Real Artist Case History: Rob Burden

In 2006, artist Rob Burden began painting his childhood action figures. His images are bold and bright and include a who’s who of some of the best-loved characters in kid (and adult) culture. Brought up on classic cartoons and action films, Burden was swept away by his imagination whenever he played with his action figures as a child. When he grew up, he realized that they had lost some of their whimsy but he knew how to get the magic back. He would create art inspired by these beloved childhood toys. His work has been exhibited around the world and one of his paintings, of the character He-Man, hangs in the lobby of Mattel.

After completing a painting of Batman that measures seven feet tall and twelve feet across, Burden wanted to move on to even bigger and more epic works of art. He decided to undertake two paintings of Star Wars characters on a scale larger than he had ever attempted before. His Star Wars works would measure ten feet tall and fourteen feet wide.

Burden knew that a project like this would not only take a lot of time, it would require expensive resources. He knew he couldn’t do this on his own. Burden turned to Kickstarter.

A visit to his Kickstarter page reveals a carefully crafted campaign. Guests are greeted with a video welcoming them to the site and telling the story of his journey through pop culture and art. Burden presents himself professionally but is careful to connect with his audience making sure they understand how important this project is to him.

Burden offers a series of incentives from the inclusion of donor names on his website all the way up to original oil paintings for the highest donors. Other tiers include gifts like giclee prints, sketchbooks, doodles on napkins, and loads of other fun prizes connecting donors to Rob’s art and his world as an artist. As added incentive, Burden allowed backers at some levels to help him decide which would be the featured characters in the paintings being created should the Kickstarter succeed.

When launching a Kickstarter campaign, sit down and work out a plan. Treat it like a business plan. Decide what incentives you want to offer to each level, know your end goal, and craft a story that gives your audience a look inside the project you are asking them to help fund. Remember that strangers are opening their wallets, give them reasons to choose you over the countless others on Kickstarter.

As Rob Burden’s campaign got rolling, he was careful to keep his donors up to date on all the happenings behind the scenes. The updates, for backers only, reported the progress of the projects being funded and celebrated the completion of each.

Maintaining a connection to your Kickstarter audience is critical throughout your campaign. Stay on top of updates, be consistent with your incentives, and above all keep the work moving forward. By launching a Kickstarter you take on the responsibility to see it through to the end if your project is fully funded.

The use of his welcoming video combined with the consistency of updates created a strong narrative for the project that kept Burden’s backers not only aware of the work they were funding, it connected them to the artist himself.

Burden set an initial goal of $24,000. This lofty but realistic goal sent the message that Burden was serious about his endeavor. He knew that in order to complete two works of art of this size, his overhead costs would be sizeable. The time involved would mean he needed money to live on, money he would not be able to earn while he worked on his paintings.

Burden’s well-orchestrated Kickstarter paid off and then some. Ultimately he raised $34,023 fully $10,023 over his initial $24,000 goal.

What made Rob Burden’s Kickstarter a success was the combination of all the nuances mentioned here. It humanized his project and allowed potential donors the opportunity to be truly involved. Incentives gave them the chance to own a piece of custom art or even have their input used in the creation of future works.

With the extra money earned, Burden was able to create a third painting. In his welcoming video on the campaign page he explained that this would be a possibility should he exceed his initial goal.

Not every Kickstarter will be as successful as the one Rob Burden ran. There are a lot of projects to be funded and only so many backers available. The message to be learned from Burden’s Kickstarter is that it’s all about inviting the audience into your world. If you allow people to truly connect with what you’re doing, they will be more likely to want to take part.

If you’re considering your own Kickstarter campaign but aren’t sure how to begin, check out Rob Burden’s campaign for an example of what makes a good Kickstarter. Additionally, our course on how to run a successful Kickstarter can help you every step of the way on your road to crowd funding.

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