The ground is saturated with water, and puddles reflect the deep blue sky above. It’s too cold to write you from the porch this morning, so I’m huddled in my art studio in the chair normally used by models. My heater is blowing warm air over me as I try to shed the goosebumps from the cold. It’s chilly and almost freezing. Fall in Austin lasted less than a week, dropping from the 90s to the 80s and then to the high 30s. The leaves haven’t even changed. I’m hopeful that later on color will come and the temperature will return to the 70s. 

Though we’ve been back less than three weeks, it seems the lake was an eternity ago. I miss its deep green pines, and the scent of pine in the air. I miss our rustic old 140-year-old home, which has no road access, and of course I miss our friends there. But summers are short and life continues elsewhere. And it’s good to be home.

Visiting Dignitaries

Near us on a neighboring lake where we spend our summers, residents have hosted many prominent guests, including every sitting president since Eisenhower, Supreme Court justices, secretaries of state, prime ministers, foreign dignitaries, and actors. About 25 years ago, Gorbachev was a guest of a local resident. 

From Russia with Love

Following the visit of the then-Soviet leader, who at the time was in the midst of perestroika, his hostess was asked by someone … “Would you trust him with the lives of your grandchildren?” Her answer was that he was very charming, very competent and engaging, a remarkable human, and very impressive, but no, she would not trust him with the lives of her grandchildren.

Sometimes questions clarify everything. In spite of all of Gorbachev’s accomplishments, that question brought out the truth. 

A Big Week

This week each of us is faced with a decision. Many believe it’s a life-or-death decision for this country. And if you ask most, in both parties, the world ends if their hero is not elected. Sadly, decisions like this are often more emotional than they are practical. Our emotions control us, and sometimes I catch myself making decisions because I don’t like someone’s personality, their demeanor, or the way they talk. Yet if I had to put priority on what really matters, the emotional reasons would fall toward the bottom of the list. 

Stomping If They Don’t Get Their Way

As always, I avoid sharing my political beliefs or opinions, and I’m turned off by celebrities who try to sway voters with their influence. (Though I’m no celebrity — it would be shallow of me to think people could be swayed by my influence.) I have more respect for individual thinking than to believe you can’t think for yourself. Even celebrities who have threatened to move out of the U.S. are just stomping their feet because they might not get their way. They always threaten, but they never do it, and none of us care anyway. I’d be more heartbroken over losing a neighbor I loved than someone I like in the movies who I don’t even know.

The Finger

On Tuesday our index fingers will waver between which button to push, which lever to flip. And it’s important to remember the weight of your decision. It’s not a casual decision, and it should not be based on who has the best ads, who has the most negative things to say about the other, or some probably-misinformed opinion shared with anger on social media. One Twitter post said it best: “If one negative ad can sway you as a voter, you’re not thinking about this deeply enough.”

The Death of Journalism

Though non-political, I am disturbed by the polarized nature of information. Balance does not exist anymore. We tend to watch one outlet or another that supports only our own viewpoint. None seem to represent both points of view — though that’s what true journalism once did — and we are all worse off for it. Those of us who try to do balanced homework may not be able to find reliable information anywhere. When was the last time you tuned in to hear a different point of view and were willing to just listen and not judge?

So, since unbiased research via the media doesn’t seem possible, how do we decide which button to push? 

Is this the time for the question about trusting the candidates with the lives of your grandchildren or future grandchildren?

You see, the weight of your decision comes down to that — with every vote, no matter what party. All issues, social issues, party leanings, courts, and future decisions boil down to our future, the future of our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. And it’s about our own lives going forward.

Most people put less time into their voting decisions than into choosing from a menu at dinner.  My friend and mentor Keith always reminds me that decisions of importance require thinking time, and critical questions. 

The Future of Your Family

If you think of each question you have with the grandchildren and future generations test, it may help bring clarity to your decision making. Thinking in questions helps me remove the emotion from my own decisions. 

If you knew someone who wanted to have control over the future of your children and their children — even a little bit of control — wouldn’t you have questions for them? Maybe dozens of questions? 

Think about the questions you had when you were choosing a preschool, a music teacher, a coach, or a college. What may be at stake now is the way your children will live their lives for years to come. Think of the questions you’d want to ask about that, and think about how the candidates for president and vice president (this is crucial this time, given the ages of the presidential candidates) would answer. Could they show you a future your children and their children can thrive in? 

Bad or Worse?

Here is the reality. No one in their right mind would run for office. People do it for a lot of reasons, and too often for gain or power or other less than noble goals. Therefore our choices are not always great. But, frankly, I don’t care if I like a candidate as a person, that’s my emotions talking. I care if they will protect the future for my grandkids.

Bear the Pain

Last week I talked about following your own heart, and not doing things because they’ve always been done a certain way. And though you may think one vote won’t matter in your state, it will. And none of us have a right to complain if we are not voters. So stand in the rain, wait in line in the hot sun, do whatever it takes to make your voice heard. Don’t start thinking your vote doesn’t matter because you heard rumors, polls, or press reports. Vote anyway. And don’t let anyone stop you, intimidate you, or make you think bad things will happen if you vote one way or the other. And, when listening to others, ask yourself if they are the person you would take advice about for the future of your grandchildren.

Vote with thought behind it. Know what you’re voting for. Think about the future for your kids and grandkids even if you are young. Listen to your heart, but not your emotions alone. Ask critical questions. They will serve you well.

Eric Rhoads

PS: For 221 days we’ve been “on the air” for you (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter) at noon ET with me interviewing guest artists and at 3 p.. with art instruction videos. Join us. Go to any of those platforms and search my name or StreamlineArtVideo.

Last week’s Realism Live was the world’s largest virtual art conference. It was a huge hit. We had lots of fun, including bringing Bob Ross in for a visit from Heaven. You can see it here.

Now we’re launching the world’s largest watercolor conference with the best watercolor artists in the world. It takes place in January, but the price increases on Black Friday. Check it out at We even have a Beginner’s Day.