Let's say you want to hire an artist to do a custom painting. What are your options? Well, you could peruse local galleries until you find an artist you like, get in touch to see if they accept commissions, and hope that the price is somewhat within your budget. Or you could head to Etsy, where it's easy to see the artists' work and the and pricing is more or less upfront—you just might have to sift through a few thousand listings. (145,365 to be exact, if you search for "custom painting.")
Sound like a lot of work? It did to San Diego-based J.D. Kameen, who, after returning from a trip to Paris with his wife, Liza, wanted to give her a painting based on one of their travel photos. Daunted by the prospect of ordering a piece through an art gallery, J.D. started reaching out directly to artists on Instagram, where he and Liza had started an account where they featured favorite paintings from different artists around the world.
"I ended up connecting with everyone from famous French artists to graduate students in Portugal," says J.D., all of whom had one thing in common: "They were looking for ways to contract out their art outside of galleries, but couldn't keep up with the social media inquiries."
So last August, J.D. and Liza officially launched Paintru, an online platform that lets consumers order custom art from their roster of thousands of artists, with prices ranging from $185 to $655. The process is pretty simple: Upload an inspiration photo, choose your medium (watercolor, oil or acrylic) and size, add any notes describing your desired look, and Paintru will connect you with an artist. Within a few weeks, you'll see a draft of the painting; once you're happy with it, it'll get shipped to you for free. Thanks to a partnership with Framebridge, you can even have it professionally framed.
While it's an obvious choice for anyone looking for, say, a watercolor of a family pet or wedding photo, Paintru is also looking to build its business with interior designers. "It gives them the chance to create something really unique for their customers," says Liza, who adds that the company has on-staff design experts who handle requests like matching to specific Pantone colors. "If a decorator want a series of six abstract paintings in a shade of orange that's especially soothing, we can connect them with an artist to do that," she explains.
Next up, Paintru is partnering with Flytographer, an "Airbnb for travel photography", per J.D., that connects travelers with professional photographers at their destination. "We're at a tipping point when it comes to travel imagery—people are tired of seeing the same pictures over and over," says J.D. "What we want now is something that's imperfect. That's what makes it special."
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