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4 02, 2024

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?


The rumble of rockets soaring through the air and the sight of giant balls of fire in the sky never seem to lose their excitement here on the Space Coast of Florida, where I’m spending much of the winter. They say a big one will make your teeth chatter, something I’ve yet to experience, but a massive rumble and sonic boom are felt with each launch, just 11 miles from my dock. With two or three rockets going up a week, we set our alarms, even in the middle of the night, to experience each launch. So far there have been 10 this year that we’ve been able to view from our dock.

The Rockets’ Red Glare

When friends come to visit, we love watching their jaws drop in amazement when we visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The size and scope of these machines is mind-boggling, as is the tech behind them, and it takes thousands of people to make them fly. Clearly Elon Musk and his team possess something special, doing things others have been unable to accomplish, like landing a spaceship (which we had the pleasure of watching this week) or reusing ships that previously would have become space trash. Of course, later this year NASA’s Artemis mission will take man to the moon again. 

One Small Step

When I was a kid, I watched the moon landing from the National Boy Scout Jamboree at the national park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I was a reporter for a local Indiana news outlet and won a prize as the most ambitious scout reporter there. I thought by now we would be living on the moon. But at the moment, the closest I can get is to do my own moonshot.

Have you considered your moonshot?

Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis has famously coined the term “moonshot,” meaning the big thing you do in your life that seems impossible to achieve. 

I’ve always thought that if you’re going to live a life, live it with gusto, try to do things that significantly change the world, and live boldly in pursuit of big ideas that seem impossible.

What does YOUR moonshot look like?

Tap into your big dreams, the things you always thought you would do. Then ask yourself, “What about that frightens me? What feels unobtainable?” Then ask yourself, “What else could I do to make it even more spectacular?”

Break It Into Chunks

They always say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. If you take your giant goal and break it down into small, easier-to-obtain chunks and manageable objectives, it’s easier to track your progress and not be overwhelmed. Sometimes moonshot ideas are so big we can’t do it alone. Who else could you work with who shares a similar vision? Collaboration is a great way to get things done more quickly. 

Expect Things to Turn Out Differently

Whatever you set out to do, it won’t end up exactly the way you envision it. So keep an open mind, and don’t be so set in your ways that you miss better ways of accomplishing your goal. You have to be willing to experiment, and to adapt when you hit obstacles. Expect and embrace obstacles as growth.

Be a Risk-Taker

Not everyone can go to the moon. Only those who are willing to take the risks get the giant rewards.  And stay committed — never give up. I have a moonshot project I’ve been working on for five years. I keep getting kicked in the teeth and discouraged, and I am not letting go. I will find a way. You can too.

Your moonshot does not have to be about space. It’s about ideas so big they seem impossible, ideas that change your world and hopefully the world around you.

What big idea do you want to pursue?

What’s stopping you?

I want to remind you of something I said last week: My father started a company at 70, another at 80, and another at 90. All were moonshots for him. He never told himself he was too old. You’re never too old or too young. Dream big, and execute.


Eric Rhoads

PS: In spite of Covid being over, our online events designed for Covid times are still getting massive worldwide audiences and continue to be strong. My next one is about landscape and plein air painting, called PleinAir Live, and it’s coming in March. I’ll see you there.

When Will YOU Land on the Moon?2024-02-03T13:48:26-05:00
28 01, 2024

Fighting for Special


A few years ago, during one of our legendary Fine Art Trips to Europe for art lovers and collectors, we were in Scotland visiting art museums and private collections — including the second-largest private art collection in Europe, housed in a castle that made Highclere Castle or Downton Abbey look like guest houses. When we arrived at the castle and the footman opened the massive doors, a bagpiper in full regalia played as we entered and walked up the curved marble stairways for a group photo. For an hour or so, we were able to walk into every room and view the extensive artwork collection including rare works by Da Vinci, Raphael, Rubens, Constable, and just about everyone you could imagine, including a “modern” artist, John Singer Sargent, who was commissioned to paint the owner’s portrait  a hundred years ago.

Dinner Is Served

About an hour into our visit, chimes rang out, inviting us into a dining room with a 40-foot-long table, elegantly decorated. A huge fireplace at the end of the hallway warmed the room, which was lit by candlelight chandeliers overhead. Soon the butler and his uniformed footmen served our seven-course meal. Midway through dinner, I clinked my glass and said a few welcoming words to our guests, as did Fine Art Connoisseur editor Peter Trippi, followed by an opera tune sung by tenor David Orkuit. 

Drumbeats in the Distance

Following dessert, we gathered at the rear entrance to meet our bus, but were surprised to hear a drum corps emerging from the distant fog. As they got close, the 12-man drum and bagpipe troupe played a couple of Scottish tunes, then disappeared into the mist, playing as they marched away. Everyone was surprised, and all had tears streaming down their faces. I knew it was coming, and still had tears; it was one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of my life. My goal was to create a moment my guests would never forget, knowing some may never return to Scotland, and also knowing this one moment would be locked in their memories for the rest of their lives. We’ve done 11 of these art trips, and each has had a few equally powerful memories.

Life is about memorable moments. It’s about experiencing them, and it’s about creating them. 

Impossible Is Best

I was reminiscing about my career and some of the memorable moments I’ve been able to create for my family and for my friends and customers over the years. There are too many to mention here, but they’ve always involved an element of the impossible. I always wanted to give people an experience that was beyond expectation. Usually such experiences weren’t affordable and I’d have to find ways to make them happen without money, making the success even sweeter. 

A Bag of Tricks

I’ve brought tanks and elephants into buildings, and jugglers and fife-and-drum corps to stages I was speaking on. I’ve worn a spacesuit and a Revolutionary War uniform, had circus performers and people on stilts, mounted cars to billboards, driven a mini electric car onto the stage, and dozens of other things I was told were impossible to arrange. Last year at the Plein Air Convention I brought a gospel choir on stage for two songs.

I’m sure I got this from my dad. I can remember him holding a customer party at our house and bringing in a professional fireworks display. I took his idea and did the same at our lake house to celebrate the 10th Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks.

Do It Right

My dad used to say, “Son, always do everything in four-color even though it’s more expensive.” What he meant was that, back in the day, it was a lot of extra money to print brochures in color. At the time, most of his competitors did things in black and white. Four-color was a metaphor for doing everything with excellence. Do the unexpected. Stand out. Don’t be the same as everyone else.

Extra Effort Is Worth It

Sometimes the most memorable family events are when something occurs that no one expects. Maybe it’s game night, maybe it’s dinner in the backyard in a tent. My dad used to do dessert in his teepee at his lake place, and he would do a trappers’ cabin breakfast for guests in a little cabin on his property. When the lake kids were at our home for Junior Yacht Club, we would put out a hundred whipped cream cans and do whipped cream fights. Other parents were mortified, but those kids will remember that for their entire lives, along with everyone jumping in the lake to get the sticky off. 

Everyone does the expected. Only a few do the unexpected, because it takes extra effort. But what if every experience people had with you was memorable? What if every touchpoint was memorable? 

What can you do to stand out? Not just so you stand out, but so you’re making people feel alive, giving them an experience they will never forget?

What if your co-workers saw you as the person who always makes the extra effort, who does things that no one else is willing to do? I’ve worked with hundreds of people over my career, but only a few stand out in my memory as the crazy ones that went the extra mile.

People want to be entertained. They want to feel alive. They want to have memorable experiences. 

Expectations should always be met, but whenever possible, they should be exceeded. Why be boring? Why not stand out by doing excellent graphics, using exciting words, by taking the routine and making it exceptional?

There Will Be Naysayers

Warning: When you stand out, some will call you a clown, a showman, a P.T. Barnum. You will always have someone who gives you negative feedback. They won’t like the music, or the dancing, or the theatrics. When you go to a Tony Robbins event, it’s loud, it’s musical, there is dancing, and for some, it’s off-putting. It was for me, and I understand his intent. I had to tell myself, “You won’t get anything out of this unless you get into it and participate.” My colleague went and could not stand the music and drama and left, and missed out. Don’t miss out. Don’t be the person who rains on the parade. Jump in, have fun, and get into it. And don’t let the naysayers get you down.

Clothes Removed

One year I was invited to speak at the regional convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. As I stood on stage in front of a few hundred broadcasters, all wearing suits on a Saturday, I started my speech, then stopped and said, “It’s Saturday. Would you mind if I loosen my tie?” They nodded. A little later, I paused again and took my tie off. Then I asked if they would mind if I took my suit coat off. They nodded, and I asked them to do that, too, so they were more comfortable. Some did. Then, a few minutes later, I took off my shirt and my pants behind the lectern. I could hear some gasps.

Of course I had a T-shirt and jeans on underneath. But the point I wanted to leave them with is that you can’t reach people if you are stiff and formal. Paul said to relate to man “in his times.” I suggested that they needed to be more appealing to people who were turned off by their approach. The point was made, and guaranteed, they not only remember it to this day, they still talk about it. 

Ask yourself: What can I do to make my point remembered?

What can I do to stand out?

How can I make an experience more memorable? 

To celebrate our 10-year anniversary, my wife asked me to take a few days off, drove me to the airport, and, once we were past security, blindfolded me and took me to the gate. I did not know where we were going. Soon we boarded the Concorde for a three-hour flight to London. We spent a couple of days there and came back. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

Where is the element of surprise in your life, with your family, with your friends, with your customers? It’s never too late. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: This morning, when I prayed as I first got out of bed, I asked God to help me bring back this element of my life, to help me step out and work harder to create more memorable experiences for my people. I know it’s a weird prayer, but I know I used to do those things more. As life gets busy, as business gets more complicated, it’s easy to forget to do it. Yet it’s important to me.  Only time will tell what He puts into my brain.

PS 2: On Friday I wrapped up our fourth Watercolor Live online conference. We had a massive number of people attending from all over the world. I think it changed a lot of lives and helped a lot of people discover something that will give them joy for their entire lives. Several people told me this was their fourth Watercolor Live in a row; others were first-timers and said they will be back. Pretty much everyone said it was a life-changing experience — especially those who did not think they could paint and who have now progressed further than they could have imagined in a few days’ time. I’m thrilled that a large percentage have already signed up for next year.

PS 3: It’s about to become busy again. PleinAir Live, an online training event with mostly outdoor painting demos from top artists, is taking place in March. Then, in late March and early April, I take a group to paint cherry blossoms in Japan at PleinAir Japan, which is sold out. In May we hold our Plein Air Convention & Expo, which has only 61 seats left, and then it’s on to my Publisher’s Invitational painters’ retreat in the Adirondacks, which is already 70 percent sold out. Then summer begins! And when it’s over, I do Fall Color Week, in Carmel and Monterey this year and already 50 percent sold out. Then it’s Pas

Fighting for Special2024-01-28T08:43:51-05:00
22 01, 2024

What Is Your Gut Telling You?


Everything is frosty as I gaze out the window after a week of arctic blast. The ice is gone, but the trees and distant mountains are covered with frost, soon to go away as the sun finally starts to warm the air. 

A week ago today, I had a moment of parental clarity saying I needed to make the trip back from Florida to Austin with my kids to help with college move-in. So I bought a last-minute ticket, threw a couple of things into a carry-on bag, and landed in Austin a few hours later. The contrast of Florida’s chilly temps versus the arctic air was startling. 

On Monday I drove off  to school and carried boxes up and down the stairs, giving me a great workout, and I was back in Austin on Tuesday morning. I was tempted to head back to Florida for a few days, but since I had to come back here on Sunday for an event I’m hosting, I decided to stay. But I’m reminded that cold weather has worn out its welcome with me.

Golden Silence

I’m not used to being alone. Pre-COVID, I traveled on 40-plus trips a year, but since then I’ve been intentional about reducing travel time, and when I do travel, I’m usually not alone. It’s rare to be alone in this empty house, without the sound of dogs or family. It’s kinda nice. But I have to admit, my first instinct was to fill the void by going shopping or calling some friends to have dinner. 

But then I thought, I’m going to stay home and enjoy being alone. Since then the TV has not come on once, but I can play my guitar and sing as loud as I want and blast my music without worrying about others. I plan to slip out for some painting on the weekend. And I’m not sure what yet, but I’m going to find something different to do, something I’ve never done before, just to step outside of my comfort zone.

Comfort Zones

Being alone is out of my comfort zone, and doing something totally new will be too. I have a love-hate relationship with discomfort. I’d rather be comfortable, but I also love discomfort because it always stimulates growth of some kind. When I started my 2024 planning, I asked myself, “What can I do this year that will be so big, so uncomfortable, something I’m afraid of doing, something I’m not sure I can pull off, but will cause growth and reinvent what I’m doing?”

Keeping Stability

When I came in for the new year and laid out some of my plans, I heard mixed reactions. Some said, “It can’t be done” and others said, “It’s too risky.” And some said, “It’s about time we tried something like that.” Interestingly, I can almost predict what each person will say.

Not Trusting Research

Years ago, I had an idea for a product that had never been done. So I created a mockup, asked around, and 100% of the people I asked told me there was no need for it and they would not buy it. When I asked what they needed, they told me they needed the things everyone else was already doing. So, in spite of 100% negative research, I built the product, launched a company, and put it into the market. They were right, no one wanted it … that is, until I figured out that people need social proof. I needed someone respected to buy my product, and once that happened, everyone followed. My little product idea saw over $6 million in sales over two years. 

More Negative Research

On another occasion, I had an idea for a magazine. I researched it and got the same answer as before: There is no need, no interest. But my gut told me differently, I launched it, and PleinAir Magazine is thriving. It had a rocky start, had to close for a while, but when I brought it back, I tweaked how it was presented, launched it with a convention, and it’s been a hit ever since.

Am I Anti-Research?

Every day I deal with marketing people, ad agencies, and experts, and they are all deeply in love with research. “Find out what people want, and give it to them” is the mantra. And though I do this constantly, the gut still plays an important part. I know my audience deeply because I hang out with them at my retreats and painters’ events, and I observe what they do, what they talk about, and what frustrates them. Sometimes when I ask, the things I see never even come up. Yet if I feel strongly enough about something, I often defy research and do it anyway. My failure rate is high, but some of the most successful things I’ve ever done were initially met with resistance and naysayers. 

The Importance of Gut

Each of us has the gift of knowing when something feels right or wrong. We’re often met with a gut feeling, an intuition that tells us that what is logical may not be the right thing to do. I think your gut is more important than any research you can do, and we should all pay closer attention to what our gut is telling us. 

Listen to Your Heart

There is some very interesting new research about following our heart, or our gut. Scientists have recently discovered that heart transplant patients start having unfamiliar memories, different behaviors, and even different food preferences once they get their new heart. Research suggests they have taken on the memories and preferences of the deceased donors. In one case, for instance, a white recipient heard about this and thought he might start liking rap music because his donor was a young black man. Instead he started liking and listening to classical music, something he had never done in his life. Clearly, this idea of taking on the donor’s memories was mistaken, until researchers who interviewed the donor’s family found out the young man had been a virtuoso classical violinist. Researchers now believe the heart is one of the primary “hard drives” in our system, communicating with the brain more than any other organ.

Where has your gut been, right when others thought a different solution would be better?

What is something you’re facing now where you should maybe be paying more attention to your gut response?

Is there a tug-of-war between your gut and your brain in a current situation?

There is a significant amount of data that not only supports this idea of the memory in the gut, but saying that if we spend time in prayer or meditation, if we quiet our busy lives a little bit every day, we’re likely to make better, more well-rounded decisions. Scientists say intuition is a powerful force, if you take time to listen to it.

I have to admit that my mind is clearer on the days that I exercise and get my heart pumping, and less so when I skip a day. Everything is tied together.

Recently I’ve had to make some challenging decisions, some of which were against the advice of people I trust. I spent a lot of time listening, taking a lot of things into consideration, and made some big leaps of faith to go against that advice and trust my intuition. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong, but even if I’m wrong, I’m invigorated by being out of my comfort zone and the prospect of what could be. I highly recommend it.

You’ve Got This

One last thing … this is your life. You get to make the final decisions. One of the hardest things I ever have to do is follow my gut against the advice of others. Every time I defy advice, I get butterflies in my gut, wondering if I am making the wrong decisions. Ultimately, owning a business like I do, if I’m wrong and screw up, I’ll pay the price. Yet the best advice is to not allow the pressure and influence of others, even if they’re smarter than you are, to encourage you into making the wrong decision. The hard part is they might be right, and you might be wrong. But follow your beliefs. It will serve you well.

Follow your gut.

Eric Rhoads

PS: “We need to stop this now that COVID is over. No one will come, and it will bankrupt us if we do it and they don’t show up.” These were the words of advice of a counselor who said that I should not continue to do my virtual online conferences after the pandemic was over. But my gut told me something different. It said, “You may lose a few, but most of the people who attend do so because they want the content and can’t travel because of their responsibilities at home.” 

On Tuesday we begin Watercolor Live for the fourth time, and attendance is healthy, substantially large, and about the same as when people were locked down and had time on their hands. Hundreds of new people have signed up to join the hundreds who return year after year to see the world’s top watercolor masters share their techniques. 

I’ll be hosting Essential Techniques Day on Tuesday, which is designed for beginners and as a refresher. If you want to learn watercolor, even if you can’t attend the whole week, attend this one day, which will cost you about the same as a dinner out but will serve you your entire life. 

If you believe you want to try painting, I believe watercolor is the best entry point. But there are so many different ways to do it and make your work look good, we all need coaching like this. If you attend and feel it was not worth your time or money, let me know by the end of the day and I’ll refund your investment, whether it’s Essential Techniques Day or all four days of Watercolor Live. 

Though following your gut is important, sometimes your gut tells you, “You can’t do it, Don’t bother.” That is what Tony Robbins calls the “reptilian brain” trying to protect you. It’s why we naturally default to the negative. If you spend your life listening to that voice, you’ll not live the rich life you deserve. You have to defy the negative voice and take risks. 

I’ll see you at Watercolor Live —  www.watercolorlive.com. If you can’t attend, you can still watch it on replays for up to a year.

PS 2:

I struggle with something. We have invented so many things for artists and people who love art that we have a ton of things to talk about. Yet people tell me all the time that they did not know about something and wish they had. We have a rich number of offers, new art instruction courses (we have over 700 professionally produced courses, which is unheard of), new art retreats, new art conventions, new online events, new newsletters and magazines, and so much more. 

If you’re on our e-mail list, you’re getting hit with a lot of different things. At my last Fall Color Week, one attendee scolded me about a different event: “If I’d known about that, I would have come. Why didn’t you tell me about that?” I gently asked, “Do you receive e-mails from us?” “Yes, but there is so much, I don’t open them all.” I then reminded him, “That’s how you missed it.”

We send so much because we offer so much. Give ’em a quick open and glance. You’ll find new things all the time, and lots of other great stories and tools. You’ll be glad you did.

What Is Your Gut Telling You?2024-01-22T13:28:44-05:00
24 12, 2023

That Christmas Feeling


A flood of orange light splashes on the red Adirondack chairs surrounding the fire pit behind my Texas ranch house, making them glow orange-red. The bright green grasses are also glowing in orange. 

Sitting on the red cushions of my creaking old wicker couch, the warmth of the sun rapidly removes the cool from the overnight air, making for a perfect short-sleeves-and-shorts day in the middle of winter. On days like this, I still love Austin — but when the cold comes, I fully intend to escape to get closer to the equator. Yes, I’ll admit I’m becoming a snowbird, running as fast as possible from the cold, which I no longer care to endure — though I’ll put up with it until the holiday passes. It feels more like Christmas when it’s cold or snowing. But after Christmas, I’m ready for the tropics.

Celebrating Together

Today, all the kids are back home, college breaks have started, and I’ll proudly sit in the congregation at church singing Christmas carols with my kids at my side. I live for moments like this.

Christmas Cards

When I was a kid, we were all encouraged to sign a stack of family Christmas cards. I’d write “Merry Xmas” and sign my name, until my mom saw it and said, “We don’t ever want to X out Christ from Christmas.” Whenever she abbreviated it, she would write “Merry C-Mas.” I still do this today, though I’ve long given up on sending Christmas cards. I still love receiving them, and I especially love reading people’s Christmas letters. As hokey as they can be, you can’t get every detail from Facebook, and they somehow give me that Christmas feeling..

The Great Tree Debate

Right after Thanksgiving, we went out and got a tree. Every year there is a debate about whether it’s time to get a fake one. After all, real trees are more work — watering them, and sweeping up when the needles fall, plus later we have to drag it out and put it by the road for pickup. It doesn’t seem very environmentally responsible, either. But when we tried to sell the concept again this year, the kids reminded us that the trees “are grown to be cut down, and they then turn them into mulch. It’s ecologically sound.” So once again, we resisted plastic needles. 

Creating Cherished Memories

I could have insisted on a fake tree, but part of Christmas is about making memories for the family so they can cherish Christmases past. Traditions are important. Christmas ornaments the kids have put up over the years, and ones from our early marriage and our own childhoods, always go on the tree. The box of ornaments is really a memory stimulator. I wish I had my parents’ ornament boxes — they would be filled with treasures and memories.

Danger! Daddy on a Ladder

The day after Thanksgiving, I got up on a ladder, hung the Christmas lights around the eaves of the house, and put the decorations out front. Though the kids have not acknowledged it, it’s expected and part of what we do at Christmas. Our traditions include a tacky plastic angel with  fiber optic wings that my mother gave to the kids. The other tacky thing is my favorite singing lamppost — it sounded like Bing Crosby. (It used to sing carols, but that part no longer works.) We also put out the tinfoil 1960s Christmas tree from our early marriage. We have three nutcrackers and stockings by the fireplace; when I decided to put the nutcracker statues in a different place, I was reminded, “They don’t go there, they go here.”

The Order of Decorations

Nothing can be out of place. A ceramic nativity scene made by my wife’s grandmother goes by the front door every year. The Christmas village goes on top of the grand piano. The dining table is decorated exactly as it has been the last 20 years, and once in a while we’ll add something new, trying to start a new tradition. We often hang stockings for dearly departed dogs, too, but there were too many stockings to put them all out this year. 

Do you have favorite decorations from your childhood? Mine was a little white plastic church music box that would play “Silent Night” as the doors opened. I think one of my cousins ended up with this treasure. 

New Traditions

Recently, when I was offering marriage advice, I mentioned that families carry their family culture with them at Christmas, and it’s important to honor your mate’s traditions that differ from your own. But I failed to mention that it’s also critical to create your own family traditions that will live on through your kids.

What family traditions have you created?

Speaking from the Stairs

On Christmas morning, before we open our gifts, the kids take turns reading Luke 2 through 20, the story of Christmas, just like I had to do while sitting on the old oak stairs at my grandparents’ house on West Wildwood Street back in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I used to hate it, because I was eager to open presents, but then it became tradition, and I’ve done it my entire life. My kids too used to hate it because, like me, they wanted to open presents, but it was a great reminder to put God first in our lives. We even have a seat at the dining table for Jesus. We put out a plate and everything (He doesn’t eat much).

Christmas Is a Story of Faith

On occasion, if I mention anything about my faith, someone will reach out and ask me to stop doing it and suggest that I will lose them as a reader. My intent is never to offend, and I’m not trying to change anyone. I want to be respectful of everyone. I usually respond by simply saying, “This is who I am, I mean no harm to you or others. I respect you, I hope you’ll respect me.” I even say “Merry Christmas.” 

In 1 Peter (ERV) it says, “You may suffer for doing right … don’t be afraid of the people who make you suffer; don’t be worried, but keep Christ holy in your hearts. Always be ready to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have, but answer them in a gentle way with respect … then people will see the good way you live as followers of Christ, and those who say bad things about you will be ashamed of what they said. It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong.“ 

What I Want for Christmas

When asked what I want for Christmas, I cannot think of a single thing. And rather than buying me something, I’d rather everyone spend that money on someone who needs something. A kid who needs a toy or a sweater, a mom who needs groceries, a dad who needs a little help. This is a time when many people need more than they have. Rather than spending excessive amounts on things we don’t need, let’s spend excessive amounts to make Christmas special for someone else. 

The Gift of Self-Esteem

I was talking to a homeless man one day who had been on the streets for over 12 years. He was shocked that I talked to him, because most people turn their eyes away. He said something I’ll never forget. “I’m here by choice, because I made bad choices. But it’s not just money or food I want. If you can’t or don’t want to give, I don’t expect you to do it, but don’t look away. It does me a world of good when someone looks me in the eye, gives me a smile and a wave. People forget that we need human connections too. You’ll smile at a stranger walking down the street, but you won’t smile at someone who looks different, is in rough clothes, or is dirty. We need that smile more than you know.”

That Christmas Feeling

There is a spirit about Christmas. Things slow for many of us, and as we get closer to the day, we start thinking about the people we love and care about, and it makes us gentler and kinder. But there are others who don’t see that, who might be unloved and needing to feel the Christmas spirit. And for those of us who give only at Christmas, don’t forget that others need that spirit year round.

I hope tomorrow is the most special Christmas ever. Embrace those you love, remind everyone about those who can’t be with you, and pay tribute to the value of family, no matter how insane they may be. The bond of family is deeper than any other. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: This message is spread worldwide to over 90 countries and hundreds of thousands of people. I’m honored that you open your e-mail every Sunday and thankful for all of you who forward messages to friends and family.

Only a tiny fraction of you live near me in Austin, Texas, but we’ll be at one of five services today (probably the 11 a.m.) at Austin Ridge, our home church. We hope to see you there. You can find it online at www.AustinRidge.org.

That Christmas Feeling2023-12-22T11:28:06-05:00
17 12, 2023

The Dark Days of Christmas


The smell of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies fills the air and the colors of Christmas are reflecting off the wall as the lights blink on the tree, as though to the beat of the Christmas carols playing quietly in the background. Seeing the tree, breathing its scent, and hearing the music fills my heart, probably because of so many wonderful Christmas memories. 

Already, some wrapped boxes have appeared under the tree; no longer do the boxes have to suddenly appear in the morning after Santa leaves packages while we sleep. No more long nights of assembling bicycles, no more wrapping marathons. Now that the kids are college age, we can take our time and do things at our own speed rather than assisting the man in the red suit. Yet we still put out cookies and milk for Santa, and the nativity set remains lit all night, highlighting the Christmas star. 

An Unexpected Tragedy

Yet there is a dark cloud looming in my heart, since I heard that a good painter friend took his own life last week. I’m not sure exactly how to process it because this was a man as jolly and spirit-filled as Santa, always fun to be around, always thoughtful, and ever encouraging. He was as brilliant an artist as any. Apparently he had been suffering from severe depression.

Part of what bothers me is that I missed it. 

I had not been in touch for a while. We last spoke during a telethon where I co-hosted and he was a guest. Speaking beforehand, he seemed as normal and happy and engaging as ever. There were no outward clues. 

Looking Back

I’m kicking myself for several reasons … the first being that I never had a chance to say goodbye and let him know how much he had impacted my life and career, and how much I cared for him. Of course I could not have known, so I kick myself for not having taken the time to touch base recently. I suppose maybe there is something I could have said or done that might have made a difference.

I’m sure others who were even closer are asking themselves the same thing. Yet we cannot beat ourselves up. 

A Dark Place

The reality is that depression is a very dark place, which most of us, myself included, do not fully understand. Anyone can be affected by depression, and it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a medical condition to be overcome.

So what are we to do?

I think it starts by being an active listener, and not ignoring things people say that might be clues that they are reaching out for help but don’t know how to ask. We should not judge or overreact, but simply listen. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Be empathetic. And, of course, encourage anyone who seems to be troubled to seek professional help. 

My heart goes out to my friend’s wife, family, and close friends. He had more friends than most of us will ever have, and I guarantee there will be lines out the door at his memorial service.

The Emotional Trigger

As you and I enter the holiday period, it never hurts to remember that the holiday is an emotional trigger for many of the people we know and love. I can remember being alone one Christmas and wishing someone would invite me to something. I did not feel comfortable asking because, well, Christmas is family time.

Who can you include in your celebrations this Christmas?

How can you help others this Christmas?

Who needs to hear from you?

This event is also a stark reminder to me that I need to reach out and talk to my friends more often. The downtime at Christmas is a good time to start touching base. And it never hurts to ask, “How are you doing, really? Is there any way I can help you?”

When I was a kid, my dad invited Raymond McPeak to every Christmas dinner. I never knew any different; he was always there, Christmas and Thanksgiving, until the day he died. My dad met him in the Merchant Marine when serving in the Philippines, and though Raymond was 20 years older, they became great friends, probably because they were from the same town. He lived alone and came home from his job at the Post Office to an empty house every day of his life. He was never married, and was never in a relationship. He was simply a loner. And my guess is that he looked forward to every major holiday. My grandmother did the same thing; her widowed friends were always at her house every Christmas. 

Our job is to take care of each other, to care for those who don’t have what we have.

Now you have your marching orders for this Christmas. Give someone something to look forward to. And listen to them, carefully.

Eric Rhoads

Another great gift is the gift of art … giving someone lessons on how to become an artist. We have some wonderful holiday specials at www.painttube.tv.

The Dark Days of Christmas2023-12-15T16:56:58-05:00
19 11, 2023

Say Hello to Your Future Self


Everything is blowing around … palm trees are bending, giant waves are crashing and spraying, wind is whistling, and the hurricane shutters are rattling loudly as a huge storm makes its way across the state. In the distance I can faintly see the towers at Cape Canaveral, and this week I’ve had the treat of watching rockets soar into space while the air around me vibrates.  

When I was a kid, I went to the 1965 New York World’s Fair, where we saw prototypes of Dick Tracy-style talking watches, flying cars, phones with TV screens so you could see the person you’re talking with, and robots who would do your work for you. We were told that one day TVs would hang on the wall like pictures. Rockets were something that happened annually, if we were lucky, and now rockets go up more than weekly. Now I can talk on my Apple Watch just like Dick Tracy, and my phone is the communicator from Star Trek (the only thing missing is the ability to beam me up). I can talk to anyone in the world on my screen. Flying drone cars are available now, as are jetpacks so you can fly, and rockets are going up frequently to put satellites in so we can have high-speed Starlink Internet and TV anywhere in the world. AI robots can do a lot of our work for us, freeing up time. We are living in the future. 

High-Speed Change

The rate of change we’ve seen in the last five years is greater than any change we’ve seen in our lifetimes — greater than any time in history. What happens in the next five or 10 years will blow your mind. You and I have to be ready for an unknown future, which is very exciting but also a little intimidating. For instance, I went to a conference that said, “If you can live 10 more years, you’re likely to live 30 to 50 more years.” Imagine how that impacts our lives. I know people who know their great-grandchildren, but they might end up knowing another generation or two.


When I mention such things, I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to live that long. But what if you could do it and be healthy, vibrant, relevant, happy, and have plenty of money? Google says someday you’ll be able to transfer your brain to a new 3D-printed body, eliminating death altogether. (That brings up lots of social discussions I’ll avoid for the moment.) But at bare minimum, tech has changed so much that even now, you can reverse aging with a simple supplement protocol that is proven to lengthen telomeres on your DNA strands, and within just one or two years from now, a person who is 70 could reverse to 65, then 60, then 55. All within a few years. Again, this isn’t science fiction, it’s today. 

Maybe today, thinking about the next 30 years is too overwhelming. But what about the next five or 10? 

Programmed to Assume Age Causes Problems

I was recently with an elderly couple who were experiencing some health issues, and when I asked about why that was happening, the answer was, “Well, of course it’s because of our age.” What I wanted to say (but resisted) was, “I know people 10 years older than you who are not having these problems.” Old age was blamed when the reality is that the culprit was lack of exercise, poor diet, and bad attitude. Of course we can’t control the expression of our predetermined genes, but we can slow it, or reverse it. Physically, I’m younger today than I was a year ago; I’ve actually reversed my aging by following that  protocol, and the result is that I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’m stronger with more muscle mass — stronger than I’ve probably ever been — and I have boundless amounts of energy. 

I’ll Take What I’m Given

I’m not sure I want to live forever, and I’m not even sure what age I’ll want to live to, and I know I can only control it up to a point. I know it’s ultimately in the hands of my Maker. But I love the idea of knowing grandkids, great-grandkids, and maybe more. My brother has his photo with his mother, his grandmother, his great-grandmother, and his great-great-grandmother. People used to live to meet five generations.

So now I’m faced with a new challenge … I have to plan for my future. How do I make enough to live several more decades? And what do I want my future life to look like? Do I want to do more of the same? Do I want to occupy my time with new things?

Get to Know the New You

Whether you’re 20 or 70, it’s a good practice to think about your future self and lay out a plan. If you’re 70 and vibrant, how do you remain vibrant and relevant and healthy? How do you get healthier and in better shape? As my friend Tom told me the other day, “My trainer asked me why I never worked out when I was younger so I could prevent the issues I’m having now, and I answered that I did not need it then; I could do everything I wanted to do. Now I can’t.”

If you’re 25, you want to make a plan to get where you want to be as rapidly as possible so you can begin living the life you dream of. The more you exercise and eat right now, the more you’re buying quality of life when you’re older.

Write a Letter

I like to start with a letter to myself: “Dear Future Eric.” For starters, I want to focus on the next decade, so my letter will address that. How do I want to define my next 10 years? Do I want to work? Paint every day? Play Pickleball? Start a couple of new businesses? Your letter can address the next two or five years, or the next 50. But things change so rapidly, I like starting with 10 at a time. 

Where am I now?

Where do I want to be?

What are the most important things I want to accomplish?

What are the things that bring the most meaning in my life, and what can I plan to make sure those things occur? 

Your letter should define what you want your life to look like so you know what to focus on, what goals to pursue.A Ship Adrift

According to Dr. Ben Hardy, a specialist in this field, research indicates that we tend not to understand how different our future selves will be from our current selves, because we don’t take the time to imagine a new, fresh future. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  But most of us take more time to plan dinner than we take to plan the next few years of our lives. And if you don’t make a plan, you’re a ship adrift at sea without a map, and you could end up in any port, or on the rocks. 

Reinvention Is Reinvigoration

When we reinvent, we bring new excitement into our lives, giving ourselves new energy and a better outlook. I watched my own father do this. 

When he was 60, he sold his business, reinvented himself, spent a year learning a new business, and then he launched it and ran it successfully for a decade. Then at 70, he sold that business and went a completely different direction, and did that for a decade. At 80, he did it again, and was actively doing it yet again when he died at 94. He never was one of those guys talking about the “good old days before he retired.” Instead, he retired, hated it, and then started a new business. When he got bored, or felt he had done all he could with it, he moved on to the next thing, then the next. As a result, his brain was pliable and sharp till his death. He even went to a Tony Robbins event at age 90 because he wanted to learn new things, and he left there with lots of new friends he stayed in contact with the rest of his life. 

Just because you are doing something today does not mean you have to do it forever. It’s your choice. But finding new things to add to your life will reinvigorate you.

What have you always wanted to do but could not do because of your condition or other restrictions?

What would you do if you did not have to worry about anyone else?

What would you do if you did not have to worry about money or paying a mortgage?

What do you catch yourself dreaming of?

What do you think about that you’re telling yourself isn’t possible?

Write Just Two Pages Today

Again, research shows that people dramatically underestimate how DIFFERENT their future self will be from their current self. Dr. Daniel Gilbert explains that this is because people don’t take the time to imagine their future selves. Pull out some paper and write two pages. On the first page, write all the ways you’re different from who you were 10 years ago. On the second page, write about where your future self could be, and where you want to be 10 years from now,  or what you want the next 10 years to look like. 

This may sound overwhelming, but it’s not. Have fun with it. Be playful. Be truthful with yourself. And don’t judge yourself. Don’t avoid writing something down just because your brain is telling you, “That will never happen.” Write it down anyway. Then once you have your list exactly where you want it to be, read it every day. Suddenly your rudder will steer you toward the future.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” —  Napoleon Hill 

It’s Groundhog Day

In my letter to myself, I’m not only addressing the things mentioned above, but asking, “What are the things I do on autopilot? What are the things I’ve done over and over as a routine? Do I still want to do those? Do I still want to show up at the same places, with the same people?” (In my case, I love the people I interact with.) There are things in my life that feel like Groundhog Day, and it’s time to move on. What about you?

Perhaps you’re happy where you are. Great. Do the assessment and letter anyway, because it never hurts to have reinforcement. But if you want to live a rich, full life, exactly the life you’ve designed, or better, find a quiet spot and write a couple of pages. Look at it a couple of days later, and adjust it as needed, and then make it your guide. You’ll thank me later.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I sent one of my kids and his friend to a Tony Robbins event in Dallas last weekend, and I’m already seeing transformation. I used to think TR was just a motivational speaker, but that’s not what he is at all. He presents valid research on techniques to improve your life, and it’s not the same drivel you hear elsewhere. I’ve been, I’ll go again, and one day, I’ll be onstage with him. Mark my words. If you want to kickstart your life, find a TR event and go. After you get over the sticker shock, do it anyway, because there is no better investment you can make in the rest of your life. 

PS2: As you know, I have been flitting around Europe both on business and some play. I wrote about it here. You’ll learn about one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life …  so simple, yet so meaningful to me.

PS 3: Do you know what is proven to lower your blood pressure, improve your attitude, remove your stress, and put a giant smile on your face? When I’m stressed, I go to my studio and paint, and because it’s using a different part of my brain, I forget I’m stressed. Every CEO, MD, lawyer, nurse, or anyone in a stressful job should do it. It has an amazing impact. And ANYONE can do it, and do it well. It’s not about talent, it’s a learned skill. (Maybe I should teach 10,000 people to do it from the stage at a TR event.) 🙂My next training is in January at WaterColorLive.com. It will change your life or I’ll refund your investment. 

Say Hello to Your Future Self2023-11-16T18:43:22-05:00
24 09, 2023

Your Family Motto


Each remaining day here at this Adirondack lake is precious. Now that the “summer that never was” (all rain, all the time) has passed and peeks of fall color are starting to reveal themselves around the lake, I’m melancholy that our time here will soon be over. Yet I’m grateful for each call of the loons, the sound of eagle wings whooshing overhead, the splash of water against the dock, and the rumble of old wooden boats. 

My choices are endless. Should I go out in my own wooden boat to do some plein air painting today? Shall I take a walk in the vast forest behind our little camp, go into my woodshop to work on a project, paddle about in a canoe, or just sit on the dock in an Adirondack chair and stare endlessly at the water? 

My First Love

I first fell deeply in love with nature when I became a Boy Scout. Troop 57 would meet at the local Lutheran church across from the McDonald’s every Friday night. After Scout meetings, I walked across the street to make burgers and fries — my first actual job, working there at age 11, making $2 an hour. My mom would drop me at Scouts and then pick me up after work. Though I loved Scout meetings, and some of the dear friendships I made there are active to this day, I cherished those special weekends when our troop would go to a Camporee or set up in a nearby woods. It’s where I learned to whittle, make knots, shoot a bow and arrow, and how to survive with sticks and plants. But Scouting taught me so much more than survival skills.

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty … and to obey the Scout Law.”

I still remember memorizing that, and that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. It was reinforced at every meeting, every campout, and in every interaction with the other Scouts. It became more than a motto, it became my life. 

If I were asked to define the motto for my life today, these are the words I’d use. But if I were to ask my kids, I wonder what they would say.

A Well Thought-Out Idea

This past week I received an e-mail from Richard Wilson, an acquaintance in the financial world. He and his wife had come up with a family motto, and his daughter recited it on video. “Healthy, clean, brave, kind, responsible, and respectful,” she said. Short enough for a child to remember, big enough to have an impact. Richard pointed out that we often have company values, so why don’t we have family values, like Scouts, that we get our kids to memorize and that we post inside our homes? I thought it was an idea worth sharing.

What would your family values be?

The act of memorization in Scouts was helpful because I began to notice opportunities to use those values. I think the same would be true for our kids. But values are more than a line we memorize. Our kids will see what we really value by our behavior.

A Kick in the Teeth

Case in point, my daughter and I drove into town together last week. I overheard her telling her mom that she learned a lot more about me in that couple of hours than she had known before. When asked why that was, my daughter said, “Because Dad was driving and was not on his phone.” It was a kick-in-the-teeth reality moment. I’d not been talking to my daughter and engaging her in conversation and talking about life moments and important lessons because I was always on my phone. It was an important reminder to put my phone down and be more engaged.

What Would Your Family Say?

If I were to ask your family what your values are, what would they tell me?

My daughter would probably say “phone” as a high value, yet I would say “time with family” is a value. My actions speak louder than any motto.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Our behavior is the true signal of our values. If you’re saying family values are about giving and being generous but you’re not actually demonstrating those values, it won’t stick. If honesty or integrity is a value and your kids see you telling a little white lie, they’ll soon model your bad behavior, not what you pretend to be. If you say you care about your family but you sacrifice time “for their good” by working all the time, how will they remember you?

I’ll Learn Something

Sometimes mottos are shared through different methods. For decades my dad’s prayer at every meal was: “Help us to change our plans according to your plans for us.” It was a way of sharing what he felt was important. It might be communicated through a family prayer, through a routine each night over dinner, or through some other creative endeavor. But if we are not deliberate about the messages and lessons we want to be absorbed, our kids will absorb what they see online.

I’ve thought lots about my values, but never stopped to think about what family values I want to communicate. I’m going to give it some thought and start communicating them — even though my kids are young adults, it’s never too late. And some of the most important lessons learned came from grandparents and aunts and uncles.

What about you?

Is it time to define your family values? Should you create a motto, or a few words that best represent how you want your family to be?

Today might be a good day to start having that discussion.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One of my values is quality of life. After a near-death experience, I made a commitment to spend more time with my family, but also to do the things I want to do now, not on a “someday” that may never come. From that moment on I laid out a design for my life, a plan. What am I not willing to do? What will I not compromise? What do I want my life to look like?

One of the things this prompted was the start of two artist retreats a year, because I wanted to spend two different weeks painting all week, and painting with friends. This time next week I’ll be with a group of 100 artists at my sold-out Fall Color Week artists’ retreat here in the Adirondacks.

Another goal from that moment is to spend more time on exotic travel, seeing the world, seeing the great art of the world, and having rich experiences with others with a common interest. As a result I started an annual Fine Art Trip. In October we will hold our 11th, this time in Stockholm and Madrid, where we go behind the scenes at art museums and have rich art experiences. There is room for two more if you’re an adventurous last-minute traveler.

In March I’ll lead a group of artists to tour and paint the cherry blossom season in Japan. PleinAir Japan is sold out, but I think we’ll be able to accommodate one or two more people. 

People often tell me I have a blessed life. I agree. But not much of it is accidental. We need to be deliberate about what we want out of life and build things into our lives. There is never a good time, it’s never convenient, we can never really afford the investment or time away. But I have friends who always talked about the things they were going to do, but they never got to do them before time ran out. They always had an excuse. Make a plan and be deliberate.

In November I’ll get home just in time to host our international art training experience, Realism Live online. It’s a brilliant way to speed up your art-making education.

I’ll do my best to stay in touch and I’ll be continually posting on my Instagram (@ereicrhoads) if you’re curious. 

Oh, and this week, at 2pm ET Wednesday, I’m holding a free webinar with two top European artists called 12 Steps to REVOLUTIONIZE Your Art.
If you wish to join, sign up here today.

Your Family Motto2023-09-23T15:50:42-04:00
29 05, 2022

Finding Joy in Dark Times


The best night’s sleep ever occurred last night, with all the windows open, the curtains blowing along with the cool breeze, and a wonderful 65 degrees. This morning I peeked out the bathroom window to see a red cardinal perched on a branch singing its heart out. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie, living in a perfect world. Of course, after a cup of coffee and a check on social media, reality strikes. Perfection isn’t possible. At least I had a great night of sleep to improve my focus and attitude, letting problems bounce off my chest like projectiles bouncing off Superman. 

Walking on Air

I have to admit I’m still on a high from our big artists’ convention in Santa Fe last week. It was the first time in almost three years that our family of artists has been together, with the surprise of hundreds of new people joining for the first time, and hundreds of others joining online. I knew I missed it but did not realize just how much it was missed, because my energy comes from being with other people. I had not realized how low my batteries were and how being with hundreds of others who share the same passions would give me a much-needed full charge that can last me another couple of years. Hopefully, we’ll all be together at this time next year in Denver. 

Cutting Loose

My wife and kids went with me for the first time to the convention. I wanted the kids to see what dad does for a living. They worked, helped out where possible, and found out about my 5 a.m. alarm so I can teach marketing at 6:30, and my midnight bedtime after entertaining people in my suite till the last person leaves. It’s a full day, it’s exhausting, and I would not change a thing.

But it was especially eye-opening for the kids, age 20, who maybe have never seen someone work so hard. And it was not just me — my amazing team worked from early morning to late night as well. They all deserved a chance to cut loose in our closing party. We were all dancing fools. It felt good.

Different Batteries

Arriving home, I was energized, but my wife and my daughter needed some extra sleep, because, unlike me, this activity drains their batteries and their only hope of a recharge is a quiet room, sleeping in or reading a good book. I’m told different personality types have different ways to charge their batteries. It’s evident in my own life and the differences between us.

How do you recharge? 

It’s All About Joy

For me, joy recharges my batteries. It may be the joy of being with people I love, maybe the joy of a party or dancing, the joy of being in my studio or being outdoors painting, the joy of travel to exotic places and seeing beautiful scenery, the joy of hanging on the couch with my kids doing nothing together, or even the joy of a great phone call connecting with an old friend. I also get lots of joy out of taking a creative idea and turning it into a product or a business, and at the convention I got a lot of joy out of coaching artists on their marketing and showing some of the vendors some things that were obvious to me that could improve their products or businesses. Sometimes my joy comes in the form of a special passage in my morning devotional time or a special moment in prayer.

Being Deliberate

Joy can be accidental, or it can be deliberate. But I’ve found that most of my joy is deliberate, seeking it by following certain routines or orchestrating special moments. It can come if we wait for it, but why wait if you can feed your soul deliberately? Some of my best moments of joy came from things my parents did to create memories.

The hard part is finding joy during the most difficult times. How do we find joy at times when we’re suffering and hurting? The answer lies in seeking it, looking for it.

Finding Joy in Pain

When my dad died last year, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. Yet, in spite of being sad and depressed, my nature is to seek out the positive side of things, to look back on the memories, or to understand that he is now in a place with nothing but joy, where no pain or depression exist.

One of My Worst Moments

As a young man, I can remember being devastated over the loss of the love of my life. I could not get out of bed, I laid in a fetal position, I cried for days, I was not sure I wanted to live. I knew I was the most depressed I’d ever been, and I was not sure how I’d pull myself out of it. And I could not imagine not seeing her again. It was horrifying, and once I pulled myself out, which took over a year, I swore I’d never go through that again. It crossed my mind to avoid falling in love again so I’d never have the pain of loss. In that situation I got on my knees, prayed, and asked, “Why me?” And the thoughts I had made me understand that there was a plan for me, and that I’d not appreciate it without experiencing pain. It made a huge difference in my outlook. Years later, knowing what I know now, I’m so happy I did not stay in that relationship. I’m so much happier now, and I’d not have my incredible wife and kids had I been stuck in that relationship mud.

At the convention I was speaking with a friend who told me about a devastating year of pain and business problems. When I started to console him, he stopped me and said, “No, Eric, you don’t understand. This resulted in the most important lesson I may ever have learned.”

Outlook changes everything. It seems overly simplified, but it has a huge impact. There are lessons in every moment of pain. Seek them and you’ll find joy.

What’s going on in your life at this moment that is causing you pain?

What is happening when you’re asking, “Why me?”


Tough Love


As a child I used to wonder why my parents were so hard on me at times, why they made me suffer without the things I thought they should give me, why they disciplined me. It was because they cared deeply, and they knew I needed to learn lessons that I was too blind to see for myself.


Instead of “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?” and, “What can I learn from this?” 


Whatever you’re going through now, no matter how hard, how devastating, it has another side. Seek it. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: I want to thank all the people who showed up for the Plein Air Convention for the joy you brought me with your presence. We had some people cancel at the last minute because of the news of fires in the area. Yet we had mostly clear skies and incredible painting every day during the convention, and we had what some say was the best convention yet. It sure felt that way to me.

PSII: At the convention we revealed that we’re going to Colorado next year. We’re painting in some amazing places like the Garden of the Gods and the Rocky Mountain National Park, plus some other places nearer to Denver, where we’re holding the event. 

Because I always offer attendees a chance to get our best price ever if they get their ticket during the Plein Air Convention, we have 58% of the seats already sold. And before COVID, our Denver convention had 1,000 seats sold. Our limit is only 1,200 seats. That means there are only about 500 seats left, and I suspect they will go fast, especially with what we’re going to announce in the next week or two. If you’re thinking of going, book it now to make sure you have a seat. It’s our 10-year birthday bash, which means there are lots of things we’re going to do to celebrate. It’s not the one you want to miss. 

PSIII: Next week I’m going to take a few days off and drive to the Adirondacks. My big artist retreat is June 11-18. It’s a week of painting together with about a hundred others. We paint all day, play at night (music, cocktails, and more painting), and we stay on campus on a beautiful lake. There are about nine seats left. I’d love to see you there. I think this is the 12th year. I’m not sure how many more years I’ll do it. If you’ve always wanted to come, I hope you’ll do it. Upstate New York is stunning, the Adirondack Park is protected and about the size of three National Parks, and the beauty is unexpected and stunning. I’m especially fond of painting waterfalls, and there are lots of them we paint every year.

PSIV: Our next online virtual conference, Pastel Live, is coming in August. It’s all about pastel painting. I’m really getting into pastel lately, and I’m doubling down on pastel at Streamline. We’re going to make a major announcement about pastel this week (that is not about the conference). If you want to attend, we have a free webinar called The Future of Pastel with me and Gail Sibley. I think you’ll be pleased. 

PSV: I’m told this week is the last week to register for Paint New Zealand, my private painting trip to see and paint the sights of that amazing country. I’m guessing this will be the only time we do it because there are so many other places I want to take people. I think there are about eight seats left (of the 50-seat limit). It’s the trip of a lifetime, and I think you need to get signed up ASAP. 

PSVI: People have been begging me to return Fall Color Week to Maine one more time. This is our fourth time there, and we’re staying inside Acadia National Park. We always pick the peak of fall color, and the scenery is amazing. In fact, most of the Hudson River School painters painted there too. Join me. I think there are 12 seats left. 

Finding Joy in Dark Times2022-05-26T19:39:09-04:00
17 04, 2022

Getting Small?


The scent is heavenly. I breathe deeply and take in the perfume of spring. After a couple of days of light rain, the roadsides and fields are filled with blue and orange wildflowers. My own property is filled with little white flowers and spring greens. Bees are buzzing with delight, preparing the sweetest honey you can find. Spring is so welcome after a tough winter. 

Speaking of inhaling, on Saturday Night Live back in the ‘70s comedian Steve Martin used to say “Let’s get small,” which was code for getting high. We all snickered.


During the early coverage of the travesty in Ukraine, I felt small and helpless. Though giving money was an option, I felt like money alone was not enough. But I could not think of anything else I could do to make a difference. And the things I did think of required someone with more connections, more money and clout than I had on my own. 

Unfortunately, I was thinking, “I’m too small to make a difference.”

Do you ever think too small? 

I’m too small to take on this project.

I’m too small to make big things happen.

I’m too small, so important people don’t care what I have to say.

Our culture tends to idolize people who are big … big CEOs, celebrities, sports figures, pundits, musicians, actors, etc. When they speak or issue a press release, everyone pays attention. 

Therefore we assume that big things are left for them to do.

As I was pondering what I could do as someone who was small, I started thinking big. “What if I could write a song and call attention to Ukraine?” I asked myself. 

The battle inside my mind was ugly. 

One side of my brain was telling me all the reasons it would fail. The other side was offering me possibilities. I had to make a split-second decision. Would I be small, or would I think big?

The outcome was a song title, “Tears for Ukraine,” and some lyrics. But what do I do next?

I sent it to one of the few recording artists I know personally, someone who is known regionally but may not be a national name.

“See if you can do anything with this,” I said. “Maybe we can help a lot of people by keeping this at the top of everyone’s mind.”

Of course I’ve spoken of this before, but so much has happened since. Within 24 hours Bill Craig and a friend, Mark Jacobson, revised my lyrics, recorded a scratch track to see if I liked the direction of the song, and then recorded a full studio recording with the group Elsie Binx. (You can hear it here.)

That was about three weeks ago. For two weeks, it was the number one download by radio stations for most of that time. And it started receiving airplay on radio stations across the U.S. 

That was cool. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. But what more could we do with it?People Who Know People

So I reached out to some people who knew people who knew people. “Let’s re-record it, like ‘We Are the World,’ and get a bunch of stars together to do it.” Keep in mind, I don’t roll in those circles. The next thing I know, it’s catching on. One big star started reaching out to other stars. And, as of today, there is a big possibility this will happen and be recorded by a bunch of big artists.

Going Latino Too

Then I thought we should record a Spanish version for the Latino audience, and one introduction led to another, and we have been in dialogue with a major Latino star. A discussion began about getting a bunch of top Hispanic stars to record it together. 

I don’t know what will happen, but the progress made has been much more than if I had told myself to stay small and not think big.

Big Stars

I’ve been watching two documentaries this weekend, one on David Geffen, the billionaire media mogul, and one on Frank Sinatra. I learned a lot from both, but the one thing that we don’t think about is that they too were small, unknown, and went for years without any success. But because of their hard work and tenacity, and thinking big, they became giants.

A Choice

In the two documentaries, each of the men had a moment where they had to make a choice. Be small or think big. Both thought big, and pursued their idea with all of their might. It changed their lives and careers forever. And when they got to one level, they kept thinking bigger, which resulted in getting to another level.

No one who ever got big had it happen by accident. In fact, the bigger you think, the bigger your results will be. I’m picturing supplies and help going to tens of thousands of people who need help, because of this song. (We made a pact not to personally accept ANY money on this project.)

The Battle in My Brain

My small-thinking, negative brain told me, “You’re not a songwriter. Why are you wasting time on this?” It told me I was not qualified, it told me that I needed to stick to what I know, it told me I was too old, it told me people would mock me. But my positive brain said, “Go for it, take action now, see what happens.” 

The Movie That Never Was

When I was a teen I always wanted to be a film actor, but I never pursued it. One day about 15 years ago I was browsing Craigslist and saw tryouts for a student film. I told my wife I was going to go and try out. She suggested there were probably better things I could do with my time. Upon arriving, with a line of people around the block, all trying out for three parts, I started to think I was a bit out of touch myself.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

When I arrived at the desk, a lady handed me a script and said, “Memorize these parts, and come up when we call your name.” Here I am competing with a couple of hundred professional actors who know how to do auditions. Suddenly my name is called. I read the lines in front of the producer, director, and all the other actors staring at me like, “What’s this guy doing here?”

“Thanks, we’ll call you if there is interest. Next?”

Impossible. How Could This Be?

Just as I’m getting ready to leave, a lady taps me on the shoulder. “We need you to read for a different part. It will just take a minute.” I read the lines, and they took me aside and said, “You’ve got one of the three parts.” A week later, I was filming a short film for three nights, all night. 

As I mentioned, it was a student film, but it was being supported by a major director trying to help serious film students, and it was he who insisted they give me the part. The film never got released, but I learned a lot about myself and about acting. And I learned that you can’t listen to your negative brain, no matter what you’re up against.

I love to read biographies about exceptional people with exceptional lives, and they always talk about the negative brain and how it almost kept them from success. These are not people with special advantages. They all started small, and had struggles, but they thought big to pull themselves to the next level.

Are you getting small or are you thinking big?

The bigger you think, the more unrealistic it all seems, yet big dreams conquer worlds. What world will you conquer? How will you change the world?

We all have negative thoughts and doubts. Push them aside and start thinking big. 

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m thrilled to hear stories of families and friends getting together for Easter for the first time in two years. I hope this is a special Easter filled with love and hope. And though bunnies and eggs and chocolate are part of the way we celebrate, especially with kids, it is the resurrection of Christ that is celebrated on this day. 

Here’s what’s happening in Eric’s world these days…

No Restrictions for the Plein Air Convention

We received great news this week. The state of New Mexico and our hotel, Buffalo Thunder, are no longer restricting attendance at the Plein Air Convention & Expo and no longer requiring masking or distancing. We had been told to limit to 50 percent attendance, but now we can return to normal. Though it’s only a month away, you still have time to grab a ticket and a room. We intend to celebrate especially well this time as we get the family of painters together for the first time in over two years. You can register at PleinAirConvention.com.

Painting Together in Mid-June

I’ve got about 30 seats left for my Adirondack painting event this June. It’s a week of painting with old and new friends, for beginners or experienced pros. No workshops, just painting the stunning 6 million preserved acres of the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York. You can learn more at PaintAdirondacks.com.

Join Me in New Zealand

I’m taking 50 people to New Zealand in September to paint and tour. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So far 20 seats are sold. Visit PaintingNewZealand.com.

Bold Colors

My fall retreat in Maine is starting to fill up. We can accommodate just 100 people. We will paint in Acadia National Park and in the entire Bar Harbor area. Our lobster dinner is legendary!

Learn more at FallColorWeek.com.

Getting Small?2022-04-15T15:49:21-04:00
8 04, 2022

How Will You Accept This Challenge?


I feel like I’m living a scene from a James Dean movie … it’s so hot that everyone has stripped down to the bare minimum, they are fanning themselves, and sweat is rolling down their hot red sunburned faces. Texas heat isn’t for the faint of heart. Our springs are short here, jumping right into the heat of an early summer. The ice in my cup has melted and the outside of the glass is sweating and my sticky fingers keep slipping off the keyboard. 

Have you tried to buy a bag of ice lately? A bag of ice has doubled in price. And it seems like the cost of everything is rushing out of control due to scarcity, supply chain issues, and just plain inflation.

Child Labor

I remember the stories my dad would tell me about the Great Depression. He was just a child, but he had to work to help support the family, and they had to rent out the home they owned in order to survive. They moved to my Great-Grandfather Rhoads’s farm out on Illinois Road, which was 88 acres. Even though they grew much of their food, they barely survived.

Inflation is not necessarily an indicator of a coming depression, but it is having a serious impact on the cost of goods, making living more difficult for all of us.

I hear a lot of chatter about these things lately, and part of that chatter is people giving themselves excuses to fail. 

Not-So-Great Expectations

I’ve already heard people telling me they expect the current situation to have a negative impact on their business or on their lives. I’ve encountered artists and galleries who tell me they are expecting this to be a bad year. Meanwhile, I’m hearing from others who tell me that business has never been better.

There are facts we cannot change, but there are attitudes we can change. The attitude needs to be: “I’ll succeed and thrive no matter what outside circumstances exist.”

The Worst in My Lifetime

2008 was a pretty dire situation. The economy had crashed, big companies like AIG and Lehman Brothers had failed, and spending had slowed. During that time in the art world, I watched businesses react negatively, leading to their demise. Simultaneously, I watched others double down on spending, building their businesses bigger, especially when their competitors were not spending on advertising. I even saw a new gallery launch and quickly grow, taking away the customers the others would have had if they had not operated with a shrinking mindset.

The New King

During the Great Depression, there was a giant shift in a lot of categories. Post was the dominant cereal brand, with something like an 80 percent market share. When business got bad, the board decided to stop all advertising. Suddenly a new startup called the Kellogg Company came on the scene. They went after Post, promoted heavily, and spent big ad dollars. To Post, this was a gnat they thought they could swipe away. Kellogg would never touch them, because they were too big to fail … they thought. So they did not react and didn’t keep their ads going, because they wanted to save money. 

By the end of the Depression, Kellogg had taken the lion’s share of the market and become the leading cereal company. Post became number two, and to this day has never regained its dominance.

Mindset made the difference.

The Kellogg Company could have said, “Bad time to start up. Let’s hold back.” Or they could have said, “Let’s start out small and see what happens. if we grow a little, we can spend a little more money.” Instead they went full speed ahead. It took courage and confidence and a “never say die” attitude. It worked.

How is the current economy impacting your mindset?

Are you planning to succeed no matter what, or will you shrink yourself to failure?

Mindset is the starting point. Courage is important, as are creativity and willingness to find a way, and willingness to work harder than ever. Often others stop working as hard because they think working harder won’t make a difference. 

Time for Change

A little-known fact is that there were many businesses that thrived during the Depression. Many of those companies chased new opportunities when they saw dominant players lay low and stop promoting. They had to be creative and find new and different ways to promote their businesses, and they had to step up and do some things that were frightening (like spending on advertising). But many survived, and many thrived.The key is to have a Churchill mindset … “Never, ever, ever give up.”

And it starts by making up your mind, by telling yourself, “No matter what is happening in the world around me, I will find a way to survive and thrive.”

What will you do? 

How will you respond?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Feeling like a caged animal, unable to leave home for two years, I am thrilled to be free and able to hold my Plein Air Convention this May. In fact, we just got BREAKING NEWS that the State of New Mexico has lifted all restrictions, so we are no longer being told to limit attendance. And there is no longer social distancing or masking required (you can still wear a mask if you wish). This is great news, and may result in a massive number of people signing up. I’ve even decided to NOT raise the price on April 17 as planned and will wait to raise it on May 12, allowing everyone a chance to get the low price. You can sign up at www.pleinairconvention.com.

One person who is coming told me, “I am not going to let gas prices or travel costs or anything get in my way of getting out. I’ve missed this, and I don’t know if they will lock us down again.”

Here’s what’s happening at my company Streamline at the moment…

Our 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo is quickly approaching and we’ve just learned that ALL restrictions have been lifted and more seats have opened up! So sign up now to gather with your fellow artists in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico for our first in-person event in two years! Study with the plein air masters, get discounts on art supplies in the Expo Hall and paint with over 500 of your fellow plein air enthusiasts. Sign up now at PleinAirConvention.com.

We’ve just launched our 12th Annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition. Head over to PleinAirSalon.com to see how you can win $15,000 for your art.

We are going to New Zealand again! Our last trip in 2017 was a huge success so we’re doing it again. Join me and 45 other artists in painting some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. PaintingNewZealand.com

Our next virtual event, 
Pastel Live, is happening in August. About 40% of the people who attended PleinAir Live have already signed up. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun! Check it out at PastelLive.com.

How Will You Accept This Challenge?2022-04-08T12:19:44-04:00