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What are some infinite goods that a maker of physical objects could give away?

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A lot of the discussions revolve around makers of mass-producible content (movies/music/text) giving away free infinite goods, and selling limited extras like merch, or charging for the use of convenient/authentic delivery platforms.
I've got a question that comes from another direction:  
As a visual artist, I make original one-of-a-kind things that can't be easily copied. That part is not a problem for me.  
But unlike musicians, I don't have an infinite good to hand out and share freely to expand the number of people who know about my work.  What could I do?  What are some copyable digital things that someone would want from an artist?  What free stuff do you want from a painter?
So far, all I've been able to think of is putting a creative-commons licence on my images, but that feels more like an empty gesture; I'm still not putting something really cool out there for people to take and share.  I've been thinking about this for quite a while now, and nothing has come to mind.  
I'm hoping someone from the insight community might be able to look at this from a different angle than I have.
initiated Oct 17, 2011 in Connecting with Fans by Kyle Clements (2,460 points)   3 9 17

17 Responses

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A lot of people have been having great ideas, and I'd like to build on that more than anything else.

1. Desktops/wallpapers/Screensavers

There is a category on the website Lifehacker called featured desktops ( that uses a wallpaper image as a jumping off point and builds a whole experience around it. It's sort of like a desktop theme, but it really takes it to the next level. You could do something as simple as wallpapers to going for the whole slick UI redesign, and offer these packs as downloads from your site. 

As far as automatically loading wallpapers from an external source goes, apparently the application Wally ( is the go to app to make this happen, and better still, it's open source. It looks like uploading images to flickr would be just about all it would take to make this work. Fans could subscribe to your user, or album, or even specific tags, it looks like. 


2. 3D Printing

I think there is potential for the 3D printing idea to work even though you're a painter, but It would involve some work on your end. This isn't something I've put any thought into before now, so if the idea seems a but raw, it is. 

I've noticed there is a lot of texture in your pieces. If you amplifiied this, you could potentially produce something that looked like an etching of your piece, which could be printed from a 3D printer. If you recommended the use of porous materials in the printing process, someone printing one of these 3D "prints" could then almost do a paint by numbers using acrylics or what have you, using the topographical differences of each area as a guide, and they could replicate (in much less detail) one of your paintings as a fun weekend project, while still keeping the whole thing on rails. This sounds like something that might be more fun for kids (at least the painting part) than adults, since it would produce something of far lower quality than your orginal, but it's still something that might help build a community around your work, and build future interest, especially if the process of creating the 3D model was not prohibitively complex.

3. Videos

Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade ( does a regular streamcast of himself drawing one of that weeks comics, and he has two way communication with the audience. Now, I know that you said the instructional videos you've posted do a lot better than posts of you painting, but it seems like a mixture of the two could get you major traction, especially if they were live, and the time you paint is pretty regular (I don't know how long your projects tend to take, but I'm not trying to suggested blank canvas to completion in one go). If you made yourself available to your fans while painting, and then also posted the video/s of the project after the fact, it might allow fans to go with you the entire way, while asking pointers, or asking you to go over some specific technique in more detail (you could have a scratch canvas set up nearby for this possibility). Again, as others have suggested you could also take suggestions, with your viewers voting on the spot. At the end of a project, you could then (another suggestion from abve) time lapse the entire painting by stitching together the various videos of each streaming session. All of these things working together could really help in creating not only fans, but a sort of audience, turning your process into a series of performances, and the overall process into another separate interest creating good. 

response added Oct 26, 2011 by Markus Hopkins (160 points)   1 1 3
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I would say the main thing is to not only put a free license on the images, but put them out on sites where people will look for them.

You could go ahead and create wallpapers or desktop images and such things from them if that's in your comfort zone, but there are lots of people like me who will create those things from your art and redistribute it if the license allows us to -- but it does need to be clear that this is the case, and it really helps if you upload to sites that favor free licenses or at least allow searching by license (e.g. Flickr ).

From our PoV, the problem is that so much art is not free licensed that we have to start from the assumption that everything is, and look specially for free art. I can't speak for others, but I go out of my way to use free-licensed (basically "By" or "By-SA") art, because that means my contribution will not be restricted by the choice of source material.

If I had to look for art and then sift by license, this would be a hopelessly unrewarding activity. But when I can just filter the original search and look for free art that I like, I'll do a lot more with it.

(I'm not addressing how you monetize this because that's not what you asked, and you seem to know that part -- I do suggest that you create some intermediate, partially-limited works like prints or signed prints as well as just selling original paintings and giving away the electronic images. Typically, I'm not able to patronize anyone on the level of buying originals, but I do buy from pre-sale campaigns for a handful of artists or projects that I feel connected to).

response added Oct 28, 2011 by Terry Hancock (1,000 points)   3 4 10

"not only put a free license on the images, but put them out on sites where people will look for them."

this is VERY true.  I get FAR more traffic on my flickr stream and youtube channel, ad even my facebook fan page than I ever do on my own website.

"I do buy from pre-sale campaigns for a handful of artists or projects that I feel connected to"
that's the part I'm having trouble with - really connecting with the online audience.  I imagine people who participate in online communities are a different demographic than fine art collectors, but I really want to engage that online audience.
@kyle_clements I would encourage you not to think of "people who participate in online communities" as "a demographic", but as _MANY_ different demographics. What excites the people on "The Republic of Pemberley" will be quite different than what's hot on "Deviant Art". You'll need to do some searching to find where the people you see as your core market are spending their time.

Another good idea is to network through one of the social media technologies -- Diaspora, Google , Facebook, Twitter. There are a lot of people who post links to their content, and if someone likes your work, they may re-share it amongst their friends and you may get more followers that way. This is also a way to say a few words about a piece when you post it -- that can certainly make people feel more connected. You may also be able to backtrack such re-sharing and find online communities of interest that way.

"I would encourage you not to think of "people who participate in online communities" as "a demographic", but as _MANY_ different demographics."

Agreed, I was being lazy with that comment; things are always far more complex than the model in my head.

I haven't really pegged down a definite "core market" because my experience of the fine art market is an low number of big sales, everything seems like an outlier.  I'm going to have to put more work into this.  Thanks.
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Those articles about attaching stories to cheap items are fantastic.

Thank you! (and how did I miss those?)


 I started a blog over a year ago for that very purpose, but then I started writing about ideas influencing my work, rather than the work itself. I supppose I could make a point of blogging about the creation of each piece, turning it from 'just another object' to 'a unique object with a unique story'. Thanks for the suggestion.

I ocasionaly make a video of me creating an artwork and post it to YouTube, but they dont seem to do too well.  Instructional videos describing a technique, or videos telling a story of what it took to make an event happen tend to do a lot better.  

I guess people like stories a lot more than they like "hey, look what i did" videos.


Thanks again for the ideas.
response added Oct 17, 2011 by Kyle Clements (2,460 points)   3 9 17
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I don't know what your medium is but I can imagine some esoteric stuff. Talk to a musician about recording you working and then musicalize the sounds. Either with some creative cutting or with some autotune-type software.
response added Oct 21, 2011 by Promethee Feu (480 points)   1 2 5
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How about a small (a few inches tall) easel with a miniture copy of the work you are trying to promote?  Maybe you could sign the back?

Alternatively, you could make unique (or limited edition) miniture artwork on each easel as a promotional tool.  While it is not technically infinite, it may be more valuable to a collector of your work and thus drive up more interest in your exhibtions.

If only I had any artisitic talent to go with my promotional ideas.  ;)
response added Oct 25, 2011 by William Z (140 points)   1 1 2
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Again, +1 instructional video!

Have you considered selling prints? I know you paint the works, but maybe you could do something about scanning these pieces (is that even possible?) and selling digital copies?

For example, you could offer a very high-res picture of some canvas that people can buy and print at their own cost, frame it etc. This way, you're actually turning your finite goods into infinite ones.

If you don't want to give people prints for fear that they are pirated, you could print them yourself and mail them out. A bit like DeviantArt does with prints if you wish.
response added Oct 26, 2011 by I B (700 points)   1 1 5
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If I may inquire, have you thought about other projects for your art?

I'm familiar with webcomics that sell commissioned works as well as advertise their art.  People such as XKCD make a daily comic that can then be collected into a book to sell or if you have a good art style, people should be willing to take a very special commissioned art.  Perhaps you could make it into something tangible for people to admire at a show.

I've also seen people take artwork to popular gatherings such as Comic-con and sell the tangible art pieces as advertisement.  Still, I believe you have a number of options in making goods that people might be interested in.
response added Nov 27, 2011 by Jay (580 points)   1 2 5

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