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24 11, 2022

The Dogs Got My Turkey

2022-11-23T18:12:50-05:00

How the Dogs Destroyed Our Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly it got very quiet. 

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

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

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

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

Memories of Thanksgiving

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

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

It seems silly, but…

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

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

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

That means a lot to me and my family.

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

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

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

I truly am thankful for you. I am grateful. 

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

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

Your generosity can make others feel appreciated and remembered.

God bless you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Eric Rhoads

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

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

The Mad Genius at Your Thanksgiving Table

2022-11-19T13:26:27-05:00

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

Embrace the Pain

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

Those Who Bring Out the Worst

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

Considering the Opposite 

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

A Different Vision

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

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

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

Is There Any Point to This?

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

Well Read? 

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

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

A Wide River

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

Billionaire to Be

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

What about you?

Do you automatically reject crazy ideas?

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

Have others thought you were crazy?

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

Here are two that I like.

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

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

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

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

How to Do the Impossible

2022-11-05T14:48:54-04:00

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

Bowling Balls

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

Under the Covers

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

My Big Break

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

More Drugs than Walgreens

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

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

Things Start Getting Scary

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

Breaking and Entering

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

A Looming Disaster

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

Offering Guns and Ammo

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

Gulp.

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

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

It was kinda exciting, but very disturbing.

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

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

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

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

Doing the Impossible

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


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

Bridge Down

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

Doing the Impossible

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

Driven to Prove It Can Be Done

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

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

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

Do you have a dream that just seems too big?

Are Experts Right?

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

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

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

Believe in Yourself

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

Failure Happens 

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

Mocked and Laughed At

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

Be Courageous

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

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

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Do the Impossible2022-11-05T14:48:54-04:00
30 10, 2022

How to Kill a Monster

2022-10-29T13:55:35-04:00

How to Kill a Monster

Creamsicle orange covers the horizon, with the mountain silhouetted against it. Billowing clouds are lit like glowing hot air balloons as the sun stretches its arms to show its brilliant color across the sky. The spooky sound of cackling crows in the twisted oak trees is unusual around here and can only be attributed to Halloween just around the corner.

Halloween Past

In childhood I found a lot of joy in dressing up, going door-to-door through the entire neighborhood (and the one next to ours). We would make an extra effort to go to the mansions several blocks away, thinking somehow they would be handing out Ferraris instead of the standard candy, but we were always disappointed. I remember thinking, “If I were rich, I’d give kids cool stuff the other houses don’t give out.” 

Cases of Candy

My best friend Stu and I would take pillowcases with the goal of filling them up each night – there were usually two nights for trick-or-treating. We were not allowed to take the candied apples, but we loved the lady who gave out dimes. We were tempted to change costumes and keep going back, but we never did. I guess we were not willing to work that hard for our money.

Pushed Down and Robbed of My Candy

One year, in the neighboring block, a bully from another school who had always seemed to target me pushed me down and took a pillowcase full of candy. I didn’t fight back … did not have the confidence or strength to do so. My only revenge is that maybe he ate it all, got sick, and missed a couple days of school. 

Sticking Together

I’m not a big fan of bullies, probably because I was the recipient of lots of bullying. I was one of the two school “fat kids” at Harrison Hill Elementary, and that made us targets. My friends at the time were the fat kids, the super-skinny kids, the nerds, and the kids who stood out as different. One thing we had in common were bullies who would mock us, beat us up, spit on us, kick us in the shins, shoot spitballs at us in class, and occasionally give us a big punch in the stomach, knocking the air out of us.

Ulcers in 6th Grade

I’d love to be able to tell you that our plan was some great “Revenge of the Nerds” way of getting back, but we simply avoided the bullies. It made me hate going to school, and it resulted in ulcers in the 6th grade, where I had to leave class a couple of days and go to the cafeteria for saltines and milk. That resulted in my being recruited to work in the cafeteria, which further reinforced my nerdism. Hairnets and aprons do not a cool dude make. But, for a fat kid, it was nirvana, because I got to eat all the extra apple crisps and mashed potatoes I wanted. 

And surprisingly, that cafeteria gig built confidence, because I was learning about work ethic, I was interacting with adults who were not teachers or parents, and I was even able to offer ideas to them about making our food serving process more efficient. 

I remember thinking, “I’ll show them. I’ll be super successful, and those bully losers will be stuck in some crummy life forever.” It drove me.

Though I would not wish that experience on anyone — my fear and the humiliation of having to pick myself up off the ground while all the cool kids laughed — in hindsight, it drove me to be better. It drove me to look for things to make me cool, to make me accepted, to make me stand out.

A New Direction

Soon, I was one of the nerdy AV kids. Though mocked, we had privileges no one else had, which included getting out of class for projects. 

But ultimately, I was not able to overcome the stigma of being the fat boy, and when my parents started building a new house in a different school district, I managed to transfer and start commuting a year before the house was built. 

Time for a Reboot

Though I didn’t have a marketing brain at the time, I was determined to remake myself and be cool at the new school. That summer I shot up, lost weight, grew my hair long, got a new wardrobe, and talked my way into becoming the school photographer for the yearbook and newspaper — which suddenly gave me power, visibility, and control over who got publicity or did not.

At the same time, I managed to talk my way into a job at a local radio station, which gave me some visibility and publicity myself. 

The result was that my last two years of high school were great years. Though I was never popular like the “jocks” and football stars, I actually wanted little to do with most of them, because they were the same types who had been bullying me at the other school. 

You Actually Are in Control

The lesson was a great one that would serve me well for the rest of my life. If you don’t like your circumstances, you can remake yourself and change them. The key is being deliberate about it and making a plan.

In my case, there was no formal  plan, but I had repeated a “new me” scenario over and over in my head, a scenario of being popular, and it was ultimately delivered to me. I started doing things differently because of the vision in my head.

Being Deliberate

Today, I’m still deliberate. I still work to manifest things in my head the way I want them to be, which is a great tool for overcoming fear of change. If you imagine yourself where you want to be, in exact detail, and you do it enough, it can happen. But of course, you have to take action once ideas come to you. Ignoring those thoughts won’t be productive.

Real Life Monsters

Since it’s almost Halloween, be aware there are actually monsters. Bullies are monsters. And usually they bully because they are bullied themselves, or they’re trying to find significance because someone is treating them badly. Had I known that at the time, maybe I could have opened a dialogue, dug deeply into their hearts, and helped them through it. 

The Biggest Monster of All

The biggest monster is our own self-doubt, our insecurity and our fears. And we have the power to eliminate those monsters from our lives forever.

It starts with imagining what you want to be, and with prayer for help from above.

I was afraid of public speaking. I could not stand up and talk in class in front of 20 other kids without being terrified. 

Later, in the early stages of my career, I saw two speakers who were so good, I went up to them and asked them how to do what they did. It was all I could do to get up the courage to talk to them, but I knew I’d see change if I could be more like them.

Both speakers gave me the same advice: Fake it till you make it. Pretend to be confident until you are. 

Now I speak in front of thousands of people, and during COVID my Art School Live show on YouTube reached millions. Now I’m totally confident. I’ve taken my clothes off onstage (not entirely, and it was related to the message). I’ve done silly things onstage. I’ve embarrassed myself intentionally. Every time, I was afraid, because I knew that if my stunts backfired, I might destroy my career. But there is nothing more invigorating than laying it on the line and having no way to back out.

How to Make the Monsters in Your Head Stop

If you’re struggling with these monsters this Halloween, you don’t have to live with them. You don’t have to be bullied. You don’t have to be lonely. You don’t have to look at others who seem to have some special something and wish that was you. Chances are, they were exactly where you are today. 

You can beat the monsters. I have confidence that when the time is right, and when you get sick enough of being something you wish you were not, you will step up and orchestrate the change and become what you imagine yourself to be.

Is it easy? Nope.

Is it safe? Nope.

Will you make mistakes? Yep.

Is it worth all the risk? Absolutely.

Our world is filled with people with all the odds stacked against them, with disabilities, mental issues, fear, introversion — yet many beat the odds because they decide to make change and are willing to do what it takes to become a transformed person, often motivated by proving wrong the people who do not believe in them.

In the early ’70s my aunt asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to do radio. Rather than encouraging me, she said, “I’ve dealt with a lot of radio people in our business, and they are all horrible people. You need to stay away from them and do something respectable.”

At that moment, I decided to prove her wrong, thinking, “One day I’ll not just work on the radio, I’ll end up owning stations.” I was so driven by her negativity that I owned my first stations by age 25, and sold them for millions before I was 30.

That’s the power of being determined. And believe me, I have no special skills, no college degree, no unique gifts. I’m simply driven and determined. 

YOU CAN DO THIS. Start now.

I believe in you.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m super determined at the moment. Everyone said, “Your online conferences won’t survive after COVID.” Yet our last one was bigger than the year before, and the one we’re doing in November is bigger than the same event last year, and bigger than the event before it. Why? Because I need to prove something to myself. And because I know people will have game-changing “aha” moments if they attend.

Realism Live (online) is coming November 10-12, and includes an optional Beginner/Refresher Day. We have some of the finest artists in the world, including some who no longer teach but will be teaching at Realism Live.

You can learn to paint and draw at this event (and I guarantee your success or I give your money back).

Check it out, it’s called Realism Live. www.realismlive.com If you register before November 6 you can save up to $600.

PSII:
Something incredible happened. The editor of PleinAir, Kelly Kane, came to me and said that after over a decade, it was time to freshen up the magazine — new page designs, new logo. Honestly, I resisted for a while because it was doing so well, but then I remembered the saying “If it’s not broke, break it.” So she took the reins and worked for a year on the redesign, and it’s absolutely better than anything I could have imagined. And the reviews are in, and people love it even more. 

I’d be honored if you’d subscribe to the print or digital edition. Most people do both because the digital has 30% extra content, and because you can screenshot images you want to save, zoom in on them, etc. 

You can subscribe at www.pleinairmagazine.com.

How to Kill a Monster2022-10-29T13:55:35-04:00
23 10, 2022

Home at Last

2022-10-22T18:05:01-04:00

Opening my eyes today, a new scene shocks my brain. “Where am I?” I think. Only to realize I’ve awakened back in Austin after several months away.

As I meander to the porch, I’m hit with a blast of cold air, realizing that, having left in June, I completely missed months of the over-100-degree furnace. Fall is in the air, but color change here is often subtle, as is the case now. Though the tree in front of my neighbors’ home will soon change to a fire red, inviting me to paint it once again, as I do each year.

Usually when I’m away, I fill in with a “best of,” but this time, away in New Zealand for a couple of weeks and then on to Maine for my Fall Color Week artists’ retreat, I completely forgot to do it, so your Sunday mailbox may have been a little emptier than normal. Hopefully absence has made your heart grow fonder. I know I’ve missed writing.

The reason for my absence was, first, a much-needed week off, then the trip to New Zealand where I hosted a group of artists for almost two weeks, and then off to Fall Color Week in Maine. Then five days driving back, which included visits to two of our three kids along the way home.

A Culture Like No Other

In New Zealand, we started our trip with an art historian who helped us understand New Zealand culture. He told us of a Maori word (which escapes me now), which is THE desirable status for people in New Zealand. 

Money Money Money

Status in New Zealand is not about money or what you own. It’s about your contribution, your reputation, and the mark you make for others. That may explain why I’ve never met happier, more interested people. Interested in learning about us, and truly listening, not eagerly waiting to tell us about themselves. And not at all interested in telling us about their cars, houses, or bank accounts.

It was refreshing.

Following our travels with our artists, meeting New Zealanders along the way, my wife and I visited a friend for a weekend. He picked us up at the airport in a 20-year-old car with duct tape on the torn front seat. He made no mention or apology; it was just his transportation. 

If that had happened in the U.S., he’d likely have been making excuses. I know I probably would.

Can You Say Red Carpet?

My friend isn’t just any New Zealander. He is not only a prominent citizen (knighted by the Governor-General, having turned down being knighted by the Queen because it would have been “over the top”), he is the founder of a major motion picture studio that has created or been involved in some of the most important and famous films in the world. Annually they play a role in about 50 major films. He has hundreds of employees, can pick up the phone and call any household name in Hollywood, and he has several Oscars and is a household name himself. Yet you would never know it when meeting him. There is no arrogance, no airs about him.

More Than Autographs

While hanging out with him in a public place, he was approached by a few people who knew who he was. And instead of playing the typical “star” role, as many people I know would have done, he was gracious, curious, and interested in the people who approached him. He truly wanted to know about them and their stories. In many cases he spoke with them for 10 or 20 minutes.

That says it all.

There is no bragging about what he does, what he owns, how much money he makes, and who he knows. In fact, he’s lived quietly in the same modest home for over 30 years. 

A Tool for Better Things

To him, money is a tool to do cooler things. He puts what he earns back into the business or into new and interesting projects. His currency isn’t money, it’s people, and it’s finding new and better ways to do things.

I point this out because I find it so unusual and refreshing. And so unlike what you might experience in other parts of the world, where showing off is everything.

For that reason … I’m officially moving to New Zealand. 

(Just kidding. But I would if it were not for the distance for me to travel to my kids, meetings, and events.)  

World’s Hottest Models

Some of my best friends in America are also models of this model behavior. Which is why they are my best friends. We “nerd out” about cool things, cool books, great art, great music, and interesting innovations. We don’t nerd out about material objects and money. 

Sadly, much of our world seems to have become all about who has what, how much they have, and how to get more. We care more about fashion, cars, plastic surgery, gadgets, and social media posturing than we do about the meaning of our lives and our true contribution. 

So many are driven to get more. But to what end? What will having more bring us?

Cool Things Rule

What I love about my New Zealand friend is that he is driven by his life’s purpose to do cool things. To invent. To create. To do what hasn’t been done. And he does it while seeking ways to help everyone on his team and make the best work he can for his customers.

What if you and I were more about our mission, our passion, helping others, and less about the status of money?

I admit it, there was a time when I thought I was supposed to chase money and cool things, but something changed. Now, to me, money is a tool, something to buy freedom, something to allow experimentation and launching new ideas.

My friend Norm says, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.” Though I don’t disagree with him, if money is all you’ve got, you may not be living a rich life.

Are you living life with purpose?

Are you focused on doing things well, on building a reputation that isn’t about money, but about that purpose?

Are you alive and on fire for your passion?

Returning to America, I found people to be short with me, too busy to interact, only wanting to talk about themselves and uninterested in others. The contrast screams out loud after time in New Zealand.

I think it’s important that our kids know … it’s not all about money, shiny objects, and fame. They need to know it’s OK not to chase dollars and instead to chase what you truly love.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This trip helped me see that I need to do more cool things. I need to innovate more. I need to take more risks. I need to play more, have more fun experimenting with things, and just come up with ideas that will make things better and more fun for you.

Stay tuned.

One Very Cool Thing

Meanwhile, my next cool thing is our Realism Live online conference for a few days next month. There is already a massive audience signed up, and I guarantee it will be cool and make you more passionate about your art (or learning from scratch), or your money back. I would never ask you to do something I would not do. Check it out at www.realismlive.com. Yes, you need to play more, have more fun, and add more interesting things to your life, even if you think you can’t do it. 

Another Cool Thing

Oh, and I’d like to ask you to consider subscribing to PleinAir Magazine. Even if you get it at the library or newsstands, it’s better to subscribe and have your own copy come to you. Our digital issue has 30% more content than our print issue, and they are both awesome. Visit www.pleinairmagazine.com

Home at Last2022-10-22T18:05:01-04:00
11 09, 2022

The Fear That Rules You

2022-09-02T13:06:28-04:00

Thunderstorms rattled this old house last night, followed by blasts of cold. My morning wardrobe has been transformed to include a thick red flannel shirt, some cozy socks, and a ball cap. Billowing clouds form the shapes of circus animals, and a little more color is appearing in the sea of pine trees. It’s feeling like an early fall, which of course eventually leads to freezing temps, forcing our departure till next summer. I hold out hope for more time here, as I do every fall. It’s here that I’m my happiest, though I’m happy everywhere.

Thunder and Lightning

When I was a kid I was sitting in the living room of my aunt’s farmhouse in Tennessee, looking longingly out the window, bored out of my mind because of a massive rainstorm. Thunder was shaking the house, when suddenly, ZAAAAP! Lightning hit the giant oak right outside the window, splitting it in half and setting it on fire. It all happened very fast; the light was blinding and the sound deafening, and I realized the power of lightning for the first time. 

I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes

On that same trip, we were visiting family members who lived in an old cabin with a wooden boardwalk with wide slats. While standing on the boardwalk, I looked down to see a copperhead curled up and ready to strike. It sent fear through my veins, and somehow I leaped and ran to lock myself in the car, shaking with fear.

Tears for Fears

In both of these cases I came a little too close for comfort, and I became perhaps overly cautious about snakes and lightning. Fears ruled me for decades, and though I’m less afraid of lightning now, I still have a fear of snakes.

What fear is ruling you?

Lately, I’m hearing a lot of people running their lives based on fear. Fear of the price of gas, fear of the price of food, fear of inflation, fear of the government, fear of politicians.

Clearly there are a lot of people hurting and these things are impacting people, but many who are not impacted as much are responding as if they were — and being overly cautious. 

Being one who tends to be fiscally conservative, I tend to be averse to too much risk, and I tend to be ready for what might come around the corner, able to make quick changes if necessary. But are those changes necessary now?

Probably not.

Breaking the Rules

During the last big recession, in 2008, I was deeply concerned, as we all were, but I learned that there were some people who simply refused to participate in the recession, and who came out unscathed. How is that possible? It boils down to attitude. Some decided they would succeed no matter what, while others told themselves the sky was falling, that it was falling on them, and that they had to take shelter.

In 2008, when a whole bunch of art galleries canceled their advertising with my magazines, one new gallery launched. The new gallery owner was spending like a drunken sailor. When everyone else was canceling, he was buying more and more pages of advertising. Not only did he survive the recession, he got rich, because he took business away from the competitors who shriveled up. 

Your Head Matters

I asked him about this years later, and he said, “It’s all about attitude. I knew that whenever there is a recession, the natural instinct of most companies is to cut everything, including their advertising. I was advertising when no one else was, and I took the best customers away from all of those other galleries.”

Don’t Stop Fishing

He went on to say, “Of course their business was off. But instead of putting a fishing line out for more customers by advertising, they stopped putting their pole in the water. Then there was no business, so they started cutting more and more, and eventually cut themselves out of business completely. They may have only had 30%-40% of the business they would have had, because they stopped reminding people of the work available in their galleries. People instead started going to my gallery, which was advertising heavily everywhere. Eight out of 10 of those galleries went out of business. Meanwhile, we grew.”

Ke..ll..DoubleGood

In the Great Depression, a young upstart company called Kellogg’s started advertising — during a depression. Meanwhile, Post, which was the market leader, stopped advertising to save money. When warned about this new upstart, they ignored it: “They are a gnat. They can’t compete with us. We can crush them without ever advertising.” And Post continued to ignore Kellogg’s, which was running massive amounts of “Snap Crackle Pop” advertising on radio and in newspapers (there was no other media at the time). And Kellogg’s managed to grow. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg’s had a 90% market share, leaving Post in the dust. To this day Post has never regained its market share.

What one person sees as a tragedy, another sees as an opportunity. What one person fears, another person embraces.

I’m not one to put my head in the sand. I’m hyper aware of what is going on around me. But when someone yells “Fire” in a crowded restaurant, some people die because they all follow each other to the most visible exit. Meanwhile, others look to do the opposite of what the crowd is doing.

What others fear may be the best opportunity of your life. 

There are always people who have money to spend. The ultra rich may not spend as much if times are tough, but they still spend. And the money goes to the visible. Don’t be invisible.

Be prudent. Be smart. Be cautious. But don’t be stupid. Following the pack is rarely a good idea.

Fear is a natural reaction, an instinct. It serves a valuable purpose, but so does your brain.

Think things through carefully, and always ask yourself if your decisions are rooted in fear.

Eric Rhoads

PS: When the pandemic hit, we feared we would lose our business. So we reacted by reinventing ourselves. In that case, fear helped us.

But fear can be an ugly monster. In August 2021 we launched a virtual event, Pastel Live. This year people on my team were saying, “No one will show up. There is no more pandemic, it’s August, everyone will be on vacation.” If we had responded to that fear and canceled, or not put as much effort into it, it might have become a problem. But instead, we did not believe these lies, and we ended up having the biggest online pastel conference in history. Bigger than the previous year.

We did not let fear rule us.

In November, we have Realism Live (all about different forms of realistic drawing and painting, from tight to loose style). We have the world’s leading instructors teaching, including the greatest landscape painter alive today, and the founders of two of the most important art schools in the world. And we won’t let fear rule us. This is looking like it will be the biggest realism conference in history. You should go. Even if you’re a beginner. There is a money back guarantee if you don’t love it.

Don’t let fear rule you.

I’m getting super excited. In just a few days, I’m leading a group of painters to New Zealand. This is my third trip there, and there is simply no place on earth as awesome. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, I’ll be posting from the trip. (You can follow me @ericrhoads)

As soon as I get home, I head to Maine for Fall Color Week, my fall retreat. (Sorry, it’s sold out, but the next one, in the Adirondacks, is only 60% sold out at the moment.)

New Podcast

I Just posted a new podcast episode with Jill Stefani Wagner. You can see it here. Or look up PleinAir Podcast on iTunes.

The Fear That Rules You2022-09-02T13:06:28-04:00
4 09, 2022

Deep Tradition Makes for a Rich Life

2022-09-02T12:52:46-04:00

The whoosh of wings overhead swoops downward as a giant bald eagle dives toward two loons, who rapidly dive to avoid his massive talons. A slight fog is beginning to lift as cool meets warm over the lake, and a tint of rust is starting to reveal itself among the trees. After a bout of overcast, gray, cloud-filled skies and constant drizzle, it’s warm, already sunny, and about to be a perfect lake day in the Adirondacks. I sit here with you in an Adirondack “Westport” chair — which has been on this dock since 1902 — iPad in hand where previous generations used pen and ink for their waterfront missives. 

A Busy Day

Today the lake will be a flurry of activities. There are sailing awards, with the transfer of 120-year-old silver sailing cups that the winners display for the coming year before their return for the next recipients. The traditional Labor Day tea will bring the lake community out in its finest and will end with sadness and hugs to community members who will depart tomorrow until next summer. We are among the few who will remain, but just through the first freeze, since our only source of heat is a wood stove in the kitchen and a couple of drafty old fireplaces. 

A Lifetime in One Place

We are the sixth family who has owned this old camp, which was built in 1894, and my hope is that we can keep it in our family for multiple generations going forward, so they too can enjoy the beauty, the fresh air, the flavorful water, summers of lake life, deep multi-generational friendships and community. Yet as I listen to stories of families on the lake, some have outlived their ability to maintain their property, while others sold because of family arguments over significant decisions. Others have managed to document how things are to be done and put enough away in investments to keep the upkeep and taxes paid and family traditions alive. There are people here who have spent part of every year of their lives on this lake, including people in their 80s and 90s, some of whom are part of a fifth generation to come here.

Family Reunion

I care deeply about traditions because I find them to be important for families to connect and stay connected. When my dad first moved onto this lake in 1987, he told us that it was his goal to keep us here for generations. At the time we did not understand the importance, but after 30-plus summers here (sometimes for only a day or a week, other times for several weeks), I realize that it kept our family together. Cousins, aunts, and uncles gathering as a family whenever possible. Camping, canoeing, campfire s’mores and songs, teepee ceremonies, breakfasts cooked over a wood stove in a small cabin, picnics on islands in the lake, puzzles on the corner card table, canoe pictures in the same spot at the end of each summer for the last 20 years, hymn singing on Sunday nights, and reconnection with people you often don’t see the rest of the year.

Missing People

My kids are starting to see the value of tradition, as one family member was unable to spend time with us this year, and it wasn’t the same. When cousins, aunts, and uncles can’t make it up because of new babies, busy work life, or health issues, things never feel quite the same. That’s why I want my kids to embrace tradition and keep it alive for their kids, grandkids, and beyond. The cost of not doing it is much greater than the cost of doing it, because of the deep importance of consistent family gatherings.

What are your family traditions?

Being Traditional

Creating traditions is hard. Keeping old ones alive is a chore, and making new ones stick is even harder. In our house the annual trip for a Christmas tree is coveted, which we realized when our adult kids reminded us that we all need to go get a tree together, then decorate it together with Christmas music. Traditions involve meals, certain foods, family outings, vacations together, Friday night movies, and so much more. My kids even love the tradition of stuffing bags and registering people at my spring Adirondack painters’ retreat, and a new tradition of working at the Plein Air Convention. I hope they will keep the tradition of these events alive when I’m long gone. In my work life, there are traditions at our events, like portrait nights, playing and singing music, even “Lobster Night” when we do Fall Color Week in Maine. The goal of tradition is to be the glue that keeps people together, gives people something to look forward to, and creates a reason to gather. 

My goal this year is to create more traditions for family, friends, and even painter friends at my events because I want to create memories

What are the traditions from your childhood that you remember, maybe with your parents, grandparents, or siblings?

Can you recreate any of those memories for your family or friends?
Were there traditions lost or discontinued because of the last couple of crazy years? 

Seek tradition. It makes for a richer life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Happy Labor Day. Seems like summer went by fast!! It never lasts long enough. 

A dirty little secret I probably should not admit. There are times when an event is coming up and I tell myself I’m not looking forward to it because I have to get on an airplane or drive a long distance. But once I show up, I’m immediately re-energized and excited to be with my friends and new acquaintances. There have been times when I’ve told myself that maybe I should stop doing so many, but once I get to an event, I hate for it to end and cannot wait for the next one to begin.

I think this happens to all of us. One older woman told me that she had been to the Plein Air Convention almost every year and always looks forward to seeing her friends and making new ones, but she had decided not to sign up this year. She was busy, worried about viruses, telling herself there were better things to do with the money, not wanting to travel, etc. Yet at the last minute she came, and told me that she couldn’t imagine not being there. She didn’t know what she was thinking by not signing up originally. 

We all tend to be enthusiastic when we are present, but when we return to our busy lives, our enthusiasm dies down a little more with each passing day. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of just how much fun we had. 

We all live insane lives where we have to balance a lot of things like family, work, caregiving, and more. When we’re in that swamp filled with alligators, we forget that our objective is to drain the swamp. When we live busy lives, we forget that we’re happier when we’ve allocated some rewards or trips or special things for ourselves. I always say it’s like what they say on the airplanes: “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” You and I need things to fulfill our lives, to give us energy, to give us a better outlook. When you do something for yourself a couple of times a year (minimum), even when you have to care for someone, if you can find someone to step in for a week or two here and there, that much-needed break gives you hope.

Moms need a break from dads and kids. Caregivers need a break from the person they are caring for. And though we often feel guilty for doing it, we should realize that rewarding ourselves puts fuel back in our tanks, and that makes us better at taking care of others.

I like to suggest that my team members take two-week vacations when possible, and I tell them not to check email or do any work. Because it takes a week to relax, and then you need a week to heal and play. We all need time for ourselves, and if we don’t take it, stress will take us away or make us sick. Find some way to reward yourself, give yourself something to look forward to. I’ve been looking forward to my New Zealand painting trip for months, and on hard days, when I think about my upcoming time away, it somehow makes things better.

Here are some things happening at my company, Streamline, you might like to know about.

  1. Fall Color Week Maine is happening in October. It’s been sold out, but we just had a cancellation that might mean one room for two is open.
  2. Our next online conference, Realism Live, is coming in November. It covers all painting styles that are realistic, from academic realism to impressionism, and it covers all subjects, like portraits, figures, still life, landscapes, animals, and more. We have the very top artists in the world teaching, and we have a Beginner/Refresher Day to bring you up to speed before the event. If you’ve ever thought you might like to try painting or drawing, one attendee last year said it was like a four-year art school course crammed into four days. Yes, even you can do this. Sign up now.
  3. Watercolor Live is much like Realism, but all watercolor, with the top artists teaching all different approaches and styles. It’s coming in January and would be a great holiday gift.
  4. We just released a new art instructional art video by Lon Brauer, check it out here!
Deep Tradition Makes for a Rich Life2022-09-02T12:52:46-04:00
14 08, 2022

Passing Out Gold

2022-08-13T14:12:38-04:00

Have you ever been somewhere so quiet, you can hear only a slight ring in your ears? As I walked through our old lake house, it was so quiet, my steps were amplified across the wooden floor. When the door slammed behind me as I entered the old octagonal screened porch (built in 1894), the slam startled me because there was no other noise. No water lapping, no boat sounds, no birds tweeting or loons looning. It truly is the sound of silence as the lake is enveloped in fog, so thick I can’t see more than darkness across to the other shore. It’s just me, alone with my thoughts.

A Caring Artist

Last week after one of my daily shows, I was talking to artist Gabriel Stockton about a problem that needed to be solved with an obstinate person who was being difficult. He said, “I just speak light, and I look for gold in every person. I speak love, and beauty.” He then told me that his goal is to do this with his children. “Imagine how much confidence they will get if we stop speaking about their flaws and start speaking about the gold in them.”

I immediately flashed back to a seminar exercise from some years ago: “Reach out to three people every day and tell them something nice about themselves. Then sit back and see what happens.”

You already know what happens. People love to hear how much they are appreciated, how good they are. And, if you do it enough, they want to live up to it. 

The Other Side of the Coin

The opposite is also true. If you’re always pointing out people’s flaws, they don’t feel good about themselves. And, if it seems to be the only way to get attention, will they act out by doing bad, instead of good? 

Yes, But…

Naysayers may argue that people need correction, they need to know where they stand. I don’t disagree, but what if you wrap it in gold? Years ago I was taught to find something wonderful about a person to start that conversation. Then deal with any issues, and then find other things to make them feel good about themselves. I guess you could call it a gold sandwich (with poop in the middle).

A Good Listener

Years ago I met a man who became one of my oldest and dearest friends. I would sit in his office and talk with him for a couple of hours, and I’d leave feeling really great about myself. It took me a while to realize that he rarely talked. He was truly interested in me, and he only spoke to ask more questions. “What a great conversation,” I’d tell myself, when in reality, it was me doing all the talking.

It’s All About Me

Someone I know pointed out that at cocktail parties, no one ever asks about her — all people want to do is talk about themselves. My response: If you want to have great conversations, ask people questions about themselves, and they will like you more. But you won’t get to talk about yourself much. (Though we all love it when someone is truly interested.)

This is about speaking gold. 

How much gold are you speaking? 

Are you dominating conversations, or are you truly interested in others?

Are you interrupting people, stepping on their words so you can insert your thoughts, or are you listening with intent to hear and understand?

Are you helping people get the recognition they think they deserve, or are you looking for ways to make yourself feel better by tearing them down?

How would your life change if you focused on speaking gold to everyone in your life … family, kids, grandkids, friends, co-workers?

I’m not suggesting being insincere or being the person who tells people what they want to hear to get something out of them (we all experience that). But being someone truly interested.

A friend on the lake complimented my son Berkeley last week, saying, “He listens with his kind eyes. He truly is interested.” 

Will you try it for a week? 

My guess is that everyone will feel better about themselves, feel better about you, and you’ll get more bees with sincere honey than insincere lemons. And imagine how others will be lifted up with your intent to speak gold.

Eric Rhoads

PS: As we age, we develop, we grow and learn, and hopefully become better humans over time. Life is a series of micro-corrections, and one goal is to get better at speaking gold.

What about you?

Twenty-five years ago I did a speech about 25 things to be more successful. Out of the blue this week, someone I do not know contacted me and told me she had my list of 25 things from that speech posted on her wall, that she read it frequently, and that it helped her change her life. She contacted me because she recently moved and misplaced my list. She asked me to send it to her again because it was so helpful to her. I scoured my hard drives and e-mails with no success. So I told her that not only did I not know where to find it, I probably have changed so much that I’d have a different list of things today. This of course got me thinking about what those 25 things might be. I’m still thinking about it.

One thing I would say today is that success cannot be defined by anyone other than you. We spend too much time focused on the success others tell us we should chase. At one time I may have defined success by the things I had accumulated. Once I accumulated many of those things, and I realized they did not make me happy. 

One thing that makes me very happy, and that would be in my top 25 today, would be that there is real gold in focusing your life on helping others. It’s pretty hard to feel pity for yourself when you are spending your life making the lives of others better. 

The other thing I’d add to my list would be the incredible satisfaction you get when you are stretching your brain. They say most billionaires read two books a week. Once I became obsessed with learning, I became more interested in myself (and hopefully others), less bored, and more invigorated. For instance, I’m obsessed with growth as a painter. Getting good isn’t enough; getting to higher levels is gold to me. And learning things I’d known nothing about has brought me great joy.

For instance, because of the pandemic, we launched online conferences in watercolor, pastel, and some other subjects. I primarily paint in oils, but because I was the host, I attended these events, and because I felt obligated to make sure I was practicing what I preach, I discovered how much I love watercolors and pastels, how much they have made me better even in my oil painting, and how I now feel more confident because I can do more than just one thing. 

Tomorrow, I’ll leave the Adirondacks, return to our soundstage in Austin, and on Wednesday I’ll begin hosting the Beginner/Refresher day of our Pastel Live online event for hundreds of people —  bigger than ever.

If you want to get out of your comfort zone and learn to paint, or try something new, pastel is the perfect place to start because it’s like crayons for adults, only with professional materials. I have engaged the very top pastel artists in the world to teach, and we have attendees and faculty from several countries.

But tonight at midnight is the last chance to capture the current price. After midnight it goes up substantially. Sign up. You’ll not regret it, and if you do regret it, just ask by the end of day one and I’ll refund your money. 

Also, I had three last-minute cancellations for New Zealand, and I just filled two of them. I can fit a couple more people in for this trip of a lifetime. If you already have a passport, we still have time to get flights. Simply go to www.paintingnewzealand.com.

Passing Out Gold2022-08-13T14:12:38-04:00
24 07, 2022

Inspiring Greatness

2022-07-22T10:58:12-04:00

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

A Lot of Work!

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

Professor Eric

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

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

Give ’Em What They Want

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

Leave Now!

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

Money = Failure

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

Embrace Failure

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

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

So how do you inspire greatness in others?

Pure Heart

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

I Can’t Stand the Pressure!

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

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

Fun Tickets

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

Do It Now

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

Nothing to Do with Money

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

Where to Start

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

How can you go wrong when people believe in you?

Stacks of Money

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

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

It’s Not About You

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

Success has a price. Selflessness pays volumes in happiness.

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Prepared

2022-07-15T12:26:57-04:00

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

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

Panic Time

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

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

Nuke Threats

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

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

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

This Never Happens!

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

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

The Ultimate Boy Scout

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

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

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

It Was Ingrained in Us…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire!

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

Not Just Emergencies

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

Adapting

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

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

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

Which are you?

What do you think about that worries you?

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

Adult Crayons

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

But I Don’t Have Any Talent

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

Instant Success

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

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

Feel Better About Yourself With 3 Life-Changing Days

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

You Become an Artist or Your Money Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I can’t afford it.

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

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

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

Get Prepared2022-07-15T12:26:57-04:00