After several days of open windows and fans blazing during hot, sleepless nights, this morning I’ve awakened to cool temperatures and a sunrise that’s a giant orange ball in the sky, reflecting into the cool blue waters.

Red squirrels are chattering, and as I sit sipping my coffee on the old screened porch overlooking the lake, songbirds are playing an orchestral suite accompanied by an occasional loon call. 


Finally, I’ve had a chance to relax. I’ve been on the go constantly since March, when I took a group of artists to Japan for almost two weeks, returned home, then off to a family funeral for a few days, then home again in time to host the Plein Air Convention in North Carolina, then home again briefly before a drive cross-country to the Adirondacks, where I hosted 91 painters for a week. That ended a week ago yesterday, and it’s taken me this long to finally get some rest. Even the Energizer Bunny occasionally needs to let its batteries run down. 

How Do You Recharge?

They say different personality types recharge their batteries in different ways. For me, typically, it’s being social and having lots of contact with others. My favorite events of the year are the conventions and retreats where I get one-on-one time with old and new friends.

Getting Personal

I also love the chance to just sit and chat, which admittedly is hard during my big convention because they tend to run me on an endless loop from place to place. But the retreats are entirely different. I can stand and talk with people for hours if I want, and I often do, whether it’s when we’re side by side painting, painting portraits or just sitting around at night, or during meals. This is when I learn everyone’s stories, their tragedies, about their families, and it’s when I hear all their great ideas. 

One woman approached me and said she came because her husband unexpectedly passed three years ago, and she could not stand being alone anymore. She decided she needed to force herself to step out and be around others. It was a giant risk on her part, but one met with lots of new friends and support. 

Later in the week, a young woman under 30, a PhD who is now a professor, told me she had been so lonely in college and had found it difficult to make friends, and that when she came to our event, she felt at home and connected with others.

I Found It

Two different women used the same exact words, telling me, “I’ve found my tribe.” One of them said, “I wasn’t looking for a tribe, and I didn’t even know I needed it, till I experienced it. Now they will be my tribe forever.”

Artist John MacDonald told me, “Though I love the painting and the beauty of the Adirondacks, I come here because I’ve made so many great friends. When you paint alone in a studio all day you rarely get a chance just to stand around and talk with friends.” I’m honored to call him friend. (There is a story about the event here).

A new team member I recently hired told me this … “I came to work for you because you were different from everyone else. You were building a tribe, giving back to the community, and doing creative and interesting things. I wanted to be part of it.”

I try very hard not to be prideful, but one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve managed to put so many people together to develop deep friendships, and our events and conventions are the gathering place for those relationships. 

I need a tribe. 

What Do You Need?

Not everyone needs a tribe, but many of us do. We want to find people with like interests, a place where we can be ourselves, be around people who understand us. Since most of my tribe is made up of artists, I joke that our families roll their eyes when we talk about new paint colors, but when we’re together, we can talk about paint around people who find that interesting.

Where is your tribe?

One of the reasons social media is such a success is that we can follow our friends and feel connected, but the downside is that we can very easily become disconnected. I watch my kids and their friends, who often would rather connect online or text even when they’re sitting next to one another. Getting them to be involved with others face-to-face is more of a challenge. They don’t even like to use the phone. They would rather text. 

My Newest Friend Group

Though I love my social media and spend far too much time on it, I want and need to feel connected, to be able to look people in the eyes and get to know their stories. This week I saw a sign in the small town of Saranac Lake, near me, that was promoting a live sketching group on Tuesday nights. I showed up, and it turned out I knew only one person there, but I met others who I loved hanging out with. I’ll be there every week if I can. And when I’m back in Texas, I’ll resume my weekly portrait sessions for the same reason. I’ve missed that.

I love apps like Meetup, where you can search your town and any interest and find a group. If you’re into Civil War reenactments, knitting, woodworking, photography, antique trucks, Lego, or dinosaur studies, you can find a group. And if you can’t find one, you can start one, and soon you’ll be surrounded by people with similar interests.

Pandemic Lazy

I admit that the Covid pandemic turned me into a homebody. I travel less, I go out less, and I stopped things like my portrait group, probably because I got lazy and content with being at home. But I need a tribe … and you might too.

At my painters’ retreats, I not only have a tribe of painters, I have a tribe of painters who are musicians, and we play music together all week in the evenings. I look forward to that all year. So much so that I’ve decided to find or create a tribe to play with local musicians once a week.

Like the woman said, “I did not know I needed it till I found it.”

Is it time you found or created your tribe?

Eric Rhoads

PS: Not only have we created tribes at our in-person events, but also at our online events. Because of my weekday YouTube Show (Art School Live), a tribe called the Dreamliners was formed because people loved interacting on the chat on my show and wanted to keep it going in case I stopped. And on our online events, tribes have formed.

We have a bunch of online events coming up this year and into 2025:

Pastel Live. 3 days of the world’s top pastel artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). September 18-20. 

Realism Live: 3 days of the world’s top realist artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). Teaching portraits, figures, still life, and landscape painting (all realistic). November 13-15.


Watercolor Live: 3 days of the world’s top watercolor artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). January 22-24, 2025.

NEW: Acrylic Live: 3 days of the world’s top acrylic artists teaching online (with an optional 4th Essentials Day as a refresher or for beginners). March 26-28, 2025.

If you think you want to learn to paint, but don’t think you have what it takes, try my free lessons called Paint by Note