Sunday, 15 May 2011

Websites for artists - are they any good?

I was asked recently that given I have put my artwork on so many websites in the world (see here)what did I think of them? Also, I have looked around the net to see if anyone else has actually rated them or at least reviewed them, and I found nothing of any use at all, so why not have a go at reviewing them myself? Well here goes:

Artwanted were the first 'Artist' website I joined, which is why they are first on this list. I can't say it's my favourite, I don't like the design, and uploading work to the site is a major pain in the arse (the multiple uploading tool never works) , which is why it isn't as "complete" as other websites with my work - although it does have some old junk that exists nowhere else. However they do a widget I quite like:

Otherwise, I can't say I recommend it: they charge a fee (not a lot, but they still charge) and offer other stuff that some of the other websites do, groups, message boards, sell prints, but I have to say that the site is so badly designed, so slow and clunky and difficult to navigate that I don't like it very much.

But for bad design, the winner has to be ArtQuest - I simply fund this website unusable and have given up loading things there completely. They claim all sorts of things as a website - but in my view the site is virtually unusable.

Another website claiming to be high-profile and important is Yessy which is another site that charges for membership (59$ pa) - although you can have a free account with only limited art shown. Again, it's not the best design in the world (You would think websites for artists would be better designed,wouldn't you?) and aims to be a site that sells the art, rather than prints or offer artists any other goodies (forums, groups etc). Uploading is however a major pain. Like some other sites they suggest you upload three images of the same painting. I guess they assume that artists only use one website and have lots of spare time.

Artspan is another site in the same category - 'serious', I guess you'd call it - selling themselves a high-profile artists' website/marketting tool. Unless you pay them (gulp) 19.95$ a month, you can only put 6 images on their site and they will include a link to YOUR site. But even tHAT costs 35$ a year. Which seems a lot. On the positive side my experience is that people actually DO visit Artspan, and DO click on the link to my website - but not as many, my recent stats show, as many  who came from Socialist Unity (!!), and less than other art websites - which will get to you. As a site, it's better looking than many others, although the admin part for members looks like it was built in 1954.

Lateral Arts is an oddball site which has "over 100" artists with their own pages on it. Having your own page is subject to a selection process, and once it's done it's done - but apart from that it's ok, and it's free. But with only 3 pieces on the site, it all seems a bit, well... pointless?

Absolute Arts is another ball game altogether: I get a lot of referrals through this site, and lots of contact - and even offers of shows. It clearly has a high profile and is used by galleries and others in the "Art World", which I guess is a good thing. Also on the positive side it is relatively easy to upload work and general admin of your site is less painful than on other sites. On the negative side, it is another piece of uninteresting dull web design, but I suppose it works, which is more than you can say for some others which we'll come to. And it's another site you have to pay for: Free if you upload 20 works, 44$ if you upload up to 60 and then 100$ for up to 6,000, and there's some sort of "jury" process for which you have to pay ANOTHER 25$. And then of course they charge commission on your work - like most other sites do of course. I've not gone into this in any great detail on any of these reviews, because it makes little difference to you as an artist, since all the sites that charge commission ADD their percentage after you've told them what YOU charge.

LondonArt are a London based site (surprise surprise!). You have to apply to join the site, and I guess you need to have some kind of London link. Mine - I was born there and lived there for over 40 years. They charge commission only, and no charge for using the site, and no limit on uploads. It's not bad for uploading either, and generally I have nothing bad to say about it. Except I get very limited contacts/referrals from the site. But then again, that may be just me.

ArtSlant is another "internationally renowned" website for artists that also prides itself on being hip, up-to-date and whatever... It links itself to cities all around the world - New York, London, Paris, Munich  .... -  and gives you the 'slant' on what's happening, man. In their regular email which you can't avoid once you have signed up. On the positive side it's free, is  well designed and has lots of information from all over the worl, and has forums and sells your work and has lots of other bells and whistlesd - on the negative side it's a bit painful in terms of uploading work - slow and annoying size limits.

ArtBreak is a different thing altogether, it has the best login screen in the world, bar none, where you login in 144 point text. I love it. It has a design reminiscent of Facebook and is easy to navigate and upload. I get nearly as many clicks to my website from here as I do from ArtSpan, but this is free. They sell your work too, but I can't say I love this site - but I can't exactly tell you why, either.

I should love BlueCanvas, but I can only honestly say, it's ok. It's reasonably well designed, it sells your work, and sells giclées of your work on canvas and paper, and has groups, blogs and all the other well-established bells and whistles that go with being "artist-friendly".  But the admin section is a bit clunky, as they force you to put your pictures into "galleries"  for no apparent reason, and then uploading is never as straightforward as it should be. But it is free, and there is an active community, if that's your kind of thing.

Articite is an Anglo- French thing. It limits the numbers of work to 12 unless you pay them money, and it is horribly designed. It is covered in adverts, including ads for another art website "Artisho" that I haven't reviewed here because it doesn't appear to function any more. Bet you enjoyed that 'internal server error' link.  Checking my site stats no one has ever visited my website as a result of visiting Articite. I'm not impressed.

D'art sounds like it should be French, but it isn't. Or maybe it sounds like it should be a darts website. You decide. Actually as an arts website, it's not bad at all. Better designed than many (re-done recently) it offers art for sale, it is easy to navigate, and relatively easy to search, considering the large numbers of artwork on the site. It has message forums (that I never use so shouldn't comment on). As a user it gives you interesting stats, and does as well as ArtBreak for clicks through to my website. Administration is well organised, and you can link to your work like this:
d'ART - The Internet Art Database
For what that's worth!
Uploading work is reasonably simple - but there is an irritating form system you have to go through for each picture.the good thing is you can sell using paypal and google checkout should you wish to.

The site I actually get the most clicks from to my website is The Celeste Network.  This is a different animal to all the rest and I kind of like it! It is linked to an annual prize (The Celeste Prize) and various other linked prizes, all based in Italy. You have to pay a fee if you want to enter your work into the contest(s) but otherwise use is free, and you can load up as many works as you like, subject to an irritating upload interface. There is a busy network of artists who are all trying to get you to become your "friends" so that when the time comes they will vote for you when the competition opens (one of the prizes is based on votes from other Celeste Network members). But despite this, and despite its Italian bias, I like this site - there's something good natured about it, the design is good, I get lots of click throughs, and get contacts, just like absolute arts.

Wooloo is another good site, but for different reasons. It is a great resource for competition, residency opportunities etc - almost as good as  TransArtists (which isn't bad because that's all transartists do). To add to that they email you regularly with opportunities that meet the preferences you have laid down. Very useful. However, uploading art is really painful. The site demands you create "galleries" and then add pictures to those galleries. Why? I don't know, I just want one gallery called "David Abse", but there you go, maybe that's me. Then try and add another piece of work. Go on, try... Nope. Not that easy,what a shame. I guess I have to open another "Gallery". Bugger, how annoying.

Fine Art America is an off-putting website name for non-Americans, but don't be put off - it's actually one of the best (apart from one thing which we'll get to).  It's reasonably well-designed, it offers an active community thing, groups that actually appear relevant and  functioning, and some other good perks, including a dedicated site for you ( - very useful if you don't want to build your own site.  The site sells giclées of your work (and actually does sell them) and does sensible marketing. So where's my gripe? You've got it - uploading: Every bloody time I go to this site I waste 10 minutes trying to find the lousy button that says "upload work". By the time I've done that I am pissed off, and then it takes another 60 days to actually upload anything because the multiple upload feature never works - remind you of anyone?

In some ways I like PicassoMio, in some ways I hate it. On the good side it looks ok (but dull), I get clicks through to my website, and it's a quality product that costs nothing. Even the uploading part seems OK, until you realise that as well as uploading all your tedious information about your painting in English, you have to do it in Spanish too! Aaaargh. Obviously i do this using 'google translate' as my Spanish is limited to asking for "dos cerveças por favor" (what you want one too?), but still, it's a pain in the lower back.

Then there's Artmajeur. This is another website that claims to be the biggest and the best (yawn). And one of the most annoying. If you find my page on this website you may notice that it is rather lacking in information. You may also notice the dark self portrait of me looking like I'm going to kill someone. That's a picture of me thinking about the designers of this rubbish website which constantly gives error messages when uploading, adding info etc. Good reputation, apparently this website. I really don't know why. Well, maybe it isn't the website, maybe they just use their home pc as a server. To prove I wasn't making this up I just tried to upload a picture, Didn't work. Oh yeah - and another one with NO click throughs.

Another site I have recently come across is Art Limited which whilst it has its shortcomings has some good things too. It's a french based site, which can be in French or English - by a simple click - and various price options are available ranging from free to 99 euros a year (there seems to be a pointless middle option. There's no limit in total on the basic free site, just a weekly limit of 10 uploads - which is only an issue if you are incredibly prolific and have even more time available to upload your work. File sizes are limited to 300dpi so that means uploading shouldn't be too painful But unfortunately it is one of the most tedious uploading systems I've come across. There is a form which asks you to categorise your work about 6 different completely irrelevant ways (what "mood" is your work? Well I don't know about my work but I'm damn pissed off with this uploading system), and asks no useful information like "size", "price"... Anyway, on the good side of things the 99 euro thing looks pretty good if you want to set up your own site - they show some impressive examples of sites other people have built with them. But I don't need that, so ...

Oops - I forgot Artdoxa which is a nice site for uploading stuff in - really easy to upload, including uploading multiple stuff. A community thing going on, which i haven't really taken much notice of, but it's a nice site, and gets some traffic. You can't sell anything on there - it's just for showing your work. As they say: "ARTDOXA aims to offer better ways to share your contemporary art and your opinion."

Artobolus  seems like a good thing, but as I've only recently joined I can't give too detailed a review. It is well designed, its user interface is OK, but the site is slow. I'm not sure how much traffic it gets, and you don't seem to be able to sell anything.

Saatchi Online tries to be an English version of Premier celeste, without really succeeding. It did have a competition thing going on, with people voting, but apparently there was some controversy about people cheating on the voting or something allegedly (better be careful here, not sure what really happened). They have tried recently to turn the site into an all round artists' site, and it seems ok. You sell your work, the work looks ok on the site, but uploading they want big files (see below) for giclées and therefore uploading is very slow , and the categories for work they have chosen are a bit odd. I always like to say my work is 'political' just because they are Tory bastards. There you go.

Now if you and look at my links page again you'll see there are a few I've left out. These include some specialist sites that are interesting for me but may not be for you: eg ArtCardiff and L'Hérault Art . But you can assume that the rest of them are just so poor that they aren't up to the job. For example MoyaWorld looks like a good thing. But it clearly isn't finished yet. There are a couple of other unfinished sites out there too, offering semi-working services.

And finally I should, of course, mention RedBubble. In many ways RedBubble is better than all of the above, because of the active community thing they have going, and the ease of uploading work, and the large number of people using it. However, RedBubble are a bunch of bastards, who have no qualms about selling nazi-apologist, holocaust-denying crap. Have no problem publishing tasteless shit as long as THEY make money out of it. And worse, they ban people who protest. For more info on THAT see here. And here. And here.

I guess having done all this the key things to consider are:

1. The price - is it worth paying for your work to be on this website?
2. The convenience of uploading - are you going to end up killing someone because of the terrible problems you have uploading?
3. Visits: Does anyone actually USE this site? How many people will see your work. Try searching for my work on Google and see which websites come up first

This also leads me to give some advice that I should remember to follow myself about uploading artwork to different sites:

David's simple rules for uploading art to websites:

1. All websites want your work in different file sizes. Some demand "less than 500kb", some demand "less than 1mb", some say "min of 300dpi", some say "minimum of 800pts on width" some say "upload as large files as you can to enable us to print high quality copies". Bastards aren't they. So the simple rule is: save copies of your images in different sizes. Don't believe all the other crap - THAT is what photoshop is for.

2 Price your work in pounds, euros and dollars. And remember to use the same price on each website.

3. Write some blurb about the picture and save it in word or something so that you can copy and paste it into the sites that demand you write a description - it gets really boring typing the same crap over and over again.

4. Do the same with "key words". Come up with a list and cut and paste them into the box that asks you for them (if they do). Again, it's really tiring doing it over and over.

Now if only I can keep to these rules myself!

FOLLOW UP - November 10th 2011 

Just about 6 months has passed since I originally posted this, and as I have noticed quite a lot of people have looked at this blog entry, I thought I would update my original post and tell you what's new.

Firstly - in order written originally, I have to write nice things about Art Wanted - they have updated and improved the website  since my original post, and have I have to say are incredibly responsive to member criticism etc. So I have decided I like them and will continue to use them. Other sites that have in my view improved in the last six months include LondonArt, which has just got faster and more popular, and I am getting much more traffic from there, Fine Art America which has improved some of its bells and whistles,  BlueCanvas which now sells prints (but is still too slow!!) and last but not least Saatchi Online that has sped up and now offers print sales as well as annoying 'head-to-head' competitions (if you like that sort of thing).

Mostly other sites are as I wrote about them above but there are, however,  sites that have unfortunately managed to get worse. Top of the list is ArtSpan - which is frankly useless, and I don't bother with it any more. Next, ArtQuest which is, if anything, even worse than I wrote 6 months ago - avoid! I am having similar misgivings now about Yessy, and don't bother uploading my stuff their any more either. I'm not even going to link to these sites now!

I am sure there are other sites I have missed  - let me know if you come across one worth noting. All comments are welcome (but moderated!).


1 comment:

  1. Thanks David, I am looking for a new home. Nice to see what there is out there.