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Ask the Expert….Cheryl Magellen

Question: Any advice for artists who want to become portrait painters?

Answer: Getting Started as a Portrait Painter

 

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The Screen Printer, 16×12, oil

Generally speaking, artists who choose to paint portraits have an undying passion for painting people. Although they may paint other genres, they will find their joy and a challenge in portraying the human form. They may have particular types of people they prefer to paint—children, women, family members, ethnic groups, etc. — but the common thread among these artists is the ever-expressive face.

As long as there have been artists, there has been a need for portraiture. In most cases, the end result portrays the character and unique attributes of the sitter but the style of the artist will set each work apart. In early Egypt, portraits were done in profile, romantic portraiture was more animated, and Expressionistic portraits were more colorful and garish. The Grand Style depicts more idealized or larger than life forms, whereas prosaic style is more realistic in nature. Then there are the types of portraits: religious, historical, celebrity, nude and vanity portraiture. And, portraits do not have to be limited to people. Several portrait artists use pets as their subjects.

Portraits can range in scope from closely cropped images similar to Ivan Kramskoy’s “Portrait of Unknown Woman” (1833), to complex figurative pieces with multiple subjects as in Joaquin Sorolla’s “Seville, the Dance” (1915). When painting to please yourself, you can choose to paint as much or as little of a figure as you want, but when working with clients, you may find yourself limited by the client’s budget.

FINDING YOUR STYLE AND YOUR CLIENTS

In today’s world of contemporary portraiture, it is difficult to find an artist who works in a style that is totally unique. Whether intentional or not, each piece of art produced will have some similarities to the work of another artist. What we want to do as artists is to find the subject and style that works best for us. This certainly does not mean we can’t experiment or change, but it is helpful to have at least one thing about our work that sets it apart. This can be as simple as using a similar framing style, using the same light source or body position, using the same color palette, or by obscurely placing the same symbol or item in each of your paintings.

Ask yourself, what style of painting are you interested in producing? Do you enjoy tight, photorealistic styles, or loose, impressionistic styles? Totally abstracted portraits and figures? If you aren’t sure how you would like to draw or paint your subject, do some research to seek out artists who paint in a style or method that appeals to you. Try duplicating sections of their work to see how they were able to get the effects they did.

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                                                The Antique Dealer’s Daughter,  18×24, oil

Most people who have been classically trained to draw will more than likely continue to paint realistically, but realism is not the only way to paint. Sometimes being less realistic and more creative in your painting style may lead to more decorative artwork that would be desired by persons who don’t care to hang a portrait of someone they don’t know in their home or office. Or, if it is someone they do recognize, perhaps they want the painting to portray the character of the person rather than their likeness. Character sketches are a testament to this. The clients who publicly sit for character sketches seldom expect the finished work to look just like them. The upside of abstracted portraits is that they are sometimes easier to market because they are more generic. Clients who seek these out may be looking for a particular color scheme that goes with their decorative style. Painting a repetition of the same color harmonies may lead to multiple sales, as well.

The upside of realistic portrait painting is that it is a field of study that is highly respected. Many top awards are honored to artists who are successful in their craft and these artists are sought out to do commissions for people from all backgrounds and artists can make a decent living if they are among those chosen artists. Other artists may also choose to purchase paintings from these accomplished artists.

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Crew of Four, Private commission, 18×24, oil

Finding those clients can, however, be quite challenging without extensive marketing efforts. Popular thought on who buys realistic portraits of recognizable people suggests locations where family history is of value. These commissioned works become treasured family heirlooms, made to be passed down from generation to generation. The lives and accomplishments of the subjects portrayed turn into stories to be told over and over, throughout time. Another group of clients may come from the business and professional world—presidents, CEOs, professors, and other distinguished persons, and clients who commission these works will more than likely be found through referrals.

If you are new to portrait painting and don’t yet have a body of work, choose a location where your chosen subjects might be found and ask a few people if they wouldn’t mind sitting for you for the practice. This is a great way to build your portfolio, and there is a chance you might end up selling a finished piece. Just make sure you get a good quality photograph for your portfolio before you let it go!

Lastly, if you are painting the subjects you have chosen to focus on, your sales will probably come from the same group of people who are providing you with references. For example, if you visit religious organizations to gather reference materials, this will also be your target market. Leave business cards on bulletin boards, advertise in their newsletters and talk about your art with people who are gathered for a public function. Offer to display one of your paintings in a prominent area.

If you truly love painting figures and faces, you will be motivated to find new and interesting subjects and figure out ways you can make your paintings stand out from the rest. The important thing is to keep painting. Remember the saying: “If you build it, he (they) will come.”

Visit Cheryl’s website to learn more about her and her work.


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Ask the Expert…Debra Joy Groesser

Getting Your Work Out There – Tips on Entering Juried Shows

by Debra Joy Groesser, CEO/President American Impressionist Society

Why Enter Juried Shows Anyway?

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“Gone to Check the Lobstahs” 1st Place Signature Award Winner at the Plein Air Artists Colorado National Juried Show

There are juried art shows out there for all experience and skill levels. Entering a juried show can take some courage, as not everyone who submits work will have their work accepted. Knowing and accepting that going in, juried shows can be a great way to get exposure for your work. Juried shows can offer:

-Exposure to galleries, collectors and the media (all but one of the galleries I have ever been represented by found me through a juried or invitational show.)

-Discounted advertising opportunities with show media sponsors

-A way to build your resume

-Awards and recognition

-Sales potential

If any of these are part of your career goals, then juried shows may be worth your time and money. A word of caution: you will not be accepted into every show you enter. You will face rejection (in fact more often than acceptance usually) and must be prepared to accept that it is a part of the process and your growth as an artist. More on that later.

How to choose which shows to enter

Choose shows that are appropriate for your skill level and quality of work. You may be ready for national shows or you may want to start with more local or regional shows. National shows are normally much more competitive than local or regional ones.

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“Breezy Morning, Ephraim Beach”

Make sure your work fits the show’s criteria (examples: plein air, impressionism, a specific medium such as oil or pastel). If you enter an abstract or non-representational piece in a show which is for realism or representational work, your work will be disqualified for not adhering to the show criteria.

Check out the reputation of the organization or organizer sponsoring the show – beware of scams – talk to other artists who have been in the shows you are considering.

Larger shows often have online catalogs of previous years’ shows so you can check out the type of work that is accepted. This will really help you get an idea if your work is a good fit for a particular show.

Check out the number of entries vs the number of accepted works (if that information is available). Some shows may accept up to 50% or more of the submitted entries. This year, the American Impressionist Society received 1349 with 140 accepted (about 10%). The higher the percentage, the better your chances are of being accepted…if you enter your best work!

On Judges and Jurors: The judges (who give the awards) are nearly always publicized. The juror or jurors (who score the works and whose scores determine the pieces accepted in the show) are usually anonymous in the larger, national shows. There are several reasons for this. When jurors’ names are publicized they are sometimes contacted by artists who are not accepted into the show, expecting to get an explanation or a critique. Occasionally they are openly criticized on social media (please don’t ever do this!). Although jurors are usually paid a small stipend, they are not paid to do critiques in addition to jurying. Some people enter shows based on who the judges and jurors are…they try to “paint for the judge” thinking if they paint the subjects or style the judge does it increases their chances of acceptance or awards. This is just usually not the case. In my experience, you have a much better chance of acceptance if you enter your best work regardless of who the judge or jurors are.

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“Gentle Cascade”

You’ve chosen a show to enter…now what?

Read the show prospectus carefully. Note deadlines and follow the instructions to the letter. Avoid having your entry disqualified because of careless errors or omissions.

Nearly all shows use digital images for their entry submissions. You will need high quality photos of your work…use a professional photographer if necessary. Your photos must not show frames or any extraneous backgrounds…only the image of the artwork itself. They must be in focus and oriented correctly. The jurors have a very short time to view each image and they have to score your work based on the image you submit. If they can’t see the work clearly, it will hurt your score or could even disqualify your work. Make sure your image is sized correctly according to specifications for the entry system.

Fill out the application and make sure all your information is entered correctly.

If you are entering a show sponsored by an organization, where membership is required to be eligible to enter, be sure to pay the membership fee before submitting your show entry. These type of shows usually require a show entry fee in addition to membership.

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“Last Light-Olivia’s Overlook”

If you are entering a show that will be held in a gallery, work will almost always need to be for sale and must be priced according to your established sales prices. Do not overprice your work because you don’t want it to sell. That is not fair to the hosting gallery or the organization sponsoring the show and can put you at risk of disqualification. If you sell a painting that’s been accepted into a show and then pull out of the show, you risk being ineligible for subsequent shows.

Submit your entry well before the entry deadline. The majority of entries for juried shows usually come in during the last week prior to the deadline, many on the very last day. For shows using online jurying systems, once the deadline has passed and the system has closed, it cannot be reopened to accept late entries. Inevitably problems can and will arise at the last minute, so it’s best to plan to submit your entries a few days ahead of that final deadline.

Enter your very best work and again, double check your entry before you submit to make everything is complete and correct.

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“Woodland Water Lilies”

Jury Results – Elation or Deflation

This is the nerve-wracking part of entering juried shows. The waiting and anticipation is hard! Every show will list notification dates for the jury results. Mark that on your calendar and note if the results will be posted online or if you will receive an email notification.

If you are accepted:

Note shipping and delivery instructions and dates on your calendar. If you don’t ship your work to the show on time, you risk disqualification from that show and subsequent shows.

Make sure to include any crate fees, return shipping labels, bios…whatever is required.

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“Granddaddy Willow

What if your painting sells before the show? Usually the gallery hosting the show will handle the sale and take their commission according to the show prospectus. Normally, you will be required to send the painting to the show regardless. Again, adhere to the rules as stated on the prospectus to avoid possible disqualification from future shows.

Try to attend the opening reception if at all possible. This is a great opportunity for networking, meeting gallery owners, collectors and other artists. There’s a higher chance of selling your work if collectors can meet you and connect with you.

If your work is “declined” – the dreaded “rejection” letter

This is the hardest part…hands down. I once heard OPA Master Neil Patterson say: “If you’re accepted, you’re not necessarily as good as you think you are, and if you’re rejected you’re not as bad as you think you are. Just keep painting the best paintings you can and eventually you will be accepted.” It’s true!

Don’t give up. It took me 13 times entering the Oil Painters of American National Juried Exhibition before I was finally accepted. Persistence, hard work and perseverance do pay off. The only way you will never get into a show is if you quit trying and not enter. The only way your last rejection will be your last is if you never enter again.

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“Reverence”

Personally, I take each rejection as a personal challenge to try harder, to make my next painting even better than the last. Do I get down and discouraged? Absolutely! Go ahead and have a pity party for a few hours or a day, but don’t let it overwhelm or defeat you. Above all, be gracious and be professional…refrain from complaining to or about show organizers, judges and jurors about not being accepted.

Know that in EVERY show, there are always a lot of deserving works that do not get in. Every show has limits as to how many pieces they can accept. Every juror or panel of jurors is different. Every show you enter a particular painting in, you are competing against an entirely different group of paintings. Most artists, myself included, have experienced having a painting rejected from one show only to win an award with the same painting in another show.

Bottom line…juried shows can be a great way to get your work out there. It takes courage and you will have disappointments along the way, but it’s all part of the process of growing in your work and your career. Be patient, keep trying, keep working hard and growing…and don’t give up.

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For more information about Debra Joy Groesser and to see more of her beautiful artwork CLICK HERE.

Debra is CEO and President of the American Impressionist Society. For more information about the AIS including their national art show CLICK HERE.

 


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Ask the Expert…David Grossmann

Question: How do I simplify my painting and not get distracted trying to include every detail I see?

Answer: Hold on to that initial spark.

 

In Open Winter Spaces, 40x30 inches, Oil on Linen Panel, small
In Open Winter Spaces

 

My friends and family have been swept into the recent fad of tidying. They are tidying their clothing, their freezers, their toy car collections. By tidying, mostly they mean eliminating. They are slowly purging through their possessions, asking each object as they go, “Do you bring me joy?” Often, the answer is no, so out goes that shirt, that frozen meatloaf, that broken plastic car.

I am sort of like that when I compose my paintings. I wander through the landscape until something strikes me, something catches my attention and brings a spark of what I might call joy. Much of the remaining process is about holding on to that initial spark. Anything that detracts from the feeling that I hope to convey gets eliminated.

 

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Sketches for “Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow”

Once I know clearly what I want the painting to be about, I do several pencil sketches to finalize my composition. The concept and the composition are what will make or break the painting, so it is better to invest the time into really understanding what I am aiming for than to launch haphazardly into a vague idea.

 

My sketches are just enough to cement an idea in my mind. They are scrawled, like my handwriting, and usually illegible to anyone besides myself. I first draw a rectangle, then inside the rectangle I arrange and rearrange the main elements of my composition until I feel my idea is visually interesting. Usually I break down a scene into three to five elements, and when I arrange these elements I play a game with myself…the rules of this game are that no spaces should be the same, no shapes should have the same volume, and each value should be distinct.

Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow, 7x12 inches, Oil on Linen Panel, small
Aspen and Shadows on Bright Snow

This process helps me be more objective about what I am composing; many times after sketching for a while I decide that whatever struck me initially about the scene does not translate well into a composition. Then I move on until I hopefully find something else that does translate well.

 

October Undertow, 18x24 inches, Oil on Linen Panel, small
October Undertow

All of this so far has been about my process working outdoors. My studio paintings unfold in a similar way and are often based on the smaller paintings I have completed on location. Usually I combine thoughts from several of these small paintings when I am shaping ideas for my larger compositions.

 

 

I think of my paintings as visual poems, and much of that has to do with simplifying, pairing down an image to its essence so as to best convey emotion and to allow viewers to step into it with their imaginations unfurled. A beautifully, thoughtfully composed poem carries depth and life in ways that abundantly descriptive prose cannot; we are built to love elements of mystery that draw us beyond what we can see or describe. Brevity often allows the space that our imaginations need in order to step in and engage.

The idea of simplicity has become central not only in my approach to art, but also to the rest of life. Some of the most influential advice I have received was from one of my mentors, Jay Moore, when he told me to live simply and focus on relationships. Simplifying creates space for the pursuit of what makes life meaningful and fills us with that spark of joy.

davidgrossmannpaintingTo learn more about David and see his portfolio of work CLICK HERE.

 

 


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Art Cafe…Painting as an Olympic Sport?

Who knew that at one point in Olympic history that the arts where part of the competition. Did you know that in 1912, someone won a gold medal in painting? I say, let’s bring it back again. Click here to read the article.

Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tournai, Belgium
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tournai, Belgium


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15 Minute Challenge…Graphics

We live in a visual world as well as working in one, yet, I see some of the most boring posts. People just snap a photo and post. If you are trying to promote an event, workshop or even share your own work, take a little time and make it POP.  I try to create a new image (like the hats) every few weeks for my Artist BFF website to give a visual to what I offer. There are so many programs that can help you add interest to your posts. I have used Canvaand PicMonkey (just to mention a few) to add text, filters and create collages. You can create Facebook posts, covers, Instagram posts with your own photos or there are many free images that you can choose from. Most of the options are free or very inexpensive (like a $1). They are easy and quick to create and make everything look more professional.


15 Minute Challenge

 

1. Create a new Facebook cover. Include your art and some text using Canva. It’s like getting an instant facelift to your Facebook page. It’s fun but a warning…it can be addictive.

2. Play around in Canva and see what else you can create for your blog, Instagram or Facebook posts.


For expert help with your art marketing needs, contact Kelley Sanford, Artist BFF and see a list of my services, visit my website.


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Ask the Expert…Haidee-Jo Summers

Question: How do you know when to stop working a painting?

Answer: How finished is finished?

allotment hens

“A fine suggestion, a sketch with great feeling, can be as expressive as the most finished project,” Eugene Delacroix

When I’m teaching I often come across artists who say “I liked it better before but now I’ve finished I’m disappointed with it.” I certainly can relate, and I think we’ve all experienced those feelings of heightened excitement and possibility in the early stages of a piece of work, only for that work to then come to an end borne of our own limitations to satisfactorily take the work further and a sense of frustration at not quite fulfilling the early promise, an opportunity lost.

Old milking parlour

I’m sure you’ll understand me when I say I’ve seen many a piece of work lose all it’s vitality and freshness when “finished,” and ending up with a range of malaise from muddied colors to having lost sight of the drawing. Usually an overworked painting is recognizable by being too stiff, somewhat lifeless and lacking in recognizable focus. Despite what anyone else thinks, as an artist we just know when we’ve gone too far.

fishermans shelter

Is the real problem here that we get too precious and the longer we work on a painting we may get quite defensive about all that time we have put into it and soldier on with a grim determination? If you find this happening I suggest you put it away for a while and when you come back to it be prepared to make a radical overhaul using your largest brushes or a thorough scraping down with a palette knife or a good “tonking” with paper. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Guard against being precious and working to tried and tested formulas. We learn far more by being daring and trying new approaches, and are more likely to recognize when something isn’t working and make the large changes it needs. To get a fresh view of a piece of work when you know something is wrong with the drawing but are unsure what it is, try looking at it in a mirror. Or turn it upside down and consider how the colors and values are working together as an abstract arrangement. Is there discord where you were seeking harmony?

Beach boys

When I was a student I read a quote by an American artist which said, “Say what you need to say in the painting then get out. There is no use chattering on after you have made your point.” I don’t remember who said it or where I read it, but I have never forgotten it. It struck a chord with me and has been my mantra for the past 24 years or so. Always I am striving to say more using less means. It’s important to ask yourself before you start “What am I trying to say in this painting?” If you can’t answer that then you can’t expect to know when you’ve said it.

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My painting approach is to work on all areas of the canvas throughout, considering the entire composition right from the beginning rather than working section by section in a piecemeal fashion. I concentrate on bringing the painting along as a whole, and am always alert as to when I might have said enough. I may start a painting with quick linear marks positioning the subject but I am keen to soon move on to large areas of tonal value. I believe this approach helps me to form the main structure of the painting before getting involved in details that don’t add very much impact. I aim to make a concise statement.

If you suspect that sometimes you go too far in your own work I have a few ideas that may help.

When working plein air or from life, turn away from the subject from time to time and regard the painting rather than the subject. Ask yourself what’s the biggest difference you can make to move from where you are now with the painting to where you’d like it to be when finished. Go on from there to asking what else the painting needs to improve it and keep in mind the initial inspiration behind it or the feeling you are trying to convey.

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If working in the studio consider taking more breaks. A break is either a time to think and absorb ideas about the painting or to get away from it altogether and come back to it with fresh eyes. Looking at a painting in progress in a mirror can help you to see any inaccuracies with the drawing. Desirable as it may be to achieve a loose impressionist look to the work you still need the underlying structure or drawing to read well, otherwise you will lose the believability and it will be difficult for your viewers to engage with the piece.

Another idea for self-training purposes is to take regular photos of a painting during the stages of its production. You might find afterwards when looking at the series of photos that there came a point where you continued working and actually lost more than you gained from there on. This can be something of an eye opener and can help you to spot when and how you might bring future paintings to a different conclusion.

GracieAlso consider timed exercises. Painting en plein air is terrific training for getting an idea down quickly and developing a short term visual memory. Even when working from a static reference it is a good project to set strict time limits to train yourself to get a complete idea down quickly and with minimum fuss.

 

 

The thaw, Drove allotments

The level of detail and finish that you aspire to is a personal choice and it would be a boring world if we all responded the same way. What excites me is that people perceive a level of detail in my paintings that isn’t really there, and I love them to get up close to the surface and see the abstract marks, dots and patches which led them to believe that they could see a whole village on a mountainside. Knowing when to stop is hard, but think of your painting as a collaboration with the viewer and try to leave a little something for them to work on. Notwithstanding all of that, the very best way to finish a painting is to start on a new one.

pGpH_TyyTo learn more about Haidee-Jo Summers, visit her website.

 

 

 


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Allan Duerr, publisher of Art of the West Magazine, is the July judge for Art Muse Contest.

You don’t have to enter a western themed piece of art in this month’s contest, however, if that is a genre you enjoy painting you should really consider entering.

Watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic and mixed media 2D artwork are eligible to enter.

Compete at your skill level for the chance to win $500, $250 or $100.

Plus the opportunity to win 6 months of gallery representation and participate in the winners show in 2017.

Deadline is July 31st.

Click here to enter ArtMuseContest.com

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#westernart #westernpainting #contemporarywesternart #cowboyart #nativeamericanart

 

Art Cafe…First Art Sale at 89

Carmen Herrera, at the age of 101, is finally getting some recognition. In the 1950s and 1960s, she watched her male counterparts work gain notice, her work was mainly overlooked. However,perseverance has paid off with an exhibition of her work at the Whitney Museum in September. Here’s the a short NPR Weekend Edition podcast about Carmen. Hope it inspires all of us to keep working at our craft.

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#carmenherrera#barnettnewman#pietmondrian#whitneymuseum#limitedpalette#moma#tatemuseum#artcafe #npr

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Ask the Expert…Gone Paintin’

Ask the Expert is hanging up the “Go Painting, Fishing, whatever sign” for the next 3 weeks. We will re-post some of our favorite guests.

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Today, it’s Stanka Kordic’s post “Going Beyond the Representational Figure”. It’s fabulous read from a fabulous artist.

Click here if you missed the post the first time around or just needing a few reminders, it’s well worth the read.

CLICK HERE to enter Art Muse Contest for your chance to win cash and gallery representation!

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Weekly 15 Minute Challenge

The question isn’t whether you like your website but is it inviting visitors to stay? Did you know that you have less than 10 seconds (actually more like 5 seconds) to grab someone’s attention? Sure you have needs that must be meet by your site but it doesn’t work if your visitors won’t engage. Keeping your site clean, easy to navigate and showcases your artwork should be your #1 goal. Can’t tell you how many artists’ websites I visit in a week but a large percentage don’t grab my attention and it has nothing to do with their artwork. You should be looking at your site as if you were the visitor. It’s like critiquing your own work…pull the emotion and personal views out of it. Here is this week’s challenge…it’s a 2 Part Series.

 

15 Minute Challenge, Part 1 – Does your website pass the test?

  1. When was the last time you updated or actually looked at your website?
  2. Are you capable of managing/updating your own site?
  3. Would you describe your website template as clean or cluttered?
  4. Are your website background colors neutral?
  5. Do you have so many categories and tabs that your navigation bar is more than a single line?
  6. How many categories of paintings do you have? i.e. florals, still life, landscape, figurative, oils, watercolors, drawings, mixed media, impressionism, small works? You get the idea.
  7. How much artwork do you have listed on your site?
  8. What is your oldest image currently on your site? Does it reflect where you are currently as an artist?
  9. Does your website have bells and whistles? i.e. music playing in the background? If so, stop immediately and remove!!!
  10. Is your email listed on your website? This does not include a contact page.
  11. If you have a logo, does it over power the images on your home page?
  12. Do you have a way for visitors to subscribe to your latest announcements and news?
  13. Do you use any “Call to Actions”?
  14. Do you list painting information and prices on your website?
  15. Do visitors have a simple way to purchase or inquire about your work?
  16. Is there a picture of you on your website?
  17. Do you have an Events page that is blank or just lists previous events?
  18. If you have a contact page, how often do you check for messages?

Now, keep these answers for next week. I’ll be back with some suggestions on how to improve your website.

Reminder: If you have any tasks that you are struggling, please email me. If I use your suggestion as a 15 Minute Challenge, you will receive a free 30 minute consultation with me.

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