After getting my website live last week, an interesting thought occurred to me. When we're showcasing our art online, is it really necessary to describe that work in detail in a little text clump next to the image? Is it really necessary to talk about your inspirations, how the work came to be, etc? Does anyone really care?
I posed the question to my Facebook/Twitter/social networking groups and received some interesting feedback:
...or rather nobody has the time to read these days. This camp believes the image says it all and that those browsing your art are really only interested in the final product. Basic information, such as medium, the program you used, the size of the image, and the purpose of creation (for a commission, for a company, etc) seem acceptable by the 'keep it simple' philosophy. From the standpoint of the artist, this is also an efficient approach if you don't have the time to sit and write descriptions about your process, or merely have nothing you're inspired to say about your pieces. Many websites for illustrators, concept artists, and industry-focused fields seem to be done in this fashion.
The More, the Better!
This attitude seems more prevalent in the fine artist crowd who believe that process is an important part of the expression. I would argue that it is also more prevalent on the sites of artists who sell a majority of their work to the general public. While Art Directors and the like have little time to read long heart-felt descriptions of a work's creation and inspirational impetus, the general public appreciates learning why that work is 'special' and worthwhile. It all links up to 'implied value', in this case, or how much worth an uninformed individual places on your work from presentation alone when they have no previous knowledge of you or your work.
Things to Think About
From the standpoint of a website designer with search engine optimization in mind, remember that meta-tags are not the most prevalent form of how search engines find a site. Nowadays, search engines like Google index the content, or text, of your pages in order to glean the most relevant results, though meta-descriptions on pages still seem relevant, if you have time to fill that field in for each page you design (meta-description being what shows on the results of any search engine's results page).
But neither should you fake a description! Personally, I think it's not worth it to ramble on about something if you really don't care about it. You only waste your own time and leave fans with a false impression of your priorities as an artist (and the more astute fans amongst us with doubts about your sincerity).
Personally..., I've invested myself as a writer and an artist, meaning there's a bit of poetry or a story behind most (but not all) of the pieces that I do. My site has barebone descriptions right now, but I hope to find a way to include text in a collapsible box so the most ADD amongst us can either skip the fluff or click a plus box to reveal a brief bit of prose.
In the end, I think an artist should consider what their site is going to do for them, who their audience is, and just how much time they have to manage writing long descriptions. Do what works for you and what you feel comfortable with.
How do you showcase your art online? Do you write long or short descriptions? What value do you see in either method?
Websites & Artists Series
Part 1 - Considering Your Audience
Part 2 - What's in a Domain Name?
Part 3 - Search Engine Optimization
Part 4 - Describing Art Online