26 08, 2018

Nature Calling

2018-08-24T14:35:19+00:00

Trading cool lake breezes on the dock in my favorite red Adirondack chair for Texas heat in my wicker chair on the house-length back porch of the old Rhoads Texas ranch house is a signal that summer for our family has ended. It was hard to leave the Adirondack lakes because I never want summer to end, yet it’s always nice to be in the cuddle of our home here in Austin.  Plus, if I had summer all the time, I’d never appreciate it like I do.

This morning the heat is intense, and the natural grasses in our little slice of heaven are parched, begging for water, and looking a little shriveled up. Yet the scrub oaks offer rich sage greens and the deep green cedars seem to thrive in the dry climate and oven-like heat, which will last through mid-October. This spot, in spite of the arid climate, offers its own form of beauty — a place I’m grateful to call home.

Though dead silent this morning as everyone catches up on lost sleep, our house has been a flurry of activity as the kids return home to their friends, who have all been visiting to tell their stories of summer. Boxes have to be opened and suitcases of clothes never used have to be unpacked to restore order to our routines.

Summer was a time to slow down, and soon my life of intense business travel begins.

Golden Silence

Slowing down isn’t something I ever considered very important because I tend to be a high-speed, “on to the next task” kind of guy. I walk fast, I work fast, and I’m highly productive because life has so many things that need to get done.

Rushing Through My Art

When photography was my hobby, I’d rush to great locations, take a quick shot, then move on to the next potential photo. But painting helped me see the value of slowing down, enjoying a spot, and becoming a part of nature. Slowing down and painting is just what my soul needed. In fact, my friend the great Russian painter Nikolai Dubovik taught me that he, and many others in his country, use painting as an act of meditation and prayer. I find that when I paint, I’m having a continual dialogue with God. I find myself in a meditative state, lost in the rich greens, the crashing ocean waves, or the distant mountains. It simply doesn’t get much better.

One of my dear readers in England, Kate Edge, wrote me this week to say this:

“By far the hardest thing to be today is to be at peace, to be centered in the place of stillness where the Spirit of God resides as it clearly does in Creation. The miraculous sunset which you witnessed is without limit, it is just simply a total flow of joyfulness in the creation of colour which all of us register with our retinas too.”

She goes on to write,

“Painting is a response to the pure beauty we are blessed to witness and which we honour by the desire to wish to capture, which is also the desire to remember that moment when we were present in mind with the eternal. When you let go of all techniques and must try to do this or that, there is another, deeper painter within which does not have an agenda. It flows its wisdom over the canvas, and if it is given the space before the busy mind engages what it wants to do in the extraction process from nature, into a rectangle, someone else flows through the heart and mind, and it registers a different feel altogether in the brush, and the result.

“When Turner exhibited the painting The Fighting Temeraire at the Royal Academy in 1839, it created an enormous response from the public. But the history of the painting included his seeing the ship being tugged just outside Margate behind a blazing sunset, and given his tremendous memory and note-taking, the emotion it evoked in him remained. He would never part with the painting despite numerous offers, and he came to refer to it as his ‘Darling.’

“The point of this is, I am sure, Eric, you have paintings that you have really loved to paint and you would be reluctant to part with. The evolving process of painting is being compassionate towards our attempts to realize that love, and when we do make progress, it also signals  an inner change in us.

“It’s good to compare our efforts with others, see masterworks, but it is more important to quietly recognize how we see nature and communicate that experience. All of us have perfection in our DNA, and one of the great ways to get in touch with that is to sit quietly with Nature and allow ourselves to truthfully respond, and accept the response too!!!! But know that in our re-creations we are on an unfolding path of happiness, as you say, which links us firmly with the Creator.”

It’s About Us

Kate opened my eyes in new ways with this lovely note, but it isn’t about me, it’s about us. You and me, and those you love. What would happen if we all spent more time in touch with nature?

My morning walk in the deep woods, down the dirt path to the lake where we have spent our summers for decades, is something I look forward to each morning, and something I miss when I’m not there. It’s time in nature, time with the Creator, and it impacts my response to everything throughout the day.

Touching Base with Creation

This reflects the reason I’m so insistent on finding ways to reach millions of people and help them discover painting. Though I know painting will give them rich challenges, wonderful experiences, and a creative outlet, it’s being outdoors, losing yourself, and touching base with Creation that makes the experience so important.

Remarkably, it’s rare to meet an outdoor painter who is angry, unhappy, or carrying an ego the size of Texas, and I think it’s because they are in nature, still, looking at one spot, and taking it in. It’s the stillness that makes this special and gives them peace.

It’s also why we are teaching veterans how to paint, and why I’ve enlisted thousands of painters across the U.S. to go to schools, play my documentary on plein air painting, and invite others to learn to paint. It’s why I have free lessons online, because I believe painting outdoors opens hearts and calms us inwardly. And I’m hearing from people all over the world who have tried it and found this same peace.

Though this little weekly missive started out reaching just painters, the 100,000-plus readers now come from all walks of life. If you’re one of them, please know this message isn’t about painting, though you might have fun trying it. It’s about stillness in nature.

Family Frenzy

We’re all living very busy lives. We’re not communicating with our families when we’re all on our phones around the dinner table. We’re in a world of constant stimulation, feeling the need to not let a second pass us by without a new e-mail or social media post. Though it’s a wonderful time to be alive and to gather information, it’s also a dangerous time of addiction when our phones and social media posts become more important than love, human interaction, and communication with our Creator, however you define that.

On occasion I take one of my 16-year-old triplets out painting with me. Often it’s a battle to get them to come because their phones tend to rule their attention, but this summer at my Adirondack painting event my son Brady spent the week with me painting, off his phone, and told me he had so much fun he did not miss it. Every minute was occupied not with a small screen, but with a big canvas.

Without sounding like an old school fuddy-duddy, our families need leadership away from their addictions, so they can realize what else is out there — so they don’t grow up and only visit places on their phones or in virtual reality. We need experiences in nature, and we all need, somehow, to plant ourselves in one place to take it in. That’s why I find painting so appealing; it satisfies my busy mind’s need to be doing something, yet it offers me peace and meditation.

Soon your summer will come to an end. Schools are starting, vacations are ending, and time alone with nature often becomes less easy to find. If there is time, give yourself this gift of one spot, breathing the air, smelling the scent of pines, and staring into the rich colors of nature. It will feed your soul.


Eric Rhoads

PS: Because of my podcast and this blog, lots of people have decided to believe me when I tell them no special talent is required to learn painting, it just takes following a process and the courage to try. The result is that a couple of hundred people have shown up at our Plein Air Convention & Expo to learn to paint for the first time and started their path toward a lifetime of painting. Many have also shown up at my Publisher’s Invitational retreats. If you want to come hang out with us in Banff, Lake Louise, and the Canadian Rockies this coming October, we welcome painters at all levels, including beginners. We’re just out to have fun, connect with nature, and hang out with other painters.

PPS: I’m thankful for all the people who have reached out about our cool new FACE conference, and I want to use this opportunity to say thanks for signing up. I’m told we’re making art history by the fact that so many amazing top tier instructors will be teaching in the same place. If you’ve not signed up yet, you can save $400 if you sign up before Labor Day Sept. 3.

 

Nature Calling 2018-08-24T14:35:19+00:00
19 08, 2018

A Fresh Perspective on Failure

2018-08-16T15:31:52+00:00

Dark, ominous storm clouds engulfed the lake last night, billowing high into the sky, blocking an intensely red sunset we could barely see on the horizon. Light shows go on each night, starting with mild color and developing into intense reds, pinks, yellows, with hints of blue peeking through.

Distant thunder echoes across the lake, with mild flashes of light within the clouds — storms here tend to reach the mountain and pass to its sides, keeping us storm-free. Sitting here, into the darkness, we watch the clouds break and distant stars peeking through as the air chills.

Each sunset here is a gift, as is each morning on the dock, watching the fog lift and the sun break through. Sadly, this is my last Sunday morning on this dock as our summer here draws to an end. It seems we just arrived, and there is so much I didn’t check off on my summer bucket list.

Summer Can’t Last Forever

Sundown has a powerful meaning to me today because it’s the close of a wonderful celebration of summer, with much of the family gathered together. I can think of nothing better than giving the kids time at a lake filled with adventures, hikes, canoe rides, mountain climbs, and independence on boats with their summer friends. This time here is also a gift for the rest of the family who gathers here — this summer there were more than usual, and, though not everyone was present, it was a chance to reconnect, just sit and chat, cook and eat together, and just be. Now we depart for our separate lives and wonder what next summer will bring. Will there be a place to gather? Will there be family members added or lost? We always wish for just one more summer together, and dream that we can make this tradition last for generations to come.

Never a Summer Missed

Last week at a lake cocktail party I was speaking with a lake friend, celebrating her 80th summer here, never skipping a year. Her memories of childhood, spending her summers with her friends and watching them grow, having kids, grandkids, and now great-grandkids, and even watching some of her friends and relatives inevitably pass, has been a gift like no other. It’s rare anywhere in the world that someone could claim such a gift.

Sunsets and seasons are the cycles of the earth and the cycles of life. Change, too, is a cycle of life — out with the old, in with the new. Change causes personal growth and creates a new cycle, and even failure brings growth.

Edison Embraced Failure

I’ve been reading a lot about growth lately and the importance of failure. Failure led Edison to the invention of the light bulb, after 1,000 attempts. He did not stop when things got hard, he failed forward. He took his failure as feedback to learn what works and what doesn’t work.

What would happen if you and I looked at failures as feedback?

People tend to give up too easily when they receive negative feedback, since they perceive it as failure. Yet if they would look at all feedback as positive, their entire outlook would change, in all areas of their lives, their careers, and their relationships.

How many marriages have ended because relationship problems were looked at as failures rather than feedback?

Turn Failure into Feedback

Too often we communicate with someone and fail to get the response we want, so we get angry and huff off. But what if you were to alter your communication so you turn failure into feedback? It will make you listen more, learn more, and adapt your communication until you are no longer failing.

Saving Marriages and Businesses

How many relationships or marriages end because people fail to get what they want immediately? How many businesses fail because their investors take failure as a reason to stop or give up?

What if in our marriages or our work lives or our businesses, we were more like Edison, who found a thousand ways not to build a light bulb but kept persisting until he brought light to the world? Think how much light you would bring to your own world by looking at failure as feedback.

Defuse Emotion

When you and I look at failure as feedback, we remove the emotion from a situation. Rather than blowing up because we did not get our way, what if we detach from our emotions so we can learn what’s not working? Then we can make adjustments until it does work, and we are less likely to get stuck.

Being Right May Not Be Right

Everything you and I do in our lives is designed to give us meaning. We want to be heard, we want to be significant, and sadly, we want to be right. Yet accepting feedback keeps us from having to be right all the time and helps us seek solutions that work.

Looking Inward

My tendency is to blame others when something does not go my way. They simply don’t see what I see. Yet if I’d accept more blame, look at others’ failure to embrace what I’m trying to communicate as a failure on my part, my guess is that I’d tend to look inward for a solution, based on that feedback, and see it as a chance to try something new next time.

Next time you have an argument, stop yourself and tell yourself that you just got feedback. Same when you’re experiencing political discourse or a business disagreement.

Turn failure into feedback, and you may find yourself happier, less frustrated, and able to see a different side of things.

Eric Rhoads

 

A Fresh Perspective on Failure 2018-08-16T15:31:52+00:00
12 08, 2018

You Can Strive to Be the World’s Best

2018-08-10T09:34:15+00:00

In the 1850s the Hudson River School painters painted in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York — and were accused of exaggerating the colors of the sunsets. Yet living here and experiencing the sunsets each night, I can testify that the colors are so brilliant, so vibrant, that no matter how brightly or brilliantly they may have been painted, they could not touch the colors in the sky.

Banner in the Sky

In 1861 Frederick Church painted a piece called Our Banner in the Sky, a depiction of the American flag made up of bright-colored clouds, with a hint of blue sky and stars showing. I always thought it was a bit kitschy and made-up, until I saw an almost exact reproduction in the sky here, with red stripes of clouds between white stripes, and a patch of blue showing. The only things missing were the flagpole and the stars.

On Golden Pond

This has been the summer of sunsets. I posted a video on my Facebook of brilliant golden light shimmering on the water, reflecting the gold in the sky. Almost every night has been a display of color so brilliant that no paint color could possibly represent it. Last night I sat here on the dock as the sun went down and watched a light show of color that got better with every second, and just as I thought it had peaked as the sun slipped behind the pines’ silhouette, the entire cloud-filled sky lit up like the Las Vegas Strip.

This morning the sky has reset in preparation for yet another show tonight. There is dew on the dock and it’s cooler today, the lake is like glass, and the birds are happily entertaining with some soft, quiet chirps to fill in the silence.

Last week I mentioned giving yourself some oxygen, but what I didn’t tell you is that I had planned a little oxygen for myself this past week. I blocked the week out on my calendar, took the week off, and spent all day, Monday through Thursday, working on improving my painting skills.

Two Big Goals

Specifically, this goes back to a moment of frustration two years ago when I felt I was not making the kind of progress I should be making. So I crafted a plan to see if I could make a dramatic leap, starting by realizing I had two goals … to get better at landscape and plein air painting and to get better at portrait or figure painting, my two passions. (It’s no coincidence that I have a magazine and a conference for each, with the PleinAir Magazine Plein Air Convention & Expo and the Fine Art Connoisseur Figurative Art Convention & Expo.)

Great Mentors

I decided I needed to study under two people I greatly admired for their skills and their ability to translate those skills to the feel of emotion in their work. I then decided to watch their videos to learn and practice all that I could. I considered a workshop with each, but found my available time was limited. With busy family and business obligations, more time away was not an option, so I had to figure out how to fit them into something I was already doing. So I made an arrangement with a top landscape artist to meet me at one of my events, where I would be out painting daily anyway, and asked him to paint with me and coach me for the week. This past week I did the same with a top portrait and figurative painter I highly admire. Since I would have been working anyway, we worked 9 to 5, and I was home with the family the rest of the day.

It’s a little soon to know the impact of this past week on my painting, but if it works as well as my landscape painting adventure, it should make a significant difference. In both cases I had good basic skills but needed to get to the next step fast. A week of solid, dedicated instruction was just the ticket. Now I’m committed to using these techniques and colors going forward for the next few years so that I reinforce what I’ve learned. And in both cases I’ll watch the videos a few more times to remember things I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Learning Obsession

I find it a bit comical that the guy who could barely graduate high school because of bad grades could be so obsessed with learning, but the key is finding something you’re passionate about and making it a lifelong education. My dad used to tell me, “Education is a bargain at any price.” It’s so true.

Meeting the Challenge

Over decades I’ve interacted with and experienced lots of different kinds of people, and the ones most frustrating to me are those who claim expertise, yet don’t reach or strive to be at the top of their game. God has given us each a life, and it seems as though we should choose to be the very best in the world at what we’re trying to do. Why just get by? Why not be the world’s leading expert? Though I’m far away from being the world’s leading expert at anything, I’m driven to be the very best I can be.

It’s Not Done Till It’s Overdone

Painting is just one example. I want to be the best I can be in my business, be the best I can be when I’m on stage, and be the best I can be when writing. That’s why I am a member of a mastermind group that meets monthly by phone and three times a year in person. That’s why I travel to conventions and events so I can meet and study under the best in the world. That’s why I pay to attend writing workshops and speaking workshops, and why I take lots of online training. Anything done should be done well.

What I Strive to Be

I once saw a speaker on stage at a radio convention. He was the best speaker I had ever seen. He was confident, entertaining, outgoing, and exuberant on stage. I wanted to be that guy, so I went up to him after his speech and asked if he would teach me. I then attended his workshop for a week. I’ve done this with several great speakers because I want to get better at my craft.

The Deep Dive

We are all wired differently. You may be thinking, “This isn’t for me. I don’t see myself working that hard.” Or maybe you simply don’t feel it’s the right direction for you. I hear you, and I don’t want to suggest this formula is right for everyone. But I can tell you one thing I’ve discovered on this journey … a deep dive into anything you love is an investment in your happiness. These things can excite you, reinvigorate you, and make you feel better about yourself. And there is no better confidence booster than seeing personal growth and having it reinforced by others.

Not only is pushing yourself great for your head and your actual performance, you’ll find yourself getting to new levels, then challenging yourself to see how far you can take it. Wouldn’t it be cool to be invited into an art show of top artists, knowing it was earned?

Recently I received a compliment when a top marketing guru, Dan Kennedy, invited me to speak on his stage at his conference. Though I declined because of a travel conflict, it’s recognition that what I’m learning is making me better.

Never Ever Give Up

The normal view of the world is that you go about your days, do your job, retire from that job, and coast the rest of your life. My view of the world is that you be the best at your job and become the best in the world at what you do, just to see how far you can go. And when that ends, you keep going by finding something you’re passionate about and becoming the best you can be, and you do it so that you have the enthusiasm and energy to go forward at 180mph the rest of your life.

Though retirement isn’t for me, if it’s for you, be the best you can be when doing it. My friends from Colorado retired and started yoga training for veterans and now have an organization doing 200 classes a week. That’s what inspired me to create our initiative to teach painting to veterans. Just because your body is aging or because your career in one area will come to an end does not mean you have to coast the rest of your life. It’s great if that’s what you want, but if you keep learning, your brain will tell you that you’re alive and keep you strong and vibrant. And having a goal like mine, which is to teach a million people to paint, gives you a focal point to concentrate on. (If you’re not a painter and want to be, check out my free lessons.)

Recently I spoke about how my brain was scrambled, confused, and overwhelmed in a guitar lesson. I honestly did not think I could do what my instructor wanted me to do, yet by practicing it over and over in small chunks, I’ve mastered it. (We teach this for artists in our video The Master’s Mind).

What have you always wanted to learn? What are you doing where you can see yourself working toward being the best of the best? Maybe it’s learning a new language, learning a craft or a hobby (please try painting!), being a better painter, a better marketer, a better writer, a better  … fill in your blank here. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get the training you need, and once you start to focus on something and spread the word that you want to learn more, great things will come to you.

What’s the first thing that came to mind when I asked what you see yourself learning? What was the limiting thought that immediately crept in? (I’m too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too lazy, it’s too hard.) Push that aside and go for it anyway. You’re in control of your mind; don’t let your thoughts put up roadblocks.

Here’s to you and me learning some new things yet this summer and fall! Have a great day.

Eric

 

You Can Strive to Be the World’s Best 2018-08-10T09:34:15+00:00
5 08, 2018

You Need Summer Oxygen

2018-08-03T19:00:01+00:00

I arrived on the mist-covered wooden dock this morning as the sun was coming up, just peeking over the horizon. Long warm rays are penetrating cool layers of fog. The mountain is barely visible, and the green highlights of tall pines are shining through the mist. Just as I sat down, I could hear the splashing of baby loon wings beating against the water. Accompanied by loon cries of encouragement from mom and dad, the little loons flap forward about 30 feet, trying to take off but not yet getting airborne. They’ve been trying over and over, and soon those babies will be ready to fly south.

Now that August has arrived, so have most of the lake neighbors, who usually come now through Labor Day. Though I love the quiet months of June and July here, it’s nice to see some people on the lake. Sailboat races have begun, with giant 125-year-old sailboats competing for the annual silver cup. There is nothing quite as beautiful as seeing an old wooden boat keeled over, people leaning out over the water, and that yellow ochre sail against the purple mountain in the background. It’s a painting waiting to happen, and one I’ve done many times, yet the perfect one has yet to be done. One has to capture a moment with a quick sketch, or cheat with a photo, to drop the boat into the scene.

August is also a reminder that my three remaining weeks here need to be filled with bucket list places to visit and paint, chores that need to be finished, kayak rides to take, and family memories to be created. I’d better get off the dock and get busy, starting today.

Rather than getting into anything in-depth or “heavy” today, I thought it would be nice to give you a simple reminder: “Put your own mask on before helping others.” The classic line from airline travel.

What I want to remind you of is that in this busy place we call life, you have lots to do, lots of people to take care of, lots of responsibilities, pressure, and maybe stress. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re unable to do a stellar job of helping others.

I’ve spoken about the value of summers, and since summer will be gone in just a few weeks, I want to encourage you to find some way to give yourself some more time. It may be a well deserved vacation, or if that’s not possible, find a way to do something to bring you some peace and joy. It’s amazing to me how a walk in the woods does wonders for me. Maybe it’s an afternoon of fishing … or painting. Try to get to a comfortable place to do something you cannot do every day at home (like TV) and treat yourself.

In my crazy existence I run continuously for months on end, traveling, doing meetings, meeting deadlines, and the only reason I can run at full throttle is because I make a point to give myself some personal oxygen.

If you’re high-strung, you’ll tell yourself there isn’t time, there isn’t money, or there will be some other excuse. Though these things may be very real, you have to find time for you as much as possible.

Do something for yourself today, and try to find as much time for yourself as possible before summer ends. If you’re thinking, “There is always next summer,” just know that’s not guaranteed. Be bold and take care of yourself first. Others who rely on you will understand.

Last week I learned of yet another acquaintance felled by an unexpected stroke, and you may remember my story about my friend who had a stroke, and six months later has had no improvement.

Take special moments while you can. You deserve them.

Have a great day.

Eric

You Need Summer Oxygen 2018-08-03T19:00:01+00:00