Are you an artist with a body of work you’re ready to display online, but you’re not yet ready to make the financial commitment for a custom-designed website? Or are you looking at increasing your online presence as an artist in addition to your custom artist’s website?
Over the next five weeks I will be reviewing ten online artist portfolio sites where you can show your work. I have had portfolios on four of these sites for some time, and I will be signing up the remainder over the course of this review period; I’ll let you know how it goes.
Part One of a Five-Part Series on Free Online Artist Portfolio Sites.
d-ART was an early entrant into the rash of sites offering free online artist portfolios. I signed up early on — in January 2003. I haven’t fully participated in all that they have to offer (forums and critiques, for example), but I find them to be a great online portfolio addition to my own artist portfolio website. They’ve updated their look and options a time or two over the years, always improving an already very good online art database. Here is what my portfolio there looks like now:
each artist gets their own set of pages that include:
a banner, which can be of your own design
a bio page
gallery “wings” of thumbnail pages with up to 50 images in (as far as I can tell) unlimited wings
large image pages with artwork information, price, dominant colors, and “private bids,” “add to favorites,” “contact seller,” and optional “buy now” buttons (see Paypal/Google below)
a browse/search box for your art gallery wings
a links section
your own signature or avatar
the ability to add Paypal or Google checkout to your listings
the ability to integrate e-Bay listings
the ability to sync your database-enabled website with d-ART’s database
an artist’s forum for information that others submit about your art
community critiques by other artists
a contact form with spam protection
monthly stats of views and clicks
your work can be found on the d-ART site by:
a direct link
“browse artist alphabetically” on the front page of the d’Galleries
browse work by type, genre, subject, and price
search the Marketplace by new listing, random, keyword, type of art, subject, media, price, size, and/or color
keyword search at the top of every page
browse the Critic’s Corner
directly from Google.com / Froogle.com (via their daily database feed)
Of course, as you might expect, those artists who pay to be a featured artist or be hosted on their site get more goodies, but what they offer for free is quite good.
d-ART is an excellent site for the art buyer and a very good one for the art seller. In the past 12 months alone, I’ve had almost 390,000 thumbnail views of the 33 pieces of art I had on there last year, and almost 68,000 clicks to the individual pieces; I’ve had several inquiries about individual pieces, though I have as yet made no sales through d-ART.
However, as good as d-ART is, I would not use it instead of a website where the URL can be a name of my choosing. Using it in addition to your own website, however, can only help get more eyes on your work. On the other hand, when you have your artwork listed on several online sites, you need to be very careful to keep the information current and accurate on as many sites as you have a presence on.
To that end, one of the greatest things that d-ART offers is the ability to sync up your database-enabled website with their database. My next step with d-ART will be to attempt to do just that. Once I have done that, I will post how easy or difficult I find that process to be.
One last noteworthy comment I want to make; d-ART does make it very easy to add new artwork and information about the artwork — if you are uploading a number of pieces, the best practice is to batch upload pieces that are similar — then after filling in the information on the first piece, be sure to click on the checkbox “this piece is similar to the last” and then all you have to edit are the titles and whatever else may be different about the remaining pieces. On the other hand, editing bits of information about the artwork that is already in your d-ART Gallery must be done on a piece-by-piece basis and is very tedious. I speak from experience (having just spent way too many hours updating my portfolio there).
Also known as WorldWideArts Resources, AbsoluteArts.com advertise that they are “the largest site for contemporary art, art news, art history, contemporary artist and gallery portfolios” with over 170,000 works of contemporary art. I signed up with AbsoluteArts.com in 2003. They send out a newsletter not quite once a month, reminding me occasionally that I have a portfolio there. Over the years, I think I may have gotten a response or two to the few pieces of art I’ve had online there, though nothing has ever developed from that.
At any rate, they offer three levels of portfolios, the first of which is free and contains:
the artist’s information
maximum of 8 images (which in most views is spread across 2 pages)
spaces/pages for an artist’s biography, statement, exhibitions, gallery affiliations, reviews, collections, and commissions
a spam-protected email form
the ability for someone to be added as a friend to the artist
dashboard to update your portfolio (um, I say this because they tout it as a perk, but isn’t this a given?)
support and questions with a human being
optional credit card processing for $35.00
optional direct URL to your AbsoluteArts portfolio for $20.00 (in this form: “www.absolutearts.com/yourlogin” — which I suppose is better than “http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/yourinitial/yourname/”)
Other options require an upgrade (add videos, blogs, events, slideshows, an email manager, and more), and the upgrades are not inexpensive ($44.00 – $100.00/yr). The other sections on their site are: search by keyword on a variety of particulars
search or browse for art/artists using a number of sorting parameters
news on current art trends
sections for reading about/researching artists/art history
artists blogs, an artists cafe, and a discussion forum
some calls for artists
some options for linking your existing website to theirs
In December, they updated their Portfolio Manager to make it easier to update your online portfolio.
But I have to express some frustration with updating one’s portfolio on AbsoluteArts.com. I just updated mine, and it won’t let me rearrange my artwork in the order I want it (it’s a numerical ordering system, and some of the number options are missing from some of the pieces).
In the Bio section, it asks for answers to specific questions, not all of which I feel are pertinent to my art or for which I have a ready answer, so they show up as “Not Provided” on my Artist Bio page. Finally, the following Q & A appear on my bio page, but there is no place where I can answer the question: “Why Did You Become An Artist?” — “not provided.” Now that’s a question I would be happy to answer (for the record – I was born believing I would be an artist — the rest is merely fulfilling my destiny).
Otherwise, the process of updating older pieces and uploading newer pieces was fairly simple and went smoothly.
Updating my bio, statement, resume, and links was quite easy as well. (TIP: keep a plain text version of all your artist info in something like Notepad that you can copy and paste from, since many sites are fussy about preformatted text).
But what they do offer at AbsoluteArts.com is a lot of information about artists. For the buyer, that’s great; for an artist, it may be merely a bonus — if you’re like me, most of the time, you’d rather be creating your art than reading about other people’s art. But for those times when I poke my head up and want to look around and see what others are up to, this would be an interesting place to investigate.
However, as a FREE online artist portfolio site, the limitation of only having 8 pieces online at any one time is harsh! With so many other free online artist portfolios offering so much more, you’ll have to decide whether having a free portfolio at AbsoluteArts.com is worth your time and attention. A paid portfolio may be worth it — they claim to have much higher traffic than many other free online portfolio sites — but in my humble opinion, that’s a lot of moolah to dish out if some kind of desired results cannot be guaranteed. I’d rather spend that kind of money on my own website with my own URL and complete control over the look and contents — or art supplies or food. As always, your mileage may vary.
I signed up with Saatchi Online almost as soon as they started offering free online portfolios in 2006. At the time, they offered “your own page which you can update as much as you wish. You can post up to eight images…and there is no fee, we have created this to assist artists in raising their profiles.” OK! Sounds good. Where do I sign up? (here: register)
The Saatchi Online site is a very nice looking site, though I find the little boxes of links surrounding both sides of the main content column a bit overwhelming as a navigation method, and the page can be ridiculously long (see my page at right >). There are some main navigation links at the top of every page, though I am not sure if those links include everything you can find on their site. Luckily, they’ve included a very extensive site map.
They have a lot to offer; besides information on the physical Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, they offer online chat, forums, and critiques; calls to entry, grants and funding; information on art fairs; links to art schools, dealers, galleries, and museums; a daily online magazine, blogs, and news; sections for under 17 students; and — perhaps one of the more interesting perks they offer — a “showdown,” where you can submit your work to be voted on by viewers in competition with other artists.
Over time, they have made a number of improvements to the portfolio pages, including increasing the number of images you can add — it appears to be 25 at present. They do limit the size of your images to 500 pixels wide and under 2mb, but I find that is generous enough (and larger than they allowed formerly). They also added an online salesroom, where you can offer your work for sale. They take no commission and charge no fees for this service; the sales agreement is between artist and buyer.
Creating or updating your own gallery information on the site is quite easy; again, just copy and paste your plain text resume, artists statement, bio, etc. into the appropriate boxes. There’s also a place for your photo, your email address, a link to your own website, and future shows. Uploading new images is also very easy, and some of the fields “remember” what you typed into those fields previously, making it even easier.
They do request that you post the sizes of your images in centimeters, which is easy enough using an online conversion calculator (for those of us not thoroughly versed in the metric system). You might want to include the size in feet and inches in the description section, though, for those who don’t visualize in centimeters.
I did have a few technical issues when uploading new work today, which hopefully, they will fix soon.
I also wish they would give the artist some way of setting the order that the pieces appear on your page, especially since each piece is shown rather large, and in vertical succession; it appears that the piece shown at the top of your page will be the first one you uploaded (so potentially your oldest piece) — which is exactly the opposite of how I would order them. As it is, the only way to fix that is to start over every time you refresh your portfolio there.
Now for a few words on the Salesroom — this is the area where you can sell your artwork online — it is a totally different page from your portfolio page. Unless I’m missing something, there is no direct link from your online gallery to your salesroom (and vice-versa, unless you are logged out), so you have to click on a link in the top drop-down navigation to go to the Salesroom, then look yourself up.
Once there, though, it very easy to add your pieces to your Salesroom: with one click, you can add one of your portfolio pieces to the Sales page, and with one more click add the price, and then repeat the process for all your pieces. One curiosity I discovered is that I was able to upload more than 25 pieces to the Salesroom, though only 25 pieces will show up on your portfolio page.
How your work in the Salesroom is displayed to viewers is disappointing. One image is served up at a time, and while the “next image” will be yours, it is served up randomly, which means anyone viewing your Salesroom may not see all your work — unless they are obsessively patient — and they may see the same piece over and over again, giving you no control over what they will see or in what order.
Saatchi Online may be another good place to get more eyes on your work, but they show all work randomly, and the only way I’ve been able to find my own work on there is through a direct link or doing a search on my name. So I do have to wonder how many other eyes have actually landed on my art. There is certainly a lot of interesting information available to artists on the Saatchi Online site, which probably makes it worth your while to check out — and I have had requests for information on at least one of my pieces through them; maybe I’ll get more now that I’ve refreshed my pages.
The bottom line, however — I would not choose this site as my one and only online portfolio site. It may be a nice addition to your own personal website or another free online portfolio, and then again, it may not even be worth your time setting it up. I kind of hate to say this, because there’s much to like about the site, but the limited ways that your work may be found seem to really limit the number of viewers who will get introduced to your work on their site.
I signed up with MyArtSpace in 2006 or 2007. It’s a lovely space, with a very professional look. I’m probably more fond of MyArtSpace than I should be because it’s really buggy. I’m only today finding out just how buggy it is! For instance, I can’t log in to it through my usual browser (Firefox, probably because I have AdBlock and Flash Block turned on) — but whatever the reason is, the “submit” button is missing from the login section of the page on my browser in FF, and I can’t find an alternative location to login from, so I’m having to use an alternative browser.
Today I will be reviewing the 1st of six of the free online portfolio sites that I have to sign up for. So follow me through the process.
As I look at the next site on my list, FineArtAmerica, I do feel a bit daunted. This is one of those online sites where you can not only show your art, but also sell high-resolution prints of your work, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. The first thing I noticed was a map of my state and “Your current location” with my city listed (how did they know?). Further down the home page, there is an artist spotlight featuring the work of artists from my hometown. Nice.
They seem to have a lot to offer besides the ability to show your work and sell prints of it. They have good search tools for finding artwork and artists; a page of brick and mortar galleries located in my area, and more pages of galleries located successively further and further out. The list doesn’t seem quite complete or accurate, though, so I assume it’s made by people who submit their own info (some important local galleries are missing from the list, and some things that are listed as galleries are mere one-person shops). They also have a nice events calendar, so I can see that may be a useful tool.
They have job listings, community links, news, and a tour of their site, which I highly recommend, as it is more extensive and more interesting than what I can cover here. My first impression is that even though the site looks packed with information, art, and options, it’s well designed and well-thought-out, so I’m intrigued.
They offer two levels of artist portfolios; a free one which does NOT include the print-on-demand feature; or for $30.00 a year, the level with print-on-demand, which actually looks like a great deal if one is ready for that. I’m going with the free one for now.
Uploading the first piece of art plus info was also easy, and each art piece has it’s own webpage (its own link), with places to recommend, post a comment, add to favorites, submit to Stumble Upon, and share on Facebook. The viewer can also “Add This Artwork to Your Favorites Collection,” and “Add This Artist to Your Watch List.”
Besides including the usual (art, title, medium, dimensions, and price), you can add a description and tags. Dominant colors and a URL link to the piece are auto-generated. Very nice. They also add little boxes onto your piece (on rollover) that the viewer can click to see a small portion of your painting at full-resolution (with a ghosted watermark). This is a great feature that I will very much appreciate if and when I decide to offer prints for sale. At present, the resolution of my online images is too low to print from or to see any more detail.
Like most online portfolio sites, the first piece of artwork shown is the last piece added, but the cool thing is, you can change the position in which they are shown. Oh, yay! Plus, they allow you to show up to 100 pieces! Pretty generous.
You can also add upcoming events to their calendar, view events by location, date, etc., view how many people have looked at your comments, and read comments they’ve left for you. While I was uploading my art, almost all of it got viewed by quite a few people, and I already received a nice comment.
Now, this may be the coolest thing of all: you can set up your own mailing list right online through them, and mail HTML newsletters to everyone on your list; the newsletters will come through your email address, and you can see who opened them. I think I will try it out.
FineArtAmerica was designed by artists for artists, and it shows. They have quickly moved to the top of my list of free online portfolios. I’m truly wowed! I suggest you run, don’t walk, over to FineArtAmerica, and set up your portfolio.
***It’s been several days since I signed up with FineArtAmerica. I still love it. On day2, I was a featured artist on the home page for the Austin area; a number of people have commented on my works there, and I have commented on a number of other artists’ works. It’s a very friendly community.
Check back next week as I sign up for and review Artist-Listing.