Social Portrait 013 Tiana by Mark Stephenson, 11in x 11in, oil on panel

Launching my first crowdfunding project, Social Portraits

Mark Stephenson

As creative people we’re often conceiving art projects. We’ll scour grant opportunities and put in applications in the hopes we can convince the jury to fund our project. It’s great to have these arts funding opportunities but it can take a while to find out one way or the other and sometimes it’s not enough.

The more I pull myself deeper into the art world the more I want to expand my funding sources and know my options as soon as possible. This has led me to research crowdfunding and in February 2016 I’m launching my first crowdfunding project, Social Portraits. I’m going to share what I learned along the way, please follow me on this journey on Facebook, on Twitter and  Instagram.

Social Portraits – a social art project

It’s not a filter, it’s a painting. Let’s fill our social media with more original art, become a part of the Social Portraits series.

Social Portraits is a series of oil paintings painted from online social media profile photos, photographed, then shared online for everyone to see, like, share, and comment on. I’m out to capture that epic selfie, perfect angle, big moment, the morning after or whatever it is that you have used to represent your carefully crafted online persona.

Social Portrait 014 Justy by Mark Stephenson, 11in x 11in, oil on panel

Some of the crowdfunding platforms include KickstarterIndiegogo, GoFundMe and Patreon. I chose Kickstarter for my project, you will need to evaluate the platforms and come up with your own evaluation criteria.

Getting started advice

Know what you want out of the Campaign

In order to frame your decisions it’s important to know what you want. For me it’s not primarily monetary, more importantly I want to explore the crowdfunding model of funding, gain exposure, spend more time painting and have a killer show. I still need to pay the bills so trust me I have a great spreadsheet that allows me to model different scenarios, I know how much I’ll make an hour while working on the project. It’s not much.

Give yourself lots of time

As with so many things in life it will take you longer than you think. Sure you can throw something together in a couple weeks but it might not be enough to be successful. I initially thought I could get it all together in one month contrary to what I was reading online about needing at least three months. Well it’s looking like it will be almost two months from having made the decision and starting to draft content to launching the campaign. The bulk of the work being done in January.

Here are some things that will need time:

  • Time to solidify your ideas and craft a story that engages and conveys value.
  • Perks take time to conceive. If you are creating and shipping anything you need to do the research and costing to make sure you are coming out ahead.
  • Your friends are going to help you but they have busy lives too so you need to be flexible.
  • Video is important and it may take you a couple tries to get right.
  • Save time for peer review, this will help expose areas that need more thought or definition.
  • Need more time, delay your launch.

Your friends and colleagues want to help you

You will be amazed, reach out and ask. Friends been helping me out with the following:

  • Darcy White helped me CNC the panels
  • Stephane Beauchamp-Kiss at Anti-Studios recorded narration for the video and composed some background music. I never sounded so good!
  • Other friends are providing critical reviews, editing and advice around marketing and PR.

I have a background in design so I’ve been able to create my own graphics and video. You may need to seek out a friend or two to help with that.

If you don’t know someone with an expertise you need to seek someone out and send a friendly introduction.

Tell everyone as early on as you can

Nobody is going to steal your idea so talk about it as much as possible. The more you talk about it you are honing the message, seeding potential contributors and getting some valuable feedback.

This article is a good example of this, I reached out to the Ottawa Arts Council to let them know what I was up to and they kindly invited invited me write an article for their Website. it is!

Create a Media Plan

I’m still working on this and will expand upon this in my next instalment.  In short I have three major categories in my plan 1) Lead Up, 2) Launch Day and 3) During the Campaign.


Wikipedia Definition of Crowdfunding -

Shopify Guide to Crowdfunding -

Kickstarter Creator Handbook -

Indiegogo Playbook -

Indiegogo Crowdfunding Field Guide -

Mark Stephenson