Observer: Art Startup Paintru Wants to Be a Resource for Artists

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Abigail Pfriem

Observer recently dove into how Paintru is supporting a thriving community of artists through the direct to consumer artwork commission platform. Read more about how the process works, and the value for artists around the globe.

Original story by: Helen Holmes for Observer

As the coronavirus disaster has continued to clamp down around all aspects of society, some studio artists who produce work independently have encountered pending sales being canceled in the middle of the exchange process, or else that their shows have been indefinitely postponed due to galleries and museums being shut down. When you’re a creator trapped at home without a clear way to pay your bills, where else is there to turn but to the internet? Paintru is a startup that launched last August that allows its customers to upload photographs that are then converted into painted artworks by a roster of artists. The business reported to Observer this week that the platform had seen a 50 percent increase in inquiries from artists looking for commissioned work since January.  

JD and Liza Kameen, Paintru’s founders, told Observer that the data they have on this uptick in artist requests for gigs can essentially be matched to the geographic spread of the pandemic. “We don’t have enough customers yet to fulfill all of the requests [from artists for work],” JD Kameen said. And while they’re please at the surge in interest, they’re mindful of the difficult circumstances motivating it. “It could be a young business-owner’s dream, but for me, all of these requests have a story behind them and I don’t know the emotional level of the story.”

Paintru’s prices for customers range from $185 to $655, placing their offerings firmly within the affordability spectrum for people looking for speedily-made artwork that’s conveniently delivered. As for the artists who create the work, the Kameens told Observer that each individual is free to negotiate her own rate.

“It’s really important that we pay what the artist is expecting, and we don’t want to commission a piece without getting final approval from the artist first,” JD Kameen said, adding that the amount of money up-and-coming artists can expect to make from a commission done for a Paintru customer is generally around $200. Paintru’s Instagram page also has 470,000 followers, and the founders use that significant presence to spotlight hundreds of artists who’re looking to increase their social reach without charging any fee. 

As the new reality created by the pandemic settles in, Paintru’s founders said they’ll continue to find new ways to feature artists on their platform as it grows. “I don’t know when the world will return to normal, but I think we’re just trying to be like, ‘we are open. Maybe we don’t have a piece for you, but we can make this transition online easier for you,'” Kameen said. “There’s hope, there’s something to look forward to and it doesn’t have to be this hard.” 

 - Helen is a reporter who covers the fine arts community, museums and the international auction scene. She's written for the New York Times Magazine, Glamour, GQ, VICE, Rolling Stone, and Splinter News, among others. She tweets @helenbholmes.