Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. In this episode Eric interviews British artist James Willis on painting buildings and cityscapes, art history, and more.
Listen as they discuss:
– How he left his career in accounting to become a full-time artist
– News of his upcoming show in Hitchin, England and his forthcoming instructional book on painting buildings in oil
– Insights on composition when it comes to painting buildings and houses, including what to leave in or out
– Aerial perspective, “deconstructing” elements in the scene,
– Tips on how to improve your perspective
– His process of drawing first
– How foreshortening applies to architecture in a painting
– Glimpses into the history of art in regards to painting street scenes and cityscapes, and the work of Canaletto
– Thoughts on plein air painting – the practice and the movement – in the UK
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions, “How can those of us who are shy about our work overcome it when painting in public?” and “Looking back and forward, do you think there’s anything we can take away from the pandemic in regards to making a living as an artist?”
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and James Willis here:
– James Willis online: https://www.jameswillisart.co.uk
– Art of Minds: https://www.artofminds.co.uk/
– Plein Air Live: http://pleinairlive.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air Salon: https://pleinairsalon.com/
– Plein Air Magazine: https://pleinairmagazine.com
– Plein Air Today newsletter: pleinairtoday.com
– Submit Marketing Questions: [email protected]
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this Plein Air 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 210 featuring British artist James Willis and you’re about to learn a lot about painting architecture and buildings.
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 1:06
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome everybody to the plein air podcast. And thank you again. plein air podcast has been rated number one in feet spots 2021 Top 15 painting podcast list number one. That’s pretty cool. We’d love that if you’re a regular. I took a break. I’ve been away. I have not done the podcast for a few weeks. And I normally have been very religious about getting it out there all the time. But I took a break Actually, I started out to take a two week vacation and I ended up staying a month. And I just never have done anything like that before but it was time you know, after a year of daily broadcast during COVID. I started to burn out I gotta admit it is a matter of fact, last week Sunday coffee I wrote all about that whole burnout and what I learned from it you can find out more about that a coffeewithEric.com. But anyway, I’m back and I am excited. And I’m refreshed and feeling good about things and I’m about to do some painting. Now I want to I want to tell you, I was in a motorhome. And we took the motorhome we drove it all the way to to Florida from here and we stayed in a motorhome Park. And you know, it’s kind of fun. It’s it’s something I hadn’t really experienced before. And when I was down there I visited family, of course, socially distancing. Of course, don’t get on me on that. And I met with my niece who has an acupuncture studio called roads to health in Jupiter, Florida. And I went into her office and asked her to do an acupuncture treatment. And I saw this big blank wall. And you know how we think right? We see a blank wall. What do we think? Yeah. I said, What are you going to put on that wall? She says I really need a painting. And she said, Would you do one for me? I of course knew she’d ask. And I said sure. So I went out and I bought a big 30 by 40 canvas. And I you know you can’t paint indoors in a RV in a 30 by 40 is a pretty big one. And so I did this giant plein air painting and 30 by 40. It took me several sessions, probably probably 30, 40 hours, maybe not some maybe 30 hours and I just did this big, big painting. And then I had to have some drying time stuff and I gave it to her so she was nuts about it. Thankfully, hopefully maybe she’s telling me she likes it and she doesn’t really But anyway, there’s a lot of fun. So I actually set up I have a new easel I’ve been experimenting with which is called an plein air Pro. And it’s got a really big surface and I needed a big surface for painting a big big painting. And even though it really wasn’t configured for big painting like that I made it work with some bungee cords and so that’s going to be kind of fun to to reminisce about because it’s about the only painting I did on my vacation I did do some watercolors because of Watercolor Live. I learned more about watercolor and I really knocked a couple of them out of the park really proud of them. I sat on the beach and did watercolor because I didn’t want to sit at the beach with my oils because I was with family. So anyway that was kind of cool. Here in Texas, the blue bonnets are out and the blue bonnets are crazy. I saw coming in I saw seas of blue flowers I mean fields and fields filled with blue flowers as I was coming in and now they’re starting to get to full I took full what would be the word full bloom you know they’re really looking nice and so I’m going to go out this week or this weekend and paint them before they go away because they don’t last long. And they’re really a challenge because you know you got the blues against the greens and you want to make it believable and you put all that blue in a yard and it doesn’t look believable. And you know there’s that fine line between you know, rendering the you know, every blue bar on it and making it feel like blue bonnets and and also making it impressionistic, so it’s a challenge. Bring it on. I like that and It’s a good way for, for me to test myself and to, you know, try to get myself to the next level. I’m constantly trying to do that, which is why I’m excited about plein air live. And if you haven’t heard of it, I really, highly recommend that you check it out. It’s really a cool thing. It’s like our convention, the plein air convention, except it’s more people and more people around the world. And there’s a lot of things we can do online that we can’t do at the convention and vice versa. And we had to cancel our convention this year, because of COVID. Again, second year in a row. So we really need to help anyway. So it’d be really great if you would, would go to it, but only if it’s going to be good for you. It’s a virtual art conference. And it’s three full days of teaching. Plus, there’s a beginner’s day for those people who want to sign up only for the beginners day if you want to. And it’s the top plein air painters and landscape artists in the world who are teaching. And the lineup is absolutely stellar, I would say we have two of the three most important and most know well known plein air painters on Earth, who are participating this year. And so and there’s many, many, many more of the very, very top. And so just go check it out, go to pleinairlive.com. Now remember, the price has to keep going up because of the way we have to book things. And we have to plan, but the price is going to go up again soon. So just go there and check it out. And by the way, you won’t regret it, you will have a great time you’ll learn a lot. If you can’t make the dates, you can still get the replays. And it’s just going to transform you, I guarantee you if you’re new, if you’re a beginner, don’t tell yourself You don’t deserve to go I mean, you you do deserve, and you’re going to learn a lot. And you should do the beginner day and then maybe do the rest of it if you want to I highly recommend that of course. And then also if you’re experienced even experienced pros, I mean, you’re going to learn so much the last time we did this, I had people who are, you know, iconic names that you would know, who said to me, You know, I attended. I didn’t know if I was going to learn anything. But I learned a lot. And I learned things from a lot of different people. Everybody had something to teach me. So check it out. It’s called plenn air live, and it’s at pleinairlive.com. We’ve got viewers from over I think about 28 or 30 countries, instructors from several countries who will never probably be able to come and in person. And also you have people you know coming who just can’t possibly make the trip. And you know, you don’t have to spend the money that you normally have to spend on hotel and rental cars and airfare and all that stuff plus the convention. And so this way, I mean anybody in the world can attend. And it’s a very reasonable price. So check it out. It’s pleinairlive.com. And remember, beginner’s day is April 14, you can save $300 on registration if you register before April 11. So it’s just around the corner. We also have done these new workshops called sore and sore is a stands for streamline online artists revitalization and what we wanted to do is to take zoom workshops and put them on steroids and using teaching technology, which we’ve really dug into deeply and studied and people who did the last soar workshop with Bill Davidson just had raving reviews. We got another one coming up with Thomas Schaller, the great watercolorist in May May 12 through 15th. So check that out at soarworkshops.com. And of course last but not least, my Adirondack event is going to take place this year, we’re pretty sure we had to cancel it last year, unfortunately. So this year will be the 10 year anniversary, we got some really cool things planned. And it’s going to be in the Adirondacks the 12th through 19th of June. You can be safe you can paint outdoors with us, we all dine and together we’ll have social distancing and everything that we need to do if you need to, you know, a lot of you are vaccinated. And so it’s things are starting to get back to normal. And so we’re doing paint the Adirondacks the publishers Invitational in June, we’re going to do a fall event in the Adirondacks this year for the first time. So it’s going to be pretty spectacular. So go to publishersinvitational.com. To learn all about those. We are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of plein air magazine, and the new issue is available now and we continue to celebrate in the April May edition editor Kelly Kane is going to be sharing a timeline of plein air through the decades which you don’t want to miss. And you can of course preview a little of that issue in this week’s plein air today newsletter coming up after the interview which is going to be killer. I’ll be answering some art marketing questions in the art marketing minute but let’s get right to our interview with UK artist James Willis.
Eric Rhoads 9:48
James Willis, Welcome to the plein air podcast.
James Willis 9:52
Thank you, Eric and Hello, hi.
Eric Rhoads 9:54
And hello. You know we got to know each other. When you came over to the plein air convention. I can’t remember what year it was. But that’s when we really got connected and became friends. We kind of got acquainted a little bit we were introduced because of rosemary brushes, who suggested you as a faculty member. And we’ve been in touch in touch in context since that time.
James Willis 10:20
We have it seems such a long time ago now. That was in Tucson. And it was a really wonderful experience for me. And it’s great to meet you and many other new friends who were still in, I’m still in touch with from time. So it’s been wonderful.
Eric Rhoads 10:35
I think that you were you were kind of given a bath of fire because we, we did a skit when we first met you. I think we said, Hey, you want to be at a skit, and we did the opening skit, which was a cowboy scene. And you got to be a part of that. That was kind of fun.
James Willis 10:51
That’s right. I’ve never been a cowboy before. So that was great. Yeah, so
Eric Rhoads 10:57
James, James, tell everybody where you are, where you live. And because I haven’t really touched on that. They can probably guess from your accent.
James Willis 11:08
Sure. Well, I’m James. I live just north of London in the UK in a small market town called kitchen, which is a beautiful, I suppose you would call it quaint town. It has buildings going back to the 11th century. And even before that, and has an amazing collection of historic architecture on a small scale. And is a wonderful place because within 10 minutes from anywhere in the town, really, you can walk into open rural countryside as well, the English countryside. So I’m really lucky for ideas for painting living here, because I can do architecture, I can do landscape, and you know, all on the doorstep, literally. So it’s a beautiful place. And it’s in a county called hartfordshire. which stretches sort of north of from north of London, up towards Cambridge, the University City of Cambridge. So basically place town in England.
Eric Rhoads 12:07
Well, you, you have kind of packaged yourself as an architecture painter, although you do a lot of landscape from what I understand as well, you taught landscape at the plein air convention. Where did this passion for architecture happen?
James Willis 12:24
That’s a really interesting question. I’ve often asked myself that. I think it’s partly living in this beautiful town, there’s always wonderful architecture around. And also, when I was very young, I had a train set electric trains. And I used to love making the buildings, little cities for the train set. So I’m sure partly came from working in three dimensions and creating my own architecture, if you like. And I’ve always sort of painted, not necessarily architecture quite right, I think a lot of landscape as well. And a few that 20 years ago, I was very privileged to be invited to work at the john stones Museum in London, which I think you visited Eric, when you were over here, years ago did Yes. And that is an architectural museum is the home of Georgian architect, john stone, who built the Bank of England and various other public buildings in England. And just working in that extraordinary historic selection, looking at drawings, from all periods up to the middle of the 19th century, architectural works, inspires me even more to look at architecture. So that’s really, I think, where the main thrust of my interest in architecture came from. And as you know, I lecture in art history and architecture, as well. So all of this sort of knowledge transfers into the painting as well. So I have a real passion for it, not just in the UK. But when I travel as well.
Eric Rhoads 13:58
Well, I want to get a little of that lecture in on this. On this podcast, maybe we can talk about some of those historic items and art history and so on. But first what I’d like to do, I also should mention that I’m going to ask you put you on the spot a little bit later, I’m going to ask you to kind of give us some ideas and tips on painting architecture. I know I struggle with it. You know, and so we’ll get into that. But how did this whole art journey begin for you?
James Willis 14:29
I’m, well, I’m I’m very lucky. My mother’s a very creative woman. And I remember being given my first oil paints around the age of nine, which sort of complimented on our television at the time, the wonderful Nancy Kaminski, which you may remember her painting long programs, and I was sort of transfixed by those wonderful time lapses of paintings at the end which at all appeared as if by magic, and I’m sure that’s where my interest in this sort of physicality of things Painting train from. And we’re always encouraged to paint and be creative. So it came from a very early age. And I can’t honestly remember a time when I wasn’t painting or making something, I don’t see it as a discrete thing, I think is part of a wider picture of information of knowledge and practically using materials, in paint and in three dimensions. So it’s kind of all rolls up together for me.
Eric Rhoads 15:28
Well, you know, before this podcast, I was doing an interview with Virgil Elliot, who has written a very important book on painting. And one of the things that he talked about is that those who are fortunate enough to, to become passionate about and start learning art at a very young age, have such an advantage, he made it, he equated it to being able to learn a language when you grow up in a two language household. It just happens. So naturally, is that kind of what happened to you? I mean, it just kind of came naturally? Or did you get a lot of formal training? What was your story?
James Willis 16:07
And what do you know, a lot of it is self learned to begin with. I mean, also you learn it at high school, I think we call it little art. But a lot of it is just doing it, I think, and being interested in making marks in exploring textures on paper, or canvas. But I did decide that I would do a degree in painting when I graduated from high school, so I went to university in Chester, which is in the north of England, a beautiful medieval town. And I specialize there not in painting, interestingly, but in printmaking, etching and intaglio printmaking. So that’s more about drawing Eric and the idea of architecture really, for me, it’s connected with that process of drawing and making prints. When I graduated from, from Fine Arts, I did music school, I’m a pianist, as we think, you know, so I did to two kinds of subjects. The art didn’t really stick at that time. And, in fact, I went into finance. For several years after I graduated, I sort of got a proper job as money people forced to do. And one day, there was a sort of lightbulb moment, when I on the way to work decided that I couldn’t do this much longer and wanted to really push the painting and creating a making beautiful things, you know, and experiencing the world through art. So I went in to to my boss and said, I’m leaving now Goodbye. And when that was it, that was the transforming moments. And ever since I’ve worked as a freelance painter, and art historian so that everything sort of crystallized at that moment, and I did some further study, and just kept painting ever since. So it’s been it’s been a really interesting evolution from childhood, and having a pause, really, in finance, and then going for it after that. So that was really the direction I wanted to go in and, and kept going ever since.
Eric Rhoads 18:15
So what was the struggle in terms of or was it a struggle in terms of saying, alright, I’m going to quit my job, and I’m going to make my living as an artist. And that’s not an easy thing to do.
James Willis 18:29
It wasn’t I think it was more of a mind thing I knew I couldn’t carry on in the in accounting, that was just definitely boring for me. So I just pushed it, I started teaching, as in a freelance way, I exhibited, I sold little pieces from my parent’s garage initially, and just just let it grow rather organically, Eric, to be honest, and I’ve been so fortunate in projects that have come along, not necessarily just the painting, but work, like I mentioned at the john stones Museum, just fitting in at the right time. So it is a very rich existence, because it pulls in from all sorts of areas and the painting has been the consistent strand throughout that.
Eric Rhoads 19:22
Well, I your parents must have been mortified. Right. So here’s this kid who likes our accounting job and all of a sudden he’s trying to sell sell art must have been quite a conversation.
James Willis 19:38
It was and I think it was such an alien experience for my father, particularly. Not quite getting how it could work. But he fortunately saw it developed very well. He passed away a few years ago, but just before that, I had my first major London show. So he’s Saw, you know where it ended up and these big architectural pieces of London. He was able to see at that time, so that was a really nice thing to know that he could be confident you know that you’ve made a good show that
Eric Rhoads 20:15
…So getting a show in in London or New York or London is, no easy task. You’ve had several major shows. You’ve got another big one coming up. When is that when Tell us about that show?
James Willis 20:36
Yes, I have a thank you. There’s one coming up next year. It’s just the germ of an exhibition at the moment. But I’m very fortunate that I know, the American architectural painter, Carl Levin, who’s a great friend of mine, and we met a few years ago, despite the fact that he lives 10 doors around the corner in my street we’ve never met and a mutual friend said, Have you ever met Carl? I said, No. I’d love to meet him. And he’s he said the same to my friends. So we met we became really good friends. And we’re having a joint show of architectural work. Next year in in the town center here in Hitchin in our new museum gallery. So very excited about that. A lot of work to get done. But really looking forward to that. So, you know, wonderful experience. Again, everything’s locked into place when the time is right, I believe.
Eric Rhoads 21:30
And you you also have, I think you said you had a new book coming out, is that right?
James Willis 21:37
I have Yes, Eric. It’s stuck in the Suez Canal at the moment. It won’t be here one day.
Eric Rhoads 21:44
So we’re recording. We’re recording this right at the time when the ship has just been released from the Suez Canal. And so it was probably on one of the other ships that is waiting to get through.
James Willis 22:00
Maybe they throw it overboard to float the ship or I don’t know. But no, a wonderful book project was commissioned two years ago, to make a book illustrate and write the text of a book called painting buildings in oils, as I’m mostly known for architecture. And it was a big project. And it was sort of dwindling a bit because I’ve been so busy at the beginning of last year. And in March about this time last year, we all got locked down in the UK for several months. And that was all I had to do. So I couldn’t do my live classes. We weren’t allowed to go out the house. So I just hunkered down and started finishing off the books. So I had three months really consolidated time painting, and illustrating the book and then writing it. And yes, I’m really pleased that the beautiful looking book and it comes out next month. Very excited about that.
Eric Rhoads 23:00
So it’s an instructional book and a how to book is that right?
James Willis 23:06
Yes, sort of. It has some step by step examples. It also has a sort of more inspirational slant. So not necessarily how to do it, but more how to approach painting architecture, what to look for how to get a sense of the structure of the form, different methods of representing it. And also there’s a chapter on the history of architectural painting as well. So it’s kind of a bit of everything, Eric, aimed at beginners and experienced painters. And Carla’s very graciously allowed them to put some of his work in it as well. So it’s got some really wonderful illustrations, and some of your friends from the States, Jane hunt, and de Santiago, have also contributed work. Family, we’re really privileged to work in as well.
Eric Rhoads 23:57
You’re both very good painters. So let’s talk about some of these techniques. Because I, you know, I go out, it’s not about me, but I go out and I struggle with architecture. And I notice a lot of people do and I think it starts with placement. And maybe there’s something before that, but but the thing I see some people tend to do is they either make the architecture too far distant or too close. Talk to us about composition when it comes to painting buildings or houses or any kind of architecture.
James Willis 24:34
Sure, Eric. Yeah, I think that’s a very common thing. I’m not doing myself you know, sudden thing it doesn’t fit on the page or on the canvas. I always plan in a sketch or drawing before I hit the paper boards color or canvas, the oils, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, stop and really look at the shapes the volume of the building, the geometry of the building. And make some kind of sketch so you can find a way of placing it in a surface on a surface. Also, I think we have an inclination to get everything in. And sometimes that’s not needed. Just think, What am I thinking, this particular building for my subject and which bits of it are important I want to convey. And you may find that the small doorway and part of the wall is all that you want to paint in. And then you can use those elements to make a composition. And you need some foreground, even if it’s just a bit of street in front of the building, and possibly something behind it, but not necessarily. And that relationship of the size of the building to the foreground is really important. If the foreground is too big, then of course, the building will be much smaller. And you’ll end up with lots of sort of far distant building cities, say, if you want something more visible and slightly more abstracted, and just take a section of the building and make that a kind of dominant part of your of your surface that you’re working on.
Eric Rhoads 26:14
Know, do you have any particular rules of composition? In terms of where, where you place things where you, you know, you’ve got the foreground, you’ve got the building, but you know, a lot of artists have are using a golden mean, or a tic tac toe board. And john, kind of the intersections, do you have anything that particularly tends to lend itself well, to architecture?
James Willis 26:40
Sure. And I think there’s two things to consider before you get there. First of all, are you doing a sort of elevation of flat view of a building, or are you trying to get a sense of distance and perspective within within the composition, the elevation can be placed, more or less anywhere on a surface with elements of the foreground and maybe sky above it, if you’re looking for a composition with a building of interest, I think take it to be maybe two thirds of the surface with an oblique perspective view, running one side of it or the other. So you have a sort of front view, for two thirds. And a side view going into perspective, maybe for a third. So you use the golden ratio that way, or reverse that, and have 1/3, the front of the buildings a flat towards you. And then the Perspective view to the side leading off into the distance for say, two thirds. But within that structure, I think there are important things to consider. It might be the roofline of the building, and its surrounding is one of the most interesting shapes in your, in your view. And that should be in a place, maybe a third of the way down the canvas. So you have the lovely shape of the buildings against the sky, and then work downwards from there within that proportion, so the golden section, the golden mean, is really useful framework intersections in architecture, yes, you’re quite right. But you can turn that on its head, of course, and just have a thin strip of empty space to one side and have maybe four fifths of the canvas of the building, I think it’s finding the character of the building really important to me,
Eric Rhoads 28:34
I remember a book that you gave me of probably from a show of paintings that you did of the skyscrapers in London. And I and, the tendency for for many of us is to want to put in every window and every, you know, every sense of that, you know, every element of that building. But what I noticed is that yours read is if you had done that, but you hadn’t done that. Tell us a little bit more about it.
James Willis 29:13
Interesting. Yeah, someone else was talking to me about one of those paintings from that but not very long ago. And they said what’s really interesting in the way you work is you’re working in an abstract sense and realism with with detail and I think that is how I approach of painting particular architecture. I look at the abstract forms the geometric shapes ignoring the surface detail. So the box like structure of the building or the power is the important form for and I try to arrange those in a in a eyecatching composition before I then go into the detail. Then one can add as much or as little detail as one wants after that and Generally, I’ll put more detail in the foreground, and then suggest just with almost an impressionistic touch windows and doors and so on in the background. And what’s really important there is the tonal relationship, the values or relationship, I think you will call it between the surface the wall, and the apertures, the windows or doors, because a common thing to do is to make the window and door apertures far too dark in the distance.
Eric Rhoads 30:33
That seems to be the one thing that I do is, you know, I and I don’t know why because, you know, you’re supposed to be painting what you see, but it it and I think a lot of people do that, you know, it’s it’s overly dark, and yeah, be overly sharp, overly rendered.
James Willis 30:52
Sure, I mean, it’s not any different, I suppose to painting landscapes. In the we know, there is aerial perspective where the values are different in the distance to the foreground, you have much more light and dark contrasting values in the foreground than in the in the distance. And that’s very, very true architecture. Also, I like the idea that you’ve mentioned that the softening of the distance, pushes it far, far away. And that can work for buildings as well, that reduce the contrast between the values and just soften, soften the effect work wetting material working in oils, or watercolor for the distance, and bring the sharper, more clear forms into the foreground. And that, that gives you a really strong composition, and a real feel for the environments.
Eric Rhoads 31:44
Do you ever do any deconstructing. And what I mean by that is sometimes if I, if I feel I want to push something back, I’ve already painted it, maybe, let’s, let’s say it’s a building, and it’s got the windows and everything on it. But I don’t really want to draw all my attention to that particular building, or that particular tree or object. Sometimes I’ll just take the palette knife and scrape it over it, which makes the edges looser and makes the, the lines less prominent, and the values kind of squish together a little bit and added it. It makes it read like it’s going back. Do you ever do anything like that?
James Willis 32:20
Sure. Yeah, all the time. Yeah, spray them back. So wonderful. I recently completed a big painting of a place called the villa Adriana just outside Rome, which is a ruined Roman villa. And it almost became an archaeology and paint because I kept scraping back and putting back on, and it created this wonderful blurry background. And it’s only suggested with just a sharper form in the foreground. So yeah, I agree, just take take some risks really treat it like a landscape but in in tubes and triangles, and blocks, rather than organic form of trees and fields and so forth, that there is not really any difference. In terms of the textural quality, you can do amazing things with oil paint like that. So as you say, scrape it back, and then just sharpen up the foreground. Wonderful, wonderful things to do. Talk to me about perspective.
Eric Rhoads 33:21
So many artists struggle with perspective. When I judge shows, the thing that pops out probably one of the things that pop out the most I think values are mistaken values tend to pop out a lot. But the other thing that pops out is is incorrect perspective you to see roof lines that look wrong. And or, you know, just problems with perspective. How do you learn that? How do you how do you get good at it? And especially when you’re out? plein air painting? You know, you don’t have the the tools that you might have at home to try to figure that out. Do you have any ideas or thoughts on how we can improve our perspective?
James Willis 34:05
Yeah, sure, is one of those words that never turns white at the thought of isn’t it perspective. First of all, don’t worry about it too much. I think that’s the first thing not to panic. There are of course, the formalities of things like the viewpoint, the horizon, the point you’re looking from. And a good rule of thumb is just to hold your pencil across horizontally in front of your eyes. So you can work out what’s above and below that point. And generally any, what’s called orthogonal is the side of buildings which are going away from you. If they’re above that line, they will drop down towards it in the center of the picture. If they’re below that line, they will go up towards the center of the picture. So those are important things to remember. But you can get very wrapped up in the the as sort of geometry of that, the best thing to do is look and say, Can I see the top of the roof on the building or not? Can I see, you know, the side of the building, all of those things, it’s a visual thing as well as a mathematical thing. And we get sort of stuck in between sometimes. So look at what’s happening. If you’re not sure whether an angle is going up or down on the side of a building, going into the distance, hold the pencil at arm’s length, at points, like the hands on a clock, and line up the pencil with the side of the roof or the bottom of the wall, or whatever. And sort of thing for what time on a clock is that pointing out. And that’s a really helpful way to reproduce that angle on a page or a canvas. Because you can think, Oh, yeah, that’s 10 o’clock that angle. And that’s an easy one to remember, if you move your arm back to the canvas, by the time you’ve got there, you’ve forgotten what the angle is because your hand has moved with the with the pencil angle. So try and translate it into something you can remember, like the hands on the clock. And that way you can get this sort of recession and the way the perspective lines go off into the distance.
Eric Rhoads 36:19
You know, that’s the other thing. I think that’s one of the best tips I heard I you know, I’ve tried the pencil thing, but you’re right, I, I tried to transfer that, that line over to my canvas, and then I get it wrong. But that’s what a great aha moment, that’s been what’s the other thing.
James Willis 36:36
The other thing is to remember, most vertical lines in the building are upright. And if we do sometimes have a tendency to lean one way or the other, so just check your vertical, I suppose it depends what time in the day it is and how long you’ve been working. But just make sure those vertical lines up, right. And centering, you know, what’s the pattern of doors and windows on that surface. And if it’s a symmetrical building, or always start in the center with the door and the windows, up to the building, and then work outwards from there, because if for any reason you haven’t got enough room, or you’ve made the building too wide, you’re you’ll be able to resolve that rather than have to do the whole lot again by starting in the middle. So always I would always send to the building with the windows and doors in the center of a facade before I work the outside one.
Eric Rhoads 37:28
So it’s a measurement tool. And do you find yourself when you’re doing your sketch or you’re doing your initial land? Do you find yourself laying in perspective lines or your focal point? You’re what’s what’s the term? I’m looking for the point at which you know, you’re going? And do you kind of lay those things in? And you’re, you know, the the eye not coming up with my term?
James Willis 38:00
structure? Yeah. I think you make a kind of structure. As I said earlier, I always sketch before I attack the canvas. So I’ve got some kind of graphic structure in my head, that helps me each time I try and paint and most of my big paintings, there’s a full size pencil drawing, before I even make make a mark on the canvas. But that idea of the eyeline the horizon, yes, get that in, if it helps you, I don’t tend to these days once I’ve drawn it. But I do make a point of marking what’s called the vanishing point, the point your opposite on the horizon, because that’s where your perspective lines will sort of lead to from other parts of the painting. So that’s always important to establish.
Eric Rhoads 38:50
So do you put figures in your paintings?
James Willis 38:54
Yes, I do. It’s called staff edge (sp) here. I don’t know what you call it in America. Anything that’s not a building or a tree, it’s called staff edge. So lots of little figures and cars and things. Most of my architectural work is aerial views are looking down into the cities from above, so they’re like middle and walking along. A little lamb hive is building some things that they do that I use them to make a composition.
Eric Rhoads 39:22
So what how do you do that? Do you go up in a tall building and make sketches or or do you have a drone and do photographs? What do you do?
James Willis 39:31
Now I haven’t got a dry. Not great fun. Now, I usually go up into tall buildings and make sketches on location, take photographs as well and then combine the photography with the sketches and my sketches are quite detailed in a full size drawing, as I mentioned, and this helps me organize absolutely everything apart from the color before I paint. So I find once I promise freighted on that scale drawing. You know, it could take a week just to do the drawing that has set the whole concept of the painting in my head already. So it makes the painting process much easier. I always says no pain, no gain with painting, that background, all the stuff that isn’t to do with the painting itself has to happen. And learning perspective, just practicing drawing perspective is key to painting building.
Eric Rhoads 40:31
So there’s a term you’re familiar with, called foreshortening. How does that apply to, to architecture? Because if if I’m looking up at a building, or an object on a building, let’s say it’s a balcony or something, isn’t foreshortening involved in something like that?
James Willis 40:55
Yes, that’s right. In if we talk about foreshortening in terms of the figure is where your arm is coming straight towards you. So you don’t see the full length of the arm, you see the hand in front of the arm coming in a sort of squashed sense behind it towards the body. And the same thing applies to building depending on where you’re looking at them from, of course. So if you’re looking from street level, the foreshortening is more to do with the side of the buildings going away from you that kind of thing. If you’re looking at a building like a skyscraper, you’ll notice that the two sides aren’t parallel, but they start to converge together because of the height of the building. And that’s foreshortening. And it’s up to the artists to decide do I paint and looking up view, say of a skyscraper in New York with the slot the sides and converging not to a point but you know, going narrower towards the top? Or do I make it look like an architectural drawing, which would be parallel sides going up for a really long kind of column of a building. So foreshortening is important, but it’s all dependent on your viewpoint.
Eric Rhoads 42:07
So if you’re trying to make something read well, though, are you trying to avoid that converging line where the where the two sides of the building are kind of if you were to trace along those lines, they would eventually come to a point? Are you trying to keep things looking straight? You know, I know, for instance, in landscape painting, I oftentimes will see something that is kind of along the horizon that isn’t straight, let’s say it’s the shore of a river. And yet, when I don’t if it’s slightly angled, it doesn’t read right. So I just always make it look straight because it it reads right. Is it similar to that in painting architecture, you certain things read better if you do certain things?
James Willis 42:55
Kind of Eric, I think yes. The whole point is to decide which point of view you’re looking at the buildings from, if you’re looking sort of as you’re standing up straight ahead, then you won’t see that sort of convergence of tall buildings. Because it won’t read right, it will look like you’ve kind of had one too many end of the walk, you know, when you’re looking at the picture, if you want a view of looking up that tall buildings, then you would use that converging line idea, because that gives us a sense of being right underneath and looking upwards. But if we’re looking straight ahead, then the verticals, as I mentioned earlier, will be vertical, because your eyeline isn’t changing. And the thing with architecture is as soon as you move your head to look at the top of the building or the side of the building, the perspective is changing at that moment. And as a painter architecture, you have to compensate for that to make it look right. As you’re saying with your river in your in your landscape. It’s the same with buildings, you have to remember whether you’re looking from one point of view or two. And most architectural painters use several viewpoints. They’re not just one central viewpoints. And underneath, you’re familiar with the work of the Italian 18th century the painter canon letto work in Venice. He moves things around and changes the viewpoint several times in one picture, but it all reads correctly. So there’s an artistic decision to make there as well as an observational one.
Eric Rhoads 44:31
Canaletto is probably historically one of the most important architecture painters of all time. Yeah.
James Willis 44:38
Yes, I believe so. I mean, he more or less invent the cityscape as we know it now. And what a draftsman a great inspiration.
Eric Rhoads 44:47
So I’d like to kind of move into this idea of art history and and get a get a feel for some of the things that you talk about when you do lectures about the history of art. texture and painting? Where is it rooted? Is it rooted in canon letto? Or is it constable? Or where does it come from?
James Willis 45:10
Where does it come from? Well, as a as a genre as a style a subject of painting, it’s quite a recent one. It emerges just before Canada letter, the Dutch people, like Vermeer, of course, are painting street scenes and cityscapes in Holland, in the 17th century. Prior to that, it’s not used as the subject of a painting. It’s just used as a background or a context. But from the 17th century in Europe, the subject matter can become a street scene or a house or something like that, how analetto paint that idea in the following century, invented and paint the views of the city. And one of the wonderful quotes about Canada letter is given by an agent to a collector, who was trying to get a view of the city. And he said, you want to get a painting from Canada letter, because his buildings are so real, and it looks like the sun is shining on them. And so what Canada letto manages to achieve for the first time really, is the totality of the city, you know, it all hangs together really well, in one sense of dramatic light, every day light, and all the perspective worked together. And the interesting thing about camera letto before he was a view painter, he was a set designer for the theater where perspective was essential to create an illusion on stage of a scene. And so his training is really as a scene painter for the opera. And then he transfers that on the canvas and become, you know, a celebrity comes over to London for 10 years, for example, and paints London
Eric Rhoads 47:04
I was telling my wife had a story about Canaletto the other day which which we were in Palm Beach on vacation. And I we drove by the Flagler mansion and I said to my wife, do you remember when we we rented the Flagler mansion, we had this giant party for these art dealers that were at the big art show there? And she said, Yeah, I remember that. I said, Did I ever tell you the Canaletto story? And she said, What’s a Canaletto? Oh, it’s Is it a melon? And I think it was, I’ll, I probably won’t say the name because I might get it wrong. But so one of the dealers from London I was wandering through the building, and that is a fabulous art collection that Henry Flagler had, that it was behind the velvet rope. And we had the whole place to ourselves, we had rented it and he went inside the rope and looked at this painting, and it on the identified tech identification. The tag identifying the painting, it said artist unknown. And he discovered that it was a last candle letto and amazing. And so it was quite a feat, getting the museum to cooperate with him to you know, to get it certified and so on. But ultimately, it turned out to be a candlelit. Oh, that had not been seen or known about for 100 years.
James Willis 48:28
Wow, what a discovery. So exciting, isn’t it? I think they’re out there still.
Eric Rhoads 48:36
Yeah, yeah. So if it what’s the what’s the artists that if you could find it in a garage sale? Any artist in the world? Which artist would you wish to find?
James Willis 48:49
Oh, my goodness. What do you know at the moment, I’m just looking at Florentine Renaissance paintings for Easter, sort of an Easter themed, a series I’ve been doing. And I come across one who I’ve always loved but falling in love with again, and that Pontormo because very strange artists working in the in the middle of the 16th century in Florence because his colors are so strange, figurative work mostly religious painting, but strange, very strange, almost surreal in a modern painting, so I think last Pontormo would be great
Eric Rhoads 49:31
we’re all we’re all hoping for that day right when we we pick something up and we go Gee, this, this kind of looks nice and we found it
James Willis 49:42
but our history is full of these missing masterpieces. You know, some we don’t know where they’ve gone. There’s a there was a famous Caravaggio thinking about Easter stories of the resurrection of Christ and it’s never been found. No one knows what happened to it. So you never know Eric. It might be in your Godspell one day and your your discover a lot Caravaggio.
Eric Rhoads 50:04
Well there you know, there are a lot of theories that a lot of stolen paintings are hanging in, in private homes. Sometimes they are, they’re stolen, and sometimes they don’t. But, you know, every once in a while something comes and sees the light of day. And, you know, hopefully we’ll see more and more of that, you know, as the internet. The art loss register has played a major role. I think it’s there in London has played a major role in finding a lot of things because people pick things up, you know, maybe somebody died, they had a stolen painting, and they knew it and their kids didn’t know it, and they sell it in a garage sale or in an art auction. And, you know, those things come to light, you know, from time to time. There’s certainly there’s the last Vermeer at least one and that was from the museum, the Gardner Museum in in, in Boston, which had 13 paintings stolen.
James Willis 51:03
I haven’t found any.
Eric Rhoads 51:05
I know I, you know, I think I may be wrong, but I think one of them recently was found.
James Willis 51:11
Oh, great. Good. There’s a Rembrandt as well going missing. That No, it’s amazing, isn’t it? How art sort of is a universal currency almost in in those spheres. And people are desperate to have a Vermeer or a Monet in some circles and, and will do anything to get one interested in Canada letters time. When he came to London, he had to put an advertisement in the newspaper to say, Canaletto is in London, come and see me work in my studio. Because there were so many fake counter letters in London at the time, no one believed it was really him. And the only way he could prove it was for people to come and see him painting. So it’s been around for a while on these sort of mysteries in the art world.
Eric Rhoads 51:59
So if he was so, so good, which he was, how is it that people were able to knock off his work so well? He said there were a lot of fakes.
James Willis 52:10
They weren’t that good. And but you have to remember not most people wouldn’t know what kind of letter looks like they’ve just heard him by reputation, or would have seen him through a black and white engraving, you know, that they were only seen in in big collections in private houses. So you know, the man on the corner Street, at some point, he may have got a camera. So here, you know, it’s only 200 quid. And you’d think you’ve got a real one because you wouldn’t know the difference. So we won’t see anything.
Eric Rhoads 52:41
Do you think Canaletto did any plein air painting?
James Willis 52:45
Yes, he did. Often. There’s some. Certainly, he sketched on location. And he makes a big thing of actually painting out in Venice or in London, to capture the exact sense of light and shade of that particular moment, we associate that with the Impressionists much more, but he does it in Venice, and he used the car to Canvas, half finished into certain Marks Square in Venice, when he knew important people were coming around and finish it off in front of them. And then say, I’ve just finished this for you, sir. And then there’ll be too embarrassed not to buy it. So it’s quite a good marketing for that as well.
Eric Rhoads 53:26
I’m gonna use that technique for now. So he painted he painted them in advance on location and brought them back and finished them, or did he paint them in the studio?
James Willis 53:36
Mm hmm. They had a big studio with his family working with him. His nephew, sometimes known as Canaletto is almost indistinguishable from Canaletto’s work. So it was a family business. Because he was in such demands, he had to produce a lot of work. And often you can tell if the if you’re familiar with looking at lots of cameras, which bits aren’t quite as sort of stylistically writers, as others, but this idea of working on location to capture the effects of light, particularly on building is almost unique at the time. Some big works, of course, will be done in the studio from sketches, but he was so familiar with the city. I think you could almost paint it from memory by the time he was at full power.
Eric Rhoads 54:33
And was he was he Italian?
James Willis 54:37
He was Italian he was he was from Venice.
Eric Rhoads 54:39
But he ended up in London did he end up living there and staying there.
James Willis 54:44
He came to us he came to London. He made his name in Venice, and came to London to try and find a new audience because a lot of the people who came to Venice were rich people from London. So he came to London to sort of extend his mark. Good to see like, as we all have to do at some point, and he stayed in London for about 10 years, and then went back to Venice. Yes, he said for quite a long time. There’s some incredible views of 18th century London.
Eric Rhoads 55:13
So some of the other stop signs. There were some of the other prominent historical architectural painters, especially the plein air ones, I’m interested in that.
James Willis 55:24
The plein air painters. So new had something around this time in the 18th century and onwards into the 19th century, called the grand tour and a lot of English, French and German artists would go to Italy to paint and sketch on location. So we have people like Turner, going over to Italy and making mostly watercolors there but wonderful sketchbook of watercolors, lots and lots of those. Another obstacle john Robert cousins is contemporary with Turner’s period works on location. Then we come into later, the Impressionists at the end of the 19th century, people like Monet suddenly discovers architecture, when he’s painting his series of Ruin Cathedral, which I can’t remember how many canvases there are little mini canvases, yeah, of the front of the room Cathedral at different times of day, in different weathers and in different lights. And he had a room opposite from which he would paint for an hour on one Canvas, and then swap to the next one, to capture the next light effects and so on. And that triggered him to paint architecture a lot more, I think, because he comes to London in paint, the Houses of Parliament in the fog, and they’re extraordinary paintings, if you’d like to see mosaic comm that I think, several in different collections across the states and in Europe, just this sort of intricate, almost abstract weaving of patches of color, which read further back as the bits of London’s appearing out of the fog. And when he was really interested in that, because London weather, as you probably know if you’ve been here changes every 10 minutes, and he found the fog fascinating because it never stood still the colors, the light were changing all the time, which is exactly the problems were forced with in painting on plan error, isn’t it that everything changes every second. And so money was really interested in that not just in architecture, but in landscape as well as you know, but his paintings of architecture are extraordinary. And then you come into Winslow Homer and hopper in the States. Were seeing wonderful, evocative paintings, architecture in America. And onwards from there really just goes on and on.
Eric Rhoads 57:49
So what’s the state of plein air painting in the UK, you have weather issues in London, you have got a lot of rain, you have a relatively short summer season. How many people are out there doing it? You know, I it’s interesting to me because there was a term called Sunday painters. And, and that term comes from my understanding of this, and I probably have it wrong. But my understanding is that the Sunday painter were the hobbyist who were doing pro mostly watercolor. And it was kind of a weekend thing to you know, to go out to a beautiful park and with your family and your parasol and your beautiful white dress and you would sit there and do watercolor paintings and it became from my understanding a national pastime, which is something I’d like to see happen here. But is there a fairly significant plein air movement in the UK like there is here in America
James Willis 58:57
there is a there are several sort of organizations and movements to work out of doors here. Not quite in the same way as you have your plein air conventions and things like that. The tradition is you’re quite right is an amateur one mostly that it was a leisure occupation Queen Victoria set the trend because she was a pretty good watercolor especially. But if there is the queen did it then all the ladies and waiting did it and so on. So it sort of filters down from that level. But also I think there is this interest in recording the environment here with Turner onwards working out of doors and one of the ways artists could make money was to take people out sketching and pay, you know, they pay them for lessons. So that I do have the Sunday painter is a sort of amateur, semi professional idea that you only have time at the weekend to paint. The weather is a problem but many artists just ignore it and get on with it. So there are movements and Little sort of subgroups of people working out of doors. And then we have things called the urban Skechers. Association, which started here in the UK. But I think it’s now international… Yes, it just suddenly grew. And that’s very much an architectural group of people working together out of doors once a month or every day, they have been in postings on their sites and things like that in Facebook. So you can find ways to work out of doors on planner, depending on how you want to work. And then as an individual, your choice is to work outdoors or indoors, I do a bit of inch really over in the studio and out of doors and trying to run out when it’s sunny, if I can and get some good light. With architecture, I think you do need strong sunlight to get the definition of the buildings and the shadows, on on structures. So yes, there is a tradition here. And I think it’s growing quite a lot now. And in the last year, particularly when we have been allowed out because we’re not allowed out at the moment. Our people have discovered that the arts is really good for their well being. They get absorbed in the arts, and they want to work outdoors and create wonderful painting. So it’s a really transforming time. I think, for plein air painting at the moment.
Eric Rhoads 1:01:28
So you can’t you can’t even go out to a park where you’re out in the open air and you’re by yourself. You have to stay indoors right now.
James Willis 1:01:37
We’re not supposed to go, we’re supposed to go out for one hour, exercise a day. And we can only go to the shops for provisions or medicines that that is you can work from home you’re supposed to stay in. So It’s been pretty tough. Several months at different times last year, and now we’re just coming out of another batch of that. So yeah, it’s a real serious lockdown across the whole country. It’s not just regional. So but I know artists do sneak out and I see on Facebook, my friends have been out painting for the day rather than normally, but the good for them. I think I’ve been too busy on zoom teaching to get out much. But so I’m looking forward to this summer. I’m looking forward to this summer when I can. So yeah.
Eric Rhoads 1:02:24
Tell me about your teaching on zoom. What are you teaching? Because I’m sure people here would be interested in that.
James Willis 1:02:31
Oh, thank you. Yeah. Because I usually teach live classes during the week, everything was transferred to virtual on zoom, which has been a revelation really, because you can record it, you can close up on what you’re painting, you know, with the camera so people can see the brush working. And so what I’ve done every week is set up a very informal, any level kind of attendance painting groups, one for drawing, one for watercolors, one for oil painting. And then I also do some online art history lectures, once a week, just half an hour on a Monday, looking at one painting a week, which has been really popular. So I’m very, very privileged to have the support for that. It’s been very, very much appreciated, and everyone seems to enjoy it. And you know, we have quite a laugh sometimes about all of these things. And we work together, which builds a sense of community anyway. So people come from all over the country to join in.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:29
So we have an audience of 128, 150 countries, something like that. So where can they find out more about you about your artwork about your zoom training, etc.
James Willis 1:03:42
So look up my website, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Everything’s on there, which is JamesWillisArt.co.uk. And if anyone wants just a little sample of some art history lectures, I set up a few months ago, a free site with a few little five minute lectures on for people who are stressed at home and just need a five minute break from work or caring for people or people are the nurses and doctors are working really hard. Just little five minute sort of snapshot talks that will inspire viral visual art image and that’s called art of mind. Because we’re in the UK, of course, the art of minds. And that’s a free thing. You can just log in and watch a little download of art history. https://www.artofminds.co.uk/
Eric Rhoads 1:04:50
Well, James, this has been fascinating. It’s been fun learning about painting architecture and the history of architecture. And I’m sure there’s so much more we could get but we’ve kind of run out of time here. So I really want to thank you. And I want to extend an invitation to you once things are freed up. And when you’re ready to do it, we’ll have you back to the plein air convention and, or we’ll have you on one of our virtual conferences or something, but, and hopefully, I’ll get over there, or you’ll get over here One of these days soon, and we’ll go paint some buildings together.
James Willis 1:05:25
We’ll do it there. Exactly. Fantastic. was lovely to talk to you. And thank you for inviting me to share some of my experience with you. I hope that’s been interesting for people and keep safe and well pleased. And I look forward to when we can meet up again.
Eric Rhoads 1:05:39
Thank you, James.
James Willis 1:05:43
Thank you, Eric.
Eric Rhoads 1:05:45
Well, thanks again to James Willis. He’s been a great friend and all around nice man and incredible teacher, a great painter. very inspirational, be sure to visit his website to check out his work and his book and his zoom workshops. And if you get to, if you can own one of his pieces, I mean, he’s a really big deal. And it would be nice to have that. So thank you to James. Are you guys ready for a little bit of smart 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 1:06:19
So thanks again, Jim. In the art marketing minute I try. Sometimes I Well, I always answer your questions whether or not I do a good job. That’s another story. But I try to answer your questions you can email your questions, [email protected] I love questions. And what I do is I just kind of read these as we go and I make up the answers off the top of my head. I don’t have any prepared answers. Because I think I work best that way. This is coming from Derrick Jones in Syracuse, New York who says I’m new to painting outdoors. I’m very shy. When people come up and watch while I’m trying to paint I get nervous because they don’t like my I don’t feel like my work is good enough for others to see yet. How do you overcome that? Well, you know, that is a huge topic, Derrick. First off, it’s a self esteem thing, right? We don’t feel worthy, because, you know, we maybe are not painting as well as quite aspa vague, you know, the great, the great client aspect, and or maybe not even as well as some of our friends. But every painter goes through that that is a process. And we all have to knock out a lot of bad paintings before we start knocking out some good paintings. And even those who have been doing it a lot of years will still knock out bad paintings from time to time. And by the way, there’s not a bad painting because every painting is a lesson. So here’s how I dealt with that particular issue. First off, I first off, when I first started painting, I just kind of went and painted places where there were not people because I just didn’t want to be around people who were critical. The next thing I did is I as I was painting around people, I took some earbuds, some iPod earbuds or whatever. And I stuck them in my pocket, you know, put them my ear stuck in my pocket as if there was a player in there. And surprisingly, not very many people would bother me when I’m doing that. But you know, there are always going to be somebody who is going to some somebody is going to come up and talk to you about it. And I used to make excuses. I remember I was standing up, I was painting notre Dom Cathedral in Paris, and I was on the corner. And this is before it burned down. And there were a bunch of teenagers and they’re all gathered around watching me there are 10 or 12 of them. They’re all speaking French and laughing and making fun of me and stuff. It was a little uncomfortable. But they were nice kids, they weren’t going to beat me or anything. And one of the kids came up and and said in English. He said you should give up painting, you’re not very good. And I said, Well, thank you for that encouragement, but I’m, you know, I’m doing what I call a study, I will take this information and then I’ll go and do a more in depth painting at home. And you know, I just you know, what can you say? I mean, some people aren’t going to like it, some people are going to be critical. Sometimes I would say well, you know, I’m, I’m just getting started, you know, come back in a couple hours and see how I do. But you know, you just have to you just have to live for yourself. You can’t live about how others think. And so, I will tell you this that your self talk makes a huge difference. If you constantly are telling yourself you’re not doing a good job, guess what will happen. You won’t be doing a good job. If you constantly tell yourself you’re doing a good job, you’re learning you’re growing, you don’t care what happens you just are going to make it the best you feel you can make it today. You know I have I’m looking around my studio here I have dozens and dozens of paintings on the walls and their studies that I’ve done in each one as a memory. Some of them are good paintings, and some of them are not so good paintings, but each one is a memory. Each one gave me a lesson and so there was value in every single one of them. So just embrace it for what it is, it’s not really a big deal. So you’re not unlike others. The best way to overcome it, though, I’ll tell you that I had a guy by the name of Michael ringer. He’s a great artist, or great watercolor artist, but does many other mediums as well. He came to visit me and I’m kind of walking him through the house. And every time we’d encounter a painting, he’d asked about it, and I would make some excuse. And then we went for a boat ride. And then he came back and I put him to a tech took him to his car. And before he got in his car, he said, Eric, I want to talk to you about something. I said, Yes. And he said, Listen, you did a lot of apologizing for your work. You don’t need to apologize, you’re a good painter, you have a lot of potential. And yes, there are some growth that you need to go through. He said, but you know, you’re doing better than I was at this stage of your career. So just Quit complaining about it and quit apologizing if it’s gonna impact your head. And you know, when the fact that he cared enough to stand out and say something like that really meant it. And so I’ve been very careful to try and stop making excuses. And just let let it be what it’s going to be. But if you want to avoid the crowds, in the beginning, I understand that, you know, there are people who who have said to me, Well, I don’t want to come to the plein air convention, because I’m not good enough. But you know, everybody there has been through it. Everybody there has made bad paintings, including many, many of us, all of us, actually. And so you know, we’re all we understand that you’re with family there, you’re not with consumers who are going to give you a hard time you’re with people who are going to give you love and say, hey, you’re you’re you’re okay, you know, you’re you’re doing a great job. And you know, just tweak this do this but a little more dark in the foreground or bigger shapes or something, you know, a lot of those things will make a big difference.
Eric Rhoads 1:11:46
Here’s the next question comes from Hunter Smith in Los Angeles, California. Hunter says, looking back and forward, do you think there’s anything we can take away from the pandemic in regards to making a living as an artist? Man, tough question. Hunter, I think that the pandemic is the best thing to ever happen to me. And thankfully, I’ve lived through it so far, and hopefully will continue to. But the I think the idea here is that I learned a lot about myself, I learned about my priorities, what I want to do what I don’t want to do what I want to spend my time on, I want to spend more time with my family, I actually have enjoyed the time at home, I’ve been working harder. And but I had to kind of you know, rebound and come up with some new ways to make a living like my 12 noon Daily Show and on Facebook and YouTube. And, and so I think that a lot of artists have said, you know, this is has been really good for them, because they’ve, they’ve gotten off the circuit off the merry go round, and they’re not traveling around as much. And they’re, they’re focusing on their painting. And so a lot of them have said, You know, I learned a lot as a painter, I grew a lot as a painter, because I was painting more I was painting in on erupted, I wasn’t tempted to you know, get in the car and go get stimulation by you know, going and getting, you know, some shopping or something in and so I think you know, from that standpoint, we’re all better. I think in terms of making a living as an artist. First off, a lot of artists are telling me they’re selling more art than ever, because other people are starting to appreciate more art more and also look at their walls and say, Hey, I need something there. I think in terms of making money as an artist, you what you’ve got to do, and maybe what the pandemic will do for you is it will set your priorities. Ask yourself, what am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? Am I painting for myself? Am I painting for others? Am I doing both? Am I in a position to kind of focus on what I want to do? You know, life’s too short, I had friends pass away, you probably did too. And life’s too short, you know, suddenly, people who thought they’re going to be around forever are not going to be around forever. And so ask yourself, if I always do this in my seminars I did this way before the pandemic, I do this on my videos and stuff and and ask yourself, if you only had you know, you went to the doctor, and you only had one year left? What would you do with that one year, because that’ll help you crystallize your thinking. And then the other thing I do in some in my book and some other things, I asked you to write your own obituary, and write what you’ve done, and then write what you want to get done as if you’ve done it. And then that’ll help you crystallize what it is you really need to do. You know, it might be about selling paintings, it might be about giving away paintings, it might be about getting recognition, you have to determine what is it that’s important to you, is it is it a living you need to make is it recognition you need is it helping others you want to do so I think think in those terms. And then now that you’ve crystallized your thinking, then you have to say Okay, how do I get there? And whatever it is you decide how do I get there, everything starts with a goal. And then a goal leads to a plan a goal sets your strategy. And then a plan sets your tactics, a strategy is the overarching thing that you’re trying to accomplish. The tactics are how you accomplish them tactics are things like advertising or social media or doing shows etc. And, and then you have to ask yourself, you know, how busy do I want to be? how, you know, how much money do I need to make? If you start with the questions, you always come up with the answers and and, you know, you got to spend a lot of time thinking, but thinking is where all the answers come from, right. It’s just don’t do it routinely, you know, I sometimes will spend 10 1215 hours thinking about a particular topic. You know, when I went on vacation, I had 60 pages of notes of my thinking, I read four books, three or four, four books. And I took one online course, in a particular area of marketing that I wanted to learn more about. And so and then my thinking really started happening as a result of that. So I think that you’ve got to just kind of figure out where you want to go and then how to get there. I mean, that’s, that’s the bottom line.
This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:16:22
Well, we’ve got so much going on, we got the plein air live coming up, you want to get your seats pretty soon before you have to pay a higher price. It’s 100% guaranteed by the way, and that means that if you watch the first day you don’t feel like the first day was worth the entire price. Let us know by the end of the first day we’ll refund your money. You know, how easy is that? So check that out. Check out soarworkshops.com to check out the the Thomas Schaller checkout publishersInvitational.com to see my Adirondack event. And to learn more about that this summer. I think that’d be a lot of fun. And if you’ve not seen my blog where I talked about life, and arts, and all kinds of things like that, check that out. It’s called Sunday coffee. You can find it at coffeewitheric.com. Well, this has been fun. It’s been fun having a vacation and getting away and I appreciate you being patient. Somebody sent me a note the other day they said I listened to you while I’m lying in bed going to sleep. Yes, I have that effect. What can I say? Well, this has been fun. We’ll do it again sometime like next week and I’ll see you then I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of plein air magazine and you can find us online at outdoorpainter.com. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it. We’ll see you soon. Bye bye.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.
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