Artist Newsletters and Email Lists – Why You Need Them

Why Should Artists Build an Email List and Send Newsletters?

I can hear you groaning over that question from here. You’d rather paint or draw than write. Words aren’t your strongest wheelhouse?

I get it; you don’t know what to say. And yes, like me – you speak with your hands, so while writing newsletters, you can’t flail and gesture with said hands, so words come out stiffer and less You-ish. I know, I know. (I’m patting you sympathetically on the shoulder.)

Here – take a deep breathe, have a cookie, and sip this iced tea I’m pretend-handing-you – while we review solid reasons to reconsider, and march forward.

Risky Real Estate

Did I tell you about the time I lost 5000 patrons in one day? Yep. Five with three zeros. Gone. Poof!

They were all blog followers, and some of those folks collected my work. I treated that little village of goodness as a casual relationship; I just painted and posted art. My growing tribe got notified automatically when new work was published on my blog through their rss feed-reader of choice – Google Reader. On July 1, 2013, Google Reader was shut down, and the (free) pipeline I tapped on for communication with 5,261 followers was severed.

And I let it happen, because I relied on a free conduit that didn’t belong to me. Fortunately, I started asking  blog visitors to sign up for my mailing list the season before this happened, so I didn’t lose everyone who ever read this blog.  But I’ll tell you what; that 5K of readers was/is still a painful loss, and a hard lesson. Own your mailing list.

Getting Found in the Crowd: Build an email list and use your newsletter to build relationships, share your process and let people know where you’ll be so they can find you.

The Moral of the Story

If you harvest followers with your art on social media (which I heartily encourage); facebook, pinterest, youtube, linked in, twitter, instagram… you’re on borrowed real estate that could disappear overnight. All your work, and those clever posts, and all the online-friends, and encouraging comments, and that hard-won camaraderie could be G-O-N-E with the simple launch of a new algorithm, or a company merger.

Use social media to drive traffic to your blog or web presence, and collect your follower’s email addresses so you can share with them directly.  A mailing list and newsletter belongs to you. Your email list is the town square of your village.

Your communication with followers is person-to-person. It’s a pipeline you’ve been invited to frequent – by those followers who gave you an email address for that purpose. So, please share with them.

an artist in her studio with a tuxedo cat sitting on her work table
Writing may not be your strong suit, but you can still send a brief newsletter about what you’re working on, or your favorite art supplies this week, or which series of paintings you’re deciding on for the next season.
making plans in the art studio
Use your own list of To-Do’s to prompt newsletter subjects. Other folks are working on the same stuff, in different arenas. Pretend you’re talking over the fence to a neighbor.

The Good News

If you start to feel like you’d rather sprint barefoot up and down stone colosseum steps on a hot day instead of writing a newsletter to your patrons, you’re not alone. Type this into google and look at the 168 million hits: “Creative Newsletter Ideas”.

That’s right – there are lists of topics, newsletter templates, newsletter design software, mind-maps, infographics and online courses galore to help you out. That’s because so many other people feel exactly like you do about writing a newsletter.  But they do it anyway, because it works. And you can too.

The study for Flaking Sails underway, on a lap desk, painted on a fluid watercolor block, with a closeable travel brush and a van gogh pocket palette of watercolors

Artist Newsletter Resources

C’mon now, you’ve Got This! You just have to start, and then it becomes habit.

  • Here is a Mail Chimp Masterclass for Beginners on Skillshare
  • This class often streams for free (normally $99) by the prolific Marketing wunderkind Jeff Goins – on Effective Email and Newsletter Marketing
  • Inc. magazine shared 74 newsletter titles that generate traffic here.
  • Here’s just one more rice kernel of results for newsletter topics, layouts, methods and approaches on Pinterest (grab a beverage and a note pad) Between google and Pinterest, ideas on newsletter topics could fill a library.
  • Here are five tips for your artist newsletter.
artists should send newsletters to followers and collectors
Do you have a subscribe button on your blog? How about on your email signature line?
Is there an invitation to subscribe to your newsletter on your business card, or the header of your social media accounts?
artist newsletters and why you should send them
Artists collect books on other artists. We are deeply curious about artists in history, and contemporary artists; what were they like? What’s in their studio? How do they work? What does a typical day look like? Your followers are just as curious about you.

An Invite for an Invite

Here is one of the ironic loops in our artist-to-patron relationships. We wish patrons would invite us – through collecting our art – into the most intimate recesses of their homes. We hope our work gets found, purchased and featured in the coziest spaces they share with family and friends.

Our paintings might be part of their descendant’s fond recall of nostalgic totems lining the walls where memories were made.  Collectors include your work in their world.  But it’s more reciprocal to invite your patron into your world as well. Two way communication works best with collectors, just as it does in real relationships.

Study for Flaking Sails 8 x 6 graphite and watercolor on paper (Visit my Etsy Shop)

Two Way Communication

Your newsletter invites followers into your life. Communicating details of your work, your process and your creative narrative gives something back in return for their initial interest.  Email missives (or blog posts) let them know you in a way that nurtures and encourages relationships.

A newsletter to your collectors makes you one of their familiars.  You’re not sending a memorandum to SELL stuff – you’re talking one-on-one to the people who’ve expressed curiosity about you, your work and your studio practice.

A newsletter is a kinship thread. If someone has given you their email address, the phone in your studio is ringing. Take a deep breath and answer it.

How often do you distribute news, essays and studio happenings to your email list? Which resources have helped you chose topics to share? How do you keep your list growing and active? Share your tips in the comments so we can all get better at this together.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. You can subscribe to get each new post as it’s published by signing up here.

Art Quote

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.

Henry Winkler
make art more often
If you’re having trouble making time for art, I’ve got six tips for you to get creative more often. Click here.

4 thoughts on “Artist Newsletters and Email Lists – Why You Need Them”

  1. Dear Belinda, you do incredible in all aspects. Artwork and writing about being an artist, sharing your work. Inspiring. I am a dabbler at the arts, but hope to get brave. I love your inspiring work. I am so lucky that I found you. I signed up for emails and I learn good things from reading your newsletter everytime. Now I know more of ups and downs and the merit of having a newsletter. Thank you. I do not have a website, I hope to one day. Kathryn

    1. Hi Katheryn, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and outline such valuable feedback for me. I’m glad the shared details of my journey up the Artist Hill feel right, and accessible to you. I hope your dabbling gives you great pleasure and respite, and you get a chance to encourage someone else to pursue this creative adventure.

  2. laurelle cidoncha

    You seem to read my mind. On September 1 I’m launching my first website and I was so reluctant to add a newsletter. This article has convinced me to do so. Thank you so much for the inspiration, encouragement and links. I very much appreciate it, Belinda!

    1. Hi Laurelle, hearty congratulations on the launch of your website! And congrats on your decision to include a newsletter. I hope your list grows fast, and you writing becomes effortless.

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....