2 06, 2024

An Encounter Like No Other


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

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

Not Adding Up

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

No More Stress

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

Mind Like a Bouncy House

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

The Perfect Combination

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

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

Always Trustworthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

By the way….

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

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

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

Next stop…

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

An Encounter Like No Other2024-06-02T16:22:36-04:00
28 01, 2024

Fighting for Special


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

Dinner Is Served

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

Drumbeats in the Distance

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

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

Impossible Is Best

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

A Bag of Tricks

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

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

Do It Right

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

Extra Effort Is Worth It

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Will Be Naysayers

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

Clothes Removed

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

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

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

What can I do to stand out?

How can I make an experience more memorable? 

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

What Is Your Gut Telling You?


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

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

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

Golden Silence

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

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

Comfort Zones

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

Keeping Stability

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

Not Trusting Research

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

More Negative Research

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

Am I Anti-Research?

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

The Importance of Gut

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

Listen to Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve Got This

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

Follow your gut.

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS 2:

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

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

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

What Is Your Gut Telling You?2024-01-22T13:28:44-05:00
24 09, 2023

Your Family Motto


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

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

My First Love

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

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

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

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

A Well Thought-Out Idea

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

What would your family values be?

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

A Kick in the Teeth

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

What Would Your Family Say?

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

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

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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

I’ll Learn Something

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

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

What about you?

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Family Motto2023-09-23T15:50:42-04:00
1 01, 2023

You Can Be Stupid Today Or You Can Make Your Dreams a Reality


Last night, as the clock struck 12, the world celebrated. We broke open the champagne, hugged our neighbors, and shouted in the new year. We stayed up, partied more than we should, headed to bed, and woke up late, perhaps with a hangover.

Is that any way to start a year?

Some may be looking back in relief that the past year is gone. Over. Finished.

Did we hate it that much? 

2022 Is So 2022

I could probably find a lot of reasons to dislike last year, but there is much to celebrate too. Each year provides lessons, chances to experience new things, meet new people, and even experience new pain or problems. I embrace it all, even the bad.

It’s Over

This day, today, will be the final day on earth for some people. And if they knew that, they would look back on the last year of their life with complete joy in spite of the bad. 

How would life be if we appreciated every day, even the bad ones?

So many of you have awakened, turned immediately to social media or your e-mail, and your pattern of life is about to repeat for another year.

What are you going to do differently this year?

What do you want to change?

What bad habits do you want to shed?

What resolutions do you want to make, then break?

Tomorrow health clubs will be inundated with new members who have vowed to change their lives, dump their fat, increase their muscle mass…

And those same people will show up a few times, then disappear, but keep their memberships alive.

Most Resolutions Are Stupid

Rarely do I make new year’s resolutions, because I rarely keep them. But if I make a resolution, I try to turn it into a real goal, with an exact outcome tied to a date. Because intent without action is folly. And action without a way to know you’ve achieved your goal is silly. Goals need to be time-bound and exact, and the steps defined.

Is this another year of dumped resolutions? For most of us, they will disappear within hours.

It’s Not Too Late

In business, I make a point to set my goals for the next year back in September. And I look at them every week and measure them against how I’m doing. Because if you don’t look at them, you’ll forget them. If you don’t define the steps, and time them with goals, the steps won’t get done and the goal will be overwhelming and too hard to do.

The best time to set goals for a new year is in the months before the new year, so that you hit the ground running with a plan.

The second best time to define them is today.

Get off the couch, put down your phone, get a pad of real paper (not your notes app), and start dreaming. Spend HOURS thinking.

Answer these questions.

What do I really love about my life that I want to see continue?

What do I really not love about my life that I want to discontinue?

If you focus on what you DON’T want, you work toward eliminating the things that don’t bring you joy.

If your job makes the “don’t want” list, then you have a choice. Change it, or live with it.

I have too many “lifer” friends in great jobs making great money, but they’re miserable. And they say, “I don’t want to spend one more day at this job, but I’ve only got to hang in there for another 10 years,” or “another five years.”

One guy I knew told me that.

I said, “What if you die between now and then? Will you be OK with that?”

He said no. But he relied on the money, and felt like he would be fine.

Did I mention that he died before he retired?

The other day I mentioned on my daily YouTube show that I had a near-death experience when my kids were about 3. 

Everything changed from that moment forward. It was too close for comfort.

So, at the advice of my friend Roy, I made my don’t list, and my want list, and I defined what I wanted my life to look like. I defined what I did not want to do, and I defined cool things I wanted to do every year. 

Then, when I looked at my list, my inner reptilian brain told me, “There is no way you can do these things.” And I got discouraged, till I decided to find a way and ignore the inner voice.

Everything on the list came true.

I shed all the bad stuff, and I managed to do the things we “couldn’t afford.” I found a way.

I had to be creative.

As life goes on, your list changes. Covid woke lots of us up, and now very few people want to go back to work in an office and deal with hours of commuting time. Some went back, others said, “never again” and quit their jobs or insisted on remote working.

You and I won’t escape death. It is lurking around every corner and will grab us the second it can. We are not assured of anything more than the breath we just took.

Every day is a gift. Every breath is a blessing, and as I said recently, if you’re breathing, God has a purpose for you.

You could take today to watch football or eat excessively. Or you could take one day of your entire life and focus on planning the life you want.

After that, it’s up to you to be disciplined enough to make it happen. 

It starts with a dream list and a “don’t want” list, prioritizing the lists, picking the things that are most important, and leaving the others for a future year (rarely do we get it all done at once). Then you figure out the steps, the way to buy your freedom, and you chip away at it a little every day.

Nothing good is ever instant.

Regular people like me and you, who have no special advantages, do have dreams, and we end up changing the world, building skyscrapers, inventing things that are impossible.

Don’t judge your lists. Get it all down, even the wild, insane stuff you don’t want anyone to see.

Then, find a way. 

You can thank me later, once you’ve built your skyscraper.

Happy New Year.

Eric Rhoads

In 2022 I set a silly goal. I wanted to hit 100,000 followers on YouTube for my Art School Live show. I tracked my progress every week or so, and by the fall, I was starting to believe it was not going to happen. But I caught myself, and I told myself that if it was a goal, I had to accomplish it by the deadline. The closer I got, the more deliberate and intentional I became, increasing my creativity. And, on December 21, at 10:50 am, I hit the goal.

I have lots of big goals that I’ll never share (though sharing goals is a good way to put yourself out there and get committed). This YouTube goal was a little ego, but it was more about increasing my reach so I can help more people learn art, knowing that the minute I hit 100,000, YouTube would push my stuff to more people. 

I think it’s important to set goals and never let yourself off the hook. You have to be determined, even to the last minute, to find a way.

Back in August I wanted to exceed the previous year’s attendance to one of our online conferences. But Covid was mostly over and people were back at work, and experts told me attendance would shrink. I was determined, but even a few weeks before, it was not looking strong. Yet determination and constant checking of progress paid off. And we exceeded the previous year’s numbers.

The same is true for Watercolor Live, our Worldwide Watercolor Summit with the finest masters on earth. As of December it was looking like it might be smaller, but because of our determination, it’s going to be the biggest online art conference in the world one more year. (You can still sign up at www.watercolorlive.com.)

People will tell you your goals are impossible. People will roadblock your success. People will be negative, not supportive. They will tell you your ideas are foolish. Don’t listen to them. Follow your heart, be determined and deliberate, and never ever give up. Never ever.

You Can Be Stupid Today Or You Can Make Your Dreams a Reality2022-12-22T17:11:12-05:00
11 09, 2022

The Fear That Rules You


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.”


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
17 04, 2022

Getting Small?


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

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


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

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

Do you ever think too small? 

I’m too small to take on this project.

I’m too small to make big things happen.

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

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

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

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

The battle inside my mind was ugly. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Latino Too

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

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

Big Stars

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

A Choice

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

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

The Battle in My Brain

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

The Movie That Never Was

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

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

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

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

Impossible. How Could This Be?

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

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

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

Are you getting small or are you thinking big?

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

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

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

Eric Rhoads

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

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

No Restrictions for the Plein Air Convention

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

Painting Together in Mid-June

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

Join Me in New Zealand

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

Bold Colors

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

Learn more at FallColorWeek.com.

Getting Small?2022-04-15T15:49:21-04:00
31 12, 2021

What’s Your Resolution?


Startled out of bed, I awakened shocked to the sound of a giant fireworks BOOM! It’s been happening all night, even though the New Year celebration is supposedly long over. I drag myself up, tired from a long night of firework alarm clocks, and start my day because of my resolution to get up earlier.

My resolutions:

  • Up by 7
  • Read a passage in the Bible before I check e-mail or social media
  • One hour workout, five days a week (two days a week with a trainer)

Gym owners will tell you that 80% of their signups happen the first week of the new year, and that most people show up for the first 30 days and don’t come back. But keeping their membership active makes them feel like they are doing something.

Did you make resolutions?
Have you broken them yet?

The moment you break a resolution, it’s over. So make sure you are committed.

And, if it’s goal-related, like weight loss, you’ll need a process or a plan to follow. Just saying you’ll lose weight is like saying you’ll show up in Hawaii without getting on an airplane. List out the specific steps to be followed. Be specific (such as limit to X calories a day, exercise for X minutes a day, get your heart rate to X for X minutes daily, etc.)

Accountability is also important. Share your resolutions with those who will challenge you if you break them, and give them permission and encouragement to call you out for cheating.

That’s all for today. I’m keeping it brief so you can concentrate on your resolutions.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though I had lots of projects to get done over the holidays, only part of them were finished. It gives me an excuse to take some more time off in the future, I suppose. Or not try to do so much.

2022 promises to be a great year (if you make up your mind for it to be, no matter what).
Be strong.
Keep your mindset in check.

Follow your weekly goals.

Keep your head in the game.

Here are some things that will be happening at Streamline starting tomorrow.

  1. If you did not see it, we consolidated the Streamline Art Video, Liliedahl, and Creative Catalyst video brands into PaintTube. This will mean less confusion, fewer e-mails, and better service.
  2. Starting this week, PleinAir Today, our landscape painting newsletter, will go daily, including a summary Saturday. If you’re not signed up, go here.
  3. American Watercolor will move to twice weekly for the year. 
  4. Our big watercolor conference could hit record attendance this year. We decided not to raise the price after all, so you can still get a lower price if you go to this secret website for Sunday Coffee readers to use (you won’t find the price on the regular website).
  5. This week we’re launching a new video on painting cars, called Wheels & Steel with Lyn Boyer.
What’s Your Resolution?2021-12-31T13:37:22-05:00
22 11, 2020

Acting Like It’s the Last Time


A wall of chill hits me as I open the door to let the dogs out. I hadn’t bothered to grab a jacket or robe, so the goosebumps are standing tall on my arms and legs. It makes me feel alive.

As I sit on the steps of the old porch, looking out over the vast view, a tinge of fog has planted itself at the base of the distant blue hills as a blinding streak of light lasers itself to my eyes, forcing my hand up to shield my face. Blades of grass and tall weeds are flashing like neon as they sway with the breeze, and dancing white highlights kiss the leaves of the silhouetted great twisted oaks. We like to call this “California weather,” which comes to Texas in the spring, and in late fall once the heat has gone home for the season.

Coming Home

Later today we will celebrate one of our sons’ return from college, about eight hours away. We don’t get to see him as much as the other two, who are “drop in” distance for some weekends. We’re looking forward to reuniting our family and spending a couple of months before their return to campus.

What’s Different This Time?

All too often we take family for granted. Yet many families across the world are missing loved ones, many of whom were victims of COVID-19. What will you and I do with our families the next time we gather? How will our interactions be different — knowing we’re fortunate to have one another, or, heaven forbid, wondering if this time together will be our last?

Give Up Everything

When playing golf one day, a buddy of mine said, “I would give everything I own, give up all of my wealth, for just one more hour with my mom and dad.” It’s a story we’ve heard before. Yet how will we treat our loved ones if we’re together this Thanksgiving?

Will we revert to reacting to the buttons others tend to push in us? Will be we loving, appreciative, and trying to create special moments? Or will we open old wounds or resort to old ways?

I have friends who refuse to return home because of their wounds, because of tough memories of how they were raised, or wronged. But could they get beyond that?

No Chance for a Farewell

Another friend was estranged from her dad for close to 20 years, with no contact. She carried her anger over her past, and yet, the moment he passed, she commented that she suddenly regretted not taking the high road, getting beyond her wounds, and healing a relationship that she now cannot heal.

For those of us lucky enough to be with our families, this is a great opportunity to avoid returning to our old habits, letting go of our fears and anger. No sin is unforgivable, even the worst of the worst. And though sometimes it’s simply best to avoid people who hurt or wronged you — which certainly would be understandable because of certain actions. But perhaps, in most cases, we can turn the other cheek?

Getting Deeper

As a dad who almost lost a son to a heart attack this past January, I want my time with him (and my other kids) to be the best possible memory. I don’t want him to be eager to get back to college because he wants to get away from his family. Instead I want to engage him, appreciate him, and create special memories that will plant themselves in his brain forever.  And as a son who lost his mother about a year and a half ago, I look back with some regrets about not taking the effort and time to be there for her more, and get to know her more deeply. 

I think we fall into this mindset of “I’ll do those things someday,” but then we’re often surprised to learn we’ve lost our chance. 

Don’t lose your chance this season. 

Ask yourself, what would I want? How would I want to be treated? Be that person.

What We All Want

Those around us may never live up to our expectations, may never perform in the way we want of them. But instead of being critical or demanding, how about just letting go? How about accepting who they are, and loving who they are? How about encouraging and appreciating them? After all, that’s what we all want.

Growing to Be Loved

As a parent the temptation is to project what I want for my kids on to my kids. I’m sure they can feel the pressure, but the only thing I really care about is that they grow up to be loved, appreciated, and live quality lives. Of course I don’t want them to make the mistakes I made or to throw valuable time away. But, as I said recently, I also want them to grow from pain.

Lots of us are keeping our distance to prevent the spread of the virus, but lots of us will be thrown together anyway. When your family arrives, hug them like it’s the last time, and seek to bring joy to this time together. 

Don’t look back with regrets. Hold back on judgment, but don’t hold back on love and encouragement. Treat this time as the last time. Treat every time as if it’s the last time. One day it will be.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This year I’m going to slip out on the porch and give you a special message on Thanksgiving. Watch for it, and if it’s worth reading, read it at the Thanksgiving table.

PS2: I’m really excited. Here I was worried about surviving and staying in business, and because we pivoted to virtual online art conferences, we’re going to make it. Yay! But I’ve got to keep it going to keep all these wonderful people employed so they can make memories for their families. If you think you might like to learn watercolor, even if you don’t believe you have the talent, sign up for my Watercolor Live learning event in January. Somehow we’ve managed to get the very best watercolor masters in the world to teach, and we’ve also created a Beginner’s Day. I’d be grateful if you would check it out and maybe give it to someone as a Christmas gift.

Acting Like It’s the Last Time2020-11-29T03:11:14-05:00
3 05, 2020

When Sparks Fly


Bright green backlit leaves are glowing high in the sky as the warm sun filters through them and projects little leaf-shaped shadows on the spring grass. As I breathe deeply, the scent of wildflowers and roses reminds me of my grandmother’s garden. The day is perfect for all my senses. Even Mozart would be inspired by the songbirds singing from every direction. Though the old night owl is safely in his “owl box” atop one of our trees, his occasional question interrupts the songbird symphony as if to say, “Who, who is making all that noise while I’m trying to sleep?”


Last night the warm spring weather inspired me to fire up the grill. I walk across the deck with the lighter in hand, turn on the gas on the grill and click the lighter, sparking a small flame. Suddenly, “Whoosh!” The sound of the gas igniting fills my ears.

Small Spark, Big Result

No matter the size of the container … a small grill, or a gas-filled building … it takes only one small spark to set it off. Our cars operate only because of a small spark in the cylinder. But what do sparks have to do with our lives, our careers?

We are surrounded by sparks.

You Wanna Be a Star, Kid?

As a young boy of 14, I visited my first radio station to watch my friend Charlie Willer do his radio show. I was hooked, and his encouragement and the spark from that day resulted in a 50-year career in and around the radio industry. 

A Giant Painting

Seeing a painting of pirates sword fighting when I was 12 and on a family vacation was a spark that created a lifetime interest in art, and at age 40, the spark of an art lesson as a birthday gift set me on the path to becoming an artist. That spark resulted in my career in the art world. 

We never know when sparks will fly and ignite a new passion, which is why it’s so important to try new things, read everything we can get our hands on, and visit places NOT on our radar, to spark curiosity. 

It’s also important to be a spark, to help others find and ignite their passion.

Not only can we ignite others or be ignited, we can often seek sparks. My dad always tells me, “Son, you can change everything about your life or your business in just 90 days. You can go from being broke to rich, go from unsuccessful to successful. All it usually takes is one small change.” 

Comfort Is the Enemy

All too often we get stuck and set in our ways, and we end up repeating Groundhog Day over and over, never seeing ways to change things up to keep them interesting, or to make what we have to offer ourselves more appealing. Yet listening to others may give you the one small spark you need. It usually takes removing yourself from your comfort zone, yet it can be so invigorating to try something new.

Think Big

My friend and mentor Jay Abraham was talking one day and I asked his advice on how I can teach a million people to paint, my biggest goal. He told me that the best way to get big fast was to get on national TV with a show (more about that later). He suggested that a TV show could be the spark to reach millions and hit the goal fast. 

Where do you need a spark?

Where can you be a spark?

Gas On

The longer I’m alive, the more I understand that the best things that happened in my life and my career came from accidental sparks I never would have followed on my own. But I also discovered that to ignite at the very second the spark hits, the gas has got to be on. You have to be constantly on the lookout for sparks, and when you feel them, they won’t ignite without your instant pursuit. 

Create Your Spark

And, though accidental sparks will happen through random moments, the longer you’re around, the more established you become, the more it’s critical to create your own sparks. I have to help those on my team find their sparks, I have to push and pull to get people out of their comfort zone to move to a higher level, or else we’ll never do anything new. And I have to get others to step up and offer ideas, and be willing to listen to them. It’s not easy.

What have been the sparks in your life that were accidental but ignited your passion?

In what ways can you ignite a spark in others?

Listen, be aware, and know sparks are always flying, but often go unnoticed. If you’re on the lookout for them, you can change anything in your life, your work, your family, your business, in just an instant.

In an Instant

I received a lovely e-mail from an artist friend this week who said this … “I was stuck … I was one of those people that could do anything well I set my mind to, yet I tamped down my potential with alcohol and fear of success.  Eleven years ago, I said no more. I stopped self-destructing … simply made up my mind and never looked back. I shifted my own paradigm. It was then that I decided I was going to not talk about chasing a dream, but I was going to LIVE the dream of moving through the rest of my life as an artist.  Embrace the hard years of choosing between electricity or food or gas and strive and improve until I could find the other side. What I learned was that the moment I made the decision internally, with no room for inner argument, I became.”

The magic of a spark is that the moment it ignites your passion, you become. It takes a split second.

The split second I was exposed to radio by my friend, I became radio. The split second I was really exposed to painting, I became an artist. Though there were a long and often painful few years to follow, passion overcomes pain because your head has moved to a new place.

Seek to spark and be a spark.

Blessings and Lessons

We’re in a new normal. There have been blessings and lessons learned from these strange times. We might look at the sparks that happened to us over the past few weeks and ask which ones we no longer want to ignite, and which ones we need to pursue and change. 

I’ve had over 2 million views of our samples of art instruction videos over the past few weeks, and an average of 59,000 viewers per video. It has sparked a new path for us, all because we were trying to be a spark to entertain, educate, and inspire others during this pandemic. It will change everything.


I’ve learned I don’t want to return to the adrenaline-driven life of being so busy, spending life on a plane, and being separated from my family.  I want to be home more, I want to have more time, and to not always be doing something to keep me busy, and I want to learn new and interesting things. So I’ll be shedding some of my skin for a new, reinvented me.

What about you?
What lessons, what new normal, will come out of this for you?

What has sparked you?

Eric Rhoads

PS: My initiative to teach a million people to paint is driving me to do a national TV show on a very large TV network. The topic is a plein air painting reality show called The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge. It will reach over 20 million people per episode. I hope it will teach millions to paint or challenge them to explore painting. I’m in the funding process now (seeking big donors) and hope to have it on the air in about a year.

Last week I listed all the things we’re doing, all the videos created. I’m reposting that updated list here so you too can find something to spark you.

When Sparks Fly2020-05-02T22:28:59-04:00