Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. In this episode Eric interviews Charles Muench, who says, “it’s live and die with every canvas, live and die with every brush stroke.”
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions, “What are your top ‘don’ts’ for selling art?” and “What should I include in my artist bio?”
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Charles Muench 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 209 of the plein air podcast featuring artist Charles Muench.
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 0:55
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome everybody to the plein air podcast. I love love doing this. It’s so much fun for me and it’s fun to talk about plein air painting. Any day talking about plein air painting is a good day as far as I’m concerned. plein air podcast has now been rated the number one podcast in painting for art in the top 15. Number one according feedspot 2021. So thank you for that. That’s pretty cool. We were looking at the stats the other day, there’s absolutely been millions of downloads, just tons of people around I think like 190 countries or some such thing. I’m not sure how many countries, something like that. Anyway, it’s pretty cool. Well, we have a big date just around the corner. We’re ending the annual plein air live competition on March 15. And when I say ending ending for the year, why are we doing that at the beginning of the year? Well, we started we we always start the cycle later in the year and it goes for about a year. And we have this year. We have 19 categories you can if you win in any of the categories, you’re entered into the national competition and the national competition, then we do the monthly competition, March 15, you enter and then we’re going to scramble and get it all ready, get the judges ready, get all the decisions made. And we’re going to award the $15,000 to cover plein air magazine and all the other cash prizes. 30 grand worth at the plein air live. So make sure that you get yours in and remember what one judge doesn’t like another judge does like, and if you have paintings, they don’t have to be fresh, they just have to be good. And so put your best paintings in there. There’s 20 different categories and not all plein air categories. There’s lots of different categories, so check it out. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the big big event called plein air live we cancelled the plein air convention for this year again, because of obvious reasons. But this, this last week, we announced some really big names. I mean, we had some really big names, but even some bigger names, including one who you’re just never, never gonna get a chance to see. So it’s huge. I’ll just let you go to the website and figure that out. Anyway, it’s gonna be amazing. Since we can’t gather in person, let’s all as a community of plein air painters gather live on plein air live. We have the world last time in 40 countries. Let’s see if we can get it up to more countries this year. If you’re listening in another country, join us I mean, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if you can’t make the dates, or the you can certainly watch the replays if you can’t if you don’t want to stay up in the middle of the night and you can watch the replays during the day. But we’d love to have you on live a lot of people actually sit up all night if they’re in Europe or something like that. So it’s kind of cool. If you want to discover plein air painting if you’re interested in it, you’re curious about it, you’ve never done it. We have a beginners day that goes through goes through everything it goes through you know the equipment and how to use it how to paint outdoors how that differs. And then we go through each of the things like oil painting and pastel watercolor, gouache, etc acrylic. And that way it teaches you the pros and cons of each and how to use them and then you can decide what’s for you anyway. Three days for plein air live one day for the beginners day which is optional. You don’t have to sign up for anything but beginners day or you can sign up for plein air live alone or for both. Most people do both because there’s some really great masters that won’t be repeated. And there we’re seeing seeing their principal. So that’s it pleinairlive.com I’m going to be posting some really fun stuff this month. I’ve got some cool things I’ve been working on. So let’s get get together on Instagram. You can follow me My name is Eric Rhoads. RHOA ds. There’s no E. Anyway. In the magazine the current issue of plein air magazine you’re gonna find an article by Kelly Kane on the most ambitious plein air painting of all time. What would it be? Well, only minutes at a time to capture the light at dusk John Singer Sargent wrangled child models together in a super Size canvas to complete carnation Lily Lily Rose over the course of several months and he did it all outdoors. So you’re gonna find out the story on that and if you’re not a subscriber to plein air magazine shame shame Shame, shame. Okay, a reminder to sign up for plein air today our free newsletter at outdoorpainter.com, it’s weekly inspiration tips and more. Just go to plein air today or outdoorpainter.com, hit newsletter. Coming up after the interview. I’m going to be answering your art marketing questions in the marketing minute but first let’s get right to this interview with Charles Muench is very talented, a great plein air painter. I met him years ago. He lives kind of in the high Sierras of the High Plains desert area and why I’ll tell you, he is a rockstar painter. Here we go. Charles Muench, welcome to the plein air podcast.
Charles Muench 5:52
Hey, thanks for inviting me on.
Eric Rhoads 5:54
Well, it’s it’s really gonna be fun because we can reminisce a little bit I was thinking about, I think the first time we ever met had to have been, gosh, it was a long time ago because plein air magazine didn’t exist yet. And we were I think I met you up at Sonora, Sonora plein air, the gallery owner of the vault gallery, I think had something to do with putting that on. Thank you. And, and I was kind of out promoting the idea of this new magazine and getting to know the lay of the land. And I think that’s when we first met.
Charles Muench 6:30
Yeah, all right. Thanks. So that was a long time ago painting. And yeah, that was fun.
Eric Rhoads 6:37
Well, you were good. You were a good painter then. But you’re a great painter now. Yeah, it’s it’s amazing to see the the impact of time, and practice and learning and just what when I was kind of doing my homework for this and trying to decide who we were going to put on the podcast next. And I looked at your work, I just was blown away at how sophisticated it has become. And it is, you know, like I said, you were a good painter before. But it’s amazing how much you’ve changed.
Charles Muench 7:12
Now, thanks. Yeah. I do think it’s live and die with every Canvas, live and die with every brush stroke. I told them when I teach a workshop, so my students when you put a wrong brushstroke down, it should physically hurt. Right? You should. I mean, that’s the way it is. You know, if you’re not in a fetal position when you do a bad painting. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I do believe in always trying to get better with each painting. And that’s a journey I’ve been on.
Eric Rhoads 7:50
Well, I’d like to hear your journey. How did this all begin for you?
Charles Muench 7:54
Um, I decided I want to be a professional artist. It’s 15. Really, I mean, I yeah, I was always drawn drooling class and I want to save the cable cars. Competition, they were going to remove the cable cars from San Francisco. We did posters, and I took second place and it was a cash award and 15 $100 back in 1982, I was like, Well, that was something
Eric Rhoads 8:28
That’s a lot today.
Charles Muench 8:30
Yeah. And I just at the time thought it was sort of, wait a minute. This is what I like to do. Is there any way I can make a living at this? Because maybe I’m pigheaded or stubborn. I never. I never went illustration route I fine art or bus, which of course involves a lot of bartending, a lot of waitering. I’ve done other tasks before, I think 1994 was the last time I held a job as I call it. But yeah, what did you do for a job? bartending waiter? Just like, like actors. Yeah. Yeah, I had no real fault. I remember 1996 it was the middle of the first.com. Boom. Anybody, everybody in the Bay Area. That’s where I was in San Jose. California was making just bank off of stupid ideas that will lead a clap. I couldn’t afford an apartment in the studio. So one that live in in my studio and a little warehouse in San Jose.
Eric Rhoads 9:37
Well, I was out there at that time. That’s why I went out there. I started a tech company. And okay, and I remember how crazy those days were. I mean, you know, we we took over an apartment building a small one that had like five apartments, and the rent was astronomical. And, you know, so tech companies like ours, were taking those things over and People didn’t have anywhere to live because everybody could get so much money out of things at the time.
Charles Muench 10:05
Yeah, it was it was strange. It was a cool warehouse. And, again, I always feel, and I’m paraphrasing the Joseph Campbell quote, but if you follow your bliss, in the end, you’ll find the path you’re on is the one you’re meant to be on. So I don’t look back with regret or Oh, I was living in a warehouse. I can, I can give it a nice varnish of the scouts analyse, oh, hey, I pay my dues. was interesting times. And then I went and lived in Spain for a while and it did many things that say whatever if I were calculating, this is how I’m going to make a career as a successful artist. Well, maybe I wouldn’t. But it was fun. No regrets.
Eric Rhoads 10:50
So you went to Spain as an artist?
Charles Muench 10:54
Yeah, I just Well, again, this is pre 911. So I went to Spain for a couple of months just to travel, wound up meeting various roommates and we all got a place in northern Madrid. And I stayed just stayed there. No visa, no, nothing.
Eric Rhoads 11:09
Your parents are mortified.
Charles Muench 11:13
Didn’t get in Actually, I do remember I had some paint. My mom actually had a gallery here called the BAM gallery back. And they sold a few paintings, I would actually get a check now. Which was nice. And, you know, just it was fun. It was a good experience. And yeah, again, this is a this right now and in 2001 decided or really 2000 that I just can’t be in the Bay Area. That’s when I moved to Louisville, California. Population 200. But I wasn’t surrounded by beautiful, beautiful scenery. And that’s kind of where everything turned around.
Eric Rhoads 11:58
And is that population grown since then?
Charles Muench 12:02
I think it’s 205. Now I’m like, I’m like Garrison Keillor on Lake Wobegon. I come back every once you know, a few times a year and see what the local gossip is and what’s going on. And it was fun. It was just a fun place. To live inspiring. I mean, just step out and paint. And now I’m about 25 miles east as the crow flies in rural Nevada.
Eric Rhoads 12:30
Nice. Nice. What a beautiful area got such such inspiration around. There’s so much to paint.
Charles Muench 12:37
Yeah, I just got my marketing newsletter went out today. And all the paintings that I put out were within Well, one was 20 years of my studio, painting a bird and an apple tree with snow that I haven’t finished yet, but I wanted to post it anyways. And others and one was I was at my waiting for dentist appointment. I go look at that light. You know, did I just get so many ideas? Just walking out the door?
Eric Rhoads 13:05
That’s what it’s all about. You know, it’s that inspiration. So when did the first time when did the first plein air painting happen for you?
Charles Muench 13:14
I was thinking back on that I have I gotta dig pictures. You know, the embarrassingly short shorts. We all wore the late 80s. I pictured them you were in those embarrassingly short shorts. painting with my friend Jesus is my instructor in college at San Jose State. Manor, Dixon Stewart, he said, You got to get out and paint from life. And so I got a French easel and got out there and did it. It’s sort of been interwoven in my education and career from the beginning.
Eric Rhoads 13:47
Or you’re lucky actually because, you know, many artists will paint in the studio for 30 years before they go out. And then all of a sudden, the light goes off and they realize how much they were missing.
Charles Muench 13:57
I remember so my instructor he would say, hey, let’s this weekend. Let’s go up paint. Okay. I remember the lessons. I get just painting alongside him. He wasn’t teaching a Saturday. I remember we’re doing the grove of trees of eucalyptus that are ubiquitous in the Bay Area. And he’s getting he gets his mast in I’m struggling away working. I look over, he’s under a treatment sandwich. And I’m just panicking, you know, trying to get something like what did you done? He said, No, I’ve masked in the forums. I’ve masked in the general light. The lights going to change. So I’m going to join my sandwich now and I will finish it later. We are not painting the object we are painting the effect of light upon the object. One of his many quotes.
Eric Rhoads 14:48
Oh, well that was pretty pretty important lesson though. When you think about it.
Charles Muench 14:52
Yeah, I still remember by time I done scrambling and went to my lunch and answer gotten in. Okay, nature Are you okay, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You made your point. Yeah. Well done.
Eric Rhoads 15:06
So this this, this person was a pretty significant influence on your work.
Charles Muench 15:13
Yeah, I still visit him this year with the COVID. But at least once a year get try to get together a couple other artists. He’s 94, I think now
Eric Rhoads 15:28
and still going out painting?
Charles Muench 15:30
No, no, he’s just enjoying conversations and, you know, hanging out with fellow students in a couple of 94. You don’t have a lot of Peters.
Eric Rhoads 15:43
Yeah, well, you have to my grandmother told me when she was about that age, she said, You know, I’m glad I made a lot of younger friends. Because all my older friends are gone.
Charles Muench 15:52
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, he’s, uh, yeah, it’s always fun to bring work into and critique it. Nope. Still still digging pretty good.
Eric Rhoads 16:03
Oh, that’s wonderful. So I’d love to I like to get into you know, what did we learn from our mentors? It could you point out a few things that maybe stick out in your head that you learned from him.
Charles Muench 16:16
I mean, there’s so many it would be self deprecating, but who cares? The first time I get a scholarship to UCSB is a college of Creative Studies out of high school, and that art department. I hope it’s better now. But it was terrible. Sorry, any gauchos out there. So I was there. And somebody said, Oh, we should go to San Jose State. There’s an old academician there. He’s a curmudgeon you’d like to go back to left. But I did. On that recommendation. I didn’t know what I wanted in art, but I knew what I didn’t. And I knew, like San Jose State with the music building right across you to hear the musicians playing scales. Something of Wait a second, if that’s good for musicians, why is art all about? How do you feel? Let’s do whatever you want. We’re talking about how you feel about laser. I just didn’t like that. So the first day of video drawing in a Mr. Stewart’s glass, khaki, I stand back and show my drawing, because he has everybody do 20 minutes of drawing to assess the class. What do you think he says, I think you’re a sophomore in college and don’t know beans about drawing. And that’s what I went, Oh my God, that’s instruction. But he wasn’t cool. He didn’t show me you’ve missed the x. And you’ve got look at the movement on this figure in bam, bam. And that’s when I said okay, I’m not in college for a degree. I’m here to learn from this in every class he took. Or he taught. I was there with I got credit. And I asked him what did you mind if I mean the background here, I want to take the best spot, but I’m going to be drawn in your Tuesday, Thursday class in Monday, Wednesday, Friday class. And so that led to us going painting on weekends.
Eric Rhoads 18:05
You know, you think about it, your attitude really made a huge difference in your development, just listening to that story. Because you know, first off you realize that people across the way we’re doing scales and art people we’re not. And yeah, you realize that you had to learn you had things to learn. So you didn’t you put your ego aside, I assume and you just said, you know, I’m here to learn. I’m not here to get complimented.
Charles Muench 18:32
Yeah, exactly. That’s what our parents are for fueling compliments. Funny, so, my stepdaughter, she wants to be an artist now. I don’t know where she got the idea. But to know, what do you think? And so they know you gotta give me critic criticism. I don’t want you to just tell me it looks nice. So I do always try to find a point of criticism. Well, yeah, and we,
Eric Rhoads 18:56
we all need that. And, you know, I get calls. As a matter of fact, just yesterday, somebody called me said Listen, I want to get into an art gallery, but I don’t know if I’m ready. And you know, would you give me some some feedback and and that’s important, you know, we have to have that because you know, like you said, Our parents are always gonna compliment us no matter what we do. But I think that’s a really great tool. I think everybody can can put to use what else? Yeah. mentors.
Charles Muench 19:28
I’m from New York. After Mr. Mr. Sue retired by collecting What do I do so go to New York are there students and that my my folks didn’t make me stay in college for one more semester to get my degree which, okay, fine to get a degree. But I went to New York and so many lessons, I took classes with everybody. I remember one lesson particular David lafell. I was in his Still like no figure until like class, it was a combination. He had 4050 students in there it was in the famous with a studio seven B or five B, but beautiful North light. And he’d be there only couple days a week. The assistants were there the rest. And he doesn’t get to everybody every time. But I did notice he would go to various people. So that’s lovely. Next version. Oh, it’s beautiful. Next person, I’m juicing my own carrots. But when you get to me, you’d actually go. No, that’s wrong. Right now it looks ugly. The painting should be beautiful at every stage. I just started that lesson. It’s stuck with me. I understand. So I’d write down all his comments in it back in my little place at a West Side why on 57th Street by the write it all down more legibly. And that’s true. I mean, I when I started painting, I put washes, very abstract colors, cones. But it does look nice. I you know, when you start a painting, and just I’ve watched demos from artists and stuff, and we’re paying, it usually looks beautiful in some very simple way. From the very beginning. You know, if you start off wanting muddy color onto your panel, got it right, you have to get used to so cringing a bit. That was one of the I took the extra gastos class that taught the Reilly method at night very strict. Took a day to mix the palette.
Eric Rhoads 21:44
didn’t use oily clothes to keep it wet throughout the week. You know, that’s, that’s my background as well. I didn’t study with with jack, I still keep up with jack on social media. But yeah, and he’s living in a nursing home somewhere. But he you know, he was amazing. I almost published his book, I decided for whatever reason, it wasn’t right for me to do it. But he, he has a new book out fairly recently, you know, which is this is a guy who just, you know, knows so much and he studied under Riley.
Eric Rhoads 22:18
so the Reilly method, you know, that’s huge that you learned that.
Charles Muench 22:24
Yeah, and it really did teach, you know, the discipline, I think it’s why I still use so many brushes. Because if you have your, you know, burning people not familiar, the Reilly method, you have a road that goes from white being 10. To black, which is zero, you have a row of flesh tones, start at one to nine, and then or yellows, reds, oranges, and then a couple of greens on the side. And that you mix, you do not mix from two to four, you go to the three to make a two and a half, two and three quarters. And when he talks to you, they look at the tone, the middle tone on the flesh in the light with this model is a seven and a half, and you really have it at eight and a half, eight. That’s specific. And I know it’s funny, because I know that everybody has huge egos who taught there. So in the fellas class, you’d hear him say, I can’t believe there’s people who actually teach and talk about numbers. Where’s the art and that they jab each other? Well, I think I learned from my everybody I just kept my mind open
Eric Rhoads 23:32
well, everybody’s got their, you know, their process. But the nice thing about Riley and I went through that same thing, and I used to say to my instructors to do I have to mix this, you know, it would take me three hours or four hours to mix that palette up and you know, things dried out. That’s why we put clove oil in it. But and we try to keep it dry or keep it you know, sealed or so that we didn’t have to remix it but he said look you there’s gonna come a time when you’re not going to need to do it this way. He said, but this is the language he said I can tell you that you know that, like you said, I can tell you you value is a five and it really should be a six or a six and a half. And so it’s a great tool for learning.
Charles Muench 24:14
Who was your instructor?
Eric Rhoads 24:16
Oh, mine was a guy. Mine was a guy by the name jack Jackson who studied directly under, under but just my brain just went Riley and and so I have you know I have a Reilly palette right here next to me in my studio. And I refer to it all the time.
Charles Muench 24:36
Yeah, and that’s because that’s exactly what he also said. He said, You don’t have to do this all the time. But if you ever find yourself in a rut and just really stuck, you can, you can fall back on this. It’s good structure, getting he would say value. And I listened to your interview with Matt Mueller who said the same thing that value is them The important one, I mean, what you’re going to be with Ned, he said a value does all the work and color gets all the credit. And but then left out in the morning would say, no, it’s all important. Everything’s 100%. If your colors wrong, people will say you’ve got bad colors. You know, so I under, I just took it all in. And I just sort of processed it all I think I read to give recommendation to the student, just, if the instructor tells you to put one foot near to bubblegum, bubblegum, and sing Tom Waits songs to paint, do it, while you’re in their class, do exactly what they tell you. And then on your own, process it and decide whether that is for you or not. But I have taken workshops in the past right thing, artists were their professional taking a workshop. And they fought with the instructor all week long. And I watched the instructors kind of withers. And remember, I won’t say who but he’s going, can you just try it my way for the week? That would be some advice. I get whatever the instructor says we’re taking the class into it.
Eric Rhoads 26:12
Well, I think I think what happens, I think what happens is that, excuse me, what happens is that there are people who go to workshops, just because they want to be around other people to paint. And so I always say to those people go to a retreat, you know, like this retreat I do in the Adirondacks and just go play pate with other people. But if you’re going to a workshop, you know, listen, and I hear this all the time from workshop instructors, you know, there’s always one who just does what they want to do. And they don’t pay attention to they don’t try anything. They’re not there really to learn. They’re just there to kind of be there. And am I you know, you can’t fault him for that. But that’s, you know, you got to go through some pain. You got to struggle with some things.
Charles Muench 26:58
Yeah, I agree. And, again, I don’t know if these people notice who system I guess showing off during the week or whatnot, but they don’t get as much attention. Like it’s almost like I think Jen would just go Okay, maybe I don’t need to go for battle this again today. Anyway, not that I would ever do that. No, of course not, of course.
Eric Rhoads 27:24
And talk to me about teaching you do much.
Charles Muench 27:28
No, I don’t I I do in a Sierra spring workshop, once a year up here in hope Valley. But that’s it really. In the 90s. And I was in the Bay Area and had my apple EA my warehouse, housewares studio, I did do quite a bit of teaching them. And I just I enjoy teaching it. But I don’t want it to be a big part of my career.
Eric Rhoads 27:59
Well, I think I think what happens first off, every artist goes through that. You know, a lot of artists teach only because they need the income. And but there’s got to be a period of time and every artists life when they just say you know what, I’m going to have to stop this for a while because they’ve got to just concentrate on you know, doing their Masterworks?
Charles Muench 28:21
Yeah, it’s good. I feel bored, the more time I can be behind this easel here. That sort of affects a lot of my thinking. And and, yeah, it’s just pointing of darn good teachers out there. Do we need another – right now
Eric Rhoads 28:43
There is a little bit of redundancy. But what I’ve learned from being on this, this live facebook youtube program every day for the past 810 months, 11 months is that there’s every every single artist does one thing different from everybody else that you’ve never seen before. So that’s what I think would be would be kind of fun. And I think people value this when listening to the podcast, is they would like to take away a few lessons on painting and you’ve got different people at different levels. So you have everything from beginners to experienced pros who have been doing it for their whole life. Are you are you willing to kind of throw some ideas out there some things that you’ve discovered that have worked really well for you?
Charles Muench 29:38
Yeah, I’m one when you’re feel painting and outdoor painting, don’t throw the painting away right away, don’t get frustrated. You don’t have feelings. You just it just hurts to look at and I believe in your painting outdoors. The first thing is, I believe more in listening when you’re outdoors Not talking, meaning I don’t come in with a preset color scheme or I really within there, within two minutes of beginning of painting, I want the canvas covered. And I start with them painting a car Lake, I start a put some light, very transparent wash at the yellows, then blu rays where the mountains and then maybe a little darker blue or something that it’s very it’s there’s no form to it just color Canvas is now covered. So if I would walk by he said, I look beautiful. And then I’ll do drawing and brush and work from there, established my lights and darks. But in the beginning, I’m listening again, I don’t pre tell him the panel panel, because I don’t know what nature is going to tell me that day. And I feel that at some point, you’re looking listening to nature, you’re reacting, you’re interpreting. And at some point, the painting goes well. Real heartbeat, painting starts, oh, it has life. It’s and then you’re moving, you’re, you’re not copying what’s in front of you’re moving things around and enhancing. And suddenly you go, Oh, this is gonna and suddenly the painting lives on its own. It’s separate from nature. It’s its own entity, that’s when it goes well. But other times, you know, it’s just whatever the clouds come in, the bugs get too thick. And it’s just but keep those paintings I have stacks of them. This will sound morbid, but I call them organ donors, there’s a part of that painting will help another painting lip. And I was so in a collectivity, all these, I rarely would do that. But this stacks of unfinished, flawed paintings. But those paintings have some piece of truth in them that I can use here in the studio to help me with other paintings.
Eric Rhoads 32:02
Well, I you know, I watch on social media, I watch people have a burning party or something where they burn all their old paintings. And I kind of feel the same way as you there’s something valuable, you know, I have stacks and stacks. And, you know, I, I look at them about every two years, I just go through every single one. And you see them through different eyes for the first time. You know, after after getting away for a while. I hadn’t really thought about valuable lessons in them. But I just hate to I like to be able to look back because sometimes you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. And then when you look back, you you look at something you did even a year ago and you go wow, how much I’ve changed. And that get that gives you encouragement. Or you might go Wow, I didn’t realize I was able to do that back then. So could go both directions.
Charles Muench 32:49
Yeah. Yeah. And the learning process is not an arc. It does not start from point A and go up to point b it is the sine wave that goes up and down. And the general movement you hope is upward. But maybe you’re suddenly instructor says, Hey, I want to try this thing. And the process of trying to do that. You forget your composition drops a bit. Do you think you know as you absorb more, I mean, that’s, I know, I know the feeling from when I was a student how good good this is worse than they did a week ago. But it’s part of the process. I know as long as you again, as long as you live and die with each painting. When I was at the Art Students League, there were people who were studying with Frank Bhasin, you familiar with him? Who was another he was a student of du monde.
Eric Rhoads 33:41
Oh, yeah, of course.
Charles Muench 33:43
Yeah. And they were called Mesa Knights. Because they, you know, they took they study with Frank and they, he had a very stylistic, almost a rubenesque quality to his figurative work. And, but I those students seem to head in their head that I paint here for six years. And when I come out the other end, I’m ready for the art world. I think that’s a flawed, I don’t think it is just putting in the time.
Eric Rhoads 34:11
Well, you and I both know that we’ve met artists who have put in a lot of time who are not there. You know, they’re not there. They’re not cooked yet. And there’s there tends to be a badge of courage for being self taught, and I’m not being critical of that. But you know, we need other input.
Charles Muench 34:31
My response and ever I hear that I’m self taught that one No, you’re not listening to me. Never seen a painting and to in any other profession, would I go in and say, I need my spleen removed. One self taught come to my garage. What are the professionals drove my car? Well, I’m self taught. Let me see what I can do. Give me a hammer. Most things For like expertise I think that’s a great i think you know and again this quote comes back and I think it was a fella who said hey, it’s just like getting old doesn’t guarantee wisdom painting doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get better if you if you don’t struggle at it. I took Saturday classes with Michael Aviano This is naming about oh yeah yeah and in his in his actually a in his Upper West Side apartment with other students and some who’ve gone on to really good careers but I remember Graydon
Eric Rhoads 35:39
Parrish was one of his students.
Charles Muench 35:42
Yeah. And I was doing cast painting. And I was just exhausted a long week of classes in the morning class at night, Saturday night, remember, he walked up to me and goes, Charles, why don’t you just put the brush down, go over to rays, have a slice, come back, satisfy the animal in you to later your spirit consor that’s a great line. In that. If you’re, if you’re just putting, trying to get the mileage isn’t gonna make a difference unless you’re really studying with each one and again, living and dying with each brushstroke, then you can climb the mountain a lot faster. If you really focus on on the trail, and not just wander around aimlessly. If I wonder I took it to the top. I mean, I think with focus, you can get farther.
Eric Rhoads 36:36
Well, especially if you have a goal in mind.
Charles Muench 36:41
Yeah, that’s it. I mean, yeah. Yeah. Well,
Eric Rhoads 36:44
I mean, sometimes I’ll start a painting I’ll say, you know, I really, I really need to learn how to nail that tree. And, and you know, everything else is nice, but I really want to nail that pine tree and want to really get the the essence and the feel of that tree. So also, I’ll put a goal in mind.
Charles Muench 37:01
Yeah. Yeah, I think observation is. Yeah, don’t put the trees that you learned in one workshop into please don’t turn the High Sierra white bark pines into for trees in the northwest, please. I did that when some people just they paid formulas, they don’t they they’re painting what they’ve you know, what they think is a tree, but not what’s in front of them. And trees a character. I’m working on a painting now. And I’m designing and moving trees around. But that has character I want that tree expressed. And I’ve done portrait of trees in the car just because they’re so unique.
Eric Rhoads 37:49
Absolutely. Well, and and that. Some somebody will say, Well, you know, what’s the color of? You know, a pine tree? Yeah, you know, it’s different in every single place. So let’s let’s go to how would you go? You go. I don’t want to interrupt.
Charles Muench 38:06
Now. One thing? Yeah, no work either. Always hard. How do you get that color? Oh, that always is a stick in the spokes of my wheel. Because that it’s hard to break that down. You know, when you’re painting? Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of that that just comes to mileage, thoughtful mileage, as well as people.
Eric Rhoads 38:26
Meanwhile, you know, on this Daily Show, The common questions are how do you get that? You know, what colors did you use to mix that? And And quite frankly, there’s, there’s nothing wrong with that question. Because you kind of want to know where they started. You know, you and I both know that we’re both taking a little dab at this. And that until we get it till it feels right. But you also want to kind of know, the starting point. And if somebody is a novice, that’s, that’s an important question to them. You know, they want to know that the questions they’re asking are like, what kind of, you know, what kind of brushes and what kind of panels and what kind of this and that, you know, and that I always equate that to, I’m going to become a better golfer, if I buy a tiger woods brand of golf clubs. You know, you want what the what the pros are using, but, you know, obviously you got to go out there and hit a lot of golf balls, no matter what you do.
Charles Muench 39:19
Eric Rhoads 39:23
So in terms of some other things that you might be able to impart in terms of painting, wisdom or painting ideas. Let’s kind of talk about painting the area that you paint. You paint in the what would you call that? The northern Sierras?
Charles Muench 39:40
No. What is it? I guess you can call it? Yeah. I call it the northern Sierra, the High Plains desert of the Great Basin region of Nevada, California. And, yeah, North and Central Sierra.
Eric Rhoads 39:55
Alright. By the way, one of the one of my goals in life is to do a meal back meal trip up to, you know, some of the points where Edgar Payne painted, I guess I need to get that done before I get to a point where I can’t do it. But you know when when you’re out there, you’re so you’re starting out by kind of laying in some kind of a base color for your water in a base color for your sky and a base color for your mountains. What’s your process like from that point forward?
Charles Muench 40:29
Very light drawing with a brush. And then, you know, just simply this basic step, establishing your lightest light, your darkest, start establishing the big patterns, working up and down, locking in the light. Don’t follow it. I remember God, somebody doing a decent enough painting in the morning come back an hour or two later in the chain to go Whoa, what are you doing? Well, this is the way it is nicer once you paint it black because it’ll be dark. So lock in the light. And, and then, for me, I do like, there was a period of time where I was just let me get some color, especially on the car packet. Let me get the shape the feel of this. Let me move over to this area and do five, six paintings a day, but nothing finished. Hey, I love I love it. I could finish one out in the field. It doesn’t always happen. But I do. I just will settle in and go, I’m only going to get one maybe two paintings done today. But I’m going to try to finish this.
Eric Rhoads 41:35
Let’s talk about chasing light because I just interviewed a guy that said the exact opposite of what you said. And his his attitude was you know, I’m they’re painting the lights constantly changing. And all of a sudden the light hits a tree in a particular way that you know, it’s completely different than what I had planned. But I will lay it in because it works for me. Will you lock in and not do that? Or will you try to remember that for another moment? What was your process?
Charles Muench 42:05
I think we’re I think he and I are saying the same thing only difference when I say locking in I mean, you’re painting a tree that’s backlit, so just the edges are catching the light. And then when the sun moves, you then take all that shadow and turn it into front light or side light. That’s what I mean lucky I don’t mean locking in over a split second like a camera. Good plein air painting, I think is a distillation of time. That’s what makes it so cool. It’s two to three hours of time condensed. Now you’re lucky in the light so it doesn’t get away from you see or not, again, telling a lie and that some are just changing it for no reason. But yeah, the cloud moves in. And you don’t want like clouds. If you are in this conversation with nature thing, you’re having a conversation with nature over a period of time and nature might suggest there was a cloud over to put the foreground and shadow. Okay, that I might add that or like the artist you talk to a certain highlight of that tree. But the structure of the light has to be true to that time period. Meaning that it especially if we’re doing tricky morning well, tricky morning light. You got to lock that you got to generally lock that thing in pretty early. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 43:23
So do you do you tend to get up for the sun?
Charles Muench 43:28
If I’m on a if I’m on a trip Yeah, I mean, my especially the pack trip. I’m definitely have if I’ve never been to a place like I don’t pay the first day. I just like to walk. You know, once you get off the mules and get set up, I like to walk around, get a feel. But once I start to lock in and go okay, I like the way that mountain looked at that light. Yeah, I like especially it’s fun to get a sunrise. You know, mid morning, afternoon. Usually, you know I can I can possibly do two and a half or two, two paintings and a little six. But that’s that’s pretty ambitious for me now. You know, because I do like to spend time on a painting.
Eric Rhoads 44:10
What size are you painting on location?
Charles Muench 44:15
You know, back in the day when I first did a whatever Laguna and I was painting quite a bit larger 2438 like that, but I’m not comfortable. I like my little nine by 12 1216 wonderful little six by eight. I know what I’m out there for now to not out there to show off for a planner Show. I’m out there to learn, listen to nature, come back with something that really inspires me and some that I have to say about where I was I think other people might resonate with. You know, it’s not just about getting all these paintings done. Look at this as a mountain. I painted it.
Eric Rhoads 44:55
Yeah, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk because you made a statement which which I think was is worth probing. I’m not out there to show off for a plein air show. What are your thoughts about all of this?
Charles Muench 45:07
Um, I, I did no shows I lay down my I’ve laid down my palette and palette knife in 2007 ambivalent. And I heard other artists talk the same way. Was it a learning experience? Yes. Because you have to perform you have to get a finished painting in the field. And some of them came out good, some of them but the show? I don’t know. It’s, they were fun. The camaraderie was always fun. But there’s got to be especially that feeling like you parachute into this place that you’ve never been before you go Okay, what do I got to find? What do I got to set? What’s gonna paint it’ll sell well, what can I do? What do I remember? tell you, right, specifically, if they look at if you go two miles this way, or that way, people aren’t gonna buy a work. Really? They’re just not. Yeah. Well, I don’t know if that shows go gone. But they were really, if you paint the bank, it’ll sell. And, you know, then I’ll say just because I remember joke. I think probably the last time we did a show, packing supplies and artists that he got everything. I got everything except my lipstick and ruse. I started to feel like I’m becoming a hoarder doing this. I didn’t know I was gonna say that. But that is a trouble. I remember it was tell you right where I did a little alley painting and very pleased person came. I said, Oh, I know exactly where that is. That’s a C street or something. It is B Street. They walked away. So what? Well, that’s another street I have a property on. And again, it wasn’t a learning experience. Yes. Well, it was a profitable. Yes. And I always been 2000. And I said, Okay, that’s enough.
Eric Rhoads 47:13
I learned to keep my mouth shut on situations like that. Because, yeah, you know, I, I’ve done shows where people walk up. And I know exactly where that is. And they’ll say, Well, where is it? And they’ll say, I don’t say no, that’s wrong, I just let them you know, let them enjoy it. And I remember a show where three different people I sold the same painting three times, meaning that somebody bought it, but they went to pick up their get their money out of their car or something. So I quickly did a quick copy of it. You know, because I liked it, I wanted to remember it. And then somebody came up and bought that one while I was painting that one. And then I did a third one. And and they were all a little different, because they didn’t want to be the exact same thing. But each one said, Oh, I know exactly where that is. And and and I think that’s one of the magics of painting is that if you hit the right nerve, some of these places could be anywhere in the world and remind someone of a of a memory. So if you if you tell them exactly where it is. I mean, if they asked you should but if you tell them exactly where it is, they might they might not it kind of blows the fantasy.
Charles Muench 48:23
Yeah, and that’s something you know, over time, especially if anyone’s doing those shows, I wouldn’t recommend getting specific.
Eric Rhoads 48:36
Well, I won’t I won’t lie to anybody. I won’t tell him Yes, it is. But but so i think you know, it’s curious You know, this this thought about the shows, I I personally think they’re wonderful and I think it’s a great experience for artists to go through and it’s a great career development opportunity and you know, and those of us who paint we tend to get stuck in our in our own little world you know, we paint alone we paint in the studio, we maybe paint with a buddy but we don’t get a lot of interaction with the collectors. And I think that’s that’s a really great benefit of these shows as a chance to talk to people and get to know them and see how they respond and what they like and yeah, but but I can also see you get to a point where it’s like you know I don’t want to perform, that’s too much pressure.
Charles Muench 49:26
Yeah, and I remember the show and I don’t want to sound too negative because like you said the camaraderie a lot of Fourth of July and tell you right what can be better. That was fun. But it is its mechanics probably it is because I take my career so seriously. I have a sense of humor but when not when it comes to art. I don’t know why suddenly I become very serious and I remember talking to artists and boy shows no of this is good, but I just I just hate the idea. That we got to paint, just people want to buy. This artist came from illustration background, he just looked up and said, Well, isn’t that what we do? Actually, that No, that isn’t what we I mean, hopefully you’re painting your passion of mine is in the mountains this year. That’s why I moved to middle of nowhere in 2001 and been living here since. Because this is where my passion is. And yeah, you know, if you were an urban painter, you want to be in the urban setting you want to be where your passion is, there’s such a variety of that one thing I feel is a living in this country that you can do whatever you want, follow your passion, there probably is a market for it out there.
Eric Rhoads 50:46
Well, if somebody is following their passion, and they’re painting, what happens to be something that’s gonna sell, that’s great. And, and, you know that, but that becomes a big debate, too, is is if you know, and I get to ask this question all the time, do I paint what sells? Or do I paint what I love? And the answer is, paint what you love, but if you have to go get a job, doing some, you know, some waiting tables, again, versus painting and painting something that somebody loves, you know, you’re probably at least getting some hand eye coordination and some value out of that painting and some lessons out of it. And so, you know, there’s a fine line, and everybody’s got to make…
Charles Muench 51:30
I agree with you on that. Exactly. And I do pay the mortgage on this house to my painting sales. That is, this is how I make a living. And yeah, I do believe that I’d rather be painting than not painting. And but you know, it just get I’m working on a 40 by 50. commission right now. And I just wrapped up a 44 by 60 Commission. But the good thing is because I’ve been so focused on this, these Commission’s that the one was, Hey, I love your co workers. Let’s talk about a car painting. And this one is a 4050. Friend, collector, he’s hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, he said, I love painting this, these places I’ve been, I’ve done, you know, it’s a very free way to do it. But it is commissioned painting. But it happens to be because I’ve My passion is this era when people want me to paint something that and pay directly for that painting what happens to be the stuff I love. But having said that, I remember being at some events and people were talking about that, that kind of that high platitudes of. I didn’t want to paint I remember thinking of the Maynard Dixon billboard for savage tires. And that’s Maynard Dixon in the depression, doing what he has to make a living. And as an ISO, I always think in the back of my mind, I’ll think, okay, is this you know, I don’t want to be paying savage tires. You know, that’s it. And so, not to sound too high and mighty. But think whatever an artist today has to deal with think about how the pain in Dixon and how they were doing it during the Depression.
Eric Rhoads 53:25
Edgar Payne was painting backdrops at theaters.
Charles Muench 53:30
Yeah, exactly. So in the end, I will say, paint your passion. Paint what you’re passionate about, and find a market for what you’re passionate about. At the same time, if you make a living at this, and you got to take a gig, take that damn gig. If you’re a working artist, who, whose income is derived from the sale of painting, you might not always be painting what you want, but hopefully you’re not always tasting what people want.
Eric Rhoads 54:03
Right? Well, and I think to some extent, you know, if you have to make a living painting what people want, then you can take some extra time and paint what you want. And then eventually what will happen is people will want what you want. And that’s you know, people who get to that point in their career kind of where you are, is you know, you paint what you love, it comes across people are going to buy it because they can tell you know, you can sometimes tell if somebody isn’t really into what they’re trying to paint.
Charles Muench 54:31
Think I think it was Richard Smith, who said there are two approaches to this. You can paint for a market or you can paint for yourself and build a market around that. So I think that’s all.
Eric Rhoads 54:46
Good stuff. Well, Charles looks probably a really good place to, to pull the plug on this and to to and it’s been a real pleasure to have you on and I just, I just love your painting and I encourage everybody to go website and check it out. Where would they find that?
Charles Muench 55:04
CharlesMuench.com, and Instagram and Facebook. M-u-e-n-c-h. There was a sale on vowels when I got my last name.
Eric Rhoads 55:28
All right, terrific. Well, thank you, Charles.
Charles Muench 55:32
Hey, well, thanks. Thanks for your time.
Eric Rhoads 55:35
Well, thanks again to Charles Muench. Charles is a terrific interview. A lot of fun and kind of fun to be around and a great painter. Congratulations, Charles on your success. So 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 56:00
Thank you and the marketing minute I answer your marketing questions you can email yours to me [email protected] I need a jingle Artmarketing.com What a great way to drive listeners away. Okay, here’s a question from Kevin Palmieri in Dover, Delaware, who asked what are your top don’ts for selling art? Well, it’s Kevin, I don’t like to thrive on negatives. I don’t I you know, I never really thought about that. But let me see if I could come up with a couple. I think a lot of us suffer from what’s called imposter syndrome. So don’t get imposter syndrome that imposter syndrome is when you don’t feel worthy. I went through that my first time at a gallery. It was in this gallery in Santa Fe and the first time I was there. I was like, Why? Why are they putting me in the gallery. I mean, I don’t really deserve this. I took my paintings. It was really nervous. We hung up and we I just was nervous. Totally nervous. I didn’t feel deserving. And you got to get past that. So don’t have imposter syndrome. You got to overcome these kinds of things in your head. I think another thing, just just a personal thing. Don’t paint too small. You know, the painters Bakkies the plein air painters Bakkies paint bigger than the plein air painters on the other side of the country. I don’t know why it is it probably has to do with Redfield or one of those artists but you know, they use these great big ticket easel ease easels, these great big, you know, 230 by 40 is on location, and they’ll do them within about the same amount of time. And one painter back he said, You know, I don’t know how these painters make any money, you know, because you know, selling all these nine by 12 paintings when you sell 30 by 40, you know, for a couple hours work, you make some really big money. So I don’t know, I think that’s just something to consider. Don’t have mindset issues. mindset is the big killer of everything. You know, it’s not just imposter syndrome, but it’s, you know, telling yourself that you’re not worth the money. And that kind of goes to pricing. Don’t underprice artists tend to kind of be a little shy? Well, I wouldn’t pay that much money for it. So why would somebody else, you got to keep yourself in perspective, you know, somebody who can I have friends who could walk into an art gallery, and drop $250,000. And it would hurt them about as much as if we pulled a 20 out of our wallet. And so there are people out there that think differently than you and if they see something and it’s underpriced. It has a negative impact. So let me give you an example. I had I was doing my art marketing bootcamp at the convention one year, this guy raised his hand and he said, Listen, I got a story for you since I was at an art show. A woman walked in. She said, I love that painting, how much is it? And he said, it’s $4,000. She said, I’ll take it, she writes him a cheque hands him a check for $40,000. And he said, Oh, ma’am, you added one too many zeros. It’s not $40,000. It’s $4,000. And she said, Oh, it must not be very good. And she wrapped up the check. True story. You see, price is equal to value in some people’s minds. You know, if somebody is a fluent, super fluent, they don’t want a $4,000 painting, they want a $40,000 painting, you would think you know, wow, it’s a great painting, I can get it for four instead of 40 that would be the mindset. That’s not how some people think so just I’m not saying you should price your stuff. You’ve got to work with your gallery owner if you’ve got one and work with them on pricing, and they’re going to tell you, here’s the price I want to get and then we’re going to establish your pricing we’re going to get higher and higher and higher over time and listen to them they know what they’re doing typically but I you know, other than other than that, I don’t know what what not to do. I you know, read my book, my book will probably tell you all the things to do and that’s where we want to focus our attention is the the the positives.
Eric Rhoads 59:56
Our next question comes from Joshua Moran in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who asked What’s best to include in my bio, my biography? And what should I leave out? Well, first off, what’s the purpose of a biography? You got to ask yourself that, why have a biography? Well, the biography is to set the tone about the artist. Now, I don’t ever recommend lying to anybody. Lying is not fruitful. It’s going to catch up to. But I do think what you can do is you can create a sense of, of brand or something that feels exotic, you know, people who buy art oftentimes are living vicariously through people like us, you know, i, you and i both know, artists who do some pretty crazy things, they climb mountains, and they go, they fly in places and helicopters, and they, you know, they they adventure in on mutual pack trips, and things like that. That stuff is what sells. And so if you’re boring, and you don’t have any of that stuff, then just be boring. But if you have any of that stuff, you know, I don’t, I don’t know if anybody really cares much about anything but your painting career, you know, you could say, you know, Eric is a, you know, Eric is a former heart surgeon, who was, you know, did heart surgery for 30 years, but his big passion was learning to paint and he learned to paint and he went out plein air painting. And now he does, you know, helicopter trips into the high Sierras and tries to capture places that no one gets to go in person. You know, stuff like that is what really matters. And the other thing that people want, especially galleries is they want things that show what I call social proof. Social proof is something that says that you’re good, right? So social proof might be that you won the plein air salon landscape category in March of 2021. And they might want to say you were featured in a magazine article or you’re featured in a book, or you won this award of that award, a blue ribbon at this event, etc, list all that stuff, because that gives you credibility. It’s social proof. And social proof says the reason you want it is because people want to know that they’re buying somebody who’s good. And because people are insecure about paintings, and even though this is not necessarily quote unquote, investment, because some people think that way. Most people don’t. They, you know, they are asking themselves is this person in a good you know, I’m writing a check for $4,000 or 2000, or 500, or whatever the number is, it’s all relative to different people. So just make sure that you’re doing things that create social proof credibility. If you have quotes from famous people, you know, who are collectors or famous curators or something put those in there. You know, john Stern, former director of the Irvine museum says this about you and that kind of thing can be golden.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:13
I want to remind you guys, March 15, is the date you got to get your plein air salon in for that’s the last chance for the year. So make sure that you do that and go to pleinairsalon.com, enter your paintings also get signed up for plein air live, I have a 100% money back guarantee, I give you what I would want and you know, it’s like, Okay, how do I know I’m going to invest this money? And how do I know it’s going to be worth it? Well, my rule is this, and I live up to it. My rule is if you watch the first day, and you feel like that first day hasn’t been worth the entire price of what you’re paying for the entire four days, or three days, three days or four days, depending on which day you come in beginners day or not. If it’s if you don’t feel like it’s worth the entire price, I’ll refund your money, you’ll let us know by the end of the day, we’ll refund your money. And you’re not going to get to watch the rest of it. But you’ll have gotten your first day for free. And that’s how confident I am. And very, very rarely does somebody ask for a refund. And you know as usually if it is, I think we had one last time and it was Somebody said, Well, I thought it was something other than what it was they were an abstract painter and they didn’t understand what it was. So anyway and things like that. So it’s going to be phenomenal. Just go to pleinairlive.com. If 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. Also, if you don’t mind, give me a follow on Instagram. It’s Eric Rhoads. Right, this is fun. Let’s do it next week.
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.