When we set up the Jackson’s Art Sites programme, the aim was to help amateur and professional artists make the move from Facebook and social media out onto the internet proper. We wanted to make this process as easy as possible: we made sure that our customers would need only minimal expertise, that an email-based support service would be included with the package, and that all requests for support would be responded to, personally, within 24 hours. Since then we have helped almost 150 artists create and curate their web-presence.
It struck us that these websites were being put to very diverse uses. An artist’s website can function as a communications hub, a gallery to showcase new and past work, a shop, an online Curriculum Vitae, a news-feed, and a blog. So we asked three of our customers how they went through the design process, what they used their websites for, and how their websites had helped them put their art before the public.
The Illustrated World of Lisa Berkshire is the creation of Dorset-based artist Lisa Berkshire. Inspired by nature, folktales and mythology, Lisa’s work often has a maritime feel to it, and the website very much incorporates this.
Duncan: Hi Lisa. How did your Jackson’s Art Site come about? Did you have a personal website for your art before you joined Jackson’s?
Lisa: I had a gallery website before but took a step back from self-promotion when my son was born in 2005. My active Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages are great for connecting with people in real-time, but aren’t so good for displaying my whole range, so once I was up and running again with a new batch of work I was on the look out for a new website provider.
After some research I was recommended Jackson’s Art Sites by Mani Anni Art, a fantastic artist I follow on Facebook who has a Jackson’s Art Site. I did the trial and found it gave me the most options for making it how I wanted it to be, so I chose to use Jackson’s.
Duncan: Artists’ websites have a number of uses. Some are maintained as a point of contact; others are used to drive online sales, or to co-ordinate and publicise events. What do you use your website for?
Lisa: The main reason I wanted to set up this site was to arrange my work as clearly as I could in its different ranges so that people could see exactly what I do. I don’t use it as a blog or news-feed as those things are covered by my social media sites, which I have added to the links page on my site. I have also added links to my Jackson’s site from social media so hopefully it works as one connected online presence.
I love the e-commerce buttons on my Jackson’s Art Site and have added them on a good few images; I also have my work on Etsy and Folksy and see them all working as a whole.
Duncan: Browsing your website, what really struck me was the fact that despite the great variety of your work (you create cards, bunting, books, illustrated stones, textiles and prints), you manage to maintain a distinctive style which pulls it all together and makes it feel coherent. How much do you ‘curate’ the artworks which you put on your site?
Lisa: After leaving Art College in 1989 I worked as a freelance illustrator for a wide range of clients in design and publishing. This had me creating work in all sorts of different styles, and I do still take on the odd commission in design, but now I love the fact that I am able to curate and choose the work that I put out more.
I have worked really hard to create and play with my own signature way of working in the last few years, using print-making techniques mixed with drawing and painting. I am now using this visual language to explore my favourite themes, including myths and folktales, the sea, personal narratives, children’s books and stories, landscape, nature, and the South West, along with children’s work; all with an aim to connect with people’s lives in a humorous and positive way.
I find curating my work flows quite easily as one thing usually leads to another in these themes, though sometimes I do have to stop myself from ‘covering too many bases.’
Duncan: In terms of design, the website seems to be a perfect fit for your art. How much effort did you put into achieving this happy harmony between the art itself and the web presentation of it?
Lisa: It took quite a while for me to be happy with the way my site looked, with a lot of tweaking and changing going on, but I am really happy with it now. I do think a lot about the ‘message and the medium’ and like to have a harmony between the content and look of my work. I am not a fan of overly complicated and gimmicky sites for the visual arts as it gets in the way of people connecting with the work, so I have tried to keep it as simple as possible. It definitely helps that I can use Photoshop from my work as a freelance illustrator, and can sort out design and any visuals that I need myself, which gives me control over things looking too random.
Angie Wood Art is the website of Angie Wood, a prolific painter of still lives in oil. The site is simple, easy to navigate, and almost minimalist; Angie’s delicate use of colour really stands out against the white background, both on the homepage (left) and in the Still Life gallery (right).
Angie: I decided to paint from life daily a couple of years ago after reading Carol Marine’s book ‘Daily Painting’. I wanted to learn as much and as quickly as I could how to paint, and painting daily from life was my method. I’m still learning, and choose to do still life because I live in a very small space (a narrowboat) and it’s easy to set up and do every day. Also, still life painting is a great method of learning focused and prolonged observation, which is what I’m interested in. This might change and I intend to carry on and paint other subjects in addition to this genre.
I do paint every day (except weekends) and I usually complete a painting every week. About 99% of my paintings go onto my website, which I update every week or two.
I became aware of Jackson’s Art Sites through a leaflet in ‘The Artist’ magazine. As a result I looked at quite a few other artists who had Jackson’s websites to get an idea of the different layouts and to decide which template would suit my work. I have been a confident user of the internet for many years but would not know how to make a website, and I found the Jackson’s instructions very straightforward and simple to use.
I’ve found the website extremely useful, and I’m in the process of adding an e-commerce section. Most of my sales have come from my Facebook page; people who I then direct to the website to choose which painting they want to buy. I have had a couple of enquiries directly from my website, and in future I’m intending to make much more of an effort to push people to the website when the e-commerce is up and running. It will make the process simpler when they can purchase direct from there.
At 10 by 7 feet, Studio One Gallery in Wandsworth must surely be one of London’s smallest exhibition-spaces. It is run by the artists Charlie and Tori Day, both of whom also have personal websites with Jackson’s. Their gallery homepage is a scrolling series of images of art-lovers packed shoulder-to-shoulder, chatting or leaning in to examine new work.
Duncan: What do you use the Studio One website for?
Tori & Charlie: We use the site to promote our artist-led gallery space, to showcase the work of the artists we choose to exhibit, and to highlight the work we do both in our gallery and in international art fairs, such as Sluice_2015.
Duncan: In addition to the Studio One Gallery website, you both have individual artists’ sites (www.toridayart.co.uk and www.charliedayart.co.uk). Which came first? Are you getting more comfortable with website design?
Tori & Charlie: Our Studio One Gallery site came first. We both had other artist sites for our individual work at the time. We soon realised that the great design features of the Jackson’s Art Sites would also work wonders for our personal websites. We swapped as soon as we could. The gallery functions are simply ideal for artists, and it takes no time at all to keep your sites right up to date. For example, we often post photographs of our Private Views during the actual evening.
Duncan: How effective a platform has your website been?
Tori & Charlie: It has been a very important platform for us. We can post news as soon as it happens (for example upcoming exhibitions) and then link to all our social media networks. It has allowed us to successfully promote our not-for-profit business and made it easier to connect with international partners.
Duncan: Do you think an online presence is especially important for a small gallery?
Tori & Charlie: We think it is absolutely essential, and a site that can be updated by us (neither of whom is a tech expert!) so quickly and easily is vital for us to keep our audience informed.
For more information about Jackson’s Artist Websites, and to access a free 14-day trial, click here.