Note: A version of this post was originally published on another blog of mine. That blog no longer exists, so I thought it might be useful to repost the article here.
Whether you’re a hobbyist sculptor, a part-time photographer, or a full-time artist, if you’re proud of what you create, I bet you’d like as many people to see it as possible, right?
I hear a lot of artists saying they just don’t know how to get their artwork noticed. So here are 16 actions that you can actually put into practice today, that will help increase your artwork’s exposure:
1. Establish Your Artistic Goals
The first one is easy, all you have to do is think! Take 5 minutes to consider what your goals are for your artwork. Are you just doing it for fun because you love it, do you plan to make a living from doing it, or is it a bit of both? Where do you see yourself and your artwork in a years time? How about 5 years?
The benefit of establishing your artistic goals is that it gives you something to focus on, so that you can take action to fulfil your goals. Think about what action you can do today that will get you one step closer to your artistic goals.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has written a great article on Really Simple Goal-Setting.
2. Create a Facebook Page For Your Art
People spend an obscene amount of time on Facebook these days. If you can create a Facebook presence for your artwork, it will be much easier for people to share it and talk about it.
My advice when creating a Facebook page for your art is don’t just post the same content as you have on your website or blog. Give your Facebook fans a little extra to give them a reason to ‘like’ your page. If you only post your best work on your website gallery (which I would recommend), then you can use your Facebook page to post sketches and works-in-progress so that your fans can feel more involved in your artistic process. See my own Facebook art page for an example.
Pamela Vaughan wrote a great post on Hubspot recently about 8 Creative Ways to Customize Your Facebook Business Page. Most of these can be adapted for an art page.
Note: The Facebook page advice can also be applied to Google+
3. Get a DeviantArt Profile
DeviantArt is one of the biggest art communities there is, with over 19 million members at the time of writing. That’s reason enough to get your artwork on there.
Another benefit of DeviantArt is that it’s extremely social. The users there love to comment on art and interact with other members. I’m not very active on there at the moment, but last time I logged in I had 259 unread feedback messages about my artwork. That is some great exposure.
This is a great way to meet like-minded artists and really start engaging in the art community.
4. Start Writing a Blog
This may be the single most important thing you can do to increase your exposure as an artist. It takes a bit of commitment to post regularly, but the benefits make it a no-brainer.
Artists often tell me they don’t need a blog, or they don’t have anything to write about, but if you’re consistently creating new art, then you have plenty to write about.
You can post every time you create a new piece of art and talk about the process or what it means to you or if there is a story behind it. You can write about your upcoming exhibitions or shows, and you can provide tutorials and advice on how you create your art.
You can even branch out a bit and write about your art philosophy or your influences. Anything that you think will be of interest to people who like your art is ok to blog about.
Thomas James has written about why it’s important for artists to blog over at Escape From Illustration Island.
For more about launching a successful blog, read my post – Make Your Art Blog Matter.
5. Share the Link Love
When you’re writing your blog posts, don’t be afraid to link to other artists’ websites.
That may be counter-intuitive, as you have probably heard that success online is all about getting links IN to your site, not out.
That is true to an extent, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing content that you think your visitors will like, such as an artist who really inspires you.
For one thing, your visitors will start to see you as someone who shares great content, and they will be more likely to subscribe to your posts or social feeds.
But also, the person whose site you linked to may notice that you have linked to them and said something nice and give you a little shout-out on Twitter or maybe in a blog post.
Basically it’s an easy way to make a new online friend. And you can use as many of those as you can get.
6. Offer to Write a Guest Post For Someone Else’s Blog
This is a great way to get a bit more traffic to your site, if done correctly.
Before you offer to write a guest blog post, you need to think carefully about whether that blog is a good match for your audience.
Obviously it should be related to your artistic genre, so if you’re a sculptor, it’s probably not wise to offer to write a guest post on a photography blog.
But you could find a blog which offers free sculpture tutorials, and offer to write about your top sculpture tips and techniques. If they publish your post, they will most likely give you a link back to your site, and if their blog gets a lot of traffic, you can expect a fair few budding sculptors to find their way to your site.
Check out James Agate’s 3 Keys to Effective Guest Posting on ThinkTraffic.net
7. Make Your Art Easy to Share
There’s so much information online today, that we sometimes have to filter out the stuff that is too time-consuming.
If I stumble upon a work of art that I like, and I want to share it with my friends or fellow art lovers, the first thing I do is look for the Facebook like button or the Tweet button. If those aren’t there, I have to REALLY want to share the art to go to the effort of copying the URL from the address bar, opening up Facebook or Twitter, pasting in the link, and writing a description of the artwork I’m sharing.
Every piece of art on your website should ideally have its own social sharing buttons. The best way to do this is to use a gallery where every image has its own page, then on your image page template, you can stick your social sharing buttons right above the image, so your visitors can share your art with a single click.
All of the major social networks have developer tools that allow you to put a sharing button on your website, or you can use a sharing service like AddThis to make things easier.
8. Enter Art Competitions
You may not be the competitive type, but entering online art contests can be a great way of reaching other artists and increasing your exposure.
For example, I used to be really into caricature (not so much these days), and there is a great Facebook group called Caricaturama Showdown 3000! which holds a weekly celebrity caricature contest, with a different subject each week.
There are over 4,500 members in that group at the time of writing, all of whom are interested in caricature, many of whom are regular participants in the contests, and some of whom may see your work if you enter a contest, spot your talent and share your art with their fans.
If you enter every week, or at least every few weeks, then you increase the exposure you give your work.
Offline competitions can also be good for getting your work seen locally. Last year I entered a celebrity portrait contest at a local art show, with my caricature of Sheffield funny man Toby Foster. I didn’t win, but my painting was on show to thousands of people with my name under it.
9. Comment on Other Artists’ Work
This relates to #5, as it’s all about building relationships and networking with other artists.
If you see a piece of art online that you love, as well as sharing it on Facebook, why not leave a nice comment (if possible). If you can’t comment directly on the image page itself, see if the artist has a blog or a Facebook page, where they may have written about the image and you should be able to leave feedback.
Be sensible about this. It’s fine to leave a nice compliment, or even constructive feedback if the artist has asked for it, but don’t just slag off a piece of art simply because it doesn’t appeal to you. At best it will be deleted or not even published, and at worst you will make an enemy.
Also, don’t go overboard with comments and venture into spam territory. If you comment saying “Nice job!” on every single image on an artist’s site, that is spam. If you post “Nice job, check out my art at xyz.com”, that can be seen as spam unless you have good reason for doing so or the artist has invited people to link to their sites. Most comment links will be ‘nofollow’ anyway, which means you won’t get much SEO benefit from them, and not enough people read all comments on a post for it to be a good source of referrals.
My advice is keep it natural, friendly and link free. If there is a website address field in the comment form, fill it in, and if the artist checks out your work and likes it, then great, they may share it. If not, at least you have made someone happy by leaving a pleasant comment!
10. Optimise Your Website Images
As an artist, your website is all about the images, and if search engines can’t tell what your images represent, then that will have a detrimental effect on the number of people finding your artwork through search engines.
The main ways to optimise your images are by giving them relevant ‘alt’ text, good filenames, and relevant text surrounding the image.
When you add an image to a web page, you can specify an ‘alt’ attribute in the HTML image tag. The alt attribute is used by anyone who can’t see your image for any reason, whether they are visually impaired, or not human (i.e. Google). So your alt text should succinctly describe the contents of your image.
A helpful rule of thumb is to write the alt text as if it were to be used as a caption for the image, so it should sound natural and be descriptive.
For example, if your image is a photo of the Eiffel Tower at dusk, your alt text might be “Photograph of the Eiffel Tower at Dusk by Joe Bloggs”.
Including ‘photograph’ lets the visitor know that this is a photo rather than a painting or drawing. Adding your name is relevant so that they know who created the image, and the rest simply describes what you can see in the photo.
The image filename is an often overlooked way of letting search engines understand your images better. A lot of people will upload images with the filename assigned by their digital camera, which may look something like IMG06654.jpg. Obviously this tells us nothing about the image itself. A better filename for the Eiffel Tower photo might be eiffel-tower-dusk.jpg. You can leave out the other descriptive terms as you should keep your filename as short as possible.
For more on this, and some theoretical ideas of how to further optimise your images, check out this helpful video on Image SEO Basics by Danny Dover on SEOmoz.org
11. Ping the Search Engines
You may already be blogging regularly, but are you letting the search engines know when you publish new content? If not, it may take them longer to find your new posts.
It’s possible to ‘ping’ the search engines when you publish something new, which is basically a way of letting them know that your site has changed, they should come and take a look when they have time.
If you use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, and activate the XML sitemap functionality, it will automatically ping Google and Bing whenever you post something new, and you can also set it to ping Yahoo! and Ask.com if you wish.
12. Get a Referral
As we all know, sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And often the best way to get noticed is through word of mouth.
You are much more likely to look at something if it was recommended by a friend that you trust, rather than a link you see on a blog comment or even worse, a Google ad!
So appeal to your friends to think about anyone they know who might be interested in your art and ask them to send a link. This might seem obvious, but until you ask, your friend might not have thought of a particular person who just happens to love what you do.
This can work especially well if you are trying to get representation from an art gallery. A gallery curator might receive hundreds of portfolios every year, and most of them probably get no more than a cursory glance before they are rejected.
But if you happen to know an artist who is already represented by that gallery, and they recommend you to the curator, you are much more likely to be in with a shot.
So if you have a gallery in mind, find out if you know any of the artists they represent, and see if they will give you a recommendation.
Even if you don’t know any of them, do some investigating on LinkedIn or Facebook to try and find a friend of a friend who can introduce you. It’s a small world, and you might just find the connection you need.
13. Emulate Successful Artists
Sometimes the best way to be successful is by finding out what successful people do, and copying that.
Obviously I’m not suggesting that you rip off other people’s work, but you can use the same techniques and strategies that successful artists use (this is why copying old master paintings is an important part of an artist’s training.)
So take a look at the websites of some artists that you admire and whom you see as successful, and see what kind of strategy they use to promote themselves. Do they have a newsletter? Subscribe to it and see what sort of things they send in their emails. Do they have a Facebook page? What kind of content do they post their?
As long as you adapt the content to suit your own needs, rather than just plagiarising someone else’s work, then you’re golden.
Remember though, what works for someone else, might not necessarily work for you. Try different techniques to find what works best for you.
14. Create Amazing Artwork!
If you don’t do any of the other things on this list today, then you can at least work on creating an amazing piece of art. After all, if you don’t have great art to share, then the rest of the tasks are a waste of time.
Promotion and networking are important, but your main focus should still be your art, otherwise you may need to ask yourself why you are really doing it.
15. Get a Website for Your Art
A lot of the items above are only possible if you already have a website with your artwork on it. If you don’t already have one, that needs to be high on your to-do list.
If you don’t know where to begin with all this art website stuff, check out my Artist Website Services.
And to learn why you really need your own website for your art, check out these 10 Crucial Reasons from the Artonomy blog.
16. Look For Advertising Opportunities in Your Community
A current source of income for me is painting digital pet portraits. I’ve done a few of these for a friend who has two Beagles. She also happens to own a hair salon here in Sheffield, and a lot of her clients are the kind of people who would be interested in getting a portrait of their pets.
So she suggested that I put together a book advertising my portraits, which I did, using the self-publishing service Blurb.com (affiliate link), and she put it in the waiting area of her salon. While her customers are waiting for their haircut, maybe the cute Beagle puppy on the front cover will catch their eye and they will pick up the book. My website and contact details are in there, so if they want to get their own portrait it’s easy for them to get in touch.
You may not have such an obvious advertising opportunity, but if you think about all the people you know, there is bound to be someone who can help you out.
The key is to keep it relevant to your target audience. My friend’s clients are reasonably well-off, so they are likely to have the disposable income to spend on an art commission. If it was a cheap barber shop, with less affluent customers, then it might not be worthwhile advertising there.
Think of the kind of person you want to see your artwork, and then try to think of someone you know who is exposed to that kind of person on a regular basis. If you find a match, ask that person if there’s anything they can do to help. They might come up with an idea you had never even considered.
Bonus Tip – Share This Article
Ok, so this is also a shameless request for promotion, but as I mentioned earlier, if you tweet this post, I will probably check out your site, and if I like it, I’ll share it, so you really can’t lose!
Yeah, that’s a stretch, but seriously, if you liked this article, please use the handy buttons on the left (or at the top, depending on your screen size), to share on your social platform of choice, and if you have any other tips for getting your artwork noticed, please leave a comment below.