The small sound of pellets of rain has turned into a roar, louder and louder as the rain hits the tin roof in my art studio, where I sit this morning.
Sage-colored leaves frame the light grayish-purple mountain in the distance, under a grayish-yellow ochre sky. Streaks of light suddenly hit the ground, lighting up patches that seem to glow.
Drips pour down the edges of the porch overhang, creating a sheet of water. Wet ground covered in oak leaves and sap green patches of grass lead up to the distant World Famous Artist’s Cabin in the distance. Its dark brown logs are shimmering from the water.
The cabin, which sits among the woods on the back of our rural property outside of Austin, Texas, also has a tin roof, and a porch with two rockers and a porch swing.
Every two weeks or so, almost year-round, the World Famous Artist’s Cabin is occupied by world famous artists (which is how it got its name). These are people we invite for the creation of art instruction videos, and they are so important to us that we just would not feel right putting them up in a hotel when we could share our home and get to know them better.
Driven with Passion
Sometimes in your life, an idea comes to you that has to be done. It’s usually inconvenient, usually a lot of extra work, and often it’s a shiny object that has nothing to do with your plans or your goals.
John Singer Sargent
For me, it was finding a way to change art instruction videos forever. It happened when I was trying to learn more about the techniques of John Singer Sargent, only to learn he never wrote much about painting and the only documentation comes from one of his students. I remember thinking, “If only there had been technology that allowed us to understand how Sargent painted. And even more important, if only we could have deeply probed his brain, to understand what was in his mind.” (Speaking of Sargent, I recently interviewed his grand-nephew and the world’s leading Sargent expert, Richard Ormond.)
The Perfect Position
That’s when I decided I was in the perfect position to do something that went deeper than the typical art instruction videos that had been around. That’s when I decided I needed to capture and document artists in depth, at the highest possible quality. Because, as I often ask myself, “If not me, then who?”
The Artist Legacy
It has turned out to be one of the best parts of my life because I’m interacting with the world’s top artists on the deepest possible level and documenting their technique and their mindset at the moment, helping them leave a legacy that nothing else can provide and a distribution that is unparalleled, something they could never do themselves with any amount of advertising.
Passing the Vault of Lessons
Most artists I approach are somewhat shy, somewhat introverted, and not at all comfortable with the idea of being on camera, yet when I help them understand that they have spent a lifetime figuring things out and that their lessons and mindset will disappear with them, they realize this isn’t at all about the money, it’s about the responsibility of sharing their life lessons. Six hundred years ago, it would be about a master training an apprentice so that apprentice could carry on his knowledge and techniques and then pass it down through the generations. Yet today we can amplify that to the world, and not just to one at a time, making this more powerful than an appearance, a demo, a workshop, or almost anything an artist can do.
There are points in each of our lives where we have to think about these two things…
First, what is it that may be inconvenient and not in your plan, but you must do it because it needs to be done and you’re the only one with the vision and capability to do it?
Second, what is it that you possess, because of your unique life experiences, that no one else in the world possesses? What do you have a responsibility to share with the world?
Resisting the Voices
I spent a lot of years resisting these issues, often telling myself someday and never getting them done. Then the window closed, and I regret not doing them. It’s my belief that God calls out, keeps something in our minds repeatedly, and then closes the door if we don’t listen. Maybe it’s passed to someone else, maybe not, but I’ve learned I need to listen to these things that suddenly appear in my brain.
My team tends to call them “Eric’s shiny objects” and even Success Magazine called me the Shiny Object King. Yet, when something is laid on my heart and I feel a responsibility to do it, I’m trying to listen. That may be why I’ve got so much going on, but if you notice, this is all about helping others live their dreams. It’s my goal to be a vessel.
Learning to Listen
You too are a vessel, whether or not you know it or believe it. There is a responsibility you are being given, words ringing in your head that you must listen to. People often mock those who say God speaks to them. I can’t really explain it, but there is a voice in my head. Maybe it’s my conscience, maybe it’s just me talking to myself, but it seems to be random, and not a fit to the rest of my voices. I’m trying to listen because my time left to get things done is unpredictable and I feel a responsibility to spread the passions I possess, to help the world…
- discover painting
- help artists market their work
- document the great artists of our generation before their time runs out
- help others discover something about themselves they did not know was within them.
Finding My Gifts
I once took a class on discovering the gifts we have been given and using those gifts to serve others. Among others who thought they had no gifts, it was an eye-opener to see them discover the gifts they had, and to watch them implement those gifts to help others.
Finding Your Gifts
You too have gifts for the world. If you’ve not discovered them yet, you will. It took me a lot of years. Start by making sure you have quiet time, meditation or prayer time, and make sure it’s not you doing all the talking. Just listen. You don’t have to hear voices. Just be still and think about whatever comes into your mind. It is there you’ll discover an untapped world of deep personal satisfaction, and it’s there you’ll discover your gifts, the things you need to do for others, and the things you must share.
This little thing I call Sunday Coffee is one of the ways I try to share. I also write columns in my magazines, I speak at our conferences, and I teach on my videos. Keep in mind, none of these platforms existed until that voice in my head suggested I create them. I did not know how, I did not have the money, and in some cases I was not sure I even wanted to do them, and yet some turned out to allow me to amplify ways to helps others live their dreams.
Your platforms may be something entirely different. It might be teaching locally, it might be speaking or writing or blogging or something no one has ever thought about.
Recently the voices told me that I needed to get my first art marketing book out in time for the April Plein Air Convention, just a month from now. This was just about five weeks ago, and I will have written it, gotten it edited, proofed, laid out, cover designed, and printed, and have it at the convention. It was a major hassle with all the other things going on, 30 weeks a year of travel, and a business to run, but I felt I needed to listen and do it in spite of how inconvenient it might be, because my voices tell me people need more help with marketing their art.
After my healthy friend Sean had his stroke, I intend to waste no time, knowing any of us could expire at any moment.
Pondering Purpose and Responsibility
I hope today you’ll find a quiet spot and simply listen, and ponder what role you play.
What do you possess that is unique to you?
Where do you have special understanding? Something where no one else has your perspective?
What do you need to share that will make your struggles worthwhile, knowing you’ve helped others avoid them?
What are the voices telling you that you’ve done nothing about?
What passions do you have that you want others to discover?
What is in your mind that seems so big, so overwhelming, that you think someone else should be doing it instead of you? And how can you take a baby step today to begin the process of making it happen?
How You Change the World
You have things deep inside you that truly will change the world. Though you may catch yourself telling yourself that isn’t true, that you don’t have anything special, I don’t believe it and neither should you. The natural defense mechanism in our brains tell us this to protect us, but it’s not protection at all.
If you get into your quiet place and listen, you’ll discover those voices, and if there is nothing there, start asking to understand your purposes, your unique gifts.
You have unbelievable gifts within you, things you don’t even know you have, that have been molded by the experiences in your life. Adversity may have been painful but it’s where many of our gifts come from.
Embrace adversity. Believe that those gifts are there.
Keep listening. The answers will come.
PS: I just returned from an amazing trip to Cuba, which I wrote about here. The best part wasn’t Cuba, it was getting to know some folks deeply from having meals together and painting together for a week. I’ll be doing my summer painters’ retreat again in June in the Adirondacks.
The last few weeks I was honored to share the World Famous Artist’s Cabin with artists Lori McNee, and again with Bill Davidson, Nancie King Mertz, and Thomas Jefferson Kitts. I feel so blessed to be able to get acquainted with these greats.
An update: My buddy Sean is still “locked in” to his body, totally aware, but unable to move or speak. I’m praying that his body will recover and give him ability to communicate and have mobility. Thanks to those of you who donated to help him and his wife survive financially. We’ve got a good start, but their medical bills are so steep that they still need help should you feel willing.