8 (Other) Occasions To Send Postcards That Promote Your Art

Today we take time out to honor the humble, under-utilized, centuries-old, low-tech postcard.

Why spend virtual ink on such an old-fashioned method of communication? Because postcards can do what email cannot do.

Ann Cunningham's artist postcards
Ann Cunningham printed six postcards at once with the intent to distribute them within the next year. That’s dedication!

Postcards can’t be targeted as spam by an aggressive filter.

Postcards can’t be accidentally (or purposefully) deleted by recipients.

Postcards are likely to be tacked to a refrigerator or kept as a memento.

Postcards are tactile. We can hold them in our hands and ponder them. They have the potential to delight, which is something we rarely say about email these days.

You, like the private clients I advise, would benefit from sending three or four postcards a year.

Postcards are most often used to invite people to an upcoming exhibition or open studio.

Some artists design a single postcard with a schedule of all upcoming shows they’re participating in.

But if you don’t have an upcoming exhibition, you might wonder what you’d say on a postcard or why you’d send one in the first place.

Here are 8 other occasions for using postcards to promote your art and build relationships with your list.

1. Feature your website.

Announcing a new website is, well, kinda boring. Instead, use a postcard to announce a new feature on your website such as:

  • Art in situ << Perfect for sending to interior designers and art consultants
  • New series of work
  • Framing options for your work

2. Unveil a new series or even a single piece.

Leverage something you have written about the new work on your blog or social media and include a short version on the postcard.

3. Announce gallery representation.

Telling the people on your postcard list that you are represented by a new gallery is a generous gift to the gallery. They’ll love you for it! Or at least they should love you for it.

Such an announcement also tells people that you have attained yet another goal. It’s proof that your work has the seal of approval of the art establishment. (Not all artists aspire to this.)

4. Advertise products.

If you’ve turned your art into card decks, home décor, or a book, it’s time to get the word out.

Dora Ficher postcard for Sol Designs
Dora Ficher promotes her Sol Designs products on a postcard.

5. Offer classes and workshops.

Pique the interest of recipients with an enticing view of your upcoming classes. They can find details by heading to your website page that has the class info.

6. Express your gratitude.

Why not use postcards as Thank You notes? You can design a special “Thank You” version or use any of your postcards with a blank backside for the purpose.

7. Send holiday wishes.

Print postcards for your favorite holiday, especially one that is aligned with the art you make. You don’t have to save them for Christmas.

Experiment with postcards for Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or Independence Day.

If you’re more adventurous, send a postcard in celebration of your milestone birthday, or the birthday of one of your art heroes/heroines, International Artist Day, or any one of hundreds of offbeat special days that you’ve never celebrated before.

Jane LaFazio's multi-purpose postcard for her art and workshops.

8. Let someone know you’re thinking of them … just ‘cuz.

Are you old enough to remember the times when we called someone just because we were thinking of them, or when we mailed a “Thinking of You” card? Yep, some people still do this, but we’re more likely to send an email.

You don’t have to have a reason to send a postcard with your stunning art on the front.

Your Turn

How do you use postcards to promote your art and nurture relationships?

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36 thoughts on “8 (Other) Occasions To Send Postcards That Promote Your Art”

  1. Most of these aren’t applicable to my specific situation, but last year I’ve sent a holiday greeting card with my art on it to my former clients, as well as 30+ art directors or owners of publishing houses in Croatia that I identified as prospects.

    I was a little disheartened that only one art director contacted me and requested me to do a test assignment (that I completed, and haven’t yet gotten an actual work opportunity, but I know it’s a long term game).

    A few people thanked me over email, and others I’ve never heard from.

    I’m not sure if I should be sending another one this year to everyone again.
    Maybe persistence pays off?

  2. I have tried this as a way to invite or update (along with our avenues) and I do not hear a peep. It has been so quiet I have often wondered if mine were delivered. I get more response from personal contact and handing out my business card than this. I like what your response to Nela about consistency.

  3. I’ve tried this too with no results. I sent 50 postcards to galleries showcasing specific paintings available for exhibit. I targeted beach galleries (with owners names) that I thought were a good fit for this work. I didn’t hear a peep, either. Then, I did it again 4 months later (thinking they got lost in the mail) – right before beach season. Nothing. I’m throwing lots of money away.

  4. I love using postcards and this article inspires me to do even more! They are cheap and easy to send and people do keep them. I have sold the art on the cards within weeks of a mailing. Responses don’t come rolling in right away but they do come.Sales books always tell you a customer has to see the item at least three times before they buy.A postcard is an easy way to get in another viewing.I loved the idea of using a mailing to announce a new gallery relationship.I just signed on with a new gallery and now will do another mailing! Thanks for the ideas!

  5. Great article and suggestions!

    I have sent postcard campaigns in the past for my husbands art. We got a great response, usually after the 4th or 5th card was sent.

    As Alyson said, consistency is what works!

    You can’t just send one or two mailings. To get results you must commit to a full year of mailing every 2 months or so. It often takes 5-7 times before a potential buyer will take action. Also, I always make sure to have a call-to-action on the card.

    Postcard mailers are a powerful selling tool. I’ve gotten quite a few new sales from it.

  6. Alyson, you’re right about consistency and persistence. I’ve been a full time professional painter for 20 years and always made it a habit to send out postcards on a regular basis. My goal was alway to build relationships, not necessarily to get a quick response. I also used to send original miniatures to my clients as a New Years card. This strategy has proven very successful in generating lots of opportunities, referrals and sales over the years. If anything, I’d even go so far to say, that it has been a the biggest factor in my long-term success. To me, it’s all about demonstrating your commitment to your art and sharing it with people.

  7. Alyson, thanks for the great reminder to keep in touch with our followers.
    Consistancy in the postal mailings or any contact is key. Once is never enough. My goal is to send out postcards 3 or 4 times a year. They are more direct than any publication ad where I would spend far more money.

  8. Ladies, you’re bang on about the consistency. As an illustrator and fine artist I used to send promo material (tearsheets) to potential clients for YEARS before getting a bite. I even asked one potential client if perhaps my work was not suitable and would they like me to stop sending the cards, I got a resounding “keep sending them, when the right job comes up we’ll call”, a year later they did and I had a lucrative long term assignment. I didn’t apply this to fine art till early this October. Many people told me they loved the card and were keeping it on their fridge. One young family is framing it. So those aren’t sales but it encourages a love of art and it could lead to sales or a commission. Consistency and long term promo made a difference with illustration and I expect it to work for fine art too. I plan on sending postcards to ALL the people on my list 3-4 times a year and greeting art cards to collectors on special occasions or just as a thinking of you.

  9. That’s a great post Alyson.
    I’d also like to point out that there are still people out there who only communicate by post or phone. They don’t do the internet.

  10. I just completed a postcard for my first show. I love how it looks and I think my work would be well represented in this form. But I need to back up a bit. Where do I get brick and mortar addresses? Yes, I will look up the addresses of the galleries I’d like to invite to the show, but is there a way AT the show (or any other opportunities) to gather brick and mortar addresses?

    Thanks for all the great comments, very helpful, as usual.

    1. It’s kinda funny that you have to ask that, Sally, because we ONLY used to ask for postal addresses. Yep, there’s a way. Put a place for those addresses on your sign-up sheet.

      I think most artists get b-and-m addresses from sales transactions, but there’s no reason you can’t ask for it – even asking your current list right now for theirs.

  11. Is there an economical way to print and send only 5 or so cards? I’m thinking of doing a Thank You type card for Thanksgiving, but since I’m just starting out I don’t have much of a list yet. I assume that would best be handled on my own printer? I’d love to hear what others have done in this situation.

    1. Lisa, here’s what I did when I wanted a small quantity: I ordered photo cards from Costco with a painting of mine on the front. I managed to put my name and url on the back somehow, it wasn’t intended for that purpose, but that was the only way to get some text on there. Blank inside. The quality is good. Perfect for what you’re saying, just 5 cards.

    2. Great solution, Elaine.

      You can also use some of the special papers at FedEx Office (or probably any other printing place). A small, local printer might be a good friend to have.

  12. Thank you for another great article Alyson! I love reading through all the comments too. It is so motivating and creates a realistic picture of what to expect. It goes back to what you said earlier about marketing Alyson- think about what you can give someone. Does anyone have good printing resources? I use my own printer (Epson) for smaller runs but for bigger runs I like Vistaprint.

  13. Deborah Henrichs

    How do I find out how to do this. I have alott of paintings I wish I could sell. Could sme one contacgt me and explain. I am not a juried artist just self taught with passion for acrylic. Very numbed out that after posting my paintings on several site no sales.
    Thank you.

  14. Thanks Alyson, I always appreciate your posts and gather great ideas from them.
    You’re right on the consistency and persistence ideas — they pay off in the long run. I’ve been using OvernightPrints.com for my postcards (the more you order, the cheaper they become) and I hand them out at all my events. Since I’m in Honolulu, people can use them to send to their friends, or keep them for themselves. Either way my information is on the back and my paintings are on the front.
    I haven’t sent as many postcards as I used to, relying on handing them out instead. Might have to go back to sending a few out for timely events.
    Thank you, Patrice

  15. I’m so glad to read this here! I’m just finishing up my very first postcard mailing after seeing the idea pop up over and over again as I embark on a career as an illustrator. I’ve been collecting company addresses on gift items that I like in stores to get my name out there for licensing deals.

    I’m happy to hear that consistency is key. I’ve been thinking of it like the episode of Arrested Development where Tobias Funke tries to talk up his name at a movie studio. The producer’s response, once finally meeting a Funke, is, “So you’re the Funke I’ve been hearing so much about.” I’m hoping that just keeping my name and work in front of them with yield some good results, and I’ll be the Anevski they’ve been hearing so much about. 🙂

    I’m curious about the call to action on a postcard. Do you have any examples of what this might be?

    1. Love that story, Cate.

      Many of the uses of postcards above do not have a CTA. They’re sent to nurture relationships, not to ask. I wouldn’t send a CTA on a TY note or holiday greeting or “just thinking of you.” It would look out of place.

      But a CTA on a generic postcard could be: see my new work @… , like me on FB at … , sign up for email updates at ….
      These aren’t great CTAs for a postcard because they require someone to type in a URL with the postcard in front of them.

  16. Hi Alyson
    I do a thank you/new year mailing in Jan. I create a painting which is printed on a note card. Each card gets a raffle ticket and the recipient must check their number by going to my web site to view the winning number. I raffle off the original painting to one lucky person. My mailing list grows each year because everyone wants to have a chance to win. Thanks for more great ideas to help grow my art business. Lorraine Rimmelin

  17. Oh,my hat a desperately needed reminder! I keep thinking I need a major event to send cards – even though I know better. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Alyson!

  18. Great article Alyson.

    I have been sending postcards every quarter in 2015 and each time it costs me several hundred dollars for a list of 300 (stamps, cards, labels and ink). I design and order on vistaprint, print my own address labels and apply them and the postage stamp to each and every card manually b/c the post office wont process mailings this small (they start at like 5000). this takes some time to do. And this doesn’t include time invested in designing the card and the interim updating, adding, correcting mailing list addresses. My question is: Is this on par as far as time and money spent for this activity? Thanks!

    1. Kristin: Time and postage should be your biggest expense. About $100 for postage for all of those. Trying to figure out what you’re spending the other $200 on.

      You can probably save on time by uploading your list to VistaPrint, but I think it’s nice to write personal notes on them when possible.

  19. Great reminder to continue to send these out. I love reading all the comments. I use postcards to announce shows and classes, and feel that people love them. I think the result is long term, not instant, and that anything lovely you put out there contributes to success!

    Thanks Alyson!

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

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