Supercharge Your Brain

Like art, the tweets of birds are an international language that all can interpret, though I swear the little yellow birds that frolic in the old stone birdbath here on the porch are tweeting in French. Breathing deeply, I take in the cool air and the view of the mountains that were made famous by Cezanne, who painted frequently near this very spot — an old yellow farmhouse with shadows of olive trees playing on its stucco walls. Looking down the long outdoor hallway, covered with vines held up by old wrought iron lamps, I can see the village awakening and begin to hear the sound of church bells in the distance. I’m here with my fine art group at a stunning five-star hotel, Domaine de Manville, deep in the countryside of Les-Baux-de-Provence, France. Deep Gratitude It’s hard to wake up in a place like this without feeling tremendously grateful. I’m not only grateful for the opportunity to be here, to lead and spend time with this group of friends and see all the art treasures in the area, I’m grateful for how being here changes my perspective and disrupts my comfort zone. Scrambled Brain Though we’re all pretty comfortable


The Bully Inside

Finally, the oppressive Austin heat is subsiding and it’s a fairly cool morning compared to what it has been. Still hot, I’m splayed out like a dead cat on the couch, here on the back porch overlooking the cattle in the back 40 (fortunately they’re my neighbors’ cattle to care for). My body is totally relaxed, with legs up on the old wicker coffee table, and my back is barely upright, head leaning into the back of the couch, and my arms were just extended out to the sides with an empty coffee mug dangling from my limp fingers. Finally, I can relax. Heading to Europe Next It’s been a whirlwind crazy time. A week ago today I finished up a week of painting at Ghost Ranch, home of Georgia O’Keeffe. I was the fearless leader of 98 painters, and though we had a great time, my time in the office playing “catch up” afterward was brutal. So today I relax … and tomorrow I board a big bird to paint in Saint-Paul De Vence, France, for a few days with friends before meeting up with our Fine Art Trip through the South of France and then Scotland. Though I’m


Making Bad Days Good Days

The soft purple light transitions between nighttime and morning as brilliant pinks illuminate the sky. Moments later, monumental rock faces are washed in glowing orange light. These rock formations are the very ones seen in great Westerns, old Marlboro commercials, and Georgia O'Keeffe paintings. My room sits atop a hill high above Ghost Ranch and overlooking a distant purple plateau, the very one Georgia spent a lifetime painting. This feels like sacred land, or at least an homage to the artist and film directors who made these lands famous. Fond Farewell Soon, like each morning for the past week, I’ll meet everyone for breakfast, and then make announcements one last time on our departure day. Tears will flow as people who did not know each other a week ago hug those who have become their new friends and they remember the laughter, the deep talks, the first plein air paintings for some, and the special memories of the week. Though we’re here at an event I call Fall Color Week, a week of painting, the friendships made outweigh the endless painting locations where one could spend a lifetime. I too am sad to say farewell but happy to be home


Are You a Waterfall?

Flipping my eyes open, I was briefly disoriented. Where am I? Instead of the old oak trees behind my porch or the lake from my deck, the view is a hotel room. Nothing special. But the view out the window is illuminated with pink-orange light against tall blue mountains. I’m in Taos, New Mexico.Dinner with Legends Last night I had dinner with Cherie McGraw and David Leffel, two world-famous artists who are dear friends and live locally. Though my intent was to drive back to Ghost Ranch, an hour and a half from here, I didn’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere in the deep dark desert. So I stayed here for the night. A Week with Friends Today about noon I begin to “check in” 100 of my closest friends. We will paint together in the land of Georgia O’Keeffe for a week. It will be invigorating and exhausting and worth every minute. Over dinner part of our discussion was the necessary transition from artist to become an artist-businessperson. I told them the story of transformation I’m about to tell you. A Transformation Once a quarter I sit in a group that is my board of


Setting Higher Standards

Streaming through the leaves of the ancient twisted oak trees, orange morning light kisses the tall grasses below and illuminates my little brown-wood clapboard art studio in the distance. The string of party lights that trim the porch are glowing as if turned on. The tops of the oaks sway gently with the welcome breeze on this otherwise oppressively hot morning. The dogs sit atop the deck, at high alert for chasable squirrels. And I’m blinded as the sun blasts my eyes, and ready to let the screen door slam behind me as I escape to the cooler air-conditioned indoors. Avoiding Reality Now home for a week after my summer escape from reality, I’m still working hard to avoid it. The mere sight of a TV in a restaurant makes me walk out the door as I try to continue my vacation from news media. I suppose I have to ease into it slowly.  Tuning Out TV Remarkably, the temptation is always there. I’m so used to turning the TV on when cooking dinner or sitting around at night that it’s a battle not to succumb, yet my stress melted away so much when I took TV out of my


Never Be Overwhelmed Again

Red-colored pine needles have fallen and now cover the old green hammock hanging between two majestic pines in front of the porch to my cabin. The ground below is cushioned with a pillow of needles, and the scent of pine is glorious. Walking on the soft needles in bare feet is one of my favorite experiences. Years of Laughter Sitting here in the 120-year-old octagon-shaped screened porch overlooking the lake, the porch filled with wicker and cane chairs now empty, reminds me of the laughter, the music, the discussions and debates that took place here all summer. Our first week here we had about 86 artists in the house, celebrating our week of painting together. Of course, there is a rich history of voices in this place, every summer for 12 decades. The rest of the summer was filled with visiting childhood friends talking of old times, artists talking art history, family friends discussing trips together, kids talking about their lake friends, neighbors getting to know us, and Laurie and I pondering our future when the kids enter college. The Sounds of Silence The porch is silent now. An occasional boat goes by, but this weekend was the last hurrah for


A Plan for Joy

Signs of fall begin to show their faces; the distant mountains are glowing with a winter-like light. Color has not yet kissed the trees, though they have started to turn from brilliant to dull greens with a slight hint of decay. Cracking Voices Baby loons who have spent the summer at flight school are awkwardly soaring overhead as they excitedly shout, “I’m flying! Look at me, I’m flying!” in their immature, cracking loon voices. Their big trip to Florida is just around the corner.  The sounds of silence have begun: fewer passing boats, fewer sounds of wakes hitting the shore, fewer sounds of glee from water skiing and tubing kids. Some will be back for a last hurrah for Labor Day.  Senior Year It’s weirdly silent around here, as my wife and two of the triplets have gone back for the start of senior year in high school. I’ll soon follow them after some meetings that will keep me here till Labor Day.  Leaving here is the saddest part of our year, just as arriving is our happiest. Over the past few years, when my family stayed at my dad’s place on the lake, we’ve known his “listed” camp could be


A Walk in the Woods

As I step into the rustic old metal boat from the rickety wooden dock at the edge of the shore, the boat rocks gently while the outboard engine turns over again and again until it finally starts. Carefully I back out, trying not to scar the sides of the boat on the long dock. As I cruise quietly across the lake, the dark sky is lit by the full moon, I see distant mountains silhouetted against the greenish-blue sky and nearby islands with ragged pines standing proud. Sprinkling the sky like distant sequins, the stars brightly twinkle between moonlit clouds. Perfection The night is the most perfect I can remember. The lake is like glass, the temperature is perfect, there is not a bug in sight, and it makes me want to sleep under the stars — or at least sleep on the porch and hope the bears don’t pay a surprise visit. Showered in Stars My favorite times on the lake are nights like the one I experienced earlier this week. Stopping the boat, turning the engine off, and drifting in the middle of the lake while lying back watching meteor showers. It brings me closer to my Creator and


A Red Letter Week

Imagine, if you will. I’m sitting here in the screened-in porch, in an old white wicker chair with muted red cushions in a Native American pattern. The porch is octagon-shaped, and sits at the edge of the lake. Silhouettes of pine tree branches are in view, along with distant hills covered with trees and a few old stick and log boathouses that sit right on the lake. You can’t build them like that anymore, it’s not permitted. Typing With Dog My typing this morning is labored, with my iPad pushed out on to the edge of my knees and my hands reaching over the small gray dog resting on my lap. His name is Chewy, and he’s insistent on staying close to me this morning, probably because of the cold air out here. His brother Weasley is staring up at me with giant brown eyes, wondering why he’s not in my lap, too, but that simply isn’t possible while I’m typing.  My grandmother used to say, “This is a red letter day,” but for me, this was a red letter week, one of the most special weeks of my life. Breaking Ground I grew up at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort


Why Roadblocks Are a Blessing

Golden sun is streaming into my eyes as it lights up the deep green, now golden color pines around the dock and illuminates the red Adirondcack chairs until they glow. A shimmer of light skips across the almost mirror like surface of the lake, barely a visible wave, as the echo of loon calls bounces from shore to shore.  The sound “plop” and a few rings in the water are from a fish that jumped as if to say “catch me if you can.” Yesterday giant white sheets of Egyption cotton on 120 year old wooden boats danced across the lake, with the distant mountain framing a photo so beautiful it should be on the cover of a magazine.  A Guest Who Never Left The blessing of home ownership here on this lake was not an instant task. I came on to this lake over 30 years ago as a guest who never left, hoping one day to have the means and the rare opportunity of ownership here synchronized.  Luck Has Nothing to Do With Anything I used to look at those who had accomplished dreams in their lives as people who were lucky, or perhaps part of the lucky


Emotional Triggers

The soft wind tickles the birch leaves and deep green pines as they move gently in harmony with the breeze that appeared here in the wilderness overnight, after an intense furnace of heat baked us over the past few days. Rocking on the Porch Soft, squishy carpets of transparent red oxide pine needles blanket the ground below this old porch where I sit rocking. It’s my first time on this porch, looking over the lake. It’s about 25 feet long against the decorative wood shingles on the wall, a bird feeder hanging from the 120-year-old roofline, perched on a slight hill about 10 feet from the shoreline.  The Smell of Pines The seven owners over the past 120 years have tastefully hidden these cabins in the trees, not visible from the water. The tall, established trees share the shoreline with fields of blueberry bushes and young pines hoping to one day make the journey to the sky. Brain on Fire My favorite mornings are those when I’m feeling well rested and my brain has been spitting out ideas faster than a firehose into a teacup. I awaken to capture them all with pen and ink, knowing some will be lost


Living a Fascinating Life

The ring of the old clock strikes the top of the hour. A hammer on old springs, barely has any life left after chiming atop the old fireplace for so long, but still wound once a week as it has been for the past 120 summers. Furniture made of sticks and woven tree bark has accompanied the clock for the journey in this old camp. The bead and board walls and the ceilings are carefully angled to create designs, and the giant stone fireplace in the center of the living room is the only warmth for a cold day. A Giant Mirror Glancing out the old diamond-shaped windows through pine branches, I see the lake is still and reflecting like a giant mirror, showing the pine-forest shoreline and the blue-and-white sky with a layer of brightly lit mist along the horizon. I sit here in the octagonal window seat, warming myself in the sun. The dogs, Weasley and Chewey, are snuggled into the wool blanket beside me. About the only thing we’ve added to this place are a few old-looking paintings, my guitar, which sits nestled in the corner, and a new family. Badge of Courage I’ve been reading a


Eric Rhoads
Entrepreneur, writer, artist, marketer, and speaker.
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