Creating Your Masterpiece

The perfect summer day … warm but not hot, breezy, no bugs, a glass of iced tea, and the sound of laughter from kids in a passing boat as they water-ski into view. That’s what it was like around here most of last week. One of my sons had four of his best friends here for the week, and their joy radiated around the entire lake. One said, “This is the perfect summer camp.” It’s still early, but another perfect lake day is expected today.

I grew up on Lake Wawasee in Indiana. My grandparents had an Airstream in a trailer park across from the lake, and we used to go up for fishing and swimming. My dad did the same thing with his grandparents; we were the third generation on the lake.

Driving Without a License

When we were teens my dad and mom managed to buy their own place, across the lake. They provided the perfect summers for us, filled with barbecues, water-skiing, sailing, hanging out at the sandbar with hundreds of other kids. I remember being able to drive a boat before I got my driver’s license and the freedom of the wind in my hair as I drove it full speed across the lake. It was an idyllic way to grow up. ?

Really Hard Work

I never stopped to think about how much work and struggle my dad had to go through to make enough money to provide us with such a place. Yet when it came my turn, I could not afford it for decades. So, like me, my kids grew up with summers at grandpa’s lake house. That is, until I was able to scrape together enough to get our own so that I could carry on this tradition for my kids.

Masterpiece Created

My grandparents had created a masterpiece. They struggled till they could buy a trailer, put it on a lake, and attract family to hang out for the summer. My dad did the same thing. I’m doing the same for my family. In each case, we knew what we wanted, we focused on it, we envisioned it, and we made it happen. It was not easy, or instant, and involved a lot of sacrifices. But a masterpiece was born.

Spending My Life with Artists

I have the pleasure of being around some of the world’s top artists, who will be the first to tell you that masterpieces are rare. Not every painting is a masterpiece — but some are. Most artists will tell you that their masterpieces are painted in their heads, sometimes over years, before a brush ever meets canvas. Rarely are they accidental. 

I’d dreamed about my own lake place since I was a teen. It took me decades, but my masterpiece eventually got painted. 

A Really BIg Masterpiece?

For the past two years I’ve been working on a large commissioned painting. I’ve scraped it down several times, repainted it, painted over it, and struggled with it. Others have entered my studio and told me, “It’s ready,” or, “It’s good enough,” but to me, it’s not ready to put my name on till it’s the masterpiece I envision. 

You see, the key to every masterpiece is what you envision before you ever create it.

High-Level Performance

I’ve often wondered why some people seem to have success with everything they do, why they perform at a high level most of the time. The answer is that they envision high performance, envision being the best of the best, envision success.

Time for a Spanking

In the 4th grade, Mrs. Bernet sent me to the principal’s office many times for daydreaming. It turns out this should have been encouraged and rewarded, because daydreaming + action can equal excellence.

Signing Your Work

In the movie Seven Days in Utopia, there was a story about a golfer who shouted “Picasso!” after every shot. He explained, “Every shot is a blank canvas and you have a chance to paint a masterpiece. You can paint success or failure. I choose to paint a masterpiece with every shot. After every shot I shout ‘Picasso!’ like signing my name to a painting.”

To this day, before most meetings I envision the masterpiece I want. Things usually go the way I envision them, probably because I’ve rehearsed it in my mind. This is daydreaming.

Bouncing Around

Some go through life like a pinball, ending up in the gutter after bouncing off a few obstacles. Others choose excellence, constantly defining the masterpieces they want to paint in life, envisioning the best possible outcome and working toward that every time. This is why goals and dreams matter.


I’m big on manifesting things. What we think about is often what comes true, which is why it’s important to manage what you focus on. Those who focus on failure tend to get failure. Those who focus on the best possible outcomes tend to get great outcomes. 

But you may be saying, “I had a bad upbringing, I have disadvantages, I didn’t get a college education, I did not grow up with money, I had bad parents, I was abused…” 

And though I am sensitive to what you went through, unless you let go of those excuses and focus on good outcomes, your outcomes will be exactly what you expect.

Can you shift your mindset to masterpiece outcomes?

I believe you can. 

What you expect is usually what you get.  

Expect masterpieces.

Eric Rhoads

PS: As a CEO, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get others to expect masterpieces. Recently we launched something that was less than successful. We needed it to be successful, but when it underperformed, many on the team simply accepted the substandard result. In order to make a point, I called for a redo, suggested some changes, and set our sights on an all-time record. I’m not sure very many on the team believed it could change. In the end, it succeeded and set that all-time record. The point was made. Don’t let up until your masterpiece is accomplished in its best possible form.

Keeping score is important because if you don’t, you don’t know when you’ve hit a goal. You don’t know if you made your masterpiece. That’s why goals need to go with your masterpieces. Try to envision every detail, envision records being broken, envision perfect execution and small details, then communicate that. You’ll be surprised at how your life will change

You may have someone who needs to hear this…. Pass it on.

PS 2: At the moment the media is slamming us with negatives about the economy. I refuse to participate in a bad economy, and I recommend the same for you. Be smart, but don’t assume you can’t succeed because of the economic excuse. While some are whining about how bad business is, others in the same businesses are having record success. The only difference is attitude.

PS 3: People told me that the August after the pandemic was a horrible time to hold an online event like Pastel Live. I decided to not accept the excuse, and as a result attendance is at an all-time high and continues to grow. Be careful of the stories you tell yourself. Set your sights on a masterpiece.

Speaking of masterpieces…. Here are some things we’re working on this week at Streamline.

  1. Pastel Live is coming up online and promises to provide excellent teaching in pastel painting. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with pastel and am very excited. 
  2. Realism Live online is coming up in November, and we’re about to announce some more big names. Stay tuned.
  3. Save the dates of January 26-28 for Watercolor Live.
  4. We’re expecting record crowds for the Plein Air Convention in May. Now would be a good time to guarantee your seat.
  5. Fall Color Week, my fall retreat (this year in Acadia National Park in Maine), is already sold out and has a waiting list. Get on the waitlist; we’re trying to secure more rooms elsewhere because so many want to come.
  6. Painting New Zealand is happening in September for about 10 days. It’s going to be spectacular. We had a cancellation, so you still can get in if you hurry.