"If you build it, they will come"...
While attending a UCAS event as a course representative for the college I was asked if I had a website for my own artwork, as I squirmed and pulled a face and heard the words "no, not yet..." leave my mouth it really hit me how inexperienced and apathetic it came across that I hadn't taken the time to support my practice with some form of professional interface.
I consider myself very fortunate that the work I enjoy making is generally well received, particularly the image based elements and have been surprised at how often I find myself drawn into conversation about it in the most unlikely situations. But how can I expect anyone else to take me or my work seriously if I don't myself? By this I mean that so long as I think of myself as a student producing work in an "educational environment" the ball stops there, and, much like all education gone before it, could eventually end up in an unlabelled box collecting dust in a loft - something you cant quite bring yourself to part with but don't know what to do with.
It's clear I need to adjust my perception of myself and my work as in just a few short months I wont have the support network of the college to encourage me and I will need to have made decisions regarding what my next steps will be. There is no question that I am excited by the work I am generating and encouraged by the response it gets, but I need to reflect this in the way I am representing myself - not as an apathetic student, but as an artist with confidence and belief in what I am producing.
Social Media and the internet are incredible tools that when used well make self promotion easier and entrepreneurial or independent ventures much more viable, both through the accessibility of tools to help you build a professional interface and the potential of reaching a considerably wider audience. With this in mind it seems essential to have a functioning and professional website with an active social media presence, success does not have to be determined by gallery representation and your audience does not necessarily have to be in a typical art venue.
I feel that your online presence should to be treated like a brand - consistency in style, name and content across the various sites and platforms available will only help to make you more recognisable and stand out as being well organised and professionally presented. What I hadn't considered up until this point is how every little detail becomes essential - for example how often my name is misspelt - Clare Chennells very quickly becomes Claire Chanels or Clair Chennel. This comes into consideration when choosing a domain or professional email address - if someone copies it down wrong I could miss out on potential opportunities, however it does also have the benefit of being quite recognisable.
Building a website is my first step toward creating my professional online presence. Choosing a hosting site alone came with its own list of considerations - I am not particularly tech-savvy so anything that would involve large amounts of HTML editing or more detailed knowledge would be too time consuming and difficult to maintain. However, I also want to avoid the generic "website made by websitemaker" look that some platforms limit you to. Basically, I want the ability to create my own aesthetic that is transferable to other media (keeping my "brand" in mind), with a well explained operating system that is easy for me to keep up to date. I ended up trying a couple of different platforms too see which one I felt most comfortable using and chose wix.
All this before I even start to consider what information, images or social media links I want to include. Something I was made aware of during one of our earlier lectures was copyrighting and watermarking your work before sharing it on social media or the internet. Wanting to have a bank of images ready to use for the site I researched an app to help me create a watermark that could be applied to all my images. "Stretch Cut Watermark" is a program designed to add a uniform watermark to a group of images and worked really well for the purpose. I am able to save my setting and apply the same watermark to any future work which builds on the professional and uniform aesthetic. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/stretch-cut-watermark/9nblggh5bm3f
Images at the ready I started to build the site - as my work ranges from detailed layered imagery to bold simple structures I decided to keep the design of the site neutral and allow the work to speak for itself. It was also a conscious decision to have minimal description of the work except that of the general themes discussed in my artist statement, this feeds back to the idea that the work is an invitation to the audience to reinterpret a space I have called to attention rather than a statement about the space.
Lastly I had to decide what social media I intended to use or would be relevant to me. I have never been someone who uses twitter - being a visual person I have always been much more drawn to Instagram, which I have used since the first year of my degree. I started it as a bit of an experiment - I kept the account anonymous out of curiosity to see how much interest it would gain without necessarily being my existing contacts that supported me. Any one who was aware of my work would obviously be able to make the connection - but essentially any following I got over the last two years has come through the Instagram art community. At this point I have changed the Instagram handle to cchennells.artwork to tie in with the website and email contacts, again promoting consistent and professional approach to my online presence. So far I haven't maintained a particularly active presence with this account so to optimise its effectiveness I need to be more conscious about posting regular updates and making myself more visible. I am also in the process of setting up a linkdin account and publishing an artist page on facebook that will link back to both the website and Instagram.