Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. In this episode Eric interviews contemporary American landscape painter Ben Bauer, who recently left his job to become a full-time artist. They discuss this, as well as key essentials to know about art materials; how painting in plein air changed his work; tips on composition; and more.
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions: “I’ve heard you talk about strategy versus tactic when it comes to selling art. Is one better than the other?” and, “Is it okay to approach multiple galleries for representation?”
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Ben Bauer 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 207 featuring artist Ben Bauer.
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 0:54
Oh, thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the plein air podcast, I am happy to announce that the plein air podcast has been rated number one in feet spots 2021 Top 15 podcasts for painters list number one, that’s pretty cool. Thank you for doing that. As you probably know, I’m here in Texas in Austin, Texas, and we had snow nedo It was horrible weather. And you know, those of us who live in Texas are not accustomed to that kind of weather. But more importantly, we’re not ready for it. In other words, our pipes are not buried underground. We don’t have much insulation in our houses we don’t have we have usually electric heat, not any other kind of heat. And it was crazy. The power went out. Our power didn’t go out, thankfully. But anyway, it’s all gone. Now it’s melted at 70 degrees again, and it was just simply too cold to paint. I love to paint but I can’t paint in seven below. I mean, it’s just too crazy. The house was cold even with the heat on we had frozen and broken pipes and some indoor water damage. Really good times good times. But I didn’t paint any of that time because I kept working surprisingly, speaking of good times the plenary salon art competition is almost over for the year. And we’re going to be awarding winners that our virtual conference in April. That’s called plein air live. You have two more to enter, you can enter get your entries in by February 28. And then again by March 15. We have a short month in March. But if you win in any particular category, you have the opportunity to be entered in the national competition for the big prizes, which is a $15,000 Grand Prize. Cover a plein air magazine, of course, there’s lots of other prizes $30,000 in prizes in total. And unlike a lot of competitions, ours is all cash, all cash. So go to plein air salon.com and get your entries in by the way, they don’t have to be fresh, you know, you can do your best paintings of all time. And remember, every judge likes something different. So if you’ve entered before you didn’t get it in, go ahead and re enter it because some we’ve had this happen time and again. You know, somebody will enter a painting it doesn’t win that Leonard again, it doesn’t win and then some judge will see it and go Oh, I love that. So that’s all it takes. And then of course if you’re in the national competition, you have a chance to win the big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big money. Okay, now since the plein air convention has been cancelled, which is very sad. Two years in a row. Now the big plan is for us to all gather the whole world of painters joining hands kind of like that old Coca Cola commercial. Anyway, joining hands for plein air live, if you’ve always wanted to go to a plein air convention, this is your chance because it’s going to be held online, but it’s called plein air live. It’s gonna be an amazing experience. We’ve done it once before, we had a massive number of people on and it’s gonna be really great if you check out the faculty really, really world class and we’ve got some more people that we’re adding that are unbelievable. Anyway, check it out at pleinairlive.com and book your ticket by the 28th. That’s a Sunday if you’re listening on time, by the 28th you’ll set you’ll save 600 bucks off the entire full ticket price. And if you’re new to plein air painting and you just want to try it, you really should just get out there and just do it. We have a beginner’s day to walk you through everything you need to know everything about easels about all that you know what you need to do to be prepared, I’m actually doing that segment. And then we also have basics in all the different kinds of paintings so you can sample you get a feel for you know, pastel and watercolor and, and oil painting and acrylic and so on. And so it’s a wash, it’s a great time to really learn a little bit about everything. And also you know how other people deal with plein air painting. So that is going to be on the day before on the 14th it’s optional and you can attend that by itself or you can do that plus plein air live and a lot of people do both because some of the best artists in the world are teaching the beginners day and you’re going to see their principles, even though they may be bringing it down to the basics for beginners. You will still get to see how they paint and how they do things. Coming up in the current issue of plein air magazine, there’s a story called The Art of the journey with Kimmy Medlock and Kim Casebeer and they share their adventures with some of their most spectacular landscape painting trips. This particular one, they’re talking about favorite trips from Big Sky, Montana to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and everything in between. So check that out in plein air magazine. It’s in Barnes and Noble stores. It’s in Michaels stores, and of course you can get a subscription and the digital subscription has 20% more content. You can get it online at pleinairmagazine.com. Also in this week’s plein air today newsletter, you’ll find our plein air events guide for March of 21. Now keep in mind the plein air today newsletter is weekly, it comes out for free, all you got to do is go to outdoorpainter.com. and sign up just go for outdoorpainter.com. All right. Coming up after the interview, I’m going to be answering your art marketing questions in the marketing minute. By the way, the marketing minute also has its own podcast if you’re if you want to know about marketing, but you’re not wanting to know about plein air painting. Well, you can go to the marketing minute. All right, let’s get right to our interview with Ben Bauer, who is known for his subline and very, very nice tonalist landscapes. Ben Bauer, welcome to the plein air podcast.
Ben Bauer 6:19
Thank you very much. I appreciate being here.
Eric Rhoads 6:20
I’m very excited to talk to you because I’m a big fan of your work. I love your work. And I don’t know where you’ve been. But I just kind of discovered it fairly recently. I’m not sure even where I saw it, maybe maybe at one of the galleries.
Ben Bauer 6:35
Okay, well, I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Eric Rhoads 6:38
So let’s find out how this all began for you. First off, how would you? How would you describe yourself as a painter for those people who might not have had the chance to see your work?
Ben Bauer 6:51
For me, the best way that I like to describe it as Impressionism but more a representation of how I see something and how I feel it through my artistic abilities. And I don’t know if there’s a real good ism to put with it. If that makes sense.
Eric Rhoads 7:13
Yeah, that makes sense to me.
Ben Bauer 7:18
But I do like working kind of the way that I work in the studio is very much how I would work if I was outdoors. Right. So very quick and deliberate help.
Eric Rhoads 7:29
So not, you know, looking at your work, some of it looks very, very loose and some of it feels very tight yet I get the impression that if I were to get on top of it, it would probably look pretty loose.
Ben Bauer 7:44
Eric Rhoads 7:44
Yeah. Okay, so how did this all begin for you? First off, where do you live now? And how did this whole painting thing begin?
Ben Bauer 7:53
So I’m in Maplewood, Minnesota, up in the upper Midwest. And it all started for me back in the heyday of the wildlife art, prints movement. Back in the 80s and 90s. I grew up in a in a family that was outdoors, a lot fishing and hunting and just enjoying being outside. And as a kid, I discovered the work of David Maas and on Grammy. Michael thieve. Mark Hansen’s another one. I just was just floored by their work. They had a local wildlings gallery that would rotate originals around every month, and I would just go in and stare at them forever. Didn’t matter who it was. It was just looking at it two inches away trying to figure out how they made things work.
Eric Rhoads 8:43
What age were you at the time?
Ben Bauer 8:45
I was around the age 13, 14.
Eric Rhoads 8:48
Yeah. And so how did you? How did you even get exposed to art in the first place?
Ben Bauer 8:53
My great grandfather was a billboard sign painter in downtown St. Paul. Yeah. And actually did a lot of kind of, I would, I would say Impressionism painting on the side and I own one of his paintings actually. And I’ve seen quite a bit of it in. A lot of people do say there’s similarities based between the two and on the other side, my grandmother was a fantastic piano player. So I think I dabbled on both sides. My mother and father side so
Eric Rhoads 9:31
sorry, so well, that you have a professional opinion. If you look at your grandfather’s work on emotionally. How did he do?
Ben Bauer 9:40
I think he did very well.
Eric Rhoads 9:42
Ben Bauer 9:44
There’s one painting that one of my aunts has of my grandma when she was I think two or three that just it’s just incredible to look at.
Eric Rhoads 9:55
So he painted from an early age. He obviously when she was she was young. So He probably painted his whole life.
Ben Bauer 10:02
Yep. And my grandmother was born in Sweden. And they came over here shortly after that so, and, and … was his name,
Eric Rhoads 10:11
And you know, if he ever did anything with his career in from a standpoint of a painting,
Ben Bauer 10:20
I don’t, I don’t really know. And none of the family really knows there’s a lot of paintings around. I actually photographed quite a few of them a number of years ago, and we kind of sell sold prints to all of the family that couldn’t own any original. So it’s kind of a fun thing to do.
Eric Rhoads 10:37
Yeah, nice. So you, you, you’ve went to a local gallery, you fell in love with these paintings. And then what happened.
Ben Bauer 10:50
And then I just started, basically, kind of doodling around with things with different paints that I had here. For tonight, when I bought one of my first paint sets was, I think, a Bob Ross set, because I didn’t know anything about it back at the time. So I just started getting into playing around with oil paints and how it worked and all the materials and all of those kinds of things. I was into drawing soft pastels, and oil pastels. It was just kind of one of those things that once I started doing it, I was very involved in doing a lot of wildlife. Particular particularly ducks, geese, upland gamebird
Eric Rhoads 11:34
Did you ever get a chance? Did you ever get a chance to see your grandfather paint? No. That would have been pretty cool. Yeah, what? Yeah, but neither of your parents picked it up. Nope. So you you started doing these wildlife paintings. What happened next?
Ben Bauer 11:53
What happened next is I started kind of drifting a little bit. Being an outdoorsman, to me, it was a heck of a lot more than hunting. Just being out in a field in the middle of November when it’s raw, windy and cold, how gorgeous and how still everything as I started to pay more reverence to that in terms of adding the birds into it. So I went from that point, I was kind of transitioning into college. I went to the UW Stout and got a degree in, in painting studio art, my BFA in painting studio art.
Eric Rhoads 12:37
And then after that, what happens?
Ben Bauer 12:41
So throughout my college career, I had two professors that I’m still in touch with to this day that that, that saw what I was trying to do, where I was trying to go and they pushed me in, they kind of stretched my bounds a little bit, which I thought was very, at the time, I was focused on what I wanted to do, but I’m very grateful now for the direction that they would push and pull because a lot of that is seen.
Eric Rhoads 13:10
And, and then after school, what happens? Have you decided to pursue this is a career…So this is high school where these two teachers are working with you, right?
Ben Bauer 13:52
This was a college.
Eric Rhoads 13:55
was it a local college or an art college?
Unknown Speaker 13:58
It was the University of Wisconsin stout. So I’m in the Twin Cities. It’s about an hour east of me. All right, was a fantastic school to go to.
Eric Rhoads 14:10
Yeah. So you had intention at that time of becoming a professional painter? Yes. No.
Ben Bauer 14:17
Yes. All right.
Eric Rhoads 14:18
what happened? Did that happen? Did you become a professional?
Ben Bauer 14:22
So the number one thing that I wanted to do is when I got out of college, I wanted to get a job that I could get on my feet, make it through the summer, figure out where I was going. What I wanted to do and it was the major thing that I wanted to do is get my masters so I could teach college.
Eric Rhoads 14:39
Right? And you wanted to teach art? Yep. Yep.
Ben Bauer 14:44
I had such a passion for my mentality has always been the coaching. And even when we can get into a little bit more, my former job was a management role and just coaching people and working with them on the things that they wanted. get better at this very important and very interesting thing that I want to explore once I get my feet underneath me here, so all right.
Eric Rhoads 15:13
So you graduate from school, you immediately go into teaching. So
Ben Bauer 15:20
I actually when I actually ended up at a very, very, very wonderful, small business, in the printing industry. And I kind of, I got my foot in the door there and things progressed and was actually with them for 16 years.
Eric Rhoads 15:39
So, so much for the teaching degree. Yeah,
Ben Bauer 15:44
I get back to that. A lot of the professors that I had the the work that I was doing, they said would be at that time would have been hard for me to get into a master’s program.
Eric Rhoads 15:55
Ben Bauer 15:56
because of the, the realm of the work that I was doing, it wasn’t kind of the activism. The more progressive work that was going on, that was the the big ticket that people were looking for, to get accepted into those programs. So I kind of wanted to wait a little bit and just continue painting. I have it in me to do it almost on a daily basis in some form. And at that point, I just figured I’ve got a really good job, we’re starting a family things were progressing moving forward, and I just ended up painting almost every single night and on the weekends, to be able to develop a path for me to go down and where my work could go while working simultaneously. And actually, it fared very well for a long time.
Eric Rhoads 16:54
Well, it’s a great, it’s a really great way to fund a career because every career has to go through some learning experiences and some hiccups and some problems. And if you just go cold turkey, then you know, you might find yourself needing money. And so having something like that. The downside is you don’t get to painful time. But sounds like you managed to do it, we’ve managed to do both.
Ben Bauer 17:22
I did I did both very successfully and 2020 on on a personal level and professional level and emotional level, as we all know, took its toll on us. And as I continued to work throughout the year, I found a way to make it work, where I would, I would be able to sustain myself, give myself enough time to get an inventory of work built up, that I can flush out all of these ideas that I have right now that I could flush out, get a body of work done. And within a couple of weeks start developing the classes that I do want to start teaching.
Eric Rhoads 18:05
And then you’re gonna do you’re gonna teach them how
Ben Bauer 18:10
some of them are going to it’s looking right now will be some plein air classes. Some where I’m looking at shops, yep, some workshops. And then I want to do a class on materials. Because when I was younger, I had such a material art materials in general, it’s such a fascinating thing to me, and all the technological advances that we have and all of these different realms of surfaces and materials to use. So I’m really looking at taking the knowledge that I’ve built over the years and getting a materials class together because to me, it doesn’t seem like very many people are focusing on that.
Eric Rhoads 18:53
Let’s take a left turn right now. Let’s talk about materials got a lot of artists at all different kinds of levels. So you have some that are experienced pros listening, you have others who are novice, some people maybe don’t even paint who are listening in millions around the world, probably 90 or 120 countries. What would you say about materials? What are some of the key essentials that are really important for people to understand.
Ben Bauer 19:21
So materials I think, in the terms of, of studying and experimenting is a very, very important tool for us artists to be able to, it helps. For me, I look at it as part of the process it’s part of, of developing an idea what surface Do you want it to be on and as you start to study and practice with these different materials, whether it’s canvas or linen or on a wood panel, traditionally primed, acrylic primed, all sorts of different avenues that you can go You start pinpointing what suits your style and your temperament with the paint a lot easier. And then you can start developing all of these different paths going off of it. And I come from a family of a very, very strong work ethic that was if you want to a cabin or a garage, you make one, you put it together yourself, you don’t hire anybody to do it. So that was driven into me at a very young age. So most of the paintings that I do if, if it’s on a board, I pretty much cut the board out myself, I primed it and prepped it, and got it ready to paint on.
Eric Rhoads 20:37
Make your own frames?
Ben Bauer 20:40
Not I don’t I don’t have the ability to do that yet. But it’s something I would love to look into.
Eric Rhoads 20:48
So let’s talk about plein air painting. When did that enter the scene for you?
Ben Bauer 20:53
That entered the theme, essentially rate when I got out of college. So that would have been 2004. From about 2000 2004 through 2010. I pretty much planer painted all the time. Every painting that I did during that time period was usually outside on location, but you’re working in a full time job
Eric Rhoads 21:20
at the same time.
Ben Bauer 21:21
Yep, yep. So it’d be at night when I would get home or I would go out very early on the weekend would be able to at the time that we were doing that we didn’t have children yet. So it made it a lot easier.
Eric Rhoads 21:35
It’s funny how they have a tendency to impact our time.
Ben Bauer 21:39
Eric Rhoads 21:40
So how many kids do you have?
Ben Bauer 21:43
I have two two girls in the eight year old and a six year old. Glorious,
Eric Rhoads 21:47
it’s the best.
Ben Bauer 21:49
Yep. So change it for anything in the world.
Eric Rhoads 21:54
yep. So you got a lot of time. You got a lot of time behind the easel outdoors. How did that change your work?
Ben Bauer 22:03
That Changed my work because it was something that when you’re on location, when you’re when you have direct observation of what’s going on, you’re aware of all the surroundings, the observation levels, for me amplified, being well aware of how a grass line needs a tree line or how the sky meets the horizon. In a landscape painting, and how that interaction goes back and forth, and how to create vibrations with colors and values and shapes and all of those kinds of things. It really opened up my eyes to what was out there. The best way to explain it I think plein air painting did for me was I was out west, to Colorado back in 2008. And then 2016, I was there again. And I said I wish I would have been able to see Colorado six years ago the way that I do now in terms of how what the things I’m looking for the light, the way certain patterns are in the sky and on the ground. So for me, it’s all about observation and getting that that basis of being there.
Eric Rhoads 23:25
And how much are you doing now? Or do you know? You are not working in this other job now you’ve gone full time as an artist.
Ben Bauer 23:34
I’ve gone full time as an artist as of a week ago. Oh,
Eric Rhoads 23:37
this is brand new.
Ben Bauer 23:39
Brand new. Yeah. Thank you very much. It it’s quite a ride. I’ve been painting indoors because there’s a lot of commitments that I have to indoors, I mean, my workspace in indoors. But within the next week or so temperatures are warming up in Minnesota where it makes it a lot easier to get outside and paint and I live very close to a lot of paintable area. So I’m very excited about this next little stint that I can get in and get back into that. That sensory that observation, that connection.
Eric Rhoads 24:19
Well, it’s a great time to get out too because the trees haven’t started budding yet, I would imagine and so you can get some of those raw stick trees. Some of those kind of brown farms with snow leftover. Probably some pretty exciting stuff.
Ben Bauer 24:36
Yeah, it’s gorgeous here. The Midwest has a lot to offer and very short distance terrain. So trying to pay reverence to that.
Eric Rhoads 24:48
So what do you look for in a subject What? What really turns you on right now?
Ben Bauer 24:55
The three kind of motifs that I’m working with are the the Nocturne the farm, I call them farm portraits at night. It’s kind of my working mentality with it. And then I started doing a lot of these little really quick, smaller like eight by 10, eight by 12 hunting motif of hunters walking in blaze orange in a field. So that’s the landscape and then all you see is a little orange dot because that’s the the memories that I have growing up, that connected me to this entire folder focus that I’m on with my artwork. So and then the other one is just a lot of, again, farm portraits by by daytime. I say farm portraits because each one of the farms around here has its own little niche in the landscape, what it’s producing what it’s doing, I in college, I was exposed to quite a few friends that have family farm, that to understand and really appreciate everything that farmers put into their livelihood. So it’s very interesting to connect the landscape that I’m so used to, with a bit of somebody, you know, a portrait of what they do for a living? And how I can frame that up back through my voice.
Eric Rhoads 26:32
Yeah, fabulous. So I would encourage everybody to go to Ray’s gallery website and look at your work there. Or maybe your website because it’s fabulous. You’ve got a real sense of feel on these on these farm portraits as you call them. Thank you. So farms are not you’re doing Nocturne paintings in the farms, but also daylight paintings. Are you going out at night and capturing these subjects? What what’s the process like for you?
Ben Bauer 27:07
So back, I would say about four or five years ago, I tried the outdoor photography at night. And to me it started. It’s a very, very hard thing, I think, to photograph the way that our I see at night. So I started to dabble with photography, I actually actually went out with a friend who’s a professional that I work with. And, you know, just couldn’t get the feeling that I get when I’m there. If I on I lived out towards the country, so on, I would get out at 10 o’clock and just go park somewhere that’s very dark, and just let my eyes adjust and then be able to take everything in. And it’s amazing how much blue and how much green there is at night in the winter here in Minnesota. So I started making notes of the things that I was seeing and how the light was entering and hitting certain things and what colors it was. Because at that time, I didn’t have a setup and it was very cold out. And it’s very hard to paint in a car or somewhere at you know, two o’clock in the morning. So I started to do a lot of research with George souders work. Frame Kenny Johnson. Dan Metz, who’s local wildlife artist here is fantastic at them. There’s a lot of different painters and past and present that are doing just amazing work. And then I started to do a couple of them and I started to really feed off of the enjoyment of the process of taking the things that you would see during the day. And kind of sculpting them and imagining what they’re going to look like at night with this new light setting on them. So there’s a lot of different things sometimes where I’m not actually there. So I’ll make a little model barn or a model to be able to see the way that feels light is hitting something and how the reflected light works and I’m feeling a lot of those things.
Eric Rhoads 29:18
So tell me about modelmaking that’s something I don’t hear very much. I know Maxfield Parrish made models of the houses and things that he was doing painting. So
Ben Bauer 29:29
it’s actually quite interesting because I I when I was back when I was a youngster, I got a book on Owen Grammy, who is a wildlife master. People don’t know it’s a great artist to look up. They lived in Wisconsin and there was a lot of photos from the books. In that book that he had that he would have a Canada Goose that was on that look like he had carved it out of wood that put different than put bendable parts in the wings and stuff like that. So he can model how certain things look In how the light would hit it. So I started just doing little foam cutouts of a barn to see where that shadow would fall, if something was behind it kind of creating my own realm, if you will.
Eric Rhoads 30:19
So it’s kind of plein air cheating.
Ben Bauer 30:23
Kind of very much, though with a very limited available time at at that point in my life. So it was, I was able to make it work. And then as I started, these Nocturnes started developing, I started playing with different palettes of green or some that were a little bit bluer, or some that were a little bit more gray. Just depending on what’s going on in the atmosphere. And when I was out taking notes and things like that. It was things that I was picking up and noticing
Eric Rhoads 31:02
Well, I think you know, I think if you’re painting from life, even if you’re painting still life from life, it’s it’s a, it’s a better experience. And then you’re really getting a sense of form and sense of light. I think that’s pretty cool. So you have one of the great Nocturne painters, right there in your area. Carl Gretzky, have you gotten to paint with him?
Ben Bauer 31:21
No, I haven’t I that I don’t think we’ve formally met but we’ve been exchanging on social media and those kinds of things. And I I got to get a chance to beat him.
Eric Rhoads 31:31
Yeah, he’s got we just did a Nocturne video with him is fabulous. He studied all those a lot of those guys, you mentioned. Fabulous work. So now that you have this, you know, this opportunity to kind of like go free 100% full time, first time out. 100%. What What’s your plan?
Ben Bauer 31:55
My plan, like I said was to right now I’m working. I work pretty closely with Howard res at the res gallery, who is just a tremendous. I mean, they’re like family, to me, the relationship that we have and our workability and how things are developing. So I’m working alongside him with some of the things that I’ve got going on. There’s little projects that I want to do that I don’t know if I’m gonna get into kind of divulging what some of Mar right now. But they were they they pertain to painting outside doing a series of paintings outside and getting my feedback out in the snow in the woods somewhere.
Eric Rhoads 32:43
Have you considered as part of your your new career to to get into the whole plein air movement to get out there at some of the events?
Ben Bauer 32:52
Yeah, I did the Door County for three years back in the early 2010. And was just it was just a fascinating time. I love being outside. I love interacting with potential collectors, and just generally people who are interested in what we’re doing. And I haven’t been back to one of those events since. But again, like I said, it’s something that I’m very interested in and looking into and seeing what what direction I can take this.
Eric Rhoads 33:28
Yeah, well, I think that Oh, my, that’s a lot of fun. A lot of work with a lot of fun.
Ben Bauer 33:33
Mm hmm. The other thing that I’m doing is I’m I live. There’s a couple of painters out there, we live in kind of the heart of the driftless area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa, where we have a lot of really interesting terrain with a lot of bluffs and then valleys with farms in them. It’s a geological just a fantastic place. And a lot of the paintings I’ve been doing lately are from that area. But I was thinking about doing a trip all the way around and doing the big loop and painting along the way on that kind of a journey of of that area very similar to what a couple of artists have done that the group that did that Lewis and Clark Expedition several years ago. With that kind of purpose in mind.
Eric Rhoads 34:33
Sounds like a lot of fun. So I think it would be nice to share some ideas with people on painting some, you know, maybe some technique ideas. This is something that we always get questions about people are always asking about, you know, how do I how do I move up? How do I get to the next level sounds like you’ve given a lot of thought to teaching this might be a good opportunity to, to do a little bit of teaching
Ben Bauer 35:01
Very much. So there’s a lot of local artists around here that I’ve been in contact with in making this decision. And I’ve been doing a lot of research on classes that that people are offering and really looking at. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel by any means. But I would just like to take a fresh, fresh approach to a net wide materials is one of them. And composition is another and a lot of the theoretical parts of it, I think are are interesting things to look at as well. why we do what why are we still doing driven by this scene that we took a picture of, or we were standing in front of and did a study, but now we want to do a studio painting from it. What are the elements? What What do we want to say with it?
Eric Rhoads 35:49
How would you say your studio work changes compared to your plein air work?
Ben Bauer 35:53
I think I honestly think if I wouldn’t have taken that kind of, it wasn’t consecutive days. But that five years of painting outside i would i don’t think personally and professionally I would be where I am without it. Because again, I’ll go back to that direct observation and that connection that you have to a painting on, on on location that can it can be a study for a larger painting, or sometimes they just work as little works of they’re on their own and that they just, you know, leave it where it lies and maybe grow another idea from that. There’s a lot of times that a lot of paintings that I’ve done on location were done in a certain way, but you revisit them with a different palette or editing certain elements that you left out and you’re putting back in or those kinds of things, that’s the real interesting play with all of it is getting to the point, even when you’re playing air painting is letting the intuition part take over.
Eric Rhoads 37:02
So maybe you could give us maybe you could give us some ideas, some tips on composition, for instance.
Ben Bauer 37:10
For me, I the one thing that I’ve always tried to do is define composition and how people see things and how they’re always framing them. For me, when I’m everything that I’m doing, if something catches me a certain way, if I’m looking out a window, I’m trying to frame the major elements of it, to make it as pleasing to Me personally as I can. So a lot of the focal points on a square will be within that kind of golden rule, if you will. But there are times to words, it’s kind of fun to break that if you can do it correctly. Like you take a square painting and trying to put some kind of a of a diagonal in it, or trying to crop something. So you get movement going. mill Clyde Acevedo, he talks about movement and texture. And a lot of those kinds of things. And that’s really the thing that I’m looking at right now is how to build textures to play into the composition of bear tree branches right now. We look at them, and we see sticks and twigs, but there’s masses behind them and how you start developing and pushing and pulling. And a lot of the social media that i’ve i’ve got on Facebook, and Instagram is really playing with that right now. A lot of bear trees. And how those minor small thing can become very, very important in composition building.
Eric Rhoads 38:41
Well, that’s, to me, that’s a very difficult subject to paint to bear trees, you know, because the tendency is to over twig, if you know what I mean.
Ben Bauer 38:51
Yep. And the best part right now that I’m learning to do is using different materials and different services that hold the paint a certain way. And then if you do certain actions and motions with the brush, you can start getting a lot of really neat effects happening. You can let that layer dry and then go on top of it with warms and cools and start bouncing things back and forth. And then all of a sudden you start to get that motion going. Where it seems like there’s individual twigs that you can touch but like you had mentioned at the very beginning of this, it’s kind of it looks like that five to eight feet away. But when you’re up close, it’s just organized chaos is what the term that I like to put
Eric Rhoads 39:38
nothing turns into one more than to see a painting that that really reads beautifully from a distance and you get on top of it and it’s completely abstract.
Ben Bauer 39:47
Yep. So I would say right now the biggest thing that I’m trying to do is paint quality and my work right now is is understand Standing what it looks like eight to 10 feet back. And then how it looks up front because I started to think about those days when I was looking at those David moss originals two inches away and how he did certain things and how he made his colors work great next to each other. And paint application is really the focal point, I think, in building this kind of body of work for four to six weeks. And I’m doing right now I’m working every day. So it’s kind of the best way to put where I’m at with these first couple of weeks. And then like I said, I’m just going to start diving into building syllabuses. And I’ve got a list of the people that were interested in taking classes. And then there’s a couple of venues that I’ve got lined up to do some of those locally, and we’ll, we’ll see where they go.
Eric Rhoads 40:56
So why don’t you? Yeah, absolutely. at this particular point, why don’t you for the people who are listening? Give them some some ideas. For instance, what’s your best advice to somebody who just decides that they want to take up painting or take up plein air painting, what’s your best advice for them
Ben Bauer 41:16
is that if you want to do it, and you’re serious about it to just get out and do it, put yourself there. Like I was explaining, I have a very inquisitive mind. And I think somebody who wants to take a painting is there because they they’ve taken that first step to want to do it. And then they started going out and learning how color works. And how masses and shapes and then how you start breaking things down from there talent has value. And how you start driving, what you want your paintings to say. There are a lot of different skill levels that everybody contains. And there’s a starting point for everybody and getting to that next goal is something that would love to be able to have a part in helping somebody get to that stage. I’ve had, I’ve been so fortunate in the 40 years that I’ve been alive with people being able to do that for me, so it’d be nice to be able to pay that forward.
Eric Rhoads 42:22
Well, you see, this is your big chance, right now you’ve got all these people listening. So you can you can impart some wisdom on them.
Ben Bauer 42:31
That the best advice I had, the best advice that I had gotten was from two artists that know each other several years apart. And one of them said, The best advice is to draw draw, draw. And that was from wildlife artist, Ron van gilders, whose studio I was invited to when I was 15 years old to he did a demo on how to paint the transparent water scenes that he does. And he’s an absolute master at it. And he said, the only thing I can tell you to do is draw, draw, draw, and everything else will fall into place. And then the other one that I’ll mention, and I do this quite a bit because he’s been such a huge mark on what I’ve done with my artwork, since I got out of college is had a lot of conversations with Mark Hanson who I’m sure you know. And he said the exact same thing, just right now continue to paint, paint, paint, paint within you to paint and paint the way that you want to do it and things will start falling into place. So I started doing that, I started getting some local commissions. Things started to pick up locally. And then I honestly I posted a painting that I did have a commission after it was delivered. And that’s how I connected with Howard Grace was just continuing to just push forward. It’s something that I wanted to do that was me to do and that’s kind of my my way of looking at it or explaining to somebody that wants to do it. The little motivation behind it is if you you have the time and you have the wants to do it. Just get yourself involved in any way that you can.
Eric Rhoads 44:23
Absolutely. You know, that’s that’s the advice I got when I first started plein air painting is that the guy Kevin Carter said, Go out, do 100 quick paintings, you know, 30 minutes of painting, small eight by 10 paintings, just get out and do 100 of them. And then after you’ve done 100 do another 100 just keep painting.
Ben Bauer 44:46
It’s exactly it. I’ve moved a couple of times in the past couple of years and every time we have to do a a flushing of all of the work that’s built up that’s not going that’s not going anywhere. That You know how to get me to the point that I’m at. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling involved in it. It’s a beautiful thing if you let it if you sit back and kind of enjoy that process.
Eric Rhoads 45:15
Absolutely. And so what’s next your your, you know, you’re just kind of starting out this whole new career. It’s so exciting. Are you going to seek out other galleries? You’re going to start? You talked about how you’re going to start potentially doing some events? What else?
Ben Bauer 45:35
Yeah, I’d like to start doing some events, there’s, um, there’s an absolute desire for more representation. And that’s, that’s something that I’ve been kind of, you know, going with how we’re back and forth on it, just kind of what, what fits the kind of the market that I’m in the kind of work that I’m doing and where things are looking. Because I’m very pinpointed right now to the Midwest. But I want to expand a little bit. I would like to my one of my goals is within the next two years is to be able, granted, everything we can travel again safely, is I want to get over to the English countryside. And it’s long been a dream for me and be able to get over there and look at it through the same lens. How I look at things here.
Eric Rhoads 46:25
Yeah, go to constable country and check that out. Well, I can make some introductions to people over there to you probably can get a free room from time to time.
Ben Bauer 46:35
Or that would be that would be great. Like I said, that’s been that’s been a dream of mine.
Eric Rhoads 46:40
Well, you know, this is all temporary. We’ll get through it. We don’t know how long it’s gonna last. But we’ll get through it together. Absolutely. Well, this is x, absolutely fun. I really love to hear stories about people who have finally broken free. And as you know, I teach art marketing at the plein air convention and other places. And I did a whole series on how to break free from a job. And I think it sounds like you followed exactly the advice and probably didn’t even know I was saying those things. But it’s nice to see somebody the rocket about to take off and saying, okay, I managed to get to the point where I can leave my job. You’ve got you’ve got a great gallery, you’ve got some probably some good income started. And now the whole future is in front of you. And and pretty exciting. And you’re doing really beautiful work.
Ben Bauer 47:33
Well, I appreciate it. Thank you. And that’s to me, that’s the best part. That’s the fun part of this right now is where is it going to go? I’m putting all the hard work in and seeing what happens. I’m at a point right now that if I didn’t take the opportunity that’s kind of presented to me. I didn’t want to look back at it and kind of regret it. So I’m taking the bull by the horns right now and going forward. Well, that’s
Eric Rhoads 47:56
exactly the right thing to do. Sometimes, it’s you know, it’s never a perfect time. But, you know, you just got to go for it sometimes. If you’re listening to this, listen to what Ben is saying. Because I think that’s really important. I, I do think that it’s best to have your career started, get your experience, get, get to the point where you’re saying, selling a certain amount of work before you pull the plug on your other job. But at some point, you know, you got to let go and say, Alright, I’m ready. And it’s not easy. I’m sure you’re holding your breath. And probably a little concerned about that.
Ben Bauer 48:33
Yeah, I’ve been this has been on my mind since about July. And then it really picked up in October. And the industry that I was in and the company that I worked for, there was no way that I could we have a very busy season during the holidays in the printing industry for gifts, and there’s no way that I could walk away, coming up to where it was in the management position that I had. So I wanted to make sure that this was what I wanted to do. And like I said, I love my the job that I had that I quit last week with a job that I love getting up and going to every day. So I’m very fortunate to be able to carry that over into what I’m doing right now. So
Eric Rhoads 49:17
So now the key is following that same discipline, not not allowing yourself to slip up and say, Well, I think I deserve to sleep in for a couple of months.
Ben Bauer 49:28
Yep, no, that is not the case. Right now I’m up. I’ve got a daily schedule or out of what my plan is and just hitting those marks every single day. So
Eric Rhoads 49:41
well, you you know, you’ve got a great support system up that way. And you know, there’s all a lot of really great artists out in the Minneapolis area, Minneapolis, St. Paul. And, yeah, you know, you’ll have a little bit more time to kind of get to know some of these people and interact with them and become kind of part That community, I don’t know how far away you are. But it seems to me like that’s a really great way to, to kind of get connected and get to the next level is by being around other great artists.
Ben Bauer 50:12
100%. And that’s why I kind of reached out to quite a few of them that are around this area. You know, like, Hey, I’m looking at doing this, what are your thoughts? And we had a really good conversation on it. And they’ve been doing it for a while, and they’ve been sustaining. And they asked what my plan was, and kind of went through it. And it was very encouraging to have those conversations. So yeah. It’s great to be able to rely on you know, even as much as posting a painting that you’re working on and people commenting on it. It just it’s one of those things that kind of keeps your your interest going and keeping you wanting to come back and try it.
Eric Rhoads 50:59
Yeah. Performed performing for social media.
Ben Bauer 51:04
Yeah. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t necessarily call it that, but it can help. Well, social media thinks they’re a good thing.
Eric Rhoads 51:14
Yeah, mostly. Yeah, I would agree with that. So what else should we be talking about, that we haven’t touched on yet?
Ben Bauer 51:26
The last one that I had was just, and I’ve done a couple of articles on this is just the process of painting. And how you, and how you approach an idea that you have or how you want to push it in a different direction? And how do you start that? Do you use a painting that you did on location somewhere? do use a photograph from somewhere? Do you do this? do you do that? I’ve actually started playing around with the iPad Pro. And actually got I had, there’s a program on there that I’m able to use that I can take a photo of the painting that I’m working on, if it’s just not working out, it can use the pencil to be able to edit things out and add new things into it.
Eric Rhoads 52:16
What does the program procreate?
Ben Bauer 52:19
I’m actually using Adobe fresco
Eric Rhoads 52:21
fresco. I’ve heard of that one.
Ben Bauer 52:26
And I did just, it’s an amazing tool, it’s very, I can go out and photograph something and then add elements to it, if I see that the structure the bones of what I’m looking for there, but there’s, I just need to add something you can go in pretty detailed and start doing a lot of those things. So that’s a friend of mine, David Sharpe is the one that I first started paying attention to using those kinds of apps and tools and things like that, that are at our disposal, not one. I figured why the heck not try it, and see what I can do. And there’s just been almost every painting that I’ve been working on, I’m taking a photo of it and, and tweaking certain elements.
Eric Rhoads 53:09
Well, I think that’s nice. You know, sometimes you’re staring at a painting trying to figure out what to do with it. And and you got to leave it sometimes. And why not take a picture of it, bring it into your iPad, when you’re sitting in the house at night. And you know, just keep noodling with it until you figure out your right composition, or what’s missing and, and then go back and finish painting it. I mean, it’s a great tool, I think that you know, and any, most of the great artists would have used any of the tools that were available to them. There are some purists who might not but I think that makes a lot of sense.
Ben Bauer 53:43
And I just look at that as an aid that helps me not let something sit too long. Because there I mean, honestly, there are times there’s four or five unfinished, larger size paintings that I’ve got that never made it to the end. And this actually helps me get to that ending point quicker. So it stays fresh with me and I can move on and start something new. That’s kind of the mentality though, the bulldozer mentality that I have right now is I’ve got all of these ideas that I’ve been kind of putting into a folder on my computer, or notes, just kind of pushing these off to the side until I could get to this point that we’re at right now. And I’m able to start kind of flushing those ideas out. The exciting part and what I spent a large portion of today doing so
Eric Rhoads 54:40
cool. Well, we’re all very excited for you and we’re glad that that you made it onto the plein air podcast. We like rising stars and it’s nice to see that Howard and Ray’s galleries has stepped up and brought you into the gallery. That’s a significant piece. That’s a great gallery one of the one of the finest animation
Ben Bauer 55:01
I would agree 100%
Eric Rhoads 55:03
to be in a place like that is a really good signal about what’s going to happen with your career and doing beautiful work. And it’s got a lot of sensitivity to it. And I congratulate you for that.
Ben Bauer 55:16
Well, thank you very much.
Eric Rhoads 55:18
Well, Ben, thank you so much for being on the plein air podcast. We’d love having you here today.
Ben Bauer 55:24
All right, thank you very much. enjoyed every second of this so thanks again.
Eric Rhoads 55:30
Thanks again to Ben Bauer and good luck to him and the launch of his new full time venture you know, he’s been part time up to now so that’s pretty cool. I love it. I love it. I love to see somebody going full time and and really taking the chance. I like to teach that too. 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 55:58
Thank you and in the marketing minute I answer your art marketing questions you can email yours to me [email protected] By the way, that’s a great resource with lots of marketing content. just go to artmarketing.com. But you can find me there if you want to send in a question. This is a question from Grant Handkola. of Little Rock, Arkansas, who says I’ve heard you talk about strategy versus tactic. Can you speak to that in regards to selling my art? Is it better to have a strategy or a tactic? If I’m a beginner? Well, Grant, it’s both. Everybody needs both. You see, let me see if I can explain this for you. A strategy is how you present yourself and what your meaning is. Now let me use a different brand something it’s not our Walmart, what is Walmart’s strategy, Walmart’s strategy is you know behind the scenes, their strategy is probably selling a lot of volume meaning selling tons and tons of stuff because their strategy says they are always the lowest price as always right. So we know that the Walmart strategy is lowest prices. The tactic is something you do to reinforce what your strategy is like advertising. So you need to know how you’re going to present yourself What is the meaning of grant Hank law as an artist, right. So it might be let’s think about some painters that we know. Joseph, Miguel is one of you know, does some of the most incredible landscape paintings on earth or, or john Snowbird is known as a historic sailboat painter, or Chris blossom is known as a sailboat painter. That’s kind of what you want to be known as now, you could be known as a portrait painter, or you could be known as a mural painter or something else. And you might even have a, something you attach to it, you know, like, I’m known as a expensive portrait painter, you know, like Nelson Shanks, dressed in peace. You know, you knew that if you went to Nelson Shanks, you’re going to pay 80, or 100, or $150,000, for a portrait. So that’s part of your, your strategy. And now how you make your strategy happen as you need tactics, and the tactics are things like promotions, and advertising and newsletters, email blasts, those are tactics. So we all need both tactics, without strategy is not sending a consistent message. But when you have those tactics employed, then you need to always reinforce the strategy. So every time you see a Walmart ad, what do they say? lowest prices, always, always lowest prices always. Right? They every ad they do that reinforces that tactic. And so what you really have to do you know, you have to kind of, especially when you’re first starting yourself out, you kind of want to get branded as something. If you don’t get branded as something, then it’s going to confuse the audience. Yeah, I have a lot of painters who say, Well, you know, I do portraits, I do this, I do that. And that’s okay. But the problem is, you’re going to confuse people, so kind of get known for something. You know, Howard terpening is known for doing paintings of Native Americans and cowboys. And, but if he started doing flower paintings, and early on in his career, you’d be confusing people. So he’s known for that. Now he can do anything he wants now, because he’s big and you can do anything you want when you’re big. But in the beginning, you want to get known for something. So we need those tactics and we need the strategy. You need to decide who you are, what you stand for what your brand stands for.
Eric Rhoads 59:41
Now, the next question comes from Ray Adams in Chicago, Illinois. Ray says, I just got into my first gallery and I wonder if it’s okay to approach more galleries or if it’s better to stay loyal to just one Well, I have a lot of answers to that Ray. And let me start out by saying, I think that first off your gallery relationship is really Critical. And the goal of a good gallery relationship is for it to be one that is symbiotic. In other words, you want to be you in the gallery person need to be strategizing about your career. I just gave advice to a gallery to a person today. He’s in a very big, very well known gallery. And he’s only in that one gallery, and his entire income is based on that one gallery. And I said to him, you know, what happens if that go Art Gallery goes out of business. He said, Well, they’re big, they’re not going to go out of business. I said, Well, I’ve seen big galleries go out of business. So what happens? Well, I would have to get another gallery. And then well, it takes time to build up your career, it takes time to get you known to their collectors. So I said, you know, what I would do is I call your gallery and say, Listen, I don’t want all my eggs in one basket, I want to work with you. And I’d like to get into ideally about three galleries that way, I’ve got some balance in case somebody goes under it, I’ve got some, you know, I get spread out regionally, and so on. So call them up and have a discussion and say, Listen, I don’t want to compete with you. But I also want to be in some good galleries, can you recommend somebody that you feel is of the quality that is equal to your gallery, and then let’s work on that together. And then of course, they can make introductions and help you get in, which saves you a lot of time and trouble. But I think, you know, I like to have the idea of having things spread out among three galleries minimum, and you know, you might not be able to give them all a whole lot of work. And they may or may not like that. But ultimately, you’ve got to think about your career, and you got to think about what’s best for you. Because if somebody goes away suddenly, and we’ve watched that happen in bad economies, where I had artists friend who was in five galleries, three of them, three, I went bankrupt. And so what was he to do, you know, he had to get more galleries just in case the other two went under, because they weren’t selling much. So I think just the general thing, Ray is, you want to keep the quality, you want to be in the highest quality gallery you can be in and a lot of that has to do with your reputation, your strategy. It also has to do with how good you are. And sometimes we start out in a weaker gallery and move up to a stronger gallery certainly has been the case for me. So I think that it’s good. You don’t it’s not about being loyal. It’s about being loyal to yourself. And if you if you’re upfront about it, and you say you know listen, Charlie Charlie’s gallery, you know, how many paintings a year are you expecting to sell from me? And how many do you need? And Charlie says, okay, and the number is 12, or 15, or 20, whatever the number is, you say, Okay, I’m going to focus on giving you 12 really good paintings this year, or 20 or whatever. But I need to be able to also get some paintings in gallery be in Gallery See. And you know, maybe I’ll only give them five each or six each, but at least they’re establishing themselves for you. Getting you some collectors and then you’ve got a backup plan in the event something goes wrong. That’s my opinion on galleries. Anyway. That’s kind of how I think about art marketing.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:17
Well, I want to remind you guys that plein air salon needs to be entered Yes, get it in before the 28th of February and again by the march 15 deadline. You can enter in both but not at the same time you have to go back go to pleinairsalon.com also remind you that you got to sign up before the 28th floor plein air live the virtual conference online. You can sign up later, but you’ll end up paying more you’re going to save $600 off of the full retail price. If you get in now and there’s some good prices make sure to check out the beginner’s day if you’re beginner, that’s pleinairlive.com. And we have people attending the last conference we did we had 40 countries around the world and a lot of people from a lot of different places. We had a huge number from Australia. And of course if you can’t make the dates for whatever reason, don’t be leery about it. Just go anyway, remember this 100% money back guarantee. And you can get replays and there’s different lengths of replays depending on which package you you invest in. And so you’ll be able to kind of get whatever it is that you need, you can get up to a year. So anyway, check it out pleinairlive.com Now the other thing I want to tell you is that I’m on social media doing a live broadcast daily at 12 noon, and daily at 3pm 12 noon, I’m doing live interviews and painting with artists and daily at 3pm. I’m doing interviews with artists and segments from the art instruction videos we’ve produced and discounts on those. Both are artists painting, so you can check it out. Best way to find is go to youtube.com and search for streamline art. When you find us hit the subscribe button and hit The little notification bell that way it’ll ding whenever it when we come up with something new you’ll be notified. And that’s also where you can find all the entire archive of everything we’ve done there. So we’ve been on for many, many, many, many days since Coronavirus quarantine began and you don’t want that to go away. So if you go there and subscribe, you’ll be able to get it all. And we want to see you joining us live to that’d be really terrific. If you’ve not seen my blog where I talk about life and art and philosophy and lots of other things. Check it out. It’s called Sunday coffee and you can find it at coffee with eric.com and it’s free. All right, well, this is fun. We’ll do it again. Sometime like next week, God willing, I will see you that I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. You can find us online at outdoorpainter.com. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it. See ya.
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.