Plein Air Podcast 243: Paul Kratter on Painting Trees and More

In this episode of the Plein Air Podcast, Eric Rhoads interviews landscape and wildlife artist Paul Kratter.

Listen as they discuss:

– The benefits of having a support system of artists to paint with
– Insights on painting trees, including how a master handles “sky holes”
– How to add atmosphere to your landscape paintings
– His passion for painting wildlife, and more

“Number one, you really have to paint as often as you can,” Paul said, “if you’re a landscape painter, you just have to go out and see the environment for yourself.”

Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, addresses the practice of comparing yourself to other artists and overcoming the fear of being judged; and his thoughts on making the leap to becoming a professional artist.

Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Paul Kratter here:


Related Links:
– Paul Kratter online:
– Paul’s video workshops, “Mastering Trees” ( and “Mastering Landscapes” (
– Plein Air Magazine:
– Plein Air Convention & Expo:
– Fall Color Week:
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram:
– Plein Air Today newsletter:
– Submit Art Marketing Questions:
– Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill:
– Psycho Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz:
– Unleash the Power Within by Tony Robbins:

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 243 with world-renowned artist Paul Kratter.

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 1:09
Thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the plein air podcast. Everybody coming up soon after the interview. In the art marketing minute, we’re going to talk about how to feel more confident with your painting. Yeah, it’s important and also how to start an art career when you’re not even an artist. That’s going to be a fun one. Did you happen to catch my global paint out yesterday, we had a bunch of painters over in my backyard and 1000s 1000s I don’t know how many attending globally around the world. While we painted the scene in the backyard. I’ll try to post that on my facebook or instagram so you guys can see it. This is the best year in Texas in the 12 years I’ve lived here for bluebonnets fields of bluebonnets. I’ve been out painting unbelievable blue flowers and had fields of them. Dance brick was in town. So I took him out Blue Bonnet painting for his first time Blue Bottle painting. And I posted some pictures on my Instagram and Facebook that just follow me at Eric Rhoads. it’s loads of fun, but it’s super challenging. Because you know, the key is not to over render things not to get them to perfect but to create the sense of fields of blue. And of course, finding a way to get that blue in harmony with a color. It’s all very challenging. So it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been actually studying some of the master bluebonnet painters from the turn of the century, a lot of them in Texas, and trying to figure out what they’ve figured out because you know, why not? Right?  So if you happen to be somebody like me who loves to look at paintings, check out the current issue of plein air magazine. It’s filled with beautiful paintings, some great stories and a lot of demos, a lot of events, a lot of different things going on in the plein air world. I assume you’re already a subscriber, right? But if you’re not, you don’t get it as a subscription because it’s half the cost of what you end up paying at the newsstand. And you get the digital edition too if you decide to get that and it’s got 30% more content in it. Now my guest today is Paul Kratter is one of about 80 features who’s going to be featured at the plein air convention this year. If you have not been to it, it’s been called the Woodstock of plein air. And though I think everybody pretty much keeps their clothes on. We’ll talk to Paul about that. But all the biggest rock stars are on stage we’ve got five stages including oil, watercolor, pastel and a couple of others. Big big expo hall of plein air specific art supplies and deep discounts and we go painting every day we’re going to be painting in the exact spot that Bierstadt painted a famous painting of the Rocky Mountain National Park. And we’re also going to be painting and garden to the gods and some other places and it’s a hoot. It’s really a lot of fun to to paint with 1000 or 1200 other people it’s just amazing. First, you don’t have to paint if you come a lot of people don’t, but a lot of people do and we have people who work with you in the field to paint with you and that’s pretty cool. So anyway A this year we’re celebrating our 10th year anniversary. And so Jane Seymour, the actress is coming in CW Monday, special guests. And we have as I mentioned, at the top instructors who are going to be teaching it learn more about it at plein air Have I mentioned that we are now number one in feet spots listed painting podcasts for the second year in a row. Thank you feed spot. Thank you, everybody for making that happen. Voting as in we’re humbled, if that’s possible. Yeah, we are. Anyway, our guest today is going to help us get to number one again, because when people hear what he has to say everybody’s going to be talking about it. One last thing before we get started, I want you to know that though my publishers Invitational painters retreat in June is now sold out. I am doing another one in the Adirondacks in the fall this year. It’s called fall color week. Spectacular camp. We’re staying not where we stand in a spring event. We’re staying at a classic old 1900s Adirondack camp that was built by what would be the equivalent of a billionaire today. And it’s just amazing. It’s right on the lake. You could stay there the whole we can paint although we go out throughout the Adirondacks. And this is the last year we’re gonna do full color week in the Adirondacks. The colors have been spectacular. Check it out a Now my guest today is wildlife artists. Paul Kratter. Paul, are you there?

Paul Kratter 6:26
I hope so. Yeah. Thank you. Okay.

Eric Rhoads 6:29
So Woodstock and plein air painting. I assume you’re keeping your clothes on?

Paul Kratter 6:34
I will, I will. Especially in public. Let’s let’s segue into the convention just ever so briefly, so it’s not just a plug. But I did go to the very first one. It was really awesome. And I remember it was in Vegas, and I’m walking down the hallway and this woman comes up to me. And she’s pointing at me like, like, I’ve done something wrong. And she goes, you’re walking out of your park rider and I go yes, I am. And that woman’s name is Denise rose. And she was very sweet. She came up and said years ago us you gave me you emailed me and gave me the your palette and colors and some feedback. And and I just wanted to thank you in person. And I thought oh my gosh, just the first few minutes I’ve been in Vegas at the at the convention and I’ve already met a friend. So it is a it’s a great tribe to be a part of. And I’m glad to be on the faculty again this year.

Eric Rhoads 7:32
You know, thank you for doing it. There’s a really interesting magic that occurs that, you know, there’s just no way to articulate it. You know, even though you get a lot of people there in person, the first event was I think the first one was only 300 people. But it doesn’t feel big, right? It feels small and intimate. And everybody’s hugging everybody. And there’s this energy that you just don’t see anywhere else, which is kind of cool. But what I love about it is that somebody, I don’t remember who it was, but somebody came up to me and they said, I’m like floating on air. I said, Well, what do you mean, they said, Well, I you know, I was able to walk up to TL and Lawson and, you know, ask him questions. And, you know, we sat down for a drink and I got to know him. And it’s like, Where does this happen? You know, you get to meet the the icons like you

Paul Kratter 8:26
know, I appreciate that. Thank you. I agree. Thank you like, I do appreciate your comments.

Eric Rhoads 8:34
So Paul, I just want to mention your bio real quickly. Paul was born in San Francisco, raised in the peninsula just south of the city. After graduating high school, he attended college of San Mateo and received a double A degree in graphic arts. He spent four years at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena what a great school, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in illustration in 1980. And for the next 22 years he freelanced as an illustrator concentrating on sports and wildlife themes and working with the National Football League Major League Baseball teams, the nature company, some zoos and some museums. He illustrated a number of children’s books including the rain living rainforest and ABC book that he wrote and illustrated, which is pretty cool. And around this time he went to the first Sonoma plein air event fell in love immediately with the plein air approach. And I think, by the way, that’s where I met you, Paul. I think we were both at the first Sonoma event. And I think that’s first time we met I don’t know if you remember that? vividly. vividly. Yeah, I had I had a big impression. I was running around. I had put together some some cards. And I was running around saying, Hey, I’m going to start this new magazine called plein air magazine. I think everybody thought I was nuts.

Paul Kratter 9:58
Not me. I was the I’m totally thrilled with that. And I still remember that Edgar pain was on the, on the first, the first cover. And that was one of my, one of my heroes. So yeah, that was that event was so great. I was an illustrator up until that point. And then I went to that show my wife was involved in a small way with Pixar and a few other people. Bill Cohn and Ernesto Damasio. And I knew a couple other people, but I just was so taken by the plein air approach and be able to do something. And in a couple of hours in here in my illustration career, sometimes I was working on something for a few days, if not for a couple of weeks. And that rainforest book that took seven years, and of course, I was working on other projects. And that was a self made project. But it did take a long, long time to come up with 26 illustrations and design the book and that was the last last commercial job I ever did. And that when I came home from Sonoma plein air, I wasn’t involved, I went and bought a set of waterbased oils, some boards, I switched brushes, I was using all rounds as an illustrator and I switched to brights. I don’t know why it just wanted a different approach. And I started going up in the hills around me and in painting seems and I had a terrible setup, I was used to painting on a flat surface and didn’t have an easel. So I had a two folding chairs I brought with me and I had my my paints in my lap, it was just it was it was not the most comfortable are easy, easy way to do it. And then you know, slowly you learn, oh, you got to paint straight up. And I hadn’t done that vertically since since college days. And but I did fall in love with the work and remember my wife, after a few months goes, she goes, I bet you have so many five paintings there in the studio and maybe 50 paintings. And she goes, it’s time for you to now become a professional. And I called some art galleries. And I called a couple artists that I knew, and they gave me a little bit of advice. And I entered some shows and fortunately got in and and did well and got into some galleries. And it was it was very, very fast but very rewarding at the same time.

Eric Rhoads 12:39
So if you if you go back to those early days, you know you you did all the things we all do, you don’t know how to do it. So you, you kind of improvise, if if knowing what you know, now, if you encountered somebody listening to this today, and they said, Paul, what can I do to get to feel like I’m completely functional in a plein air environment easily? And what can I do to get up to speed? The fastest so I’m producing decent works as quickly as possible, what would you tell

Paul Kratter 13:18
them number one, you really have to paint as often as you can, if you’re a landscape painter, you just have to go out and see the see the environment for yourself. And that’s what Matt Smith and Skip Whitcomb the other day and Bill Anton we’re talking about is you have to have to see the light have photographs are wonderful, but they, they have their limitations, and so going out as often as you can. And depending on where you live, if you can link up with a group of artists or a couple of people and go out painting, you support one another. And you can give critiques and you can look on over somebody’s shoulder and say, Oh, that’s how they’re, they see that as a purple color, or what panels are you using? If I’m with new people, I usually have an extra panel or two with me and I always hand them out. So try it try I have or what color is that you you scored out a little bit of paint for somebody and vice versa. And so you’re able to try things but I think in our field painting is a net however that is done individually. And if you’re the studio, you’re by yourself I go out quite often by myself to paint. But I and I, I have to say I prefer to be with other people. I’m very social and we chat the whole time at least I use input chatting most of the time, but we always get there’s always a quiet period where we’re concentrating and getting the feedback and and I think if you’re not as disciplined to how have somebody say, hey, let’s do this on a Monday and let’s do this on every Monday block and paint. And then you’ve got a little, a little group going and, and I think that’s that’s probably the biggest, biggest thing is getting that mileage in and having some, some artistic feedback from

Eric Rhoads 15:18
you. And I’ve added together a few times because I had a little group going when I lived out there, Charles White, Mitch Neto. So folks, Richard Lindenberg, oftentimes, and we would we would just go out on, I think, a Thursday mornings and go up to Napa or something and paint and you met us a few times. As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly, we got kicked off of a piece of property when we were together. Do you remember that?

Paul Kratter 15:44
A couple of times. And it’s in that was, that was a wonderful place. But why we got kicked off a property three times in one day. Organizations, my grandson,

Eric Rhoads 15:57
I don’t think I looked over. I remember looking over at I was painting from the road. This was like a crossroad. And I looked over and I saw some guy screaming at you guys. And you were on the you were on the street. You weren’t on his property. And I don’t I think I remember he carried out a shotgun or something. I don’t know about that. But there was no that’s maybe I’ve met making that up. But I remembered you guys. We all laughed about it over lunch.

Paul Kratter 16:25
But then I’ve had the flip side where I’ve been out good getting my stuff set up. I’ve done my sketch and somebody came over this is it’s normal plein air number of years ago and said, Hey, if you want to come on the property, there’s better views of of the, of the farm equipment and stuff. And it’s like, oh, this is great. They, and this doesn’t happen very often. But to me it did the guy came to the, to the event and bought my paintings so that you get much more of that, that somebody is is happy to see you and interested in what you’re doing and not you know, the few times that people people are mad at you heard something, it’s like, what are we doing? We’re just painting?

Eric Rhoads 17:10
Well, you know, they’re probably hiding something, you know, they don’t want to, they don’t want you to find their meth lab or something to draw attention to. Well, I you know, I, I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve been yelled at or kicked off a property. It’s just very rare. Usually, you know, I don’t go on anybody’s property without their permission, but I’ll stand on the road committed the property. So Paul talked to me about some of your inspirations. Who are the artists throughout history that you’ve really looked up to and why?

Paul Kratter 17:44
way way back. You don’t have an image of this But Frederick Remington my mom was was born in Montana. So I had an affinity for his work, but right away, I was always a fan of animals and I remember having a an animal identification book of some sort. And the paintings were okay but then there were about a dozen by called Rungus who run Dias I don’t know how you pronounce a German born artist, and I just fell in love with it very graphic is a little bit more graphic than some that he does. But he had a low point of view a lot of times with these majestic, huge animals. And I just I just loved his his work. His plein air work was just awesome as well. I got to see that museum up in the National Wildlife Museum in in Wyoming. And then when I switched to letter painting, Edgar Payne was just a huge, huge influence on me, and this is from the Sierras. A beautiful place to paint majestic. John Muir had traveled through all this area, Ansel Adams and a number of other other artists. William went was a huge influence. Very designing majestic painter. I love Sam Hyde Harris for his atmosphere. Unbelievable painter, the former illustrator with great design sense but great, great depth in his paintings. And then Percy Gray was a wonderful water colorist and occasional oil painter. And I A lot of times with these, these California impressionist don’t want you to look at the painting and go That’s beautiful. I would study the paintings. Why are the trees so elegant and Massive and powerful, what was he doing? And one of the things that he filled, he didn’t paint that very often, kind of wimpy trees, he picked these very majestic eucalyptus or oak trees. And there are not that many sky holes in them. He would he would fill in the, the masses, especially around the trunks a little bit, and then have these key sky holes. So either the trunks would stand out or the mainly around the outside edges. Oh, that’s how that’s why these trees are so outrageously design. And then when I’m teaching, I usually say that if you’re, if you’re out you, you’re doing a sketch and starting to paint. Just pretend like you just bought this property. And you were going to hire an arborist to trim the tree, what shape would they do they they would still keep the natural shape, but they might cut off of dead branch and they might shape something that was a little bit loose and scraggly to give it a little bit more elegant shape. So they’re sometimes I think it’s it’s an innate thing that I look at and go, that’s a beautiful structure, eucalyptus tree or whatever tree it happens to be in those happens to be most of the time, my favorite subjects and usually the object of the focal point of my of my paintings.

Eric Rhoads 21:36
So I want to go back to, to something you talked about this, there was something we showed, I know we’re not supposed to talk about what we’re showing. But there was one of these trees in the distance were, you know, the trees were really fading in the distance. And I wondered, do you I’ve seen you paint trees I saw you do a demo on on plein air live recently? Do you find that when you’re out, you really push them back further create more mood and distance automatically that from what you see.

Paul Kratter 22:10
Usually, I think when you go out in a picture, perfect day it is in the background comes very close. Because there’s it’s just maybe the winds have come up and scoured out all the the atmosphere and stuff. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. But you’re going to want to put atmosphere into your more atmosphere than you actually see to push stuff back. You can see that over my shoulder

Eric Rhoads 22:44
paintings. And so how do you know how to do that?

Paul Kratter 22:48
Practice. It is hard a little bit too, to see something, especially when you’re painting live on location in a change either the color palette directly, but I think adding more more atmosphere just gives your painting more depth. And I’ll go back there was an exhibit that there was a painting of Percy gray painting that had some beautiful atmosphere and the quote next to the painting was you should have been here yesterday when it was picture perfect. And he says that’s why I’m out here today because there’s a sphere. And in California we get that. Not everybody obviously it’s from here but we have the coast here we have fog. And it’s it’s great when after the phone turns off and you’ve got the nice sunlight to paint with. You get some great distance in your paintings.

Eric Rhoads 23:46
Well, I think that’s a really important point to talk about too. And there’s what I call fairweather painters. You know, they’re only gonna go out on a perfect postcard day, you know, perfect sunshine, perfect weather. And yet some of the best things that we’ve ever captured as artists are on those. Those cold moody days when it’s foggy. Things think there’s a lot of a lot of moisture in the air. And of course that tends to make it cooler. Talk to me about that.

Paul Kratter 24:20
That happened just the other day. I was close to home here and had my gear all ready to go and it just rained and we had these great big, big puffy clouds and I drove five minutes from home. Got all set up. And then I go wait a second what these raindrops and I turned around and there was a dark cloud behind me and it started to rain a little bit. I packed up my gear got in the car it rained pretty hard for a bit one home, did a few things and notice that the sun had come back out. I drove right back to that location to the shore bike, got all set up and did a is a really nice painting. So yeah, sometimes you just have to persevere and but you’re right that just being a fair weather fan, that’s all fine and fine and good. But when it’s, you know, painting in the wind is not is not ideal, but by the way, do it, you’ve done a lot, we’ve had so much rain here, when it passes, we usually get some great big cloud formation. So I’ve been going up quite a bit lately.

Eric Rhoads 25:31
And you get these beautiful clouds and you got these beautiful shadows on the on the underground just makes makes for beautiful paintings. So talk to me about designing paintings, because you have an illustration background, and you are really great at composition as people may or may not know, we’ve done a couple of videos with you, one on painting trees. And those videos really focus on design principles. Talk to me about your process for design.

Paul Kratter 26:06
It’s usually ice, I consider myself a designer as shapes. And the first thing that I really do see is the shape of something and I tried to narrow it down to there’s no magic number, it could be five, it could be seven could be 12 shapes, but I try to maybe squint and look at these different masses. And then I’m a huge proponent of of doing sketches now. And so I draw a little box, I start with a light ballpoint pen, it’s nothing to UPS and it’s a cheap, cheap old pen. And I, I start mapping out my, my shapes pretty lightly. And then I start developing using some cross hatching and and I try to do three to four values. So life is great. And if it’s gray, maybe there’s two, two values of gray in there. So when I do my sketch, it’s, it’s, it’s fairly fast, it can be anywhere from two minutes to 578 minutes, depending on on what’s what’s there. If there’s some perspective, if there’s buildings and stuff that’s gonna take a little bit longer. It’s where I do all my editing. And to me, that’s the most important part of my painting process, which doesn’t involve any paint or brush, it’s the sketch

Eric Rhoads 27:42
or your sketchbooks are legendary as matter of fact, when I build my museum of plein air, I want to put one of your sketchbooks in it because along with your paintings, because they’re so phenomenal. But you know, a lot of painters get themselves in trouble because they’re not doing a sketch, right? So they’re, I mean, I’m, I’m a perfect example. You know, you get out there, you start painting, and then all of a sudden you realize you’re out a canvas, and the thing you want to highlight is you know, you need to reshift the whole painting, get that done in the sketching process, right?

Paul Kratter 28:14
Yeah, it’s even just Here I am, this is this is what I preach. And I was, I was down a month or so ago, Sycamore Grove Park and Livermore. And I left my pen and sketchbook in the car, and it was a five minute walk. But I, I don’t want to do it. I can, I can do a nice painting. And I set up and I started to do a pencil drawing on my board. And I just wasn’t working and I changed directions and what the subject I had picked was was something good, but my point of view wasn’t great. So I moved around and found a much better one. So yes, even even somebody who knows how to draw knows how to how to compose. The fact that I didn’t, didn’t have my sketchbook with me was wasn’t a disaster, but it could have been.

Eric Rhoads 29:06
And it’s one of your key tools. To figure it out in advance. Do you when you paint, and you figure out your composition and your sketch? And you’ve kind of cemented those things? This is what I’m going to pay. This is what’s going to be at the edge of my painting. These are what the clouds are going to be. Are you ever painting and have a moment when you go oh, I wish I had a scene that I want to change it so I can do that. Or do you say no, I’ll save that I’ll do a quick sketch and save that for another painting.

Paul Kratter 29:38
I kind of stick with my original thought and even in my sketch unusually, sketch out the shape of the clouds. They certainly move quite a bit. I think a key thing for me. I remember somebody telling me that they What’s gonna change the most that you need to capture now? And let’s say you get to a scene, and the clouds are really moving and in great all paint goes first. And I’ll do my sketch and and then I’ll maybe I’ll work back to front, but I follow the guide of what I’ve done in my sketchbook I try not to chase the light, I think that’s that’s everybody’s demise a little bit is changing their mind after they’ve, they’ve, they’ve done a sketch or have an idea, you can’t do that. But that I think that that’s more of a pain in depth experience.

Eric Rhoads 30:39
Well, if you do that, you know, you’re paying if you’re paying for, let’s say, you’re painting a long day, and a long day was about three hours. You know, you do part of your painting, and then you see something and it changes, all of a sudden, you’ve got the light coming from two different directions can be crazy.

Paul Kratter 30:56
Yeah. Can you sort of, you can go back the next, the next day or something or at another time, and I go back to locations all the time, and just saying, Wow, I like I’ll give an example, I did a really fun painting up in Sonoma, let’s say an 11. By 14 In the morning, and I’m saving the next time I go up there, I hope I go back later in that afternoon, and try to do the same stay in the exact same spot but to a different a different time of day to see the differences in those those two paintings. So the back of my mind, or sometimes I’m going through my sketchbook or my photos, and I go, Oh, that’s great. All I got to remember to go back to that location. And and yeah, even if you stand at the exact same spot, you know, the weather is different, the time of day may be different. And you have a familiar familiarity to the to the scene. And those are, those are all great things to to have in that process.

Eric Rhoads 32:01
So do you keep a diary or something because I oftentimes will say, Okay, I got a couple hours to go painting and then I’ll drive around for 45 minutes and kill all my time. And, and so I started keeping a list in my iPhone of the places that I wanted to paint so that I would remember because I don’t always remember.

Paul Kratter 32:22
I don’t but I go back to some of the same locations all the time. And and I’m always up for going to new places. But typically, if the weather breaks, you know, maybe I’ll go out this afternoon, I certainly am planning tomorrow to go out. In paint. I’m not really sure where I want to go. I’ll call a friend or two and say, What do you guys have in mind, but you know that, hopefully we get some more big clouds out here. And I have my favorite spots. But yeah, I don’t I don’t keep a diary. But it’s in my sketchbook I know, I know where all these places are.

Eric Rhoads 33:03
And how often do you go out? Hanging on location?

Paul Kratter 33:08
Look like this week? It’s been, what the last seven days, maybe three times? Maybe four times? So that’s a lot. Yeah, fairly often.

Eric Rhoads 33:19
And you go out for how long, typically two to three hours.

Paul Kratter 33:23
Okay, and I’m, I used to be faster. I still have a fair amount of speed. I think it’s funny, I took a workshop with Matt Smith. And he said, even when he does a six by eight, it’s a finished painting. And to me that gave me the permission to to spend as much time as I wanted on the painting to make it right. It’s not yet painting fast is great for plein air events and in you you have to capture things and whatnot, but I have slowed down over the years to make it work better for me than then just be looking at the clock going. Okay, I gotta I gotta get to the next spot.

Eric Rhoads 34:07
So is your goal, a finished painting? Or is your goal a study that you can use to bring back to the studio to do a maybe a bigger painting a finished

Paul Kratter 34:17
painting? I don’t I really don’t do studies. Or they may end up helping me with with a bigger piece. They certainly do. But there’s so much work since then.

Eric Rhoads 34:30
So one of the things that one of my biggest regrets of leaving California other than California itself, the beauty is leaving the California art club. I’m still a member but the activity level was so great. You’re pretty heavily involved. Tell us about that.

Paul Kratter 34:52
Yeah, a friend of mine, Richard Lindenberg called me number of years ago and I was looking for a partner and his partner had had stepped down. And so I became co chair with Richard. And then Ellen. Then when Richard retired, he had done it for a number of years. Alan our stepped in and was my co chair. We were coaches together for six or seven years, and she has gotten a bigger role in the art club. And now, Rebecca our Glendale is my co chair we just started. And it’s it’s great fun. I like the organization part. It’s, it’s my time to give back. It’s we put on events, whether they’re paint outs, we do. Shows usually one one show a year at a gallery or museum. We have critique sessions, we have demos, just almost anything to get people we’ve been able to pay on some private property that I’ve been able to get us on. We have a zoo trip coming up to go sketchy animals at the zoo. And they’ve been kind enough to bring out a couple of zookeepers and tell us about some of the wildlife. Yeah, so it’s it’s great camaraderie. It’s just it’s fun. The levels are all over the place from signature members to people just starting out and our goals. My goal usually is just to kind of be a cheerleader and welcome people to the club and make sure everybody’s having fun and get some feedback, these critique sessions.

Eric Rhoads 36:41
It’s a great organization and I encourage everybody to be a part of it. They you’re doing a lot of wildlife painting. And where did this come from? Where did you fall in love we use you mentioned you know, when you were a kid that you were doing that you were into wildlife? Does that where it all came from? You seem to have a fascination

Paul Kratter 37:01
my first award that I ever got was in kindergarten or first grade doing an elephant How appropriate and little a little drawing and I won first place I think it was just a random No, it was not random they they saw the artistic talent and I got a key to the audio box at the San Francisco Zoo. But I just I fell in love with that and I over the years I’ve always was an illustrator I did stuff I did a lot of work with a nature company in zoos and then when the pandemic happened my wife said let’s you should do some some more that you really love wildlife work and so like I found a piece of metal in our we’ve bought a new hall in the paintings on that surface which was totally new. We started doing some paintings on on high all highway signs that were scratched up and beat up and stuff and those were just really really fun to work on and it takes you out of the landscape is of different sorry about the pond but a different beast than it’s it’s very it’s just like switching from oils to to guasha watercolor to maybe to do a study or just to change up things you’re thinking a little bit differently and so you’re slightly interesting. Yeah, I enjoy flipping the switch and doing the wildlife thing and the backgrounds may have texture to orb and something different and that’s my place to experiment a little bit more and I don’t do that so much with my landscape.

Eric Rhoads 38:54
So you you go on a track I don’t know if you do this every year or not. I remember you had when you were on the podcast before we talked about this somebody can go back and listen for the depth of that but the you broke your leg on a trip where they had to helicopter you out because you were backpacking into Edgar Payne country on a pretty regular basis on to Edgar Payne Say that again. Is that upon LPA I am yes to be quicker. Obviously.

Paul Kratter 39:37
So, yes, we we built cone production designer at Pixar. Animation Studios called me up 1718 years ago and said I want to put a backpack trip together to go to Eastern Sierras I don’t want to cook I don’t want to clean I want to be able to think from sunup to sundown. I only want artists to go on I want to go or supplies to be partnered up? Of course, yes. Who doesn’t want to do that? And so we started that that many years ago. And we’ve had 50 artists now go with us. It’s been an incredible experience, even, even Yes, having a broken, I dislocated my kneecap and being flown out by helicopter and rescued is, is quite an experience one that I don’t want to repeat again, but you know, your friends, my friends, were there with me. And we had some laughs and some futures and, and whatnot.

Eric Rhoads 40:41
And how far do you have to hike to hike in there?

Paul Kratter 40:45
Ah, seven, eight miles. It’s pretty, it’s pretty simple. I usually spend a few months before we go out starting to hike in the hills around here. Like I said, I’m playing pickleball, which is aerobic, but it is good. You know, it’s good exercise. But I do. I do take it seriously that I want to, I want to hike and be able to do this for a long time. So that’s

Eric Rhoads 41:14
all that’s one of my bucket list goals is to is to get up into the High Sierras and paint. Were painting painted, I think, you know, he was a hero and first cover of plein air magazine, as you mentioned. And so I’ll have to figure out how to do that someday before I am not able to walk, which hopefully is a long time from now. Well, Paul, this has been a really terrific time having you on the podcast. I appreciate you coming back. I want to do a catch up with you. I want to acknowledge you. You have become a true leader in this world of plein air painting. Everybody loves you, everybody respects you. And they they love and respect your work. Which is nice because sometimes you get one but not the other. And you’re doing a phenomenal job. Your work is at a high level of sophistication. And I think you will be remembered well throughout plein air history.

Paul Kratter 42:11
Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. And thank you for all you’ve done for my career to

Eric Rhoads 42:18
just, I’m just reflecting. Hey, take care, man. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Paul Kratter 42:23
Thank you. Great to think to talk with you again.

Eric Rhoads 42:25
All right, bye. Okay, you guys ready for a little bit of art marketing. Let’s do it.

Announcer 42:31
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 42:44
If you want to make a great living as an artist, you need to listen to this. You know, I don’t have all the answers. But I have spent my life learning marketing and like most of us didn’t know anything about it until I learned it. And I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of very expensive mistakes. And so my goal is to share some of that with you, and to help you with your career. So if you have questions, email them to me, [email protected]. Or you can do video upload if you want to as well. We’d love to see that. Amandine, my producer is going to read the first question.

Amandine 43:20
The first question is from Jenna Boyz from North Carolina. It is not exactly a marketing question. But it is a question that you do receive a lot. How do I overcome the fear of being judged? Comparing myself to others?

Eric Rhoads 43:38
Well, Jenna, get a therapist. Next question. No, no, wait, just here’s my take on this. Because your head has everything to do with your art marketing. Oh, I’ll take this on. But you know, if you have deeper issues, go see a professional. I am not a professional. I went through this and mostly overcame it. I have some of those issues. Still. I’ll explain in a minute. One day artists, Michael Ringer was visiting me at the Adirondacks and a really great painter, really great guy, very, very high level at the time and higher now. And we were kind of walking through the house and I had a lot of paintings out and I you know, he’d stop and look at a painting and we’d move on but I was, you know, I would make excuses for things once in a while. So when he was leaving, he said, Eric, do you mind if I just give you a little bit of feedback? I said, Sure. What is it? And he said, every painting we walked by that you created, you apologized for it? He said stop it. Just stop it. He said you’re doing good work. You’re where you should be. You’re gonna get better and except where you are, except the fact that you you are gonna grow and stop making apology for your work, you just have to understand that this is where you are at the moment. And if you’re comparing yourself to me, Hey, I went through this too. So that was one of the sweetest most considerate things anybody’s ever done for me to actually take the time to say something to me about that. So I caught myself. Four years after that, I would start to make an excuse, you know, somebody be walking by a painting, I’d say, oh, I need to redo that. Or oh, I don’t like the clouds over. Oh, you know, you know, I wish I were better and, and I just would bite my tongue and stop it. And it felt better when I bit my tongue. And I got to the point where he stopped making excuses. Most of the time, once in a while, I will still do it. But I have to catch myself and stop doing it. I look. We all started out. We all did paintings we didn’t love we we have to look at each painting as progress. We’re learning something from each painting, you know, not every painting is going to be perfect. By the way not every painting, every artist who’s well known is perfect. You know, you’ve just got to get the practice, you know, Kevin McPherson talks about, you know, go out and paint 100 plein air painting small ones in 30 minutes or less just to get practice. So you just got to stop the negative self talk, you got to stop apologizing. And I looked this up just curious. I went to Psychology Today. And they said this measuring yourself against others is modus operandi of the human mind. And in some ways, it can be helpful. The inspiration you feel about someone else’s achievements can either rev you up to improve your own life. Or the recognition that your abilities are a notch above someone else can actually give you a boost your self esteem. But comparisons can be harmful when they leave you feeling chronically inferior or depressed. People aren’t uniformly at risk of negative social comparison. Surprisingly, those with low self esteem are more likely to feel that they don’t stack up. When we’re relying on others for our sense of self only feeling good if we get positive feedback or markers of status. We’re at risk for depression. So let that be a lesson go get a therapist, if that’s the case. But look, the worst that can happen is that you are judged. I mean, if you enter an art show what happens, you’re judged, and you’re judged fairly or unfairly or badly or good. But you’re judged. If you compare yourself to other artists, you know, who are you comparing yourself, you’re comparing yourself to Rembrandt or to Edgar Payne or to somebody at that level? How do we ever get there in our lifetimes? Some people do, some people don’t. But, you know, are you comparing yourself to Monet? You’re comparing yourself to another painter and your friend group. Who are you painting comparing yourself to? I sat up and painted two different times next to Richard Schmidt, the great artist, one time was in the garden, and I sat up next to him, so I could watch him paint, but I he wouldn’t let me watch. You wouldn’t want me just watch him paid. He said, You got to paint. And I want to see what you’re doing. Well, there’s nothing like pressure like that. And sometimes that pressure is good, because I felt like I really did for myself at the time a pretty decent painting. I look back now and maybe it wasn’t good. And then another time I painted a portrait standing right behind beside him, are behind him. And I was kind of monitoring what he did. And I do what he did and, and then he came up to me afterwards. He said, I know you’re such a good artist. And that was a nice compliment. And and while I said Well, it’s because I copied every brushstroke. He said nonsense, you were able to pull this off. It’s really nice. So you know, I was a little reluctant to let him see it to let him do it. But I did it and you got to put yourself out there and what I find I get a wonderful opportunity to paint with a lot of artists and I find that it can be intimidating, but what I do is I do not go look at their work while I’m painting. They may come over and look at mine I don’t go look at theirs because here’s what happens I’ll go oh, I liked the way they did that lead in and then I’ll come back and change my painting and that’s the kiss of death you don’t want to do that. So I just you know I will look at their work afterwards once I’m done but I don’t do it in the meantime. And I think that you know sometimes comparison is a real good thing it drives you you know when you know there’s a good painter next you I had some buddies of painting this past summer I wanted to really pull up my best because I wanted to look good right i That’s not unusual, but nobody was critical and and you know once in a while somebody come up say hey, I’ve got some ideas for you or some Sometimes I go up to them and I say, I’ve got some ideas for you, you know, we can all see things in other people’s work that we can’t see in ourselves. So help strive to be better, you know, try to set yourself to a new standard to get to a higher level. But don’t worry about it. Don’t compare yourself to others in a negative way, embrace it. As an artist, you are unique. You’re a unique individual, embrace yourself, embrace your struggle, embrace the hard work to get better. And know that people that are better than you went through this, they struggled, they did paintings, they weren’t happy with their painting stuff. And they probably compare themselves to others at the time, too. It’s a real natural thing. It’s okay, unless it’s hurting you in some way. You know, for instance, if you decided to stop painting, because you felt so bad about what you were doing, that’s just stupid. Alright, so I was in the studio the other day, and I messed up a painting I’ve been working on for two years, a big painting. And, you know, I had, I got a little too bold, and I was tired, and I started making some big mistakes. And I really screwed up this painting. So I wiped all the paint that I had just done down. Well, thankfully, of course, the dry painting underneath it was still there. And what ended up happening is that paint smeared, created this incredible atmosphere. And then what I did is I was just able to wipe out parts of it with my paper towel and retain some of the parts that I wanted. And then I painted on top of that, and I ended up doing one of the best paintings I’ve ever done. So you know, it’s gonna happen, you’re gonna, you’re gonna have mistakes, and sometimes mistakes lead to better things. Don’t beat yourself up, manage yourself, talk, treat yourself with respect, you would not tell someone else that they’re painting was awful. Don’t tell yourself that your paintings awful. Just tell yourself, look, I can do better. That’s fine, I will get better. This is their learning experience. I know that every artist, even the best ones, have messed things up from time to time. That’s part of the deal. Just deal with it. All right, next question.

Amandine 52:02
The next question is from Richard Mark Stone. Sorry about that from Colorado. For people with successful non artistic jobs, careers, who would love to make art for a living, but are fearful? What would you say to them?

Eric Rhoads 52:18
Okay, so what would I say to somebody who is not an artist but thinks that they they’re already successful? They think that they would like to become a successful artist, I’d say go for it, go for it. This is kind of like head trash day, right? That we’re dealing with the heads. Why be fearful rich? Let me ask you this. If you decided to switch careers, I don’t know what you do for a living. Let’s say that you’re a woodworker. And that you decide you want to become a fireman? Would you fear becoming a fireman? Or you might a little bit What do you fear? Really, you fear the unknown you fear? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. But mostly, you would simply tell yourself, look, I don’t know this, but I can get trained on it. And once I’m trained on it, I can practice it once I practice it, I’m gonna get good at and you’re gonna apply for a job and you’re gonna get a job as a fireman, right? Well, what’s the difference really, as an artist, it’s no different. Except you’re not applying for a job because you’re self employed all the sudden. So what you might fear is quitting your existing job to become an artist when you’re unproven. Not knowing if you have the ability to paint or sculpt what you do, it’s just a matter of time, and not knowing if you can sell your work. So in my art marketing videos, and what I have often taught at the convention, plein air convention is, I often talk about being practical, practical about these things. In other words, you know, if you decide you want to quit your job and become an artist, you know, you’re it’s gonna take you some time to learn to be an artist and to get good. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take you everybody’s different. But let’s say it takes you five years, you don’t want to quit your job. And let’s say you have a job and a good job and you’re learning to be an artist and you have to take the time to do that while you have your job. And then you don’t want to just say okay, now I’m good at it are good at being an artist. I think now I’ll go start selling my paintings. Don’t quit your job. The goal is get used to painting, get used to selling paintings, get some proof that your stuff is going to sell consistently. And then get to a level of income that you’re comfortable even though you’re working hard because you’re really working two jobs now. Get to a level where you’re comfortable and that you know you can reproduce that level of sales month after month after month after month. And once you’ve proven it for six months or a year, if that’s when you want to quit your job. Maybe don’t do it. Maybe go to part time say okay you know I’m going to a friend of mine did this friend of mine was a physicist is Brilliant painter, and he had a good job. But he said, Okay, I’m gonna go to, I’m gonna start taking a quarter of my time off from work and then putting that towards painting. And then after a while it was half of my time. And then after a while, it was three quarters of my time. And eventually he stopped the one job by the time he got the other one go. And he was making plenty of money doing 3040 workshops a year, making, you know, making bank and so he was stable. And that’s what you want to go for is you want to be stable. So anyway, if you have the passion to become an artist, don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the talent or the skills that’s crazy. Everybody can do this, you just have to learn it, you have to get taught I have trained for my company has trained hundreds of 1000s of people through our our video library called paint We have trained millions of people, or at least a million people on the art school live daily on YouTube, we have taught a lot of people to paint who didn’t think they could, who figured it out because they got the proper training. You know, doing it on your own is okay, a lot of people are self taught, but you can burn a lot of time. That way you can speed it up and you get somebody good to teach you if you can get a good local instructor. That’s the best way. You get good national instruction, good workshops, good videos, things like that, that’s going to make a difference. And then get good at learning to sell and learning to market yourself. Those are critical parts of the process. Well, this has kind of been head trash day, so I guess I should be getting $100 an hour for each of these. Next patient. Okay, look, you’re your head is your worst enemy. And it’s also your best friend. Your brain wants to default to the negative, it’s natural. But you have to stop it. You have to constantly tell yourself that’s not like me. I am not a negative thinker. I am not going to think negatively. I’ve got some great books to recommend they’re classics, they’re really still true. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, psycho cybernetics maxwell maltz. Unleash the Power Within Tony Robbins go to a Tony Robbins event. It’s not what you think it is. It’s not all positive thinking. There’s a lot of science behind it. I’ve been to a couple of them, they’ve been very helpful to me. Look, we’ll put links to those in the show notes. But take time to learn how to become a positive thinker. You know, your body reacts to your thoughts. And your your body or your mind finds what your thoughts are saying. If you say it looks like it’s gonna rain, you’re gonna find rain. If you say it looks like it’s gonna be a beautiful day you’re gonna find a beautiful day. Now I you know, you’re not going to change the weather. But the if you get the point here is you’ve got to look for the positive spin on everything. You can’t be telling yourself you can’t do this. You can do this, you know, you just don’t know how. All right, anyway. Your mindset controls your success. These are things that will control the course of your future and your action and help you become what you want to be. Little prayer never hurts either, too. Okay. That’s today’s psychology minute. I mean, art marketing.

Announcer 58:20
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at

Eric Rhoads 58:28
Hey, I want to remind you guys that we’re going to be at the plein air convention, select spring spring training come to the plein air convention with it’d be a lot of fun. 10 year anniversary gonna be a big party, we’re gonna have a lot of fun. also join me in the Adirondacks for fall color week this fall. It’s about 60% sold out right now. So it’ll be gone. Probably in a month. So get that done. And come paint with me. It’d be a lot of fun. And make sure you get your subscription to I think that’s a really terrific tool to look at art all the time. We can’t all go to museums, but we can open a magazine it’s nice to it’s like Christmas comes in the mail. You look forward to it. If you have not seen my blog, where I talk about life and art and things like that. It’s called Sunday coffee and it comes out every Sunday for free. You can get it just by going to Sign up. And also I’m on the air daily air, internet, Facebook and YouTube. For my show art school alive. We have hundreds of artists doing demonstrations and talks. You can find it on YouTube by looking up art school live. While you’re there, hit the subscribe button. We’re there weekdays at 12 noon, but you can watch on your own time, wherever you are. There’s like 60 countries listening to this right now. So anywhere in the world you can watch and listen. And also if you don’t mind, because I’ll be posting photos of Blue Bottle painting. Follow me at Eric Rhoads. And it’s spelled AR H O. A. d s no hate on Instagram and Facebook. And that’s me. I’m Eric, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. Thank you for your time today. Appreciate it. Thank you to Paul Kratter. He is a superstar. Remember, it’s a big world out there go paint it. We’ll see you soon. Goodbye.


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.


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