Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews art historian Lyn Letsinger-Miller, who is the author of “The Artists of Brown County.”
Listen as Lyn Letsinger-Miller shares the rich history of plein air painting in Brown County, Indiana.
Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares why you might want to reconsider writing exhibition proposals to get into art galleries, and how to build your own mailing list in this Art Marketing Minute Podcast.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Lyn Letsinger-Miller here:
– Lyn Letsinger-Miller and the Brown County Art Gallery: http://browncountyartgallery.org
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air Convention & Expo: https://pleinairconvention.com/
– Plein Air Salon: https://pleinairsalon.com/
– Publisher’s Invitational: https://publishersinvitational.com/
– Value Specs for Artists: https://streamlineartvideo.com/products/paint-by-note-red-glasses
– Paint by Note: https://paintbynote.com/
– The Great Outdoor Painting Challenge TV Show: https://thegreatoutdoorpaintingchallenge.com/casting-call
– Figurative Art Convention & Expo: https://figurativeartconvention.com/
– Fine Art Trip to Russia: https://finearttrip.com/2020
FULL TRANSCRIPT of PleinAir Podcast 162:
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 00:00
This is episode number 162. Today we’re featuring art historian and author, Lyn Lesinger-Miller.
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 00:57
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome to the plein air podcast. My name is Eric and well hello from Russia. Yes, you heard right. I’m working this week and next week in Russia. I’m here doing several projects. No, I’m not here to buy or influence and elections. I won’t be running for office anytime soon or ever. But I am here shooting an art instruction video with a famous Russian master Nikolai Blokhin, as you know, or maybe you don’t know, the Russian training system is considered the best training system in the world for artists, always has been. And as a result, these people are super trained and Nikolai Blokhin, whose art sells for literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, was a top professor at the Repin Institute of the Russian Academy of Art which was created by Catherine the Great, and he’s considered one of the great instructors. So I’m doing an art instruction video. was him one on painting and one on drawing. And I’m also working on a documentary while I’m in the area. So I’m in Moscow. later in the week. I’m in St. Petersburg right now. And I’ll be interviewing the director, if you will, of the Repin Institute, also the director of the Surikov Institute, Anatoly Lyubavin, in Moscow. And I’m interviewing the director of the Hermitage, the greatest Museum in the world, who’s a friend of mine, also, the director of the Tretyakov, Zelfira Tregulova, is in the great Russian Museum in Moscow, and also ever several other art historians and artists and so it’s a crazy busy time. I’m also painting. I’ve been painting by myself when I can slip out and painting some Russian masters and yes, it’s been pretty cold, pretty unbelievably cold, but I got these big thick boots. And they say that vodka keeps you warm, but I haven’t dipped into that yet. Anyway. I’m also going to be going inland after I leave here going inland to explore some areas that I’ll be taking you in my September 2021, Russian painting trip. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks because I’m doing site selections, going to places or hotels, checking them out, checking out the food. And, of course, in the midst of all that, I have to do things like this too, do my work and check my email. So it’s kind of a crazy time, I hope you’ll find today’s subject of interest. This is about an art colony that became quite important in the art world with our interview coming up in a minute, a reminder that the Plein Air salon is in its last bi monthly round, and it’s coming up on March 15. And we end the annual competition everybody who has won the BI monthly competitions is entered into the judging for the final. So there’s 20 categories, everybody wins in a category gets into the judging. And there are all kinds of categories. Not everything is plein air, but you need to enter by March 15. And that’s the last chance and then we’re going to do the big prize award giveaway $15,000 cash plus more cash at the plein air convention. So just go to pleinairsalon.com. I also want to mention that many of us are not only plein air and landscape painters, but we’re also figure and portrait painters. And what I have found and what others have told me is that figure painting makes you a better plein air painter, just like plein air painting makes you a better figure painter. So we created a conference very much like the plein air convention, it’s called FACE. Plein air convention is pace, right? So this is face, the figurative art convention and Expo. And it’s going to be in Baltimore in October. As a matter of fact, on Halloween we’re having a big artists party you dress up like artists could be a lot of fun. Anyway, it’s like the convention in the sense it’s got great masters who are coming in to teach and we have Rose Frantzen this year and Juliette Aristides and the incredible Mary Whyte though the watercolors and And many, many, many more. And the conference is going to just be a blowout blast. It’s a lot of fun, top masters and then several stages and you can practice what you learn in the studio like the plein air convention where we go outside to paint. We have a studio with live models that you can, you can opt into, and it’s the world’s largest studio and usually about a dozen or more models depending on how big the convention gets. So you can learn more by visiting figurativeArtconvention.com I also want to mention that every year I take a group of artists and art collectors on a trip to Europe to see art from behind the scenes. Man, I love my life. anyway. We go to museums, sometimes private homes, private collections, art studios, meet with artists, meet with top historians, etc. This fall, we’re going to go all out in Austria and Germany, especially focusing on Vienna. We could easily spend five days in Vienna just getting behind the scenes and all the art and of course we do some other things too which is fun and also, Berlin and Berlin has some absolutely amazing art things going on. So you don’t want to miss this anyway, you can learn more about that at FineArttrip.com. Coming up after my interview, I’ll be answering art marketing questions in the art marketing minute. Let’s get right to the interview with art historian Lyn Letsinger-Miller. Well, Lyn Letsinger-Miller, welcome to the plein air podcast.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 06:26
Thank you, good to be here.
Eric Rhoads 06:28
Well, this is a little bit of a departure from what we normally do. We spend most of our time interviewing artists. But today we’re doing something a little bit different. Lyn is a an art historian and an author and has spent a lot of time in and around and studying the artists of Brown County, Indiana, which is a very significant movement we’re going to talk about today. Welcome to the show.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 06:55
Eric Rhoads 06:57
So before we started recording you and I we’re chatting about our backgrounds in Indiana. And you started to tell me how you got interested in this idea of art in Brown County. How did that happen?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 07:14
Well, I was working as a TV reporter in Fort Wayne actually is where things sort of began. And as everybody was furnishing their apartments, I began to venture over to the Fort Wayne art school and began buying paintings by the original artists and so I kind of developed an interest in art and artists. And then you sort of fast forward 15-20 years later, I ended up working in Indianapolis, I was married and my husband and I got a log cabin home in Brown County. And I knew that there was some art there but we were involved in a lot of other things. But my neighbor happened to have a huge collection of Brown County paintings and Another neighbor was an art dealer and was the executive director of the Brown County art Guild. So through those people, I really developed an appreciation for the art. And I learned a lot about the business of art from my neighbor who was a dealer. So in my spare time, I would volunteer for different events, particularly at the Brown County Art Gallery, which at the time, really needed volunteers. And they had a large permanent collection and eventually I took a little part time job at the paper when I stopped working in TV. And I was teaching and i, you and i began writing articles about the early colony. And I met a lot of people in town who knew many of the early artists and so it was my friend from the guild, Margaret Colglazier, said we need to have a book about the Brown County art colony and So I put together a proposal, we went to the press and I sort of found myself in the position of oh my gosh, now I have to write this thing. And so that really kind of put me in the thick of it. As far as learning a lot I’ve been writing articles and I knew it was a really good story just from you know, it’s just kind of a romantic story. A lot of interesting people in this really backwoods area but then when you spend a lot of time talking with collectors in particular who not only buy the art but really really go in depth in the history and want to know every little nuance about the painting that they bought. And then just going through the records and things at the Art Gallery, which had been founded in 1926. So that’s really kind of what started me off on all of this.
Eric Rhoads 09:52
So before we we launched into this and I think that people are going to actually find this fascinating There is such a rich history of plein air painting in this part of Indiana, and at the time, there were several colonies that had kind of cropped up across America, the Laguna colony, there was a colony in, Connecticut and where’s place there was the Brown County and Taos painters, etc. There were several. And so we’re going to get into this, but I want to ask you a couple of questions from the perspective of an author. And what you have to say to living artists today. Who will one day need to be documented and one one day need to be written about in their books. So what are the things that you wish you had had? on the backs of paintings? What kind of documentation Do you wish these artists had done? What would have made learning about them and writing about them much easier.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 11:01
Signing and dating them What, a great start. It’s amazing how many big collections of art have pieces that are not signed. And, then not dated. And that’s just always the first question you get from, you know, a visitor or collector is when was this painted? And you really just can only stand back and look at what do the trees look like? How are the people dressed what, you know, trying to find clues, that might point to that. I don’t know, in the back of the painting, you certainly would like to have, you know, stickers or wherever it had been exhibited. And, you know, every time it changes hands or even an envelope that, you know, gives a little detail on the part of the artists – I painted this in this location and this was why I was attracted to it and and you know, sometimes the painting does have A little story with it. There’s one artist living now Ken Buckler, who draws a map on the back of his paintings to showing exactly where he painted it, which I find really fascinating and so, you know, anything that can lend to a provenance, I think a buyer, you know, appreciates and then later down the road, so somebody’s trying to sort out your story.
Eric Rhoads 12:26
I’ve heard galleries, some galleries not all say that they don’t want to painting dated at least on the front because they want to have something that appears fresh and sometimes if something sits for two or three years and doesn’t sell it doesn’t appear fresh. You have an opinion about that?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 12:45
I guess you know, if you’re looking at a contemporary artist, you know, I guess that makes sense. my area of expertise in terms of working as a dealer, which I did do and i do assist With the art gallery with that is, you know, I’m looking at historic pieces, early art, and so the dates are essential. But I don’t know, I think if something’s good, it’s good. And it’s just a piece of information that goes with it. I guess if it’s on the back, it’s equally as useful.
Eric Rhoads 13:21
I was on Facebook the other day, and somebody had posted a picture of a painting and a signature. And they were trying to figure out who it was that had signed it. Because it was somebody whose collection, someone who had passed away their collection, they’re trying to figure out what to do with the collection. Do you have any thoughts on that because everybody has their signatures, but you know, signatures are oftentimes not clear.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 13:49
Yes, that’s certainly the truth. Maybe you could print your name on the back, like when you sign most documents, they asked for a printed name as well. Yeah and artists might think about that when they sign
Eric Rhoads 14:06
In my art marketing bootcamp site, I talk a lot about the importance of the back of the painting and the back of the painting needs to become a living document because I think that first off I don’t always do this myself, but I like to tell the stories. You know, I was with this painter or that painter we were painting in this location. I’ve even suggested that we start putting GPS coordinates, you can find them in your phone, there’s a there’s an app, you can find out the GPS coordinates so that somebody could actually go to that location 100 years from now where there might be an apartment building standing and go This is what this used to look like back then.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 14:46
I’m sure there will be some writers in their future who will thank you.
Eric Rhoads 14:51
Let’s talk about the Brown County artists and help us understand the significance of This movement?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 15:02
Well, I think the best way to think about them is that it’s their kind of the second generation of the plein air painters, those who preceded them, actually, you know, studied in Europe and became very fascinated with the French impressionists, and they came back to the United States. And so now and, you know, either were working or became friends with other artists who, who got really interested in what was happening and more artists went over there to study. And so, I think, you know, probably the key place where a lot of the of the artists came from, or at least were influenced by what was Chicago with the Art Institute, because a lot had come there from other places, many had studied in Europe and so forth, and they kind of began talking amongst each other about Brown County. There was TC Steele, who was probably Indiana’s most well known artist, had a very long career as a portrait painter had studied in Europe and came back and worked for a number of years in Brookfield and had studios elsewhere, and eventually kind of at midlife, his wife had died. He’d married a younger woman, he decided to buy 200 acres in Brown County, in a little town near Belmont, which was located between Nashville and Bloomington and he actually worked as a youth first artist in residence, and so began building a house there and you have to understand that Indiana Brown County in 1900 was Indiana 1840 very primitive and people living in log cabins and no running water or electricity. And it had been heavily timbered. So Steele could stand here his property and see for miles and so this was really intriguing to him and you know he taught me get you work close to markets you were near Indianapolis you were near Bloomington you were near rulli you know you could you could get to Chicago then the train came into Helmsburg didn’t want it Nashville didn’t want that stinky train coming to town don’t ended up and yes Nashville Indiana that was the county seat. And so it landed in Helmsburg and you had to take a carriage or walk seven miles into town. One interesting thing that sort of happened is Steele was known to the son of an industrialist in Indianapolis named Fred Hetherington. And once the train became available, Fred took the train down and he had met Steele at Herron art school in Indianapolis. And he came to see his house being built. And he was from a family of wealth. He wasn’t really interested in the family business, which I think was bridge building or something. And he decided he wanted a cabin. So about 19, eight, just a year after Steele started his, he bought a little cabin just north of town. And he named the family ranch after his wife. And he began inviting people from the Chicago Palette and Chisel club to visit him in his cabin and they would come on the train. And there were some articles written out some artists who came down and went back and talked to report in the Chicago papers up there and some stories began generating about this wonderful, rustic place where this famous artists was painting and how it had, you know, such charm and so I think a lot through Fred Hetherington who invited these people down. They would stay and it just one person invited another invite another and pretty soon you had a core of people kind of filtering through you know at one time or another the Art Institute but also all over Cincinnati and Houston and certainly New York the Artist students league and and you know one thing kind of led to the next and and finally a man named Adolph Shulz who is from Wisconsin. He had met his wife who was from Terre Haute, also very well known artist in her own right. And they were living in Delavan, Wisconsin and they thought it was all too touristy. And when they were visiting the Art Institute, they learned about Brown County so Schultz came down on his own, and it was a little too rustic at the time he fought for his wife and young son, but he was really impressed with a place and he wrote an article and he describes this painters Fairyland with Queen Anne’s lace and, and you know people hidden in these cabins and it just sort of added to the romance of it. And eventually they, you know, a man named Bill Pittman bought the sanitarium and turned it into a hotel Pittman’s Inn and it had big wide porches. And so the artists would come and they would stay in Pittman’s inn and they would tromp out into the landscape area out into the woods or down greasy creek or all the different roads and paint and then come back in the evenings and kind of sit on the porch and share ideas and techniques and they would have dinner there. One of the more famous people who came was Gustave Baumann woodcut artist you mentioned Taos, and he ended up alone
Eric Rhoads 21:00
I asked you about Baumann because I was flipping through your book. And Baumann is probably the most famous of internationally known artists. Obviously, Steele is very well known but really well known in Indiana, not as much nationally, but Baumann. very collectible, very desirable part of that whole Taos thing. Did he actually live in Brown County?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 21:26
Well, he rode the train. He decided to go on a vacation and he’d read about Brown County so he wanted to see what it was all about. So he got on the train and he sat next to Fred Hetherington, who said, Gosh, I happen to have a cabin in Brown County. Why don’t you come and stay with me? And this was in 1910. And Fred kept a guestbook, but it was really elaborate was called the Emmy Lou ranch book. And everyone who’s stayed there not only signed it, but they did sketches and they wrote little notes. And they talked about the dinner parties and who cooked and who washed the dishes and they had pictures of wine glasses and, and we actually own that book was donated to us from a collector just this year. It’s a real treasure. And so, you know, you see members of the Hoosier group that first groups of Steele’s contemporaries out of Stark and James Asad and suid sign, people from Chicago valen draws an entire picture of himself in bib overalls. And then he draws little pictures aside from that of a jacket and a tie. And he writes, how will I ever put those back on after being here? And he never did. He ended up not going back. He rented a place in town and he didn’t have a car. So he would kind of walk around town and sketch and he produced a folio of woodcuts in 1910 called the health of Barone. And they really depicted places in town and the newspaper had a Washington press. So when they were done with the paper, they would let him pull his prints on the Washington press. Eventually, he became friends with Steele. And he in Steele said, you know, you need to come out with artists were all painting. And so he would go out with him. And you begin to see his work changed from being very illustrative to being very colorful, and you can even compare some steele landscapes with some of Baumann’s wood cuts and see a lot of similarities. They just become very rich, very detailed, and Steele invites him, suggests that he enter some of his work from the hills of brown and some other he had done since in the exhibition in San Francisco, and Steele was going to be a jurist. And so Baumann does and there were thousands of injuries and he takes a gold medal. And so now he kind of finds himself on the forefront of printmaking in America, at least woodcut printmaking. And so he ends up back you know, in Brown County and experiments and he does a lot of work. The story as to why he left was there was another artist from Chicago named Lucie Hartrath. What was happening is a lot of artists from the Chicago area and other places would spend the summers in Brown County and then return home so she was a summer visitor and she was pretty attractive to gus and according to his sister, he left because She was getting a little too intense. He spent about seven or eight years or he went out to the east coast for a while and painted, you know, around in New York and in another places doster and so forth, but then ended up going out west and that’s where he remained and became a major, you know, figure in Santa Fe and, really, but he always said he never really left Brown County that that’s where he learned his craft there. He went over Steele’s fireplace, he carved a little phrase, by take my hat off to the beauty of the world. He carved that in, in the mantle of the fireplace and Steele’s studio. And so Art Gallery took a piece of wood from big tree that had fallen, at Steele’s property. It was a 200 year old oak tree and we took a piece of it, we milled it and let it age and we carved that phrase in the same text. And so it hangs in the balance and galleries kind of a tribute to their friendship.
Eric Rhoads 26:23
So for the benefit of the people who probably don’t know, they’re trying to imagine this, Brown county and Indiana had in its own become a destination for tourists. In the sense that, when I grew up in Indiana, it was everybody went down to Brown County to see the fall color because the The scenery is so beautiful. You literally have mountains, which you don’t have in a lot of places in Indiana, but people would come there from all around the region, you know, as far away as Chicago or certainly Indianapolis which isn’t far away and come there and vacation. So that’s why the appeal to artists right just because its beauty.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 27:07
Yeah, that was certainly a lot of it. The glacier stopped actually right before after Brown county so didn’t get leveled off. And then the fact that it had been so heavily timbered all the beautiful trees with the leaves that people go to see a really second growth forests. So you had these big long views. It was very cheap to live there. And and so it really was the artists who came there was a writer named Ken Hubbard, who wrote a cartoon called bloom County, and he had a character named Abe Martin kind of a philosopher, and he was running in the newspapers in the early 1900s, making a lot of political satire. And so people were kind of aware of him and people in Chicago knew, that that was Brown County that he was talking about. but it was Really the artists who kind of stuck their nose into it and once people begin to see, the artwork that was being produced and you know, everybody wanted to come and the merchants began to realize, well, guys, we can rent cabins and build boarding houses and you know, places to stay. But I think it was really more a little bit later that the tourism caught on because of the difficulty of getting from helzberg to town. So it was really this kind of dedicated core of artists. But by the 1920s now you do have you have cars and people who can drive there and places to stay and so and you had Frank Holland Burger who was a photographer who, located there and began writing a column for the Indianapolis Star call down in the hills of Brown and his photographs sold all over the country. So he’s depicting, you know, this scenery and in a very, you know, readily available method. And so, you know, one thing sort of led to the next the formation at a state park in the early 1920s with another big draw. You had a lodge now, and and, you know, more places for people to stay.
Eric Rhoads 29:31
I have not been through the area for many years. But I’m curious about it, has it maintained that charm that these artists saw back at that time because if you look at another artists colony, like Carmel, for instance, even though a lot of the old bungalow houses the artists lived in are still in Carmel. In some ways, Carmel has lost some of its charm because it’s become so touristy. what’s the story in Brown County?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 30:00
Well, there’s probably two sides to that story. Sure, there’s 200 shops, and there’s hotels and there’s bed and breakfasts. But a lot of the shops are in the old houses that were there. They’re probably the difference between Carmel and Brown County is, I mean, there’s very few grand homes there, you know that they were all small homes and some of the wealthy people maybe had a nice Victorian house, but the log cabins are scattered throughout the county and in the park and, those are actually I think, more interesting in many ways, then, you know, what’s in town. There were people who came in and, you know, developers sort of at the time that built a lot of stuff. They would rent them you know somebody would retire and they had some little craft that they made and they would come there and try to make a living at it and retirement and found up eventually they couldn’t afford the rent, but there seems to be a turnover now and you see much more higher end kinds of shops that are quality, and a lot of craft guilds and really fine artists, you know, glass makers, people who are really really trained, you have several art galleries, you have a lot of music, there’s, you know, we have a new 2000 seat Music Center, which is you know, a different kind of attraction, but the park is still there. It’s become a mountain biking place so you kind of get outdoor activities, you get art and Yeah, you got A couple of T shirts shops in there for sure.
Eric Rhoads 32:03
So I’m going to the park. And I want to paint these, you know, lovely old shacks and so on. Are they still there?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 32:11
Oh, yeah. The park actually was built. A lot of the buildings that you’re talking about. We’re through the Roosevelt’s New Deal. And the Conservation Corps. They gave jobs during the Depression to artists to paint and to the Conservation Corps to build all the log shelters, they built the lodge. All those buildings remain. So there’s a real time in fact, Eleanor Roosevelt came to the gallery in 1934 to follow up on her husband’s progress and bought several paintings.
Eric Rhoads 32:55
Two questions for you. One is when brown County was at its height in terms of artistic influences. People coming into the area. Was it attracting people who were already artists and already trained? Or was there an influence of people like Steele that were training artists that ended up with so many artists in the area?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 33:20
By and large, most of the people of the early colony I mentioned eight off and eight is scholtes. trained at the Art Institute trained in Paris. Marie goth Art Students League, VJ Cariani, Art Students League, Carl Graft Art Students League, Cincinnati art school LO Griffith, Houston, Georgia chance St. Louis. And many of them had studied in Europe as well going to provincia Paris and part member of the Paris Milan so Most of them had been trained elsewhere. And were coming there looking for their g Vernay. They wanted that bucolic beautiful place where they had great subject matter where it was inexpensive to live. Yet they could get to a market they could get to Chicago they could get to Louisville they could get to Cincinnati. In Chicago in the 1920s a group of women formed the Hoosiers salon, and they began bringing artists from Brown County up to a show a salon show. Often it was held at Marshall fields or in different areas around the city. And it was a very prestigious show. And so it gave a big exposure to the Brown County artists and by 1926 against the gap they had formed an artist Association and their own gallery and so they were going up there for that show up it’s through the 40s when it when it moved to Indianapolis and still continues today, but there’s a lot of Brown County art in Chicago as a result of those exhibits up there.
Eric Rhoads 35:13
I’m curious about you mentioned a number of names of women in your book is filled with features of women. We don’t hear a lot about women painting in that era there were obviously some that are very famous painted in Paris. But talk to me about the reason there were so many women painting in this particular colony.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 35:37
Well I don’t know if I would say there was that many at least initially there was Ada Walter shows eight us wife and there’s a couple after they became friends with Steele really founded that colony and and began talking to other artists about moving there and you know Ada founded the library and, you know, just tried to elevate the community bringing culture and things in as well as painting. So she was there and and actively painting and then you had Marie Goff who was a portrait painter. And we’re one kind of center home to Indianapolis where she continued that work. And she visited in Brown County and liked it and ended up staying there and brought her friend DJ karianna and her sister Genevieve goth graph who, later you know, she’d kind of set aside her painting career to support her sister working as a teacher. But most of the other Lucie Hartrath was a well pretty well known American impressionist, she came on in the summers and she didn’t commit to living there. And then leotta loop is another that comes to mind. But all of these artists show some particular would teach during the summer. So I mean, hundreds of people wouldn’t, you know, there could easily be 200 artists painting in Brown County in the summer.
Eric Rhoads 37:13
So people were holding essentially workshops.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 37:16
Right, exactly. And, and it was, it was like a cool thing to do to get away from the heat of the city and rent yourself a cabin. And there were a number of industrial types, the Wilkes and the Murphy’s and others that really supported these artists would would, you know, and when it wasn’t easy, they weren’t making a lot of money and, and so, some were more successful than others. But, and a lot of them I don’t know, they were kind of when they got there a little bit in sort of a midlife crisis. She thought they were in their 40s and 50s and had worked in commercial settings and we’re really interested in trying, you know, to really focus On art and fine art, and you know, some of them had wives, some of them, didn’t have children. So it was really very intense kind of experience, I think, for a lot of them.
Eric Rhoads 38:17
So in terms of what can be learned from what you discovered about the creation of this art colony is something like that even possible today.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 38:29
Boy I don’t think so. Because I think it’s the isolation of the place is really what allowed them to really focus and experiment and fight with each other and love each other and, you know, boost up family kind of described it. You know, somebody asked me about Indiana and he said Indiana was a place where you had time to think, and i think that was important, but now with all The intrusions of the internet and social media and people and I think it would be really difficult and all those things are necessary if you want to have a market but you know and where are the patrons you know, that supported these artists you know, that paid to send Steele to study in in Germany and who you know supported these artists through the depression and you know, Where are those people? I don’t think they’re there. You know, like they used to be
Eric Rhoads 39:33
What about the contemporary art scene in Brown County. What’s going on there now?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 39:39
Well, Indiana actually is blessed with a lot of really fine artists. And the Brown County Art Gallery which still exists today along with the Brown County art guild which split off from the gallery in the 50s. You are home to a lot of really good artists. Say it we have in the art gallery. In addition to our historic collection, we have about 60 living artists who exhibit there and many of them are members of the Brown County artists Association, which as I said dates back to 1926. But others are members of another group called Indiana heritage arts, which stages a large Midwest art competition for people with a tie to Indiana. And they give out about $30,000 in prize money every year and then when you add in what sells it becomes a really lucrative thing for an artist to be a part of the judges come from all over the country. And as a result, you know, Indiana artists get a lot of support. We bring in professionals that they are gallery to provide, you know, professional education. We are constantly doing events and things that support them and that’s really kind of spread statewide you know, there’s a paint out about every weekend somewhere in a community or a guild or an organization somewhere. So I can’t say that anybody’s getting rich off of it. There are some are very successful professionally. But you know, whoever did really know it isn’t the point.
Eric Rhoads 41:27
That’s not really the point is it?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 41:28
No it isn’t. And and the art gallery because of its legacy and, you know, the history of plein air, and certainly we have studio painter says, well, that tends to be the editorial position of the show, and of who exhibits in the building. You know, if you come in as an abstract artist, you’re probably not going to do as well because it’s not what people come there to see, our history is so well known. But we are doing an abstract show in March in conjunction with Indiana University. We did one last year just to kind of, you know, try to educate people a little bit that there really was a foundation in representational art that led to this so
Eric Rhoads 42:14
so in terms of stories and so on, I remember seeing in your book there was a a mobile art studio that one of the artists that put together Dahlgren
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 42:27
Charles Dahlgren, yes, he was one of the summer visitors. And and so he Yeah, he had a van that he would just drive from place to place and he could stay in that van. Carl Graf when he first came would pitch tents you know, they couldn’t afford or there couldn’t find any place available to stay. But then, you know, eventually about 30 artists, 35 artists actually called it home had homes there and you know, studios, and we know where most of them are. In fact, there is one lane that we occasionally do studio tours on where a number of them live and in town, all of the buildings that are shops do have a demarcation that shows that this was someone’s studio. But when I wrote my book, I came at it not I mean, I was not an art expert in terms of a technical, you know, person at all I and I came strictly at it as a writer who actually had written for television for a lot of years. So to me, it was a great story book with some really nice pictures. And so it was the stories of the artists that I think people are attracted to the romance between Murray goth and bJ karianna. And, and Alan and there’s just a lot of stories. About how they got there and what it was like to live there, and how the local residents resented them quite a bit all these rich people they considered, well they were rich compared to most of them, coming there and you know, painting a picture of their cow they thought it was nonsense they couldn’t believe anybody would spend time doing that. And, so just that whole interaction of the community and then how the community kind of figured out hey, this could end up being, you know, a way of an economic driver and who continues to be today.
Eric Rhoads 44:35
Are there any specific stories that come to mind which might be a kind of a way to cap this? Anything that any of the artists that you want to share that perhaps would be worth hearing?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 44:49
Oh, they were all such different characters. Probably one of the most interesting and probably one of the most talented artists was Will Vawter, and he was completely self taught. He grew up in Greenfield, Indiana, which was also the home of James Whitcomb Riley, Indiana’s Poet Laureate, and eventually America’s Poet Laureate. And Riley began to realize that Vawter had some drawing skills and, and Vawter ended up illustrating many of Riley’s poetry books. And he kind of ended up in Brown County. And he was well paid, you know, for doing those. And so he so he really began to teach himself to paint with oils completely on his own. And when he moved to Brown County, he began working Brown County people into these drawings that ended up in these books. And part of what we have in our collection are some of Vawter’s original sketches, and and as they appear in Riley books, but he was a total character. He married this woman who literally came down there to marry him. She had heard of him, she knew of James Whitcomb Riley, and met Vawter in Indianapolis when he was working on some sketches with Riley and she followed him to Brown County and she made Vawter’s life miserable, just totally miserable. They ended up getting divorced. And Vawter lived above a store and he had a wood stove in the house and he would just dump the ashes out on the floor, you know, he wouldn’t really carry them out. And he when he would drive, he would drive his car up to a location that he was going to paint and he wouldn’t necessarily get out of the car. He would just set the easel up on the steering wheel and kind of lay it out and then he would wipe the brushes on the ceiling of the car.
Eric Rhoads 47:02
Sounds like he was kind of lazy.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 47:05
So eventually everybody got so worried about him they had him introduced to the widow of the person who owned the drug store. And they finally got married and she gave will a proper home eventually so and you know, he was so enamored with snow white in the seven dwarfs when it played at the theater, he went to see it eight times. He, he couldn’t believe that characters like he drew for Riley to come alive and be on a screen and you know, just really interesting, lovely people.
Eric Rhoads 47:41
He had incredible energy in his work. So I’m sitting here flipping through your book, I didn’t know if you knew I had it. That may have been why I decided to do the podcast that I remember but the, I don’t know if I bought the book in Brown County or I bought it on Amazon or something, but it’s just a delightful book. It’s a coffee table book. It looks like it’s about 230 pages 220 pages, lots of beautiful color reproductions, is it even in print anymore? Or can it even be found?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 48:12
It’s actually in its fourth printing. the last one came out in July in softcover. And so yeah, you can buy it on Amazon… it was a real popular book I think because we worked really hard to make it a good story. There’s a chapter on each artist and so it tells a little bit about them, you know, that like secret bomb has red hair and his temper, and the romance between Maria and karianna. And they never married it was just this again, he was dedicated to her all her life and, and you know, EK Williams who looked like Theodore Roosevelt and he wore a tie and bow tie when he went out and painted because he loved that people made that connection. You know, there’s just and then Steele himself so lots of really interesting stories
Eric Rhoads 49:12
You talked about Brown County becoming the …. would Steele have been considered the Monet of that colony. Was he kind of the leader of the pack?
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 49:25
Absolutely. He was the rock star who came there first. And interestingly enough, there is a couple that donated a million dollars to the Indiana State Museum which matched it and there is a beautiful visitor center now at the Steel site. And it’s been the house has been renovated. The studio has been relighted. There’s they have put back Steele’s outbuildings and the couple’s whole inspiration for joining This was visiting Monet’s home. And Angie Renee and they and they wanted they felt that the Steele site could be, you know, that level of place and it is it’s absolutely a stunner, you need to go back and see it because it’s not what you remember.
Eric Rhoads 50:20
No, I remember you know, actually, you know going into Steele’s house and you walk in the front door and it was just pretty much like going into the other house except it was his place. I don’t remember if there were a lot of paintings in it or not. Seems to me I remember there were not a lot of his but I may be wrong, but sounds wonderful. Well, this has been absolutely delightful. I’d encourage everybody to consider this book. It’s called the Artists of Brown County. Lyn Letsinger-Miller is our guest today and the author and Lyn it’s a pleasure for me to meet you and to talk to you because this book is is one of my favorites and of course not only because I grew up in Indiana quite frankly growing up in Indiana I had no idea about the Brown County painters I knew about Brown County. It was not until I got into the art business started publishing the magazines that I discovered that there were all these magnificent painters in Indiana. So and as you say to this day, there’s some fabulous painters in Indiana. I’m surprised at how many and the quality of the level of quality that is coming out of there so probably had a lot to do with the early influences of Brown County.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 51:32
Well for sure and and I would also want to recommend the Brown any art gallery which started in a storefront in 1926. And a fire chased it up the road. And it burned again. 1960s a building about a 7000 square foot building was put together. Now thanks to the efforts of a lot of people who love early Brown county Art five years ago we added 8000 square feet. We have the Stephens art education studio, which is a beautiful studio with a garage floor surface with ventilation that changes the air out every 15 minutes that has its own kitchen and bathroom, huge exhibition walls and lighting for workshops specifically, and then the rest is all exhibition space and we have the Indiana years Gustave film and a gallery dedicated just to him. And a beautiful collection of all his works. We have almost everyone that had been produced in Indiana. And then we have the we have the William Zimmerman’s studio, a very famous bird artist from Indiana, kind of a modern day Audubon, and if you’re a birder we have birders that it’s like a sanctuary they come in and we have his all his original works there and We have, you know, a permanent collection room. And you know about 600 early Indiana pieces that we exhibit on a rotating basis. So if people can spend two or three hours we have videos you can watch that tell you the history of the county and, there’s something going on all the time, we’ve learned that if you tell people the story in the history that they want to come and learn that and appreciate it, and sometimes they’ll buy a painting, which is, you know, really special for our artists. On the connection on the people who love Brown County, they really find it at that gallery. You know, we’ve had people walk in and say, Oh, I remember seeing that when I was a girl or, you know, so it’s a real romantic, beautiful place to spend some time.
Eric Rhoads 53:57
So here’s what I’m going to do. No promises but each year, in the fall I do an event called the publishers Invitational where I bring a group of, oh usually about 100 artists and we take over a hotel or resort or a college or something. And we just come and paint the area for a week. And we sit around at night and we sing songs and talk to each other and show each other our paintings. And so I am going to see what I can find in Brown County and no promises. But maybe if I can find something, I’ll do one in Brown County, in a year or two.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 54:36
I would be more than happy to help you with that. We have workshops coming from all over the country that have that same idea maybe not quite to that size, but we can certainly accommodate it and we would love, love, love to see that happen.
Eric Rhoads 54:51
Well, Lyn, thank you so much for being on the plein air podcast. I hope everybody enjoyed it got some sense of an area. I’m going to be doing a series on some of the colonies around the country. So if you happen to be part of one of those, let me know and maybe we can do something on the history of your colonies as well. But starting out maybe because of my my upbringing in Indiana, but we’re starting out with Brown County, but it’s not just because of that it’s because of the significance in the art world and how much influence and I talked to a significant art dealer who deals in, you know, the Edgar Payne’s of the world from Laguna and otherwise and he said to me that the most difficult and most sought after paintings for him to find are Brown County paintings.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 55:44
Well, we can certainly help him out with that,
Eric Rhoads 55:48
Excellent. Well, thank you again, Lyn for being on the Plein Air podcast again, the art or the book is the artists the Brown County and it’s Lyn Letsinger-Miller Thanks again, Lyn.
Lyn Letsinger-Miller 56:01
Thank you. I love talking about Brown County. Thanks for the opportunity.
Eric Rhoads 56:06
Well, thank you again to Lyn Letsinger-Miller. I am more excited about Brown County than ever and maybe we’ll do a trip there. I’m already going to look into it. And anyway, if you think you might want to go on a trip there, drop me a note if I get a lot of interest then maybe we’ll do it. Also. I’ve got a bunch of marketing ideas for you. Are you ready?
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 56:37
In the art marketing minute I try to answer your art marketing questions from things you send in email your questions to Eric at art marketing.com. Here’s a question from Carolyn Hancock. It doesn’t say where Carolyn is from, but she says Eric, I’d love to get your feedback on writing an exhibition proposal. I’ve created a body of work that should be exhibited as a whole For the full impact, what is the best way to introduce today’s galleries or museums or nonprofits? Thanks for all you do for supporting artists. But Carolyn, I gotta tell you, I’m not big on writing proposals. I got it. I have spent so much of my life writing proposals and having them rejected and not having them even read in some cases, that I decided I’m just not doing proposals anymore. I think it’s a big giant, waste of time. Now, there are certain environments where proposals are necessary. You know, like if you’re doing proposals for a grant or something, absolutely got to do it. It all seems very formal to me, but I like to think that we tend to hide behind email and proposals and PDFs and things like that. The reality is that if you want to get something done, it’s best to either get face to face or phone to phone. Let me explain why. Let’s imagine for a second that you’re a busy gallery or music Director, you get hundreds of emails a week. everybody’s asking you the same question. Everybody wants to be in your gallery. You know, gallery owners tell me they get 1500 2000 unsolicited artists who are reaching out every every week or every month to try to get into their gallery. Well, you don’t want to do what everybody else is doing. You want to be different. And so if you’re busy, I was with a gallery director. We were having a meeting and while we were doing meeting, he was opening up glancing in and throwing things in the garbage. And I said, What is that he said, you know, artists proposals people have sent, he said, and I get 150 emails a day. He said, I if I spent all my time doing this, I never get anything else done. So to them, it’s, you know, it’s important, but they have other things they have to do too. So if you’re busy and you have to sort through things or you have your assistant if you have one sort through things. Well, what’s left is about 2% to get their attention, if you open your own email, and your goal is to get Through it fast, you’re looking for certain keywords or clues. So you can hit Delete fast, right? I get dozens of proposals. Every month, I get proposals for articles. I don’t hit Delete in those cases, I just forward them to my editors because I don’t make those decisions they do. It’s up to them. And I get proposals for tech stuff. Sometimes I forward it, sometimes I delete it, you know, I get probably dozens of people every month say, you know, we want to do SEO for you or we want to build websites for you. I already know we have that covered. So I just hit delete, I don’t even respond. I can’t possibly respond to everybody. I’m not trying to be a jerk. But these are people who are coming unsolicited. If I know somebody, I’m always going to respond anyway. People are looking for ways to eliminate work. And so if you’re one of the many proposals coming in the door, chances are they’re not going to read it or if they read it, they’re going to read the first headline and if the headline doesn’t grab their attention, they’re gone. So I scan things that come through. So guess what never happens though. Nobody ever calls me. It’s very rare. Once in a while people will email and ask for an appointment once it all somebody will call. And sometimes I give appointments to people that way but it’s got to pique my interest, you got to get my attention, you got to get their attention. And if not, you’re not going to get an appointment. Now I’m not trying to sound difficult. It’s just that there’s a lot going on and I can’t do it all. So you gotta kind of pick and choose. So what you say in your email or your headline or your subject line has to pique interest if you are going to do a proposal. You need something in that top headline in that proposal that’s going to sound exciting and get them interested. And it shouldn’t be about you. It should be about them. In other words, what is this going to do for me this is going to draw crowds. This is going to get a lot of attention. This is going to get national publicity Look at what it’s going to do for them always shift this to what’s in it for them, or what’s in it for me, right? So don’t make things about you make things about them. If you can get a meeting, then you can sell yourself on your idea and you can overcome objections when they come up. I was at a meeting the other day and somebody brought up a couple of objections. I said, I’m glad you mentioned that, because here’s why. That’s not a problem. And then they went, Oh, yeah, okay. But you can’t do that when they’re reading a proposal. And most people are not going to give you the time and attention to call you and ask you those questions. They’re just going to move on. So tailor your presentation to people’s needs to so you want to start by asking them, what are they looking for? What are their needs, if you’re doing gallery shows what kind of shows you looking for? What do you want them to accomplish? And then when you’re doing your proposal, you can say what you mentioned that you really need something that’s going to generate a lot of publicity. Here’s why this is going to generate a lot of publicity. See, that’s how it works. selling yourself In person is the best way you don’t have to take any sales courses. You just have to be yourself and be willing to tell people what’s on your mind. But always listen first, remember, you got two ears, and one mouth, use two ears and listen, stop and listen and then adjust your course as you go. And of course, if you know someone who will introduce you in, you’ve got an 80% chance of increasing the likelihood of getting a meeting. So I hope this all helps.
The next question came up in our figurative art convention marketing sessions. It says the question is about how and why to build your list. Well, what would your life be like if you owned your own media? Let’s say you’re me. Let’s say you own Fine Art connoisseur magazine and plein air magazine and realism today and American watercolor and fine art today and Plein Air today or the Plein Air convention of the figure convention, or the video companies, streamline and Liliedahl and creative catalyst. All of those are platforms and their opportunities to promote. So if you could advertise your own in your own media for free, it’s a real benefit, right? Well, I can do that. Other people pay a lot of money to be in my media, but I can advertise my own stuff for free because it’s my company promoting my company, right? So what if you could do that? Well, building a list is like having your own media. When you have a mail list and email list and and by the way, both are a good idea. You can email them or mail them as much as you want. Of course, you want to be respectful. You don’t want to over mail, you want to be careful about that. You want to make sure they’ve opted in to receive things, but you can do anything you want. So now you can email things like new painting announcements, workshop announcements, newsletters and things Like that, whereas you could still buy advertising and you still should buy advertising. But this is a way to expand on it. So I like to say, look for everything you do to drive one particular initiative and that’s building your list. I try to do that very much. on your website, you should have something that makes them join your list on your social media talk about it, you should have business cards to talk about it. You should have it on the signature of the bottom of your email talks about it on your you know, everything that you do talk about build my list. Well, the way to do that is to create an incentive product. Let’s say you want to do the 20 best paintings you’ve ever done or 25 best paintings, you can say I’ve got an ebook of the 25 best paintings I’ve ever done in the stories behind them, takes you 10 minutes to create it. Make a nice cover, put it on your website, they click on it says you know free, just enter your email address. Now you have the ability to to email them and and talk to them. And this is the way to build customers for whatever it is you’re doing. And if you want something very specific, build an E book that’s specific to that. So if you wanted something for painters, and something different for collectors have a different subject for each and that collectors will go with the one subject, the painters will go with the other. Of course, we’re finding today, a lot of collectors are learning to paint, so you might get them to do both. Anyway, I hope that helps. But having your own media is a beautiful thing. So if you can, you could do that. That’s a great thing. And the nice thing about email is that you can control it a little bit more, right, you can mail it now, there are things called open rates. And so if you get like a 18 or 15% open rate that’s considered pretty good. Not everybody’s going to open every email. And so you know, that’s in a social media only 2% of the people on your newsfeed ever see what you’ve put out there. Only 2% so if you’ve got 10 thousand people, you’re getting to 200 people. And we all think that everybody sees everything, but it’s just not true. So this is something you can control a little bit more. Now you got to have the speaking of headlines and subject lines, you got to have powerful headlines and subject lines on your email subject, and on your headline because if those don’t draw people in, then nobody’s gonna pay attention to it, so you’ve got some homework to do. Anyway, I hope that’s been helpful. I want to remind you that I’ll be doing art marketing three mornings live at the upcoming plein air convention and also the upcoming figurative art convention. It’s kind of fun to do live because we can interact and you can ask your questions. So come and join us. Anyway, that is today’s art marketing minute.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 66:51
A reminder to enter your paintings and the plein air salon by March 15. Also to check out the face conference at figurativeArtconvention.com, and the art trip to Vienna and Berlin, from Fine Art connoisseur at FineArttrip.com. Also, if you’ve not seen my blog on Sunday mornings where I talk about art and philosophy and so on, it’s called Sunday coffee. It can be yours for free. If you go to coffeewithEric.com. Well, it’s been fun doing this. We’ll do it again sometime. Hopefully next week, if I can get to it, I will still be here in Russia. So I will see you when I see you. Watch my Facebook and Instagram, posting pictures of what’s going on. And if you’ve not if you’re not on there, my Instagram is @EricRhoads. Eric Rhoads. And my Facebook is the same. And Facebook I met my friend max of 5000. Because I want to keep it a personal page, but you can still follow it. And that way you’ll get the feed so I just can’t see what you’re doing, which is unfortunate, but that’s kind of The way Facebook makes it but if you do that I’m posting things on Instagram and Facebook and you’re going to want to see the pictures of me painting out in the cold weather. So that’s that’s kind of fun. And I’ll have pictures of some of the interviews and things that I’m doing as well and have posted several so far. Anyway, this is fun. We’ll do it again. And I’m Eric Rhoads publisher and founder of Plein Air magazine. Remember, it’s a big world out there. I’m out in that big world as we speak, painting it, you go paint it, too. We’ll see you. Bye bye.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free 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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