SHOW OFF! Design a portfolio in your pocket!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Band together with Artists in your Vicinity

One of the biggest hardships last year was that of artists in single studios vs. the artists in the larger complexes like BigMedium and Pump.  As an artist in a home studio you will always be at a disadvantage in this regard.  While some people get their book a week early, go through it thoroughly and plan out their tour most are grazers who take the easier way, let's start out at a big complex where we can park the car and see 30 artists at one stop.

These next series of articles will focus on what you can do if you are not part of a big complex.

Number one on the list is band together with your neighborhood artists and create an identity.  People are more likely to come all the way out to your studio if they know they can park once and see multiple art studios in one locale.  The same goes for bike tourers, give them a reason and they will bike across town to visit your space.

Promoting your studio on the tour is tough, banding together with 4 or 5 of your neighborhood artists and inviting people to tour The Delwood Arts District  sounds a little more enticing to the tour goer who is planning out their next move.  Besides getting to know all of the artists in your neighborhood it opens up a lot of opportunities for promotion within the group identity along with sharing the costs of a group marketing campaign. 

If you think about it, the artists at Big Medium and Pump are individual artists who happen to share a common space.  You can have this same advantage with a neigborhood instead of a building, but you will have to create it, just like they did.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Moo Cards: A Portfolio in your Pocket

If there was ever a non art related  item tailor made for artists it would have to be Moo Cards.   Normally when you order business cards you create a design, order 500 copies and that's that.  It is a good way to get your contact information out and create a general sense of who you are and what you do but not the best way to get the feeling of your work into the hands of people.  Moo Cards changes everything.

They call it Printfinity and what it means that you have your contact information on one side of the card and as many different images as you want on the other side of the card.   100 cards, 100 images.  It is like having a portfolio that you can carry in your pocket.  Not only can you show prospective clients a wide sampling of your work, they can pick a card to keep in their rolodex to remember you by.

Moo offers two sizes of cards, regular and mini.  The mini's run about $20/hundred while the regular are about $22/50.  The mini cards are a great deal as you can get enough of your image into the template that people can get a feel for your work and the small size makes them stand out as something unique.  Both are printed on 16pt stock and have a great feel to them.

Moo also does postcards the same way...more about that later...

SHOW OFF! Design a portfolio in your pocket!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Free Tools: Text Editing with Open Office

 Since we are just a Dude and a Dog we don't have a lot of resources for fancy schmancy software like Microsoft Office but we have documents, labels, artist statements, etc that we need to print.  Open Office is what we use. 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose

It doesn't get much better than this.  Download Open Office here

Free Tools: Open Source Desktop Publishing


 In putting together our promotional materials we are going to need access to some publishing tools.  These tools cost money but fortunately for us, there are Open Source tools available.  Scribus is one such tool that we can use for everything from designing business cards to flyers to pamphlets.

Scribus is an Open Source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of "press-ready" output and new approaches to page layout. Underneath the modern and user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, Spot Colors, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.  It does take a little bit of effort to become familiar with these tools but once you do you will find that putting together promotional materials is a snap.

Download Scribus

Free Tools: Open Source Photo Editing with the GIMP

Even though we are just a Dude with a Dog we are humming right along with our free websites now.  We've invested $12 in a domain name, signed up with Weebly or Google sites, we've picked a template, filled in all of our site info, created our Artist Statement, our Artist Bio and our Contact info.  It's time to create our gallery of our work.   We are operating on a shoestring budget here so we don't have professionally made photographs of our work and are taking them ourselves.  The only problem is that the photos don't show off our work as well as they could.  No problem that's what Photoshop is for.  Big problem when you are just a Dude and a Dog, photoshop is expensive!

Almost everybody has heard about free or low cost software.  Most of the time there is no free lunch.  Either the software itself has limited functionality (that you can 'upgrade' for full functionality) or it has full functionality but is demo software where you can't save your work or your work saves with a 'watermark' turning your work into an advertisement for their software.  Clearly not all 'freeware' is really free so how do you tell the difference?

What we are looking for is not demo versions commercial software but software of the people, by the people and for the people.   We can find such software in the grass roots, from the bottom up,  socialist world of Open Source, Creative Commons and CopyLeft.  Bring out the GIMP!

GIMP or  General Image Manipulation Program was created by a couple of university students at Berkeley in the mid 90's and extended by countless others over the years into the full functioning Photoshop rival that it is today.   If your pictures are close you may be able to get away with a mini editor like Picasa which allows you to make basic adjustments of crop, straighten, contrast, brightness, etc.  If you want full blown pixel level editing Gimp is the editor for you. If you know photoshop you will feel comfortable with gimp.  It's not as polished in some areas but it is functionally close.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get listed in the Internet Yellow Pages

Run a Google search on the terms art austin and look at the results.  You should see prominently featured on the left hand side "Local business results for art near Austin, TX".

Yahoo and Bing have similar local based sections.  Your art is a local business and your studio is a local place of business.  Google is the best of these since it not only allows your basic business info to be entered but also allows you to upload pictures of you, your artwork,  a placement on Google maps, etc.  You can also have your friends provide recommendations for your art, etc.
And best of all, if you are just a Dude and a Dog, it is all free.

Sign Up with Google Places
Sign up with Yahoo Local
Sign up with Bing Local

A secondary consequence of signing up with these services is that you have just boosted your credibility ratings with the scutters and your SEO value will go up also.

Search Engine Optimization

 You are going to have two types of visitors to your website, direct traffic and search engine traffic.  Direct traffic is just what it sounds like - you tell somebody (directly, through a business card, etc. - hey check out my website  Search engine traffic is when somebody types in a set of keywords (YourName artist austin watercolor, etc.) and your website is returned in the search results.  Search Engine Optimization is the process of tuning your website so that it is more likely to be returned in the top results of a search term.

A search engine's credibility is based on the neutrality of its results.  When you search for something on the internets you want organic, honest, unbiased information.  If the only results returned are those of people who paid the search engine fees you would rapidly switch to another search engine that would provide you honest not sponsored results.   When you look at Google search results for instance you will see the "sponsored links" are separated from the organic seach results.  SEO focuses on the organic search results.

All of the Search Engine Providers use robots, crawlers, spiders and scutters to scour the internet for data.  These little programs copy your data to the search providers to be processed into an index.  Every search engine has different methods of indexing but essentially key words from your website are distilled so that the search engine has to parse much less data to provide results.  Your content provides the key words so you want to make sure that your content contains key words that people might enter while trying to find you and your art.

Companies spend millions of dollars on SEO but fortunately even if you are just a dude and a dog with the goal of people finding your website there is a lot you can accomplish for free.

Our goal here is fairly simple: we want people to find your website so that they can see your art and contact information.  Your first big advantage in our SEO quest is your name.  Most of the contacts to your website will already know your name.  If you have an unique name (e.g. Xochi Solis) your job will be fairly simple.  If you have a more common name (e.g. John Smith) your task will be a little bit more challenging.  Using a unique middle name can help here (John Friggin Smith).  Even so, Firstname Lastname is a fairly unique criteria to work so when it comes to SEO as an artist you have a head start. 

What are your KeyWords?

If you were trying to find you on the internet what would you search for?  Firstname Lastname, then what?
Anything that you can think of as an identifier is fair game.  John Smith is generic.  John Smith Austin Texas localizes it (in case there is a John Smith in Austin MN!).  John Smith Austin Texas Artist will separate you out from all of the John Smith's in Austin, TX and finally John Smith Austin Texas Artist Sculptor will put you above all of the other John Smith artists in Austin.  You get the picture.  You need to embed the words that people might use to try and find you with a search engine into your website content.  

For an artist's website this is fairly straightforward and simple - your text will mainly be found in your opening page and your artists statement.  You can also attach alternate text to your images (for instance info about a piece in your gallery, e.g. "untitled, 18x24 gouache on paper, private collector Austin, TX is a great way to embed keywords into your content).

Besides your content other portions of your website figure into SEO.  The Title of your website, domain name, meta keywords, site description are all components of your website that are also indexed and used to assign value to your website based on certain key words.  We can go into this in greater depth down the road if there is interest.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Free Website Hosting

 In my previous post I wrote about Domain Registration.  If we have done our homework correctly we should now have a little bit less than $10 invested in our domain name so now it's time to look into web hosting.  Although it is possible to run your own internet server for the most part people at this level of the game use a web host.  Your data resides on their server and people communicate through that server to access your data.

Hosting packages like domain names offer a wide variety of choices (and you saw in the previous post how companies like to bundle domain registration and hosting together).  Since we are just a Dude and a Dog and we want to keep the Dog in biscuits and gravy train we are going to look for a free hosting package.

Most companies that offer free web hosting do so so that they can plaster ads all over your 'free' website.  Your content draws visitors, those visitors sometimes click on ads, those ads generate revenue.  These free websites range from the mildly obnoxious to the completely obnoxious.  Not exactly the atmosphere that you want to showcase yourself and your artwork.

There are two brilliant exceptions.  They allow you to redirect you domain name to their servers for free, they place no ads on your site (and in fact allow you to earn revenue should you decide to place ads on your site) and are completely free.  How do they do it?  Volume ;-)

Weebly is a San Francisco based company whose mission is to enable people put to their information online quickly and easily and without any specialized knowledge with a drag and drop style webpage editor. 

Google Sites  is Google's answer to putting content creation in the hands of content creators.  Create your own page or a group page simply and easily with no required knowledge of html or CSS.  Dozens of prebuilt templates that can also be customized.  Google sites is also integrated into the complete Google toolset enabling you to integrate such tools as Google Maps and Google Calendar easily into your website.  Although you probably won't want ads on your artist website but Google Adsense also integrates nicely into Google sites.

For you Apple users out there, check out iweb - a simple to use website editor that is well integrated with everything Apple.  You will have to find web hosting to use iweb but the ease of use might make it worth it for you.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Register Your Domain

Registering your own internet domain name is the foundation of your online identity.   There is nothing easier when you want somebody to look at your art to tell them to go to 

When it comes to domain registration, cheapest is the best.  A domain name  is nothing more than an entry in the database that cross references the domain name to an IP (internet protocol) address. 

 You will find a lot of offers for free or low cost domain names but there is often a catch.  Let's take one of the most expensive domain registrars, Network Solutions.  They are currently offering a special, "Get your Domain for $6.99 a Year*" which sounds good until you read the fine print "  That $6.99 price is only good if you sign up for one year of nshosting which costs $10.95/month so your total cost per year to register that domain with hosting is $140/year!

Here at Dude and a Dog enterprises we recommend  NameCheap.   The names says it all.  They have an easy interface and easy prices. - Cheap domain name registration, renewal and transfers - Free SSL Certificates - Web Hosting

Another important aspect of choosing a name for your website is Search Engine Optimization which is how people find you when they don't have your full  website name (something about a dude or a dog) or randomly happen onto your site with related search terms (austin artist) .  Choosing a domain name that describes you makes it easier for people to find you. is best, if that is unavailable, etc.  Choose a name that makes sense for people to try and find you.

  There are some other services in the sidebar of this page that offer domain registration services - as always it pays to shop around.  Sometimes they run specials, etc. that might make them a better value than NameCheap.  Check them out before you commit. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for domain registration:

  • Find out the cost and procedures for transferring your domain name to another domain name registrar in case you become dissatisfied or find a lower price. Registrars in general have a terrible reputation for holding names hostage. Some charge exorbitant fees or create delays to avoid losing business.
  • Consider features, if you want them. Extra services offered by domain name registrars are generally oriented to domain name speculators or duplicative of what web hosting services provide. Those often include e-mail accounts, e-mail forwarding and domain forwarding.
  • Consider support options.Registration should be simple, and a name is a name, which means most customers will never need tech support or other customer service.  Where you are most likely to need support is when moving your domain to a different host.
  • Make sure the domain is registered to you, as opposed to your web host or registrar. Make sure that if you get a free or below-cost domain name, you own the domain name that way the registrar cannot control the name to make switching to a competitor difficult or impossible.
  • Think twice about using an alternative top-level domain. Reviewers point out that a high percentage of site searches are conducted by guessing a domain name, as opposed to using a search engine. Alternatives to .com can be cheaper, especially .info, but they can make your site hard to find and difficult to remember. Although use of .org is unrestricted, it's inappropriate for anything other than a non-profit organization.