By Nancy Tannler
Hawthorne artist David Delamare has produced ten books with traditional publishers (including a collaboration with Carly Simon). He is now turning to Kickstarter.com to fund his next art book—a lavishly illustrated limited edition volume of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The campaign runs throughout December and is the artist’s latest attempt to maintain an independent business built on personal relationships and quality.
Kickstarter.com is a crowd-funding site that allows individuals to contribute to a worthwhile creative project. Backers receive “rewards” often valued at more than what they contribute.
Delamare and his partner Wendy Ice have eschewed traditional marketing channels such as art galleries and poster publishers in favor of independence.
Ice, who manages the business, explains the choice, “David got his start at the Graystone Gallery on Hawthorne and that was terrific, because he met all the collectors.
“These days, his collectors are scattered all over the world, and the best way for us to build relationships is to work with them directly. Since we don’t pay gallery commissions we can also keep the paintings affordable, so collectors can buy out of passion rather than thinking in terms of investment values.”
These relationships have lead to interesting projects. Last year Delamare completed a commission painting for an Israeli poet and shipped a large collection of “Alice” prints to decorate the fashionable Francisca Dessert Parlour in Singapore, owned by Colleen Francisca, a former Miss Singapore, who happens to be a fan.
The second business to decorate entirely with Delamare’s artwork is a funky restaurant in the Hamptons that displays over seventy images and has named each of their menu items after Delamare characters.
More locally, Bob Portwood, a bookstore owner in Lincoln City has purchased over thirty paintings which he keeps on permanent display in his shop.
The couple is not interested in selling to big box stores or manufacturers who want to compromise the integrity of the artwork.
“Though we’ve found a few exceptions, most manufacturers expect artists to oversaturate colors, hide nudity, or dumb down the subject matter. When the bills are due, it’s tempting to accept their offers, but so far we’ve kept quality high and still have a roof over our heads,” said Ice.
The toughest challenge is keeping pace with shifting technology. The early years of Ebay were profitable but like with all the online markets, Delamare’s art work can get lost in the shuffle.
On-demand printing allows smaller print runs of images than the 5,000 copies they were required to print before to make the cost per unit viable.
Thanks to the Internet, Delamare has a devoted international fan base that reaches as far as Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific.
Members of the Christian family—descended from Fletcher Christian, who led the legendary Mutiny on the Bounty, have been in touch. (Though they have only two mail ships a year, they can contact SE Portland in an instant via email.)
The large following Delamare has acquired over his many years of producing artwork has a downside too — rampant piracy.
Companies in Lebanon and Syria have copied his artwork to make expensive marble mosaics, while Chinese manufacturers make unauthorized gift items and prints.
Meanwhile, well-meaning fans upload images onto image-sharing sites without knowing that they are encouraging illegal prints. The fallout is that, even as his popularity grows, the artist’s print sales drop.
Piracy combined with a rough economy for painting sales have taken a toll. That’s why Delamare and Ice have now turned to kickstarter.com crowd-funding. Unlike similar sites, it comes with some risk. The artist sets a financial goal and if the goal isn’t reached, none of the pledges are collected.
This fact makes the couple nervous, but they are banking on the commitment of his fanbase as well as the kindness of a few strangers (book collectors, Alice fans, or individuals who believe in supporting artists).
They’ve learned a single passionate painting collector can mean the difference between a profitable year and an unprofitable one, while a single fan on Facebook can introduce them to hundreds or thousands of new collectors.
Meet David Delamare at Old Portland Hardware & Architectural’s Trunk Show and Wine Reception, Friday, December 6, 6 to 10 pm at 700 NE 22nd Ave.
Delamare prints may be found at Art Heads (at 50th & Hawthorne) as well as several other Hawthorne businesses.
To learn more about Delamare’s Kickstarter campaign see the site during December and search “Delamare”.
To learn how you can use the site to fund your own project, see www.kickstarter.com.