The Art of Giving Paintings Away
By Eric Rhoads

Half-awake and walking out of my room to brew my coffee, I suddenly jumped at the sight of a frightening mask among the Halloween costumes flung over the back of the family room chairs. The kids, who attended a school party last night, need to tidy up a bit once they awaken. I think I jumped into the next room.

Days are getting shorter, mornings are dark longer, and it’s pitch black outside. The stars are still visible as I quietly make my way to the porch, trying not to awaken my wife in the room next door. The smell of coffee is filling my lungs as the glow on the horizon begins, and it soon brightens the trees with an orange light as morning officially arrives.

Signs of Halloween

Crisp air, and the scent of fall — I’m in the mood for some fresh apple cider. I’ve already started dipping into the Halloween candy (yum!). And last Sunday we made our way out to a local farm that has lots of Halloween activities — face painting, pumpkin carving, corn maze, and so on. It’s funny, the kids are teens and like to act grown up, yet they still love going there.

Football in Texas. Amen!

It’s football weather. Football in Texas is almost a religion, and since our triplets are in the marching band, we’ve been spending our Friday nights at the games to support our kids and their school. Though I’ve never been sports-minded, I have to admit I’m catching the disease. We’re pretty energized because our team is going to the playoffs, and on the way we beat a team no one has beaten in 11 years. Yay, team!

Our stadium was used in the filming of the TV show Friday Night Lights. It’s the first high school stadium I’ve seen with a jumbotron. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool, but a lot different from the rickety, rotting wooden bleachers at Homestead High School in Indiana, where I graduated.

Happy at Home

I’m grateful to be here. Though I love my travels and my responsibilities have taken me to some very interesting places lately, as Dorothy said when she clicked her ruby slippers, there really is no place like home. Yet soon, I’ll head out for a marketing class I’m taking in Orlando because I want to keep my ax sharpened.

In November I’ve got our new Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE) in Miami, which I’m really excited about. My two passions are plein air painting and figure/portrait painting. We’ve managed to put people together on stage who are unlikely to ever be together again.

Exciting and New

After the Miami FACE event I head straight to our Radio Forecast conference at the Harvard Club in New York, which is put on by my radio magazine (which is celebrating 25 years at the event). Then I’m off to the world famous Salmagundi Club for an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Fifth Avenue location.

That ends my travel for the year. Then I get to stay home with the kids for a week while mama travels to a conference. I’m sure it will be bubblegum, pizza, and cupcakes every night! (I know she reads this, and she’s always concerned about how I feed the kids.) (Smile.)

The year will wrap up with a couple more video shoots in our studios here in Austin. Then I get to stabilize for the balance of the year before the insane travel begins again.

Sometimes when I have a lot of events back to back, I don’t have time to stop and think about them until things settle down. I’m still processing the annual Radio Show convention, plus an event I held at the Wizard Academy, then the Fine Art Connoisseur art tour to Russia, my time painting in Russia, and my Fall Color Week artists’ retreat in Maine, which all came one right after the other. Thank goodness for my iPhone camera so I can remember where I was last week!


Recently at Fall Color Week I was painting next to Barbara Tapp, an amazing watercolor painter from Berkeley, California (where our kids were born). While we were standing there, she struck up a conversation with a couple visiting the area, heard about how the man had grown up nearby, had been gone for most of his life, and finally came back for a visit. The place, Schoodic Point, was just as he had remembered it.

I’m listening to the conversation when Barbara says to the couple, “My painting will be done in about half an hour. If you’ll come back then, I’d like to give it to you. Would you like to have it?”

The couple was deeply touched. “You would do that for us?” Barbara explained that because they had such a deep connection with the area, the painting would be a nice reminder of their old home, and it would be a pleasure to give it away.

She finished the painting, signed it, put it in a nice matte, and gave it to them when they returned. Though they offered to pay her for it, she insisted that it would be her gift to them and that their joy was payment enough.

The Story of Giveaways

Later that evening, during announcements, I asked Barbara to come up and tell the story, and I learned that her goal is to help the world by giving one painting away each day. She has already given away dozens and had stories of others during Fall Color Week in Maine.

Each story was touching.

Well, the next day, this trend had caught on. Rick Wilson and I painted, with permission, on a farm with an amazing view, and the owner was very engaged with what we were doing. But she mentioned that people often stop, walk on her property without her permission to take pictures, and some set up and paint without permission. She was thrilled that we had asked. So Rick said, “When this painting is finished, I’d like you to have it so you know not all artists are going to walk on to your property without permission.” She was so excited that I ended up giving her my painting, too.

Though neither of us liked the idea of giving away a painting we wanted to keep, we both felt very special about making an old woman’s day. We both went back a few days later to do another painting from the same spot, and she already had Rick’s painting framed and proudly took us in to show it hanging in her house (mine was still wet).

Others in the group also brought in stories about giving away paintings. Everyone felt great about their generosity.

Hmm. Maybe We Can Use This to Our Advantage...

The marketing guy in me suggested a couple of lines to use when giving a painting away, so that value is established. I suggested one way to do it is to say, “I’d like you to have this. I normally sell them for $2,500 in my gallery. I want you to have it because I believe every home should have original artwork, and because (your reason here).” Then you reinforce that all paintings are not free or cheap, and that original artwork is a good thing.

Before we knew it, everyone was giving away paintings and had stories about special connections with people. Barbara reports that she hears from most people she’s given paintings, and she’s enriched her life with new friends, visits from people she has met, and a feeling that she is doing something special to help others through her art.

Barbara Tapp may have started a trend.

A Spirit of Generosity

What if we all tried this? What if we all lived with a spirit of generosity? What impact would we have on the world? And how would it affect people getting excited about owning more original art?

Though a giveaway doesn’t have to be every day, what if when you’re out, you do a small piece, knowing that you may encounter someone who needs to have their day lifted, or to have a special memory?

Everything in life cannot be about selling. If you do artwork, photography, something else … why not try it?

My dad, an accomplished photographer, takes a large matted photo with him to every dinner party, every doctor visit, every special event. It enriches his experience with others and makes them feel special.

Giving Creates Gifts to Yourself

Though some will be critical and think giving things away will hurt their sales, nothing could be further from the truth. Giving always results in other benefits more valuable than a sale. Barbara reports some recipients have actually gone to her website to buy something, though that is not her intent.

Is Generosity in Your Future?

What can you do to live generously today? It may not be about a painting, or even a physical gift at all. It may be about listening or helping or just reaching out to someone who needs an ear.

One generous person I got to know on our first Cuba trip is artist Nancie King Mertz, who stayed in the World Famous Artists’ Cabin this week at our house to film a couple of amazing pastel art instruction videos. We were thrilled to get to know her better and experience her generosity.

It’s my wish that generosity will impact your day today. And be overly generous with the candy this Halloween :-)

Eric Rhoads, Art Publisher

Who Is This Guy Eric Rhoads?
Eric is the founder and publisher of PleinAir magazine and Fine Art Connoisseur magazine (both on newsstands nationally), and author and host of six art marketing instructional videos. He has a blog on Art Marketing and Gallery Marketing, hosts the weekly PleinAir Podcast and is publisher of Artists On Art magazine and creator of The Plein Air Convention & Expo, The PleinAir Salon $31,500 Art Competition, The Figurative Art Convention & Expo, Streamline Art Video, and Paint Tube.TV (art instruction videos), and is the author of Art Marketing in a Box. He's also host of several painting retreats: Africa, Cuba, Adirondack Park, and Acadia National Park. He is a painter with works at Castle Gallery. He is also heavily involved in the radio industry as founder of Radio Ink, as well as Radio + Television Business Report, Radio Discussions, and the Radio Ink Forecast Conference and Radio Ink Hispanic Radio Conference. He is the author of a best-selling book on the history of radio; Blast From the Past: A Pictorial History of Radio's First 75 Years. He lives in Austin, Texas, and is the father of triplets.

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