Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews movie director and plein air artist George Gallo, who takes us behind the scenes of his first movie, “Local Color.” They also discuss painting for yourself versus the market; plein air compared to studio painting; and how the act of painting informs his film work.
“…If you persevere long enough…you only have to have a couple of breaks.” ~ George Gallo
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares tips for finding (and creating) commission work, and feedback on if social media should be your sole avenue for promoting your art.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and George Gallo here:
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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 196. Today we’re featuring artist writer and film director George Gallo.
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 0:57
Well, thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast here in Texas. The trees are just now starting to turn color. Now I paid it in full color week a few weeks ago, and it was brilliant color. We don’t get that kind of color around here. So I’m pretty happy just to get any color. And I’ve been painting the tree across the road, which is this brilliant red. And it’s pretty unusual for this area. I love working on this trying to figure it out that fine line between garish color that just doesn’t look realistic. And that sense of brilliance. And so it’s always kind of fun to try and master something new. So that’s what I’ve been kind of doing in the afternoons and the weekends trying to figure that tree out. It’s not gonna last much longer. I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Keep your eyes on your email because I’m sure there’s some black FRIDAY SPECIALS coming across your email from us some things that we’ve produced over the last couple years and some specials. Also a reminder, the Plein Air Convention is coming up in May and we are going forward. At least that’s the plan. So you want to get your seats while you can and know there’s a 100% Money Back Guarantee in the event our plans or years are disrupted. So we’re all ready to get out. Be together celebrate plein air painting and do it safely and see our friends so visit plein air convention comm make a great Christmas gift, just say it. Okay, I want to remind you that the November deadline for the monthly Plein Air Salon competition is November 30. It’s a good time to enter your best paintings from the year or from the past. There’s a $15,000 Grand Prize for the annual competition on the line, and over 30,000 in cash prizes cash prizes, including monthly cash prizes, so enter at pleinairsalon.com. And since you’re probably thinking about holiday shopping, the ultimate gift is a seat to Watercolor Live. It’s our online virtual conference. It’s the largest watercolor conference in history featuring the top top top tier watercolor masters worldwide, including Joseph Zbukvic, who is considered the best, the king of all watercolor people and you can book your seat now, but you need to get it before November 30 coming around the corner because the price is going to go up by 200 bucks go to watercolorlive.com if you’ve ever been to the Plein Air Convention, this is a totally different experience. And it’s a great experience. We get you connected with other artists. We we communicate with each other. We have a lot of fun. It’s actually a terrific experience. Go to the website, read some of the testimonials. It’s watercolorlive.com Hey, in the current issue of Plein Air Magazine, there’s a special feature on Colorado artist Sean Horn and he is in no hurry when he paints probably something we could all adapt. You’re going to read about why he’s taking his time in and how it’s better in the long run. And of course that’s one approach and it probably is a good one. added this week’s Plein Air Today newsletter it’s free. We share a roundup of reader votes on the best plein air easels for artists, don’t want to miss that. Coming up after the interview I’ll be answering some art marketing questions in what we call the marketing minute. But first, let’s get right to our interview. Looking forward to this with impressionist painter and film director. My dear friend George Gallo. George Gallo, welcome to the Plein Air Podcast.
George Gallo 4:26
Thank you, Eric.
Eric Rhoads 4:28
I’m just blown away. I was just thinking about this. We were talking offline. I was like, how come this never happened till now? I mean, like, three years into this podcast. I should have had you as one of the first guests ever. I’m sorry.
George Gallo 4:41
You’re absolutely correct there. No, for whatever reason, I guess it just never happened. But again, I’m very, very happy to deal with the second I got the call. I said I’m all in.
Eric Rhoads 4:53
So you and I became friends. I was living in Florida. temporarily. We had, I don’t even know why. But I remember the phone rang one time, and it was you on phone. And you were trying to point something out to me about something you were creating. And I think probably discussing an article or something, and we kind of struck up a friendship back then. And gosh, that’s probably I don’t know, 15 years ago.
George Gallo 5:27
Yeah. It’s about 15 years ago.
Eric Rhoads 5:32
Before we get started, I think we ought to talk about, you’ve got kind of two lives going on, you have this life of a visual artist, and you have this other life as a visual artist.
George Gallo 5:48
Eric Rhoads 5:49
So why don’t we overcome that right now and help them understand that, so tell everybody what it is you do for a living.
George Gallo 5:59
I write screenplays and direct movies. And the other thing I do is paint, but the primary thing that I do for a living is making films.
Eric Rhoads 6:10
And you’ve made some some pretty important films or some films that have have been huge hits over the years. You want to talk about a couple of those big hits?
George Gallo 6:22
I’ve certainly done over 20 films. The probably the Midnight Run, I wrote. Charles Grodin movie Midnight Run. I wrote the original Bad Boys with Will Smith, Martin Lawrence. A lot of movies middlemen, Luke Wilson, [Giovanni ribisi]. Have a film coming out. Which seems to have a lot going behind it. People seem to love it. We had a few. We won three film festivals already.
Eric Rhoads 6:56
You’ve got an all star cast.
George Gallo 6:59
Yeah, it’s Robert DeNiro. Again, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman. Zach Braff. Emile Hirsch, Eddie Griffin. It’s a it’s a big, big over the top comedy, which I think we need right now. I mean, it’s just, it’s been quite a year.
Eric Rhoads 7:20
So if you’re a comedy writer,
George Gallo 7:24
Primarily, although I just did a dark thriller now with Morgan Freeman and Ruby Rose. But primarily, I’m a comedy writer. Yes.
Eric Rhoads 7:31
So do you have to be, without getting into politics here? Because we have to be careful. We don’t do that here. But do you have to be much more sensitive to the kind of jokes that you could do in a film today versus what you could do 20 years ago?
George Gallo 7:46
It’s an interesting question. The movie that I just did, the big comedy is, I would say it’s not terrifically politically correct, a lot of times. The whole point of a joke is that it’s shocking. And, we could get away with more in this movie, because it takes place in the 1970s. And I think people talked and behaved, far differently than they do today. Sure. And, that’s part of the subtext of the movie. It’s about some very desperate people, the movies. That’s what makes it funny. If you want me to mention the plot or not, but
Eric Rhoads 8:41
It’s up to you. Sure.
George Gallo 8:42
Well, very quickly, it’s a Robert De Niro, who is he is really on point in this movie. He plays a sort of bottom feeding 1970s movie producer, who is incapable of making a good movie and he owes his financier who was a sort of a criminal crime boss, this guy named Reggie, who is played by Morgan Freeman, and a 10 year old can pay him back the money on his latest Opus. And together they can talk to scheme which is to they’re going to find an actor Tommy Lee Jones, who’s in the retirement home. This old cowboy star, and they’re going to heavily insure him and try to kill him in a stunt to collect the insurance money only to find out that he is just indestructible. He can’t kill him. And they keep doing these big crazy stunts and he’s surviving all of them and like I say, what he is is just love the movie because no matter what they do to Tommy Lee just get something he does himself often it’s a lot of fun the movie.
Eric Rhoads 9:52
Where do these ideas come from?
George Gallo 9:54
Well, that’s actually based on on an old story that Harry Herwhich wrote and it was something I’ve always wanted to make into a film. And it took a lot of years. And, to put it all together, and I wrote the script with just pause there. And for years, we shopped it. And we could never really get it going. We had interest in a few few places, but we could never get it over the top. And then last January, Robert De Niro and I happened to be chatting on the phone. And he had just finished the Irishman. And he said, Do you have anything funny? Because he was like, I can’t play another psychopath. I said, Well, I’ve got a comedy, that’s sort of a psychopath. He goes, Oh, let me read it. And he read it. And then he said, I’m in and then, it’s nice. It’s nice when movie stars or your friends, make it just say, hey, onto your movies.
Eric Rhoads 10:54
Then when you can go out with a name like that, then the funding just kind of falls in your lap.
George Gallo 10:58
It all came together pretty quickly. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 11:01
Well, I think there’s a good lesson in that it’s something that I have realized is really critically important. And that is, if you have something that you’re passionate about, you just have to be patient, you guys keep it in the back of your head, keep working it and it eventually will happen for you. You’ve had that happen a lot in your career.
George Gallo 11:20
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the nature of anything creative. I have never heard of a story where a person wrote something or directed to me wrote something, certainly, and they sold it instantly. And it got made, and it was a huge hit I that, it’s a life choice, doing this the same thing with painting? I think a lot of times, a lot of great painters painted great paintings that people didn’t get right away. So I think it’s part of the nature of what we do.
Eric Rhoads 11:53
Now, you did a movie about a painter that was based on essentially on your life as a teenager.
George Gallo 12:00
Right, Local Color.
Eric Rhoads 12:02
So how long ago was that, that you released that now?
George Gallo 12:05
That I believe was 2005? or 2006. That’s about the time that we met.
Eric Rhoads 12:13
Doesn’t seem possible that much time has passed? Well, I would encourage everybody who hasn’t seen it to to check it out. George, give us the plot of that and tell us who some of the actors are.
George Gallo 12:24
Local Color is loosely based on my youth, I was 18 years old. And I wanted so much to be a landscape painter. And it seemed that a lot of the schools at the time were promoting abstract art, and it’s not what I wanted to do. And so I found out that a painter that I admired lived, not that far from my house, and I tracked him down, and he’d sort of turned his back on painting and but little by little, I worked my way, you know, and his life sucked. And you he ended up taking me on a road trip, and we painted for a summer.
Eric Rhoads 13:06
And you did that against the resistance of your family?
George Gallo 13:10
Yeah, they were not terribly, I don’t think they got it. Today, it’s probably a little bit different, but I don’t know. But, I was 18 years old. And I said, I wanted to be a painter. And my parents are like, What?
Eric Rhoads 13:26
You can’t make any money as a painter.
George Gallo 13:29
Right. Well, no, I mean, like, No, I mean, it’s very, it’s very difficult.
Eric Rhoads 13:33
I would imagine. What I’m saying is that that tends to be the the attitude of parents, oftentimes, I still hear kids telling us stories about how, they want to go to art school, and their parents won’t let them because they, their perception is they can’t make any money as painters.
George Gallo 13:50
Well, that was what my dad certainly said. And then, and then, what’s in what I said, Okay, I was painting all the time anyway, but then I got this crazy idea in my head. You know, I mean, which is even nuttier if you think about it. And I said, You know what, I think I might go to Hollywood and try to become a screenwriter and a director, my father had just about got painting wrapped around his head and all the poor guy, but anyway, haven’t worked out. yet. It didn’t work out. But boy, oh, boy, when I look back at it, because I knew nobody in Hollywood. I’m not exactly sure how I did it. But I think, again, if you persevere long enough, you know, you only have to have a couple of breaks. You know, I, we talked about Edward Redfield, a lot, you know. And Edward Redfield was one of the Pennsylvania impressionists. He said, I read not that long ago, he said that a painter really only needs one or two breaks. You know, and if he get that one or two breaks, you know, you could be a superstar painter, whatever that is, you know, in my case, As a writer, a couple of people really believed in me, you know, early on, and they were the right people. And suddenly, I had a career.
Eric Rhoads 15:09
Do you think if you had known what you had to go through in the earlier stages of, knocking on doors and working as hard as you had to? Do you think you would have pursued it?
George Gallo 15:22
Well, that’s it. You know, again, it’s always hindsight. One of the great things about being young is that you have, at least I had, boundless energy. And I was completely fearless.
Eric Rhoads 15:36
You still are.
George Gallo 15:37
I suppose so.
Eric Rhoads 15:38
Are you really I mean, really, you more so than anybody that I know, you still have boundless energy and you still are fearless. You will take on projects, you know, most of us tend to get a little set in our ways. But you I remember, I don’t know if I can say this or not. But you mortgaged your house, and put everything you own up to make one of those movies because you believed in it so much.
George Gallo 16:03
For Local Color.
Eric Rhoads 16:04
Yeah. And you put everything at risk? I mean, how many people are willing to do that anymore? Very few.
George Gallo 16:10
I don’t know, I have to say God bless my wife, Julie. Absolutely been together 37 years, that was largely her too, you know, she was like, the sun? How many times? Do you get an opportunity to do something like that? You know, we’ve we’ve been risk takers? I don’t know. I never heard a success story where someone didn’t take a risk at the beginning. You know, I mean, I mean, very few people fall backwards into, you know, a vat of money. I think anyone that risks, and and, and you know that the other thing is, you’re not necessarily going to succeed. But then getting back to the same notion, you only have to succeed once or twice on a big symbol, that’s the life changing thing. And, it’s really funny, I read somewhere years ago, where they asked a bunch of people that were successful. And I think the question was something like, you’ve been working on a project for two years, and it hasn’t worked out. And then someone comes along, and says, they’ll give you a little bit of financing. You know, would you work on the project for another year? And all the successful people said, Well, if I’m already in for two years, what’s another year? But a lot of the people that, let’s say that that were more in a middle management level, they say no, after two years, I would quit. So I don’t think he can quit because you’re quitting on yourself. That’s the thing. Why quit on yourself? That’s, just keep trying, keep trying keep trying. It has to connect at some point.
Eric Rhoads 17:58
Well, I’m going through something like that right now about, I don’t know, two and a half years ago, I ran into a guy from I can’t say who, but let’s say it was a three letter network. And I said, you know, I’ve got this idea for a show. And he said, What is it and I told him the idea off the top of my head, and he said, I want to meet on Monday. And then I met on Monday with he and his team, and they said, We want to do a deal. I mean, we just just like that. But then And then he said, but you got to raise the money. And and so it’s like two and a half years, I think I’ve raised about 200 of the six or 800,000 I need a small project compared to what you do. And it’s like pulling teeth. It’s just like nothing. Nothing has broken loose for the rest of it. And yet, I know I’m gonna get it I know that I will persist however long it takes. And so I’m not sweating bullets over it. It’s not something I have to urgently urgently do. But I think a lot of us would just say okay, I put my two years and I’ve tried I’m giving up and and I’m just saying this is too big of an opportunity. I can’t give this up.
George Gallo 19:13
Now you know, and if it’s something that you really want to do, you got to keep trying, you know, I mean, look, if you talk about painting, you talk about going on blind faith. Because you have to paint 1000 horrible paintings before anything good. I mean you talk about being stubborn.
Eric Rhoads 19:38
And you are among the most stubborn I’ve seen, I’ve been to your house. I’ve been to your garage, you when I looked in your garage, you you probably had 20, 30 by 40 is in there that you had done because you paint large. And but I remember you pulling out paintings and showing me and you could see the progress. You could I maybe you couldn’t I could, I could see the progress from the earlier paintings to what you were doing now and how the level of sophistication had improved over and over and over again. I haven’t seen what you’ve been doing lately, but I would imagine,
George Gallo 20:14
I sent you some pictures for this. So I mean, I don’t know if you’re flashing them.
Eric Rhoads 20:20
Well, this is audio only.
George Gallo 20:22
Oh, is it? Because they they asked for some photos of paintings.
Eric Rhoads 20:27
They’re gonna put them up. Yeah, they’ll put them up on the on the podcast website. Yeah. Okay, good. I’ll look for those.
George Gallo 20:35
Yeah, you got it.
Eric Rhoads 20:37
And I have a I have a big beautiful painting here that you did a gorgeous Woods spring Woods scene that you did. And we did the video together. And yeah, absolutely. Fabulous. So you, let’s talk about painting because I want to I want to get a fair share a time on that. You talked about Redfield and and getting breaks is a painter, what do you think he meant by that?
George Gallo 21:05
Well, he wasn’t like, like, a lot of like, all artists stories are, different. And then there’s something sort of similar about them, if they become successful. He was a, guy. And then, in the, I guess, around the turn of the century, certainly in the he was painting in Bucks County or by himself, and he was sort of a father. I mean, not that he intended to be but he came one of the one of the fathers of the Pennsylvania School of Impressionism. And he was out there painting, you know, these sort of large canvases outdoors,
Eric Rhoads 21:41
In the cold.
George Gallo 21:43
In the cold. Yeah. What I mean, it’s completely crazy, but I admired him just for his knowledge, not only his technique, but just his Moxie, you know, to go out, and to do that. And, to paint, like, literally 50 by 60 canvases outside, pretty much in one shot. And I read, not that long ago, is that he talked about, that you really only needed one or two breaks in order to become successful. And he went everywhere with his work and, got rejected. And then one time someone I believe, from the Corcoran Gallery, heard about him, and said, Who’s this nutty young guy out in the woods, painting these giant paintings, and they said, that was Edward Redfield, and he met with the person and the person gave him a show, and that changed his life. But he had been rejected for at least 10 years. You know, before he caught on?
Eric Rhoads 22:55
Well, it goes back to that persistence story. I remember Matt Smith telling me that he had applied, I think it was Matt Smith, had applied to be in the Prix de West nine years in a row and was rejected nine years in a row. And that 10th year, somebody discovered him, right. So, and it changed everything.
George Gallo 23:16
That’s great. I like him, he’s a good guy, a terrific painter.
Eric Rhoads 23:23
Fabulous. So how much painting are you doing? Because you’re obviously kind of juggling right now. You’re hot. You’ve had several movies, you’ve got a very successful Hollywood career going on. You’re spending a lot of time on that. How do you even get any time to paint?
George Gallo 23:40
Well, I’ve been, funny, I painted yesterday, the second I got back from doing the last film. I just went out and bought a whole bunch of gear. And I’ve just kind of been added again. I don’t think you ever really stop painting…I had shows when I was in my 20s at one point, I thought that was going to be what I was going to do with my life. And then the movie thing started to turn into a reality. And then I was doing both the thing that I felt great about was, painting to me was so pure. And if you try to turn into a business, you have to make certain business considerations meaning I would imagine if you paint, whether you do it purposely or by accident, there’s some subject matter that you let’s say you get recognized for then that becomes your thing. Then you could turn that I suppose into a good career if you’re lucky. In my case, once I started to get paid as a filmmaker, I was like, wow, I’m released of that issue and I paint on free, I could paint surely for the joy of painting, which I think a lot of the earlier painters that I admire, did that I think they were chasing truth. And then I think the market caught up to them today. I think, it might be a little different, different, more different or difficult. When you think about the Impressionists, I don’t think they were thinking about money, I think they were just a bunch of French guys at a cafe, and they were, chasing some goal or some ideal, and not realizing that they’re going to change the world, but and you talk about rejection, they were, they weren’t allowed at the salon…
Eric Rhoads 25:55
Well, Monet became a very wealthy man eventually, too.
George Gallo 25:59
He did, like I said, the world caught up to him, I think today, it might be a little more different. I’m sure there’s people out there painting for the joy of painting, who probably aren’t being as recognized. There are some terrific painters out there that will, that I think, are, are reaching and stretching, I mean, I think they’re doing it for all the right reasons.
Eric Rhoads 26:28
There are as many good painters, if not more good painters today than there ever have been. And, we’re seeing the level of instruction, the videos, the conferences, the things that are helping people elevate themselves. And, in terms of all forms of art, whether it’s, academic realism, which we cover in Fine Art Connoisseur, whether it’s plein air, it is in the landscape.
George Gallo 26:56
I just want to tell you, it’s a great magazine.
Eric Rhoads 27:00
But I think that the whole idea here is that the level of quality is really, really getting high. And I think that, this is always a little bit of an issue. I’m in three galleries now. And I have a tendency sometimes to start thinking about, well, if I do this, this will really make it sell. And then I think, what am I doing it since this isn’t, I don’t want to do it, if it’s just to sell it, I want to do it, because I enjoy the painting process. And I want to say something, and if it sells great, so I think the ones who finally figured out I mean, you look at somebody like David Leffel, who’s a very dear friend of yours, a good friend of mine, and you look at somebody like David. David does what David wants to do. Now, maybe, if you, dialogue with him about that maybe at some point, he said, I had to kind of do some paintings to pay the bills. And, at least you’re painting. But I think at some point, most of the artists who are really good get to that point where they say, screw the market, I’m going to paint what I love. And if I paint what I love, the market will follow. Do you believe that to be true or not?
George Gallo 28:19
Yes, I believe it can be true. But, I also understand the need for people to put food on their table, so I never for a second, think that, a person is is selling out, I mean you people have to eat? Do I believe that the market can catch up with you? Yeah, absolutely. I think if you’re painting to make money, if that’s your thought process, I think in your sort of boxing yourself in, because first of all, you don’t really know what’s going to sell you, you might find, like I say a subject matter or something that seems to sell for whatever reasons. But, ultimately, it’s hard to keep recreating that over and over and over again. That’s why I think sometimes painters go stale. And I mean, I’m in an enviable position and that I can wake up in the morning and say, today, I’m going to do this tomorrow, I’m going to do that, you know, or, you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to go on a road trip and go paint for three weeks, and I don’t really have to care. You know, if I sell them or not, I do it for the absolute joy of doing it. And I’m really serious about it. I mean, I you know, that I I’ve read every book there is to read I study as hard as is anyone I and I’ve, it’s been my whole life, you know, and painting and filmmaking are not that much different. You know, you’re telling a story with a brush, you’re telling a story. With a camera, it’s not, it’s all preparation A lot of times, it’s, you can’t just make a movie, you have to prepare you think about how you’re going to shoot it, while you’re trying to say the colors that you’re going to have in the background, what are the colors of the of the wardrobe? You know, it’s all part of the process of telling the story, it’s not that much different than, you know, going on at location and looking at something you want to paint and say, Okay, this will make a, this is something I want to paint, and this will be beautiful, because of that edge versus that softer line versus that value versus that color. It’s very, very similar.
Eric Rhoads 30:46
I think, that’s absolutely right. The one thing that happens, though, is if we go back to that, that comment earlier about risk, is that painters gets stale. And when they get stale, it starts to show up in their work. And they may think that they’re, you know, they’re not selling because of some other outside factor, which is also possible. But oftentimes, it’s because it’s like, been there done that scale. And so if you’re responding only to the market, then you’re not going to respond to the experimentation, you’re not going to expand, you’re not going to respond to the risk. And you’ve got to take those, those risks in your work to kind of push yourself to, to a new level, or to a new height. I’ve told stories many times about a buddy of mine who went to Russia with me. And after seeing the Russian impressionist work, he said, I can’t paint anymore. And he and he went back home and, and stood at the canvases for weeks and said, I can’t do this anymore, because these people completely ruined to me. But finally, he started taking the risks and broke through and it changed his painting forever.
George Gallo 31:55
That’s great. Because, I have to say, I think, the Russian impressionists out of everybody are probably the closest to those Pennsylvania guys. And they just knocked me out. There’s something so honest, and bold in that work, it’s something I just so respond to…You talked about taking risk, if you’re a painter, and you have to feed galleries, and all that stuff, and you suddenly want to change what you’re doing a little bit, you could lose your gallery, and you could lose your audience. And the interesting thing that happens, because this has happened to me, it’s happened to me, as a writer, it’s happened to me as a painter, when you’re in the process of making the change. You know, let’s say you were very adept at something or good at something, and you’re in the process of making the change. You could get lost and kind of produce work that’s not that great for a while, because you’re about to make a leap to another place. And in that time period of while you’re doing that work, a lot of people could look at it and say, let’s say your gallery or your audience to go, he or she’s not that good anymore. They’re, but they’re about to get a whole lot better. Because, you’re still not clear what you’re reaching for.
Eric Rhoads 33:30
Well, I think I like to call that a pre launch law. You know, we actually go backwards when we’re thinking about something and experimenting with something we go backwards till we figure it out. And then it launches us to a new thing. That’s why adversity and difficult times are so important in growth in in anything, whether it’s painting or anything else. Yeah. So, are you getting outdoors to paint anymore? You used to go out plein air all the time.
George Gallo 34:01
I haven’t since I’ve been back from the last movie, but I have so many little sketches. And I have, literally, without exaggeration, I got 50 or 60 sketchbooks where I do lots of line drawings or pencil drawings of places that I remember, and I just flip through them a second. And I take little notes and stuff and the second I see them. They kind of come back to me. And I’ve been kind of recreating things out of my head now. And I’ve been enjoying that too. Sometimes. You know, it’s very funny. plein air painting versus studio painting. I think ultimately, okay, if you’re painting landscapes, there’s just no way that you can’t be any good unless you done playing they’re painting and I’ve painted outdoors a lot. Yeah, but I think I am a better painter in the studio because I’m not in such a hurry. And I thin, when ykou’re painting in a studio, and you have some time to think, and, you put something down, and then you look at it, and then you have time to mull it over, and then see, you know what I’m going to do, then I’m going to make an adjustment here. And then you look at that, at least for me, personally, I found that I’ve grown quite a bit working in the studio, because I’m not, you could get into a mindless routine, if you’re not careful painting outside and that you look at something, you drop an easel, you paint frenetically, and, you finish the piece, and it can have a ton of energy in it. But you are doing nothing but dashing at the painting after painting after painting after painting, and you’re not thinking a lot about what you’re doing. And when you get into a studio, you can have 8, 10, 12 hours to work on a painting as opposed to two hours before the light changes. And you can be more contemplated and more more selective, certainly, well, and more experimental as well.
Eric Rhoads 36:23
Yes, right. So you can try things, but to the point that you discussed before, it’s that high level of plein air painting getting out there a lot that informs you so that when you go in the studio, you know what’s going to look right versus what’s not gonna look right.
George Gallo 36:42
Yes, absolutely. Eric. And I think what ends up happening is David Leffel said this to me, and I wasn’t aware of it. Because David and I were talking about painting and landscape painting. And he said something to me said, he goes, how do you make these things up out of your head so much? And I said, Well, I just I remember a lot of stuff. And he said, your memory, he said, is pretty remarkable. He goes in that you seem to have this. I mean, over the what, five decades of let’s say painting outside, right, because I started when I was to mid teens, that you’ve collected over the years, a lot of things in your head, like a rock or a piece of grass, or the way the light cut the side of a birch tree or the way, a branch cracked off a maple tree and the light caught that little hub, that little nub, I have all these things that have just been collecting hundreds of ideas as I’m working. And a lot of times as I’m painting a painting in the studio, those things will come back to me like, oh, that tree I saw you have 20 years ago, how that tree felt to me, is it not that the tree is an anatomically correct, but the notion of that tree is correct, the feeling that tree gave me is correct.
Eric Rhoads 38:10
So how does painting or composition and painting inform your film work? And vice versa?
George Gallo 38:18
Another great question. Let me answer it this way. There are several ways to answer that question that try to be the most focused as possible. You know, I teach, I teach. Every once in a while, I’ll go to colleges, and I’ll teach about the directing and thinking like a director. And I think there’s a very similar thing between thinking like a director and thinking like a painter. And, the first thing is student may ask you is what lens do I, What lens will I use here? And I always say, that’s not really the right question. The first question is, what am I trying to say? What’s the scene really about? What it would these two people were they talking here what’s really going on on the scene? Because ultimately, the lenses you choose the colors you choose whether or not you’re going to move the camera, whatever those personal choice choices you’re going to make. Is that’s the subtext of the scene. So what’s really going on in the scene? Oh, I guess these two people are talking. They’re falling in love. Ha. Well, now that’s going to win for me is an lyrical sort of move is a longer lenses tend to be the lenses of romance because they focus on the eyes. And see now I’m starting to make choices based on an idea. Like a lot of times like when I was teaching painting, and I said to this class, we were all up in Carmel and I stayed very close with a lot of these students, we would all go out, we would all pick a spot and everybody would drop the reason before I had my easel open. A lot of them were painting already. And I’d say, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Does everybody know what they’re doing or why they’re doing this? And a lot of people would sort of shrug and say, guys, you got to take a breath, look at what you’re painting and ask yourself, why am I painting this? What do I want to say about it, you got to be very, very clear from the start, why you’re doing it, you got to paint it in your head, you know, and then you won’t make a lot of mistakes along the way, because you’ve worked out the compositional ideas, you’ve worked out what the subject is, you’ve worked out, you know, what you’re going to focus on your hardest stead, your softer sedge, you know, your warms your cools, and you work all that stuff out. And then hopefully, you know, you’re fairly armed and dangerous walking into the painting you’re about to do. But if you just start randomly working on something, and you haven’t worked it all out, which also brings me to Redfield, if I could digress for a second, Redfield used to paint those giant paintings outside, but he would go out the day before. And he would just sit there for hours, looking at the spot that he was going to paint. And he painted the whole painting in his head. And he went to bed at night thinking about the painting and how he was going to execute everything. And then he woke up in the morning, and he put his gear together, then he went out and he executed it. But he had worked out a lot of the difficult problems already. So that the execution of the painting, there was a clear path to there was a clearer path to the finished, as opposed to slapping paint on and, you know, not knowing what what your foreground elements were going to be, what exactly is your subject matter going to be, you got to work all that out in advance. Same thing with directing a movie, you shoot the entire movie before you start shooting it. You know, that’s not to say you don’t leave yourself open to happy accidents. You know, sometimes an actor could do something, he got a lot actually funny, Let’s chase them. Let’s see where that takes you. But you’re on a very firm footing, simply as a painting, sometimes, because I paint fast. the wrong color could end up on the canvas, because I’m not watching exactly, the way my brush lay, on the palette, and I can lay it down. And let’s say a little piece of blue could end up there that I didn’t intend to be there. But if I look at it, like, Oh, that’s pleasing. Oh, well, maybe I could play around with that idea a little bit, but I’m already in a very secure place so that I can do things like that, as opposed to, I haven’t worked it all out. And it’s very, there’s not the greatest painter on earth is going to get lost if he hasn’t figured out it Richard Schmid talks about in his book, if he hasn’t figured it all out, before we started seeking get lost, anyone could get lost. If you haven’t, you don’t have a firm idea. So if anything, I would say to anybody, really, truly make up what your painting is going to look like to some pretty solid degree before you jump in.
Eric Rhoads 43:20
So when you go outdoors, which you haven’t done for a while, but so do you just kind of sit around and stare do have a kind of a mental checklist, you’re going through?
George Gallo 43:30
Sometimes you just see something and you say Oh, my God, but as a general rule, I’ve got spots. I haven’t visited them lately, but there was like one tree. In particular, in Malibu Canyon, at any time of the day, it just looked differently. It was just old, old, beautiful, gnarly tree them fortunately, burned in the fire they had out there. But so this tree and I were intimate bodies. And so I always knew that was a go to, for me, there’s certain spots, I would go to that, that I was just attracted to the design. And, so I would go back and forth to a lot of these places. If you look at a lot of painters, you’ll notice that they had a tendency to paint a lot of the same locations over and over again, because they felt very intimately acquainted with those places. And if you don’t paint them for a long time, you kind of missed them and you want to you want to go visit again. You know, not that I’m not open to new stuff, but I think and they always look different. The light is always different every day, though. different seasons.
Eric Rhoads 44:50
MacPherson did that book on 365 days in front of his pond and there wasn’t one painting that look the same.
George Gallo 44:57
I’m familiar with that book. Yeah, that’s a great experiment. I’ve never done that. That that’s real dedication.
Eric Rhoads 45:09
Well, he gets to do that full time you have you have a little other small business here occupying your time.
George Gallo 45:15
Yeah. Well, I think a couple of more I’ve been saying this forever, a couple more. And I might, Oh, stop, you’re addicted.
Eric Rhoads 45:23
You know, you’re addicted.
George Gallo 45:25
Yet, but I’ll tell you something Eric. Yes, I am. But the difference between making a painting least for me, and making a movie is that a movie is all about conflict. You know, and there’s resolution at the end, I think we’ve had this discussion, right? If you look at any movie, there’s a problem somewhere with the main character at the beginning. And then they go, they figure out ways to grapple with the issue all the way through. And then there’s some sense of resolution at the end of a piece. In a painting. It’s a lot of harmony. For me, it’s color harmony, it’s design harmony. And yes, I would imagine that, let’s say, things collide, to some degree, but it’s very, it’s a very beautiful, harmonious collision. And I’m in a much better state of mind when I’m painting than when I’m making a movie. I’d like to be able to quit when I’m ready to quit as opposed to Hollywood tells me All right, you’re done. But it’s, I don’t love directing. I love having directed a movie, if that makes any sense. When it’s all finally finished. And you look at it, and you hear people laugh and applaud you go. Okay, that was worth it.
Eric Rhoads 46:54
That’s a lot of hard work. So I don’t think anybody understands the depth of difficulty it is to do that.
George Gallo 47:02
To make a film, yeah. To director great. Yeah, the director movie, there’s a great line in Rocky where Sylvester Stallone says, You got to be moron, you want to be a fighter. And I always say, you got to be a moron to want to be on a movie too. Because, a lot of times, look, the pay is good. Don’t get me wrong. But if you’re shooting nights, it’s horrible weather. A lot of times, equipment is always breaking down. Actors are not always the most cooperative, they don’t always act in their best interest. And sometimes you feel more like a gym teacher, like, it should have a whistle around your neck. And you’re trying to wrap your arms around this massive 18 wheeled tractor trailer that doesn’t have any brakes. And, you’re literally hanging on to the steering wheel, just trying to keep the whole thing afloat. And you’re also responsible for millions of dollars, and hundreds of jobs and hundreds of jobs and I really care about what I’m doing. And I so yes, it could be a very high stress job. Where painting is like, man, I love it, I set up in the woods by myself, nobody. Me, and nobody has to come along and say, Hey, doesn’t have to be a red bar. And I don’t have a I don’t have to listen to a lot of, foolishness behind me. So it’s a much more relaxing and peaceful and Zen like thing to paint, but that they’re similar in the way, that, let’s say the thought process that goes on to make them but the stress level of it. I never had any stress, painting and if a painting didn’t work, it wasn’t like I blew 100 grand that day…
Eric Rhoads 49:02
Well, sometimes it’s all relative. Right? So some people [are canvases] like 100 grand. So George, you had the benefit of studying under what was his name?
George Gallo 49:16
Eric Rhoads 49:18
So you had the benefit of studying under him. And he was he was a Russian well trained Russian master. You’ve got a lot of experience under your belt for the people who might be kind of new to plein air painting or new to painting at all. Would you impart a little wisdom of some principles that you think are important everybody considers?
George Gallo 49:43
Wow. Is this your exit question? You always do this to me. This is something other than…
Eric Rhoads 49:48
Yeah, well, I have to do this my job. It’s tough.
George Gallo 49:53
What principles would I impart to plein air painters starting out…
Eric Rhoads 49:59
Or to anybody I mean, you have had the benefit of studying under some of the best. you’ve figured things out on your own. There’s got to be a couple of things that are core essentials, that if you were teaching workshops today, you would you would attack those things first.
George Gallo 50:17
I would, okay. I would. And I’ve said this, I would. First of all, don’t beat yourself up, that’s a hard one. Okay. The hardest one is especially the personality of the type of person that wants to be an artist. A lot of times can get lost in self recrimination, you know, I’ll never be any good, over those horrible tapes, we hear in our heads, I would try to avoid all of that, I would accept the fact that, you’re probably not going to be very good at the beginning. And I don’t even know what good means, but you’re not going to paint a masterpiece very quickly. And even if you did, it’s probably an accident. I mean, I think a lot of times, you can get one right coming out of the gate, but it takes, it’s going to take a long time, enjoy the ride, it really is the trip, it’s not the result. If that makes any sense. If you get too caught up in results, a lot of times you just put too much stress on yourself. I would I would say to anyone who’s painting outside to really, really, really looked, really learn to really see what they’re looking at. Because you’re not really painting a tree, you’re not really painting a rock, you’re not really painting a mountain, you’re not really painting a cloud, if you get into those thoughts, you really can get lost, you have to look at it and say to yourself, I’m painting a shape. I’m painting a series of shapes that are either warm or cool colors, figure out what the color is. And then find the simplest way to put that down. I hope that makes sense. Because if you start looking at clouds, and all of these things you get really, really, you can get lost. But if you think, oh, here’s another thing, don’t assume any color is the color you think it is because I’ve seen students start painting the sky blue, and I’m like, the sky is not blue right now, what are you doing, it’s like you’re not looking, you have to really look and see how each thing relates to the thing next to it, you know how the sky, the sky is, like, let’s say the mother of the entire painting and how all that light falls down onto everything and how there’s a little bit of that light in everything on the ground, some of that warmth is everywhere. And and just again, think of shapes. That’s it, like a mountain is a shape. And it’s a particular color, it’s a particular value. And, and look at it that way, try to look at everything in the abstract, which was very hard for me when I was starting out, you know, and, and pick a point of interest. That’s going to be the subject of your painting. Because as they say, in acting class, if everything becomes important, then nothing is important. So find something to focus on and and make that the meal and the subject of the painting, and then have everything become secondary to that.
Eric Rhoads 53:40
Great advice. All great advice.
George Gallo 53:43
Thank you, sir.
Eric Rhoads 53:44
Thank you, sir. Thanks for doing this podcast.
George Gallo 53:47
I love doing it. I love talking about this stuff…George Wesley Bellowshouse. Another great piece of advice. Robert Henry said, Don’t set out to create good art, but live a life where good art becomes inevitable.
Eric Rhoads 54:12
Wow. Perfect ending.
George Gallo 54:14
Eric Rhoads 54:16
Well, George and I could probably talk all day. As a matter of fact, we’ve had conversations like this that have gone deep into the evenings, sometimes maybe aided by a cocktail or two just saying anyway, he’s a fun and talented guy, really terrific guy fun to be around and I really cherished his friendship and I think this was very valuable. I think I learned a lot from it. I hope you did too. Hey, are you guys ready for some 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 54:50
In the Marketing Minute, I answer your art marketing questions you can email yours at [email protected] Here’s a question from Rachel Harris who attended the recent Realism Live online conference and her question is about commissions. She asked what’s the best way to find a market for commission work? By commissions she means doing paintings that people commissioned you to do. Right? That’s what I think she means anyway, start with this idea. First off, people don’t know the word commissions. It is not a term used by regular everyday people. If they think Commission’s they think like they’re getting a sales commission on something. So don’t confuse them. They don’t know the term, the best way to present it is to look at people who are lookers, let’s say you’re in a gallery environment, or they come to your studio, they’re looking around, you can drop a hint very subtly, say, by the way, if you don’t find something you like, we also can do some custom paintings of your favorite subjects or your favorite people. You know, sometimes people ask me to paint a deceased aunt or uncle or, or a brother or a family member or their kids, or their favorite vacation home. What you want to do is load their lips, you could say things like, Hey, have you ever been on a trip and you found like this place that totally inspired you, if you can get me a photograph of that I’ll create a beautiful big painting, any size you want, for you for your home of that particular subject, put the ideas in their head because they don’t think of it themselves. And then put it everywhere. Put it on your newsletter, your website in your ads, you know, ask me about creating custom paintings of your favorite subjects. Don’t use the word Commission’s also, it’s a good idea for your website, do a story on it, like, tug at their heartstrings a little bit, you know, like, Jane’s husband died, they were the happy couple. They lived together for 40 years. And, Jane remembers when they first met. And you know, Bob was 30. And she just loved him so much. And she found a photo of when he was 30. So she asked me to do a painting of it. So I did this painting of him when he was 30. And she just cherishes. It’s one of her favorite things. And so, you could talk about how that works. And then do a little story for your website or for your newsletter. And that’s a good thing. And remember, insider terms are things people don’t understand. Don’t use insider terms.
Eric Rhoads 57:15
Now here’s a question from Mike Freelander in Scottsbluff. Nebraska. Hi, Mike. He says because social media is so big these days, it seems like I don’t need anything else. Do you agree? Well, I’m assuming Mike is saying I’m not sure ‘I need anything else for marketing’? Well, that’s a slippery slope, Mike, if you’re using it, and it’s selling as much work as you want it to sell, and it’s working for you. No, you don’t need anything else until it stops working. And the problem with that is there’s a thing called a single point of failure. So single point of failure, let’s say that you are flying an airplane, and it’s a single engine airplane, and that single engine goes dead. While you’re up at the 10,000 feet. What are you going to do? Well, if you have a twin engine airplane, you still have another engine to backup for you. The same is true in marketing. And this is a common problem. It’s something happens a lot. And that is that people have a single point of failure, they put all their money into a single marketing source. And suddenly, sometimes that single marketing source stops working or it dries up, or there’s regulation that changes everything a friend of mine was in the infomercial business. And the law changed in one day, he went from having a billion dollar business to having no business. And that’s because he had a single point of failure if he had other marketing things going on. So I like to think think of it as the Parthenon, I’ve talked about this in the past, think of the Parthenon, it has multiple columns. If you had the the thing on the part that what do they call that thing on the same focusing on a single column. And that got hit by a car while the rest of the building would come down? Right. And so you want to have at least three columns, because it’ll make it more stable, but it’s better to have five or six columns, you want to spread your money around a little bit and it’s not necessarily right to spread it in appropriately. For instance, you can spread to many places to advertise. And then you’re not getting enough traction from what you’re doing. And that’s a whole nother topic. But you know, the reality is social media can be good. Some artists are telling me they’re selling some work from it. I don’t hear very often that artists are selling all their work on it. You know, you want to have a gallery or you want to have a direct marketing line. You want to have your your social media, you might want to have some advertising, you might want to have a lot of other things. You know, social media is great for getting leads, but it’s not great for getting buyers. Now there are again exceptions to that rule. And so what you want to do is say okay, how do I generate leads, how do I create something that I get a lead from spending that money. And then those were those leads can be warmed up and turned into a customer over time, what I find with most of my artists, friends, and most of the artists I deal with, and some that I’ve consulted with that most of them have their social media following or other artists. And they really don’t have a lot of known collectors known art buyers on there. As a result, when they post something or when they advertise, it’s not necessarily reaching the right people. So it’s very tricky. And so most people misuse social media and social media is a beautiful thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s very effective. And it’s a good way to stay in touch with people and to put your work out there. It’s also a good way to be misunderstood because if you’re putting out you know, a lot of people put out unfinished paintings people don’t read, they think it’s finished, and they go, why would he post that it’s not very good. So, like all things though, my marketing philosophy is stand in the river where the money is flowing. And wherever the money is flowing, you need to be there. And for me, the money is flowing where there are massive amounts of known buyers of art people who are collectors of art who are who are archives of collectors. That’s why things like you know, my audiences that fine art kind of Sir plein air. Those are the river where the money’s flowing. Those people buy paintings, they buy lots of paintings, we sell tons of paintings through through ads from various collectors if people have effective ads. And yes, you can employ social media, I use social media. I spent a lot of money on social media, but I use it very specifically. I very rarely ever get buyers from social media, I get leads and then I have to figure out how do I turn them into buyers. That’s a whole nother complicated subject. It’s, it’s something we can address on another day. But the bottom line is anything that’s working for you keep putting money after it and just know that everything dries up at some point. Sometimes it’s your own fault because you’re doing bad advertising or bad marketing. But you can change that. And so you want to constantly be monitoring what’s happening. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the marketing minute.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at art marketing.com
Eric Rhoads 1:02:17
Hey, reminder to get your seats for the Plein Air Convention at pleinairconvention.com, to enter your painting before the end of the month at pleinairsalon.com, and to check out Watercolor Live at of course watercolorlive.com. Kf you’ve not seen my blog, where I talk about art and life and lots of other things, check it out. It’s called Sunday coffee. And you can find it at coffeewitheric.com you can subscribe it’s free. I got a lot of people reading which is kind of nice. Well, this is kind of nice, too. This is fun. Let’s do it again sometime like next week. I will see you then. My name is Eric Rhoads. I’m the publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. And you can find us online at outdoorpainter.com. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it. We’ll see you. Bye bye.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.
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