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Exposure: The Ugly Myth

by Jack White on 5/6/2011 7:36:56 AM

This post is by guest author, Jack White. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.  This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


Way back when I was making my gold leaf art (*Echruseos), I was swarmed with requests from charity groups to donate. Without exception, each group emphasized to me how much EXPOSURE I would receive with my gift. I was painfully inexperienced to the art business - gobbling down the promises they were feeding me. I was fully expecting to become famous from all the exposure those charities were giving me.  Trust me, if exposure were the answer, then I’d have been world renowned in a few months. I was so naive I gave, gave, gave and gave some more. One year, I donated art to twenty local charities. I did this for two reasons. I love to give and the exposure I would receive.  Back then, I believed if you could get enough exposure you would be walking in high cotton.


In this column, I will prove to you the folly of expecting exposure to make your career. I became fairly famous, not because of exposure, but the amount of art I sold. For three years in row I did art shows in a minimum of 60 bank lobbies scattered all over Texas. I had two fulltime men setting up the art, working the shows and pushing for publicity. I was on radio, television and in newspapers for every show.  We sold a lot of Jack White art. I sold art to the leading citizens in those communities. My art hung in the offices of banks, mayors, coaches, sheriffs, Texas Rangers, the movers and shakers of these towns. Everywhere you looked there was a Jack White gold leaf on an important wall. There was almost a cult following for the gold leaf. I simply got lucky and worked my rear off.


I used a Greek lexicon to coin the name for my gold leaf on glass. Ek out of, crus is gold and eos, having been made. Thus, having been made out of gold. Thus *Echruseos. I suspect you can find some Echruseos art on eBay. I saw one listed as a Buy Now for $50,000. (smile) The process was simple. I did an original pen and ink, silk-screened several images of that drawing on glass, washed on an oil stain, covering the backside with gold leaf. I could produce 50-16”x20” in a day with the help of a couple young ladies to lay the gold leaf and place the art in a ready made frame. I have no idea how many thousand pieces of my gold leaf on glass were sold.  I did gold leaf art décor for around 500 McDonalds across America and in the Caribbean.


Two things opened my eyes to the fallacy of exposure. I donated a large painting to raise funds for a little league charity. The art was a piece I retailed for $4,000 back in the mid 70’s.  The league sold raffle tickets for $1 and then held a drawing for the winner.  A few days after the drawing a couple walked into my studio carrying the art. I asked, “What can I do for you?” fully expecting they wanted me to personalize their painting. My ego was hyper puffed up.


My tongue almost fell out of my mouth when the woman said, “We bought a ticket and was lucky enough to win your painting. But to tell you the truth Mr. White, we can’t afford anything this expensive. We would like for you to buy the painting back. We understand the painting is valued at $4,000, but would be willing to sell it to you for $3,000.”  Let me stress they purchased a dollar raffle ticket. I was so shocked, speaking became almost impossible. I remembered my grandfather used to say, “You cannot argue with an idiot.” I thanked them for the offer, explaining I already had a gallery full of paintings. What else could I do? I didn’t want to go to jail for murder.


I donated to a woman’s charity with the promise of EXPOSURE.  After the auction, the winner came by the studio. I thanked them and asked how could I help. Again, expecting their request for me to personalize their art. This time the man spoke, “Jack, this frame doesn’t fit our décor. Would you mind allowing us to pick another frame? Also we live in Ohio and the art it too big for to fit in our car after we load our luggage. We want you to box and ship the art to us.”  I almost grabbed him by the seat of his pants and tossed him out on the street, but somehow I restrained myself. The audacity was beyond belief. These two events happened in a matter of a few weeks apart. I then understood what exposure was doing…in truth, nothing.


I sought out my friend and master artists, A. D. Greer. (Google his name.)  I told him how much exposure I had been receiving from all the charities and whined a little about the two recent winners. His questions stunned me, “How many people from these auctions have come to your gallery and purchased paintings? What has all that exposure produced?”


He made me think.  I had vigorously given for at least four years, but I couldn’t remember anyone even mentioning seeing my art at such and such charity. By now I’d donated at least eighty paintings in the city of Austin, yet with all that EXPOSURE it had not resulted in one tiny additional sale. Not even a mention of seeing my work at any of these events. Two things came to mind, my work sucked or exposure was not working. Since I was selling all I could make, the fault slept at the feet of exposure.


Mikki and I still give to two charities, The Ronald McDonald House and a Breast Cancer event. Most charities think we can write off the retail value of our art, but not so. The IRS will only allow you to deduct the cost of materials, which all of us already do. We are allowed nothing for our labor.


New York Art Expo sells booths to any artist with the money to pay their fees. One artist I have attempted to help can’t even sell work on eBay with a starting bid of 99 cents. He borrowed money on his credit cards to rent a booth. I tried to talk him out of going, but the Expo salesperson promised him he would get tons of EXPOSURE.  My word against EXPOSURE was too weak to win. He came home a dejected young man. He sold his grandmother a $100 painting and that was all. That was four years ago and he is still struggling to pay off those credit cards. I think it’s a crime to take money from artists who obviously will not sell any art. Where are the ethics? Where is the human compassion?


There is a vanity online art site, Art Exchange, which promises great exposure if you join their marketing program. President Clinton gave them a $700,000 grant to start their online company in Arkansas. When they were getting started they gave us free listings to have a named artist on their site. We didn’t put up my work, but we did add Mikki. If my memory is correct AE added my mate, Mikki Senkarik's images in 1998. The last time I looked, Senkarik was still on their site. This is 2011 and we have yet to have a request for so much as a poster.


For all those years we have been receiving great exposure, but no sales, no contacts, nothing, nada, zero offers to buy her art. The only contact we got was from an AE salesperson wanting to sell us space. We told him were already on their site.  If you have a Website, expect Art Exchange to find you.  Our friends Suzie and Tim Cox, president of the Cowboy Artists of American had a similar experience with Art Exchange. It took Suzie about a year to force them to remove her husband’s work. She didn’t want others to see Tim’s art and think if was okay to spend $3,000 to $5,000 to be listed.  AE’s hook is if you don’t sell enough art to pay your fee the first month they will give you another free listing, so you can get more exposure.


As you probably can guess I get a lot of emails from artists with questions and, in many cases, they tell me what they are doing. They will say I did so and so show. I didn’t sell much, but I got a lot of great exposure. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know the truth about exposure and it’s not good.


I read an article in the Albuquerque Journal about an artist south of town that had one painting be juried into 105 shows. He had to box and ship the art to all those shows at his own expense. Yet with all that great exposure the painting was still for sale. Be aware the only one making money on juried shows is the promoter. Before you spend the money to be juried into a show take a good look. Find out how much art is being sold. If the art hangs for a month and judges pick the winner, run, don’t walk away. Put your art in front of art buyers not viewers.


When the economy fell in the tank in Texas in the mid 80’s, Saving and Loans went under, oil was $20 a barrel and unemployment up to 18% I purchased a small Air Stream trailer, hitting the road. I worked in-door and out-door shows in Florida and California. At the end of the show, I would ask artists how they did.  Some did well, but many would say the sales were off, but I got a lot of good exposure. I guess they thought good exposure somehow softens the blow of no sales. Had I not learned the truth about exposure, I’m sure I’d have considered the same thing. I did well at those shows. I sold wet painting. I painted fast and mesmerized the audience. I never had an inventory when the show began, but was slapping paint the moment we opened. Painting animal and Indian portraits, I managed to Fedex money home every week for the kids to remain in the top schools in Texas.


Artists put their art in libraries and restaurants for exposure. Most of the people in libraries these days are the homeless keeping warm or cool, depending on the season. People go to restaurants to eat. Any sale will be a miracle. A restaurant can work if the owner will allow you to place placards on the table and you pay the waiters 20% commission on all art they sell. You may have to pitch in another 10% to the owner. Money talks. Get to know the waiters -- they will be your salespersons.


If you really want exposure here’s what you can do. Pick the largest city you can find, go to the spot were a lot of people are out walking during the noon hour.  Strip naked, stick a few paintbrushes in your mouth and start running down the middle of the street. It will help to scream, more people will see you. Have a friend video your brief run. The cops will nab you after a block or so. Put your naked run on YouTube. Call it “Art Exposure”.  The video will go viral and be seen by several million people. You will no doubt make the evening news. Even the print media might pick up your mad dash to fame. This will give you maximum exposure for the least amount of effort. Or you can face the reality that seeking exposure is a waste of time and energy. Find buyers and keep them on your mailing list. Make them a member of your team. These folks will be prospects, not spectators, for the rest of your life.


I recommend you seek places where people who are interested in buying art will see your work. Remove the word EXPOSURE from your vocabulary.  Life will improve when you are no longer expecting exposure to bail you out. Do like the rest of us, sell your way to the top. The sooner you realize exposure will give you nothing but a bad cold, the faster you can begin to build a solid career.


Jack White has the title Official Texas State Artist and recently Governor Rick Perry appointed him an Admiral in the Texas Navy. Jack authored six Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art.  You can contact Jack at

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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

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Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration | sell art 

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Cathy de Lorimier
As a beginning artist with a fairly new website, this news was sobering, and I thank you for it. Realistic news is good news. I value the truth, and now know that simply seeking exposure will be a waste of my time. I am trying to learn more and more about marketing (NOT my strong point) as well as just keep at it behind the easel, honing my pastel abilities. After all, I just need to love what I do and keep doing it to get better, and when the sales start, the owners of the paintings will be my best advocates. The best really practical advice I will take away from your poignant essay is to enlist the help of servers in a restaurant setting. That is brilliant!

Bonnie Samuel
Hilariously said and so true. I've certainly learned this bitter lesson with the give-a-ways to charities and bought the line about "so many people will see your work......." I really don't know who saw it, bid on it, or ....never heard from any of them in fact.

Hard work, continual learning and perfecting and picking the right places to show your work seems to work much, much better as you say.
Thanks, Jack!

Betty Pieper
Whoa! The Dutch Uncle is back, writing with wit and humor - and great truth. For some of us who agree with every word the famous definition comes to mind: Lunacy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.
It gives us pause to think what we really ARE about.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
good article Jack.
I noticed a day or so ago that one of the artists who has a Fine Arts website had gotten her very first comment from someone she didn't know. I guess that's exposure. She has a nice website and has been at it for a while. What does that tell you.

For the most part, I agree with you. Good wisdom, thanks.

Patricia J Finley
Wow, Jack! That was an excellent article containing some hard truths. Thank you. This year, I had placed my art at both a local coffee shop and a restaurant. These venues resulted in exactly one sale - to a friend of mine. I had felt that these venues were a waste of time but thought that the "exposure" was probably worth the investment of time and energy in these venues. Now I know better. I will not waste my time and energy again unless I can work out the 20 percent to the waitstaff commission (a brilliant idea). Instead, I will follow both my common sense and your advice and show only where I can personally sell my art.

Nithya Swaminathan
This is such a brutally honest and hard hitting piece, precisely what emerging artists need to dispel the myth of exposure.

Thank you for this article, Jack.

Aline Lotter
You recommend seeking "places where people who are interested in buying art will see your work"--but doesn't that include those juried shows? Besides art galleries and frame shops, where do we find people interested in buying art?

Patricia J Finley
Excellent question, Aline!

Ellie Harold
I appreciate the straight talk. I, too, have been seduced by the notion of "exposure" as the key to successful art sales. Yet, experience is showing me that's not necessarily the case. For example, in a recent large solo museum exhibit, I sold 5 pieces in the 2 days I was hanging the show, 2 at the opening and exactly 1 during the 2 months of greatest exposure. My guess is that most people who go to an art exhibit in a public place are "viewers" not "buyers."

My best sales come from either contacts made while painting on location or from people who find me through a small ad I place in a local periodical which invites interested persons to visit my studio. Most people who go to the trouble of seeking me out, do so because they want to buy a painting. If they don't buy at that time, I have made a real-time, face-to-face connection with folks with whom I'll continue to relate.

That said, I do think there's value to give one's work to a viewing public simply for their appreciation of it. I'm not suggesting giving it away to individuals or charities for this purpose. But what about giving up the notion that "exposure" should pay off and simply allowing the work to be seen for its own sake?

I've derived a ton of satisfaction, if not cash, from the conversations I've overheard when I've slipped into the museum where my work is hanging. The look on someone's face when they "see" the work is priceless. What if the bottomline is not about selling our art but giving it to the world and seeing what happens next?

Maybe I'm talking myself out of the disappointment of fewer sales than I expected. But I suspect there's value in not attaching too much importance to selling art, in separating the creation from its sale. I'm not there yet, but it seems like a worthy aim.

Sandra Haynes
As always Jack, I appreciate and love your wit and voice of experience.

I've also learned that hard lesson some years ago and what you say is the truth.

Now when asked to donate, I carefully educate them on the facts as you mentioned about no deduction advantages for artists and no real benefits.

I have a couple of carefully chosen charitable events that I donate really nice art to, but it's with a 50/50 split and those events did well for me this year.

For at least one of those events, no other artist had thought to ask for the split, but once they found out what I was asking for, they all chose that path. The charity still made money and so did we.

I would love to give it all away, but in the end I still have to pay the mortgage.

Thanks for a good article.

whitney peckman
This without a doubt the funniest and truest posts I have ever read! It is so dead on that it makes me gasp, and I know, because like millions of artists, I too have been generous to a fault with donating my work and to NO benefit to my bank account. The ONLY time you should donate anything at all is when you want to give them $$$$$$ but don't have it - when you have only your talent and skill to give, give it from the heart, NOT for EXPOSURE because, as Jack so brilliantly tells us, IT WILL NOT WORK! I'm reposting this, sharing it, emailing it...maybe I'll go to the roof of my building and SHOUT it from the rooftop!

Jo Allebach
Thanks for the insight. I have been delusional about exposure too. I have donated a little but only because I believed in the charity. And in a cafe I got one inquiry. (no sale) I do not think the exposure to get on you tube and make the papers running down the street naked would work because it definitely would NOT be a pretty picture.
I love your writing.

Jo Allebach
Thanks for the insight. I have been delusional about exposure too. I have donated a little but only because I believed in the charity. And in a cafe I got one inquiry. (no sale) I do not think the exposure to get on you tube and make the papers running down the street naked would work because it definitely would NOT be a pretty picture.
I love your writing.

George De Chiara
Thanks Jack for once again sharing the truth with us! This was an excellent article that I really enjoyed reading. I've come to some of the same conclusions you have with juried shows. A LOT of them never make a sale. They just want your entry fee (which seem to be increasing every year), give away very small prize amounts and have your work hang in a room where almost no one looks at it. There are a *few* that do push sales and attract buyer and collectors. These have been the one's I've been trying to get into lately. The rest I run away from.

Brad Mangas
Wish I had read this years ago.

jack white
This is for Aline, Patricia and Ellie

Ellie if your goal is for your art to be seen and not worry about sales that's okay. Most of us make art we hope to sell. It's not my place to tell you what to do. I have my work in 11 museums and as of today I've had no sales as the results of someone seeing my art on displayed. That is high class exposure, but it's still exposure. Exposure can tweak your ego, but it won't put money in your purse.

I get the feeling you are discourage at the lack of sales. That's understandable. If you really want to sell your art, begin today thinking where you can go to attract buyers.

Aline and Patricia:
Putting your art in front of people who buy art can be perplexing. Air Ports don't work, movie lobbies don't work, sports arenas don't work. Put your thinking caps on and figure out were in your town you can have some success. Perhaps at a lady's club where you speak. Lions, Elk, etc clubs. Again where you speak and can point out your work. Art doesn't sell it's self. Art has to be sold.
One very successful way is to have home shows in a friend or collectors home. The crowd will be small, but you can spend time with each, helping them pick what works for them.
Fund raisers were you get 50 percent of the sale.

There are two kinds of Jury shows. One where you jury to get in an outdoor or indoor show where you set up and sell your work.
The other is where you ship your art and hope to win a cash prize. Most of us, including Mikki and me would be better off going to the local 7-11 and buying a lottery ticket. There are a few artists who do nothing but enter jury shows where a money prize is given. The deck is stacked against the average artists who ships their art and sends their money.
I've known artists to get their church to do shows for them with a part of the moneygoing to some program.
There are too many branch banks for what I once did to work. But there are Savings and Loans, Teacher Unions and lots of similar things that might allow you to set up a show in their lobby. You will need to be with the art selling.
The places are endless if you stop and think out of the box. Each town is different.
Remember this, if your art is in front of people not interesting in buying then you have wasted your time and gas money. THINK and the answers will come. jack

Carol Schmauder
Thank you for a wonderful,entertaining, eye opening article, Jack. I have also participated in the "exposure" game, which has never resulted in any sales. Now when I give art to charity, it is because I want to donate to that charity, not because I expect exposure. I have entered and been accepted into juried shows, but have never sold a painting as a result of it.

I second Aline's question: where do you find people who will buy art? I have only sold a couple of paintings in galleries and have better luck at shows, when I am with my work. I have sold a little on the internet. Most of the paintings I sell are to friends and acquaintances. I would love to know where else I can look to sell my work.

Margie Guyot
I totally agree with the statement: Be aware the only one making money on juried shows is the promoter. After having thrown away thousands of dollars over the years on dues to far-off "prestigious" art clubs and their annual juried shows, I've finally realized it's not the way for me. THEY certainly made money. I never was invited to show in their galleries, never made a sale from those shows. And there's also the tendency to try to paint something that will fit that organization's "ideal". I've seen the show programs -- and the paintings pretty much all look the same, year to year, as if they were all painted by the same 3 artists. Why waste my time on that? No, I've decided to do my best, paint things I am inspired by, and stick to galleries within a reasonable driving distance.

Ellie Harold
Thanks, Jack. To be clear, I was disappointed and confused by the lack of sales from this particular museum exhibit. It was the first of this kind of showing for me and I had wild expectations for it.

I sell just fine out of my studio and from my website -- when this is where I put my attention. The museum show was a huge effort, however, that took me away from my normal marketing. It was a great stroke for my ego, however, and that's sometimes a good thing! But when it comes to paying the mortgage, I've learned it's perhaps wiser to stay with the tried and true methods I've developed.

I appreciate the wisdom of your vast experience.

Enda Bardell
Jack -
All I can say is WOW! what an article!
Thank yo!

Denise Smith
Hello Jack, I had to laugh at your 'fine art views' today!!! I loved it!!! The
sad truth is that it is the truth!!! With one exception....Jack I am a
promoter/ARTIST and NOT MAKING MONEY...perhaps I am THE stupid ONE HERE.....but
if we are LUCKY after the bills are paid for this show....we can have it again
next year. I footed the entire bill the first year of the show and went in the
hole bad...last year was the second year and it paid its own bills.(we took on
sponsors) now this is the third year and I am happy to say we will make it,(due
to some grant money received for artist awards!!) ....if there is any money to
be made it will go to a fund for scholarships for FFA...which is what we hope to
The economy is flat and we hope to bring folks to this area that like western
art...cannot afford to leave, so am investing much time and money in the hopes
that something will be built that will help more than just me. I am an artist
who is finding her way. I work for ranchhand wages parttime and do my
is no secret that I do not have while your generalization might work
for some with more experience than I, it sure did hurt me and what I am hoping
to accomplish in Pendleton,ore.I hope you will be careful of your statements
since many read your 'fine art views'
a poor promoter in Oregon.
Denise Smith

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
Oh Denise, your latest show looks like fun!
GOOD LUCK! I wish I could come see it.

Donald Fox
I imagine a lot of late career artists reading this and nodding heads in agreement. All those hours and dollars spent chasing the exposure dream could have paid for a lot of paint. Experience may be the best teacher, but it's certainly expensive when exposure is the goal.

Denise Smith
I guess I need to know how a sale happens without it...oh wise ones....

Peggy Guichu

Loved your article. Wanted to share with you my exposure. I have paid $360.00 for a very small scroll advertisement on a reputable, international art web site. This is a small price to pay for 701,717 times my image Ad has been shown. I do get a lot of looks to my website, but absolutely none of them have contacted me or purchased any art. I profess to be a very sensitive artist and wonder how I haven't already 'done myself in'. At least the image of my painting in the online ad isn't the original painting hanging on some restaurant wall with food dripping off of it.

I went all the way to China and got lots of EXPOSURE. I've done the free art to auctions for good causes, restaurants, banks. Try everything once, right? My personal low, my Mother suggested having a garage sale.

Type: Vertical Scroll
Status: Active - Showing
Site(s): Everywhere
Start date: 5/20/10
Duration: Ongoing
Current cycle: month 12: 4/20/11 to 5/19/11 Impressions target:
cycle to date: 23,359
total: 701,717

kohlene hendrickson
Brilliant article Jack! and ouch....glad you speak the truth on such a raw tone. I have invested a good chunk in the Miami Art Fair hoping for exposure.....let's hope I get lucky.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
Oh Peggy, I read your "bubbles" story. How awful! I'm so sorry you got strung around like that. I love your watercolors, and I will continue reading your blog too.

Jeanne Guerin-Daley
Jack,well, this is timely! Next up on my task list for today is to begin painting a bookcase which I agreed to do for a school fundraiser. I agreed to do it for the sake of "giving". I do not plan to spend hours and hours on it: it will be a quick but fun job (some stars and a moon or two). I have to admit though, since it's for a preschool in an affluent area, I thought the "exposure" may turn into a custom mural job, since that is one of my income-earning avenues. (They did offer me a full-page ad in their book for no cost.) It is amazing me that even though I read through (and had great laughs at the jokes in!) your article, I still have this crazy optimism that maybe this exposure will land me a custom mural job...! So I wonder, am I a starving artist because I am a hopeless optimist?! Or maybe just not a realist!?! It's tough. As artists we try very hard to be true to ourselves in order to create honest art; to succeed in business must mean that sometimes we need to turn that around?!
Anyway, thanks for the great info!

Peggy Guichu
Thanks Mimi, you're so sweet. Life would be so dull without experiences and we are all having some fun ones, aren't we. Well then, I guess I better start writing my blog again. You just gave me a huge lift up on the encouragement scale.

Maria Brophy
When anyone suggests we give away 2-3 weeks of our income (in the form of artwork), for EXPOSURE, I joke that we expose ourselves every day!

Then I ask a couple questions:

1.) Where will the artists name be printed on the invitations / on the website / in the newspaper?

2.) How much percent of the proceeds will be paid to the artist from the sale. If the answer is 0, then we politely decline.

I rarely donate art to charities because we get more "exposure" from our paying collectors by word of mouth than I've ever seen come from a charity event.

However, if a charity is willing to share 50/50 in the proceeds, we will donate.

OR, if they are one of our 3 favorite charities that we already donate money to every year.

Donating money, though, is a better write off than art, because the IRS won't let you write off your time, only materials.

Yevgenia Watts
What a timely article, Jack! Only yesterday, a relative contacted me about donating artwork for a charity auction...and I'm not sure I will be doing it. Like many artists here, I believe in contributing to a cause that means something to you but not necessarily just for the sake of it being a good deed and bringing you "exposure."

As an emerging artist, I often feel that I am shooting arrows in all directions without even seeing the aim. Thank you for sharing your experience and at least helping me to cross out the directions that don't work.

Alma jo
Having just read all the articles you had listed has given me a new way to approach sales. tonight I am doing a demo on the sidewalk in frount of a gallery so will be using the methods you spoke about. Tony Robbins says study the ones who are successful and copy them so now that is my approach, because my way is not working so i will keep learning from the ones who are selling. alma jo

People have to do what they're comfortable with, but it doesn't always have to work this way. I donated a large piece to a local cause, and shortly thereafter the woman who runs the organization made a studio visit and bought 3 pieces of my work on the spot. It can be a win-win thing. My husband and I made an impromptu, on the spot purchase of a piece of art we unexpectedly saw while...dining at a restaurant.

Peggy Guichu
Congratulations on your sales. You must know that this is rare, but great. Just one question, where do you eat:)))

Carolyn Henderson
Love it, Jack!

We get letters all the time from non-profit venues asking for paintings for their auctions, and promising, in return, exposure.

And yet, when you approach these places, asking to place brochures, or even hang artwork during peak tourist season, you're told, "Oh, we're not a gallery! We don't exhibit artwork!"

One of these places, in a period of time when it had a forward-thinking manager, hung art and sold it successfully during the tourist season, but then the board members found out and shut the whole thing down.

"We're not a commercial establishment," they sniffed. "We're a non-profit."

THAT's for sure!

Betty Ann Morris
OMG Jack you had me rolling on the floor. Exposure I have come to loath the word. Actually the only exposure I am trying for these days is a little exposure in the sun for some vitamin D.
I started saying no to all the non profits a few years ago. Its a good feeling.
Thank you for sharing.
Betty Ann

Stephen James
Speaking on exposure, my wife has had public art (35x12 ft. mural!) on the side of a building for a year and no sales have resulted. The piece was commissioned, so it was still good to be selected--but it's difficult to believe that something that large in the 11th largest city in US wouldn't result in at least one sale.

On a more technological note, social media is the same way. It may result in many likes and follows, but not in sales.

Stephen James
If you want to donate to a charity, I'd recommend donating a print of your work (that costs you an amount that you wouldn't mind donating in cash to the cause in the first place).

Ann Feldman
Now THAT was a great article. It's about time we artists started to concentrate on what really matters- sales, not exposure. I'm still smiling at the visual of the easy way to get exposure-- effective, for sure! Thanks for the laugh!

Margie Guyot
Oh yeah, a PS to the subject of those big, expensive national shows: After paying your dues AND the $50 jury fee, IF you get in, you also have to pay shipping. Sometimes an uncrating fee (the last time I did, it was $125). Then IF your painting sells, the gallery takes 50 percent. And if the event was sponsored by a national art club, they also take a cut. So -- what does that leave you with? Not a lot. Not worth it!!!!! On top of the last fiasco national show I was in, the gallery managed to misplace my prepaid shipping label ($125) and it was a real hassle to replace it. I'm DONE with this type of show!

Margie Guyot
Regarding donating artwork: somewhere I'd read that you should suggest the caller BUY your artwork and then donate it to the charity. That way everybody benefits. The buyer gets to deduct the sales price. You get paid. The charity gets the goods! Watch them sputter when you suggest this method....

Sandra Haynes
Margie....this was a once in a life time event, but I actually suggested this to a guy that was looking for donations.
His response? He looked at me with amusement, said I was a h*** of a business woman, and then bought bought the piece to donate!!!!!
That guy then also implemented my idea of offering a 50/50 split for artists donating original art.
The way artists do business is changing....thank goodness.

Carol Schmauder
Stephen: That is what I have been doing lately; donating prints instead of paintings.

I wish I had read this years ago, but time is the great teacher as the saying goes, now if people ask me about exposure I point them to the internet, even more eyes with zero buyers.

Marian Fortunati
A sad reality, isn't it? Unfortunately so many artists don't know what "really" works, so we just keep plodding away... painting, painting and painting..... If it all sits on our own walls it for SURE isn't going to inspire anyone to buy it.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
except an occasional house guest! :-)

Nicole Hyde
Jack, compelling read. I hear what you are saying about donations, the "exposure" trap, and some juried shows. For myself, invitationals and juried shows have been enormously beneficial in that they gave me sales and offers to represent my work, so I think they have value.

Esther J. Williams
Jack, thanks for giving me a jolly good laugh! Your definition for getting good exposure as an artist by running naked down the street cracked me up! I have thought of it at times. Modesty rules over me though.
I paint in public places and also out of the way places, it doesn`t matter, someone comes along still and is interested in buying it. To me, this kind of exposure is special and forms a bond from artist to buyer.
Been there, done that with the restaurant exposure. Never again. I have donated to charities, now I am too busy selling direct and doing shows.
But I will continue to enter juried exhibitions, those build prestige and upper ranking among art collectors.

Sharon Weaver
Jack, thanks for setting the record straight about so many of the suggestions, and must does, and have to try choices which every artist faces throughout their career. "Exposure" is an overused and overrated term but it often is an accurate description for the things I try in the name of selling my work. I am always hoping the next exposure will send me to another level. But it seems like it is just another chance at more "exposure." Aughhhh!!!

Linda Packard
I agree that donating art does not produce later sales, and I am done with that except for an organization to which I'm committed. Then the donation is just that, a gift from the heart. But regarding juried shows, I have heard that having them on one's resumé is important when applying for a residency or a grant, and also galleries like to see this on a resumé as well. Thoughts on that?

Mary Sedici
You just really made me laugh with the exmaple of Exposure. You are so right. Millions wants exposure, but to get it, one has to do some crazy thing. Running naked on the street is one idea :))
I'll be thinking of something less compromising. For sure, Media has to be involved, and a lot of controversy. That makes people famous. Still laughing thinking of a naked painter running on the streets!

Sal Marino
...I give my stuff away sometimes to get a little "exposure" and sometimes its returned with a note that says, "No Thanks!". Go figure! But I tell you what...In a hundred years or so they'll be kicking themselves in the ass because my stuff will be worth a fortune, I'll be rich and famous and the ones smart enough to buy my stuff now will be rich...[Cymbal Crash!] Don't believe me? Talk to me in a hundred years and see who's right!
Sal Marino, Founder of The Funism Art Movement

Sharon Gates
So true! So true! Thanks for saying so eloquently and humerously what I have been knowing for YEARS. I am so tired of fellow artists in art organizations I belong to telling me I should enter certain shows "for EXPOSURE". And they certainly never want to hear what I think about that, and those who do raise their eyebrows in revelation. Years ago I began noticing that, as a member of my state's watercolor society, the same, big-named artists kept winning the big cash prizes of not only our open, national shows but also those of other states...often with the SAME PAINTINGS. They milked the system, and smartly so. I felt sorry for the clueless who, year after year, went to the expense of shipping their work across states, hoping for a chance to win THE PRIZE, recoup their expenses and, at the least, gain EXPOSURE. The majority did not. It opened my eyes and taught me a lesson that this type of venue only strengthens the coffers of the art societies promoting the shows. Thank you, Jack.

Donna Robillard
Thanks for the discussion on 'exposure'. Exposure alone will not sell the art. I have done some good with juried shows; however, it takes time and money to send the pieces to the show - unless, of course, it is within driving distance. All of this discussion was very good. Thank you.

Just another pretty face? es, exposure helps, but it isn't everything!

roslyn hancock
Jack I love your articles.
You tell it as it is.

Your message is, - you have to be active in your selling.
There's no place for wishful thinking.
The artist has to find places where buyers go, and treasure his buyers.


Carol McIntyre
I think "exposure" is our form of denial and unwillingness to spend the time to THINK as you mentioned above. Your story reminds me of the time that someone convinced me to display my work in an open house for a new nursing home. Wow, was I a fool! It was a great lesson early in my career - go only where people are thinking about buying art.

Thank you, Jack. I must admit there are days when I do want to run in the street naked to get exposure! LOL!

Barbara J Carter
Whenever someone says something is "good exposure," I just smile and say

"You can die of exposure."

Patricia J Finley
LOL!! Excellent response, Barbara!!!

Bonnie Samuel
I've just read through all the comments and the gist seems to be that "exposure" in terms of shows, juried and not, social media, galleries just don't bring success. But artist directly in touch with buyers does make for sales and recognition as an artist. In that vein, I like Esther J. Williams idea of painting in public and talking with passersby. Opportunities to meet people in person make sense as buyers do like to know the artist.

thanks for all the great insights on this topic.

Margie Guyot
Love your comment, Barbara! And as for painting in public, hoping to sell, I think it can depend on WHERE you're painting. Depending on the type of crowd, you may appear as nothing more than a trained monkey, stuck there to entertain. Been there, done that!

Janet Zeh
Love this article. I've shared it and it is getting around to my artist friends. Thanks for your words of wisdom. I think of what you have taught me every time some "sparkly" thing comes along which will not help my sales.
Exposure in and of itself does not work. I smile whenever someone suggests it.

Suggesting that someone purchase the work to donate to a charity does work however! I have had some good collectors do this very thing. It would never have occurred to them to do this if I had not suggested it.

Perhaps it's up to us artists to educate people and change the way they think about the value of our work.

Lori Woodward
Jack, after reading your books several years ago, I too realized that my donating to fund raisers for "Exposure" was a waste of my time and effort.

I did convince one organization to give me a certain amount of money for the sale - they could keep anything over that amount. They did that for a portrait commission one year, and then someone decided that they'd only take full donations from artists. So, I dropped them.

I have also educated local organizations about what is fair for artists who place their work in a fund-raiser, but they look at me like I'm crazy, and reply that they can get plenty of art from local artists as a full donation; why would they give the artists a percentage or have a minimum bid?

Well, and in there lies the problem... artists are too eager to give their work away for the so-called promise of exposure. Jack - I so do appreciate you for spreading the truth about this issue. If artists everywhere stopped giving art away, it would help all artists get what they are due for their work.

In the meantime, when a non-profit asks me for an art donation, I first say no - that I'm not in the charity business. Then I say that if I want to donate to their organization, I'd rather send them a check - something I can write off on my income taxes. Writing a check costs me a lot less $ and time spent than creating a work of art.

Besides, many wait for these fundraisers because they know they can get great art for practically nothing. It hurts everyone in the art business.

Thanks again Jack, if it were not for you, I would not have taken this issue into consideration and would be blinded to the truth.

Margie Guyot
Lori, that's probably the best thing: just give them a check. And while we're at it, artists aren't the only ones getting hit up all the time for freebies. I'm also a musician and it's almost unheard of for us to get paid for performing. At least up in NW Michigan, in the tourist areas. Last weekend our band drove for an hour, played for an hour for a Celebrity Chefs Challenge (in a very rich ski spot). Did we get any $$? Did we even get a free meal?? It's becoming quite a sore spot. Would those rich people running these events think of going to eat at a restaurant and not tipping their waitress? We need to start thinking of taking care of ourselves, both artists and musicians...!

Esther J. Williams
Thanks Bonnie for your comment, I have learned what sells art the hard way, by experience. I agree with Jack wholeheartedly now. Do whatever you can as an individual to put yourself in front of people, let them see you paint and get them emotionally involved with your art. Our art is not just a product, it is a life enriching piece of magic.
I am spending the rest of the summer schedule to paint live at a hotel resort. I am both nervous and exhilarated about it. Yes, I must be a performer, but I am a well seasoned one at that with artistic abilities higher than that of a monkey. I will be demonstrating my skills, connecting directly with guests and selling little masterpieces off the easel. Monkeys only get peanuts and bananas, I get to laugh all the way to the bank.

Alma jo
just take the demo and rock it, have fun doing this and it will go great. people like to talk with artists telling you what all thy tried to do, i listen and then just let them talk and usually they will buy something. my line is now i would love to have you on my email or newsletter so we can keep in touch since i enjoyed meeting you. I paint in frount of a gallery every fri love doing this and talking to people.

Carol McIntyre
Jack, here is a unique "exposure" situation that I am currently in and I would be interested in your reactions to it.

One of my surgeons (I had surgery 8 mos ago) is an educator/expert in his field and he uses my case as one example of positive results and to prove a theory he has. He speaks all over the world. The surgery I had inspired me to paint a series of paintings (of which he bought one and the other surgeon bought another) that he really likes. He includes images of my artwork in his PowerPoint presentations and provides my biz cards and brochures.

No action yet from his attendees but it only "cost" me 2 hours of putting my images into PowerPoint format and a few hundred cards. He keeps telling me that folks take my info. I figured since surgeons are a good market this was an "exposure" I could not pass up. Your thoughts?

Esther J. Williams
Hey Alma, yes I have been speaking to onlookers for years while I paint plein air. Sold quite a few paintings off the easel. It is joyous, but this is going to be a 5 star fancy smancy hotel with rich guests. The marketing department was very selective on who they chose to paint there, so I am gratefully honored, but still scared. Not to worry too much, as soon as I start painting and talking, the jitters will go away. Yes, I do ask if any guests will like to be on my newsletter list. That will be a great thing, I should be adding lots of new followers this summer!

Brian Sherwin
Doing charity events can be good for your image I suppose-- how people view you. For example, if you receive press at some point questions about those events will most likey be hit on. It can be a point of conversation. However, a buyer is normally not going to re-consider buying a painting just because he or she knows that you have helped a specific charity. If they don't like the painting-- they don't like the painting... and if they want it-- they will buy it regardless of what you have done.

As for art and charity, in general, I would strongly suggest making sure that a fair percentage is involved if you take part. There is nothing 'greedy' about making sure that your interest is served while lending a helping hand.

In most cases I would not suggest getting involved with a charity group unless 1.) you really, really, really support the cause. 2.) the charity is willing to give you a percentage of what is earned from your art. 3.) the charity is a widely known one that is also VERY selective of the art that is accepted for involvement.

Lori Woodward
Brian, all good points.

I once worked with the town of Peterborough NH for their annual fund-raiser. This is a wealthy town. The organization only took 40 percent on sales and let the artist set a reserve price. In my opinion, they did it right.

Interesting - a collector from Texas bought my painting there. Anyway, at the time, my prices were reasonable - $350 for a 12x16 oil painting, framed. The chairman of the event said mine was priced right for the auction because attendees expected a bargain and would not bid if the price reflected the true retail value.

The organization encouraged the artists to make the beginning bid half of the retail value they'd sell it when though a gallery, in order to entice the collectors to make bids.

Only problem was - the painting usually sold for close to half it's retail value, and then the artist got 60 percent of that... which devalues their artwork.

This is standard fare for fund raisers that "seem" to do it right because they let the artist set a minimum bid and give the artist a fair share of the sale.

However, here's the problem. The collectors have the belief that art at these types of events will be sold at bargain prices. Don't know how long it'll take to change that perception.

Carolyn Henderson
Brian: your three ending tips are good ones, and will help out the artist who is vacillating because they feel guilty or unsure.

Lori Woodward
I also stopped doing the Richard Schmid auction in Loveland CO for the same reason. They started bidding at half the retail price, but my painting sold for near half. I spent money shipping the painting and framing it. And the fundraiser took 50 percent. By the time all was said and done, I netted $120 for the sale of a 14x18 oil still life.

Although I really like what Richard has been doing, I can't afford to give my art away like that - plus it's a lot of work to ship by the deadline.

This is the last year Richard will hold this auction. Too many artists are dropping out.
One good thing - they gave me the name and address of my buyer.

Margie Guyot
Last year I participated in a charity event that worked out very well:

Artists were asked to set the opening bid price. They got to keep that price; anything above that, the charity got.

I set my opening bids at half the price they would normally get in a gallery, so I was very satisfied.

If nobody placed a bid, the artist got to keep his/her work. Every work sold, though.

All the artists contributed GOOD work, as it was a virtual "sure thing". If art auctions were conducted in this manner, I believe the quality of artwork contributed would be a lot better.

Ellie Harold
@ Margie -- that does sound like a good way to handle a live auction. I'll pass that on to the fundraisers I know.

Here's an idea I've found successful for silent auctions: When I want to give something, I donate a gift certificate valued at 50 percent of the cost of a painting. The winner is invited to come to my studio and select their own piece. I give them a month to make their choice.

It's been a good solution for me. Prior to this I was losing big time with bargain hunters waiting for this particular silent auction to collect my work at outreageously low prices. This way I get what I would if the work sold in a gallery, the charity gets whatever their patrons want to give them, and the patron gets a painting they really want.

Additionally, because I meet the donor in my studio, there's more chance to build a relationship which seems to me to be one of the most important steps in selling work.

Judy Mudd
Jack, this was the best post! I'm going to print it out and tape it on my wall and read it every time I get a request to "expose" my work in someone's latest event. I think I've done every stupid thing you've mentioned here and you are absolutely correct, except I may skip on the running naked down the middle of the street with brushes in my mouth. THAT one I haven't tried. I don't think the world could take it.

Sal Marino
...Not just exposure, but marketing

fantastic idea love this its a win win on both sides and like u said you then meet the buyer great idea. almajo

Margie Guyot
Ellie -- I like your method: offering a half-off certificate, good for use on work in your studio. Great idea! And putting a 30 day limit on it is smart, too. Thanks!

Paula Scott
I wholeheartedly agree with you on all your points about exposure-particularly in the context of charity donations. You get 'billed' that all the top movers and shakers in town will see your work, blah, blah, blah. But, so many of these fundraisers, at least here, do not have a website where they can list your name (a website with a high page ranking and back links are what might perk my interest). And, if the work doesn't sell, someone in the group either goes home with it or it gets stored somewhere-incorrectly. My criteria today for art donations? Minimum opening bid to my specification is required. A website for the organization required. List my name and back link it to my site is required. If the work doesn't sell, it comes back to me.

great article

I liked your article and agree that exposure has limited value. Over exposure can be detrimental as well. Unfortunately for many artists, they have unrealistic expectations about the quality of their work. Even you equate your work with Norman Rockwell, according to your web site. Hubris gets the best of almost everyone.

Kay Hale
I love this article, thanks Jack

Wayne Boswell
I found this informative post while searching for A. D. Greer and thought that since you knew him personally you might be able to help me with some information about him. My girlfriend worked at the Texas Tumbleweed in 1987 and he came in to eat regularly. Instead of a tip he drew pictures on notebook paper and signed them. She has 3 of these and we are trying to locate more information on collectors, galleries, other people who may have them and what they may be worth. Any help would be appreciated

jack white
Wayne Boswell

AD was a dear friend. I have seen him make those sketches many times. I have no idea what their value is on today's market.

The Heritage Art Auctions in Dallas knows AD and they could give you some idea of their worth.

I have an art appraiser listed on my website. Go to and Click Gold Leaf. His name is at the top of the page.

AD was born on Christmas Day, thus his name. His real name was AD. He was from Oklahoma. He killed himself at the age of 98.

He didn't become an artist until he was in his mid thirties. The great Robert Wood gave him a few lessons.


Crista Forest
How can you prove "exposure" does no good? I agree it doesn't seem to have any immediate impact to do these things. I might get into a juried and not sell the piece entered, or get any inquiries directly from it .... that I can tell. But somewhere along the road I pick up new buyers here and there that I didn't know, who were not friends of anyone I know. I don't know where they came from. Hardly any new buyer tells me where/how they found my work. How do I know it wasn't from a show I entered 6 months ago?

jack white

You might get a miracle or two sale from exposure, but the majority of times it's a wasted effort.

Several years ago we did a blitz exposure plan. We ran ads in a half dozen top art magazines every month for a year. We spent $75,000. We could only count three sales from the ads. In short you will get more exposure by getting nude and running down Main Street. Your name will be in the newspaper and your body on television. (smile)

Instead of exposure look for places to put your work in front of potential buyers. Juries Shows is not one of those places. The folks doing the shows are the ones making money not the artists.

Do outdoor shows or those setting up in malls. Places where you can personally sell your work. Go where people attend to buy art.

The truth of the matter Exposure is the ugliest myth facing professional artists. It does no good and crushes hope. You jury into a show dreaming of becoming famous only to not win and no sales. You are out entry fees, shipping and rejection.

Go to art galleries. Do a home show or have a friend set one up in their home.



Jim DeLine
Jack, I'm trying to tie you to the name D. F. Dan. In your very early years, didn't you paint using that nom de plume? The story goes that your basketball coach thought you so reckless, he gave you that name, with the "F" being an unprintable adverb. We got to know each other because our kids played little league together.


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