The Magic of the Art Website

by guest blogger Gregory Peters

Some thoughts about creating a great web presence and promoting your art online.

painting of spur, horseshoe and leather strap

“Mesquite” by Gregory Peters


I’m always amazed when an artist tells me they don’t have a website. Actually they usually say things like they have “thought about them” or this will be “the year I start looking into it.” It’s as if they acknowledge the fact that they really should have one, but just haven’t gotten around to it. What could they possibly be doing as an artist that is more important than promoting their art? Beats me!

You see, an artist’s website, no matter what it is or is not, is a reflection of the artist. It is your storefront, your image, your gallery, your repository, your go-to place to direct prospective buyers. In short, if you don’t have one in my opinion, these days you’re just not serious about being a professional artist.

Oh, I’ve met artists at festivals and shows of one kind or another who insist they really don’t need a web site, but mercifully they are getting to be a rare bird.

To sell your art, you must first promote it.

I’ve told this phrase to countless artists and I still believe it to be true. What I’m referring to is of course, promotion. “If you build it (a website) they will come” we are told.  NOT. You can build the most creative website in the world and it will sit there unwatched for eternity if no one knows of it.

This is why. Let me give you an analogy I heard. If your storefront, whether it be  a gallery or a hardware store, were located on a street corner, there’s a pretty good chance some folks would walk or drive by, see it and want to come visit. But the internet is different. There are no street corners. There is no one walking by. Visitors must be told about you and, considering the ocean of information washing up around us, they must be told often, and loudly.

The same can be said for those group gallery websites that promise the moon, but don’t even deliver North Dakota. The reason is simple. The World Wide Web destroyed such things as geographic boundaries and locations. The internet has no roads. No sidewalks either.Just a whole slew of websites sitting on virtual street corners in cyberspace. How on earth are you going to get noticed? You built it and they did not come.

Depressing isn’t it? What will you do? Well, as a visual person, I need you to visualize something. What I need you to do is picture a wagon wheel just like the old pioneers used to traverse great distances. Those wheels had many wooden spokes. Got the idea? Good. Now, I’d like you to draw the hub of that wheel in the middle of a piece of paper. That’s right, it’s a circle. Make it about an inch or so across and write the words my website in the circle you’ve just drawn.

Now I need you to draw a line out from the circle a few inches and draw another circle. Inside that I want you to write Facebook. You’ve just created one spoke of your wheel. This particular wheel will have 10 or so circles surrounding the hub at about equal distance from the center.  Your “wheel” may have more spokes on it in time as you will soon see. For now, make about 10 spokes, each with circles on the ends. We’re going to label them next.

Here are the labels I want you to write in each of them:

  • Articles
  • Friends/Associations/clubs
  • Art webs
  • Email list
  • Blog
  • Business collateral
  • Linked-in
  • Art fair
  • Other web sites

Now you have created sources of information that can feed customers to your website hub and get you noticed. The way it works is very simple. Think of the little circles around your hub as meeting places. Much like restaurants, bars, churches and clubs, it’s where people get together to exchange ideas and communicate with one another.

Virtually everything you produce, every person you meet and every site you can connect to should be able to connect the dots and be led back to your website. The way this occurs is by effective use of your URL and its application to tools that people use and respond to. This is called business collateral. Business collateral is a collection of all the business tools that are used by virtually any business. These include business cards, brochures, signs, advertising, etc. Your web site URL should be on every one of the collateral items you use. Every time anyone sees your collateral item, your URL should be on it. People are curious.

Social media marketing is very powerful. Belong to Facebook or Linked-in and share yourself liberally while mentioning your website as often as possible. There are books and tutorials galore all over the web on how to best use social media to link back to your site. Read them and apply their message.  People you meet in these places will begin to associate you (and your URL) and want to visit.

Articles about what you do can mention your website actively or in the closing byline that lists your name. There are hundreds of places to put these articles for free.  It’s called article marketing and can be very rewarding.

Friends, associations and clubs you belong to are great sources of potential customers. They want to see what you do because they know you. Tell them or show them where to learn more!

Art websites, while great at parking your work in, are no less visible than your website. After all, you’re competing with every other artist in these multiple galleries for the same customers, and no one has your interests in mind but you. Let the site’s post your URL linking viewers back to your personal website and incentivize the offer if you can. Got something free to offer?

Email lists are like gold. Build your list by writing about what you do and asking people to sign up for your newsletter. You can do this several ways to build a list such as make the offer on your site, on your blog or at an event you participate in. Incentivize it with a free giveaway for instance, to sign up for the newsletter.

To blog, to blog. Blogging is a terrific way to keep you interesting to potential customers. Many customers will visit a dozen times before making a buying decision. Make each stop interesting and your URL prominent.

Do you get the idea now?  Every one of these spokes is a trail that leads directly back to you.  It’s up to you to make the trip eventful.  What other spokes can you think of?  Art shows? Festivals?  Collaborative events?  Put your thinking cap on.

Your public wants to be entertained

Once your visitors arrive on your website, they want to be entertained. No, not with that flash-driven animation you so often see. That stuff ranges from annoying to really irritating. Don’t piss off your customers! Get to the point. Quickly. You have about 10 seconds to capture their interest or a-d-i-o-s!

One of the best ways to do this is through the use of video. A simple 30 second to 2 minute video clip introducing you and your art can be very compelling. People will watch it. Some of the videos I’ve seen are actually better than the art being presented! Your buying public wants to get to know you so sprinkle your personality liberally around the site. You’re allowed to be weird! You’re an artist. Entertain the troops.

Oh, and another thing, make your images large enough to be seen; none of those tiny thumbnails. Many viewers are in their 50’s and eyesight isn’t what it used to be. They will thank you. Tell a story as to what makes you paint these images. I heard an artist the other day say, “I don’t paint horses. I paint how horses make me feel.”  Why do you feel the way you do to create your art? Tell us.

Another suggestion since we’re on a roll is to forget about the traditional galleries you’ve been in or gallery sites you’ve seen on the web. Makes yours a sales-focused web gallery. Put prices on your work and make the buying process easy. Use PayPal or a shopping cart for your customers to help move them to a buying decision. They’re not all looky-loos.

And finally, a magic formula for you:

Promotional Tools + Media use + Marketing exposure = Opportunity

Create and use promotional tools with the media to generate marketing plans that provide exposure and the net result will be increased opportunities you may never get any other way.

You must, as you can see take your customers by the hand and drive them to your site. They will rarely come on their own.


As I often mention, large multi-galleries such as or are great sites to park your art, but (not to say anything disparaging about these sites), do not spend a lot of time and energy on them. The reason is the same as your site on the internet itself. If you don’t call attention to your gallery on these sites, how will anyone ever find you? That’s right. Your art is just one of many thousands of other images buried on a page on a website somewhere in cyberspace. You could do as well and often will, on your own, maintaining your own site and “presence” you can’t get through those multi-galleries. Once again, they are not bad in and of themselves. Put a bit of art there and link to your real gallery so you are using the site like a fishing lure to hopefully get someone who stumbles into it, to go to your other art site. This actually can work.

Get your butt onto the web

Whether you choose to build it yourself, use the wizards provided by many site providers (both free and paid), get organized, take some good pictures of your work and get a website that speaks to your public. Even if you slam one together and polish it up as you go, do it. You’ll be glad you did, and wonder what took you so long. Sure it’s scary, but then so is being an artist! It has never been easy to bare your soul to the public, but mercifully, it has never been easier to get noticed. The public needs your art. We’re the only thing keeping the world from looking like it is run by bureaucrats and government accountants. They may just not know it yet.

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  1. Well, I beg to disagree… 🙂

    I’ve been helping textile artists with their sites for the last couple of years and although my main focus is to help them increase and improve their presence on the web, I’m not convinced that the web is for everybody. I think that if artists have found that the traditional venues work for them (art fairs, local galleries, etc.), then all the power to them and they should keep using that network. The web is extremely competitive and the buyer attention span there is short.

    But, more than the competition is the lack of technical skills which can actually be detrimental to the artist. Having excellent photography skills is key to doing well on the web and even with all of the great advances that have been made with easy-to-use cameras and editing software, I still see awful photos (dark, blurry, badly cropped) that can actually damage the artist’s reputation. Coupled with bad writing skills, these artists risk losing potential customers because of first impressions made on the web. It would be better for them to find a gallery which has a web presence and will promote them than to try to do it themselves.

    It’s also time-consuming to maintain a presence on the web and I find that many of us struggle with finding studio time when social media and marketing gobble up all of our hours in the day. See…. here I am, responding on a blog instead of making something.

    I think that artists who live in large metropolitan areas have lots of great access to non-web sales opportunities and if they are doing well with them, all the power to them. However, for those of us who live in remote areas which lack those opportunities, the web is critical for survival. Don’t have those important skills for a good web presence? Then hire someone to get at least a minimal presence going and learn photography basics. Grab a teenager and have them show you how to use the technology. Barter with someone, read tutorials, watch videos on how to do these things. If a smashing website is out of the question, then I would suggest using Blogger which is the easiest template out there and tweak it to look like a website. It’s not ideal, but it’s great for beginners who are learning how to do the basics in keeping up a website. Having a static site with a portfolio is no longer all that useful as it gets lost on the web unless it has a blog attached to it generating new content.

    A core value of being on the web for those of us who are removed from a large art community is building relationships with other artists across the globe. This social side does have a lot of value and serves as a place where we can get feedback and support on what we are doing. But, it all does eat into studio time and with interaction with local people in our communities. Each of us has to find our comfort zones and assess needs and go from there.

    So, that’s my take on artists and websites. I guess I felt compelled to say something because of the initial statement, “In short, if you don’t have one in my opinion, these days you’re just not serious about being a professional artist.” I know that it’s your opinion, but the reality that I see is that there are plenty of professional artists who do not need the web. Then, there are those of us who do need it, and for this crowd, I’m sure that your book would be a valuable resource.

    • Wonderful to hear your reply. While I can’t completely agree, there is always room for every type of artist in this world. Maintaining a web site has its price, and even I know this better than most as I would rather paint or write than take the necessary steps to keep lines of communication open. My primary point though is not to say this is necessarily bettar than not having one, as selling and communicating locally is very important. Rather, it is a means to open oneself for opportunity that may not come any other way due to circumstances and locales artists live in. With the economy in a tailspin for many artists, it may be the lifeline they need. Never stop being creative, and promoting yourself in whatever medium you choose. The web is just another tool among many.

  2. Great piece Gregory. Here at we’re trying to build a platform that makes it easy for artists to do exactly the kinds of things your suggesting. We’re in the early stages, but we’re really trying to give the artists some power. I’d love to know what you think. Best wishes, Tom (CEO

  3. Gregory, I absolutely agree with you. As a gallery director I won’t entertain representing an artist who does not have a website. I’m wondering how many artist without web sites have been asked if they had one. I’m guessing it would increase their sales. For artists who are selling their art as fast as they can create it, perhaps a website would not be necessary.

  4. I tend to agree with both Gregory and Rachel, although in the end I believe that the artist behind the work is still what matters in building a successful art career. Having an awful old looking website is worse than not having one at all, and the magic of the experience of first hand artwork and the aura of mystery and curiosity that grows around a compelling artist cannot be expressed or reproduced on a website.

  5. Scott anderson says

    *sigh* yeah, trying to drive people to your site and get them to click the buy button can be a real pickle. I’m stil on the fence south getting represented by a gallery, too.

  6. This is a good article. I’ve had a web site since 1995. I could not function without a serious web presence. I use a three pronged approach. I keep my web site updated weekly, I have a professional Facebook page, and I use an html newsletter service, sending out a five day a week painting of the day. I don’t worry much about any of the other social networks. I auto feed to Twitter, and post of Pinterest about once a month. All of these web sources feed my real studio. For example, a few weeks ago a couple bought a small painting from my web site. They live in another state. Last week they showed up at my studio to meet me and purchase a more substantial painting. I no longer have to do art festivals or galleries to sell my work, thanks to the Internet.
    Linda Blondheim

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