Glowing backlit trees twist like intermingled worms climbing toward the sky. Little white shimmers sparkle on the wet leaves. The ropes of the old tree swing are lit like neon against the dark contrast of the branches in the distance. The faded red Adirondack chairs look as though someone turned on a light switch to make them glow. The crisp cold air is still, and it’s pleasingly quiet here on the long porch of this Texas ranch house.
I’m missing the longhorn cattle that used to stick their noses up to my fence. If only the neighbor had left them when he sold his property. Though I wouldn’t want to care for them, I enjoyed watching them graze.
According to a buddy, his neighbor, a famous filmmaker, once phoned him after his cows had escaped to the neighbor’s vast property of rolling hills in the Bay Area, asking if he would leave them for a week so he could see how he liked looking at cows. My buddy obliged. Then, weeks later, dozens of carefully placed painted wooden cows appeared, made by a studio set department. Workers would move them daily. After a few weeks, the filmmaker determined he liked having cattle, so the fake cows disappeared and were replaced by real ones. I suppose that’s the result of a highly creative mind, combined with endless resources.
In our society, we reward creative minds. Where would we be without the imaginative thinking of writers, filmmakers, musicians, songwriters, and actors? Thankfully, they look at things differently and bring us new ways of interpreting our world. My life surrounded by visual artists has been enriched by their gifts.
What are your gifts?
Where does your creative brain make a difference in the lives of others?
A dialogue with an acquaintance recently had him telling me just how uncreative he was, and just how bored his job had made him. His belief was that there was nothing inside to come out. Yet, with some digging and some prodding, I was able to help him realize there was a creative genius inside, wanting to be released.
Decades ago, I took a course in finding our own gifts. By taking an inventory of our past, of everything we know how to do (even the littlest things), then asking the question “Which of those things did you really, really love?” that class became a guide to remembering the things that light us up.
What lights you up?
Our body language, the sparkle that comes into our eyes, the spring in our step, the big smile on our face — these are the clues you may not see, but others do. When I conduct job interviews, a few questions rapidly lead to the moment when someone sparkles. People will tell you many things they supposedly love, but the ones that light them up reveal their truth.
Where do you sparkle?
“I go to work in a job I’ve done for decades. It used to be fun, but it’s not fun anymore. Once I’m home, I sit and read or watch television, have a couple drinks, and then repeat that routine day after day.” So I was told by a friend when I asked what his hobbies or outside interests were. I could see the sadness in his eyes, and I could tell he craved something more in his life, yet he was simply stuck.
Where are you stuck?
Being stuck is the road to destruction and a premature ticket off the earth. Being engaged and using your creative brain is the ticket to longevity.
How do you get there?
Start with your own inventory. What have you tried in your life that you enjoyed? What lit you up? Chances are you’ll find something there, but will have pushed it aside because you’re telling yourself you can’t do it. That’s a big problem in the world of art. I encounter thousands who have tried art and convinced themselves that they had no talent or ability.
Starting with Perfection
Ask a brain surgeon. Did she or he actually believe they could pick up a scalpel within a week or two of starting medical school? Of course not. Ask a musician if they sat down and played the piano or guitar without first learning the keys and chords and doing the exercises.
The True Meaning of Talent
For some odd reason, we think certain creative endeavors are naturally part of our DNA. Perhaps if it is in your DNA, it comes out way down the road, after you’ve learned the skills so you can push them to the next level. After dealing with hundreds of artists, I’ve found most learned a system or a process, practiced like crazy, and worked really hard. That’s actually the definition of talent. People everyone thinks just had talent had, in fact, worked hard.
Overnight Success Is a Myth
Remember the story of the Hollywood director with the cows? He was an “overnight success” whose success wasn’t overnight at all. He almost dropped out of school because of his frustration. He was not a good writer. He was rejected hundreds of times. But he kept writing, kept showing up trying to get his scripts read, and then, after lots of years banging on doors, he was suddenly a creative genius. I daresay that “genius” is tenacity. Edison was a genius not because he came up with an idea and a solution on the first try, but because he never gave up after hundreds or thousands of experiments.
Genius lies inside you. It’s up to you to bring it out.
Seeing That Grin
As you and I go into the holidays, and many of us return to self-isolation, you’ll have the time to think, to experiment, to play, to try new things. Try dozens of things. Take a course or five, and try to do something your judgmental self is telling you isn’t possible. And keep trying. Pay attention to how things make you feel. If it brings a smile to your face or a sparkle to your eyes — even though it may be hard or frustrating — you will have found what is trapped inside, waiting to be released for the world to see.
Your creativity may change the world, whether you’re 100 or you’re 10. There are no rules, no restrictions. It’s never too late or too early.
The World’s Richest Man Told Me…
My friend John Kluge was once the richest man in the world. Over lunch I asked him how he became a billionaire. He said he had always tried to succeed, had done lots of things, but was just an average success like many others. He said when he turned 65, all his friends were giving up and retiring, but he didn’t want to stop because he had learned so much, and he had a feeling that if he kept working, he might have more success, or at least keep having fun. “My friends retired, got bored, and died,” he said. “I just kept pitching.”
John became a billionaire and changed the world at about age 75, and he lived the rewards of his persistence for the last two decades of his life. He endowed colleges, museums, and charities with billions. He built several world-class art collections, and he was having more fun than he’d ever had in his life. His advice to me was, “Eric, keep pitching. Never stop. One idea, one pitch, might be the one that makes you a billionaire.”
Pitching does not have to be about becoming a billionaire. It’s about having a ball, living an enriched life, living fully. It’s about trying new things, giving your brain the challenges it needs to keep you mentally elastic. And it’s about overcoming boredom.
There Is No Excuse
There is a world of joy to be found by trying things. Don’t tell yourself you might not like it. Try a variety of things — I have taken courses on Masterclass in things like cooking, fashion design, making music, acting. It’s fun to learn about things I’d never have explored. There are hundreds of online platforms offering things you’ve never considered. Try something.
Finding the Energy
You may tell yourself “I don’t have the energy” after a long day, but as my artist-cardiologist friend told me the other day, “I’ll come home exhausted from a long day, and I’ll not want to go into my studio because I’m exhausted. But I’ll go in, pick up the brush just to maybe fix one little thing, and next thing you know I’ve painted till midnight, lost my stress, and I’m in my happy place.” Energy is found in enthusiasm.
I plan to try new things when I have some extra time. I love learning, reading, and now, watching courses. I intentionally pick things I don’t think I’ll like, and find some of them to be fascinating.
Remember, there is a creative genius inside beating on the door of your heart to be released. Only you can release that genius.
PS: An accidental left turn because of a cab ride led me to the world I’m in today. I never in a thousand years would have imagined myself leading an art community, producing art magazines, developing hundreds of online art courses. I did not know what was dormant inside, waiting to be released. Yet because I was curious, I found a new life, a life of fulfillment I never could have imagined. I’m happier than I ever imagined I could be. You can learn about everything we do in the art world at StreamlinePublishing.com/Everything. Maybe you’ll find a course or a video or a newsletter to try something new.
If you’re telling yourself you can’t learn art, that you lack talent and skill, start with watercolor. I’ve rounded up the best watercolor artists in the world to teach for three days, plus a fourth day for beginners. Start there. It’s in late January and would be a good Christmas gift to yourself. If you can’t make the dates, there are replays, though watching live and being part of the community and making new friends is a lot of fun. No one is too inexperienced to attend. WatercolorLive.com
I wanted to come up with something to make learning art easy. People often stop because it’s too overwhelming and complicated. I realized that if you learn a few notes on a keyboard, you can learn piano. It’s the same with art: If you learn a few notes, you can paint anything. I call my system Paint by Note, and I have free lessons online. Hundreds have taken the course, and I hear from people frequently who show me their progress, which continues to amaze me. The thing I hear most often: “I did not think I could do this, but I’m doing it.” PaintByNote.com
Christmas and holiday gifts? We have a ton of things available. Things you won’t find anywhere else. Take a peek by clicking here.
Encouraging communication contains the ability to birth beauty in creativeness. Thank you Eric for having the spirit, mind, and soul you have. You are certainly one of my heroes. I have peacefully absorbed and been able to plan new directions in my own work as a result of watching many of your podcasts. also decided I must have the publications. Now I am looking for books you have authored.
As a side note: I am subscribing
I want to wish you and yours a very wonderful thanksgiving. And I want to thank you from my heart for the joy I get when ever I tune you in across the numerous programmes that you produce. Great stuff. I dabble a little in oils and always wanted to become a professional painter. I just never had the confidence it takes and now at 80 I realise i have to settle for what I put into that dream. I did have a few good moments though.
kenkarlarts.com, check me out if you wish.
Thanks a million,
A member of my family felt I needed a push to discover that, I too, have a hidden longing or ambition or “talent” to uncover. Thank you for this article and maybe, just maybe, I will discover what it is. I know it is there and it could be fun to discover what it is.
I’m home, always busy with cooking, drawing, following swedish course, following painting course, practising taichi (if I ‘m not tired…) Here is my problem: too tired to pick up a pencil and paper, too tired to take a walk, with or without my pencils, too tired to keep on reading my swedish roman…
Perfectionism is also one of the obstacles to do my hobby. How much drawningpaper I have bought that I don’t dare to touch with a pencil… and why??? God only knows.
I hope, from now on, by reading this article, that I find the energy and time to vanquish my fear for…? I don’t know.
I turned 75 this month. I agree on everything you wrote here. I have painted all my life. Having artist parents, aunts, Uncles and Grandparents gave me a head start and early understanding that it’s about a life time of practice, about the commitment to the journey nothing else matters as much.
A really beautiful story today! I am two years cancer free and happier than I have ever been. My creativity is on fire after the chemo fog! Life is good and God is real.
Thank you for this article Eric. I am retiring in December and this article gives me more enthusiasm and hope for the future… In fact, I cannot wait to experiment with what I have learned throughout my life to make my future and the lives and world of other people better. – This article is a keeper.
I love your positive attitude and the inspiration you give! We all need to push ourselves a little , it’s so easy to not do things. Things that if you’ll just do it, you may be amazed at the joy and fun you find! Thanks for the encouragement!
Such a good article. I have been painting for 50 years, representational, last year I lost my son, this triggered something in me that made me change, I started experimenting with more abstract art and I love it, so much more exciting and fulfilling. Everyone can do art of some sort, just buy a sketch book and do some doodling – enjoy it! You never know where it may lead.
Thanks for this very good advice.
Thank you Eric for continuing to inspire us with your positive messages.
Good health and happy holidays to all!
So true Eric. When someone says “you are so lucky to have this talent to paint “ I tell them that I had a desire to learn. And so I keep trying. Yesterday discouraged by a painting I was working on I fell into a bad mood. We had a birthday party to go to for one of my grandchildren. Realizing I didn’t have a card I sat down and wrote a poem for her. Engaged in this task, as I came up with loving thoughts about her, my mood lifted. Going back to the painting later I realized I could tweak it some. Now I am enjoying learning oils after years of watercolor. Thanks Eric.
Sent this too soon. I figured how how to send to my friends.
Eric, I would like to download this article and share it with my art students and friends. How can I do that?
This is wonderful! I will share it with my 19 yr old grandson, who is a little lost at starting out in this big world. I will share it with my son for inspiration, he is good at writing. I worry about my husband , retirement is within the next couple years, perhaps this will help with that anxiety and he will find that spark and light it up. You are a blessing to all Mr. Eric. I thank God for you.
I absolutely LOVE this edition of Sunday Coffee !!! I am 77 years old and returned to creating art when I retired at 67 … I have NEVER been so happy and fulfilled in my life. Why did I return to it ? I loved it all through school and even though it hadn’t been part of my life for many years, I thought I’d try again. Best decision ever !!!!
Thank you for your inspiration every Sunday morning !
I feel so inspired reading your newsletter each week. Please don’t stop printing these. I’m 75 years old and still exploring, painting, beading, and taking tutorials. I call it “Play Art” because each day I learn something new, while “playing” with different media.
That cup of coffee with you every Sunday is especially good today! For years I’ve dabbled in things and often ended up attracted to something to do with paper. If never been sure but this time it is different, I’ve played with putting watercolors on paper. This time Ives invested more in cutting paper and turning that paper into art or more. My first plan is making flowers and decorating my new bedroom. For almost year we have been waiting for the house to be restored after a fire that took place past January. Now is time to let my genius show off!
Thank you, Eric! I recently started receiving your Sunday Coffee with Eric and I have to say I have learned so much and appreciate your time in sharing your wonderful insight and wisdom! Your words truly are seeds of change. Have a beautiful day and many thanks!
Eric, you hit upon some wonderful subjects to write about. I don’t have any trouble thinking of things that excite me, It’s just hoping I can fit it all into my life as I keep getting older!
Absolutely. As always Words of wisdom
Good Morning,. This was so inspirational and touched my every nerve. I felt that you wrote this just for me, and it was written so that I felt you were talking directly to me. Thank you
After reading other’s comments, I need to add something..I’m 93 , so age is no barrier to fun/work. I have gathered 5 watercolor friends who come (pack up all their gear and drive more than 1/2 an hour ) to my studio and paint with me every Friday. We never make other plans for Friday morning. What joy!
I enjoy your weekly column and often find it exactly fits something on my mind that week. This week, after months of painting less than exciting watercolors, I started two children’s portraits that I’d promised to do months ago. I realized that I’d been missing the challenge and excitement of doing portraits. The first one is done, i finished it in about 4 hours and I’m satisfied…just a couple little details needed. I’ve done portraits off and on, but it was a workshop with the artist, Ken Call, which inspired me to get back to portraits.
I live in the Catskill mountains, and there are many derelict barns. I painted about a dozen small paintings of them …What fun. These are easily framed in 5×7 frames and can be changed to suit my whim.
What I’m saying is that your column is a joy and inspiration for my Sunday morning and behond.
You never fail to inspire me☺️ Thank you for all your wisdom and inspiration!
Great advice and so well said!
Thanks Eric, this was a good one. I sent it to a friend of mine who is bored and stuck. Who knows? It could strike a chord.
I so appreciate all you do, Kelly McCurdy
Thank you so much for the daily email links to the interviews and demos that you have posted throughout the pandemic, they have literally been a lifesaver for me and many others. I have no idea how you have found the time and energy to produce these programs, but you have become the good friend I can’t wait to see every day. I have been inspired, I have learned so much, but most important, I have felt joy through this tough time. Bless you and your family , Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Thank you Eric Rhoads .
Your Sunday morning reads are continuously inspirational. In the time I’ve been out of a job I’ve learned much about myself. I found out how much I enjoy writing! It has taken a while and much work collecting content, and I’ve started a blog on day tripping, mostly to places for hiking or bike trips and interesting natural spaces around Wisconsin. I happened on this idea from my love of going out to fine inspiration and images for my art works. It all fits together well and I want to thank you for your continued inspiration that pushes me to get off my butt. When you have time, please check it out. forest-traveler.com
one client of mine had this on her desk “Success often passes by disguised as hard work”
This is great advice for all of us, no matter our age.
Eric I have several videos now of all different subjects and I really find them stimulating. I live in the Isle of Man but would love to come and paint with you outside and be with other artists, perhaps in the future. Our weather is not always very nice to paint outside in but I find the challenge very exciting. Am I mad because when the wind whips my hair across my face and I hang on to my easel I just love it.
Happy Christmas wishes
Love Jan xx
This might be one of my favorite posts to date. How spot on you are. Thanks for sharing!
I’d like information about your training for holding a future plein air festival such as Paint The Desert , and Paint Southern California!
I have been in a rut lately. My life has been dominated by my professional life. I have recently moved and am away from connections I used to see frequently. With the isolation and the extra work may be I should force myself more now and then to put things aside and pick up my brush to paint. Life is too precious and too short to squander our time on things that will still be there tomorrow.
Thank you Eric!
You paint wonderful pictures for us in our minds.
I want to be like Rae Smith when I turn 82, five years from now!!!! Except I want three oil paintings going at one time instead of pastels.
Sunday moring Blessings to all of you.
Mary Lois Brown
Thank you for the inspiration!
Really enyoy reading your Sunday morning post. I’m 82 years old, Pastel Artist for over 60 years, love to teach, estimate jobs for my son. On three boards, always very busy, that’s what keeps me going, thanks Eric.
You paint a wonderful painable picture of your surroundings Eric.
Thanks for the much-needed encouragement!
Eric, thanks for the many things you do, say, and offer to enrich the lives of artists.