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Artist Brian Kliewer - A Case Study in Email Marketing

by Clint Watson on 3/24/2009 9:21:42 AM

This Post is by Clint Watsonfounder of FineArtViews. Follow Clint on Twitter.

We've previously discussed the importance of having conversations with your collectors, leading your collector clan, and, especially, the importance of using email newsletters as a core piece of your art marketing.  I've mentioned artist Brian Kliewer's project in a couple of my previous articles. Even before Brian's project was completed, it was evident that it was working and generating sales for Brian.  Now that his project has ended, I decided it would be a good time to do a little "case study."  So let's take a look at email marketing for artists.

Last fall artist Brian Kliewer decided he needed to do something to ramp up his art marketing.  So he came up with the idea for a project called 100 paintings in 100 days for $100 each.  The idea itself was simple: Paint one small painting each day, notify his email list of that painting, and post it on his web site and sell each painting first come first serve for $100.

The project was a resounding success for BrianHe sold 79 of the 100 paintings, garnered 3 commissions (2 small painting commissions and one larger commission), and, by the end of the 100 days his email list had grown by 46%.

Above:  Screenshot of Brian Kliewer's portfolio with beautiful red "sold" dots on paintings

I called Brian not long ago to get his thoughts about the project, here are some notes I took during that phone call:

* The original inspiration for the project was Duane Keiser of "Painting a day" fame.  Duane started years ago with a "100 paintings for $100" project during an open studio event (which evolved into the "Painting a Day" blog).  So Brian decided to do something similar, the unique "spin" Brian put on the idea is that the "daily paintings" would only continue for 100 days.

*  At the time Brian started this project he had only 84 people on his email list.

*  At the end of the project Brian had 123 people on his list.

*  He had a few people who unsubscribed who did not want to get the email every day, however almost all of the people who unsubscribed actually re-subscribed at the end of the project.  If you were to try something like this, perhaps it is worth considering duplicating your list at the start so that people can unsubscribe from the special project list without unsubscribing from your main list.

*  Some people forwarded the email and that resulted in other, new, people subscribing to his list.

* Brian also got some exposure on blogs as people on his list made other artists and art lovers aware of the project - specifically, I know this project was featured on Alyson Stanfield's Blog and on the FineArtViews Blog.

*  One interesting story Brian shared: one lady forwarded the daily email to a friend and the friend actually got mad at the lady because she hadn't let her know about the project sooner (it was almost over at this point) - she wanted to know about it sooner!

*  Brian burned through a lot of reference material during the project.  SO much in fact that he feels he couldn't do a similar project again anytime soon.

*  He actually went back to photos that were 20 years old for some pieces - a project like this could be good to "force" you to get moving with old reference material.

The email newsletters were written in a conversational tone, Brian told why he painted the piece, where it was, what had inspired him etc.  People replied to his emails and that sparked more conversations.

People specifically shared with Brian that his conversational tone motivated them to buy the paintings.  You have to ENTICE people.

*  Brian's advice to other artists who try something like this: don't take a break.  Brian had a lot of momentum going and then had to take a break (due to personal issues) and it was REALLY difficult to get it started again.

* CHALLENGE YOURSELF - at the beginning, he was doing really simple scenes and was feeling like he couldn't do complete paintings in such a small format (most of the paintings were 4" x 5") and later in the project thought "why not?" and started doing really complex pieces even in such a small format.  I can attest that I was really impressed with the works and didn't realize they were so small, Brian really packed a lot of work into such a small format.

*  People replied and made comments letting him know that they could actually see the growth in the pieces as the project progressed.

* He got lots of feedback from customers ....especially after he began challenging himself.

*  When he took the break and since the project ended he's had lots of communication from people who miss his daily emails and want him to restart the project.....I'm one of those people, I looked forward to his work each day.  I tried to buy a couple and other people always beat me to the punch.

*  Most people purchased the works through paypal, but some people emailed him and wanted to send checks.  He allowed people to do that and you should too.

*  He used the UPS store for shipping.  Since the paintings were so small and were unframed, they cost $12 each to ship - the customers paid for the really, each delivered painting was $112 with shipping.

*  More advice to other artists if you try this - plan it out well, not necessarily have all the paintings planned, but plan what you're going to do.  Definitely you need to have some sort of email list and you need to be persistent and consistent in your use of it.

*  How did Brian build his original list of 84 people?  Commenting on other art blogs, in forums, adding friends to his list, and getting referrals to add friends of friends.   

Above:  An Example of One of Brian's Email Newsletters

I've been trying to emphasize the critical importance of using an email list.  So many people right now are telling artists that they need to be blogging, they need to be on Facebook, they need to be on Twitter.  Those things are good strategies (if considered "spokes" in your "hub and spoke" strategy).  But, in my opinion, properly utilizing an email list to have meaningful conversations with your followers is currently the most powerful online marketing strategy artists can pursue.

This case study of Brian's success with email marketing for artists is just one real-life example of how effective it can be.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic


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Related Posts:

Personal, Timely, and Relevant

Artists: Lead Your Collector Clan

Art Marketing is Conversations

Email is Still the King . . . It's Good to be the King

Twin Pillars of Art Marketing Success

Art Marketing for Artists Who Want to Change the World

Topics: Art Business | art marketing | Best | Email Marketing | Marketing 

What Would You Like to Do Next?
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Lori Woodward Simons
via web
This post is so inspiring because it's not just a theory, it actually worked in recent history.


Brian Kliewer
via web
Thanks for the writeup, Clint. One more "tip" I would suggest... with each PayPal sale, I printed out two copies of the email to keep track of who purchased what and when it would be ready to ship. I kept a copy for myself, and included the other in the box as a printed "receipt." This gave me a good way of organizing things.

Mary Lawler
via web
Once again Clint you are right on spot. Keep telling artists "properly utilizing an email list to have meaningful conversations with your followers is currently the most powerful online marketing strategy artists can pursue." and sooner or later they will understand. This is a great case study you have chosen. Artist Sheila Wedegis produces a painting of a Labrador A Day for Labrador Retriever Rescue. These artists are an inspiration in their dedication and creativity in creating their own opportunities.

Teina Tallarigo
via web
I totally enjoyed your 'A Case Study in Email Marketing'. I have painting up in a gallery and find it extremely hard to approach prospective buyers while viewing my work and talking to them about the painting. The old thought of them thinking 'they are trying to sell this painting' crosses my mind and I end up not approaching them at all. I feel if they are discussing it, they need privacy. The idea of enticing them sounds good, but how to approach and what does one say so they don't sound desperate to sell? I thought that seeing is enough to get them to buy, but talking adds another whole aspect to the sale.


Brian Kliewer
via web
To Teina,

The "enticing" on my end was just discussing what the painting was about and why or how I came to paint it. An example: While working on one of the paintings, I was listening to a Dan Fogelberg cd. I mentioned this in my newsletter. The woman who bought the painting was a big fan of Dan Fogelberg. In her email back to me, she mentioned that she even went to the same college he did. So the painting sparked some fond memories for her as well as me. I was just being "conversational."


Jan Arabas
via web
This is an inspirational essay. I just started a "Hot Off the Press" project in response. I'm going to post a new monotype print, offered at a special price, each week for three months. I sent out an e-mail newsletter about Hot Off the Press to my collectors and got a sale today--not the work I featured but another print. I am going to try a twist. I bought a Facebook ad that sends people to the Hot off the Press print. I'll see if this generates some new e-mail subscribes and collectors.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Marian Fortunati
via web
Hi Clint and Brian...

I have been using my newsletter a fair bit lately.... mostly because a lot of good news has come my way. This is a good thing.
I also had asked people to forward my emails to others who might be interested and this has resulted in some good connections and SALES!!! (Yippee)

About a month ago I also started adding a link at the end of the newsletter for people who were reading it (who hadn't originally signed up) to sign up for the newsletter AND I put a similar thing on several blog posts. The result is that in the last 6 weeks I've had about 10 new people subscribe to the newsletter.

But .... of course... I have some questions and concerns. (MOSTLY to Clint... but Brian feel free to chime in as an expert..) At my last mailing I had 105 subscribers but when looking at the statistics only 103 were sent... WHY???
ALSO..... since I don't have a special project how often is too often????
I've noticed from the statistics that only about 68 or so of the newsletters are "picked" up or read... I'm assuming that the rest have gone to "junk" email filters.... WHAT should be done about that if anything. The people are not unsubscribing, but they aren't reading it either..... I'll take suggestions.


Faith Te
via web
Thank you so much for sharing, Mr. Watson and Mr. Kliewer. It is truly an inspirational article and it gave me the much needed push to more consistently use and cultivate my mailing list.

Mr. Kliewer, I visited your web site, by the way. Your paintings are stunning!

Monte Wilson
Excellent article! I am definately thinking of using a form of this for my next marketing promotional. I think it would also be beneficial to blog each piece in addition to the newsletter

Nancy Pingree Hoover
Wow! This was a very informative and inspiring article!! Thank you Clint and Brian, for inspiring me to try a similar exercise. But first, I must build up my email list .........


max hulse
Brian This is an excellent essay on
marketing, and I plan to adopt some of
your ideas in my own approach to sales.

Max Hulse

Diane Lynne Chanako
Dear Brian and Clint,

Thank you for sharing this exciting marketing idea, it looks to me like it served many purposes. It was a win/win/win...situation for Brian/collectors/and the faso website/ and countless artists and collectors, etc., with the snowball effect. It served Brian financially, it served Brian's proficiency at attaining a prolific status with a wet brush everyday.
This is such positive news.
Thank you again for sharing.



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