My feet tingle as they hit the cold, wet deck of the covered porch that goes the length of the front and back of this “Texas farmhouse.” Pussy willows reach for the sky with their arms out in praise, their soft buttons of fur standing out in contrast against the darkness of the woods behind them. A Christmas amaryllis in full bloom adds a splash of red color against the greens of spring as though it’s Christmas again. Crunching leaves of fall remain interlaced with new blades of grass, and Texas wildflowers start to show their cheery faces as the old tree at the edge of the property blooms with white blossoms. A roar of rain slamming into the tin roof drowns out the distant birdsongs.

There is simply no feeling quite as good as spring. Winters, even the short and warmer ones like this year’s, are always long, and we await the new season with hope and anticipation.

Fields of Flowers

Yesterday, Laurie and I were explorers on a quest for fields of bluebonnets. Roadsides here are covered with them, thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who had seeds handed out with license plates and encouraged Texans to spread the seeds along roadsides. The viral effect created roads of beauty, a Texas tradition we all look forward to. Kids in their Sunday best are photographed among the fields of flowers each year as an Easter tradition.

Massive Snow Drifts

When I lived in Indiana as a child, winter provided a much-needed rest from the activity of the rest of the year. Snowdrifts the size of houses would keep us inside by the fieldstone fireplace, other than a few frozen adventures to tunnel out and build snow forts where we would lob ice orbs at one another.

A Crafty Lady

We learned to be creative, to fill the time with projects — some productive and useful, like cleaning out indoor spaces in need of decluttering, and others more creative. My mom would sit for hours between meals cutting fabric to cover shoes, make hats, and sew clothes. She was the first to place a paintbrush in my hand as if to give me a life mission I did not yet know I had. We would sit together for hours, talking and painting.

The Baggy Green Sweater

One year Mom asked me to pick out some yarn for a sweater she would knit. I picked out bright green fuzzy mohair, which seemed like a good idea at the time. The end result was oversized (so I could grow into it), baggy, and made me look like a giant green blob from Mars. I can still see the pride in her eyes seeing me wear it to school, yet as soon as I was at my locker, it came off — then back on again before going home. I was embarrassed to be seen in it. I tear up just thinking about how hard she worked on that sweater for me, the love that went into it, and my deception so my friends wouldn’t see me wearing it. I think she eventually found out, which would have broken her heart.

My fondest memories of my great childhood are about the downtime, the simple times of crafting at the dining room table, being with family when the fireplace was crackling, and playing long games of Monopoly.

Last week I mentioned silver linings, and this time of quarantine is an opportunity to reconnect, to have downtime to play, to make memories, to engage with your family.

A Little Embarrassed

Remember when the media frenzy called Y2K had many of us ready for the end of the world? I have special memories of the family being sequestered together in a cabin on a frozen lake, a memory that is special to this day. Though nothing came of Y2K and we look back a little embarrassed at taking the bait, it’s hard to know what looking back over COVID-19 will be like. But we could look back on the best parts, when we were forced to be inside with family.

What can you do to make this time the most special in the memory bank of your family?

What can you do to communicate messages your family needs to hear… family legacy, the stories of the past?

What lessons can we impart to our families? Not lectures, but stories with lessons built-in?

As the cases amplify and more is learned as more are tested, we can focus on the bad, or we can focus on the things we can influence or change. Let’s use this time to strengthen our relationships and build lifetime memories.

One day soon we’ll be looking back, probably a little embarrassed that we filled our garages with toilet paper, but we’ll cherish the time we were imprisoned indoors.

Yes, this too shall pass.

Be strong, but be deliberate. Don’t let this opportunity pass; it’s a chance to create a lifetime memory.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Remember those times when you’ve said, “I wish I had time to … read a book, learn to do something, take on a project,” etc.? Use this time well.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life creating what I believe are the best art instruction tutorials on earth. I started creating them because I was a buyer, and they were never really as good as I wanted them to be. So I hired a Hollywood cinematographer and started creating them. Today we have developed a reputation for exceptional quality, with excellent light, sound, and cinematography. One person who tried them for the first time just a month ago told me they had no idea just how much better our tutorials were. She said, “You should tell people this. I had no idea.” So I’m humbly sharing this with you.

We have a library of over 400 videos, and, unlike home-brew or self-made products made on smartphones or consumer cameras, we’ve invested in the same cameras producers use for network TV shows and movies. We built a state-of-the art soundstage to eliminate street noise and distant lawnmowers. My goal was to create films with the same quality aesthetic you would expect from a movie you see on Netflix.

And most of our videos are in-depth. Though we have some shorter ones, most are like master classes, like attending a several-day workshop so you can see every stroke, and know exactly what the instructor is thinking. In fact, some viewers have said they prefer them over in-person because if they miss a point, they can rewind and look again.

We have masterclasses in plein air painting, landscape painting, still life, portrait, figure, and even academic training in classical realism, like you would get attending an atelier.

We’ve become known as the place the best artists come to produce these masterclasses, because of the quality of our videos. They spend their lives building a reputation, and they don’t want to see it torn down by a low-quality production. As a result, you will find the best of the best, people who can teach you at the highest level. Yet we have products for every level, from beginner to pro. 

The reason I’m giving you this “infomercial” is because if you have time on your hands because you need to stay inside, this is a time to learn and grow, and do something you’ve always wanted to do, like learn to paint. 

I’ve listed our video opportunities for you below, starting with some free lessons for people who want to learn to paint but don’t think they have the talent or ability.

Free lessons I teach: