J.D. and Liza Kameen are the founders of Paintru. Courtesy photo

San Diego Marine J.D. Kameen said his creative idea all began when he was looking for a custom art gift for his wife, Liza.

“In the purest sense this idea originated from a personal need,” said Kameen, who has served in the U.S. Marines for more than five years. “I wanted to get a piece of artwork commissioned. I attempted to work directly with an art gallery but found the process confusing.”

Thrown off by the difficulty of commissioning a piece from a traditional art gallery, Kameen decided to message an artist directly over Instagram. From there, Paintru began — a company that connects consumers directly to artists without the hassles.

Kameen, and Liza, an MBA candidate and artist herself, launched the direct to consumer model just last year. Since then, the company now has nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram.

Paintru allows consumers to have any photo turned into a work of art from one of the many artists around the world. Consumers are asked to just upload a photo, choose a medium (oil, acrylic, watercolor or charcoal), pick a size, and decide whether you want the finished painting delivered as a rolled canvas, stretched or framed.

The company chooses each artist based on need and gives the artist a piece of the pie. The artist’s commission is then based on size, complexity, and subject matter.

“The response from consumers has been completely humbling,” Kameen said. “Every small company dreams of providing a service that can meet the ever-changing needs of customers and the feedback is proving it. I am a pretty emotional guy, and sometimes I read the
feedback from customers and I can’t help but cry.”

In a message from a recent customer, the customer wrote, “Just wanted to thank you again. I can honestly say I have not seen my parents have that much joy/peace since my brother passed. It’s amazing what a canvas and some paint can do for people”

It isn’t just customers who are benefitting from Paintru. Artists are finding a way to earn an income thanks to the company.

“We work with an incredibly talented traditional oil artist named Uzoma Ndulue originally from Nigeria who is substituting her finance degree with oil painting,” Kameen said. “By all measure, she is one of the most impressive artists we have worked with. She travels between Nigeria and the United States frequently, so naturally a brick and mortar gallery doesn’t fit with her lifestyle. Paintru provides her an online option with Instagram available in both countries.”

In aiming to grow the company, Paintru recently partnered with Framebridge, an online framing service that has raised more than $81 million in venture capital funding. Other changes might be on the way, but one thing is certain: Paintru has found success because of its uncommon offering.

“We have an incredibly emotional product filled with texture, imperfections, and color variations which we believe stands out on today’s online platforms,” Liza Kameen said. “Every day, while scrolling social media we experience it. Perfectly branded photos, edited, with little variation. We receive feedback from customers that they enjoy seeing the progress photos of paintings because you can see an imperfect product.”