27 11, 2022

Number One


My tradition each Thanksgiving weekend, following Turkey Day, is to paint the fiery red tree across the street. Some years it’s freezing cold and I’m out there in my warmest clothes, and some years I’ve painted in shorts. This year, the tree is dead. No color. I’m not sure why. I’m not certain yet if I’ll paint it anyway. But after all, traditions are traditions, right?

One of my traditions, triggered by the holidays, is to start thinking about next year. I remember telling my team in January, “We have lots to get done, and before you know it, it will be July.” This time it feels like my year went by even faster than normal, maybe because I’m traveling again. In any case, I missed getting everything done.

But because there is time to reflect, especially as things tend to slow down, I try to ask myself these questions. Perhaps they will be questions you want to ask yourself.

If I could accomplish only one thing in the next 12 months, what would that one thing be?

Why is it important?

Is there anything else that will get in the way of that one thing?

Here’s the skinny:

I missed that one thing, and I’m just sick about it.

I got distracted by projects, by work, by shiny objects, and the most important thing did not happen. 

And as I examine my heart, I have to wonder if it really was all that important, or if I was lying to myself. If it was that important, wouldn’t I have worked on it and completed it?

I have no one to blame but myself. I bought into the distractions, I fell prey to the needs of my business calling me away from this priority. 

Now I’m wondering what my big thing will be for this year. Will it be the same? Has it changed?

I have lots of goals, and I have a task list that is a mile long. I have new ideas I want to pursue, new businesses I want to launch. They are all shiny objects. 

Only one thing really matters.

What is that one thing for you?

It’s worth some deep thought.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of the difficulties about goals and picking one thing to focus on is that other things have to be done. I have to keep my business running because I have lots of families who rely on the work. I have to do things to make my customers delighted. I have to take care of my own family needs. I have to meet budgets to pay the bills. 

Sometimes one of those things is the one thing. If you’re doing it right, it will be a tough thing to figure out. 

If your one thing is becoming a better watercolor painter… you should attend Watercolor Live online in January. 

Number One2022-11-26T13:51:15-05:00
24 11, 2022

The Dogs Got My Turkey


How the Dogs Destroyed Our Thanksgiving

Way back, almost 30 years ago, the moment my wife and I got engaged, we immediately went to the animal shelter to adopt a dog. 

We found nothing, and, discouraged, we resigned ourselves to a trip every week or so till we found the perfect companion. 

But as we were walking back to the parking lot, a man was walking in with a box of puppies. There were eight total: four tan baby Golden Retrievers and four black puppies whose breed we could not tell. “Same litter, different fathers,” he suspected. I guess “mom” got around.

We played with them all and picked the two with the biggest personality. It was a tossup. I fell in love with a Golden and she fell in love with a little black one. Which do we pick? 

We each had our favorite, we each had fallen in love with one — so we picked them both.

Of course we all think our dogs are the greatest dogs ever, but these really were. 

After they turned about a year old, we were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t recall if we were going elsewhere and taking the turkey or if we had guests coming to us. 

In any case, when the turkey was done, it went out on the countertop to cool down, and we left the kitchen. 

Suddenly it got very quiet. 

With puppies, you learn very quickly that if things get too quiet, a dog is in the closet eating a shoe or something. But we had never imagined this.

Leo, the Golden, had jumped up on the counter and dragged the entire turkey pan to the floor, grease and all. Somehow we didn’t hear the crash. 

Both dogs devoured the entire 16-pound turkey, eating every bit of it to the bone before we discovered them. 

Our Thanksgiving was ruined and we had a giant mess to clean up, but we had a good laugh and the dogs took a long, tryptophan-induced, full-belly nap.

Memories of Thanksgiving

What I love about Thanksgiving is that there are so many memories. There was the year I had a temper tantrum and threw my loaded plate across the room, where it crashed into the wall, then to the floor. I can remember my aunt whispering, “That kid is spoiled and needs a good spanking.” She was right, and I got one.

I can remember my dad’s friend Raymond McPeak, from the Merchant Marines, who we only saw on Thanksgiving. Of course there were parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, football games, and the Macy’s parade with cousins and others who dropped in.

It seems silly, but…

We have to have a special day to remind us to say thank you … thank you for those we love, thank you for the people in our lives, thank you for the kindness of those around us.

And though I try to say thanks at every possible opportunity, I just want to thank you.

You’re getting this note because you subscribe to one of our magazines or newsletters, have attended one of our online or in-person conferences or artist retreats, have signed up for our podcasts, or have invested in one of our hundreds of art instruction videos or watched our PaintTube.tv channel on Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire. 

That means a lot to me and my family.

I have become obsessed with art, making art, writing about art, developing things to help you become a better artist or collector. And sometimes that obsession results in our sending you notices of lots of new things, new videos, or letting you know about things we’re excited about and that hopefully will make your life better.

I hope our obsession is helping you in some little way. 

And though I hope you hear “thank you” from us all the time, it can’t hurt for me to say it once more.

I truly am thankful for you. I am grateful. 

It’s my wish that this Thanksgiving is memorable, and special. And if you have an extra seat at the table, think about those you know who will be alone if not invited. Everyone deserves a seat at the table.

And, if you have a lot of extra, make up some plates and bring them to people who need to know you care. Or help serve at a local shelter.

Your generosity can make others feel appreciated and remembered.

God bless you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Eric Rhoads

PS: If you missed last week’s Sunday Coffee blog, it’s all about Thanksgiving and the people you will be sharing it with. You can find it here.

The Dogs Got My Turkey2022-11-23T18:12:50-05:00
20 11, 2022

The Mad Genius at Your Thanksgiving Table


Beyond the old porch, brilliant orange light falls on the trunks of twisty oaks and their rogue branches. A deer wanders in the distance, immune to the frantic barks of our two dogs, who are inside looking out. I too am inside, to remain in the cozy heat of our first fire of the season. Embers glow red hot, pops and cracks entertain as flames generate warmth on a cold morning. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies remains after last night’s baking adventure in preparation for the day we offer thanks.

Embrace the Pain

Holidays like the one coming this week serve such an important purpose, reminding us to truly be thankful for everything and everyone in our lives. Even being grateful for our problems and challenges, which prepare our hearts for the difficult reality that we lack control, and that we need to learn hard and important lessons we would rather avoid.

Those Who Bring Out the Worst

For many, a gathering that includes arguing with Uncle Harry and family battles over politics or football teams will feel strangely comfortable, as many gather for the first somewhat normal Thanksgiving since 2019. We’ll be remembering to be thankful for each moment, each family member, including the ones who always seem to bring out the worst in everyone. 

Considering the Opposite 

When you wonder how anyone can possibly believe what they are spewing, lest we forget: They feel the same about whatever you are spewing. And no matter how radical or nonsensical we think something is, remember that some of the most radical people in history were considered crackpots and later vindicated. Some, like Galileo, were even arrested as heretics. Would it be worth considering the opinions of others before jumping into an argument? 

A Different Vision

Someone very close to me is “that guy.” His ideas always seemed so bizarre, and sometimes people even questioned his sanity. His predictions seemed absurd, silly, not possible, usually downright crazy. His argumentative nature was driven by his confidence in his ideas, and by not suffering fools who could not see the same vision. And yet, decade after decade, he’s been right more often than not. Now I pay attention.

Years ago Apple’s advertising campaign celebrated the misfits, the radicals, the ne’er-do-wells, because they changed the world. But while those people were changing it or predicting change, others called them crazy. 

Though I don’t consider myself at that level of world-changer, I’ve had the displeasure of being called crazy for ideas that many said would never work. Some of those ideas I never pursued, but others did, making them billions. Some I did pursue did not work, but in other cases, they worked later, and for someone else — my timing was wrong, usually meaning too soon. My friend Roy tells me I am typically a decade too early. 

Is There Any Point to This?

So as you gather around the table, the best way to give thanks is to give respect to others. Be willing to consider their ideas and respect their passion. They have their passion for a reason. And though you can simply tell yourself they are crazy, or not well read, or misguided, or simply stupid or falling for strange theories, before jumping down their throat, ask yourself why they believe what they do. Could they possibly be right?

Well Read? 

The world likes to demonize obscure ideas that don’t fit the mainstream narrative. Some people manage to look deeper, look in other places, and comb through information not easily found. Some like to think for themselves rather than sticking with what they are told to think.

If these rebels did not exist, our world would not be as exciting as it is, and radical new ideas would never get embraced. Where would we be without Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, or Nikola Tesla?

A Wide River

At Stanford University, I once sat in a small room with 20 other people as a young entrepreneur told us about his 1-year-old startup. Almost everyone in the room, myself included, thought it would never work. Yet had each of us invested a small amount, that would be worth billions today. He told us he chose the name he did, Amazon, because it was the biggest river in the world  — a metaphor representing that he would someday have the biggest store in the world. Jeff Bezos was considered crazy. 

Billionaire to Be

One day I had a visit from a man who asked if I would trade ads in my radio magazine in exchange for stock in his startup. He did not have cash to buy ads. Arrogantly, I declined, not understanding his vision of a world that did not yet exist. Why, I asked, would anyone want to listen to ball games over the Internet when they could listen on TV and radio? Years later they sold the company for billions and he became a household name, and my tiny amount of stock traded for ads would have been worth a couple hundred million. Though I can’t look back and regret my stupidity, I can stop shutting my mind off to things I don’t understand.

What about you?

Do you automatically reject crazy ideas?

Do you think some people are crazy for believing the things they believe?

Have others thought you were crazy?

This Thanksgiving, let’s embrace crazy Uncle Harry. Be willing to consider the craziest, most insane things. Before defending your turf, ask yourself, is there anything at all behind this? No matter how insane it seems, be willing to consider anything with an open mind. It will make the day a little easier, and you might discover something new. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though I’m an open book, I’ll never share my political thoughts, and I rarely talk about what I give and to whom. While others like to call attention to themselves about their donations, their giving, often putting their name on buildings or statues, I prefer to remain low key.

I’m also very picky about whom I give to because so many organizations have expensive salaries for their executives. 

Here are two that I like.

This one gives boxes of goodies to kids in need worldwide, so that everyone can celebrate Christmas. And this one helps homeless people get off the street by offering them tiny houses. Its village is doubling in size this year. It’s so successful that people are visiting from around the world to learn to implement similar programs in their towns.

If you’re feeling a need to help others this season, you might want to consider giving something. If each reader of Sunday Coffee gave $25 to each, we would raise $7.5 million for these two combined. 

If those don’t float your boat, consider helping someone else in need. 

The Mad Genius at Your Thanksgiving Table2022-11-19T13:26:27-05:00
6 11, 2022

How to Do the Impossible


The crack of thunder and a quick flash nearby made me jump out of my seat and spill a bit of my coffee. That was a little close for comfort, as I sit here on the porch during a massive thunderstorm. The giant, almost endless rumble of thunder, the flashes of light, the fast-moving clouds of all colors, and the buckets of heavy rain making a fabulous sound as they hit the tin roof — the sidewalks and grass are flooded, but I’m dry and safe here on the porch.

Bowling Balls

As a child I used to put the garage door up and sit in the garage looking out at thunderstorms. Cracking jokes like “God is bowling” when thunder hit … and as a younger adult, I  used to dream about one day having a house with big wide porches and a tin roof so I could sit outside during heavy rains. Today, I’m living the dream. What you think about is often what you get.

Under the Covers

As a kid, I fell in love with listening to radio DJs on my little transistor, with earphones and under the blankets so my parents would not hear me up that late. Later I’d buy K-tel records so I could practice talking over the openings of songs as if I were a DJ. Then, before I knew it, an opportunity was dropped in my lap as a 14-year-old, and I grabbed it.  Once I had that job, I dreamed of being a big time radio DJ on the night shift, when all my friends listened. 

My Big Break

One day I got a call from a guy named Gary Taylor, who worked at a radio trade magazine. I had sent him my tapes and asked him to recommend me if he heard of anything. “Eric, there is a new radio station going on the air in Miami. Are you interested?” An hour later, that station’s program director, Ronnie Grant, called and hired me. And two days later I was in Miami for the launch of Y100 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, on August 3, 1973. I was surrounded by legends who had been hired for the station.

More Drugs than Walgreens

I was immediately thrown into a world I had never known. For instance, a DJ meeting at the consultant’s exposed me to massive amounts of drugs everywhere. Thankfully, I avoided the peer pressure and did not partake. I was the only one. 

The experience was incredible, and though there were a lot of high people around me, these were some of the top radio personalities in America. I was learning so much. I was having so much fun. And I was learning the realities of that business, where one extra rating point could mean millions in income for the station.

Things Start Getting Scary

One night when I was on the air, the power in the building went out and the radio station went off the air in the middle of a ratings week. I did not know what to do, and I couldn’t call anyone because there were no cell phones then and the phones in the station didn’t work without power. Soon the chief engineer, John Bailie, showed up and said, “Go up the back stairwell. I’ll meet you on the roof.” He had rigged a portable generator, pushed to the other end of the roof to avoid noise. Somehow he managed to get enough power for me to play the tunes, speak into my microphone, and send the signal 25 miles to the transmitter.

Breaking and Entering

It turns out that someone had broken into the building and drained the oil out of the transformer, making it explode and killing the power. Because it was a holiday weekend, we were told we could not get a transformer for close to a week. But the station owner, Cecil Heftel, in Hawaii somehow managed to get one flown in by private plane overnight. We were back on the next day.

A Looming Disaster

Two days later when I was on the air, I got a call from a neighbor in the trailer park under our tower. Someone had cut the guy wires to the tower, leaving only one in place. Again, our owner got the best of the best out there to restore the wires (not an easy task) before the massive 1,000-foot tower fell on the homes of hundreds of people living below it. 

Offering Guns and Ammo

An emergency meeting was held, and the manager of the station suggested that if anyone wanted to carry a gun to protect themselves, he would provide it. 


He pointed out that our competitor was losing in the ratings, and they would do anything to keep us from taking their ratings away. He said we needed to be careful at all times because we could be kidnapped or worse. Armed guards were posted at the transmitter site and at the radio station.

Can You Say Naive?
Here I am, a kid from Indiana, no experience in the world, only 17 years old, and they are talking about things I had only seen in the movies.

It was kinda exciting, but very disturbing.

The good news is that we all lived through it — and the following day our competitor’s studio blew up after a mysterious power surge. They were off the air for a few hours, but ended up having the DJs from their San Diego station calling in and playing songs over the phone. It sounded awful, but it kept them on the air. I’m guessing our manager was a little connected with the wrong people too.

The good news is that we crushed them in the ratings. 

Looking back, I was so fortunate to be exposed to all of these things at a young age. I learned what I wanted to do and what I did not want to do. But the greatest lesson of all was to never say die.

Churchill said, “Never, never, ever give up.”

Doing the Impossible

When the transformer blew up and everyone said it was impossible to get one and get back on the air, the owner found a way. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, I’m sure it was expensive, but he did not give up.

When the wires to the tower were cut in the middle of the night, we got lucky that we heard about it from a neighbor, but this is something that can take weeks to repair under normal circumstances. I’m guessing the owners were told it could not be done quickly, but they managed to get it done.

Bridge Down

When we were living in San Francisco, an explosion took out a major bridge, and it was going to mess up traffic for months. Estimates of a year to fix the problem were all over the media. Yet whoever was running things at the time came up with some creative ideas, and the bridge was operational in less than 10 days.

Doing the Impossible

In the recent Florida hurricane, the main bridge to Sanibel Island was destroyed and estimates of 2-plus years were thrown out. Yet somehow a never-say-die attitude, a creative solution, and the road was open in just a few days.

Driven to Prove It Can Be Done

When people tell me something is impossible, I’m driven to prove that it’s not impossible.

Rarely is it about money. Almost always, it’s about creative solutions people had not considered.

Are there things in your life you think are possible that people say are impossible?
Are people telling you things that you’ll never be able to do?

Do you have a dream that just seems too big?

Are Experts Right?

Our natural reaction is to contact experts for advice, and they often say there is no solution, or no fast solution. Yet if you concentrate on problems, think deeply about them, try to come up with dozens of possible solutions, you can often come up with stupid ideas that might just work.

I’ve made my living on stupid ideas everyone said would fail. 

I’m the kind of guy who tends to trust and believe almost everyone. Yet I’m also the guy that is always asking if there is another way.

Believe in Yourself

The key to getting impossible things done is relentless belief that your idea will work, and willingness to ignore everyone who says it can’t. You need to listen to those people to a point, because they have good feedback. But you don’t have to buy in to their belief that their way is the best way.

Failure Happens 

I can list dozens of times I’ve pursued something against the judgment of others, and they were right, and I failed. But each time, I learned something valuable. And often, failure gives me a new idea to try. Failure always offers lessons.

Mocked and Laughed At

But I can also list dozens of times when I felt alone, felt mocked or stupid, because everyone around me was telling me my idea was wrong. Yet in many cases, those ideas succeeded. And some of the biggest, most successful things I’ve done in my career were things everyone said would never work, things they said people would not support and would not buy. Even research might say it’s a stupid idea. But in one case, I ignored research, went for it anyway, and it worked.

Be Courageous

It takes tremendous courage to tell people you will find another way. It takes courage to ignore their advice. And often you are putting your reputation or your future on the line.

I was blessed to get these lessons at a young age from these radio wars and from my own parents. 

Most people default to the negative, the worst case. I do that too sometimes, but mostly so I can try to anticipate what the worst thing to happen might be, and be ready for it. 

What would happen if you flipped a switch in your head that simply said “Never give up”?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. During the pandemic, to survive, we launched some online conferences. When I called around for some opinions, every single person I talked to told me it was a bad idea and that people would not go. And for a moment, I started to give up, but I was so desperate to keep my business alive, I did it against the advice of everyone.

Not only did we have four successful online art training events with thousands of people in attendance, we discovered that people want them even after Covid. And though some can’t come because they are back at work, others can be there who could never travel to attend our in-person events.

This week, on Wednesday, we are hosting our third Realism Live online conference. And, what is amazing to me is that everyone told me the event would not work after Covid was over. Yet our number of attendees this year exceeds the number we had last year, during Covid times. 

There is value in listening, but then following the gut feelings you have and the voices in your head.

For many, the voices in their head are negative: “I could never learn to paint or draw. I don’t have the talent. I can’t even draw a stick figure.” Yet you can overcome those voices and replace them with, “I’ll never know till I try,” and, “My odds of success are higher if I have the world’s best artists teaching me.”

If that’s you, give it a shot. Join us this week. And watch replays if you can’t be there live. We have people from dozens of countries attending, and some of the very best artists on earth. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from this faculty, who will never be together again like this.

Remember, you are what you think. Join us at Realism Live … just visit RealismLive.com.

PPS: On Tuesday, assuming things go according to plan, you and I will have a chance to vote for the people we believe will do the best job in their roles.

If you don’t vote — maybe because you are listening to polls and you think your candidate doesn’t have a chance, or because it’s just too inconvenient, or you don’t believe your vote will matter — do it anyway.

History says there are people who did not vote in some countries, and their right to vote eventually disappeared. Apathy is not acceptable.

I encourage you to vote, no matter how much difficulty or resistance there could be.

How you vote is not my business. I respect your choice. But if you don’t vote, you don’t get the right to complain.

How to Do the Impossible2022-11-05T14:48:54-04:00