Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews portrait and landscape painter Lois Griffel, who talks about discipline versus talent, and much more.
Listen as Lois Griffel shares the following:
• What it was like to study under Henry Hensche of the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, including this method for using wooden blocks as subjects in his painting classes
• Considerations on what Impressionism is and what it is not, as well as plein air compared to alla prima painting (“I love great paintings. I don’t care what you call yourself.”)
• How she keeps a “fresh eye” on her works in progress
• The plein air movement, which is an “escalation of talent and interest”
• The colors she uses on her palette, and what she suggests for students
Bonus! Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares advice on contracts for artists and how to finalize a sale when you have someone interested in a specific painting (including one question you should ask) in this Art Marketing Minute Podcast.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Lois Griffel here:
– Lois Griffel online: https://loisgriffel.com/home.shtml
– 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 164:
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 164. Today we’re featuring legendary artist Lois Griffel.
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 plein 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 I hope you’re safe and healthy and getting some painting done in the midst of all this craziness, or at least studying painting a little if you happen to have some downtime. A lot of great instructional videos out there art tutorials, hundreds of them for instance at Liliedahl video. It’s a tough name but great videos the shortcut to get there is Lili kind of like the flower Liliartvideo.com check them out. also a good time to catch up on your reading. If you like this podcast then you probably would like plein air magazine. It’s kind of a must. The digital edition actually has more pages of content than the print issue which has a lot of content. But you can get print digital or digital alone or both you know whatever you want at pleinAirmagazine.com subscribers now of this all over the world and a digital edition makes sense for you. It’s pleinairmagazine.com And lots of articles and stories on the Hot painters and what’s going on in the collectors and the events and you don’t have to be an artist. It’s an artist and collector thing. So you would love it. I think you would love it. I’ve been publishing it for years. Coming up after the interview. I’ll be answering art marketing questions from you. Let’s get right to the interview though with a legend. Legend. Yes. Lois Griffel. Welcome to the plein air podcast.
Lois Griffel 02:29
Well, thank you for having me.
Eric Rhoads 02:31
This is quite a pleasure because you have established yourself and I’m sure you’re humble about this, but you’re quite the legend.
Lois Griffel 02:40
Okay, I’m humbled. I never think of myself that way at all. But thank you,
Eric Rhoads 02:46
well, we have some mutual friends and they just tell me what you know what a sweet and wonderful and humble person you really are. So I’m sure that’s very true. So I want to kind of start out at the… Getting because your story is really fascinating. And, you know, you’ve done so much and it’s impacted so much. So let’s kind of let’s kind of start out with this, this whole art thing. When did you discover art in your, in your life or in your head?
Lois Griffel 03:21
Well, pretty early first, I was lucky to live in New York City and I was nurtured by my parents course and to made me on so of course, since I got married. So and I was the first niece of about nine, my nephew so I was really pampered. And I don’t remember how young I was, but I know that I was starting to get great awareness about art and and all those wonderful things because I was to the net, I was taken to all of the great museums and I even had a bit of an operatic, not for But appreciation. So I had a very nice and stimulating childhood. And my mother remembers this. But when I was about five, I had a very bad case of measles. And my mother was never artistic. So I don’t even know where this came from. But she came into my bedroom with a little pad and pencil to amuse me, I guess. And she sat down and drew a profile. And then I took it out of her hand, and I did a better profile. And I don’t think I’ve ever looked back since.
Eric Rhoads 04:35
So natural talent right off the bat,
Lois Griffel 04:38
natural interests. I’m sure this has come up with other people before I think talent has to do with wanting to be the discipline or to be disciplined enough to pursue something and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that think was natural and I shared this question all the time. But, you know, I know everyone you’ve talked to we know that getting good at this is a journey and it takes a while. So I’ve always been a little undecided about what I think talent is all about.
Eric Rhoads 05:15
I was talking to Rose Frantzen last night she was here over staying here. And she was talking about how you have to develop a sense of confidence. That until you can develop that sense of confidence to the point where you can put that pencil or that paintbrush exactly where you want it to do exactly what you want it to do. She said, it’s a struggle until that point and it takes a lot of years and a lot of effort to kind of get to that point where, it’s almost second nature.
Lois Griffel 05:51
Yes, it’s and once it’s second nature, it does become easier. I’m always telling that to students, when you first start out. You have So many things that you have to think about. And you know, so good drawing skills, of course is second to none. But she’s absolutely right. This takes time and practice. And as I said, a discipline and dedication, I really do think all those factors have to come into it.
Eric Rhoads 06:18
I think the big difference is that, you know, I’ve got kids that are in high school right now and soon to go into college. And, you know, they’re constantly complaining about they can’t wait till High School is over. And they hate going to class and, you know, they know more than the teachers and they hate all the exercises and the tests and so on. But in our particular case, all the exercises in the test may be challenging and frustrating, but they’re also fun.
Eric Rhoads 06:47
Oh, absolutely. I mean, you’re already doing something that you’d want and love to do. So whether it’s exercises or not, you know, we’re very lucky that we get a chance to do What we want to do, as we’re learning it, so I totally agree.
Eric Rhoads 07:05
So you went from lying in bed with the mumps and a pencil to what?
Lois Griffel 07:12
Well, I was stimulated by the Impressionists from an early age. I do remember the first time I stood in front of them Van Gogh’s Irises at the met, and I never really looked back. I think from the time I was starting to draw, I knew that this is what I really love to do. But I feel…classes because I spent drawing so much was listening to my teachers. But I just knew really early on it, I loved it. I didn’t know much about painting. But I got into doing portraits and my family and my friends and so I that I had been really aware of my interest in it at a very early age.
Eric Rhoads 07:58
And then did you At some point, go for some formal training.
Lois Griffel 08:03
Well, what’s really funny is that my parents encouraged me and I know I got drawing books and things to work from, but they didn’t really know what you did as an artist. So I was really encouraged to learn to play the piano of which I had absolutely no aptitude for. And finally, one day, my mother, I would have better luck with a much more expensive sessional teacher. And when he finally one day, took my mother by the hand and said, Mrs. Griffel, I think it’s time for you to stop wasting my time and your money. And I just looked up my mother and said, Can I have drawing lessons? And that’s where it all really started. Oh, I was about seven or eight. Yeah. I was lucky.
Eric Rhoads 08:57
So you got drawing lessons in from a local teacher
Eric Rhoads 09:02
a local teacher, there was I don’t know how my mother found her but I had a wonderful one on one with a very excellent fashion designer. So she got me into fashion drawing. You know, in those days, they didn’t have a lot of photos. This is aging me but I remember when newspapers didn’t have a lot of photos and the fashion illustrations were so beautiful and elegant, and that’s what she got me started on and then she helped me segue into doing portraits. So she was wonderful.
Eric Rhoads 09:38
And then from there, you ended up where Art Students League?
Eric Rhoads 09:42
Ah, oh, yeah, well, years later, of course, I went I ended up with the Art Students League, but I also felt very lucky that I had some amazingly great art teachers throughout Junior High in high school, and then college and so I really had a lucky break. I was at a small State Teachers College in New Haven, Connecticut, but it had its own art building, which meant that it had so many really great dedicated teachers. So I got all kinds of theory I had Alberts I had drawing, I had graphics, I had design, I had some painting, I just had such an incredible skilled art background before I even found the league. So that was, again another advantage that I had.
Eric Rhoads 10:36
So at some point you said I’m gonna make my living doing this.
Lois Griffel 10:42
Yes, I actually, when I was able to finally stop teaching public school, I did. Junior High for about three, years.
Eric Rhoads 10:52
Were you teaching art?
Lois Griffel 10:54
Yes, I was. Yeah, I was. I was K through 12 and And of course, in junior high because either love you or hate you because they either they really looked drawn … or they or they have because they have. So that got me out of teaching pretty quickly. But mostly because I didn’t have enough time for my own work, which a lot of my counselor college kept saying, you’re kidding yourself. You’re not gonna last as an art teacher because you’re going to want to do what you want to do. And they were right. So I finally found my way up to province town, and I was able to get a job, which was very rare, doing portraits on the street. So it was a little higher than street walking, but portrait training I used to like to say, and I was very good at it. I was I was very lucky. I was good at it. And I remained a portrait painter in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which was Cape Cod for about 10 years.
Eric Rhoads 12:00
you were making it You were basically a street artist who was setting up so tourists could get their portrait painted as they walk through.
Lois Griffel 12:11
Yeah, actually, the competition to be a portrait painter in Provincetown was very, very intense, because there were about eight enclosed studios. And by the way, they’re not even there anymore. But there were eight enclosed studios that had four or five artists in them. And so you basically were there every day. I mean, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, from 11 o’clock in the morning till 11 at night, and the fact that there were so many of us doing portraits that when people came to town, it became like, Oh, yeah, I guess we should get our portraits done. And in those days, we were doing them for $25 and less. So, you know, again, they didn’t want to sit that much. They didn’t want to sit that long. But Occasionally, if one of us is doing something that the friend, the husband, spouse, whoever was watching us do the portrait because of course the portrait should or couldn’t see what we were doing when they started encouraging the sitter and it’s Oh, God, it looks really wonderful, terrific. And people sat a little longer and so some of us really did put our heart and souls into doing some really good work and i’d say it probably did about 3000 portraits over a period of 10 years.
Eric Rhoads 13:36
Were these pencil or painting or
Lois Griffel 13:38
pastel, no pastel. So again, I already had a lot of color theory before I got the job. And that was another very good break for me. Because I had been studying at the Art Students League was Ray Kinstler was terrific. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 13:55
Got a huge loss. Losing Ray was
Lois Griffel 14:00
I mean, . He was one of the nicest, greatest and funniest teachers I’ve ever known and very encouraging.
Eric Rhoads 14:08
I’ll tell you a quick Ray Kinstler story. And I’ll be brief . But so right now I have a lot of portraits, I think 26 of them so far by many of the greats. And we put them in the magazine. So Ray Kinstler called one time, so let’s, why don’t you come by my studio next time you’re in New York, I’ll do your portrait for the magazine. I said, Great. That’d be great. So we blocked out three hours. And I went to the studio and the National Arts Club, which is I’m a member, so it was easy. And we sat down, we chatted, and we talked, he talked for three hours. And, his stories were absolutely fascinating. I mean, I was not at all disturbed by it. And about 10 minutes before his time was up, he says, Oh, I guess we forgot to Do the portrait, I guess, you know, come in into the studio. And so he posed me and he took a couple shots of me with this camera. He said, I’ll have you come back soon and we’ll do some color studies. And so two years pass. Eventually I got invited back and I went in back in for the color studies, but the same thing happened again, we talked for three hours. So unfortunately, that’s the one portrait that never happened. And you know, you think these guys are gonna live forever. So yeah, you also studied with Burt Silverman didn’t you?
Lois Griffel 15:33
AI Oh, god, yes, I was so lucky. And he was around phase two. I really had the luck of the draw to get two of the really great teachers, really wonderful men and human beings and humble. Ray was pretty humble Bert was pretty humble and very, very understanding of what it was like to be a student And very patient. I was so lucky. I really was.
Eric Rhoads 16:06
…Bert around and he did my portrait. So something happened in Provincetown, though you were painting for 10 years doing portraits? And then what happened because there was kind of a momentous occasion that occurred. What was that?
Eric Rhoads 16:27
When I took over the art school, is that what you’re referring to? Okay. Well, yes, my husband. I met my husband in Provincetown. And I thought that he’d come back to New York with me every year after the portrait season was done, but he really did not like New York. So fortunately, around 1985, I was one of only two of Henry Hensche’s students, and he was a fellow that I went to study with after I was done doing portraits and his wife was elderly at the same time he was 85. And it just so happened my husband and I were driving past their house, and there was an ambulance and I just knew exactly what was going on. And when Ava died, he was quite lost. He did actually ended up getting remarried, but for at least a year or two, he was really sad and lost, but other people, a lot of people in his life really were encouraging because he was 86. He encouraging him to make a decision about what to do with the school. And since I was living there permanently, and my husband was a carpenter, somewhat contractor, Henry felt that I would be the best one to take over the school because he was very aware that the school was in very bad disrepair. And that’s another long conversation we can have, but he really only cared about teaching and his students and he never put a penny in the school. And even when he took the school over …, it was, it could have been 100 years old. By the time I got a chance to fix it up. It was way beyond anything in any money set, my husband and I had to do the repair the Historical Society. I like to make a joke that was the hysterical society, really handicap tower nigh about fixing the buildings to code. And if we had put whatever money we had left into the building, we wouldn’t have as I said to people, we would have been living in studs and tyvek . So we really had to sell it. It was just something that was taken completely out of my hands.
Eric Rhoads 18:51
So you really didn’t talk a lot about studying with Hensche though you did study with him. Yes.
Lois Griffel 18:59
Yes. Okay. I was I studied with him for about 10 years as I once I stopped doing portraits in the summer, I started waitressing and then I had much, much more time to devote myself to Henry and the school, or at least still there as a student it this was about 75 or six and then in 85 is when he passed away and then I took over the school, you know, we got very close so I really got a lot from him. I was very, very lucky again.
Eric Rhoads 19:33
So a lot of people listening to this Lois might not really know the story of Hensche his heavy influence on American art and how important he and the province town school was can you kind of touch on that and the background of that so that it’s not the Provincetown school, the Cape Cod school, I guess, but that’s cool. Yeah. So it would you kind of touch on that and And give people a little bit of an overview of Hensche.
Lois Griffel 20:03
Oh, absolutely, I’d be delighted to. Well first of all, the school was opened in 1899 by Charles Webster Hawthorne, who was a student and protege of William Merritt Chase. And even though chase…Charles wasn’t one of the people that went to France to meet Monet, but he was very much involved with, with the colorist theory and the Impressionists theory. And when chase disappointed Charles about not letting him take on the school to school in Chicago, Long Island. Hawthorne decided that he wanted to open his own school where the light was really wonderful. So he found Provincetown, which is almost dependency listed light coming in from the ocean. The light in Provincetown, is magnificent, so he opened the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899. Died rather tragically in front and suddenly around 1930. And then five years later, Henry Hensche and believe us, none of us ever call them anything but Henry. He finally secured another large building very much like the one that was one had opened his school. And then Henry opened up the cape School of Art in 1935. And he was really he was very dedicated to Hawthorne. So Henry was very dedicated to Impressionism.
Eric Rhoads 21:34
So he studied under Hawthorne.
Lois Griffel 21:37
Yes, he did his his main mentor, although I think Henry had some influences from the Chicago Art Institute, but I wouldn’t be able to quote you to meet those teachers. But Hawthorne was his mentor and his, you know, most important artist and teacher in his life.
Eric Rhoads 22:03
So who came up with the what I call the colorist movement was was that Hawthorne was that Hensche? Was that chase beforehand?
Lois Griffel 22:13
No chase wasn’t as much. The Chase did not embrace the color theory as much until he actually was doing more of his landscapes. But Charles was doing that was his whole goal was to, you know, have a school dedicated to plein air painting, definitely. And I mean, the school was a large building, but we were only in it if it rained. And then when Charles Hawthorne did his , again, he had very highly skilled artists that came from the Chicago, the Chicago Art Institute. And, you know, in those days, people that wanted to be artists really did have to have a lot of background. And so what he did is he marched his artists down his student’s down to the beach in that blazing sun and he put putty knives in their hands. And he had a bunch of Portuguese children probably sitting for a nickel for an hour and that eat and he had his students doing portraits with a putty knife. And because of the colors of the children’s skin and the sunburn and suntan, they became known as mud heads, but his objective was to not let them think about anything but color and value not drawing the eyelashes in the eyes. So these were really strong studies of shapes and getting good proportions. And, but he was also a brilliant painter and teacher. So when, he did it was on Friday mornings he would do demos, so that would include still life and other things to ground out the students experiences. And then Henry took that one step further. He felt again you have to remember to 35 years later, he was getting a lot more people that wanted to learn to paint So he realized that he couldn’t March the students down to the beach, especially if they were not as skilled as some of Hawthorne’s students might have been. And he created something called the block studies. And in those days when Provincetown was still building, there are a lot of two by fours and four by fours, floating around in places with building homes. And Henry brought them back to the school, painted them with matte colored paint and got people to start working on block studies and you literally painted studies of colored blocks because he felt that if a student didn’t draw Well, they at least could probably get some of the block proportions right as well as see the light and dark values. So it was a very effective way to learn to see color and improve drawing skills. And he the only thing he did, that was a great service to all of us was that We didn’t have to use putty knives. We did use palette knives. And for many of us, we just we painted with palette knives for years and years and years.
Eric Rhoads / Lois Griffel
When I started painting when on my painting journey I went to one of the people who was probably with you at the time was Camille …. Oh, sure. We did. We did color blocks. I did color blocks every Monday or every Tuesday for two years. And I absolutely hated it. I gotta be honest, I love Camille, but I and she knows this, but I hated it because I wanted to paint pictures, but it is so helpful in seeing because you see the color, you know, for the people listening, you know, imagine that you’ve got a red block. And then red block part of it’s in shade part of its in light. Part of this is reflected light. And you really see the impact of sun and cool and warm. And it really is a great training ground. And the one that of course, was the most surprising was taking a white block, and then putting that block in shade and in Sun to see now you see, you know, you don’t see any white at all you see influence of other colors.
Eric Rhoads 26:24
So are you know, is that a tradition that you continued?
Lois Griffel 26:30
Actually, no. And I’ll be honest, too, because I could see now I didn’t have a luxury. Well, in the winter. I did. I did do one week classes. Yes, I did at different locations. Because the winters, of course in Provincetown were very cold. So then I did have to work indoors. But I got to a point where I realized that, again, a lot of students really didn’t get the concept of Block Studies. And I always saw that this has happened that when Henry had students that finally really got to understand how to get the color the blocks, it was one flaw and I have been taken to test for this, but he never really used the words value or temperature. So a lot of people got good at block studies but they didn’t really know why they were good at it. And I had so much classical training that I just said, Okay, I’m not doing block studies anymore. And what I do is I break down landscape into block like shapes, you know, like a little bit like the Carlson, some, you know, 12345, the light plane, the flat planes, you know, mountain plane, and I could see that by keeping the shape simple that I could teach the sense of block, color and studies outdoors in plein air and and I could see that once We’re doing the stuff that people really wanted to do, they were taking it further faster. But the best compliment I ever get at the end of a workshop is Oh, I can’t wait to go home and do block studies. So you start to learn to see how important they are and how efficient they are in learning so I stopped making them do it but I think that by turning landscape and still I’ve into block studies, and you know what i mean but big shapes then that was really good well, and also painting
Eric Rhoads 28:33
palette knife to learn that you eventually switched to a brushed didn’t you,
Lois Griffel 28:38
I do paint with a brush now exclusively, and I always loved brushwork, I mean, that was something that I got influenced very heavily from Ray Kinstler and Harvey Dinnerstein Oh, I did study with too come to signet and and then Bert. I love I love the bravado You just came back from Russia and you’re talking about Rapen and all the Russian impressionists and I loved them. And I always looked at their work. And one day when I was looking at a book, I remarked to my husband, I said, you know, every time I’m stopped at a painting, it’s because of the brushwork. So that’s when I, I like, oh, is a palette nice. And I’ve been doing brush work, at least for 20 years. Now
Eric Rhoads 29:28
you know, I think somebody has not enough attention paid to that. It’s almost as if it’s a natural thing. But, you know, people who are deliberate about it really know how to make that draw attention.
Lois Griffel 29:40
Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Eric Rhoads 29:43
One thing I wanted to talk to you about is Impressionism because there are a lot of people, who think they’re doing Impressionism but they’re not. Because there’s a lot of confusion among people about what is and what is not Impressionism. That is You know, the, the it’s kind of come to, to mean to a lot of people just doing a loose painting. But it’s just so much more than that. Can you articulate that for us?
Lois Griffel 30:12
Oh, I’m so thrilled you asked me that because I totally agree with you on that. A lot of times, Impressionism was put down by the critics because of the looseness, Monet’s looseness and the big caches of brushwork of paint that he would layer over layer over layer. And there was a sense of looseness to his work that the critics didn’t like, but they were experimenting in those days with color. And one of the things that Monet really pushed ahead was the fact that atmosphere created so many varieties of layers of color that we were observing, and that’s why he did so much layering that that was really what he was Trying to show him his impressionist movement. It was called Impressionism courses, you know, because he had a painting in a salon called impressions sunset. But he didn’t create Impressionism as much as he saw it. He saw the different layers of color in the atmosphere. And that’s what he was trying to achieve. And so unfortunately for a lot of people, Impressionism is sunny yellow light and cool purple shadows but it’s so much more than that. And that’s what Monet really really opened the world to of the layers and the vibration and you know, not actually using green out of the tube or colors just directly from the tube but layering so green trees had gold underneath it to express the sunlight and you know, the top planes of a field of yellow daisies would be lighter and brighter than the field of go to marigolds that are darker. It’s like every single thing had a color relationship a value relationship and, and other colors that influenced the sense of sun or shade. So that to me is what impression is but also what it means for me is that I can’t do a painting in just an hour and a half. my starts helped create the texture and the sunlight. But I go back the next day at the same time of day at the same place when the weather is the same, and the lights the same, and I add more layers and then I go back the next day and then two or three days later, I may have a finished painting. But that was really what Monet did. And then Henry was really a stickler for us. Not painting more than about an hour and a half on a painting because the light had Changed too much. So it was to put it simply, it’s light effect. It was really going for the light effect. And, you know, I’m grateful that I that Monet influenced Henry and Henry influenced me.
Eric Rhoads 33:18
Absolutely. So yeah, Henry didn’t meet me today? Did he?
Lois Griffel 33:23
No, no, no.
Eric Rhoads 33:25
He wasn’t alive. So it would have been it was Yeah. The influence of Charles Hawthorne?
Lois Griffel 33:33
Yeah. And Hawthorne kind of took the layering and the color theory to his own heights too. So, it’s something that kind of got handed down to the cape cut School of Art, you know, through Monet’s influence, but still, you know, Hawthorne was really a very dedicated plein air painter and impressionist And then Henry Moorsoe (sp?), so who just jumped off at the springboard after class or died and took it his own way. But really, he really encouraged that kind of observation and , technical application so that we can affect if he saw you painting on a sunny day or a cloudy day, he got mad at you and didn’t talk to you for two days. We we were very, very disciplined to, you know, see the light exactly the same every day as we were trying to, you know, address it. And the one story I love to tell my students is that Monet when he was in the studio looking over the Roland Cathedral, he could start a new painting the minute that – I always make a joke, the temperature changed and the lights change. But he did. He started so many new versions every time it was a little different, that he finally wrote to his wife At that time it was Blanche and he said, you know what I’ve started so many paintings I don’t know which is which anymore. So we all were told by Henry to make sure we put down the time of day and get to the same light effect at the same time of year and I actually did two or three paintings early on it I started when spring and finished the following spring because the light have changed.
Eric Rhoads 35:23
Well, that’s true discipline.
Lois Griffel 35:26
Yes, I’m I fortunately really am. I mean my own. My students know that. Even if I’m working inside and I do have to work from photos since I’m living in Arizona and I still have galleries in Florida and Cape Cod. Then I do have to keep a few paintings going from of those venues. But when I’m even in my studio, my mind stops about an hour and a half. I actually have to put the painting down and start another one because I can’t go further than that hour and a half. I have to see The next day with new eyes and a new sense of seeing it with fresh eyes. And so, I’m very disciplined that way,
Eric Rhoads 36:10
you know, I think it’s probably a pretty good discipline when you think about it, because how many of us tell the story of how we’ve overworked our paintings, you just, you know, sometimes you just, get so you know, your work ethic is like, just got a crush through this, you know, and get it done. And you just keep working it and working it and after a while, you know, it’s getting muddy and you can’t see it. And you know, it’s so I mean, I what I love is to is to take a painting and put that painting faced against the wall for for a month or two months, and then pull it out again, because then I’ll see things in it that I never could see before.
Lois Griffel 36:51
Oh, that’s such a great thing to say because I always tell this to my students too. I went out to study with great painter, I can say his name Scott Christensen. I loved his brushwork. And whenever at the end of the summer and those of us that were artists, he probably found most of us were expected to have a show at the end of every summer. And there was nothing I hated more than working hard on paintings, walking into the show, as after it was hung and seeing 25 things that I wanted to fix on 25 paintings. So I said that Scott at the end of a workshop that I took quite a few years ago, I said, he was very sweet and humble. he said, Have I answered everybody’s questions? So I raised my hand, I said, No, I sort of explained how I always go to workshops, incognito, because I never really know if another teacher wants to challenge me about color. And I also don’t want anyone to know me and come up to me and ask me for color recommendations on their painting. So he found out who I was, I don’t know how but I said so. Scott, I always have this problem at the end of every summer I walk in, and I hate, you know, I see flaws gets me crazy, I see flaws. So he said, Well, I’ll tell you the secret. And the funniest thing of all is have everybody grabbed their pens and pencils and wanted to write down whatever he was going to say. And he said, my advantage is that I do a show every other year. And then I hang those paintings in every different place in the house. So I walked in on them at different times of day or different lights, and I saw the problems. So I had a year to finish those paintings. And then I turned them against the wall getting ready for the show. Well, what a great lesson It was. It was worth every penny to hear him explain that. So the best part was, he worked at it to make it work better if we all need to do that. We all need to have that discipline. And so I think that was also some Else that gave me that that discipline that I really like to have that fresh eye as much as I can.
Eric Rhoads 39:08
Let’s talk a little bit about plein air painting, I’m curious about your thoughts because you’ve been at this your entire life. A lot has happened in the last 10 or 15 years where there are just a lot more people who are going outdoors. I think when we started the magazine You know, I’m not so sure there were all that many plein air painters, but there were hardly any events. Now today, you’ve got two 300 events. You’ve got all I know, you know, 10s of thousands of people who were painting, this podcast is had over a million and a half downloads. I mean, there’s people really interested in that subject. And Plein Air magazine is the number one selling art and and or photography magazine outsells all the magazines all the photography magazines at Barnes and Noble nationally and it’s curious to me Why? What is your thought about all of this? And what do you like and what do you dislike?
Lois Griffel 40:07
That’s, that’s such a great question. I have, obviously I have a lot of thoughts on it. Well, first of all, when I took the school over in 1985, I needed a way to really get students to not only just recognize me and understand what the school was all about, before Henry, before his wife Ada died, things where slowing down at the school. And so I did start advertising and in those days, there might have been 10 or 12 pages of the American artists, Magazine and workshops. And over the years, like every year, it seemed that it got bigger and bigger and now you’ve got your plan your supplements and it’s incredible how it mushroomed and I think a lot of it has to do with you in the magazine number one when plein air magazine first came out, I mean, we were overjoyed. And it also gave people the concept of plein air painting, being outdoors and doing it and the beauty the sheer beauty and satisfaction of really observing. Like I always say, the roses in real sunlight, I love it. But why it’s mushroom the way it did partly could be the magazine and the recognition of what it was all about. But it’s also that there’s just there was so much success early on by so many artists that I think and also they were such good artists and they taught so many people I think it just says become an escalation of talent and interest. So that’s, that’s somewhat where I’m coming from. But what I do like to tell people is a planner does not mean All at once are all a prima painters is definitely not, you know, for some of us going back to the location and taking that time and getting that fresh look. And and then for many they still can pull off an incredibly magnificent painting in an hour to an hour and a half. So the juggle is understanding that plein air is about painting in the light. But premium is about getting it done a little more quickly than maybe a lot of impressionists would be doing
Eric Rhoads 42:37
well and I think that’s it’s come to me in so many different things to so many different people I hear from, from everybody you know, and I’ll hear from somebody who’s a complete purist who says that a plein air painting has to be finished start to finish in one sitting, you can’t touch it up when you go back to the studio. I’m not being critical of that and you know other issues, say No, no no plein air painting is only to inform, you know, a color study or light study for a bigger studio painting. And you know, and then there’s everything else in between for many of us, right? For many of us, it’s a you know, for me it’s really an avocation. It’s something that I like to do. I like to get out I like the the act of painting. But and sometimes I get a good one. Sometimes I don’t, but it’s the experience for me. But others, you know, are just can kind of rocket and get an incredible painting done in a in an hour and a half or two hours.
Lois Griffel 43:34
Mm hmm. Yeah, well, I admire both. And I, if you were to visit me, I have a very classical Russian painting in my living room that I got from my grandfather was, had an antique store. Even before I was born, he wasn’t around but this one painting has been in my family for years. It’s a very classical kind of Millet But it’s not and one side of my wall is all my impression is friends and the other side of my wall are all my tonalist friends and, I love great paintings. I don’t care what you call yourself. So for me, I’m a plein air artist and I’m also an impressionist, and I proceed the way I explained to earlier, and I still know a lot of tonalist artists who, you know, put down the color and then they work it a little more and they play with it a little more. They’re, you know, they add a little bit of color here and there. And then what I think carries their work is brushwork. So again, if you’re really quick and you have great brushwork like Ken Auster, right, I was very happy and lucky. I studied with him a couple years ago. before He passed away and that was a huge loss. But again, I was there to look and and hear his thoughts on the brushwork that he did, and it was a joy to watch him. So again, I think that there’s a million different roads to getting successful paintings and, actually Burt Silverman said this to me one time and he said, Lois, doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you get there.
Eric Rhoads 45:26
That’s true. So you mentioned Russian painting, and I was, I was in Russia a couple of weeks. And I had the pleasure because I was doing a documentary on Russian art I had the pleasure to have alone time in the museum’s by myself. I immediately went and studied the Levitan and the Shishkin paintings, which are two of my favorite landscape painters. And the thing that I struggle with as I look at their paintings is they have such elegant color. It reads like bright sunlight. But if you really look at that color, you know, let’s say it’s a if you’re looking out on a chartreuse lawn, you know, bright, bright, bright green, the sun is just blasting it with light. And you know, you see the color on the edges of the trees and so on. If you paint, just what you see, you lose, It almost is too too garish or too much. But yet some people pull that off beautifully. So how do you learn to kind of know where you should be? You mentioned tonalism. I think tonalism is one of the hardest things in the world to do because you’re out there and you see all this brightness and you turn it into this beautiful harmony of mud.
Lois Griffel 46:52
Well, I don’t like to use the word mud Henry used to say mud is a color used in the wrong place because one of this and I’ve got an answer for you about that. And that is that we use the we use those gorgeous grays are one of my good friends like the fact that I used to call it calmed colors because gray connotes the idea of black and density and spot color. The thing is that you need some of those Comic Colors to offset all of those bright bombastic colors. And I teach that a lot I teach a lot about gray. There was always an old joke that all of us that taught at the school we would say that you know, there’s no such thing as gray. But the thing is that there is gray, it’s just that it’s you could take a beautiful, like I’ll give you an example when I look at a tree. I don’t see browns, I see a cond violet or grade down violet. And so I teach a great deal of the idea of seeing the gray Or the calmness of other colors and, and instead of calling mud, if it’s put in the wrong place then it’s muddy, okay, but if it’s put in the right place, it’s not. And I really mentioned that a lot in my classes. And I had an interesting thing too. That happened to me. I was writing my first book around the time that there was this great exhibition of Monet in the 90s. So it’s 90 paintings at the Boston Museum of 90 of his works in the 90 so from 1890 to 1990s show was spectacular. And I was able to get in on a very quiet afternoon because the Boston museum knew that I was doing my book and I had a couple of Monet illustrations. I got in when there was a group of only the benefactors, you know, the people that gave to the museum, and I was able to be alone. In the Monet exhibit, and I, yeah, I could get my nose really up to the painting. And that is how I learned to see what Monet did that he didn’t ever really use brown or Gray’s out of the tube, but he layered of really rich color with a slightly its complement. And he got those gorgeous tonalities
Eric Rhoads 49:03
Yeah, he was really about laying one thing next to the other not necessarily bonding them, is that right?
Lois Griffel 49:34
Exactly. Yeah, he did not blend As matter of fact, two other areas of concentration was that Henry would get mad if he saw somebody working over an hour and a half on a painting because then he said you’re gonna just make mud and and then he disciplined us again to that hour and a half to let it dry and start the next day where it’s got the surface of the little pack. You’re you could put the color down over the color which call scumbling. And you get that vibration. And I’ll tell you another quick story since I mentioned blocks earlier I did a demo from one of the local art groups a few weeks ago, and I decided I was going to do a block study for them. And what you do is you start with white, black and sun bright yellow, and then you modulate the color or you calm it with another layer of a color that’s exactly the same value but the minute you put pink over the yellow, it starts to look whiter. And then the minute I put blue over that pink and yellow combination, and I can do it when when it’s wet on wet because it’s been doing so long. I always hear them gasp. It’s so much fun to show them how that layering can mark but when I have students, I do encourage them to, you know, wait a day or two before going for the next layer. Until you have that discipline down.
Eric Rhoads 51:02
So are you saying the theory on that is complimentary color?
Lois Griffel 51:09
No, not at all. Actually, it’s really as a matter of fact It’s all about the primary. So all of your complimentary colors are the combination of three primaries. So when you mix all three, you get a grade calmed color. So when you start a white block with yellow, you’re putting the red over it, but it has to be pink is the second of the primaries, and then you put the blue over it, it’s the third of the primaries, and you get a gorgeous white. I mean, the luminosity is beautiful. So it’s not complements as much, but guess I did mention earlier that if I see some painting landscape, and I see the tree trunk, I start with a violet, but I do complement it down a little bit. I calm it down. So it’s both it’s working with the concept of grays and blacks and whites cannot be represented by a tube of gray or black or white. And that you, compliment or you it is most a compliment. And you would basically do all three of those colors over the initial color that you’ve put down. But I stay away from the word compliment a little bit, but then maybe I now that you’re asking me that. Maybe I don’t I think I do spend a lot of time talking to students about compliments. Maybe in a way, yes. Okay, can I think about that for a minute?
Eric Rhoads 52:42
are you using a limited palette? Are you using a very color filled palette?
Lois Griffel 52:47
No, actually, one of the one of the other things that I did not approve of Henry if I’m allowed to say that I didn’t approve of some things. He had his students going out with 22-23 colors. If you’re not, if you don’t know how to mix color, or if you don’t know how to see the light and the shadow then I mean that’s confusing as heck. And so as I started teaching, I modulated my palette, down to maybe 13 colors for students, maybe 14 and then when I go out and paint, I really only have one of each I have a warm and cool yellow, a warm and cool red and a warm cool blue. Yeah, so and that’s all I made. Yeah, so I do that when I’m alone. But sometimes if I’m making up my own Yellow Ochre in a class or if I’m making up a burnt sienna or something in a class and it doesn’t look exactly like the rest of the class, they yell at me so that we set the bring Yellow Ochre with me now and you know, a couple of the earth tones, but I also then explained to them that no matter what color the tube is called, every manufacturer has a different You know, a different solution.
Eric Rhoads 54:05
Yeah. So what what do you believe that the role of plein air artists is in the world?
Lois Griffel 54:14
Oh, I know that I’m an endless romantic but I really have to say that our role is to show the world how beautiful life is it both in the landscape still life portraiture that we live in such beauty that if and we’re losing it, that it breaks my heart When I see you know, gorgeous fields of daisies being trampled and built into a housing complex and I’m living in Arizona, and they’re going into the desert and it’s heartbreaking So, I cherish the work of all of my peers for capturing something beautiful. That is also maybe going to be very elusive in the future. I think it’s our role to capture.
Eric Rhoads 55:06
Yeah, that’s something a lot of people do. I know Dan Pinkham does that out in out in the LA area is that his? His compadres are out there trying to document and have done shows, I think over the last 20 years or so years shows of areas that showing what they once were and they’re now of course covered with houses.
Lois Griffel 55:29
Right, exactly, exactly. It’s It’s heartbreaking. It really is. And that’s why I cherish teaching people to see this because then I feel like I’m also helping people keep their eyes and their awareness open. And it’s really important to me.
Eric Rhoads 55:51
Well, this has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I think we can probably go on for 30 or 40 more hours. I’m not so sure our listeners would tolerate that. But yes, I’d sure like to. And maybe we’ll continue with a part two sometime in the future but its an absolute pleasure you You are just a wealth of knowledge and what a great What a great history and background that you have. And, when you think about it, you know you’re four generations removed from from Who did you say it was I’ve loved my brain went blank, you know you you you studied under Henry he studied under Hawthorne who studied under, etc. Yes, yeah, it is and then who did chase study probably is your own…. So it’s nice to see that carrying on and are you trying to make sure that what you’ve learned is carried on further Do you have Do you have some more You’re mentoring that is kind of the next you or is it just about teaching workshops? what’s your thought on that?
Lois Griffel 57:07
Well, that’s an interesting thought I used to I used to not be sure what I would do you know, with the Legacy The school but it was taken out of my hands. But I think that I’m, creating as many new Lois’s as I possibly can. The only thing that I don’t do is I don’t expect them to paint exactly like me. So one of the things I encourage the most is that I make them see and realize these are the having 10 or 15 people in the class. I make them see how many different ways of approaching a start can be done, that everyone is going to see colors slightly different. So I’m not trying to make a clone. I’m trying to just help them open their eyes to the color experience. So I think that I’ve, Eric, I’ve been teaching a really long time, I can’t even count. Or think about how many people and how many workshops I’ve done. I’ve got about 2000 emails down to from about 8000 people I had acquired and you know, inquired about the school over the years. So I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve encouraged so many people and I think that will be my legacy is that people will continue it on and keep working. And reminding everyone how beautiful the world is.
Eric Rhoads 58:45
Well, Lois, you too are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story with us today. And for being on the plein air podcast.
Lois Griffel 58:56
Oh, I’m so honored. Thank you again, Eric. you were so easy to talk to. So this was just wonderful.
Eric Rhoads 59:04
Well, thank you again to Lois Griffel. Well, I I’m looking forward to spending some time with her somewhere somehow to learn some of these techniques she talked about. Are you guys ready for some marketing ideas?
This is the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, author of the number one Amazon bestseller make more money selling your art proven techniques to turn your passion into profit.
Eric Rhoads 59:26
In the marketing minute I answer your art marketing questions. You can email them to me [email protected] A question from Thom. And from Rozendaal arts. He says I’m Dutch currently living in Pisa Italy. I’m working towards selling my first original works and was wondering if I should make some sort of a buyer’s contract that states the buyer is not allowed to reproduce the work etc. Thanks in advance.
Eric Rhoads 59:59
Tom, thanks for that. Question Hello in Italy and I hope you’re safe and healthy. One day I’ll get over there to paint the leaning tower with you. How about we do that? Anyway. I don’t know the law in Europe. I don’t even know the law here. But I do know a lot about copyright law. We do a lot of copywriting around here. Copy right around here. copywriting is writing copy. That’s a different thing. Anyway, I don’t want to scare anybody off as a buyer and I’m not so sure making them sign a contract. You might have a bill of sale that it might By the way, it has a little statement about this just says that you own the artwork, it’s your copyright and they cannot reproduce it. What I tend to like to do is I put on the back anyway, I put a circle “c” Copyright 2020 my name, comma in capital, all rights reserved. All rights are all rights. Sometimes, I’ll put a statement on the back of the painting too that says that The artist holds the copyright to this painting and does not. And the buyer does not receive rights for reproduction. So you could you could have a lawyer or somebody come up with a statement, I’m sure you could come up with something like that. That’s not going to spook anybody. Most people aren’t going to do it anyway. But you just want to have a little protection there. A copyright technically is your protection. We have a podcast on copyrights that we did a couple of months ago and you might want to look for that it might be worth listening to.
Eric Rhoads 61:32
Next question is from Alex in Washington State who says I’m an artist in a high end, collective gallery in Seattle. I do a good job selling my work for the most part, but occasionally I find I lose a sale awkwardly at the end. Here’s my routine. I wait for the customer to stop and spend time with a painting. I come up casually I chat with them and I inquire as to what they like about the work. I use their answer to talk about the art and then tell them any story that is attached to creating that piece outdoors and why I feel my work is important at this moment in time. And what I hope it will represent in the future of our region. At this point, they either say I’ll take it or there’s an awkward long pause before saying thank you and moving on to the next. before they leave, I give them my card say thanks for visiting the gallery and I inform them in the next opening or any event that will be bringing them back. I also post that painting on Instagram or Facebook several times, in hopes they’re gonna see it. Sometimes they do come back sometimes they say they can’t stop thinking about it, than the story behind it. And they buy it most of the time. They’re just gone. And that’s it. The question I have is, how do I ask for the sale at That awkward moment when I know they’re anticipating a pitch or contemplating a sale with me? I have flat out asked do you want me to wrap that up for you but that has met with hard nosed Most of the time, and they will not return to the painting after looking at others. So I if I try a hard sale, I’m afraid that’s going to blow it.
Eric Rhoads 63:10
Alex, you’re doing most everything right. You want to ask a question and engaging question. Rather than what do you like about that work, which might put somebody off? You might say, does that painting remind you of something? Because most people see a painting and they go, Oh, that reminds me of my childhood or a place I grew up. I have a painting in my sister in law’s house. And everybody says, Oh, I know exactly where that is. That reminds me of when I was a kid, you know, it’s a swing hanging from a tree. And so people are reminded things, ask a question, and then shut up and let them talk. Try to keep them talking with statements like really tell me more, but don’t be too obvious or certainly not manipulative about it. You can then say, by the way, I’m the artist. If you have any questions, I’m nearby. And if they have a question they’ll ask right then They probably don’t want to be pressured though nobody wants to be pressured. The key to selling is paying close attention to the reactions and the body language. If their arms are crossed, they don’t want to talk to you, my guess is that you might be going into more detail. You talked about how you’re talking about, you know, the future of your artwork and all that stuff, you might just be boring them to death. You know, the key is, say something, let them talk. Let them talk, right. There are lots of books on selling in the market. Most of them especially the older ones are manipulative and old school. It can’t hurt to read them. But quite frankly, if they can afford a painting, they probably heard all these trial closes and all that old nonsense. I don’t like it anymore. Anyway. If you’re not going to sell somebody you’re not going to sell. You’re not going to get everybody. Most importantly, give them an image of the painting and say, if you can’t stop thinking about it, let me know, I’ve put my mobile number on it and be happy to deliver it and hang it up for you. Or you might try something else. Like you could say, hey, do you mind if I get somebody to take my picture with you guys in the painting, take it off the wall, put it in their hands, get the picture. And then say, let me email that to you. And by the way, if you’re interested in it, you know, I’ll bring it over and hang it up for you. And don’t mention the price. If they don’t mention the price. They’ll if they ask the price, that is an indicator that there is some interest. But some people ask the price because they’ve got a number in their head. And the your number is different from their number and they’ve already decided, oh, boy, I don’t know that’s a little bit too much. The other thing is sometimes there’s a technique that’s used in retail, where they try to get a number, a higher number, and then they have a lower number and people remember the higher number and think its that value and then you bring them to the lower number. That’s a little more that I want to get into today because it’s kind of, I don’t know, maybe manipulative, so I don’t want to be manipulative. anyway. Most important is just chat with them strike up a conversation. Don’t be, you know, people can sense your angst over selling a painting. Don’t oversell them, just talk to them and say, Hey, you know, Thanks for looking at my painting, I’m really honored that you looked at it, and I hope you liked it. And, you know, then Nice meeting you and where you guys from and what are you into and you know, just let them talk, the more they talk, the more they’re going to like you maybe, hopefully, and then the more they talk, the more they might before they walk out say hey, by the way, where, you know, how much is this painting? And that’s when you say, Well, you know, today it’s this amount of money because, quite frankly, you know, whatever. you know, I’ve discounted it or I’m not discounted it or it’s you know, whatever the price is you just kinda have to play that out. The other thing is a trick that I use Oftentimes when I’m consulting galleries, and this is a trick that’s used. I don’t like the word trick, but it’s a technique that’s used in the retail business that came from the jewelry business, they’ll put a price on a ring under a spotlight in a glass case, and they’ll make it three times exactly three times the ideal price they’re trying to get. Well, the thing you can do, for instance, is you can hang it, let’s say it’s a $2,000 painting you’re trying to sell. You have a $6,000 painting hanging on the wall, clearly a visible $6,000 price. And then next to it, you have three or four or five $2,000 paintings. And so the $2,000 paintings feel a little bit more attainable and yet you are perceived as a $6,000. artist, right? So that’s one thing that can be done. You might want to try that anyway, it’s you’ll see it you’ll notice it once you start going into galleries because they do that All the time. Lots of them do. Anyway. hope that’s helpful.
This has been the marketing minute. This has been a marketing minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 68:12
a reminder to some of you to use your downtime to work on getting better become a better painter practice. got over 400 art instruction videos at Liliedahl art instruction videos and it’s just go to Lilly. liliartvideo.com also if you’ve not seen my blog where I talk about life, art philosophy, other things, coronavirus. Check it out. It’s called Sunday coffee and you can find it at coffeewithEric.com then you can subscribe. Get that every week. Well, it’s fun. Let’s do it again sometime like next week. I’ll see you then. But remember, stay safe. I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. Remember it’s a big world out there and you and I need to go paint it Together we’ll see you. Bye bye.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.