Produce Pete Bought My Art Because of the Title

Guest blogger: Dorothy Byers Lorenze

One Saturday morning I was watching Produce Pete – the veggie guru on the NBC New York affiliate station who chats about seasonal fruits and vegetables each week.

Dorothy Lorenze Painting
©2012 Dorothy B. Lorenze, Tribute to Produce Pete. Oil on linen, 8 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

On that day, Pete was expounding on the glory of asparagus and he stuck the stalks in a glass of water, held it aloft and proclaimed, “THIS is how you keep asparagus fresh!”

It made me smile as I admired the elegance of upright asparagus.

I decided to take on the challenge of painting asparagus stalks refracted in water. I liked the result and, in appreciation, I called the painting Tribute to Produce Pete and wrote about it on my blog.

About three months later I got a phone call from a guy who said he was Produce Pete from NBC. Thinking it was a prank, I nearly hung up. Fortunately, he said the magic words, “I want to buy your painting,” and I stayed on the line.

Apparently he had Googled himself (doesn’t everybody?) and found my tribute painting to him! Not only was he calling to buy it, he wanted me to come to New York to present it to him ON AIR … at NBC … in New York City!

If I had titled this painting Asparagus Stalks in Water, this opportunity would have never come my way.

In spite of an extreme case of stage fright, I talked myself into it and began worrying about important things – like what to wear!

It was all a bit scary and I immediately thought I’d better placate the gods of marketing and serendipity by giving back somehow.

In gratitude for being handed this unexpected gift of exposure, I decided to donate 20% of all paintings sold for the next 6 months to Edge of Seven, an organization I admire that facilitates equal education opportunities for girls in the mountains of Nepal.

And, We’re Live

Being on Produce Pete’s segment was a great experience. He was thrilled to meet me!

The NBC crew loved my painting, set it up on an easel, and projected an enlarged image as a backdrop for the segment.

Video Link for Dorothy Lorenze on Produce Pete
After you click on the video, Dorothy's appearance is at about 3 minutes in.

The station posted my website URL on the screen during the show, but, in an unlucky twist of fate, the website was misspelled.

I did not become instantly famous as the Next Best Still-Life Painter on the Planet. My 15 minutes of fame were more like 15 seconds, but it turned into an excellent marketing opportunity in the end.

Capitalizing on My 15 Seconds of Fame

After being on Produce Pete I wrote to a local reporter about the experience and she interviewed me for a story with photos of my paintings.

A businessman saw the local article and invited me to hang some paintings in his space. During that exhibition, I sold eight paintings!

I’ve now been invited to exhibit at the same venue regularly and my mailing list has grown. In addition, publicity about the Edge of Seven donation generated yet more interest, more subscribers signed up for my blog, and I began to sell paintings directly from blog posts.

Dorothy Lorenze painting of tomatillos
© Dorothy Byers Lorenze, Narcissistic Tomatillos. Oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

I feel a new sense of confidence having taken steps toward making my artwork more accessible and visible.

Still, I wouldn’t recommend counting on a TV appearance to make a mark with your artwork. What I would recommend is to always be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they happen and maximize those events by generating more publicity where you can.

I could have let the New York NBC gig be the end of my story, but I had a feeling that it was only the beginning.

The big lesson here, in addition to paying attention to the titles you give your work, is that you can build momentum after a single exposure in the media. Being on television enhanced my credibility in the region.

When you are blessed with publicity about your work, ask, “What can I do with this now?” or “Who else might be interested in this story?”

Have you been on live TV? What did you learn from your experience?

Dorothy Byers LorenzeAbout Our Guest Blogger

Dorothy Byers Lorenze paints still lifes at her studio in Somers, New York. She is attracted to the shapes, translucency, texture, and reflection of everyday objects. Follow her blog and become a fan on Facebook.

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28 thoughts on “Produce Pete Bought My Art Because of the Title”

  1. Great story and I love the paintings! Reminds me of the beautiful images on the cover of Cook’s illustrated.
    I do have a question, tho’…my daughter in law has a leadership position at a national non profit. I proposed the idea that I donate a portion of my art sales to that cause. She said I could do so but that I couldn’t announce it in advance. And if there were a formal tie in to a charity it would take a different legal process in each state. Needless to say, I didn’t do it. Does anyone know about these rulings?

  2. Hi Karen,
    Thanks so much for your kind words about my paintings!
    I certainly can’t offer a legal opinion but it may be that your daughter is referring to your ability to “write off” the art as a donation. I’m pretty sure that currently you can only deduct the cost of materials. I have had an art show at a local library and they have a sign informing library users that 20% of the sale price goes to support the library. Again, I have no idea how “legal” that is. Perhaps it is considered a commission.
    In a “past life” I did fund raising for not for profits which included silent auctions. Donated items were sold and generally the money went to the organization in it’s entirety. One time there were consigned items (rare sports memorabilia). In that case only a percentage went to the NFP. This was clearly indicated but it seemed that mixing full donations with partial donations was not well received by guests at the event.
    I hope some of that information is useful. My donations were to fairly small organizations. I was truly trying to “pay it forward” and they appreciated the gesture as well as the donations.
    Best of luck to you!

  3. This is the proof that every painting deserves a proper title…not ‘untitled’…not’ a study’…not ‘ a still life’ etc.
    The painting and its signature and a proper title are vital.

  4. Great story! Brings home the importance of titles on our work, and don’t forget about page titles on your website, equally important. I also like the way you gave your media story more legs so to speak. I have been fortunate to have had a bit of TV publicity too by people finding my work on the web, and it is always a very quick flash. So keeping the story alive is important as you have illustrated. The painting is very lovely Dorothy. Congrats on your well earned success.

    1. Thanks Rebecca! You make a good point about titles on web pages. I was undecided about how to organize my artwork on my website. First I sorted by style. Some are more traditional and others, well, cheeky. So I put all the paintings with a touch of humor on a page titled “slightly cheeky”!
      Thanks for your warm remarks!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story and beautiful paintings. It pays to be brave and push through the stage fright. I like that you considered it a beginning and kept going with promoting the story.

    1. Thanks Victoria – you totally get it! That was the lesson for me and it actually opened me up to trying other ventures that I was feeling timid about. Thanks for your comment and your sweet compliment!

  6. This is wonderful. I am so inspired by this story. And what a beautiful painting to start with. That is also key. Produce Pete responded to the title and your amazing work.

  7. I’m really happy for you Dorothy.
    I think the next time I see a client artist upload an image without a title I’m going to send them this link.
    Kudos to you!

    1. Thanks so much Kim! Please do forward this experience because I honestly learned so much and hope others will try new things.
      Naming paintings in a meaningful and memorable way can make such a difference. I was “stuck” trying to title one of my still lifes and a friend came up with “What a Crock of Fruit” which still makes me laugh! I don’t feel the need to have haughty, cerebral titles. I like to impart a bit of personality and I think titles make the work more memorable too.

  8. Lack of Authenticating Expert Renders Valuable Artwork Practically Worthless…Forbes 16-08-13…
    So not only title the work…sign the work…date the work…and catalogue it!

  9. Dorothy,
    What a great story! I have always wondered what I could have done to better capitalize on my 2-seconds. My recognition did not start from my talents as a jewelry designer – it originally started as a result of my injuries in Iraq, and my amazing rehabilitation story. After I had been creating jewelry for a few years, I got a call from the producers of the Dr. Oz show; they wanted to do a show on female veterans and would like me to participate. It was a Wednesday when they called, and they wanted me in New York on Friday for the Taping. I had a show on Saturday, so I told them I had a few conditions: they would have to get me there and back (to Texas) in 12 hours, I would have to be able to promote my jewelry on air to Dr. Oz, and I threw in first class as a bonus. So they logistically made it happen, and in 8 hours after I sent off that email my doorbell rang. It was a camera crew there to film the ‘Tara in Her Natural Habitat’ segment. (see the show here: ) I have always been an okay public speaker, I didn’t think being in front of a live audience and the cameras would be any different. I was totally wrong. I froze up, and he had to pull the information out of me. As a result, I never EVEN MENTIONED that I created jewelry! So, after I left the show, I felt completely let-down. What could I have done differently? First of all, network TV has its own agenda, and they are resistant to stray from it. I should have gotten it in writing (at least an email), that I was going to promote my jewelry, and I could have discussed it with Dr. Oz before the filming. Secondly, I should have tied it into my rehabilitation a little better, and let them know that making jewelry really has saved my life, and given me purpose. Third, when the camera crew was at my home, I could have has them film me for longer than 2 seconds making jewelry. Looking back, I think the agenda of the network was that the US government wasn’t doing enough to support our wounded veterans. What do you think? Watch the video and let me know; I am interested to hear your opinion.

  10. Tara,
    Thanks so much for writing. I watched all 3 segments and I think you did an awesome job! Clearly the show was about trauma more than rehabilitation. In a normal conversation between people, when you said that you found something that you loved and the dark cloud lifted and the sun came out… well, that’s when a friend listening would have asked “what on earth was it!?” Because, believe me, we ALL want some of that in our lives!
    Dr. Oz had to move on to his talking points, and that is totally understandable. I don’t think you could have gotten anything is writing to change that. When I was on TV I really wanted to mention the fact that I was donating to Edge of Seven but there was no chance at all. Possibly they worry that guests will either freeze up entirely or talk too much and the host might appear rude having to steer the conversation back to the show’s agenda.
    I love the jewelry you were wearing on the show and at home – so beautiful! And it was great to see your intriguing studio – even if briefly. Do you have a blog where you write about your process or inspirations? I have found it to be a very important part of my artistic journey: for marketing, for connecting with collectors/supporters and to help me think through my process and inspiration. It clarifies meaning for ME as well! Here is a link to my post about painting oil cans (believe it of not) so maybe you can get a flavor for how it works.
    I have sometimes sold work directly as a result of a blog post, but more importantly, it gets the story out. You have an inspiring story!
    I wish you all the best success with your jewelry! It’s really wonderful!
    I hope you don’t get tired of hearing “thank you for your service” it may begin to sound trite but it is so sincere. There are no other words. I’m amazed by your experience and willingness to serve – again! You are a woman of wonderful talent and spirit!
    all best,

    1. Thank you so much Flora. I wanted to share the story as a reminder that marketing matters and good things can happen when you step outside your comfort zone (and by “you” I mean “me” too!).

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