An artist's e-newsletter

Written by Frank Juarez

For the past few years I have noticed that my interest in the business side of art has increased, which led me to facilitate professional practices for artist training workshop across the state. My interest stemmed from my own studio practice to running The Frank Juarez Gallery as well as participating in multiple conversations with artists via social media.

To best navigate this so called ‘art world’ it is important to become effective practitioners of living in the digital age. How can we use online platforms and resources to our advantage? For most artists, Instagram has been a platform of choice, but is that enough to communicate about what we do as artists inside our studios? 

Since 2015 I created an art e-newsletter called FRANK & COMPANY, which is committed to promoting the visual arts in Wisconsin. Back then this e-newsletter was shared monthly. I begin to think if that was too much time in between e-newsletters to share information? Would I be able to keep track of submissions if I changed the frequency and how would I organize it? What would I use to store this content?

I assessed these monthly e-newsletter to see if they were being looked at by my subscribers? I often think of how I could continue to engage them? My thought was what if I sent out a weekly e-newsletter? This would mean more work on my end and would I be committed to oversee this?

Time is one of our most valuable asset. Do we want to spend it on something that may not be well received? Most likely not. We have other things to take care of that demand more of our time than putting together something that only a few will even open it. The only way to know is to test it out and see what the results say. 

Today, the FRANK & COMPANY art e-newsletter comes out every Sunday at 7pm (CST) with an open rate of 43% (24% is the industry average for an arts e-newsletter). Not too shabby. 

How do we know if what we are doing to self-promote is effective? Do we focus on one way to share information or do we include other ways? Are you willing to dedicate time for something like this? I find it that when we communicate in 3’s, we tend to reach more of our diverse audience, which some our audience may follows us on multiple platforms. 

An art e-newsletter is just one way to keep your audience engaged. Maybe your audience isn’t a group of artists and that is okay. We all want and need an audience that is paying attention to what we are creating and sharing.

One way to gage interest is to encourage people to click on a link to learn more about you. This could be shared with arts consultant, buyers, or collectors. Perhaps include the link in your email signature, or on your website. Organizations use them. Art centers use them. Galleries use them. If they are using them, why not you? 

I reached out to a few artists who do put together their own artist e-newsletter and asked them to response to several questions. 

  • Why do you have an e-newsletter? 
  • In what way(s) has it impacted your career as an artist?
  • What is one challenge of maintaining it and how do you overcome it?
  • How do you determine what content to share with your subscribers?
  • How often does it come out? Where can people sign up?

Heidi Parkes (Wisconsin) is a fiber artist, focused on quilts and mending. Her art explores the concepts of place, relationships, and memory.

Image courtesy of the artist

Heidi sends out a monthly e-newsletter to keep her subscribers up-to-date on what is happening with her studio practice, new work, and workshops.

Why do you have an e-newsletter? 

This was a big to-do item for me for years.  I’d heard from other artists and quilters that their newsletters were the top way that they sold their work.  I’ve also realized that basing my communication on a free platform like Instagram leaves me at the mercy of their algorithms and changes.  By sending an email, I have a form of communication that is much less fragile, and that inspires me to share content that is more valuable than what I’m comfortable sharing for free on other platforms.

In what way(s) has it impacted your career as an artist? 

I’ve had an e-newsletter since January 2019, so it’s still pretty new.  I can point to a lot of ways that Instagram has impacted my career: selling art, getting mending commissions, booking one-on-one consultations, getting exhibitions and jobs teaching, and then selling spots in those workshops.  I hope that my e-newsletter can do the same thing as Instagram, but perhaps more reliably due the lack of algorithms.  My open rates are in the 60’s, and I hear that’s a pretty high rate for actually reaching folks.

Image courtesy of the artist

What is one challenge of maintaining it and how do you overcome it?

Committing the time to writing it is the top challenge.  I want my e-newsletter to be full of value for readers, and not just a simple update on new classes and things to purchase.  That can mean filming videos, writing tutorials, creating over a dozen hyperlinks, and a lot of thoughtful reflection. I spend at least a full day of work on each newsletter.  If it’s a really busy month, I’ve chosen in the past to skip a month, rather than send out something boring.  I stay motivated because my readership has grown a lot in the last year.  I also get wonderful feedback from it with people replying to me, and mentioning it on Instagram and through in-person conversations.

How do you determine what content to share with your subscribers?

I try to be very generous with them.  I know I’m protective over my email inbox, and I strive to share things that feel worthy of the time and medium.  I also aim to provide a variety of experiences in each newsletter: technique, philosophy, online presence, art world, quilt world, hard sell, gentle promotion, personal stories….  I hope that each newsletter will be unique, and valuable to them as creatives and as humans.  This technique video is an example of something special made for my e-newsletter: https://youtu.be/rmIhPFUgz6o  Also, this back issue included my recipe for elderberry syrup, and a link to some local Milwaukee music that I love: https://us4.campaign-archive.com/?u=c5983809261497be4cfe2af5c&id=a470df0c50

How often does it come out? Where can people sign up?

It comes out once a month, near the end of the month, with 10-12 issues per year.  People can sign up on the splash page of my website: heidiparkes.com


Cristian Andersson (Wisconsin) puts a monthly e-newsletter together to keep his subscribers up-to-date on what is happening with his studio practice, work, and classes that he teaches.

Cristian Andersson, Saariaho: Il faut que j’entre, Oil and graphite on canvas, 96.5” x 65.5”

Image courtesy of the artist

Why do you have an e-newsletter? 

1) It gives me more control over whom I am wanting to reach. I could put a post up on social media, but there is absolutely no guarantee that it will reach the audience I am intending. At one point I made a statement that I was going to be sharing less through social media, and I received responses such as: “but what will it do to your art career?” I refuse to let my career be subject to an algorithmic connection made by enormous companies when I am wanting to specifically inform people who have interest in what it is that I am doing. While I’m not giving up on Facebook (yet), I feel much more comfortable handling my contacts this way.

2) Having the e-newsletter helps me personally visualize, and at times remember, what my upcoming month is going to be like! Through a calendar, journal, writing app, and task manager app I keep on top of my priorities. This monthly e-newsletter has been a clean way of integrating all of the ways that I organize my career and distill it into a singular and organized format. I need all the help I can get on that front.

3) It helps me have more control over the persona I want to share. 

In what way(s) has it impacted your career as an artist? 

I have found it to be a very personable way to connect. While I don’t receive e-mails back all the time, I do receive a fair amount. Questions, comments, and encouragement all have found their way to my inbox through this e-newsletter. While certainly people can respond to a social media post in the comment section, I have found that more in depth and personal communications have happened when pulled away from such a public forum like Facebook. These comments then inform me what readers are (generally) interested in, and thus what I should be sharing more of in subsequent e-newsletters. Additionally, it just feels great to know that someone has taken the time to read the e-newsletter and respond back. My artistic practice can be very solitary. Along with those sequestered hours come equal amounts of work, introspection, and feelings of loneliness. The abstracted conversations I can have through my e-newsletter, and any response that it generates, then feeds back into my days in a very positive way.

What is one challenge of maintaining it and how do you overcome it?

Oh yes, this question. It can be easily answered by saying: “why would anyone even care about what I am doing?” When I hit send on an e-newsletter I am always filled with the concern that it will come into a busy person’s inbox and they will think… ugh. This guy again. Of course, that is my own internal demon shouting through a gleaming megaphone with the words Imposter Syndrome stenciled on it.  I overcome this though by just saying fuck it, writing it and sending it out. An artistic practice, or anything at all I suppose, is just railroading any doubts with a belief in yourself, and the idea that if you find value in what you bring forth, someone else probably will also.

How do you determine what content to share with your subscribers?

This goes back to part of the answer to first question, and that is that it helps me control my external persona. I am shying away from saying “brand,” because I find that concept extremely off-putting. While the beginning of my e-newsletter covers things like exhibitions I’m in or classes I am teaching, I want people to know more about who I am on a much more personable level. For better or worse, I will write about how I am feeling and any struggles I am going through. I will share in-process works and concepts that I’m currently tackling. I’ll write about connections I have made to others, and the gratitude that I have to them. It is very important to me that this e-newsletter doesn’t share just the product, but also person behind it all. Art may just be an item. An artist may be a collection of clichés. I want to share content that makes a statement about what it is to be a creative, what one goes through and why. I want to help develop for others a better idea of what a painting, installation, or performance piece that comes out of my studio is. And that it is, in fact, a very personal reflection of who I am.

How often does it come out? Where can people sign up?

I have found that monthly works best for me. Some artists are more comfortable with a shorter timeframe with their own. I have come to the realization that I am not the best at managing time and if I want to put out an e-newsletter with regularity, which is extremely important, that I have to be realistic. My e-newsletter comes out mid-month, which works nice for making announcements for the following month as a whole. What this has done is give the readers ample time to open my e-newsletter up—reports that I get show that it generally takes four days for a majority of subscribers to get to it—and then if there is something happening right at the beginning of the month, they can decide if it will fit in their schedule.

The link to subscribe to my mailing list is: https://dm-mailinglist.com/subscribe?f=5be0187c.


Stephanie Harvey (Wisconsin) writes, “I have an e-newsletter because I want to stay on my clients’ and collectors’ (current and potential) minds. I want to make it easy for these people to continue supporting me, so sending them a monthly reminder to show them which events I will be doing that month helps them to show up, buy, share, and give moral support!   Increasingly, social media sites modify the visibility of “business pages” and sometimes, in order for a multitude of people to see your posts, you need to pay for it.  An email newsletter doesn’t typically cost much except a bit of your time and personality.   An e-newsletter, when done the right way, can feel like an exclusive connection to you sent especially for a specific receiver rather than social media posts that sometimes don’t feel directed towards anyone in particular”.

Having an e-newsletter has pushed Stephanie to become more marketing-minded in general.   When she teaches a class now, rather than just share her passion for art and her dazzling personality, she is able to get even more from the experience.  Because she needs to bring an iPad and/or paper Sign Up Sheet for her e-newsletter,  it also reminds her to grab business cards and other promotional flyers and items to be sure people not only enjoy the class, but can easily hire her again for something similar or a variety of other artistic services she offers if they want to.  It isn’t pushy, it just gives them the opportunity to connect if they choose to without obligation.  She has even noticed increased sales through doing this.  Some people sign up for her e-newsletter at a local workshop, then end up showing up at receptions (after seeing it listed in her e-newsletter) and buy art! Stephanie sometimes get teaching financial bonuses for bringing new students into a workshop she is teaching at a specific organization, so getting the word out is important!

“I love how my e-newsletter brings in old familiar faces resurface at art receptions and workshops (because they saw my email).  It makes me feel like all the time I put into getting email addresses and creating these e-newsletters really pays off!   I also have noticed recently that some of my “e-news members” forward the emails on to other people, so my name and work is getting out there through the sharing of the email.  Also, some months it feels like I am not getting anything accomplished in the studio or booking cool teaching gigs or exhibiting art.  But, when I start compiling that e-newsletter, I think,  “damn, girl!  You have got to stop being so hard on yourself!  You are doing plenty!” – Stephanie Harvey

Stephanie Harvey, Spilt, mixed media

To connect with Stephanie, click here


Ana Perez Ventura (France) writes, “I have an e-newsletter to keep in touch with people who have shown interest in my work and to maintain them informed about what’s going on in my art and career. Well, it has, for example, lead to some sales. I remember a collector who came to my first solo show and signed up in my newsletter list (paper). I didn’t know about it, but he kept following my work through my e-newsletter and several years later he bought 3 pieces.

The challenge is that is time consuming, as well as keeping up social media profiles and the website. I try to concentrate the news and send a newsletter with several different articles instead of one newsletter every time that I have something to say. I also have to deal with different languages. I primary send it in French but I try to translate it to English too and when there is big news I translate it and send it too to my contacts in Spain. It allows people who are not keen of social media to follow my work. I like reading those of my fellow artists too”.

Ana Perez Ventura, Neuma nº 23 (Chopin, Étude op.25 nº6), 2017, Permanent marker on pvc. 42 x 29,7 cm

To connect with Ana click here.


Anita Burgermeister (Wisconsin) writes, “To keep clients, friends and family updated on recent projects and to support and share my enthusiasm for the arts. I do get jobs and repeat work from engaging people on my mailing list. I often get positive feedback, which warms my heart and is great encouragement some months. The blog is my main form of promotion – I share it across all my social media in addition to my mailing list. I always have updates to share, often reigning it in so the blog is not too long is a problem. I have several charity events and shows, etc. that repeat annually. Sometimes I worry about being redundant so I just try to be aware of not repeating myself.

I have sent my newsletter out monthly since January 2010. I’ve come precariously close to the end of the month, actually only missing the deadline once by posting after midnight. I enjoy the writing process and my open ended concept. My tagline is: “A.R.T. (assorted random topics) by Anita – Sharing news about creative people & events in art, music, magic, dance, dining, film, writing, architecture, inventions, life & other stuff.” So, for me – and hopefully the reader! – it never gets boring. I’m lucky that I have so many creative and interesting friends for inspiration”.

Anita Burgermeister, Brady Street Rooftops,Digital art layered with maps (and often painted abstract or textured backgrounds) printed on aluminum, 2 x 3 feet

To connect with Anita click here.


Raeleen Kao (Illinois) writes, “I started an e-newsletter when I began doing art full time, prior to teaching at Evanston Art Center.  For years, buyers, curators, and gallerists asked me if I had one and I put off putting one together because I was uncomfortable about seeming boastful about my work and doubted my ability to maintain a recurring e-newsletter.  When I set up my print studio and started doing art full time, there were a lot of people who supported me financially and it was a way to share with them that I was constantly working and that their support had been a good investment.  Because my print based work is so process heavy, it’s extremely helpful for my audience of non-printmakers or non-artists to see and read explanations of every step of the process.  Frequently, it’s this explanation of my process and writing about my thoughts and inspirations that draws collectors in.  I do a significant amount of travelling to art fairs and shows outside of Chicago, and it has been especially helpful with connecting with potential clients that way.  While it’s easy to share my studio updates and new print releases with the community in Chicago, having an e-newsletter is an occasional reminder of my work to those outside of this city.  A buyer may become a returning collector if they receive updates on an artist’s new work or an individual who may not have followed through on a purchase at the time may come back if they are given occasional reminders of the artist’s work”.

“I have a very strong aversion to technology.  I have to schedule in my calendar that I will write my newsletter on a set date and then go set up shop in a coffee shop somewhere.  I have to physically remove myself from my studio/apartment otherwise I will find every excuse in the world to draw, print, read, etc over sitting at a computer. I try to send one out monthly, but let’s be real, the second year I did it, I only sent out two the entire year.  (I am getting better!) Having a newsletter helps me keep track of what I have done each month.  I do a lot of research and writing in many of my pieces/series and writing it forces me to organize my thoughts”.   

Raeleen Kao, Lagan and Derelict, Woodcut on Mulberry paper, 27 x 108 inches

To connect with Raeleen click here.


Mychaelyn Michalec (Ohio) writes,There are lots of reasons I started an e-newsletter. I had a booth at an art fair last year and I collected a lot of contacts as part of that. So it started it as a way to connect to the people that I met at that. All artists want people to see their work, so we have websites and most everyone does some form of social media. But I also found that not everyone uses social media and we don’t control the algorithms of social media so people who are interested in your work may not even be seeing it. But I have complete control with an e-newsletter.
I don’t know if it’s possible to ascertain the impact of the e-newsletter versus other forms of promotion like social media. But I found a surprising number of people responded to my last one. It was great to have direct feedback”.


I think it would be challenging to have a set schedule of content to produce. That’s not how most careers are. So I try to create an e-newsletter only when I have a few interesting bits to share with my audience. Sometimes it’s every two months and sometimes it’s 4-5 months. I also think the length is a challenge. If it can’t be read in three minutes, people aren’t going to invest their time. After all, people have a whole inbox of items that are piling up behind yours. So I usually try to show 3-4 interesting items with some great images and lots of links. If they want to read more they can always click. It varies depending on what I have to share. I don’t feel a need to have a set schedule. I’d rather have it be less frequent and more interesting than more frequent and lacking content.


“I think it is great to focus on the successes we have had as artists. I think an e-newsletter helps to highlight that”.


Mychaelyn Michalec, Then I decided I would never be able to think of the things about me that bothered him, Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 32 inches

To connect with Mychaelyn click here.


Angela Pierro (Wisconsin) writes, “I have an e-newsletter in order to stay connected with collectors and/or potential collectors that may not use social media. It is a great way to inform readers about upcoming shows and career successes. From my experience, sending an e-newsletter has allowed me to build a better relationship with my collectors and potential collectors. Keeping my audience informed has allowed them to see how invested I am in my work, which has ultimately lead to sales and commissioned pieces”.

“It isn’t easy writing about myself so to overcome that I start by writing as though I am helping to promote someone else. My goal is to send my e-newsletter out a minimum of twice a year and maximum of four times a year. However, if there is a big event scheduled like a solo show, which I recently had, then I send one before the event and one afterwards. It’s a great way to say thank you to those that attended while keeping others informed”.

“What I like the most is that a large percentage of the readers open the e-newsletter then send me private messages. It’s also helpful that I can review the analytics. It’s incredibly helpful to know the percentage of engagement. The marketing aspect is rewarding, however, knowing that I have an audience that loves my work is, for me, a powerful motivator”.
 
Angela Pierro, Close up of “Repose”, Oil on canvas, 5′ x 7′

To connect with Angela click here


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