The faint sound of bagpipes filters through the brisk, moist air as the sun makes a hazy entrance on this brisk Edinburgh morning. A peek out my hotel window feels like Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, but it’s the real thing … we’re here as part of our annual Fine Art Connoisseur magazine art trip for four days of viewing the best art in Scotland.

We spent last week in Provence and the French Riviera, walking in the footsteps of many great artists and learning more than we ever expected. It was invigorating spending time with art and great friends.

Overnight Change

One thing I found eye-opening is that many of the great artists were not always great  — and each had had a moment of transformation. Many had gone from average and the expected style of their time to a new style and approach almost overnight. But how?

What is it that causes us to make the different decisions that often transform our lives?

Not only did we see countless examples of artists who transformed their art, we learned about others who transformed their conditions. How is it that someone who is in a horrific situation becomes able to pull themselves out of their circumstances?

A Complete Upheaval

We visited a small museum collection in Provence that had belonged to a wealthy individual who built an incredible collection of historical art. Suddenly, as the world started to change, he gave his entire collection to his nephew and started a new collection of early modern art. He not only shed his old collection, he shed his mansion and all of his furniture, and built a new house with all new style, new furniture, and art that reflected what was new.

How is it someone who had invested so deeply, and had been so committed and passionate that he built such an important collection, suddenly took such a dramatic left turn?

Sudden Left Turns

Stories of transformations inspire me — and I’ve experienced my own, where one moment I’m moving in a committed direction, and then I make a sudden left turn to the unexpected. It happened when I transformed from my radio career to a commitment to art. Though I did not burn the bridges behind me, this change was transformational for me just the same.

Have you ever experienced a transformation in your life, where you totally changed direction?

I suspect the answer lies in the idea of continual learning. The idea of following a patch of curiosity until the weight of new information overcomes the commitments of the past.

People have “religious experiences” for this reason … new information renders old information less relevant, or perhaps irrelevant entirely. 

My perspective is that without growth, without forced transformation, we experience stagnation, and it prevents us from living a full and rich life.

The Unexpected

I’ve discovered that in almost every case of major transformation, it was driven by exposure to something new opening up new possibilities. At a time of dark, academic art, the Impressionists came on the scene with bright colors and reflected sunlight and indications instead of tight renderings. This very idea inspired others to explore and take things to new heights.

The Intersection

We all tend to find ourselves set in our ways, comfortable where we are, or maybe just not wanting to be uncomfortable. But the magic of life lies at the cusp between new and old. And sometimes, as is the case with the realism movement in art, what’s old is new again, and considered avant-garde by those stuck in the old new.

If you’re looking for transformation, you’ll find it through exploration when new challenges stimulate you to try new things. If you’re not looking for it, you have to be willing to grab that brass ring as the horses quickly pass by, knowing it may never come around again. Being aware and watching for it will help you see it when it comes.

Innovation, new ideas, new stories, new art come from transformation and disruption. Keep an eye out.

Eric Rhoads

PS: To those of you who may be stuck in doing things the way they have always been done, are you comfortable to the point where you’re unknowingly hurting yourself? I’d like to invite you to a week of transformation at our upcoming Figurative Art Convention & Expo in Williamsburg, Virginia, where we approach things differently, in a refreshing modern way, while dealing with the very important subject of realistic painting in its various forms. It’s coming up November 10-13 (and we have two powerful pre-convention workshops you can learn about here and here). You have everything to gain … including an expanded mind and a fresh new approach to painting —