My Five-Week Adventure

A Travelog of My Travels and Events the Last Few Weeks

By Eric Rhoads, Publisher

In the 19th century, well-to-do Americans would send their college-age kids off to Europe for a year, a trip often called “the Grand Tour.” The wealthy did this because it was a way to open their child’s eyes to culture, language, and different ways of life. Getting away to another country is a giant eye-opener and a great way to expand your mind.

After five weeks away, today is my first official day back at my desk, and I thought I’d share some observations on what I learned about myself and what I learned that will benefit you.


Week 1: Fall Color Week

Group shot from Fall Color Week 2023 in the Adirondacks

My annual fall retreat was held this year in the Adirondacks (for the last time), and it was sold out months in advance. We hit the timing perfectly; the color was brilliant and the weather was perfect. We held the event at the Saranac Village Young Life Camp, which was spectacular, and the food was grand.

Sunset painting time on top of Whiteface Mountain outside of Lake Placid. We stayed so long the rangers had to kick us out because the mountain road was closed.

I was surprised to find that 60 percent of the people there were new to Fall Color Week, attending for the first time. Most who were new had registered early, which explained the early sellout and why many of the regulars (who often wait till the last month or so) were unable to get seats. People have started to travel again, no longer fearing Covid, and they came out in droves. I learned that most of these new attendees discovered us during the pandemic on the Art School Live daily broadcast, the PleinAir Podcast, or from Sunday Coffee, my weekly missive. The rest learned about it from our regular ongoing communications. 

Fall color is at its peak this time of year.

Though I hold an annual retreat in the Adirondacks in the spring, very few people do both that and Fall Color Week, and the vibe of each group is different. I found this group to be exceptionally generous and friendly, and there were a huge number of brand new painters. Some came never having painted before, and dozens did their first plein air paintings. Most told me that after being stuck at home, plein air painting has become much more appealing.

Eric does a demo for beginners at Fall Color Week.

Because there were so many newbies, I did something I’ve never done intentionally at this event before and worked with the beginners on technique. Like a workshop, I did a demo, and I checked in with them all week and helped with their paintings. I saw most make a huge leap with just a few very basic principles like big shapes and four-corner composition. 

It was fun to see friendships grow out of Fall Color Week. (L to R: Becky Nagel, Christina Angelo, Colleen Casper, Kellee Mayfield, Calina Franzosa)

Everyone grew very close, and I personally made many new friends. And at the end, every hand was raised when I asked how many had made lifelong friendships. We really do draw close at these events when we sit up at night doing paintings and when we paint together every day for a week. Everyone got a chance to meet my daughter, Grace, and my wife, Laurie, as well as Christina Angelo from the Streamline team. 

Each night we all placed our paintings out for everyone to view.

I announced the next Fall Color Week, which is moving to the California coast. It will be held at Asilomar, and it promises to be an early sellout. We already had a high percentage of this year’s attendees sign up. Though lots of the fall color is inland, we’ll be staying right on the ocean, so I predict lots of seashore paintings during the most perfect time of year there weatherwise. You can learn more at


Week 2: The Drive Across the U.S.A.

Somewhere in Arkansas at 85 mph

Why would a busy guy like me not fly home from our summer in the Adirondacks? It’s pretty simple, really. We have a blind dog who can’t fly, and we have a lot of stuff that we shuttle back and forth. My wife loves to do all the driving, so it’s fun for me. I don’t work, only occasionally check e-mail, and I just love to stare out the window and watch the scenery. I learn a lot about our country as we drive a different route home each time. It’s a great way to decompress from a crazy week, and I take pictures for future paintings along the way. 


Week 3: Stockholm and Mora

A bucket list goal: visiting the Zorn Museum in Mora, Sweden

The last time I went to Sweden, several of my friends went on to Mora, the birthplace and home of the great artist Anders Zorn. I’ve always regretted not going, so I made sure I did so before this trip. My wife and I met Fine Art Connoisseur editor Peter Trippi there and one other couple, and we took the four-hour train ride out of Stockholm. Though the Zorn Museum was undergoing some remodeling, we spent two full days with Johan Cederlund, the director, and learned volumes about Zorn. 

A special day: holding Zorn’s actual palette

Because the top floor was being remodeled, thousands of assorted items were moved to the second floor for storage, so the second floor was closed. But with the director and some white gloves, we were treated to a feast for the eyes. We were able to see and touch (with permission) some of Zorn’s precious collection of art objects and costumes, and with special permission, I was able to hold and get a photograph of myself holding Zorn’s famous four-color palette. That never would have been possible without this trip. 

Inside the Zorn house

I asked a lot of questions about Zorn’s palette, and the director told me Zorn’s “four-color palette” was mostly a myth. After seeing paintings by Velázquez in Spain, Zorn, who was mostly a watercolor artist, started painting in oil and trying to emulate Velázquez, who painted mostly in four colors for much of his career. Part of the reason for that was that modern colors were not available, and the Spanish painter used what he could get. Zorn had access to modern colors, but after he did a few paintings in four colors, he decided this would be his trademark, so all his self-portraits and promotional photos show him using the four-color palette. But in reality, for most of his career Zorn used a wide range of colors. It turns out the four-color palette was his promotional hype, and though he had used it, it was not what he normally did. 

Inside the Zorn Studio, an ancient pre-Viking building, one of 40 the artist collected

We toured the Zorn collection at the museum, one of the largest on display anywhere. I was blown away by Zorn’s watercolor works in person. One painting I found particularly interesting was a nude of a woman in a hotel room. It turns out that Zorn was visiting New York and staying at the Waldorf, where he talked a maid into modeling for him. 

We heard a lot of stories and family legends about Zorn that aren’t often communicated. We were able to tour his home, the collection, and his studio, which is not normally open for viewing.

Zorn’s easel, which he had custom made

Zorn’s studio, next to his home, is housed in an ancient pre-Viking-era building. It turns out that Zorn had a collection of over 40 ancient buildings, and he built a living museum village about a mile from his home. He also had a lake home and more ancient buildings there. 

The Carl Larsson studio

Thanks to Johan, arrangements were made to drive us to the home and studio of artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919), about an hour away. We toured the home and grounds. 



Fine Art Connoisseur editor Peter Trippi offers our group an art history lesson before visiting the museums for the week.

We selected this art-rich city for our first post-Covid trip; this was our 11th Fine Art Trip, and the first in four years. The event is typically attended by art collectors, Fine Art Connoisseur readers, and artists. We visit museums, often privately before opening, as well as artists’ homes and some other treasures where art is to be found. We could easily have spent weeks seeing the over 50 museums in Stockholm, but we concentrated on the most important spots. 

We toured the Swedish Nationalmuseum privately with a curator, and also visited the home of Prince Eugen, the artist son of King Oscar II. The home had a magnificent collection of paintings, including a painting Zorn had done of the prince’s mother, Queen Sophia. (I found that painting to be in serious need of restoration, with problems that were very visible if the light caught it wrong. A revarnishing and cleaning would be a great help.) Prince Eugen was an accomplished painter and had a studio to die for.

Our group privately tours the home of Prince Eugen.
Prince Eugen’s studio
Touring the home of a turn-of-the-century private collector

Though there were too many visits to highlight all of them, two grand events were visits to the studios of living artists. Our first was to Nick Alm, who hosted our group in his new studio, showing us his watercolor and oil works and informing us about his career (which is very hot at the moment). He was very generous with his time, and, at our request, he made some of his paintings available for purchase, something several people from the group took advantage of. 

Part of our group with artist Nick Alm (on my left)

On another day we went to the studio of Stanislaw Zoladz, an internationally renowned watercolor artist from Poland who lives in Stockholm. The group was amazed at the quality of his works, most of which are very large. He and his wife generously showed us his gallery and studio, plus served us snacks and champagne. Again, we made arrangements for purchases that some took advantage of. Soon after, we checked out of the Grand Hotel and caught a flight to Madrid.

Visiting the studio of watercolor artist Stanislaw Zoladz

Sadly, I had no time to paint in Stockholm or Mora other than an in-hotel-room gouache painting I did of the Zorn Museum director’s home, to thank him for hosting us at his home for dinner. 



A selfie in an empty Prado Museum, which we viewed privately before opening hours, avoiding crowds of thousands. Only a guard in the background.

If you’ve not been, Madrid is as beautiful as Paris, and is rich with art. Of course we had private entry into the Prado, which normally has crowds so thick you can barely see the art. Like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, there are typically hundreds of people doing selfies in front of Velàzquez’s Las Meninas, but we were able to see it crowd-free. Though photos are not allowed, I could not help but take a selfie with the empty halls of one of the world’s great museums behind me. One of the highlights for me (there were many) was a painting by Titian, re-created by Rubens, trying to improve on Titian’s vision. The paintings hung side by side. The differences were subtle but perceptible; it was a master paying homage to a master he had studied. 

Inside the Sorolla home and studio

In Madrid we found ourselves at two different Sorolla exhibitions because 2023 is the 100th anniversary of the artist’s passing. We were able to see rooms and collections in the Sorolla house that we’d been unable to see during our first visit to Spain, and there was a special exhibition of his plein air studies, which were amazing. We often see photos of Sorolla painting giant canvases on location (possibly a PR stunt, like Zorn’s four-color palette), but there were hundreds of small studies available to view. This was my favorite part of the exhibition. Of course, his paint box and umbrella were on display as well. The second exhibit, at the Mapfre Foundation, was also about his seaside paintings and showed dozens of his studies for some of his famous works. But there were also large studies done on location, including a portrait of Sorolla’s daughters on the beach on a 5-foot-square canvas, done in three hours using industrial-size brushes.

One of two special exhibits on Sorolla and plein air painting

One of the highlights was a visit to the town of Toledo, where we saw some El Greco paintings, hanging in the church where they have always hung. The ancient city was a popular spot among artists.

A Sorolla plein air study of Toledo

Upon our return to Madrid, we had a visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, across the street from our hotel and just down the block from the Prado. Though our days were packed and busy, I was able to sneak out with my buddy Mitch Neto to paint the streets of Madrid at night after dinner. The first night I painted the circle in front of the hotel, which had a statue of Neptune. About halfway into the painting a bus parked, blocking much of our view, and I had to paint the rest from memory. The second night of painting was a square about a block away. Another well-lit fountain and statue with buildings in the background — but about an hour into it, the lights went out and the fountain went off. The same thing happened on the third night, painting a church from the back of the Prado: The lights went out. So we did the best we could to finish up in the dark. 

Painting nocturnes in the squares around Madrid

Of course there were numerous palaces and art collections not mentioned here. Visiting Spain would not feel right without a night of flamenco dancing to entertain us during dinner, and on the closing night our guests met for a farewell dinner, an elegant affair at the Ritz. Everyone has grown close, and goodbyes are hard. But we were encouraged when we announced that on next year’s Fine Art Trip, we’ll be back in Europe, seeing Venice (which everyone needs to see before it’s completely underwater, as some say is inevitable). We will also be visiting some incredible art experiences in the region, including Zurich and Bern, Switzerland. We will announce more at later in the year.

A night of flamenco!
Closing dinner of the Fine Art Trip at the Ritz Mandarin Oriental in Madrid
Majorca — Sorolla painted in this exact location.

Something I never do … I never take personal vacations. Most of our vacations are part of these art trips or retreats, but rarely do we get off on our own. But we have always wanted to see Majorca, a Spanish island directly across from Valencia. We rented an Airbnb on the ocean, overlooking some cliffs and crashing waves. We rented a car and found the island to be the best of Spain, with homes and areas that look like Tuscany, mountains, and hills that look like California and the Alps, and ports that look like Portofino. It has become my favorite of all the European destinations I’ve visited. It’s a large island and takes a couple of hours to drive from top to bottom and probably several hours from side to side. 

A quick gouache painting I did in a spot where Sorolla painted

I took a lot of photos for paintings, and, because of the Sorolla plein air exhibit, I discovered one of the exact spots he painted. So I went there and photographed it, and then painted in another location Sorolla painted. Though I was only able to paint about three times, Majorca was a chance to spend time with my wife, reconnect, and relax. We toured daily, ate incredible food and lots of gelato, and had a grand time. I’ll definitely go back.



A direct flight from Spain brought us to Frankfurt, where we spent two days touring the area, the Old Town, and some of the towns along the Rhine River. We then spent the last day with my German nephew and his family, who I try to reconnect with whenever I’m in Europe. It was a great family moment for me.


What I learned about myself and the new Me 2.0

After four years of missing international travel because of Covid, this trip reminded me of how much I love to travel through Europe. I like to see old villages and old buildings, enjoy beautiful scenery, and eat great food. I love to disappear into the culture.

Travel is my favorite thing, and painting with friends is also a favorite thing. So I am going to create more painting retreats and travel events in other places outside the U.S.A. Stay tuned.

There is so much to learn from great artists (closeup of a Zorn painting).

For those who can travel outside of the U.S.A., do it as much as you can. We felt safe the entire time, even though the news can sometimes blow the troubles of the world out of proportion. It’s good for your brain, your creativity, and your inspiration. I’m inspired to paint some new masterpieces from what I learned in each of these places. I’ve been able to study many great artists up close to see their brushwork. I was able to see things in paintings I could never see looking at photos on Instagram. In fact, I learned lots from Zorn and Sorolla that I now need to put to work. Both did amazing edge work.

Our next trip like this will be to Japan in March. There are only a handful of seats remaining so if you’d like a bucket-list experience of your own, join us!

From Fall Color Week, I learned that there are hundreds of people who want to learn plein air painting and who need help and guidance, so soon I’ll reveal some new plans for them. 

I’m inspired, and though I took the first time off in four years, I want to thank you for the time away. I also want to thank the artists who hosted my daily show for me.

PS: Everything is changing. We are seeing more new people at things like the Plein Air Convention, and our retreats like Fall Color Week and the spring Publisher’s Invitational Adirondack event. If and when you see something that appeals to you, grab it while you can. With our first Plein Air Convention & Expo east of the Mississippi next year, we think it will sell out soon, maybe by Christmas. Remember, we had to limit the size to fit in this facility, so book those seats early. People are returning to travel and events, and things are normalizing more than ever. Plus, people who were not traveling and getting out before are tired of surfing social media and realizing they need places they can touch and see. That’s why we’re seeing so many new people and so many younger people. Get out and take advantage of it.


  1. Thank you, Eric, for this inspiring travelogue. You make me want to travel again…this a great start to getting my art travel back in gear.

  2. Wonderful that after your valiant 4 years of inspiring us all over the world, that you had time to find pleasure !! Your travelogue made me feel jubilant in the fact that I found you and yours when all things seemed so bleak! Thank you for every second that you thought of others and the need to push through those uncertain times!
    I’ll continue to follow!!

  3. Great travelogue Eric, enjoyed this very much. Relieved to hear that Zorn used more than 4 colors! Glad you got to visit with your nephew & family in Frankfurt, I have cousins in Bavaria & Belgium I have not seen in years, you are inspiring me to get that passport renewed and travel to Europe. Happy you & Laurie had a nice vacation in Majorca. Thank you for all you do to keep us inspired, informed & educated!


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