Thursday, 22 October 2015

Artist Archive List of On-line Art Submissions Sites

This is my list of on-line art submissions sites that ideally I would peruse through every month. I am more sporadic than that. A lot of artists ask me where I find submissions for exhibitions and these are my top places to look on-line. This list for me is an extremely valuable resource.

This site has a small number of really good submissions. My best exhibition that came from this site was a group show in Poland. I was flown there, put up in a hotel, fed, and attended the opening at a major cultural institution. An all expenses paid exhibition. Did I mention they also paid for my installation art piece to be manufactured and paid for?

This is a massive site with so many submission deadlines it can be overwhelming. But they also have a lot of on-line resources for artists. They have deadline lists for each month plus a list of rolling deadlines. Also included are residencies and so much more.

THE ARTERY (Canada) (click on pdf)
This is a big submission list in Canada. Excellent and includes residencies and international submissions. (UK) (UK - good idea to join their mailing list for deadlines) (UK)

Mailing lists of submissions (Canada) (go to Contact and apply for your region of choice)

If you know of any more good submission lists, leave a comment with a link, and I will add the comment.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Web Hosting for Artist Websites

For years I have had a Dreamweaver built website that a web designer set up for me. I learned enough Dreamweaver to maintain and update it and redesign parts of it. But it was cumbersome and time consuming to update. If something went wrong with the script or programming, then I wouldn't always know how to fix it beyond cutting and pasting from another page and hoping the problem would disappear. Mostly it did. Sometimes it didn't. Until lately when I couldn't even upload changes.

Years ago I looked for a clean, free web host in order to set up a site for another artist who made small scale sculptures. I couldn't find anything I thought looked professional and minimal enough. When I looked at paid websites I still couldn't find anything decent. There seemed to be a hole in the market. I had an idea 10 years ago that this was a brilliant business opportunity if I could only find a web designer to work with me. Then I could design the layouts and they could do the programming. Now, 10 years later I actually need the website for myself and am surprised at what I find.

I read an excellent article in my web search written by a web designer. He maintained that there were only two places he would recommend a visual artist use: Wordpress and Squarespace. He wouldn't bother with any other. When I ask artists what they recommend it is always Squarespace that comes up. Both Wix and Weebly come up now and again too so I thought I would explore these as well. But I am sort of stuck on the idea of using because it can be free and I would have 100% control.

I looked at Wix and Weebly to begin with as they were the last options on my list. They are both paid and I am not sure how easy and uniform they are to maintain an artist website with 10+ bodies of work. If I am going to pay, then I might as well use the one designed for artists (Squarespace). I crossed them both off my list despite thinking maybe I should build a website in each to test them all (I obviously don't know how much work that is). is my first option (not to be confused with and I found a free theme that seemed to do almost all of what I want. Responsive Theme: Hatch (see below).

So I download and the Hatch template. I have two folders for each on my desktop which I open. I am looking at programming files in each. What is this? I have no idea what to do with them. Yes, I can watch videos and read tutorials and learn, but if I can't intuitively figure it out quickly, this likely will take up too much of my time. Besides, I need a new website finished in a month and my time is tight within that window.

I immediately go to to check out much closer what they have to offer. The Avenue template is what I visually like the best. (see below)

What are my top goals for a website? 
-Clean, professional, minimal that can showcase my art and make it look really professional.
-Free if possible or almost free.
-Easy to use and possible for me to build and maintain myself.
-Somewhere I can port my domain to.
-A responsive site (it resizes for different devices and therefore does not get downgraded by Google search engine).

After choosing Squarespace I realise I also need some further things they offer:
-A built in Google Analytics.
-A built in Google search thingy (where you put in the key words and it makes the search engine work for you).
-An easy way to add galleries, videos, photos, etc..
-Web support.

-No domain email capacity. I signed up with Zoho Mail (free) and have just got all the kinks ironed out for IMAP/POP mail.
-Templates can be a bit limited, but for the sake of the ease of the rest, it is workable.
-It is not free. I am the consummate starving artist always looking for the cheapest. The good news is it is cheaper than my last hosting plan.

Would I recommend Squarespace? 
Quite frankly I think it is the only option out there for artists. It is what I would have liked to have come up with 10 years ago when nothing like this existed and there was that black hole in the market. But looking at what they have achieved, I would have had to give up my creative job in order to built such a successful empire. Go Squarespace! 

Most artists that I know hire web designers to set up their Squarespace website. But I am determined it must be easy to do myself. It takes me a good whole day to figure it all out, googling how to do things the template doesn't naturally do. But I do it and now I know how it works and I can control it and maintain it (and change templates anytime I want to). 

The price I figure is less than I was spending at my previous host ( Currently Doteasy holds my domains (, Squarespace hosts my website (, and Zohomail hosts my domain email ( 

Note: you can Google Squarespace voucher codes and get 10% off the first year. I did and I think I paid about $86 for the year on top of the domain. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Websites for Artists: Content

Content is the next thing to consider in an artist website. I do think less is more. The further I go along, the more I think that less is actually more striking and professional looking. There is a fine balance of course. Pages in your website can include New Work, Work/Archives, CV/Bio, News/Exhibitions, Contact/Newsletter/Representation and I am sure there are more depending on different things artists have done or are involved in. I am a painter so I am aiming at what I have done. In my recently revamped website I have merged previously separate headings to come up with only 4 pages.

My most important idea for my website is my homepage, New Work. I want all my latest series in thumbnail format to be viewable as soon as you are on the home page. A single new work (see Laurie Steen's front page below) can also look very clean. But what is going to bring a viewer back to my site time and time again? Only something that is always changing. Artists' websites are notorious for being so static that you rarely have to visit more than once every few years. So if I can change the series I have on the front page every month or every few months and include the link in a quarterly newsletter then I can increase my traffic and hopefully keep my work in people's memories. Another good idea is to have your most recent upcoming exhibition on the front page.

Speaking of traffic, who am I aiming my website at? firstly, galleries that I market to. I want them to find my most recent work immediately when they arrive at the home page and be able to easily follow a path to cv/bio, etc. The more work I make them do the faster I will lose them. Easy, simple and clean is my moto. Secondly, I am also aiming my website at people who follow me and my work, buyers, fans and friends who support me and want to know what work I am doing and where I am exhibiting next. 

Your Biography/About page is statistically the next most visited page in a website so it is key. I have now combined my CV and Bio on that same page. Again, my aim is to really simplify my website and make it extremely easy for people to get around and not have to endlessly click. The more you have to click on a new page the more viewers you lose. And to be a bit cheeky and add a bit of a hidden surprise, a link to this blog is partially down the page. I am not keen to advertise this blog as a fully functioning member of my website given who I am aiming the website at. But I don't mind some people finding it and following the link out of curiosity. It is meant to be a hidden thing. The "behind the scenes", no-bullshit-about-being-an-artist blog.

Your other or older work is next. I am trying to figure out a way to show my land based paintings, my figurative work and my interiors/food paintings all in one go. I don't really want to make people choose between genres and click to separate pages. My thinking was originally to not even have old work. Once the new stuff came, the old was gone. But then an artist pointed out that people want to see the work I am talking about having done in my bio. So perhaps I will choose the best of the past series and include them on a "work" page. This I have yet to include on my site. Above is a nice clean example of exhibiting a lot of small images. Michela Sorrentino had some really nice page layouts. And I am almost certain she used the Avenue template in Squarespace as well.

I decided to combine my CV and Bio in my recent website update. My bio is quite short and my CV is quite long. What I need to do next is really edit down my CV. I need to have the headings Selected Solo Shows and Selected Group Shows and edit it down even more to the most impressive galleries and exhibitions. When you are starting out, you don't edit it down, just so you can get a CV going. Then you try to edit out the beginner type shows and carry on from there.

The two images above are a really nice layout for a News and Exhibitions page.  In fact, I copied Michela's layout in my website I thought it was so effective. Image on one side and info nicely laid out on the other side in the same format for each item. I also really like how she puts the month and year above each for a very fast glance as to generally when the events are.

A really nice shot of Michela's home page. Each image toggles through different images. Very clean.

Lastly, for me, I have a page for my contact details, newsletter signup, and gallery representation. I currently have only 4 pages on my website which I think is great. But I am going to add a Video page for an upcoming e-course I have filmed, a Works page for older work and who knows what else as I get further along.

All in all, I think the aim of my own website design is to be as clean and simple as possible. To have as little clutter or extra pages to click to. To look extremely professional in layout, work, cv, and exhibitions. This is one of the most important tools nowadays for artists and really says a lot about an artist and where they are in their career.

Afterthought: when I initially wanted to write about website content I think I had a much more specific aim that I was wanting to get across. Now that I waited a few weeks to finally write it, I think I have lost the main aim of what I had been keen to get across. Oh well. Maybe it will come back to me and I can write a post-script addition to this post.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Websites for Artists: Style

I have been in the research stage of a new website for a few years now (most intensely in the last half year) and have picked the following as my favourite artist websites for very specific reasons. My top choice is Andy Denzler (see next 3 images). The 4 images that his front page flips between are so impressive. His site is clean (the new lingo that describes a minimal, uncluttered site), devoid of extra distractions, logos, fancy fonts, etc..

He has honed his sidebar down to the essentials. He only shows his latest series of paintings, drawings, and sculptures. This is difficult for artists to do, including myself. One always want to parade everything one has done in the past so that people know what we are capable of. But the weakness in that is that the older your work, often the weaker, more obsolete, more juvenile it can be. At least in my case that is true. I am continuously cutting out the oldest work from my site. Even I don't feel I cut enough.

Another installations shot that the front page shows.

Here I have clicked on Andy Denzler's paintings page. The work appears in small thumbnails, easy to see and one can click on them for an enlargement. It is simple and effective. If I had full control of a site like this I would get rid of the lines around each work and make sure each series fit on one page, not having to toggle through more than one to see all the thumbnails.

I only recently came across Hillary Kupish's site (above). This is the last word in minimal and clean. I absolutely loved it so much that I even thought of going this minimal for my own site. Unfortunately I couldn't fit much in if I did. Although I have cut and amalgamated different elements in my new website, I could not get it anywhere as minimal as this fantastic site. This is a great site built in Squarespace with the Supply template.

Cybele Ironside's  site works so well. She has a single series on her front page and each time  you click on one image it enlarges and the rest remain visible in thumbnail underneath as you scroll down. A sharp looking site built in Squarespace using the Avenue template.

Michael Smyjewki's site is also the Avenue template in Squarespace. This template seems to function really well for designers like Michael. He has each square sample on the front page expanding into a scrolling downward gallery (blog-like) that continues on the theme of that one thumbnail. I wasn't sure how this would work for artists who might have 15 images. I don't want to have to scroll through a long body of work.

Then I clicked on Michael's "photo" link and saw there were other ways to display work. Again, he chose the grid gallery, but when you click on one of these you get a light box that enlarges only one image at a time.

Charlie has been one of my favourite local British artists. She recently had her site redone by web designers and it looks great. She uses the single "impact" image on the front like Andy Denzler does, you can click to her gallery grid page. It wasn't until I designed my own site on Squarespace using the Avenue template that I realised that is exactly what her web designers have used for her. 

Andrew Salgado has the template look I was searching everywhere for. I was ultimately looking for a grid on one side and an enlarged image of whichever thumbnail you clicked on on the other. This has alluded me to this day. I like to keep it all simple and all visible at all times. This site does exactly that. 

Finally, Mario Hugo had such a beautiful and innovative site that I just had to include it too. It really works for designers, I am not sure it would for artists.

I took an excellent workshop run by the web designers,, at the City Business Library in London, UK, which was excellent. It was entirely aimed at the small business. Most of the common sense advice given worked for an artist's website. Here were some of their ideas:

Qualified Traffic + Well-Optimised Website = High Rate of Conversion.

-Easy to manage
-Presents company in good light
-Attracts Traffic
-Converts Traffic to sales/sales enquiries/other types of conversions (newsletter sign up for me)
-Pays for itself

How will I bring traffic to the site?
Who are main competitors and what are they doing?
What is the image you want to create?
What is purpose of site and overall aim?

-Search engines
-Online ads
-Web properties (ie. blog, tumbler),
-Social networks
-Other websites (ie. twitter, pinterest, Facebook, twitter)
-Print Materials (leaflets, business cards)
-Real World (networking)

Every page is a door (add images to cv/bio, etc). Blogs are excellent as they are always changing and adding new content. This is good for repeat traffic as well as Google rankings. Every page must have a goal to fulfil (sales funnel: blog on icons>view icons>prices). Every page needs a call to action (to buy, request a call, download, fill in contact form, or select another page to view).

-Use others' images
-Bury content in Flash (flash is not compatible with iPhones or iPads. Recently Google also has downgraded any site that is not responsive, meaning the layout does not adapt to different devices like mobile phones)
-Use music/ videos that start on the page load (very intrusive)
-Use splash page/ Flash intro
-Force downloads or plug-ins to view content
-Ask too many question in Sign In box (name and email max)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Highs and Lows of an Artist's Ego and Getting Past It

Most artists I know fluctuate between believing they have created something truly brilliant and can't wait to expose it to the world and thinking they are crap and can never produce anything good or worthwhile. Maybe both are necessary for being an artist.

Without the highs of the artist ego we could never get past the rejection by galleries, buyers, unsold pieces, unsold shows and just the basic ignoring by the art establishment, critics, etc. How else could someone go into a profession that is self-employed, pays one of the lowest annual incomes and keep going?  Where is the incentive to get up and get into the studio to create? Well, I guess it isn't all artist ego, but at least that helps get us past the rejection, believing in ourselves when no one else does.

Then there is the down time. When we compare our relative success to others that started out at the same time as us, when we feel we just can't seem to make anything good, when we feel like we are just spending what little we have on supplies, studio rent and everything it takes to run a business and getting no return year after year. In Canada, writers and artists are two of the only professions that Revenue Canada recognise as not having the normal amount of time (2-5 years) to start making a decent living as a self-employed business and so we can indefinitely claim expenses on our tax forms without making any income when other business cannot.

So where does that leave us when we are further along in our career and aren't where we want to be? I seem to be just coming out of a 10 year hiatus. Ten years ago I finished my masters degree, got married and moved to a small city in Northern England. Yes, I was in shock, but like everywhere I've lived there was an art community there. But something stunted my production and my growth as an artist. And these things are worth analysing.

Firstly, I believe any huge life change like getting married, having children, even renovating a house seems to stunt my production and my focus. My husbands piano teacher, a world class concert pianist, told him that when she did renovations she was unable to play or practice the entire time. These things shift our focus, unbalance us for long periods of time, and don't always seem like the obvious reason because often they are good things. Natalka Husar, a Canadian artist, once told a class I was in that artists need low maintenance relationships so they can get on with their art. Your art must come first. I can't say I want to agree with the last statement, but I thought the first one was dead on. I am lucky to have a low maintenance relationship and still I found the change from being solo was huge. I shifted my work schedule to match his earlier one because I had the flexible job. But really what I hadn't calculated was that I needed those evenings to just sit with work and contemplate how they had gone and to leisurely wrap up each work day on my own time. I needed the feeling of indefinite time. Perhaps I could have worked evenings for a couple of days a week. But then life had changed and I wanted to be with him in the evenings just as much. I also want to add that I have one of the most supportive partners in this life I could ever wish to have. He has never made me feel as though I should be pulling my weight and getting out there and getting a "real" job. He has always been supportive of my doing my art. I do insist though, that my art must pay for itself, so my art funds itself, my studio, supplies, etc. Everything else in our life he funds. Bless that man.

Secondly, as soon as I had a chance to become a full-time artist I did. And there are huge advantages to that. When I lived in Toronto there were only 3 of us full time in a studio of about 24 artists. But we 3 were always in because we had the pressure of having to pay bills. We were so creative in getting commissions, exhibitions, and sales because we had to be. Most of the other artist we rarely if ever saw.  When I was about to get married, my studio mate said to me that things would change. She saw my drive and she warned me that when I was married to someone who made a comfortable living my drive would wane. She was also right on that account. I went from making a modest living to making a few sales. Some years I did very well, but mostly I could not have sustained myself. So if I had stayed single and not married someone with an income, then life would have made me a successful artist? No, I think then the worry that I was lonely and what was I going to do in my old age for retirement funds, etc, etc would have kicked in.

So what changed for me? Believe it or not I had a kid and that seems to be doing it. I think I was slowly dreading the idea of having a child, although I couldn't imagine not having one. I was independent, loved working in my studio, getting exhibitions, selling art. But to look back over the last 10 years, I wasn't at my best. My drive was gone. I have had shows over the years, but the work was not what it should have been and I argue with myself I should be further along in venues at this stage. So what happened when I had a kid? I had zero personal time in every single 24 hours, 7 days a week. I was in absolute shock! I did bring the baby to the studio but not much got done. But it made me value my time so much that I realised I needed a plan. When the child was one years old we decided that I would go back into my studio 1.5 days a week on my own. I spent the first month of that just planning out my attack. And here is what it looked like.

-I MAPPED OUT 15 SERIES OF PAINTINGS I WANT TO MAKE. These are series I have put off over the years and they are new series I have recently thought of. Some of them are small "study" series and some are monumental series I want to make. I also have a list of single pieces I want to make for specific commissions, trades, gifts, or gallery top-up. I am a prolific and fast painter in general. Although some of the work I am gearing up to do (I am saving the best series until last) will take me considerably longer to execute.

-I MAPPED OUT WHAT BLANK CANVASSES AND BOARDS I HAVE AND WHAT I HAVE TO MAKE FOR EACH SERIES. Yes, I make all my own stretcher frames and stretch my own canvasses. This does take time but saves me heaps of money. I mean HEAPS! I only make them as I am about to do a series. And because I am not swimming in sales at the moment I have no choice.

-I MAP OUT WHAT GALLERIES, BUYERS, INSTITUTES, I WANT TO AIM EACH SERIES AT. I formulate this list by travelling to different cities and visiting the gallery districts, mapping out where other artists are exhibiting that may have similar buyers to mine, going to art fairs and circling galleries on the map that seem appropriate to my style and level of art, and looking at artist submission sites. I also include galleries that have said they want to give me a show in the future or have showed interest in the past but I was too much in a rut to do much about it.

-I MAP OUT MARKETING THINGS I NEED TO DO. New business cards, revamp website, Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, Instagram, etc.

-I CLEAN MY STUDIO AND MAKE IT A SPACE I WANT TO WORK IN. I think this can hinder an artist as much as anything else in life. You know how you like to work. I like a big open space with little going on other than my art on one side and all my stuff organised on shelves and racks in a corner.  Some artists like to get their studio fully lived in before they feel like it is really their space for creating. I also had to stop sharing a studio because I couldn't properly concentrate when we were both or all in there. My studios I have always loved just sitting in. That is my sign. If I want to just hang out there then it is good.

-THEN I GET TO WORK BY PLANNING EACH WORK TIME. I have such limited time in my studio now that I have to have a list of things that I want to accomplish that session. Of course my sense of time and what I can get done in it is often not accurate. But at least I come into the studio with a focus and an aim. That is not to say I don't procrastinate or just get so overwhelmed at times by the list that I can't seem to do anything. But currently I have an Open Studio I am working towards in 1.5 months time.

So that is what I have done. Once the work starts mounting up it is much easier to do all the rest. I feel incentive and excitement that I have new work. I get excited about how it will look on my new website, I get excited about which galleries might like it. With work you can start all the other processes of contacting galleries, applying for submissions, etc. I've heard a quote that "you can only steer a ship that is moving". Don't wait around for things to happen to you…MAKE THEM HAPPEN! If you aren't moving there is nothing to steer.

I can get so excited that I sometimes stop working. Not good! There really is no end to what can distract and send an artist off course from producing work. This is what I have ultimately realised. The best thing is just to stay focussed, keep away from people who are discouraging you in it, and just keep going!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Landscape or Figurative?

I visited the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, UK. Sargent really is amazing in his portraiture and brushwork. The two images here are two of my favourites from the show. He depicts his Parisian art teacher, the French portraitist, Carolus-Duran, and Eleonor Duse, an Italian actress who found international fame.

My great love is for figurative painting. It is what I specialised in during my training, love to paint most, and is what I follow in other artists. Strangely, it is my landscapes which seem to sell and make me a living from my art. This has led to a practise that has not gone in the direction I would most like. 

Selling a style of art that is not what you are most excited about but allows you to make a living definitely makes things tricky as an artist. It has been over 10 years since this happened to me and I find that my figurative work, although it still exists, has suffered. The following are two examples of my landscapes that do really well commercially.

These landscapes are quick for me to paint. It does take some time to find new subject matter, build the stretcher frame and canvas, but I can put together a body of work in a couple of weeks from nothing. I initially started doing these as a relaxation from the figurative work that would take longer before pieces were finished. It was nice to finish something in one sitting and be able to not go back to it.

These two paintings came from my first body of work called "Water" which I submitted to get excepted into my masters program in London, UK. I love doing the large figures.

Then I did this piece, "Self-Portrait: My 3 Plates". It was to be the first of my "Metalhead" series which would then lead to my "Liberia" series. So why is it that the landscapes sell so well and although I get good feedback for my figurative, they don't sell as well?

I understand a landscape is a pretty picture to put on a wall. People like my tranquil scenes. It is easy art, easy to access, easy to live with, easy to look at. But what about more interesting work? I made the decision to keep my landscapes exclusively within Canada, where a gallery carries them and sales seem easier to come by. I could then focus on my figurative work in the UK and Europe, where edgier work seems more accepted. But recently another artist in my London studio, who sells extremely well, suggested I market my landscapes in her London gallery. Now I am in a dilemma. I have always thought I was a fast and prolific enough painter to be able to carry both off, but my mind doesn't seem to want to pour as much into the figurative when there is more money to be made.

I met a lovely artist, several decades older than me, who also straddles landscape and figurative as well as two countries (Canada and Mexico). She also sells more landscape work. But when the recession hit she sold nothing and said to herself "I might as well paint the most monumental work I can imagine". She painted large scale figurative work that I spotted through her studio window when I met her. I think it is by far the better work.

Part of me wants to still do some landscape, but most of my work should focus on the figurative to bring it up to that higher calibre feel that my landscapes seem to be. But I have to not "churn" out my landscapes. All my work should be of a calibre that I am really proud of. I have not always bothered to achieve this. The other problem is too much variety on my website…but that is another post.

Having just read over a few old blogs and comments on WITWIM about my art dilemmas I am reminded that honesty in my work and what I strive to achieve and create is the most important goal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Previous Art Thoughts

Here are links (and some encouraging comments) to my previous art struggles on my WITWIM blog:

Technical Skills - June 30, 2009
A Revolutionary Road - June 8, 2009

Hello Old Friend, 

My hope for you is threefold: be honest with yourself and your passions; in your art speak the truth as best as you can understand it; and, finally I hope you are able to show patience and compassion for yourself as you seek to figure all this out. 

Friar TuckAnonymous
 Friar Tuck said...
I'm not talking about being constantly innovative in technique. Despite what you may have heard it is okay to paint in a style that is your own and stay with it. Do you think Shakespeare arbitrarily ripped up drafts of MacBeth because the English words had already been used? Or that Beethoven never composed his Fifth Symphony because everybody's heard a French horn before? They wrote and composed using commonly understood techniques. But what they said, the truth they were trying to communicate, was sometimes provocative. However, the goal wasn't to be provocative for innovation's sake. It was a byproduct of their search of honesty. One could say the same of Picasso. We have become so distrustful of anything resembling truth in the 20th century--and I understand why--but Craft seems to have entirely replaced Message. If you want to paint, paint honestly. Style and technique are the means not the end.
Hi Michal,
This segment reminded me of the times you would torment us with your angst about some decision or direction for yourself. You would solicit everyone's opinions, and then do what you felt was right to do. I found this segment and the responses deeply moving, as the issues you struggle with apply to us all in some way. As a note of encouragement, a couple of days ago I was sitting next to J.H. at Ryan's play, and he told me how he was profoundly moved by your series called 'The Human Right'. He said the effect stayed with him for a long time after. You recalled to me how important it was for you to treat the people you encountered in Africa with dignity...and I think you captured that truth in your presentation.
Careers - May 6, 2009
Friar Tuck said:
Great questions. I trust your ability to discern and be truthful with yourself.

All the Good Things - June 8, 2008

And over 63 entries with the subject heading ART: Click here.
Over 13 entries on artists: Click here.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Beginning of Artist Archive

In my original WITWIM blog I wrote an honest post about struggling to be an artist whose work often lacked integrity. I was shocked to see a few years later how many hits it had received compared to my other posts. Artist Archive is my honest blog on the daily struggles of being an artist.