Welcome to the Blank Canvas Series – An interview with an Artist. We interview a new featured artist every few weeks to share their insights with the Master Oil Painting Community. What artist would you like to hear from next? Note: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Master Oil Painting or Bill Inman.
Today’s Featured Artist: Eric Rhoads
“…teach someone to paint or send them somewhere to learn, take a class, get a video. Something. Painting will change their life.”- Eric
Who is Eric Rhoads?
Eric Rhoads started his interest in art as a child when painting side by side with his mother. His eyes were first opened to the possibilities of painting with a childhood visit to the Frick Museum in New York where he saw a giant painting of pirates fighting, which made him realize that painting was a great form of communication and anything could be accomplished with paint. Eric’s tug of war was whether to follow his mom’s love of art or his dad’s ability to do business, or find his own path.
At age 14 Eric became a local radio DJ in his hometown, and followed a career path in radio broadcasting as a dj and eventually an owner of several stations. It is radio where he cut his teeth on marketing. But radio was his art, and he also followed a life of business.
After starting some radio stations at age 24 and selling them and becoming a millionaire before age 30, Rhoads founded a publishing company to produce a magazine for the radio industry. Rhoads has always dabbled in painting but his passion was reignited when his wife bought him an art lesson for his 40th birthday, which exposed him to study in an atelier by a classically trained teacher. This reentry into art caused Eric to pursue it with vigor and passion, as a painter and as a publisher, which lead to the publishing of Plein Air Magazine and Fine Art Connoisseur, two of the top art magazines in America.
Rhoads considers his primary mission is to help artists and collectors by providing inspiration and education and by helping them engage with a community of peers. This has led him to create art marketing courses, his blog, the Plein Air Convention & Expo, the PleinAir Salon art competition, Plein Air Today newsletter, Fine Art Today newsletter, Artists on Art magazine and the new Figurative Art Convention and Expo (FACE). He also does a weekly plein air podcast where he interviews top plein air artists.
Aside from running his business, which is rooted in helping artists and collectors grow, he has a mission to teach 1 million people to paint, because he knows painting changes lives, brings us peace and offers challenge and intellectual stimulation. He considers art a sacred act which brings us closer to ourselves and our spirit.
Rhoads is a plein air and studio painter who paints mostly landscapes, portraits and figures. He paints regularly with a model group in his home studio each week, plus plein air painting when time permits. He has also created a series of retreats for artists, which is all about painting and making friends. He does an annual June event called the Publisher’s Invitational in the beautiful Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, and Fall Color Week in Acadia National Park in Maine. He also does an annual exotic trip. Last year he took 100 artists on a historic trip to Cuba before American’s were officially allowed to enter, and in February he took fifty artists to paint across New Zealand, paintingnewzealand.com. His goal is to help painters check off bucket-list items and have great experiences painting. He is returning to Cuba with another group of artists next year, as well as taking a group to a soon to be announced exotic location.
Eric also has a passion for teaching through the use of video training through his companies Streamline Art Video, Liliedahl Video Productions and PaintTube.TV which have some of the top artists in the world as instructors. He wishes there were interviews and painting technique videos with artists of the past. That longing drives him to record today’s artists for posterity and future generations. He also teaches art marketing at his conferences and makes the recordings available on video.
There is a saying that if you want to get something done, give it to a busy man. We thought we would look into what makes him tick, how he gets so much done, and why he does all he does.
Q: I get exhausted just reading your bio. How do you keep up on everything and why do you try to do so much?
A: When all is said and done, we only get so much time on this earth and I feel a responsibility to use my God-given talents to help people accomplish their goals. Frankly there is so much to do, I’m not sure how I’ll get it all done, but I try to focus every day on making life better for others.
Learning to paint was one of the great gifts I was given. When I’m outside painting I am often approached by someone who tells me “I wish I could do that, but I can’t even draw a straight line. I don’t have any talent.” To me this is a cry for help. You see, painting does not require talent… just like learning to play the piano, or learning to cook does not require talent. It’s about a process and practice. I believe anyone can learn to paint well without talent. To me talent is really nothing more than putting in the time and effort and focusing on continual growth. Very few artists I’ve ever met have any natural talent. Most of it is learned. So my mission in life is to help others find the joy I found.
The way I keep up is to challenge myself to do impossible things and try hard to get my team to adopt them and help me execute. I could not do any of this myself. You have to have a strong team and I’m very fortunate to have developed an incredible team of people. I started out on my own, and then, the second I got a little meat on my bones I hired someone to help me. Today I have a whole team and they know we have big dreams to accomplish and a big mission to help people.
Q: In your bio it says you became a millionaire by age 30. Why not just quit and paint full time?
A: Well the rest of the story is that when you give a kid a million bucks and it comes too easy, that kid does not realize that it was mostly luck. I got cocky and arrogant, thought I had the Midas touch. About that time a newspaper called me the “Spielberg of Radio”. My ego was out of control. I started believing my own press clippings and started lots of other businesses. Then about two years later my bookkeeper called me into his office and told me I’d be broke in three weeks. To avoid bankruptcy I had to let a bunch of people go and close down some things I had started. I barely survived it. Getting my teeth kicked in was what I needed. A much needed dose of humility. I’m much more conservative about those kinds of things now because it took me a lot of years and hard work to rebuild my career and my business.
Q: You exhibit exceptional insight with pointed and poignant questions during each of your Plein Air Podcast interviews. From your experience with such diverse and distinctively experienced artists, how does a fledgling student sort through and find the best training or direction for learning?
A: It’s different for everyone. We all have different personalities, different things that drive us. There is no right way. What works for one fails for the other. But, I think there are two drivers – passion and curiosity. If you find something you love than try to jump in with all you’ve got and get as much passion brewing as possible. This will drive you past the discouraging moments. Everyone has times when they are frustrated and want to give up, but if you know you’ll get through it and you have enough passion, you’ll get past those tough spots.
You also need to be curious. Go to museums. Find paintings or sculptures that you love. Ask yourself… how did she do that? What steps did they go through? Then go home and copy it, try to do it yourself. If you’re curious you’ll read everything and learn a lot. I’m in a continual state of learning. I consume everything I can and I have some routines and habits, which drive that. Of course curiosity also involves finding mentors, teachers, workshops, videos, or other forms of training. Others have spent decades learning and you can have the benefit of their lessons without experiencing all the pain they went through to learn. You’ll have different pain.
Q: You mentioned routines. What are your routines and habits?
A: I think we are all naturally lazy. I wasted a lot of years eating a big dinner and falling asleep in my chair, waking up and wasting my night watching television. When I started painting again, I’d paint on a TV tray in front of the TV. But there was a moment of realization that life is short and there is much to do. I had a health scare in my early 40’s and that changed everything. I told myself if I beat this I’m going to be more productive and get the things done I want to do. So I got a lot done, but then I started getting lazy again. Then my business turned 20 and I realized two decades had passed and I was not getting enough done, so I instituted some big changes.
My routine is not as perfect as it should be – I cannot always do what I want because I’m juggling a family (we have triplets age 14), business and business travel. But this is what I try to do.
When I open my eyes in the morning I quickly thank God for giving me another day, and try to move into appreciation mode by looking out at the sun rise or the beauty, and just make a point to appreciate it. Then while I’m in sleepy mode going up to wake the kids or get my coffee I try to think about what and who I’m grateful for. Laurie and I get the kids up, make them breakfast and get them off to school. I then go to the gym and workout for an hour each day. When driving to and from the gym or school I’m always listening to a course on something, usually marketing. I buy everything I can afford to buy so I’m always learning. I also go to about six conferences a year to learn new things. I’m mad about growth.
On weekend or vacation day mornings, and if I have time on work days, I read a chapter of a book every day. I probably read a book about once every other week on average. But I get about 40 hours of educational listening every single month. That’s a week of learning each month.
When I get to the office in the morning, I try to meditate for ten minutes. Then I usually say a prayer asking for wisdom and focus.
Then I build my daily to do list. It’s important to rewrite it every day. I don’t always do that, but it’s my intent. It helps me reprioritize what is important, urgent. Its also important to look at my goals every day – I try to remind myself of my key initiatives towards those goals.
At the end of the day I go hang out with the kids, do dinner, and then once they head to bed I either read more or I paint. I sometimes catch up on the news, but if I turn the tv on, I’m sucked in and end up eating snacks and sitting for hours. So I try to get to my studio as fast as possible – then I’ll paint till about midnight.
Before I go to bed I recount what and who I’m grateful for during the day, say my prayers, and sleep.
Of course that’s routine – there’s also the part of my “ideal life” strategy I employ.
Q: Ideal Life?
A: Yeah, we all need one. A funny thing happens. We all burn a lot of hours doing things we don’t love, or doing things that kill time. Then we wake up and realize decades have passed and we’re not doing what we really want to be doing. Then we die. I don’t mean to be morbid at all, but it’s gonna get us all. I’m trying to prolong it as long as possible with daily gym visits and a vegan diet, but of course we have little other control.
I had an experience that changed everything. I started a dot com, raised millions for the new company, moved to Silicon Valley, and built the company. But, it ended up that I was not entirely doing what I loved. Thankfully I did not have kids yet, but I was spending my life raising more money and I’m not one who likes to ask for money. I was continually on an airplane. I had so many employees, I think about fifty, that I was not doing the stuff I loved doing. Instead I was nothing more than a manager. I had to answer to a difficult board, and I learned I don’t love answering to others. I thought it would make me happy but it was one of the most difficult experiences because I was out of control.
So, my team and I were on a fundraising tour and we scheduled an 8:30 am breakfast meeting in the world trade center before a 10 am meeting in the tower. We would have been in the building that morning on September 11, but the night before I got a call from an investor we were going to see in Minneapolis the day after the New York meetings. She cancelled our meeting. Though I was furious she had cancelled (because we needed her money soon) I did not show it – I was gracious and we scheduled for the week after. I called my team and we debated if we should go to NYC anyway or reschedule and do both meetings the following week. We decided to not go to NYC. If we had decided to go, we would have been in the towers when the planes attacked. This was life changing. That woman cancelling saved our lives. And my wife was pregnant with triplets I would have never known.
So, because we could not get investors after 9/11 my company crashed. My board asked me to leave. There was no hope of keeping my dream alive. But, thankfully I had kept my publishing business all along. So, once I was out of that dot com company, I had some time to think and decided to reinvent myself by starting with what I didn’t want to do. My triplets were born that February and my last day of work was their first day home from the hospital. I decided I would work from home and always be there for them. I decided I did not want to do a lot of business travel. I decided I wanted to have more fun, do more painting, do more art related things.
That’s when I sat down and designed my life. What I wanted, what I did not want. And though it took me about ten years to get all of the things in place, gradually I was able to do those things. I now live a life designed. I did not want to be the guy who waits till retirement to do my travel, so I built it into my designed life. That’s why I do an art cruise every year and I do my publisher’s invitational art retreats. Its living the designed life.
Q: What are some of the inspired ideas or principles you’ve gleaned from your years in the company of many of the world’s most celebrated representational painters? Would you mind sharing the ‘Ah Hah’ moments from your own life, or that seem to be universal among successful artists you know and admire.
A: Some of what I just described were my “aha moments”. I think that the most successful artists understand that nothing falls in their lap. They did not just get lucky and get discovered. Though it may appear so, most of them worked hard ON their careers, ON their marketing. Now they have momentum because they worked so long on building their brands and awareness among collectors and other artists. This is the most misunderstood thing artists need to understand. It’s not like the movie field of dreams…. They won’t come just because you build it. Yes, on occasion someone gets discovered and has a dream career happen, but that is rare. Most successful artists made their success. They may not want you to know that, or admit that, but I know how hard most of them worked, I know how hard they still work.
There is a principal…. Out of sight… out of mind. Smart artists understand that they have to build their brand, which is really building trust and awareness. They also know that it takes time to build brand, and that once they build it, they cannot stop keeping it alive. First because there are always people leaving the market and new people entering. Those new people don’t know who you are, so they have to see your branding over and over and over till it sinks in. Second, they understand that if you drop out of awareness for even a year, they are forgotten. Even the most senior, most respected and revered artists are constantly setting up shows, publicity, writing books, or doing things to keep their brand alive and keep people thinking and talking about them.
The other thing often misunderstood…. and this often irritates people – from a marketing perspective it does not matter how good of an artist you are – if you’re a good marketer, you can sell bad art. We see it all the time. I’m sure you do too. Now, I’m not encouraging people to do that. I think they should be as good as they possibly can be before they start their marketing journey. I don’t encourage people to market bad art. But, a good marketer can sell anything. I could mention names we all know who sold tons of work and made millions, yet most of us don’t respect the work. The point is that if you master the art of marketing you’ll have an incredible art career.
I could go on about this for hours. I cover lots of it on my artmarketing.com blog but the two most important things an artist can do is to study marketing and to continually improve their art. If an artist spends 20% of their time on marketing they can accomplish amazing things and actually change their circumstances, even without money. I recently launched a product called Art Marketing in a Box, which is designed for artists who need to market but don’t really want to work very hard at it. I’m already seeing artists selling lots of art because of the product.
Q: You have become the hallmark champion of plein air painting and representational art. Both, thankfully, are thriving today with unparalleled popularity. With such a deluge of artists actively pursuing plein air painting, and with images flooding social media channels, it can be difficult for newer artists to discern quality from weaker work. What advice can you share to help students emulate and study good art so they don’t develop habits or ideas about art that can slow their progress?
A: Thanks. I want to come back to the two movements in a minute. But let’s talk about developing as an artist and developing taste. First, we have to be careful not to judge anyone harshly. Developing as a painter is a process. Even developing as a connoisseur or collector is a process. Our taste gets more and more refined the more time we put into it and the more art we view. I cringe at some of the things I’ve painted in the past. My colors were garish, my objects lacked form, my values were out of whack, my edges were too sharp, and my paintings were simply not very good. But it’s too easy to get discouraged and if someone would have slammed me back then I probably would have stopped. We’re all pretty sensitive about putting our heart into our work, so it hurts when we get slammed. I hear nightmare stories of people slamming artists on social media. It’s as though people will be unkind when they are not face to face.
An artist has to go through this. We all evolve – each in our own unique way and with our own unique voice. To that point though, people are not only posting their best work online – they are posting everything and not editing out the bad stuff, and they are posting unfinished work and branding themselves with unfinished work. I know they want to say “hey look at me” but I think they need to be more prudent about what they post.
I do have some advice about developing taste. First, go visit as much art as possible in person. Because I go to museums and galleries for a living and I host art trips, I get to see a tremendous amount of art. What tends to happen is that great paintings leap out at you. This comes from lots of exposure to art and art books. Plus, you have to find what you love and what really speaks to you. I learned by copying great paintings from art books and posters. When you do it enough you start to see how one little twist of the brush changes a figure from being fat to being normal. You start to see the decisions the artist had to make. You start to understand that their colors are not as bright as you think they are, etc. So I encourage people to do that. But remember photos lie. If you can copy in person it’s better.
Secondly, drawing is critical. It’s not my strength and I’m continually trying to grow. Draw constantly. I almost always have one of those thin pocket Moleskine sketch pads in my back pocket. If I’m in a waiting room, an airplane, anywhere, I’m drawing. The Russians taught me this. Draw every chance you get. Get some great instruction if you can. If you cannot, get a video to show you. But, I recommend the atelier method. Start by doing copies of Bargue drawings from the Bargue book. Then graduate to small objects like lighted balls or boxes. Then move to plaster casts. Then move to life.
Painting from life is probably the thing that will transform an artist more than anything other than drawing skills. Both movements we are involved with are about painting from life – figures and portraits from life and plein air painting which is painting landscapes from life.
I used to use photos but I had a Russian Master walk into my studio and he pointed out the paintings I did from photos. How did he do that? He could see that my shadows were too dark, my skies were too light, my form was off. Photos lie. Now I cannot paint from a photo. I try to paint from a plein air study then I may use a photo for some detail I want to remember, but I cannot start a painting from a photo anymore and do a good job. I need to paint from life.
I also paint the figure or portrait from life every week. Its great training. We do three hour poses and you have to work fast. It’s very challenging but each week I do it I get a little better. I highly recommend it. I started my own group about six years ago because I had to work around my busy schedule.
Artists will get more progress painting from life than anything else they do. But they need to be ready. It’s a good idea to learn to draw and paint before you tackle a live moving object or going outside. Setting up a still life is a great way to learn to paint from life.
So, you mentioned the two movements we are involved with. You said “You have become the hallmark champion of plein air painting and representational art. “ Both, thankfully, are thriving today with unparalleled popularity”
First, it’s very kind of you to say that. There are a lot of people who came before us who did a lot of great work to build these two movements. They deserve the credit. We’re merely a vessel to help expose work to others and maybe inspire them with it. When I first started plein air painting I thought it was a movement, so I started a magazine. But, I was wrong. We were too early and had to close the magazine. We could not get enough advertisers or subscribers. The movement was too small. We then brought it back six years ago and our timing was better. We had more staying power, and the movement was starting to catch some steam. We probably helped it along a little, but we are more of a reflector of what is happening.
In any case, the plein air movement today is booming. There has never been this many painters going outdoors to paint. I call it the new golf. People love doing it because it’s a chance to be creative, it’s social… you can paint with friends or make new friends, you can travel to beautiful spots or paint around your town with others, and it’s a chance to be outdoors in nature, and a chance to be challenged and grow as a painter. And, if you want to pursue getting good, you can put your work out there and sell it. I personally love doing it and I’m gratified that so many people are trying it, bringing their friends into it, and participating in the movement. This is a historically significant time in art history and there have never been so many great landscape painters. We have amazing painters today and lots of them.
I feel blessed to play a role in two movements that are happening simultaneously. When I discovered my teacher and mentor Jack Jackson, who had studied with Ives Gammel, Frank Reilly and Seniorita Simi in Florence, he instilled an appreciation for the classics in me. After he opened my eyes by teaching me to copy Bouguereau, Gerome, and others, I wept when I saw my first Bouguereau in person.
At the time I started Fine Art Connoisseur there were only about four or five places in the world teaching artists how to do these lost techniques. There had been a magazine called Classical Realism Journal, which had gone under due to lack of interest. I bought and devoured every past issue and decided that I would start Fine Art Connoisseur to see if I could promote and bring awareness to this movement. I was not alone. There were these amazing instructors who were trying to get this art noticed. And the Art Renewal Center started by Fred Ross has had a massive impact on the movement. We work together on lots of things and I often judge their annual competition. When we started Connoisseur there were probably no more than 75 or 100 students worldwide learning these classical techniques. Today there are thousands learning at Atelier’s and schools which were spawned from students who studied under some of the masters who kept it alive. It’s a massively important movement.
You mentioned that these are both thriving. Well, yes and no. I will say that plein air is thriving and I’m seeing signals that post contemporary realism is starting to catch on with collectors, but the art world is still embracing the abstract more. Look at the auctions. But, I believe that the young realists today won’t have to fight the same battle for sales and recognition that those before them had to fight, and I believe that some of those brilliant young painters will become the big sellers of the future. It’s not hard for me to believe that someone like Josh LaRock, Gregory Mortenson, Patty Watwood, Juliette Aristedes, Michael Klein or Adrian Gotlieb will sell for tens of millions by the time they are in their senior years. Painters like Jacob Collins, Michael Grimaldi, or Gradyon Parish will then sell for hundreds of millions. They are very collectable now and those who ride with them could see big paydays. But, money should not be the reason to collect them. Collect them because they are wonderful paintings. I’m kind of thinking about trying to find a way to get them all to create self portraits. I think that would be a cool thing to collect for my museum.
Q: Your museum?
A: Well, it’s a pipe dream at the moment. But I was recently at the Isabel Stewart Gardner museum and I made a realization that special people like her have changed the art world. She had taste and money and she invested in young starving contemporary artists of her time. She gave them commissions, and amassed an amazing museum with stunning paintings. She also bought historic paintings that were wonderful.
I have this dream to do what she did, but for the two movements which have been such an important part of my life. The big difference is that she had big money. I don’t. But I have this dream of building two museums. Maybe they will be one big museum, with two different entrances. I’d like one to be a museum of plein air paintings, and feature the best plein air painters of this movement. The other is to do a museum of Post Contemporary Realism, featuring the best of the realists in this movement.
All of these artists deserve recognition and this is a special moment in time when two very important movements have occurred at about the same time. We just happened to start magazines surrounding them, so it’s only natural that we try to create a museum because we have deep relationships with the artists. I also have a dream of a self portrait room capturing all these painters, and I’d even put my current collections into it. I’ve got tons of portraits of me done by the best painters of our time, and I’ve got a good start on a plein air collection because painters tend to send me things to thank us for articles, or just because they want me to have something.
My mind says this dream will come true. I’ll find a way. I’ll find a patron who has the money and the passion. Someone I met recently suggested they might be willing to donate the land and a building if we put it in their town. Maybe that will happen. But, I do think a museum like this needs to have importance and if my goal is to draw attention to these brilliant painters who represent these two movements at this special moment in time, it needs to be in a big city, needs an endowment that will keep it alive for generations past my life. It’s a very tall order, and hopefully I’ll be given enough time to make it happen. Though it’s one of my big giant goals, I fully believe I’ll find a way. But it appears a little crazy at the moment.
Q: What are your other big giant goals?
A: I’m starting to realize some of them already. It was my goal to create an event where all the plein air artists who are part of this massive movement could come to celebrate the movement and their role in the movement, to learn and to grow by learning from the best painters in the world, and where we could all paint together, laugh a lot and have fun. When I told people I wanted to do a plein air convention I was told I’d lose my shirt on it because it’s so expensive to pull off. Especially because another event from another magazine had gone under because they lost so much money. But I set my mind to it, found ways to do things so it did not bankrupt me, and we have managed to pull it off. We’re doing our 6th this April in San Diego. And it has turned out to be so much better than I dreamed.
The other big goal was to create a similar event for the figurative artists who are part of this new movement. I feel like they need their own event where they can celebrate their movement, strengthen it by discussing it, and have a chance to paint together, learn together and have fun. So I’m going to announce a new conference called the Figurative Art Convention and Expo and it will be held in Miami this coming November. You’re hearing it first here.
Q: How does that differ from the portrait society?
A: First, the portrait society plays a very important role and they do a wonderful convention, which I’ve attended. They have a huge following. But the big difference is the focus. Their foundation is portraiture, which is rooted in commissioned portraits for judges, homes, etc. I’ve heard from a number of the people who do realism and figurative work that they feel like they don’t really fit in because they have differing agendas. So my new conference is really more about a celebration of museum quality figurative work, learning, and growing in a fully different way. Will we have people painting portraits? Well, every figure has a head, so it will be up to the individual artists who are teaching. But, we intentionally scheduled it at an opposite time of the year (November) so we would not step on their toes in any way. And, if you’ve never been to one of our conferences, we’re big on having fun. For instance at the PleinAir Convention this year we’re doing a game show called Plein Air Wars. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Q: I remember reading that you’re one of the most painted men in history. How did that all come about?
A: It all happened by accident really. I love portraiture and since I was launching a magazine, I mentioned to someone that I thought it would be cool if instead of a photo I had a portrait and that it might encourage people to think about paintings instead of photographs for their legacy. The person I mentioned it too happened to mention it to someone else and suddenly I heard from an artist who offered to paint my portrait. One thing lead to another and others started offering.
I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone. But now I think I’ve got about twenty-six of them and I’ve been painted by everyone from Nelson Shanks to Richard Schmid to Daniel Greene to Burt Silverman to David Leffel and John Howard Sanden, not to mention lots of the brilliant younger painters. It’s a real gift, and I’ve heard from people who commissioned portraits because of me using portraits in my column in the magazine. And most of the artists who paint me end up with commissions because of it, which I think is cool.
Q: Since it’s so easy for artists to develop a blind eye to our artistic imperfections, how do we know when our work is masterful vs mediocre, or even just when we are heading in the right direction?
A: It all depends on who you ask. My wife for instance always sees things that I cannot see. My daughter is the same way. She will walk into my studio and say “dad, why are there ducks in the trees.” I’ll say honey those aren’t ducks they are leaves.” Gulp. You need people you can trust. But most friends and family are complimentary. I think it’s important to find masters you respect and pay them to review or critique your work and be brutally honest. Gallery people too. You need to hear the truth.
Q: A few years ago, I heard you muse that your personal notions about art were changing – art that you previously thought superior no longer held the same influence over you and your views of what you consider great art were evolving. I realize you need to maintain a somewhat neutral stance since you are friends with, and a publisher of, so many wonderful artists, but as much as you are able, what knocks your socks off in the art world today and what has influenced the changes in your views of art?
A: You’re right. I don’t want to hurt any feelings. This goes back to the discussion about taste. Your taste changes as you develop more understanding and appreciation about art. I’m thankful I did not get tattoos of what I loved at seventeen. I’d regret it today. Even things I bought twenty years ago don’t always hold up, yet other things I got stand the test of time.
I love paintings. Every day of my life I’m exposed to paintings and sometimes I see things that absolutely blow me out of the water. I can’t buy it all. I don’t have the money or the space. Plus I’m trying to save for triplets hitting college all at once, so I’m not buying much artwork anymore. Thankfully, I’ve got some very generous friends who send things, or sometimes trade me a painting for a painting.
It’s not fair to get into names. But the best always rises to the top. I know painters I met ten years ago who were not masters then but are now. You can spot a brilliant painting in a crowd of paintings. This happens when I judge shows. Quality rises to the top.
Q: You have inspired so many artists through the years. What artists have inspired you the most?
A: All the usual ones I suppose. Zorn, Sargent, and Sorolla. Bouguereau and many of the French academics, and even the impressionists. I really love Antonio Lopez Garcia in Spain, and I’m absolutely in love with Russian impressionists and soviet era painters, as well as all the Russian greats like Repin, Levitan, and Shiskin. I’m about to announce a trip to Russia for collectors. I try to go there as frequently as I can. It’s hard to top those painters, even the living ones. They get a deep and long education from a young age.
What I think is cool is that there are more high quality artists alive today than anytime in history. Some of the artists we both know are producing work that is actually better than most historic paintings, though there are exceptions.
Q: You’ve got a lot on your plate. What’s next?
A: We just bought Artists On Art magazine so we’re about to get aggressive about making people aware of it, and we’ve just added more issues each year. I can think of a couple other magazines I want to build in the coming years. I also am obsessed with new marketing ideas to help artists. Everyone is pretty enamored with the internet and social media, which are both amazing, but I’ll be sharing some new things at art marketing boot camp which actually eclipse them in art sales. I also am on a mission to save the gallery business because they need help and I believe I have answers they need. I’m working on a plan to do that.
Q: What can we do to help with all your missions? They sound pretty amazing.
A: Oh, I don’t know. Keep me in your prayers I guess.
Here is the bottom line. The more people we can reach, the more we can help in lots of ways. I’d love for people to forward this interview to their friends, or to visit one of my magazines or websites or my marketing blog. By increasing our reach I can help more people.
But what is most important isn’t about us, it’s about whoever is reading this. Artists need patrons. If you have money, buy art, support artists. There is nothing better than a house filled with original art. Secondly, give artists encouragement. They put their hearts out there and are exposed. Lift them up. Let them know they are appreciated. And lastly, teach someone to paint or send them somewhere to learn, take a class, get a video. Something. Painting will change their life.
Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: Let’s hope that moment does not come anytime soon. You know, I have a giant out of control ego, but the reality is that once the people who know me pass on, I won’t be remembered. Heck the current generation does not even know the movie stars we grew up with who have passed on. People remember some presidents, some authors, and some artists. So, I guess if I got really really lucky and one of my paintings ended up living on in a museum, that would be the ultimate cool thing. But, wouldn’t it be even cooler if someone discovered something we’re doing, got inspired, learned to paint, got good, and THEY ended up in a museum. Then I will have played a role.
Think about this for a minute. Every major city in the world has built museums to house what? Not former presidents, not sports figures, not movie stars. Those museums were built to house paintings. It is my responsibility to play a role in helping that continue by inspiring, educating and engaging more artists and helping them grow. All of us have the responsibility to help those museums discover new representational artists and to understand that representational artwork is what most people want to see. Museums tend to embrace things museum directors want to see because they are often bored.
Think about this. The Sargent show at the met was one of the most successful shows ever. We need to help them discover what goes on their walls next. There are some amazing painters today and I want to find ways to teach them to market, to make great livings, to become embraced and to live on beyond all of us. And if you know someone who wants to work with me to build my museum because they have the money and deeply care about making sure the art of today continues into the future, I’m up for that.
It’s not so much about being remembered. I’m a realist. In 100 years even my own great grand kids won’t know I existed. But if they can walk into a museum and see great realist paintings or plein air paintings or landscapes done by today’s living artists, I will have done my job.
It’s not me that needs to be remembered. Its representational art.
Please comment and thank Eric for sharing his talents and insights with us!