Why I Switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit

Mailchimp and ConvertKit are both email list management websites. Such a site allows you to keep a list of subscriber’s emails, handle new subscriptions to those lists, send out emails, report on receipt of those emails, and much, much more.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp Fail
Mailchimp pissed me off.

For years, I used Mailchimp. Using that service, I kept a list of people who liked my art and had subscribed to my list. Weekly, I’d send out a newsletter featuring my latest art, discount codes, and free wall papers.

I was generally quite happy with them, but…unfortunately, I recently had some trouble with them. What should have been a small problem quickly turned into a huge headache.

Why I Went with MailChimp in the First Place

There are tons of sites that will help you manage your email lists. However, Mailchimp really is the biggest and most well established. The user interface is flashy and easy to use…most of the time. Occasionally, it was difficult to find something, but for the most part it was great. Furthermore, their email editor is quite powerful, allowing you to create some really professional looking emails.

They have all of the major features that such a provider should have: Subscription Form editors, reporting, autoresponders, etc. but, most importantly, they have a free tier where you don’t have to pay a dime until you have over 2000 subscribers. That makes it great for getting your feet wet when it comes to email marketing.

They do have a few issues:

  • If you want to have multiple subscriber segments, you need to have multiple lists and a subscriber who’s on both gets double counted.
  • The general consensus is that mail from Mailchimp tends to wind up in spam boxes a bit more often than some of the other similar services. I think that the free tier may behind this. Having no need to pay has likely drawn a lot of less-than-reputable users who have signed up and sent out junky emails using it.
  • They have some unusually restrictive rules. They have the usual stuff, of course, like no spamming or illegal activity, but they also ban users who have sites about making money online and sites who do affiliate marketing.

What Happened with Mailchimp

That last issue is what MAY have been what got me. They have an automated process called Omnivore that monitors their system for terms-of-service violations. At the time, I had a page on my website describing how print-on-demand sites work for selling art. (This was before I started offering my ebook on the subject). Perhaps that is what tripped Omnivore. I’m not really sure though. I sent off several requests to Mailchip’s support desk. After a month of no responses…I was forced to give up on them.

Enter ConvertKit

ConvertKit to the Rescue
ConvertKit to the Rescue

I had a few choices of where to go, but I decided to go with ConvertKit.com. It’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Plus, it was easy to move my existing list over from MailChimp.

Its chief feature is the ability to segment your audience. Instead of having to maintain multiple lists, I can just have one list of subscribers with certain ones being tagged. This appeals to me for several reasons.

For one, I really produce several different genres of art. I have western art, wildlife, fantasy and so on. With Mailchimp I was sending out every genre to everyone on my list. The problem is that Western art fans don’t generally want to see pictures of dragons. Now, I can tag the western art fans and the fantasy art fans and send them separate series of art.

Also, I have a lot of content about making and marketing and selling art. Such content really only appeals to other artists, and, while quite a few of my subscribers are indeed artists, many are just patrons. With ConvertKit, I can have the artists use a different subscription form and get just my artist content, while my patrons still only see my art.

ConvertKit is definitely more oriented around automation. Setting them up is way easier than it was with Mailchimp. Yet, I can still send out my newsletter on an ad hoc basis.

I do have a few gripes about ConvertKit, though.

For one, it’s a bit expensive to start at thirty bucks a month for the first thousand subscribers, then sixty a month until you hit 3000.

Also, I’m a bit underwhelmed with their email editor. It’s easy to use, but the emails are nowhere near as flashy as Mailchimp’s.

But, otherwise, so far, I’m happy and looking forward to creating genre themed email series for my fans.  If you want to give it a try, check it out at ConvertKit.com.

Yours in Art,

Daniel

P.S. Now that I’ve talked about it, do you want to get on my new email list? If yes, then click here: subscribe

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Better IPhone Pictures: The HDR Setting

One feature you might find on your cell phone camera is the HDR setting.  IPhones have had it for years, and I see that the latest Galaxy phones as well as Google Pixels have it, too. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  What it does is that it gives a better range of color values in your pictures.  For instance:

HDR Setting comparison
Two photos, one with the HDR setting enabled, the other without.

In this image that I took with my IPhone, I had the HDR setting enabled.  It recorded both a regular image (left) and an HDR image (right).  At first glance the two images look the same, but if you look at the sky, you’ll see that it was totally washed out in the regular image.  Whereas, in the HDR image you’ll see that the blue of the sky has returned.  If you look even closer you will see that the dark areas are a little less lost in shadow as well.

It’s a subtle change, but such small differences can make the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph.

On IPhones, you  enable the HDR setting directly in the camera app in two touches, first select “HDR” at the top or side (depending on the orientation, then select “On” :

Enabling HDR Setting on IPhone
Enabling HDR Setting on IPhone

You may have noticed the “Auto” option.  That’s on newer IPhones and, in theory at least, has the IPhone determining when best to take an HDR photo.  I tend to not trust the auto feature, and prefer to force the HDR setting to on.

There is one other setting on the IPhone involved with HDR.  If you go into the Settings app and down to the camera settings, there is a toggle switch that you can enable to keep both an HDR and non-HDR version of any photos you take while the HDR setting is enabled.  I suggest keeping this toggle on as sometimes, the non-HDR photo turns out to be the better of the the two.

Yours in Art,

Daniel

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Print On Demand: An Easy Way to Sell Art

How can I make money with my art?

Print On Demand - A large format printer
A large format printer. Print On Demand websites using printers such at these to produce prints when they are ordered

As an artist who does a pretty good business selling prints, I get asked this quite often. There are in fact, quite a few ways, but the one I prefer is via print on demand websites.  It does not promise riches (though that isn’t impossible), but it is very easy to do.

Digital Art, such as art made in Photoshop, goes particularly well with Print On Demand (POD) websites, but if you can digitize your traditional art with a scanner or digital camera, that will work as well.

What exactly is Print On Demand?

POD sites are websites where an artist can upload their artwork. The site then sells prints featuring the artwork of the artists. Whenever a print sells, the site creates an inkjet print and sends it to the customer while the artist gets a piece of the profit.

For example, I have an account on FineArtAmerica.com (Daniel Eskridge – Artwork Collections) – one of the more popular such sites.

A LOT of artists currently use such sites. So competition is quite fierce and actually having a print sell with your art may not happen as often as you’d like. It’s also up to you to bring potential buyers to your profile on such sites. They don’t tend to do any marketing for you; however, with time and effort, it is possible to make money.

In fact, I’ve put together an eBook on on just how I go about doing it:

Get My Book

One of the big positives about such sites are that you can sell an unlimited number of prints of the same work.  If you can find that one works in your portfolio, that is eye catching, and that everyone loves, you could do rather well.

Also, if you have a big following on social media, you already have an advantage that could make POD work for you.

If you’re an artist whose looking for a way to get into selling art (particularly if you art is digital), then I suggest giving a print on demand site a chance.  Here’s a few of the top sites you can check out:

  • FineArtAmerica – This is the one I use the most.  You can try it for free, but have to pay ($30/year) once you submit more than 25 artworks.  There are additional little benefits to having a paid membership as well.
  • RedBubble – I’ve used this one a little bit.  It’s probably the next most popular behind FAA.  It’s free to use.
  • SaatchiArt – This one is  well reviewed, but I find that they tend to focus more on traditional art.  As a digital artist, I don’t particularly feel at home there.  This one is also free.

Yours in Art,

Daniel

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But, Is It Art?

 

Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” is perhaps the most famous example of a piece that engendered the question, “Is it art?”

Perhaps you think that your art is not good enough to sell, or worse, maybe you are worried that what you are making isn’t even considered art at all. You look at what you have made and ask yourself, “Is it art?”. Well, if you meant for it to be art, then the answer is “Yes”.

First off, you may not be exactly sure what is and what is not art. Modern art has made it rather confusing. Now, technology also confuses the issue. I can’t tell you how often I have people dismiss my art as “not art” simply because I use a computer to make it.

For most of the era of modern art, ever since the impressionists deviated from the rules of the art academy, the question has been asked “is it art?” The response usually comes from someone who has an agenda: a collector who wants to increase the value of the art they own, a gallery owner trying to eliminate the competition, a politician trying to cancel public funding for the arts, even from the artist trying to justify their own body of work. The answers from these people tend to boil down to an attempt to narrow the field. They are trying to increase the importance of what they CONSIDER to be art at the expense of everything else.

So what is art? It’s anything made by a person that is considered to be art by that person or any other person. I know, it’s a bit of a cyclical definition, but that’s the truth of it. Art is what we say it is. That is not to say, though, that everything is art. Naturally concurring things are just that – things that happen to be there, and the vast majority of things made by people are just for utilitarian purposes, things that no one considers to be art; therefore, such things are not art.

So, if you think you are making art – you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

However, just because it is art does not necessarily mean that it is likely to sell well, but we’ll get more into that later.

Daniel

P.S.

Note that I do limit the definition to things made by people. You might argue that there are a few animals capable of creating art, but quite often such art is really the result of a human trainer. Also, in the future, there may well be machine intelligences making art, but at this time, art created by machines is really done so by a person directing or programming the machine.

P.P.S.

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Be the Artist

Okay, so you’ll see a picture of me in the first article posted in the blog. It’s part of my introduction, but it is also my first piece of advice: try not to be too anonymous. Art is not a typical product. Unlike toasters, televisions, or sofas, when people buy art, the person who made it can be as important to them as the art itself, if not more so. The Internet makes it easy to be anonymous, but for an artist, anonymity can be a turn off to potential collectors.

I’ve created numerous online galleries using names that hide my identity. Weather it was a company name, or a snappy online ID, my sales where always slow or non-existent. Once I started using my real identity though, the art sales started coming in much more often. Art buyers just seem reluctant to buy from someone like SuperArtist1973, but as “Daniel Eskridge, Artist” I become much more approachable.

Picture Not Availalbe
Customers will not by from an artist who looks like this

Now you could create a believable psuedonym, that is, a first and last name that could be that of a real person, but I believe that there’s more to to using your real identity. I think that it has something to do with that once you attach you real self to your art, you are much more concerned about putting your best foot forward. Your art suddenly becomes a matter of pride, not just profit. You real reputation is on the line.

So use your real name for your online presence. Also, let people see you. Use real pictures of yourself for your online profiles on sites where you sell your art. Let your customers see that you are an actual human being.

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Finding a Printer

Who should produce prints of digital art?

FineArtAmerica
FineArtAmerica

Being a digital artist who uses FineArtAmerica (now called Pixels.com) I’m a bit biased, I prefer to use them…but I have tried getting my art printed from a few different places including Costco, Walmart, RedBubble, Staples, Snapfish, Zazzle, and Shutterfly.

For the most part, print quality is all the same between them, generally above average and perfectly acceptable to everyone who has ever bought a print from me.   In fact, the word is that all of those print on demand sites actually use the same clearing houses to produce prints.

The only one of lesser quality was Walmart which was not THAT bad, but a little below what I would consider acceptable for a sale – though perfectly okay for my own personal prints.   However, because they print on site at the store they are fast and less expensive.

If you want exceptional quality, then you need to look up your local professional giclee print house.  They are generally quite expensive and you’ll have to go on word of mouth to know if they are any good.

I also owned my own Epson Stylus Pro 7600 for a time to print my own stuff.  I would not recommend going that route.  It was VERY expensive and very difficult to get quality prints.

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Framing Art

How do you frame an oil painting on canvas?

In addition to being an artist, I worked my way through college in a frame shop.

My first suggestion would be to hire a professional framer to do it.  Framing can actually be quite difficult, but, if you’re the do-it-yourself type:

First off, your painting needs to be stretched.  Most likely it already is as canvases sold in art supply stores are sold prestretched on a wooden frame, but if it is not, I suggest you take your painting to a frame shop where you can have a professional do it.  Stretching a painting is actually somewhat difficult and does require some practice and know-how.

Assuming you’ve gotten to the point of having the painting stretched, you need to find or build a frame that fits the dimensions of your painting.  This is where oil paintings on canvas have a disadvantage over something like a photographic print or a painting on paper.  You cannot use mats to alter the side ratios or increase the size of the work up to a larger frame.  You have to have a frame that exactly fits your painting.

You can build a frame by ordering the frame moulding from any number of vendors then assembling with corner fasteners (usually provided by the vendor along with the moulding), or, if you are handy with carpentry, making your own with wood and house moulding from the local hardware store.

Oil paintings are generally not framed under glass.

It’s better to have frame that is deeper than the depth of the canvas’s stretcher bars, but it is not strictly necessary so long as the frame is wide enough so that no one will see the sides of the canvas from any reasonable viewing angel.

To mount the painting in the frame you can use metal canvas clips (even if the frame depth is less than the canvas depth), or, if the frame IS deeper than the canvas, you can use nails, brads, or staples partially sunk in the inside of the frame to hold the painting in.

Use two screw eyes 1/3 of the way from the top on the back of the frame as anchor points for the hanging wire.

Hanging wire is a braided metal wire that you can buy from just about any hardware store or big-box store.  Be sure to get something that is rated with a weight strong enough for your painting.

Run the hanging wire through the screw eyes, then cut it leaving several inches on each side.  You might want to wrap a bit of tape around the ends of the wire to prevent cuts. Bend the ends of the wire around the screw eyes then wrap them around the rest of the wire (the part between the screw eyes).

Now, find a good spot to hang it 😀

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Can you sell art through social media sites?

Have you made any sales of your artworks through social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram?

My Fan Page on Facebook

This is a question I’ve gotten a couple of times.

Yes, I’ve made numerous sales through Facebook.  To do so though, I have a fan page that I use to market my art.  I would not recommend using a personal FB page to do your art business.

I’ve spent several years building a following on Facebook, and it has required lots of time and some money for advertising.

If you want to learn more on selling art through Facebook, check out my quick start guide to selling art online.

I’ve made a couple of sales through DeviantArt as well, but that site tends to be more social rather than commercial when it comes to art.

As for Twitter, I have a couple of thousand followers.  Whenever I post art there for sale, I usually only get one or two click through’s to my website, and, if any of those pitiful few have ever converted to a sale, I didn’t catch it.

 

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