Plein Air Podcast 221: Ned Mueller on the Plein Air Movement and More

In this episode of the Plein Air Podcast, Eric Rhoads interviews Ned Mueller on today’s plein air movement, his advice for beginners, and the first time he painted outdoors (Spoiler: “It was a disaster.”). At 81, Ned reminds us that “you never stop learning.”

Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, addresses how to break out of the category of low-price point paintings, and whether or not you should reuse the canvas from old paintings.

Have a question about how to sell your art? Ask Eric at

Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Ned Mueller here:


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FULL TRANSCRIPT of this Plein Air Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the Plein Air Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.

Announcer 0:19
This is the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. In the Plein Air Podcast we cover the world of outdoor painting called plein air. The French coined the term which means open air or outdoors. The French pronounce it plenn air. Others say plein air. No matter how you say it. There is a huge movement of artists around the world who are going outdoors to paint and this show is about that movement. Now, here’s your host, author, publisher and painter, Eric Rhoads.

Eric Rhoads 0:59
Well, today, you’re going to hear how this all began. Because our guests, Ned Mueller was there at the very beginning. We’ll get into that in a minute. And what I hope you’re doing well that I hope if you are not plein air painting yet that you get started and try it, it will change the way you paint, it’ll change your perception, your your values, your colors, everything will change for you. And I hope you’re getting outdoors and painting and and it really makes a difference even, you know, for your first experience, look out the window if it’s easier, but just paint what you see. This weekend, I’m really excited because I’m going to be going out and painting bluebonnets here in Texas, I’m coming to you from Austin, Texas. Here in Texas, we have fields of wildflowers this time of year, we get fields of bluebonnets, which are essentially the same as lupines, which you find in California and back east and a lot of other places, but we get fields of them. And the reason that is is that when JF when when LBJ was president or was actually was governor, his wife, Lady Bird gave away bluebonnet seeds at the driver’s license bureau. And she told people for two or three years, you know, just throw them on the roadways on the sides of the roadways. And so when you drive through Texas during bluebonnet season, assuming that you know the conditions are right, you get these massive fields of bluebonnets. So I’m gonna go paint them. And it’s a little weird having the grass look blue. But you know, it’s kind of fun. It’s a challenge. And so I’m looking forward to that this weekend. We are thrilled that this podcast is now had over 1.5 million downloads, and it’s being heard in 90 different countries. If you’re outside of the United States, welcome. Thank you for listening. My goal is to spread the plein air movement we’ve we’ve had a handle and at least partially spreading the plein air movement across the United States. We’re going to talk about some other things too with net in a minute. But we are trying to get more and more events. And I’m really pleased to hear about many, many more plein air events throughout Europe. And that’s exciting. So wherever you are, if you’re getting people together to paint plein air, let me know about that so that we can, we can honor you and give you applause. We are also honored that the plein air podcast has been rated, get this number one, number one in feed spots 2021 Top 15 podcasts list, we hope we’ll make it again for 2022. And that comes out towards the end of the year. You can subscribe wherever you get podcasts, whether it’s on iTunes or Spotify or otherwise. And it’s really weird for me because I I am driving in my car and I have podcasts in my car and I can look over to the screen and see my face and listen to my voice. It’s really kind of weird, but you know, that’s that’s just the way the world these days. I’m on today’s interview. We will after today’s interview we will have a marketing minute and I will answer art marketing questions. I also have a separate podcast called The Art marketing minute podcast. And if you are ever not able to listen to this or if you want that podcast on your own, go there and listen to that. Now I got to tell you something we try to get the community of plein air painters together. You know there when we started plein air magazine, I don’t think there were maybe three four or five plein air events nationwide. Today there are over 300 of them. And there’s a lot of things that you can do to get to scratch that plein air itch, whether you’re watching people paint or observing or maybe being a part of it. But we tried to get the family of plein air painters together annually at what we call the plein air convention. And we’ve had to cancel each other Two years, but we’re coming back this year, we’re going to be in May in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And New Mexico has basically put the handcuffs off, right. So they have said, we have to limit the number of people that we can bring. And so normally, before COVID, we had 1200 people signed up. But we have to back off on that. And so you know, people cancelled because of COVID. So now we’re still catching up, we only have 97 seats left, because we’re limited to 775 people that includes faculty and staff and the people already registered, we only have 97 seats left. So if you’re thinking about going to the plein air convention, connecting with the plein air community watching the great, really brilliant artists on four different stages, we’ve got 60 different faculty members, make sure to sign up at I should also mention now, you know, at the time, if you’re listening to this in the future, let’s hope this has all changed. But at the time I’m recording this, we are in the midst of this Ukraine conflict between Ukraine and Russia. And I was planning on taking a trip of artists to Russia to paint in September, I’ve been working on it for years, it’s been a big project. Well, of course, I had to cancel, it will go back someday, if it makes sense. Once all this stuff is settled, because the Russian painters are brilliant. But in the meantime, we’re going to change this and go on a painting trip to New Zealand. Yes, we are going to New Zealand, we’re going to paint New Zealand and we’re going to be there for 1012 days. And I took a trip to New Zealand before and we had an incredible time. And this time, we’re fine tuning it. So it’s going to be even more painting. And we’re going to some places that people wanted to spend more time in for instance, there’s an area called Glenorchy, which it was so beautiful, we could have done 10 paintings there. But we only had time to do one painting. But now we’re going to stay overnight there we’re going to have more time and we’re going to be able to paint there. That’s just so you know where the Hobbit was filmed part of it. And we also are going to Milford Sound before we went to Milford Sound, but we didn’t have time to paint it, it was a long trip down there. This time we’ve charted a giant boat for our group. And we’re going to be able to go there by boat, we’re going to stay overnight on the boat have dinner on the boat, we’re going to be able to stop and paint in Milford Sound, which is really incredible. So we can only take 47 people and already I think nine of those seats are already taken. So go and find out about it at All right. Now the last thing I want to tell you about we’ve got a lot going on, you know people say we’re kind of like Disney for artists and we try to be give you experiences and things. I love getting people together just to paint. And I think it’s nice to have that sense of community where there’s no training, no workshop, just people getting together to paint. So every year now for the last I’d say 11 or 12 years. I’ve done an event in the Adirondacks of upstate New York because I live there in the summer. And it’s so beautiful that I’ve painted there since I started painting. And it is so beautiful. So we get about 100 people together we take over a local college you stay in dorms, it’s one price you get all your meals, you get your your place to stay and the event and we we paint all day in a couple of different locations. And then we sit up at night after dinner, we have cocktails or we play music, we paint portraits, we have a lot of fun. Anyway, I hope you’ll join me for that. There’s about half of the seats are still left. So we’re 50 or 60 people already signed up. And last year, it was sold out because a lot of people were like ready to get out and we did it safely this year. We’re going to do it safely. And so you can come it’s just go to That’s Now it’s time now this is a very special person. Our guest today is Ned Mueller. Welcome. Welcome to the plein air podcast.

Ned Mueller 9:25
How you doing?

Eric Rhoads 9:27
Well, I as you can tell it’s kind of busy these days.

Ned Mueller 9:30
Yeah, sure is, man. I don’t know how you do.

Eric Rhoads 9:33
Yeah. So you would i i said i talked about an origin story. I first met you. The plein air painters of America was holding a workshop for about I want to say 75 or 100 people in old Lyme Connecticut. You remember that?

Ned Mueller 9:52
Oh, yeah, I remember it was incredible. And they’re, you know, they’d have 100 people painting out This huge field, you know, somebody went over it with a plane and took some pictures that was remarkable

Eric Rhoads 10:08
that we could use drones, right? Well, it that was my very first entry into the plein air world. I don’t even know how I learned about it because there was really no internet at the time. And the first workshop I took was with Ken auster. Actually, you know what I think that was, I think the first one was Ken auster. And that was Colorado because you did it in Colorado, too. So I think the online SEC what I did. Anyway, I remember I did a workshop with you painting a horse. And I did a workshop with you painting an old yellow house, and you were really about the second or third workshop I ever took in my life.

Ned Mueller 10:49
Wow. Wow. That’s, that’s fascinating. It’s in a year. We’re so old, and we’re a history of things I belong

Eric Rhoads 11:00
for yourself. I am not gonna say that word.

Ned Mueller 11:04
Okay. Well, anyways, it all talks about the Quickdraw. You know, it’s so many of these shows. And I was part of the group that the Quick Draw originated in. That’s right. Yes. Rendezvous group. And, and it was original. People love the story. It was originally made to so people, artists could have enough money to get gas to get home. And so they gave us 30 minutes to do the quick draw, and it was all drawing. You know, you had good drawing skills. And then they auction them off there.

Eric Rhoads 11:39
And was not painting it was actually drawing.

Ned Mueller 11:42
Yeah, no paints just drawings raw. After that, they, you know, the thought, well, we’re gonna make some money off. So we have 3035 artists doing it. And they some artists didn’t paint plein air. So they, they let them pre pre paint, you know, maybe two thirds, and then sign it to some of the artists that did that. And they were making five $6,000 off a quick draw. Well, I remember Robert Bateman came in with Paragon Falcon. And we’re standing there painting away. And, you know, we had about 10 or 20 people watching as soon as he came in, he had an entourage that goes around with 10 or 15 people and he had this, everybody saw that it took off and follow them down the hill. And we were kind of left there with a dog watching. So anyways, I wanted to tell that story. Because, you know, people have been asking me about it.

Eric Rhoads 12:49
Well, you have, you have a reputation that that really is you for those who might not know and I doubt if anybody doesn’t know you, but you have become known as one of the great landscape painters of our time. And you’re also for those who don’t know, you’re also a really great figurative and portrait painter. And I’m so honored that you’re here.

Ned Mueller 13:18
Well, I’m honored to be I’ve only got one hearing aid now the other one broke down. So

Eric Rhoads 13:25
alright, well, I’ll, I’ll try to be clear,

Ned Mueller 13:28
let’s hold me back doesn’t overflow.

Eric Rhoads 13:32
You have you have such a rich history in such a rich background. First off, what what do you think about today’s plein air movement? Because you really, you know, the plein air had kind of died after the, you know, 1940s or so. You were part of that group that kind of brought it back to life. You want to talk about that a little bit?

Ned Mueller 13:59
Yeah, well, yeah, part two goes because the Northwest rendezvous was around and we were doing plein air we would paint a week before the show like in Glacier Park or Yellowstone. It was wonderful. How we camped out we slept in tents. But I know you’re getting the plein air painters of America. And I got invited to that just after they started to nice burns started at all. And she was a great painter, and they invited me and I was really busy at that time. I had all sorts of stuff going on so I couldn’t do it. And so about five years later, they asked me or I asked them because they’re looking look like they’re having a lot of fun and I can probably learn a lot from the other painters so I so I finally joined. But yeah, they got it all started. And I mean nobody He knew it would grow like you. Like, I mean, you have taken over and really made something. I mean, this like John Stearns said, you know, this is going to be remembered in history people are going to talk about somebody, like you got this started. And I

Eric Rhoads 15:19
didn’t I didn’t get it started. I mean, it was it was you guys that got it started. I just kind of kind of moved it moved, kick the can down the road, if you will. Yeah, but you guys, I mean, that I’ve heard some people say they didn’t even call it plein air painting. You know, years and years back, do you? Do you recall the first time you ever went outside to paint?

Ned Mueller 15:45
Yeah, it was a disaster. I went out with Bill Reese. And Fred Oldfield went up in the Cascades here, stayed on a ranch. And I was trying to paint this tree and I was trying to paint every lamb and this and, and Fred, and Bill, just, you know, had probably two paintings done in three hours. And I’d still pending on this treat two hours later. And it’s, it’s a good experience for anybody. If you want to loosen up, and you want to get some Solon. You’re pretty much forced into it, which probably at all all of us need at times to get out of our comfort zone. So it was a great experience for me, because it loosened me up, taught me more about color. And it was it was it was a turning point. In my career. I’m sure it is in a lot of other people. Because you hear him saying,

Eric Rhoads 16:50
I’m going to ask you a question. I always get a lot of different answers to this question. There’s probably not a right answer. But you know, there’s a lot of people out there because of the 1.5 million downloads of this and because of the circulation of plein air magazine, and you know, all the other things that are happening. There are a lot of people out there who have never gone plein air painting before. And some of them have never even painted before. If, if you’ve never painted before, do you recommend that they learn to paint inside before they ever go outside? Or do you think they should just go for it and learn to paint outside of from the beginning?

Ned Mueller 17:33
Yeah, well, I’ve talked to other artists and, you know, seeing what they taught it. And think one way to learn about color and even drawing has to do is still life. I mean, people don’t want to go outside you know, you can have your light the light isn’t going to change and go back there two weeks, it’ll be the same. But I think that’s valuable is to set up a still life, there’s an art to setting up a still life. You know, how you arrange things. I know, some artists will take two or three days to make a setup. And I think it’s valuable, I just started my one of my classes I just started on doing still life. And you know, I encourage them, you know, be brave, you don’t have to have everything in a picture frame, you know, get different size objects get. Look for the right value of these, you may want the same color tone and the same value intersection some big objects, little objects. I mean, that’s a lot of just plain good training. And I was

Eric Rhoads 18:46
just talking to a someone I can’t remember who and they had a plein air group that you know, they would meet. There were a fair weather plein air group, right? They would meet when the weather was nice, but in the winter, they would stop meeting and they lose that sense of camaraderie but they’re also not painting together, which of course is beneficial because you’re learning from one another. And they started somebody said, Well, there’s a local art center we can use and they started getting together in the wintertime and painting still lives. still lifes and they’d all paint that still life. And and they they actually found that that made them better plein air painters.

Ned Mueller 19:29
Yeah. And the other other thing they should do black and whites first appeared. Listen, but I’d like tell my students is how, how long did the old masters paint in black and white? And they look, there’s four years, four bloody years before they use color and I was an art school. They didn’t let us use color until after two years. And our first assignment was a three wide egg on an off blue plate. But that’s good training,

Eric Rhoads 20:06
you know, value went to did you go to art center? Yeah,

Ned Mueller 20:11
it was a Harvard of the art schools.

Eric Rhoads 20:13
Oh, yeah. What a great school and who were your teachers?

Ned Mueller 20:17
Oh gosh, show haniger As I was an illustration, but that school, they were all working professionals really made a dent on working in the business. And that they had high standards. I know, if you didn’t reach their standard, they asked you to leave. They asked my best friends to leave. But it’s actually a favor you want to play? Or coach football. So but yeah, it was it was hard to get into an even harder to get out of it. I was lucky I I love to draw. I started when I was four years old. And so I had a portfolio of these drawings, mostly. And I could draw pretty good and not so good with color, obviously. And we were poor. And so they said, Yeah, yeah, we have my dad took me down. He said, If you’re going to go to an art school, you want to go to the very best one you can’t because that’s who you’re competing in when you get out. And that was wise advice. I mean, I just didn’t have any confidence. But I know when they gave me a scholarship, a scholarship, then you’re able to go straight through. And you just they just pile on the homework and not the sixth seventh semester, I had to have didn’t hand in one assignment. Because I hit the wall has just No, there was no gas left in the tank. So that was an amazing

Eric Rhoads 21:50
experience a great training ground because the training is preparing you for real life. You were a professional illustrator. And you probably had people call you and say Listen, I need an illustration tomorrow. And you had to you had to scramble.

Ned Mueller 22:08
Yeah. And drawing was the key. If you learn how to draw well, or one instructor told us to Joe Edinger, if you learn how to draw William never have trouble getting a job. And he’s been right. You know, I’ve done all sorts of things. I was a courtroom artist, I did architectural renderings. I did all sorts of stuff. But I was able to survive. And even like when I got out of the service, and was kind of screwed up, I just went to drawing sessions at night. And the other thing is you don’t have to draw the figure, you’re doing landscapes. And I just all this business is about sharpening your eye.

Eric Rhoads 22:52
So if you if you don’t have the benefit of going to the Art Center, or to an art school, of course, things have changed considerably since you were in school. Now we have all these online trainings and videos and other things. But what what is your best advice in terms of learning to draw? Do you can you do it on your own? Or do you need that feedback from a third party to help you get correction and see what you can’t see?

Ned Mueller 23:20
I think if you get with a good instructor, you’re gonna probably learn better, you know, five times. You know, you’re just learning on your own. I mean, I’m just saying that that’s somebody that knows. No knows what you need. The problem is out of art school, hardest, had an art school in Joel brasier had an article in Chicago, and he told me then, and I kind of give people what they need. Not what, no, they got to give them what they want, not what they need, because they don’t want to hear what they need. It’s true, because what they need is 10 or 20 years to get good. Yeah, no, they don’t want to hear that. I did some articles with the art magazines. And I would say, you know, well, you know, you got to have my three P’s of patience, practice and perseverance. And they didn’t want to hear that stuff. Because it was too difficult. So they, when I send articles in, they kept that stuff out because they didn’t want they didn’t want to lose all their customers because that’s the reality of this, as you well know. It takes it takes time.

Eric Rhoads 24:44
Well, you and I first met probably 20 over 20 years ago. And I’m just now starting to get to a point where I feel like I’m I started to get proficient and and you know We there, I can teach anybody how to pay our almost anybody how to paint and teach them the systems fairly rapidly. But it’s the practice and the perseverance that’s going to make all the difference. And and the way I look at it is, hey, at least you’re painting, you know, you’re having fun, you’re making mistakes, but at least you’re painting and you’re going through a process. And I think that, you know, we do I agree, you need to have have the ability to have time I know people, though, I watched, I was in San Miguel deontae, Mexico a couple weeks ago, when I walk in gallery area. And I see this painter, and he’s doing absolutely phenomenal work. And he looks like he’s, you know, early 30s. And I said, You look like you’ve been classically trained. Did you go to something like farts academy or something like, Hey, he says, No, I learned everything I know, I learned by myself. And, and, and I’ve only been painting for four years. And I said, Well, I you know, I was a little suspect of that. Because you know, when you hear somebody say they’re self taught. And so I probed it a little bit. And he said, Well, I learned everything I know, by taking online courses. And then he I said, Well, what which online courses do you take, and he popped up my app with paint tube, and he had been studying under Cesar Santos in my app. It’s but he but he managed to, you know, he applied himself and he managed to do it. And now to a trained I, like yours are like mine. You know, there’s a lot of lessons he still needs to learn, but you can get fairly proficient but it’s that time, you know, just, you know, beating on it every single day,

Ned Mueller 26:59
most artists biggest complaint is they don’t it don’t have the time they’d like to paint.

Eric Rhoads 27:05
Yeah. Yeah. So do you have that problem?

Ned Mueller 27:10
Not really. My health issues and, and stuff. I am 81 I don’t have the energy I used to have. But I still get a lot of drawing and painting and probably not as much as I was young. Younger. But you know, the other thing with me, I It’s a relief for me, because it’s it’s all I focus on, you know, I’m not thinking of my, my chronic pain. I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m tired I am or, or whatever. So it just being an artist is really lucky for older people. And that’s why many so many old people get into it. Because

Eric Rhoads 27:59
do you find that the way you paint today is considerably different than the way you used to paint?

Unknown Speaker 28:06
Yeah, it’s the Yeah, I mean, you never stop learning. You know, they asked Monet once I don’t know if it’s a wives tale or not. But ask him. He was at five. And they said, No, well, what do you think about your painting? And he says, Well, I think I’m just kidding. The handle. Yeah. So when we have 300? I mean, if you’re, we’re never going to get what we want to do, because we reach a level and, and then you get start getting a little bored. You know, I want to try something else.

Eric Rhoads 28:44
So how do you?

Ned Mueller 28:47
Karen has told me, she says, you know, you are just the most curious people I’ve ever met. And that’s true. You curiosity. And, you know, I was one of these guys is always one of the go over the next mountain. So he was there. And I haven’t, haven’t lost that. So and the other thing, I do a lot of different things, because I’m curious, but I can, I’ve always been able to do a lot of things well, because I learned how to draw well, and that can cover up a lot of sins. And no, but the other thing I have to say is, you know, drawing good drawing and get away your creativity. Yeah. Because you come across Europe, very

Eric Rhoads 29:31
high level painter, in my opinion. How do you what’s your advice on how you push yourself to the next level and then the next level beyond there? What What’s that process look like?

Unknown Speaker 29:45
Time you know, you want to Yes, see, see other things that are being done? I think, you know, some much great stuff going on out there. I mean, geez, so Are these young artists? I don’t know what it is. But you know, the training I got was really great. And I want it’s, no, it’s accepted everything. But there’s people that are going beyond this with all these skills and doing some wonderful things. And so I’m trying some stuff. But you know, the other thing, it takes time, you know, if you want to change, you know, you want to be more impressionistic, or you want to get combined more abstract, which I kind of do anyways. But, you know, how far can you go? And isn’t really the right thing to do? You know? People said, Well, why do you want to change you’re doing great with what you’re doing? It was I don’t know, I should do something better. I’m sure a lot of artists feel that it’s, it’s a great subject, you know, we, you know, that we ought to get a panel to talk about how artists feel, you know, I’m watching your, your, your podcast with Larry Moore. And I thought that was just a great interview. You guys were talking about all that. And I think we just for artists sake, and to understand that, you know, if they want to change, you know, can they change, you know, it gets a little bit harder when you get older. So, you know, I may be chasing who was a? Who was it? …. I think it’s artists were doing that every day.

Eric Rhoads 31:41
Well, Richard Schmid told me, I don’t remember what age Richard was when he told me this, but it was probably mid 70s. And he said, I used to waste a lot of time as an artist making mistakes. And he said, Now, I’m much more deliberate. He said, once I lay the paint down, he said, I’m slower, more deliberate, I measure things more, I mix the paint more. But once I lay things down, I leave it alone. But he said that I don’t have to go back and correct it, you find that you kind of go through that same type of experience? Because you have so much practice under your belt? Or do you still go in there randomly and make a lot of mistakes?

Ned Mueller 32:32
Yeah, you know, it’s just a process, you know, making mistakes. That’s why I’m a big thing on value value studies in color studies. It cause you get rid of, I mean, my age, I wanted to get rid of the bad paintings, you know, and figured I could cut that down, I could do more value studies, color study, you get your idea down, you get something down, so you can see if it’s right or wrong, instead of starting on a 24 by 30 painting, you work these out, you know, because I don’t know many artists and you just sit down on a big painting and have it come out but I do value studies like you’re seeing here and work out the design and the changes I went to need the values. And it’s I’ll do 20 or 30 of them and then do the best of that 10 or 12 of those and do color studies then maybe do a finished painting. But you also find after a while you start doing value study and color study. You’ve done the game twice. You’ve played the game twice and doing a larger paintings. So I often just finish up my color studies and I can’t work too big anyways because of my injuries. Like just that movement. Right? Upside most of you sitting down

Eric Rhoads 34:07
and you have a process that involves photography of value studies. Do you want to just articulate that a little bit more?

Ned Mueller 34:18
Yeah, you know, taking photographs mazing up people don’t know how to take a good photo. I take a photo like I’m making a painting. Walk around look for different something like this with a camel is coming at you. I guess I’m not supposed to camel coming at you. It’s a it’s a little different. You got to shoot very quick but the so I take the photographs and compose them as best I can like a painting these that but also take pictures of things that around it that maybe I could use it better I am in a Mexican market I’ll take pictures of flowers and oranges and all sorts of stuff. And you know to work back in the studio and then I’ll and I’ll do value studies or pick out the best stuff and kind of think about it. And I’ll put value studies down in color studies that you know, I’ve changed a year later because no I wanted to but I just learned that helps me do a more successful painting. If I think it out and work it out and I some people don’t want to do that. Now they want to sit down and get that’s the great thing about playing air sit down and you know, get that spontaneous, wonderful feeling. But I’ve done so much plein air and studio work that you know a lot of people can’t tell the difference between my studio and plein air work.

Eric Rhoads 36:00
But you can you can tell the difference between their studio and plein air work?

Ned Mueller 36:05
Pretty much I think any any good painter can probably probably tell.

Eric Rhoads 36:10
You know, there’s a there’s always a debate about use of photographs. And sometimes like, you know, like the camel is a great example, where you know, you snap it because it was a serendipitous event that you just had to grab. I’m always doing that while I’m driving, taking photographs. But it’s that learning plein air painting and seeing light in color that you can’t see in the photograph. That really makes a difference. I’ve told the story many times but Nikolai dooba beak the Russian master teaches at the sericata Academy in Moscow. He walked into my studio and he went that one that one that one that one that one. I said, What are you talking about? He said you did those plein air the rest you did from photographs. And I thought he was right how and I couldn’t tell the difference, but he could. And so it’s really all about that. Getting outdoors and practicing if you’re going to use photographs, knowing how the light and shape and form responds that you want to add anything to that.

Ned Mueller 37:16
Now my studio work helped my plein air and my plein air work help my studio. So I can’t see it. But lately I’ve because of the COVID We haven’t gotten out. Yeah, I was traveling all over the world and painting. And before my injury and everything, and we still get out and paint but I noticed, you know, through this winter, we we didn’t go anywhere there been out. We went outside the arc painted time to change hopefully. And notice my paintings, the studio pennies. Were tightening up. And you know, I wasn’t I wasn’t happy with it. Because I need to get outside again, or just even what I’ve been doing is just painting in the studio of objects in the studio. And just something that comes up, you know, because if you’re trained, right, like I say all this drawing everything, all we’re doing is improving our judgment. And when you’re drawing or painting, you’re improving your judgment, which improves your painting, your ability to see, say and compose and all that stuff. All this business is improving. And that’s pretty much sharpening our eye and sharpening our judgment. What what is good, what is bad.

Eric Rhoads 38:49
Talk to me a little bit about some of the inspiration of paintings or painters that have inspired you throughout your career. I’m curious who you’re drawing on, you know, you oftentimes hear the same names, but sometimes you hear names that we don’t think about are the ones that have really inspired you.

Unknown Speaker 39:11
Gosh, I think I listed about Tana Obama. I can think of so many … Yeah, he mostly does figures. It just does beautiful alone. Figures and oh man. Yeah, they’re inspiring. I mean, he’s like a fashion. You know,

Eric Rhoads 39:34
this is a living artist.

Ned Mueller 39:36
No, no, he’s no, he’s painting I would think back in the 50s and 60s are

Eric Rhoads 39:43
probably a Russian. Yeah, yeah.

Ned Mueller 39:48
There’s a handy resort most people have heard of,

Eric Rhoads 39:51
yeah, tell me tell me what inspires you about Zorn?

Ned Mueller 39:56
Oh, well, look at that. I have I mean, how could say that? Yeah, it’s just the freshness. You know. I wouldn’t be surprised that he did that from life. Yeah. And now, that’s an incredible painting. That’s one of my favorites of his. It’s just take your life. Take your breath away. The other ones would be Antonio Manzini.

Eric Rhoads 40:28
I love him. I discovered him when I was in Europe. I did I had no idea he existed what an incredible artist he was.

Ned Mueller 40:36
Yeah, this painting is the oh, what’s the museum in Boston the gallows friendsville All these guys Oh, gardener. Yeah, yeah, the Gardner Museum This is in there but they’re in there whatever they call it their covenant they can’t put lights on the casing so this thing is you know almost laying on the floor and in the dark I mean it’s shameful what goes on there but frayed pennies on there nobody’s been there

Eric Rhoads 41:15
man Cheney reminds me very much of the Russians is … Fechin you know if you if you look at I saw a large body of his work in Europe and and this was during that period of time when he had literally gone insane but everything was just you know, splatters and abstract shapes but those faces were pretty tight. They were still done abstractly but they were tight. And you look at Zara and it’s almost the same way but this was you know zord is it as tight in the faces man Cheney is but everything just explodes there’s so much energy is working so incredible.

Ned Mueller 42:00
Yeah, same same with Fechin Yeah. She could do or tea Ortiz is amazing. Nobody’s heard of him. That’s affection. Incredible still life.

Eric Rhoads 42:15
Now you at you said you’re at one you have had an opportunity to encounter some you’ve been an artist most of your life. So you’ve had an encounters with some people who had some pretty great reputations throughout time as you miss fashion right? Fashion was gone by the time you got into this.

Unknown Speaker 42:37
Yeah. Well, I know he died. And I think 54. When I first saw his paintings. The Fryatt museum here has as a big collection of events. And when I first saw this guy’s a hack, you can just see the canvas, you can see the canvas and what you know what ours whatever. But you see the candidate and yeah, I he’s now I see his genius you know and

Eric Rhoads 43:09
and what is it that changed in you that made you go from saying this guy’s a hack to this guy’s a genius? Was it your own development? I think when we start out as painters, I can only speak for myself. But when I started out as a painter, I was trying to be almost photorealistic, you know, lots and lots of details and little tiny brushstrokes. And then you know, over time, I at least in my case, I loosened up I become less concerned about that. Is that the kind of thing you know, when you saw fashion for the first time you just you you personally were not developed enough to appreciate it?

Ned Mueller 43:49
That’s right. You know, in my own career and teaching when I can get the students to not think so literally, like a mountain is a mountain trees or trees and when I can see them as more of an interesting arrangements, their shapes and colors. And that’s, that’s my definition of a good painting. I mean, it does. It’s not the greatest but when people ask me that I tell them that and it it kind of covers all kind of painting abstract, traditional classical impressionistic expression. It’s an interesting or compelling arrangements of shapes and colors. And so when I get the students to think that way, instead of you know, having to paint every little detail and seeing arrangements of shapes and colors, and colors, including value arrangement. Then they start seeing more possibilities. A pennies pot, there’s possibilities painting’s wherever you go, you know. And then you have the, the knowledge and the wisdom to interpret it in your own voice, which really makes a difference. And, and that also your own voice. It’s just wonderful teaching so much I found out, you know, you can I enjoy teaching very much. I mean, I found out that I love they had me teaching when I was in art, school and making money in teaching what I love. I mean, I never thought I’d ever do that. But I forgot what I was gonna say, Now, that’s a problem, but being at one, senior months and stuff. Oh, well, what were we talking about?

Eric Rhoads 45:48
We were talking about we what I was gonna ask you about was kind of a you were talking about rearranging shapes. So I was going to ask you about learning design and? And how do you how do you learn that? Is that something that is all about a feel? Or is there a formula that you kind of follow?

Ned Mueller 46:06
Okay, I just missed I can say, like somebody playing golf, you know, you got to learn all this swings. And you know, how hold it or playing tennis, you kind of hold it piece by piece. And still like in baseball as a pitcher, and I have to learn the right style for you and all that. But then you have to let it all go. You learn all this stuff. And then you. And then there’s three stages, I say a painting the first stage, you paint much, you know, I do a portrait workshop, nine times out of 10 a beginner, I could have the head turned at an angle like that a beginner of paint it straight on. Because that’s what they know, that’s what they see in the air, right? Not tell are the same as landscapes. And I tell them, paint what you see, you know, and landscape, they paint what they know that, you know, always paint the sky blue, and the shadows are cool, because you go in the shade to get cool. And then they learn to see, most shadows are warm. And no sky can be yellow. Sometimes, you know, grass can be orange. And the best stage is the third stage. You paint what you feel.

Eric Rhoads 47:30
But everybody want to get to

Ned Mueller 47:33
Yeah, everybody wants to paint the third stage. And all they want to be this great impressionist painting. And I want to do it in two weeks.

Eric Rhoads 47:45
So how do you make that leap to painting what you feel?

Ned Mueller 47:50
Just go through those other stages? Yeah, go through and just let it let it go. I think it just it just happens, you know, you just fail. You know? I mean, some people get there quicker. And I was we’re all different. And so yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not sure how to answer that.

Eric Rhoads 48:17
It’s all that kind of goes in line with the question about how do you develop your own personal style? Of what what the answer I oftentimes get is you don’t it finds you?

Ned Mueller 48:31
Yeah, that’s a good answer is any? I think the important thing is they get away from being so liberal. You know, the trouble is, so many buyers are in are just so naive about art. That, you know, they think a great painting looks more like a photograph, the greater it is, and it’s just the opposite. Oh, thank goodness. So many of ours get caught up in that because they they’re making sales with that, you know, takes a lot of courage to just be yourself and paint whatever you love and how you love you know, I mean I had the ZX even as an illustrator I had I had assignments I you know, like even when I worked for Disney, there was millions of dollars at stake and I was doing you know, blue sky painting big huge paintings of what the park would look like before it was built. And you know, I had it you know, I had to do what they wanted and yet sometimes they changed it to halfway through because it was too expensive for them. But they paid me for it too. Anyway, so so you don’t do that fine arts either. You I mean, I guess the difference is no, I got in the fire and a lot of people gonna find out so they could just do what they want. But that doesn’t always work out. So sometimes you have to paint but you think might sell. And all because you have to pay the bills, you know, and all I know.

Eric Rhoads 50:11
And it’s it’s a great debate and you know, it’s thankfully there are some people who are at different stages of their development as buyers because that way, younger, less established artists have a chance to sell something, even though they may be being, you know, very photorealistic or something. But I think that this is a great debate, you know, I don’t think there’s a solution to it. But hey, you know, I oftentimes, say in my marketing seminars at the convention, at least, you’re painting, you know, if you have to pay what sells to pay the bills, you know, at least you’re not going out and, you know, cleaning toilets to pay the bills, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But at least you’re painting, you’re getting experience, you’re painting, you’re doing something. But I think the ultimate goal is it sounds to me, like from all the inner interviews I’ve done with artists, it sounds to me like it gets to that point that once somebody is painting, what they love, and what they really want to do, it resonates so well that it increases their sales over time. Because their paintings are better because they love what they’re doing more rather than painting something that they don’t care about.

Ned Mueller 51:27
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Most of us end up doing that initially. Have a big target, find out a lot of people who are really creative, they have large trust funds. They can just do whatever they want. Yeah, yeah. So

Eric Rhoads 51:48
you’re doing workshops? I know. You’re not doing a lot of them. But you do you have a big one coming up in Montana in June. Yeah. And that’s a landscape workshop.

Ned Mueller 52:00
Yes, it is. Yeah, I’ve been doing it for about the last three years through Scottsdale art school. And it’s it’s just beautiful. The road goes up. We stay in cabins farther down there, cook city. But the road goes up to just under 11,000 feet. I mean, it’s incredible scenery is just just remarkable. And yeah, it’s on alphas I gonna say about it. But yeah, we’ve been whether this is a scene up on top there near the top. This is about 10 9000 feet. And last year, we were lucky we’ve got been having good weather all five days, you know, that middle of June. But and this is one of our favorite spots, because I mean, it’s just full of material. You know, it’s surrounded by mountains. You know, it’s just just a marvelous place. I don’t encourage anybody. We you know, that we get cheaper cabins are 100 $110. You know, they have they have a cafe there. But yeah, I enjoy going back there.

Eric Rhoads 53:16
What do you find that most workshops students have in common that they need to work on? Dry? Dry?

Unknown Speaker 53:26
Yeah, hosted mostly dry. I might say I’ve got I do classes online here, online at the studio. It’s online, and I go to this duty on Wednesday more than I do. Workshops, you know, online, still around the country through but I’ve got them listed all on my website.

Eric Rhoads 53:49
Okay. And that is what

Unknown Speaker 53:53

Eric Rhoads 53:58
Okay. All right. And then Instagram. It’s at Ned Mueller. Oh, six. Facebook. It’s Ned Mueller. Fine Art. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that I would love for this to go on forever. I think you and I could probably stretched this out for many, many more hours in terms of great content, but you’ve given us a really good starting point. And we’ll have you back again for another one so that we can continue the discussion. Is there before we wrap up? You’ve been plein air painting most of your life. Is there a special plein air moment that you can remember? Where? You know, it was just really special to you for some reason or something happened? Just curious. Oh, gosh, I know you weren’t prepared for that question.

Ned Mueller 54:53
Well, no, I’ve heard you ask that before. So I just don’t know how to ask Answer that there’s been quite a few. Yeah. You know, the Yeah, certainly the I’ll say the last 10 years that’s really kept me going is meeting my wife, Karen. You know, she’s just been a blessing and you know, and she’s an artist too and really good. She’s getting better than I am I begin and a hater gotta break her arm. But yeah, that’s, that’s probably the, for me my situation. That’s, yeah. Are you mean an artist? You know? Are people have discovered your magazine or discover these podcasts? That could be I’m sure. I’m sure a lot of people. And you may not have heard from them, that I’ve got this from you. You’ve done some I know how it feels. We started an art magazine. And I was president for five years. And that was people only paid $200 a month. We had models every day. You know, life drawing sessions. And when 150 members and all good, only 30 or 35. were active because you couldn’t have a model there with 150 members showing up. So anyways, maybe we can get together and paint some time.

Eric Rhoads 56:34
I’d like that. We need to figure that out. And I’ll be watching. I hope I’ll be watching.

Ned Mueller 56:43
We can come up here. The summers are beautiful.

Eric Rhoads 56:45
Yeah, I’d like that. Yeah. The only time you don’t get rain,

Ned Mueller 56:50
and Karen makes a wonderful Irish Stew. Oh, can your Irish coffee. Alright, sounds good. Yeah.

Eric Rhoads 57:01
Ned, thank you so much for being on the plein air podcast today. I’m really honored that you would do it. And, and thank you, I just want to acknowledge you, you know, the second time I went to plein air painters of America, that was old line. And it was at that event that I got the idea for creating plein air magazine, because I was there and I saw all these people who were, you know, passionate and interested about plein air painting. And I thought well, there’s a lot of people quite turned out there were quite enough at the time. But we’ve we’ve since tried to change that a little bit. Now. I think there’s a lot of people painting in plein air. I don’t know how many but you know, hundreds of 1000s. And, and

Ned Mueller 57:51
guaranteed in heaven. I don’t necessarily believe in God. But he’ll probably go to heaven there and I’m not sure I will.

Eric Rhoads 57:58
Well, I don’t think that’s how I’m going to get into heaven. But it’s very kind of you to say, but you know, I I just I will just tell you this that I became so joy filled. Once I started plein air painting. I was frustrated as heck. But I became joyfilled and I just every chance I got when I started that plus, you know, 2020 plus years ago, probably. I just am I haven’t stopped and I still go out plein air painting. I’m still excited about it. And it is given me a wonderful life and I want others to find that joy. I just don’t you know, I’m not a golfer I used to be but you know, if I’m outdoors I’m painting I’m not golfing. You know, plein air is the new golf as I like to say but but it you know, there’s something because it’s satisfying to your soul because you’re being creative. You’re learning you’re growing. You’re stretching yourself everyday painting. And so thank you for the compliment. I just want others to find it because it’s been good for me that and you have been a terrific inspiration to me and to all of us. Thank you so much for that.

Ned Mueller 59:16
Oh, sure. Thanks, Eric. And have a good week.

Eric Rhoads 59:20
All right, I’m guessing. And Ned, thank you so much again. We are honored that you would be here. Well it’s time now for the marketing minute.

Announcer 59:33
This is the Marketing Minute with Eric Rhoads, author of the number one Amazon bestseller “Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Techniques to Turn Your Passion Into Profit.”

Eric Rhoads 59:44
Well, thanks for the mention on that Jim kipping. By the way I’m working on another book, all right, just saying might take me Who knows how long it will take me. So in the marketing minute my goal is to answer your art marketing questions. You know, art Marketing is what leads to art sales. And you’re always welcome to Upload a question on video, you can just go to art or you can email them to me, Eric at art That’s always nice to have you do that. But in the meantime, my producer from France, Amandineis going to read the questions that we don’t have video on. So, and it’s kind of hard to read the slide, but she’s gonna read it for us.

Amandine 1:00:34
So the first question is from Rick Wallace. As I’ve become a very popular amateur artist in the Dallas area, I only go out and sell my art twice a month for six hours at a time in a downtown park. No galleries, no online, no festivals. Last Saturday was a slow day, and I saw 39 originals on Canvas, most of them four or 48 by 36 are larger. Yeah, average price is $122. Each. Yes, it’s super cheap. I buy use canvases and acrylic paint, I paint fast, and I have a job. So this is not my only source of income. I’m not losing money. But breaking from this category of interesting, large and cheap is now going to is not going to be easy. Do you have any ideas?

Eric Rhoads 1:01:26
Okay, Rick. So I do have some ideas. So I just want to tell you, first off, be careful of the stories that you tell yourself. Your story was breaking from this category of interesting, large and cheap is not going to be easy. That’s a story. It’s got to be easy. It’s not It’s sit, let let’s change that it’s going to be simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. And you just have to learn a process. Now the good news is, you have discovered something that I’ve never heard anybody talking about doing before. I’ve seen artists on the street selling stuff, but I never really thought about that. You have discipline yourself to go out certain times a month, twice a month, staying for six hours, and putting your originals out there and selling them. And yeah, you’re only getting $122 Each for it, especially for a 48 by 36, which is huge. But at least you’re getting experience and finding out what do people resonate with? What do they like? What do they don’t like? What what paintings really speak to people, you know, you’re learning a little bit about that. And you’re getting paid to practice at least you’re covering the expense of your canvas, and you’re covering the expense of your paint, and you’re getting paid to practice. That’s a beautiful thing. But if you want to make it into the big leagues, now you got to make the leap. And so how do you make the leap? Well, just remember one thing, there are a lot of artists I know who are not making, making bank, right. So you you sold 2039 originals at $122 each. That’s, that’s nice, you made $5,000 Just five grand in your pocket. And now that you’re doing that twice a month, right, so you’re making 10 grand a month. I know a lot of artists who are professionals that are not still making 10 grand a month, there are a lot who are the one thing you could do is artists never have carpet dance, to raise their prices. And learning to raise your prices is an important discipline and you have the perfect venue for experimenting with it. First off, they’re getting a tremendous value. I don’t know if your paintings are any good or not, I’ve not seen them but you’re giving a big value for a big painting. And if you eventually want to sell these people more expensive paintings, you might have a harder time doing that. But what I would do right off the bat is if you changed your price from $122 Each to let’s say $150 each, but is that 28 bucks more. If you times that times of 39 paintings you sold you’re gonna make an extra 1000 bucks without doing any extra work. And nobody’s gonna have that price resistance going from 122 to 150 Probably not the same people buying each time and then you know, try going from 150 to 175 or 200 and get in the habit. I was talking to David LaFell one time and I learned the story about how he got his prices up. I said how did it happen? He said I had a painting it didn’t sell I took it out of the gallery I gave it to another gallery a double the price still didn’t sell it took it out of that gallery and gave it to another gallery a double the price. It didn’t sell so finally I took it out gave it to another gallery and I TEDx the pricing, it’s sold immediately. You know, there are people out there who don’t think like you. And I think people who are not price sensitive people who are willing to pay value for something of value to them. And sometimes price sends a signal, a low price sends a signal that this is too cheap, a high price sends a signal that this is really good. So be thinking in terms of that, what you can do is look to these people, what else can I get out of them? Well, first off, how could you leverage that you if you can get their email addresses and their names, then you can get them on a newsletter and start talking about your art. Because there’s something I want you to remember. And that is this phrase you’ve had, if you’ve ever driven into McDonald’s, here’s the phrase, do you want fries with that? Okay, what that means is there’s always an opportunity to sell something else, you know, McDonald’s makes billions of dollars more by saying do you want Excuse me? Do you want fries with that? So what you can do is if somebody buys a painting, can you figure out how to get a second painting? You know, can you say, Hey, since you bought one, you automatically get a special discount on the second one, you can do that, get them to buy two now, you know, less effort, more money. But eventually you build a collector base. Now you’ve got a collector base, you’ve got all these people, you start talking to him, you start talking about raising your prices, you’re going to be fine. But eventually as you get into galleries, this is going to be great training for you. And but the most important thing to remember is that if you’re excuse me, if you’re selling to inexpensively, you might hurt the overall marketplace, you might hurt other artists. And you could say well, that’s okay, I’m getting the money. But you want to be part of a community and that community of artists is building everybody up. So practice those things, I believe. What’s our next question?

Amandine 1:07:13
Our second question is, from Holly from Tennessee. I’ve only just graduated from art school, and I am here to create a body of work for a gallery and websites. I don’t have a lot of money for canvases. One hack I’ve heard off is buying old paintings at thrift stores and painting over them. Is this a good idea? Or does it cheapen the quality overall?

Eric Rhoads 1:07:41
Well, listen, Holly, from Tennessee, you know, the most important thing you can do right now you’re fresh out of art school, is the most important thing you can do is paint as much as you possibly can. And practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And whatever you practice on doesn’t matter. A good painting is a good painting, no matter what the surface it’s on. Now, you want the painting to last, you know, there are painters who will paint on cardboard, I have a whole collection of Russian paintings that were done in the post Soviet era when they had no money and they didn’t couldn’t get canvas, they paint on cardboard, they paint on the back of Coca Cola signs, I mean anything and everything. If people see and recognize a good painting that stimulates something in them and makes them want to own it. That’s all that matters. Now, if you’re buying canvases and masks from Goodwill or something, and you’re painting over them, I see nothing wrong with that, as a matter of fact, you know, you might be able to get some cool and interesting texture underneath your paintings that will make them better. And you might have to cover up the back, right because there may be an inscription on the back something so you might have to take some brown paper and glue it on or something but I you know, you just do whatever it takes. There’s not a right or wrong. What matters is getting yourself out there. You got to put yourself out there. Everybody’s like, Well, I’m not ready to put myself out there. I know artists who he did, they just didn’t feel like they were ever ready. And I you know, there’s something to that you want to be ready, but you also want to be getting yourself out there because it takes 23456 10 however many years to get experiences in learning to sell your artwork and learning how to deal with customers and learning how to present it and learning how to deal with galleries and you know all of that the sooner you can make those lessons stick the better off you’re going to be. Yes you do want to get to a point where your artwork is acceptable to sell but that’s a matter of opinion because Some people will see it and go, it’s great. Others will see it and say it’s not cooked yet. One thing you can do is ask someone who’s a professional, somebody who’s like an editor of a magazine or somebody who’s like, gallery curator or older or something like that. You can ask them say, send them an email saying, Could I pay you a little bit of money to critique my painting? Don’t tell me the good stuff. Tell me what’s bad that I need to fix so that you get an outside opinion. And most importantly, you want to find out when you’re ready. And when you’re ready, get yourself out there because the sooner you get your foot in the water, it gets some experience. It’s like learning to swim right? When I learned to swim, my swim instructor picked me up. I was five years old, and he threw me into the pool. He said, Okay, get yourself out. And I had to learn to swim real quickly. Right, so we’ll jump in to the bath of fire. Okay, anyway, that is the art marketing minute.

Announcer 1:11:00
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at

Eric Rhoads 1:11:08
I want to remind you guys that we’re all going to meet at the plein air convention in May, it’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s only 97 seats left make sure to go to Also, if you want to be included on this monumental trip to New Zealand to paint for, like we’re going to paint for 10 days. Go to find out more about that it’s And last but not least, this summer in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, it is stunningly beautiful. And we have like two groups that go out we have the a group and the B group or the you know, one group is kind of roadside painting for people who can’t walk through, you know, walk over rocks. The other group, you know, it’s not a lot of heavy stuff, but we do go down some goalies are up some hills and things but we all get together certain spots we paid together and we’re painting together groups every day. It’s a lot of fun. And then we play at night, which is also a lot of fun. So just go to All right. Thank you guys for listening. I want to thank dead Mueller. He was absolutely fabulous. He’s a true inspiration. One of our greats. We’re so honored to have him today. I’m the publisher of plein air magazine, which you can find on the newsstands. Thank you for your time today. Remember, it is a big world out there. Go paint it.

This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.


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