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7 07, 2024

9 Out of 10 Reasons to Avoid Politics


Sprinkles hit the ceiling of the old great room of the home built in 1850, as rain is tapping on the tin roof above my head. I sit here in silence as my eyes gaze around the room in awe of the craftsmanship of intertwined decorative slats, a massive stone fireplace, and a carved star mounted to the ceiling to designate where to find the North Star. 

Rich History

Worn red antique rugs cover the wooden floors. Kerosene lanterns are mounted to the walls, never removed when newfangled electricity was added. An old fringe-shaded Victorian lamp stands at attention in the corner by the diamond-paned windows, surrounded by furniture made from twigs, an antique chessboard, a stuffed hawk, and a scale model of a classic wooden boat. 

This old lake home and its contents have not changed much since the place was built, other than plumbing and electricity added. The long dining room that could seat 20 was once alive with the conversations of the six families who have lived here in the past 170 years and their guests, and it’s my desire to have multiple generations of my family carry on the tradition. 

In Search of the ‘Golden Pond’ Life

When my dad first discovered this lake after a search to find a place like the movie On Golden Pond, his goal was to keep his family here for generations, as many of the families on this lake have done. There is peace and rejuvenation and solace in the lake’s beauty, and in the sense of tradition. 

For me this place is more important than any on earth I’ve discovered so far. The air and water are pure and cleansing to the body and the mind. Three months here, even though I’m working, provides the battery recharge to be able to mentally take on any challenge in the coming year, especially in an election year with the fallout from whatever happens.

Let’s NOT Talk Politics

In case you haven’t noticed, I avoid politics like a root canal. I don’t like to talk about it, watch it, or be a part of it. If you’re thinking I’m about to make a statement about last week’s debates, the current situation, who I loathe or who I support, you’ll never hear that from me.

I don’t like politicians, but I’m grateful there are people willing to subject themselves to life under a microscope in service of their country. As I’ve stated before, I was offered a chance to run for U.S. Senate and turned it down because I can’t imagine a more horrible life.

Change Your Mind

Here’s the thing … no one can ever change your mind. Only you can change your mind, and that rarely comes from someone trying to convince you. Change comes only when you use your own brain, have an “aha moment,” and are willing to challenge your own possibly lifelong assumptions because you took the time to keep your mind open and to study for yourself. 

Me trying to use my platform to get you to vote for someone would be foolish. I need every reader or customer I have. Why would I irritate half of them by revealing my political stance? I guess I’m just not rich or famous enough to not care. 

Politicians Make Me Giggle

It makes me giggle when politicians try to pretend to be ordinary people who can relate to us. You know, “I used to work the coal mines before walking 10 miles to school in a blizzard, and then I’d work 15-hour days on weekends to earn money to support my mother and my 18 brothers and sisters.” I’m sure some really did have modest starts in life. But once they became elected officials at a high enough level, they became part of an elite class with privileges none of us can imagine. I’m sad to say that I tend to think most of those life stories are made up, designed to get us to relate to them. It doesn’t work. 

Welcome to Political Season

So as we enter this political season, when the media ramps up the rhetoric and tells you why one candidate is like Hitler and the other is perfect — all designed to get ratings up and keep you watching intently — I want to offer some advice. Oh, it’s not voting advice. I’ll continue to love you no matter how you vote. 

    1. Use your brain. Don’t trust anything anyone tells you. Find out for yourself.
    2. Avoid extremes. If people are making crazy statements about a candidate, ask why.
    3. Study the opposite point of view. I get fresh content from X (formerly Twitter) and can read up on the other side of the story. Don’t assume you know. There are smart people for and against any candidate. Find out why. Read their opinions. Don’t just go with the party line.
    4. Avoid “9 out of 10 say this” arguments. Just because someone is a scholar or an expert does not make them right. Nine out of 10 Harvard professors don’t have to worry about how to pay your rent.
    5. Don’t let them tug at your heartstrings. Politicians love to use children as pawns. You know, “kids in cages,” that kind of thing. Do you think anyone running our government would actually let that happen? 
    6. Ask yourself: What do they have to lose? Why are they trying so hard? Is it really about the future of the country? Or the future of their own power and position?
    7. Don’t get emotional. We’re easily controlled when we’re emotional. 
    8. Follow the money. Almost always, money is the motivation behind everything.
    9. Avoid peer pressure. Vote your heart. Don’t pick a candidate because your friends think they are cool. 

A Leader at the United Nations

I once met a very wise and powerful woman who knew every world leader of her time, including every living past president or national leader, because of her work in the UN. After a visit by the president of a major country, she was asked this one question: “Would you trust this man with your grandchildren’s lives?” Her answer: “Not for a moment.”  

Who would you trust with your family? Is your quick answer based on something someone else told you? Or something you learned on your own?

The Goal of the Media

I grew up working in the media. Most of the people I worked with would do anything for an extra rating point. I mean anything, even something illegal if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. The media’s sole job is to make you watch more, build the ratings, and get you into an emotional state so you’ll keep coming back for more. Watching just 15 minutes of any news broadcast can put you into a hypnotic state and keep you there for hours. The same is true for social media. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything wasn’t about party lines? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if someone said, “The other side is right this time”? But that rarely happens anymore. Things are overly polarized. 

Remember Independence Day

I’m not referring to last Thursday, I’m referring to the true meaning of independence. Preservation of our country is critical. No candidate will be perfect. Both will make terrible mistakes. No matter who wins, the media will love them and hate them at times, and they’ll tell you who to love and who to hate. Don’t let them do it. Use your brain.

Don’t Be a Pawn

I can’t watch or listen to anything right-wing or left-wing. I distrust most of what they tell me because they have an agenda that goes beyond driving ratings.There is not a single balanced TV network. I pay attention to a few people who seem to be reasonable and balanced and who are not on TV or radio, then draw my own conclusions. These people are hard to find, and sometimes they lose my trust. Keep an open mind and pray about it.

My Embarrassing Voting Record

I’ll go into a voting booth and lay down my vote, something we should all do so our voice is heard. But there are usually some people on the ballot for local or state positions that I’ve never heard of. I feel bad about that, because too often my votes are based on whose signs stood out the most or if they are a part of my party. Do I know their policies? I’m embarrassed to say I rarely do. We owe our communities and states more than a mere glance and a shoot-from-the-hip vote. These people are determining our taxes and our school policies and our policies regarding the state and the freedom of our communities. And just belonging to a party is no longer a reason to vote for someone; we’re seeing people on both sides betray their own party — for the right reasons, or for the wrong ones.

Take the privilege of voting seriously, as though your life depended on it. But don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. You’re bigger than that.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I walked a thin line here because my intent is to stimulate thought, not try to make you guess my political stance or preference. I will never try to influence you. I just hope more people will stop allowing themselves to be influenced (if that’s even possible).

My heart at the moment is to spend the rest of today on the dock, hoping the rain leaves and the sun comes out, so I can play the rest of the long weekend. 

Speaking of play… 

Pastel Live, the world’s largest online pastel conference, is taking place in September. If you want to learn to paint, pastel is the easiest medium. You don’t have to learn to mix color — like crayons, you lay down colors and get incredible, vibrant results. You can learn more at pastellive.com.

Realism Live is coming in November and Watercolor Live in January, and our new Acrylic Live in March. You can sign up for any of them now. 

9 Out of 10 Reasons to Avoid Politics2024-07-07T07:40:36-04:00
23 06, 2024

When Tribes Gather


After several days of open windows and fans blazing during hot, sleepless nights, this morning I’ve awakened to cool temperatures and a sunrise that’s a giant orange ball in the sky, reflecting into the cool blue waters.

Red squirrels are chattering, and as I sit sipping my coffee on the old screened porch overlooking the lake, songbirds are playing an orchestral suite accompanied by an occasional loon call. 


Finally, I’ve had a chance to relax. I’ve been on the go constantly since March, when I took a group of artists to Japan for almost two weeks, returned home, then off to a family funeral for a few days, then home again in time to host the Plein Air Convention in North Carolina, then home again briefly before a drive cross-country to the Adirondacks, where I hosted 91 painters for a week. That ended a week ago yesterday, and it’s taken me this long to finally get some rest. Even the Energizer Bunny occasionally needs to let its batteries run down. 

How Do You Recharge?

They say different personality types recharge their batteries in different ways. For me, typically, it’s being social and having lots of contact with others. My favorite events of the year are the conventions and retreats where I get one-on-one time with old and new friends.

Getting Personal

I also love the chance to just sit and chat, which admittedly is hard during my big convention because they tend to run me on an endless loop from place to place. But the retreats are entirely different. I can stand and talk with people for hours if I want, and I often do, whether it’s when we’re side by side painting, painting portraits or just sitting around at night, or during meals. This is when I learn everyone’s stories, their tragedies, about their families, and it’s when I hear all their great ideas. 

One woman approached me and said she came because her husband unexpectedly passed three years ago, and she could not stand being alone anymore. She decided she needed to force herself to step out and be around others. It was a giant risk on her part, but one met with lots of new friends and support. 

Later in the week, a young woman under 30, a PhD who is now a professor, told me she had been so lonely in college and had found it difficult to make friends, and that when she came to our event, she felt at home and connected with others.

I Found It

Two different women used the same exact words, telling me, “I’ve found my tribe.” One of them said, “I wasn’t looking for a tribe, and I didn’t even know I needed it, till I experienced it. Now they will be my tribe forever.”

Artist John MacDonald told me, “Though I love the painting and the beauty of the Adirondacks, I come here because I’ve made so many great friends. When you paint alone in a studio all day you rarely get a chance just to stand around and talk with friends.” I’m honored to call him friend. (There is a story about the event here).

A new team member I recently hired told me this … “I came to work for you because you were different from everyone else. You were building a tribe, giving back to the community, and doing creative and interesting things. I wanted to be part of it.”

I try very hard not to be prideful, but one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve managed to put so many people together to develop deep friendships, and our events and conventions are the gathering place for those relationships. 

I need a tribe. 

What Do You Need?

Not everyone needs a tribe, but many of us do. We want to find people with like interests, a place where we can be ourselves, be around people who understand us. Since most of my tribe is made up of artists, I joke that our families roll their eyes when we talk about new paint colors, but when we’re together, we can talk about paint around people who find that interesting.

Where is your tribe?

One of the reasons social media is such a success is that we can follow our friends and feel connected, but the downside is that we can very easily become disconnected. I watch my kids and their friends, who often would rather connect online or text even when they’re sitting next to one another. Getting them to be involved with others face-to-face is more of a challenge. They don’t even like to use the phone. They would rather text. 

My Newest Friend Group

Though I love my social media and spend far too much time on it, I want and need to feel connected, to be able to look people in the eyes and get to know their stories. This week I saw a sign in the small town of Saranac Lake, near me, that was promoting a live sketching group on Tuesday nights. I showed up, and it turned out I knew only one person there, but I met others who I loved hanging out with. I’ll be there every week if I can. And when I’m back in Texas, I’ll resume my weekly portrait sessions for the same reason. I’ve missed that.

I love apps like Meetup, where you can search your town and any interest and find a group. If you’re into Civil War reenactments, knitting, woodworking, photography, antique trucks, Lego, or dinosaur studies, you can find a group. And if you can’t find one, you can start one, and soon you’ll be surrounded by people with similar interests.

Pandemic Lazy

I admit that the Covid pandemic turned me into a homebody. I travel less, I go out less, and I stopped things like my portrait group, probably because I got lazy and content with being at home. But I need a tribe … and you might too.

At my painters’ retreats, I not only have a tribe of painters, I have a tribe of painters who are musicians, and we play music together all week in the evenings. I look forward to that all year. So much so that I’ve decided to find or create a tribe to play with local musicians once a week.

Like the woman said, “I did not know I needed it till I found it.”

Is it time you found or created your tribe?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Not only have we created tribes at our in-person events, but also at our online events. Because of my weekday YouTube Show (Art School Live), a tribe called the Dreamliners was formed because people loved interacting on the chat on my show and wanted to keep it going in case I stopped. And on our online events, tribes have formed.

We have a bunch of online events coming up this year and into 2025:

Pastel Live. 3 days of the world’s top pastel artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). September 18-20. 

Realism Live: 3 days of the world’s top realist artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). Teaching portraits, figures, still life, and landscape painting (all realistic). November 13-15.


Watercolor Live: 3 days of the world’s top watercolor artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). January 22-24, 2025.

NEW: Acrylic Live: 3 days of the world’s top acrylic artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). March 26-28, 2025.

If you think you want to learn to paint, but don’t think you have what it takes, try my free lessons called Paint by Note

When Tribes Gather2024-06-23T11:24:32-04:00
9 06, 2024

The Biggest Monument in the Graveyard


The loons are calling out with their soothing cry as they float by on the calm, glass-like waters that reflect the brilliant pink sunrise and the tall pines surrounding the lake. Baby hummingbirds the size of quarters flit about, frolicking in the air and diving from the nest as they try to pass their flying test. 

I’m once again perched on my dock on a hidden lake, deep in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. My home here, built in 1848, is only accessible by boat, and hasn’t changed much since it was built. This is my happy place. Each day here is a gift, and I know summer will fly by fast, just like this year has. 

Road Trip

The drive from Texas was long, lots of sitting, and as the passenger, my three days of travel were filled with impromptu naps from high-carb fast food along the way. It’s cathartic. I didn’t work much other than an occasional e-mail. I never “just sit.” But I didn’t even try to be efficient with my time, like every other moment in my insanely busy life. But on this trip, I don’t even listen to audiobooks, I simply stare and think as America goes by from the passenger side of the car.

The Lure of Private Jets

Driving past some airport somewhere, I gazed longingly at some parked private jets, thinking for a moment what a joy it would be to skip airports and airlines and four-day drives to transport old dogs, and be able to just walk onto our own airplane with the dogs and arrive in a couple of hours. But that’s for busy billionaires, who, like it or not, are missing out on the random encounters with kind people in the breakfast rooms of roadside hotels and at gas stations across America. Driving is my chance to see and experience this great country between Texas and New York, seeing decrepit, falling barns off back roads,  crumbling industrial brick buildings in old cities, and thousands of beautiful working farms along the way. I would not trade it for anything. It’s good for my soul and renews my faith in America.

A Highway Island

As we got on a highway near the end of our trip, I noticed something strange. Off in the distance stood an old Civil War-era cemetery. Though I could barely see it, a few hundred feet away, it was overgrown, appeared to have no access road or entry, and had a highway built all around it. Most of the grave markers were short headstones barely keeping their heads above the weeds, but there were a dozen or so taller headstones, and a few towering monuments reaching for the sky. Yet nestled between a highway and farmland, the cemetery can’t be reached even to be mowed or maintained. 

“What’s the purpose?” I remember thinking. 

Even the tallest, most impressive monument in this lost cemetery is drawing no attention. The names are not visible, which I’m sure was not the intention of the families who funded these monuments. A couple of generations saw those names before the graveyard was eventually abandoned and a highway built around it. Though I could see the towering monuments as I passed by at 75 mph, I could not read the names. Someone worked hard and spent substantial money for their loved ones to stand out and be remembered. Of course they couldn’t have anticipated an interstate highway. Yet even if the monuments were accessible, would anyone read them or know who is buried there?  

A Monument to Himself?

I watched an old friend go through this. He came from a prominent, mega-wealthy billionaire family. When his parents died, he was obsessed with building a memorial that would stand out in a cemetery of other prominent people. I remember him spending over two years working with one of the best-known and hard-to-get architects of the time. I’m guessing he spent millions on this marble monument to his family (which he now occupies as well). He attacked the project like he attacked his business, doing everything right.

But who will see it? Will it matter once a couple of generations pass? Does it matter now?

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

I recently read that most of us will never be remembered beyond two generations. Imagine all that effort to become a Kardashian, working so hard at being famous, and realizing it won’t matter 75 years from now. Two generations from now won’t even be able to read their lifetime’s worth of Instagram posts. 

I remember my great-grandparents, but barely. I have fond memories of my parents and grandparents; I know many of their stories and family legends. But I know little about my great-grandparents, and I know nothing other than the names of a few generations before them.

From Fame to Unknown

Very few of us will ever be known beyond two generations — and that’s true even for most of the great movie stars, sports figures, authors, artists, and business celebrities. The other day I mentioned someone famous from my youth and my kids had to look on Wikipedia to know who it was, yet that person was a household name when I was a kid.

Here’s to the Outliers, the Rebels

The only people whose names survive longer than two or three generations are the outliers. Steve Jobs is likely to be remembered fondly, like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, or Issac Newton, but I doubt if Apple’s Tim Cook will be remembered the same way, in spite of his genius as the new head of Apple. Hemingway is an outlier. Van Gogh and Vermeer … outliers.

I’ve stood at the graves of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo in France. Neither was famous during his lifetime; both died as unknowns. They became famous due to the lifelong efforts of Theo Van Gogh’s widow, Vincent’s sister-in-law, who made Vincent famous 40 years after his death. He never even got to know how important his work would become.  

So if being remembered is unlikely, what should our legacy be?

I suspect that Van Gogh did not set out to be famous. Instead he set out to paint what was in his heart, in a style that moved him, in spite of the criticism he experienced. He painted for himself. He lived the way he wanted to live, as tragic as the story seems. 

If getting famous is your thing, I think you should go for it. Being famous opens a lot of doors and gets you invited to the best parties and gets you into the best restaurants. But if you want to be remembered forever, you need to be an outlier. That means you have to do something different, be innovative, and do something no one else has tried. 

But for the rest of us, our life purpose is different — different for each one of us. It’s less about long-term fame, and more about making a difference somehow. 

I used to wonder about my purpose. I always wanted to serve my God, and my family, but when I chased money, I discovered that it was an empty chase. It was not until I realized my purpose was helping others find their purpose that everything changed for me. I’ve never been more happy, knowing that I’ve potentially helped someone discover something in their life that made them happy. And I guarantee that two generations from now, no one will care.

But one way we can all live on is by the generations we influence. If I can help pull someone out of their bad circumstances and help them live a better, happier, more fulfilling life, then I’ve served my purpose. If they then go on and help others find what they found, they will impact future generations, who will impact future generations. Maybe your name won’t live on, but your ideas could touch families for generations to come. 

I’ve come to understand that legacy isn’t about being remembered, it’s about touching others, who then carry the torch forward to others, who eventually will do the same. Whith is why it’s important to teach, and train future generations, and to help people find a better life.

What is your plan?

Eric Rhoads

PS: A giant part of my mission is to put people together, to help them make lifelong friends, and to help them discover the joys of painting outdoors. Last night about 90 of us gathered for our opening dinner and orientation at my 13th annual Publisher’s Invitational Adirondack retreat. All of us are staying at Paul Smiths College of the Adirondacks, and we’ll paint together all day every day in some of the most stunning scenery in America. We sit up at night and play music, sing, and paint portraits, and we make deep, lasting friendships. We wish you were here. But since that’s not possible this year, there are still a handful of seats available for my fall retreat, called Fall Color Week, which is in Carmel-Monterey this fall. 

PS 2: Back at the turn of the century, when people would graduate from college, wealthy families sent their young men (mostly men at that time) on the Grand Tour before they started their careers. The idea was to help them become educated in life abroad, to broaden their horizons, and to expose them to the great artists and museums so they became more interesting people. 

The one place that was considered a “must” first stop on the Grand Tour was Venice, Italy, not only because of its rich culture and beautiful architecture, but because of its incredible art experiences. It was the one place every artist wanted to visit and paint, attracting virtually every important artist throughout history. And it was not only an attraction for artists, but also those who love and appreciate art.

Each year for 12 years now, I’ve hosted a fall Fine Art Trip along with Fine Art Connoisseur Editor Peter Trippi. These trips are legendary because of the impossible access we provide our guests, with private entry to museums, private homes, and artists’ studios. Our storied past runs deep with unheard-of private visits, alone inside the Hermitage or in the Sistine Chapel. Even the wealthiest people with the biggest Rolodexes could not arrange the kind of experiences we’ve been able to provide. 

This year we decided to focus on two important aspects of the Grand Tour: the hidden treasures and secrets of Venice, as well as those of Verona, which is rich with art experiences but barely known as an art treasure city. Once again, we’ll be opening doors, trading on deep relationships, and providing an unheard of experience in this region. It promises to be life-changing.

In the past we’ve opened up these trips to a sizable group. One trip required two buses to visit some of our treasures. But we’ve since realized that large crowds are a bar to intimate experiences. Therefore we’re limiting this group to 30 people, or 15 couples (though singles are welcome and encouraged).

We’re going this fall, and it will be a great opportunity to escape all the election drama that occurs every cycle, and yet we’ll be home in time to vote. You’ll experience treasures you did not know existed, and you’ll become the most interesting person at Christmas parties this year with stories of art others will not have experienced. At this stage we’re just opening things up, and we’re already 25% sold, and there are many “regulars” who tend to come but who have not yet signed up. If you’re at all interested, this would be a good time to visit www.finearttrip.com to explore. This is a very elegant trip where everything is of the finest quality, because it’s your Grand Tour.

The Biggest Monument in the Graveyard2024-06-08T13:07:46-04:00
2 06, 2024

An Encounter Like No Other


The Texas heat is melting everything in sight, including me. Who needs a microwave for hot coffee — all I need to do is set my cup on the porch for a moment. It’s already that hot. This morning I’m taking one last moment on the old wicker couch on the long tin roof-covered porch.

A little over 11 years ago, my assistant, Jenny, decided it was time to move on. The job was too stressful, so she gave notice and began interviewing for her replacement. So I asked her to pick the top three she would hire, and then I would interview them. 

Not Adding Up

I started with her top candidate, but in the in-person interview, I was concerned because there was something on the resume that did not add up.

No More Stress

Her answer was that she and her husband were both in big, high-stress jobs, and they had decided to move to America, had decided they liked Texas, and they wanted to live for quality of life, not money. Oh, and she picked Texas because it’s always sunny, the opposite of London, where it’s always gray and raining. Though I still wondered why anyone would do that, she persuaded me to hire her. And little did she know she was about to go from the frying pan into the fire.

Mind Like a Bouncy House

Those who have worked for me will tell you things about me that are not always evident to our readers or customers. I’m completely ADHD, and the only reason I’ve survived is because my brain shoots out ideas at the speed of a machine gun, and I tend to implement most of them. As a result we went from a single magazine 30-plus years ago to a media company with multiple magazines, newsletters, conferences, retreats, training courses, and more. And just about the time we get a moment of stability or rest, out comes another idea that tends to put everyone in a tizzy. When I first hired this person, I said, “I throw a lot of baseballs. Your job is to catch them all, put them in a basket, then ask what their priority is. And check in with me frequently, because a hot idea today might not be hot a week from now. So let’s not start working on something till we know it’s going to get launched.”

The Perfect Combination

What ended up happening was beyond remarkable. I did not end up with just an assistant, I ended up with a confidant with whom I could share ideas and thoughts and ask for opinions, knowing I’d get very well thought-out answers. I also ended up with a handler, who protected me from the arrows I did not need to see, and, when problems arose, instead of asking me how I wanted to handle them, just handled them with grace and class. On occasion she felt the need to get my opinion on a particular situation, and usually her suggested way was the best way.

When she phoned people, she spoke with authority, with her South African/British accent, and people who encountered her loved her because she always treated them with respect (which I never had to ask her to do) — everyone who ever dealt with her grew to love her.

Always Trustworthy

And she did something else I found to be truly remarkable. Though she was extremely loyal to me, she never ever violated a confidence if told something by someone else. She might say to me, “You might want to consider having a talk with this person,” but she would never tell me why. Co-workers could tell her anything I needed to know, and she would share it with me at their request, keeping their name out of it if that was important to them. There were times when I felt I should know, yet over 11 years, she never once violated anyone else’s confidence. I knew, as a result, she would never violate mine, especially since she knew as much about me as my family, and sometimes more. And if it was extremely delicate, she would nudge me in the right direction without ever revealing what she knew. Usually with some nudging or pressure, people will give in, because they really want to tell you. She never did.

In a line of work where she’s often in the public eye, where she receives thousands of e-mails some weeks, hundreds of calls at times, her role can be demanding, because part of her responsibility is to allow me to live a normal life — and yet I want to make sure everyone is treated with respect and given the proper amount of time. It’s not easy for either of us, but it’s the right thing to do. She walks this tightrope beautifully. 

I’ve had some amazing assistants over my career, but this one is the most special and will be missed the most.

Before today, I’ve never devoted a Sunday Coffee to anyone other than family, but this feels like family for both my wife and myself. And though I was disappointed when Ali Cruickshank let me know that after 11 years, it was time to go and reduce the stress in her life once again, I remember one thing my dad taught me: “When you own a company, everyone eventually leaves. You’re the only one who never does … until you do.”

Ali not only handled my life and my business matters, and often produced my podcasts or shows, she handled all the faculty for all of our events like the Plein Air Convention and our virtual events. And she organized my retreats and trips, plus all my travel. And it is going to take three amazing people to replace her. 

One of the things that happens when you work at Streamline is you become part of a family. We all become very close. You also get drawn into the art world. Ali got addicted early on with her first painting purchase, and now has a wall of paintings she has purchased at our events. I’ll be making sure she has something to take up a little more wall space. 

Sunday Coffee is often about lessons I’ve learned, and I cannot begin to articulate what I’ve learned from this wonderful woman. She is gracious, discreet, encouraging, open to change and any challenge, and great with people. Life will never be the same without her. Everything will be fine, of course, but it will change, and she will be missed.

Last week I announced to the crowd at PACE that Ali would be leaving. Tears welled up in both of our eyes, and there was sadness among the crowd. Of course Ali has lifetime access to the event she has helped build through her diligence and special magic. We hope she will return to see the family (and we promise we won’t put her to work).

Please join me in a fond farewell to one of the greatest friends and family members I’ve worked with.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’d like to welcome Skye Fallon to the Streamline team; she is our new event coordinator. And Amandine Tollitte and Christie Cole are taking on the roles of assisting and producing me. Please welcome them.

By the way….

Last week I was so exhausted from PACE (the Plein Air Convention & Expo) … it’s not every day I get to do acrobatics on stage, hanging from the ceiling 🙂 … I completely forgot to write Sunday Coffee. So sorry.

A special word to everyone who was at the Plein Air Convention…

I’ve never felt so grateful for the hundreds of you who approached me and told me what joy you are experiencing since you’ve discovered painting or attended the convention. I’m honored to serve you. I hope to see you again.

Next stop…

This week I’ll load the car, a couple of old dogs who can’t fly, part of my family, and a load of summer stuff and head off to the Adirondacks. My next event starts this Saturday (PaintAdirondacks.com). Then summer begins. Woohoo! Lots of paintings to create!

An Encounter Like No Other2024-06-02T16:22:36-04:00
19 05, 2024

How to Make a Spectacular Life


I’m yawning. I’m groggy. It’s very early, the sun is not up, and the house is shaking from a thunderstorm overhead. I made my way out to the coffee machine, and here we are together this morning, warm cup in my hands, trying to wake up.  

When I was a child, I would sit in the garage with the door open, watching the rain and the thunderstorms. I felt safe inside, but I loved the sound of rain and storms. When I was a young adult, I used to dream of one day sitting on my porch with a tin roof, listening to the rain. Today, I’m sitting safely on that porch, watching the rain come in sheets, feeling the ground shake with the thunder, and listening to the pellets of water hitting the tin roof. Sheets of water are pouring down the hill toward the river in the gully. Yet I’m dry, safe, and happy as a clam. At least till I have to load up the car and head to the airport. 

Lightning Strike

One time I went to Tennessee to see my grandfather’s sister Aunt Maxine, who lived on a farm in Armathwaite. I sat in the front room of this tiny 1800s white Victorian house, looking out over the storm. “It’s too dangerous to sit on the porch,” I was told, because the lightning could be so bad. Though I still thought I’d rather be on the porch, I changed my mind when a bolt struck the giant hickory tree I was looking at. SLAM!!!! CRACK!!! It cracked so loudly — I’ve never heard such a noise. The light flashed so brightly my eyes were burning. I could feel the heat inside the house even though it was a cool summer night. The tree was split in half and then started smoking, though I don’t think it caught on fire. It was a good lesson in the force of nature. 

I was blessed with a great childhood, a great upbringing, and people who cared deeply. And I have wonderful memories, along with some moments I did not fully understand at the time.

Wear a Mental Helmet

“Be careful what you put inside your head,” my grandma used to tell me. “Once it’s there, it never goes away.” And I used to think she was wrong when she would suggest we not go to the movies, or listen to the radio to hear “the devil’s music,” because it was going to influence us. In fact, listening to that music may have played a role in pushing me to become a rock ’n’ roll DJ. I used to think what she was saying was utter nonsense, and I spent over a decade on the radio playing the hits.

Now I’m not going to rant about rock music, which I happen to love. I typically don’t rant about anything. But I have discovered that she was right about one thing … what enters your head never leaves. And with enough repetition, you might start becoming what you see or hear.

You Can’t Unsee Things

Last year at the Plein Air Convention a man asked what my daughter was studying at Baylor, and I mentioned her interest in psychology and forensics. He told me, “I did forensics at crime scenes, and I don’t recommend it. You can’t unsee the things I’ve seen, and they haunt me. They never leave you.” He said, “In that job you realize how much evil there really is. If I had my life to do over, I would not do that part. You really lose faith in mankind when you see the things I saw.”

My Love for Cowboys

I never really wanted to believe the narrative about what you put in your head, but I was really getting into the show Yellowstone. I loved it. I fantasized about being a cowboy. I bought some boots and a hat. And the more I watched it, the more I loved it. I wanted to visit the area, buy a ranch, and live the rest of my life on a horse. That is, until one day when I encountered a problem with someone, and my first instinct was to react violently. Fortunately, I caught myself before my reaction got me in trouble. And I started thinking, “That’s not me. I don’t ever react with violence.” But the more I started thinking about it, I realized that watching all the violence had played a role in my reaction. So I gave up the show cold turkey and never watched it again.

Maybe people will say that I’m weak if I’m that suggestible. I’m OK with that. 

Avoiding What I Don’t Want to Become

I’ve made the realization that the negative things and the positive things we input all play a role in our subconscious mind. Though I’ll sound old school, I even realize that if I watch movies where every other word is an F-bomb, I’ll catch myself almost using such language, even though I’ve made a commitment to myself not to swear. I don’t feel the need to stay current with the culture, so if I’m watching something that is heavily f-bombing, I’ll turn it off. The same is true with things that have lots of sexual scenes. I’ll turn it off because I want to be respectful to my commitment to my family and my wife. I know, sounds very old-fashioned. Right? 

What You Think About Matters

No matter what you imagine, there is a very strong likelihood your subconscious or unconscious mind could find a way to make it happen. For years I dreamed about the house with the tin roof and the big porch, and it eventually came true. I never set it as a goal, and I did not even consciously think about it when looking for a house, but I ended up with it somehow. Is there a possibility that where you see yourself is where you’ll end up? There are lots of scientific debates, and you can find people supporting both sides of the argument.

What Some Believe

According to author and speaker Vishen Lakhiani, the key to getting what you want, to controlling your outcomes, is a step-by-step process of entering a theta state (the state you’re in when you first awaken), looking upward at an imagined screen and seeing what you don’t want. For instance, seeing what you hate about your circumstances or situation. Then you switch to a middle “screen,” showing yourself taking action to find a solution, without thinking about what that solution might be. Then you switch to a screen to your far left (the position of the eyes matters, according to Lakhiani) and imagine yourself in the place or situation you want to be in, living the life. I don’t have any evidence that this is true, but I like to think it could be. 

Other “experts” have also suggested imagining yourself in the situation you’d like to be in. They say that telling yourself, “I’m gonna be a millionaire,” won’t work, but telling yourself, “I am a millionaire,” will work. It’s hard to know if any of this is right.

Here’s what I do know. What I think about, what I see myself doing, tends to come true. What I pray about tends to come true. The more specific my prayer, the more effective. As a result, I’m very intentional about what I’m thinking or praying about and what I need to avoid thinking about. What about you?

What has worked for you? What have you thought about so much that it came to pass?

What negative things have you imagined that came true?

Would they come true if you had not imagined them?

Scientists know if you’re speeding down the road at 70 mph and you tell yourself, “Don’t hit that tree!” you’re much more likely to hit the tree. So they suggest you tell yourself, “Go through that opening,” rather than, “Don’t hit that tree.” You have a better chance of survival. Where you focus matters.

Is there evidence? I’d love to see more science on what really happens. Others claim there is ample evidence. I’m still skeptical. But I do have anecdotal evidence from the small circle of people I surround myself with. The negative thinkers tend to get negative results. The positive thinkers tend to get positive results. 

One day I may look back and say it’s all hocus-pocus, but I don’t think so. It seems there is something to it. I don’t think it’s about luck, it’s about being deliberate. Being deliberate is a conscious decision, versus allowing things to float in and find a home. When I’m traveling to a meeting or event, I imagine a positive outcome, and things usually go as I imagine them. I often rehearse a meeting, imagining what they say and what I say, and I see things going well. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how positives or negatives have impacted your life and your relationships.

Eric Rhoads

For a year I’ve been envisioning the largest Plein Air Convention in history. And when I board the plane today, I’m going to imagine a successful convention with a lot of very happy customers who have had their lives changed for the better. I will think through every detail and imagine a positive outcome, including how my team will perform and how the faculty will perform. Will it happen? I expect it to. I’ll let you know. The convention starts tomorrow.

Soon after the convention I’ll be hosting 100 artists for my 12th annual artists’ retreat, the Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks. I’m looking forward to seeing you there. I fully expect the last few available seats to be sold.

When Covid hit and we were flooded with cancellations, we reinvented and launched virtual art conferences online. When Covid was over, it would have been easy to tell myself they would soon fail, but I envisioned them being as strong as ever and even growing. The result was positive, and these online events have continued successfully after lockdowns ended. I think the expectation matters. The next online event is in September, Pastel Live, then Realism Live in November, and Watercolor Live in January.

How to Make a Spectacular Life2024-05-19T07:17:22-04:00
12 05, 2024

Being the Glue


Slam! Crunch! A 1950s-style ceramic bowl went crashing to the floor, spreading milk and Cheerios all over the red-and-white speckled linoleum. Suddenly laughter broke out.

It’s hard to know if I really recall my first memories, or if they come from family stories or old photos. My first memory of my mom has me sitting in a high chair as an infant, grabbing my bowl of cereal and putting it on my head like a hat. I can still remember my mom laughing. 

My second memory is of us standing in front of our house, me being held in my mom’s arms, and watching our garage burn to the ground. I can still feel Mom’s tears.

Life is about the dash. In my mom’s case, the dash came between 1927 and 2019. My mom passed five years ago this past week, on May 7. I miss her every day.

What you do with the dash is what matters.

The dash is all about moments and memories.

Last week, I attended the funeral of my Aunt Phyllis, my dad’s sister and my last aunt, and though it was somber, the memories that flooded back with the stories told by my cousins were priceless. She lived her dash well.

A friend, Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED conferences, always says, “I live my life by the number of summers I have left.” Summers being a metaphor for those special times when we go out of our way to do special things.

He, too, is thinking about the dash.  Making sure the remaining summers are special.

More Funerals?

After the funeral, one of my cousins said… “We need to do this more often.” She did not mean a funeral, but having all her brothers and sisters and cousins and friends together. 

Family reunions serve an important purpose, but as families become more spread across a small world, reunions don’t come as frequently as when they are at the farm down the road. 

Oftentimes our parents are family glue. 

We gathered at my dad’s place every summer with most of the family. We showed up at his place at Christmas, and when we lived nearby, it was chicken dinner every Sunday night. All were invited.  

My dad learned that from his parents, who learned it from his grandparents. 

When the glue wears out, it can no longer hold a family together, and that responsibility falls on another family member. All too often I hear tragic stories of families no longer getting together. That’s been the case in our family since my dad passed. He would be heartbroken, as am I. But people have busy lives and live in faraway places.

The True Meaning?

I can’t answer all the questions about the meaning of life in this brief note, but as I look back on my own life, only a few work-related memories matter, and all of those are about the people I worked with or met, or an occasional business trip. 

But family memories, travel with friends and family, and time with friends or family are all that matter to me, other than my relationship with God. 

Put the Fun Back in Funerals

Funerals are the kick in the butt we need to realize that time is short and that if we’re not deliberate about a well-designed life, and going out of our way to create memories, we’ll one day look back and say… “I spent my life in my La-Z-Boy watching TV” — or surfing social media, or playing video games. That’s not life, that’s merely existence. 

Today, as we honor our moms, the best way to honor them is to keep family coming together and creating memories, and spending time with our moms if they are living. Being with family is what they would want.

Are you a pinball, or a car following a roadmap? Make a plan for the life you want to live, and make it happen. Only you can do it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This is special for me today because we are expecting all three of our kids home to celebrate their mother, my bride, the love of my life. The thing we want most is that warm blanket of family around us, wishing it would last longer. This week is a double celebration — my wife and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage tomorrow. 

Once our moms leave us, Mother’s Day is hard, but the first one without her is the hardest. I just learned this will be the first motherless Mother’s Day for a friend who recently lost his mom. And it will be the first for my cousins. I feel your pain, your emptiness. Moms have always been there for us, and we don’t fully appreciate them till they are gone. Today, if you have your mom, give her a giant hug and just hold on and don’t let go. It’s a gift to both of you.

PS 2: The biggest event of my year starts on May 20 outside of Asheville, North Carolina, where we will hold our annual Plein Air Convention, a gathering of over 1,000 painters from all over the world. This is my other family. We all become very close, and this event is not just about learning and growing from top master artists, it’s our Thanksgiving, a chance to break bread and be with old and new friends. I don’t think there are any seats left, but if you go to the website, try joining the waitlist, something may have opened up. It would be fun to have you there.

Being the Glue2024-05-19T07:10:17-04:00
1 05, 2024

Take a Bow


Fields of trees filled with pink and white blossoms lined the walkways through Sakuragaoka Park, which is like Central Park for Tokyo. Massive crowds of people treated blossoming cherry trees like movie stars, flooding around to take photos and selfies. Women were wearing colorful spring kimonos; it’s a tradition around graduation time to be photographed with the legendary blossoms, and in some areas men too were dressed in traditional robes. It was like a scene out of a movie.

Unfortunately, the blossoms had not reached their peak, and our group of 35 artists hit them a little early, so the trees that were in blossom got more attention than those that were still bare. A return to the same park on our last day was a different story. Everything was in full bloom, and the scene was one of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. It was what I imagine a walk through heaven to be … walls of color against flowing streams and beautiful temples. 


We went to see Japan to visit its temples, see its iconic sign-filled streets, and experience the colorful scenery, but we left transformed, and mesmerized by the culture.

Before going, everyone I met who had been there before said, “It’s indescribable, but I’d live there if I could.” It seemed odd to me, but now I understand.

I’ll not tell the story of our trip now (you can read it here), but I fell in love with the culture and the people.

But why? What was it that was so different from other beautiful places I’ve visited?

Big and Clean

The metropolitan area of Tokyo is home to 41 million people, larger than the population of the entire state of California, yet there are no visible social problems. Most big cities struggle with the sheer size of the population and are prone to chaos and filth. Yet during my visit, I did not see a single piece of trash, nor did I see a beggar or a homeless person. We ended up in some areas and neighborhoods one might think could be dangerous, yet not once did we feel unsafe. Though I suppose dangerous areas exist, I never saw evidence, even outside the tourism bubble.

Though I’ve not researched this, I’m told there is simply almost no crime. And that is rooted in how the Japanese raise their young, and in their immigration policies, which make it difficult and sometimes impossible for non-Japanese to move there. 


The first thing I noticed is that there are no trash cans. We went to a local food market, filled with thousands of hungry people, yet when I had a paper plate left over, I walked up and down the street to find a trash can. There was none. When I asked, I learned that everyone is responsible for their own trash. You stick it in your pocket and take it home to throw it away. 

Though rooted in a 1995 incident when a terrorist hid a bomb in a trash can, resulting in a new policy on trash management, most of the cleanliness is based on societal responsibility. It would simply be rude to ask someone else to deal with your trash problem. 

What I loved most about Japan was its respectful culture. 


I’m walking down the hall in my hotel when the maid at her cart stops, steps out, and fully bows to me. I in turn stopped and bowed to her. After picking something up in my room, when I encountered her a few minutes later, we both bowed again. And subsequently dozens of times over the course of our stay.

Everyone bows to everyone. Everyone is respectful to everyone, to the point that you actually look forward to encountering someone you can help.

And there is no tipping in Japan. The one time we attempted to tip someone for helping us in a difficult situation, that person refused to accept it.


Precision is another part of the culture. It’s not enough to put things away; the people focus on doing things properly. For instance, lining up all the shoes on the floor so they look perfect. If giving a gift (a major part of the culture), they are interested in the aesthetic of precision and beautiful wrapping. Every shelf in every store is pristine and perfect, and the package design of most products is done with excellence. People in our group were taking pictures of candy and cake boxes because they were so beautiful.

I’ve come to understand that Japan’s lack of crime or dirt comes from the idea of honoring others, feeling the need to be obligated and responsible to others, and going out of one’s way to be helpful. 

What if we were more like that?

What if we took more personal responsibility to go out of our way to help others? 

What if we showed our respect for others?

What if we made sure everything was pristine because we wanted to please others?

During part of our tour we visited the Holbein paint company factory where they make all their water-based products like watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and water-soluble oil paints. They took us through the entire factory, showed us how the paint was made, and even ran a line of paint for us to experience it firsthand. Not only was the experience eye-opening, the experience was about precision and cleanliness. In other factories I’ve visited I’ve seen rusty old machinery and trash on the floor, but at Holbein things were perfectly maintained, well painted, clean, and operated with perfection. 

Can You Say Kodawari?

Steve Jobs used to talk about a Japanese term that was about making things beautiful and perfect, inside and out, even the inside of the machine that no one ever sees.

I’ve since learned there is a concept called kodawari, which sums up Japanese culture. I found this definition online.

Kodawari ( こだわり in Japanese) means the pursuit of perfection. It is passion, persistence, commitment, and attention to detail. It is so beautiful because, once you have truly connected to it, one word can be a placeholder for an entire world view.

The key to kodawari is that it is personal in nature. It is partially rooted in pride, but not the petty kind. It is the kind of personal pride that you feel when you are alone and you know that you did your best. It comes from that deeper presence inside your head that watches you and knows when you are cutting corners. Whenever you ignore this discipline, you feel weaker, and when you engage with it, you feel stronger.

Such discipline is not rooted in some grandiose scheme to impress others or to achieve external validation. It is your personal standard, and it is how you foster self-respect. While you appreciate the beauty it creates along the way, you also realize that you never fully arrive anywhere. You can always be better. 

I’m sure there are lots of invisible problems or issues I did not see in Japan, but I love this idea of doing things well, being the best you can be …  just because. Knowing perfection isn’t possible, but striving for it in everything you do brings you closer to it.

I experienced this everywhere in Japan. Even public restrooms had automated electric heated toilet seats, and the stores had more variety and excellence than any stores I’ve ever experienced. 

From what I can tell, it starts with respect for others, which drives us to do the best possible for everyone we encounter. Not because they can do something for us, not because they are more important than we are, but because all humans deserve our respect and our best.

That’s why I encourage you to take a bow.

Eric Rhoads

PS: One my first day back doing my daily YouTube show, Art School Live, someone wrote in the comments, “You look 10 years younger.” I joked that I’d really slipped away for plastic surgery, but my more youthful look was rooted in getting away from stress and gaining a new perspective by visiting a new place. I recommend it.

At the end of our trip, I asked our attendees to tell me the best part, and everyone said it was the people they met on the trip and spent the time with. I love seeing people connecting and making friends through the things we offer. I agree that the people were the best part.

I love meeting new people and being thrown into a situation where we are together 12 hours a day for a week and a half. You can’t help but make friends. And I love when artists meet artists. I live to help others make these kinds of connections. The next chance to experience this is at our Plein Air Convention this May, which is down to less than 40 seats left.

My next international trip with a group is the Fine Art Connoisseur Behind the Scenes art collector trip this fall to Venice and Verona, but I’ve not yet decided where my next international painting trip will be.

Another place to get to know people is at Paint the Adirondacks (17 seats left), my spring painting retreat this June, and at Fall Color Week (27 seats left) this September.

You deserve to reward yourself with something to look forward to … a trip, a workshop, or an event!

Take a Bow2024-05-01T19:28:50-04:00
28 04, 2024

Memories in a Mini


If this were a reality show and there was a camera on my face in the car, you would see every possible emotion. One minute I tear up, the next minute I’ve got a look of joy on my face, while another moment shows disappointment or disgust.

I flew into my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, yesterday to attend the Monday memorial for my Aunt Phyllis, who left us recently. And I’m driving all around town in my best friend’s Mini Cooper, going to places where memories were created.

Ouch. I still remember the pain. That’s the spot where I ran into a tree limb while playing football with my friends. It punctured right below my eye and came close to blinding me.

That corner is where a mean kid beat me up and stole all my Halloween candy. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have dealt with it a lot differently.

On the same corner, I also get a big grin because it’s where I set up my lemonade stand every summer to raise money for muscular dystrophy. It was a half mile from my house, because I figured a busy street and a place easy to pull over would sell more stuff. I didn’t just have lemonade, I had a variety of drinks and snacks. 

Ohh, that’s the church with the weird roof that comes all the way to the ground. I remember getting kicked off for playing on that roof.

Hmmm, that’s where that mean kid lived who bullied me in 7th grade. I lost a lot of sleep over that, which seems foolish now.

Cool … there is our old house at 5311 Indiana Avenue … I wonder if they would let me dig up their backyard to find a time capsule my brothers and I planted there in 1965?

Oh, that’s the park where I made potholders.

This is the home of the kid who intentionally ran over my dog and killed him.

There is my grandparents’ old house where we used to swing on the front porch.

The memories are endless, and every possible emotion is flooding me this weekend. And when I see my cousins at the funeral tomorrow, more memories will be brought back as tears are shed. Funerals are for the living, and I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ll probably never see again.

Seismic Shift

I’m sure my parents, and their parents, and multiple generations before them, had a moment like this, where they realized …  their parents’ generation is entirely gone. Now we’re the next generation to go.

I’m not exactly sure what to do with that information. But if I look back on the last couple of decades, it’s a reminder that time travels incredibly fast, and I need to make the most of it.

If I were reading this at a young age, I’d roll my eyes and would not even consider thinking about these things. They are a lifetime away, till you awaken one day and find yourself there. 

Short Spurts

If I look back on the eras of my big projects … companies I’ve started, brands I’ve started, or other big projects … I realize that things tend to come in five- or 10-year spurts. So whatever project I take on today will probably eat up the next five or 10 years. 

When you think of life in 10-year segments, you really only get a few opportunities, unless you change jobs or careers every couple of years. But if you do that, it’s hard to go deep. 

So what will you do with the next segment? 

Most of us, myself included, tend to operate like a pinball machine. You get launched, then you bounce from thing to thing until you make a win, get a couple of points, or you fall into the gutter and get relaunched again … until you run out of turns. 

That’s why the question is so overwhelming to ponder. How will I get the most possible life experience, joy, wonderful adventures, and build memories in the time that remains? 

Last week we announced our new Fine Art Connoisseur Behind the Scenes Art Trip to Venice and Verona. This is our 12th year doing these trips, and a handful of the people who have come on every trip have now aged out. Many of them made their first trip in their mid-60s or 70s. Though many regulars will still sign up, and though new people sign up all the time, one person who has been on every trip says he no longer has the stamina to do the walking through museums, another can’t walk at all, and another has decided no more international travel for him because it’s too difficult. For some these changes were predictable, for others they were sudden and unexpected. Opportunity is here one minute and gone the next. We need to grab opportunities, never saying, “There’s always next time.” “Always” does not exist. 

Wakeup Calls

Though it’s never pleasant to go through the grief of losing an aunt or uncle or parent, these tough moments in life serve the important purpose of disrupting our routines and making us aware that time is short. In my case, if things like this did not serve as a reminder, I’d probably never make any change. But things like deaths or anniversaries wake me up … “What do you mean Fine Art Connoisseur is 20 years old? It seems like we started yesterday.” 

So what will you do with your next five years?

Will you be deliberate, or will you just go with the flow?

A life lived deliberately is filled with rich experiences. A life left to chance is risky.

Though we don’t have much control, we can mostly pick and choose what we want to spend our time on, what we want to strive for, and the experiences we want to have.

Time Is Running Out

The other day I was told I have to get my pilot’s license before my next birthday. That’s not much time to do something I’ve always wanted to complete. It turned out not to be true, but it is stimulating me to take action.

Make Some Decisions Today While This Is on Your Mind

If you were granted only five more years on this earth, no matter what age you are, how would you make the most out of those years?

Where would you start? What would you prioritize?

What have you always wanted to do?

Don’t worry about what is or isn’t possible. Set the goals first, then you’ll find a way to make them happen.

I want to try living in Italy. How am I going to make that happen?

I want to go around the world and paint. When will I do that?

There are things out of my control … like I would like to have a bunch of grandbabies and have them know me as adults. Right now my kids are still focused on getting their lives started, and that’s not yet on their radar. But there are things I can impact.

Let’s start planning and dreaming now, because like it or not, your time will expire when you least expect it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When I awoke from blacking out in a near-death experience, there were two things that came to mind. The first was spending more quality time with my family. The  second was going to Europe or somewhere exotic at least once a year for the rest of my life. At the time, I did not know how I was going to do it, because I could not afford it. But by setting the goal and allowing creativity to flow, I came up with a way. That way was the annual Fine Art Trip.

Because of all the perks I receive as an art magazine publisher, such as meeting curators at museums, getting private tours of museums on days when they’re closed, visiting artists’ family homes and studios, it crossed my mind that I need to share these experiences and contacts with other people. By developing these behind-the-scenes trips, we’ve been able to help others experience things they could never set up on their own, no matter how wealthy they are. We’ve taken people into a place where only the pope and presidents have been permitted, as the first private group allowed. We’ve had the Sistine Chapel to ourselves. We’ve been in the home of Alphonse Mucha’s 90-year-old daughter-in-law to see his private family collection of paintings, which had never been shown or seen. And we were the last to be able to get a private viewing of Mucha’s Slav Epic paintings before they were confiscated by the government of Hungary. We’ve watched famous paintings be restored, we’ve had famous paintings handed around for our group to hold in their hands, we’ve had experiences that no one could arrange on their own.

Our group has become a family, and it’s painful when someone drops out. We’ve all made a point to go out of our way to be there to reconnect each year. And when new people join, they become a part of our family. Fast friendships are made.

I’d love to invite you to become a part of this special group. It’s for people who love and appreciate art and want to learn about it and see it on a deeper level. Sometimes one person in a couple is the art lover and the other goes along for the friendships. This is a moment when you are treated to the finest hotels, the most incredible restaurants, and an exceptional touring experience in addition to all the art experiences.

We did Venice before, in 2012, and we might repeat a few must-see highlights, but we’re going to see some amazing art and experience some incredible memories in Venice and Verona (an art-rich city that’s not on everyone’s radar). All of this is curated by Peter Trippi, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur, and myself. We open our “Rolodex” so you meet the finest people in the art world.

And though this is not a painting trip, I’m planning a three-day pre-event trip in Venice for those who want to join and paint.

You can learn more at www.finearttrip.com.

Memories in a Mini2024-04-28T09:49:13-04:00
21 04, 2024

When Pushing Backfires


Mourning doves are cooing to greet the red sun rising over the horizon of water that reflects the pink sky. My morning greeting is never the same, and it’s one I never tire of. The doves play their flutes, providing music as I sit in my Adirondack chair on the dock. 

If you’re new, my routine is to write from my soul each Sunday.

“You need to tell the world about Sunday Coffee. Why aren’t you marketing it more? After all, you’re a marketing guy,” said an acquaintance of mine who suggested I could grow Sunday Coffee much bigger by being promotional.

“I’m trying something different this time,” I said. “I’ve spent my whole life marketing things, and I decided that since this is very personal, I’m just gonna see what happens.”

I think he muttered something like “Fool!” under his breath, or at least it seemed he was thinking it.

Giving In to Growth

Now this might sound very unlike me, but I stopped keeping track of subscribers when I hit 150,000 a few years ago. I decided that I did not want to know anymore because my ego might get in the way, and that might change my intentions. I don’t write with the intent of growth.

I honestly don’t know how many people read this letter, or how many people forward it. I don’t want to know, because I just want it to be organic.

Angel Wings

Sometimes you have to allow something to be carried forward by the wings of angels and quit trying to control everything. Instead of effort, Sunday Coffee is a reversed effort. Have you ever heard of the Law of Reversed Effort?

The Master and His Student

A student approaches his martial arts teacher, asking, “How long will it take me to become a master in martial arts?”

The master replies that it will take 10 years.

Looking frustrated, the young student says, “I want to master martial arts faster than 10 years. So I’ll work harder than anyone else, and I’ll push myself to practice more hours every day. If I do that, how long will it take?

The master replies, “20 years.”

Don’t Try Harder

The Law of Reversed Effort was coined by author Aldous Huxley, who said, “The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed.”

Is this true? You decide. 

When you’re on deadline pushing to accomplish a creative task, you become less creative because of the pressure.

When you’re feeling the pressure to meet the perfect partner, you rarely find someone. Yet when you give up and stop trying so hard (as I did), the perfect mate falls in your lap.

When you try to force yourself to fall asleep, what happens? You stare at the ceiling for hours.

Sahil Bloom, who introduced me to this concept, says that top pro athletes call this the “85% rule.” A runner will try to run at 85% because it keeps her looser, more fluid, and it feels effortless. When she tries to run at 100%, her muscles tighten, she may cramp up, and it slows her down.

So instead of pushing everything, when you start focusing on balance, you can actually achieve more.

No one can sustain pushing hard all day every day, and when they try, they burn out and become less effective. 

Yet when you focus on balance, things flow better. You thrive. 

Go with the flow. Stop pushing.

A Ball of Stress

This week I was coaching an acquaintance who said she had not taken a vacation in several years, and was working all the time.

When I said, “How’s that working out for you?” she said, “I’m about to explode. I don’t know how much longer I can take it, but if I let go, things will fall apart.”

I asked her … “Have you ever flown a kite?” If you pull the string too much and too often, the kite dives and crashes. If you hold it too loosely, it loses control. The key to kite flying is perfect balance. It turns out that is the key to everything, including work.

I then told her about my billionaire friend who takes 26 weeks a year to spend on his yacht. He once told me he became a billionaire because he took time off for thinking and relaxing. During that time he does not check e-mail, does not take business calls, and even stays off social media. He said his company creates such high pressure that if he did it all day every day, he would explode. 

Though it’s counterintuitive, my ball-of-stress friend will find herself more productive if she takes more time off. 

Let Go

We have to be willing to let go and stay balanced.

Ever heard “Less is more”? How about  “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”?

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink. When you try to sink, you float.” — Aldous Huxley

Ease over struggle.

Huxley also said, “In all activities in life, the secret of efficiency lies in an ability to combine two seemingly incompatible states: a state of maximum activity and a state of maximum relaxation.”

Have you heard of people working themselves to death? Have you encountered people who worked so hard that their health suffered? Things go better with balance.

Pushing Too Hard

For years I pushed to get a project accomplished, but doors kept slamming in my face. I decided to let go and see what comes to me. No effort isn’t the answer, but expecting a result but not pushing for it constantly might be the right middle ground. I assume the right answer will flow into my arms soon.

Hot Driving

Years ago, a friend borrowed my Porsche for a weekend. It broke down. When it was towed to my mechanic, he said, “Your friend must have driven this car for over two hours at over 100 mph. The engine isn’t built for that. It destroyed the engine.” 

It cost me thousands to repair. 

How would your life be if you stopped pushing so hard? 

How would your relationships improve if you stopped pushing so hard because you care so much?

What if letting up made you more effective?

Take your foot off the gas once in a while and let your momentum take over. When doors keep closing on you, take the hint and stop trying to force things to happen. 

Pressure and hard driving isn’t always the answer.

Eric Rhoads

PS: A golf pro once told me I was swinging too hard. I used to line up to the ball and hit it as hard as I could. “Lighten up. Don’t hit so hard, just align the club with the ball.” Suddenly, without the force, and with ease,  I made my best drive ever.

I’ve banged my head against the wall far too many times. When learning to paint, I put myself under tremendous pressure, working really hard. But I was not getting better. When I finally stopped caring so much, things improved. 

Speaking of painting….

I do this event in May every year where we gather artists together to learn and paint. I take over a giant hotel or conference center, set up five stages, and this year I have over 70 top artists as my instructors and coaches. It’s great for beginners or experienced pros. And we all paint together every afternoon. This year, we’re holding it right outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you want to attend the Plein Air Convention, this would be the year. See you there … or not. I’m not gonna push.

When Pushing Backfires2024-05-01T19:29:50-04:00
17 03, 2024

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships


The sound of strong winds blowing is kinda eerie, like something out of a horror movie. Winds are causing a slight bend in the poetic palm trees, and the water is splashing against the dock as whitecaps fill the choppy water in our view. A morning walk on the dock felt like hurricane force against my wet jacket. Spring really is roaring in like a lion. 

I can remember spring days growing up. We would go out in short sleeves at the first sign of warmth, even though it was still very cold. But we didn’t care, because we were so tired of the frigid temps. The first sunny day was an invitation to pretend it was summer. I was always ready for winter to end — but of course it would get cold again and often snow as late as May or June. 

Last week, when I was in Austin, the bluebonnets were already thick and lining the roadways with a carpet of blue, while orange “Indian paintbrushes” were adding color against the blue. Pink trees were in full blossom, and bright green buds were already coming out.

Seasons have always been a metaphor for life. Spring is a fresh start. 

The cycle starts with spring … new birth.

Then summer … life.

Fall is aging.

Winter is decay and death.

The leaves fall and rot, and fertilize the soil. And the cycle of life begins again.

What Needs to Be Flushed Out?

Though we only get one chance at the cycle, what in your life needs to be flushed out with winter? 

What needs to be reinvigorated and rebirthed with spring?

Have you ever looked back on the mistakes you’ve made in your life and wished you had a second chance? 

Is there still time?

I think about relationships I’ve botched that could still be salvaged. Things may have gone bad because of a heated moment or an out-of-control rant. I’ve given up on people from my past because of their behavior in these moments — or perhaps my own, if I’m willing to admit it. 

But what if you were to be forgiving of a bad moment and give that person a second chance? What if you were to ask forgiveness, to offer some grace? 

Am I holding onto a grudge because of my pride or ego?

Am I thinking, “They need to apologize to me. They wronged me, I didn’t wrong them.”

What if you did do them wrong, but you’re not willing to admit it?

I can think of a few times when I felt I clearly was right and others were wrong, but I’ve realized I was really the problem. It can take a big person to admit that.

Thinking back to some great relationships that ended, do I miss them, or am I being indignant because they made a mistake? 

Is it possible you were the problem?

Is it possible they have changed?

Is it possible you were both having a bad day?

People change, people mature, people grow.

Is it time to plant a new seed?

Who are the first people who come to mind when you think about relationships gone sour?

Who do you feel is being unreasonable with you? Who feels you are being unreasonable with them?

I have a few people I’ve written out of my life who I loved and missed, but who had disappointed me. My ego got in the way of continuing the relationship because I perceived they’d hurt me in some way.

Are you willing to heal wounds, forgive them? Or just try to repair the relationship, not expecting an apology?

It’s spring. Let’s bring new life to old relationships that were once good.

Families should never be divided, no matter what. Families are all we have.

Friendships don’t have to end, and can become stronger by adding a little humility and grace. 

Let go of your pride. Relationships are more important than being right.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Later this week, I’ll be seeing spring from a whole new perspective as we make our way to Japan to experience the cherry blossom season. We’ll be hosting a group of plein air painters to tour and paint Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto for almost two weeks. As a result, the next couple of weeks will be “Best of Sunday Coffee.” But if you wish to follow my trip, I’ll be posting on Instagram (@ericrhoads)  and  on Facebook at /ericrhoads.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Bringing Spring Into Winter Relationships2024-03-16T16:01:51-04:00