Art and the charitable soul

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Roberta Henry of La Paz, Mexico wrote about an unusual charitable event. She was requested to donate a painting to be included in a raffle. Ten “high-end” items were to be raffled, and then a further draw from the ten winning tickets. Winners wouldn’t necessarily get the prize they really wanted.

watercolour painting
by Roberta Henry

“My non-artist friends see no problem with this,” she wrote. “One pointed out that you lose control of anything when you sell or give away, so what’s the difference? I don’t feel this way. I like to think people who get my art get it because they like it, charity or not. Can you help me here?” Thanks, Roberta. Your friend is right. You do lose a lot of control when you give your work to a raffle or an auction. Further, charities these days are feverishly looking for interesting ways to raise money. The element of chance plays into this one, and it might very well create some excitement. I’d say, just let the cookies crumble where they may. It’s an honour to serve your community, particularly with your art. I try to work with the charities I most believe in and avoid the ones I don’t. Some you can participate in — say 50/50, but most these days are full gifts with no noticeable tax benefits. So my dealers don’t get hot under the collar, I try to put a reserve on things. For charities with lower expectations, I find my hand-pulled serigraphs are useful and achieve relatively good prices at fundraisers. I keep some on hand for the purpose. I avoid charities that approach me with the idea they are doing me a favour. For many years we had a charitable event here called “The World’s Worst Oil Paintings.” Friends of mine, Bill and Norm, believed in the concept and went around to junk shops buying really bad paintings and putting goofy titles on them. They salted their auction with “The World’s Best Oil Paintings” (mine were slipped in among this exalted group). I never attended, but I heard it was a lot of laughs. Every once in a while a guy phones me to ask the current price of one of mine that got mixed up with the baddies “by mistake, ha, ha, for fifty bucks.” My only regret is that Bill and Norm didn’t score more dough from this discriminating connoisseur, who never lets me forget.

“La Foto Primera”
watercolour painting
by Roberta Henry

Best regards, Robert PS: “We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.” (Seneca) Esoterica: It seems to me the most effective fundraisers these days are high-end events where a limited number of better works are included with other prizes including foreign trips, fishing trips, rare wines, dinners with celebrities, etc. The best events don’t have tediously long live auctions or interminable silent ones. Apart from the few bottom feeders who show up, people basically want to give, they don’t want to be bombarded, and more than anything, being human, many of them appreciate being seen doing a good turn.   Roberta Henry’s painting

“La Joya de la Sierra Gigantes”
watercolour painting


watercolour painting


“Sonora Gold”
watercolour painting

            Charity art on eBay by Theresa Bayer, Austin, TX, USA  

“Infinite Possibilities”
oil painting
by Theresa Bayer

Recently I tried donating art to charity through eBay auctions, and found it very satisfactory. You can decide the percentage you want to donate, and you can select a charity from a wide array of choices. I’ve done it twice so far, once with it going 100% to the charity, and once with a percentage going to the charity. I like the control it gives the artist. If the piece doesn’t sell, I keep the artwork (but owe eBay a fee) and if it sells, I know who bought it.   Everybody wins at the ‘Fur Ball’ by Gwen Fox, Colorado Springs, CO, USA  

original painting
by Gwen Fox

I am an abstract painter but after losing my fabulous German Shepherd I decided to paint her. This opened a whole new world as I discovered I loved painting animals. There is something magical about painting their personalities. With this new found love under my belt I went to the local Humane Society and offered to paint portraits of some of their dogs. They took these oil paintings and used them to spur interest in their fundraiser…. the Fur Ball. A very fancy occasion I might add. My donation was a portrait of the winning bidders pet. The bidding war was fierce and the Humane Society got all the proceeds. That evening everyone left a winner. The people who won the bid were to get a portrait of their best friend, the Humane Society got much needed funds to continue their service and I left smiling as I was able to give back in a way that served my community. Select who and what you want to support. Give your best work as it represents YOU. There are 4 comments for Everybody wins at the ‘Fur Ball’ by Gwen Fox
From: Anonymous — Mar 18, 2010

Gwen, It’s very hard to paint “pets” without becoming too cute, especially if they are, well . . . cute. But you walked that tightrope with style, your Retriever has plenty of personality and appeal without crossing over into gaggy sentimentality. Great job. He’s terrific. Stella Reinwald

From: Laura Colpitts — Mar 19, 2010

Gwen, well said. It seems once the word is out that you’re a half-decent painter, everyone and their dog, haha, asks for a painting! I never thought about defining who or what I want to support…now I will. Thanks for the BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious). Fur Ball…gotta love that name! Great ideas, great work, keep it up. Cheers.

From: Peter Eedy — Mar 19, 2010

Gwen, I agree with Stella — your portrait is appealing and without the mawkishness we often see in animal portraits, as well as having an elegant and ‘spare’ style Missed your calling perhaps? Regards Peter

From: Linda Mallery — Mar 21, 2010

Kudos to you! a great idea, and your painting absolutely glows! You have a gift for animals clearly.

  The Eight levels of giving by Pesach Ben Levi, Fayetteville, NY, USA   Maimonides created the Ladder of Charity 800 years ago. It describes 8 levels of giving, highest to lowest: 1) The highest is to give of yourself, your time or your money; a job, a partnership a loan etc., to your fellow man so that they can become independent, self standing and free of the need of charity. To help a man help himself. Christians have a similar thought, in Teach a Man to fish. 2) The next is where the giver doesn’t know the recipient and the recipient does not know the giver. 3) Down another step is when the giver knows who receives the charity, but the receiver does not know the giver. 4) Then, he that gives not knowing the recipient, but the recipient knows who the giver is. 5) The giver gives before being asked, but puts it into the poor man’s hands and embarrasses him. 6) The man who gives cheerfully, and all that he can, but only after being asked. 7) The man who gives cheerfully, but less than he should. 8) Lowest of all is the man who gives only because he feels pressured to, the gift of the hand, but not of the heart. It seems to me that it is giving at the lowest level… begrudgingly, Art – a gift of the hand in the truest sense – but not of the heart… when one concerns themselves so much about the ‘value’ of the art after it is given. Or giving less valuable prints kept for just that purpose (#7 perhaps?) Instead, why not give at the highest level – many artists teach – and give a certificate for a series of classes, (if you don’t feel qualified to teach adults, let them ‘auction’ off three hours of teaching basic art skills to children), or a copy of Painter’s Keys or the new Letters Book? Charity, like politics and religion, is one of the most delicate and personal of mindsets. There is no right or wrong, but matters of degree. I hope that you will have found Maimonides ladder of interest. There are 4 comments for The Eight levels of giving by Pesach Ben Levi
From: Mary — Mar 18, 2010

After reading through the varied remarks in this clickback there is something in common I would consider adding to this list – Giving with the expectation of something in return. Expecting accolades, acknowledgement, a further working relationship? Are you kidding? At auction an artist’s treasured work is nothing but a picture in a frame. Expecting a third party to attend to a non-existing code of conduct of the artist’s making is rather outrageous. Neither the artist nor their precious artpiece are that important. People don’t pay for sense of self worth and sentimental value.

From: Liz Reday — Mar 19, 2010

The levels of giving implies that Mr. Genn somehow doesn’t give enough. Since he started the Twice Weekly letters and has provided a forum for artists for some years, I’m really grateful for his gift, whereas the ladder just made me confused. Any success that Mr. Genn has received from this is well deserved and is also a gift to us artists in showing that it is possible to make a living as artists by his example

From: Boa — Mar 19, 2010

Well, Aristotle tought that a “barren women” can be detected with a clove of garlic…we shouldn’t take those ancient philosophies for granted… And BTW, most religions have charitable guidelines embedded in their scripures.

From: Bob, UK — Mar 19, 2010

Oh, I find this ladded horrid! Any charity that suggest how much or under which terms I should give, doesn’t get a penny from me. Charity is a simple concept – give what, when, how you can. How dare anyone impose rules!

  Idea for a fundraiser by Bonny Current, Wolcott, CT, USA   I too donate several pieces per year for charity functions. I have become very dissatisfied with the practice of the silent auction. This is where bidders come by and leave a bid on a sheet of paper below the item they want. Then others can come by and up the bid and so on until the bidding is closed. I feel the main problem with this is that one person ends up paying the top amount and everyone else who bids has contributed nothing. Some items may not receive any bids that meet the reserve. I have always felt that the best way to run these events would be to sell bidding tickets at a fixed price. Bidders would then go around putting their bids into containers that correspond to the item they wish to “win.” A ticket is then drawn from each container and the item awarded to the lucky “bidder.” The win here is for everyone. Most people would spend a few bucks to take a chance on a painting — rather than pay the whole amount of a winning bid. No piece would go untaken (theoretically) and I think the potential for raising more money is greater. What do you think?   Ill will at charity auctions by Annette Wolfstein-Joseph   This is a subject about which I get very upset. I used to be generous in donating my etchings to various fundraising events and have had my efforts bite me in the rear more often than not. I have many stories of people who waited for auctions knowing the value of my work to jump right in and grab a bargain, which is bad enough, but one person would show up at my exhibitions and rub my nose in it IN FRONT OF MY CLIENTS!, bragging about his tactics and suggesting they do the same. Other such stories have led me to refuse any out-and-out donations and keep a high reserve. At one auction for a disability my piece was not sold but the organizer told me her disabled son had fallen in love with it and she wanted to buy it. When I gave her my reserve price, she was surprised, saying I was donating it anyway and I explained that was for the CHARITY. She apparently was trying to cheat her own charity! Reluctantly, she agreed to pay me but many years later I haven’t seen a dime. Plus she doesn’t return my calls or attend my shows any more. There are 2 comments for Ill will at charity auctions by Annette Wolfstein-Joseph
From: Deby Adair — Mar 18, 2010

I can relate to this. I have always given freely and with joy to charities that I really believed in and my work has gone to many a silent auction. Unfortunately, I have had a similar experience to you and it’s made me quite sad… I still donate but it took me a long time to do so after I found out that my work had been ‘held on to’ by a particular charity organiser and not been given to the cause I had designated.

From: Anonymous — Mar 19, 2010

May I respectfully suggest that you try donating prints instead of originals, it takes the sting out of any unfortunate mishaps. I keep a few prints on hand just for this purpose.

  The abuse of generosity by Ellie Harold, Norcross, GA, USA  

“The Long View”
oil painting, 12 x 16 inches
by Ellie Harold

I donated to the silent auction of a certain organization two years in a row. The same person bid on and won my painting. The second year she made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed collecting my art – she was eager to see what she’d get next year! No surprise I decided not to donate a painting again. Instead, I donated a coupon worth 50% off the winner’s choice of a piece of my work. The time-limited coupon sold for as much as the paintings had done in the past two years — and to a different person, one who is apparently willing to invest in the artist as well as the charity. If the winner is interested enough to use the coupon, we will establish a proper artist-collector relationship. If she doesn’t, the charity still wins and I don’t lose. Years ago I read this (unattributed) adage, “Give, but do not give the gift you cannot afford to give.” I sense that many artists get in the bind that I did. We want to contribute and yet feel ripped off when our generosity is abused. My new policy of giving on terms I can afford, both emotionally and financially, feels much better. There are 2 comments for The abuse of generosity by Ellie Harold
From: Jim Oberst — Mar 19, 2010

This is a great idea. But I don’t think it would be effective unless the bidders were already familiar with your artwork.

From: Sarah — Mar 19, 2010

This is an excellent idea! As a retired professional fundraiser, I’ve had the experience of gnashing my teeth when volunteers set the rules of art auctions — both silent and “live” — and insisted on a reserve bid of perhaps 10% of the market value of a painting. In working to acquire art for fundraisers, many artists said “never again” because the dollars paid for their art works were sooooo far below market value — and affected subsequent sales in a gallery. Not everyone working on fundraisers respects or understands the donating artist, and more often than not undervalues his or her gift. So it’s up to the artist to set the rules for their donation of art.

  Loaning out your PayPal earnings by Mary Duffy, Newcastle, Ireland  

“La fin de l’apres”
original painting
by Mary Duffy

I was able to make a loan to someone in Paraguay using a revolutionary new website called Kiva ( What is really nice is that I used my PayPal funds to give the loan. Over the last few months I have been selling calendars from my website. I did a limited edition short run for my Collectors, but as this group grew, it became uneconomical to produce 50 and I needed to make the jump to a run of 500. I hoped the project would be self-financing and in fact I got quite a big surplus, about €600. Much of the money came in from across the world via PayPal and it was my first real experience of electronic payments. And it was magical. And so, there is something really nice for me to be able to lend out this surplus to other entrepreneurs in places where $600 is a fortune. And I can do it electronically, with PayPal (which offers its service free). You too can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going. The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back — you can lend again, donate to Kiva’s running expenses or take it back yourself. Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly. I made two loans one to an entrepreneur named Perpetuo Socorro Group in Paraguay and the second to Buntheng Sem Village Bank Group in Cambodia. On Sunday, both groups still need another more funds to complete their loan request, but it has since been fully supported. And there are many others that need a few dollars too you can loan as little as $25.00! There are 3 comments for Loaning out your PayPal earnings by Mary Duffy
From: Ellie — Mar 19, 2010

Thanks for this info. I like this idea a lot!

From: Helen Tilston — Mar 19, 2010

Great work Mary. I, too, feel very comfortable in giving to Kiva. One can also gift a friend ($25.00 for birthday/special occasions) and thus introduce that friend to Kiva.

From: DR — Mar 19, 2010

Kiva is an excellent concept and a great organization. I’ve been involved for 3 years now without a hitch. Rates as a #3 on the “Levels of Giving” chart I would say. So many charities are an industry anymore and too often I have to hold my nose as I write the check knowing only a pittance of the amount will actually reach those in need. Not with Kiva. You truly are helping people help themselves. Every penny at Kiva goes along way.

  Donated art shows up in antique shop by Dana Garner, Franklin, NC, USA  

“Mixed Emotion/City Scape”
acrylic painting, 22 x 28 inches
by Dana Garner

Last year the local Middle school requested donations from our co-op gallery for an auction to raise money for the school. I was fairly new at the gallery and made a real effort to help get the donations for the school. It caused somewhat of a dispute among artists. I was told by one that the people will take advantage and most likely get it real cheap and then turn around and never buy from the artist they received via auction or turn around and sell it for more. It really upset me that he didn’t feel like I did and that one should just be willing to give up a piece of work and be done with it. Well about 4 months or so later, my 11 year old son and I were in an antique shop and I noticed a familiar original painting hanging on the wall and I realized it was mine. I asked the lady who the vendor was and she told me. I said well that’s interesting, I gave that piece to an auction for the middle school. She said the vendor’s sister is a teacher there. I’m not sure how to feel about this situation but it does show the person who warned me was right. There are 4 comments for Donated art shows up in antique shop by Dana Garner
From: Brenda — Mar 19, 2010

This reminds me of the day I happened to be window shopping in a small town nearby. I noticed this small painting (approx. 8″ x 10″) in the window of a ‘Used Clothing & Collectables’ shop, which immediately caught my eye. It had a $2.00 sticker on it! I went in to have a closer look and found it was an original watercolour painting! It was beautiful; so I bought it. Proceeds from the sale of items went to the local ‘women’s shelter’. They had a special sale on that day — all items were 1/2 price — so when they saw that I wanted the painting (and obviously was delighted to find it), the clerk wanted to double the price (which was still nothing)! I bought it on the spot but it made me realize how most people don’t recognize art when they see it. An artist had given her beautiful painting to them, in support of the cause, but they had no idea the value of the painting. As they say, ‘a deal is a deal’ … it’s hanging in my bathroom now and I love it!

From: Edna Park Waller — Mar 19, 2010

Excuse me! A watercolor in the bathroom?

From: anon — Mar 19, 2010

Bathroom is fine, at least you know the work will be contemplated many times, and might have some really positive effects…LOL

From: Anonymous — Apr 06, 2010

But, my point is that the steamy atmosphere of a bathroom could not be good for a watercolor!

  [fbcomments url=””]   Featured Workshop: Painting Cruise with Robert Genn

After The Storm

acrylic painting by Marilynn Brandenburger

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Jan Werdin who wrote, “An artist acquaintance of ours said she found her ‘donated to a charity auction’ painting in a thrift shop minus the frame. It implies the frame was more valuable to the buyer than the painting. Puts a damper on one’s charitable heart.” And also Billie Mathis who wrote, “Instead of worrying about losing control, just think how many lives you have touched with your gift.” And also Joe Dolice of New York, NY, USA, who wrote, “A selfless donation on the part on an artist can come back to help the artist as well.”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Art and the charitable soul

From: Andy Mathis — Mar 15, 2010

In the past, I created new paintings and donated those to local auctions and fundraisers. And I ususally came away regretting it after the fact, either the paintings wasn’t well received or it seemed to be a pity purchase, and sold for pennies on the dollar of its value. So I sort of adopted a rule of only donating framed reproductions as it wasn’t as much time lost for those as an original painting. Over the year, I have began to donate smaller originals and only to charities or fundraisers that I feel really strongly about, such as Jerry’s Artarama upcoming auction, Art for Haiti. Or Artful Home selling paintings to help pay for medical bills for one of their artist who had cancer and lost their health insurance and denied coverage. In those cases, since I already had painted the paintings, scanned them for other projects, I donated them and was happy to help raise funds, even if a small amount, since I wasn’t investing new painting time on those paintings.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 15, 2010

Dear Robert, This is a touchy subject with me. I donate about 1/2 of the work that I do. There are some wonderful and giving charities out there that deserve every dollar they earn. I give to them often and generously without asking for anything in return. This has given me the clout my career has needed as an artist and my work is out in peoples homes I would never have met on my own. There have also been wonderful and supportive clients who call asking for a piece. After they have bought numerous pieces, it is impossible to refuse these people who sit on the board of charities and fundraisers. But as an artist who gets usually 3 phone calls a week from every charity in town and then some, I have learned to say no. I give to Aids, breast Cancer, Childrens hospital and Ronald McDonald House to name a few. I know I would not be where I am today if it had not been for the work I have done with Charities. The best thing I have learned to do is divorce myself from the fair market value of my painting and hope they get as much as they possibly can get. Many years ago, while dragged on stage during a live auction and made to hold my painting, the auctioneer lost his momentum and the attention of the bidding crowd. My opening bid went from Five hundred dollars to four hundred, three, two and I was prepared to bid one hundred dollars just to get me off the stage. Since then I have recommended raffling my painting off. It seems everyone has ten bucks to buy a ticket, rather than the several hundred dollars that most people are holding out for the ski weekend package at Whistler. I have tried to do 50/50 with me getting 50% of the money, charities don’t do that anymore. I once asked for the silent bid sheet on my painting only with the clients name and email so I could add them to my mailing list. This was in violation of the privacy act that apparently all charities are bound by. Once I even had a guy who emailed me the next day to tell me he was so drunk at the event the evening before he didn’t really know what he was bidding on when he won my painting. He then went on to say that it would be in my best interest to buy the painting back from him at the full market value. He would then be “more inclined to buy my work in the future”. I told him I would think about it and didn’t call him back. What is puzzling to me is these charities always call artists. I would think it cool to see a plumbing service at a charity event or some legal advice on a bid sheet. My dentist told me he wanted to donate a free tooth whitening kit for the charity his wife was on the board of. The Canadian Dental Association contacted him and he was told that his donation was deemed unethical and he was not allowed to make a donation. I give and I give generously, but there are days when my rent is due and rather than a paying client I get a call for a freebee. I feel like telling them I have become a plumber. Then again, that is just me.. John Ferrie

From: Erin Prais-Hintz — Mar 15, 2010

I am a artisan jewelry designer. I feel that this subject touches anyone in the arts. I made it my goal in 2009 to donate 1 piece per month to a charity that I believed in. I know that I did well over 12 as some months I found multiple events to support. Like John, I get calls all the time from charitable events. It has helped me that I have set up some parameters in my head. If I don’t already have a relationship with the charity I ask for a formal written request. You can tell a lot about an organization by the way they phrase their request. I might still donate but it won’t be something original or very expensive. And the charities that I am inclined to support fall in line with my values always. I belong to an artist co-op and we had an event for the local symphony in our facility last fall. There was discussion that 1/3 of the price of the silent auction price should go to the symphony with the other 2/3 being split between the Gallery and the artist. I was completely outvoted on this. I was dismayed. If you intend to donate something it should be a donation. It would never occur to me to ask for some monetary reimbursement for my donation. It is a donation after all. Both original pieces I made with a music theme sold for more than the minimum asking price (that is a problem I have with silent auctions…everyone is out to get the best ‘deal’ below the face value of an item). When the event was over, I asked that my 1/3 be donated to the symphony. And in January I pledged to donate 100% of my sales (even making up the commission that was taken out) to the efforts to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. I ended up donating $500 to the charity. That felt good. But that also meant that my year started in February. I believe very much that you get back what you give. I got my start making jewelry for charities, and those people have come and purchased from me many times over. I have a following and a duty to be a presence at those events. But more than that, it just feels good. Thanks for the thought-provoking question today! Enjoy the day! Erin

From: Annapurna — Mar 15, 2010

Hello. Not sure if this is the right place for it….Roberta, I love your watercolours…they are so filled with light. I didn’t find more of your work on the net, and would like to….do you have a website?

From: Gene Martin — Mar 16, 2010

Stop giving your work away. EXPOSURE is a fallacy. If you have no respect for your work no one else will either. Giving it away will not feed you and do not tell me you do not need the money. Stop! Stop! Stop!

From: Anna Vreman — Mar 16, 2010

Like many artists, I am asked to give away my work on a regular basis. The donated work is usually bought by people who can well-afford to pay full-boat and who will not be buying more art for a while since they just got what they wanted for almost nothing. I would like to see a little more sharing when it comes to charitable contributions. For example, the musicians supported by the donated paintings could volunteer to play at some of the artists’ opening receptions. It seems like it should be possible to make the whole thing a bit less one-sided. In the meantime, I will donate money, which is fully deductible, to the charities I want to support.

From: Tinker Bachant — Mar 16, 2010

As a member of a group , Art Helping Animals Artists, we donate a percentage of all sold work toward small shelters and rescue groups around the country. I also donate a percentage of all other work to St. Judes Children’s Hospital, and just this past week donated a pet portrait (the winners pet) to benefit a couple of small local groups. I’ve found that you can’t beat giving. Last year, a pet portrait donated to Relay for Life,, Cancer Walk, resulted in my getting 11 commissions . If you give without expecting return your return is guaranteed

From: Helen Horn Musser — Mar 16, 2010

Charities are very dear to my heart. I have donated to our civic auction for many years. Funds are used to pay for community projects such as music in the park on the Fourth of July. I used to donate ariginals but, recently have been giving framed prints. As time went by the paintings brought more and more money. Hope it continues. Christian, and private Schools, also, are on my list for donating. Our art is our greatest gift we can give of ouselves

From: Caren Goodrich — Mar 16, 2010

I highly recommend selling art for charity in these hard times. People still want to help, even with limited funds. My art selling prospects were dim late last year, and I looked at the ever-growing stack of paintings I had and decided to sell them on Facebook and donate half the proceeds to a New Jersey horse rescue group that is active on Facebook. This group uses donated funds to save horses that are destined for the slaughterhouse. People think I am sacrificing money, but it is a cause I want to support and in doing so, I have gained a whole new legion of art buyers. I have sold at least 100 paintings already in 2010, when last year I probably sold 40 paintings all year. My paintings are modestly priced but that’s ok. I sell 98% of what I paint, and helping this cause has energized and inspired me!

From: Dwight Williams — Mar 16, 2010

How about donating your time. I’ve donated many paintings over the last 50 years, but now my main donation is given in another way. I am a member of our city’s art commission. Our new city hall has a terrific new art gallery in it and I am the curator. We jury regional art yearly, set a calendar and hang a new exhibit every four weeks. There are some drawbacks being on public property but they are overcome by several advantages that a commercial gallery does not have. So try giving time. I’m having a good time doing the job and working with artists that are, for the most part, known to me. Emails keeping things moving and gallery changing day are most of the work. I still paint a lot and this time given doesn’t really hurt that at all. No doubt there are many charities that could use an artist’s time. Give that rather than your work.

From: Catherine Orfald — Mar 16, 2010

I agree with Roberta’s concerns. It’s important that people who buy our work want it, even when assisting a worthwhile cause. I have dealt with this with my favourite local charities by donating greeting cards with my artwork on them for raffle or table fund-raising events. I have also worked with some charities to have a piece exhibited at an event or at a local supportive shop. Then I donate the proceeds or a portion of them to the cause (as specified on the label).

From: M Frances Stilwell — Mar 16, 2010

Robert, I disagree about serving the community at the expense of having a wonderful piece of art go to someone who randomly had the right raffle ticket. I too want mine to go to someone who wants it. So, the method guides my choices as to what fund-raiser gets the painting or print. Actually one time the charity itself decided not to take a piece because it was obvious to them I’d worked hard on it and the other donations were just trinkets — so the guy running the fund-raiser (for wildlife) stuck to my principles better than I did.

From: Jim Tubb — Mar 16, 2010

I have always donated work to the local and national charities. I view it in two ways as a positive. It is good marketing and good for the soul What better combination than that. I think we sometimes fixate a bit too much on who owns our work, and I can’t put them all on the Nursing Home room wall if you know what I mean.

From: Lois Jones — Mar 16, 2010

I have participated in this kind of event. It is always good to give something back without trying to control the outcome. You never know where it may lead. I see it as another way to put my work in front of a large group of people. Last year I was exhibiting in a show for an art center, to raise funds for a new wing; one of the features of the show was to offer original work donated by the artists, in a silent auction. Not only was the event a successful one, but the patrons attending the show, came around to look at other exhibited works by the artists, and bought from them, making up for any “donated” losses. We also received a tax form for charitable donation.

From: Arlene G. Woo — Mar 16, 2010

I donated one of my watercolor seascapes to my granddaughter’s preschool auction. I don’t know how much money came from the sale to the school’s administrator, but her comments were worth the gift.

From: Dan Cooper — Mar 16, 2010
From: Jackie Knott — Mar 17, 2010

I give cash to the charities and non-profits I believe in, and it isn’t stingy. I will not paint a portrait for someone who does not value my work. If they did, they would pay my published price and not quibble over it. Do you bargain with the plumber or repairman? No, you pay what they charge. Too often charities have zero interest in art and are only concerned about a commodity that can generate cash for them. Your supposed “exposure” is empty to a crowd who doesn’t value art. How can you charge $_____ for a painting and then have it auctioned for a tenth of that? It undermines your work and your self respect as an artist. Declining to donate a piece has nothing to do with the charity itself …. it has everything to do with how you value your own work. I may change my mind in the future if a unique situation surfaces but it would have to be equally beneficial to both parties.

From: laura — Mar 18, 2010

like all artists, and other business people too, I get frequent requests to donate my art. often, the requests outpace my production. I no longer donate art to charity fundraisers, unless I have a special interest in that particular charity or a personal connection (a friend’s medical expenses for instance). instead, I suggest that the requesting charity have a patron purchase my art from me at wholesale, donate it to the charity that can then auction it off for whatever they can get for it. I get paid, the donating patron gets full retail value for their donation, and the charity receives the funds it desires. I have yet to have any charity take me up on this idea – although they all respond, “what a good idea – I’ll talk to my board about it!” I have come to this solution for several reasons: 1 – in 20 plus years of donating my art, no donation of my art has resulted in future business for me – the “exposure” argument hasn’t worked. 2. more than one art collector has told me to my face that they don’t need to visit the galleries that work hard to represent me and sell my work, because they can get it for less than retail at the auctions. 3. my collectors who do purchase from my galleries are distressed to see my work go for less than retail at the auctions. 4. I can not write off even the wholesale value of my art as a charitable donation – only the cost of my materials. I choose instead to donate cash and my time to worthy causes – and I have gotten more personal reward from donating my time and love to my community, than from any donation of my art.

From: Suzette Fram — Mar 18, 2010

While donating art to a charity event may seem like a nice thing to do, it hurts artists in several ways. Except for highly successful artists like yourself, artists are probably the most underpaid people. Why is it that they are always the first to be asked to donate their work? People seem to think that it’s a hobby anyway, that we’re not making our living from it, so why not donate it. There’s an intrinsic devaluation taking place in the very act of asking for a donation. We donate art and get no tax write-off for it other than the cost of supplies. And to make matters worse, for every painting sold at an art auction, there is one less painting being sold by an artist out there. Double whammy. A much fairer way to do this would be to have a reserve price and then to give the artist 50% of the sale proceeds. That would at least give some recognition to the fact that the work has value.

From: Marion Evamy Morrison — Mar 18, 2010

I have been donating to charitable fundraisers for over 10 years now, and find that not only is it good for my business, but it makes me feel great to help out my favorite causes. I feel so blessed to be working as an artist, doing what I love, that it hardly seems like I’m “giving up” anything to donate a work of art! I only had one bad “experience” and learned the hard way to put a “reserve” price on auction items, but now my works and gift certificates often fetch more than the appraised or stated value. I have also discovered this past week how wonderful artistic talent can be, when you have a “pet project” of your own that you want to fund-raise for…. I recently adopted a three legged dog from a small village in Mexico, and decided to donate all the proceeds from my art greeting cards this year, featuring images of my paintings, to help fund spay and neuter clinics, vaccinations and health care in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The response from my customers and friends and friends of friends, has been phenomenal!! I have raised far more than I ever expected – and to me, this feeling cannot be beat – it’s as wonderful as producing a great painting that just flows off the brush, only better… as I know that others are benefiting as well!

From: Eleanor Blair — Mar 18, 2010
From: Faye Richland — Mar 18, 2010

I received the book today and it’s beautiful. I read a little so far and got a wonderful taste of it. The book inspires me just by staring at it on my desk! I just read “Art Junkie”, page 331. Painting is intoxicating. I recently did a painting over a painting that was going nowhere, so to speak. I worked on it for an afternoon and love what came of it. I told a friend that it looks like a Hawaiian floral, but he didn’t see it that way and told me that “it’s beautiful.” I brought it home and since it’s fairly new, I still stare at it as if I’m trying to figure out “where it came from.” That feeling is intoxicating.

From: Patti Adams — Mar 18, 2010

I got Robert’s book as a Christmas present for myself and keep it handy in my art studio. There are just never enough hours in my day here in New Orleans: playing in the symphony, teaching music students, running a new art gallery and getting my own paintings done! This book is a constant source of inspiration. On many a day, Robert’s voice has made all the difference. Please pass along my gratitude. Garden District Gallery, New Orleans, LA

From: Tatjana — Mar 18, 2010

Eleanor, great job, thanks for sharing!

From: Tatjana M-P — Mar 18, 2010

Someone explained to me that there is a huge market for “donated” art. There are serious collectors out there who are tuned into the charities that auction off art. Apparently, that’s the only kind of art market they are interested in, from obvious reasons. I decided to only give to the charities which I want to support and not to commit more than I can afford without much stress. I most often give money, and sometimes I give art if the event is fun and if I like the organizers. If I really like the organization I don’t worry about getting the tax return, but in most cases they issue it for an amount that they can according to whatever rules apply.

From: Karen — Mar 19, 2010

Care to comment on the process of serigraph vs the laser printer?

From: Brad Greek — Mar 19, 2010

Awesome video and painting Eleanor, that was very inspiring.

From: Dale Cook — Mar 19, 2010
From: Judy Silver — Mar 21, 2010

John Ferrie – if you do decide to become a plumber, I hope you are as good a one as you are an artist!

From: Cynthia Wilhelm — Mar 21, 2010

For a couple years I donated a “casual crayon portrait” at a local elementary school auction. Parents bid on it and then I would contact them. Then I’d meet with their child during the school day (maybe during recess) and draw with a crayon of the child’s choosing on acid-free 8.5×11″ paper. Once a girl picked a white or black crayon. Those were her favorite colors, because she liked cows! I used the black crayon for that one. It was a great way to spend time with the children and support a good cause.

From: Ray Harvey — Jun 20, 2010

Recently I donated an original painting to a hospital auxillary from an organization that had been overwhelmingly helpful during an illness. I was happy to help them in any way I could. My painting was the main event during the live auction at their banquet. The bidding came down to two individuals connected with the hospital. One eventually won out and was very excited about the art. The second had to be satisfied with at least raising the bid for the organization. My wife then suggested to me that bidder two was ready to spend a lot of money five minutes prior and maybe he still is. She suggested I discuss the possibility of creating a second painting for the amount of the winning bid for bidder number two. When approached with the idea he was overjoyed. The hospital doubled their money, two patrons were happy and I was satisfied with a job well done.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.