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The Power of the Gift

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 4/19/2012 9:29:30 AM

This article is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


Last time I wrote and quoted some of Seth Godin’s wisdom about art and artists from his bestseller book Linchpin. There is so much I have learned from that one book, and I completely understand why and how this amazing entrepreneur-writer-blogger-artist is so influential in this time and age. Today, I want to share with you a very simple concept about gift giving.


The Circles of the Gift System


Godin brings an example from the art world, mentioning Monet as an example, but it works for any known artist out there.


There are three circles for each of us. The first is our close friends and family. We give them true gifts from our heart. We don’t care about bottom-lines and income when it comes to this circle. Monet gave paintings to his friends. We all do to ours.


The second circle is the commerce circle. We paint one-time commissions or sell original paintings (or even prints) to our collectors. Monet sold his paintings as well to his contemporary collectors. This circle can grow in time, but is quite limited in number.


The third circle is the rest of the world. The vast exposure of an artist via international museums, books of art etc. There is a real gift to be able to enter an art museum for the price of lunch and coffee, and enjoy all the gifts given to us by the masters of far and near. And similarly to that, in our days, the exposure of artwork on websites is available for the entire world to see!


And here is the magic, per Godin – in the third circle. The same way that museum exposure to the public, the third circle, increases the price of artwork, and creates demand by collectors who “have to have it” – once you give freely to the third circle, people will want to have what you have and will buy what you have. So the larger the third circle becomes, the second circle (remember – commerce, collectors, paying clients) will also grow.


And here is where it becomes so simple. Godin’s argument is that you don’t have to worry about the second circle at all. Just give your gifts to the first and the third circles, and the second one will take care of its own.


Think About Your Circles


So who is in your circle? The first one should be easy. It’s our families. Our friends. I have given many times artwork to them. And it is a true gift. Priceless.


It is pretty easy, but requires some work, to enlarge your third circle by giving gifts. And the gifts do not need to be pieces of art. Here are some examples:

  • Share your artwork online, on your site, Flickr, Facebook or WetCanvas. There are so many places you can do it!
  • Donate artwork to worthy charities that you believe in and are close to your heart.
  • Volunteer in your local art group. Being just a member is only taking. When you give your time, you are giving and gifting.
  • Write guest blog posts to other blogs. Many are looking for guest writers, and your one-time post is a gift to the blog owner and its readers.
  • Participate in group art shows. Even if they cost few bucks for registration or jurying, this is your gift to promote local shows, art appreciation and community connections.
  • Work with your kids, even their friends or school classes on art projects and initiative. Why not help their teacher paint the set for the next class’ show? All the parents and teachers will hear about it (I know, from experience)
  • And many more ways…


Would the second circle come through?


Or in other world, would my sales increase? Will I be able to live from my art?


I would say – don’t worry about this at all! Don’t make art with the goal of making money. Make art with the goal of making a gift. The money will come.


Do you agree? If you do, let us know of situations that you saw how this concept works. If you don’t agree, tell us why. I would love to hear from you all.





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Exciting Week Part II

Topics: advice for artists | art blogging advice | Art Business | art marketing | creativity | exposure tips | FineArtViews | inspiration | Moshe Mikanovsky | sell art | selling art online | selling fine art online | support local art 

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Mary Beth Brath
Very interesting. Now I have even more to think about today! Thank you for sharing.

janet louise
Ditto to Mary Beth!

Kathy Chin
Articles like this are why we missed you Moshe!

You (and Seth of course) are totally correct...sincerely giving from the heart will result in riches of all kinds...and maybe some financial rewards as well :)

I read the book but I really like the way you explain it for artist.

Cathy de Lorimier
I really like this concept, and am all about giving to family and friends. I find that they out of everyone in the world probably appreciate my artwork/gift the most because they know me, my heart, and I usually also write a card to tell why this special piece was made especially for them. I have gotten so much gratification from giving to this first circle!
I also really enjoy updating my FASO website with new artwork, commenting on my pieces in my newsletter, and showing pieces in local shows, which make up my third circle. Right now I am not prepared to do too much more than that, because although I DO like giving, I also consider the need to make money. I think you are right, that if we take care of the first and third circles, this will come with time.
It can be compared to raising children! Give them the best home, best example, best food, most quality time and education you can muster, over a LONG period of time (OK, basically your whole life!) and don't stop giving. In time, we as parents see them grow, mature, and blossom into beings better than we dreamed. There's the satisfaction of a life well lived. Yes, giving is vitally important in our home lives as well as work lives. Good post!

Jim Springett
Dear Moshe,

Yes giving gifts and sharing, is not directed toward any return, however, kindness, and good beget one another. I just shipped a painting to a new customer, who was short of income, yet that small facet was not a road block and was solved simply by giving, and we receive much more in return by helping our art customers along their pathway of life.
Thank you for your wonderful blog.
JIm Springett-wildlife painter

Great to read your articles again! I sincerely agree with you, I love painting and have given a lot to friends, family etc. over the years and try and keep my prices reasonable. I enjoy sharing work online and the social networking...I think if I was painting just for money I would be the loser in lots of ways!

Barbara Reich
Moshe - I paint because I can't imagine not painting, and every time I "give" without the thought of "receiving" something good invariably happens. Yes, giving/contributing is good. I am fortunate that I don't need to support myself on the sales of my art and I never have had to paint simply for monitary gain, however, I can't deny the money really comes in handy when I need to purchase supplies including expensive frames. I've never thought of it in terms of circles, but your points are certainly valid. The goal of most every great artist is (and should be) to create great art, but compensation is NOT a bad word.
Barb Reich

Moshe Mikanovsky
Like always, thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and participating in the discussion. This is what makes this blogging business so much fun!
And even if you don't disagree with what I said, the more the better. Lets discuss and see what works and what not.

What this concept gave me is freedom. Although I didn't abandoned my dream to live from my art, not having a constant income in the last 7 months and wanting to make art and earn a living from it, made it so stressful that I couldn't even focus properly on the art making...This theory that GIVING will work itself out eventually to what I would like happening is freedom! It releases the stress of "making it". Of course, finding a new job helps, but alas, it takes most of the time away from making art. Writing here is my gift. Sharing these ideas with you, is my gift. I am an artist because I am giving gift.


Sharon Weaver
Love the attitude and the third circle concept rally rings true. I have been looking for ways to expand my blog and would love to do some guest writing. How do I go about finding blogs that want guest writers?

Carol Schmauder
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the advice of Godin, Moshe. This article gave me some great food for thought.

Phil Kendall
In retirement my art is the only precious thing I have to give to philanthropic causes...

It makes me feel good...
It clears space in my studio...
It allows my creativity to continue...

This is a much needed point of view to balance the constant pressure to use marketing methods to turn our art into a mere commodity.

Art and gifts go together, I love what you've written.I really feel that art and commerce , in a lot of cases, don't.

I address this issue on my blog regularly as I search for the balance between giving and earning. I guess one could get to the point where the two wouldn't be separated so much.
I'll go look at your blog. thanks Moshe. Sarah

Giving is why I came back to my artist self. Thank you for the wise words and helping me get back to where and why I started this journey in the first place. It is so easy to get caught up in the art marketing rat race (I recently touched on this in my blog)!
Yes, its tough when you need to pay the bills, but stressing about painting what people will like, what's hot, what's good enough, etc.... suffocates the flame and can put it out.
I am taking a stand! I am going to continue painting from my heart. We artists have so much to give the world; our ideas, beauty, points of view, beliefs and dreams. That is what people really want (whether they know it or not) and they will come looking for more, be drawn in by our creations and want to have them for themselves.

Phil Kendall
Sarah: after two years of sustained marketing and these works of art remain unsold etc. Then they have no commercial value left in them for my art studio.

It's better that my chosen charity [the only one I have ever supported and now for over 40 years etc.]gets a modest injection of cash from it selling my art.

Yes it has cost me time, effort, materials and studio costs and a lot of emotion.

And yes it hurts that I have not gained any income from my effort. Each £1.00 would give me just 80p after tax.

It is better to drip feed some 25-50 paintings per year into their system than say 5,000 paintings as a one-off donation of my estate!

But under UK tax law while I'm alive each £1.00 becomes £1.20 for the charity...

Patricia Finley

Thank you so much for writing this and helping us free ourselves from the pursuit of the almighty dollar (or pound). I knew that my art was a gift but your analysis put this all in perspective. I too am retired from my first occupation and need not sell art to eat. When I show my art in the future, I will try to bear in mind that it is all about the gift that I am giving to others (and the gift of creativity that I am giving to myself).

Thanks, Moshe!


Consuelo Okdie
I can't agree with this more. I donate my artwork for fundraisers for animal rescue and art in education. I've gotten so much in return for those gifts including increased sales, more commissions and even a purebred Pomerian puppy I really wanted at one of the rescues I donated work to. When you give a gift of art with no expectations you get back more then you could ever imagine!

John Anderson
I agree totally about the power of giving, but I don't think that we can ignore the second circle. Jack White makes this point strongly in his texts: art has to be sold. That's not to say it's just about the money or the selling. It is fine to give art --but it should be given without expectation that it will magically crete sales for us.

I also agree that art is not just about the almighty dollar--as some point out in the responses. I contend, though, that selling art is not a bad thing--it's not evil, and it's not the sole or primary reason for doing art--but the bottom line is that artists who want to make a living from art must sell it--it does not sell itself.

It may be that critical acclaim, reviews, etc. contribute to sales. Giving art may also lead to some sales--but, with few exceptions, it won't magically bring in cash. I have given many pieces to charity, and still do. This seldom leads to sales. It's like adds in magazines--they don't sell art either.

It takes personal relationships and a genuine passion for one's art, along with skill--to create art that sells. It also takes marketing, promoting, and doing the work to get it out there. Jack White is right: art has to be sold--and that's not a bad thing, and it doesn't mean the artist is just out for the money.

Marsha McDonald

I am so glad to read your post - I think I must agree with you! I make my entire living with my artwork. So while I believe giving is very important and gratifying, I still must pay the bills!! There are several charities that I give to regularly. I am also in the beginning stage of estate planning, including where I will donate a small personal art collection I have built over the years. So I agree - donating is an important aspect of being an artist and I do it. Nonetheless, I am in this as a professional who has bills to pay. If an artist chooses to paint for a living, there certainly is no shame in charging for what we do. In my opinion, it's no different from working at many other kinds of jobs. I love what I do, and have chosen to make my living at it, so I must sell.

Marsha McDonald

Your article is very thought provoking. I have donated over the years to charities, and yes, to family and friends. I did discover early on, that if you continually give to people, many come to expect it all the time. As I told John, if an artist commits to making a living with their artwork, obviously they must sell it. For me, the key has been to establish a balance between the two.


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