Where Are The Bees? IV, watercolor, 30×22, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel on display at the Benedicta Arts Center in St. Joseph, MN, February 25-April 4, 2012

My newest art exhibition of watercolors is called Aviary, Apiary. It will focus on environmental concerns through poetic and sometimes symbolic representations of birds and bees.  It will be on exhibition at the Benedicta Arts Center in the College of St Benedict in St Joseph, Minnesota  from February 15th to April 4th 2012, with a reception near the end of its run on March 30th.  Twin Cities artist Christine Baeumler will also be showing a multi-media installation on the same theme that  reflects upon the vitality and fragility of bird and insect life.

All artists who have spend months developing a body of artwork for exhibition, or prepared to perform in a play or  concert, know that the creating the art is only half the work.  The other half is finding a way to let your audience where and when and how they can access the aesthetic  experience you hope to offer them.

I was talking to an artist friend, Mary Kay Neumann recently about how we might spread the word about an exhibition she has coming up next month (“Art Still Has Truth, Take Refuge There”, opening March 24, 2012, PilateSpa Studio, Madison, WI).   We talked about how she was updating her e-mail and snail-mail contact lists, and about the press release she has planned to send to her press list.  We also talked about using on-line social networking media to spread the word.

Over the last few years I have been building my on-line presence as an artist a bit at a time both to grow my art community and to make my creative work more visible.  Since the topic is relevant, I promised Mary Kay I would use this blog entry to review some of the steps I have taken to use social media to raise the visibility of my art and make it more accessible to a wider audience.

Pollinators I, watercolor, 8x5, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel

Creating an Social Media Network From A Hub

There are lots of different ways for an artist to approach developing an on-line presence and build a social media network to bring visibility to their art. Developing a social media network is really developing an electronic way to stay in touch with people you know, and to meet and build relationships with others who share your interests.  The key word here is ‘relationship.’ That implies a two-way street.  You share what you are doing, what you are interested in, what may be useful for other to know about as well as respond to what others offer you.  If all you do is post about yourself you won’t be maintaining good relationships.

Its taken me a while to learn that in  building an online presence you don’t have to be overwhelmed by all the on-line media available to you, nor do you need to use it all.  It makes sense to only  establish accounts in on-line media you can maintain with regular updates. The best approach is to choose one of the many tools available to you as the hub of your on-line presence and then build from there. A website or a blog can be the hub of your on-line presence, whichever one is a better fit for you.  It can then be linked to other vehicles like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.


It is a whole new world in terms of websites, and if you are not someone who can build your own (me either) there are plenty of places willing to design one for you or sites that allow you to customize templates to create your own.

My first web presence was  on the free Portal Wisconsin On-line Gallery .  The visibility the Portal Wisconsin Gallery gave me several opportunities, including having my art requested for use for a book cover to being asked to allow the use of my art on CDs given as pledge premiums for one of my favorite Wisconsin Public Radio shows, To the Best of Our Knowledge.

Happily this opportunity still exists for Wisconsin artists who apply despite recent budget cuts to the member organizations of the Cultural Coalition of Wisconsin.  Its sponsoring organizations include: Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters | Wisconsin Arts Board | Wisconsin Historical Society| Wisconsin Humanities Council | Wisconsin Library Association | Wisconsin Public Radio | Wisconsin Public Television | University of Wisconsin-Extension–Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning

I maintain my presence in the Portal Wisconsin Gallery even though I now have my own artist website.  (I am in the process of transforming my current website to make it easier for me to update myself.  I’ll show it off once its revised.)

Teaching Art Online

In addition to my artist website I have used the very flexible website platform Weebly.com to build a website for my teaching, called Creativity Lessons.    Weebly offers free websites and blog with easy to use templates for FREE.  If you want to be able to sell products or services on your site you will have to pay a reasonable annual fee.  That is what I did.

Thorn Birds, watercolor, 30 x 22, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel

Art Sales Sites:

I have several places my paintings, prints and related items are available for sale on-line.  I  self-maintained two on-line stores.  These kinda of venue are useful for artists willing to work hard to drive traffic to their stores themselves.  For minimal fees they are very easy to use in terms of uploading art and maintaining a sales site that is easy for a buyer to use.

  • Etsy is an on-line community for Do It Yourself (DIY) artists and crafters, and people selling art supplies and vintage goods.  My shop is called HelenKlebesadelArt
  • I am also exploring a newer on-line sales platform called Meylah, which does a great job of integrating blog technology in their shops.  This venue is especially designed to allow the inclusion and sales of tutorials and digital products as well as art and crafts. My Shop is Helen Klebesadel: Watercolors, Prints, and Fabrics.
  • I additionally have my  watercolors and giclees prints available for sale on the Artful Home website (previously GUILD.com).  This site functions like a brick and mortar gallery in that after an artist is juried in and pay an initial fee to join the site takes 50% of sales.  The fee is well worth it because of the international reach of site’s art collecting audience and the work they do to market and make the site and its artists visible.

There are other on-line sales venues, several with  huge user communities and thousands of buyers using the platforms daily.  None-the-less it is still up to you to drive an audience to your store.  Most individuals who find your store will have been directed to it from another place: a blog, Facebook, etc.

Print on Demand Fabric Designs

For the past three years I have spent a fair amount of time turning some of my paintings and watercolor experiments into fabrics designs.  I have well over 100 designs that can be found on my page at Spoonflower.com.  This has been a grand adventure. The Spoonflower Community is full of interesting and creative people exploring the possibility of this new media that extends the possibility of fiber arts in so many ways.  If you are interested in designing your own fabrics  I have a free tutorial in my Meylah shop that will show you how you can turn your artworks into fabric designs.

Prairie Plenty Fabric Design, available at http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/115279


Social Networking sites:

I have a Facebook Fan Page, which allows me to announce my art events to those who have chosen to sign up to receive the announcements.  Unlike a regular Facebook Page your followers don’t have to become ‘friends’ and share all their personal information to follow you on a Fan Page.

I am also a LinkedIn participant.  This is a professional business-oriented platform that has you make ‘connections’ rather than ‘friends,’ There are may useful affinity groups you can join that share useful resources.  LinkedIn, like the other social media platforms, have helped me stay i touch with friends and acquaintances and meet others who share my interests and passions.

Pollinators II, watercolor, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel

I also have my blog, Facebook, Linked in and my sales sites all automatically attached to a Twitter Account that let me share my postings to my followers with one post.

Other Fun Sites

The Arts Map is an interactive website connecting artists, the arts, and the community. You can us it to find artist’s studios, arts organizations, arts events, galleries, museums, & more.  I put myself on the map here.

I have just started to use Youtube to post a couple of watercolor demos.  I hope to work with a friend to develop more virtual lessons and share them.

Exhibbit is a wonderful virtual exhibition platform that allows artists to create and change online gallery exhibitions whenever we want. You can see a video overview of my exhibition here or you can go directly to the  Exhibbit site and see what its like to move through a virtual exhibition at your own pace.  You will have to download the media program to move through my Flora and Fauna exhibition at your own pace.

The Brooklyn Museum’s  Feminist Art Base, is the first online digital archive dedicated solely to feminist art. A project of the museum’s  Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, with the mission to ‘present feminism in an approachable and relevant manner, to educate new generations about the meaning of feminist art, and to raise awareness of feminism’s cultural contributions.’

The Behance Network is a n online platform to showcase and discover creative work. They allow creative professionals to create multi-media portfolios that showcase their work within the Network, as well as dozens of other partner sites and industry-specific, curated online galleries.  (I have my portfolio embedded in my LinkedIn profile.)

None of these approaches are necessary to being an artist.  Being in the studio and making the art that matters to you is the first and most important thing to do.  But when it comes time to share your art and advertise your exhibitions, nothing compares to a good mailing list (and email list) and a solid social networking strategy.

Pollinators III, watercolor, 9x8, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel

I didn’t build my on-line presence all at once. I’ve grown it slowly but surely, one step at a time, as I have had time and attention to take the next step.  I do spend a little time on these projects almost everyday, but I have to make sure I maintain a balance between keeping my virtual presence up to date while limiting my time on-line to ensure it doesn’t intrude into my studio time.

So I say, make good art and share it widely.  I’d love to hear about what has worked best for you and about any new opportunities in the ever-growing world of social media.