29 03, 2020

The End Is Near


Tiny buds with the colors of spring are popping out on the tops of the hundred-year-old twisted oaks. A view of the distant mountain shows dark patches of trees with bright new growth creating a patchwork pattern. The air is balmy and fresh, the songbirds are loudly celebrating the arrival of spring, and the distant cattle are munching on tasty new wildflowers. Life is good.

Spring comes after a harsh winter or a mild winter. But it always comes. The cycles continue and always will. And when spring comes, we get out and enjoy it and rapidly forget just how harsh the winter has been. Instead, we enjoy life a little more once we get outside after being cooped up.

Patterns of Downturns

Amazingly, there have been about 47 economic downturns in the history of America, and after each of these winters, spring always came. Sometimes it roars in like a lion, other times it creeps in like a lamb, but it always comes.

Clearly I don’t want to make light of the absolutely frightening moment in history we, the residents of the world, are living through. This virus has already touched my life, in the sense that I actually know a couple of people who have had it. One recovered fully, one did not. And it has impacted all of our lives.

The Great Depression?

Growing up, my father often told us stories of growing up in the Great Depression. He has both fond memories and some that cause pain to think about. The hard ones were the humiliation of having to move out of their house and rent it out in order to pay the mortgage, and having to move in with family members, being treated badly and subjected to hard labor on the farm. No matter how much I try to envision this, I cannot relate, because I grew up in a time where my parents sheltered us from whatever was going on at the moment. Though there were some bad recessions, and I’m sure some difficult financial challenges, we kids never really knew. There was always food on the table, a smile on their faces, and encouragement.

Marked by This Moment

Everyone alive on this earth today will be marked by this moment in time, a time that will be part of our stories for the lifetime ahead. Some of us have been severely wounded financially, others wounded by tragic losses of family, and all of us wounded by fear of the unknown. At this moment in time, none of us knows what happens next. While some predict the worst, others predict the best. We have to choose who and what we want to believe. Being the optimist, I’m hoping for the best, but ready to step up as needed for the worst, knowing I, or someone I love or care about, could be the next victim.


So how are we to process all this? Hundreds of pop psychologists and self-help specialists are all over the media telling us how to cope. “We’re in a state of shock,” says one. “You’re experiencing PTSD,” says another, while someone else says, “If you’re down, you’re grieving.”

I’m sure each of us is seeing it differently. I’m certainly not expert enough to offer psychological advice.

My wife created a meme that went viral. It said, “Our grandparents were asked to send their children to war. We’re being asked to stay home for a few weeks. Let’s keep things in perspective.”

I thought it was good advice. 

Again, not to make light of the businesses that lost their incomes (my own included), those who had to lay off people (we did), and those who have been laid off — or worse, who can’t get unemployment because of what they do for a living. Artists, for instance, can’t get unemployment, though they make their living from selling art. Maybe they can get SBA loans. Let’s hope.

Flipping a Switch

Like many of you, I found myself down, worried, and wondering how I was going to feed my kids and even send them to college. I was ruminating about the worst, and I noticed it was driving me into a deeper funk. I was getting more and more depressed, I wanted to sleep later and later, and it was impacting how I felt. If this kept up, I feared I’d not be able to recover, that I’d worry myself into a frenzy, possibly destroying my health with my state of mind.

But that was not acceptable.

Then I had a moment of clarity (stimulated by a nice brisk walk) … I can’t rely on anyone but myself to pull myself out of the ashes of fear, and fear isn’t serving me well. So I just told myself to “stop it.”

It actually was that simple. My resolve overcame my self-pity.

Then I recorded a call with Jay Abraham about what artists need to do to survive.

When I finished with that call, my physiology was completely changed. 

Because of Jay’s perspective, and because of a talk I had with my dad, I realized that this downturn, this quarantine, this disruption of the world could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

How can that be?

I had to call on my inner self and realize that I have a responsibility to lift others up, to help them change their physiology, and to help them see the opportunity in this. So I started stepping up. I gathered the remaining staff who had not been laid off and redeployed them on things we could do to help … like daily videos with art instruction to help people make good use of their time, like articles to help draw attention to our advertisers even more, like videos to help give advice on how to make this into a profitable time.

Like the Song… a New Attitude

Suddenly, I was on fire with energy. In fact, knowing I had been down, my caring friend and assistant Ali phoned me “just to see how you’re doing.” My response was “Fantastic!” — and I meant it.

I had a shift of thinking. Instead of being woeful, I am hopeful. Instead of worrying, I’m taking action. Instead of being down, I’m more up than I’ve been in a long time. It happened instantly by changing my perspective.

I can’t do it for you or those you love. But anyone can do it for themselves. Even if it’s not real. There is an old saying, “Fake it till you make it.” And a funny thing happens when you pretend to be upbeat … you actually become upbeat.

Evidence Does Exist

I’m told there is evidence that mindset changes our cells and impacts our health. I’ve always believed it. I’ve never seen the evidence, but I’ve lived it. Our minds control 85 percent of everything in our lives — especially our responses to things, how we look at things.

Pour Out Your Brain on Paper

What if you took a big yellow pad and wrote numbers 1 through 50 on it and forced yourself to come up with 50 ways you could benefit from what is going on now. It won’t happen fast, you’ll have to really stretch, but write down everything. Don’t judge your ideas, just get them down. And chances are, you’ll hit a gold nugget when you review your notes.

I’m Not Buying In

There is no doubt this is a frightening time, but I refuse to allow myself to be frightened. I refuse to allow my days to be ruined by being down. What if they are my last days? Do I want to live them badly? No way. Nor do I want to be remembered as a Negative Nelly. Most important, my brain needs me to focus on hope and the great things that will come out of this time. I can tell you my family is a lot closer and my kids are doing things they’ve not done in years because of their boredom. It does my heart good to see it.

You and I are defined not by how we are when things are perfect. We’re defined by our actions when things are awful. I’ve seen some pretty upset, frightened people who have allowed this time to turn them into brave social media monsters. I’m sure they are nice people, but fear is getting the best of them. I refuse to let it get the best of me. Remember, the only thing to fear is fear itself. Finally I understand that.

On the other side of this, our world will be different. I don’t know how, but I suspect we will all have to adjust to some new ways of thinking about things. And, chances are, things will be better in some ways and maybe worse in others. We will adapt.

Just know it’s OK…

It’s OK to be scared.

It’s OK to be worried.

It’s OK to be concerned.

But it’s not OK to let it destroy you.

One day soon … maybe by Easter, maybe by summer, maybe by fall … no one knows … the window will close and this virus will no longer be a threat and our economy will ramp up again. Maybe fast, maybe slow. But winter will be over and spring will be here, and in spite of all this, we’ll all be better on the other side.

Think about how many times you wished you could just take a few weeks off to do nothing. Your wish came true. Make good use of it, because the pace will increase and we may not get this opportunity again.

Yes, it is an opportunity. It just depends on the lens you’re looking through.

Stay well. Be strong. And know that winter will be over soon.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m a small-business guy. I’ve owned my small business for almost three decades. I’ve had periods where I’ve gone seven years without a paycheck, eating peanut butter to survive. I’ve had moments where I actually made enough money to buy a used car, or get a nicer apartment, and even some times when I was able to put some money away for a rainy day.

Being a business owner, big or small, has its pros and cons. The cons are always that there are times when you have to make decisions that disrupt people’s lives. Maybe someone had to go because they were doing a bad job, or sometimes it was because we could not afford to pay them. But each time we have to make a decision about the lives of the people we work with, it’s met with lots of sleepless nights, often some tears, and a lot of discussion to figure out a better way.

It’s popular to beat up on people who own businesses for the decisions they make. Sometimes for good reason, but other times because we have not walked in their shoes. I am convinced that there are some big evil companies and executives in the world, but most are just people who got sick of working for a jerk and started their own business, putting everything at risk.

Today, we’re hearing the stories. We’re realizing that the lady who owns the fancy restaurant down the road is in debt up to her waist and won’t survive. We’re finding out that the companies we’ve been doing business with are barely making it anyway and now cannot go on. We will see thousands of businesses go away — many we don’t want to see go away. People you thought had big bank accounts and big images are living week to week or deeply in debt.

Watch for the stories. Do what you can to aid these people by throwing them a takeout order or buying a gift card if you can.  Don’t think it won’t make a difference, and don’t worry about whether you’ll lose your investment if they don’t make it. Our local smoothie chain had to close 12 of 14 stores and is begging for people to order smoothies and pick them up. These are people who have put their lives into their businesses so they can serve us. Sure, they want to make a profit and live in a nice house and drive a nice car, but customers are what keeps them going. And if you can help out the workers in any way — people may not have had enough to get through the week, let alone the month — do something, anything. You don’t need anything in return. It could be you (maybe it is you).

We’re trying to bring income in our own doors and commissions to our artists by making people aware of our videos that train people to draw and paint (we have over 400 of them). Each day at 3 p.m. Eastern, we’re putting up at least an hour of training and interviews with artists. It’s our way of helping, but thankfully a few people like the samples and buy them. It’s my way of keeping people employed. If you want to see the videos, click this link to the Streamline Art Video Facebook page and hit “follow.” You’ll find them there, and you’ll see the live ones each afternoon at 3.

Stay strong. Winter is almost over.

The End Is Near2020-03-28T20:07:09-04:00
22 03, 2020

Time To Create Memories


My feet tingle as they hit the cold, wet deck of the covered porch that goes the length of the front and back of this “Texas farmhouse.” Pussy willows reach for the sky with their arms out in praise, their soft buttons of fur standing out in contrast against the darkness of the woods behind them. A Christmas amaryllis in full bloom adds a splash of red color against the greens of spring as though it’s Christmas again. Crunching leaves of fall remain interlaced with new blades of grass, and Texas wildflowers start to show their cheery faces as the old tree at the edge of the property blooms with white blossoms. A roar of rain slamming into the tin roof drowns out the distant birdsongs.

There is simply no feeling quite as good as spring. Winters, even the short and warmer ones like this year’s, are always long, and we await the new season with hope and anticipation.

Fields of Flowers

Yesterday, Laurie and I were explorers on a quest for fields of bluebonnets. Roadsides here are covered with them, thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who had seeds handed out with license plates and encouraged Texans to spread the seeds along roadsides. The viral effect created roads of beauty, a Texas tradition we all look forward to. Kids in their Sunday best are photographed among the fields of flowers each year as an Easter tradition.

Massive Snow Drifts

When I lived in Indiana as a child, winter provided a much-needed rest from the activity of the rest of the year. Snowdrifts the size of houses would keep us inside by the fieldstone fireplace, other than a few frozen adventures to tunnel out and build snow forts where we would lob ice orbs at one another.

A Crafty Lady

We learned to be creative, to fill the time with projects — some productive and useful, like cleaning out indoor spaces in need of decluttering, and others more creative. My mom would sit for hours between meals cutting fabric to cover shoes, make hats, and sew clothes. She was the first to place a paintbrush in my hand as if to give me a life mission I did not yet know I had. We would sit together for hours, talking and painting.

The Baggy Green Sweater

One year Mom asked me to pick out some yarn for a sweater she would knit. I picked out bright green fuzzy mohair, which seemed like a good idea at the time. The end result was oversized (so I could grow into it), baggy, and made me look like a giant green blob from Mars. I can still see the pride in her eyes seeing me wear it to school, yet as soon as I was at my locker, it came off — then back on again before going home. I was embarrassed to be seen in it. I tear up just thinking about how hard she worked on that sweater for me, the love that went into it, and my deception so my friends wouldn’t see me wearing it. I think she eventually found out, which would have broken her heart.

My fondest memories of my great childhood are about the downtime, the simple times of crafting at the dining room table, being with family when the fireplace was crackling, and playing long games of Monopoly.

Last week I mentioned silver linings, and this time of quarantine is an opportunity to reconnect, to have downtime to play, to make memories, to engage with your family.

A Little Embarrassed

Remember when the media frenzy called Y2K had many of us ready for the end of the world? I have special memories of the family being sequestered together in a cabin on a frozen lake, a memory that is special to this day. Though nothing came of Y2K and we look back a little embarrassed at taking the bait, it’s hard to know what looking back over COVID-19 will be like. But we could look back on the best parts, when we were forced to be inside with family.

What can you do to make this time the most special in the memory bank of your family?

What can you do to communicate messages your family needs to hear… family legacy, the stories of the past?

What lessons can we impart to our families? Not lectures, but stories with lessons built-in?

As the cases amplify and more is learned as more are tested, we can focus on the bad, or we can focus on the things we can influence or change. Let’s use this time to strengthen our relationships and build lifetime memories.

One day soon we’ll be looking back, probably a little embarrassed that we filled our garages with toilet paper, but we’ll cherish the time we were imprisoned indoors.

Yes, this too shall pass.

Be strong, but be deliberate. Don’t let this opportunity pass; it’s a chance to create a lifetime memory.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Remember those times when you’ve said, “I wish I had time to … read a book, learn to do something, take on a project,” etc.? Use this time well.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life creating what I believe are the best art instruction tutorials on earth. I started creating them because I was a buyer, and they were never really as good as I wanted them to be. So I hired a Hollywood cinematographer and started creating them. Today we have developed a reputation for exceptional quality, with excellent light, sound, and cinematography. One person who tried them for the first time just a month ago told me they had no idea just how much better our tutorials were. She said, “You should tell people this. I had no idea.” So I’m humbly sharing this with you.

We have a library of over 400 videos, and, unlike home-brew or self-made products made on smartphones or consumer cameras, we’ve invested in the same cameras producers use for network TV shows and movies. We built a state-of-the art soundstage to eliminate street noise and distant lawnmowers. My goal was to create films with the same quality aesthetic you would expect from a movie you see on Netflix.

And most of our videos are in-depth. Though we have some shorter ones, most are like master classes, like attending a several-day workshop so you can see every stroke, and know exactly what the instructor is thinking. In fact, some viewers have said they prefer them over in-person because if they miss a point, they can rewind and look again.

We have masterclasses in plein air painting, landscape painting, still life, portrait, figure, and even academic training in classical realism, like you would get attending an atelier.

We’ve become known as the place the best artists come to produce these masterclasses, because of the quality of our videos. They spend their lives building a reputation, and they don’t want to see it torn down by a low-quality production. As a result, you will find the best of the best, people who can teach you at the highest level. Yet we have products for every level, from beginner to pro. 

The reason I’m giving you this “infomercial” is because if you have time on your hands because you need to stay inside, this is a time to learn and grow, and do something you’ve always wanted to do, like learn to paint. 

I’ve listed our video opportunities for you below, starting with some free lessons for people who want to learn to paint but don’t think they have the talent or ability.

Free lessons I teach: www.paintbynote.com
Time To Create Memories2020-03-22T12:35:22-04:00
15 03, 2020

This Virus Will Not Define Us


Opening the squeaky green screen door to the old porch, I’m expecting a jolt of frigid air, but instead I’m met with the sound of palm trees gently blowing in the warm breeze. Yes, spring is here, and judging by yesterday, it may be an early summer.

Speaking of palm trees, this week is Spring Break, and our plans to escape to a hidden tropical paradise have been replaced by a staycation. It’s just not worth the risk of infecting or being infected. So, to give my lovely bride the week off she hoped for, the kids and I have agreed to cook all the meals for the week. And since we’re staying put, we have time. 

This week I’ve been pondering what I might say today in light of what our world, and our country, are facing. It’s not an easy task, because ignoring the situation and pretending it does not exist would not be prudent. On the other hand, overreaction and panic aren’t very pleasing either.

A Rant

I have to say that I’m highly disturbed by the irresponsibility of the media, and their bloodthirsty taste for ratings. They are so driven to drive ratings and ad dollars that they don’t realize they have pushed the country into overreaction, where hoarding is taking place so others cannot get essentials, and they are placing millions of jobs at risk because of this overreaction. I’m a little ashamed of them at the moment. They have us on the edge of our seats, as if our very survival depends on their next report. It sickens me.

I’m also concerned about the lack of civility among some people during this crisis. Panic is simply not necessary. 

We never really know how we’re going to react to a situation until we face it. 

The Higher Road

Laurie and I learned that recently during the cardiac arrest of our son Brady, who almost did not survive. In spite of our tears, our fear, our panic, our need for answers, we both surprised ourselves with how cool and collected we managed to be in spite of it being the worst day of our lives as parents. Though we were jolted into it in a moment, we managed to stay civilized, cordial, grateful, and appreciative to others even though we wanted to scream. That showed volumes to our other kids, who looked to us for how to respond. We’re being responsible and not panicking in this situation as well.

When I was a child, I was terribly afraid of tornadoes. They came almost instantly, with no warning, and would devastate a community within minutes. As an adult I always said I’d rather live in a hurricane zone, because they could have three or more days’ notice.

A Word We Never Thought We Would Speak

Now you and I are faced with a pandemic — words we never believed we would be uttering in our lifetime. Something we believed happened in the old days, when medicine was less sophisticated. Yet this is a hurricane, not a tornado. In other words, we know it’s coming, we know it could be horrific, but we have some time to prepare ourselves. Time to prepare is a silver lining in this dark cloud.

Silver Lining to a Dark Cloud

I’m no expert, but I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on, and the most important action we can take to prevent the spread is voluntary isolation from others. That means avoiding places where you could spread a virus you don’t know you have, and avoiding coming into contact with it yourself. I’ve spoken to friends in Italy, and they reinforce that need for dramatic action. It turns out that many are loving the time with family, the time to reconnect, and a chance to be home. Again, a silver lining. But gatherings of any size at this moment are simply irresponsible. We don’t have a clue who is a carrier. You or I could be and would not know it.

While others are screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater, my goal is to be a voice of reason, to let you know that everything is going to be OK. Though there will be some difficult moments, the actions to reduce the spread are actions that may get us on the other side of this nightmare sooner.

You Are Strong

I want you to know that you are strong and that you can step up and handle things that you never believed you could handle. There will be a day, probably in the not-too-distant future, in which this pandemic will be over, and we’ll look back knowing we made it through. It’s important to keep our eyes on that day, because the worst days could feel pretty grim.

Drinking Battery Acid

Keep in mind that fear and panic are the enemies of your fellow man, and of your own health. My health coach tells me the immune system is damaged by fear, panic, and stress. The best way to keep your immune system strong is to keep stress at a minimum, get lots of exercise, eat well, take your supplements (according to him, large doses of C and D3 are important in this case), drink lots of water, and keep your attitude in check. Try to keep a smile on your face — it changes your physiology. And worry serves no purpose. In fact, worry is like drinking battery acid: It’s toxic to your health.

Instead of freaking out when there are announcements of actions being taken, I’m embracing these actions. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner we shut everything down and isolate us all from one another, the sooner we’ll see the sun again. 

Meanwhile, I’m making some welcome changes in my lifestyle. Though I go to the gym daily, I’m now avoiding it. Instead of a treadmill, I’m taking walks. Instead of lifting weights, I’ve decided to use some of this time to lift some heavy boxes in the garage to the trash. And instead of risking exposure at a yoga studio, I’m watching yoga on YouTube and doing it with our two dogs. It’s important to keep exercising to ward off disease.

I refuse to panic. I’m probably the only American who didn’t stock up on toilet paper. I refuse to be the guy who keeps others from getting the reasonable amount they need. I refuse to be selfish.

My friend C.W. Mundy sent this to me today, and it really says it all, whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual or religious person. The message is powerful:

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope: where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

“Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
— St. Francis of Assisi

What to Do When You’re Down

As a result of this virus I’ve caught myself “down” and “worried” a couple of times, but then I remind myself that these feelings can only make everything worse. In the past I’ve discussed the critical role attitude plays and how science has confirmed that attitude impacts your cells. So when you slip into those moments of angst, no matter what’s happening, just remember you’ve had difficult moments in the past and you will get through this. No matter what happens.

Unknown Future

I don’t want to make light of this event. It’s difficult for all of us. I’ve had to cancel a business event we had planned for next week, which hurts my business financially. And, because most of my business is based on events and travel, I have no idea what my future looks like. But fear, panic, and stress won’t allow me to make clear decisions, so I’m working hard to avoid stress. I highly recommend you avoid it too. Sometimes we have to accept that things are out of our control.

Don’t Be Controlled

Remember that you have a choice about how you react or respond. The news media loves us in a panic so we’ll “tune in” every other moment to feed our fear. It’s great for their ratings and advertising incomes. Sadly, it’s not great for us. Though some will argue we need to be informed and take notice (true), we can do that without the drama and panic. Keep those stress levels under control. Why die of a heart attack or stroke while you’re stressing about how not to die from coronavirus?

Let’s all make the best out of a bad situation. Seek out the silver linings, and have confidence that you are doing all you can do to prevent exposure or infecting others. I’ll not go into the science because you can read it in a thousand places. 

Oh, and one more thing. 

Say It Now

I was due to be in China this week (I just returned from Russia last week), and one of the watercolor masters I was going to meet with has passed away from the virus. There is a strong chance that you’ll know people who will also pass away, so there is no better time than now to reinforce your love for those in your life. Hope for the best, but don’t look back wishing you had done more, or said what needed to be said.

Feeding Panic

People will tell you the sky is falling, the world is ending, the economy is crashing — and the signs we’re seeing would lead anyone to believe it. Don’t take the bait. Don’t feed the panic machine. Remember to use calm, sound judgment, and clear thought. This will allow you to deal with anything.

Be There for Them

And don’t forget that this may be harder on others than it is on you. School closings mean moms or dads who work in hospitals won’t be able to work. Hospital workers in Italy are exhausted after weeks of going without sleep in order to save lives. Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost overnight because events or flights are cancelled. It’s not all about me, it’s not all about you. It’s about our community, our friends, our country, our world. We’re all in this together. People need you to listen, to console, to understand, and to love.

We are defined by moments like this, both as individuals and as nations. Who do you choose to be?


Eric Rhoads

PS: Sunday Coffee is read by over a quarter million people every week because you have generously shared it with people you love. I want to thank you. When we’re in a media-centered world that drives fear, my goal is to be a contrarian, to let others know there is another way, a reasonable, responsible response to life.

This Virus Will Not Define Us2020-03-14T10:46:27-04:00
8 03, 2020

How to Get Really, Really Rich


A big yawn and outstretched arms start my morning as I look around and see familiar surroundings. Eagerly I make my way to the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee and walk the squeaky wooden deck of the porch to my little brown wicker couch with red cushions in the corner. I sigh, take a deep breath, and tell myself that the world has much to offer, but home is still the best place of all.

Deer stare me down, then skittishly run off into the thicket of distant oak trees and brush, leaping gracefully as if to give me a ballet more beautiful than the Bolshoi in Russia. The symphony of birds cannot be topped by anything man made.

After two weeks away in Russia, I’m where I belong. Though on my last day there, I felt like I belonged in Russia.

“You must come to my village,” said my friend Andrey Lyssenko, a Russian artist whom I met over a decade ago on Facebook. Knowing it was an hour and a half outside Moscow, and knowing that my calendar was full of interviews for two upcoming documentaries, I politely suggested I’d have to wait to see if everything got done ahead of schedule. But honestly, I was mentally ready to head back to Austin after nearly two weeks in his beautiful country.

A Gentle Nudge

A nagging feeling, his strong encouragement, and his telling me that his small village was home to hundreds of artists in the 19th century created curiosity. But why had no one told me about this in my research when I studied the great artists and their painting areas? Frankly, I was skeptical. But as a couple of days passed after he graciously showed me his Moscow studio, in one of Moscow’s 11 Artist Union studio buildings, which house hundreds of artists, I decided to try to go.

Should I Cancel?

As my producer Bryant and I were out in Moscow on our last full day on the ground, shooting footage of the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Church, and the Bolshoi Ballet, and as I recorded “stand ups” on camera, the day was dragging on. Though my estimated departure had been 11 o’clock, we finished at about three. Cancelling crossed my mind, but when Andrey told me that they had been waiting for us with lunch, I felt bad and said we’d had no idea they were waiting lunch.

A Moment of Arrogance

Our plan was to paint together, and with two hours of daylight left, our car arrived in the village, where we met at a local museum. On the way, by text, Andrey had mentioned that the small town’s museum director would want to meet with us. Selfishly, I’m thinking that I had just interviewed the heads of Russia’s two great museums, the heads of the top graduate art schools in Russia, the head of the Artist Union — and now I have to take time away from painting for some small-time museum director? My plan was to rush through it and hope to get some painting time in before we returned to Moscow. I wanted to spend part of my last day behind my easel.

Snow and More Snow

As we drove into the village, the snow along the roads got deeper. Exiting the car, I stepped into a mixture of snow and mud in front of the little museum. I was greeted by the artist with his Russian easel on his shoulder, in a “Blick” bag from the U.S. He makes a point of telling me he bought the bag when he visited the U.S. for the first time.

Russian Soldiers at the Gate

As we enter the gates of the museum property, I’m seeing nothing special — just a couple of log cabins that could be anywhere in the U.S. The only difference is that this gate has three big, burly, mean-looking Russian guards, which seems out of place for a small-town museum. Upon entering, the museum director greets us, asks if it’s OK if their photographer documents our visit, and suggests we see the museum first, then go out painting. Knowing the light is not going to last long, I suggest we paint, then see the museum. And that becomes the plan.

What Is This Place?

As we wander the property, we get deeper and deeper into what appears to be 50 or 100 acres of trails lined by trees. There is a big house, then another, housing their collection of local artifacts (I assume). Deeper into the woods, we see charming Russian folk village buildings. I’m thinking they brought them in or built reproductions and that this is a living museum, but I’m told they are original, and that they were built by a wealthy man who wanted to create a retreat for artists.

The Home of Masters

“Repin lived in that home down the hill,” the director says. “Levitan rented that one for several years.” And, “See those woods? That is the famous painting done by Shiskin.” Suddenly my blood pressure increases and I start to realize Andrey had urged me to visit because the property had such historical significance. I had not understood that as he tried to communicate it to me before. The man who owned the property loved art and artists and wanted to give them a place where they could paint. He even built a studio for one great Russian artist that was so beautiful I want to copy it and build it on my own Adirondack property, and turn my own property into a place our best living artists can paint.

My Ultimate Studio

The studio is so charming that I decide that will be the painting I will do. Andrey suggests, “My grandfather painted this many times when I was a boy. The best view is from down the hill.” He’s right, so I set up my easel and I’m ready to paint. But I realize I’ve forgotten my brushes. Andrey gives me two of the three he has with him, and with freezing cold hands and feet, standing in the snow and ice, we begin to paint.

Russian paintings are often filled with thick paint, and I realized that’s what I would do today, if for no other reason than to honor the past, but also to get out of the freezing weather as fast as possible. We paint for about an hour, then go into the studio to warm up.

An Unexpected Pleasure

As we enter the museum, which is the old mansion on the property, we place little booties over our shoes so we don’t wear down the original floors. Soon, going from room to room, I see the significance of this house. Paintings and drawings on the walls reflect not only the collection, but the brilliant legends who created them. The walls are filled with original paintings by the greats. “This still life of apples was painted in this room by Repin and his student Surikov.” (The two greatest artists in Russia and considered among the greatest in the world.) As we walk into the giant dining room, I see a big long table that seats 12, and at the end of the room is a print of a famous Surikov painting of a woman sitting at a table. I had just seen that, one of the great iconic paintings in the museum in St. Petersburg or Moscow. Why was there a print here? “This painting was painted in this room at this table. See the windows, and the ceramics on the wall and the little statue in the painting? Look over there. They’ve been there since before the painting was made.”

I Was Amazed

I had chills. I realized this was like Russian art Mecca. I was standing inside history. Graciously they kill the lights in the room so I can photograph the paintings, covered in glass for protection, so I can lose the reflections. A portrait by Repin, two studies by Surikov used for larger museum paintings, and a giant still life of flowers, which they say Repin painted in one hour.

Another Wonderful Moment

It was hard to tear me away, but we left this historic place in Andrey’s car. “I will drive you home, but first you must see my house.” After his other recommendations, I trust his suggestion. Upon arriving we see a big house, some smaller old cabins, and probably about five acres of land. “This is where many of the artists also lived. This land was so important that Stalin wanted to keep it in the hands of artists forever, so it was willed to my grandfather [also a famous artist]. I’m the third generation who has lived here, but there were many other artists who lived here before the land came to my family.” I could have spent a day painting there. You can see a video I did from there, here.

Lesson Learned

Had I cancelled, I’d have missed a brilliant lifetime experience. My brief moment of not wanting to be hassled with the trip or not wanting to meet a “small museum” director was wrong, and my experience was rich. I’m thankful I followed that little voice in my head.

Out Comes the Vodka

As we enter the old brick three-story house, we are greeted by his family, then asked to sit and dine with them for a traditional Russian meal. Vodka comes out, wine comes out, juice from local berries, and then plates and plates of foods to try. We’re there with Andrey’s mother, who is the daughter of an artist, his father, who is a well known Russian artist, and his wife and children. Following dinner his son brought out a local guitar-like instrument called a balalaika and serenaded us with a Russian folk tune.

Living History

Hanging on the log cabin’s walls are paintings by the grandfather. “That’s me as a teenager with my mother, painted by my father,” says Andrey’s mother. “And that one over there is Andrey when he was a baby, painted by my father.” Every painting has a story that ties to the family. “That was painted when we were on vacation to the Black Sea when I was a little girl,” says the almost 80-year-old woman. “He was happiest when painting, so he took his paints everywhere. Now we have lifetime memories of our vacations and our life.”

Studio Visit

A trip up the long skinny wooden stairs puts us in the third-floor studio of his father, littered with hundreds of paintings. More stories are told. Then a trip to Andrey’s studio, where he proudly shows a painting his son had copied that he had seen on Instagram, by artist Michael Klein. “He did this without training. Imagine what he could do with training, but he instead wants to be in mathematics,” Andrey says. “But my daughter will carry on the tradition, and he will come back to it when he is older.”

Advice About Life

Sadly, our evening had to come to an end. It was one of the great experiences of my life, because these were the happiest people on earth. A family filled with exuberance for life, joy, and a love of art. His mother said to me, “The best way to live a rich life is to live a life of art, which is what my father encouraged me to do, which is why I married an artist and is why my son and grandchildren will be artists. It’s the best life one can live.” Andrey chimed in, “I know a rich man who owns a big company who is not rich at all because he lives for money. His life is empty. We are the richest people in the world because of art and family.” He was right.

Upon leaving we were given gifts of books, and I was presented with a painting by his father. It’s a gift I’ll cherish and look at in my office daily to remind me of this wonderful night.

Maybe it was the vodka, but that moment was one of the happiest I have ever experienced in my life. These people lived with exuberance because they were doing what they loved, living in a place they loved, and richly enjoying one another.


To live a rich life, we need to live with exuberance. We need to drop what we don’t love and only do what we love, and we need to embrace our families. I wondered what someone would say if they visited my household. Would I be as gracious a host? Would people feel as welcome? Would I give them the experience of a lifetime? You can bet I’ll work harder at making sure that happens.

You may be reading this and thinking you’re not an artist, but you can find your art in anything you do. The key is to be doing what you love. If you’re not, maybe you’re cheating yourself out of the richness life can provide. And if life and business are getting in the way of keeping your family close, that too deserves your consideration.

The richest people I know are people who are doing what they love. They are truly passionate. They don’t go to jobs, they do what their soul craves.

What about you?

Eric Rhoads

PS: I feel so honored and privileged to have taken this trip, been in the homes of many great artists, been in the homes of people who want to host our artists on my September 2021 Russian art trip. I love Russia; it’s not the place our movies and media make us think it is. Oh, you can find that there, too, but its people are happy and rich.

PS 2: As the fears and panic over the coronavirus heat up, I want to remind you of all the fears in the past. The world did not come to an end, and hopefully this won’t become the pandemic some are predicting. I ask you to consider being rational. Do your homework. Keep your immune system strong, and don’t panic. Panic causes panic, which causes more panic. I refuse to become a victim of panic. I’ll be cautious and prudent, but I won’t panic. I’m not stopping my life, my travel, my attendance to things. I refuse to sit inside cowering in fear. 

If you have decided to stay inside, remember that my goal is to teach a million people to paint. This would be a good time to watch my free tutorial or one of the hundreds of videos we’ve created. We are moving forward with the Plein Air Convention in Denver this May, but we’re keeping an eye on the situation and are keeping our registered attendees informedWe are also going forward with FACE, the Figurative Art Convention & Expo, in Baltimore this October, and the Publisher’s Invitationals in the Adirondacks and New Hampshire.

PS 3: I am so grateful to be in a position to take trips like this, and I want to thank you for making it possible. I hope to devote the rest of my life to creating trips for you, events for you, and things to make your life richer and more rewarding.

PS 4: I want to publicly acknowledge my wife and my kids. They make sacrifices as well, because when I’m out in places like Russia planning trips or creating documentaries to hopefully change the art world, I’m not there with them. Thankfully, they miss me, and I certainly miss them. I feel like I’ve been deeply blessed with an understanding family who knows that I have to live with exuberance and that I am driven to help others, even if it means an occasional sacrifice. By the way, if you read my story about Brady and his heart attack, I’m going to try to talk him into coming with me to the Plein Air Convention so I can put him to work helping out. That’s all dependent on graduating high school on time, and that’s on track to happen.

How to Get Really, Really Rich2020-03-21T18:20:26-04:00
1 03, 2020

Doing The Impossible


I must be dreaming. I awoke thinking I was in the beautiful countryside, surrounded by old wooden dachas (country cabins), fields of ancient windmills, and onion-domed churches. The wind is blowing briskly, and I’m awakened to the sound of someone throwing logs into the wood-burning stove. I get out from under the thick down comforter and walk out into the kitchen, which is over 120 years old and as primitive as when it was built, to have my first cup… Russian coffee as strong as its people. But I’m not dreaming, I’m in the dacha of a friend, master artist Nikolai Dubovik, in a small Russian village. A village so small we had to drive 40 minutes to a town where a mobile connection was available so I could send this to you. It’s Sunday morning here, and nine hours ahead of my home in Austin.

Pinch Me

I’ve had an amazing first week in Saint Petersburg, living a dream life. Not only was I in what is arguably the most beautiful city in the world, I was in the presence of people who are icons in the Russian art world, and who have influence over the entire art world. DIrectors of top museums, and the director of the Repin Academy, the world’s largest and most important art school, whose massive building houses three museums larger than most museums in the U.S. And I’ve spent most of the week with an amazing video crew, shooting documentary footage, interviews, interiors of museums, and two art instruction videos with one of the world’s top artists, who happens to be a Russian master. One of the museum directors told me this artist, Nikolai Blohkin, may be the only living artist whose work could hang next to Ilya Repin’s and hold its own. That very director then slipped me into a sold-out show, a 175-year celebration of the life of Repin, the largest show ever mounted of his work. Oh, and I managed to fit in three paintings in Saint Petersburg, though it was unbelievably cold.

Russian Countryside

From Saint Petersburg, I flew here Saturday, picked up by Nikolai Dubovik and his son Kolya. Nikolai is a master artist and an instructor at Russia’s other great art academy. We were reuniting after a couple of years, and after hugs and family updates, he drove me around the area to show me how it’s changed since we last saw one another. It’s like we started up exactly where we’d left off.

Old Villages

My other purpose, other than seeing a dear old friend, is to find locations for when I bring painters to Russia for a couple of weeks of amazing painting. I’m instantly hooked. The area’s old villages are very charming, and I’m hopeful I’ll get to paint today before driving back to Moscow, where I’ll have four more days of interviews with the art world.

A Lifetime Moment

If it sounds like I’m bragging, please know I don’t intend to. While I was doing an interview, the director of the Repin Academy started talking about how important my magazine had become and said the mere fact that we’ve survived when others have not is, in his words, remarkable. He went on to tell me how influential my work is in the art world. I had to hold back tears. I could not believe what I was hearing. That one moment made decades of work and preparation worth doing.

How Did This Happen?

As I sat in this interview, I thought, “Why do I deserve this? How did I even get here?” I thought, “I can’t believe this is happening to me, where major museums are giving me access to their directors, with a film crew, disrupting their busy lives.” But I realized there’s an important principal I wanted to share: Have vision, and pursue that vision no matter what, no matter the resistance, no matter what others say, no matter the roadblocks. If your dream is big enough, if it carries the weight of important purpose (in my case it’s about changing people’s lives by exposing them to art, art training, and art experiences), then it will happen. But you can never give up or give in.

Looking Back

If someone had told me it was going to take 15 years to get to this place, I probably would never have begun. But looking back, it seems like a small price to pay to be able to make a difference. And yet the mission is just building momentum, just getting started. You have to keep moving the goalposts further and further out. When you achieve one goal, you need to immediately move to the next. It’s best to set big goals, then set up small, obtainable, bite-size goals to make your big goal seem reachable.

Bask, But Only for a Moment

I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant or self-important — that’s not me, and not my intent. But there is value in basking, briefly, in a moment of glory to look at your accomplishments. The key is to not believe your own press clippings and remain grateful and humble. And in my case, to pass the glory on to my Maker. None of this would happen for me without that.

A Random Encounter

Speaking of a moment when it was hard to be humble, imagine this. I’m walking through the back door of an art school in Russia and a young lady, probably 20, is walking by me. She stops, turns around, and says, “Are you Eric Rhoads?” I’m stunned, but she tells me she follows me on Instagram and recognized my face. The world really is small, and our reach and opportunity today are bigger than ever for anyone who chooses to use them. I’m so grateful for tools like this to expand our efforts.

Your Big Dream

What about you? What vision and dream are you telling yourself is not possible? If you had ever told me I’d be in Russia and have meetings with people like this, I would not have believed it was possible. Yet because I had big vision with purpose attached, unexpected things like this will happen.

A Wild Ride

Grab hold of your dreams and hold them tightly, because when you do, you will take a wild ride that you will one day look back on and say, “I can’t believe I made it this far.” Keep that vision in your mind for those moments when you face challenges and you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not sure I can do it.” But you can do it. You can’t allow big dreams to overwhelm you. Just step out, one small step at a time, and you can do it. And life is richer when you have tried. Yes, you will have failures. I can’t count how many I’ve had, yet I pick myself up, dust off, and go forward. Sometimes those failures wound us deeply, hold us back for a while. That’s OK. But fighters keep getting up. You need to be a fighter to see dreams realized because you are fighting for a purpose bigger than yourself. You’re fighting for your dream, your vision, your big purpose, and for your family.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my experiences with you.

Eric Rhoads

PS: The director of the Repin Academy, the largest art school in the world, which has students from 60 countries, has agreed to come to the Figurative Art Convention & Expo to speak. When I heard his vision and his words about the future of contemporary realism, I realized they needed to be shared in person. If we can work out the details, he will be there. The invitation went out and was accepted on Thursday. This convention is an important place to be for your big vision and dreams if you’re a realist artist or want to be.

God willing, I’ll be back home next week from my porch in Austin.

Doing The Impossible2020-03-21T18:21:03-04:00