Plein Air Podcast 242: Colley Whisson on His Art Career Path and More

In this episode of the Plein Air Podcast, Eric Rhoads interviews Australian artist Colley Whisson, who says to “paint with passion, paint like this next painting you’re doing is going to be your best painting, this one’s going to be your masterpiece, be that focused, be that committed.”

Listen as they discuss:

– The advantages of growing up in a family of artists
– The rejuvenation of the plein air painting movement
– Being flexible with your painting subjects when on location
– The trick he used to help develop spacial awareness in his art and also launch his career

Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares thoughts on submitting art to virtual galleries; and how to price your art.

Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Colley Whisson here:


Related Links:
– Colley Whisson online:
– Plein Air Magazine:
– Plein Air Convention & Expo:
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram:
– Plein Air Today newsletter:
– Submit Art Marketing Questions:

The Plein Air Podcast has been named the #1 Painting Podcast by FeedSpot for two years in a row.

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.

Eric Rhoads:
This is episode number 242 with Australian artist Colley Whisson.

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 0:31
Thank you, Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. I’m Eric, thank you for tuning in today. And coming up soon after the interview. I have the art marketing minute. And we’re going to talk about pricing your artwork, and how to know if a gallery that’s reaching out to you is legit. If those things are important to you hang around after our interview. I want you to raise your hand. Don’t raise it yet. I know it can be a little awkward if you’re sitting there listening in your studio or your home. Or maybe you’re sitting with somebody beside you and you’ve got your earphones in earplugs in or you’re driving but raise your hand if you got outside to paint this week. Yep, okay, I see quite a few of you did, some of you didn’t. I know the weather’s kind of Rocky in some places. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I created a global painting event that happened recently. And painting outside is what we do. And we painted the out the world famous artists cabin. So that’s kind of fun. So I did get a chance to paint, not as much. But I am going to get out a little bit more the bluebonnets are out and they are in full bloom. And we are just completely ready to get out there and paint him it’s kind of hard to paint a field of blue, because you’re not used to it. And if you use the if the blue is too garish, of course, then everything looks just really awkward. And you don’t want it to look like water. Right. But sometimes the colors are the same. So you got to be really careful about that. It’s challenging, and that’s why I love doing it. Raise your hand also, by the way, if you’re already a subscriber to plein air magazine, put it up. Hi. Oh, I see you. Thank you, thank you. I don’t see very many, many hands that are not subscribed subscribers. But if you’re not, go ahead and get yours soon. Just go to That way you don’t have to go to the newsstand and pay twice the price. You know in the baseball world, they do spring training. As a matter of fact, it’s going on right now in Florida. In the plein air world. We do spring training too. We gather in person in Denver this year anyway, in May for the 10th annual plein air convention. It’s going to be epic, because it’s our 10th birthday. So we have got some fun things planned. And we even have a world class celebrity Jane Seymour, who’s also a painter is going to help us celebrate. And we have some amazing, amazing artists who are going to be teaching at the plein air convention. So we would love it. If you would join us and you don’t have to be at any particular level. You don’t even have to paint when we go out and paint every day. We have teaching all day long and then painting. And it’s really kind of a lot of fun. But you know a lot of people not a lot, but a few people don’t pay. They just want to kind of attend and that’s cool too. But we have a beginner’s day if you’re a beginner, or now we’re calling it essentials day, I believe and we also have a pre convention workshop with the great Laurie Putnam and it’s gonna be fun that starts a day and a half before the convention. So get it get it done. Hey, thanks again for making us number one of the Feedspot list of painting podcasts for the second year in a row. We like that. That’s nice. We are honored. Now before we get started, I want to let you know because I get a lot of questions about this. The publishers Invitational my retreat in June is sold out. And it’s never sold out this early but it’s sold out. And I think we’ve been able to open it up and get a couple more rooms maybe but really, if you want to come to the next one, the fall color week is not yet sold out. It’s more than 50% sold out. And that’s taking place in the fall. We paint fall color and this year we’re doing it which is rare we’re doing it in the Adirondacks, which is also beautiful and at a different place. We’re staying in what used to be one of the great old great camps. And it’s right on the water. It’s beautiful. And the rooms are really a lot of fun. So anyway, check it out at Now because plein air is a worldwide movement, and we’re happy to have played a little bit of a role in that, you know, it’s spreading throughout the world. We thought it’d be nice to talk to an artist who is in Australia, but it’s also painting the world including painting throughout the United States. His name is Colley Whisson. Colley is internationally recognized as an artist. He was born in 1966 and raised in the northern regions of Brisbane. under guidance of his dad, the renowned artist Eric Whisson, he commenced an oil painting career at the age of 20. He has been long considered a leading artists of his generation, his first solo exhibition was a sellout at the age of 24. And since then, he’s had numerous solo joint exhibitions, written magazine articles, two books, and recent eBooks are sought after by collectors and libraries nationally and internationally. He’s also got some video and mentoring and things like that out there. So terrific. Colley, welcome.

Colley Whisson 6:23
Thank you. Thank you. It’s a real pleasure, Eric. Thanks

Eric Rhoads 6:27
for kind of a superachiever Yeah.

Colley Whisson 6:30
Well, as you mentioned, my father, I’m actually one of seven kids as well. So my parents, I guess are overachievers. And me being a twin as well. And so they had their hands full five boys, two girls. A full blown art career. My father used to teach 100 students a week and so I gotta live up to

Eric Rhoads 6:52
well, it is a lot to live up to, but it’s also I you know, I it could go either direction, right? Because I know that that my kids don’t want anything to do with it. I drag I dragged them to art museums and things like that over the years and they’re like dad, not another museum. So maybe it’ll come back to him at some point. But what about you did you have Were you the only one interested in art.

Colley Whisson 7:16
Um, actually, it’s funny, I sort of came from a real sporting sort of background as well. My father was quite a good sports person and my mum was quite good at sport as well. And I was a fast runner and played soccer cricket, love golf. And so I think my parents allowed us to to live out our ambitions and dreams with our sport and physical side and in Australia is such a great area of country to grow up in it’s very safe and so we were able to do that classic thing where you go outside you have friends over you go to friends places and you just make sure you’re home before dark and

Eric Rhoads 8:01
was when the streetlights come on. That’s yeah,

Colley Whisson 8:03
that was that was the classic Yeah, but I think it was a worldwide sort of one. If the street lights are on you better be home. Because dinner will be on the table and it’s time to eat and with knowing people in the family you wanted to make sure you were there early or you’re kind of missed out on seconds or you missed out on something you don’t know if something went missing too. So but it was kind of we had a cow and chickens and we grew up on a couple of acres dad actually did a little bit of farming it before relaunching his painting career and so to me, I look back at it as a really lovely relaxed lot of fresh air. We have pineapple farms, Queensland’s known for our pineapples, bananas, mangoes you name it. Sunshine we get what we like Florida we also have the heat and humidity as well. So that’s why with my new studio, excuse me studio that we just built 12 months ago I made sure I’ve got fans and air conditioning and so good all the mod cons. Nice. Yeah, I normally try and say my plein air painting more for the slightly cooler months and

Eric Rhoads 9:18
after layer which was your dad a plein air painter as well. I know he was a very well known painter. Did he get outside?

Colley Whisson 9:24
Yeah, yeah. Queensland wasn’t isn’t as conducive to outside work because we’re sort of hot and steamy for sort of six to eight months of the year. But no, no, he would actually do regular art classes. And we’d regularly go out painting which we used to go out once a week for about 12 years. Actually, the funny story was a young artist friend and I I think I was 21 he was 22 and we went out just to get a just us to paint and and I made a complete mess of it. We will get being eaten alive by mash flies these big flies that bite you, they’re like, four times the size of a normal fly, driving home thinking, Well, I don’t think I’m gonna be a great artist because I can’t pay to save my life. And on the drive home, I thought to myself, you know, what? All the color mixing the brushes, how about I turn that right down and just start drawing, or draw and draw until I started to see the subjects and see what needs to be done. And I actually ended up doing that for about three years before I then started actually painting oils outside. And in, in hindsight, I thought that was probably close to one of the best bits of training I could have given myself. Because not only was I teaching myself to see, but it was also teaching myself how to recognize a good subject. And I think the one thing that a lot of people probably identify with my work is the the light the sunlight. And I think that’s all comes from that monochromatic black and white values that it because light loves contrast. So, so no. So that was now I see as a great apprenticeship. Even though I did actually do a little bit of picture framing. My father had a picture framing business as well. So I did that for about nine kids for 77.

Eric Rhoads 11:30
Well, I think that’s, you know, that’s a really great observation because I was just reading a book on Everett, Raymond Kinsler, the great portrait artist, and the one thing that he in the book, he, and when I knew him, he was constantly reinforcing, is you gotta get your drawing down, you know, drawing is everything. And if you don’t do your drawing, right, nothing else is going to matter. So I think what a great investment in time and getting your drawing and also being able to see values. That’s huge.

Colley Whisson 12:03
Absolutely. Actually, my parents were fantastic. That was so supportive that they said, don’t worry, because I was actually a carpenter originally, after leaving high school. You wonder how I fitted everything in. But once I started painting, actually, my dad would get my oldest brother, a second oldest, third oldest, my sister. And I think he was getting down to me who’s number five, and my twin brother, who’s number six, thinking poorly on running out of kids to pass the family business on to that I was supportive. They, in the first couple of years until I started sort of making an income and a living. They said, Don’t do any framing. Don’t do any carpentry. I used to do the odd little bit of work with my twin brother, which was great fun. But they said, Just concentrate on your painting. That’s what you want to be known for. Get as good as possible. So they were fantastic. And Dad, no, we would paint together six days a week. Sometimes we would go out on a Saturday as well. But normally we would go out say on a Tuesday and

Eric Rhoads 13:13
hollows they’re probably great classic photos, family photos, if you have pictures of you and your brothers and your dad out painting. That’s pretty cool.

Colley Whisson 13:23
Oh, absolutely. No, no, it’s actually it’s funny. When I sort of think I look back at some of the early photos, I thought I don’t actually have any, because you’re normally working away. And you normally didn’t have that thought reminded actually take a photo. So we’ve got a couple of quite a few but yeah, sort of most of the photos you take with the iPhone. It’s so quick. You got it in your pocket. So you can just

Eric Rhoads 13:53
Yeah, well, I you know, the the other observation is that your dad did you a big favor, because he said, you know, don’t focus on carpentry right now, you know, focus on anything else. But but your career. This is something that is well known in the Russian tradition, where they try to get you through your training, get you through school, and then they try and set you up in some kind of a system that gives you support for a couple of years so that you can just focus on painting, and in their case, oftentimes, monumental works. But that had to be a tremendous benefit, because you probably saw your skills ramp up considerably in that two year period of time.

Colley Whisson 14:33
Ah, absolutely. Absolutely. I kind of went from zero even though it used to be a little bit of drawing and painting as a kid and by all my oil paintings turned to mud and I thought no, that’s not for me as a 1012 year old and my younger sister was doing art school and I thought, oh, you know what, if anyone ever asks, I was doing my carpentry or any of you kids is paint and I said, Well, I think it’s going to be my younger sister Erica, she, she’s studying art, she’s loving it. And so I think she’s the one never sort of thinking that I was going to be the one. But actually, it was a little bit of a sporting injury, I sort of strained some ligaments in my knee and playing soccer and training and and that’s when dad sort of grabbed Barry and I and he had a Tuesday night class. And Barry lasted about one and a half lessons. The funny thing is Barry and my father, my twin brother and my father are spitting images. So you would think he was going to be the artist when you’d look at them as physical people. But Barry’s more like my mom’s side, the engineers the electrician. So we’re I seem to have inherited the outside from my father, but I more look like my mom’s side. On. So I had a really lovely accelerated learning. And actually, that kind of brought on an interesting sort of situation that once I met my wife, Stephanie, and we had bought our first little home, I didn’t have that safety net there of 2530 years of experience to say, Oh, watch this and watch that. And so then I had to really sort of sink or swim and, but thankfully, actually stiff. That’s where I think when I’m at workshops, people sort of say, Oh, how can you always talking about your family? And because I think you are? Yeah, yeah. But the family, your family, like even now with my sons, and Alex, my older son, who’s actually taken a great interest because he’s been doing the YouTube channel for about 10 years now. And he’s kind of great. I bet my wife’s got a sensationalized shield, say, Oh, just watch this little area here. And, and it’s good to have that positive feedback. And my mother in law, she’s sensational voice, she’s so blunt, she’ll say out like that love that hate that don’t like that, which you’d actually need. But she’s fantastic. She’s probably one of my biggest fans, as well. So at the end, you do need a lot of that.

Eric Rhoads 17:14
Or you need that you need that perspective, and then support where somebody from either an artist friend or somebody from your family, who you can count on, that can actually, you know, know it well and out and to know it well enough to know that it’s not right. So you have had you had training by your father. Tell me about your inspirations Who were your inspirations,

Colley Whisson 17:41
okay. As a 21 year old, a good family friend, Terry GoPhone, he was actually an art student with my father. He was five years older, so he was kind of a senior member. But dad and Terry, they knew each other for pretty close on 60 years. Terry kind of stopped painting, but started collecting, so he kind of came my sort of mentor and, and early on, he said, You know what, what you’re doing is very good. But it’s just like your father. One of the worst things you can do is paint like your father, mother, grandfather, T Uncle, you want to find your own way. And I said to him, how do I do that? And he says, Well, we used to do a lot of gallery hopping, they used to have the same pub hopping where you go from pub to pub drinking. I’ve never really been a drinker. But so we would go from gallery to gallery and he said, Pick Me Up next Thursday. We’ll go into the state gallery. We call them galleries, not museums, but it’s the same. Yeah,

Eric Rhoads 18:48
here a gallery. Typically, you can buy something.

Colley Whisson 18:51
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Where this was more you’re but it’s sort of a state gallery of Queensland, which is has a museum attached to it. But that’s the aeroplanes and dinosaurs. So we took me through all the eras, the the sort of the realist, the abstract. And this was just more how the gallery was laid out. And then we finished with the impressionists. And just walking around, and I stood in front of probably my favorite artists probably of all time, Arthur Streeton. And absolutely no joke, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I got like that just had fireworks off the light that all the pleasure centers were just going off and I thought, You know what, I think that’s a damn good sign that impressionism this approach is the way to go for me. And so then I sort of set about and I went to, with a workshop with Maxwell Wilks in Melbourne, and lace gram, an artist from Sydney and a couple of other artists as well from Sydney and a local artists who had studied because Elle Biggs Google is called the Heidelberg School. That’s our impressionism school. It’s in a little suburb just out of Melbourne called Heidelberg. That’s where they started painting in the early to mid 1880s, after Tom Roberts brought the movement from France, who was English born, but Australian raised and came through Paris, was a friend of Roman cassettes, in Spain. And so we knew a lot of the top artists brought the latest teachings. And then those early artists fashioned it into our Australian light. And probably our slight approach of painting and painting outdoors, and, but also Harold Herbert, who was a later artist in the more than 1920s year, Harold urban, his ability to just put shape and get your eye and to really sort of engage the viewer really taught me a lot about how to, with limited, simplified shapes, how to really engage the viewer, and because I do love the saying, if you can hold the viewer for three seconds, you’ll have them for a lifetime. So that’s what I’ve always tried to do. So and but then, with my father being the artist, he had such a great art book collection, he says, I’ll have a look at this guy and looked at it, or Richard Schmidt, who’s this. And then as I opened the book, I thought, Oh, my God. And his work really just blew me away, even though subject matter and, and light, I guess, and an approach is quite different. But I think they realize that, for me, the great inspiration is that he just had such a marvelous technical ability. And and

Eric Rhoads 21:52
did you ever get a chance to meet Richard? I did,

Colley Whisson 21:55
thankfully. In 2019, just before COVID He’d actually it was kind of fortuitous. It poured down rain the night before. Absolutely. Back at it. I thought, Oh, don’t tell me. I’ve got this close. I was teaching in Vermont. And Nancy and Richard. Were living in the house in New Hampshire. And I thought, Oh, don’t tell me all the roads. And now we’re going to be flooded. And because Richard had just finished the steel life books, he was pretty exhausted, spent almost every day for a month working on the book, finalizing that. And so no, he was fantastic. And I caught up with Nancy last year, and we’re going to aim to catch up, she would love to paint my portrait. She’s doing quite a few projects. And with Richards work and her own work, she’s a brilliant artist in her own right.

Eric Rhoads 22:44
She certainly is. And unfortunately, she has been kind of low key, focusing on Richard, in his final years and helping him get these projects done. And we have not seen enough of her work. So I’m anxious for her to be back and to really start getting into it again. She’s such a sweetheart and really great, great inspiration on her own.

Colley Whisson 23:08
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. They’ve really taken me under their wing. And she contacts me and it says, Hi. You’re coming in September. And I say yeah. So yeah. So I’ll drive over from Vermont. And we had a lovely lunch and all afternoon. And the time went so fast. And we’re sitting there and Richard’s paintings are on the walls, and I’m thinking, Boy, it’s so distracting. And so it’s so delightful. And so, but a few of the other artists, I think, Trevor Chamberlain from England, love Trevor. And David Curtis, actually trip is the same age as my father. I love the I think the light that Trevor gets in his work was an instant charm. But also his ability to simplify and cause actually my father’s cousin, Ken Wilson, who just passed away about this time last year, actually, at the age of 94, actually, same age. As your father, I believe he was Australia’s are one of Australia’s top abstract data’s, and he sold $240,000 worth of work in 2010. At one of his exhibitions, one of his paintings sold for nearly 90,000 When he was alive. So and he was a great colorist, and that sort of seems to be one of the great sort of overriding themes from our families with color and, and Trevor really got that beautifully and, and the other artists that I’ve always admired, because I think a lot of people sort of forget the concentration ability, the technical ability. An artist friend said to me, it’s a bit like you grabbing a Steinway piano, grabbing someone and say, Come and play it with no training. That’s the same level that Painting requires to do good work, all your best work, you need to be that finely tuned that well prepared for your day’s painting for that moment.

Eric Rhoads 25:13
Don’t you think, though, I mean, this, this is a common problem in the painting world, I believe. And that is a that people assume wrongly, that they should be able to stand at a canvas and do a brilliant painting, and be masterful from their first first attempt. But they would never think that sitting in front of a piano, you for whatever reason, I don’t know if this is true in Australia, but here in America, it’s, it’s kind of like, well, I don’t have any talent. No, it’s because you haven’t learned Yeah, you know, this, learn the process, learn learn the notes, Mary Had a Little Lamb and go from there.

Colley Whisson 25:54
So so, so true. Actually, I probably the classic case of because I ran at state titles and district titles and played soccer in state titles and was sort of vying for a state position. I always thought that’s where my greatest gifts slide and make the most of it and, but upon year, sort of straining and hurting my knee, and quite quickly, I thought, oh, geez, I rather enjoy this. And but it’s funny, 37 years nearly later, I still love the pipe mixing process. And everything’s still such a joy to me, and actually did three paintings yesterday. And I was kind of on fire and sort of working to build up a bit of a collection for My galleries and stuff. And so no, no, the hard work. And that’s where I think one of Australia’s great watercolor and oil painters, Hans Hyson, he was told our boy, Hans, you’re so he was German, born similar to, to Richard, that German lovely discipline, sort of that Russian Baltic, sort of strong on discipline. He’s a life in his careers and hands, you’ve got such great talent, you’re, you’re so fantastic, your works amazing, you must be happy. And he said, Well, whoa, whoa. No, I’ve never believed I had any talent or very little talent. I believe it’s more the talent of hard work that German hard work ethic, and he was supremely talented and, but that talent, as you said, it grew and in, you never know, what lies within us, actually. I guess my early Goodstart may have fizzled out and turned into just a another sort of run of the mill sort of work and, but I was determined to, to make a statement and, and sort of do the best work that I was physically possible. And

Eric Rhoads 28:09
I think that, you know, there’s that there’s a lot to be said, for growing up in a family of artists, it, it can be an advantage or a disadvantage, I suppose. But I think that, you know, I always equate the idea of I grew up my dad was an entrepreneur. So for me, it’s never been frightening to start businesses, because that’s what he did all the time. And I never I didn’t see the hard part. I know what now believe me, but I think the same thing is true. You know, that, you know, you’re getting some advantage and some courage that you might not otherwise get. But I also think on the disadvantage side is there’s always a little bit of competitiveness. You know, can I be good enough? Can I live up to that? And that, that can be hard. But I want to tell everybody that’s listening to this, I think to mark those words. I think it’s just really, really critically important is if you’re thinking that talent is what you need. Just ignore those voices in your head and just apply yourself and get out there and learn it. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna miss a lot of opportunity because your head told you you couldn’t do something told you that you required talent.

Colley Whisson 29:30
Yep, so true. Actually, I’ve seen quite a few students come along that you can see that they’re young, they’re doing great work, but it actually has for the level they’ve got to is can fairly easily or they haven’t developed the hard work ethic that discipline. That’s why I would I always bet someone with the love for it for the process. That lovely work ethic. That’s that definitely is required and I think that just seems to be the way my brains wired. I, I LOVE TO TINKER. I think I’ve got that little bit of scientific sort of interest that I love the Oh, with this color, what will go with that one? But then, I guess I was born or have that a nature that I love to express. That’s why I always feel that I’m quite a passionate painter. I’m quite an emotional painter. That’s why I love to listen to music. And in actually Roy Orbison is what has always been one of my great favorites and I seem to have an ear for the operatic sound and drama. And I think I’ve always joked that my career has been a royal bus and inspired career because his voice and I’ve listened to his songs since my mother first bought them on record when I was three or four years old and always loved it still listened to it, I was listening to his music yesterday as I was working away and, and, and I think that’s one of the other sides is find things that inspire you slightly away. For me, it’s definitely music which I can combine both I do love a little bit of gardening and, and I always have my sport and that sort of stuff, but some sort of appreciation of, of another area, it may be a be may be business, you may admire some of the great business people of all time, whether it’s Henry Ford or or George Westinghouse. And some of the modern guys are probably not shouldn’t mention too many of them. Time will tell how they’ll all wash out but and my brilliance, I think admire greatness and, and try and see how they got there. And I think that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve I’ve with soccer love Pele and, and sadly, he passed away sort of last year and love your street and and, and Schmid and, and those sort of hours in the art field, I can definitely have some, I think has proved very helpful to me to, to have those things that are you know what painting didn’t kind of work today, but, you know, I’ll listen to a bit of music and, and, and because I think really an artist is, is a person that wants to bring joy wants to bring something exciting to the world. So I think we have to stay in that, that zone that that frame of mind and because I think the word art is a kind of tricky one to really sort of put a finger on but I think it’s more of a state of being more of a, because I paint my best when I’m really sort of in that time mind set. And things are just flowing. And for me that actually takes, the more work I do. The closer I get to that, that moment that that sort of area of when I’m technically at my best and I’m not ultimately trying to compete with Streeton and Trevor and all the great artists of today in short, Sergeant endzone, I’m ultimately just trying to get the best out of myself. And, and to be honest, I’m really happy with just getting the best out of yourself and exploring those avenues. But definitely make sure you’re set up well and have a good easel good plein air easel. It is actually, I was in Colorado here with an artist friend George Callison. And unfortunately, I just recovered from a really bad stomach bug. And by having that a great little easel that’s in Crystal Cove. Sorry. So we really sort of needing to be set up? Well, I’ve had students come along with the lead of an ice cream container. A stand up piece or parent on the ground and painting is well and truly difficult enough to not get even harder. We don’t handicap

Eric Rhoads 34:28
I think that’s exactly right. You know, you want to want to try to give yourself as many advantages as you possibly can. And and then on top of that the one thing I find with people as well is they they carry too much stuff. And you know, I do this this event every year in the spring and every year in the fall at a retreat. And they’re and I’m not being critical but you know, you see these people carrying wheeled trolleys with you know with their entire studio with them and Look at that stuff just drags him down. And, you know, I have a backpack and that’s it. If it doesn’t fit in my backpack, it doesn’t go. And, and, you know, so you can you can be set up and three minutes and painting and five and and and I think that you know, otherwise you get discouraged because of the all the stuff that that holds you back.

Colley Whisson 35:24
Yeah, so true. Actually, that’s one thing that I love, Eric, the movement that you have created and created.

Eric Rhoads 35:30
Oh, no, I didn’t I didn’t create it. Yeah, I, I’ve been here to help it. But I didn’t create.

Colley Whisson 35:36
Yeah, no, no. Sorry, more the rejuvenation and the bringing it to because it hasn’t ever gone away in Australia, but not as many artists to paint outside and the fact that you are a painter as well. That’s what I do really love. So you really get it. You get what’s involved. You get that lovely adrenaline rush, deeper understanding of being able to see things in person, and try to translate that and but yeah, I have to say you have done a lot for art, and especially the plein air movement, which is an Australian coming from a very proud, plein air painting history. And so no, so I’m really, really impressed with the efforts that you have done. So

Eric Rhoads 36:32
let’s that’s very kind it’s all the Lord Good lord, it has nothing to do with me. So, so let me ask you this, I would love to just kind of touch base on a few techniques or, or principles or foundational things that people listening. You know, and we have people at all levels, we have people that are brand new, just exploring plein air painting, as well as people who have been doing it their whole lives. But what are some things that that stand out to you as important things that you can talk about? It’s different, you know, when you can’t show him, but you know, you show him when your colleague has a beautiful mentorship program at Tucson Art Academy, everybody should check that out and see how he paints and he can critique you and so on. But, and but there, there are things you can talk about that maybe would help people?

Colley Whisson 37:28
Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you. One of the things when I do go into a painting, because there’s so many marks that need to be required to execute the painting. A lot of times we’re thinking of is this the right one? Is this correct? Is it wrong? Is it bad? Is it good. And so I like to think to myself, that each brush mark, every brush mark can either help me or hurt me. So as an oil painter, I will be sort of working with a certain amount of caution. Where I’m working very thin, I do the classic worked in, then go fat and, and with thick paint. But we have to really be aware that every time I’m putting a mark down, that can help the painting or it will be taking me further away. So for me, that’s my thought process. Is this one helping? Is it hurting? How am I going with the brush, mark the value doing all of that cross sectional sort of stuff. Because most people kind of probably neglect and forget that most paintings are really just a massive midtone. And then we’re just placing a little bit of dark and a little bit of light, normally, right in our primary focal point. So we tend to get up close for too long. That’s why I always like to think, also that I’m painting locally. But I need to be looking globally, to be able to see what’s happening because what looks good up close doesn’t always look good at a distance. And we’ve got to try and marry those two entities together so that it reads well up close and read well at that distance as well. So I’m putting a huge emphasis on the mark that I’m making. But also then we’ve got observation skills, when we’re out and about. I remember one of my early teachers were painting away. It was in a class situation and he goes oh, did anyone see that figure walking with the red shirt? And I didn’t see any figure with a red shirt because we were in France in St. Remy and we have Van Gogh was convalescing in his convalescing in his later years and beautiful place to paint and but not many people Round, there was more sheep than people. And that’s when it dawned on me, I think I was about 30. And I dawned on me that is observation. It’s observation on life, it’s observation on objects on light. It’s our ability to, and I think it’s an ability to focus on what’s most important. And then value add. The danger can be fleeting, if you want to put everything in right at the beginning. So it’s that observation for that idea, that concept? How are we going to portray it? So that that was that was a really great lesson. So when you’re out, take that time to soak what’s in. That’s why when I’m in Maine, it’s one of the area’s I probably do most of my Planit teaching. And so it’s every day outdoors. And it’s a new subject new, this new angle, new light can be an overcast day, sunny day. And you do definitely need time. But you have to sort of try and find that little bit of calm, and a little bit of peace, so that you can shut out the rest of the world, get into that zone of shapes, values, I find that hugely beneficial. And I’ve always had the advice to try different subjects as well. It’s good to get good at a say, desert scene or say painting boats or mountains or, or rivers, whatever is your absolutely favorite thing to paint. But then try and diversify. So when you’re trying something really new. It’s like you’re born again, it’s like you’re reinventing your approach. It’s really quite exciting. And I think that’s where the longer term growth came and does come in when you’re doing an interior or something that’s very different. That that you’ve never, ever sort of tried before, or ever sort of evidence. Yeah, so.

Eric Rhoads 42:13
So let me ask you a question. Because you mentioned something that it’s a perfect setup. You mentioned the guy walking through the picture with the red shirt that you didn’t see. And you’re developing observation skills. When you first start a painting, I’m assuming and I may be assuming incorrectly, that you’re locking things in it either in your head or in a sketchbook or something, you’ve said, Okay, this is what my painting is going to look like. But then the guy with the red shirt walks in, and the sun is slamming that red shirt, and it’s the perfect shape in the perfect spot. Will you a ignore it be try to paint it in? See, try to do a quick snapshot or sketch.

Colley Whisson 43:01
Yep. Actually, that is a great, great question. It’s that? Do you try and hit the moving target? Or do you stay locked on to your target? And I’m probably more of the initial, I would say no, you know, this is my subject, this is what I’m going to do change nothing. But I think I’ve learned over time that you should still be flexible enough to say, You know what, this figure or this boat that’s just moated into the scene, the sailboat or something that is a stronger idea, then my initial idea, so stay flexible enough to, to bring it in. And actually, I have a joke with the students. I’m doing a landscape on their own getting into trouble if I’m looking for a spot to put a chicken in. Because that normally means you know what, this is going to good. I’m gonna throw a chicken in to try and save it. So but so hopefully no chickens each day. So now that is a great, great one, actually. But I think actually probably on a finer point Eric is I do try and stay with the light effect. I don’t mind you bringing in actually in a figure or a boat or a chicken ultimately. manner. You don’t want to be changing the light effect. That’s why I try and get in those big shapes. The ones that are going to move the fastest. The ones that I know I probably won’t get a second run out and I need to get this accurate. I need to make sure that this is in place. The other things I try not to change at all because I do love to have the finished painting locked in before I start, but yeah, with that freedom.

Eric Rhoads 44:54
What do you mean locked in before you start?

Colley Whisson 44:56
Oh, I’ll have that finished painting in my mind. Before I even start,

Eric Rhoads 45:03
yeah, you’re trying to envision, you’re trying to envision what it’s going to look like, before you even put paint on canvas.

Colley Whisson 45:11
Absolutely, actually, actually almost that much now that when I’m painting, I’m, before I actually start sorry, a little bit like the golf swing, you’ll see the pro do that practice swing. And in their mind, they’re, they’re believing that this is the next shot is going to be the shot that they need to play. It almost a drawing the shapes in on the canvas. So I’m even going to that point where I shall have the finished painting fully in my mind. But then also having that visualization technique to actually be putting, just sort of just drawing where my main focal point is, where that strong line needs to go. Where that focal point is, where’s my secondary, tertiary? It sort of helps. It’s almost like a dress rehearsal for the painting. Whether it’s a boat or a figure, I’ll lock that in. Very early on,

Eric Rhoads 46:23
are you doing preliminary sketches,

Colley Whisson 46:26
I used to all the time, for about first 10 or 12 years. Actually, a lot of times, I wouldn’t paint or do the painting, until I’ve done the drawing. Till I’ve sort of got that script, in my mind. And I think, graduated. Yeah. And I still highly recommend because actually, I always say to the students that what launched my career was my drawing practice, what I believe kept my career going, is my still life little exercises that I do, I set a little timer just on my phone, 45 minutes. And the still life isn’t to finish the painting necessarily, it’s more to see how far I can get in that 45 minutes. So it’s testing my thought process. And I’ve easily done five 600 of those in the last 10 to 12 years, I’ll normally do one a week, just a little six by 8, 10 by eight. But it’s that development of the spatial awareness. So of use the drawing skill to see the light the shadow and how to judge light and dark. And then I’m using the still life and they have taught me so much and they give you great confidence as well. I think it’s that classic story of quality, or sorry, quality, over quantity, where they are just fine tuning. My other way to paint because I think the still live has almost everything, technically in it that we need for all of our painting. And that’s as a 22 year old. Trying to break away from my father’s style. It was actually I can’t remember the exact night but and I was in October ADA. I thought you know what, I’ve got to try something different. I’ve got to, and I remembered seeing in one of the Australian art magazines, still life and I thought okay, I’ll set my own little one up. Six o’clock at night, I’ve been out painting and drawing through the day. And I thought, oh, you know what, six by eight, I’ll be finished in two hours. It’s only a small painting. I didn’t finish two o’clock in the morning. But the beauty was that that was the moment. All of even that was only two years. But all of the education that I had been given, I suddenly understood it was like I had the key. And then that still like opened the door, then to my room full of ideas. I then knew how the process of painting needs to work should work can work. So that has been in was a real vehicle for improvement. And so I say to all our students, online physical students, anyone who do these little exercises, especially if you’re, for me, it’s a classic one to do when I’m doing a really difficult painting. That day it might be sort of boats or buildings or bridges. And I’m thinking to myself, you know, I really need to be focused in on my game today and it could be just three mushrooms, strawberries, any little thing I kind of almost painted us out of house and home. But they are such great A training, I guess it’s a little getting back to the piano. It’s a little bit like the scales. Yeah. When we’re learning to play the piano, it’s it. You know, I believe a lot of people who who are great piano players hate doing scales, but I still love doing the still life. They, they they such this little exercise actually that much so that I, I barely have exhibited any of the still life that I’ve done for probably nearly 15 years. Because I see this as my little moment to play my little area of joy, my little bit of fun, that nothing is expected from it, or from me or out of it, other than just to explore and enter follow that vein,

I think it’s a great discipline, a great idea. And, you know, we all need to stay in practice, you know, I don’t know about you. But if I don’t paint, even for three days, I lose a little of it. And something like it, you can do that. Let me ask you this as a final question. Any final bullet point, words of advice? For people who are trying to figure out how do I get better? How do I get to the next level? I’m already great. How do I get greater?

Eric Rhoads 51:21
Okay, that’s a sensational question. Not a lot of people will think in terms of the board surface, the actual finish the actual brush mark, what story that tells, because for me, that is really some of the true art. So I like to think of myself as the world’s thinnest sculptor. So that thin layer of paint, I’m actually sculpting the paint on pushing and moving it around. So and that’s actually leading back into the still life, that’s teaching us brush confidence. It’s not a lot of mileage, but it’s high, high quality, totally focused. So I think that leads me into that. Sculpting of the paint, I’ll find sometimes saying landscapes, it’ll be a lot of horizontal shapes. So I’ll do vertical brush marks for my sky, just to break it up. So we don’t so I’m thinking in terms of that paint surface. Because, for me, use of color and, and contrast is fantastic. But if we were all playing the violin, the paintbrush would be the bow. So and I’m always trying to eke out a different sound a different note, or, or that half note or that mid tone, that that little flick, or that little gesture that I’d never thought of. So try and think in terms Am I repeating my brush mark is the direction the same. So I hope I love it when people will say, Oh, you know, get in mind the subject, but boy, I love your brushwork. To me, that’s probably what gives me the greatest joy because that’s that tactile bit that our physical hand has to has to create. And that’s why I think we’ll last digital age and the digital age is really an enhancement. It’s a different, just a different medium. It’s, I don’t think it’s because of that physical physicality with the paint, but with painting, moving around, and really sort of pushing that paint brown. So because I love to make each painting as visually exciting as possible. And it could be a dull, dreary, almost rainy, wet day, but we still can make them exciting and interesting for the viewers to to look at. So paint with passion, paint like this next painting you’re doing is going to be your best painting, this one’s going to be your masterpiece, be that focused, be that committed. Because really, I believe that’s what it takes out of me. And I think, to get our best work is to paint with that commitment to our work.

Man, you know how to end it. That’s beautiful. So totally thank you for being on the plein air podcast. And and this is a formal invitation to get you to the plein air convention. We’ll get you on stage, we’ll hold a big stage spot for you at some point. So you just let me know when you’re ready to come and we’re going to have you there. And thank you for the inspiration today.

Colley Whisson 54:48
A real pleasure, absolute pleasure and, and it’s just been marvelous. So thanks.

Eric Rhoads 54:55
Thanks for listening if you are listening and watching and thanks thank you. somebody’s listening right? All right. Thank you. Thank you, Colley. All right. All right. Well, that was a fabulous interview I could have gone on for just listening to him forever. And maybe we’ll do him again some time. Let’s get right to the art marketing minute.

Announcer 55:23
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 55:35
You can send your questions by email to [email protected]. Or you can send a video question Was somebody would do that nobody’s done it yet. Maybe it’s not working. All right. My producer Amandine is going to give us the first question.

Amandine 55:55
The first question is from John Tez from Georgia. I explore many galleries online and see they accept submissions virtually. Has your usage Do you believe those are taken? And as an emerging artist, Is it professional to apply to multiple? I know the best way to get in is being invited. So is applying virtually a good option worth devoting time to? Two different known galleries from overseas averaged out to feature my artwork, but required that I ship it. Is that the industry standard? And do you think the exposure is worth the exponential logistics? How would I verify that this is a legitimate gallery and not a scam?

Eric Rhoads 56:42
All right. Well, that was a great question. John Tez. I’ve got some opinions on this. They’re probably probably wrong. But first off, when galleries are saying they have they accept submissions online, I question that. Now, I think that there is a reason they might do it. And one of the reasons they might do it is because they’re trying to keep you from calling them emailing them or showing up at the door. Because most of the gallery owners I know, absolutely hate that. Because, you know, if they had 100 artists show up a year, and it took 10 minutes each or 20 minutes each, you know, they’d never get anything else done. I have a gallery owner who told me that he gets 150 to 200 emails a month. And he doesn’t even open them and look at him, if he can tell what it is he gets that many or more packages, unsolicited, they, you know, they have to open them because they don’t know what’s in the packages. And then they’re just throwing them away. If they’re a good gallery, they have plenty of artists. And every good gallery is always looking for another and maybe the idea of having submissions is good. But most of it’s probably just to kind of make you not call or email, I will tell you that there are a lot of galleries out there that operate differently, they have a different model. A lot of galleries operate, most of the galleries operate on a consignment model, where they pick artists invite them in, and they keep a certain percentage of the work in exchange for selling it. I you know, for instance, you know, a standard for a lot of galleries is is they keep 50% of the markup price, which is legitimate because they’re doing all the heavy lifting the work in the marketing, the lighting, the salespeople, the phone calls, you know, everything that goes with it, they’re earning their keep, usually, not always but you know, there are galleries out there that will look for artists that they can prey upon. And prey upon they do we have one particular gallery no names, who, every time an artist appears in our magazine, in a story in an ad anything, they pick up the phone, and they say we want you in a special gallery show in our in our gallery, and the artist gets all excited. And then next thing you know, they’re saying, Well, you know, it’s only this much money to be able to do that. And some of them do it. And some of them have given us feedback that it hasn’t been terribly productive. You know, usually, if somebody’s going to do a show of your work, they’re going to do a show of your work, because you’re already fairly established, you have a brand branding has a lot to do with everything. And you know, it’s like nobody really wants a brand new startup artist. You know, you don’t want to hear that because it’s easier to sell somebody who’s established. Now once in a while, they’ll take a chance and they you know, legitimate galleries do that too. But there’s got to be some good indicators of success, I believe, for that to happen. So I think you know, there’s a lot of different things now you asked a question about shipping going overseas. First off, how do you know it’s a legitimate gallery? I got a call or an email from somebody one time. This was not about my artwork, but they said, Yeah, no, we, we want you to be an influencer on Instagram, you got all these followers and, and we’re going to pay you for doing some ads. And I kept saying no to everybody, I get 10 of those a month. And for some reason, this guy got my attention, he got me on the phone, he did a pitch, he showed me a website, it was very, very in depth, it was very credible. And I ended up signing with him so to speak, turning over control of my account, right then and there. So they could do the first thing. And they took it over and took it away from me. Luckily, because I spent a quarter million dollars a year or more in Facebook at that time, I was able to get to Facebook and get their attention to get my account back real quickly. But you know, there are galleries out there, there are people out there contact you all the time that are going to say, hey, you know, it’s my wife’s anniversary, and I want to buy something nice. I saw your art and you know, they, they legitimately pretend to be buying it, you ship it out. But you know, the check doesn’t clear etc, that there are galleries out there who would do the same thing I want to put you in my gallery that might have a fake website, and then you ship them a painting? Well, my question is, do you need it hanging in the gallery? You’re going to sell it online and you’re going to feature it, I would legitimately look into a gallery? How do you look into a gallery? First off, you know, Google search it ask around, look for reviews, look for the artists that are in the gallery and find out if any of those artists happened to be willing to talk to you and tell you if it’s legit, did they get paid? Are they selling work, etc. So there’s a lot of things like that you need to be watching out for, you know, you can submit artwork to anybody and I, I you know, I don’t want to discourage everything, I just think it’s best to get invited because then you’re not begging. And then you’re in a strong position. But also because the gallery really truly wants you. They’re gonna work hard to sell, you know, if you’re pushing yourself on somebody, they may or may not push you on somebody else to try and get you to sell. So there’s a lot of little nuances to it all that I’m sure there’s exceptions to every real, every, every situation. So, anyway. That’s kind of the gallery thing. Next question.

Amandine 1:02:29
The next question is from Linda, Lydia, from Burg Virginia. The questions the most frequently comes up, especially with new artists is how do you decide how to price your art?

Eric Rhoads 1:02:44
Lydia, Lydia, Lydia, it’s the biggest question everybody asked us the hardest thing to answer. I don’t know. I mean, I have some feel for it. I’ve done it. I have coached people. Some of it has succeeded. Some of it is not. Pricing is all over the map. First off, pricing is a mental issue. What you have in your head as your value is your been a beginning point. And some of you have an inflated value in your head. That’s unrealistic. And some of you have a value in your head that’s too low. So you got to be thinking about that. Everybody has to start somewhere. Usually, you start modestly. If it sells, you start where you sell some more in this start building a collector base and you grow it that’s what galleries are really good at a good gallery will answer the question for you because they’re going to say, here’s what I think I can get for this. Now. I had a gallery who I believed How can I say this without getting into trouble? I believe they were underpricing my work. And I wanted to be more expensive and they would not agree to it. I was able to prove to them that I could get that amount of money and sell a painting at a higher price. And that convinced them but ultimately, they gotta believe it if they’re going to sell it. So that has a lot to do with a bit pricing. You know, if you got a good gallery trust the gallery if you’re selling direct, then you know there’s a lot of different things first off research, comparable artworks. Now the problem with that, of course is what’s comparable, you know, is an eight by 10 painting by Richard Schmid comparable. No. Why? Because it’s by Richard Schmid. Right. So before pricing, your work, research similar works and your genre your style, see what people are getting for it, check the prices, you know, some subject matters sell better than others. I know that seems crazy, but it’s true. Similar things you know, look for things that have sold find artists who are equivalent to You Be realistic, and see what they’re selling for and then Study? Do they have a big brand or not? You know, are they promoting themselves heavily? And because brand makes all the difference in pricing? You know, why is a Bentley a whole lot more money than a BMW, right? Well, it’s a perception issue, mostly, you know, you’re gonna say its quality, and there is some difference. But the reality is, back when I studied this, it’s been a few years. But back when I studied it, the difference to build BMW versus a Bentley on the same chassis was 18 $20,000 difference, but the price differentiation was 100, or $200,000. More. So you know, it’s about perception, a perception of, of a lot of things, elegance, and so on. So consider your experience, your reputation, your brand, that has to be factored into your pricing, if you’re well known. That’s one thing, if you’re emerging, that’s another it’s more appropriate to start with a lower price. More experienced artists are more more likely to get bigger prices. But I got to tell you, I know experienced artists, who are brilliant painters who have not kept their brand alive and can’t get the prices they used to get. And they don’t understand that one guy called me said, Eric, why is my painting not selling anymore? I said, Well, are you doing the things that made you successful? He said, Yeah, I’m doing them all. I said, are Have you done any shows in the last five years? No, I haven’t done those. They’re a hassle. I said, Have you advertised in the last five years, he’s now now now everybody knows who I am. I said really? Well, you know, 10% of the people as attrition every year 10% of the people who know you don’t know you, in a year, five years from now, 10 years from now, nobody knows you. Five years from now half of the people that knew you don’t know you anymore. And you wonder why your works not selling because you’re not advertising you’re not, you’re not promoting yourself, you’re you’re you’re resting on your past your laurels. You’ve also got to factor in things like the production cost, the cost of the canvas, the materials, the frame, the time calculate how much money that went into each piece. And you know, I know an artist who gets a very large price for his money. When I asked how he gets it, he said, Well, I factored in, I could do this many paintings a year. And this is how much money I need. I divided it equally, you know, I could do this many paintings. And so that’s how he said his price. It works for some people. But he also had a big brand. And so he’s getting, you know, 100 $200,000 for pieces. Also, you know, you got to factor in the price per inch, you know, there’s ways you can figure that out. But you’ve got to have realistic prices, and prices are all very emotional. Every decision and purchases are emotional. And sometimes a low price equates to low quality. And I’ve told this story on here many times about a woman who came to an art show, she said, How much is the painting they artists at 4000. She said I’ll take it, she writes a check for 40,000. He says no, ma’am, that’s 4000, not 40. And she ripped up the checks, it must, must not be any good. So price does have an impact on perception. You increase your prices over time. You know, if you study pricing, there’s some great books on pricing. If you study how companies launch products, some people launch products at a high price. And if it doesn’t sell they back off until it does sell and that becomes their price. Others start at low and if it sells too easily, they move it up faster and up and up and up. So there’s a lot of different things. It’s experimentation is practice. You’ve got to communicate value and pricing your work, you’ve got to communicate the value of the uniqueness of the piece, the time that went into it, the value of your brand, etc. And I know painters who will charge more for one nine by 12 painting than another nine by 12 painting because this one took them two hours or four hours and this one took him took him 60 hours. So you know, it’s just kind of depends. And of course you have the opportunity in some cases to negotiate with buyers. And negotiation is a really great fluid tool. Because if if they want to buy something from you, but truly the price is too high. I start by saying hey, you know, that’s the price I’m sorry. And if sometimes they’ll say okay, and sometimes they’ll walk away and you know, you might be able if you’re willing you say okay, well you know what would you be willing to pay and then you try to find a middle ground, something that works for everybody. Don’t forget that pricing is emotional. Now the other thing I want to just tell you this is not about pricing, but it’s about average sale price and that is McDonald’s, you drive through the drive thru what are they always say? Do you want fries with that? Right? And why do they say that? Because they know If they can get everybody a drive thru to buy fries or to up upsell to a different package, they’re going to make more money on it. So when you sell a painting, it’s the best time to get another painting sold because somebody is into you, they’re into your painting. And you can easily say, if it’s true to you, you can say, hey, you bought this painting, I have a rule that because anybody buys a painting for me, they’ll buy the second and third painting at a 20% discount. Here are two would you be interested in these? Or pick one of these five, and oftentimes, you’ll have an upsell and that’s an opportunity. Anyway, that is the art marketing minute.

Announcer 1:10:42
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at

Eric Rhoads 1:10:50
All right. Well, I’m hoping to have you guys come to the plein air convention 23 Just go to Make sure you get your subscription at And I hope you’ll join me for fall color week. All color week is the retreat this coming fall. Adirondacks is sold out fall color week is not yet. If you’ve not seen my blog where I talked about life and other things. It’s called Sunday coffee, just go to Sign up for free. You’ll get it and I’m on the air daily on Facebook and YouTube. The show is called Art School alive. Just go to YouTube and subscribe look up art school alive. Hit subscribe and hit notification that will notify you when it comes out. All right. And also please give me a follow at Eric Rhoads on Instagram Facebook tick tock, et cetera. I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. Excited about the plein air convention certainly excited that we had Colley on today. It was fabulous. Thank you to Colley and thank you for your time today for listening to the plein air podcast. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it. We’ll see you. Bye bye.

This has been the plein air podcast with PleinAir 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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here