Lessons from 5 strategies used on my first Kickstarter project



I've always avoided the idea of running my own Kickstarter project. Even if many visual artists ran very successful campaigns, many also failed. And the idea of running a project that fails is terrifying. But for some reason, the Make 100 challenge from Kickstarter felt different. Perhaps it's the fact that it was initiated by Kickstarter and that the idea of challenging myself to create a series of 100 art pieces, warmed me up to the idea of joining. After seeing some similar project succeed under the Make 100 umbrella, I decided to take the plunge despite the fear of failure and the illogical shame that comes with it. Now that's I'm 1/3rd of the way to the deadline, I've learned a couple things so far from the strategies I used as a beginner, to try to make it a successful one. And I would like to share them with you. It might give you some insight if you're thinking of creating your own campaign in the future.

1. Ignore Kickstarter Spam Messages

One thing I did not expect to get is spam messages within the Kickstarter mailing system. As soon as I hit the launch button, I received a lot of unsolicited messages from anonymous Kickstarter accounts selling their services to promote my campaign. You can imagine my disappointment receiving 10 messages selling me crowdfunding campaigns for hundreds and thousands of dollars and not one word of encouragement. Most of the accounts I received messages from had no activities on their profile. I'm not even sure they are real accounts, they could be bots. If they weren't they would waste their time soliciting on a $500 campaign. At least I don't think so. So be aware that this is something that's going to happen. Maybe they are valuable to people running larger campaigns, but the fact that they don't even check to see if what they're offering fit, they wouldn't be my first choice. 


2.  Seek Advice from fellow Kickstarters

The silver lining in receiving so many spam messages on Kickstarter was that it made me realize that I could also reach out to fellow participants and ask for advice. So I did.  I reached out to a couple successful artists who also took part in the Make 100 challenge project and surpassed their initial goal. I asked them if they had some advice for newbies. Some of them were kind enough to reply (interestingly all first timers as well) and they recommended to post daily on all social media platforms and email previous clients. For a lot of them, the bulk of their backers were people they knew. The ones who seem to have more experience or a longer career in the field, seemed to be the ones who did better. One early participant was lucky to be featured on the Kickstarter newsletter and that helped boost her reach. Reach is probably one of the most important thing to focus on during a campaign. If you're lucky enough to be featured on a high traffic site, you'll be able to reach more people. Unfortunately I haven't seen a lot of promotions by Kickstarter about the #Make100 project other then a post about how many creators joined and maybe a handful of posts promoting some projects under this umbrella. I would have thought that for initiating the project, they would tweet about it a lot more often.



3. Reaching more people on podcasts

I got a message from a former Kickstarter creator to beware of unsolicited messages selling campaign promotions at a high price. She suggested I take a look at Fiverr instead as there were more affordable options there. It's not something that had crossed my mind but so I decided to take a look and found a well rated online radio DJ who sold ads on his show for $12USD. I figured that would not be an expensive lesson to pay if it didn't work out, so I gave it a try. Three days later, I received the link to the show featuring my radio ad,  a download of the audio version that I could use as often as I like, a posts on his Facebook account (3400+ likes), a post on his Twitter feed (44,700+ followers) and a custom Google link to track traffic coming from his posts. 

It's hard to say how much this has helped other than having a couple extra clicks from that specific url on my page. I only got 27 clicks from it so far and I don't suspect I'll get much more then that, unless I repost it myself. Since I already created my own custom link, it would defeat the purpose. The bulk of the leads coming from this ad would be by listerners searching for "100 cloud paintings" on Kickstarter, as it was the only way for his listeners to get to my page, and it's difficult to track. Still you can listen to the ad below, it's kind of fun to have a stranger create an add based on your content. It's a genius idea on his part to fund his show through Fiverr, but I think if I was to do this again, I would choose a radio show targeting a niche market interested in arts. Another lesson is that one tweet on a social media account of 44,7K followers doesn't make that big of a difference especially if there followers are not very engaged. Hindsight 20/20.





4. Tracking my own social media marketing


Right at the beginning of my campaign, I decided to use a shortened Google URL across all platform to see what kind of traffic I'm getting from my effort. I could have used different URL for different social media platform to get a better idea of which is more effective, but I kept it simple with just one. This link is used on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and in my email signatures. Basically, any opportunity to insert that link and get people to at least go see the page that I could think of was used. What I've learned so far is that it's important to reach as many people as possible. One of the reasons why project may fail is that they are not seen enough. To date I generated only 53 clicks (+27 from the Fiverr service), which tells me that I need to work on that aspect of my campaign. It's not being seen by enough people online and I will have to think of other strategies to get it in front of the right people.  


5. Tracking and updating my Kickstarter page

I've only realized today that there's a way to track traffic on my Kickstarter page using Google Analytics! What gets measured get accomplished. In the remaining 19 days of the campaign, I'll be able to learn where traffic is coming from, what works and what doesn't work.  It will be a great way to get a better understanding of it.  I also keep updating my page with better photos, more videos and better description as I'm producing the artwork. I'll keep you posted on the progress and results from this experiment. 

If you have any questions, comments or advice, feel free to post them below. 


CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE PAGE

What My Paintings Revealed About Me

Progress shot of the 4th iteration of the painting


I'm slowly realizing that everything we do, every single decisions we make, says something about us. As much as we try, we can't really hide anything. We may think we can, just because most people are too busy worrying about what others think about them and most people are not present enough to really notice their surroundings. But if anyone takes the time to take a good look at someone, including themselves, they will soon see all the clues that make up their personality : the clothes we wear, the shape of our body, the food we eat, the music we listen to, the things we talk about, the things we like, the things we dislike, they all say something about us. With that said, I realized that what I choose to paint, also says a lot of things about me. The crazy thing is that it's subconscious. I didn't really see it until I took a step back and started to analyze my paintings and consequently, myself. Here's what I found out: 

1. The featured colour revealed my intent

A deep purple called Shadow. As soon as I saw the colour and the name, I was drawn to it. I was inspired. It was instant. "I love this colour!" That was my first thought. I had to have this colour. What does that say about me? Well, doing a little research on the meaning of colours, I found this rather interesting quote on color-meanings.com
The color purple or violet assists those seeking the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment. They expand our horizon and connects us to a higher level of consciousness. For the same reason, philosophers around the world are often attracted to these colors. In color psychology, purple and violet represents the future, imagination and dreams. They inspire and improve our psychic abilities and spiritual awareness as well as ensure that we stay grounded and down to earth.
How fitting! I've been on a path of self development for the past couple years, going to workshops, reading lots of books and pondering on various philosophical topics. And this year I decided to start an art project called Dare to Dream. And here's another interesting discovery : I was also drawn to the name "Shadow" for this colour. If it had been called Eggplant or Blueberry, which can also fit the colour, I most likely would not have been as intrigued by it as much. But I do like the mystery of the word shadow and I'm all about uncovering and discovering things. 

2. The main subject reveals part of my personality

Why clouds? Why not landscapes, animals, oceans, places or people I don't know. I was just drawn to them. I realized that I was spending more time painting them and that they started to creep in more and more in my work to the point where I decided to make them the main feature of my paintings. Then I realized that it's very telling of my personality. I'm an idealist : Head in the clouds and feet on the ground kind of idealist. I'm always in my head, thinking, contemplating, analyzing, observing. I'm a dreamer by nature. I've been that way since I was a little kid. There are so many connections that are revealing themselves between my creative personality and clouds, it's a little freaky. Also, I recently found out that my astrological sign is an air sign. Coincidence? 

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 4 
Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
$ 880 - ORIGINAL AVAILABLE

3. The topic of the first piece reveals my message 

So what inspired the painting? Why did I choose to arrange the clouds that way? I don't know. It was just a feeling. I felt like arranging them that way. But the more I spent time on the topic, using the same colours, the deeper I thought about it. I tend to create first out of intuition and analyze after. Now that I've done four painting on the same topic, a deeper understanding of what I created now seems to surface. 

Why did I chose the title Cloud Cover Casting Shadow for this particular piece? Why did I decide to keep the name Shadow in the title of the painting? I could have used anything, but for some reason I was also drawn to the word shadow. In my mind, shadow goes hand in hand with light. You can't have one without the other. This whole idea of balance through contrast is definitely something I relate to.  

If you look at the various iterations of the paintings, there are clouds all around forming some sort of container and there is light on the right in the back. That light enables the viewer to see that within the clouds is a little cloud, almost like it's protecting or hiding it. Why did I felt compelled to create it that way? Why is the little cloud in the shape of a heart in two of them and what is that shape in the other two paintings?

For me, taking a step back after creating it I see that as starting to reveal a part of myself that I've kept hidden and protected. Things that I hold dear in my heart : my art, my ideals, my aspirations in life, etc. Starting this journey of creating as much as I can no matter what is a difficult one because it's very revealing and when we reveal things we're often afraid of being judged. But at the same time, there's all this energy that's bottled in and need to come out and do what it needs to do in the light. It comes back to that first book I read a couple years ago, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. What he said in the book stayed with me and in it's own way, the words from the book have been gradually coaching me to share my work, especially this quote : 
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.
I remember having an a-ha moment when I heard a character of a TV show say that the role of an artist is to help people see better. That also stayed with me. Perhaps there's a connection there as well and way more for others to find out as they contemplate these particular paintings. Different people will find different meanings and see different things out of the same painting and that's really fascinating. If by creating these pieces I get to contribute to someone else seeing something better, then I've done my job.  

Check out the speed painting videos of the latest two iterations of Cloud Cover Casting Shadow to see the paintings in the makings. Maybe you'll get something special out of it too.

Mini version featuring a heart cloud.


Largest version featuring a blob cloud. Maybe it will make more sense to me in the future.

Cloudy Mind

One of the brains I saw last summer (Brain Magic by Janet Lage)

If you've been in the city this past summer, you may have notice quite of few sculptures of decorated brains around Toronto. These sculptures were part of the Brain Project, a city-wide art installation featuring 100 decorated brains in 50 locations bringing awareness to the importance of brain health and support Baycrest. Baycrest is a research and education hospital for the elderly and home of the new Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. The brain project invited artists and sponsors to decorate a brain sculpture to be displayed in the city and auctioned off to fund Baycrest. You can see all the designed on their page (brainproject.ca/artists).  
 My favourite brain sculpture from the 2016 selected artists : (1) by Community (2) by Rainer Lagemann (3) by Vinicio Momoli (4) by Ekow Nimako (5) by Lisa Santana & Kevin Goddard for Unit Five (6) by Parvez Taj





















Of the 100 brains created last year, the 6 above are my favourites. I'm particularly fond of the one made out of mirrors. It's the kind of sculpture I would display in my home and probably the type of idea I would come up with as well. As it turned out, the Brain Project will be doing this again this summer and sent out a call for artist a little while ago for more designs and I decided to apply. It would be great to participate and share my thoughts on the importance of mindfulness for the health of our brains. Mindfulness in its many forms enable us to reduce stress which is a great thing because sustained chronic stress has been linked to depression. 

Since I'm all about clouds this year, it didn't take too much time for me to come up with an idea : Cloudy Mind. The idea behind my concept is to create a brain may out of polyfill to look like a cloud in the shape of a brain and run LED lights underneath so that it could look like lightning inside the cloud, suggesting activity brewing in the mind. 




My proposal for the 2017 Brain Project

The parallels between the mind and clouds for me are very striking. Just like clouds, our minds are immaterial. They can be beautiful and inspiring, light and airy, evoking imagination and dreams. On the other hand they can be dangerous and scary, heavy and gloomy, evoking depression and nightmares. Being aware of our state of mind, able to take a step back and not hold on to the kinds of thoughts that lead to an increased level of stress is an idea I would like to contribute to the project. I'm looking forward to see who gets selected. Hopefully I get picked but if I don't, I'll keep this idea for a future exhibition opportunity around that topic. Wish me luck :)  

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 2

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 2 
Acrylic on wood panel, 9" x 12"
$ 250 - ORIGINAL AVAILABLE
What do you think about when you're on an airplane looking at the clouds from above? I think about a lot of things. My mind wanders. I remember once while observing big fluffy clouds from my window seat. They were so thick that I couldn't see the city under them. And I thought how interesting it was for me to leave the gloomy day before taking the plane and realize that it was only gloomy under the clouds. Above the clouds, everything was nice and sunny. It sounds silly but it came as an epiphany : the sun is always shining above the clouds. Just repositioning myself from under to above, it shifted my mood and that thought stayed with me back under the clouds with a renewed perspective.  Perhaps I took it as an analogy for life : whenever things seems to be going wrong, remember that's it's just a perspective and it's temporary. There's always sunshine above the clouds. 

Perhaps subconsciously this was the thought that inspired this painting : Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 2 : A visual representation of the idea that often we let temporary things get in the way of our happiness and forget that just because we don't see that thing that makes us happy, doesn't mean it's not there. Sometime me may just need to change position in order to see it. Like the painting, this one was created using Benjamin Moore's paints called Shadow 2117-30 and Cloud Cover OC-25 as part of my Benjamin Moore Colour Trend Art Challenge

Prints of this artwork are now available on Society 6

Cloud Cover Casting Shadow No 1

Journal Painting for January

It has begun! New year, new art challenge. Before putting paint on a larger canvas I figured I would start in my journal and get a bit of a feel for the paint. I like how it turned out and I really like the colour combination. For this piece I used the colour Shadow 2117-30 and Cloud Cover OC-25. They blend well and like any acrylic paint you have to be fast before the paint dries. I can see some places where I can improve but overall I think it turned out great. Next will be to test this out on a small canvas. 

My Benjamin Moore Colour Trend Art Challenge

Testing the Shadow 2117-30 colour for my project 
I couples days ago I was perusing through the Internet looking for some inspiration and learned that the Benjamin Moore's Colour of the year for 2017 is a really rich and deep purple called Shadow 2117-30. I've been into purples lately so, naturally, I was drawn to that particular colour. In colourpsychology.com, purple is said to have a calming effect over the mind and nerves. It can be uplifting, trigger creativity and increase intuition. To me purple also represents balance as it's the combination of the high energy of the colour red and the cool calming energy of the colour blue. Interestingly, when looking into what it means to like the colour purple, a lot of the description fits my personality. At least part of it. 

Inspired by that colour, I decided to create a piece of artwork featuring Shadow. But then I also looked at the entire colour palette for 2017 and saw more interesting colours with eye catching names such as Gentleman's Gray, Sea Star and Stormy Monday. So I decided to upgrade my idea and turn it into a year long art challenge for the upcoming year: Perfect time for a new art challenge! So my art challenge for 2017 is to create art pieces featuring each of the 23 colours of the 2017 trend colour palette. It should be an interesting experience. I already went ahead a couple days ago and bought my first four colour samples : Shadow, Gentleman's Grey, Amulet and Cloud Cover (shown below).

(left to right) Shadow 2117-30, Gentleman's Grey 2062-20, Amulet AF-365, Cloud Cover OC-25
I'm not entirely sure how this is going to go. At first I was just going to use them in a painting but I've decided that these painting will only use the colours from that palette and that they will be used in my cloud painting project.  I've never used them to paint on canvas before so it will be interesting to see what comes out of that idea. 

Wish me luck! 

Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream 
Acrylic on canvas, 9" x 12"
$ 250 - ORIGINAL AVAILABLE

Every single invention that currently exists around us started out as a thought or a dream : The clothes we're wearing, the homes we live in, the places we work at, the countries we live in, the car we're driving, the roads we're taking, the books and magazines we read, the shows and movies we watch, the music we listen to, our electronics, our vacation spots, the Internet, social media, etc. They all started as a thought, an idea or a dream in someone else's mind and we are essentially living in other people's dreams.

Dreams are powerful, especially big dreams. They move us forward. They change the world for the better. Imagine where we would be without people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Park, Valentina Tereshkova, Ganhdi, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Oprah and Elon Musk? They dreamed big.  Not only are we living in their dreams, we're also actively working on keeping their dream alive, which is great. The problem is that too often, many of us are so busy living in someone else’s dream that we often forget to create our own dreams too. It's like we forget that we also get to participate if we want to, if we dare to dream just like the ones before us did. 

Dreams are the first crucial step in making big changes. Rather than spending time complaining and commiserating about how things are not the way we want them to be, we should spend more time dreaming about how we would like things to be instead and then start taking action to turn these dreams into reality. But first, we must dare to dream. We can only change something by creating something new that doesn't exist yet, and in order to do that, we need to dream.

All these thoughts inspired the painting above entitled Dare to Dream. As you watch this artistic cloud formation in the the video below, I hope to invite you to slow down for a couple minutes and take some time to think about your own dreams. What do you dream about for yourself? for your family?  for your friends?  for your environment? for  your country?  for our world? Do you even still dream? If not, do you have to courage to start to dream big again ?