30 07, 2022

Creating Your Masterpiece


Creating Your Masterpiece

The perfect summer day … warm but not hot, breezy, no bugs, a glass of iced tea, and the sound of laughter from kids in a passing boat as they water-ski into view. That’s what it was like around here most of last week. One of my sons had four of his best friends here for the week, and their joy radiated around the entire lake. One said, “This is the perfect summer camp.” It’s still early, but another perfect lake day is expected today.

I grew up on Lake Wawasee in Indiana. My grandparents had an Airstream in a trailer park across from the lake, and we used to go up for fishing and swimming. My dad did the same thing with his grandparents; we were the third generation on the lake.

Driving Without a License

When we were teens my dad and mom managed to buy their own place, across the lake. They provided the perfect summers for us, filled with barbecues, water-skiing, sailing, hanging out at the sandbar with hundreds of other kids. I remember being able to drive a boat before I got my driver’s license and the freedom of the wind in my hair as I drove it full speed across the lake. It was an idyllic way to grow up. ?

Really Hard Work

I never stopped to think about how much work and struggle my dad had to go through to make enough money to provide us with such a place. Yet when it came my turn, I could not afford it for decades. So, like me, my kids grew up with summers at grandpa’s lake house. That is, until I was able to scrape together enough to get our own so that I could carry on this tradition for my kids.

Masterpiece Created

My grandparents had created a masterpiece. They struggled till they could buy a trailer, put it on a lake, and attract family to hang out for the summer. My dad did the same thing. I’m doing the same for my family. In each case, we knew what we wanted, we focused on it, we envisioned it, and we made it happen. It was not easy, or instant, and involved a lot of sacrifices. But a masterpiece was born.

Spending My Life with Artists

I have the pleasure of being around some of the world’s top artists, who will be the first to tell you that masterpieces are rare. Not every painting is a masterpiece — but some are. Most artists will tell you that their masterpieces are painted in their heads, sometimes over years, before a brush ever meets canvas. Rarely are they accidental. 

I’d dreamed about my own lake place since I was a teen. It took me decades, but my masterpiece eventually got painted. 

A Really BIg Masterpiece?

For the past two years I’ve been working on a large commissioned painting. I’ve scraped it down several times, repainted it, painted over it, and struggled with it. Others have entered my studio and told me, “It’s ready,” or, “It’s good enough,” but to me, it’s not ready to put my name on till it’s the masterpiece I envision. 

You see, the key to every masterpiece is what you envision before you ever create it.

High-Level Performance

I’ve often wondered why some people seem to have success with everything they do, why they perform at a high level most of the time. The answer is that they envision high performance, envision being the best of the best, envision success.

Time for a Spanking

In the 4th grade, Mrs. Bernet sent me to the principal’s office many times for daydreaming. It turns out this should have been encouraged and rewarded, because daydreaming + action can equal excellence.

Signing Your Work

In the movie Seven Days in Utopia, there was a story about a golfer who shouted “Picasso!” after every shot. He explained, “Every shot is a blank canvas and you have a chance to paint a masterpiece. You can paint success or failure. I choose to paint a masterpiece with every shot. After every shot I shout ‘Picasso!’ like signing my name to a painting.”

To this day, before most meetings I envision the masterpiece I want. Things usually go the way I envision them, probably because I’ve rehearsed it in my mind. This is daydreaming.

Bouncing Around

Some go through life like a pinball, ending up in the gutter after bouncing off a few obstacles. Others choose excellence, constantly defining the masterpieces they want to paint in life, envisioning the best possible outcome and working toward that every time. This is why goals and dreams matter.


I’m big on manifesting things. What we think about is often what comes true, which is why it’s important to manage what you focus on. Those who focus on failure tend to get failure. Those who focus on the best possible outcomes tend to get great outcomes. 

But you may be saying, “I had a bad upbringing, I have disadvantages, I didn’t get a college education, I did not grow up with money, I had bad parents, I was abused…” 

And though I am sensitive to what you went through, unless you let go of those excuses and focus on good outcomes, your outcomes will be exactly what you expect.

Can you shift your mindset to masterpiece outcomes?

I believe you can. 

What you expect is usually what you get.  

Expect masterpieces.

Eric Rhoads

PS: As a CEO, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get others to expect masterpieces. Recently we launched something that was less than successful. We needed it to be successful, but when it underperformed, many on the team simply accepted the substandard result. In order to make a point, I called for a redo, suggested some changes, and set our sights on an all-time record. I’m not sure very many on the team believed it could change. In the end, it succeeded and set that all-time record. The point was made. Don’t let up until your masterpiece is accomplished in its best possible form.

Keeping score is important because if you don’t, you don’t know when you’ve hit a goal. You don’t know if you made your masterpiece. That’s why goals need to go with your masterpieces. Try to envision every detail, envision records being broken, envision perfect execution and small details, then communicate that. You’ll be surprised at how your life will change

You may have someone who needs to hear this…. Pass it on.

PS 2: At the moment the media is slamming us with negatives about the economy. I refuse to participate in a bad economy, and I recommend the same for you. Be smart, but don’t assume you can’t succeed because of the economic excuse. While some are whining about how bad business is, others in the same businesses are having record success. The only difference is attitude.

PS 3: People told me that the August after the pandemic was a horrible time to hold an online event like Pastel Live. I decided to not accept the excuse, and as a result attendance is at an all-time high and continues to grow. Be careful of the stories you tell yourself. Set your sights on a masterpiece.

Speaking of masterpieces…. Here are some things we’re working on this week at Streamline.

  1. Pastel Live is coming up online and promises to provide excellent teaching in pastel painting. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with pastel and am very excited. 
  2. Realism Live online is coming up in November, and we’re about to announce some more big names. Stay tuned.
  3. Save the dates of January 26-28 for Watercolor Live.
  4. We’re expecting record crowds for the Plein Air Convention in May. Now would be a good time to guarantee your seat.
  5. Fall Color Week, my fall retreat (this year in Acadia National Park in Maine), is already sold out and has a waiting list. Get on the waitlist; we’re trying to secure more rooms elsewhere because so many want to come.
  6. Painting New Zealand is happening in September for about 10 days. It’s going to be spectacular. We had a cancellation, so you still can get in if you hurry.
Creating Your Masterpiece2022-07-30T08:17:41-04:00
24 07, 2022

Inspiring Greatness


The roof on the old octagon-shaped screen porch overlooking the lake is being slammed with massive raindrops, making things very loud. The normally cheery, bright skies have been hijacked by dark billowing clouds, an occasional flash of light and a rumble in the distance, and a stirring wind. I tell myself it’s why I love the Adirondack Mountains, and the rich green forests that need to be watered regularly. Plus, the pressure to spend a sunny day on the water has been replaced by the prospect of snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and a good book. And though I try to read every day before bed, a large chunk of time to catch up is welcome. It’s in books that I stimulate new ideas, and I learn the secrets and shortcuts of people who have already done great things.

A Lot of Work!

One of my dirty little secrets is that I hate to prepare for speeches. Few realize what it takes to do it well, which is why, when I spent years doing a series of speeches, I had one or two I repeated at different venues. A great talk or speech takes time. For instance, when I prepare for my three mornings of Art Marketing Boot Camp at the annual Plein Air Convention, it takes me about five full days of prep for every hour. That’s 15 days and 120 hours for three hours of content. Then I rehearse each hour about three times, so there is another nine hours of preparation. But of course the goal is to make it look effortless and have it flow off the tongue as if it’s off the top of my head.

Professor Eric

Years ago I was invited to speak to an entrepreneur class at Santa Clara University by my friend Professor Mary Furlong. The young, impressionable minds, mostly with visions of business ownership, would be looking for easy fixes, for answers that would pave their way sooner and more smoothly. 

I took this assignment very seriously. What should I prepare? What should I tell them? Do they need a dose of reality? Should I challenge them, inspire them, or impart jewels of wisdom? 

Give ’Em What They Want

The challenge I faced is that I was running a tech company in Silicon Valley, and my time was precious. I wanted to do a favor for my friend, but I did not have the time for prep. So I offered to do it as a Q&A session. Ask me anything. This allowed me to do it based on my experience, with no prep other than anticipating questions on my long drive to the school. Plus, I’m not sure a room of 20-year-olds wants to hear someone pondering life. Answering questions gives them what they want.

Leave Now!

I usually start out with a few comments, and I want to get their attention fast. So I started with this. “Fifty percent of you in this class are here because your parents want you to be, because your mom or dad owns a business and they want you to become an entrepreneur like them. If that’s you, leave the room now. Don’t waste a minute more of your life doing what your parents want. Only do what you want. Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest, most complicated things anyone can pick, but it’s also the most rewarding. But if it’s not ‘in you,’ you can’t force it. So leave now.” No one left, of course, but afterward a few came up to me and told me they were there because of their parents’ wishes and that no adult had ever said to them them what I’d said. They thanked me because I gave them permission to pursue their dreams. I’m sure there were some unhappy parents.

Money = Failure

I then told the class that the reason to become an entrepreneur is that you have no choice but to chase your dreams. “It’s never about money,” I told them. “If money is your primary driver, you’ll either fail or you’ll be miserable.”

Embrace Failure

“Now, I’m a bit of an outcast,” I said. “I was bullied and never popular in school, I got horrible grades, and I barely graduated. And here I am teaching you, and I never went to college. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat — my way isn’t the right way, it’s just one way.” I went on to answer their questions, and I told them my version of the truth. I did not sugarcoat anything; I told them they would have to work harder than any person they know working for someone else, and I told them that I went seven years without a paycheck, scratching to get by, and I barely made it. And I told them that 50 percent of entrepreneurs fail in the first year and only 2 percent survive more than 10. “But if you don’t go for it, don’t go for your dreams, you’ll live your life in regret. And when you fail, you have to dust off and try again.” I told them I failed several times, and they probably would too. But the rewards on the other side can be worth it because you get to do things your way. I said to them, “I’m not employable. I can’t work under someone else’s rules.”

At the end of the class, I had 20 people gathered around me wanting to talk, to tell me their stories, and many suggested I was the only guest speaker who had told it like it is. And most of them loved it. 

So how do you inspire greatness in others?

Pure Heart

My goal is to be real, to have a pure heart, to make everyone around me better. I want to help others live their dream, even if it’s a dream I don’t agree with. My job isn’t to judge them or sway them, though I can ask some pointed questions to help them think things through.

I Can’t Stand the Pressure!

Social media places pressure on us to perform. We see our friends in exotic places, and we want to be like them. The media tells us what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to be, and yet we chase dreams and feel empty — or we get burned out, or we lose important parts of our life and time with family, or we define our self-worth based on how much money or how many toys we have.

Instead of striving for success, greatness is inspired by striving for significance. What are you going to do that will give YOU a meaningful life? What are you going to do to change the world?

Fun Tickets

My sister-in-law refers to money as “fun tickets,” which I think puts it all in perspective. It’s there to purchase experiences, to enjoy life. Accumulation without using money for fun — well, it’s not fun.

Do It Now

Twenty years ago someone asked me what I wanted to do when I retired. I told them “nothing different,” because I don’t intend to retire, I’m doing all the things I want to do now. After all, what if I don’t live to retirement age? That’s why I take two international trips with friends annually, and why I do painting retreats in beautiful places. Why wait?

Nothing to Do with Money

Greatness isn’t about getting rich. I’m friends with some very rich people. Some are joyful and happy, while others are miserable. Money hasn’t changed much for them. Greatness, in my opinion, is being selfless, finding ways to inspire and help others. Encouraging them, leading them, giving them tools to help them get to where they want to be. It’s why I declared I wanted to teach a million people to paint, and after doing that, I added another million to the goal. People light up and gain joy and confidence when they learn to paint, yet they are wrongly telling themselves it’s not possible, they don’t have talent. My goal is to dispel that idea and help them see that anyone can do it by learning a system, and then providing that system.

Where to Start

Greatness starts by inspiring your kids, your family members and friends. Helping them see possibilities. (Believe me, it’s not easy, because people don’t see things in themselves.) My dad said to me when I was a small child, “I see you doing big things in your future.” Those words rang in my head my entire life. In the year before he died, he said, “You’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could, and I know you’re going to do even more amazing things.” 

How can you go wrong when people believe in you?

Stacks of Money

A bank full of dollars, a wall full of awards — they’re nice, but a world filled with changed lives is better. 

Our media portrays successful people as greedy, self-centered, me-focused rule-breakers whose purpose is to take. I used to be like that. Then, with the help of Dave Ramsey, the radio talk host, I changed from being me-focused to being you-focused. Everything changed. And I’ve never been happier. 

It’s Not About You

If you help others instead of yourself, you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been. They always say that if you’re depressed or sad, go help out at a homeless shelter or charity. Suddenly you feel good about yourself for helping others.

Success has a price. Selflessness pays volumes in happiness.

Eric Rhoads

I lack perfection. I make lots of mistakes. I mess up a lot. I’m so passionate to help others that I sometimes push too often or too hard. Yet if I don’t, people don’t pay attention and don’t get the benefit of the things we try to offer that can truly be life-changing.

After last year’s Pastel Live online art conference, I had people thank me for pushing them into it. Numerous people told me they resisted it because they were not pastel painters, and they discovered the exact right thing for them. Others told me it informed their painting in new ways, making them better at their medium of choice. I say that if they watch the first day, but don’t feel they got their entire investment’s worth of growth and transformation that day, I’ll refund all their money. And I say that because I know that people need to be nudged to try new things and are usually grateful on the other side. 

When I did my first New Zealand trip, people told me they ignored most of my messages, but then one spoke to them and they decided to bite the bullet and go. It turned out, in one case, it was the last big thing she would be able to do, but she did not know that at the time.

A few years back, a very sweet lady came to Fall Color Week, and she told me that she had heard about it for many years but always had an excuse not to come. Then one e-mail got her attention. She came, made some of her best friends ever, and came back again. Little did she know, when we all hugged goodbye, she would be gone three months later. I’m so grateful I nudged a little more.

We have a few people who are very generous. They get it. They send people to our events, paying their way, knowing those folks can’t afford it and knowing they can. That is being selfless and encouraging. 

I could tell several more stories, but I think you got the point. 

Here are some things happening at my company, Streamline, this week….

Pastel Live is coming up August 18-20. The price is going up in two weeks. There is still time to attend. www.pastellive.com

Fall Color Week is sold out, but we have a waitlist and are trying to get more rooms elsewhere. www.fallcolorweek.com

We had a cancellation this week due to a family illness, so we have a couple of seats left for our September Paint New Zealand trip. www.paintingnewzealand.com

Our 50% off Christmas in July promotion on art instruction videos is continuing through midnight on Sunday, July 24. You can learn more here.

We just released a killer new video from Douglas Fryer. I was excited about this because he does not follow normal conventional practices when he paints. We documented his entire rare process. It’s called Painting with Intuition and available here.

Inspiring Greatness2022-07-22T10:58:12-04:00
17 07, 2022

Get Prepared


Paradise isn’t hard to take. I’m squinting my eyes as the bright morning light reflects intensely on the water. Two loons are silhouetted near the dock in front of me. I’m comfortably sitting in an old olive green original Adirondack Westport chair — the engraving on the back says 1904. It’s cool, slightly breezy, and the coffee warms me before the day grows a little warmer. If it gets too hot (unlikely), I may jump in for a swim, and later today I’ll go paint in my little wooden electric boat.

I have lots of summer memories, but one moment was especially unnerving. 

Panic Time

When I was a kid, my dad woke us from a sound sleep early one Saturday morning. “Get up. Pack a bag for a week. Be ready in two minutes. This is an emergency.” Of course, I rolled over until he woke me again.

“What’s going on?” I grumbled in my most sleepy, not-awake voice. “There’s no time for that, but this is life or death. I’ll tell you in the car.”

Nuke Threats

In the 1960s we were all on high nuclear alert. In school we had drills where we had to get under our desks in the event of a nuke. (My best guess is that it might have prevented flying glass from blinding us before the nuke killed us all two seconds later.) 

We had air raid sirens that went off every day at noon, but if they went off any other time, we had to be ready for attack.

And there was the Emergency Broadcast System alert. If it went off any time other than test time, we had to be ready.

This Never Happens!

That morning the EBS had gone off, and our local announcer, Bob Sievers on WOWO, was telling us, “This is an actual emergency, but we know nothing more than that.” It was frightening. Had the Russians invaded? Would a nuke be hitting our little town?

So, we were off in our car, driving somewhere, I’m not sure where. But soon they announced it was a false alarm and we headed home. We had all been kind of coached about what might happen someday, and if it did, on what we were going to do. 

The Ultimate Boy Scout

Being a pilot, my dad was rehearsed for every possible disaster. In learning to fly, the first thing they do is take you up, cut the engine, and tell you to find a place to land. Then they tell you all the reasons the spot you picked won’t work and tell you to find another place. Right before you land in a cornfield, they start the engine and say, “That was a drill. For the next 40 hours we’re going to do drills, so when it actually happens, you’re ready for anything.”

My dad had two near-death experiences when flying, where his instincts told him to do one thing but his training told him to do another. He followed the training and escaped death from a spiral dive with about 40 seconds to spare after he emerged from a cloud only to realize the plane was careening toward the ground. Letting go of the controls was the only option. The plane corrected itself, and he was saved. It had all been in the training. When you’re panicked, you don’t have time to think clearly, and you might choose the logical (but wrong) path.

At age 11 I joined the Boy Scouts, whose motto was “Be prepared.” They really did help us be ready for anything.

It Was Ingrained in Us…

Growing up as Rhoads kids, we had to think about every possible scenario and be ready to take immediate action. Being rehearsed was the key.

When Captain “Sully” Sullenberger saved 155 lives on his aircraft after a bird strike killed his engines on takeoff, instinct kicked in. He credits years of flying, training, and practice for that one in a million chance that something could go wrong. 

Though some accuse me of being a negative thinker when I think through worst case scenarios, my upbringing has taught me to play the negative “What if?” game… Things like…

What if we’re in a crowd and someone starts shooting. What will you do? What will everyone else do? Should you follow everyone else? 

What if the building I’m in catches on fire? What will you do? What will everyone else do? Should you follow everyone else?  (Note: Experts say that following everyone else usually does not end well.)

What if someone pulls a gun on you? You’ve only got a split second to use your special rehearsed moves. No time to invent something. 

What will I do if the waters come up and fill the house and we find ourselves trapped?

What if there are fires that get out of control and we can’t escape the neighborhood?

What if an expected hurricane is worse than predicted, the power, phones, and Internet are down, and I have to save my family?

The key to playing “What if?” is to build confidence and to create an instinctive response. In an emergency, it’s too late to think through what you might do when a split second could save your life. Having confidence at crucial moments is critical. 


In one of the office buildings we were in, I can remember three different times the fire alarm went off, but everyone was standing around, asking questions, not moving. Meanwhile, I ran out of the building, down the stairwell, and outside as fast as I could. I was downstairs in 30 seconds. The others in the building did nothing because they didn’t believe the fire was real, because the alarm had gone off so many times before. Yet the last time it happened, it was a real fire and people could have been trapped. Thankfully, everyone got out and the fire was out quickly. But in emergencies, things change in an instant. Did I feel foolish for overreacting and not waiting to see? Not for a moment. In fact, I increased my odds of survival by having a plan.

Not Just Emergencies

Being prepared isn’t just about emergencies, nuclear attacks, food shortages, etc. It’s also about being ready for the worst in life, work, or business. A few weeks ago I got the worst business call I could imagine getting. Ten years ago I’d have been freaking out after what I heard, but because I knew that call would someday come, because I had thought it through and rehearsed it, I knew how I would react, exactly what I would do, and how I’d keep things moving forward no matter what. My preparation served me, and the issue became a non-issue. Best of all, I was calm the entire time.


In the book Greatness by David L. Cook, Ph.D., he writes, “Performing to the top of our capabilities while adapting to imperfections [emergencies] in the environment, in ourselves, and in the people with whom we interact is a champion’s blueprint for success and a cornerstone to mental toughness.”

Some worry about what might happen. Others don’t worry, because they have a plan and have rehearsed that plan. Some live in hope that bad things won’t happen, while others hope they don’t happen but are prepared. Hope rarely solves problems.

Social networks are filled with a constant flow of information about every possible coming disaster, every asteroid headed our way, predictions of war, of revolution, of financial crashes, of blackouts, of Internet outages, even end-times predictions. Some take it seriously, some worry about it, and some are champions and know exactly what they would do, where they would go, what they would take, or how they would react in every scenario.

Which are you?

What do you think about that worries you?

Would you be more confident and less worried if you had thought out a plan and rehearsed it in your mind?

Eric Rhoads

PS: OK, now someone will e-mail me and say, “What are you trying to get us ready for? Do you know something we don’t know?” No.

When we hold our annual Plein Air Convention, my staff can tell you that we go through every possible scenario. “What would happen if…?”  Sometimes it’s not just a disaster, but preparation for success. What would happen if an extra hundred people show up? What do we do? Can we accommodate them? We try to be ready for everything.

Adult Crayons

For decades I’ve been a diehard oil painter. That’s about all I did for almost 25 years, until I started launching our online conferences about specific art techniques. Last August I held our first Pastel Live online event for hundreds of people worldwide. As host, I watched as much of the instruction from top masters as I could. When I decided to pick up pastels this summer, I knew how to do things I didn’t know I knew. It was almost like osmosis.

But I Don’t Have Any Talent

Lots of people tell me, “I don’t have any talent. I can’t draw a stick figure.” Then I tell them that I can teach anyone to paint. And though it’s true, it’s even more true with pastel. You won’t know till you try. And if you fail and want your money back, I’ll give it to you.

Instant Success

Most of us used crayons when we were little. Most of us colored within the lines, and some of us made drawings of things we were into. What I love about pastels is that you can draw or color, just like with crayons. The big difference is that your box has even more colors, and pastels are a respected professional art medium that will last hundreds of years. Pastel is not nearly as hard to learn as other mediums.

Though there are all kinds of techniques and approaches to make your pastel paintings better, I’ve watched people pick them up and do decent work right away. Imagine what they could do with some coaching from top pastel artists!

Feel Better About Yourself With 3 Life-Changing Days

I’m not exaggerating when I say life-changing. When you learn a skill like painting, you gain new confidence, you enjoy the experience, and you’ll feel better about yourself. I’d like to encourage you to come to my 3-day pastel conference. You don’t need to get on an airplane, you can watch from home or work on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV. And you will gain tremendous confidence and walk away feeling that you too can become an artist. 

You Become an Artist or Your Money Back

My guarantee is that you’ll get so much value out of this event that if you don’t get your investment in value on day one, let me know by the end of the day and I’ll refund 100 percent of your money. If after watching you don’t feel you learned anything or don’t feel you can be an artist, I’ll refund your investment. 

We have hundreds of people from around the world attending to see three or four days of the top pastel artists in the world teaching. You can register at www.pastellive.com.

I’ve had a lot of questions about our virtual Pastel Live conference, so I thought I’d answer them here:

Q: How does Pastel Live this year differ from last year’s event?
A: No two conferences are alike. We rarely repeat any of the faculty members, and if we do on occasion, they don’t repeat what they taught before. This year only two are repeated. First, Albert Handell, because he is THE top pastel master in the world. We have him back every year, but each year he teaches something different. We’re repeating Vera Kavura, a flower painter from Ukraine, because we wanted to support her. Every instructor is new this year, doing new and different approaches and techniques. Not all pastel approaches are alike.

Q: I haven’t used all the information I learned last year, so I think I’ll wait.
A: If you have a passion to learn or grow as a pastel artist, attending will inform you and teach you things you didn’t know you didn’t know. Chances are you have used more of what you learned last year than you’re aware of, because things tend to sink in over time. And what if this one event has a few sessions that change how you paint forever? Is it worth the risk of missing it?

Plus, it’s not just about the instruction, it’s about the interaction with other artists worldwide. You learn from others and their experiences as well. You’re part of the family.

Q: I’ve never done an online conference, and I’m a little intimidated by it.

A: Online conferences are all the rage because people can get great education without the expense of travel. This is NOT a Zoom call; we produce a very entertaining show from a state-of-the-art soundstage so you get the best possible experience.

Many people are unable to travel due to family, health, or work. When you register for the event, we will send you a link to click on that will take you right to the program. All you have to do is click. We do ask you to create an account, which takes about one minute. If you’re not accustomed to it, we can walk you through it.

You can simply watch, much like you might on YouTube. You can use your tablet, smartphone, computer, or laptop, and in some cases you’ll be able to connect to watch on your television if you have a connected smart TV. You simply tune in to watch. If you have questions, you ask them in the chat bar beside your screen, and if you want to participate in our online community so you can meet with other artists, you simply click a button that will connect you. You will want a camera on your computer to take part in the online breakout rooms, which we do twice daily.

Q: I only attend in-person workshops so I can get personal attention and get my questions answered.

A: In-person is great if you’re in the front row, and if you can hear everything. At an online event, you can see clearly, see closeups better than in person, and you get to ask questions of the instructors during their presentations. And, unlike a workshop, with the replays you can rewatch the things you want to see again. Some will tell you they think this can be better than in person, plus you can sit in your pajamas, you can paint along, you can watch over again, you can grab a snack when you want it, and there is no airplane, rental car, or hotel. And in this workshop you get three days (four if you do Beginner’s Day) and 30 top pastel instructors who are hard to get access to (we get them because of our affiliation with PleinAir and Fine Art Connoisseur magazines).

Q: I’m a beginner. This might be way over my head.
A: That’s why we offer a Beginner’s Day. It’s a separate price, and you don’t have to attend the three-day event after (but you can). We’ve selected people who can teach at a beginner level to really make it understandable. Not only will this help you grasp important basics of pastel, it will help you as you watch more in-depth presentations the rest of the week, should you decide to. And if you’re at all worried about being embarrassed, no one will see your work unless you decide to show it in the breakout rooms.

Q: I’m not a pastel painter. Why should I even consider it?
A: During the pandemic, many painters in other mediums attended Pastel Live, just because they thought they could learn something that would apply to the medium they use, since all mediums inform other mediums. Many decided they loved it so much they took up pastel. Some think it’s like a sophisticated adult crayon. There are times when you don’t want to drag out your paints, you just want to pick up some colors and start creating. Pastel is perfect for that, and it’s great for lots of effects you cannot get with other mediums. And many master artists try to master all mediums so they can be strong in every medium, because there is a time when pastel may be easier or better than other mediums.

Q: Money is tight, with gas, inflation, and all and not knowing what happens next.
A: We get it too. In fact, our expenses went up considerably this year, but we decided not to raise the price. There is a chance the cost will be higher next year, so this is the best time to attend.

We don’t want you to take food off the table or spend what isn’t available. But we also know that the best thing each of us can do is invest in ourselves, our joy, and our growth as an artist. And the better we get, the more chances we have of selling better paintings. In reality, depending on the price at which you might sell your work, you can get this event for less than what you would sell one painting for. And since the cost might go up next year, and because we don’t know what lies ahead, this is probably the best possible time to invest in yourself while you have the ability to do so.

Q: Last year we were still in quarantine. I don’t have as much time now.

A: We all face this issue. We’re busier, and life is back to normal. But remember the benefits of the pandemic? More time for yourself and the things you want to do, more joy by focusing on what you love. Returning to the rat race is hard, but we need to invest in our joy and our personal growth. And with rumors of more lockdowns, you’ll wish you had learned pastel.

Q: I never got around to watching the replays, and now that they have expired, I’m not sure I’ll watch this event.

A: Don’t come if you won’t watch. But if you want to grow, to bring yourself to a higher level of ability and confidence, this is important to attend.

Q: I can’t attend because we have plans during the dates. 

A: Good news: Every registration level includes replays with it. You can choose short-term replays so you can watch right after the event to see what you missed, or you can get up to a year of replays.

Q Three or four days is a giant commitment … I’m busier now with work, kids or grandkids, etc.
A: Are you worth the investment in time if it eliminates your frustration and makes you a better painter, or if it teaches you something new? You’ll feel better about yourself. If you can’t watch live because of work or other responsibilities, there are replays. Or you can watch some live, and watch the rest in replays. 

How much time do you spend in a month on social media or watching TV? What if that time was devoted to watching live instruction or replays so you can experience growth?

Q: School has started, and I’ll be teaching at the time.

A: We love teachers. And we have lots of teachers who attend and watch when they can, and then watch replays. Check with your school — they might pay for it, and if not, it’s a deductible professional expense if you’re an art teacher or a professional artist (double-check with your accountant). In the past several art teachers played the event for their art classes all week. It was less preparation for the teachers, let them watch it too, and they could lead a discussion with the class after. Plus, kids need to be exposed to professionals and learn from the best.

Q: I can’t afford it.

A: That might be true. Or maybe you’re choosing not to afford it? Can you afford to make your paintings better? Can you afford to sell more paintings if they are better? Can you put a price on increased confidence? Is it worth giving up Starbucks every day for a while? How would your life be better if you got better as an artist? This isn’t like spending money to watch movies on Amazon Prime, it’s an investment in your career.

Q: I attended last year and decided not to attend this year. There is only so much info I can take in.

A: You obviously have a passion. If you didn’t sign up this year, we’ve found only three primary reasons people don’t come back. 1) They hated it; 2) they didn’t get enough out of it; or 3) they feel like they’ve reached their maximum input level for the time being. Sounds like it was No. 3. Just know that a year has passed, you’ve had a lot of time to process what you saw, and chances are what you see this year will come together with more clarity. Our brains can take in more than we understand. You will get value, and if you don’t, I’ll give your money back. 

Get Prepared2022-07-15T12:26:57-04:00
10 07, 2022

Stepping Up


Today I’m not on the back porch of my property in the deep Texas heat, nor am I on the dock in the Adirondacks experiencing the call of loons and the cool air. Instead I’m sitting in a slightly cramped airline seat, high above the clouds, en route to the closest airport to home.

Wings Spread

I’m not only physically above the clouds, I’m mentally above the clouds — yet drained, exhausted, and spent from the effort to create this high-level accomplishment. This, it turns out, has been one of the toughest, most challenging weeks of my life. And though it was not fighting off some disease or horrific trauma, which is about as tough as it gets, it was a high-level game of stress chess.


My goal is to be as transparent with you as possible. I’ve shared some things others would never share. But in this case, I need to protect the privacy of those involved, so I can’t tell you what happened. But I’ll tell you the story around it.


As I was quietly sitting on the porch, painting a watercolor, my wife burst in, frantic with news she had just learned about a family member. “You need to drop everything and get on an airplane now!” 

Though she was right, and I eventually came to the same conclusion, I needed to process it first. (Her processor is state of the art, mine takes a little longer.)

A Big Effort

It was 8 o’clock in the evening and there were no flights to be found, but a quick search had me on a flight out first thing the next morning. So I took the boat across the lake, drove to the ferry, took the ferry across Lake Champlain, and drove to Burlington, Vermont, to catch a flight. That was the easy part.

The hard part was some tough love, which involved about five days of mental and emotional wrangling.

Though I never want to leave the lake in the summer, this took priority. It was true “adulting.” And after three days of emotional discussions, I was spent, exhausted, and discouraged.

We Are Behind You

A couple of close friends knew what was going on and kept sending encouraging texts saying, “We’ve got your back.” No advice, just, “We’re praying for you.” My wife was incredibly encouraging, but also let me know that I needed to win this battle between good and evil and that she was counting on me.

Giving Up

Sitting on the couch after a tough day, I was ready to give up and go home. I was getting nowhere. I remember thinking that I can run a big company with lots of employees, I can negotiate major deals with top companies, I can speak comfortably on a stage in front of thousands, yet I was failing at this effort. “I’m done. Time to let the chips fall and move on. I tried my best and it’s not helping.” So I gave up.

Keep in mind I’m praying feverishly for guidance, for help, for positive results. And others were praying. Nothing was working.

A New Perspective

Then something happened. I asked myself, “What would I want if I were on the other side of this battle?” Then it hit me. I’d want me to never give up no matter what, no matter how long it took, no matter what sacrifice was required. I suddenly realized it: Instead of giving up, I needed to envision no other option than a positive outcome. I was ready to give up my summer to solve this problem. Game on.

Once I developed a different attitude, determined to win, it changed my thinking, my actions, and my approach. And it changed the outcome.

Big Change

On the fifth day, I saw a glimmer of hope, and by the sixth day, I had accomplished my goal and solved the problem. All the tough discussions, heated emotional moments, doubts, defeat, and tears became worth it.


Today, I’m on a high, on a cloud, knowing we’ve achieved the best possible outcome, something we never thought would happen. Yesterday will go down in my history as one of my most difficult on this earth so far. But I prevailed and won a major battle of good versus evil.

Why am I sharing this personal story? I learned too much to not share it.

  1. It would have been easy to live on hope and not step up and do something that I did not want to do emotionally or physically. I did not want the inconvenience. But I knew I had to step up because it was not about me and my comfort.
  2. I went into this effort believing I had about a 10 percent chance of accomplishing my goal. I knew I was up against one of the smartest, most clever people I know, and that I was truly stepping into a battle of good versus evil. I could not have done it alone. The power of prayer from others and myself made a massive difference. I could see the moment when everything changed, and it was not about what I had done, it was truly an intervention from God. 
  3. Things did not go well until I changed my attitude and knew I had to win, and I was going to win, no matter what. Once I decided I’d do what it takes, not ever give up, and fight the biggest fight of my life, I knew I would win. It may have taken all summer, or all year, but the determination to get a positive outcome and unwillingness to give up changed everything.
  4. We can’t do things alone. A couple of good friends stepped up, kept sending me encouraging texts, told me they were praying, and shared their own stories of similar battles.
  5. Support from my wife and family meant the world to me. Their encouragement drove me.

You and I will have other battles of good versus evil. We can’t ever let evil win. 

You can do this. Whatever you are facing, no matter how difficult it feels, how impossible it is to accomplish, you will turn it around the moment you tell yourself that you will win, no matter what it takes. Doing that is a game-changer.

Churchill said, “Never give up — never, never, never.” He was right. Had he not prevailed, the world would be a very different place. 

You’ve Got This

Whatever you believe in, if something is critically important to you, you need to make up your mind to win at all costs and never give up. Sometimes things happen fast, sometimes slowly. I saw this in my dad, with a company he had started with a new technology. It took 20 years, but he never gave up.

I can now see things I’ve committed to where I allowed the pandemic to slow me down and almost gave up. I now know that I need to rethink, recommit, and do what it takes (ethically, of course) to set my sights on success and remove all doubt. Once the doubt is gone, the roadblocks no longer look insurmountable.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Please don’t ask. I appreciate your respecting our privacy.

Determination matters. I wanted to launch an online pastel conference and pastel newsletter, but others kept putting up roadblocks to protect their own turf. It crossed my mind to give up, but my readers told me they wanted it, and I was determined to give them what they want because it would result in massive growth and interest in pastel painting. We got the conference launched successfully, and we recently launched Pastel Today (you can subscribe at pasteltoday.com for free).

Our second online pastel conference will be even better than the first. We were worried that people wouldn’t return once the pandemic was over, but the opposite has been true. We’ve had a massive number of people sign up for three days of top instructors who will transform their painting skills (and a fourth Beginner’s Day for those who want to learn pastel). You can sign up or learn more at pastellive.com.

We tell ourselves stories, then we start making them happen. I told myself a story that attendance might be reduced after the pandemic, so I was not trying as hard — until I learned my story was wrong. I told myself a story that people might not attend in August because of travel and vacation time, but I discovered that was not true. Those who do have travel plans are registering and plan to watch the replays. Others plan to attend to be part of the community.

I also discovered something else. Most of the top-tier artists I know strive to be complete, meaning that they want to master every possible means of communication in art. They want to be great at drawing, and at painting in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pastel, because each informs the others and gives them ways to communicate that other mediums can’t offer. For instance, if I want a certain look or vibrancy in color, pastel is my only option. I’ll be hosting Pastel Live and hope you’ll join me. But know that the price has to go up very soon, and this is the time to capture the lower price. (Even though people tell me it would be worth attending at five times the price.)

Stepping Up2022-07-08T12:19:46-04:00
3 07, 2022

Living Large


This week I received one of those calls you don’t want to get. An old friend was in ICU on life support, and the family was told to start deciding if they want to pull the plug or, if she comes out of her coma, to be ready to place her in a facility for regular treatments and tube feeding for the rest of her life. 

You Next?

When asked, “What would you want?” it got me thinking. Would I want someone pulling the plug if I had a chance of coming out of it? What if I came out of it and had to spend my life on a feeding tube and other treatments? What would I do?

I hope I never have to face such decisions with my family and I hope they don’t have to face them with me, but I also know it’s best to have an answer, and a living will, in advance so others are not burdened. 

More to Offer?

And I started thinking about my friend who, in her late 60s, is mentally alert, sharp, highly intelligent, and has a lot to offer the world. Would she want a chance to do more? Maybe she would be in a facility and not terribly mobile, but what if she could write a life-changing book? What if she could use her brain in other ways, though her body is shutting down? Or what if she could defy the odds and find a way to get her body back to a better state? Though unlikely, we’ve all seen miracles happen.

Then I think of another friend who was in that exact situation: mentally alert but completely unable to function otherwise. He called me one day and said, “Get me out of here. I can’t stand living in a nursing home.” But there was no way to accommodate him. He died of a broken spirit, not even 55.

Moments like these bring more questions than answers, but also temporary moments of clarity. What if it were me? What would I want to have accomplished before that time comes? 

Wasted Days

I get terribly frustrated when I see friends who have lots of life left but who seem to be throwing it away, not making any meaningful contribution to the world. Not living a large life. Spending all their time on video games or television when they could be doing so much more. I wonder if they will look back and wish they had not thrown away their time on meaningless pursuits and substances — or maybe that’s the best it will ever be. Plus, who am I to judge? What’s for me  isn’t necessarily for them.

If Your Lungs Work…

If you’re breathing, there are still contributions you can make. They might be major earth-changing ideas or simply offering lots of love to a child who will make great things happen because of your encouragement. 

Life is fleeting. Moments like what my friend is experiencing really make me take notice. I like to think it’s best to be intentional about our life and the experiences we want to create. That means being deliberate, often creating a plan and following it. Some lives are filled with accidental magic, but what if you could create more magic, and more experiences and memories?

Eric Rhoads

PS: My friend has improved, but is likely to need around-the-clock care going forward. 

This is a reminder to me that I want to live life to the fullest. Sometimes I avoid things because I tell myself I’m too busy or don’t want to spend the money, but I usually regret it. I’m going to seize every possible opportunity to create memories, travel, make memories for my family, and do the things I love to do. My friend was fine one day, then BOOM, she wasn’t. It could happen to any of us. Let’s not get complacent when it comes to living a rich, full life. Live for experiences! Live large!

Hard to believe it’s about to be July 4th. Have a wonderful celebration of this great country. It’s imperfect, but it’s still an amazing place. Enjoy the celebration.

Last week my son returned from a mission trip where he helped Ukraine refugees and others in Slovakia. We’re glad he is home but very proud of him. I’m only wishing the entire family were together. I’ll work on that so I can create some lake memories. 

This week I also held a free webinar about pastel painting with the editor of Pastel Today, Gail Sibley. If you want to see it, you can view it here

Our next big event will be our international online conference for pastel painters (Pastel Live!). I’m already getting excited about it. I hope you can join me and artists all over the world.

Last week I announced that we are cutting off registration for our New Zealand painting trip, but in reality, it’s just because we’re almost sold out and because we want to have time to get the travel plans done before prices go up. But if you really want to go, we can squeeze you in. Just go to www.paintingnewzealand.com

Living Large2022-07-02T17:12:50-04:00