Bright green backlit leaves are glowing high in the sky as the warm sun filters through them and projects little leaf-shaped shadows on the spring grass. As I breathe deeply, the scent of wildflowers and roses reminds me of my grandmother’s garden. The day is perfect for all my senses. Even Mozart would be inspired by the songbirds singing from every direction. Though the old night owl is safely in his “owl box” atop one of our trees, his occasional question interrupts the songbird symphony as if to say, “Who, who is making all that noise while I’m trying to sleep?”
Last night the warm spring weather inspired me to fire up the grill. I walk across the deck with the lighter in hand, turn on the gas on the grill and click the lighter, sparking a small flame. Suddenly, “Whoosh!” The sound of the gas igniting fills my ears.
Small Spark, Big Result
No matter the size of the container … a small grill, or a gas-filled building … it takes only one small spark to set it off. Our cars operate only because of a small spark in the cylinder. But what do sparks have to do with our lives, our careers?
We are surrounded by sparks.
You Wanna Be a Star, Kid?
As a young boy of 14, I visited my first radio station to watch my friend Charlie Willer do his radio show. I was hooked, and his encouragement and the spark from that day resulted in a 50-year career in and around the radio industry.
A Giant Painting
Seeing a painting of pirates sword fighting when I was 12 and on a family vacation was a spark that created a lifetime interest in art, and at age 40, the spark of an art lesson as a birthday gift set me on the path to becoming an artist. That spark resulted in my career in the art world.
We never know when sparks will fly and ignite a new passion, which is why it’s so important to try new things, read everything we can get our hands on, and visit places NOT on our radar, to spark curiosity.
It’s also important to be a spark, to help others find and ignite their passion.
Not only can we ignite others or be ignited, we can often seek sparks. My dad always tells me, “Son, you can change everything about your life or your business in just 90 days. You can go from being broke to rich, go from unsuccessful to successful. All it usually takes is one small change.”
Comfort Is the Enemy
All too often we get stuck and set in our ways, and we end up repeating Groundhog Day over and over, never seeing ways to change things up to keep them interesting, or to make what we have to offer ourselves more appealing. Yet listening to others may give you the one small spark you need. It usually takes removing yourself from your comfort zone, yet it can be so invigorating to try something new.
My friend and mentor Jay Abraham was talking one day and I asked his advice on how I can teach a million people to paint, my biggest goal. He told me that the best way to get big fast was to get on national TV with a show (more about that later). He suggested that a TV show could be the spark to reach millions and hit the goal fast.
Where do you need a spark?
Where can you be a spark?
The longer I’m alive, the more I understand that the best things that happened in my life and my career came from accidental sparks I never would have followed on my own. But I also discovered that to ignite at the very second the spark hits, the gas has got to be on. You have to be constantly on the lookout for sparks, and when you feel them, they won’t ignite without your instant pursuit.
Create Your Spark
And, though accidental sparks will happen through random moments, the longer you’re around, the more established you become, the more it’s critical to create your own sparks. I have to help those on my team find their sparks, I have to push and pull to get people out of their comfort zone to move to a higher level, or else we’ll never do anything new. And I have to get others to step up and offer ideas, and be willing to listen to them. It’s not easy.
What have been the sparks in your life that were accidental but ignited your passion?
In what ways can you ignite a spark in others?
Listen, be aware, and know sparks are always flying, but often go unnoticed. If you’re on the lookout for them, you can change anything in your life, your work, your family, your business, in just an instant.
In an Instant
I received a lovely e-mail from an artist friend this week who said this … “I was stuck … I was one of those people that could do anything well I set my mind to, yet I tamped down my potential with alcohol and fear of success. Eleven years ago, I said no more. I stopped self-destructing … simply made up my mind and never looked back. I shifted my own paradigm. It was then that I decided I was going to not talk about chasing a dream, but I was going to LIVE the dream of moving through the rest of my life as an artist. Embrace the hard years of choosing between electricity or food or gas and strive and improve until I could find the other side. What I learned was that the moment I made the decision internally, with no room for inner argument, I became.”
The magic of a spark is that the moment it ignites your passion, you become. It takes a split second.
The split second I was exposed to radio by my friend, I became radio. The split second I was really exposed to painting, I became an artist. Though there were a long and often painful few years to follow, passion overcomes pain because your head has moved to a new place.
Seek to spark and be a spark.
Blessings and Lessons
We’re in a new normal. There have been blessings and lessons learned from these strange times. We might look at the sparks that happened to us over the past few weeks and ask which ones we no longer want to ignite, and which ones we need to pursue and change.
I’ve had over 2 million views of our samples of art instruction videos over the past few weeks, and an average of 59,000 viewers per video. It has sparked a new path for us, all because we were trying to be a spark to entertain, educate, and inspire others during this pandemic. It will change everything.
I’ve learned I don’t want to return to the adrenaline-driven life of being so busy, spending life on a plane, and being separated from my family. I want to be home more, I want to have more time, and to not always be doing something to keep me busy, and I want to learn new and interesting things. So I’ll be shedding some of my skin for a new, reinvented me.
What about you?
What lessons, what new normal, will come out of this for you?
What has sparked you?
PS: My initiative to teach a million people to paint is driving me to do a national TV show on a very large TV network. The topic is a plein air painting reality show called The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge. It will reach over 20 million people per episode. I hope it will teach millions to paint or challenge them to explore painting. I’m in the funding process now (seeking big donors) and hope to have it on the air in about a year.
Last week I listed all the things we’re doing, all the videos created. I’m reposting that updated list here so you too can find something to spark you.
- Lee Milteer: Managing Your Mindset
- Stephanie Few: What you need to know about government assistance for artists, galleries, and small businesses.
- Stephanie Few: Financial help for artists and galleries
- Jay Abraham: Survival for artists and galleries.
- Jean Stern: Artist Survival Strategies
- Free Painting Lessons for Beginners: www. PaintByNote.com
- Gallery Profile: Rehs Gallery
- Daniel Greene, N.A. Memorium (1934-2020) FACE 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
- I’ve recorded over 200 artist interviews in my plein air podcast. You can find them here.
- Free daily art instructional video segments via Facebook Live
- Learning From Home Video Collections
Eric, lthanks again for the motivation! You are right! It’s the comfort zone
that stops us from realizing our full potential! As I find myself sheltering in place, I am actually not at my home but at my “retirement” home in the Adirondacks- trying to paint every day without fear of failure- by the way THANK YOU. For the videos you have been posting! I am without a decent wifi connection so I can only live steam sporadically, but I caught some of John Macdonald yesterday- who I met at Paint Camp and have been following. Let me tell you, I learned a LOT From that small bitI was able to tune in to… So thank you both for that! I hope you can have Paint Camp this year, not,looking good, but, how about a virtual Paint Camp? Sign me up for that! Thanks again, all the best too you and yours, and all campers too! Chris
You are truly wonderful by inspiring artists with your generous daily videos during this quarantine period. I feel like I have attended college with all the incredible instruction and knowledge your artists have shared. Thank you sincerely.
Thank you so much for your attention to the sparks that move you. Your enthusiasm and ability to find the positive in a situation is much appreciated. I hope that your new life directions provide you with more sparks and that you will continue to share them with the rest of us. I agree that taking this pause in our lives has provided time for us to reorient and recognize what is most important to each of us.
Hello my friend, found this very unsettleing, mainly because it
touched a vary deep part of my heart. It stirred and awaken what
was deeply barred within me. Thank you for i have been playing it
forward. I love seeing the spark in others, by passing what I
know to others.
Well said.I read your posts all the time but I never leave comments…. so thank you for always sharing so honestly. It’s delicious.
Eric, there are a myriad sparks out there, one needs only the right mindset to light the fire. During my preteens my pianist Aunt gave me s ruler as a present with small images of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I got haunted, how did the Temple of Artemis and the Maussoleum look like, hardly a remnant exists. Next, I was never taken to watch a performance on an ancient theatre or see the archaeological site at Samos, both of which I so ardently wished to, perhaps cost was an inhibition. Now all these are at the heart of my art, I try to reconstruct the Temple of Artemis, the Maussoleum, the Heraion of Samos which is the island I originate from, and the marvellous Herodeion at Athens. I’ve never been happier..
Thank you so much for the Plein Air shows that have been streamed at 3 PM daily (4 PM at my house in Arnold, Mo.) I have oil paint that is sitting with an easel, brushes, canvas that has been waiting for me to get enough confidence to start painting after being put on hold for 40 years. Many inspiring videos to guide me! Now it’s up to me!
Thank you again Eric! I pray you still have eyebrows! I am not sure if you have met an Empath. Well I am one. My daughter-in -law’s Grandmother passed. I was in great pain and highly anxious. I had to speak to my son. Called, no answer, called again. My son (who is a EMT and Firefighter was helping the other EMTs carry the Grandmother to her home and lay her in the bed. I knew I felt something. Later that evening she took her last breath. I didn’t know this till I got my text from my Son. I felt a sense of peace. Then I knew why. I haven’t been able to finish a painting. Perhaps today. I have learned that I must give myself grace. The world is not going to end if I don’t paint well today. We all need to take a breath and enjoy our time here. This world is a beautiful place. And even when I do not have a brush in my hand I am painting . I want to Thank You again Eric for blessing all of us Artists. Watching you on your Facebook , especially with Bob made me giggle. Thank You for sharing your wit, your writing, and being an inspiration. You have Blessed me and I will pass it on!
Thanks Eric for your Sunday posts. I’ve been doing videos on Artists Network as they have a lot of pastel classes. I haven’t seen any on your video streaming will you be putting some up in the near future?
Also, I’d love to go for the first time to the Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe but I’m feeling it’s too soon to be around that many people at once. Do you think it might get pushed to later in the Fall or next Spring?
I think I will call you “sparky”…have enjoyed all your sparkle and it has indeed worked on me…I am almost 85 and have gotten out my paints again and gradually learning how to play…Anxious to just relax and let it flow…the creativity that gets caught up in the do’s and the don’ts seems to always be there… Guess there is a fine line between learning and allowing your own genius to peek through…I have always been a rule follower so here I go to hopefully make a few rules of my own…Thanks again for all the videos and good art blarney!
Just wanted to send a long overdue thank you for your insightful Sunday messages and all your kind efforts sharing those teaching videos! And I was blessed this morning clicking the link to your podcasts and listening to the interview with Ken Auster which was so special on every level. Makes me realize again how important it is to show our appreciation to others here in the present (“do it now!”). So thank you for all the ways you find to give. Lord bless you and your family!
so in order to have you find my self portrait (in pastel) I have joined facebook and instagram. much to my disdain for doing so. Avoided that social media stuff since it started. I had to have a friend help me get to instagram and explain #’s. So, now, i just need to learn to control facebook and instagram and use it the way I want.
I really just want to paint and improve. so, the desire to post things, when all the art exhibits and my locations and opportunities to sell are not able to function, was sparked by your challenges. thanks
Thanks Eric for your inspiration! I have oil paint that is sitting with an easel, brushes, canvas that has yet to be used! What am I waiting for? Many inspiring videos to guide me! Now it’s up to me!
Am I afraid of failure…sure..I was that way 30 years ago, when I first took a watercolor class and had a hard time painting a bell, watering can. And pail!! Lee Metler suggested writing a note dated a year from now about what I accomplished…Now is the time!
Thank you, the time to do more has been a blessing in many ways, also what are we going to do to move on.
I have watched the people in my town , many are doing well ,some are trying new things and then some are so worried about what is coming!
I miss the hugs from friends or to be able to reach out and take a new friends hand. But thank heaven we can still stop six feet away and say hello.
I know we will beat this and come out with new and great ideas to carry us. And one day the hug for a friend and yes for me too.
Inspiring. Not just to sell something. But to motivate anyone. Even a nonartist
I love watching a TV show from England on painting. They had a weekly challenge and they did different types of outdoor painting. Very interesting and I’m sure you will have more than the million you are seeking.
Loved this one. My spark was at Catholic school one day, a nun handed me a small print of “I and the Village” byMarc Chagall. Even as a young child, I was completely fascinated. It remains a favorite painting of mine today.
As I’m reading this, I’m watching a beautiful sunrise of ribbons of pinks and purples an awakening of a new day! Thanks for morning coffee. I think this stay at home confinement has opened eyes and hearts to what really matters.
As always, thoroughly enjoyed the read this morning. Thanks Eric. Sound advice to battle complacency.