Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Favorite Things - Web Edition

"October on the Colorado"
Oil on Panel

A while back I posted about the materials I prefer to use in the studio, but didn't touch on any of the other things out there that are indispensable to me as an artist. I was just thinking the other day about how thankful I am for some of the online tools and stores that I use to make my job easier, and thought I would share some of my favorites. Oh, and for the record, I'm not getting paid to share any of this - I just love these companies so much I wanted to pass them on!

1) FineArtStudioOnline.com (or FASO) - www.fineartstudioonline.com

I don't even know where to start - FASO is the company I use for my website, and I can't even begin to describe how simple it has made the web component of my business. I signed up for my FASO website in 2006 and haven't looked back. The FASO software makes it easy for even non-computer geeks to put together a professional looking website that's easy to update.

As an artist, I think keeping one's website updated with new work and events is of the utmost importance, and FASO allows me to update my website in minutes. I can't even fathom what a pain it would be to deal with a web designer to make all the updates I make on a regular basis.

On top of that, the service includes email, blog capability, an email newsletter system, and statistics. I couldn't ask for more, and Clint and his customer support staff have always responded to every question of mine promptly. If you're frustrated with keeping your website updated, or just getting started, I can't recommend FASO enough.

2) Constant Contact - www.constantcontact.com

I just signed up for this newsletter service recently, and I honestly wish I had done it months ago. Constant Contact makes it easy to send out a very professional email newsletters and announcements, and keep track of your mailing list. I finally got around to sending out my first email newsletter yesterday, and I'm astounded at the response I've gotten. People have been impressed at how professional the newsletter looked, and I've had people click through to my website that had probably forgotten my work existed.

The most useful feature for me is the reports - after 24 hours, I can look and see what % of my recipients have opened the newsletter, I can see how many have clicked through to the web links I included in the text of the letter, and I can see how many bounced back to me (one) or opted to be removed from my mailing list (none). That sort of input is valuable in figuring out what should be included in the newsletter month to month, and how people are responding.

I can also easily decide which people get which types of content - for instance, I may send acquaintances event announcements, but not notifications of new work - Constant Contact makes it easy to make sure the right people get the right info.

I procrastinated about paying for a service like this for a long time, but at this point I think it's definitely worth the small monthly fee.

3) Dick Blick Art Supplies - www.dickblick.com

I live in the sticks, so I can't just run out and buy art supplies at the store on the corner. I order pretty much everything I use online, and at this point I buy everything but my paint from Blick. Their website is easy to use and organized, their customer service is fantastic, and they pack things so well that I've never had an item show up damaged (this can be a big deal when you paint on hardboard panels like I do - a lot of places don't pack them well and they show up with cracked corners!). And the icing on the cake is that their prices consistently beat out most other online retailers for the items I buy.

4) Utrecht Art Supplies - www.utrecht.com

I have to give shout out to Utrecht simply because their oil paint rocks. It's high quality artist grade paint that comes in big tubes at prices that beat most of the other paint manufacturers. It's the perfect consistency for me (I find other brands either too oily or too stiff), and the pigment load is great. I haven't been disappointed yet by the quality of this stuff.

5) Bloglines - www.bloglines.com

I read a LOT of blogs. There's no way I can keep track of them all, so a feed reader is a must if I'm going save my sanity and a lot of my time. I know a lot of people use Google Reader - same thing, essentially. I assume most people who read this blog probably use a reader of some type - if you don't, you need to because it will make your life much easier!!

Anyhow, that's all I can thing of right now. Anyone out there have any can't live without sites?


  1. Thanks Stacey for sharing these resources! It is so good to have references from someone who uses these and is happy with them! I am going to check out one which is new to me right now...

  2. Stacey, FASO's gold plan has a new email newsletter system that does all the things you subscribed.. lets me see the stats of who's opened, who received etc.

    It's included with my FASO account.

  3. Joanne - no problem - I figure most people have heard of these sites, but if not it might help someone out!

    Lori - I've used the FASO newsletter system, and it does have most of the functionality, but there are a bunch of little things that it's missing that add up for me. I had a hard time formatting my newsletters to look how I want, and the actual mailing list portion just didn't manage enough information for me (I want it to store people's names, physical addresses, notes, info about what they want to receive etc). Honestly, I know I'm being picky - I love FASO!

  4. After spending way too much time trying to use Publisher for a newsletter, I appreciate hearing about Constant Contact. Next time I get ready to do a newsletter, I'll investigate it for myself. Thanks for the info.

  5. Hi Stacey,

    I enjoyed reading this post, as I also use Utrecht for my oil paint and Blick Art Materials for everything else.

    Unfortunately, I've also signed on with FASO, and have had nothing but problems with them...

  6. Sherri - I went the Publisher route for a while too, but eventually wanted something that integrated the whole mailing list capability too. There are a zillion templates to start with on Conttant Contact, which made it easy to pick something and then just customize it to match my site.

    Ann - I'm so sorry to hear you've had problems with FASO! Hope you get things ironed out soon - have you contacted Clint Watson directly? He's been so much help to me, and is really dedicated to making the service as easy to use as possible - I know he'd want to know if someone is having issues.

    Terry - thanks so much!

  7. What a beautiful painting, Stacey! Your work is so awesome!

    I too love FASO, and have been with them since all of their artists fit on one page!! I do hope that Ann contacted Clint, I find their customer service to be tops.

  8. I thoroughly enjoy your paintings, you have an outstanding talent that I wish I had a tenth of. Beautiful work.

  9. Hello Stacey,
    I follow your blog regularly and your beautiful paintings are an absolute treat for the eyes. Also the information you share in your honest and frank style is most helpful. I have seen websites of many artists by FASO and they all look almost the same as regards format, layout, font etc. That may not be a disqualification but I somehow feel that artists (being so original in their work) should be able to customise their websites is if it were also a piece of their art. I feel that would add more punch to things. Just my two cents worth.....
    My best wishes and regards,