The Digital Age has forged a new frontier for artists,
and cyberspace is its marketplace. As any dedicated
artist knows, putting your heart and soul into your
work doesn't leave time for creative sales strategies.
Traditional galleries, showrooms and artist reps have
always been the marketing mainstay of the art
community. But the fast pace of Internet technology
may be changing all that as artists and art collectors
converge online with more frequency and ease than
ever thought possible.
Paving the way and setting standards for this new
virtual venue are David Heller and Kathy Spiering, two
talented people whose names will be familiar to many
Mendocino artists and friends. Kathy's art has been
displayed in the Stewart/Kummer Gallery, Wilkes
Gallery and the William Zimmer Gallery. David and
Kathy were formerly the associate publisher and art
director for the OutLook, a monthly arts magazine
currently out of publication. In February of 1996, the
duo launched LeftCoastArt, a website and virtual art
gallery that featured quality work by local artists.
The new venture was built with teamwork and just
the right blending of skills. David brings the technical
know-how, Kathy's artistic eye oversees all layout and
design, and together they collaborate on marketing in
all the right places. The website is not only a pleasure to
navigate and elegant to see, it's become a cutting-edge
model for supporting and networking artists and is
beginning to attract art and art patrons from around
Kathy's art pictured left.
But is the Internet really a viable place to see and sell
art? There is a lot to be said for the experience of
walking into a gallery and seeing "live" art on the walls.
Up to 100 people may visit a gallery on a good day.
However, from an artist's perspective, potential gallery
sales pale when compared to LeftCoastArt's online
gallery, which may get anywhere from 60 to 1,500 hits a
day! The virtual doors open onto desktops all over the
globe 24 hours a day, and collectors are exposed to
work they could not possibly view in the conventional
way. So, high traffic, low overhead and unlimited
access give this medium a very promising future for the
buying and selling of art.
"Our objective is to build a network, bringing artists
and collectors together and to serve as a support for
artists all over the world," said Kathy, curator for the
LeftCoastArt gallery. "We've just added four top-notch
European artists who had heard about our site halfway
around the world. The gallery is building a reputation
for displaying one of the largest eclectic collections of
contemporary fine arts on the Internet and the word
seems to be spreading. In the last 30 days alone, we
have been visited by viewers from 56 countries."
Visitors come to enjoy the spectacular works of over
30 artists whose pieces include oil and acrylic paintings,
carvings, sculpture, computer art, photography, jewelry
and several other mediums including a few things that
defy simple description.
Works by Mendocino artists include pastels by Julie
Higgins, oils and linocuts by Nina Mera, portraits and
murals by Gigi Prete, acrylic and steel by Jean Pierre
Rives and ceramics by Charles Spillar, to name a few.
Artists who are web savvy and those with their own
websites know that graphic images are the biggest
consumers of online time and a sure way to lose an
audience too impatient to wait for slow downloading.
However, David has developed his own scanning techniques, which are a well-kept secret.
"I use a combination of equipment and software that
compresses images up to 30 percent tighter than the
average compression rate, which means artwork
appears faster, sharper and brighter than is possible on
typical websites," he explained. "Keeping the viewer
engaged in this graphically rich site increases the
potential for sales. The artists have done their part - my
role is to provide the most high-tech and fastest
viewing site available."
Art sales have totaled between $8,000 and $10,000,
and are destined to rise as the concept catches on. Roz
Beatty was thrilled when her painting sold to a collector
in Switzerland, a sale she agrees might never have
happened through conventional channels. Other artists,
like Doug Desmond, have been discovered and
commissioned to create other art by visitors to the
Sales are not made directly on the website.
LeftCoastArt serves as a contact point, a mediator and
a place where interest is generated.
"We act as agents and give all the necessary phone
and e-mail support to bring the artist and buyer
together," they said. "Our returns to artists are higher
than conventional outlets because our website
maintenance costs are so low."
Recently, David and Kathy have added a companion
site to LeftCoastArt, creating an online magazine
dedicated to upscale living that focuses on art, food,
wine, fashion and entertainment. Left Coast Art
magazine complements the art gallery with interesting
artist profiles as well as an events calendar that
includes many art openings. Links from magazine
articles and graphics move the viewer back and forth
between the two sites, and if an artist has his or her
own website, links will be provided to those, as well.
The entire site at LeftCoastArt, the art gallery and
magazine, is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. You'll find
outstanding art beautifully displayed, an exceptionally
tasteful layout plus interesting and entertaining
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