Thursday, December 14, 2017

How do you get your art ranking in Google? Your NEW Google Guide to SEO

How do you get your art ranking in Google?  That's what most artists want to know when they go online.

These days most professional and many semi-professional artists operate online using a website and/or a blog.

However this is only effective if people can find that website or blog when searching for you or the sort of art your produce.

Many - but certainly not all - artists also know that to enable people to find their website they also need to has at least a passing acquaintance with SEO i.e. search engine optimisation. This is the legitimate process of making your site rank better in search engines.

Yesterday Google launched a launch of a NEW updated SEO Starter Guide 
(I suggest you bookmark this link - it's important) 

This is the first major update since 2010.

Below I provide an overview of the content and what's different. The main difference is that due to the overlap between the previous Guide (a pdf file) and the Webmaster Academy advice which was online - the two guides to what to do re SEO have been MERGED!

The NEW Starter Guide MERGES
the SEO Old Starter Guide PDF (c.2010)
 and advice from the Webmaster Academy

I'd recommend everybody take a look at the new guide and check out whether they are following all the recommended practices.

The contents are listed below - click any link to find out more about what Google recommends if you want to do well on Google
This guide won't provide any secrets that'll automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), but following the best practices outlined below will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.

What's different?

I always like those pages which explain what's different in this issue compared to previous versions. Unfortunately Google hasn't issued one! So I went looking to see whether anybody else had detected any differences between previous recommendations and this new presentation.

The differences I'm seeing highlighted relate to:
  • The new guide MERGES the Webmaster Academy and the old SEO Starter Guide PDF (2010) into one resource section online.
    • It can be found under "Search Console Help" - this is the service Google offers to help you monitor and maintain your site's presence in Google Search results.
    • It has much fewer pics - and these tend to be monochrome - and some beginners may find it less friendly than the old 2010 document.
  • The imperative for the update seems to have been MOBILE!
    • the progress in technology and 
    • how things work on mobile devices - which is now very different from how it was in 2010 
    • sites used to have seperate mobile pages rather than using the responsive templates which most modern sites now use.
  • The author of the official announcement chose to emphasise the following
The updated version builds on top of the previously available document, and has additional sections on the need for search engine optimization, adding structured data markup and building mobile-friendly websites.
  • Hence new sections for:
    • the need for search engine optimisation
    • how to add structured data mark-up - (which I shall be reading as I still haven't figured that one out!)
    • building mobile-friendly websites - see Make your site mobile-friendly which emphasise the best practices for creating mobile-friendly websites that can be accessed by all devices. 
I've just checked the latter in relation to my existing advice in How to be mobile-friendly in the Websites for Artists section of my website Art Business Info for Artists - and I'll now be rechecking a load of links to make sure they're accurate and properly descriptive of the new places they're now being redirected to!

Below are some articles which seem to address the issues re. what's changed

The two below essentially say "It's happened" and revise what the Google blog post says! I'm actually really surprised there hasn't been more analysis online by now.

If you have queries please don't ask me! Rather try using the Google Webmaster Forum where you can connected with other webmasters and top contributors in the Google Webmaster Tools forum.

Here also is the new Google Page for Get support for your site.

Google Search Console

Here are the current contents of this Google service

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Banksy: an auction in New York and "photographed" in Bethlehem

Yesterday Forum Auctions in New York auctioned 40 commercially produced prints and other artwork certified by Banksy’s authentication service Pest Control.

This is how Street Art becomes commercially lucrative.
  • Each print has a detailed condition report
  • Each print comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by The Pest Control Office - which acts for Banksy in relation to authentication of all prints, artwork and sale of new art
We answer enquiries and determine whether he was responsible for making a certain piece of artwork and issue paperwork if this is the case. This process does not make a profit and has been set up to prevent innocent people from becoming victims of fraud.
The rare signed example of Girl with Balloon (2004) went for $110,000 - within the estimate of $80,000-$120,000

By way of contrast his only editioned wood sculpture, Watchtower (2007) failed to reach reserve and was not sold.

Girl with Balloon on the Forum Auctions website
However while yesterday some newspapers were highlighting the auction - with major image features of his work (eg see Banksy artworks up for auction in New York – in pictures), today there's no mention of the auction online

Not all the work sold - however:
It's difficult not to reach the conclusion that the sale of works by Banksy has almost become predictable if not prosaic.

A fresh sighting of Banksy?

Today - to underline the excitement the auctions result did NOT generate - the major reference to Banksy in the news was absolutely nothing to do with the auction

The topic going viral on Twitter related to whether or not he was photographed in Bethlehem next to what is apparently a brand new Banksy artwork which according to Hyperallergic features on his website - although I couldn't find it!

The image shows a man in cargo shorts, sneakers, and a white fedora looking over his shoulder as he stands next to a fresh Banksy piece, which currently greets visitors to the artist’s website. Painted in a doorway near the Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, the mock holiday message reads: “Peace on Earth *terms and conditions apply.” The man holds a can of spray paint and a stencil in the shape of a star matching the one in the mural.Tourist in Bethlehem Believes He Photographed Banksy Wearing Cargo Shorts | Hyperallergic

...and so - what will remain forever perennial and viral and newsworthy is the quest to identify Banksy's identity!

Of course it could all be an elaborate marketing ruse for The Alternativity on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday 17th December - also announced by the BBC yesterday! (see Danny Boyle and Banksy's 'Alternativity' to be on BBC Two)

Or is there such a thing as coincidence? ;)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Call for Entries - Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2018

Portrait artists around the world have six working weeks left to enter the Annual Open Exhibition (2018) of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in May 2018.

The deadline for entries is noon on Friday 19th January 2018 
The RP seeks submissions of new and traditional artistic models and perspectives in portraiture

This about the Call for Entries. This post covers:
  • why enter this exhibition 
  • exhibition metrics for 2017 - what percentage of the open entries were exhibited and what percentage were open entries relative to members
  • who can enter
  • what artwork is eligible for entry - and what is not
  • how to enter - and what to watch out for if entering from overseas
  • a review of the metrics associated with the annual exhibition in May 2017 - including the number of works selected from the open entry, the number of non-member artists who got to exhibit and the average number of artworks hung by a non-members.
  • the prizes - including the NEW £2,000 RP Award for portraiture on a theme
  • the exhibition - in 2018

Why enter this exhibition?

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters aims to:
  • Showcase contemporary portraiture - by offering both an annual exhibition and a permanent collection.
  • Encourage and support emerging talent - by awarding valuable prizes.
  • Encourage the study of portraiture with talks, debates, lectures and demonstrations.
  • Facilitate commissioning of portraits by providing a service at the exhibition and within London
  • Elect new Members - on the merit of their work.
The major benefits for artists entering the exhibition are:
  • the cash prizes are excellent - and they don't all go to members!
  • you can submit drawings or fine art prints as well as paintings
  • the exhibition is virtual (i.e. online) as well as physically present in the galleries
  • the Society runs a commissions process throughout the exhibition. So even if you do not sell your portrait you may well get a commission to produce a portrait
  • it probably has the best attended private view of any of the societies. Clients love seeing their portraits on the walls of this exhibition - and lots love the chance to attend!
This is my blog post providing a Comparison of the RSPP Open and BP Portrait Award Competition

Private View May 2017 - North Wall of Main Gallery

Exhibition Metrics for the 2017 Exhibition

The 2017 RSPP Exhibition at Mall Galleries, London,
  • displayed 219 works by nearly 150 different artists 
  • of which 112 works (51%) were by members or associates 
    • 1,963 entries were submitted by non-members 
    • only about 5% of the works submitted via the open entry were selected for display in the exhibition
    • about half the portraits (49%)exhibited are by artists who are non-members.
Here's my summary of the 2017 exhibition(from my review)
  • fewer portraits of celebrities plus more low key portraits of well know people
  • commissioned portraits of the corporate and academic bods were less evident
  • the hang is better this year - a better mix of portraits in the main gallery and interesting work in all three galleries
  • reflects diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender much better than ever before
Private View May 2017 - Threadneedle Space

Call for Entries

Who can enter

Artists are invited to submit works for exhibition alongside members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at their Annual Exhibition 2018.
Any artist over the age of 18 can enter. That means:
  • you can live anywhere in the world
  • you don't have to be a professional portrait artist
  • you don't have to paint - other media are also acceptable (see below)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Forbes Pigment Collection

The Forbes Pigment Collection contains an assortment of over 3,000 synthetic and organic pigments that helps conservators, curators, and students study and safeguard artworks.
Pigment is a very small particle of coloured material that is mixed in with a binding medium. The pigment gives paint its colour.Narayan Khandekar Director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies and Senior Conservation Scientist
This post is about:
  • an overview of the history behind the collection
  • a video of what it looks like and what it does
  • images of pigments in the collection
  • reading material (at the end) for the colour nerds who love this sort of thing (like me!) 

Tubes of pigment 
The collection of pigments was created by the late Edward Waldo Forbes, former Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University (1909-1945).

He regarded the Museum as a laboratory for art history. He founded the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, which was later renamed the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University.
  • the latter now houses the core collection of pigments from the Forbes Collection
  • Forbes' own private collection of pigments is located at the Institute for Fine Arts Conservation 
The collection provides material which enables pigments in paintings to be identified for both restoration and conservation - and to negate claims being made for fake paintings! 

This is a video about the collection and how they are protected

Interestingly the Museum of Fine Art in Boston has a page which unpicks the pigments down to their chemical composition.

To see what each pigment is made of:

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Putting on an Art Exhibition - Behind the Scenes at the Royal Ulster Academy

Anybody wondering how a prominent art society runs an open entry art exhibition would benefit from taking a look at a really informative video made by Northern Visions Television (NVTV).

Behind The Scenes at the RUA from Northern Visions NvTv on Vimeo.

The film is about the 136th annual exhibition of the Royal Ulster Academy of Artwhich runs for three months at the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, BT9 5AB (6th October 2017 – 7th January 2018)
Mo McDevitt goes behind the scenes in the build up to the 136th RUA exhibition at the Ulster Museum. The exhibition features 371 works in a variety of mediums.
It opens up and follows the entire process from the Academy's perspective of what happens in creating an exhibition from start to finish in terms of:
  • the artworks arriving at the second stage of the open entry. 
  • (Prior to this they had 1,800 digital entries from North and South of Ireland and 23 other countries - which were sent to 10 Adjudicators on a DVD for review to get them down to under 400)
  • the exercise of the three paddles by the 10 Adjudicators for accepted, rejected and not sure - and artists will be able to see what sort of distance their art gets looked at in person and for how long. (Some may be surprised - but the process used in this video is entirely normal)
  • comments about the difference between the digital image and the actual artwork
  • the anonymity of the presentation i.e. they are given the name of the artwork and the technique - and that's it
  • the use of one wildcard for each Adjudicator - to ensure one artist is exhibited
  • how submitting more than one artwork can create a more positive impression of the artist's work
  • how they use 10 selectors every year - and how the panel members change every year - so the selection is now skewed by a few people (and this is the first year of an all female jury)
Interestingly, the RUA only allows its members to have TWO artworks in the exhibition as a right - and these are NOT moderated.  They had seven new associates this year.

They also struggle with the fact that they do not have a home.

Hanging the exhibition

An opening still from the video - a crop of The Artists Children by Jackie Edwards
Oil on linen, 130 × 110 x 3.05
- which I thought was very effective
The video also looks at how they hang the exhibition - and I have to say both artwork and the exhibition looks absolutely splendid.  The co-ordination of colours and management of contrasts are excellent.
"It's not about putting the big names up front and the lesser names behind the door"
The video also looks at
  • the adjudication of the medals for work
  • artwork in the exhibition
  • the wider educational events associated with the exhibition.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Getty Museum under threat from Skirball Wild Fire

The Getty Centre is currently very close to the latest fire in California (the Skirball Fire) which shut down nine miles of I-405 - one of the busiest freeways in the USA during morning rush hour.

This post demonstrates people's concerns and the museum's current response.
The Getty is in a very restrained way communicating what is happening via its Twitter account above and website below. The announcement in red states
The Getty Center and the Getty Villa will be closed to the public Tuesday, December 5, and Wednesday, December 6, to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region.
Getty Website
and on Facebook where they state

The latest from Twitter....

The current fire dubbed the Skirball Fire, was reported at 4:52 a.m. Wednesday.  The hillside which is engulfed in flame is just the other side of the freeway from the Museum and the obvious concern is that the fire might jump the freeway given the strength of the Santa Ana winds.

The Getty Centre is not in the mandatory evacuation area - it's in the yellow (be ready to go) zone to the left of the freeway

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

£35,000 BP Portrait Award 2018 - How to enter and how to get selected

The value of the awards for the BP Portrait Award 2018 have been significantly increased - but that's not the only reason to consider seriously why it's a good idea to enter this exhibition.

Yesterday I wrote about What do paintings by BP Portrait Award winners look like? going back to 1990. That's because 2018 marks the Portrait Award’s 39th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 29th year of sponsorship by BP - and over a decade of me being invited to the Awards Ceremony and taking photos of and interviewing artists who win the awards

Below you can read about:
  • why every aspiring portrait artist should enter the BP Portrait Award
  • how the awards have changed for 2018
  • my Annual Guide to the Call for Entries for the BP Portrait Award 2018 - how to enter
  • how to improve your chances of being selected for the major annual exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery next summer
before you submit your digital entry prior to  the deadline of 22 January 2018. 

In 2017, 53 artists had their portraits selected for the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the BP Portrait Award - from 2580 entries from 87 countries. (2016: comparable numbers were 2,557 entries from 80 countries)

People who win prizes read this post every year. Maybe this year it will be your turn?

Giving the awards a polish before the BP Portrait Awards Ceremony 2017 starts

Why you should enter the BP Portrait Award

As last year's winner, Ben Sullivan, emphasised in my video interview with him the REALLY IMPORTANT important thing is to be INCLUDED in the exhibition rather than win a prize.

That's because being included in the exhibition is the best possible marketing of your work to those who may be thinking of commissioning a portrait. 

Ben exhibited in 13 exhibitions in total and every one for the last 11 years prior to his win this year. His style is very attractive for those who want a realistic but not photographic portrait and he has earned a lot of commissions over the years.

Now that's he's won first prize we won't be seeing his portraits in the exhibition any more....

It's time for someone else to reap the benefit of being included in the exhibition.

8 Reasons to enter this competition

Monday, December 04, 2017

What do paintings by BP Portrait Award winners look like?

This is about BP Portrait Award Winners and 
  • the portraits they paint than won the BP Portrait Award; and 
  • the commissions they undertake for the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Below you can find a chronological list of names of all the past winners of the BP Portrait Award - together with
The BP Portrait award winners wall in 2017
- much smaller portraits compared to most previous years
What I didn't know before I produced this listing is that:
  • not all winners produce a commission. Typically the international artists have not painted a portrait of a 'significant Briton' commissioned by the NPG 
  • there is sometimes a very long gap between the BP Portrait Award win and the production of the commission. I can only imagine that this is because some effort is made to match sitter and painter and that prior commitments and available dates don't always work out as the NPG might wish.
ALERT This post a preamble to my next blog post which will be about the Call for Entries for the 2018 BP Portrait Award.

BP Portrait Award Winners

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Review - Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2017

I visited the annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters last week.

The exhibition was on Tuesday 28th November by Philip Mould the gallery owner who is also host of the popular TV programme ‘Fake or Fortune?’

View of one half of the Main Gallery
This blog post covers
  • how you can - and cannot - see the art
  • a summary of what I noticed about the show - in terms of both numbers and artwork
  • shout outs for 
    • the artists whose work I liked best in the show
    • those artists who have sold two or more paintings
    • the prizewinners  
  • and finally a listing of past blog reviews of this annual exhibition if you'd like to understand more about this exhibition prior to submitting your paintings next year.
Coastline and beach scenes in the North Gallery
The Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI) helped to develop the tradition of oil painting in the UK. Established in 1882, it gained royal status as an art society in 1909.

I RECOMMEND this year's exhibition:

  • it has LOTS of artwork of a high quality by both members and non-members - with a mixed hang across the main and north galleries 
  • a high percentage of the artwork is in oils (but not all). 
  • you can see many and varied ways of applying oil paint to a support to create a picture.  You can also see the extent to which the use of acrylic can mimic oil paint - or not.
  • The exhibition has a huge variety in terms of painting styles, palettes of colour, brushwork and subject matter.  
  • Most of it looks as if was painted using a brush and NOT photographed using a camera. The exhibition also includes some very painterly work.

I'm not quite sure when the ROI started to let people submit work in acrylics but I do wish they'd:
  • either change their name 
  • or stick rigidly to this being an exhibition of oil paintings.
I think it's misleading to do otherwise... It needs to be one or the other.  I was pleased to see the extremely high percentage of the exhibited work is in oils. Hopefully this is an aspect of the society that can be addressed over time.  

It's was VERY interesting to note that ALL the young artists selected for the Young Artist Award ALL painted in oil.

I used to go to the PV nut now tend to choose to see an exhibition in the mid/late afternoon (when it tends to be a bit quieter) just after it has opened. It means I can see the art properly and also get decent photographs of it hanging in the gallery - which is virtually impossible on PV days.

How you can - and cannot - see the art in the exhibition 

Some large paintings in the exhibition

You can see The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries until Sunday 10th December 2017. The galleries are located in The Mall (near Trafalgar Square), London SW1 - this is a google map showing the entrance. Hours are 10am-5pm daily including weekends, (and it loses at 1pm on the final day).

If you're a fan of ROI member and plein air painter Peter Brown ROI NEAC PS Hon RBA RP (aka Pete the Street) then, from Wednesday 6th December, you can also see Pete's solo exhibition at Messums in Cork Street as well as the ROI exhibition.

Next week, the members of the ROI are available to meet visitors include:
The first work you encounter in the North Galleries
You can see selected works from the exhibition online if you keep scrolling down the page.
  • If you click the TITLE of the painting you can find out more about it and how to buy it - and click again to find out more about the artist
  • You can make an enquiry about buying a painting online
However it's NOT actually possible to see ALL the artwork online - which I think is both a pity and not helpful to overall sales.

Now people are so used to buying artwork online, it's absolutely vital to have a very accessible virtual art exhibition (online) as well as a physical art exhibition (in the gallery) - especially if an art society wants to promote its online sales for all the artwork exhibited.

That means ALL members gearing up to produce good quality digital images - or not having their work online.  (Non members already have to do this as the submission is now based on digital files.)

It would seem that rather a lot of ROI members have not yet done this because, very oddly when I look at the oil paintings in the Mall Galleries own online "Buy Art" gallery, most of the oil paintings seem to be by artists from other art societies - or non members exhibiting in the ROI exhibition!  Which does really seem a bit odd!

A small selection of the paintings I liked

I loved this stunning painting of an apple with a Holbein blue background by Alex Callaway RBSA. A very strong contender for my "Visitors Choice" vote. Alex is a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) and an Associate of the Art Renewal Center (ARC). While highly realistic it's also fantastic at both showing colour and form of the apple and its leaves. The background also reminded me somewhat of Holbein portrait paintings.