Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews Contemporary American Impressionist Lori Putnam, who tells us about her plein air painting process, and much more.
Listen as Lori Putnam shares the following:
• The concept of abstraction in landscape paintings, and why it’s not as “easy” as it looks
• What her painting process is, from finding a spot to painting a landscape
• Thoughts on using thumbnail sketches and photo references
• Her recommendations for beginner plein air painters
• Experiences with a nonprofit that brings art to children around the world
Bonus! Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares thoughts on why “marketing” and “selling” shouldn’t be considered “dirty words” for artists, and if it’s okay to barter your paintings in exchange for goods or services in this Art Marketing Minute Podcast.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Lori Putnam here:
– Lori Putnam online: https://loriputnam.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air Convention & Expo: https://pleinairconvention.com/
– Plein Air Salon: https://pleinairsalon.com/
– Publisher’s Invitational: https://publishersinvitational.com/
– Value Specs for Artists: https://streamlineartvideo.com/products/paint-by-note-red-glasses
– Paint by Note: https://paintbynote.com/
– The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge TV Show: https://thegreatoutdoorpaintingchallenge.com/casting-call
– Figurative Art Convention & Expo: https://figurativeartconvention.com/
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this PleinAir Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
Eric Rhoads 0:00
This is episode number 173. Today we’re featuring artist Lori Putnam.
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 0:56
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. I hope no matter where in the world you are, you’re able to get out and do some painting. I know these have been strange times, I’ve had a chance to paint some fields of colorful wild flowers recently, it’s been warm enough to go down by the lake to for some painting. And I’ll soon be in the Adirondack Mountains for some painting. And it seems like every summer I tell myself, I’m going to paint every single day, at least one time that I never seem to get it done. So my plan this year, is to actually leave an easel set up somewhere close on the porch or something outside near the house. So I could just grab it and go do a quick painting of something just to stay in practice. I hope you’re considering finding a way to do that, too. Before we know it, it’s going to be time for the publishers Invitational in the Adirondacks. Yes, it got rescheduled no longer in June but now in late July. You can learn more about it at publishersinvitational.com and of course the plein air convention was also rescheduled to August and people are signing up in droves. Yes finally ready to be out and get out and celebrate together so it’s going to be in Santa Fe New Mexico this year and it’s our only summertime convention normally it’s in the spring. So if you’re a summer only person meaning you can only get out in the summertime because you’re a student or a teacher, or whatever your job is you only can get that summertime off. Join us this year. The weather that time of year is perfect. I here Learn more at pleinairconvention.com and see our spectacular lineup of faculty this year. The lowest payment plans expire at the end of the month. And also at the end of the month. The plein air salon $27,000 art competition wraps up. So you want to get your entries in you could win a $15,000 Grand Prize and the cover of Plein Air magazine. And if even if you went in individual category, there are 22 categories even if you went in any of those You’re entered into the national competition but there’s also monthly prizes too. So go to pleinairsalon.com. coming up after the interview, I’m going to be answering some art marketing questions in the marketing minute. And one more thing if you’re new to plein air painting, I really encourage you to get that book 240 tips, pleinairtips.com. Let’s get right to the interview with Lori Putnam, Lori Putnam. Welcome to the plein air podcast.
Lori Putnam 3:24
Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.
Eric Rhoads 3:28
Well, it’s taken forever to get around to getting this done. We should have done it way, way, way long ago, but I’m glad you’re here today.
Lori Putnam 3:36
Thank you. We just we just both been busy.
Eric Rhoads 3:40
We are busy. That’s crazy. Sure. So Lori, for the people out there. The well over 2 million downloads now that have listened to this podcast around the world and probably 70 different countries. Not everybody everybody here is aware of you but not everybody. In the world, this So tell us a little bit about how you would describe yourself as a painter.
Lori Putnam 4:06
Okay, well, let’s see, I haven’t been painting quite as long as a lot of folks might think, you know, given if they could see my age. But I am very hard working painter and painting oil. I suppose if you want to label it, it’s somewhere between mostly impressionistic, A little toward abstraction at times. And I am lucky to be one of the ones who gets to do this full time and having a ball
Eric Rhoads 4:50
and we’re going to talk about your career and your development or your career. But at some point in this you know, you mentioned this abstraction thing. And that’s very hot right now I’ve talked to people, a lot of Twitter shows who say, that seems to be, what people are leaning towards what buyers are leaning towards are things that tend to be a little bit more abstract. Do you want to talk about that concept a little bit and why it is you you go there?
Lori Putnam 5:22
Well, for me from the very beginning, I have a sense of started to first learn to paint I have wanted to learn some of the traditional ways just to know how they’re done. But I felt like in side like in my soul, that wasn’t really what made me happy. And so really all along I have wanted to be, I guess, for lack of a better term, a looser painter. And it’s always been something I’ve strived for to get looser and looser and looser. I think that an abstract painting really is the basis for any kind of painting. You know, if it’s a really strong abstract painting, then you can the finishing is an individual thing that’s more about your technique and your style and all of that. But you’re right, there does seem to be a trend right now. And I say trend, because it will, you know, it has to have a label and it’ll come and go, but there seems to be a trend right now, or people are, they’re either collectors are either drawn to very highly rendered work, or very close to abstracted work, although it’s still representational. You know, somewhere in the middle, I think might have gotten a little watered down. There was so much that was so alive in the plein air world for a while. He could go to a show and everything looked alike and So people began trying to actually branch out and you know, find their own way to be a little bit different. It came to me in a more realistic way. A little by accident, I was I had the opportunity to just pay for a couple of hours one afternoon in particular, I remember it so vividly. And it was painting I wanted to enter into a competition if it turned out okay. But I really had no expectation because I only had a couple hours, you know, so there was no expectation none. And that was freeing instead of saying, I have to do this and I have to enter. And that freedom, it’s one of those paintings that just sort of happened all on its own. And it was that abstracted feeling. There was no kitschy sort of technique. It was just, it just all came about very in a very, the way I wish that more of them did on their own. And I think it was the letting myself go to be able to do that. But the, the trend seems to follow more, I think a technique right now which I stay away from rather than an idea, which I, which I grasped you know, it’s, it’s more technique based and I don’t think that will last forever, because once everybody’s doing that, then you gotta find another technique, you know?
Eric Rhoads 8:38
Well, I want to probe this a little bit further. I remember one time, we were out camping as a family and we were near the coast of California and the sun was about to go down and we had small kids busy with them the whole time. So I said to Laurie, hey, I want to just go do a quick sunset painting across the across the road. lighthouse, I ran over there set up my easel, the wind was blowing about 60 miles an hour ahead of one hand holding easel, the other hand painting, and it was a, you know, a nine by 12, or small painting and the and the sun was going down fast if I literally had five minutes to slap together that painting, and when I was done with it and much afterwards, and even still to this day of it’s one of my favorite paintings that have ever done. And I think it’s because I didn’t have time to think I could only be instinctual. But how does one train one’s brain to learn that to go in that direction? Because that, you know, you see, and I’m not being critical of this because everybody’s got their way but you see some people holding their paintbrush like a pencil and you know, noodling every little tiny little detail. And of course, there’s some really beautiful paintings that way as well. But how do you Get to the point where you can be free is that it isn’t as easy as it works.
Lori Putnam 10:06
No it’s not. And a lot of people you students will come to me and they that’s what they say you know I want to loosen up I want to free up you know how do I do that and it’s it’s really difficult to go after that I think you have to let go and let it come to you. It’s a hard You know, it’s hard to teach be free. I mean, I do some exercises with the students to free them up where they’re holding the brush from further away or you know, I one of the things that I did when I first realized that I was never going to loosen up was always put a trash can between where I was standing and my easel so I couldn’t get too close. But still, it’s it’s more of a mindset and That’s the thing that you really can’t teach that how to just let go. And whatever it is that makes you dance. Do that with your paint. And don’t worry how it turned out. And so if that thinking about, you know, something distracting if that listening to music, if that’s just, you know, deciding that today I’m going to ruin something, how can I ruin this? You know, how, what’s the what’s the best thing I can do? And obviously grabbing weird tools and things to do that with is is all fun and everything but like you said, you just don’t feel like I have to do a lot of preparatory work. I think when I’m going to start a painting, and for me, it’s a matter of feeling like you know, prepared. I’ve got my materials ready. I’ve got my plan. Ready, everything’s great.
Eric Rhoads 12:03
it sounds to me like part of that freedom comes from confidence.
Lori Putnam 12:07
Well, I was gonna say the very best paintings then come when I’ve really just thought about the subject more than really planned for the subject, you know, maybe walk past that same scene a million times, and it’s in my head and I feel that scene in my head. And so the preparatory work is a little more on a subconscious level. You know, I took the time to really observe and fake rather than just say, I’ve got this great photo, there’s something in here and I’m going to work out a design from it.
Eric Rhoads 12:47
Okay, well, let’s go ahead. You finish that thought.
Lori Putnam 12:52
So it’s just that having that then Okay, I’ve got that in my head. And I’m and like I said earlier, everyone got couple of hours and I’m going to undergo to use external paint up here with what’s going on and inside about that seat, you know, the best time is when I’m not painting from a photograph.
Eric Rhoads 13:11
So let’s go through this, you’re outdoors, you find a spot, there’s something that is inspiring that spot, walk me through your process up to the point of beginning to paint.
Lori Putnam 13:26
Well, assuming that I’m out there to paint, you know that I’m not just out there to observe because I don’t think we give ourselves enough time to just go out and observe without paying with us. But let’s say that I’m out there. And my job for the day is to paint outside. I do take the time to really walk around you know, maybe I’m driving down the road and something stops me in my tracks. I want to remember what stopped me in my tracks but that Doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the very best angle, or the very best composition, you know, it could just be that some color grabbed me and I had to turn over, turn my car around and stop. And so I take time to really walk around and think about it. And then work out little thumbnail sketches two or three little thumbnails, that could be a decent composition and why or why not. Now, the most important thing once I think one has a good feel to it a good balance or imbalance really to maybe it’s a light and shadows name, maybe it’s an, you know, a whole lot of shadow and very little light, like percentage wise, and it feels like it’s got the good fat balance that maybe stop in my tracks in the first place. Then I have to start making gain some notes that will lead me to being able to start. So for me that are some that that would be notes about value or color or something that’s going to change really rapidly, because I’ve spent all this time studying. And I’ve spent another 10 or 15 minutes on thumbnail sketches. And now I know where I want. And this is all going to change in about 15 more minutes, you know, so I have to really make some decisions. And like, anticipate the problems, I guess, what is going to happen once I get this thing started? What am I going to want to know in 30 minutes? That I can only observe right now. And I make those notes and I get that down and I really refer to notes. Yeah, yeah. Physically taking notes. Now, the more deliberate The longer you paint and planners are more you develop. With a visual memory and you and you remember those things, but it still doesn’t hurt to literally write it down you know things that are certain value, what value that is, what color that is how it relates to some other color. What is the most temps color? And how intense is that really. And I make all those notes because it’s just going to change so fast. But there’s something about having metal cheat sheet there, of how the same appeal to me before I ever got the paint out. That gets me through the painting without having to stop and wonder, ask questions that no longer makes sense and chase the lie and change the colors and you know, it doesn’t feel like mourning anymore. It feels like moon and all that.
Eric Rhoads 16:55
So, if you’re in this scenario, get your reasons So, and you start your painting, and you’re making your painting based on the thumbnail sketch that you’ve provided yourself that you’ve decided on. And then all of a sudden something happens that you think improves the composition. You know, the clouds change, and you go, Oh, I want to grab the clouds like that. Do you ever do that? Or do you just always stick to your your composition notes no matter what?
Lori Putnam 17:29
Well, I would say again, that’s going to depend on a couple of things. If I’m out there to get a painting that needs to be frank, let’s say for plein air festival. If I’m going to incorporate something new to the composition, I need to put that on my thumbnail sketch and see if it works. Before I just start painting if I am out there painting for growth Just to learn, it’s not gonna matter if I stick those clouds in there, even though they weren’t in the original composition. Because nobody may ever see that painting, you know, it’s, oh, I want to grab that shape or that value of that color. And I don’t care as much if this becomes less of a sellable product and more of a learning, you know, opportunity.
Eric Rhoads 18:24
So are you are you taking these studies back to the studio and then saying, alright, I’m gonna make a studio painting out of these if they’re successful, or are you just using purely for learning?
Lori Putnam 18:37
Now I do use some for painting in a studio. As a matter of fact, I would much rather paint from a study than photograph. A lot of times I paint from nothing but to study and never look at a photograph. But what happens when I get back in the studio is that you know, you’ve got that luxury of time to, to think about what went wrong. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be that simple. cessful have a study but there’s something in it. And you can put your mind back where you were and say, Oh, yes, I remember now, this is the whole reason I stopped there in the first place. And I totally missed that. When I painted it, you know, but there’s going to be some there will be something in that sketch that makes it usable in the studio, even if it’s, you know, three square inches or something at it. But and sometimes I’ll use more than one sketch to inform, you know, something I’m trying I’m trying to create in the studio. One I paid from photographs. It’s in the studio, it is so much better if I have some sketches, at least from the area or from that type of light from that area. Even if they’re really bad, bad sketches, but they’ve got that color of that light in them. You know, that’s really They’re much more important to have for reference to me in the studio plein air stuff.
Eric Rhoads 20:07
Well, you know, I, you mentioned that you you prefer to paint from studies, at least I got that out of it not sure if that’s right, yeah, I have actually got to the point where I won’t pay for the photograph. Unless, you know, like, I need a figure to drop into a studio page or something I might put through my photos but I, I have gotten to the point where photos to me are soulless or empty or something and I just can’t get into it anymore. So I just stopped doing it. And so I only studies what, is the way to be able to pick from a photograph and make it work?
Lori Putnam 20:48
Well, I think you have to get past the photograph. So if you if you first starting out, and you go out and you paint and plenty or there’s so much to learn from nature, right? And you’re learning that the everything it’s throwing at you it is throwing at you, you know, at 100 miles an hour. And and I think first you have to use plenty of plein air time to learn from nature and spend time learning what’s really happening. And then when you get in the studio, you have, you get to a point where you’d have this. I don’t I don’t mean that. It’s like a bag of tricks. Not that at all. But you have knowledge that you got that you’ve gained, and you’re working on a studio painting and let’s say you have a photograph, somebody just has to have this painting of their house, or whatever. And you have a photograph from which to work. You’re taking all of that knowledge that you got from nature and you’re saying I don’t want to be a slave to this photograph yet has to look like their house. But I’m going to create this existence this story about this house using knowledge I’ve learned from nature. And so that that’s where you just get to be creative and I do paint from photographs. So I mean, I have to quite often but it never is a copy of that photograph, okay? Because it can be so limiting to get that photograph. You know, it’s always about the time or the place or the just the, the feel of the thing and that can only come from either, you know, knowledge you’ve gained or from from actually going out and doing some studies there before you paint it inside I think
Eric Rhoads 22:59
excellent. So what’s your best recommendation to somebody who approaches you and says, Look, I want to learn this plein air painting thing. Where do I start? What should I do? You know, there’s this debate. Some people think that the best way to learn plein air painting is not to go outdoors and what I mean by that is that, you know, some people don’t know painting. And so I think that one of the most difficult things to do is to go outdoors and learn how to use paint, learn how to mix color. It seems like those are the things you need to master under controlled environment before you go outdoors. Is that a yes or no?
Lori Putnam 23:48
I don’t agree with that. It is a lot. It is a lot and I think plein air painting. You know, you know the old saying it’s the hardest sport there is plenty of Painting but I also know a lot of people who have been studio painters for years and are very confident and, and do so well in their studio work that it crushes them when they go outside and can’t do it. I mean, they’re literally just, you know, it’s like they go into shock.
Eric Rhoads 24:22
Like I was able to create a decent painting in the studio, but when I got outdoors the first time first few times, it was horrible.
Lori Putnam 24:31
Yeah, yeah. And I think, it can all go hand in hand because honestly, if, what you’re learning is, is coming at you from so many different directions anyway. And if you know people that just enjoy being outdoors more than they do endorse so I don’t think there’s a right or wrong I think it’s an individual thing, but yeah, I’ve had students who have been, you know, they’ve come out of a five year delay. And they take a plein air class, just assuming that because there are some things they can do like a master painter, or a master artist. It will be easy. And I mean, I’ve had to talk them down off a cliff, you know, because it’s different. It’s really so different. And so I think if you can learn to paint in plein air and continue to study in plein air and just continue to hone your skills, it informs your studio painting. And I think your studio painting and the times that you can’t get outdoors will inform your learning in plein air. I think they go together.
Eric Rhoads 25:50
Yeah, and, you know, I’ve had exactly that same thing happened. I had somebody with me in one of my trips, who is classically trained came out of it until the eight Trying to do plein air painting for the first time and and it was they were very frustrated. So maybe you’re right maybe it’s better just to start out learning it that way. Interesting. So, so the process of learning okay is you start out you go go planar painting what’s the first thing you tell people to do? Do you do you suggest they do value studies? do you suggest they do a limited palette? do you suggest they do small paintings? What is it that you would recommend to a beginner plein air painter?
Lori Putnam 26:37
Well, when I’m teaching at that level, we do use a limited palette. And by limited I mean three colors and wide. I don’t mean limited like 13 we’re just limited for some books, but and I tried to get them out. walk them through a demonstration, but I don’t necessarily take it to a point of finish, I take it to a point that I might expect them to get to, which is they can go ahead and use color. But rarely do I take color away occasionally I do and ask them to just do it, you know, in value. But I asked him to make small sketches and rather than trying to paint a painting, because that’s not what it’s about to make small sketches and those sketches should really be comprised of about three values. And within those values, you know, they can have a couple of different colors, but the value needs to hold together. And I want it to look I tell them I want it to look and this is the way I think about when I first see a scene I want it to look like I just had a few sheets of construction paper that I had to tear out and stick on there and make that work. And if they take it further than that, they’re just wasting time. And so I think when people first start out, they want so much to paint something that they’re going to, especially if they’re on a workshop that you know, over in Italy or somewhere, they want to bring home a lovely painting. But that’s not what it’s about what they what they really are trying to do is to learn to see and simplify and all of the stuff that has to do with how to put the paint on and all of that will just come over time. You know, it’s more important to help them learn to see and divide those big shapes. And if I can get somebody to try that over and over and over and over again, it really they learn so much faster than you know if there’s somebody that they think they need to finish a painting for So I encourage people to do small sketches, like six by eight, something like that. And you know, some, some beginners really, truly it takes most of the morning session to get set up. And I don’t push them. You know, it is scary. It’s a scary thing. And so if I note that is somebody is really procrastinating out of fear, then I try to find something to just make them comfortable. Something they can do that will make them comfortable. Because if they start to feel comfortable, they will come back the next day. So if a beginner goes out, and they just you know, they’re evil falls over and they, you know, everything they paint just looks either black or white and, and they just feel frustrated. It’s not doing any good. I would say if you’ve never gone out before Just get used to your equipment first, you know, take some six by eight or take a 12 by 16 and divide it into four pieces. And just pretend you are, you know, about five years old and just fill in those, fill in those four little six by eight. And don’t worry about it. Because you’re learning by doing that,
Eric Rhoads 30:27
I think that sometimes and I’m, again, I’m not trying to be critical or judgmental anybody but I oftentimes at workshops, I see people who will carry a roller cart with so much stuff on it, you know, it’s almost like they’re taking their studio outdoors and by the way, I did that when I first started eating up. To me, it feels like they’re disadvantaging themselves right out in the box because they’ve just got so much to deal with. When in reality you need a fortune. pay an easel, some paper towel, a couple of brushes and some, some solvent. And that’s pretty much all you really need.
Lori Putnam 31:09
Yep, that’s right. It’s exactly right. And I did the same thing. You know, I can remember remember the very first time I ever painted in plein air. I didn’t really know that’s what it was. But I high was in Italy. And I had, you know, pulled all the way to Italy, a 20 by 24 Canvas, stretched canvas, and one of those little one of those little wooden easels that really wouldn’t hold a piece of paper, you know, on it, that it’s just really spindly in any way and you know, Paint box and all this all these paints and I was so excited, and a huge heavy wooden box just to bring the painting home in. And I have pictures gratefully. So. I’m so thankful my husband was with me pictures of him hauling that wooden box across fields and taking an empty empty, trying to find one thing for me to paint. And put that was a huge lesson, a huge lesson when I found out that that’s really you know, that’s not really what people do. That’s not the best way to start anyway. And yeah, wait, that’s of course when we came home and invented with painting carriers are made out of Styrofoam, but he just learned over time that he just really don’t need a whole lot. I mean the only thing I would add to your supply list is a bottle of water you know works for but that’s it and people will people will come to a workshop particularly overseas you know we’ll go somewhere and they bring everything they own. And by about the third day of in and out of a van dropping them here picking them up taking them to lunch, but you know, they are down. Always This is my this is the way I describe it, they’re down to their skins. They have a book they absolutely have to have on them. It’s funny to watch everybody pare down from their big RV setup to you know, place they can paint in about, they know it’s greater.
Eric Rhoads 33:48
One of the other things about that is that you know you develop a rhythm, pre painting rhythm, you know the idea of setting up your easel efficiently Getting getting everything under control and doing it in relatively short order. When we have the Adirondack event which you’ve attended, at the beginning of that week, I know because I don’t pay it every year. But I don’t at the beginning of that week, it’s like the first two or three times, I’m setting everything up it’s drudgery and trying to figure this out. And then by the end of the week, it’s like, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip gun ready, you know, and colors are out and everything’s ready. And, not carrying all that stuff. And, and I think that just the message and all of that, is that eliminate the burden. The burden, just getting in your way.
Lori Putnam 34:43
Yeah, and if you’re exhausted before you start You really are just worn out before you ever get to the fun part.
Eric Rhoads 34:53
And do you sit or stand.
Lori Putnam 34:56
Eric Rhoads 34:57
and how do you feel about sitting
Lori Putnam 35:01
I’m sure there’ll be a day where I will need to do that, older, maybe sooner than we think. But, but I love the freedom of being able to be away from the canvas, you know, talking earlier about loosening up. And I really I paint that painting in my head from 10 to 15 feet away and then I go up and I make beautiful brushstrokes, and then I go back. And, you know, figure out my next chest move is what it feels like. And then I go up and do that. And a lot of times, you know, I do have students that have you know, they need to sit for physical reasons and they have to go around and say, you know, can can we get up and move you back a little bit, just four minutes you take a look at this, and they’re always surprised how much better it looks. First of all, we farther away What they ended, they should have stopped, you know, 45 minutes ago. And so I think for me just being able to have that freedom of standing and moving back and then coming up and attacking the canvas and standing, that is, is fabulous. She can tell when I get in a certain stance. Okay, this, this is fun now, this is really fun. Now this is, you know, and I noticed it, and I’ve had students pointed out to me, and it’s not something I do consciously. It just sort of happened, you know, but it’s just so much more fun to me.
Eric Rhoads 36:37
One of the things that we’re talking about is your career you. You and I first met at I think it was plein air convention number one. Was it number one or number two?
Lori Putnam 36:49
Well, we met at a Adirondack Oh, I’m sorry. No, that’s okay the year before the first convention
Eric Rhoads 36:59
that’s So you were you were at the very first one.
Lori Putnam 37:04
Eric Rhoads 37:06
Here’s the 10 year reunion.
Lori Putnam 37:08
Eric Rhoads 37:10
How did that 10 years go by so quickly?
Lori Putnam 37:13
No kidding. Isn’t that the truth?
Eric Rhoads 37:15
I’m sorry. I should have remembered that.
Lori Putnam 37:18
Oh, Happy anniversary.
Eric Rhoads 37:26
Thank you. It’s amazing what can happen in 10 years. Tell the story of where you were, if you’re willing, where you were about that time, in terms of your ability as a painter, your career, and then what happened to you?
Lori Putnam 37:48
Um, well, the short answer is both were really bad. I didn’t have very much knowledge or skill. And that yet, I really felt like I was still such such a beginner because I’d only been painting full time for, I don’t know, maybe five years or so at that point. Before that was just part time while I continued graphic design and so I felt like a baby as far as my art skills were concerned. And so naturally alongside that, you know, there’s nothing you feel confident to market and, but I just knew I knew that at that point because I work full time. And things were really financially difficult in my home situation that it was it was going to be to my advantage that I had some marketing skills that I and that I’m a hard worker, you know, I didn’t mind putting in the hours to to learn To get better and to market and so it was at, I don’t have any real, real perception of where, quote unquote I am or if I’m known or not known or how I’m known or not known, but at that point I can tell you it was nothing. Zero. I was probably known at that point of anything that I used to be the Vice President for the American impressionist variety, which basically means I just worked a lot for another organization.
Eric Rhoads 39:39
Lori Putnam 39:42
Yeah, for free. That’s right. Yeah, I had been show chair and then I was vice president for a short time but, yeah.
Eric Rhoads 39:51
So you obviously now have a big brand you’re very well known, very successful. You’ve had a lot of high marks in your career in the last you know, last five years especially what what transpired What did you do to make that all happen?
Lori Putnam 40:17
Some of it I feel like happened because I went after something, like I want a yes. I saw this, this partially that it had to work, or I had to quit. I mean, there was a point where I either had to make it work or I had to give it up, you know, just financially and I also had so that was my mindset, you know, there is no such thing as failure unless I want to take on a different job. But the other thing I think I had nothing much to do. It just, you know, right time, right place, good giving people in my life, you know who I’ve wandered into their door at just the right time and they said, Sure, I’ll help. And I’ve always felt like that. A lot of that happened without any of my doing your anybody’s doing it just happened. Obviously, there are a lot of people I could thank, who helped along the way. And I’m sure there are a lot of people. I pushed my way in because I saw this as an opportunity. I cannot, I can’t let go by you know, I’ve got to convince this person to either help me with my work or help me with my career or something, you know?
Eric Rhoads 41:50
Well to that point… your mindset. your state of mind drives all of these things that you manifest These people that come into your life are manifested through your mindset, you know, and part of that is being locked and loaded with ready to ready to fire bullets. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, but the idea of you, you have a happenstance encounter with someone who can make a difference in your life in your career, you may have one chance in your lifetime to meet that person to have have an opportunity to have a dialogue with that person and maybe to ask them for help. And and so if your mind isn’t in the right place, or if you’re not confident enough to ask, you miss the opportunity.
Lori Putnam 42:40
Well, in my case, it was. I’m not even sure I would label it confident enough to ask it was I was sort of I was between a rock and a hard place and had no option. Just you know, I had Yes, yes. Yeah, literally, you know, I’m getting older. It’s do or die. You Notes put up now or, or, or shut up and so I I really never had a lot of I never had a lot of, you know, guts or, you know, just Hey, let’s just, I’m gonna salesmanship is not my thing marketing I can do but salesmanship not so much. And so it was hard. It was really, really hard to ask somebody that I was, you know, intimidated by or disrespected so much you know that it couldn’t possibly have time for me, but I just didn’t feel like I had an option if I wanted to make it happen, you know, so I got pretty uncomfortable and made myself do it anyway. Really, people don’t, people don’t bully. People don’t believe this that I’m really honestly and truly and don’t laugh. I’m an introvert. And it takes a lot for me to ask people to help me.
Eric Rhoads 43:59
I get that and I actually am as well. It’s a trained skill. It’s like, it’s like developing a muscle, right? You know that, as an introvert, you have to develop that extrovert muscle. It may be hard to use, it may be hard to trigger. And you may have to go and, and lay in bed with a book for three days after doing it because it’s so difficult what you have to develop that muscle to succeed.
Lori Putnam 44:25
But you’re right, when you figure out that, wow, this could be my only chance to ever even meet this person much less. You know, say Hey, would you like to grab a cup of coffee? You know, and I’m shaking in my boots or whatever. That you know, admit that opportunity. Oh, wow. How sad would you be?
Eric Rhoads 44:49
Well, I have a story about so that I don’t want to I’ll be quick. I don’t want to make this about me, but I think it makes… I when I was a radio DJ in Miami, I made extra money by being one A photographer, and a disco DJ. And so I got a job doing the wedding of this woman who worked at the radio station. And her shoot man, she was married was a recording engineer for the BeeGees. So I’m photographing this wedding, and the people who are in the wedding, you know, Robin give and and you know, all these people. And they invited me. They said, You know, I photograph the wedding, I photograph the reception, and they invited me to an after party at their house. And I said, No, I had no, I had nothing to do. I said, No, I said, Thank you very much, but that what was really going on in my head is I don’t deserve to be invited there. And I look back on that thing, what would have changed in my life? Right. So that’s how much of an introvert I was.
Lori Putnam 45:55
No, I get that. I get that so much. I have said no, not to the BeeGees. But I’ve said no when somebody, you know, said, Hey, you know after the opening tonight you know we’re going to whatever. But the feeling I got was we’re inviting you because you’re standing here not because it really wants you to come. In my feeling inside was I would be I would be scared to death in this crowd I would have nothing to say and that would only make me more awkward than they already think I am. And I’d like…to better follow me to go home.
Eric Rhoads 46:39
So how do you deal with that now? You got to the point where you’ve trained yourself to be able to to accept those invitations.
Lori Putnam 46:52
I only accept the invitation. If one I really want to For two, it is a matter of respect to the other person. I’d never ever, ever, ever just go because I think it’s going to get me somewhere. I just doesn’t work. I, you know, I know me, it’s like, it’s like if I am riding a bicycle off, you know, over a bridge, I would just turn and go, don’t drop off the bridge and drop off the bridge. And that’s what those are those things make me feel, you know, but if it’s something that’s out of respect, or something, I think would really be enjoyable. Then I go.
Eric Rhoads 47:40
Yeah, well, I think that’s good. That means you’re being judicious about your life and your career and you’re not, you’re not just jumping in with everyone. So, we’re going to roll out a time here in a couple of minutes. And I just want to make sure that we’ve covered the things that you want to cover because you’re so eloquent. And the way you’ve described so many things, and I want to make sure that maybe if there’s things that we haven’t talked about, we go ahead and do that. Now. What? What have we missed?
Lori Putnam 48:12
Well, I think one of the things that’s important to me right now that I would like to share, and that is that finally, so quickly when I was when I was a young adult, I had this calling that I felt very strongly about, certainly about to do some mission work. And I was I was young and had no idea how to make it happen and scared to death and just sort of let that go. And the thing I’m so excited about right now is that in the last few years, I’ve gotten involved with art ambassadors for color A world which is a group you know, Kevin MacPherson founded it. Like in 2014, I think but it’s really, it’s like it’s all come together, you know, like, God not only has blessed me with being able to be a painter, but he’s also given me this extra chance to do some mission work some service work through it. And I just it just feels like there’s really something now that feels like a reason to be doing this besides just I wanted to, you know, it’s like it’s gonna come full circle in some way. And that’s absolutely where my heart is right now is I mean, yeah, I obviously I want to continue to grow as an artist and become better at my craft and all of that, but if there’s a bigger picture, and I’m so grateful to get to be part of that
Eric Rhoads 50:02
Can you articulate very briefly for people what that is?
Lori Putnam 50:08
So our ambassador for colorful world really began because Kevin MacPherson was going to China and working with children. And really just through an idea of his and some friends and some support people who said, you know, you’ve you’ve had something, you’ve got a great idea here, you need to do something else with that. He and Wanda and they put together a board and they started this nonprofit. And since that time, they have expanded to work in some other countries. One of them being Guatemala and that’s where I have gone a couple of times. And so what we do is we go there, we paint, the beautiful area, but we also work in a tiny village. There. Third World country the most, the most horrible, sickening and unimaginable situation. And we just get those kids to smile, those little children smile. And they, they, they feel confident for just even just a few days. And they are so loving and, I’m going to come home changed every time I go. And, just being able to have that aspect through I mean, I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t have to I’ve got art, I’ve got paintings and, and color and paintbrush that’s been donated and they’re making, it’s just the most fabulous thing to do. And, and so we do that several different, several different places every year. And it’s something that anybody can get involved in. Anybody that? Well, if we have a website, Artambassador.org and we list our upcoming trips there, you know, if you’re not able to travel, certainly you can do some sponsorship. There’s some scholarships that we give to young young adults who are showing really promises being a problem of being an artist. And we’ve had, we’ve had art people graduate now with with art degrees, who would ordinarily not even have been in school past about the fifth grade. So it is really there are a lot of different ways to become involved. You can find that out on our website.
Eric Rhoads 52:41
Lori, this has been a pleasure to have you. There’s so much more we’ll have to have you back sometime because there’s a lot we can talk about, but tell us where to find you website.
Lori Putnam 52:57
I do a lot of online teaching. I’ve taken all I own Line learning off of my art, like, but if you start on my art site, then there’s a link to that. So I would give you my art website, which is loriputnam.com. And then if you’re interested in learning, there’s a link to go from there to find out how to do that.
Eric Rhoads 53:18
Thank you so much for being on the Plein Air podcast today.
Lori Putnam 53:22
Thank you. Thank you so much, and I look forward to speaking with you again.
Eric Rhoads 53:27
Well, thanks again to Lori Putnam. She’s very articulate, very passionate, had some really great ideas. So thank you, Lori, for doing this today. You guys ready for some art marketing ideas?
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 53:49
In the marketing minute I try to answer your art marketing questions. You can email me anytime [email protected] This question comes from Sammy in upstate New York who says I keep hearing that I need to learn to sell and market my artwork, but I feel selling in marketing or dirty words. Can you address that? Sammy? I hear that a lot. I don’t know what’s caused it, but I think you could be confusing, unethical marketing and high pressure selling with the terms marketing and selling. Everybody who is in business has to do marketing everybody. hospitals, doctors, lawyers, churches, charities, even the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts do marketing and selling, but marketing selling gets a bad name from those who abuse it. You know, the arm twisters? The ones who do the curb commercials that are screaming at people, people who are unethical in some way I think that’s, you know, that’s abusive. Think of it this way. If you’re in the fourth grade and your teacher asks you a question and you raise your hand In a way, that’s marketing, right, you’re raising your hand, putting yourself out there finding a way to get noticed. Now, I don’t recommend ever doing anything unethical and marketing or in marketing or pushing yourself too hard in sales. But I also know that repetition of a good solid ethical message will increase, improve increase your sales. So, repetition is everything. And most artists are like, well, I don’t want to be too out there. You You, you can’t be too out there. You maybe you could be too out there if you sent 30 emails a day, but you just you just got to be considerate of others. So think about this. Am I okay if my work never sells, because I’m not willing to seek out ethical ways of marketing or selling. And if you’re okay with that, that’s fine. But chances are if you want things to sell, you can’t rely on Anybody else to do it for you? You can’t always rely on even a gallery to do it for you, you have to control your own destiny, your own career. And the way to do that is to really master and understand marketing. I’ve got lots of articles on marketing, ethical marketing at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 56:18
The next question comes from an anonymous listener who says, Is it okay to barter with my paintings in exchange for goods or services? Well, anonymous, everything is about strategy. For instance, if there is something you would pay cash for any way, that’s part of your strategy, and it helps you save cash. Why not barter? For instance, let’s say your strategy says that you have to have a program in the local high school yearbook. All right, well, I wouldn’t buy an ad in the high school yearbook if it wasn’t part of my strategy, but they might say, Well, you know, give us A painting so we can use it for a charity auction. that’s a that’s a win win. But don’t, don’t buy things you don’t need just because you can trade it, right. And be careful about that too. People get into trouble with barter sometimes because they don’t necessarily understand it. You want it to be part of your marketing plan, if it’s part of your strategy, but make sure you get dollar for dollar and document it carefully. Everything should be in writing. Also, I’m not an attorney or an accountant, but you should check with them. Because I think that barter is treated the same as cash, meaning you probably have to pay tax on what you receive. I haven’t done barter in many, many, many, many, many years. But I remember when I did, I had to file as if it was income, and so does the person you barter with so can’t hurt to double check. The key to barter is only saving cash that you would have spent anyway. So think about it that way and I wouldn’t overdo it. You don’t want to get a rep. mutation is somebody who does all bartering all the time. But you know, there might be a time to do it from time to time. You know, one thing that happens a lot of artists will trade paintings. It’s not barter per se because you’re not buying a service in exchange for a painting. But a lot of artists do. Just say, Hey, I’ll give you a one of mine If you give me one of yours. Anyway, hope this helps. This has been the art marketing minute. A reminder to send me your marketing questions, Eric at art marketing.com. Hope you enjoyed the art marketing minute.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 58:38
a reminder to get your entry in for the plein air salon art competition, which you got to get done before the end of the month. Use this for branding and your resume by winning a category or a ranking you know and if you enter any category, and you’re when you’re entered into the national competition, so that helps right Good things to talk about. Yeah, that’s part of your marketing. Go to pleinairsalon.com for that, and also sign up before May 31. For the lowest price on the plein air convention in Santa Fe or the lowest payment plan prices going up on May 31. pleinairconvention.com. If you’ve not seen my blog on Sunday morning where I talk about stuff and things life. Check it out. It’s called Sunday coffee. You can find it at coffeewithEric.com. It’s always fun doing this. We’ll do it again like next week. Maybe? I’ll see you then I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine, which you need to pick up on the newsstand assuming your new standards open. But you can get this good time to get a subscription by the way at pleinAirmagazine. com. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it. I’ll see you.
The Plein Air Podcast with Plein Air magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email Eric at pleinairmagazine.com. Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.