Why most artist newsletters stink by Alyson B Stanfield

Why Most Artist Newsletters Stink (and What To Do About It)

by ALYSON STANFIELD on MAY 30, 2012

Three words that could revolutionize artist newslettersFocus! Focus! Focus!

First, let’s look at why you might want to change the approach to your newsletter.

©Kathleen Dunphy, Complements. Oil on linen.

©Kathleen Dunphy, Complements. Oil on linen, 20 x 21 inches. Used with permission.

Why Most Artist Newsletters Stink

Short answer: They’re boring and terribly designed.

Longer answer . . .

Most artist newsletters that hit my inbox fail to capture my interest because of a combination of the following reasons.

  • Bad design: Too many background and text colors that overpower the art.
  • Hard to read: Long, unbroken paragraphs making it difficult to tell what is important.
  • Boring content: Just plain uninteresting. They’re either too promotional (“Buy this now!”) or they have no storytelling to connect with my world and interests.
  • Ill-conceived subject line: There’s no enthusiasm to open it up and see what’s inside.

Perhaps the most egregious error in artist newsletters is that the artist hasn’t sent a newsletter out in awhile and feels like s/he needs to write everything that has happened since the last issue.

Don’t do this! The mission of your newsletter shouldn’t be to catch up your readers on all you’ve done since the last issue.

Your mission should be to forge a stronger connection between readers and your art.

Let’s save “bad design” for another day and focus on the boring content.

Your 2-word mission: engage people. Appeal to their senses and interests. I have some ideas for how to do this, which I think will make it a lot more fun to write your newsletter.

Make Your Newsletter About a Single Artwork

Making your newsletter about a single artwork doesn’t mean that you go on and on about how it was made, how you selected the materials, what it means to you, etc.

It means you build a single issue of your newsletter around the themes taken from one work of art. This approach isn’t for everybody, but pay attention if it appeals.

Let’s use Kathleen Dunphy’s painting Complements (above) as an example.

Without knowing anything else about this work, I’d consider the following content subheadings if I were building a newsletter around this single painting.

  1. Complements with an “E”
    Artists know that blue and orange are complementary on the color wheel, but many people do not. Talk about the choice of working with complementary colors: why do it, when to do it, when not to do it, what to look out for, and so forth.
  2. Chinese or Japanese Blue-and-White Porcelain
    Kathleen’s ceramic selections look like contemporary pieces, but they come from a tradition. Tell me about it! 

You might also share the latest auction results for antique blue-and-white in the art market or an image of a similar piece you came across in a museum.
  3. Oranges

    If the oranges came from a tree in your yard, tell us about it and perhaps share a photo of the orange tree. Otherwise, research the variety you selected to find an interesting story. 

For example, when I was trying to come up with ideas for this, I wanted to know if the oranges were Clementines, Mandarins, Tangerines, or something altogether different. Apparently, they’re not all the same!
  4. The Number 9

    There are 9 oranges. What is the significance of this? The number 9 is auspicious in both Eastern and Western traditions. 

On the other hand, if it just worked out that there were 9, share why you selected 9 instead of 8 or 10.

Don’t Mislead Your Readers

The above ideas are just stories intended to appeal to a variety of people with a variety of interests. If symbolism wasn’t your intent, be sure your readers understand this.

You are discovering things about your art after you made it that add new layers of meaning.

Keep Your Eye on the Ultimate Goal

As I said, your primary goal is to forge a deeper connection with readers. This will help you retain subscribers and add new ones because if your content is good, it will be shared.

Your secondary goal might be to encourage readers to click or to purchase. To do this, you can start one of your stories with a teaser (as I do with my newsletter) and provide a link to read the rest of the story on your blog post or website.

Building your newsletter around a single artwork is just one suggestion to help focus the content. What other ideas do you have?

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