It's a question that has plagued diversified creatives for as long as the internet has been a thing. And given the time, effort, and expense of setting up, tweaking, and maintaining just one effective website, when, if ever, should an artist consider having more than one website as a part of their overall marketing and communication strategy?
A Tale of Two Artists
One of my podcast listeners, Lorraine, recently reached out for a little wisdom on this very topic. Lorraine is a two-genre painter, creating both flower paintings as well as custom pet portraits. As she was in the process of putting her website together, she kept running into issues of fitting both sides of what she does creatively under one "roof" on the internet.
Again, it's a great problem, and one I've been asked about many times by the members of my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My rule of thumb on this is simple. If an artist is doing two or more creative things related to their career as an artist, I encourage them to have just one website to showcase and market their artistic endeavors.
In Lorraine's case, both of her creative genres are complementary. A good number of her pet portrait clients may likely be interested in her floral art, while a good number of her floral clients will have a beloved pet or two they may want to be memorialized through one of her custom pet portraits.
So, when should you have two websites? Well, that's simple. When your second business, venture, or hobby isn't closely related to what you do as an artist. In situations like this, you may want to consider having two separate websites. I'll use myself as an example of when to do this.
I have an artist website, where I showcase my baskets, woven sculpture, commissioned artwork, and the classes that I teach for other aspiring basket weavers. All of this information and my public persona as an artist lives under one roof at matttommey.com.
I also have a separate website that talks about my life and work as a mentor to artists. MattTommeyMentoring.com is the online portal where I talk about my books, conferences, and my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My mentoring website also houses this blog and all the episodes of my twice-weekly The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast.
I found out early on that very few of my basketry classes or woven sculpture clients were interested in what I did as an artist mentor and even fewer of my mentoring clients were interested in one of my commissioned wall pieces. The two sides of what I do creatively and as a mentor don't necessarily complement each other or connect with the same set of potential clients.
Making One Website Work For Everything You Do
It all starts with your home page. A good home page will evoke a connection, inspire, and make your visitors curious enough to click and continue the journey through other pages on your website. A great home page will speak to the visitor's aspirational desires, bringing needs to the surface that you can solve through your skills and talents as an artist.
So, in the case of someone like Lorraine who creates fine artwork, like her floral paintings as well as custom commissioned pet portraits, I always recommend having a couple of different “doors” on your homepage so that people can quickly see the full range of what you offer creatively.
Redundant Intuitive Doors Get Opened
Now these "doors" into the different sides of your artistic expressions should be both intuitive and redundant. The secret here is to make navigating your website easy for everyone, no matter how they like to journey through a website.
So, for an artist website, that means giving your visitors access to the various sides of your artistic personality via text-based navigational links in your menu and through graphic links that clearly communicate the scope and variety of your abilities through amazing images of your work.
Optimize Your Genre Specific Pages
Once you've created that great home page that highlights everything you do creatively, now you need to turn your attention to the genre-specific pages your site visitors will be visiting. So using our friend Lorraine as an example again, she'll want to have a page devoted to her custom pet portraits and one focused upon her fine floral art.
On the pet portrait page, I would encourage her to include past work examples that tell the story of her process. I would suggest she show examples of her source materials, like the photos she used in painting a portrait, show a picture of that custom portrait in process, and then finally a final shot or two of the finished piece, including one in situ if possible. I would finish out that page with information on the commissioning process and how a client can connect with her to get a portrait project started.
Now since her floral art pieces are most likely ready to purchase, I would recommend that this page include pieces of currently available work, along with the prices, as well as examples of few sold pieces in their final homes when possible. Again, I would make sure visitors to this page on her site can easily learn how to purchase originals and prints of her art, as well as how to connect with her for a commissioned floral creation.
Finally, creating genre-specific pages with unique pictures and descriptions greatly enhances your site's ability to be found on the internet. These become anchor pages for those topics and genres on your website, making them easier for your clients to find when searching for "custom pet portraits," for example.
It's All About the People
So whether you end up with one website or two for what you do, always keep your visitor, the prospective client's experience in mind. Your site should peak curiosity, showcase your talents, inspire and inform your visitor all while providing a clear, simple pathway for them to connect to you and the art you create.
I hope this has helped. Thanks for reading.
I talk a lot about journaling. It’s true. Journaling has been a big part of my spiritual life and my artistic life for years. Many people have asked me about journaling over the years, but most recently, Myra, one of my podcast listeners, reached out to me, looking for some guidance as she embarks on her own journaling journey.
What is a Journal, and why should I have one?
Unlike a mere diary, which is usually a record of events that have happened, a journal is a powerful tool for exploring new ideas that are still taking shape. It’s the physical manifestation of your creative headspace. It’s where your next big idea will be born, grow, and played with before it makes the leap off the page and onto your workbench or canvas.
It’s also a safe place. A judgment-free zone where you can push the boundaries of your creative process before committing your time and resources to flesh it out. For visual artists, this may be sketches, for poets, prose lines, for songwriters, lyrics. Not all of the ideas and notions committed to your journal will see the light of day, but that’s not the point.
Finally, for so many creatives, an art journal is a vault for stewarding creative ideas. The concepts you’re exploring in your journal today are the seeds of inspiration that will bear fruit in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.
What do I put in my journal?
The easy answer is “Whatever you want.” After all, it’s your journal, your tool for doodling with intent. I started journaling as a part of my spiritual processing with the Lord. It started with me writing and recording my prayers, and the dreams I felt came from God. That quickly evolved to include inspiring ideas, scripture verses, prophetic words, and quotes that meant a lot to me.
I realized pretty quickly that the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. Today, my journal lets me capture the creative interactions that take place between my spirit and the Holy Spirit during my quiet time with the Lord in the mornings and sometimes before I go to bed.
Over the years, I got into the habit of dating every entry to track how these ideas, inspirations, and promises from God played out over time. Just this past month, I reached a major membership milestone inside my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. We were in the middle of our latest membership launch when I realized that one of these God-given dreams had just come to pass.
Back in January of 2017, while spending time with the Lord, dreaming His dreams, and receiving His vision for the Mentoring Program, I wrote down the following divinely inspired goal…
Now while it took a few years longer for that original vision to come to pass, the point is it did! We’ve linked arms with over 2000 Kingdom-minded artists from all around the world, and we’ve been blessed with the tools and the team that made this dream a reality. And having the ability to pull an old journal off the shelf and see the faithfulness of God in action was an affirming faith-building moment I’ll always remember.
Do I need separate journals for my creative and spiritual journeys?
This is a great question, and in the end, the answer is just a matter of personal preference. I actually keep two journals at any given time. I have a journal that stays with me in the studio. This volume is more of a traditional artist’s sketchbook where I work through ideas, concepts, colors, sizes, and connections for my current and future projects.
At home, I keep what I would call a prayer journal. I continue the regular practice of recording the prayers, dreams, ideas, and visions I feel come from the Lord in this book. I’ve even developed my own set of marker codes to help me quickly find the goals I’ve set for myself and remember the inspired gems the Lord speaks to me in those early morning hours. It’s not anything fancy, just some rudimentary lines, scratches, and dots that help the important things stand out to me.
Now without fail, I’m sitting at home in the morning with my prayer journal when artistic inspiration strikes. Instead of regretting that my sketchbook is at the studio, I simply record that initial Holy Spirit inspired stream of consciousness there at home and transfer it later when I’m back in the studio. That seems to be the most natural process for me and allows me to get the thought out and record it when the inspiration strikes.
I’m ready to begin my journaling journey. How do I start?
Listen, if there is one practice in my life that has made the biggest difference in my relationship with the Lord and my ability to stay moving forward, it has been journaling. And now that you are ready to embark upon your own journaling odyssey, I encourage you to go out and get a great one.
A journal can be as simple as a $1 composition book from an office supply store or as fancy as a leather-bound journal from your local art store. I have a local artist fashion me a few hand-made journals each year. I love them because they are beautiful and they all match. At $60 to $70 a piece, these journals may seem like an indulgent splurge to some. But in reality, I see them as an annual investment in something that yields immense returns in my creative and spiritual life.
I sure hope this has been helpful. So if you are a long-time journaler or just starting on this journey, I’d love to see what your journal looks like. Post a picture of your journal, or journals, on Instagram, and tag me @TheThrivingChristianArtist.
Thanks for reading.
One of the things that makes art sales a lot of fun and a lot easier is having a unique, creative voice. It’s that recognizable style and aesthetic that makes people go, “Wow!” when they see a piece of your art. It’s the thing that lets them instantly recognize that work as yours when they see it at a store, in a gallery, or online.
My unique artistic voice helped me develop my reputation as a fine artist and become known in the marketplace. It has allowed me to stand out in a unique, profitable, and very fulfilling way.
So, how do you do this? How do you find your unique creative voice?
I don’t believe that your unique voice is something you find as much as I think that it emerges over time. It comes out as you’re in the studio, as you are doing the work, filling your creative well, and cultivating and nurturing your creative talents.
Over the years, I’ve found that artists journey through four phases on their path towards uncovering their unique creative style.
Emulation - We All Start Here
All of us start our artistic journeys in a place of emulation. We look at Pinterest, take classes, and find art and artists that inspire us. This process is as true for painters and potters as it is for sculptors and basket makers.
In this phase of your quest, you learn some initial techniques and start creating works inspired by what you’ve learned from a specific artist, class, book, or online video. And you stay here a while honing your skills, but then something begins to itch inside creatively speaking and you begin to take things a little further.
Exploration – Having a Look Around
Standing on the foundation of confidence and experience you’ve built up emulating others, you, like so many other creatives, begin to yearn for more. It begins with a single step out of your artistic comfort zone as you start exploring different artists, techniques, tools, and materials.
You move from the relative safety of copying others into an era of fearlessly exploring and pushing past your creative bounds. And as you do, you begin to discover and develop a cohesive expression of who you are as an artist that expresses itself through your creations. Your art’s tone and nature start to mature as you create beautiful, unique works that resonate with who you are as an artist.
Once I mastered several different basketry skills, I got bored. That began a quest to find that something more, that missing piece that would take my art to the next level. I explored different materials, treatments, surface designs, positioning, and shapes to incorporate into my baskets.
Even if I didn’t know it at the time, this creative quest’s goal was a unique creative aesthetic that told the world who I was as an artist and resonated with buyers out in the marketplace.
Maturing – It's Gonna Take Some Time
Now I’d like to tell you that the exploration phase of my journey was a safe, quick, and uneventful trip. It wasn’t. It took several years of working, testing, and pushing the boundaries of all that I had known artistically. Sure, I was turning out some beautiful pieces, but I made a lot of ugly ones along the way. The key was that I was always pushing, always exploring, always honing my skills, and cultivating the talents God gave me.
You have to understand that your journey of artistic exploration will, at times, be uncomfortable. You’ll spend as much time, energy, and resources discovering what you don’t like, don’t excel at, and are not called to do as you do finding what you do like, excel at, and are called to do. The secret is not to stop and not shortcut the process of growing, learning, and discovery on the way towards defining yourself and your artistic voice.
Autonomy – The Promised Land
But eventually, you move through emulation, complete your artistic exploration, mature creatively, and then you arrive at a place I call autonomy. Here is where your uniqueness begins to emerge. Everything starts to fall into place.
The techniques, materials, and inspiration you’ve worked with for so long just begin to click and work together. Suddenly, you start to recognize and embrace your unique creative voice, and so do your clients and potential clients in the marketplace. Your artistic individuality springs forth, and a maturity of skill and vision emerges in your work. That’s really how you find your unique artistic voice and style.
Trust the Process
I know this journey intimately. For me, it started back in the mid-90s when I started making baskets at 19 years old. I did that for 15 years just as a hobby, playing around with traditional patterns and materials until 2009 when I started exploring ways to create something unique and special.
Even though I started from a place of traditional basketry, my artistic autonomy began to emerge as I embraced unique materials, techniques, and shapes for my work. It took a couple of years, but all of that inspiration, exploration, and studio time began to pay off.
So to anyone ready to embark upon this epic quest, I would say this: Trust the Process.
But most of all, I think, just listen. Listen to your heart, listen to your materials, listen to the results of what you are creating, listen to the market and other artists that you respect. Give them all permission to speak into your work. Over time, as you do this, your unique voice will emerge.
I don’t know about you, but I get way too overwhelmed with Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Clubhouse, Linked In, and all of the different social media platforms out there. Part of me thinks they are wonderful because we have this incredible opportunity to share our ideas, our art, and to reach out to clients and friends while building community.
The other part is that it can sometimes feel gross, overwhelming, and even demeaning when the comments start rolling in. So as Kingdom artists, how do we find the balance between the real community we create online versus those random unhinged comments that pop up on your social media feeds?
What is Real Community?
There are several characteristics of authentic community. Number one, is real intimacy. Being vulnerable, transparent, and knowing each other’s heart is a huge part of the ground that real relationship is built upon. While this is best built face to face, this isn’t always possible or feasible. But given the technology we have available, real relational intimacy with people online is possible.
Secondly, real community is marked by an opportunity and openness to give and receive. We have all been in a one-sided relationship before where either it was us receiving something that somebody was trying to give that we didn’t necessarily want to hear, or vice versa. A healthy relationship needs a balance of both giving and receiving, sharing and taking equally so that one person isn’t being dominated by the other.
Thirdly, in a real community, people are invested in each other for the long term. These are people that you want to walk with and have chosen to share your time, energy, attention, and resources. These are the people you have chosen to focus on in your life because they are important to you, and hopefully, they feel the same way about you.
The real question is, how does real community differ from the comment driven “relationships” we all have on social media?
Who Are These People?
First of all, you really don’t know WHO most of those people are. We all have Facebook “friends” we barely know or have never even met in real life. When you think about it, you don’t know that much about them at all. You only see the happy high-points of their life and the stuff they choose to share in their posts.
These are not people you’re invested in. So many of your online interactions are based on algorithms and not on authentic connection. These are people that are like leaves; they blow in and out of your life, they are here for a moment, here for only a short season. For the most part, these are not the folks you have chosen to invest your time and energy into.
When you look at the Biblical concept of community, we are called into relationship with others so that we can complete one another. I am here to sharpen you, and you are here to do the same for me. Just like in a healthy body, a healthy community supports the members, supplying them with the support, comfort, and care they need. Again, this is a very different concept than the reality we face in our social media post-driven world.
A Healthy Community Supports Your Godly Identity
Diving in a little deeper, take a moment to answer these questions honestly. How do you define yourself, and who are you allowing to shape your identity? Of course, you can be defined by anything you want to be defined by, but from a Kingdom perspective, God’s best for us is that our identity comes from who Jesus says we are. Our identity is meant to come from the Word of God.
That’s the gold standard God intended for each of us. A healthy identity that comes from the Lord is designed to be reinforced and encouraged through a healthy community. The relationships you build inside a safe, supporting, and caring community are there to build you up in the Lord and equip you to be all that God has created you to be.
But those relationships, just like everything good in the Kingdom, have to be cultivated. It’s yet another case of reaping back what you’ve sowed. As you walk together with others in a life-giving community, your healthy, godly identity matures when you’re helping others do the same.
So, take a moment and ask yourself these questions?
As you continue to travel through this social media-driven landscape, it’s vital that you learn to temper your reactions to posts and comments based on the level of authentic connection you have with the commentator. When the relationship isn’t genuine, then take the feedback, whether good or bad, with a grain of salt.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you. I, for one, am glad that you are a part of my community.