Challenging Myself: Why I Made a Guitar to Celebrate My Birthday

The Pearl inlay surrounding the guitar I made in the summer of 2014.

As I approach a giant milestone birthday, my friends and family have asked me about my plans. On the past two big birthdays, I've had my closest lifelong friends visit the Adirondacks to help me celebrate, because the Adirondack Mountains is the place I love the most. This year, I wanted to do something different, but I wasn't sure what. Then it came to me. Since I started playing guitar just two years ago and have come to love guitars, I decided to challenge myself to make a guitar to celebrate this milestone.

Cutting the boards for the side of the guitar.

Making a guitar seemed like a giant challenge and something I'd never do on my own, and that was the attraction. I simply wanted to push myself, as my way of celebrating. I also thought about it a lot and knew it was so far out of my routine that I'd probably never do it. I didn't want to keep thinking about it, and I knew that if I didn't tell others of my plan it would be a lost dream, so I started spreading the word to a few friends, knowing that I'd be embarrassed if I didn't produce.

Bending the wood with heat.

The problem with making a guitar was that it was bound to take time. I had no idea how to build a guitar or where to do it. Plus, I wasn't sure I could pull it off and run my business simultaneously. How would I find the time?

Putting the bent edges together to form the guitar body.

Of course, I also had to find someone to teach me to do it. And I didn't want just some homemade guitar, I wanted something special, something with an incredible sound, something visually stimulating, a world-class quality guitar, which meant I not only had to find a top luthier (guitar maker), I had to find one willing to take on a student who knew nothing about making guitars.

Clamping and glue to keep the kerf-lining in the guitar

My research led me to a lucky break. My criteria required a top guitar maker, a top inlay artist, someone willing to teach, and someone who could teach me in the summertime, when things are a tiny bit slower. Though I was willing to go just about anywhere in the world for a couple of weeks, my research lead me to Tracy Cox, who lives just about an hour away from our family summer place. So rather than taking a couple of weeks off at a time, I was able to build my guitar one day a week until it was done, which made finding the time much easier. I took Wednesdays off and worked really late on Wednesday nights and Thursdays to catch up. Tracy has a reputation as a top guitar maker and inlay artist who has worked for Martin Guitar in its custom guitar and inlay department.


Sanding the edges to the proper radius. Guitar tops and bottoms have a slight bow.

I won't bore you with the sordid details of guitar-making other than to say I'm happy I had previous woodworking experience, which sped my progress substantially. My teacher made me do everything. He showed me how to do something once, then it was up to me to do the rest, though I have to admit there were a couple of critical cuts that intimidated me and that I asked him to do because I knew that if I blew that cut, I'd have to start over or would ruin a priceless piece of wood.

 Braces to glue in the interior braces on the top.

Though the process was difficult and challenging each of the six days I was building my guitar, the hardest part was choosing what kind of guitar I wanted. I had to select body style, and woods for the front, back, sides, fretboard, and neck. Plus, I needed to pick a neck length and thickness to work with my unique hands and playing experience.



The unique pieces of wood I'm about to glue together for my guitar neck.


Three years ago, at our Convergence conference, a guitar player, Bert Keely, was playing a 1938 vintage Gibson guitar. I fell in love with the sound and the worn, vintage look. Further, my friend Rick Wilson plays a 1956 Martin guitar, which is aged-looking and has a rich sound and a deep bass. I'd also played a Collings guitar belonging to a friend, and, loving how easily it played, I wanted that in my guitar. Was it possible to combine the best of all those guitars? It appears so.


It all starts here. This piece of wood will be shaped into the guitar shape and make up the back.

Tracy took me through a wood selection process. As he flipped though some rare pieces of wood he pulled out a vintage top for a "Triple O" Martin body style. The top had been reclaimed from the Martin Guitar factory in the 1940s or 1950s. "That's it," I said. "It's already aged." Aged guitars tend to sound the best, and this top had been aging for 60 or 70 years, which was bound to give it a special sound along with its wonderful patina. Tracy said, "I've been sitting on this for a long time, waiting to give it the right home with someone who appreciates true vintage." But it was so rare that if I screwed it up, there would be no other top like it again. No pressure.


The body and the neck, almost ready to put together.

The guitar-making process involved lots of cutting, planning, measuring, sawing, routing, carving, sanding, bending, clamping, and drilling, and at the end of the six days, I had produced a fabulous guitar. We strung it up with Martin Phosphor Light strings, and the sound was magical. In fact, several highly accomplished musicians had a chance to play it when visiting the shop, and each one wanted to buy it from me. The special sound comes from the aged wood and the technique Tracy taught me to craft the bracing on the inside of the guitar.


More clamping!

The second tough decision was the rest of the finish. I wanted some high-end appointments, but I wanted to keep the vintage feel while making it my own. I also wanted to represent my muse: the Adirondacks. So we made this an Adirondack Guitar. Tracy taught me how to do inlay work with mother of pearl, so I trimmed the top edge with rare blue pava shell from New Zealand and carefully placed the pearl next to tortoiseshell bindings. I also inlaid birds for the fret markers, which involved my cutting out birds in mother of pearl and then routing out the exact shape. This was pretty intimidating because if I messed that up, I'd have to take the neck off and rebuild the guitar.


Placing the back on the body of the guitar.

I drew out a special design for the headstock, which was the view from our family Adirondack camp: our mountain, our trees, and our lake and its special Idem sailboats, which are over 120 years old. Tracy cut that inlay for me because I wanted some of his inlay work on my guitar and it was more complicated than I was probably capable of without some more practice. The trees in the inlay are Brazilian rosewood, the mountain is Madagascar rosewood, mahogany, and koi wood. The water is dyed pearwood, and the sky is mother of pearl. Best of all, the sail is ivory that came from fossilized woolly mammoth tusk. This ivory is very rare, but legal.


Inlay on the headstock. The view from our Adirondack camp. 

I should also mention the rest of the wood in the guitar. The back and sides are Chechen rosewood, the fretboard is McCassar ebony from Sulawesi, Indonesia. The neck is made up of local Adirondack cherry, plus some very special reclaimed wood that came from a 19th-century mahogany church pew and from a door from the USS Maumee, which was used from 1968 to 1971 in the Navy's Operation Deep Freeze II, where it was used to transport fuel supplies to McMurdo Sound at the South Pole. The Maumee was the largest ship to visit Antarctica, and was led into the ice pack by icebreakers. I was drawn to it because the Maumee river was one of three that flowed through my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.06.33 PM

The neck of my guitar came from a reclaimed door in this ship the Maumee. Maumee is the river, which goes through my hometown of Fort Wayne.

You can see the woods I used in the neck: Cherry, wood from the reclaimed ship door, and wood from a church pew. I used vintage tuning keys.

Birthdays don't always have to be about parties and gifts. Though making this guitar was a gift to myself, it was the creation of something special and irreplaceable that had personal meaning for me. Challenges and doing the impossible have always been important to me, and I wanted to challenge myself and stretch my brain while doing something with my hands to commemorate this milestone in my life. I've created a family heirloom, and now I have a guitar that has a very special sound, created by the rare guitar top and woods that are unique to my taste. I'm very pleased with the sound and the appearance. The inlay of the Adirondack scene will live on as a reminder of this special place in my life and the lives of my family.

I did the inlay on the neck using Adirondack birds as the fret markers. I cut them out in pearl, routed the shape in the neck (frightening!) and then laid them in and glued them.

Life is about making and creating special moments and memories. If I just got a guitar as a birthday gift or bought one for myself, it would probably not be remembered years later. I can barely recall what I got for my last birthday. I'll never forget this birthday and the special experience of building a world-class guitar. And I've used this as a special chance to teach my kids about stretching and challenging yourself. Through the process I have a great appreciation for what goes into creating a custom guitar, and, spending many days with a master guitar maker and inlay artist, I made a great new friend as well.

Pearl inlay of my signature on the neck.

I've had a lot of hobbies over the years, including woodworking, photography, collecting antique radios, and painting. Each had their season. And though oil painting landscapes and portraits is my current passion, it was nice to step away and try something new. Will inlay and guitar-making become my latest obsession? Probably not, but I'm glad I challenged myself to do something out of my comfort zone, and I might inlay some custom frames for my paintings at some point. This guitar-making experience has indeed been a unique way to celebrate a milestone and gives me a new story to pass along to my friends.

If there is a lesson in all of this, it is set your mind on something you percieve as an impossible or difficult goal, share it with others so you're forced to make it happen, then find a way to do it. Though I have plenty of challenges in my life, work and family, I needed a different kind of challenge, something to push the limits of my ability. I wanted to try a new kind of art, which in this case was making an incredible-sounding guitar.


 A coat of sealer, then some gun stock oil gave my guitar a perfect vintage feel, especially with this 60-70 year aged spruce top.



Tracy Cox, master guitar maker and inlay artist was very patient to spend six days with me, pushing me to my limits and making me do most of the work on my first handmade guitar. The end result was an unbelievable sound.

By |2014-08-28T18:53:51-04:00August 28th, 2014|Uncategorized|9 Comments

Two Roads For Artists: Which Direction Will You Take?

The great debate among those of us who make art is whether we are selling out when we strive to make a living. For some, complete purity is a must. An artist, they say, must never allow outside influences to affect his or her art. It's a very romantic concept.

I know of an artist who lived this life. Let's call him James. Never in his life did James sell a painting — he only worked ON his art. I was contacted and shown his work by a friend of his, and his work was amazing. He had a body of work of hundreds and hundreds of paintings and had determined it was time to sell them. Up till then he felt his work was not ready, and he never want to be influenced by something so crass as a commercial gallery.
James' goal was to sell his entire collection to a museum, showing the progression of his work from a young age to his mid-60s. As I inquired about his life, I learned he supported himself with a job he despised, one requiring hard labor. Most of his life was devoted to this go-nowhere job, and now that he was near retirement, the thought of selling paintings may have actually been motivated by the need for money and the need to downsize for storage. I passed on the opportunity.

This week I attended a celebration of a life cut short by a freak accident. The show, at the Southern Vermont Art Center, was a retrospective of the life of painter Brian Sweetland, who died in October 2013, far too young. It was among the most crowded openings I've ever attended, and it was filled with adoring fans, many of whom had contributed their paintings for the show.

Which is better? To live a life uninfluenced? Or to live a life in which your paintings have brought joy to hundreds of homes and spread your art, your message, your soul to others? Brian lived most of his life as a painter, supporting his habit by selling paintings. James held on to a job he barely tolerated, which enabled him to paint and not be "commercialized." Yet he came to the later part of his life unrecognized, without the encouragement or gratification of knowing people loved his work, without someone helping him gain freedom from his awful job by showing him how to sell paintings.

I didn't know Brian, nor do I know for certain if his galleries made his work more commercial or otherwise affected his paintings, but, judging from the show, his work was strong and consistent.

James, on the other hand, may never see a painting sold because of his desire to sell an entire body of work to a museum. His work was good, but not that good. Further, momentum toward painting sales takes time to build. People buy a brand, and James will have to start building that awareness, which takes time. He is starting late, and, though it can be done, he has lost a lot of years of opportunity — assuming he ever comes to the conclusion that his work can be sold in a gallery.

There is a misconception among artists, I think. We tend to think that gallery people who ask us to paint something that sells are being "evil" in some way because they want to sell more of that kind of painting. Yet gallery people play an important role in the lives of artists. We often do not perceive what they can clearly see. They know when we're ready, and they know when we need to make adjustments to our work.

Galleries are run by professionals who make a living selling paintings and who can provide you, the artist, with a great deal of value. They not only offer perspective, they are your marketing department, your sales department, and your promotion agency. They build your collector base, they hang your work on their walls with no up-front charge, they pay the light bill, they pay the employees who are showing your work, they have their people talking about you, and they pay for food and wine to attract customers. And they advertise, at great expense, to bring people in the door.

Best of all, your gallery is your coach. They'll tell you what you need to hear and help shape your work. Frankly, you'd have to pay a lot more than a 50 percent commission to cover the cost of marketing yourself and the value a good gallery can bring to your work and your career.

I suppose one could make the argument that a gallery is reshaping you into an artist who sells, but it seems that, for most of us, that is important. Maybe there is a limit to what you're willing to do or where you're willing to go, because your soul still needs to be satisfied. But many artists are ready to take some direction, or make some small compromises, in order to eat. After all, doing a painting once in a while to meet a gallery's needs might be a better alternative than working on a road crew. It's kind of like the dad or mom who will take a second or third job to pay the bills. If painting helps pay the bills and you have to stretch out of your comfort zone once in a while, perhaps it's worth considering.

Seeing Brian Sweetland's life cut short and the celebration of hundreds of people who loved his work was an eye-opener. Brian was a local Vermont artist, mostly known regionally. He lived the life he wanted to live, painting and selling art. Had he waited like James, he would have never seen that recognition and may have had to make great sacrifices to keep painting. Neither decision is wrong — but it is a decision.

I speak to hundreds of artists, and most I know are playing it safe and not going for the life they really want to be living. They have a lot of reasons — some of which are practical, like waiting for the family to grow up and move out. Yet I recently met a woman who thought she needed to do that, but found a way in spite of it.

Your life is your choice. Most of us never make choices; we simply live the life expected from us based on our family and circumstances. I have a friend who grew up in a family of line workers in a factory. She is living her life as a line worker in a factory, yet she is a brilliant artist, and she looked forward to retirement so she could paint full-time. When that day came, she decided she couldn't live as an artist yet, so she took another job at another factory. "Someday," she tells me. Yet I predict someday will never come, because her fear is holding her back.

One of my biggest goals in life is to help you take the leap, to give you the encouragement you need, to help you think through the options and offer you the tools to help you make a living as an artist on your terms. But at the end of the day, most will stay in their go-nowhere jobs and groan as they go off to another day of doing what they don't love. Most will give excuses for why they cannot make the leap. I totally understand, I've been there. I wasted a lot of years doing what I didn't love until one day I broke the chains. Now I'm living a dream life. Is it perfect? Not quite, but it gets closer every day because I refuse to let others dictate what my life should be. I went through a process to design my ideal life and a plan to get there (I talk about this in Marketing Boot Camp 1).

A life cut short is a reminder that we need to go for it when we are able and not allow anything or anyone to prevent our dreams from coming alive. Yes, there are circumstances that can block you, there always will be, but a plan can move you forward.

If you're on the fence, if this is speaking to your heart and you know you need to make a decision, take some action every day toward that decision. You can be James or Brian. It's your call.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Last April at the Plein Air Convention I met a young man named Jonathan Luczycki, who told me that by following the advice he'd received in Marketing Boot Camp 1 and 2, he was able to quit his job and become a full-time artist, and he'd sold over 400 paintings in one year. I was approached by dozens of artists who had also transformed their lives. When I hear this, I get energized, and I want to do more and more to help.

So I'll be launching a whole new series (to be announced) at next April's Plein Air Convention, and I'm releasing the third in the series of Marketing Boot Camp DVDs this week (look for an announcement.) This content is not theoretical. I've made a lot of businesses successful with these concepts, which I've applied to selling art. It's different from other art marketing programs out there because it's rooted in marketing products and in business. All I know is that I'm seeing lives transformed and people breaking their chains. I hope you'll respect the fire that is burning inside of you and live the life you dream. It IS possible and ANYONE in any circumstances is capable of it. It starts with your determination to make a decision and make a plan. Go for it.


By |2014-08-05T15:49:08-04:00August 5th, 2014|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Hurt or Help? What You’re Doing Online Can Impact Your Brand as an Artist

BrandBranding is really nothing more than the process of building trust, then building upon that trust to reinforce the unique things you offer as an artist, such as your unique style; your voice; your acceptance by others, such as collectors; and your price and value perception. Everything you do contributes to your brand, in a positive or a negative way.

Facebook and Instagram can be great tools for building credibility as part of your branding, and many artists are relying on them heavily. One artist even told me he no longer needs to advertise because he has so many followers. But that's just his ego getting in the way: When I asked exactly who was following him, it was clear they were peers — other artists — and few if any collectors. People tend to gather with like-minded people, so artists tend to follow artists. Collector groups are much more difficult to find, and are more likely to be found on LinkedIn, which tends to attract professionals and serious interest groups, than on Facebook.

One giant mistake I'm seeing on Facebook is "Hey, look at me!" syndrome. I suppose if your followers are fellow artists, there is little harm in that. But if there are any collectors watching — directly, or indirectly, via other artists' followings — it can be dangerous. I'm seeing many an artist posting everything they paint when, fortunately or unfortunately, we all need to edit and show only our best work.

Even the best painters have dogs they should never show. Yet it's so tempting to say, "Hey look at me and what I'm capable of doing!" that we can forget to edit. I'm seeing a lot of "undercooked" work and, worse, a lot of paintings in progress. For artists, a progress shot is fine, but I'd be reluctant to let potential collectors see it. Has someone ever come up to you while you were painting on location, when a painting was only half done? It happens to me all the time, and I find myself explaining, "I'm just getting started, come back in a few hours," because they are judging a work at an uncooked stage.

I've overheard comments like, "It's not very good, it doesn't look right" at times when it's too soon for review. Most consumers don't understand that an unfinished painting is just that: unfinished. This is why I think showing unfinished works on Facebook and other social media has the potential to hurt your brand. That's also why editing is important. You wouldn't put every painting you do in a gallery. Why do it anywhere else?

Every touchpoint impacts the perception of your brand one way or another. Sometimes I'm tempted to post something after a drink or two, when my judgment is a little impaired, and I usually regret it in the morning. Again, if your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram have just friends and family, you probably won't do much damage. But if you have a big following, it's smart to make sure that everything you do is reinforcing your brand in a positive way.

Artists should seek things to post that will be positive reinforcements. Every time something great happens to you, post it. For instance, if you win an award, post it. If you get accepted to a new gallery, post it. That's why I like online art competitions. For a few bucks per entry, you have lots of opportunities to win or become a finalist. It's just another thing to talk about. Artists should enter every legitimate competition they can, to increase the odds of a win.

When you are hailed as a winner or finalist, that's a credibility builder you can talk about, and it also generates other publicity. For instance in our PleinAir Salon, where we present $15,000 to the winning artist, annual winners are also featured on the magazine's cover and in dozens and dozens of ads. That builds credibility. (By the way, today, July 31, is the last entry day for the current bimonthly contest. You can enter here.)

A good marketer is always inventing things to talk about to build credibility — things they can put online, put in their newsletter, and shout from the rooftops. A bad marketer just puts everything out there, good and bad – and that can have a negative impact on their brand. One artist I'm thinking of has gone backward in my mind because he's posting party photos, progress paintings, paintings that should never be released, and other things that are hurting his reputation. Visibility isn't always good.

P.T. Barnum is supposed to have said there's no such thing as bad publicity. That may be true if you're running a circus, but I'm not sure it's best for your art career.

PS: I'm getting cramps from signing big checks for large amounts of cash. Today you have a chance to become a winner or finalist and possibly put $15,000 cash in your pocket if you win our annual PleinAir salon. Tonight at midnight Pacific Time is your deadline to enter. All it takes is an upload of one great painting, or several. Many artists have found that repeating entries month to month benefits them because if they're not picked by one judge, they might be picked by another. To enter, visit and start thinking about how you'll use that $15,000 cash prize and how your career will soar when you're on the cover of PleinAir magazine. Enter here now.


By |2014-07-31T15:20:58-04:00July 31st, 2014|Uncategorized|3 Comments

How You Can Become Independent as an Artist and Live the Dream

Fireworks will light the skies around our great nation this week as we celebrate our independence as a country. Yet thousands of artists I hear from are lacking independence. They long to quit their jobs and create their art full-time – without having to live the life of a starving artist.

Yesterday I met a man who told me the story of spending years in art school to get his MFA, yet he was never able to make a living with his art. He said to me, "No one around here can make a living as an artist." I didn't want to disagree, but I know artists nearby who actually make a great living as artists, and who are not as accomplished as he.

The reality is, you can quit your job and become a full-time artist and make just as good a living or better in most cases. If that sounds like a stretch to you, it's not. I work with people every day who have done it, including some professionals who were already making excellent money. One artist who follows my plan sent me a photo last week of a pile of checks. She is living the dream, just three years after she started.

One of my missions in life is to help artists (painters, sculptors, photographers, crafters, etc.) live their dream. I have lived the life of dreading going in to work every day. I have stared out the window, wishing I was not behind my desk and that I could be painting. I have been jealous when my friends were traveling to faraway places to paint and I was limited to my two weeks of vacation (and I couldn't afford to go anywhere even when I had time off.) I have lived hand-to-mouth, I have struggled, I have had bosses I could not stand for one more day and yet had to bite my tongue because I needed the job, days when I wanted to sing, "Take This Job and Shove It" and just walk out. It took my getting to the boiling point before I made a change in my life.

Enough. I'm Out of Here!
The most important moment in your life is the moment you can't stand it anymore, blow up and say, "ENOUGH! I'm out of here!"

But it's also the most dangerous time, because, like a pressure cooker, hatred of a job can build up until we eventually explode. Unless you find a way to relieve the pressure in advance, you'll do something stupid, like quit your job when you're not ready, when you don't have an income.

The Danger of Ignoring Your Anger
Something terrible happens when you stay in a job you hate, when you fail to take the risk and live the dream. The longer you do it, the longer you take it, and eventually you lose your drive to escape. You start to lose your dream because you don't see any way out. One day you wake up and your whole life has passed and you haven't lived your dream. By the time you get to retirement age, you may not have the money, desire, interest, or physical ability. Why wait?

Make an Independence Plan
On the 4th, I want you to make a commitment to yourself. Every time you hear a "boom" or see a firework go off, I want you to say to yourself, "This is my year of independence."

Don't Quit Your Job … Yet
I don't want you to go in on Monday and quit your job, nor do I want to get calls from you saying, "I did what you said. I quit my job. I can't feed my family. Now what?" What I want you to do is to devote any free time you have in the summer to building a plan. When you have a plan, you already have a sense of freedom. Knowing you have a plan for how you're going to morph from a worker bee into a free-living artist is almost as good as the freedom itself. It's kind of like planning a vacation a year in advance and having all year to look forward to it. Somehow it helps you cope with stress.

How to Build a Plan That Will Change Your Life So You Too Can Be Independent
Nothing worth doing is easy. I can't give you a specific plan because each of you is in a different place. Some are near retirement, others are early in their careers, some are raising kids, others have college to pay for. What I can tell you is that it's really pretty simple to invent a plan that fits your needs. Here are six specific things you can do.

1. Start with commitments and reality. Two weeks ago at the Publisher's Invitational, I met an artist who was taking her first trip away from her kids alone, ever. Her youngest is in college, and she now can start living her dream. She knew she had to get the kids out of college first. Those were very real circumstances. So write down the reality of your commitments so you know the moment you can be free.

2. Seek a transition plan. This very artist told me her story, how she dreamed of becoming a full-time artist and traveling. She said, "Just like I have to breathe, I have to paint." She told me that she had to work, make a living, and raise her kids, but she knew if she did not paint, she could not live. So she made up her mind to work on her art when her kids were in school. She found a way to start a gallery in town, where she showed her work. She could close it when she needed to deal with the kids, and she has been running it most of their school years. By working TOWARD her goal, achieving part of it, she saved her sanity.

There are many ways to invent a transition plan. I don't have any desire to retire and I love what I do, but I have told myself that once my kids are in college, I can travel more and work a little less. I'm working on a transition plan by getting my company gradually prepared for me to be absent a little more, but I've also had my work in a couple of art galleries for the last 10 years. I intentionally don't market it (the plumber's house always leaks, right?) because I'm not yet in the mode where I need that income, yet it's a way for me to challenge myself to paint better and paint more, and a way to get used to the gallery environment. It's important to put yourself under pressure to reach your goals.

3. Develop a financial plan. Lay out your needs and where you'd need to be to quit your job. A friend of mine set a five-year goal to sell enough paintings monthly so he could quit his sales job. He set annual goals that grew each year, and he worked all his spare time beyond his family and job to hit those goals. On weekends he visited galleries. At nights he painted.

4. You have to be so driven that you'll work doubly hard. Again, nothing worthwhile is easy. You may have to work extra jobs for a year, or a few years, to save extra money. You may have to work late at night and on weekends. If you want it badly enough, you'll find the time. I recently laid out a plan for my friend who is trying to get more painting time around his family and work. I simply said, "Sleep less." So instead of staying up till midnight watching TV, he goes to bed earlier and awakens at 5, giving him two hours of painting time before he was to wake the kids for school. He is so driven that he has not missed one morning, seven days a week, for the last three months.

5. Be disciplined about your goals. Each week I receive a report about where I am regarding my goals in my business. It's weekly — rather than monthly – so I know when I have to hit my numbers while I still have time left to do it. I am obsessed with never allowing myself to miss a goal. I beat myself up when I do, and I make a point of making it up in the next month on top of my new monthly goal. This is the ONLY WAY to make sure you hit your goals. If your goal is to produce five paintings a month, you must NEVER LET YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK. Never give yourself an excuse. Excuses are for wimp
s. Winners never say, "I'll try." They always say, "I'll do it."

5. Share your goals so others hold you to them. I've read about a million goal-setting books (I recommend you do, too) but never has any guru said this — yet I think it's the most important: Share your goals with your spouse, friends, even in public, and tell people to hold you to them. If I want to get something done, I'll announce it in public or on my blog because I know that I'll be embarrassed if I fail. That motivates me not to fail. Recently I told my friends I was going to build a guitar because I had been thinking about it for three years but never did anything about it. I told them knowing that it would force me to do it. (I started yesterday with an instructor.)

6. Remove the garbage in your head. As you read this you may be thinking, "Well, it works for him, or it works for others, but my circumstances are different." That is complete head garbage. This week I was coaching an artist on his marketing and he said, "I can't do that because there are lots of younger artists who are better at getting their names exposed by using technology." I said, "Let me guess. When you were younger you gave yourself excuses, saying, 'I can't do that because the older artists have more experience and contacts and advantages.'" Dead silence. We all have garbage in our heads. We all tell ourselves that things are not possible, that others have bigger advantages. Stop it. When you catch yourself doing it, stop it. Everyone does it, winners just work harder at stopping it and redirecting their beliefs to what they can do.

If you use these steps to build a plan, it will set you on the path to independence. Life is very short. It's amazing to me how fast it goes by, and how many dreams I've missed by not holding myself to standards and goals. I reach more of my goals today than I did 10 years ago, and I refuse to let one of them slip. As a result my business is growing, my personal life is improving, and I'm living a dream I never thought possible. You can do it. Make this Independence Day the beginning of your independence so you can live the dream.

Happy 4th of July.

Eric Rhoads

PS: OK, here I go. I'm going to invent something now, on the spot, commit to it, so I am getting it done and so YOU will hold my feet to the fire. For the last three years at the Plein Air Convention, I've done three different Marketing Boot Camp sessions (three days each) to help artists with the essentials of artist marketing. It has transformed careers. But I think it's time for me to offer something completely new. So here is my new commitment and an official announcement so new, it's not even on the website.

Next year for the Plein Air Convention, I'm going create a new series: "How to Quit Your Stinking Job and Live the Dream of Being a Financially Successful Full-Time Artist." Not only will this be a blueprint for success to launch your career as an artist, it contains mission-critical information and tools most artists need even if established and successful.

In the series I'm going to show you:
-  A step-by-step plan to transition out of your job
-  A system to create a financial plan to help you prepare
– A transition plan to launch your art career
- My exclusive Rhoads System for Building a Base Business Income™, which will give you a plan to pay all of your expenses each month and make sure you're succeeding
- The 10 most successful ways to build income as an artist
- How retiring baby boomers can "ramp up" and succeed fast and have a fruitful career for the rest of their lives
– How to reinvent yourself to stimulate new life in your career as an artist
– The 7 traps established artists fall into that hamper success
– 19 tools artists must have in their arsenal to create success, whether new or established
– How to ethically and legally leverage your current job to make you more successful in your new career
– How to overcome the need for time in marketing
- How to become known worldwide as an artist and sell more art than you've ever dreamed
- How to know you're ready and have the confidence to move forward toward your goal

This is the tip of the iceberg. I've only just begun to design this program, and I have until April to find out what exactly you want from me and build it into the program. Though this program has to do with going out on your own, it will be a huge boost to those of you who are already there. The base business strategy alone will revolutionize your life, as it changed my life and success when I learned it from one of my business mentors after two decades in business.

These early-morning sessions will be held each morning of the Plein Air Convention and at no additional charge. Note that the convention attracts over 700 artists and will have dozens of top artists teaching oil, watercolor, pastel, and acrylic. Most are not listed on the website yet. Plus we have sessions for landscape and figurative artists. You don't have to be a plein air painter to attend, because most demos are indoors on four stages, with video so you can see them well. Frankly, the new sessions will be well worth the price and will change your life and help you live the dream.

To register, call 561.655.8778 or visit, or register here. We even have payment plans available so you can stretch out your attendance investment.

By |2022-12-14T16:49:43-05:00July 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|9 Comments

The Dark Cloud Over Many Artists

"I'm depressed. I feel like I've got a giant dark cloud hanging over my head. No matter how good my art is, it's simply not selling. I don't get it. I know painters that are not as good as I am who are selling more art. Why? What am I doing wrong? How long will I have to wrestle with this? I can't seem to find a solution, and I've tried everything. I tried advertising, and it didn't work. I've done art shows, and people just pass by. It's now starting to affect my work because it's robbing me of all the joy of painting when no one seems to want what I do. Is seems like day after day, this problem plagues me and brings sorrow to my heart.

"What am I doing wrong? I need the answers. Painting alone isn't enough. I need that validation from knowing others want what I've put my heart and soul into creating. I need to know others appreciate my art enough to buy it. Plus, I want to paint full-time, which means I need to sell art in order to escape my go-nowhere job. I know there's got to be a solution. I've tried everything. I know there is answer, and I'll be elated when I solve it. I can see success, I can taste it, I know it will come … but it's hard to believe it when I've seen no evidence, and this problem is consuming me."

Sound familiar?

I hear from a lot of artists who are at the end of their rope. I don't mean suicidal, but discouraged enough to give up painting, which they truly love, or to give up trying to sell their art. Artists who either have to solve the problem of why their art isn't selling or go back to a career they don't love, or just continue to struggle. I also hear from artists who were counting on selling paintings to fund their retirement, and others who can't survive financially much longer without selling their art.

The worst part is that their minds start to play tricks on them. They start believing there is no hope, believing that their artwork isn't as good as their friends or family tell them it is. They think in their hearts there is no solution, or that others are just more talented than they are. They start feeling like they don't deserve success and dread the idea of more rejection.

Your Art Is Not the Problem
I'm here to tell you that it's not you, and it's probably not your art. You and I have seen a lot of bad artists become giant sellers, creating work we don't respect. We also know great artists who are better than we are who don't have success selling their work. Most likely the problem is your marketing.

My Mission: Help You Sell More Art
It's my mission in life to help artists sell more art. I can't stand it when artists don't see their dreams come true, which is why I'm putting my decades of experience in other industries toward helping artists solve their greatest challenge: how to sell more art. It's proven to succeed.

In the last 10 years I've had contact with thousands of artists, I've coached hundreds and hundreds of them, and most are really good at their art, yet most of them have problems selling their work. Most have attempted some form of marketing and failed, thrown their money away, seen no results, and become deeply discouraged.

Let me tell you about two buddies:

I have two really good artist friends. Both were depressed because their art was not selling. I sat with both for dinner one night and told them exactly what they needed to do. I walked them both through a basic plan. Both artists told me all the reasons I was wrong, told me that it wouldn't work and how it wasn't what everyone else does. One of the artists called me six months later to tell me he had tried everything else, and though he still thought I was wrong, he was out of ideas and decided to follow my advice. And a year later, he told me he'd had his best sales year in history.

The other artist was convinced it would not work and kept painting for a while, but had to give it up under pressure from his wife to produce a reliable income. He took a job he hates and that doesn't use his creativity. He sits at a desk, has a long commute, and is in a totally unexciting industry. Now, three years later, he tells me he is miserable and wishing he was painting, but he's still unwilling to do what it takes.

Which artist are you most like? The one who is willing to try something new? Or the one who assumes nothing will work?

An Example of Success
Any teacher will tell you they have prize pupils. Rarely does everyone listen to everything I advise them to do; most pick out one or two things to help them begin to sell more art. But one person who attended my first Art Marketing Boot Camptwo years ago followed most of my advice. I don't want to embarrass her so I'll keep her name out of it (available upon request), but here are her exact words from an e-mail I received on March 8.

Profits up 135% in 2013 over 2012, and 183% over 2011 (entire year). 

First quarter profits up 138% this year over last.

9 workshops planned this year through mid-Nov. Many are full with waiting list. Newly introduced workshops are filling in record time.

In the past 12 months, articles in PleinAir magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur, and two others. Another in the works. These are NOT paid editorials (meaning because I bought ads).

In one year, sold over 200 copies of my first book.

– Invitations to the nation's biggest plein air INVITATIONALS. No longer applying to events due to demand of time. They are approaching me.

– 13 significant awards.

Major gallery connection with yet another top gallery this year.

Upcoming DVD to be produced.

All because I took your marketing advice.

Marketing Isn't Easy
Can this kind of success happen to you? Absolutely. But it's not easy. Nothing good ever is. In fact, the majority of people who attend Boot Camp or buy my DVDs will never be willing to do what it takes. If you want to succeed at selling your art and changing your life, it requires that you think differently (the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results), create and follow a simple plan, and follow that plan religiously. You can grow your art sales as big as you can dream. My system can work for slow, steady career building or, if you're older and want to speed up the process, it can bring rapid success. But marketing is something most artists refuse to do, and most completely misunderstand it. That is why they are not seeing the success they need.

Invest Where You Need Success
You invest thousands of dollars in a workshop to make progress in your painting. You'll invest hundreds of dollars in DVDs to improve your art. Yet most artists want to be successful painters and won't invest in learning how to market. You need to invest where you need success, which may well be in marketing your art.

You Can Still Live Your Dream
Imagine your life without the stress of not knowing how you'll pay your expenses. What if you were able to be a full-time artist and live the dream of travel, attending and participating in events? What if galleries were chasing you rather than your approaching them and risking rejection? What if you were being invited to events as a special guest, people were lining up to attend your workshops, paintings were selling, and your financial worries were gone?

If you are living with that dark artist cloud over your head and want to break out of it, you can. It is possible, and I can show you the solutions. I'm not one of these people who is going to tell you that if you believe it, you can do it. Though mindset and positive thinking do matter, without a system, they are just thoughts.

The Impossible Is Possible
I know it seems impossible at this moment. We've all been there. I can remember a time when I survived on peanut butter sandwiches because I couldn't afford any other food. I didn't think my plight would ever end. I've been down and out, been broke and on the edge of bankruptcy two different times, and yet I've recovered, used what I've learned to build successful enterprises, and have had some of the world's great mentors teach me their secrets.

Today I'm living in my dream job because I get to travel the world to see art and to paint, attend events, get my portrait painted by the world's great portrait artists, jury shows, spend days shooting art videos with top painters, all while doing what I love, which is writing and running my magazine business. Though I've been blessed and had a lot of good luck, I also know that most of what happened was by design because I practice what I preach. I have a plan, and I follow it.

The First Step Is the Hardest
The first step, they say, is always the hardest. Sometimes we have to bottom out before we take action to change our lives. The artist I mentioned above told me, "My husband was out of work, my work had not been selling, I didn't even have the money to make the trip to the Plein Air Convention to attend Marketing Boot Camp 1, let alone pay for the ticket to attend. Yet I found a way, and it was the absolute most important step in my career, which is why I return each year, even though I know I can buy it on DVD later. As you can see, my art sales are soaring. Though I'm the one who did the hard work, jumped in face-first to commit to following a plan, it was Art Marketing Boot Camp that gave me the step-by-step plan to success."

Understand Why Your Art Isn't Selling
On April 7-11, I will present my third Marketing Boot Camp series live each morning during the Plein Air Convention. The artist above, and dozens and dozens of others, have told me that the Boot Camp alone was worth the entire cost of the trip and admission to the convention. They have seen their lives transformed because they are now selling art. This is an investment in your marketing education, and if your artwork is not selling and you don't know why, things will become clear to you after attending — and you'll have specific action items you can make use of right away. The only question is whether or not you are really ready to make a commitment to selling more artwork.

I'm Investing in Your Success Too
I've built Art Marketing Boot Camp as a series. I'll be presenting three new modules this year on three mornings from 6:30-7:45. Not only do things change from year to year, but I strive to learn new things by attending seminars and events throughout the year, meeting with top marketing minds, and experimenting with new ideas. One three-day seminar alone cost me $1,800, just so I'll have a new module to share on one of the three days. I'll distill the information down, convert it for artists, and present it to you during Marketing Boot Camp 3.
You have my guarantee that if you follow the advice in this new series, you'll build on your current success dramatically. If you follow my full system, you'll double your art sales in one year or less.

Marketing Boot Camp is just a tiny portion of the Plein Air Convention, and you don't have to be a plein air artist to attend. Each year we have portrait and still life artists at the convention. In fact Daniel a brilliant figurative artist is one of our faculty. They come for the experience, the chance for personal and professional growth, and the new friendships. Many are there for the convention; others come for Boot Camp but enjoy the convention as well. Everyone has a great learning experience and a great time.

Eric Rhoads
Publisher PleinAir and FineArt Connoisseur
Author Art Marketing Boot Camp I & II


PS: Artist Success Is Never Accidental
I've had the opportunity to know personally many of the world's great artists. I've spent hours talking with many of them. You may look on their success and wish you were in their position, in some cases making millions of dollars and living amazing lives. Yet each of them started with no advantages, no awareness, no sales. They all had frustrating moments, and some even quit and returned to art later. Others wanted to give up but persisted. But the one thing they all have in common is that they figured out that being a great artist was not enough to sell like a great artist. They have all learned about marketing, whether they learned it by personal experience or through specific study. Some have a natural instinct for marketing. But almost all of them are aggressive marketers following the very principles you'll learn in Art Marketing Boot Camp. I'll teach you a system and three very specific areas to generate new revenue from your art that you've probably never thought about. There is still time for you to make plans to join us in Monterey on April 7-11. If you care deeply about selling more art, this is the best opportunity to learn live. Call now — 561.655.8778 –or go to

PS II: I've been told we have room for 40 more people to register at this year's convention. There is typically a lot of activity in the last couple of weeks and even a few walk-up registrations. It would probably be a good idea to secure one of those 40 seats ASAP.


today and save $300

To register, call 561.655.8778 or visit





By |2022-12-14T16:51:06-05:00March 25th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fuel Your Art Career

Anyone can change the entire direction of their career in just 90 days. I've seen it happen many times. To do it, you need FUEL.

FAST: Something that will build exposure fast
UNIQUE: Find ways you can stand out
EXCELLENCE: Improve the way you appear to others
LARGE: Build your career in a big way

FUEL comes from deliberate actions that create opportunity. Though there is often luck involved, we all know many people make their own luck. For instance, you won't get publicity because someone just happened to discover you. You have to make sure editors hear from you and know about your work. You don't get blog posts, TV appearances, and newspaper articles by wishing for it to happen. You need to be proactive and make them aware.

Two things that will fuel your career more than anything else are publicity and winning awards (which of course gives you publicity). Have you ever seen someone become an overnight sensation because they were discovered by the media? Well placed publicity is like rocket fuel to take you to the next level fast.

Here's a little secret from a lifetime in the media: Publicity does not just happen. People don't just get discovered for TV shows, articles, etc. Someone is working to make editors aware.

An artist friend of mine recently had articles in several art magazines at about the same time. I later learned it happened because he called the editors, told them his story, and showed them his artwork. Suddenly he appeared in three magazines three months in a row. It happened because he was working it.

Of course, editors won't just drop everything and do a story unless you have a story to tell. Editors are looking for something that's happened in your career — something unique, like an interesting painting trip, an event surrounding your art, an exhibition, etc. Even then, it doesn't always work. But in the publishing world, a dirty little secret is that we all have slow editorial moments, so we're always on the lookout for a story. One thing we all keep an eye on is who is winning awards. Sometimes publicity will follow just because an editor has noticed a trend of winning competitions, winning show awards, etc. In fact, we selected artist Ulrich Gleiter to do one of our videos because he has a streak of winning Best of Show awards. It also resulted in an article. And suddenly his career is on fire.

Two recent examples of FUEL occurred because the artists kept entering art competitions. Though the odds were stacked against them, Shelby Keefe and Eleinne Basa were the winners of the last two annual PleinAir Salon competitions, presented by my magazine PleinAir. Each received her $15,000 cash prize at that year's Plein Air Convention. The result of winning and having their paintings on the cover of PleinAir magazine has FUELed each of their careers, fast. Plus, having their image spread by our Salon marketing ads has created more awareness, and more career FUEL.

What I like about entering competitions is that if you win, it results in lots of exposure — exposure that tends to be ongoing, especially if you win the big annual prize. Promotion can continue for a year or more. Both Eleinne's and Shelby's pictures have appeared in dozens of ads, e-mails, newsletter ads, etc. This FUEL created fast momentum and large amounts of publicity for each artist, and as a result, their careers are soaring.



What can you do to get FUEL in your career?

Most FUEL comes when you least expect it, but it comes because you are trying to generate it. You should be watching for opportunities to FUEL your career by getting your name in front of the press frequently (local and national) for stories, announcements, awards won, commissions received, charity events, etc. Seek every opportunity. Contests are a great way to FUEL your career because they give you something to talk about with the press when you win.

That's why successful artists I know enter everything they can that could give them prestige if they win. They enter every month. I know of one artist who kept entering our contest every other month with the same painting and ended up winning because the judges change with every contest, and what one judge doesn't like, another judge may love. Everyone has a chance to win, and most people who win thought they never had a chance. Plus the price of entry is low compared to the publicity received if you win.

Keep your eyes open to FUEL your career. Here are the actions you should take:

  1. Ask yourself what would FUEL your career the fastest.
  2. Make a list of local and national publicity opportunities and start contacting editors. (Don't be a pest, but never give up. Every editor needs an easy story from time to time.)
  3. Enter every contest you can find that will give you major credibility and bring you publicity.
  4. Participate in local events that have publicity attached (for example, charity events). If you play a major role, you'll get some publicity.
  5. Know this is an ongoing effort that may not pan out immediately, but will eventually.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The worst thing you can do is try to leverage advertising buys in exchange for editorial coverage. CREDIBLE publications will not only reject you, they will avoid you in the future because they know their readers know the difference and they consider an ad for an article as a bribe. As you know credible people shy away from people who offer bribes. If approached by publications selling ads in exchange for the promise of editorial coverage RUN FAST! Though it seems like a good idea because you are getting coverage, their readers know the difference and this will hurt your reputation as fast as a legitimate article will help it. Typically publications selling editorial are desperate. Readers who see stories issue after issue about the same artists tend to stop reading those publications and stop taking those artists and artists in those publications seriously. The other problem with this is that SUBSTANDARD artists get stories because they have the money to spend, which hurts the credibility of any artist appearing in those publications. Is it tempting? Yes. Will it hurt your credibility as an artist? Absolutely. Quality publications hire quality editors. Readers trust those editors and know that if they actually cover an artist for their merits, it means that artist is editorial worthy. If an editor ever allowed advertising to influence content in my publications I'd fire them immediately because our credibility with readers is more important than anything. Selling editorial in exchange for advertising is simply prostitution. You would not offer a bribe in other parts of your business and you would not go to a prostitute, why would you want to be associated with publications who accept bribes for advertising when its a bad reflection on you.

FUEL is acquired by people who are always on the lookout for an opportunity. Most people miss opportunity because they are not looking for it. Professionals are always seeking ways to get someone to give them press and exposure and are always entering in hopes of winning.

Eric Rhoads

PS: FUEL for today – I should mention that our PleinAir Salon deadline to enter is TOMORROW, Friday, January 31. Now is your chance. All you have to do is take a photo of your best work and enter it online, and you could be the winner of the $15,000 cash prize and your winning work on the cover of the magazine, or you could win other prizes ($21,000 in cash prizes all together. Enter at


By |2022-12-14T16:51:16-05:00January 30th, 2014|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Burying The Lies That Are Holding You Back

A Marketing Message from Art Publisher B. Eric Rhoads

Van Gogh, room where he diedRoom where Vincent Van Gogh died

 A few weeks ago I visited the
grave of Vincent Van Gogh, in the quaint little Northern French village of
Auvers-sur-Oise, as part of our 
annual art cruise. We were walking the same
streets and trails Van Gogh traveled and painted.

Van Gogh has become the model of the "starving
artist." How many people have told you the life of an artist can't be a
good one because it's such a struggle?

It's a lie.

Though adversity stimulates growth and
life's problems do typically make us better people and artists, the idea that
success in their lifetimes is not possible for artists is simply a lie. In that
same town, artists such as Daubigny, Pissarro, and Corot were great successes,
as were many artists around Normandy and Paris. Yet we hold on to this romantic
notion that we as artists have to struggle.


The Church Van Gogh painted

What lies are holding you back as an

We have all been held back by lies — lies
others have told us, lies we absorb, lies we tell ourselves. You can either
choose to believe them and allow them to affect you, or you can choose to prove
them wrong.

We all cling to the lies we've heard
from family members, friends, teachers, and colleagues, yet those are the very
thoughts that may be keeping you from achieving success. After all, it's a lot
easier to give yourself an excuse for failure when it's common knowledge that an
artist as great as Van Gogh had to struggle all his life.

It's time to bury the lies.


Vincent and Theo buried together

Last night I watched a movie called "Seven Days in Utopia," about a golfer
who could not perform at his peak because of the voices in his head — things he'd
heard from his father, mother, teachers, and friends Those voices unknowingly interfered
with his success. The premise of one scene in the movie was to focus on truths
and to literally bury the lies. The golfer is instructed to write his epitaph, in
order to help clarify his priorities. (I do this in my Marketing Boot Camp

What are the critical voices in your
head saying? Though we each have our own, here are some of the lies you may be
holding on to:

  • Artists never really
    make a lot of money.
  • The life of an artist
    is filled with sacrifice.
  • Artists are weird.
  • Artists are social
  • The artists who are
    rich had special advantages.
  • Success is about who
    you know.
  • No one wants my
    artwork, really.
  • Being successful will
    prevent me from painting what I want.
  • There is no room for
    more "greats."
  • The only successful
    artists are modern artists.
  • I have to put in my
    time and can't succeed till I'm older.
  • I'm too old to get
  • I don't deserve
  • My parents were
    right, this art thing will never amount to anything.
  • I'm an artist because
    it's what my parents wanted me to do.
  • I could never sell
    enough paintings to quit my day job.
  • There are so many
    artists who deserve success more than me.

What lies are rattling around in your
head? It's time to find out.

Shut yourself in a quiet room and start
writing down everything you know about yourself and your art. Take careful
notice of what creeps into your mind. Now ask yourself which of those thoughts are
lies, which thoughts are limiting you and giving you an excuse for failure. Whether
those lies come from others or are things you've told yourself, it doesn't mean
they should have power over you.

You'll find this exercise to be
cleansing, and you'll find that you've been spending a lot of your time letting
untruths govern your life.

Every single artist I know, including
some of the most successful artists in the world, have to deal with some form
of negative self-talk. The only difference between the successes and failures
is that the successes have learned to push most of it away the second they
realize it's there, and they don't let it affect their performance.

What about you? Find the lies and bury
them. It will change your career and impact your success immediately.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I battle negative thoughts every
day of my life. In fact, it's a constant battle, and sometimes the lies win.
There are things I've avoided because I tell myself I'm not the right fit, not
good enough, not smart enough, not successful enough. In fact, after the first
Air Convention
, where I presented Marketing
Boot Camp,
I told myself people
wouldn't be interested in a
MarketingBoot Camp II, about how to get into galleries, how to make websites sell
more product, how to build a brand, and how to use social media for success. In
fact, I almost decided not to do it. What swayed me was a call from an artist
who had followed my advice and seen her career transformed. Then and only then
did I stop listening to the lies in my head. This may seem like a silly
exercise, but do whatever it takes to remove negative "truths" that
are really lies that hold you back.

By |2022-12-14T16:51:29-05:00October 30th, 2013|Uncategorized|12 Comments

How to Sell Art Every Month of the Year

SeasonsTreesIt's summertime, and art is selling. I'm hearing from galleries around the country that are having a great summer. If you're an artist they're representing, that's great news. But what happens when summer is over? Can you survive on a few paintings sold over the summer? Or would you like to have consistent business all year? I'd like to share a strategy that can keep the cash coming in every month of the year.

Vacation Mode
What I failed to mention is that the places selling a lot of art this summer are vacation spots. Anyone who runs a retail location knows that people are a little looser with their pocketbooks when they are on vacation, in a non-stress, non-work environment. Those vacationing in expensive resort areas are likely to be able to afford a nice memory of their trip to hang on their wall, whether it's a painting of the local area they're visiting, or just something they love that will help them remember where it was purchased.

I have a house filled with memories purchased when we were in "vacation mode." We're out to dinner having a great time, maybe we've had a couple glasses of wine, and we wander into a gallery, and WHAM! We fall in love with a painting. Since we want our vacation time to last forever, this is a great way to remember it. We're fond of paintings of the places we visit.

Seasonal Strategy
But life goes on, and vacation does not last forever. So if you're in a summer-season gallery and are not selling paintings at other times of the year, why not consider a seasonal strategy? Why not target galleries in vacation spots that are visited at different times of the year? Remember, not everyone has to vacation on a school-year schedule. The people who travel most are upper-income and retired or semi-retired, or business owners who have more control of their time. Think about these seasons and where these people vacation.

Snow is a great trigger for winter travelers. The first snow drives "snowbirds" from the North to the South. People from Canada and the northern U.S. start heading to winter homes in places like Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Arizona, Southern California, Mexico, etc. Snow also triggers ski vacations in Colorado, Utah, Upstate New York, Vermont, etc. Of course, Christmas is a major part of those escape trips, and people are looking for ideas. These resort communities are loaded with galleries — and resorts have lots of people looking for things to do, so art shows typically happen in winter months in the warm climates.

Families travel for one or two weeks at spring break, which fills ski resorts, beaches in warmer climates, and historic locations like Washington, DC. It's also a time when people want to get away as long winters hang on. People with spring fever want to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and they find themselves traveling to vacation spots.

Summer resort and vacation areas are to be found all over the U.S. Though the city of New York often goes on cruise control in July and August, it's crowded in the Hamptons, the Catskills, and the Poconos. People in the East will vacation in the Cape, Maine, or the seashore. People in the West will head to Santa Fe, the San Juan Islands, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Heat is also a trigger for people who want to escape to lakes, beaches, and cooler mountain resort areas like the Adirondacks, Jackson Hole, the mountains of New Mexico, etc. Summer resort areas are filled with galleries.

Watch travel magazines for tips on communities where there are popular "leaf drives." Lots of tourism is built around the color change of leaves in places all around the country, whether Vermont, Northern California and Nevada, Upper Michigan, Indiana's Brown County, and hundreds of other locations. (Might be a good time to put some of those cadmium colors in your leaves.)

How To Make a Plan
Start by asking yourself when and where your art is selling, and see where you may already be getting seasonal business. Then simply make a list of every month, and areas you think will be hot tourism locations in each one. You don't want to be in 12 galleries, so try to find locations with overlap across several months. A great example, for instance, would be areas like Lake Placid or Aspen, which have strong summer seasons, strong ski seasons, and strong leaf seasons. Once you've picked a few seasonal locations, the hard work begins.

Next Steps
Getting a gallery is easier said than done. (My new Art Marketing Boot Camp™ II video discusses how to get into galleries). But start by finding your target area. Find out what galleries are there, but also understand that a gallery may not be your only option. Shops, restaurants, arts centers, and retail locations can be good options for exposure and selling work. Then start your outreach program. Study the galleries and reach out to those you think would be the best fit for your work.

Content Matters
Great galleries know what sells, and I'm sure your paintings of the New York City skyline will sell anywhere. But will a fall Vermont painting sell better in Vermont during leaf season? Certainly many are seeking a memory of their trip. The most important thing to a gallery is whether your work will sell. So you may need to build a body of work that "fits" the region before you start reaching out.

Of course, it never hurts to ask what sells. Some artists are willing to consciously paint what sells, while others resist doing so. That's your call. Do your homework, because the area you select has to be successful to become part of your regional strategy. Go online and study as if you are a tourist about to visit; a Google Images search will help you understand the area. (I don't recommend painting the images you find on Google or those belonging to others; that's a copyright violation.) Your best bet is to visit, and paint the area so you can represent the true feel of the place that you can't get from a photograph. And you may want to do multiple visits so you have the snow, the leaves, the summer lakes, etc. I typically don't buy local winter paintings when I'm visiting in summer, though some do.

Your Plan
Every artist needs a marketing plan, even if it's simple. This is a great exercise because you need to determine how many paintings you need to sell in a year to meet your goals, and you'll be breaking things out month by month anyway. A seasonal strategy will help you focus on this process.

Following a seasonal plan will increase your success in every month of the year if you do it right. It won't happen overnight. You need to plant seeds, do your proper marketing, and work each market. Things don't just happen, you have to make them happen. But if you follow this plan, you'll eventually have income every month you need it. Happy painting!


By |2022-12-14T16:51:38-05:00August 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|10 Comments

Branding Your Cow

The Importance of Branding in the Sale of Art

Moos of panic filled the dusty air as cowboys pressed the hot branding iron against the flesh of the cattle out West. This painful exercise, branding, served the purpose of marking ownership of the cow. But the mark on the cow was less important than the reputation of the rancher. For instance, cattle rustlers knew which farmers would overlook the loss of an occasional cow and which were so tough they would hang cattle thieves on sight. Rustlers would avoid stealing cattle with certain brands. The behavior of the rancher became the meaning of the brand.

If you're marketing art, you've probably heard a lot about branding, and you may be wondering how it relates to you. We know companies like Apple, Coke, and McDonald's have the most recognizable brands, but those brands also have meaning. For instance, the McDonald's brand means consistent quality and fast service.

Think about the meaning of each of these brands.

Harley-Davidson: Loud, thunderous mufflers, radical, non-conforming
Apple: Innovation
Louis Vuitton: Elegance
Walmart: Lowest prices
Target: Low prices with style

Smart marketers seek to define a brand and make everything they do a relentless reinforcement of that image. Once established, a brand never, ever changes.

If I were to ask art collectors for the names of the most successful artists who command the highest prices, I would hear the same names, over and over. Though there may be painters whose quality of work is equal to or better than those top names, they cannot command the same prices and see little demand for their artwork because their brands are not strong in the eyes of the collectors. I could also ask art collectors for the names of the most successful galleries in the world, and they would cite the same top galleries.

A Strong Brand = Goals Achieved
A strong, quality brand brings higher prices because the brand gives buyers confidence. I know a dealer who recently commanded a premium of about 40 percent for paintings he sold — though collectors could buy equally good paintings, from the same artists, from other dealers for less money. The brand of this dealer is so strong that collectors feel more comfortable buying from him, knowing they won't get a fraud, knowing he will stand behind them, and knowing he always finds the best paintings.

Galleries with strong brands have worked tirelessly to make sure everything they do is a reinforcement of that brand. If the brand is about top price and top quality, you will never see that gallery running a sale. These owners invest in elaborate decor for their galleries and have elegant locations in the best neighborhoods, giving confidence to high-end art buyers.

Branding Is Either Controlled or Accidental
Think of your brand as the position you hold in the mind of the potential buyer. If you have a brand at all, either you have defined it intentionally or it has been created for you, unintentionally. If you show up drunk at openings and you look like a slob, that becomes the image others have of your brand. If you drive a Bentley and are a natty dresser, you're sending a signal of success.

But brand isn't just about appearance, it's about the whole of what you project over a long period of time. It's about the quality of your work, the frames you use, the people you're known to associate with, your politics, the pictures and opinions you post on Facebook, the look and design of your ads and brochures, and everything else seen by the public. Smart brands rarely broadcast their opinions about religion or politics because that's an automatic turn-off to a large portion of the buying public (though a few brands are all about being radical, irreverent, or political). Sometimes a brand position isn't about original art sales at all, but about other goals, like acceptance into major museums, selling prints, obtaining licensing deals, or just getting press.

Are You Walmart or Lexus?
One of the keys to brilliant success starts with defining what you want your brand to be and how you will project and reinforce it. What about you? Are you in control of your brand? Is every touchpoint a reinforcement of that brand? What is your brand? Does it accomplish what you need it to accomplish? Does it match the perceptions you need from the people you want as customers? Are you Walmart or Lexus? Each position is valuable, depending on whom you're targeting and the desired end result.

One of Three Brand Positions
Even if you've never stopped to think about your brand, you have one of three brand positions. You are either unknown and have no brand, or you have a brand you've intentionally created, or you have a brand that has been created for you by others.

Do you have a brand? Do you know how others perceive your brand? Is it accomplishing the desired result? If you have no brand yet, you have the potential to build one. If your brand isn't accomplishing your goals, you have the potential for re-branding.

Finding Brand Clarity
Branding is critical to the success of any business or product, including artists and art galleries, but branding is a tactic, based on a solid marketing strategy that is rooted in knowing your exact goals. Once you understand where you want to be and what you need to accomplish, the brand position you need to take will become clear.

For instance, if you need highly affluent people to buy your artwork, you need to determine a brand position you can own in their minds and develop a step-by-step process to build that position. (Branding is a long-term process; it takes lots of repetition over time.)

For some, it's too much effort to think about creating or managing a brand — and as a result, their careers will go whichever way the wind is blowing. For others who have specific goals,  branding is a critical process that requires a branding plan.

What about you? Does everything you do reflect your brand? Your website, your ads, your business cards, your appearance, and your representatives? Can the people you are targeting reflect your position back to you, or does it exist only in your mind? Implementing a solid branding plan is one of the many critical keys to success as an artist. It's worth thinking about if you're not where you want to be.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I am frequently asked by artists if I'll be their agent or handle their marketing. Because of my insane life as an art publisher, I'm simply unable to help with those requests. But I have agreed to create a Marketing Boot Camp for three early mornings, for those attending our Plein Air Convention. My goal in the three 90-minute sessions is to arm you with the tools to take your career to the next level, so you can double your art sales within one year. We'll discuss the entire branding process in depth at that time. I hope to see you at the Plein Air Convention in April; of the 750 seats available, almost 50 percent are already sold.

By |2012-02-06T14:44:35-05:00February 6th, 2012|Uncategorized|3 Comments

When Advertising Is A Bad Idea

Ten Reasons Not To Advertise


My clients are often surprised when I tell them not to advertise. Since I own a few magazines, they assume selling them advertising is my only interest.

Not every client is ready to advertise, and others may not be a fit for certain magazines or websites, including my own. It depends entirely on their needs and goals.
No one would ever trust me or my people if the solutions we proposed always led back to our magazines. Here are 10 reasons you should not advertise.
Ten Reasons Not To Advertise
1. You Don't Know What You're Trying To Accomplish
Frequently a meeting with a gallery or artist will reveal that they need to improve their business, but they don't have a specific strategy. They often approach us about advertising with nothing more in mind than "I'm not sure of my goals, I just want to sell more." Though that's a starting point, it's never good to advertise until you have a deep, specific strategy. We can help you work on a strategy, but you must have that in place before you do anything else, or you may waste money and hurt your reputation.

2. You Don't Know Who You're Trying To Reach
It's hard to hit a target when you don't know what it is. It's important to understand where most of your existing customers come from and why they buy from you, so you can find more like them. Make sure you know what your customers care about. Many people simply say, "I don't know, I just need to sell more." The problem is that a broad, un-targeted approach will most likely not accomplish your goals — that is, if you have goals.

3. You're Not Ready To Promote
I got a call last year from an advertiser in Artist Advocate who was concerned that she had not accomplished her goal of selling landscape paintings and getting a gallery to sign her. When I reviewed the website she included in her ad, it was all about commissioned portraiture. Nothing about landscapes. She had wrongly assumed people would look beyond her landing page to find her landscape work.

If you're going to point people to your business, you need to be fine-tuned and ready so they get what they expect when they visit your site or call your number. If the site is not what they expect, or if they get a voice message or a name other than the person or business they think they're calling, that is opportunity lost.

4. You Don't Have A Capture Strategy
What if your ads motivate people to call you or visit your website, and you don't have a plan in place to convert those people to sales? Have you refined your story? Stories are important. Is there someone designated to sell, like a spouse, an agent, a sales associate? Is your site tuned up for success? Do you have a plan to capture names and e-mails? Increased site visits are nice, but only if they convert people to sales.

5. You Don't Have A Branding Strategy
It's critical to understand branding: what you stand for (or against), what you want people to think of you, the image you're projecting, etc. Branding is building awareness and trust, and it doesn't happen overnight. While most people expect their ads to work instantly (and ads usually don't), they fail to understand that ads also help sell the brand. People will buy more once they trust you and your brand.
6. Inability To Maintain Repetition
Think of success as the top of a ladder, and each ad as a step toward success. Stepping up one rung won't get you to the top, and neither will one ad. Reputation is built by repetition: If you don't have the resources to repeat and repeat and repeat, it's best to save your money. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Advertising is a process, not a single event.

7. You Don't Have A Powerful Ad
Don't assume the art will stand on its own. Great ads work. Good ads and bad ads don't. Great ads get noticed, cut through the clutter, stand out, look different, relate to the audience, have strong headlines, and make people pay attention. Most ads are good ads, not great ads — but the people who create them think they're great. Get a second opinion from an expert, and learn the language of effective ads.
8. You Don't Have The Right Audience
Bigger is not always better, but people usually think larger audiences are better than smaller ones. I always ask art galleries whether they would prefer a busload of schoolteachers or a single collector who arrives at the gallery driving a Bentley. If your ads reach 100,000 people but none of them can buy, you've wasted your money. But a small number of the right buyers from a smaller niche publication or website can often sell artwork. Don't get caught up in big numbers.

9. You're Stroking Your Own Ego
I used to call on Myron, who owned a store that sold jeans for teens. His business was dying, and I went to discuss advertising on my radio stations. I asked why he was advertising on a station that reached grandmothers instead of a station like mine, which reached teens and young moms. He told me that he advertised on that station because it was the station all his friends at the country club listened to. Myron impressed himself and his friends by advertising in a place they liked, but he failed to reach his audience and eventually went out of business.

Fifty percent of advertising is ego-driven. I've had people tell me, "I want my friends to see my art." I know of publications that reach almost no art buyers, but they get advertising because of peer pressure. There is nothing wrong with advertising to enhance awareness among peers, but don't confuse your expectations. If you want to sell something, you need to advertise where the buyers are.

10. The Promise Of Free Editorial
Everyone wants editorial coverage. But I know galleries and artists who refuse articles in any publication that offers articles in exchange for advertising. They assume the readers will think they bought their coverage, and they don't want to harm their hard-earned reputations. Though it's very appealing to gain the coverage, readers are not stupid and will assume you paid for it. That damages their perception of you.

Though I'm almost always willing to help my advertisers when there is legitimate reason for editorial coverage, I lose a lot of advertising because I refuse to do it over and over for the promise of advertising contracts. My readers would catch on, and I'd lose all my credibility.
If you're advertising in a publication because it's the right fit, that's fine. If it's because of a free article, that's not a good reason, especially if a publication is filled with articles accompanied by ads. Reputations are costly to build and quick to fall.
It's always best to have a well considered strategy before spending a dime on advertising.


P.S.: Sometimes I feel like a juggler because we have so many balls in the air. I'd like to take a moment to tell you about some of the exciting things we're up to in the art world.
1. Linking Galleries And Artists
Artist Advocate is entering its third year and has helped hundreds of artists gain visibility with art galleries and find new gallery homes. If you're looking for a gallery and want to be exposed to more than 15,000 art galleries (mail and digital editions), the next quarterly issue will be publishing in a couple of weeks.
2. A Conference To Promote Realism
Fine Art Connoisseur Editor Peter Trippi and I are on a mission to pave a successful future for realism artists and have developed a conference devoted to that goal. Everyone involved in the realism ecosystem should be there: collectors, historians, galleries, ateliers and schools, artists, frame makers, students, and suppliers. This is a true forum, where you will help us shape a strong future for representational and realist art. We have announced the recipients of our Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Awards, our advisory board, and will soon announce our speakers and panels for the November Los Angeles conference.
3. PleinAir Magazine Returns With Success
In February we relaunched the magazine about outdoor painting with editor Steve Doherty, and we were thrilled with the response. Not only did we sell out at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, they re-ordered and we ended up with one of the highest nationwide sell-through rates. Barnes & Noble is now adding PleinAir in more stores. We also sold over 4,500 subscriptions (print, digital, iPad, iPhone) and distributed more than 22,000 copies as we launched with 116 pages — a huge embrace from advertisers — and 156 pages in the expanded digital edition. Our next issue will be out soon; if you have not subscribed, please do so today. Call 800-610-5771 or go to
4. The Publisher's Invitational Paint Out
I'm hosting a painting event for artists next month in the 100-acre Adirondack Park. It's all play, no work. No show, no sale, no events, just painting with friends in the same places painted by the Hudson River School painters. See who's coming and join us. I've rented Paul Smith's College and reserved 100 rooms. So far about 60 are sold. To learn more, visit
5. October Fall Leaves Danube Art Cruise Is More Than 50 Percent Sold Out
I'll be hosting a group of art collectors, artists, and art lovers on a fall art cruise down the Danube. Our Russian art cruise was met with such rave reviews that most of our new friends asked us to keep the tradition alive by doing an annual cruise. This year we start in Budapest, then cruise down the Danube to Vienna and several ports, plus we're offering a side trip to Prague. Of course we're lining up special art events along the way. To learn more and see a new video about the cruise, go to Join us — again, we're more than 50 percent sold out, so please book soon.
6. Documenting The Important Realism Movement On Video
When artist Michael Klein approached me about a venture to showcase the best realism painters in the world on video, I instantly fell in love with the concept. When he told me he wanted to do it for $10 an issue for two hours of content, I thought it would be a giant success. I had no idea how successful American Painting Video Magazine would become, but now it has viewers all over the world.
7. Fine Art Connoisseur: Soon Entering Our Sixth Year
Its hard to believe that we've been publishing this magazine for over five years now, and that just two more issues from now, we'll start our sixth year. The May/June 2011 issue is out already and features a stunning portrait from Nelson Shanks' upcoming exhibition in Russia.

Our summer issue (July/August 2011) will feature articles on the Utah landscapist LeConte Stewart (1891-1990); James A. McN. Whistler (1834-1903); the French Impressionist painter of urban pleasures Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931); and the German academician Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911); plus living painters Max Ginsburg (b. 1931), Andrew Jones (b. 1961), Robin Hall, Sarah Lamb, and the London-based painter Alan Dick. The Destination Art section will focus on the booming art scene in Wyoming, especially Jackson Hole. To subscribe or advertise, call 800-610-5771 or go to
8. The Largest Gathering of Plein Air Artists In History
Not only do I want to get your name in the Guinness Book of World Records for being among the largest number of people ever painting outdoors in one place, I want to gather everyone in the community of plein air painters to discuss our world and how we can improve it, improve our skills in painting and marketing, make new friends, and of course paint together. I plan to have collectors, artists, suppliers and more, and we're taking over Red Rock Casino and Resort on the outskirts of Las Vegas, abut five minutes from Red Rock State Park. I went out there last week, and it is spectacular (the hotel and the places we plan to paint.) Hold the dates, April 12-15, 2012, and make your plans to be there.


By |2011-05-10T10:35:03-04:00May 10th, 2011|Uncategorized|3 Comments
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