Establishing an online presence is crucial these days. Every artist is expected to have their portfolio out in the open for the world to see, but how does anyone even find anything with so much being posted online? Well, last week, I thought it was time to learn about what SEO is and what I should be doing. As it turns it, it's all important stuff.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. That's a very technical term for how you get Google to like you. Google is programmed to determine whether your content is good or bad. A good SEO score means that anyone who is searching for you or for what you do is going to find your website quickly and easily.
Making your website SEO-friendly just means that more visitors will find your website. Imagine your website as a your shop and SEO as your shop front. Your shop might sell the best things in town but if your shop front needs a makeover, you're not going to get many visitors. Instead, you want a clean shop front which is easy to find, one that looks trustworthy and attractive to potential customers. If you keep polishing your sign and you put some pretty lights in the window, then Google will move your shop to a busier, better street in the city. That's what you want.
How do I make my website SEO-friendly?
Just like with hashtags on social media, it's really simple. Your content should include buzzwords and short phrases that are really relevant to what you do. These are called keywords. Unlike with hashtags, less is more.
See the image above? The Google preview should look familiar. Since this is what appears in the search results, it's crucial to get it right. The blue link is called a title tag, the green link is your website URL and the black text is your meta description. For your title tag and meta description, you need to use keywords to summarise everything you do in a few words. My green ticks mean that Google approves.
Keywords state who are you are, e.g. "illustrator". "portrait artist", where you are based, e.g. "North East", "Sunderland", and what you do, e.g. "private and commercial commissions". Your call-to-action is important too because it gives visitors a focus on what to do, e.g. "contact for a free quote". That's it. Just be clear, there's no need to dive into your CV just yet.
If you're like me and you're not into coding, and you've used a website builder to create your own website, then you're able to make every page and blog post SEO-friendly. I use Weebly but there's also Wix, WordPress and Squarespace to name a few and apparently they're all quite similar. With Weebly, you can make your pages SEO-friendly by going through your Blog Editor, into each page and into SEO Settings.
See the image above? Up until last week, everything on the left was blank. I didn't understand what information was supposed to go where and how much of it. But by following the pattern of the Google preview in the last image, you can edit your blue title tag link, your green page URL link and your black text meta description here. You also have meta keywords which are essentially just your hashtags. Whereas, last time I was writing for my website as a whole, this page is for a specific project in my portfolio. So, your descriptions change each and every time to suit the page or blog post.
Tips and Tricks:
Improving your SEO score further can be tricky. Some website builders are better programmed than others for certain aspects of SEO-friendliness. Some things you can't just re-code yourself if you haven't got a clue what you're doing. But here are some easy things you can do to start improving your online presence.
A short custom domain name
If you're ready to buy your own domain name, that's great. Google approves. Google also thinks that the longer you have your domain name registered and renewed, the more trustworthy you are. Keep your online address short and sweet so people can remember how to find you.
Alt text on images
All of your images should have alt text descriptions for two reasons. Number one, computers can't see and they rely on text to decide what is good and bad. Missing descriptions mean that your images might as well be invisible to Google. That's bad, especially if you are an artist or your work is mostly visual. Number two, visually impaired visitors to your website rely on alt text for the context of images. Keep your descriptions to 150 characters maximum, including spaces.
Font size legibility
Make sure that your website's text is big enough to read on all devices. That's pretty self-explanatory. Your headers and titles should be bigger than your body text. Large text is trendy at the moment at about 16px but as long as it's comfortable to read, Google approves.
Use a contact form on your website. Don't type out your business email address and certainly don't publish your personal one. This encourages spam and Google is not a fan. I didn't know this, so I had an angry red cross for sharing my business email before switching to a contact form.
Link up the holy trinity of social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to your website. If you don't have accounts on these platforms, consider signing up. Google and potential customers alike want businesses to brand themselves and engaging in social media marketing.
It's good to give credit where credit is due. Google wants to see you linking your website to other websites and vice versa. So, if anyone was to read this blog post and then link my website to their own, we would both be better off. The more links you build up over time, the more your online reach grows and the more your SEO score improves.
So, there you have it. I'm brand new to all of this too but I'm already seeing a rise in visitors to my website. If you're interested in finding out how I discovered out my SEO score for free, please leave a comment below. Let me know if you want me to share how I monitor my web traffic or if you'd like to see another post about SEO in the future. Be sure to hit like down below if you found this helpful and follow me on social media for regular art updates.
At long last! After high hopes, interrupting illnesses and weeks of waiting, I finally got to experience the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in my hometown. Following a captivating lecture last month with Martin Clayton from the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle, read my blog post here — I was expecting nothing short of amazement to see Da Vinci's works with my own eyes.
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens certainly did not disappoint. As Martin had explained, each of the twelve cities which are holding exhibitions to mark the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death received a fair distribution of the drawings held by the Royal Collection Trust. Within the exhibition at Sunderland, you can see examples of Da Vinci's portraiture, his medical illustrations, his cartography commissions, botanical drawings, costume designs and his military interests. It's clear that a lot of thought had been put into how this display was curated. There's something for everybody.
The exhibition had a clear layout, showing a visual timeline of Da Vinci's life through his works. Each piece was accompanied by a wealth of information which naturally guided us around the room. My boyfriend and I were pleasantly surprised that the exhibition comfortably lasted its full duration of one hour. Although an hour was the allocated time slot which was stated on our tickets, the gallery itself isn't too big and there was no guided tour to fill up our time.
That being said, outside of the gallery, there was a seating area with a recorded video which explained Da Vinci's technical process and delved into the background information of what was on display. This was a good spot to wait and brush up on the facts before going in. Honestly, there was no real need for a guided tour. Our mid-afternoon booking had reached full capacity and the atmosphere was relaxed and informal with visitors meandering around the room, enjoying the exhibition at their own pace.
We were so taken aback by the actual size of Leonardo da Vinci's works. His handwriting was minute. It became more cramped and messy the further he got down the page which was so relatable. In a way, the subtleties of his doodles and the faint errors in his drawings were even more magnificent than the pieces which were worked up to full completion. In every piece of work, however, his genius still undoubtedly shines through.
One man brought a magnifying glass which was a brilliant idea that I highly recommend. Da Vinci's artworks are filled to the brim with the finest of details at a scale so tiny, we were just glad there was no rope to keep us at a distance. Whether you're an art enthusiast or just curious to see what all the fuss is about, this exhibition at Sunderland is a must-see if you're anywhere nearby. After all, it's not everyday you get so close to 500 year-old drawings from one of the most well-known artists in history.
For just £2.50, don't miss out. It's on until 6th May at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Yesterday marked International Women's Day 2019 and women all over the globe were spending their time celebrating, loving, protesting and resisting. What made me decide to really get involved with International Women's Day 2019 was my commission for the North East Equality Awards 2018. My project celebrated 100 years since women in the UK first achieved the right to vote. Producing artwork which was socially aware like this made me feel proud. I knew I was saying something worthwhile with my creative voice. So, I got in touch with Katy from Hope Street Xchange and joined a line-up of charities and speakers for a morning of empowerment in my hometown. Katy requested that I draw Smart Works' new Royal Patron, Duchess Meghan, for the occasion. You can view all three of my poster designs here in my portfolio.
I was over the moon when Harpy magazine found me on Twitter after I tweeted my poster designs. On 2nd March, they released an article about my work for this event. Harpy is based in Leeds and is ran by women for women. One of the writers, Althaea, interviewed me and asked me some thought-provoking questions, including why I chose to include Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai as part of my trio to showcase at Hope Street Xchange. I explained:
Collectively, I think that they do well to represent the current generation of women who are making a difference today. All three women come from varying backgrounds but they are working towards this common goal of equality. They are each leading many young girls by example and it is uplifting to see.
Althaea gave me and the event itself fantastic coverage and she wrote about my previous works too, including my pro-diversity FMP for university, Unite This Kingdom. Quite honestly, I could not have wished for a better report about what I was doing. If you want to see my interview responses and more, click here to read the article on Harpy.
This week, I had the misfortune of battling a heavy cold. So, I took the pressure out of a rushed morning with an 8:30AM start and I went to set up my display the evening beforehand. On 7th March, I met with Katy and I was finally able to put a face to the name after quite a bit of emailing. She gave me an ideal table space in the foyer, exactly where our break and networking would be held. I brought a stack of business cards as my display was guaranteed to have a lot of passing foot traffic. My illustrations stood proudly beside Sunderland Foodbank's donations stall and opposite Smart Works' clothing rack, where people would be able to donate ladies' workwear to disadvantaged women with job interviews. The Red Box Project was also there to take sanitary product donations and give them to girls in schools to combat period poverty.
On the day, I arrived bright and early for the conference and I was instantly hooked by the intimate personal stories of strong women. Many of the speakers had battled illnesses, left violent relationships, struggled through single motherhood, suffered with low self-esteem and overcame hardships which inspired to achieve big in education and employment. These women were highly accomplished while sharing vulnerable anecdotes which brought a few tears to the eyes of a diverse room, including men, as well as big rounds of applause. During the Q&A, all of the speakers were presented with beautiful bouquets of flowers and were asked to reiterate their main message for us all to take away from International Women's Day. Some of their positive responses included:
Spark FM were airing their Spark Breakfast radio show live from the event. It is available on Listen Again for a week. While I didn't strike up a conversation with the presenters, I did get a chance to chat with plenty of guests about my work during the refreshments break and lunch when many of my business cards were taken. A lovely bonus to the vibrant morning.
Did you know that International Women's Day has its roots in the United States? After New York held a Women's Day in 1909, it became an annual event the following year. It has touched many of our hearts since then. Here's to striving for an equal future and to wondering what may change in 2020. Until next year, ladies.
To me, Leonardo da Vinci meant the Mona Lisa, the Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper, all while making a conscious effort not to slip up and accidentally say Leonardo Di Caprio. Little did I know about the extent of Da Vinci's colourful career, until yesterday when I attended the most enthusiastic lecture delivered by Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings for Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle. Not an everyday occurrence in Sunderland. Clayton's passion was absolutely infectious as he discussed everything from Da Vinci's greatest works to tidbits of information that painted him in a much more human light.
The first thing which blew my mind a little bit was that Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and he wrote his extensive personal notes perfectly mirrored from right-to-left. This differentiated his own studies from his commissioned works when he wrote in the usual way of left-to-right. Isn't that just weirdly cool? Saying that, I did understand Da Vinci's thorough approach, as I too take great pride in my sketchbooks, annotations and all of that preparatory work. Clayton explained that this was much more about Da Vinci's own character and perfectionism rather than what was actually required of him. It was typical of Da Vinci to go above and beyond what was necessary. Touché. While that might sound stuffy and scholarly, this thinking was applied to all aspects of his life. He is known to have been very fashionable, taking great pride in his appearance while obviously loving the finer details and accuracy of proportions in his artworks. Da Vinci often drew focus to careful hand gestures and the decorative elements, such as ornate hairstyles and draped clothing. My goodness, Leo, illustrating hair is the bane of my life but I know how fulfilling it is once it's all done.
Leonardo da Vinci was a multidisciplinary artist. He was an illustrator, a painter, a muralist, a mapmaker, a costume designer and so much more. He had a very scientific mind and a thirst for knowledge which was limited not by his own curiosities, but routinely interrupted by political turmoil during the Italian Renaissance, meaning that he left behind a trail of unfinished projects. Clayton thankfully told us about the lulls in Da Vinci's career too.
While Michelangelo was busy painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo was drawing cats. Martin Clayton
Phew. It was reassuring to hear that Da Vinci was no stranger to competition and there were times when he simply couldn't measure up to his younger contemporaries, despite how seriously he took his craft. After all, Da Vinci had been earnestly signing and dating his work since his earliest known sketches, which was not standard practice at that time for the masters of art, let alone for a 23-year-old with no reputation and little creative experience. Despite that, Da Vinci must have had big dreams that his illustrations would one day be viewed by many.
So, as a 23-year-old illustrator with a constant want for perfectionism and preoccupation with detail, much like Leonardo da Vinci, I left the lecture feeling hopeful that maybe one day I could be drawing cats while some younger and more popular woman is busy painting a new wonder of the world. Just kidding. Maybe I can create my own Mona Lisa someday too.
Dreaded January. Naturally, I was expecting the post-Christmas blues from the Monday of months. Much to my surprise, however, the New Year kicked off to a very interesting start. With the long overdue set-up of my online shop (click here to view), I now have an exciting platform which will allow me to take commissions from further afield and I can finally sell prints as well. Limited edition prints have been on my to-do list for ages. In other news, I am exhibiting two prints for sale in a cosy pub called The Cannon Inn which is tucked away in the country village of Earsdon, Whitley Bay.
Then, in mid-January, a huge achievement swept me off my feet as I sent two of my reimagined movie poster prints to Rodeo Drive. That's right; the renowned luxury capital of Beverly Hills in California. I was so overwhelmed in the best possible way. The prints illustrated the 2009 hit, and my personal favourite movie by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds. This was especially cool because this summertime marks the ten-year anniversary since the film's release at the box office. I can only hope that this success is a reflection of even more incredible opportunities to come this year.
To find out more about these new prints, visit my shop where the product details are listed in each description.
Returning to my former studio to deliver a presentation to the Illustration and Design undergraduates was so nostalgic. This was my third time doing so at University of Sunderland. I first showcased my portfolio to the first year undergraduates while still a student myself in 2016. Then again, in 2017, I returned to chat to the second and third years. Only a few months had passed since my own graduation ceremony, so putting myself into their shoes was near effortless as the memories remained fresh. A year on, the time had come again. Now, however, I felt myself returning with more professionalism and experience under my belt. Instead of just imagining what could be after higher education, I actually had some things to report.
My university tutors and mentors urged me to share these post-grad experiences with those now in their final year of the course. I prepared a formal presentation that I delivered before opening up an informal Q&A. The students gathered to look through my university portfolio and previous sketchbooks; seeing my creative progression from first year to third year. I gained uplifting feedback from students who told me that my talk was helpful and reassuring. A few connected with me on social media too. I was able to get involved with portfolio critiques and see where they were up to with their latest projects, offering my advice during the studio session which followed. I am happy to say that I have been invited back for future talks.
The North East Equality Awards 2018 marked the fifteenth year of the event. On a much more personal note, it was my first ever solo show. It was the largest ceremony that Equality North East had organised to date and it was held this year at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead with over 360 guests. In such a prestigious venue, this was a big deal for everybody involved. I was the Event Sponsor as I had been commissioned by Andrea at Gateshead College for the last six months to create the '100 Years of Women's Rights' project.
The final piece, which had been collaboratively created by myself and the board at Equality North East, was beautifully printed and handed out as the art prize to each of the category winners. The evening celebrated outstanding achievements in equality by companies and individuals across the region. I am so appreciative for such an incredible opportunity so early on in my career. We were all entertained wonderfully with dramatic performances, live music, a formal dinner and speeches. The Keynote Speaker was Frances O'Grady of the Trades Union Congress who had flown over from Europe specially to attend. It was an unforgettable night and the greatest honour came in having one of my art prints taken home by the TUC where it now hangs proudly in Congress House, London.