(Un) Impressive Artist Websites

December 1, 2009

Great artist websites are impressive. But “impressive” artist websites are not necessarily great. The truly impressive websites tend to be the ones that manage to keep secret how impressive they are. You just want to use them more, see the art more, be a part of the experience more. They are easy. Accessible. Usable.

Many people associate such usability with technical simplicity. But in truth, it’s rare that you find a usable and inspiring website that is also simply built. In other words, most successful sites are quite sophisticated. In contrast, sites that are technically basic, though simple, often fall short of being great.

But today, I was introduced to a site that defies the trend. www.blublu.org is the online portfolio/journal/interface for Blu, a mural artist. The site is quite “impressive” at a glance. Busy. A bit hard to find things. It displays small and doesn’t scale. It doesn’t have selectable text. I have to squint to see the photos. No Facebook or Twitter icons anywhere. And it relies heavily on a fairly dated and clunky feature of web design (image maps). If life were predictable, this site should have lost me in the first few clicks.

But it didn’t. Despite my initial confusion with the website, I ended up going through all the artist’s stuff. Somehow, the site managed to make its art come forth and intrigue me – I stuck around. I learned that the artist does murals all over the world ‚Äì large format art which stands lives and breathes in public spaces, spaces where it can hit you, interact with you, tell you things, make you tell yourself things. Art that speaks. Art that lives. How did I get so inspired?

Delicious irony: in being technically “unimpressive”, blublu.org has made quite an impression. Or rather, it allowed art to make an impression. Just what an artist website should do.

So go get impressed at blublu.org. Check out the photos of the vaguely disturbing and alluring urban murals. And if you get inspired enough to consider defacing public property yourself, think twice: avoid breaking the law and instead come pick up the Walls Notebook filled with photographic blank walls waiting for your writings, sketches or collage, on sale till Dec 24th.

Thinking about your own artist website?

There is a universe of resources and guidance out there for you. You could start with our Workshops & Classes section under Art Business, where you will find two courses on website development. You might want to check out myartclub.com or myartchannel.com, online artist oriented sites with services tailored for the online business of art. And if you’re technically confident, you might want to just download and learn how to setup and configure WordPress ‚ an open source (and free to use) sophisticated piece of software giving users a lot of control over content and design.

Whatever you do, be guided by the (un)impressive, make your website stand back and let your art make the impression.