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Beware the Fog of War

by Jack White on 2/22/2012 9:19:34 AM

This post is by Jack White, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Jack has enjoyed a forty-one year career as a successful fulltime artist and author. He has written for Professional Artist Magazine for 14 years and has six art marketing books published. In 1976 Jack was named the Official Artist of Texas. He has mentored hundreds of artists around the world.  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 should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. 


General Douglas McArthur is credited with saying, “There is a fog in war when so many things are going on at one time you don’t know what to place your focus on.”


As most of you know, I don’t write to generate conflict. As a young man I thrived on battle but as I grew older, skirmishes have become less and less appealing. If you want articles you can go into a fury over I’m clearly not for you. I like to find ways to raise hope and leave the reader with positive thoughts on ways to improve their careers. In my historical novels however; I flourish on conflict because those books are written as page turners. But in art, I can’t write about clashes and be of any constructive help. My goal is to instigate you to dream about improvement. I’m an encourager, not a combatant. I want all of you to succeed.


My friend and great writer, Stephen Pressfield, wrote a small book titled The War of Art. If you have not read his book get a copy. Stephen is best known for his books that were made into movies, The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire, but he clearly understands our struggles in making and selling art. He understands the fog of war that keeps us from reaching our goals.


The movie Field of Dreams perpetrates the myth “if we make it, collectors will come”. It’s not enough just to have a nice website; we have to tell collectors where to buy our work. If you can’t get in galleries or do tent shows, then put on a home/studio event. Reach out or otherwise your will work remain anonymous. Get a friend or collector to do an art event for you.


Myth number two: "I need an art agent". The truth is no agent worth their salt will take on an unknown, undiscovered artist toiling in seclusion. The top art agents split the fees like this: 50 percent goes to the gallery, 25 percent for them and the final 25 percent is for you. You do the work, plus pay for the materials out of your part of the gross sale. Any art rep charging less than 25 percent is a waste of time. Like eating pie, the best way is with your own fork. No one is going to market your work unless you are really well known. Grab hold of that truth and don’t let your mind be fogged with myths.


A few have asked why I include short stories in all of my articles. Short stories are my gambit to help you to remember key points. If I can tell a worthy story, you just might remember the tale and then be able to nail my points to your mind. No matter how wise the advice, if the reader doesn’t remember, it’s useless. I’ve used quicksand, Josh Bell and pigeons, not to tell you their history but hoping the stories might help you remember the points being made.


In my historical novel, Ten Years in Texas, I tell the story of Dillard Cooper, an eighteen year old young man who came to the area in 1836 to fight for Texas Independence. Dillard was among the 400 men captured by General Santa Anna’s top officer in Goliad. Under foolish leadership, the Texans allowed themselves to be trapped in an open field by a much superior Mexican Army led by General Jose Urrea. The general positioned his powerful army on a hill above the Texans stymied below in the valley. To continue to fight would have resulted in being blasted into tiny pieces, so Colonel James Fannin raised the white flag asking for a truce. In the surrender, Fannin was promised his men would be allowed to return to their home states if they agreed not to continue to make war against Mexico.


After the Texans had been locked in the Goliad Chapel at the fort for several days, a Mexican officer came to Colonel Fannin, telling him to get his men ready to march. They were being taken to Port Lavaca on the Gulf of Mexico to catch ships to their home states.


About a mile from the Fort, everyone was ordered to kneel down next to a long picket fence. Dillard felt something was wrong. He had noticed how heavily armed the Mexican soldiers were and that they were accompanied by a troop of deadly mounted lancers. These lancers were the most feared men on the battlefield because of their excellent horsemanship and long poles called lances that had razor sharp points on the end.


When the first shots were fired, Dillard threw his body forward, his face buried in the ground as if he had been shot. Black smoke and the acrid smell of blood filled the air as if one large explosion has just taken place. Visibility went to zero almost instantly as the soldiers continued to kill. When the shooting stopped over 380 Texans lay dead, stacked in a long line of cadavers.


Dillard, young and athletic, jumped to his feet and dashed through the cover of thick smoke into an opening. Looking up, he saw trees just two hundred yards away. Then two lancers spotted him. Rather than run, Dillard began walking toward the lancer nearest to the trees. The lancers relaxed, waiting for the young man to get close enough so they could kill him with little effort. Just as he got even with the lancer, Dillard tossed his jacket into the horse’s face and broke into a full dash for the trees. The second lancer, seeing what happened, gave chase. When the lancer got close Dillard reversed his path and zigzagged into the tree line. He hid in the brush and leaves for thirteen days. The young man existed on bark and twigs before he reached Texana. He only traveled at night because during the day soldiers were in the woods looking for him and five other escapees.


I tell this story because if Dillard Cooper hadn’t ran fast, and thought even quicker, I’d not be here today. He used the fog of battle to save his life and later become my great grandfather seven generations ago. I’m here today because of a rawboned lad’s will to live, determination to survive and the ability to focus in the fog of battle.




Pebble Beach, Unframed ~ Jack White


The invention of the Internet and the cell phone has spread a heavy fog over the art industry like nothing in the past. So much valuable inventive time is spent online or chatting, including tweets, texts, Skypes and whatever is the latest online gimmick. Carolyn has done some excellent articles on the subject. Brian wrote of the demise of MySpace, which no doubt was a fog for many artists. I hear stories of people spending hours playing games online. I have a group of retired folks that flood my inbox with tests and games. I freely use the delete button.


Artists are challenged to find time to make and market art. In the past 100 years, the availability of art supplies has vastly increased the number of those who call themselves artists. Keith began an ongoing banter of stretch or not to stretch. I voted for purchasing ready-made canvases to save time. In art, time is money. Time is something we all have the same amount of but never enough to do all we want. If I can save an hour and apply that to making art, I’m ahead of the clock. If I can save 30 percent by buying a quantity of quality stretched canvas, I’d be foolish not to.


When I began in art over four decades ago, very few artists earned their living making art. Most were selling litho-prints and teaching. One artist I knew, Charles Beckendorf, made detailed pen and ink drawings, printed them on heavy watercolor stock and hand painted the prints. Charles did editions of 100 and seemed to sell all he could produce. Dalhart Windburg was selling 12”x16” un-numbered litho-prints and teaching. Most fulltime artists also taught classes to make ends meet. There were few women even attempting to earn their living in art. Almost none dared to sign a feminine name on their work if they were looking for gallery representation. One famous western artist signed her work B. R. Garvin. Betty Ruth didn’t dare let folks know she was an attractive, lady painting powerful western art. I remember there was a woman doing marvelous large bluebonnet paintings who signed them as a man. The gallery owner let me know her name in hushed tones, promising to take the life of one of my children if I told his secret. My lips are still closed.


Things have dramatically changed. We did a two day Art Seminar in Santa Fe last summer. There were thirty in attendance with only six men. From the responses I see on FASO, it appears the readership is tilted heavily toward women. Yet when looking for galleries to represent their work, it’s still much easier for a man to get space than a woman. It is indeed wonderful to see so many women coming into the world of art, a venue that has been closed to them for generations. Camille Caudell dressed as a man and went at night to dig clay in order to sculpt in France in 1880. Women were forbidden to dig the clay.


Less than 2 percent of art in the museums in the United States is done by women. That’s why we decided to brand my mate under the male sounding name Senkarik. Many first time buyers are shocked to learn her first name is Mikki.


With more competition and less galleries, open artists are being forced to seek new ways of marketing their work. We have the most complicated battle fog I’ve ever witnessed in the art world. I realize the news is saying the recession is over, but someone forgot to tell those who buy art! This is the slowest I’ve ever seen the art market.


A wise general finds a high place to watch the battlefield. He has to see through the fog of battle to find the weakest point where he can make a successful attack. For each of you, there is a weak spot in the market for you to penetrate. If we are not careful, we will get in the muddle of the everyday grind and fail to see opportunities. For each of us there is a path, it’s up to us to uncover the way.


If you are bogged down by the complexity of getting everything done, figuratively find a tall hill to view the battle from. Then, look through the fog and focus on what’s really important. We can’t do everything, but we can do anything we place our focus on. Ladies, time has never been better for you to soar to the top. There is no glass ceiling in art for women these days other than those that are self-imposed. The playing field may not be totally level, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s level enough for any of you reading this to excel and grow into the giant you hope to be. Ladies, today greatness is yours for the taking. Take advantage of what has been denied women in the arts for generations. Blow aside the fog of battle; spur your mount to the front of the line.


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Topics: advice for artists | art education | art marketing | art museums | FineArtViews | inspiration | Jack White | sell art | selling art online | selling fine art online 

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kara rane
very inspiring Jack, thanks for the optimism.
Meditation is my secret weapon and I would be dead without it.

Judy Palermo
'Spur your mount to the front of the line' - what an inspiring call to action! Gender issues are never much in my mind though; that's probably because I've been training in Japanese Karate for 3 decades, which is highly male-dominated. So for me when I'm oil painting I don't tend to look around to see who's who, just 'what's up, what's good?'
But your colorful and inventive advice is always good for everyone- Thanks Jack!

Betty Pieper
Stories do link and glue to truths. If it was good enough for Jesus that alone tells you something. I also like your "sayings"....eating pie with your own fork is best. Love it. Why not think about another piece on "The High Hill". Like what are some examples of the places to see through the fog..

Karen Bonnie
Jack, I've been appreciating your outstanding writing now for a year or more and can't keep my mouth shut today. This article is affirming, inspiring and uplifting, something all of us at every level need right now. I can't thank you enough. Brilliant!

Enda Bardell
Thank you, Jack, for the FOG information.
Right now, that's where I'm at, in the fog. How far do I go with the marketing work and how much of it do I do myself, seems to be the big question. Everything takes time. Life in Art becomes a juggling act. My goal is to have a life balanced with art, or art balanced with life, which is the same thing. To add another dimension of preparing for art events, seems absolutely daunting even though I have had many years of marketing in my past. Finding a way of doing more with less energy seems to be the key.
However, galleries do a great job of promoting the artists in which they believe.

Kathy Chin
Thanks once again Jack for a very thought-provoking and inspiring article. We appreciate you and everything you do for us!

Elayne Kuehler
What a wonderful article. Makes so much sense! Thanks a million for hitting the nail on the head and telling it like it is. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated.

Sue Barrasi
Loved your article!!!! I keep a copy of Stephen Pressfield The War of Art, close at hand! It is a must read!!!!! Your article is inspiring! Definitely struck a chord!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!The fog is lifting!!!!!

This was timely Jack, Thanks again for another inspirational "talk" to get me out of my own fog! And you brought back memories for me. My family and I lived in Austin, TX for 3 years (moved back to BC, Canada 3 years ago) and we "happened" to stubble upon Goliad State Park and the Mission Espiritu Santo on our way back from a visit to Padre Island near Port Aransas. Highly memorable was where I came to appreciate the rich culture and history of Texas ...miss it right now with the snow here...and those heavenly mountain laurel blooms that Mikkie posted on her blog!! :-)

Michelle Basic Hendry
The fog is definitely an opportunity. Emboldening post!

Esther J. Williams
Jack, the story about Dillard was amazing, it struck a chord in my heart. He was a courageous, strong willed man. I believe he had a "Never Say Die" attitude and it looks like it was handed down to you. I can relate to this story from my own past. Your words of encouragement are like rays of light giving warmth to the cold downtrodden artist souls.
Thanks Jack!

jack white

I'm thrilled you got a taste of Texas while you were here. My first historical novel was on the ten years Texas was an Independent Republic. In the book I try to show the raw hardship those early settlers faced. Either death by starvation of death at the hands of the Comanche. It's called Ten Years on Texas and on It was doing research on the book I discovered the story of Dillard Cooper. I vaguely knew his story from my grandmother, but not until I began to dig did I learn the truth.

All the rest of you. Thanks for your support. The thought of helping is what drives me to the computer. The art world is full of bad information.

I'm working on a forth historical novel, but so many have been asking about eBay, now I'm doing a short book on the tricks of the trade. There is nothing on the market that teaches how to market art on eBay. I've seen some stuff that is so far from the truth it makes my heart hurt. eBay is simple when you know how things work.

As some of you know I spent 3 plus years marketing work of my alter ego and was very successful the last two years of selling an unknown artists work. $40k and $45k the last two years. I'm going to tell how it was accomplished in this new book.

Wish me strength to do a sound job. jack

Elayne Kuehler
Jack, you will do great. You have such a clean way of writing. You are very talented.

What a wonderful article to read after spending a hard day beefing up my weak area in art. Thank you, Jack.

Marian Fortunati
I always love your stories and your sage advice, Jack!! Mikki is lucky to have you... (And you are lucky to have her!!) ;o)

Marian Fortunati
... My 5th Great-Uncle was Davy Crockett, who died at the Alamo.... I hope there's no parallel story to go with that like there was with your ancestor... -- Marian

Donald Fox
What a wonderfully connected series of stories. You continue to entertain as well as you teach.

Kathy Mann
Encouraging, inspiring story! Grateful that Dillard was successful and that we have you to share your wisdom with us. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on where to find the "high hill"....

Jo Allebach
As usual, great stories. And you certainly have brought things into focus on several counts - maybe I will get out of the fog?

Sally Minter
Thirty years ago I worked at that gallery you referred to and was astonished to learn BR Garvin was a woman! And even more astonished at the attitude that insisted that info not be revealed!

Also, when that bluebonnet artist you referred to was no longer able to paint because of vision problems, the retired manager tapped me to replace her. That's when my career as a bluebonnet artist started, and that was all I painted for a lot of years!

I am also reminded of a popular Austin bumper sticker , Onward Through the Fog!

Cathy de Lorimier
I love your encouragement and your stories. I'm marching into my studio right now to begin a project, and while it is underway I will think about ONE new way to market my art. Thanks!!

jack white
Raymond Brown was a piece of work. It's great to hear from you and nice of you to verify my stories. I have a feeling some think I make those stories up. (smile) I was also shocked to learn about Betty Ruth. I was shocked to see the attitude in the art world toward women.

I also remember Onward Through the Fog. (smile)

I spent a good deal of time writing about David Crockett in my first history book, Ten Years in Texas. I talk about why he came to Texas and how shocked he was to find himself in a war on a couple of weeks after he got into town.

I think you would enjoy Ten Years in Texas. You can find the book on Not pushing a sale, but the book gives a nice portrait of David. I go back to when he fought with Andrew Jackson in the Creek Indian wars.

I am very lucky to have Mikki in my life. We have started our 23rd year together and as of this morning we have never had a fuss, not even a small one.

THE HIGH HILL. I will write about how to reach the high hill in the coming weeks. I appreciate the suggestion. Thanks for the tip.

If any of you ever have questions, please feel free to email me.


Lori Woodward
Jack, such an inspiring post! I'm looking forward to you EBay book.

You're right about the art market and recession. Recently, established artists who have been working with galleries successfully for years are confused by lack of sales. Some are getting second jobs. A few are beginning to see sales pick up, but I think it is best for artists to be in charge of their own biz. Like you said so eloquently... Eat from your own fork.

As far as I can tell, artists who learn to sell on their own are doing best right now.

That's so intriguing about your grat grandfather. He did all of us artists a great service by surviving.

jack white
It's sad to see so many really good artists struggling. If they don't know how to sell, things can be rough.

Since the first of the year, Mikki and I have outsold our galleries. We have been contacting old clients who purchased from galleries that are now closed. Because of our extra effort we are having the best first quarter in four years. Had we only depended on gallery sales, we would be suffering.
Two big Texas hugs, jack and the diva

Lori Woodward
That's great Jack. You and the Diva don't settle.... Always moving forward, good examples for the rest.
Big hug back... From NH, I guess it's a smallish hug then ;)

Carol McIntyre
Jack, I am glad I took some of my online time to read your stories, but most of all to receive your big cheer and encouragement. The fog can be all encompassing and even debilitating. I am glad that I have finally climbed out. Hugs, :)

George De Chiara
Jack - I really enjoy all of the short stories you include in your articles. It really does help to retain the point your making and a treat to read!

Can't wait to see your eBay book. Would love to get a few more tips on selling on there.

jack white

I've been working long hours to get the eBay marketing book finished. I'm trying to keep the plan very simple with attention to a few key points.

I have a few more pages on the first draft. Then I'll do a couple more drafts, finally giving the book to an editor.

If you ever have questions, I'm here for you.

tom weinkle
i love so many of the sayings in your blogs. wise, and simple truths that can rarely be denied.


tom weinkle
I guess a truth cannot be denied, but maybe resisted...and them only if we wish to make it harder for ourselves to succeed.



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