JD and Liza Kameen founded Paintru to answer a handful of simple questions. How can someone easily take a photo from their phone and have it hand-painted by an artist? Which artist is best equipped? How do you connect with them? What’s a fair price?
It was after a trip to Paris, and JD wanted to gift Liza a hand-painted piece from their trip. The hurdles of taking a simple photo from his phone and turning it into a hand-painted piece by an artist were aplenty, so the duo dreamt up Paintru.
Whitewall spoke the Kameens to hear more about Paintru, how the brand partners with artists around the globe, and how customers go from having a digital photo to a hand-painted masterpiece in weeks.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your backgrounds leading up to founding Paintru.
JD KAMEEN: Liza and I have always had a passion for leveraging social media to connect customers with brands. Prior to Paintru, we ran a popular fashion Instagram page before the term “influencer” was widely used or understood. We featured large clothing brands daily and worked alongside their marketing teams for sponsored trips, featured posts, and collection launches. Working with large companies like Vineyard Vines showed us how to maximize customer reach on social media through hashtag use.
WW: Tell us a bit about Paintru—from the foundation of the company to how it’s evolved today.
LIZA KAMEEN: Paintru is the natural progression of the art buying experience in the 21st century. Paintru was born on Instagram by first amassing artists all over the world to a community Instagram page. This is really the unique part of Paintru. Most brands focus on customer acquisition through social media; Paintru has done the opposite. We focus all of our effort on artist acquisition.
Our page now has hundreds of thousands of artists that are able to create gallery quality work for customers. Most people in the U.S. only use Instagram to post photos, but for international users (especially artists we are finding), Instagram provides an easy way to communicate via direct messaging. We can now see an artist’s portfolio on Instagram alone, and make decisions about what projects would fit with their skill set in the future. This will allow us to scale without introducing overly complicated tech to international artists unfamiliar with certain interfaces.
WW: As the story goes, JD, you wanted to gift your wife, Liza, a photo from your trip to Paris. Tell us a bit about that journey and what you discovered in that process that lead you to creating Paintru.
JDK: As a millennial with a modest income, I never felt too comfortable shopping in an art gallery. I didn’t know the verbiage, what prices made sense, or how to choose frames that would match our interior style. This was all very overwhelming.
After trying to have a photo of Liza and I hand painted from a Paris photo package, I found that nothing really existed to connect artists with customers in a way that was familiar to the way I normally shop online. That’s when we realized we could just send photos directly to artists through Instagram. I ended up getting the photo hand painted and shipped via DHL directly to our house, and we figured as more and more people leave beautiful imagery to die on their phones, a need for this would come.
WW: How does a customer start and begin this process?
LK: The customer starts the process with amazing imagery. Whether it’s a professional photograph, a silly selfie, or a cherished old image of a loved one or pet. Once a customer decides on the image, the rest is very easy and was designed to match what I hoped already existed when I was doing the process.
The customer uploads the image to Paintru.com, chooses from recommended medium, size, and popular modern frames, and that’s it! That’s when Paintru does the hard work of finding an artist that matches the project—but we already know based on the customers selections. The selected artist for the order receives a detailed summary of the order within about 30minutes. The image is also sent in its original resolution so fine details can be painted.
The overall project time is determined by size, medium, and detail requests form the customer, but we average about 14 days for the painting process. The great part is, our relationship with shipping companies allows us to minimize the logistical burden usually on artists to frame and ship. We have partnered strategically with framing partners that allow us to reduce both shipping and framing costs leaving that part of the process off of the artists.
Before the artist ships the painting, we send an image to the customer for final approval, and off it goes. Within about three to four weeks, the customer receives a magnificent 100 percent hand-painted version of their image beautifully framed with the market leading framing options.
WW: Tell us a bit about who’s painting these pieces. How do you choose these creators?
JDK: We choose artists based on their portfolio, experience, and workload. For a recent example, we are now in talks (through Instagram direct messaging) with an artist group in South Africa of over 600 artists. They specialize in oil painting. We hope to add them soon and work on understanding how to ship from South Africa.
WW: Are there artists or creators you particularly admired, leading up to creating Paintru? What about today?
JDK: Personally, our favorite artist is Dale Chihuly—the U.S.-based glass artist. He uses light and color to create dramatic pieces. For painting, we admire Frederick Brosen—an incredible watercolor artist in New York who we communicate with frequently and is a Paintru featured artist on our Instagram page.
WW: Where do you go for art inspiration—in person or virtually?
LK: We just flew to NYC to explore MoMa’s first fashion exhibit in 70 years to see how styling and colors have changed over time. It helped us design a watercolor piece that was used in a House Beautiful magazine shoot.
WW: During such an interesting time right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an extra emphasis on online art. Tell us a bit about how you anticipate this impacting your business.
JDK: COVID-19 is a scary time for everyone. We hope the world will emerge as a kinder and safer version of the world that entered. As less customers approach galleries for artwork, we are positioned to make that experience user friendly and safe. We have seen a surge in sales as customers now prefer online orders to retail. It is interesting that some of the country’s most heavily impacted by this are also artistic hubs. We are honored to provide consistent income through this time and have had zero impact to operations and support to artists.
WW: Are there any sites or social pages you’re following now that are providing a fresh perspective on this tough time?
LK: At Paintru, we have grown tired of white farmhouse after white farmhouse on social media. We live for color and imperfections, which make artwork so rich! Following the top museum pages in the world keep new content fresh on our pages and it is great to introduce old works with modern daily.