Websites for Artists: web design for artists and the art community
 

Rules of the Road is a series of articles about how artists can use and interact with the Digital World, and how to best navigate that space.

Click on a title to bring you to the full article:

 

 

Get organized: computer hygiene for artists

Remember when you started taking art classes? You probably came across a teacher who told you to work from the general to the specific. When you paint, you do not start with details... the same advice applies to organizing your computer for your art career.

Think of your computer as an art project: organize it with general categories (folders), which will contained more and more detailed information (sub-folders: folders inside folders).

In this article, I make suggestions based on how I have organized my computer, and give you advice to take full advantage of digital storage. I start with very general folders on my C drive: I have a folder labeled Art Career where everything I need as an artist is stored, and a folder labeled Website for Artists, where I have all my information to run the business.

Let's look at ways you can organize your Art Career folder. Here's a list of the sub-folders I have in my Art Career folder, which you can adapt to your own needs:

1. Artist Packet folder: this is the first and most important folder you will create. In it, you will keep a current CV, a current artist statement, a current bio, and from 15 to 20 high resolution images with a work samples list. This packet of information will allow to apply to any opportunities easily, because you will have all the basic information at your fingertips that, without fail, you will need to supply for grants, residencies, and most proposals. When you keep a folder of high resolution images, you can copy them and place them in a “Call” folder (see below) where they can be re-sized according to each call's guidelines.

2. To-Do folder: here you will list opportunities that are interesting to you in their own sub-folders, which you can also label by due date, or priority. For example, if you want to apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship and you know it will be due in September of 2020, make a folder called “Guggenheim Fellowship Sept2020”. Within each opportunity sub-folder, keep a text file with the guidelines and any pertinent information such as the images you will submit. Once you start your application process, keep the files you are sending in the sub-folder for that call. That way, you keep a track record of what you have sent out for each opportunity year after year: the images, letters of intent, CV, etc.

3. Marketing folder: here you can have a sub-folder for your website (with all the files that make up the site), any information you want to keep for social media such as images, and an updated email list in an excel spreadsheet. In my email list, I add a note for each person I have met, so I can remember how we are connected, or how we met.

4. Finances folder: keep an excel spreadsheet labeled with the year, where you can record income and expenses by month. This will make tax season less painful. I enter information there every month or so... mostly because I find it to be a chore to do every week! You can also keep invoices if you do commissions, and track if the invoices have been paid or not.

5. Inventory folder: if you are a gallery artist, and regularly send out your artwork to different galleries, it is a good idea to keep an excel spreadsheet labeled by year, where you can track which artwork has gone to which gallery, if the artwork has been sold, been shipped back, or is being stored at your gallery.

6. Archives folder: here you can move anything that is no longer relevant for the year. Move past budgets, calls you have applied to, past inventories, older CV and statements, etc. The archives will let you keep all the above folders with clean, and clear information.

The most important thing you must remember to do is to BACK UP your digital files. If you keep your folders organized, doing a back-up will be simple and quick. My suggestion is to get an external drive, and at least on a weekly basis, back up the first five folders I advised you create: artist packet, to-do list, marketing, finances, and inventory. Every year, move older files into the Archives, and back that up too. I prefer an external drive over the cloud: my information remains private, it is free, I do not need Internet access, and I can take it with me in an emergency. That said, if you prefer using the cloud... do so. The important thing to remember is to do back ups!

Your computer is your best assistant in your art career: organize it with folders that make sense to you, and will make applying to calls, filing taxes, and reaching out to patrons easy and stress-free. And by the way, you can also organize your in-box in similar ways, making folders that are pertinent to you, and moving emails that you have read in their respective folders, so your in-box stays clean.... and can even sometimes be empty!

 

Copyrighting infringement: is the threat real for Artists?

Many artists have asked me recently about protecting their images from online theft. Downloading photos from websites is as easy as 1-2-3 so… what can you do to protect your work, and more importantly, should you be worried about it?

1. Why is your work online?

Let’s start by examining the reasons you have put your work online in the first place. As an artist, having a website means that millions of people and potential collectors are able to see images of your work for free. A digital portfolio can reach potential galleries, collectors, art critics, curators, museums, friends and family. To ensure your site will be seen by as many people as possible, it needs to be easily accessed, should be easy to navigate, with clear images that are large enough to be seen properly on most monitors, yet not too big that they will take too long to download .

Making it easy for everyone to see your work of course makes the images vulnerable to theft. What tools are available to prevent theft and are they effective?

2. Are the tools to protect images effective?

There have been many attempts to prevent theft from websites, from disabling right-click to putting watermarks on images. Unfortunately, most of those have simple work-arounds that any tech-savvy thief will know:

  • Flash site: though you cannot download an image from a flash site, anyone can use the print screen function to get an image. Flash sites have mostly gone out of use, and I recommend not going that route to protect your work.

  • Disabling right-click: this will annoy anyone who legitimately wants to promote your work (a blog reviewer trying to post an image of your work for example) yet is easily circumvented.

  • Watermarks: to be effective, the watermarks would have to be so big that no one (including potential collectors!) would be able to see the image properly. But, a watermark which allows the image to be seen unscathed can easily be removed by anyone with some Photoshop expertise. Watermarks, then, seem to be a doomed proposition.

3. Who are the thieves anyway?

Let’s stop for a minute and think about the purposes of our potential thieves. Possibly the most threatening would be someone stealing images for mass printing and distribution. Imagine walking into a Bed and Bath, and seeing your paintings on shower curtains! (and there are plenty of examples of that occurrence, unfortunately).

Here, your best defense is the web itself: images prepared for the web are usually not suitable for printing, because they are at a low resolution (72 dot-per-inch) and are typically fairly small.

A licensing company usually has large pools of artists doing work for them, and basically do not need to steal art that will reproduce poorly on their products, and lower their quality.

4. Can nothing be done?

If you are truly worried about copyright infringement, you can register your images with the government (see the government site at www.copyright.gov). The standard fee is $55 (as of 2020).
You do not need to register to obtain copyright.

According to the law:

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

You only need to have the copyright registered if you wish to take legal actions against someone:

Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.

Beware that an actual lawsuit against anyone can be quite expensive, and you probably should be comfortable spending up to $5, 000 and risk not recovering any monies. Legal action can also create a lot of anxieties: I have had to hire a lawyer to write threatening letters to someone who had stolen digital information, and the stress was intense.

In conclusion, though the risks of copyright infringement do exist, artists might not want to spend too much time worrying about their images being stolen for nefarious purposes. Most people who will download your images will do so with or without your permission, and most likely will not have any criminal intents (bloggers, galleries, friends, students).

For those who do have criminal intent, bringing any legal action against them will be costly, time-consuming, and in the end, may not bring any reparations or compensations. You need to weigh the benefit of a lawsuit against the actual gain, keeping in mind the stress. and financial burden it will likely cause in your life.

 
 

Protecting yourself against Phishing

According to a Wall Street Journal Online article:
“In June, more than 500 cadets at West Point received an email from Col. Robert Melville notifying them of a problem with their grade report and ordering them to click on a link to verify that the grades were correct. More than 80% of the students dutifully followed the instructions”.

The cadets were victims of Phishing, and West Point used the mock exercise to demonstrate its effectiveness in an effort to prevent future attacks on students. Training users in recognizing Phishing attempts is the best prevention against identity theft and fraud. Outlined below are the most common Phishing attacks, and ways to avoid falling victim to this widespread Internet deception.

What is Phishing?

The best way to obtain another person’s password is by asking them. Though it sounds silly and obvious, it is the most widely used method to obtain sensitive information. Phishing has become the Internet’s equivalent of asking for a password, and computer users fall victims every year to phishing scams.

Phishing is defined in Wikipedia as the following:

“Phishing is a criminal activity using social engineering techniques. Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication”

Phishing really means fishing for information: a bait is thrown out, and your username and password are the fish the thief is trying to catch.

What does it look like?

Phishing will look like a legitimate email from a legitimate company such as PayPal, your bank, or the IRS. In the message, a scare tactic might be used, such as “Your account will be terminated” but most often, the email will simply ask you to “verify” information by logging into your account. A link to log into your account will be provided in the email message. This link will go to a website that looks exactly like the legitimate site, and you probably won’t think twice about entering your username and password.

Phishing can also occur while you are logged into your account. In this technique, a pop-up window or a new screen appears, claiming that you have been logged out, and asking you to log back in to continue using your account.

How to avoid Phishing?

1. Don’t click that link!
If you receive an email from a financial institution, PayPal, e-Bay or the IRS claiming the need to verify your account, or using a scare technique such as “you owe back taxes”, take a deep breath, and DO NOT click on the link provided in the email message.

If you have legitimate concerns about your account, start a new browser window and type the company's website into the address bar of the browser to bypass the link provided by the email message. The IRS, PayPal or your bank will NEVER send emails with a link to your log-in account. Most websites now have what is called an SSL certificate that verifies ownership of their domain: therefore, legitimate sites will start with https, and will have a padlock icon next to their domain. This insures (as of this writing) that you are on the company's site, and not a dummy site meant to look like it.

2. Don’t log back in
If it looks like you have been logged out of your account while working, DO NOT log back in immediately. Close your web browser completely, start a new web browser window, and go back to the site you were visiting by typing in the web address yourself in the address bar.

If you suspect Phishing activity, report the message to the company impersonated in the email. You can also submit suspected Phishing activity to PhishTank.

To read more about Phishing on Wikipedia, go to:
en.wikipedia.org and search for “Phishing"

 

Preparing your images for the web

This article is a check list of definition and advice on how images are seen, stored and named for a website. I start with the most basic definition (a pixel) and go through file format and naming conventions for the web.

Pixels

A pixel (short for picture element) is the smallest square of color on your computer monitor. Put a bunch of pixels together, and you get an image! Typically, a monitor will have something called “resolution” which defines how many pixels across can be displayed. The higher the number, the better the picture on your screen. The most common resolution as of 2020 is 1366×768 for desktop monitors, and the viewport for most smartphones will be around 412x732 (for most androids. iphones are about 414x896 - there are a lot of variations within that range).

Images are often described in terms of pixels: the width and height are defined in x number of pixels across, and y number of pixels in height. Again, the higher the number, the more information will be contained in the file, and the better the picture will be.

Most sites will be web responsive: meaning the images and text will resize according to the user's screen. You do need to consider the highest resolution, and post images that will look good for a large screen, and let the browser resize your images automatically for the small ones. Howver, you also need to consider Internet speed: if your images are too big, it may slow down the site, which can be problematic (and also consider the copyright/download issue mentioned in the article on digital theft). I usually have images that will be around 800 to 1000 pixels in width, which will look good on most large monitors, yet will be small enough to display relatively fast for most Internet users..

Mega pixels

A mega pixel is 1 million pixels, and is often used to describe the quality of a picture taken from a digital camera. A mega pixel for a digital camera describes the size of the picture in terms of width and height. For example, a camera that takes pictures at 3.1 mega pixels means that the picture is 2048 × 1536 , which multiplies to 3.1 million.

Naming conventions

Most operating systems try to be as user friendly as possible. They do not want you to worry about the underbelly of the computer and how it works. Though a very nice concept in theory, it is to a certain extent a disservice to the user. Why? Because you are unlikely to know what the server where your site is going to be hosted uses as an operating system, and some have stricter rules about naming conventions than others. To be safe, I restrict myself to the alphabet and numbers. Underscores and dashes seem to be universally accepted, but I stay away from blank spaces, question marks, forward and backward slashes and their ilk.

Simply put: keep your names descriptive such as blueflower.jpg and simple. Try to limit yourself to the alphabet and numbers. Everything else might be asking for trouble.

File format

The file format for an image basically determines how the image information is stored on a computer. The computer uses an algorithm to compress the information as much as possible without losing image quality.

The most commonly used format for the web is jpg. It is currently probably the best way to store an image’s information and still maintain a decent image quality.

Designers used to save their files as .gif, which basically stored all the image information with only 256 colors and still maintained a good image quality. The advantage of a .gif is that images were quite small and therefore fast to download. The .gif format was patented by a company called Unysis and users were informed that they would have to pay royalties if they wanted to have .gif images on their website. The good news is that the patent has expired, and you are free to use the .gif format.

The .png format (pronounced PING) was developed as an alternative to the .gif format, but browsers display the images inconsistently, and the adoption of this format has been slow, and is not widespread..


RGB and CMYK

A computer monitor uses Red Green and Blue light to display images. Print uses CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks. Make sure that your images are saved in an RGB format or they will not display on most browsers. You can save an image as a CMYK jpg but it will not display on browsers.

DPI

DPI stands for dot per inch, and is a measure of how much information is contained in a one inch by one inch square of an image: the higher the DPI, the more information is stored, the clearer the image will be. However, it makes no difference for the monitor: a 72 DPI image will look exactly the same as a 300 DPI image. For the purposes of a website, it is better to keep images at a lower DPI because the images will be smaller and download faster without losing any perceptible quality.

 

20 tips for artists for a good website

Designing a good website seems to require an endless checklist of chores: organize and select the materials, photograph the artwork, write a bio, an artist statement and an updated resume. You need to decide how to display the materials, what color scheme will look best with your art, what fonts will compliment your workÖ and more! Donít give up!

I have compiled 20 important points that Artists should keep in mind when designing their website. Keep these guidelines as checkpoints during your site creation, or to check and improve an existing site.

1. Keep it simple.
Donít try and put every piece of information about your career or display every single piece of artwork you ever created. Choose relevant information that will keep the site simple and elegant. Try and include materials that reinforce your siteís purpose (is it to sell work? Attract new collectors? Or present a portfolio to galleries?).

2. Keep your file size low.
People viewing your site donít necessarily have a high speed connection to the internet, so be aware that too many images or too many large files can slow a site down significantly. Remember that a lot of people will not wait for a site to download! Keep your jpgs at 72 dpi, and try not to have images over 1000 pixels in any direction. You can also try and minimize the number of large files (music and video are typically very large) by using third party platforms (YouTube, SoundCloud, etc) and embedding the player in your site.

3. Keep your navigation simple.
Do not try and have too many categories or too many layers in your navigation system. Keep the placement of the navigation buttons consistent: if you choose to have your links on the left side, keep them there throughout the site and donít scramble the order of your buttons from page to page!

4. Have your own domain name.
If your aim is to impress galleries and collectors, make sure they know you take your art seriously: your own domain name looks more professional, can be easier to remember, and can be more search-engine friendly! Registering a domain has become quite affordable: typically between $10 and $15 a year with hosting costs between $5 and $15 a month.

5. No "under construction" page.
If you are not done building a page, donít link it to your site. Peopleís time is precious: donít waste it by announcing a categoryÖ then have that category be blank!

6. Prominent contact info.
Your site is a marketing tool: you can get potential collectors and galleries to discover your work. Make sure they know how to reach you when they fall in love with your art!

7. Label all artwork.
Images on the internet give no sense of scale or medium; it is therefore extremely important to label each piece of artwork with dimensions and materials used to make the work. Labeling your pieces with their price can be valuable if your aim is to sell online.

8. Include a brief Art statement and resume.
Keep in mind that text is difficult to read on the screen. As an artist, you must include an art statement and resume (people want to know about you), but keep both brief. A few paragraphs for an art statement, and 1 to 2 typed pages for a resume. If you must have a complete resume, give the viewer the option to open the document as a pdf.

9. Keep your text simple.
Sans serif fonts such as Arial are easier to read on the screen. Donít overuse bold and italics which make text harder to read and can get confusing.

10. Avoid underlined text.
Underlined text is usually reserved to indicate a link: avoid using underlined text that is not a link to prevent confusion and frustration.

11. Keep your color scheme subdued.
Donít blind your viewers! Avoid a bright yellow background with red text!!! Bright colors can be difficult to look at on a screen, especially for text. Keep your color scheme with low saturation colors

12. Avoid background image.
Background images can slow the site down, and unless properly done, will tile and look unprofessional. Background images also tend to make text harder to read, and in my opinion, create "visual pollution"..

13. Avoid background music.
Although it can be tempting to have background music on a site, I have to recommend against it for several reasons: your viewers might not share your taste in music, music files are large and therefore slow to download, and finally, even if your viewers like your music, it may get annoying to hear the same song every visit.

14. No cutesy mouse animation.
This one is fairly obvious: it will annoy a large majority of internet users. Your goal is to make people like your site: donít alienate them with annoying gimmicks!

15. Donít disable back button.
Some sites try and keep their audience captive by disabling the back button. Itís obnoxious! Donít do it!

16. Refrain from using frames and flash.
Both of these methods of coding tend to be unfriendly to search-engines, and look terrible on smart phones (if they work at all!), so use them sparingly and stick with good old fashioned html, with a sprinkling of CSS and javascript.

17. Make sure your site is compatible in all browsers.
There are no enforceable rules for website coding, only general accepted guidelines, so browsers tend to display the same code in slightly different ways. Therefore itís important to try and look at your site on several different browsers and screens to ensure that your site looks good for most users.

You now also need to make sure that your site will display properly on all screen sizes: from the smallest phone to the largest screen size on desktop, and even TV. Check your site on several devices to make sure it resizes correctly across all devices.

18. Check that all your links work.
Itís not only annoying to the user, but you may also run the risk of losing your siteís ranking with search engines, or worse, not being indexed at all!

19. Open all external links in new window.
Itís nice to give extra information to your viewers by providing useful links, but make sure your own site stays on their screen by opening all external links in a new browser window.

20. Keep an honest relation with your gallery.
Galleries cannot prevent you from selling work on the Internet. However, you need to keep a good working relationship with your gallery. Make sure you both understand who gets or doesnít get a commission through Internet sales. For example, if your gallery sells work on their site, or you sell work on your site thatís currently in their space, they should get the commission.

 
 

Notes from the DAC Workshop: Survivor, an artist's opportunity workshop

I attended the Survivor workshop (May 30-June 1 2008) offered through the Dumbo Arts Center. Below are my notes and brief summaries of what was discussed. Even though the article was written over 10 years ago, the advice for artists is still current, in my opinion.


SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE

A panel discussion of 3 mid-career artists, talking about their experience in the art world.
Artists: Kanishka Raja, Heide Fasnacht, Jane South.

The panel discussion started with Kanishka Raja stressing the importance of building connections within your art community and among your peers, and offering as an example his experience of going to Skowhegan and meeting fellow artists there who later recommended him to New York galleries.

The moderator pointed out how competitive Skowhegan is, to which Kanishka responded: “it took me 3 times to get accepted... and rejection is awful”. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to hear established artists admitting that rejection is never easy, no matter where you are in your career. It seemed more honest than the usual advise I have gotten over the years which has basically boiled down to “Get over it!”. The artists on the panel had different ways to deal with rejection: applying to as many opportunities as possible to dilute the pain of rejections; getting angry instead of depressed and using that energy in a positive way; allowing themselves to feel bad for a day, and moving on to the next application.

Rejection is an unfortunate part of an artist life, and I applaud the panel for being honest and human about the sting of having work rejected.

Moving on in the discussion, the general consensus among the 3 artists is that an art career is non-linear, meaning you can have great success one year, and sell nothing the next. In order to sustain those ups and downs, artists should concentrate on making art consistently, and making art that is honest: don't try and second-guess what the market wants because chances are that the market will change its mind! Be true to yourself and your art.

These artists also stressed the importance of networking: networking as creating friendship among your peers, helping your fellow artists, and creating a larger sense of an art community. So don't forget to venture out of the studio and meet other artists, and don't hesitate to help your colleagues who might one day help your career as well.


PERFECT PACKET

Tips on putting together the perfect artist packet by Melissa Potter.

Artists should ideally have ready a basic information packet that can be used and built upon to apply to different types of opportunities: grants, gallery opportunities, residencies, etc. The packet should contain at minimum: an artist statement, a resume, a CV, and visual materials.

Artist statement
The art statement should illuminate elements of the work that may not be apparent. At its core, it should follow the “what/where/why/when/how” rule. For example, it should present the medium, scale and any references that will make the work more understandable.

Resume and CV
An artist resume will typically exclude non art-related experience, and concentrate mainly on lists of shows, residencies, and an art bibliography. A CV will contain a wider scope of experience, and can include additional background and skills: you could include consulting work for example, or work you may have done as an artist assistant. Guidelines for building a resume and CV can be found at the College of Art Association's website: www.collegeart.org/guidelines/ (they also have great articles on hiring practices in Academia, and tools for art administrators, museum professionals, and art historians).

Visual materials - this information is from 2008:
Be aware of the fact that different monitors display images differently and it is therefore very important for you to check your images on multiple computers. The speaker also pointed out that digital projectors which are used by nyfa for example, will not show the image the same way as your monitor. The projected images will tend to be more washed out: if you know of anyone who use such a projector, try and use it before you send your images to maximize quality.

Here, I want to dispel an urban legend that came up during the presentation. Some folks are under the impression that jpg images will lose quality as they are opened and closed. This is simply NOT the case. You can open and close a jpg a million times, and it will appear the same way. The confusion comes from the fact that SOME image editors will re-compress the jpg file after you edit the image AND either save it or “save it as” a different filename.

Additional materials
When you send an image list, consider having a mini-statement with each file, beyond medium and size.
Have all reviews of your work ready to be sent, either printed or in a digital format.
Consider having print-outs of your images on good quality paper.
When making a CD, consider making the jewel case sleeve a print-out of thumbnails of the images contained on the CD. (this information about CD is largely dated though some smaller arts councils still want CDs- note added in 2020).

General advise
Do your homework: don't apply to organizations or galleries that do not show the type of work you do. When applying for a grant, look through the previous winners to get a sense of the type of work that was accepted.
And one more time: network! Do go out and meet other artists, create or grow your art community and help your fellow artists.
Use good follow-up protocol: if you have been accepted or have been helped by someone in your community, be sure to thank them in writing: and not email! A thank you card says that you have spent the time and energy to show your appreciation.


NYFA SOURCE
Presentation of the nyfa source website by Linda Park.

Nyfa source is a searchable database of grants, opportunities and services for individual artists. Though I have found their new login protocol to be quite annoying, NYFA is not only free but it is the best and most comprehensive websites for artists.

NYFA source lets you do basic searches (such as awards based on geographical location and types of awards) to more advanced searches such as searches by keyword, or types of discipline. NYFA source will launch its new site at the end of June with more filters and capabilities. I highly recommend you spend some time looking for opportunities there.
www.nyfa.org


MAKING A STATEMENT
Writing workshop to help artists write their art statement by Sarah Schmerler.

Sarah has different opinions on the role of an art statement than Melissa Potter, which made the presentation both interesting and confusing for me! For Sarah, the main goal of an art statement is to be a point of entry leading to the work. As such, it should be direct, honest, simple and clear, and mainly be descriptive as opposed to offering a critique of the work: let the viewer interpret the work themselves, don't necessarily do that for them before they see the art.

The speaker's advise was to establish a writing process similar to an art making process: generate ideas first, and let the writing flow completely uncensored, then go back and edit the statement, clarifying and organizing your ideas. Her suggestions were to keep the statement short (100 words to 300 words maximum) and to let your own voice come through. She felt there was no need to contextualize the work, but instead to aim at giving a mental picture of the work.

She suggested artists read art listing blurbs in the newspaper, looking for descriptive language as opposed to critical language or opinions. Use formal art elements to describe your work (color, composition, line, form, etc..), but do not use too many elements in the description: don't give the reader too many choices. The statement needs to be a narrative that grabs the reader's attention. As such, ask friends and colleagues to read your statement and give you feedback.

 

 
 

© 2006-20 by Isabelle Garbani/Websiteforartists.com. The entire content of this website is protected under US and international copyright laws.