Are Artists Using the Internet to Full Advantage?

It’s impossible to know how many painters, sculptors, mixed media artists and fine art photographers have their own websites or are showing their work on collective websites on the net. There must be several millions worldwide. Just as the number of artists there is incalculable, there are no statistics concerning the overall value of art works actually sold on the internet. Several very large, well know e-commerce sites like eBay have specific sections offering artworks for sale but details about the level of transactions are not published. The net allows people world wide the possibility to view work that they would otherwise never see, but how much commercial impact does an internet presence really have for emerging, unknown artists? I think it is safe to say that most artists, once their websites are launched do little in the way of optimization to get them seen.
It’s hard to dispute the saying that “if your not on the net, you don’t exist.. Everyone seeks information about everyone, first and foremost, on the internet. Plumber, electrician, doctor or artist; if you want to be found, a presence on the web is obligatory. The question that needs to be asked is; “can original art be appreciated and evaluated correctly from a JPG image on a computer screen and consequently be bought with confidence?
Buying art work on the web, according to an image can be disappointing if the original work does not match up to expectations, or a pleasant surprise if the original turns out to be better than the image. It can work both ways. The point is, the finer details or qualities (good or bad) are difficult to assess from a digital picture. How often, when viewing an original work in a museum – that we know only from posters, magazines and television – are we surprised to discover how different the original is from the images we have seen?
The largest collective websites for artists exhibit works by approximately 50,000 artists -offering hundreds of thousands of images of their work. It is difficult to imagine a serious collector plowing through so many web pages if he/she is considering a purchase for the home or office. How many shoppers can look at an article in a store window and buy it without first going into the store to see, touch and examine what they wish to purchase?The internet is an exhibition space just like a store window but there are always certain products that need to be examined directly before purchase.
Just as bricks and mortar galleries congregate into small areas to boost their presence and stimulate interest in the community, the internet communities for artist would do well to follow their example. Many artists become members of neighborhood art associations, then city associations and then regional associations etc. It is an outward progression because they understand the benefits of first networking within the local community, before branching out. The opposite seems to happen on the net. Artists generally believe that world-wide exposure (even if they’re one in ten million) will bring greater chance of recognition.
It might be time for artists to rethink the way to exploit the internet -especially if the goal is to sell their art. The truth is that art collectors still prefer to buy from real galleries, local art festivals or directly from an artists studio because they want to ‘see’ what they are buying. Art lovers also enjoy the social interaction of visiting galleries and art fairs or even an artist’s studio. The computer screen cannot fulfill this.
If there were more regional groupings of artists on the web, potential buyers could look online by location and then travel short distances to view the original work. For example, there are probably 10,000 artists living and working in the greater Los Angeles area with sufficient artwork to fill several websites even if they exhibited work by Los Angeles artists only. There would surely be enough content to please every taste in art for the potential 12 million art buyers in the Los Angeles area.
There are directories of local art galleries in your local telephone book, online or in the local press; why not a similar directory for artists’ studios? Why are there so few directories of artists’ studios or of artists’ websites? Art on the web needs to develop into new directions if the full commercial of the internet is to be realized. Sometimes the world wide web works better when it’s local.