Do you pay attention to light? This morning I woke up a little after sunrise, and the sun was slamming the sides of the trees outside my window with colorful warm light in the early glow. Parts of the tree were in shadow, while little spots were illuminated with color. Little twigs and leaves popped out against the dark purplish distant background and lit up like little firecracker explosions.  

In the distance I see the silhouettes of trees in front of a brightly lit pasture of glowing greens and slight reds against the fog. The morning dew reflects little moisture bombs on every blade of grass, making them glow with light.

Golden Hour

Years ago I was attending a broadcast convention, walking down the streets of Boston with friends, when the golden hour approached and illuminated the sides of the brick buildings with a pink-orange glow. The clouds above were gleaming with yellow. I stood and marveled at the light, but when I pointed it out to my friends, they just said, “What is it we’re supposed to look at?” At that point I realized I had been given the eyes of an artist, and that my friends weren’t likely to appreciate what artists see.

It wasn’t always that way — I’d never noticed light and color. But a couple of years after I started painting, I saw everything through new eyes, and life became even more enjoyable.

My first instinct this morning was to rush to my easel to capture what I saw for that fleeting moment, but alas, Sunday Coffee calls.

Sometimes I think we’re appointed to our roles and the way of seeing the world that goes with them. We develop a bias that influences everything that enters our brain. 

Playing the Hits

When I was young and on the radio playing the hits, my bias was radio and music. Somehow my radio-colored glasses impacted how I saw the world. 

What is your bias? 

“Bias” can have a negative connotation, when in fact it’s simply a filter. I look at the world and ask how I can paint it. If I’m into woodworking for a season, I may ask how I can build it. If I’m practicing medicine, maybe it’s how I can heal it?

People are often critical of others because the others cannot see what they can see. It even says so in the Bible:

And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Luke 8:10

Rose-Colored Glasses

If we like what we see, we want others to experience the world through our filter. I wanted my friends to see the color, but they first needed to develop an appreciation. They expressed no interest and probably thought I was nuts.

How much better would our relationships be if we tried to understand the filters of those around us?

We can be dismissive of others because we feel we’re so well read, and we pity others who don’t grasp what we’re saying. 

We can destroy a lifetime relationship because we don’t bother to dig deeper to understand and listen more closely. 

Seeing Color Differently

Many years ago I took a class from artist Camille Przewodek. She would point out colors she saw and paint them, but I could not see them — until she taught me how to see by making me toil over hours of painting colored blocks in sunlight. Suddenly I could understand what she was trying to say. I put in that effort because I had interest. But how much effort do I put in to understand my friends, those I meet, or the needs of my own family?

I need to listen more carefully, not only to the words, but the filter behind the words. 

How many times have you felt something was off, and you ask if everything is OK, and you hear “I’m fine.” But the body language says, “She’s not fine.” You can choose to accept it, or peel back the onion a little more. 

People want to be heard and understood. 

How would you rate yourself on your hearing? I’d probably fail the test. 

Listening with Your Eyes

Recently a discussion with an employee stood out because I was hearing everything was fine, but I was seeing it wasn’t. I could have let it go, but I sensed that I needed to probe gently. One layer at a time, I discovered the employee was unhappy, thinking about leaving because she wasn’t being heard. She cared deeply and was not feeling as though I was doing something that needed to be done. By tuning in, listening carefully, not being eager to have all the answers, I was able to resolve the situation. But I almost didn’t go down that path, because I was busy, focused on something else, and not hearing. 

Where are you not hearing?

What is your pride or ego preventing you from hearing? 

Who in your family, or who in your life, needs you to hear them, understand them, and hear things from their perspective? 

Are you truly listening?

Eric Rhoads

PS: The next time someone says something that makes you recoil, ask yourself this: Am I respecting them? Am I automatically ruling them out because I don’t buy into what they are saying? Is this something I need to understand more? Should I listen more deeply and try to understand?

There are things in my life I was never receptive to that I later embraced.

There are also roadblocks in our heads, because we don’t see ourselves in these things. But what would change if you opened up to listen and explore? What if instead of telling yourself, “That’s not for me,” you instead say, “I wonder why this person is trying so hard to get me to pay attention to this. Maybe there is something they understand that I can’t see. Maybe I need to open myself up to exploration before ruling it out.”

PS 2

Are you listening to yourself? To your heart? Or are you letting other things cloud your decisions about what is good for you?

There was a moment in time when I was introduced to painting. I was interested, but I lacked belief that I could do it. So when an opportunity came up, I came to a crossroads. If I had listened to the negative noise in my head, I would have turned left. Instead, I went the other direction, even though I was uncomfortable and afraid. 

That single decision at a crossroads changed my life forever. Not only did it help me see the world through the eyes of an artist, it helped me launch a whole world I would never have anticipated. A world where we were able to create art magazines, newsletters, retreats, conferences, video training, online events, and so much more. 

Turning left would have taken me in a different direction. Turning right actually resulted in helping millions of others discover how to see the world through the eyes of an artist. It’s helped them become part of something bigger, part of a community, and it appears to have enriched their lives. 

When you feel your heart tugging, listen. It may be God telling you something that will allow you to enrich your own life and the lives of others. 

I’m stubborn. I want to control everything. But I’ve learned that I have control of nothing. I have to listen, I have to ask for guidance, I have to pay attention to those little voices in my head. Yet I have to decide which voices are for good and which are for evil.

Thirteen years ago, that little voice told me to relaunch PleinAir Magazine. I had closed it years before because it was bankrupting me. I was broke and out of money. So I changed its name to Fine Art Connoisseur, and we survived. (I’m also passionate about realism.) 

When that voice told me to relaunch it, my advisers told me not to do it. They told me I would be bankrupt. It was a bad business decision. But my heart was tugging at me. And it was tugging at me to launch a convention with the relaunch. Again, my advisers told me not to do it. 

It was like going to Vegas and laying all of my life savings and all my efforts in business on red, spinning the wheel, and hoping I’d win. 

Thankfully, things worked out, and now we are about to celebrate 10 years of the Plein Air Convention (keep in mind, we had to cancel two different years). 

COVID came along, and in one day, we went from having 1,200 people signed up for the convention to having almost everyone cancel. Again, it almost killed my business. We had to refund all the money, but the hotel was still insisting on being paid. Plus we canceled our FACE event and the hotel decided to sue us for breach of contract. It cost us a fortune to resolve that. And we got hit with $50,000 in credit card fees. The little voice told me that it would not be right to deduct the fees from the refunds. So we got stuck.

We were hanging on by a thread. Our response was to launch online virtual conferences, and it saved us. Otherwise our ability to help out the plein air world would be over, and there would be no more Plein Air Convention, no more PleinAir Magazine, no more Fine Art Connoisseur, no more anything. 

We dodged a bullet.

Thankfully, a lot of people have signed up for the Plein Air Convention, but we’re not yet at our pre-COVID numbers. If you were one of those people who signed up, canceled, and has not come back, I’d appreciate it if you’d consider joining us. This is the last time we will be in Colorado. 

And if you’re new to this and want to understand the plein air lifestyle of painting outside, making friends, and being challenged and creative, consider coming to find out what this is all about. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started — you’ll see all the things you’ll want to buy at the convention — you’ll watch hundreds paint together in amazing beauty, and you can choose to paint along or not. You won’t regret it. 

You might be saying “someday,” but if everyone said someday, someday would never come. Last year a woman told me she had been meaning to come for years, but never got around to it. She told me she was so thrilled to be there, it was much better than she anticipated, and she had a great time and made lots of friends. And I’m glad, because I heard from her husband that she passed away unexpectedly a few months ago, and that he is happy she decided to go. 

If your heart is telling you to do something, listen and do it. There is never enough time, there is always something else you have to do, there is never enough money, conditions are never perfect. If your heart is telling you that you need to be there, you need to find a way.


It’s amazing what gets into our heads. I used to travel most of my year. Yet I have not traveled too much since COVID. I did do my annual June Adirondacks and Fall Color retreats, and I did take a group to New Zealand. But for some reason I’ve been telling myself I need to cut back, travel less. 

On Tuesday I decided to travel to Las Vegas to see one of my key employees receive an award of major importance from the Broadcast Foundation. I received their Broadcast Pioneer Award a decade or more ago, and Deborah Parenti was due to receive their Broadcast Leadership Award. I wanted to be there. 

But as I was packing, I found myself reluctant to travel. I found myself looking for excuses not to go. But I went.

Not only did I make her special event, I reconnected with people I had not realized I missed seeing. It was a rewarding experience, and I found myself meeting new people, including some people I needed to meet, and some I hadn’t known I needed to meet. 

Our heads can be a deep, dark place, and we can end up ruminating on things that simply are not true. Had I not gone on this trip, I would have missed out on some very rich experiences. I’m glad I went. 

I want to take a second and tell you about Deborah Parenti. She had applied for a small role as conference coordinator for our radio division. She must have called me 30 times, and, yes, I found it annoying. But once she got me on the phone, she was amazing, and I immediately was drawn to her. So, a little reluctantly, I hired her.

Deborah is that person who always overdelivers. She cares deeply about the success of those she encounters, and she always accomplishes more than humanly possible. She is so good that I decided to back away from that division, which was my baby, and turned it over to her, making her president of the division. It was one of the best decisions of my life. She is very deserving of the award. She truly is a leader. 

PS 4

At the award ceremony, there were awards given to a couple of people who have passed on, including Rush Limbaugh and my friend Jim Thompson, a broadcast leader. Listening to acceptance speeches from friends or family, I had a moment of clarity. Life comes down to a couple of sentences when someone is honoring you. “He did this and that with his career, started this or that company, and helped these people by working with this or that.” 

In the past I’ve written about writing your own obituary in advance, so you can get clarity on what you want to accomplish in your life. This was an eye-opener for me, because I realized I’m not giving back enough, I’m not helping enough people. I don’t think life is about the companies you founded or the jobs you held, it’s about the people you helped. I realized I need to do more. I’d love your feedback on what I can be doing to help others. I’ll listen. But if I do it, I may not talk about it…

PS 5

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” Matthew 6:14

I don’t want my name on a building. I don’t want to talk about my giving, I don’t want others to know what or how much I give. I do tell my employees part of it, because they need to know we have a bigger mission than just showing up at work. But otherwise I no longer share it. 

There was a time when I’d want to announce it with trumpets, but I realized that if I did that, my giving might not have been pure and for the right reasons. I don’t want to give so that I look good (though my ego tells me I should). I don’t want people to like me or pay attention to me because they think I’ll be a big donor. So I remain silent. Laurie and I pray about where we can help, and we seek to make a difference.

We are often critical of organizations, churches, ministers, etc, about asking for money. I think it’s healthy to remain skeptical. But last week in church I heard this message that was so powerful, I think everyone should watch it, because it’s not about what you give but what you receive when you give.