Part of my hiatus for the last two years was to try to find my path in the world of art. I knew within the first few years of creating art that I didn’t want to be gallery artist. Eventually I came across the term self-produced artist, which is still the best descriptor I’ve found. But, that’s fraught with issues for me as well. I finally realized that my path is just different. I think showing where I’ve come from is important, good, bad, and ugly. That means content I once removed from the site will be restored. Other content will be moved. Basically I need to find my way of doing things, the Art World be damned.
In rethinking my website, I asked myself a lot of questions: What should be on my website & where? What isn’t on my website but should be? How should the pages be arranged? Do I care about search engine optimization (SEO) [to be addressed in a different post]? What about social media and which social media sites [to be addressed in a different post]? The list goes on and on.
Here’s what I’ve changed and why. If you’re struggling with your website, you might get a bit of insight from my struggles.
#1: Mixing Works For Sale With Sold Work
During a moment of frustration while overhauling the site, I decided to try and find some artist websites I liked, to use a guide. I ended up reading an article about avoiding common mistakes on artist websites. One of the things it mentioned was not putting the artwork that is for sale on the same page as the artwork that has already been sold (or isn’t for sale). The author stated that some artists mix the two to create a sense of urgency to buy – but that could turn off potential buyers on the belief that all the ‘good art’ is already sold. He writes for gallery artists, who live by a different set of rules and seek to attract a different kind of clientele. I always mixed my sold & unsold work just because it seemed logical. I think the author’s premise is without merit in terms of the type of art I create, it did have merit for a totally different reason…
Organizational simplicity – and page loading speed – is a good reason to separate the sold from the unsold works. You see, my online galleries are created using a WordPress plugin called WP Canvas Galleries. The only thing missing from the plugin is something called “pagination” (creating additional ‘pages’ for content without creating real actual HTML pages). This is a problem in a section like Clay Art as it’s quite large – which means slower load times. I could create individual pages but I’m holding out hope for an update to the plugin. Additionally, using the masonry-style galleries makes it harder to visually separate the pieces that have sold from those that have not.
My solution was to create separate pages for sold & unsold work, just not for the reasons the author outlined. Creating them wasn’t exactly straightforward though. I ended up having my existing links lead to the new “for sale” page for that theme. On that page, there is also a link to the “previous works” for the theme. For example, the link for Clay Art now leads to Clay Art for Sale where you find a link to Previous Works. My first solution was to create two menus, each containing the same list of topics but one labeled “Sold” and one “Available for Purchase.” It was way too confusing so I opted to nest the pages instead.
The downside to this is that it’s kind of weird and so I’m not entirely sure I like it. It’s weird because some of the themes don’t have a lot of work for sale – only two or three pieces. I’m still undecided whether I’ll keep all the sections separated or not. For now though, all the sections are divided between sold & unsold works.
#2: Exhibition Photos: To Show Or Not To Show.
The last time I redid my website, I removed several sections. Among them were the pictures of the exhibitions I’ve been in. I removed those photos because I wasn’t sure anyone really cared (regardless of evidence to the contrary). I’ve decided to reverse that decision this time around.
In one of my classes in art school (as a student), I did an entire lecture on websites, a large part of which was a presentation on how to use Google Analytics (GA). GA provides every possible statistic you could ever want on each page of your website. Suffice it to say that when I removed the exhibition photos from my website, I ignored what GA showed me. The stats showed those pages were frequently visited. I also ignored my fellow students on this too, as removing that section was discussed in class and the class was against it. In hindsight, I can be an idiot sometimes.
With my current knowledge, I realize that many artists are just as mystified by exhibitions as I was starting out. Viewing an artist’s work on their site and then seeing that work as it appeared in exhibition can be really encouraging. There are also a lot of people who never set foot in an art gallery. Seeing pictures of exhibitions helps to show that not all art galleries cater to the wealthy. To be honest, I also think that some people may question whether or not my work has actually been in a gallery. The pictures provide the proof. Oh, and yes, I really am that jaded.
While I haven’t restored the exhibition photos yet, it’s coming. I just need to figure out the best way to display them.
#3: Cardboard Dragons & Other (Mostly) Dead Content
In the class mentioned above, it was suggested that artist websites not display work that is no longer being created unless there’s some significant reason for it to be there. During the current overhaul of my website, I’ve pondered that idea a lot. I originally removed the section covering my cardboard dragons because I no longer create them. With my new overhaul, I realized that two sections of my website hadn’t had new content in eons – and may never get new content. By my previous logic, those sections should go to the trash bin just like the dragons. Right? Right?
Nope. I removed the dragons from my site because I thought I should only show current work. But, as my husband likes to say: “those are the best things you’ve ever done.” I’d like to argue that point, but I really can’t. They really are the best things I’ve done – and mainly because I worked without a lot of constraints (like keeping the price low, or worrying about how well a free-standing sculpture will sell). That made a lot of difference because there’s no way in hell I’d do something that big – or freestanding – ever again LOL. (There’s another lesson in there but that will have to be another post).
I decided to restore the dragons because many people remember them even though they only had two exhibitions outside of George Mason University. I think they also show that I am capable of doing larger pieces (they were 7′ tall) and that I can do a series of work and not just one-off pieces. Lastly, they’re just fun to look at. But, that led to a different problem. Where do put the Cardboard Dragons page? They aren’t a current body of work, it was really more of an archive. Hmmm, an archive. Guess what? I now have a section called “The Archives.” Fancy that.
The new section also solved two other dilemmas I was facing: Digital Art & Digital Photography. I started out creating only digital art. Getting my BFA in digital art (in name only) ruined digital art for me. The only “new” pieces in that section were done in 2011, as pieces for a class I took in my last semester there. In keeping the Digital Art section in the main “Browse” menu, I was implying that it was a medium I actively worked in. Clearly I do not, and may not ever again. That brings me to the next section….
Digital Photography was born out of the my digital photography class. I’m not a photographer by any stretch. Most of the pictures in that section of my website were taken during that class. I’ve posted a few here & there since then but I mostly use my camera to photograph my art. It hasn’t left my studio in eons. But yet that section was also listed in the “Browse” menu like it was active.
Why were those still on the site if they weren’t active? Zazzle. I uploaded pieces from both section to sell there. That was also the reason I had a section for Digital Designs (aside from the fact that adding it meant I had 9 sections on the main page – 3 nice neat rows of 3). But I realized that having something on Zazzle isn’t the same as a medium being actively pursued. Having inactive pieces & simple doodles on my main website merely because you can buy them elsewhere isn’t a good enough reason. As of yesterday, Digital Art & Digital Photography are also in The Archives. I completely removed the Digital Designs page as well.
Technically I didn’t just decide to do that at random. Google Analytics is an awesome thing – and you can plug in one of their codes on your Zazzle storefront. I can see from my GA stats that I don’t get a lot of traffic from any of my “digital” pages (art, photos, or designs) directly to Zazzle. That means that most of my Zazzle sales are happening because they are being found at Zazzle. Putting the Digital Art & Digital Photos sections in The Archives makes sense (at the moment at least). It’s still on my site, but there’s no illusions about how active those mediums are.
So, in short, I created a section called “The Archives” and moved Digital Photography & Digital Art to it. I also added Cardboard Dragons to that new section. I removed Digital Designs altogether. Whee.
#4: Creation of a New Theme (???)
I decided to create another new section in the “browse” menu. This one is called “Steampunk Art.” I’ve been on the fence about creating this section for a while. The people who buy my steampunk work are often familiar with the aesthetic to begin with. The old site had the steampunk pieces scattered across the other sections. This meant that anyone looking for similar work had to search the all the categories to find it, something I’m not sure many people really did. I thought the time to create a new category was at hand. Right?
Well, technically, I answered that question with a “yuppers.” However, now that I’ve also divided the section into sold & unsold works, it looks really anemic. Like really anemic. That leaves me with a dilemma: create more steampunk work ASAP or just put the sold & unsold work back onto the same page. I’m definitely not rushing into my studio to create more work just to fill in a web page (although I have one piece finished that hasn’t been uploaded yet). As I have a metric ton of work to do on the site, I’m not really pondering this full-time, but I am pondering the future of the section.
#5: The Story of My Art
Part of the website overhaul included creating a page for each piece of art I’ve done. As I’ve said many times, I’m not like other artists. For years I fought against the notion that any piece of my art has a story behind it. I kept thinking “I’m not that kind of artist.” But I am that kind of artist, well, sort of. Each of my pieces does have a story – the story of its creation. Since I sincerely hope that my work inspires other people to create their own art, by not telling the story, I realized I was doing a disservice to my own mission statement. It’s one thing to be inspired by merely looking at a piece, it’s entirely different when you can read about how it was made, the techniques, the successes, the failures (yes, I talk about failures), the tools, and my source(s) of inspiration.
I have undertaken the Herculean task of creating a page for every single piece of my art and writing a story for each piece. I have already finished creating the pages (except for the Tiny Art section). So far I’ve only managed to write the story for a relatively small number of them, mostly in the Clay Art area. I decided to try to write the stories for the unsold works first since it seems like a more manageable goal. I don’t know if anyone will ever read those stories or not – or at least I won’t know until I check Google Analytics. 🙂
By deciding to do all this writing, not only will I (hopefully) improve my writing skills but all that text helps the website in another way…. with SEO. I’ll write a separate post on that since that’s turned out to be way too big for this post. If you are wondering if you should do the same, the answer is yes!
#7: Tiny Art, Big Problems
The page called “Tiny Art” houses just that, very small works of art. The problem is that there is a lot of very small art there. The page is enormous and, therefore, is really slow to load. The art itself, being tiny, often doesn’t have much of a story so creating unique pages for each piece seems unnecessary. At this point I haven’t touched the Tiny Art section. I’m just not sure how to approach it.
I’m thinking of make that page into a landing page. I’ll separate the tiny art into sub-pages to make it easier to view. That will allow me to categorize it by theme. I’ve also toyed getting rid of the Tiny Art section & just adding those pieces into the main category. That would create, in my mind, confusion with sizes. It would also increase many of the pages exponentially slowing down load times.
I guess I’m just going to have to ponder this for a while longer…..
If you actually read all that, you must be very bored. 🙂 I appreciate it though. I would also appreciate your insights so feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.