9 Things I’ve Learned Being Married to an Artist

I asked if I could hijack Bill’s blog this week. I’m Kristie, spouse of an artist, and there are a few things I feel prompted to write about concerning my station as an artist’s wife. I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of all spouses of artists out there, but I have found that we are very similar in many aspects, some of which even our talented counterparts may not be aware of.

On May 5th Bill and I will be celebrating 28 years of marriage. I grew up a country girl, and the only things I can remember adorning our walls were crochet plant holders. I was blessed to grow up at the base of Pikes Peak and was outside playing on my horse most of the time.  The only art I appreciated were the Sunday comics.

I was destined for the rough and tumble cowboy husband, but then I met Bill. Without boring you with all the details, we obviously got married. Before the wedding bells rang Bill took me to the Outlaw Gallery in Montana where he had a piece hanging. I had never seen his artwork before, so this would be my introduction. As we climbed the stairs to the upper portion of the gallery I saw a piece and knew immediately that it was his. I could feel the connection.

I have watched him paint on numberless occasions and now I edit many of his videos. At times, I see him put a brush stroke in and think “Ew, that was a mistake.” Then somehow as he continues building up the scene that brushstroke ingeniously holds the story together. I’ll never get used to that. How can a mind work so far in advance to know how these strokes of colors will work together eventually to create such a lovely picture? The artist’s mind baffles me!

This delight and awe of the process also gives me a slightly biased opinion of Bill and his art work. They say an artist needs to have tough skin. Well then, an artist’s spouse should have leather!  Juried shows where he’s won the appropriate amount of accolades are wonderful, and I get to bask right there on his arm. But not all jurors saw his genius! Some didn’t even give a nod to his work in passing.

The frustration of those instances is only magnified by knowing that on the drive home he’ll go through all the self-doubts and occupation misgivings that can come from being ignored. It’s the companion’s duty to soothe and encourage, even when they themselves might be feeling a lot of those same emotions.

We’re not the norm in any niche. We have a rather large family (7 children), and I have been a stay at home mom most of the time. That means that the major wage earner has always been Bill. Sure we’ve had to live simply at times, but never in want. I learned how to make bread, cook from scratch (which is not an easy chore for an outdoor horse gal), and find the best thrift shops.

I now realize that any gallery would be very lucky to carry Bill’s art – we pray over them night and day! Slowly through the years we have reached a point where we no longer have to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul”, and can breathe easy when a new month starts and new bills are due. I say this because it was, and still is, a sacrifice!

An artist’s success depends on their ability to concentrate on their talent. I have had my whiney days when I’ve seen friends buy bigger houses or drive newer vehicles, but I get over it quickly when I see my husband doing what he loves. I’ve seen him try out ‘the working world’, and he is akin to a fish out of water, slowly shrinking. He thrives in the studio!

Here are 9 things I’ve learned through almost 3 decades with an artist:

  1. While miraculously never having had an accident- driving with an artist can be a very stressful event when he takes his eyes off the road for extended periods of time to ‘notice the shadows in a clump of trees’. I drive more and more to allow him the freedom to study landscapes so that we can arrive in safety.
  2. Family trips – from our early married days to just last month – generally revolve around National Parks, galleries, and museums.

    Out Camping

  3. Sometimes I need to back off if he gets ‘in a mood’. Quite often he takes it onto the canvas and has produced some amazing pieces. Art therapy!
  4. Simply telling him it’s time for lunch … 7 times … is not enough to get him to come in for lunch. I now take him his lunches, otherwise he forgets to eat altogether.
  5. Many times children of an artist inherit those artistic abilities and utilize those abilities in interesting ways. You should see some of the crazy projects produced in our home! This was a recent one, within the last couple years, when 3 of our daughters decided they wanted to be broken porcelain dolls for Halloween.

    Our ‘Broken Doll” Daughters

  6. Being self-employed leads many to mistakenly believe he doesn’t have a job, and therefore is free to help out anytime, day or night. What they don’t realize is that he generally goes to his studio early in the morning, comes in for dinner around 6:00pm, and often he goes back to his studio after putting the kids to bed. He does this everyday but Sunday! I’ve learned to field requests so that he doesn’t get called out of the studio more than he should.
  7. Artists are different! I would say sorry, but you know it’s true. They have to be different to create what they do. They are more compassionate and sensitive. You would think armed with that knowledge I would act and speak with a little more thoughtfulness. It’s a process…. a slow one.
  8. Things get forgotten. Like Christmas. When an artist spends every day – basically alone – in their studio, the days can run together. The spouse must remind the artist of things like weekends and holidays. If the spouse doesn’t there’s a good chance the artist may wake up one morning and say, “Is it Christmas?”.  No joke. Once when Bill figured out it was Christmas morning he ran into the basement, rummaged through my craft materials, and produced a gift for me an hour later. I still have it and cherish it, though admittedly I wasn’t thrilled with it that particular Christmas morning.

    My ‘Forgotten Christmas’ Gift

  9. My artist is a humble one. I realize they can come with all sorts of personalities, and I’ve met some who expect automatic edification from those around them. I’ve been blessed though.  All Bill wants is for everyone to experience the beauty God has given us. If you’re not married and want to marry an artist, find a humble one because it’s an amazing thing.

Bill doesn’t treat me like a lackey. I’m not here to wash his brushes, help him set up his easel, film him, or pack up the van. But I do those things, and so much more, because I love him and it’s our business! He doesn’t call a painting done until I critique it. He values my opinion.  I have not lost myself while supporting him, and he is constantly supporting me in my venues.

Artists are needed more now than ever! The digital age has a lot to offer, but the raw paint and canvas type of art will survive through the ages, long after the latest smart phone craze dies off. It’s up to us – the spouses, companions, supporters, to keep our artists fed, make sure they get some sleep, remember when major holidays are approaching, and that they know what amazing people they are and how much they are valued.

This is a great work, but when all is said and done our greatest work is our family, and we’re grateful for the unusual opportunities and stories having an artist with us has brought about!

Hello from the Inman Clan (one daughter’s on a mission for our church so I photo-shopped her in)

Blank Canvas – An Interview with Eric Rhoads

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.

Eric’s Interview

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.

Tuscan Villa On The Hill by Eric Rhoads

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.

PARIS BY RIVER by Eric Rhoads

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.

Fishing the Falls by Eric Rhoads

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.

The Swimming Hole by Eric Rhoads

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.

Windmill in Outskirts of Amsterdam by Eric Rhoads

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.

Facebook: facebook.com/eric.rhoads

Please comment and thank Eric for sharing his talents and insights with us!

10 Steps to Your Own Peony Masterpiece w/ Fast Motion

In last week’s blog we discussed the major differences between the reference photo and the final painting. I’m including the references here again so you can refer to them as the major steps are detailed.

The original reference photo

That same photo reversed, some flowers re-positioned and with a few extra peonies added in from other photos.

Ready to get started?

First, let’s walk through each of the 10 steps together. Then we can finish up with a fast motion video that shows the entire process from start to finish.

10 steps to your own Peony Masterpiece

Step 1

When a scene has a fairly tight range of colors I often determine if one or two main colors will work for the undertone or initial washes. Since the subject had a lot of greens and lavenders I decided to start with a warm yellowish color mixed from transparent oxide yellow, transparent oxide orange and some cad lemon for the top where the sky would be and added some transparent oxide red for the bottom wash. I knew that the bits of color that would still be visible at the end of the painting would harmonize well with the final colors.

Step 2

Then I used simple strokes of color to indicate the general placement of the different spaces in the painting – the distant trees, peony bush shadows, foreground grasses and the shed window. Try to keep your brushstrokes varied in the early stages – different sizes and directions – to add energy and movement right away to the painting.

Step 3

A paper towel is very handy to wipe back down to lower layers of paint or to the white of the panel, to establish a bright clean area for each of the translucent colorful flowers. I generally leave a little of the background colors on the edges to help integrate the flowers with the rest of the painting – that way the flowers don’t feel like cardboard cutouts.

Step 4

I quickly dry brush a mix of quinacridone red and cad red into each of the flowers, making sure to vary the direction of my brush strokes to make the flowers more interesting. The first layer of color is applied with darker middle shadow values that I can then add brighter thicker colors on top of.

Step 5

I like to get a few value tones established with the flowers right away to help judge how dark or light to make the other areas of the painting – generally reserving the darkest darks and lightest lights for the center of interest which in this case is the two peonies close to one another on the upper left. That is not a rule – sometimes the darkest or lightest value might be somewhere else in the painting, but I want to make sure that nothing else in the painting distracts the viewer from the primary center of interest, which a very dark or light value or strong color is capable of.

I also begin to refine some of the details in the flowers to help me judge how much detail to add to other areas in the painting. This is a point in the painting where I begin to decide how much or how little detail I really want. I can change my mind anytime in the painting and choose to simplify more or increase the detail, but this is often when I get a strong feeling one way or another.

Step 6

Once the peonies are placed the leaves and small twigs are developed. Even though we are working with small objects like leaves and flowers, we need to pay close attention to the shapes that groupings of flowers or leaves create. Having a variety of big, medium and small shapes is essential for a pleasing composition and a painting that will keep the viewer’s attention.  The leaves are placed quickly, but also in a way that allows for the distribution of light and shadow to lead the viewer around the painting. Some leaves will be left as a middle value color, others will be darkened a bit to recede into the shadows and still others will be lightened to move them toward the viewer and into the direct light source (or a reflected light source, depending on the situation).

Step 7

Now that much of the spaces are broken up and made more interesting with leaves and stems, the peonies are brought to a greater level of refinement. Much of the detail that is added now will remain in the final painting. I am paying close attention to light and shadow to create a realistic look to the flowers. Leaving some areas of the flowers in shade and other parts in full light helps to create that 3-dimensional look.

Edges are critical at this point – we need some edges to become diffused with the background colors and values while others are left sharp and defined – that all is dependent on how we want to lead the viewer around. Think of hard and soft edges as closed doors and open paths – harder edges tend to stop the viewer while softer edges allow the viewer to continue through unimpeded. Hard edges also demand more attention and are often employed in the center of interest.

Step 8

Many of the brightest leaves are placed near the two primary peonies. Other bright leaves are added in areas that need a bit more engaging content to help build a more substantial feeling bush. Notice how a few bright leaves bring a heightened vitality to the painting – we just want to make sure we don’t overdo it and all those beautiful bright colors everywhere – a bit of spice adds liveliness, too much overwhelms. Don’t fret if you overdo the fun highlights – just take your palette knife, brush or paper towel and simplify – happens to me all the time.

Step 9

The garden shed behind the bush (originally a house) gives me fits because I struggle to find the right color temperature and value that works in harmony with the peonies without demanding too much attention – like a character actor that helps the lead star shine even brighter. After playing with warm wood colors that competed with the flowers…

Step 9 Continued

I finally found the right grayed down blue that felt like weathered wood – it also pushed nicely into the distance and allowed the peonies to come forward and take center stage. Many different ideas were experimented with like small windows, but in the end, I decided the shed needed to be simplified to eliminate distractions.

Step 10

The foreground grasses were left sketchy – just a few clumps of grass here and there. The patch of shaded grass in the distance was too strong of a shape that led the viewer out of the painting and did not allow us to move through it. So, I added some quick simple strokes of reddish lavender to simulate dirt – that was enough to let the viewer move through that shape and into the back trees.

The distant grass was made into a slight incline or hill to help direct the viewer back to the peonies, rather than out the right side of the painting.

The colors in the farthest trees were created with a combination of warmer and cooler blues and lavenders to create vibration and interest while using minimal detail – that allows it to be fun for the viewer without taking too much attention from the peony bush.

Native Dwellers by Bill Inman 12×16

Now let’s pull it all together!

Master Oil Painting Monthly Members can view the full 3 hour video HERE

One of the wonderful things about painting is the limitless possibilities. If I did this same painting again I would experiment with the foreground grasses and add more lavender tones, similar to those in the garden shed, over the warmer orange colors to see how that might affect the feeling in the painting.

Remember, it’s generally better (as long as the painting doesn’t have glaring problems) to experiment like I just described, with a new painting – not by endlessly changing the original piece. We will learn and progress much faster by creating new paintings than we ever will by reworking the same painting over and over.

I hope this gave you some ideas and motivates you to experiment with your own peony paintings – I  sure had fun with these flowers.

Happy painting!

PS. Click HERE if you would like to learn more about the Monthly Membership and view the full 3 hour video showing every brushstroke of the pallet and painting, as well as tons of other awesome videos outlining the Master Oil Painting process.

A Walk Through My Painted Garden

While driving around Muncie our first year we were overwhelmed by the blossoming trees and flowers – it seemed the whole town was glowing with colored lights. Magnolia trees, dahlias, daffodils, peonies, lilies – blossoming high and low, no matter where we looked flowers flowed freely.

The daunting question was how to lengthen my days so I could paint them all!

Coming from parched Colorado, where growing anything required elaborate watering systems and a green thumb, it was liberating to find that we could almost casually toss seeds in the air and watch them bloom before they landed (okay, maybe it’s not as easy as that, but compared to the arid West it sure felt like it).

Over the last ten years my easel has seen the creation of all that I have mentioned and many more. Let’s take a walk through my painted garden together.

Foxglove was fun to paint in Gentle Touch –

Gentle Touch by Bill Inman 30×40

Roses have fascinated me since high school and there are plenty here in Indiana like these from my own garden –

A Dance to Remember by Bill Inman 10×8

Butterscotch Beauty by Bill Inman 8×6

Sun Kissed by Bill Inman 12×16

My wife is not a daffodil fan because she thinks they look like a Disney creation – their design is precisely what I find so fun to paint like those in A Sunny Disposition.

A Sunny Disposition 10×8

The first time I saw dahlias was on the way to church – it looked like someone had perfected hovering fireworks that never extinguish. The next day I drove back to the home, knocked on the door and asked if I could photograph their flowers and study them occasionally – obviously, you can see the results of that happy encounter.

Midas Touch by Bill Inman 10×8

Orange Crush by Bill Inman

Rise to the Occasion by Bill Inman 16×20

The blossoms of magnolia, cherry, plum and apple trees bloom spectacularly in Spring and then paint the streets, having prepared the way for the leaves and fruit.

China Girl by Bill Inman 8×10

Scented Serenade by Bill Inman 9×12

Stepping Through Magnolia Petals by Bill Inman

Here are a few more painted both in the studio and plein air…

Eve’s Eden by Bill Inman 12×16

Exquisite Entanglement by Bill Inman 9×12

Sunrise by Bill Inman 9×12

Wintersill Drive by Bill Inman 12×16

Can you imagine planting a seed and waiting a couple years to see if it worked? That’s peonies. Is it worth the wait? Every minute of it. Thank you, Muncie, for introducing me to one of my new favorite flowers – which just happens to be Indiana’s state flower – just in case you were wondering.

The peony below was grown by a dear friend who passed away recently. We loved to stop by and visit with Herb and Mildred once in a while and they would inevitably fill our van with apples and peaches from their orchard, as well as plump veggies from their garden.

Stardust by Bill Inman 8×6

Stardust stood as a bright sentinel on the edge of their garden (I painted a couple of versions).

Rising Star by Bill Inman 10×8

A few blocks from our home there’s a sloping driveway that’s outlined by a beautiful array of peonies in different shades – I certainly had fun with those when I created At the End of the Drive.

At the End of the Drive by Bill Inman 12×16

Stardust wasn’t the only peony painted twice – akin to Monet and his straw bales, I decided to reverse Granny’s Legacy painted almost a decade ago…

Granny’s Legacy by Bill Inman 12×16

…to see what some changes like darker crimson colors might add – and abracadabra Native Dwellers appeared. Native Dwellers was created for the January Paint Together so I thought using an image in a different way would be a great way to demonstrate how we can use our reference images as jumping off points – we should never become slaves to our photos.

Native Dwellers by Bill Inman 12×16

You can see, looking at the reference photos below, that in Granny’s Legacy I eliminated the larger trees and the buildings and threw in some tall bits of grass. Both paintings from the same basic image yet both very different from the original reference image as well.

The original reference photo


That above photo is the same reference photo as the first, but reversed. Some flowers are re-positioned and with a few extra peonies added in from other photos.

Next week we’ll share a fast motion video with you and the ten major steps I used to create the painting Native Dwellers.

Until then though, what are your favorite flowers to immortalize on the canvas? I shared a selection of my favorites through my years as an artist, and I would love to see yours!

Rosemary vs Utrecht Brushes – Which is Better?

A few of my 10-year-old brushes were finally showing the effects of use, especially some of the Isabey 6115 Rounds. I had heard nothing but rave reviews about the excellence of Rosemary oil painting brushes since the first ‘Weekend with the Masters’ event in 2009, but up until last month didn’t have a need to purchase any.

My Coast to Coast Plein Air Adventure was just weeks away so I decided it might be a good opportunity to put a few Rosemary brushes to the test, especially since Utrecht chose to discontinue one of my favorite brushes – the 207 series.

The oil painting ‘Transitions’ got a wonderful block-in with the Utrecht 207 brush.

I looked for brushes similar to those I already use and also purchased a range of other brushes I thought might be handy.

Artists’ reviews gave hearty thumbs up to the Ivory brushes, so I bought the Long Flats (all my Rosemary Brushes were the Long handle version) in sizes 0-12. One of my Master Oil Painting students gave praise to the Ultimate series so I purchased some of those as well in the same Long Flats to compare with the Utrecht 209’s.

One of my all-time favorite brushes for tree trunks and foliage is the Utrecht 103 X-Long Filbert Bristle Brush. I can push it forward or drag it around for thin or thick lines to create an amazing variety of strokes, and they can really take a beating. So I thought I would try out some riggers that have the same basic shape.

All the tree trunks and much of the foliage in my oil painting ‘In The Morning Light’ were done with the Utrecht 103.

My mongoose brushes were also suffering (my round size 10 shrank to a sliver – smaller than the tattered size 8) so I added the Masters Choice Series 279 and 272 in sizes from 0-10.

My conclusion:

Rosemary brushes are definitely high quality craftsmanship! You will not be disappointed if they are what’s found in your studio.

Having said that, the Ivory series will not be a repeat purchase. They are a beautiful brush and they hold a lot of paint, but they are a bit too slick for me and they don’t hold up well to my vigorous brushwork. Several started splaying out significantly after the first painting. They were also a bear to clean… took much longer than my other brushes. Holding paint ‘in’ the brush isn’t important to me – manipulating what’s on the outside of the bristles is what I’m concerned with.

So if you like a brush that holds a lot of paint it might be just the brush for you.

You can see the dramatic difference in splaying between the Ivory that had one week of use compared with the 207’s with 8-10 years of use – and the size 10 207 is sharp as a razor (it smooshed out a bit when I put it on its side).

The Rosemary Ultimate Long Flats are a keeper. I bought the size 8 from Wind River Arts for $6.07 – the same size 209 from Utrecht is $5.93. While the Utrecht is a few cents cheaper and an excellent brush, the bristles are also about ¼ inch shorter – that extra length in the bristles adds some nice spring and fluidity to the strokes.

These might just become my go-to brush for most purposes.

None of the rigger brushes match up to the Utrecht 103 X-Long Filbert, so that will remain a staple. I still don’t really need to replace them, at least 10 years old and going strong, but I should probably buy a dozen just in case Utrecht ditches them like they did with the 207 series.

The Rosemary Master Series 279 Long Flats and the 272 Long Rounds are also keepers. I haven’t exactly put them through the ringer yet, but they usually don’t get the same abuse from me that the bristles or blends are subject to.  With mongoose hair in crazy short supply you might want to get some soon. Most companies are working on synthetic replacements – I’ll be sure to try some of them soon to see if any are ‘worthy’ replacements.

There is one Ivory brush that is a bit more promising – the Egbert – fun brush with a funny name. It isn’t as thick as the flats and holds a nice sharp rounded edge that is brilliant for thin lines.

What about you? What are your favorite brushes and what do you use them for?

Art Books I Love and Highly Recommend

Do you devour art books like the Cookie Monster getting his hands on a sweet chocolate chip dessert? Then you are a painter after my own heart!

Since my dad is an artist who has always had art books on hand, I learned early on the power of books to transport me to worlds of wonder. Much of my training as an artist came from books – everything I could get my hands on from works of the Impressionists, Expressionists and Norman Rockwell, the etchings and drawings of M. C. Escher, Durer and Rembrandt to step-by-step Walter Foster tutorials and pastel painting instruction by Daniel Greene.

Because books have been so integral to my success as an artist, I thought you might enjoy learning what my favorites are today. The list is long so I will organize it into two categories – Art Instruction and Inspiration.

Art Instruction:


Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting by John Carlson – You will want to study this book! The first time I read this was in 1985 at the insistence of Leon Parson. I consider this the best book on the market for painting instruction (next to Alla Prima)



Alla Prima II Everything I Know About Painting – and More by Richard Schmid. This book is expensive and worth hundreds of times more than its cost. If the price stretches your budget and you must save for months or years to purchase it – do it! I ordered the first edition back when it first came out in ’99 and couldn’t resist when he expanded the book so I purchased it as well.



Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis – you say you’re not an illustrator? Many of the best artists I know began their careers as illustrators and learned techniques and principles of art that propelled their skills and success like a rocket to the moon. This book will increase your understanding of so much that is involved in representational painting.



Color and Light – A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney. If you are struggling with understanding the effects and colors of light when you paint on location or in your studio, this book does a fantastic job of explaining so much about light and color in an easy to read format. Highly recommended!



Painting on Location Secrets to Plein Air Painting by David Curtis. I found this book recently and haven’t finished reading the whole thing, but what I have read is top notch. Curtis does some fantastic plein air work.



Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne. While I believe it can be dangerous to our creative imagination to try and distill compositions into formulaic descriptions, it can be very helpful to understand what professional artists are often seeing and why we choose a particular composition in our paintings. Edgar Payne is a master of dramatic compositions and when (and why) to use them.



Oil Painting Techniques and Materials by Harold Speed. This is not a ‘learn to paint easy seascapes’ kind of book. You will only enjoy this if you like to read. If you do, this is a thought provoking essay on the clear distinctions between ‘modern’ and classical art and provides intelligent reasoning for expression and the need for thorough understanding of our materials and techniques.


Inspiration Art Books – When You Need a Creative Boost


The Landscapes by Richard Schmid – Wow is the only appropriate description…



Lawrence Alma-Tadema by RJ Barrow – this artist had an incredible mastery of realist color and subtlety. Beautiful!



Spirit of the Plains People – Howard Terpning by Don Hedgpeth. I may not paint western subject matter, but I have a great appreciation for much of it, especially skilled artists like Terpning.



Sorolla the Masterworks. Sorolla’s mastery of light is phenomenal.



Sargent Abroad by Warren Adelson and others – I love that this book focuses more on his landscapes and figures within a landscape, rather than his portraits.



Edward Hopper by Gerry Souter. Hopper was a miserable person, but he did have a way with light.



The Master’s Hand – the Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch by Dawn C. Pheysey. I am a huge fan of Bloch’s religious paintings.



The Art of Tom Lovell by Don Hedgpeth. Lovell had a fantastic sculptural feel to his paintings the way he laid brushstrokes directionally.



Hulings – A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings. My wife found this for me in a flea market for $15 – not likely to have that happen twice!



Carl Rungius by Whtye and Hart. Wildlife art at its best.




Anything you can get your hands on with T. Allen Lawson’s or Clyde Aspevig’s work.



Also, I have many, many books of the Impressionists’ paintings like Childe Hassam, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Twachtman and Cassatt as well as one of my absolute favorites Van Gogh (Post Impressionism).



Last, but never least, too many books to mention of Norman Rockwell’s paintings.


You’ve probably noticed a wide gamut in the styles of these artists. My interests expand much farther beyond these. If I included every book or artist I study…well, we both know I’ve already stretched the limits of most of our attention spans.

We don’t want to become myopic, studying only those artists or topics that fall directly in our path. I believe our art will only grow stronger as we thoughtfully examine artwork from many different artists.

Now, that in no way suggests we should jump ship every time we get excited about some new artist we’ve discovered.

Remember, we will progress much faster if we focus. Ponder what excites you about that new artist and experiment to see if you might improve what you are already doing – that is much more effective than completely changing course – often it’s simply a matter of a few well targeted tweaks that can escalate the quality of our paintings.

C. Wyeth and his sons, William Trost Richards, Willard Metcalf, Peder Mork Monsted, Quang Ho, James Reynolds, Oleg Stravowsky, Nelson Shanks, Bob Kuhn, David Shepherd, Guy Rose, William Wendt, Arthur Streeton, the Russian Impressionists – and on and on. For some of these I have books I can study of their paintings, for others I use the internet or visit museums (Indianapolis has some incredible paintings on display).

What are your favorite or most helpful art books? If you were stranded on an island and had a couple books with you (as well as decades worth of art supplies – hey we might as well enjoy our stay on the island), what two books would they be?

Blank Canvas – An Interview with Camille Przewodek

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: Camille Przewodek

“Color that expresses the light key of nature can make any subject strikingly beautiful.”- Camille

Q: You credit Henry Hensche as the master artist who helped you expand your understanding of color. Can you educate us concerning what you consider the most meaningful principles, techniques or exercises you gleaned from your time with him?

A: Having studied with master colorist Henry Hensche, who carried on Charles Hawthorne’s pioneering painting principles at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown MA, the most fundamental lesson I learned is that the painter’s first concern is to accurately and vigorously portray the effect of the particular light in which the subject is seen.

When I went to Provincetown, MA, to study with Hensche, I was about to graduate with a degree in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I had reached a certain competence and was fairly good at drawing and composition. However, I hadn’t been exposed to any significant instruction in color. I was so impressed with Hensche’s work that I knew that I was on a new path to learning this way of seeing and painting.

Tender Moment by Camille Przewodek

Q: Your paintings are filled with incredible color. Do you make up the colors because you think the world is too drab, or do you actually see the colors you place on your canvas when you look at the world around you? How long did it take you to gain such a mastery of color?

A: I paint what I have been trained to see. Hawthorne says “Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision—it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.” Hensche had us paint still life outdoors in full sunlight as a means of beginning the development of our color perception.

Our first consideration was to not paint the objects in front of us—but rather to see and paint the effect of light falling on the objects. To that end, Hensche used a (deceptively) simple exercise for forcefully transmitting this concept—students were to set up colored blocks on tabletops outside and capture the light effect on these “still lives” using simplified color notes. These block studies let us, for the time being, forget about making “pictures” — and focus instead on learning how to create the illusion of form in space by stating the “big masses” through accurate color relationships.

It is now over thirty-five years of painting on location that has enabled me to capture what Hensche students refer to as the “light key.” I don’t copy what is in front of me, but use pigments to paint the illusion of light and atmosphere in which my subject matter is seen. Other than the students of the Hensche/Hawthorne approach, there are very few (if any) instructors who can teach this way of seeing. Henry Hensche kept the groundbreaking tradition of Monet alive, and developed it further. If Hensche had chosen to go Modern, the whole Impressionist movement would have remained a vision of the past, and we would not have the capability of passing it on to the painters of today.

Big River Mendocino by Camille Przewodek

Q: Have your views about art shifted at all since you studied with Hensche or have you simply built upon what you learned from him. Are there other artists you admire and have gained valuable insights from and why, or in what way, have they influenced your work or your thoughts about art?

A: Color can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it, so yes my views on art shifted entirely after studying with Hensche.

However, since then, I have studied with other artists that had the skills I felt I was weak in. I tell students that it is important when you take a workshop that you determine what you want from that instructor. I don’t take workshops to learn color (unless its with another Hensche student), but I may take a workshop to learn structure and form, composition, etc.

Also, unlike a many Hensche students, I acknowledge other major painting movements that don’t necessarily focus on color and may be primarily interested in value.

In the Garden by Camille Przewodek

Q: You have been a highly sought after workshop instructor for many years, giving you a chance to observe artists at all levels struggling to increase their skills and understanding of color and plein air painting. What would you consider the biggest hurdle to progression and conversely, what have you perceived as the key to advancing more quickly?

A: I find that the student that has the most trouble opening up to this way of seeing are advanced students, or professional painters.

I will often say the opposite of what other instructors have taught them. I also rarely find that student that is willing to make the commitment to learning this way of seeing and painting. You have to be comfortable of doing a lot of bad starts before you begin to grasp this concept.

San Juan Courtyard by Camille Przewodek

Q: You talk about artists finding their voice. What does that mean and how does an artist achieve such a lofty goal like you have so masterfully accomplished?

A: A lot of painters have commented that they know that I studied with Hensche Hensche but I don’t look like a Hensche student. I have developed my own style which is particular to my vision.

When you first start studying with an instructor, you may imitate that instructor. However, over time, I remind my students that they will inevitably find their own way. I suggest that they collect samples of other painters that inspire them. This will help them get in touch with what they are passionate about.

I think it is critical to paint from one’s soul and paint what is important to you. If you are inspired, people will sense this in your work, and the recognition and sales will follow. We all have something unique to say. Learn how to paint and then you can express who you are as a painter.

I give the example of someone banging on the piano for years. They will never play the symphony. It is the same with a painting, They will never paint a masterpiece just banging on the canvas. They need to persevere and develop the skill in order to paint a masterpiece.

Heisler Park Mist by Camille Przewodek

Q: You have been very deliberate and prosperous in marketing and promoting your artwork (I saw your ads in many of the top magazines year after year even back in the 90’s). What counsel can you offer artists today for building a successful painting career?

A: I was an illustrator before I started marketing my work as a fine artist. I had a large advertising budget and applied it immediately to my fine art.

I find most painters don’t have this experience. When I work with other painters, I suggest that they first develop a good product and then either promote it yourself or you find someone who can promote you.

The marketplace is also constantly changing, so we are not promoting art like we did 20 years ago. This is the first time in history of marketing that the patron can go to the artist’s website and buy. I’m not saying that galleries don’t play a role, but they are not as important as they used to be.

Website: www.przewodek.com

CLICK to view upcoming Classes and Workshops

Please comment and thank Camille for sharing her talents and insights with us!

5 Tips for Photographing Your Artwork

Hello from the road!

We started our cross country plein air road-trip yesterday, so I got this ready ahead of time to send out. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to sharing our Coast-to-Coast plein air training as soon as we have it ready!

This is not a comprehensive article on the best practices for photographing artwork. I am not a photographer and frankly it’s been a source of frustration for me for more than 30 years.

This is simply a quick guide that offers a few tips for preparing photos of your art for shows, critiques and your web portfolio.

My website portfolio at inmanfinearts.com (which has not been updated much lately, sorry)

During the 90’s I had 4×5 transparencies taken of my paintings by a wonderful fellow named Steve Bigelow. They cost me $45 each – I have quite a stack of them.

That was when I planned to pursue the lithograph or giclee marke, which means I had a few copies printed, kept them in a box and sold one to a friend once in a while. I just had a hard time getting excited enough about selling copies of my paintings to do much more than get my work put into 4×5’s.

4×5 transparencies of my artwork

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘idea’ of prints – the ability to reach thousands of potential art lovers every year, rather than dozens, but my heart just isn’t in it.

Occasionally I still get my work photographed by a professional photographer, usually by Tony Frederick at CS Kern. He does a fantastic job – but, once again, it’s tough to spend $50-$100 for a photo of each painting when I don’t seem to do much more than use them for my website. I know that’s shortsighted – articles, books, prints – we never know what the future might require, but the 18 MP’s I get right now is plenty for most purposes.

With the understanding that most of my photos are primarily for my website (for collectors who are familiar with the texture and look of my paintings already), I don’t spend too much time fussing over exactly replicating the color nuances and subtleties you’ll see when up close and personal with my originals. I do shoot in RAW format and save the files in case I ever need to tweak a photo.

We have a Canon Rebel T3i that works wonders. Not sure when we purchased it – seems like at least 7 or 8 years ago (time and holidays are mostly irrelevant for artists – we only care that weather conditions on a given day are good for painting). For most, especially in the early years of learning, most digital cameras 3-5 MP (higher Mega Pixels are better usually – too much to talk about here like image sensor sizes, etc.), or even a smart phone, will do the trick.

The most important element is light – a consistent source preferably.

For those who want a detailed system for high end photographing of your artwork, I recommend Richard Schmid’s book Alla Prima II: Companion – eventually I will organize my studio with a similar setup – www.richardschmid.com. There’s also a detailed article about photographing art at dallasartsrevue.com.

For those like me who haven’t yet dedicated a space to just photograph our paintings, or who have limited space or maybe a limited budget for equipment, here are a few tips that might help you get the most out of what you do have.

5 Tips for Better Pictures of Your Artwork

1. Take it outside! Sunny or overcast, both will work. Sunny works best for me because the colors are more saturated, but sometimes the clouds just won’t cooperate (or they get a kick out of watching us struggling artists). The critical part is to face directly into our source of light (if overcast, position your art where you get the most light) I also try to tilt the painting either back or forward until I eliminate the glare – just experiment. If indoors, try to use color corrected or daylight type fluorescent bulbs (and plenty of them – I have 16 – 4 ft. bulbs above my easel).

2. Get a program that will allow you to adjust your image – like Photoshop. Photoshop Elements is fairly inexpensive or there is a free program at http://www.getpaint.net/index.html that has good reviews – I have not used either one, so this is all feedback from others – I cannot personally vouch for them. I have used Photoshop since the 90’s and now have the CS cloud subscription that runs about $54/month – less for just Photoshop – http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html. A good image editing program is almost essential if we plan to enter shows or have professional looking images to show galleries or place on a website. Look for a program that can crop, adjust the colors and set the white balance.

3. Use a tripod if possible – if not we should try to set our arms on a stable support like a table or our knees. Line up the image in the view finder so all the sides are straight, not in a trapezoid or twisted shape. Also, fill the space as much as possible with just the painting. With our software we can crop out everything except our painting. Unless of course we want a pic with a frame on it for our records. I like to get as close as I can with my camera and then move backward until the image distortion is eliminated – stepping back a bit farther so the image has some space around it and then focusing and zooming in helps – just don’t go too far back or the zooming in will cause distortion (I’m talking a couple feet, not several yards).

4. It’s best to adjust the color with the original nearby – we might think we know exactly what our colors are, after all we painted it, but it’s way easier with the original to compare with.

5. If you have one, place a GreyCard in the photo. I use the Camera Trax 24 color card card which you can find at https://www.cameratrax.com/color_balance_3x5.php. The GreyCard will allow your software (or a good print company) to adjust your colors and light temperature accurately.

Here are a couple photos that show before and after Photoshop with the GreyCard:

I’ll let you guess which is which…

This is the cropped image (after some reworking) for showing on my website or sending to shows:

Legacy | 30×40 | $4800 | Castle Gallery

Photographing artwork is tricky business. Fortunately digital photography takes out the expense of film and the waiting for development. What was even more painful was to find out none of the photos worked and the painting is now sold and in a new home…

Be patient, experiment like crazy and keep on painting! The life of an artist certainly isn’t an easy one, but it’s incredible, and I love it.

Do you have any other tips for our community for getting better pictures of our masterpieces?

How to Paint a Stoic Barn Scene in 5 Steps

Old weathered barns stand as aging sentinels of an era’s memories threatened by what is often considered progress. What compels artists to create monuments from brush and paint in honor of their stoic decline?

Do you ever find yourself, while driving down the highway or some dusty road, unconsciously admiring the older houses and barns that seem to pass too quickly from view?

Is there beauty in the decay, or is it simply our longing for simpler times now slipping into obscurity? Imagine for a moment the absence of all those venerable structures.

Maybe it’s because I grew up and played in such diverse places, from the beaches and cliffs of Southern California and the woods, streams and mountains of Western Montana to the frozen birch trees and stunted pines of the Alaskan frontier, that I never tire of the richness and variety of this beautiful planet and trying to capture my wonder with paint. For me, the barns that dot the Indiana landscape add to that beauty – they remind me that we are meant to work in harmony with nature and I see in them those who treasured the land and lovingly cultivated it.

The barn that captured my interest for this painting is right off the back roads highway on the way to the Castle Gallery in Fort Wayne. In the 10 years since moving to Indiana, I have witnessed many of these beautiful buildings surrender to the effects of time and neglect – having stood majestic only months before.  How long before this stoic structure succumbs?

I’m grateful for the privilege of painting this beautiful building. As an artist I admire the textures and variety of shape and line. As a citizen of this wondrous planet I hope to preserve the noble character that I believe shaped the lives of the pioneers that left us these reminders of our stewardship to protect the land given us by a Loving Heavenly Father.

Stoic Barn 12×16 by Bill Inman

The Stoic Barn full 2 hour video was added to the Master Oil Painting Monthly Membership site this month – you probably watched the condensed fast motion video at the start of this blog. I realize some of you would rather see a quick breakdown of the major steps so I have chosen a few photos I thought you would find helpful.

5 Steps to a Stoic Barn scene:


Using a thin walnut oil wash I lay in some manganese blue for the sky. Since I am wanting to suggest a hazy, sun filled dusty farm scene I used a warm reddish yellow mixture of Gamblin’s Transparent Earth Yellow with a touch of Transparent Earth Red to form the foundation for the cooler greens and lavenders that will be in the trees and the barn.


I then quickly block in the major shapes that will form the trees and barn. I rarely sketch first, preferring to establish the larger shapes or masses rather than structural lines – I’ve never been a fan of coloring books and painting within the lines even of my own making feels too confining. Definitely not for the faint of heart though since I often need to correct my ‘drawing’ due to the free flowing intuitive and vigorous brushwork in the beginning. For me I feel this helps me avoid becoming timid or creating a lifelessness that often accompanies my more careful approaches.


Once I have the major masses in place I begin to refine the shapes, light and dark patterns and color temperatures. I look at windows and doors as shapes within larger shapes, rather than geometric forms that require rigid lines. That way, a single stroke of my brush might be all it takes to build a window, rather than applying colors inside a rectangle box.


Color temperature fluctuations are important in any painting – so I vary warm and cool color strokes throughout each of my shapes. Within a tree I will have warmer and cooler greens or yellows in both the highlights and the shadows – the same applies to the barn. Allowing warm and cool color temperatures to play next to each other creates a much more interesting and stimulating visual feast for the viewer.


The final work is deciding how much detail is necessary to convey a feeling of dustiness and allow the viewer to experience what captivated me about the scene. I don’t want any single brushstroke to feel out of place. Many of the shapes, like the clouds and the rarely traveled road were captured with quick simple strokes.

Be sure to share any insights you have with us as well!

And if you’re not a Monthly Member yet be sure to CLICK HERE to view one of our full length videos and see what we’re all about.

Blank Canvas – An Interview with Bill Anton

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: Bill Anton

“TO GOD BE THE GLORY” – Bill Anton

“I do not see myself as a biographer of the “cowboy…” If I’m recording anything, I’m recording how I feel about the West. I want the viewer to feel the drama of atmosphere and the mystery of a western night.” – Bill Anton

Q: You studied early on with Ned Jacob and Michael Lynch, both powerful forces in western art and landscape. Yet your approach to painting is very distinctive – seeing your work in a gallery or magazine we know immediately it is a Bill Anton painting. How did you so clearly find your own voice, and do you recommend beginning artist study with accomplished painters, or can that interfere with finding their own direction?

A: Your aim is not to be a clone of your mentors, but to take what they give and adopt their principles, not their styles.

Having said that, we’re all amalgams of our influences.

A little of Ned, a little of Mike, little of everyone I admire finds its way into my painting. None of us in the representational world are completely original. We all borrow, tweak, twist, stretch and nod to our heroes.

But your individual signature has to come from within as you gain skills and use them to express the ideas that are important to you. Seek out accomplished painters but work out your own salvation, to take Paul the Apostle completely out of context!

A great teacher’s advice will sound like this: ” Here is time honored procedure. Now go apply it thousands of times and at some point you may have something. ”

Deep in the Wind Rivers by Bill Anton

Q: Besides your love of the cowboy as caretaker of the land, you describe the focus of your work as mood and passion. As artists we hear those types of words thrown around often? With your work though, we can feel the dust and the wind and the drama of life as a cowboy when we view your paintings – what do you do and think about while painting, to infuse such emotional content into your work?

A: I’m an emotional guy with strong opinions.

My mentors, (Jim Reynolds leaps to mind!) were the same way. Passionate. That eventually comes out at the end of the brush. The surface of a painting is very important and is the vehicle for brush expression or calligraphy.

It should be evident by the way the paint is applied what the artist felt. It should show…at once….confidence, conviction and years of practice to make something extremely difficult look easy. I fail at this so much of the time…………….. But painting the landscape and the horse from life for years infuses a directness with the brush informed by years of happy study.

Enough Already! by Bill Anton

Q: So many beginning artists are intimidated by plein air painting, and you already had a successful career before you were encouraged to paint outdoors. Was it difficult for you when you first ventured out of the studio? And what identifiable changes did it make in your professional work and career?

A: Actually,I was painting outside from the beginning before I had a career at all….I just didn’t show them to anyone.

My living was built on pencil drawings while I taught myself something about painting. But I went outside and painted on location for six years  and had done hundreds outside, most of them lousy, before I sought out accomplished outdoor painters for advice and workshops.

I think it’s a mistake to do 2 or 3 plein air paintings and call professionals for advice……you don’t even know the right questions to ask until you’ve slugged it out a little. I used outdoor painting as a means to an end, to teach myself about simplification, color, value and temperature.

Early on, it wasn’t an end in itself……that benefit happened much much later.

Golden Lakes Trail by Bill Anton

Q: While visiting Trailside Galleries in the late 80’s I saw your paintings and you quickly became one of my favorite western artists. You are unquestionably among the most successful and accomplished painters today. Did you pursue your career with an intentional plan? For younger artists today, what counsel can you offer to help them achieve their dreams of painting full time?

A: The only plan I had was to keep getting better. That’s still the only plan I have.

Beyond that, you have to be passionate about the subject and passionate about the process of painting. Seek to be better at what you do and forget about trying to be famous.

If eventually no one can touch you in your price range, recognition will take care of itself.

Find joy and fulfillment in the hard work.

Wyoming Conference Call by Bill Anton

Q: What artists do you most admire, and what have they done for your growth as an artist?

A: There are too many to name.

Von Zugel, Zorn, Waugh, Levitan, Mancini, Emil Carlson…….. the western artists of the early 20th century. Always been a huge fan of the California Impressionists……nearly all of them. They give you the sense of the possible in painting.

They’ll keep your ego in check…….an extremely important but rarely mentioned benefit of looking at superior work.

Think you’re hot stuff? Go look at a Sorolla and try and convince yourself you know anything about painting.

It’s those little reality checks that keep you striving.

Over the Pass by Bill Anton

Q: Being a professional artist is way of life that scares more people away than not, and it usually isn’t a smooth path to follow no matter how good you are. Do you have a seminal experience that made you decide you wanted to dedicate yourself to a career as an artist?

A: I don’t think anyone knows at the start if this will be a career or not. I didn’t.

Wanting it doesn’t make it so. I was a fairly new Christian and I asked the Lord one thing: If You don’t want me to do this, please close all the doors.

They kept opening and I kept walking through them. I supplied the elbow grease and He blessed the results for His own glory……. I don’t feel I had that much to do with my success.

There’s lots better painters than me out there!

As West As It Gets by Bill Anton

Here’s Some of Bill’s Awards:

Frederic Remington Award – for ”Deep in the Wind Rivers”
Prix de West Invitational, National Cowboy and Western Heritage center, Oklahoma City, OK – 2016

Spirit of the West Award – for ”Campers or Cow Thieves?”
Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA – 2015

Museum Purchase Award
Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA – 2012

Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award
Prix de West Invitational, National Cowboy and Western Heritage center, Oklahoma City, OK – 2011

Gene Autry Memorial Award,
Award Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA – 2011

Spirit of the West Award,
Masters of the American West at the Autry National Center in L.A. in 2009, 2010 and 2011

Robert Lougheed Memorial Award and the Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award,
Prix de West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center on OK City – 2009

Bill Anton enjoying plein air

Website: billantonstudio.com

Please comment and thank Bill for sharing his talents and insights with us!