Saturdays are going to be web review days, mainly to allow myself to write something short if I happen to be hungover. I'm not today, as it happens - so I'll start with the grandaddy of art sites - RedBubble. ( this won't just be a promotion piece, I have work there, but that's not what I'm talking about just now).
Red Bubble is something of a hybrid - it's part photo-dump a la flickr etc, part arts market place for selling work, and part community where you can meet with other artists and talk about your work. It's trying to do a lot of things at once, and it does none of them perfectly, but a lot of them quite well.
There is no quality control on the site itself, which means anyone can set up a free account, upload the pic they took on their phone that day, and sell it as a t-shirt, postcard, or even canvas print. It's fun, it's easy. it's accessible, and it's great for those starting out to do something with their art, or just make t-shirts for their friends.
But with about a million users - there's very little chance of selling to the outside world without some extreme marketing on your part. There are people who turn up there and wonder why nothing has sold after a few months - needle and haystack are the words that come to mind, especially of you are a painter outnumbered ninety nine to one by photographers.
So, a great place to direct people to buy stuff, and the nice clean layouts give you a good showcase. But not a great place to generate customers, and a difficult place to casually browse to find stuff you like to buy. (Although the popular art pages at the front end of the site generally show some fabulous work - mostly photography, but of a real high standard with some genuinely innovative and original work)
The really useful community bit of the site then, is the villages within the city - the groups. Again, anyone can set up a group as long as they find a willing co-host ( I'm still searching for a fellow host for the Scottish painters group I want to set up) and there are a LOT of them. over 1200, at last count.
A lot of these are juried, and the hosts will only accept work they feel is of a certain standard, or that fits their subject. A few of my favourites are Painters in Modern Times ( the biggest painters group on there, with around a thousand members) Out of the Blue (blue art, whether it be paintings or photography) British Painters ( what it says on the tin) and The Scots are Coming (anything Scottish - a good place to meet fellow Scots makers)
The fun thing about that is submitting your work to the group, then sitting back and hoping it gets accepted - or even better, featured on the group homepage. The groups become the best way to find work you like, fellow artists who you can 'watch', and to generate feedback on your own work. ( RedBubble has a 'play nice' policy which means the feedback is always good - which is nice, but sometimes you'd like a more balanced view of your work.)
The other great function for the artists is the 'favourites' option - you can build up a portfolio of work you love done by other people. One of my favourite ways of bouncing around the site is to pick an artist I like, then click on their favourite pieces, find another artist I like, check out their favourites.. and so on. You can bounce around the quality stuff that way, without drowning in the dross. If only I wasn't a dirt poor starving artist myself, I would have bought a tonne of stuff by now.
There are also forums, which you'd think would be a wonderful hive of creativity and high flying art's talk - and which unfortunately seem to be more based on internecine squabbles and 'chit chat'. A shame, as it would be a great resource for wannabe art makers, and those interested in arts.It's perhaps one of these cyclical things, that will pick up again soon. I hope so. I Did however, get quite a few useful tips on painting on hardboard yesterday, for example - and I've had some urgently needed help on an artwork that I had to finish in four hours time when I put it into the forums for critiques. So, there is good stuff in there too.
I joined Red bubble a couple of months ago, and since then I've found a host of people I like talking to about art, and that I hope to get to know better. One of the biggest problems about working creatively can be the isolation - finding a place you can talk to people whose opinion you respect about your work. Red Bubble has fulfilled that function beautifully for me - almost too well, as the temptation is always to spend more time on there than you do on your artwork.
The only real problem I have with the place is the pricing - I want people to be able to buy a birthday card without taking out a second mortgage! And, of course, to get a reasonable share of that money myself :p.
However, if you are at all interested in art, go take a look. bounce about a little and look at all the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful!) art works there. You never know, you might find something you really love.
I've run out of time to illustrate this piece - And I need to check for permissions before I put images up here. But it shall be festooned with pretty pics at a later date, apologies for the boring layout atm!