Plein Air Podcast 252: How Jennifer McChristian’s Military Background Influences Her Art, and more

This is Plein Air Podcast episode number 252 with last year’s PleinAir Salon winner and artist extraordinaire Jennifer McChristian.

In addition to being an artist, Jennifer has served in the United States Army Reserves and in the Canadian Army Reserves. She has been a full-time artist since 2000, and teaches painting workshops around the world. She was also the Grand Prize Winner of the 12th Annual PleinAir Salon, and she recently filmed a video for (to be released in the near future).

Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric answers the questions: “Who owns the rights to copy your painting if you donate it?” and “Should you take genre-specific paintings only when attending a niche event?”

Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Jennifer McChristian here:


Related Links:
– Jennifer McChristian online:
– Plein Air Japan:
– Plein Air Magazine:
– Fall Color Week:
– European Fine Art Trip:
– Submit Art Marketing Questions:

The Plein Air Podcast has been named the #1 Painting Podcast by FeedSpot for two years in a row. New in 2023: FeedSpot has named Eric’s Art Marketing Minute Podcast as one of the Top 25 Art Business and Marketing Blogs on the web.

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, it is sometimes slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.

Eric Rhoads:
This is episode number 252 with last year’s PleinAir Salon winner and artist extraordinaire Jennifer McChristian.

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 0:00
Hey there, and welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. I’m Eric. And our goal for this podcast and all podcasts is to help inspire you to paint outdoors because I think painting outdoors will actually make you a better painter because you’re seeing nature you’re not looking at photographs, which was plus the plein air lifestyle is just so cool. I made you know, you make lots of friends to paint with you get to travel, you get to be outdoors, you’re gonna you’re gonna be creative. So if you’re just listening, I heard from some people the other day actually met them on the lake and they said, Hey, we didn’t know you had a podcast, we’ve been listening to it. Now we gotta get a painting right? To try painting. This is your chance to get into the mind of the artists and our artists today is going to be Jennifer McChristian, you’re going to learn more about her in a minute. Learn about her struggles and journey and techniques. And that’s going to be helpful to you. I am so grateful to you, this show would not have the success. It has literally millions of downloads, positive reviews and comments happening because of you. So thank you very much. We appreciate you sharing it and reviewing it and giving us those five stars that always helps. At the end of the podcast, we will do the art marketing minute to help you sell more art. If you’re interested in becoming a business person with your art. This is the place to start that and some of my other things like, and my book and so on. Today, we’re going to be talking about the pros and cons of donating paintings to charities, and also what you should focus on. Shouldn’t you be focusing on multiple topics subjects? We’ll get into that a little bit. I am coming to you from the Adirondack Mountains. I’m back. I was at pastel live last week. And man are my arms tired? Yeah, nice to be back in the Adirondacks where it’s cool. Instead of Austin, Texas where it was 106 degrees. Tough, that’s tough. Anyway, I’ve been painting a little bit before I got up before I got back and then I mean, not before I got back before I left. And I’m gonna get out painting again here pretty quickly. So I’ll be posting pictures on social media. Follow me @EricRhoads on Instagram, Facebook threads, you name it for their LinkedIn. Also, thanks again to Feedspot for making us the number one art podcast in the world two years in a row in the world. Can you believe that? As a result of the attention they’re giving us we’re seeing more and more people, plein air painting and at spreading across the world. And if you want to be plein air painting in your community, and you want to find other people start searching because we want to get communities together, get people painting together. Somebody reached out to me, they said I’m in Spain, and I put them in touch with some people in Spain that are painting. So how cool is that? Anyway, by the way. In March, I’ve taken a group of people to cherry blossom season in Japan. My first trip I wanted to paint there, I want to tour there so we put together this incredible trip and it’s sold out so why am I talking about it? Well, we have put together a waitlist because we’ve had other people who have expressed interest we’ve been able to find another room or two. It’s so hard to get them during cherry blossom season but we’re trying and so if we can squeeze you in we will so just go to the waitlist and go to Also, it’s going to be a really busy crazy fall because I got Fall color week and I’m gonna go off on a trip I’m going to tell you about both of those here. Fall color week. Is my retreat that I do every fall usually in a different place every fall, we because of the pandemic, we had to repeat a couple places because we couldn’t go out and do what we call site selections. And so we had one lined up for one last time for the Adirondacks in the Adirondacks, upstate New York, beautiful mountains and waterfalls, and color is spectacular. And, oh, it’s sold out too. But we’re going to do the same thing a waitlist. And the reason is, because we think we might be able to get a few more rooms, maybe several more rooms, we managed to get a couple so far. So anyway, go ahead and sign up if you’re interested for that. And then from there, I go to a drive back to Austin, I’m driving because we have dogs that the airlines don’t want to deal with. And so we drive back to Austin, stay there a couple of days, I’m going to meet up with a couple of people who are going to be in the area for the set for the Texas plein air event. And then gonna get on an airplane and fly to Stockholm. Actually, I’m going to do a Stockholm and then a pre trip to Maura. And then I’m going to be conducting my fine art trip throughout Stockholm. And then we’re moving on to Madrid, we go behind the scenes into museums and, and we have special privileges. We go to artists studios, we do a lot of things. It’s not a painting trip. Sometimes I paint I probably will bring wash or something with me so I don’t have to lug a whole bunch of stuff. And anyway, it’s a blast and we are not sold out for that. But we’re close I think we’ve got seven seats left for that and that’s coming up. And by the way, you don’t want to miss this. It’s a luxury VIP thing and you would really dig it covered up after the interview with Jennifer McChristian I’m gonna answer your marketing questions. As I mentioned before, you can always send questions to be Eric at art marketing comm or you can send with [email protected]. We don’t care how you send them. And then you know, maybe sometimes we’ll put you on live. You never know. We’ll get your questions answered one way or the other. Okay, today on the podcast, my guest is Jennifer McChristian. I just had the pleasure of spending a week with Jennifer and her husband, Ben. They were living in the world famous artists cabin in our property in Austin. And she was there shooting an art instruction course which is gotta be phenomenal. And she’s born and raised in Montreal, Canada. And she knew she wanted to be an artist from an early age. She had several careers. She served in the United States Army Reserves and in the Canadian Army Reserves. She was a full time animation artist, and so on. But since 2000, she has devoted herself to painting full time, which takes a lot of courage. And Jennifer has a lot of courage. She teaches plein air painting workshops around the world and he has a lot of stuff and she was the grand prize winner of the PleinAir Salon, she got her painting on the cover of PleinAir magazine I happen to own I don’t own that painting. I own a copy. She did have that painting for her video. She so generously gifted me. Please welcome Jennifer McChristian. Jennifer, welcome.

Jennifer McChristian 8:22
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Eric Rhoads 8:25
Oh, man, I just I could spend time with you all the time. You’re so much fun. What have you been doing lately, since I saw you last when we shot the video?

Jennifer McChristian 8:35
Oh, well, I’ve just been busy doing paintings for some upcoming group shows. Plein Air painting mostly. And taking care of my finger drawing session. That happens three times a week.

Jennifer McChristian 8:50
Tell me about that.

Jennifer McChristian 8:52
Oh, the finger drawing session. Oh, I we host my husband and I host a figure drawing session out of our studio three times a week. So three hour session. And it’s a live model. And we’ve been doing it since 2000. So yeah, I just really enjoy it. I love the camaraderie and just do relaxation drawing. Yeah, so

Eric Rhoads 9:16
you’re not known as a figure or portrait artist. I mean, maybe you are, but certainly known as a landscape artist, you do a lot of architecture, things like that. What is the benefit to? I know the answer to this, but I have to ask it for the people. What benefit of doing a figure session with a live artist if you’re only going to be a landscape painter?

Jennifer McChristian 9:44
Oh, that’s a very good question. There are many benefits to that. One being that you’re constantly training your eye to see shape form of value, regardless of what it is. But I find that the human figure is like the best way to practice because You can take what you learn from drawing, and then apply that to whatever subject matter you do, whether it’s landscapes so life. So it’s just a matter of like, forming shapes and, and all that stuff and, and being able to just train your eye to see proportions and, and things like that. And for me, I the benefit I get from it is just, not only do I get a lot of mileage, which helps me in my painting, but it’s also a form of like meditation. For me, it’s very calming. And I get to meet a lot of artists. So it’s also I get a lot of social interaction considering being an artist can be kind of isolating sometimes in your studio might be seeing people, you know, it’s just nice. And we’ve been doing it for so long. And yeah, I really enjoy it. It’s a really great thing that we’re doing for our little community here.

Eric Rhoads 11:08
So I found that when I start, I did a figure painting thing, too. I had in my studio for 10 years in a row, everyone said I had a group of people. And I found that it made me a better landscape artist overall, just because I was drawing, you know, and I think that that’s what the experts always say is just always be drawing always practice always keep working on your hand eye coordination, that is such a benefit. Now, you also are doing sculpting, I understand, tell me about that.

Jennifer McChristian 11:43
Yeah, I, I just had this kind of urge to I mean, I just sculpting when I was in, I went to Otis Parsons, and that was part of our foundation course, when I studied illustration and design way back when, and we had a sculpting class. And so I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed just having the physical, you know, sense of working with my hands, and forming a shape on like a 3d form. So, I was looking on Instagram, and I think something caught my eye, maybe it was somebody’s account, who was a sculptor. And I thought, Oh, maybe I should just get back into it. And I bought some little clay materials and stuff. water-based clay. And then I did look at some tutorials, some YouTube tutorials on how to squat like little simple things like a cat or a giraffe or a head. And it’s a little bit trickier when you’re doing it online. But I just had that to reference myself from so I did a couple of little sculptures, you can kind of see them in the back over here. So that was you know, a lot of fun. And, and I haven’t done it much. But I do go back to it when I feel like, you know, the wells run dry. And I feel like I need a little bit of inspiration. And again, to me, I find that sculpting is kind of has a similar effect as drawing where you just kind of like get into it and a second meditative. Kind of like, meditative. You know, can’t, I can’t think of the word. Just sculpting with your hands and making something out of just a lump of clay. So it’s very satisfying. And like I said, it’s also very therapeutic. And it’s good for the hands to, like, it’s good for the hands. Oh, yeah. Yeah, because we, you know, we’re repeating, we tend to get a little bit like, you know, if you’re painting for many years, you know, over time, you might develop some kind of arthritis and fingers. So this helps to keep the circulation and the fingers and the wrist. I think it’s, you know, many benefits to it.

Eric Rhoads 14:16
Well, I think the whole idea of playing with other things does a couple of things. It informs your painting. You know, when George Carlson said to me, he’s a brilliant painter, but he spent his life as a sculptor. And he said, If you really want to learn to paint, you need to learn to sculpt because sculpting will help you see things differently. It’ll help you like so I think that’s good. And then you also you toy with some other things. You’re primarily an oil painter, but I you mentioned earlier, before we went on that you were you were doing some squash. So you do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Jennifer McChristian 14:59
Yeah, I because I, you mentioned when you went on your trip that you you bring your washes because it’s less cumbersome materials to bring. The reason why that’s one of the reasons why I like bringing Washington when I travel is that I don’t have to deal with the the Tsa, tsa issues of traveling solvents. The only time I actually do travel with my oils is when I teach a workshop, because that’s my primary medium. But if I’m traveling just for myself, I started bringing my washes because it’s just easier. Also, if I do a lot of washes during my vacation, they try right away, so I can just take them back with me on the same day of my flight. And it’s just also just a little bit more efficient. As far as like equipment, there’s less to carry, it’s a little bit less toxic because you’re working with water. So clean up is easier. So I think it kind of releases a little bit of that stress level on traveling with oil paints. And so I can just relax a bit. And the process is a little bit different, since I don’t do washes that much, not as much as oils. And there’s always that learning curve when I actually go and paint on plein air that I have to get through. Because it’s quite an interesting medium. And it doesn’t really work like oils, because it dries faster and some colors dry lighter than others. And so you kind of have to paint in a different way. Almost like playing chess, it’s very so much watercolors, which I think is extremely like I think it’s one of the hardest mediums to work with, because you really have to think ahead when you’re using watercolors. So um, but what I like about guasha is like by the little too is that it’s a similar kind of consistency to oil paint, I don’t use little blocks, I like to use the guasha in the twos because then I can just squeeze them out the same way I do with my oils. And sometimes I’ll even use a little bit of it’s a thickener, just to give a little bit more texture and like a thicker consistency. So I will use the washers similarly to the way I use my oil Pin Pan palette, and of course,

Eric Rhoads 17:16
your view but that’d be something like a wax.

Jennifer McChristian 17:20
And no, it’s not a wax. It’s kind of like I forget the name of it, but it looks like Vaseline. And it’s like an unusually put a little bit on the side on my palate. And I use it mainly towards the end of the painting when I add a little bit more texture. Typically I leave my lightest lights for the later stages. So I’ll use like, the the medium later on.

Eric Rhoads 17:46
Okay, so that’s a medium made for gouache.

Jennifer McChristian 17:49
Yes, I mean, I don’t know if you can use it for watercolors, but it’s a Windsor Newton product, but I definitely use my washes. Yeah. And it

Eric Rhoads 17:59
was really interesting. And I think like oil paints, you know, you find you find a brand that becomes a preference and oftentimes it’s a preference by color. I know that for Mike wash. Some some you know, I buy some tubes from one company some tubes from another just because, you know, you find the shade that you like or you the consistency that you like, right. So, you you have done quite a bit of travel. And you mentioned that travel is really, really important to you. You want to talk about that.

Jennifer McChristian 18:33
Absolutely. Well, the firt my first trip to Europe, I consider myself like a late bloomer. My husband and I, we took our first trip to Europe in 2011, I think was to Paris. And it was completely mind blowing and surreal. Because it was my first time being exposed to like a European environment. And of course, what a better place to start with Paris.

Eric Rhoads 19:07
So I grew up in a European like environment in Montreal, alright,

Jennifer McChristian 19:11
well, yeah. Well, they call it the poor man’s Paris. I hope that’s not too long, but it there is a little section called Old Montreal that kind of is very similar to a Persian, you know, place. Maybe that’s why I had an affinity for Paris. I don’t know. But um, that was our first trip there. And ever since then, I was like, hooked. I got like the traveling bug. And it just kind of snowballed after that. But it was just really like seeing, you know, because when you’re in one place for so long, you kind of get accustomed and you kind of take for granted the things you see around you. When you expose yourself just something completely new different colors, textures, architecture, you, you, it’s just like a spark plug in your brain. And it just kind of fires your engine up and creates a lot of inspiration within you. So, for me, it was just really an incredible, incredible trip. And then after that we started traveling to different locations and been to, you know, Rome was one of my favorite places. I love the history there. Lots of places, I taught a workshop in South Africa and went to China, just lots of places.

Eric Rhoads 20:43
Well, I think I like your term sparkplug. Because I think that you know, we all we all do get kind of used to our surroundings. And you know, you live in a beautiful area, there’s a lot around there to paint a lot of painters around where you live. And as to why. And sometimes you look at the same things over and over again and you start even see them anymore, you got to go to another place. And it’s like, wow, inspiration and, and that’s, that’s why I like to travel too. I think it’s it’s that idea of getting out trying something new being inspired. And of course, it’s fun to travel. So it makes a lot of sense. So what is it about this this? This plein air thing? You’re also a studio painter? Of course, you talked about being isolated in the studio. But why did plein air speak to you so much? And why have you become such an advocate?

Jennifer McChristian 21:39
Well, plein air. Let’s see. Why did it speak to me so much. I can recall vividly the first time I went plein air painting. I don’t remember the exact time. But I do remember the moment. And it was like I remember like right after I graduated from college, I took on a couple of jobs and stuff. And then I wanted to get into painting full time. So I took a couple of classes, mainly like plein air classes with Robert blue and Cole Dental. And before going out to paint, I kind of bought a couple of books. You know, Kevin Macpherson’s book, I really enjoyed his first plein air book, which kind of helped gave me a bit of understanding for plein air. And so then I was just really inspired and I got my supplies, and went out to paint and I was soaked from, from from then on. It was just, you know, just the feeling of being outdoors. I love the outdoors. I’ve always loved the outdoors. And so as a child, you know, I grew up in Montreal, and we visited a lot of different Quebec countryside. And, and, and so I always love the outdoors. So it’s a plus to be able to paint while you’re surrounded by nature. And, yeah, it’s just something that you either love, and you don’t. And it’s, I don’t know, it’s, I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. And, and, you know, I think you had mentioned something earlier that a lot of the plein air movement is becoming quite popular, especially among the young people. And I also started seeing a lot of younger people coming into a drawing workshop. So that’s a really encouraging thing to see. So I

Eric Rhoads 23:42
am very encouraged by that. You know, we were, you’re still a young person compared to me, Oh, I don’t know. Relative, but to you know, we started plein air magazine a little over 20 years ago, and there was hardly anybody doing it then and it has just exploded. And you know, the demographics are changing. And it’s so wonderful to see. And I think that the the Instagram social media things have had a big role in that because he was now you’re now able to see a lot of the different people who are out there and it’s very refreshing. And and we also found that the plein air convention back in, where do we do at Denver? Just recently, we found that about 30% of the crowd was under 40, which was really good news, you know, because it needs to be used to lean a lot older than that. And that’s wonderful to see that happening. And more and more. So that’s a positive. So what is your best advice? If somebody’s listening to this? And they’re they’re like trying to figure out alright, how do I how do I really master this? Do you have a process to learn learning a new skill that that, you know, would help people either figure out how to start this or figure out how to get to the next level?

Jennifer McChristian 25:09
Um, well, I don’t know, if it’s so much a process. It’s more of like, if I want to learn something new, basically, I feel like, you know, my life was a painter’s very, I wouldn’t say well regimented. And I follow a certain kind of process, and

Eric Rhoads 25:34
told me about that. I’m sorry to interrupt your train of thought, but I want to know about regimented process for you.

Jennifer McChristian 25:41
Well, you know, seeing that I had military background, I’m very organized. And I have like, an itinerary that I plan out every week. And so when I come into the studio, I have a certain process, or I don’t know if the process is the right word to use. But I’ll come in and I’ll do some warm up sketching, I’ll get

Eric Rhoads 26:06
a routine,

Jennifer McChristian 26:07
routine. Yes. And then, yeah, that’s, I couldn’t think of the word. And I’ll but I do this routine all the time. So I think it’s good to have habits and cultivate them. But once in a while, it’s also good to shake them up. And because you can kind of get into a groove. And then that’s when you start feeling unmotivated. And so for me, that’s why I mentioned earlier, the traveling, taking up a new hobby, like sculpting, or even a new language, you know, doesn’t necessarily have to be art related. Like, for instance, I started figure skating. And I used to do that when I was in Canada anyways, and I always loved it, I was, like, passionate about it. And although it’s not anything related to art, I mean, it is an art form. But it’s just like a little diversion from painting. But I can just focus on on, on just because I do ballet also second focus on on my technique on the eyes. And it’s just, it’s just nice to have something else on the side, it could be anything, it could be a sport, it could be a musical instrument. Even picking up a new book, I started reading, again, I have a bunch of books that have studios. So I’ll just pick up a book and start reading it when I’m taking a break from painting, just to get like the brain, you know, firing in a different way. And when you know, so you’re not constantly doing the same thing.

Eric Rhoads 28:00
Great way to overcome any kind of feeling of being stuck. Right? Yeah, absolutely. So you if you’re trying to grow in a particular area, especially in your painting, are you still attending other people’s workshops? Or watching art instruction courses? Are you doing any of that kind of,

Jennifer McChristian 28:22
oh, once in a while, I’ll get like little tidbits on on YouTube and tutorials. And if I see a workshop that interests me that I really want to go, then I probably will do it. But I’m always constantly learning, looking at other artists and visiting galleries and museums. And, you know, like I said, also doing teaching workshops is really a wonderful way to, to get out of a rut, because it’s when I’m teaching, I’m kind of revisiting stuff that I already know. But I kind of just haven’t really focused on this much. I know that makes sense. But it’s almost like a like when you do a test and you’re reviewing your information, that kind of like, you know, just refreshes the knowledge you already have about painting. And then also I’m able to see different styles of paintings from my students. And also I learned from them because then if I see something that is incorrect, then I can kind of make an assessment and, and figure out what it is. So I can avoid doing that in my own painting because I mean, I’m not perfect, I still make mistakes. So I’m learning from my students just as much as I’m learning for myself. So that’s a good year, whatever

Eric Rhoads 29:57
you ever you mentioned to go into museums Have you ever gone to a museum to copy a painting? Or have you ever done any master copies from photographs or posters or

Jennifer McChristian 30:07
I haven’t done any paintings, but a lot of sketching. Most of the place I traveled to I always bring my sketchbook because sometimes they don’t allow for people to paint. So it’s just easier to bring a sketchbook. So I’ve done all of that.

Eric Rhoads 30:22
Who are some of your favorite paintings favorite inspiration?

Jennifer McChristian 30:27
Well, there’s one painting. I love the Art Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago. I love that Museum is one of my favorites. And I remember just one painting in particular, the fountain villa. The the fountain, the fountain, it’s a villa Torlonia. And it for Sadie, Italy took a long title. But the first time I saw it in person, I was like, just floored. Because, you know, when you’re studying college, you see a lot of these images and books and it’s just not the same as seen in real life. And

Eric Rhoads 31:06
Sister the parent, it was a painting of Sergent sister painting by the fountain.

Jennifer McChristian 31:11
Yeah, yes. And, and what? For a couple of things, but one of the things that intrigued me was like, What’s the story behind there, I love the composition. And also it was encouraging to see like a woman engaged in like, you know, a supposedly like male dominated activity, Planet painting, you know. And I just like, I’ve always been a huge fan of a Sergeant’s work has been my inspiration forever. And just the use of color, the manipulation of edges. And I mean, even in the the white fabric, you can see all the different colors and, and what I like is that his brushstrokes are deliberate, but but they still look very loose. And so and then you stand at a distance, it looks very realistic when when you go up close, it’s just like a cacophony of beautiful brushstrokes that are painted very loosely. So yeah, and you know, what’s interesting about this particular painting is that was around the time that he just straight from, he didn’t stray but he, he kind of left the took a break from portraiture, and delved into a plein air painting. So that’s kind of like a firing little tidbit there. And, yeah, I just, I love that painting. So one of my favorite was

Eric Rhoads 32:39
the other paintings that that really turned you on.

Jennifer McChristian 32:43
There was one of why I love Nikolai section. Are you familiar with Nikolai fiction? Oh, yeah. So this painting is in a peasant blouse. Was is at the Taos Art Museum. And I was in New Mexico and grants Mexico to teach a workshop actually was my very, very first plein air workshop. So that was kind of like a big milestone for me. And after the workshop, it took a little trip to, to this museum. And again, affection is another artist that I’ve always been a fan of for years and inspired for many, many years and still am, and always will be. And, and it’s really a very neat museum as you know, it’s like it’s this house for one so that’s even more special. guests in studio. It’s fabulous. Oh, yeah. And the fact that he like he was like a chameleon, he did so many things like sculpted and all that stuff. And but this particular painting, it is just so much life. I like that. You know, for one that that is his daughter, so that’s kind of cool. And I’ve always been drawn to his like, his ability to capture like the, the essence of the sitter’s. Like if you look at all his other portraits. It’s like he captures her soul. It’s really fascinating. And of course, his technique is amazing. He’s got like a beautiful balance of like really abstract quality, and then you kind of hone in on the hands and they’re a little bit more representational, a little bit more detail, including the face, but still loosely painted. So it’s a really beautiful balance so your eye goes to the face and then the hair kind of draws you down to the hands. And even the hair like instead of he didn’t paint like little strands it just kind of painted shapes and colors. You know, and just his palette is gorgeous. It’s not too saturated. And of course you familiar with the Zorn palette, right? No. So which I and that’s another thing that’s fun too. I experimented with that too. So I did a bunch of paintings with this one palette, which was really fun. But

Eric Rhoads 35:09
we’re gonna go to the Zorn House and Museum on my trip to Sweden coming up in in the fall. Talking to the director there, even though the museum is closed, we’re going to get in and get to see some of the artwork and Oh, that’s amazing. But, you know, to see Zorn’s work in person is very phenomenal as his fashions. They’ve got a lot of people at the academy and St. Petersburg, Russia, where fashion went to school, they have his what would be the equivalent of his doctorate piece. It’s a giant painting. It’s I think it’s called the cabbages of the cabbage lady or something like that. It’s phenomenal. It’s a giant piece. And, you know, he, I think he got this I don’t know if he got it from himself, or if he got it from him cheating him and Chidi did these, you know, really tight faces, but everything else was just wild and loose, and does the same thing. It’s just it’s very wonderful. Now, what about contemporary artists? Is there is there anybody that I know you have a lot of friends and you’re gonna make somebody mad if you don’t mention their particular painting that that really speaks to you from that we might know?

Jennifer McChristian 36:27
Well, you probably know, I’m a huge fan of Tibor Nagi. You familiar with Tibor. And the first time I saw his work, I was just like, oh my god, this guy can paint. And I’ve just been following him ever since. I love all his work. So I go through his website and just like blah, blah, like everything he does is a masterpiece. But this particular painting, really, I for some reason, is one of my favorites. I mean, I have a lot of favorites of his, but this one really encapsulates his, his style. You know, a lot of the way he combines the like, realism and abstract is really good at that. Because it’s very abstracted piece, but yet you still know what it is. And I love cityscapes. So to me, that was appealing as well. And just the way his brushstrokes, so much energy, and just kinetic movement, almost like he has like, a sense of like urgency when he paints these and and it kind of gives that the painting of feeling of like, it’s just just entered life and just beautiful reflections and also the fact that it was dark there was like a gray, overcast day at dusk, which is very difficult to capture. And he nailed it so and the little accents of the orange headlights just beautiful.

Eric Rhoads 38:02
I can see his influence in your work and I can see the influence of the other artists you mentioned in your work you know one of the things that a lot of artists experience when they first start painting is they they want to be tight and almost photo photorealistic you have this incredible brushwork abstract nature about your work. And sometimes you you know, you you look at something you know exactly what it is, but it’s not defined at all. What what do you say to people how to, you know, how do you get out of this? First off you don’t have to get out of that I mean, there’s no right or wrong but how do you move from being you know, a tight and rendering things perfectly to being looser and having more fun and being more expressive?

Jennifer McChristian 38:56
Good question. Well, that comes again with one mileage and just time and and just pretty much mileage. I remember when I went to college and you know, we did do a lot of copies and stuff. But my work was very extremely tight and realistic because you’re kind of learning the technical aspects of painting. And then from then on, once you have the knowledge and the technique, then you you know, the more you do it then you kind of eventually evolve and a new style slowly starts to develop and show and then you know again with the traveling and new all stuff and the more you grow as a person you kind of know what you like what you don’t like to certain things I liked about painting you know, certain painting styles are like that no longer like you just constantly grow and change but for me I’ve always wanted to kind of push myself and and get to that level of like, like for instance to pornography like I just love the that Beautiful spontaneity that he has in his paintings. And I want to reach that level of like looseness. And I think it’s just a matter also of like, being fearless. Because a lot of times people have that fear, like, Oh, if I, you know, if I, you know, go out of my comfort zone and start painting like really loosely, it’s peel, I’m gonna like it, it’s gonna look weird, blah, blah, blah. So I think it’s just a matter of like, one finding, first, you have to find a subject matter, something that you have an affinity for, you have to love what you’re painting. That’s, that’s a big plus. Because then from there, that joy, and expressive expressiveness that just comes out as you’re painting. And again, the more you do it, then the more you will develop a style, the more confident you’ll become with your brushstrokes. So then you can incorporate that looseness in your in your painting. So yeah, I think it’s just like mileage and and keeping that those creative fires burning and, and just, yeah,

Eric Rhoads 41:09
you flow technical. Do you use a kind of a medium, I think I remember you saying that. You start out with a, a wash of Gamsol or something. And then at some point, are you incorporating medium are you using a thinning your paints to kind of get those wonderful ages, what’s your process look like?

Jennifer McChristian 41:33
Well, I don’t use much medium, I use Gamsol. But mainly for like cleaning my brushes between like different paint colors. And I use, I do use a little bit of medium at the beginning stages of the painting. Because I like to use the fatter Merlene, a technique, which is like the first layers are going to be a little bit thinner consistency. And as you build up with lighter colors, the paint will get thicker. And it’s also using that method as these are to make adjustments. If you see a mistake, it’s better to see it right in the beginning of painting so that you can fix it. And it’s easier to fix when the the layers are thinner. And also I tend to always start with my darks or my shadows first. And, and those I keep very kind of like not soupy thin, but like a thinner consistency than the lighter values. So I’ll use not too much, but just a little bit of the Gamsol to get the consistency that I like to put in the initial layers. And then as I build up my lighter values, the paint will get a little bit thicker in consistency.

Eric Rhoads 42:48
And so you’re not adding you we talked earlier about gloss and you were adding something into it. So you could get more of that more buttery, thick. Are you doing anything to get that buttery thickness and your strokes?

Jennifer McChristian 43:02
Well, for the washed up washes because it’s a little bit like thinner, the coils are a little bit thicker. And so I use you know, I use that to make the washers a little bit thicker, but the oil paints really don’t need that. Because the consistency is just right for me rather than to you I don’t use any linseed oil or anything like that just basically Gamsol to to thin the the initial beginning layers at the beginning and then of course to wash my brush.

Eric Rhoads 43:39
Okay, cool. So you were not not this last convention, but the one before that you were the winner of the plein air salon grand prize. You had a big big surprise because you were not able to come to the convention you were leaving the morning the following morning. And we couldn’t let you know that we knew anything about what was happening. We tried to get you to come to the convention of course. And so your husband secretly and I understand he’s not one who can keep secrets so we did a good job. You secretly allowed us to barge in with a big check in and have you on video and and so what was that experience like?

Jennifer McChristian 44:23
Oh my god that was so amazing. That was a huge big surprise because like I said my you know later on my husband confess Muslim ban confessed that like oh my god, I had to keep this a secret this whole time and he had to hide the check and I think I don’t know how you did that because he’s just really not good at lying. But I guess I guess it was just you know, it was just like kind of had to like think what was more important, you know, he didn’t want to ruin the whole surprise thing. So but I was definitely surprised, pleasantly surprised, and I’m still reeling from it.

Eric Rhoads 44:59
You’re Uh, you’re relatively successful artists, you’re making a living as an artist, and there’s no logical reason for you to enter an art competition. What? What was your thinking?

Jennifer McChristian 45:13
I think for me, it kind of gives me like, a goal like, like a deadline, let’s say you have a short deadline or something they like, Okay, well, I gotta produce a painting for this particular show, or exhibition or demand, blah, blah, blah. So in our contest is kind of like that. It gives me like, a goal to work towards, like, I’m going to do a painting for this contest. And yeah, I mean, it’s just, why not?

Eric Rhoads 45:43
Yeah. All right, terrific. So Jennifer, lightning round, just give us a couple of tips that we can use. If I’m a beginner painter, what are the two or three things I need to be focusing on before I do anything else?

Jennifer McChristian 46:04
Like before you do anything else as far as like,

Eric Rhoads 46:08
before I do, what should I be focusing on drawing values? Color? Shapes? What what is one of the things I need to master first?

Jennifer McChristian 46:18
Oh, you mean? Like, are you talking about just like setting up to paint something right there like a plein air? Or just?

Eric Rhoads 46:25
Let’s say first, the first time out plein air painting or very early stage? What should they be thinking about? What should we be focusing on?

Jennifer McChristian 46:31
Oh, okay, well, for starters, subject matter, finding a scene that that you are intrigued with. That’s kind of important, and then creating composition out of that your scene because there’s a lot to see around you. So you

Eric Rhoads 46:50
have to wait for creating a composition. I

Jennifer McChristian 46:53
like to use my little viewfinder. And I kind of go around, if I see something that intrigues me, I’ll kind of use my little viewfinder to try to crop a particular section of my scene, and see what works as far as a pleasing, balanced composition. And then from there, I’ll do maybe a couple little sketches to see which composition works best. And of course, it’s always important to, to do like a little black and white sketch. I know I bring up value a lot, and because it’s very important, but doing like a low valleys sketch prior to your painting will help you to kind of be able to identify the values of the colors, and also be able to create a pleasing, competent composition, just by looking at your, your sketch. So you can use the little sketch of like my sketches and guide to do your color version.

Eric Rhoads 47:52
What were the aha moments that led you to becoming a much better artist? It may have been somebody told you about something you hadn’t considered before. It may have been just, you know, a tip or an idea. Is there anything that came to mind that kind of pushed you higher?

Jennifer McChristian 48:12
Well, actually, there have been a few moments. One in particular, was when I took a class with Steve Euston, and he had us do little exercises. And just two values. So you basically put into shapes and for just the light and the dark, but in two values, so it’s almost like a no tan design. So that was really like eye opening for me. And it really helped me to understand and, and, and see value a little bit differently. And and also, like I mentioned before, the when I first started plein air painting, and I learned a couple of things from this Kevin McPherson book about value. And that really kind of turned things around for me, which is why I stress it so much in my workshops. And also there’s the Richard Schmid book that his very first one alla prima the I tried his, his color exercise, that little charts, and that was really interesting and eye opening as well. And then there was a section they talked about edges, and I never really considered edges and painting. And once I read that section, and understood how to apply to your painting, it really like made me see things differently. And so that was a big thing for me, too. So there were just a few little instances that made me get that like, oh, where can I take my painting to a different level with with these things that I’ve learned?

Eric Rhoads 49:51
You’re kind of like the queen of edges.

Jennifer McChristian 49:54
Oh, I love edges. Yeah.

Eric Rhoads 49:57
Well, Jennifer, thank you so much for being In other podcasts today, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I just want to give you acknowledgement to the fantastic inspiration you’re giving all of us with your paintings. I’m, I’m proud to be an owner of one of your paintings thanks to you and tell you what, it hangs proudly in my office where I could see it every day. And I just think you’re doing a beautiful job. So thank you so much.

Jennifer McChristian 50:25
Oh, thank you. The pleasure is all mine. And that it’s great to chat with you again and look forward to seeing you in May.

Eric Rhoads 50:33
Oh, that’s right. That’s right. What’s coming up in May you want to tell everybody?

Jennifer McChristian 50:39
The plein air convention? Yes. You manage to talk me into doing very grateful for that. I think, you know, I really want you to help me get out of my shell, because I know you’ve been asking me to do it for many, many years. And it’s not that I didn’t want to do it. I’m just very camera shy. And still, you know, I have stage fright. But um, you know, I kind of have to think beyond that. And like you said at the beginning, you know, having the courage. And so when I did the videotape, then that kind of like, made me a little bit more confident. And so I thought, well, maybe I can do it. So I’m actually kind of excited about it. And finally, glad I finally decided to do it. And I owe it all to you for kind of not giving up on me.

Eric Rhoads 51:36
And yeah, well, there’s a whole lot more not given up to come in and we’re honored to have you at the convention. Surprisingly, I mean, there’s you know, it’s not till May and it’s a we already have sold out a hotel room, so trying to get more. The convention is almost sold out. Between you and pre convention workshops with Joe Paquette and Amit Kapoor, the watercolors from India. It’s got to be at and I think it’s the first time we’ve gone east to the Mississippi. So it’s gonna be really a lot of fun. So thank you so much for being on the podcast and we will see you in May, if not sooner.

Jennifer McChristian 52:16
Okay. Thank you, Eric.

Eric Rhoads 52:20
Well, Jennifer was really inspiring. Thank you again, Jennifer McChristian and you’ll see her at the plein air convention. Okay, are you ready for some marketing questions and answers? Let’s do it.

Announcer 52:30
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 52:42
Well, you know, you can send your questions in Eric@pleinairmagazine, or [email protected] Or just figure out a way to get to me that’s fine. I love doing it. I you know, we get a lot of questions, but it’s fun, because they’re questions we wouldn’t have thought of. They’re really terrific. Okay, the first question comes from Gail Caraghnatto of inland South Carolina. It says if you have created a painting, and it is donated to your local art group for a fundraiser, who owns the rights to the copy of the painting to make greeting cards or prints that might be sold? Well, Gail, that’s a really great question. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of donating paintings to but first copyright issues. I am not a copyright attorney, it’s a really good idea to have somebody that you can rely on to give you valuable advice in case I’m wrong. But I think what I have understood is it depends entirely on how the painting is marked. Right now I can’t give legal advice. And you should check with an expert in case I’m wrong. But I signed my name on the front, my signature. And on the back I write I sign my name and I write my name. And I put Circle C copyright 2023 My name, period, and then I write all rights reserved. All means everything, everything. All copies, all prints, all postcards, all everything all rights reserved. That is a statement that says you own it. If you do not do that, my understanding is that person who owns that painting could potentially go duplicate it and sell it. So you want to make sure that’s clear. Now I have a little rubber stamp that I had made. Now I have to update it every year that says, you know copyright 2023 B Eric Rhoads all rights reserved, and I think there’s something else on it. I can’t remember what’s on it. I don’t have it in front of me. But then I also put my website on it which is also valuable, you know, to contact the artist, go to www whatever. And so This is a great opportunity to get your website on the back of it too. But I have friends who put a circle C in front of their signature on the front of the painting. And some of them have said, If you don’t do that it really isn’t valuably copyrighted. Now there’s a copyright process. But there is also you know, where you can actually, you know, mail a copy of print of the mag print of the, the image to yourself and so on it. You know, that’s, that’s more than most of us will do. But you want to have some kind of production anyway. Now, let’s talk about donating paintings. Since we’re on that topic a little bit. I get a lot of requests. I know you do, too. And my rule is this does it fit with my current marketing plan? Right. So like if, let’s say, I live in the Adirondacks in the summer, but I’m only focusing on selling paintings in my hometown of Austin, or something hometown, but we’re live now, then I am not likely to do a giveaway of a painting in the Adirondacks because I don’t care if I get known here, right. I don’t care if people know who I am. But if I unless, of course, I just want to do it, because I’m a nice guy. And that’s a different story. You want to help somebody out. That’s cool, too. But if you’re doing it is marketing, then you want to have some reason to do it. Now. I have something that I started doing years ago, and it’s worked very effectively. Imagine this I’m at, I’m going to be in this art auction. And a piece of Mahler comes out for this art auction. And my painting is highlighted on the brochure that gets mailed. It’s big. It says, this painting worth, you know, whatever. $1,000 is going to be auctioned off, you know, by Eric Rhoads. And so now I’m getting my name in their mailer, I’m getting my name on their website, I’m getting my name on their email promotions. And when I went to the event, they held the painting up and they stood up and they said, Please, we’d like to introduce the artist Eric Rhoads. And I stood up, and I got some polite applause. And then I sat down, then afterwards, people came up to me, I didn’t know you were the artist. But now I put your face with the name. And so you get a dialogue going, and you have a chance to possibly get commissions or other things. That’s all of that stuff was intentional. I said to them, I’ll donate a painting. And I’ll do it under the circumstances. So you can go there’s one thing I’ve done in the past is I’ve said, Okay, I’ll give you a little tiny painting. But if you do the following things, I’ll give you a big painting. And because I’m looking for publicity, right, so I’ll say, you know, if you do an introduction to me, if you put my painting as a highlighted piece of the biggest image on your promotional materials, and your website and your emails, and if you introduce me at the event, I’ll do that I’ll give you a, you know, more expensive, larger painting or something like that. And so that’s been very effective. I don’t do it very often. Because quite frankly, I’m so busy doing this, I don’t do much to market my own artwork, I mean, a couple of galleries, but they do that stuff, but I’m not doing it. So but if you’re doing it figure out does it fit what it is I’m trying to do. Now, the other thing I always ask for, I don’t always get it, but I try is I say I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you a big one and a little one. Here’s the deal. On the little one. Usually you go to these auctions, they have silent auction for some pieces, like so I’ll say I’ll give you a small frame painting, if I can put a business card poll out, and some slips, so people can put their name in it. And that way I get names. Now, the other thing I’ve done and sometimes effectively, sometimes not. And that is I’ve said, I will also give you this bigger, more expensive painting. If after the auction, you send out an email and you make sure that you mention and show my painting and somebody me holding the painting with the winner of the auction. That’s all I need is because it’s just another chance to get my name out there. And they’ll usually do that they usually won’t give you their email list, but sometimes they will. And so I have had one instances anyway, where I’ve been able to send out my own email and say, hey, you know, you saw me at the, the SO and SO St. Jude charity auction, and I had these paintings and I just wanted to make you aware of some of the other paintings I have. If you’re ever interested in you can join my email list by clicking this and so on. So, you know sometimes you can do things like that. Now, my understanding is that the laws of change used to be you could only deduct the cost of materials like the cost of paint and canvas. This thick those laws changed finally, and you can deduct a true market value if you can prove that market value. But again, check with your experts, your bookkeeper, whomever. You know, but I’m only interested in marketing, you know, if I’m not focused on a local town, if I’m focused nationally, then I’m going to I’d be more likely to put something in a national event than I would a local event, for instance. Okay. All right.

Eric Rhoads 1:00:25
The second question comes from David Gorski in Fairfield, Connecticut. I think this is a two-parter. For many years, I was an aviation artist while trying to get better at landscapes for my aviation paintings, I basically stopped painting aircraft and started painting seascapes and landscapes. Recently out of the blue and Aviation Museum, airshow contacted me asked me to bring my aviation art to the airshow. So the first question is, Should I bring aviation art to the show? Because it’s what they’re all about? Or should I also bring a smattering of my other paintings. I’m concerned about diluting the aviation brand, making it look less focused. I also understand that there might be others there who might be interested in other subjects. Now, first off, you probably have to ask them that question. But I would, or maybe you just don’t ask, and maybe you just, you know, bring all your aviation paintings and put them up on a wall, and then have another wall that’s devoted to other paintings that you’ve done. Because if somebody has fallen in love with your paintings, they might like something else that you’ve done. And you’re right, there are other people there who might not be interested in airplanes, they might be there for some other reason. But they go, Oh, I love that landscape, or that farm or whatever. So I think any opportunity to get things in front of people is a good idea. So I like the idea of show your paintings as originals, and also show other options. And I think in a case like that, I’m not a big prints guy. But I think in a case like that, you’re selling originals, but you could also sell prints of all of your most popular originals. That way, you know, somebody is not going to spend 2345 $10,000 on an original, they might spend 50 bucks on a print. Just saying. So. I mean, that happens very frequently at art shows that, you know, 10 shows. So his follow up question is, since the show is coming up soon, I need to make decisions on my website. Because I think, you know, probably people are going to be visiting it right? So do you think I should have them the aviation paintings, and the other art together on the same website, or under different categories? Right now they’re separate. And I’m just not sure having two separate desperate subjects on the site would look like I’m not focused, again, thanks for your expertise and insight, blah, blah, blah. Well, I, you know, aviation people, car people, you know, they’re interested in what they’re interested in. And so I think I’d have a website, it’s cheap and easy to do, I’d have a website, if you’re really focusing on getting these people to come back and buy something, I’d have a website on your aviation art, and I’d have it filled with keywords. So if somebody searches, pictures of airplanes, you know, your website comes up and have a way they can order it by online. And then you might have a button that says, visit my other, my other art on that. And then that takes you to your, normal website, which, I assume would be David And then you can have all of your other art there. And you can also have a button say, visit my aviation art website, so you’re not cluttering it up. The thing that I believe is that there is what I like to call a set, and that is the set of painting or a style. So you want to make sure that if somebody sees an ad and they click through to your website, what they see in the ad is there not what something that isn’t there and you want to you know, if it’s sold, put a sold sign on it. And then have a button that says other paintings like this, you know, but follow the set and do what people want. Anyway, hope that helps. That’s it for the marketing minute.

Announcer 1:04:11
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at

Eric Rhoads 1:04:20
Hey guys, thanks for listening today to the plein air podcast. I hope this is helpful. We want to help people learn about plein air painting we want you to tell them about it if you share this podcast, that’s always helpful, always helpful when you leave comments when you leave five star reviews. So any of those things help. A reminder that send me your marketing questions [email protected] or [email protected] If you want to go to Japan with me in March, get on that waitlist at If you want to come to fall color week, get on that waitlist at And if you want to go and grab one of those final seats for the On our trip in October, Stockholm and Madrid, and Maura resort lives where I’m gonna take us a little side trip. Do that. And of course, if you’re not a subscriber to plein air magazine, let’s change that right? Go to I have a blog I do on Sundays called Sunday coffee. And thank you for all the positive comments and five star reviews on that too. You can find it a, it comes out every Sunday. And in case you didn’t know this, I’m on the air daily on Facebook and YouTube called Art School live best place to find it as YouTube search art school live. There are hundreds of free art instruction demos. And one would say, Well, why would I do that when I sell art instruction demos for a living? And the answer to that is, you know, not everybody can afford professionally produced high quality super in depth videos. So what we do on the art school alive are people with their cell phones and you’re doing a little demo, what we do with our professional things from Painttube TV is really in depth and high quality and extreme close ups and HD quality and all that kind of stuff. So there’s a big difference. But anyway, thank you all for being here. I’m Eric Rhoads, founder of plein air magazine, proudly, proudly, and thank you for your time today. I really am honored. Check out the other podcast if you haven’t. There’s many, many other episodes. As a matter of fact, this one is number 252. So there’s a lot for you to catch up on. And we have on the art school alive. Page on YouTube. We also post the webcasts and video version so you can see the beautiful smiling faces of our guests. We’ve only been doing that for about a year. And also there’s paintings and things shown that you can’t see from audio. Remember, it’s a big world out there, go paint it, we will 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.


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