Domino Deeds cards

Pay it Forward Concept … with Paintings

A pay-it-forward concept with paintings may sound unusual, but have you heard of Domino Deeds? It’s a wonderful initiative. The artist, Jim Fussell, paints beautiful landscapes and he gives them away for free. All he asks is that you do a good deed in return. In this way a domino effect of good deeds is put into action.

Jim Fussell has donated over 10,625 paintings and one of them is even in the Vatican. He sent it there years ago and he even received a thank you note from the Pope.

Pay it Forward Concept ... with Paintings

What is Domino Deeds about?

Jim is in prison. He has spent the last 44 years there. A few months ago we became pen pals through a prison pen pal program and he told me about his project.

Many of his paintings have been used to raise money for causes and charities as you can see below. He hopes that people who receive his work will pay it forward in kind. Anyone who receives a painting and does a good deed is also encouraged to share the experience on Jim’s social media (which is managed by his team).

Related: What to Send to Inmates


Eyes Opening Wide

During the last year I have been writing to several men that are incarcerated and it has been an eye-opening experience. Although I was aware that justice isn’t always fair I didn’t know to what enormous extent it was flawed. I learned a lot over the last year.

I thought it would be a good idea to share this with my students in my social science class. Jim offered to send me paintings so I could use them for the presentation.

Jim Fussel painting
A student is putting a protective plastic cover over a painting to take it home

Our School Event

First I talked about my experience as a pen pal, the men I write to, and what I have learned. Then, in the following class I spoke about Jim and his pay-it-forward initiative. I showed my students his TED talk and then we had a painting lottery.

Students are encouraged to do a good deed. They can either keep the painting and do something nice for someone else or they can donate it to a local charity. It’s their choice. I’m eager to see what they decide to do with their paintings!

All in all, it was a great school event

The students were very interested, and Domino Deeds and Jim’s stories of people who paid it forward left quite an impact on them. They showed much enthusiasm during the painting lottery and were eagerly discussing what they’d do. The result of this presentation was what you could call a big success 🙂

I’d love to share Jim’s words here.

Domino Deeds Facebook

Domino Deeds Facebook

It looks like a follow-up post is due, to share the good deeds my students have come up with. I’d love to see what they decided to do 🙂

If you’d like to get involved, you can leave a message on Jim’s social media or website. You can also let me know in the comments below. Or could you share this post to get this amazing initiative out? 🙂

21 thoughts on “Pay it Forward Concept … with Paintings

  1. Wow, Christine, this is absolutely marvellous. I love it and shared it on my FB and Twitter accounts. Such a great idea to do this at school and it goes to show that young people are not indifferent at all. Especially not if they are called upon in a genuine way.

    And the TEDtalk is very worthwhile. Such a pity it’s only been liked 33 times, it should be liked much more. And he is right, if someone can do a good deed from behind bars, think about what we can do in the outside world.
    It is great he has an unexpected sense of humour in his talk! 😀

    I loved this article, Christine, thanks! <3

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you very much for sharing this!
      The TED talk is indeed worthwile and I also like his humor despite his circumstances. Domino Deeds is a beautiful initiative and it means a lot to Jim to hear about the students’ experience with his pay-it-forward initiative. I’ll pass on your comment to him. I’m sure he will love to read it 🙂

  2. I love the idea of sending people free paintings and exchanging them for a good thing in return, and you did a good job organizing a school event to keep this movement going further. I agree with Jim that the youth is our future, so if we plant this goodwill seed in their minds, they will continue to help others whenever people need it. This brings good ripples in society and keeps us looking at the bright side. 🙂

    1. Hi Matt,

      Exactly, the youth is our future. It’s important to plant the seeds of compassion and goodwill now, giving cause to a domino effect of good deeds 🙂

  3. I think that Domino deeds is a good place to help pay it forward and get other to smile and not be so moody. The pay it forward with a painting is new and different we are liking the idea and see the potential it can bring.


  4. Wow, Christine. This is very inspiring and very interesting. How did you actually get to know about all of this in the first place that led to your involvement?

    1. Hi Schalk,

      I first read about Jim in “Designed Conviction”, a magazine that is distributed to prisons (I know the editor). I read something he wrote about what he would do when he got his freedom and his words moved me. so, I decided to write him. That’s how I got to know him and his project Domino Deeds. I wrote more about my experience in this article which I posted on another website I manage.

  5. wow I find it an incredible idea to sell in exchange for an act of kindness. I believe that this act of generosity has a huge impact on people (both who receives the painting and who knows the story). The reason for this is because it is an authentic and genuine gesture that leads us to give the best of ourselves. If you want kindness, sow kindness, if you want generosity, sow generosity. And this is exactly what Jim does. I’m going to share it with everyone.
    Thank you very much for this!

  6. Great article and a good concept of creating good people 🙂 with a good idea of sharing pictures, and in return a good deed. Thank you for sharing this and of course, I will share this 🙂 I wish you health

  7. Christine, what an amazing concept and manifestation of the domino effect for good things. We definitely need more of those lately. On top of that, promoting the good while using the beautiful is twice as admirable.
    Thank you for sharing and for reminding that the good still wins over everything else.
    To be honest when I first started reading your article I became quite resistant as I immediately started thinking that in order to pay anything forward one should first ensure a full tank from which to make those payments.
    Yet I failed to realise that payments can take many forms, not just money or time, it can also be beauty, goodness and kindness.


  8. This is a really wonderful concept developed by the artist, Jim Fussel. His paintings of beautiful landscapes which he gives away for free in return for paying forward a good deed thereby creating a domino effect of good deeds.

    What a wonderful way to introduce the concept of good deeds to students! The TED talk gives the practicality to this concept and such youths will hopefully carry this into adulthood.
    Thanks, Ceci

  9. Hi Christine,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. It is hard for us to understand that someone who took two lives, has such compassion. I am glad to see it shared with our children. I am also sure it was an experience they will not ever forget. Hopefully, it is a lesson we will all remember forever.

    1. Hi Chas,

      In the TED talk Jim explains how he turned his life around. It’s a very interesting talk. I believe that people can change and become a better version of their past selves if they want to, and Jim’s work is such a beautiful example of that.
      Thank you for your comment!

  10. Wow! I love this! I never would have thought that students would be so interested in paying it forward. I look forward to the follow-up to see what kinds of things they did to pay it forward, and also if they kept their paintings or if they donated them. This has inspired me in my business to start paying it forward in hopes of making other people’s lives’ better. Thank you so much for your inspiration and reporting on this.

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