Groggy and walking out of my dark bedroom, I’m wondering if I awoke in the middle of the night. A glance at my watch tells me it’s morning, but the sky is dim and dark, as if the light is hiding out under a curtain of dark clouds, waiting to go onstage. The air is thick and muggy, like a wet rag ready to be wrung out. The good news is the cloud cover is providing a deafening silence, as though my ears are stuffed with cotton.
Though I love the spirit of heavenly sunshine, days like this slow me down, make me want to curl up on the couch with a book or a sketch pad and take some much-deserved time for myself. If we don’t build rest into our lives, nature will build it for us. Today is a great example.
This morning I read a line in the Bible that I had never heard: “though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11).
Here I am reading a story about something a man did 2,500 years ago, and that man is still speaking. It got me thinking.
Who is speaking in my life, though she or he is long gone?
The other day I was coaching my son in the kitchen, drawing out a little chart to show him how to get ahead in life. I flashed back to the moment in the kitchen when my dad drew out the same chart for me as a teenager. When I was telling my son, it was really my dad speaking, though he passed away back in April. And chances are he was repeating something that someone else had said to him years before.
I’m Hearing Voices
When painting, I can hear the exact voice and words of my now-deceased mentor Jack Jackson. “I don’t want to see a single brushstroke,” he would say. His words echo in my mind though he has been gone for over two decades.
My grandmothers were always telling me things, and those things still come up in my mind. I’m guessing they were passed down through dozens, possibly hundreds, of generations. Morning devotionals and lots of exposure to biblical thinking, passed on for numerous generations
What about you?
Who from the past is still speaking?
Something about that line from the Bible was hitting me in the face with a two-by-four. SMACK!
It made me realize the importance of guarding our words and actions, because they will live on beyond us.
Bad Habits Carried into the Future
They say that verbal or physical abuse lives on through generations. Will those times when I got super angry and said something to my kids scar them for life? Worse, will it scar their kids, their grandkids, and a hundred generations beyond? I admire people who are strong enough to not repeat the behavior of generations before them.
Cranky or Kind?
My great-grandfather William Berry was, I’m told by my dad, the kindest person he had ever known. His wife, my great-grandmother, was, I’m told, the meanest. My great-grandfather’s approach, his example, his words lived on through my dad, and hopefully through me. In that case either the kind grandpa’s or the mean grandma’s example could have lived on. Kindness won. And though I barely knew my great-grandmother, her mean spirit came from somewhere … probably her parents.
How will your words and example live on for generations?
Sometimes we forget that the formative years before age 5 typically set the tone for a life, and how the little parental training we have tends to come from the example of our parents. I think this is the magic of a two-parent system, when that is possible, and the magic of the influence of grandparents. Children raised by two parents get a second chance, and possibly a balanced approach. Grandparents provide even more options for balance.
When I read these words in the Bible (“though he died, he still speaks”), it reminded me of the importance of being deliberate about what messages we want to have sink in, and hopefully pass on for generations.
Repeat After Me
When I teach marketing to artists, I talk about the importance of repetition. I noticed that when something was really important to my mom or dad, or one of my business or art mentors, they made sure to repeat those things time and time again.
Most of us, myself included, are probably not organized enough to be deliberate and write down a lesson plan for those we want to teach. But what if we did?
What would be the three or five messages that are so important that you would want them to live on for generations?
Like it or not, some of your words and actions are still speaking and will speak for generations.
This is a great reminder that you have a choice in determining what lives on.
Perhaps there are family traditions that need to be broken so they are not passed on. Perhaps there are replacements for those traditions that do need to live on.
Will the good words, the good deeds — or the bad ones — live on?
Will you impart lessons that will be passed on for generations?
You get to decide.
PS: This week I received a note from a woman who lives alone and said that she had just come out of the lockdown she’s been in since March of 2020. She has been stuck in her small one-window apartment for almost two years, having left just one time. It made me very sad. This has been such a trying time for so many.
The silver lining in this is that she shared that she would have had a much harder time if it had not been for the daily Art School Live broadcasts we’ve been doing at noon on Facebook since the pandemic began. She said they helped her to feel connected in the chat with others, and gave her something to look forward to each day to help her survive. She also mentioned that she had never done any art, but we taught her how, and she was able to order supplies, paint along, and also study some of the training videos we’ve created.
Her note reinforced the importance of each of us stepping up to help others in our own way. When I launched the daily show, which was intended for the two weeks they initially told us we would be locked down, I never anticipated how much work it would be for me and others. Yet the rewards have been high, and I’d not change a thing. We each have gifts, and now more than ever, we need to share those gifts to help others.
I’ve decided to bake cookies and distribute them to a few neighbors we have not met, just to let them know there is a neighbor who is thinking about them. Though it’s more common during the holidays, it’s a reminder to me that we never know who needs us, who will be encouraged by a small, simple gesture.
Like all years, I’ve told myself my goal is to NOT set foot in a shopping mall, which is my least favorite place to be. I’m behind on my shopping, but I’m determined to get it all done this week and not be out on Christmas Eve desperately searching for something at the last minute. We’ve put together a page of art-related gifts here.
Many of us will face a season alone because of quarantines or because family still can’t get together. Please know we’re thinking of you. And if you’re lucky enough to have the family together this year, put your phones down and absorb the beauty of family.
Years ago I named my company Streamline because I was a big rail fan and loved Streamline trains and streamlined design. It was also a metaphor for being more efficient, which has been my goal. I’m always asking, “How can I accomplish big things that for others require hundreds of people with a small, efficient, and effective team?” We do it every week, and I want to acknowledge the entire Streamline team (which is growing!). By the way, we have some openings for art editors (part or full time), and we’re looking for someone to lead and work with artists and customers for our art instruction business. We also need some more digital layout people and some social media specialists and producers. Reach out if you know anyone.
Speaking of Streamline, here’s what’s going on this week…
- For the art lovers in your life, PleinAir Magazine and Fine Art Connoisseur are each about $40 a year. It’s a gift that reminds people of you every time it arrives.
- Last week we released a pretty impressive video course from the great Kevin Macpherson. It’s about his Magic Grid system, which he developed because of vision problems, and it has reinvented how people paint. Check it out.
- Camille Przewodek’s new colorist course is breaking records in sales for the year. It’s a hot seller and one everyone wants to see.
- Months ago I started hearing a lot of buzz about an artist everyone loved. As I started digging into his work, it was easy to understand why. People started asking me to shoot a video, which is a major commitment financially, but we took a chance, and we’re glad we did. Kyle Buckland has his own unique approach, and just one of the tips in his video completely changed something I do now in all of my paintings, and that resulted in a big improvement in how they look. You might find his new video helpful.
- One of the reasons my company launched virtual online conferences is because we were not able to hold our in-person events like the Plein Air Convention. We’ve been in survival mode ever since. Well, hopefully that will change. The Plein Air Convention is planned for May, is already 50% sold out, and after the first notice about it went out this week, we sold a lot more seats than we anticipated. People are ready for the plein air family to gather again, and lots more people are joining the family and want to go. My guess is that it will be a giant sellout fast. (Being in Santa Fe does not hurt.) And keep in mind, we were almost sold out each of the two times we had to cancel.The reason to book now is that you want to be sure you can get in. If you wait, you might not be able to. And, to make you more secure, there is a 100% refund in the event we have to cancel or you don’t feel safe. Also, we have a pre-convention workshop with Kevin Macpherson that will sell out even faster.
- 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 I 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.