10 Crucial Reasons Why Every Artist Needs Their Own Hub Website by HELEN ALDOUS
Painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, crafters, photographers, designers, illustrators…the internet is a mass of opportunities for artists and creative folk to sell artwork and creativity online.
There are so many great sites where you can upload your art and sell it, either direct online or as part of a print-on-demand service, where a copy of your original artwork is printed as a high quality Giclée at the size and format requested by the purchaser.
Sites like Redbubble, Zazzle, Etsy, & iStock all allow you to spread the word about your work. Your creativity can be winging its way to a buyer on the other side of the world. Networking sites like Flickr, & Twitter & Facebook allow you to connect and build contacts, discussing, sharing and collaborating with like minded people everywhere.
So why on earth would you bother setting up your own website when all these great free services are available?…
When I speak to artists setting up creative businesses on the web, I always recommend that you set up a central hub website which sits at the very centre of everything you do online and is linked to all the other free sites you use.
Your hub website is your portfolio and the central connecting point around which all your other free website presences rotate. It is the sun whilst your other free web presences are the planets in orbit around it. It is your home at the centre of your little online solar system and the focus of all your efforts. It pulls all the other elements of your online world together rather than letting them spin off into space.
There are lots of very good reasons for setting up your own hub artists website. Here are just 10 of them:
To get started on your own website: Visit Best Artist Websites and let's get you the Awesome site your art deserves.
Actress, prostitute and empress actress, prostitute and empress of Rome – Theodora's life is perfect for fictionss of Rome – Theodora's life is perfect for fiction.
In September 2006, in a near-empty church in Ravenna, in north-east Italy, I found myself in front of a vibrant, 1,500-year-old mosaic of a woman in purple. She had a halo, her own courtiers, and was taking up an enormous space beside a mosaic of Christ. I knew she had to matter. At the gift shop, I bought the booklet about her, which took five minutes to read. The woman was the empress Theodora and although I had never seen her before, she has come to dominate my working life.
Theodora lived in an era of huge changes in the church, language and statehood. What had been Roman was about to become Byzantine, and the eastern regions around Syria, the Levant and Egypt were clamouring to use their own languages, hinting at self-determination. Just 20 years after Theodora's death the Prophet Muhammad would be born.
Despite the huge amount of history written about the period, Theodora was largely overlooked. In Procopius's Secret History, which current studies believe was written not long after her death in 548, she is a kind of Mrs Machiavelli. He calls her "Theodora-from-the-Brothel", lasciviously details her antics on stage – from allowing geese to peck grain from her lower torso, to dancing naked but for a ribbon – and has her saying she regrets God gave her only three orifices for pleasure. When he goes on to describe her husband, the emperor Justinian, as a headless demon, we can assume not everything he wrote was utter truth.
Procopius's view on Theodora, which was not published until the 17th century, certainly influenced later writers, yet she remains an enigma. What we do know about her seems fascinating, often highly modern, apparently feminist, and almost always controversial. The more I read, the more I realised she was an ideal candidate for fiction, and for the last three years I have been writing a novel about her. She was born to the bear-keeper of Constantinople's hippodrome in about AD500. Her father died when she was five and her mother married another animal-keeper. When he failed to land her dead husband's job, she rehearsed her three little girls in arm movements and the silent gestures of supplication that would have been recognised by theatre audiences of the time. Then, she dressed them up and took them to the hippodrome – a vast complex, housing a capacity crowd of 30,000 men – to formally request a job for their new stepfather. The wish was granted and Theodora went on to become an actress, dancer, mime artist, comedian.
By the age of 15, she was the star of the hippodrome, performing in shows which, if Procopius is to be believed, were not far from the extremes of modern burlesque. She was also, as most actresses then were, a child prostitute. (That the word actress can have a derogatory aspect – having once been a synonym for "courtesan" or "whore" – has been long recognised, which is why many women who work in the theatre prefer the term "actor".)
Theodora had a child at 14, and her older sister Comito, a famed singer, likely became mistress to several wealthy men; it's probable that both had several abortions. At 18, Theodora walked away from her astonishing career, to become mistress to Hecebolus, the governor of what is now known as Libya. When they broke up, not long afterwards, she joined an ascetic community in the desert near Alexandria, experiencing a religious conversion to a branch of early Christianity, Monophysitism, that was then under attack by the Roman state. The division between those who believed, with the state, that Christ was both fully human and fully divine in one, and those who, as Theodora did, believed His divinity was the prime force, raged on throughout Theodora's life. After her conversion, she travelled on to Antioch and is reputed to have worked with Macedonia, a woman a little older than her who was a dancer, but possibly also a spy. Antioch was the major city of Syria, one of the many provinces that were starting to question the supremacy of Constantinople – there would have been good work for spies on all sides.
At 21, Theodora returned to the capital and met Justinian. They were certainly not a likely couple. Justinian was a farmer's son from present-day Serbia who travelled to Constantinople at the age of 11 to work for his uncle Justin, and help in his rise to power and eventual elevation to the throne. Justinian had a strong legal mind (his codifying of Roman law remains a part of legal training today), and had one law changed to raise Theodora's status, and another created to allow her to marry, something that former actresses could not legally do at the time. They married against the wishes of Justinian's aunt, the empress Euphemia, herself an ex-slave and concubine, who saw her own origins echoed a little too obviously in Theodora's. When Justin died and Justinian became emperor in 527, "Theodora-from-the-Brothel" was empress of Rome.
The classic rags to riches story is made richer still by Theodora's achievements in power. As empress, she worked on the paper On Pimps, an attempt to stop pimps making their money from prostitutes. Well aware of the impossibility of marriage and a safe life for such women, she set up a house where they could live in peace. Theodora worked for women's marriage and dowry rights, anti-rape legislation, and was supportive of the many young girls who were sold into sexual slavery for the price of a pair of sandals. Her laws banished brothel-keepers from Constantinople and from all the major cities of the empire.
All of which makes Theodora sound like an early and ardent feminist, but her story is more complicated. There are hints that she was involved in poisoning, torture and forced marriage, and while she did a great deal to help women and girls in difficulty, she had rather less time for women of higher standing – attacking any who threatened her position, including the empress Euphemia.
There are so many questions in Theodora's story. Was she a spy or a saint, a slut or a theatrical genius? What actually happened with the geese on stage at the hippodrome? Was Macedonia her friend or her lover? Theodora is the kind of hero you couldn't make up without being accused of overdoing it, and yet you can't tell her story without making a lot of it up. A perfect balance for fiction.
The nearly forty-year reign of Emperor Justinian I (born 482; reign 527–65) (99.35.7406) heralded extensive territorial expansion and military success, along with a new synthesis of Greco-Roman and Christian culture seen at all levels of Byzantine culture.
Justinian’s rise to imperial power began in 527 with his appointment as co-emperor to Justin I, his uncle, who died later that same year. His sole rule was characterized by profound efforts to strengthen the empire and return the state to its former ancient glory. To this end, Justinian drew upon administrators and counselors from outside the aristocratic class. His own modest origins, along with his selection of these court members, contributed to lasting tensions with the Byzantine nobility. This situation was exacerbated by Justinian’s authoritarian approach to governance, and his pronouncement that the emperor’s will was law further undermined the authority of the city’s senate as well as its factions.
Popular outrage at Justinian’s policies crystallized in the Nika Riot (“Nika!” meaning “Conquer!”) in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, during the period January 11–19, 532. This period of civil unrest resulted in the burning of several important religious and imperial buildings, including Constantinople’s cathedral, the fourth-century Church of Hagia Sophia (the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God), Hagia Eirene (the Church of Peace), the Chalke, or Bronze, Gate to the imperial palace, and the baths of Zeuxippus. The resulting damage to Constantinople’s palatine and religious center at the southeastern end of the city would allow Justinian an opportunity for extensive rebuilding in the years to follow.
In the religious sphere, Justinian took a leading role in shaping church policy. As an adamant defender of Christian Orthodoxy, he fought to extinguish the last vestiges of Greco-Roman paganism, to root out Manichaeans and Samaritans, and to oppose competing Christian sects, including the Arians and the Monophysites. Justinian also came into direct conflict with the papacy in 543, further straining relations between the western and eastern territories of his empire.
In foreign policy, Justinian sought to recover regions lost to foreign invaders, particularly Germanic tribes in Italy and North Africa. He thus launched one of the most aggressive military programs in medieval history. As a result of his reconquest of the empire’s former western territories, he restored Ravenna’s status as a capital in Italy. Mosaic portraits of Justinian and his wife, the empress Theodora, appear there at the Church of San Vitale (526–48). By his death in 565, the empire bordered nearly the entire Mediterranean Sea, a size unrivalled in Byzantine history from that point onward. Conquest and territorial reorganization were paralleled by reforms in state taxation and legislation, the latter codified in the Corpus Juris Civilis (Corpus of Civil Law), a text that today forms part of the foundation of the Western legal system.
Justinianic Art and Architecture
Justinian’s reign is further distinguished by an exceptional record of architectural and artistic patronage and production. Following the Nika Riot of 532, the emperor initiated a program of urban construction that aimed to remake the ancient capital founded by Constantine the Great in 324. Justinian’s architectural efforts in the capital are memorialized in the treatise “On the Buildings,” written by Justinian’s court historian Procopius.
The rebuilding of Hagia Sophia from 532 to 537 was the paramount achievement of Justinian’s building campaigns. As the capital’s cathedral and the most important church during the empire’s long history, the new Hagia Sophia rebuilt by Justinian set a standard in monumental building and domed architecture that would have a lasting effect on the history of Byzantine architecture. The church’s designers, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, are among the few Byzantine architects whose names have been recorded. Their training in engineering, physics, and mathematics was essential in achieving the cathedral’s revolutionary new design, combining a massive rectangular basilica with a dome resting on pendentives and supported by piers. Hagia Sophia’s monumental scale and soaring domed surfaces rendered a program of figural decoration nearly impossible to execute, and thus it has been suggested that the sixth-century mosaic program featuring primarily cross and vegetal designs was planned with the building’s exceptional proportions in mind. Completing the church’s interior decorative program were variegated marbles gathered from across the empire. These were fashioned into floor and wall paneling, elegant columns, and finely sculpted capitals bearing the monograms of Justinian and his wife Theodora. In addition to the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Justinian patronized over thirty churches in the capital of Constantinople and both ecclesiastical and secular building throughout the empire’s territories, even as far as Mount Sinai in Egypt.
Along with tremendous patronage in monumental building and decoration, the portable arts also flourished during the age of Justinian. During his reign, silk production was introduced to Byzantine lands from China, an art form for which Byzantium would soon become famous throughout the medieval world. Pairs of luxury carved ivory panels, known as diptychs, continued to be made as imperial gifts and to commemorate the tenure of a consul in Constantinople or Rome. Justinian’s name and titles in Latin, along with elegantly carved lions’ heads and classicizing acanthus forms, decorate the Metropolitan’s own pair of diptychs commemorating the emperor’s consulship in 521. A stunning equestrian portrait of the emperor, blessed by Christ, survives on another such deluxe ivory from a diptych pair, now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
In the realm of icon painting, Justinian’s reign is distinguished as one which produced a number of the earliest surviving painted icons on wooden panel. The majority of these are today found in the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai, and they are executed in the encaustic technique (pigment suspended in hot wax), following the traditions of Roman and earlier painting in Egypt. Some of these icons at Sinai may have been sent as gifts from the emperor to the monastery, which he patronized. The group represents some of the only examples of portable panel icons to survive from before the Iconoclastic Controversy (726–843).
James Madison University
October 2001 (originally published)
April 2009 (last revised)
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