It’s the perfect day. Not hot, not cool. A slight breeze, just enough to make the leaves sway. Fall color of deep burnt orange, with some slight green and red edges, has filled the big tree across the road. It’s something I paint annually. I’m hopeful I’ll get around to it before the leaves carpet the ground below.

I can remember one late fall, right about this time, my dad brought us the greatest Christmas gift of all … a baby mountain lion. This occasion marked a change in my father’s life, after hunting every fall or winter.


He had been in Cody, Wyoming, where he shot a mountain lion up in a tree. Instead of celebrating, as hunters often do, tears welled up in his eyes as he discovered he had killed the mother of a cub. He could not leave the cub there to die, so he brought it home and we raised it in our garage. That was the moment he swore off hunting for good.


Our lion had two names. We started with Lionel, like the trains, but later we named him Blinkie. He had the most beautiful eyes and long lashes. He became our family pet. We would play with him, like you would any pet. But he kept getting bigger and bigger, and finally, we had to give him up to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. We would visit him at the zoo almost weekly for a while, and he recognized us, though we could no longer go in the cage with him because he had grown so large.

The Giant Among Us

Within a year or two he grew even larger, too large for a children’s zoo, where they want “teen” animals. So Blinkie was transferred to the small zoo in Bluffton, Indiana. The first thing I did when I got my driver’s licence was drive to the zoo to see him. The last time I saw him he was probably 12 feet long, head to tail. He was massive, and, sadly, he would pace back and forth inside his cage. When I visited, even as a teen he had not seen for a few years, I felt as though he recognized me. I thought he should be released back to the wild, but was told he would not survive because he had been domesticated.

I’m told mountain lions live about 21 years in captivity, but sadly, I don’t know the rest of the story and have been unable to learn anything about what happened to Blinkie.

Lessons Learned

What I did learn is that there are certain moments in our lives that have such profound impact on us that we often make radical change overnight. For my dad, it was the end of his hunting.

As I filter through my lifetime of memories, there are moments of instant change based on my own stupid decisions. I got fired once for putting my fist through a wall at the radio station because I had been drinking and was out of control. I had to make instant change. And I’ve lost friendships and relationships because I did not think before speaking or I lost my temper. In fact, as a child I had a horrible temper, which I cured when I destroyed a favorite toy in anger, and my parents refused to replace it.

What about you?Are there moments you regret that changed you instantly?

A Mark of Maturity

I think one of the differences between immature and mature people is the ability for self-correction. If I had retained all the bad habits from my earlier years, I’m not sure I would have survived. Sadly, many do not, or their lives continually repeat mistakes where lessons were not learned.

Be Still

Still, I have to stop myself, immerse myself in silence, and ask myself what lessons I still need to learn, and in what ways I can improve by changing my behavior. Yes, I still make stupid, impulsive mistakes that damage relationships or my own circumstances.

As we enter the season of giving, give yourself the gift of quiet time to evaluate how it’s going, what needs to change or improve.

Where are you still causing harm to yourself or others?

What are others telling you that you’re not hearing?

What would happen if you gave up certain behaviors?

Then ask yourself why you haven’t changed.
Maybe the pain isn’t painful enough. Maybe your pride is in the way.

I may get more wisdom with time, but I still cling to too many bad habits, still can improve the way I interact with my family and others, and still can fine-tune my machine.

Where do you need to fine-tune?

The highway of life is better when you’re cruising at 75 mph with all cylinders in perfect harmony. If you’re not, change the plugs and blow the carbon out of your life. You’ll never regret it.

Eric Rhoads

Back in the fall I held a goal-setting meeting with my team, where we planned our 2022 for the business based on my personal goals. It’s never too late to consider your 2022 plans too, and if you can also get to it before the start of the year, you’ll make your year better by getting started earlier. More on that another time.

Speaking of my team, we always seem to go a million miles per hour, flirting with new ideas and new projects to make life better for our friends and customers. Here are a few things going on this week.

  • The December PleinAir Salon $33,000 Art Competition is underway. Tuesday is the last day to enter for the Early Bird discount of 25% off your entry. This is a great way to allow yourself to enter even more paintings. The annual Grand Prize winner can win $15,000 cash and the cover of PleinAir Magazine. Check out the details here.
  • We are releasing a new video from the amazing master artist Kevin Macpherson this week, so keep an eye on your e-mail for that announcement. This is monumental!! If you want a sneak peek, go here.
  • Oh, and we just released a killer new video from Kyle Buckland, on Courageous Color, which you can find here.
  • For the art lovers in your life, PleinAir Magazine and Fine Art Connoisseur are each about $40 a year, and a gift that reminds people of you every time it arrives.
  • We just released our Wishbook of hundreds of art instruction videos for all levels of artists. You can get it here free or visit our store at
  • And Camille Prezwodek, the colorist and my teacher, is rapidly becoming one of the biggest video sellers of the year. Check it out here.
  • I should mention that the Plein Air Convention will sell out fast (it’s already 50% sold) for next May in Santa Fe. We are expecting more new people than ever, including lots attending the Basics Course. But we have to limit attendance, so I recommend not waiting. You can cancel any time without penalty. I know I’d love it as a gift. You can learn more here.
  • Be sure to watch my Art School Live show this week at noon Eastern by following Eric Rhoads, Publisher, on Facebook. And please follow me @ericrhoads on Instagram. I’ll be on several days next week, but then may take a break for the holidays.
  • Our online conference Watercolor Live is on fire. I’m blown away by the huge number of people already signed up. It’s a great way to learn watercolor from the top people in the world (and we have a Beginner’s Day). It’s going to make a great Christmas gift for the budding artist in your life.
  • We are anticipating that my Russia painting and museum trip will happen next September. We’re making some changes and new dates soon, but go to the website and sign up to be notified. We were sold out and will be again, but we’re trying to find a way to take a few more people, so get on that waiting list. Another great gift.