Ask a Gallery Owner: Should I Share Artwork Flaws With Potential Buyers and Galleries?

Recently, I had a chat with an artist about a fascinating question: should artists call attention to the imperfections in their work when talking to potential buyers or galleries? This conversation peeled back layers on much larger themes, like how artists see themselves and the importance of accepting imperfections in their creative journey. It’s a topic that hits home for many in the art world, shedding light on the delicate balance artists maintain between critiquing their own work and expressing themselves freely.

The ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is mended with gold, embodies a profound appreciation for imperfection, encapsulated in the philosophy that “Imperfections make an object unique and its flaws beautiful.” This principle challenges the traditional quest for flawlessness in art, suggesting that beauty and character are amplified, not diminished, by imperfections. By embracing our flaws, Kintsugi encourages us to see the unique stories and value in what is often considered imperfect, offering a powerful metaphor for finding beauty in the brokenness of life and art.

The Illusion of Perfection

Chasing perfection might seem like a worthy aim, but it can actually get in the way of being creative. Art is deeply human, full of those little imperfections and unique touches that make it special. These aren’t just errors; they’re essential parts that add character and richness to a piece. They show the artist’s touch, the choices they made, and how naturally the art came to life, all of which tell us there’s a personal story behind every work of art.

Perception versus Reception

Artists, being intimately familiar with their own work, can be overly critical of their creations. What may be considered a flaw in the eyes of the creator could go unnoticed by the viewer or, more interestingly, might be seen as a compelling feature that adds to the artwork’s overall impact. This disparity underscores the subjective nature of art and suggests that beauty and value often lie in the unpredictability of individual perception.

The Authenticity of Imperfection

Imperfections in art mark it as genuine, setting apart the handmade from the digitally perfect world we live in. Those little quirks and irregularities in each piece tell the story of the artist’s journey, adding character and vibrancy that no machine could ever mimic. Far from being flaws, these imperfections enrich the story behind the artwork, giving us a peek into the artist’s creative world and the emotions poured into each creation.

Engagement over Explanation

When you show your art, it’s more about sparking a connection than explaining away any so-called flaws. Letting people find their own meaning in your work invites a deeper, more personal experience. This way, you respect the viewer’s take on your art and help them enjoy it on a more profound level, without letting your own critical thoughts get in the way.

Distinguishing “Imperfections” from Damage

It’s essential to distinguish between the charming “imperfections” that lend art its uniqueness and actual damage to a piece. The former can enhance a work’s appeal by adding depth and authenticity, whereas the latter detracts from its value and appearance. Damage, unlike natural imperfections, indicates harm that compromises the artwork’s integrity or presentation. In such instances, the piece should be removed from display and repaired if possible. If it’s beyond repair, it may need to be permanently removed from the collection.

Embracing the Authenticity of Imperfection

Talking about imperfections in your art goes beyond just dealing with technical glitches. It’s really about diving deep into what creativity means to you. As an artist, it’s important to see those unique quirks in your work not as mistakes, but as essential pieces that bring depth and genuineness to your art. When you start to embrace and celebrate these qualities, you’re sharing something truly authentic with the world. Your art then becomes a powerful expression of human experience, touching on real truth and beauty in its rawest form.

I’m curious how you navigate the imperfections in your artwork. Do you think sharing these details with galleries and potential buyers influences their perception of your work? I welcome your insights and experiences on this topic. Please share in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. What a topic, Jason.
    This is so tightly packed with opportunities to respond.
    Anecdotally, I was immobilized at one point by the pursuit of perfection and could not make any images for a few months. It took most of my life to get to a point where I could accept myselfas an artist. And ghat’s the thing for me. I inhabit two worlds- one is the world of ideas. It is a world of a different substance. The other world is material. There is no direct transcription from idea to material expression and yet, I try to do that with every image.
    About 15 years ago I gave myself permission to try to be an artist. I remember it was a conscious kind of proclamation.
    The result is, perfection like any presumed universal is at its center an untruth in the material world. I’m suspicious that even in the realm of ideas, everything is in flux and so even there a presumed perfection is also an untruth.
    I would venture to suggest that at some infinitesimal level, one could find an imperfection even it if is a miniscule, carefully clipped knot in a linen thread under the gesso.

    1. I have suffered in the same way and have come to the same conclusion. Give myself permission to make mistakes. You are always going to have something in a painting that you wish you could have done better and sometimes it’s the whole painting! When you have a day where what you see does not translate to the canvas, l admit makes it pretty hard to go down to the studio and start painting again. I have decided that when this happens to just start another project or experiment with a different medium, do something different that makes you remember why you love to paint!

  2. Firstly, Jason, may I have permission to share excerpts from this on my blog, crediting you and linking to yours?

    I ask, as I feel you’ve got an exactness in this writing that reflects my own feel for what I and others do when we leave our imperfections in a compelling work. I wouldn’t be able to express my feelings as well as you have here.

    You’re relationship to art is clearly heartfelt, lengthy, thoughtful and insightful.

    I’m grateful to you for helping me see more clearly my own work.


    Edward DeMarsh
    Edward DeMarsh Fine Art

  3. Very interesting topic. Many of my “mistakes” have led to a better finished work by my rethinking and changing directions. As my works are all stories this enhances the stories I share with my customers. People like to know not only the story itself but what led me to it. I always let the viewer take their interpretation as most valid as they are the receiver of my view. No interpretation is ever wrong. I did have a mistake in a painting in a juried show for Day of The Dead. My animal characters all had the skeleton face paint with the lines through their mouths. At the opening my painting sold to a collector of mine who loved the piece. Later a Mexican couple who had built the offrenda for the show informed me that the lines painted through the mouth is a cultural no no as the lines indicate seeing the mouth of the dead shit so they cannot speak. I had no idea as so many day of the dead show this type of face painting. I always share what I learn culturally including to the curator of the show. I also told the collector as part of my story of discovery. He still loved the painting and was delighted with it. Unfortunately his picky wife could not understand why he would want a painting with a “mistake” in it. Fortunately he still owns the painting and is happy with it. So everyone responds differently and each artist must navigate their narrative as they see fit. I agree with Jason that damage is not the same as a mistake….damage needs to be fixed, a mistake can stay if the artist decides it should…or follow where it takes you! Great topic!

  4. I carve birds. At some point, I find myself making smaller and smaller changes or sanding with finer and finer sandpaper or fixing smaller and smaller imperfections or whatever. That’s when I realize that I’m wasting my time and that no one will notice the minor adjustments I am making. So, I point my finger directly at head of the bird and announce, “You’re done.” And, no, I do not tell potential customers about any remaining imperfections or flaws. After all, it’s not science, its art.

  5. Two comments. Recently I stretched a canvas and noticed a slight flaw in the weave that kept me awake at night wondering if I should remove the canvas and start over. I decided to give it 3 coats of gesso instead, which appears to have solved the issue. Second, I often stretch my canvases rather than purchase them, which leaves me wondering about what to do with the back. How do artists generally finish the edges on the back? The gesso only covers the front and sides of a canvas, so the back canvas is raw. Any suggestions? Do galleries expect a particular treatment for the back?

    1. Hi Mira,
      Professional framers (I own a frame shop and Art Gallery) traditionally keep the backs open after they stretch the canvas on stretcher bars. Excess canvas is usually trimmed to “clean up” the back. It is traditionally thought that oil paintings should be allowed to “breath”, and thus, the backs should remain open. However, we have had some artists and framing clients that don’t like the appearance of open backs. For those folks, we will use our acid free “dust cover” backing paper to cover the back of the canvas to hide the stretcher bars. The same type of “kraft” paper that we cover the backs of framed artwork that contain mats and glass. If requested, we cut open a slit in the back of the paper to appease artists that still want their canvas “to breathe”. Some artists that enter museum exhibitions have requested that we line the back of the stretched canvas with acid free foamboard to prevent a careless museum employee from puncturing a hole or creating indentations in their canvas from another painting pushed or leaned up against it during storage and handling. Expect to pay a framer additional for a dust cover and especially acid free foamboard as it’s not a low cost material.

      As a gallerist, we are pleased to see the open back of a stretched canvas and would never ask an artist to cover it.

  6. One of my favorite art instructors made a point of showing us the “mistakes” made by well known artists. It was a blessing to understand that art, as others here have noted, is not about perfection. A favorite quote: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    On a personal level, I would not try to sell anything I had to apologize for or explain. And as an art buyer, I would not ask an artist to “tell me about this piece.” For me, the work stands on its own and either appeals or it doesn’t. Taste is the deciding factor.

  7. Interesting question. Here’s some thoughts: A long time ago I lived in the Southwest US. While visiting a Native American Gallery that specialized in Pueblo weavings, the owner told me that if a blanket had an outer borderline, like a linear frame around the overall design, the Pueblo weaver would always make sure that a noticeable thread connected this borderline to the outer edge of the blanket, thereby introducing a flaw or break in the symmetrical geometric design. As I understood it a perfect border frame would be a closed system, and this introduced thread imperfection allowed the spiritual energy imbued in the blanket to come and go. My apologies to the Pueblo community for my rough understanding of this traditional practice. In any case this helped teach me, as an artist, the necessity of recognizing and accepting our essential inescapable connections with the wider world, without which we can become frozen, static, starved for meaning & growth. It’s also about not trying to control everything. A bit of a paradox because the artist must deliberately give up control at some point. I’m reminded of Alanis Morissette’s lyric “the moment I jumped off of it was the moment I touched down.” I’ve always remembered that lesson for art. When I paint there’s a lot of preparation and planning so that I can then let go, inviting serendipitous strange & magical surprises. I love how things never go as planned. A sense of perfectionism is fine if it motivates one to improve on artistry and craft, but it can make an artist a slave to a very cruel taskmaster and kill creativity. As for telling people about flaws in my art: I have some struggling paintings that I use all the time in classes to show students what happens when you do this or that. Great for teaching. As for viewers/buyers I like to leave it up to them to decide for themselves about the painting. I’m happy to answer specific questions about my creative decisions or aspects of the piece but after many years I no longer think of my artwork in terms of perfection, imperfection, flaws etc, I ask myself and the piece if we are done talking to each other, and is it ready to go out in the world to speak to others.

  8. Jason, how eloquently you described imperfections and what they mean! Thank you for that. I second every word of.
    I always say ‘perfection is boring’ and I mean it. When I used to sculpt with clay years ago, whenever a work turned out to be perfect, either at the wheel or by hand, I couldn’t help myself but yank it on the side to make it ‘imperfect’ so to speak. To me it showed more character this way and I loved it.
    With my paintings, personally I would never ever talk about any imperfections either to a collector or a gallerist. Mostly because they are Not imperfections, they are the juice, the life, the soul of the art. I cherish them, I connect with them. And I love seeing the viewer do the same: connect!

  9. After over 4 decades as a dealer, a sometime-artist, a consultant to artists and having worked with a museum-placed artist for that long (to whom I was once married), I find this is a question that mainly concerns artists’ personal uncertainties, rather than actual problems with their art.
    I think it’s obvious that if there is actual damage to an artwork, or something that will cause it to degrade quickly – anything such as this – these must be disclosed. But otherwise, “imperfections” are totally in the eye of the viewer. And once a painting is complete, the artist becomes merely another viewer, and not always the most objective one, either. My former husband and I used to laugh about the fact that often the artworks that we thought were artistically the worst, usually sold the fastest. We were not the best judges at all.

  10. Great topic and interesting points to ponder. While my work is free-flowing and loose, I am a very meticulous person by nature. That’s the challenge that draws me to my work. I work on the floor with my cat often wandering about. Yep, you guessed it, every now and then my cat gets onto the wet painting. My first concern is always for cleaning the acrylic paint off his paws. But then I am left with a print or two on the canvas. A mistake, to be sure. It used to concern me but now, with collectors comparing notes on whether or not they have a paw print in their paintings, I’m OK leaving them in. Hey, if Jackson Pollock can have cigarette butts, I can have the occasional paw print. 😉

  11. I share my artistic mistakes in a positive format, since some of my best works evolved from having made a mistake and just going with it in the Bob Ross spirit of “a happy accident”. I also feel like damage isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a chance to practice a grunge or punk/goth look. Some of my best art was made on torn cardboard or punctured canvas, and sold really fast. When I damage a frame and/or its plexiglass, I simply remove the artwork inside it and put in a piece that is enhanced by the damage. Sometimes I add to the damage so it looks intentional. I’m a perfectionist by nature, but I’m a better artist when I’m not.

  12. For my ceramic sculpture, I identify damage and repairs, usually setting a lower price. I think that has been the way with ceramics for 1000’s of years: 1st quality, 2nds and the shard pile (for the archeologists).

  13. If you want mechanical perfection, learn to use AI. If you want work that has a heart and soul, put real paint on with a tool and embrace the imperfections. Imperfections are part of the beauty.

  14. Excellent article!! Thank you … you covered the topic eloquently!!

    I have a tiny pinhole in one of my large paintings and I repaired it … shows on the back of the painting. I have not exhibited it since the damage happened. I will disclose the flaw if I show or sell it.

  15. My best example is a painting I did of a busy street in downtown Portland, where the parking is expensive. A full size 30”X22″ ink and watercolor takes me about 30 hours average, so I timed my painting days to Portland’s nine days out of the year when parking is free. I started it in the spring and finished in early fall, which resulted in seasonal discrepancies like some trees bare and some foliated and the wrong flowers growing. I incorporated this into the painting’s artwork statement.

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