Glancing into the dark woods, small streaks of dancing orange light kiss the trunks of the trees, and a few select leaves. Moments pass, and these same trees and shrubbery are flooded with brilliant golden light. Looking off to the distant horizon, a glowing orb has just awakened and is peeking above the edge of the mountain, whose purple edges are glowing with the halo of light, much like a Joe McGurl painting.
Home to Great Artists
I’m tucked away in my warm studio, sitting in the model chair, looking out over the property. The world famous artist’s cabin sits proudly in the distance, having housed some of the most important artists in the world; they stay within her log walls when shooting art instruction films and documentaries. Two weeks ago it was Tennessee legend Dawn Whitelaw, last week Kathie Odom, and this week Carl Bretzke, who does the most amazing nocturne paintings.
A Sketchbook for the Smithsonian
Inside you’re greeted with an old riverstone fireplace, walls covered in antique photos of Native Americans in hand-cut tin frames and paintings in hand-carved tramp art frames. The walls are adorned with paintings from visitors past, who often leave something behind. On the coffee table sits an old sketchbook, where each guest, artist or not, is required to leave a drawing. That book will someday end up in the Smithsonian, as artists who have stayed over the past decade have become famous, and some, sadly, have passed on to that great gallery in the sky. My own art may not be my legacy, but gathering the greats and documenting their process and thoughts may be. This book reflects this special time in history.
A Lucky Day
I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy lately, not because of my own near-death experience, but my son Brady’s lucky day. It may sound odd that his heart attack was lucky, but it’s clear angels were caring for us all on that day. His life was spared, making me feel as though there is a special plan, big things in his path. Maybe it was this moment in time needed to make him, or us, pay attention and take less for granted.
A Bolt of Electricity
My wife said she had been praying for a “lightning bolt” because of some issues he was going through and the stress it was causing us. Ironically, it required two times on the defibrillator, a jolt of electricity, to bring him back, and she got the lighting bolt she prayed for. We realized that it comes in very distinct order … pray, trust, wait. Her prayer was answered, because this event has made the family closer, strengthened our marriage, and seems to have impacted our son’s own outlook. And all those years of prayer over the dinner table, asking for protection and watching over our family, came true, and who knows how many things that might have happened were prevented. Again, pray, trust, wait.
Focus on Big Stuff
What is the lightning bolt prayer you need in your life? What seems so big, so overwhelming, you cannot solve it on your own? It’s not about that new car, new house, or new gadget. Save that for Santa Claus. Focus on lessons you need to learn, things where you or others need to give your attention, transformations needed. Most of all, ask for what is intended for your life, because our own plans are small.
Even I Get Down
Though I don’t want to keep making these morning moments together about this incident, it has impacted so much of my thinking. This past week, this normally optimistic, upbeat, conquer-the-world guy started to get down, and started wondering if what I’m doing is worth doing. In some ways, I thought, it would be easier just to move forward, retire, and sip a drink on the beach. I had to ask tough questions like “Does any of this matter?” “What happens if I don’t do what I do?” And “Is there anyone in place who can carry on my work in the event defibrillators don’t save my life?” (By the way, I bought a defibrillator for our home this week, and you should buy one for yours.)
Blasted with Emotions
Though I came out of my funk, realizing I had been blasted with emotions, sleep-deprived, trying to be strong when I would rather curl up into a fetal position, and more scared than I’ve ever been. Yet it’s made me rethink everything, and I’ve decided I’m going to let go of some things because they simply don’t matter to me anymore, or are not worthy of time devoted in the remaining precious days, whether those days be short or long.
I’ve also decided that intense focus is required to get everything done that needs to be done. As you may know, I’m driven to help artists make the living they want, and they need it more than ever. I realized I’m not doing enough. Though I have a book, a video series on marketing, and a blog on art marketing, and though I teach it at the Plein Air Convention and FACE, it’s not enough. And I’m seeing people selling products that promise hope but offer no substance or good advice, and it infuriates me. Frankly, I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do, but it’s one of the biggest new areas of focus in the new me.
What needs to get done in your life?
What’s in the back of your mind that you’ve always wanted to get done someday? Someday is now, because those paddles may not revive your heart tomorrow. Everything is about today. What are your top three?
Making a Difference
Not only am I driven to help artists sell more art, I’ve realized there are parts of the current system that are broken and need to be fixed. I need to find answers. And there are messages that need to be communicated, education that needs to take place, to help consumers think about art. There is a whole generation that was not exposed to art in school who need to know how much art can improve their lives. Therefore I’ve decided to work on a major documentary to address this, and I’ve started a TV channel for Roku, Amazon, and Apple TV that will not only expose people to the art instruction we’ve created, but to other content about art. It’s a major undertaking, over two years and a massive investment, and is in testing as we speak.
There are also books to be written. I have a list, and as soon as I decided to make someday today, I had a dialogue with a publisher about three of them. Things have to get done because someday never comes if you don’t just take action.
What are the “someday” projects in your life? What can you do to put them into action and get them started now, and find a way to get them finished as soon as possible?
I’ve met dozens, maybe hundreds of people who tell me their dreams, yet so many go through life never finding the time to move forward on those dreams. You have the time to do anything you can dream — it’s simply a matter of how you allocate your time. I’ve recaptured hundreds of hours by eliminating TV from my life. And since the other day, when my phone told me I had wasted two hours on social media, I’m cutting back. Plus my kids say, “Dad, you’re always on your phone.” I’d better pay attention more before they head off to college this fall.
I truly hope you don’t have a lightning bolt hit you. They don’t always turn out as things did with the one that hit us. Some of us need a lightning bolt to recast our priorities, but maybe you can recast them without one. I hope so.
Life is a precious gift, and each of us possesses the ability to do great things. Don’t waste another moment. Dream big, don’t ever give up, and use that gift of life for something that will change lives. It’s all inside of you waiting to come out.
PS: About two years ago I decided my goal was to teach a million people to paint. Though I’m sure the number has reached tens of thousands by now, it’s not enough. I need scale to make that happen, so I have a deal to do a television show on a major TV network. The show, The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge™ has a cast of 15 painters, with several judges and mentors, and there will be a winner each show. The cast will paint outdoors, and be given different challenges. And we will teach painting. The show is estimated to reach 20 million people each episode. This is a major undertaking, and it’s not designed to be a money-maker, it’s designed to expose people to the plein air lifestyle and help them catch the painting bug. But I need help getting it done. Though I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, I need to raise close to $700,000 more. And I need to involve a major museum that will participate in the show. If you know of a couple of possible donors who want to see families, kids, and adults get excited about painting, we need their help. I’d appreciate you passing this along to them with your endorsement. The show will air summer of 21. E-mail me.
PS 2: If you’re a painter and want to be on the show as a cast member or a mentor, we need you to go to the casting site and get your video application done. Casting will continue through spring. Go to TheGreatOutdoorPaintingChallenge.com.
PS 3: Friday is Valentine’s Day, which is a chance to express your love for your soulmate. Though flowers are wonderful and candy is nice, attention is what we all want. Give those you love your attention. It’s the best gift.
PS 4: Each year on Valentine’s Day our lowest price for our Plein Air Convention expires. We offer early discounts to help pay the early bills, but then we have to raise the price to pay the rest of them. We try to reward people for being early to register, and that time has come. If you want to experience the plein air lifestyle, this convention is all about learning, meeting your fellow painters, and making friends. And there is no pressure to paint; many come just to observe. I should also mention we’re down to the last XX seats, which is unusual this early. I’d suggest making that decision today before the mad rush. One Valentine’s Day we sold 300 seats, and this year we don’t have that many left to offer.
PS 5: Because time got freed up and I can’t go on my speaking and documentary tour to China due to the coronavirus, I decided to take action on a goal and am heading to Russia to film parts of two documentaries I’m working on. And since I’m there with a crew, I’ll be filming an instructional videos with one of the top master artists in Russia, who taught at the best art school in the world. I’m not yet sure if I’ll have the ability to get Sunday Coffee done, depending on schedule. Plus, the Internet may be frozen; it’s tremendously cold there — though I do intend to take my paint box and do at least one winter painting. This painting thing is an addiction. Also, I plan to visit some locations for my Russia 2021 painting trip, so e-mail me if you have interest in going on that trip and we will notify you when we have details. I can only take 50 people.
PS 6: Sorry there is so much to talk about today. We are in the final month and a half of the PleinAir Salon national art competition. It’s not just for plein air paintings, but studio paintings as well, and not all landscapes. Anyone can enter — there is even a student category. All the prizes are cash, and the big $15,000 grand prize and all prizes will be presented at the Plein Air Convention. If you win in any category, you are entered into the judging for the grand prize.