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Art & Culture

Auld Lang Syne
Frank Stack
PS:  Gallery
Strength in Unity
Hallowe'en Fright
I See Nekkid People
The Muddy Mural
Livin' Large, Kinkade Style
Eliciting an Emotional Response
Marie Hunter
Out, Damned Spot
Danielle Eldred
Local Museums Thriving
Art in Stephens Lake Park
JD King
Strike a Blow for Liberty
No Vail of Tears
Ammanford Sculpture Controversy
Bear Creek
Larry Young
The Lowest Common Denominator
A Different Kind of Success
Taking Risks
Out of Her Gourd
Hey, GalleryMan!
Harry Potter and the
    Superstring Revolution

Investment Grade
Giving Thanks
One Free Minute
Odds & Ends
Monkeys with Car Keys
Sharon Kilfoyle's Wearable Art
Farewell Betty
Happy Birthday, Naoma
Back to School
Take the Pledge
Canopy Conundrum
Columbia's Stonehenge
It takes a Village
Hope Springs Eternal
Dorrell review
Growing Season
If the Shoe Fits
That's Not Art!
Elite Appeal
The Hunger Artist
What Sells
Gallery Ettiquette

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession


ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my

Personal Essays

more "it's all about me"


Im at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?


observations on the human condition


take a trip with me

Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 20 August 2006


Everyone wants to make a quick buck.  Everyone wants to cash in on the latest fad.  Whether it's a gold rush, the lottery, or the internet, there are always those who think theyre gonna get rich quick.

It's well established that by & large the people who made money during the California Gold Rush of 1849 weren't the prospectors, but the merchants who sold goods and services to those young men with dreams of hitting the mother lode.  Whether it was a dry-goods merchant, a woman selling hot meals, or a enterprising Chinese launderer, the real money came from those knew how to separate the miners from their hard-earned cash.  In "Roughing It" Mark Twain tells similar stories of the heyday of silver mining in Nevada, and the general principle applies to all other similar events I'm familiar with.

The same is true of art & the internet.  There was a time in the mid-to-late 90's when it seemed that the internet would provide the enterprising artist the opportunity to sell his or her art directly to clients around the world, side-stepping galleries and their high commission fees.  Or visionary galleries would add in an internet catalog of works (the one for my gallery, Legacy Art, had over 3,000 items when we closed), expanding their selection far beyond what any conventional gallery could hold.  We'd all cash in on the latest fad.

Except, of course, it didn't work out that way.  If you Google "art," you'll get over two billion hits.  And it seems like every one of those is some artist's or gallerys website.  Yet the ones who have made the most money from art on the web are the web designers, the hosting companies, and the other merchants providing services to those wanting to use the web to sell art, not the artists themselves.

The problem is that very few people will buy original art that they haven't actually laid eyes on.  Oh, a few artists with a well-established client base - patrons who know exactly what to expect from an artist - have some success with selling online.  But pretty much what really sells are reproductions:  prints, posters, et cetera.  Because there is a big difference in spending say $50 for a print and $5,000 for an original oil painting.  At Legacy, we'd only sell a couple of original pieces through our online gallery each year, barely enough to make it worthwhile.

But there is still value in using the web, for both the artist and the art patron, and a reason that we continued to expand and improve our online gallery at Legacy right up until we closed the business.  First off, it is a great way of advertising and promotion.  Get people to check out your website, and they'll become more familiar with the works you offer and maybe be tempted to come by and see a piece in person.  Secondly, it is a wonderful resource for information and communication, and many artists now include a blog in order to interact with their patrons, to explain their art and why they make it.

Thirdly, there are some people who will actually buy artwork directly from a website.  Related to this last point are large conglomerate sites which work to bring the largest number of visitors to see works and purchase them.  Check out such sites as http://www.askart.com/ or http://wwar.com/ or http://www.art.com/.  Here in Columbia, the Office of Cultural Affairs maintains the Artists' Registry at http://www.ocaregistry.com/ and there are plenty of individual and gallery websites by local artists.

Having a website is absolutely crucial for an artist in this day and age.  It is the fastest way to direct a patron to your new works, or to show a prospective gallery what you do.  The better the website, the better the quality of the images on it, the better the design, the more it is kept up to date, the more it will benefit both the artist and the patron.  But it is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and any artist who thinks that it is, is going to be sorely disappointed.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-present
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