Know that most people interpret a statement written in first person to be a little more friendly, while a statement written in third person tends to come across as more formal.

If you’re not sure about how formal or casual you want your statement to be, err on being more on the professional side.  You can quickly embarrass yourself with a poorly written statement that is too unrelated to your studio practice.

Marly Gallardo’s About page
Song Kang’s About page

Below are two extreme examples:  the bottom left is a formal and professional statement while the one on the lower right is very casual.

ABOUT

I am an Adjunct Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, and a Partner at Artprof.org, a free, online educational platform for visual arts.

My studio practice uses drawing, printmaking, and sculpture as means towards exploring the extremes of human emotion, using the human figure and face as a vehicle for expression.

ABOUT

Hi guys!  I teach at RISD and a few years back I started this new website which gives people the chance to study visual arts for free.

I am mostly into making drawings of portraits, and I absolutely love the human figure as well.  Lots of my pieces talk about feelings and emotions that people experience in their lives.

Show your face

A website that has no photo of you can come across as anonymous and evasive, and makes it more challenging for your audience to connect with you.

If you’re self-conscious about your appearance, have a friend take a photo of you working in the studio as opposed to the more traditional head shot. Whatever format you choose, make sure your face is visible in the photo.

Alex Rowe, Illustrator

Artists live and die by their photographs

Today, the vast majority of people will see your artwork on a screen before they see your artwork in person. In fact, having the opportunity to see your artwork in person will be rare. For this reason, the photographs of your artwork are absolutely critical to your artist website.

Photos that are poor quality, and which don’t accurately represent your artwork can make or break potential professional opportunities.  Artworks that are three-dimensional are especially difficult to represent online, so the images you present are everything.

Shoot professional quality photos

There is a gigantic range of options in terms of photographing your artwork. Read about your options, tips on equipment, and more here.

Compress your photos

There are tons of technical aspects to building a website, but one that is chronically forgotten about by artists is compressing your images.  If you upload your images full size, uncompressed, not only will that fill up all the space on your website, but your images will take forever to load when people are visiting your site!

Acrylic Painting, Lauryn Welch
Acrylic Painting, Lauryn Welch
Acrylic Painting, Lauryn Welch

Works in progress below on social media (mostly)

It’s okay to have a few studio shots or perhaps some works in progress on your website, it can reveal an aspect of your creative process which can be insightful for your audience.

However, don’t overdo it. You want your polished photos to dominant your website, while your works in progress pieces can be spotlighted on your social media accounts.

Yes, you need to be on social media.

Tips on social media for visual artists.

Limit scrolling

Avoid stacking large images on top of each other, which forces your audience to scroll endlessly in order to see all of your artworks.

Thumbnail Galleries

Instead, create a grid of thumbnail images, minimum 3 images across for your artworks. You’ll want to see it up so that clicking on a thumbnail allows you to expand the image and also to click back and forth between the images. Avoid slideshows that run automatically, frequently their pace is too fast for your viewer.

Casey Roonan

Categories

You’ll need to decide how to organize your artwork, most artists will choose to organize by either subject matter or by media.  Limit the number of categories you have.  Ten categories is too much for your audience to choose from and will make it tough for them to navigate your site.

Use the appropriate terminology

Be sure that the word you use to represent a category is not misleading.  For example, if you use the word “installation” and that category leads to images of your 2D paintings installed in living rooms, that can be misleading since “installation” generally is a whole field in itself of fine art.

Watch out for words that can be too vague. For example “galleries” could be either a gallery of images or it could have information on the galleries that represent you. A gallery that represents you should be on the Contact page, while an area that has your artwork could be called “Portfolio,” “Work,” etc.

Categories should relate to each other

A group of categories such as “Drawing – Painting – Sculpture” work well because they are distinctive, but are all in the fine arts field. Be careful about having categories that seem too disparate from each other, like “Graphic Design – Writing – Glass Blowing” which can be confusing for your audience.

If you truly are someone who works in that many contrasting fields, consider building a separate website for your non art related content.

Artist Statement

Artist statements are a chronic issue for visual artists, none of us became visual artists to express ourselves verbally!  Which is why it’s a good idea if you can afford it, to hire an editor to help you with your artist statement. Keep the statement very short, 1-2 paragraphs long. Boil your artistic practice down to key words and phrases and be clear and succinct.

Ayame’s statement
Liz Shepherd’s statement

Menu Bar

Menu bars should have as few items as possible. Be sure that the terminology that you choose is accurate, and that the words on the menu bar are straightforward and clear, such as “About,” “Contact”, “Illustration,” etc.

Drop down menus are okay to have, but keep them at a minimum. If a menu bar conveys that there is an overwhelming amount of content on the site, people will leave the site immediately.

Your name must be very visible on the home page, and a short tag line is helpful for people to get a quick sense of who you are.

Deepti Menon

Usability Testing

Usability testing is a very revealing process that allows you to catch problems with your website that you yourself wouldn’t otherwise pick up on.

Sit down with someone and ask them to click through your website. Make sure you choose someone who has never seen your website before. As they explore your website, ask them to say out loud exactly what is going through their heads.

As the person talks out loud, take notes on how they navigate the site. Are they clicking on sections that you want them to click on?  Are they able to find what they want? Are they confused how to get from one section to another? Make changes to your website based on these observations. Then, do another round of testing to see if those changes have improved your website.

Test with a minimum of 2 people

Try to find 2 people who are not artists, and who you know will be honest in their feedback on your website.  Even better, test 2 people of different ages to get a sense of how differently people react to a site depending on their age demographic.

Usability Testing Resources

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Deepti Menon, Animator & Filmmaker

Recommended Artist Websites

Artist Consultations

Prof Lieu is available for 1:1 artist consultations on social media and/or websites in the Boston area on a limited basis.

To inquire, email Prof Lieu.

60 min: $300 USD

RISD Adjunct Professor Clara Lieu

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