Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Life Decisions: Becoming a Fine Artist by Matthew Bates

Life Decisions: Becoming a Fine Artist by Matthew Bates

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tuscan Summer Road

Here is a new painting by Matthew Bates which depicts a beautiful Tuscan landscape which he visited last Summer, a place called La Foce. The reseach of detail is evident in this painting which also has a sense of warmth from the Tuscan Sun which warmed this scene last July. The design entices us to follow the road back behind the trees into the unknown. Click on the painting to see a larger version.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Matthew Bates - Original Oil Paintings: Why Google Adsense is Good For The Internet

Matthew Bates - Original Oil Paintings: Why Google Adsense is Good For The Internet

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Creation of an Idea

By Matthew Bates www.mattbates.net

January 16th 2006

I have been painting for 22 years and in that time I have come across many different ways to create a piece of art. In art school we drew from the model almost every day until our fingers hurt. I was always covered in chalk and personally I didn’t like to look like a bum all of the time. Our teachers would describe to us the beauty of sitting in front of a subject to understand it’s qualities while we searched out for the contours and prayed that we would get better at drawing. Looking back at my time in the academy, I realize now that we were just trying to master the skills involved, with a sense of competition that really had nothing to do with art at all. We rarely talked about ideas, it was mostly about how the art would look as a finished product, something to present, something to sell. We talked a lot about styles and design, but I was not asked about inspiration, and it is of this that I will talk today.

Inspiration is one of the best things that I can hope for in my life as an artist. The best way to get inspiration is to go out and look for it. I take it as a given that there are thousands and thousands of subjects out there that are worthy of my attention. Life has a myriad of beautiful things just waiting to be captured by my imagination. I go out with the explicit intention of getting an idea. The tools that I use are my eyes and my trusty digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 5700. I used to take pictures with a normal camera, but since the advent of the digital age I have been able to increase the number of photos that I take while decreasing the time it takes to develop them. I use my camera to store my ideas. I also use my camera to see if an idea that I have had will work to create a painting. I may want to make a still life, and in my head I can picture what it should look like, yet when I see that results of the photos, I am often surprised to see that my idea won’t work as I had imagined. This helps to avoid bad unruly projects. I want my idea to be lucid before I start painting, so that the painting process is but an exercise.

For a subject to be truly inspirational, it must have depth. This means that the idea must include an emotion that sparks interest in the hearts and minds of people. It also should include space and if you are lucky, a sense of time as well. When I start a painting, I have a white 2 dimensional blank canvas. My goal is to create an image that seems to have depth. Without inspiration, the idea runs the risk of falling flat, probably because without inspiration, there is little or no passion and I lose interest in finishing the painting. That is one of the reasons that I spend so much time working out whether an idea is any good or not. Here is my checklist for creating an idea for a painting:

1) Either get an inspiration, or go out looking for one
2) Take preparatory photos to see if the idea works or not
3) Elaborate the photos on the computer to enhance the idea, in some cases I put many photos together to create a larger image. I like to use design elements such as the Fibonacci series or other mathematical elements to enhance the idea and place it in a sound structural format. I also figure out the size of the painting, whether it be a big painting or a small painting.
4) I usually wait a while to see if I still like the idea after the initial rush of creating it. If the idea falls flat, I dump the project, if the idea looks great even after a few days of sitting on the desktop of my computer, then it will look great forever.
5) I buy the materials and get to work!

Creating art is a opportunity to express our inspirational moments. Sometimes the idea that I get is so strong that I get chills down my spine, and it is all that I think about until the project gets started. I am always wary about my ideas, because I know that they can be less than perfect. By elaborating my ideas through the camera and the computer I am able to see clearly what I am up against. I spend months on one project so I want it to be a good one before I get started. I guess that I am lucky that I like realistic subjects, this process would be harder if I was still making abstract art. Inspiration is a very personal experience, to be able to translate this experience into a work of art is a wonderful thing to be able to do and I want to present the best translation possible.

Matthew Bates Painting Galleries:
Flowers - Still Life - Cityscapes - Landscapes - Statues - Email

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why Google Adsense is Good For The Internet

By Matthew Bates www.mattbates.net

I am the webmaster of my own site which is dedicated to the promotion of my artwork and has been on-line since 2000. Now, thanks to my website www.mattbates.net thousands of people have seen my paintings and I have a worldwide marketing tool. Try and get an agent to work so hard for you! In the creation of my website I have had to follow the ups and downs and trends of internet use. My website is generating lots of traffic and people are seeing my portfolio on a daily basis all over the world. So what is next? I believe that the future of my on-line business and the future of the internet is in the form of Google Adsense.

Google Adsense is an ingenious program that brings together people with websites, and people who want to advertise on the internet. What is really cool about this program is that it is able to scan each one of the pages on your website and look for keywords which match the ads that they provide. For example: if you have a website about gardening, Google scans your site and determines which of its ads will fit into your site, providing interesting links to other gardening sites, and you have full control to block any ads that are in direct competition with your site. Whenever anyone clicks on one of the ads on your site, you get paid. Certainly you don't get paid much, usually between 10cents and 50cents per click, but they start to add up, and when you have accumulated $100,00 Google sends you a check.

So why is Google Adsense good for the internet? Simple, one of the big problems with the internet today is that it is stagnant. Most sites are so static that they beg people to never come back. It seems like most people have no interest in updating their websites at all, and this is not good for the internet. The internet should react like a TV station, always in movement and always something different. Google feels the same way about this and that is why they love sites like WashingtonPost.com (they gave it a Pagerank™ of 9 out of 10), it is different every day, adding fresh content to the internet on a constant basis. Of course, you probably don't have a large staff to update your site, however, if you put Google Adsense ads on your site then they will add new links every day, updating your site, links that are pertinent to the subject of your site, and links that your visitors will like to see.

Another reason that Google Adsense is a good idea is simply because the links that are placed on your site have paid to be there. This means that when your visitor clicks on the adsense link, they are going to a professional website which is up to date. Nobody would pay to advertise a site that is under construction or otherwise unavailable. Every so often, I have to go through my reciprocal links page and check to see if the sites that I have exchanged links with are still there. It is upsetting to find that someone has dropped your link, or closed their site down without telling you. It happens all of the time and it is bad for the quality of the internet, and for search engines, that get confused following dead links when they should be indexing new content.

Google has been on the forefront of internet technology for a while now and I think that their Adsense program is absolutely their best yet. When people start really surfing the ads, then the internet will start to become the dynamic, ever changing environment that it was meant to be. It is free to join and there are no expenses to you at all. All you have to do is place a small bit of code unto your existing pages and you will begin to see actual revenue created by your website.

If you have a website and would like to sign up for the Google Adsense program, then click on this banner to get started right away.

Sign me up for Google Adsense

Matthew Bates Painting Galleries: Flowers - Still Life - Cityscapes - Landscapes - Statues - Email

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Promoting Your Artistic Website on the Internet

A Simple Introduction to SEO

January 10, 2006

By Matthew Bates www.mattbates.net

Part 1 / Part 2

I like to surf around the internet looking for interesting sites by fellow artists. One of the things that I have noticed is that even if a website is well made, in many cases it is right off the map in a no-man’s land that is paramount to internet death. If your site is getting little or no visitors, you have two choices, one is to forget about having a website, and the other is to read this article and learn what it takes to get thousands of visitors to your site.

The Internet is like a TV, with several billion channels. Every web page is a different station and every page is competing for your attention. One of the best things about having an artistic website is that you have art to show, which in internet is absolute gold. Most websites have very little actual content to show, and without content there is little to talk about. Your artwork is content, and very good content at that. Given that you are starting at an advantage, let’s talk about what you should do to get your website on the map.

1) Get indexed by Google. This is a very simple procedure all you have to do is click on this link and fill out all of the necessary forms. It is free and without strings attached.

2) Add your site to DMOZ. This is also free, and is a listing that will add credibility to your site. This directory is put together by people, and not by random internet spiders that happen upon your site. This means that someone will actually look at your site and approve of it for insertion into their directory. This may take a few weeks as there is always a line, but it is also without strings attached, so it is worth the wait.

3) Join a large arts organization, such as Absolute Arts. They have a free inclusion and a premium inclusion, both offer you the chance to show your art in another place other than your personal website. They give you the chance to link back to your website from theirs which is a great thing because it shows that you have important links coming in to your site. All of the major search engines look for incoming links to your website and the more links you have the better it is for you.

4) Create a reciprocal links page. This is a part of your site where you put links to other artistic website's. Make sure that the links you put are reciprocal, in other words that the outgoing links have a incoming link to your website from the other website. The best way to go about getting reciprocal links is to surf the web looking for sites that are similar to yours. Then add a link to their site in your links page and send a very brief email to the webmaster of the other site saying: “Hi! I love your site and would be honored to exchange links with you. I have already placed a link back to your site at this page http://www.mysite.com/links.html and will keep it there for two weeks. If you will add a reciprocal link to my site, your link will become permanent. If your would like to change to link description please let me know. Thanks again for your time. Best regards,". By doing this you will create a network of artists that will link to your site adding much needed incoming links for your site.

5) Here is a tricky part which most people overlook completely. I want you to go back over your site and rename everything. Most people don’t realize what a goldmine they have just sitting in their web site. With the advent of the image search on all major search engines the artist has been given a free "get exposure card" by the search engines. The reason for this is that at least half of your website is made up of images. I have been getting so much traffic from the image search that it is really worth a good hard look at how this works. Every image has an alt tag which names it. Many people forget to use this when making their websites. Sure, you may have named the artwork below it on the page, but for the search engines that means very little compared to the alt tag. In Dreamweaver, open your page and click on the image of your artwork, in the properties box you will find a section marked alt. Write in the name of the artwork, and here is the kicker, name the artwork something that someone will actually write into a search engine. I can guarantee you that no one will ever search for “Yellow chrome #115”. It is much better to name your artwork “Still Life with Sunset in California” These are words that will be typed by someone who will by total chance see your art and be happy. Another very important factor is the title of your page. Every page should have the title of the artwork in the title tag and your name, and a short description of your work. Here is a good title tag: Still Life with Sunset in California by Yourname who paints in Oils. It is a good title because it fits nicely on the top of the browser and includes some juicy keywords for the search engines to find. I think that the title tag is the most important factor in making your website visible, so be smart about using it. Never add too many keywords to the title tag, as this will spell death to your website. Too many people have tried to trick the search engines with these ridiculous attempts to get exposure, when after all, the best way is to show that you have content and to make it known what this content is. The rest will come with time.

Part 1 / Part 2

Matthew Bates Painting Galleries: Flowers - Still Life - Cityscapes - Landscapes - Statues - Email

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Make Your Own Artistic Website

How to Make Your Own Website

by Matthew Bates www.mattbates.net

This is an article specifically oriented for visual artists who want to create their own websites, however the principals involved work for the creation and promotion of any website.

Step 1 / Step 2 / Step 3 / Step 4

Let me introduce myself, I am an artist who works primarily as a painter of realistic subjects in oil paint on canvas. This article is about how I created my website www.mattbates.net and how I have promoted it to help my evolving artistic career. Visual artists are particularly suited for website promotion because the medium of the internet is very good for the transmission of our images. In the next few pages I will describe how I made my website and all that I ask you to do is to take a few deep breaths and relax, this stuff is easy, it only becomes difficult when we rush through certain steps and make a mess of things. When I started out 5 years ago I had no idea what to do to make a website, now I have made many, and my personal website has had thousands and thousands of visitors from every country you can name.

Step 1: Gather Your Primary Materials

You will need good photographs of your artwork, if you do not have them, I suggest that you focus on this first. You can take good pictures yourself with a digital camera. I prefer digital cameras for internet use because you go from digital to digital, it is a smooth transition. You don·t need to spend a fortune on your camera, because the image that you will be using will be optimized (and small) for use on the Internet. I will get into how to optimize the images a little later in this article. Place the artwork on an easel, or flat on the wall. You should have at least two good light sources on the right and left of the artwork coming in at a 45° angle. If you do not have good lighting, sunlight works well as a substitute. Be sure to place the lights in a way that there is no glare on the artwork's surface. You want to create an image of the art, not what it looks like in a room. Now place your camera on a tripod in front of the artwork. Position the Camera so that it is exactly in the center of the piece. Turn off the flash on your camera as this will only splash unnecessary light onto the painting. Place your head down by the camera and look again at the painting to make sure that there is still no glare on the art, it can change from a standing position to the point of view of the camera which is lower. Now place the camera setting on automatic and make sure that you have it on it·s highest quality setting for the photo. If you can make the camera take a TIFF image instead of a JPG as the quality is much higher. Now that you are ready, the lighting is perfect, the artwork is centered, set the timer on the camera to 10 seconds and take the picture. Just for safe keeping, take at least another shot as well.

Set your Artwork on an easel and light the piece from the sides avoiding all possible glare.

Now take the camera over to your computer and download the images into a folder in your hard disk. Create a folder which has your name on it, then in a sub-folder, called Artwork place your images. To elaborate the images I use Adobe Photoshop. If this is out of your price range, there are several low cost and free programs that you can use. A free program is The Gimp, which is a valid alternative to Photoshop. A great low cost program is Jasc·s Paint Shop Pro which costs considerably less than Photoshop. Photoshop also has a discount version called Photoshop Elements which can be used as well. Open the file in your graphics program. You will find that all around the painting there is extra borders from the wall that need to be cropped out. Take the cropping tool and carefully crop the painting so that only the image remains. In Photoshop go to the image menu and choose Adjustments>Auto Levels. Nine times out of ten the image looks great and ready to be saved. Sometimes you need to try the Brightness and Contrast which is Image>Adjustments>Brightness & Contrast to get the desired look. When the painting looks right we need to change its dimensions for the web. Go to the Navigator and punch it up to 100%. You may find that your image is incredibly large. At this point go to the Image menu and choose Image Size. You will find lots of numbers on the width and length sides, these are pixel numbers, it is a form of measure. If the amount of pixels is not showing then from the drop down menu choose pixels. Your image should not exceed the normal viewing area of a computer screen which is somewhere around 800 x 600 pixels. This is the maximum amount which will fill many screens and take a longer time to download on a dial-up modem, so I would suggest that the width should not exceed 600 pixels. Enter this amount and press Return. Now go to the file menu of Photoshop and choose Save for Web. This is an ingenious tool which customizes your images to be published on-line. Set the quality setting at 65% and make sure it is set to Jpeg, then click on Save. You will be asked to save the file in a certain folder, choose your Artworks folder and name the artwork its name, not "painting number1", its actual name. This is important because you will receive traffic on the internet because you remembered to actually name your painting. Most of my paintings show up favorably on Search engine results because of these simple factors. The name of your painting becomes a keyword, a keyword is simply what people write when they make a search. So name your paintings with keywords in mind. Think of what people will write and use those words. This is a good strategy to drive traffic into your site. Now that you know how to prepare your images, set up all of your paintings or Photos, or whatevers in the same file, which can contain sub-folders if you have a lot of work. Name the Sub-folders with keywords as well. Don·t write ·July 2005 Paintings· as a folder name. ·Landscapes· is much more useful keyword to promote your site. Try to be truthful about your keyword descriptions. Search engines hate it when people try to cheat their systems. Remember, there are no shortcuts to getting visibility on-line, there is a system, a system that awards content. You as an artist have lots and lots of content. This is absolutely in your favor.

Now you are going to make the thumbnail image of your artwork. A thumbnail image is a smaller image which works like a button on your webpage. Thumbnail images are really important because they give your internet visitor the possibility to see many of your paintings all at once before they commit to downloading a larger image. It is also nice to be able to show several of your artworks at once to give an overview of your body of work. Operating in Photoshop, you still have the image that you saved for the web up on your screen. Go to the image menu and choose Image size. In the width section write: 115 pixels, making sure that the "keep dimensions" box is checked. Press Return and you will see a much smaller version of your artwork on the screen. Now go to the File menu and choose Save for Web. Save the image in the same folder as its larger version and name it the same name as the original artwork, with Thumb at the end of the name Example: Artwork-Name-Thumb.jpg. Photoshop will add this little minus symbol between the words, and it is a good idea because in hypertext markup language blank spaces are substituted with ugly symbols like %20 which are not good for your placement in the search engines. Remember that the more organized your site is the better it will be for the search engines to index your material.

Now that your artwork is optimized for the web, you should put together a short, and I mean short, biography. No more than two typewritten pages are necessary. Nobody on-line is going to read the book of your life. Include all of the shows you have participated in, your contact information, and a small photo of yourself. This should be the most boring page (graphically) in your entire site, so that if people feel like it they can easily print this page for their records. So remember keep it simple! Save the file in the folder with your name on it and put it in a sub-folder with the title Biography.

Step 1 / Step 2 / Step 3 / Step 4

Matthew Bates Painting Galleries: Flowers - Still Life - Cityscapes - Landscapes - Statues - Email