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
19 04, 2020

Why You Don’t Need More Stuff


A blast of high winds is bending the tops of the trees, which are performing a ballet of unnatural yet graceful moves. Their gnarly branches are twisting and turning as spring roars in like a lion. Deeply I breathe in the freshly cleaned air from the past few days of rain, which has also made the sky its purest color, purer still because so few cars have been on the road during this time of rest and resurrection.

When we’re driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour, we barely notice the rapidly changing landscape, but a traffic jam slows us down, giving us a chance to look around and notice our surroundings. This quarantine period has allowed us a chance to slow down, to breathe in our surroundings, and to appreciate where we are and what we have. Though we’re often on a high-speed treadmill, ever faster and with ever steeper hills, seeking to earn and accumulate more, this has helped us to slow, to ponder, to realize that maybe more isn’t what we need.

Feeding My Addiction

Last night I was cleaning up my studio, putting things in their place, when I noticed a stack of art books I’ve purchased but never read. Feeding my addiction, I’m always on to the next art book — some sent to me for publicity, others purchased, yet my unopened, unread pile is growing, and I realized I often buy them and then forget to read them. Just yesterday a new book arrived, yet I’ve not paid attention to the ones I have and I always want more. This addiction is for more and more, and these unread books have made me realize I’m striving but not enjoying. If I never bought another art book for the rest of my life, I’m not sure I could properly read all that I have.

Is Better Really Better?

Maybe it’s a natural instinct to always want to better our circumstances — but why? Are our circumstances not good? In some cases they are not, and we need to pull ourselves up. In other cases, it’s simply addiction-feeding. I think back to cleaning out my mom’s house and how many items she had acquired. They had meaning to her, but in most cases, not to the rest of us.


For years I collected antique radios, which I love. I could not get enough, and one time I bought a man’s entire collection and a 1955 Oldsmobile. Though I thought they would bring me joy (and they did, for a while), they became a burden. A collection of 150 radios has to be dusted and stored, and an old car has to be driven and kept clean. That car was fun when it was my only car for a year or so, but once I got a different car, it sat in the driveway and deteriorated until it had to be hauled away years later.

I eventually sold off most of the radios and realized I could feed my addiction by enjoying the few nice ones I kept. It no longer had to be about buying.

No More Wall Space

I’m also addicted to paintings. Because my job takes me to art galleries, I was always seeing things I loved and on occasion bringing one home. But it got to a point where there was no place to hang them all, and I would put them in storage, meaning to rotate. But like most things in storage, they’ve been ignored. The buying was more of an addiction than the owning.

Maybe it’s my time of life, but I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than buying a lot, it’s best to buy less, and to ask myself these questions before I buy…

What am I going to do with it? Where will it go? Will I use it? How will I feel about it in a year? If there was a fire, would I grab it as one of the few possessions I want to keep? Would I be better off keeping the money in the bank? Do I really want to get into debt over this item?

Valuable Lessons

This quarantine has taught us some lessons — like we go out to shop too much. We buy too much. We don’t need so much. Sometimes the act of traveling to buy is why we buy, more so than needing the item.

Depression Mentality

I can’t say I’m cured, but as we all struggle over money lost, jobs lost, and fear of loss, maybe we will take on the mentality of our parents or grandparents who grew up in the Great Depression. Now I understand why they were so frugal. They know it could all be lost in a moment. Now we know this too.

Life isn’t about stuff. Stuff is nice to have, but I’m wishing I had a Steinway instead of a cheap knockoff. I could have had one if I hadn’t bought all the other meaningless stuff over the years. I’d rather have the best of the best paintings than a garage full of pieces in storage.

A Glance Behind

There was a time when I had nothing. I lived in a small studio apartment without even one bedroom, and I didn’t have enough stuff to fill that space. Looking back at those days, I’d rather have the money I later spent on stuff — not so I could buy more stuff, but so I could just have it at a time like this.

More More More

A friend recently told me he wants to get a new job to make more money. I asked why. He said, “So we can get a bigger house and a better car.” I get that. But I cautioned him and suggested that our tendency is to make more money and then spend more money, and still not put any more in the bank. We just go from one house payment to a bigger house payment, one car payment to a bigger car payment. I suggested that maybe before doing that, he ask himself … why? Why do I want a bigger, more expensive house? Do I need the space? (In some cases, the answer to that is yes.) But sometimes it’s just that bigger seems better. I said, “Would it be better to get the new job or a raise and keep your expenses the same? Not to buy more, just to save more?” He has a big house, two nice cars, and no money put away to survive a time like this.

What about you? What are you addicted to?

I often remind myself that rather than looking forward to all the things I hope to get, I should look back to see how far I’ve come. Do we really need more? In some cases yes, but in many cases, no.

Finding Lessons

I’m grateful for the lessons coming out of this horrible tragedy. You and I will be better off as a result, in spite of the sadness surrounding it. I for one am thankful for what I have, and ready to shed what I no longer need. I’m going to be less of a consumer and more of an enjoyer. What about you?

This time is difficult, but it’s a blessing too. Use it to learn, to grow, to finish unfinished projects, to do new projects, to reconnect with the people you love, and to make yourself a better you. Embrace this moment in time for the blessings we’ve discovered.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I once went to a seminar by W. Clement Stone, a wealthy businessman and motivational speaker. His mantra was “Do it now.” When you think of it, do it now. If you can’t find a way, find a way now. Make your list of how you want your life to look. Do it now. Projects? Do it now.  Now is all we have. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Do it now.

For my friends who are artists (or want to be) I’m doing a daily art update at 12n (ET) today and every day. I’m on Facebook live on my page EricRhoads, or on EricRhoads, Publisher and on Instagram on Eric Rhoads.

Also, you’ll find our free 3 pm daily art instruction videos there (and previous ones below) on the Streamline Art Video page on Facebook or YouTube.

3.23.20 –  Bryan Mark Taylor The Master’s Mind
3.24.20 – Johanne Mangi The Fine Art of Painting Dog Portraits
3.25.20 –  Joseph McGurl Painting Light & Atmosphere
3.26.20 – Cesar Santos Secrets of Figure Drawing
3.27.20 –  Michelle Byrne Palette Knife Painting  
3.28.20 – Michael Mentler Figure Drawing in the Renaissance Tradition
3.29.20 –  Shelby Keefe Painting From Photographs
3.30.20 –  Daniel Graves Old World Portraiture   
3.31.20 –  Kathy Anderson How to Paint Flowers in the Studio 
4.1.20   John MacDonald Creating Dynamic Landscapes   
4.2.20 – Lori Putnam Bold Brushstrokes and Confident Color  
4.3.20 – Cesar Santos Secrets of Figure Painting    
4.4.20 – Erik Koeppel Techniques of the Hudson River School Masters 2
4.5.20 – Juliette Aristides Secrets of Classical Painting   
4.6.20 – Thomas Jefferson Kitts Sorolla: Painting the Color of Light
4.7.20 – Gregory Mortenson Realistic Self Portraits
4.8.20 – Bill Davidson “Landscape Painting Secrets”
4.9.20 – Stephanie Birdsall “Lemons & Leaves”
4.10.20 – Huihan Liu “Expressive Figure Painting”
4.11.20 – Scott W. Prior “Painting the Urban Landscape”
4.12.20 – Michael Holter “7 Steps to Watercolor Portraits”
4.13.20 – Nancy Tankersley “Painting Figures From Photographs”
4.14.20 – Paul Kratter “Mastering Trees”
4.15.20 – Karl Dempwolf “California Impressionism”
4.16.20 – Albert Handell “Painting in Oil”
4.17.20 – Cynthia Rosen “Expressive Landscape Painting: Palette Knife in Plein Air” 
Why You Don’t Need More Stuff2020-04-18T13:30:26-04:00
2 02, 2020

The Power You May Not Be Using


I feel the gift of nature, the feeling of being alive as I stare out over the fields covered with dew, the distant blue mountain, and the rays of light beaming through the twisted old oaks that fill the rough grass with shadows. Nature, somehow, feels more alive this morning, as I realize I’m in a mode of praise when I could have been grieving.

If you read about last week’s worst day ever, you may not know that after 10 sleepless nights in two different hospitals, my son walked out as a miracle, surviving what most never survive.

Groundhog Day

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray wakes up each day and repeats the exact same day, over and over. It’s comical, but also somehow profound.

Our son was living his own Groundhog Day, and we were not sure it would disappear. When the brain is shocked or given massive amounts of sedatives or amnesia-causing drugs, inflammation causes short-term memory loss.

Short-Term Memory Loss

For four days after my son’s heart attack, while he was perfectly conscious and seemed normal otherwise, we would tell him what he experienced. “Your heart stopped. They revived you. You were clinically dead,” we would say. Each time, he would say, “I was?” In fact, we did this probably 50 times in one day, and not once did he remember it, or anything else from that day. 

We brought some DVDs of his favorite TV shows (I’ve suddenly become a fan of The Simpsons), and he would watch the same episode over and over, not realizing he had watched it three hours before. Professionals told us his brain would return to normal in days or possibly weeks. But it was frightening during the days when he remembered nothing.

Our other Groundhog Day was life in the hospital. Though the hospital we were in is one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, with THE best cardiology and electrophysiology team in the world, the experience was, one day after another, a lot of waiting. A lot of the same routine as the day before.

Rushing to Wait

We arrived on Tuesday after my son was transferred, and by Sunday, five days later, he had had only one of the many tests he was supposed to have. It took two days just to do a CT scan. And we were told he needed and would have an MRI “right away,” but right away never came. First it would be Wednesday, then Thursday, then we were told the machine broke on Friday, and then we were told it would be Monday. Finally, it happened.

Though there had been tremendous value in their monitoring my son’s heart for a few days, a chance to see some other rhythm incidents, we were just parked in a room as he was cared for by very wonderful professionals — nurses, doctors, cardiologists, and others. But just sitting each day. Yes, we got daily visits for five minutes from the doctors, and regular drop-ins and care from nurses. But why could they not have done all the tests the first day or two? Looking for answers starts with the tests. Of course, the nurses and doctors have no answers for that. It’s not up to them.

Sudden Change

What would happen if the CEO of the hospital chain had experienced what we experienced? My guess is that every test would have been done the first day, the procedures done the second or third day, and the patient would be out the door. The problem is that too many CEOs of too many businesses don’t understand what their customers have to go through. If they did, things would change.

My guess is that I’ll get a survey in the mail, and my guess is that what I say will be the same thing hundreds of others have said, and nothing will change. And it crossed my mind that this could be a strategy to “sell” more room nights. I can’t imagine the size of our bill after 10 days.

Deeply Grateful No Matter What

Please keep in mind, I’m grateful. We would be thrilled to spend months on the cold blue vinyl couch if it meant saving our child. But it was frustrating, and I’m intentionally not mentioning the name of the hospital because I don’t want them to think we are anything but grateful.

But whether we’re talking about family, running a business, or doing anything in life, it’s critical that we see the world through the eyes of the people we’re in those relationships with. We all need to listen more. We all need to understand the needs of the other.

Each of us approaches our life with a built-in bias that tells us how we think things should be done, but most of us are wrong. It’s why friendships and relationships end, it’s why businesses fail. It’s why some hospitals still do things the way they were done decades before.

Two-to-One Ratio

My old friend David Gifford (Happy Birthday, Dave!) a wonderfully accomplished sales trainer, used to say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth. Listen two-thirds of the time and only talk one-third of the time.” Great advice for life. We’re all eager to speak, but we learn more when we listen.

Silence Is Golden

My dear old friend Steve Rivers used to sit and listen and never talk. He might nod, but usually it was a blank stare. It was very intimidating, and when he didn’t talk, you would ramble on and say more and more. He told me later, before he died, it was his secret weapon for success and the best technique he ever learned: Shut up and listen, and people will tell you everything you need to know. In those uncomfortable moments of silence when people were waiting for a response, he would look people in the eye and say nothing. So we would ramble on. He did not have the need to speak, just the need to listen. Listening is where you’ll find the answers.

Are you listening?

I have to admit, I’ve been a bad listener. Too many times I’m barking out instructions and directions instead of listening for answers. I’m trying to learn not to have to be the smartest guy in the room, and to become a better listener.

I’ve also learned that when you’re around someone with all the answers, you tend to clam up and say nothing, even if something needs to be said. No one wants to feel like a fool. I’m sometimes that way with others, but didn’t realize others were that way with me. So I decided to change.

What if we all listened more? My guess is that everything would change.

More Real Feedback

Recently I asked my team to talk to our customers more, saying each should talk to a couple every week. That goes for me, too. It’s easy for me because I’m always talking to people. But I need to do more of it, not only with my customers, but starting at home with my wife and my kids. I think they would talk more if I talked less and didn’t dominate the conversation so much. 

Tell Me More

There is an old technique I learned in a class one time. We were told to go to lunch, engage a waitress in conversation, and after the first question, just say, “Uh-huh, tell me more” (and find different ways to say it), and see how long we could keep them talking. I was amazed at how much I learned from my waitress. People love to talk about themselves.

I tell my kids, when on job interviews, to ask questions. Ask for advice from others. Again, people love to talk about themselves, and when we listen more than we talk, we can deliver a better relationship or customer experience. I wish I had known that at 17. 

Try it today. Ask questions, then listen. Don’t be in a hurry to comment or give your opinion. See how long you can keep it going without speaking other than “Uh-huh” or “Really? Tell me more.”  I think you’ll find it will open doors and help you in new ways.

Listening is the key to all great relationships. And life is about relationships. Let’s listen more.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m heartened by all the messages this past week about my son. Thank you all for the thoughts, good wishes, and prayers. We received hundreds of e-mails, comments, text messages, phone calls, and an outpouring of love and concern. Friends brought food to the house for the other two kids so Laurie and I could concentrate on Brady. 

Brady has made a full recovery. They discovered some abnormal heart rhythms that were causing his issues, so they were able to remove those electrical pulses in surgery and placed a defibrillator in his chest as a backup. We can all breathe easier. We returned home on Wednesday and life went back to normal. Laurie and I feel as though we experienced PTSD, and we’ve been absolutely exhausted, catching up on our sleep.

We are extremely grateful for all the good wishes and prayers, and we know that Brady is a walking miracle. First, because he was in a public place when this happened. Had he been home or at school, he probably would have not been revived because a defibrillator was necessary. Second, because when EMS could not revive him, a doctor who, unusually, happened to ride along that night was able to bring him back. Third, we later learned a harsh, gruff doctor at the first hospital wanted to send Brady home because he was convinced he had done drugs (he had not). Thankfully, a young cardiologist named Jason fought to send him to the children’s hospital, where they discovered this defect in his heart. That doctor’s bias, had Brady been sent home, probably would have resulted in his not surviving another heart attack. 

PS2: Hundreds have told me they are taking CPR classes as a result of last week’s Sunday Coffee, and many have bought defibrillators for their homes, businesses, and schools. We met a young man who had the same issue as Brady, who coached him on life with a defibrillator. This young man convinced the state of Texas to make a law to put a defibrillator in every school in Texas. We need to make this a federal law for all schools, all malls, all public places, and honestly, it should be in every home and business. I bought one this week for our home. 

PS3: I’m very excited about my upcoming Plein Air Convention this May in Denver. It’s our best speaker-teacher lineup yet, with some of the best artists in the world. If this plein air thing is something you want to explore, this is the best possible place to experience it, but we don’t have a lot of seats left (this is our biggest ever). Last I checked there were 94 left (unusual to have so few seats left this early), and you can save $500 off the price by booking before February 14, Valentine’s Day, which will be here soon. And right before the convention, we have a rare Scott Christensen workshop, a great Thomas Schaller watercolor workshop, and a Plein Air Basics Course for beginners.

PS4: I should also mention that my event in the Adirondacks, where we paint for a week (no training), is almost sold out. I think we have 15 seats left. This is the 10-year anniversary, and I’m planning some new and different things for this year only. And my Fall Color Week painting retreat for September in the White Mountains will be sold out before we know it too.

PS5: You may have heard me say I’m going to spend three weeks in China on a seven-city speaking tour, speaking at the top universities teaching art and meeting with top art leaders and artists in China, as well as attending two massive plein air events there, all while filming three documentaries. You’ll be pleased to know that I’m not going until the coronavirus has been eradicated. I will, however, be heading to Russia soon to film an art instruction video with the top Russian artist in St. Petersburg, and to shoot some documentary footage for two films I’m producing. Like Russia or not politically, they have the two best art schools in the world, and saved realism when other countries had moved into modernism. I’m also working on planning for a painting trip to Russia in September 2021, a rare chance to paint in the exact spots painted by Repin, Levitan, Shiskin, and others, including small Russian villages with livestock in the streets and women wearing babushkas and carrying water to their charming little dachas. It will include visits to the top museums and tourist attractions in Saint Petersburg, and hopefully meetings with my friend who is the director of the Hermitage, along with visits to the best art schools in the world. We will be accompanied by some of the leading Russian artists, who will work with anyone wanting some help. I’m only able to take 50 people, and if you have interest (with no obligation), send an e-mail and simply say, “Yes, I am interested in Russia.”

The Power You May Not Be Using2020-02-01T08:52:20-05:00
26 01, 2020

My Worst Day Ever


Awakened from my sleep this morning by the sounds of beeping heart monitors, loud alarms, frequent interruptions by nurses, the bright fluorescent lights, and the chatty nurses’ station nearby. The hospital is no place to rest. This morning is our sixth day here.

This morning I’m going to recount what I think was the biggest horror my wife and I have ever experienced. 

Dinner Interrupted

On Monday at 7:30, while we were having dinner, the phone rang. Since I did not recognize the number, I almost didn’t answer. I assumed it was another unwanted telemarketing call, but for some reason I answered. The voice on the other end said, “This is Brady’s friend John. Brady has had a seizure, what should I do?” I immediately told him to call 911 and tell me where they were. 

Within moments Laurie and I were en route to the bingo hall where they had been playing. Minutes later, we reached this boy’s mom on the phone; she was close by and got there before we could. 


On her speaker phone, she’s doing play-by-play, with perfect calm. We could hear things going on in the background: “He isn’t breathing, he has no pulse. The CPR isn’t working.”

Our son was clinically dead.

As EMS arrived, they too tried to revive him, with no luck. One EMS professional is on the phone to us explaining what they are doing, asking us medical history questions and asking us to rush there. Of course, our emotions are running high, we’re trying to drive, listen, and cope with the fact that our teenage son is dying.

Suddenly the EMS officer says, “They have a pulse.” The most beautiful words I’ve ever heard in my life.

Laurie and I are driving as fast as we can to get there, to see him, let him know we love him, and prepared in an instant to say our final goodbye. We are in shock, and can hardly believe it. 

Change of Plans

“Meet us at the hospital, don’t come here. We’re on our way,” says the voice on the phone. Quickly we change direction and arrive at the emergency room, but there is no ambulance — and it should have been there before us. Ten minutes go by, still no ambulance. We’re thinking the worst.

Minds Playing Tricks

Then suddenly an ambulance appears, but it’s driving slowly, with no lights or siren. We look at each other in disbelief. Had he died along the way? Does that explain why they are no longer rushing? We’re sure this is the case, because what are the odds another ambulance would appear when one is supposed to be coming? Our minds are playing terrible tricks on us. We assume he is inside and they have done all they can. We’re watching the doors slowly open, and thankfully, as the doors open, there is a woman on a stretcher whom they were transporting. We both breathe a sigh of relief as we hold each other.

Moments later we hear sirens and see flashing red and blue lights. The ambulance rushes in and we run to the entrance to be there with our son. We see his limp body on the gurney. His face is covered with a mask and he is hooked up to all kinds of wires.

A Lucky Day

As they pull him out, they tell us he is alive. They had trouble reviving him. He was in critical condition and could not breathe on his own. The EMS officer approaches us and says, “Your son is very lucky,” of all things. “One of the doctors was riding with us tonight. If he had not been there, he may not have made it. We couldn’t revive him on our own.”

Helplessly Watching

We watch helplessly in the ER, between our tears and fears. Our son’s body is convulsing and shaking. “Just the meds we gave him, we assure you.”

But we have to get him stabilized. At that point we, and they, don’t know what is going on, what the problem is. All we know is that he collapsed and his heart stopped. 

Our 17-year-old baby has a dozen or more people tending to him, putting in tubes and wires, meds and fluids. We watch helplessly for two more hours. The only calls are to some friends for support, and to his siblings who rushed to visit, in case it’s our last chance to tell him we love him.

Hours with No Answers

For two hours, we don’t know if he is going to live. Then once he is moved out of the ER into intensive care, we watch for three or four more hours, waiting for him to stabilize. Finally, we’re told he is breathing on his own again, but the respirator is there to supplement and help in case he stops. 

Toxicology reports show no drugs were involved. A CT scan shows no brain damage from when his heart wasn’t pumping and no head damage from the fall. “We think he is going to be OK,” says the doctor. “He is showing signs of improvement.” The words we needed to hear.

A Small Nod and Big Hope

At his side, holding his hand, kissing his cheek and talking to him, we want him to know we are there, but there is no response. Finally, hours later, a nod of acknowledgement is the hope the doctor was looking for. It’s another 12 hours before he opens his eyes.

Hours later, the ventilator is no longer needed and the tubes are removed. Soon the sedation begins to wear off and we have some signs — brief open eyes and a word or two. 

Hours pass, and we don’t know if it’s day or night, but we look and see it’s 3 p.m. the following day. We still don’t have our son fully back, yet each hour that passes, we see improvement. 

Doctors now think our son had a cardiac event, something that rarely happens to a teen. They study his heart and decide to transfer him to Dell Children’s ICU, where the cardiologists and electrophysiologists can study him more. 


Over several days he is being monitored, probed, and tested. He is awake, alert, and bored, but he has no short-term memory. We’re assured it will return, it’s from brain inflammation as a result of the shock to revive him and the amnesia drugs used when intubating him. He cannot remember anything told to him for more than about 10 minutes. We started the week with him wondering why we were in his room, as his brain gradually came back. Though we will still experience this short-term memory problem for a few more days, maybe weeks, we’ve seen a vast improvement. 

Learning About Ourselves

A moment like this is one no parent ever wants to experience. But also a time we learn lessons about ourselves. For instance, our ability to make hard decisions even as we were surrounded by devastating grief. Both of us were thinking surprisingly clearly in spite of being so emotional. We also learned how much we can do without sleep if we have to. I think we were both awake for over a day and a half before being comfortable enough to sleep. We had to know he was stable and out of danger. 

Of course, parenting doesn’t stop. We not only had to deal with this tragedy, but the fears of our two other kids. They were dealing with their anxiety and emotions and we had to be there for them and help them through it. In short, we had to be at our best during the worst experience of either of our lives.

The Moment We’re Never Prepared For

All of our parenting, our training in business, and our ability to manage our emotions comes together in one moment of parenting where the best and worst are displayed at once. It’s our purpose. Though it’s not what we hope for, it’s what we’re there for. It’s a time to step up, to wake up, and to take control.

Showing Appreciation

The last time I saw my son before the incident, I dropped him off at his friend’s, said goodbye. No hug, no kiss, not realizing in that moment that it may have been the last moment I saw him alive. Seeing him lying in the bed all wired up, looking at his strong teen hands, I realized that I needed to hold them every minute I could, knowing I might never get another chance. Our kids, our loved ones, are treasures we take for granted. They are precious jewels, and we need to treat them as the precious cargo they are at every encounter. We need to show appreciation and make sure every encounter is one we’ll be proud of.

In Bigger Hands

As my mind wandered into the worst case scenario, I felt peace knowing the outcome for my son was in God’s hands. Though we prayed like crazy, there was a peace, knowing we had to trust His will. Not an easy thought, but a peaceful one. There is only so much control we as humans can have.

A Second Chance

During all our waiting, I flashed through the memories of my son’s life, our good and bad encounters, some I wished I could undo. Though I can’t change our past, I can change our future in the second chance we’ve been given. And hopefully I take no one for granted and embrace every moment, knowing any of us could be gone in a split second.

Saving Future Lives

Had my son collapsed in his room playing video games, he would not have survived. Thankfully, a crowded bingo hall had one CPR-trained person. I owe my son’s life to that person. That person could be you next time. And if your family is trained, they could be saving you or me.

If we could do one good thing from all of this, it would be to ask you to learn CPR. And if you know it but have not trained in the last five years, everything is different now. I’m told that proper CPR made a huge difference in my son’s survival. 

Twenty-five years ago I required everyone in my company to take CPR classes. I had a CPR trainer come to our office and train all of my employees. That night on the way home, Jim, our art director, saw an accident and gave CPR to the driver, saving his life. The very same day. Any day before that he would not have known what to do.

Your Next Purchase

This is a story I’m uncomfortable sharing because it’s very personal, but I hope it may wake you and me up to appreciate our loved ones more, learn CPR, and to get a defibrillator for our homes or offices. Turns out a defibrillator awoke my son’s heart when CPR alone would not. Yes, they are expensive, but human life is worth more. Buy one. You’ll never regret it. I’ve learned that some heart attacks cannot be resolved by CPR alone, but only by a defibrillator.


I’m not only grateful for the prayers, but for the dozens of people who saved my son’s life and who worked with us over the past week. There is surgery and at least another few days of hospital time ahead. I’m also grateful for all the prayers from people around the globe, and for all the people showing support and offering to help. I’ve not been able to work for a week, and because of my vacation and time at a workshop, I’ve not worked for a month. I’m grateful for the amazing team that has kept the trains running on time. Thank you to everyone for the good wishes.

Hug your family, and keep us in your prayers.

Eric Rhoads

My Worst Day Ever2020-01-25T10:45:15-05:00