Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews master artist Daniel Sprick, who explains painting techniques such as linear perspective and more.
“There’s just no substitute for something done by hand,” says Sprick. “Whether it’s material crafting, playing a musical instrument or painting a picture. It’s just fundamentally satisfying for humans.”
Listen as Daniel Sprick shares the following:
• The importance of drawing basics, such as practicing spheres with primary light, shadows, etc. “It’s endlessly important for understanding how to generate a strong illusion of light falling on an object.”
• A behind-the-scenes story about a PBS documentary on Sprick, who was inspired by anatomical drawings of horses. Hear the unlikely thing he did when he came across a deceased horse himself one day.
• The painting principles that he plans to share at the upcoming Plein Air Convention
• His surprising advice for new artists who want to dive into plein air painting
Bonus! Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares how to handle it if the gallery representing you isn’t focused on selling paintings; and how we can educate “art voyeurs” to become art buyers at galleries and festivals in this Art Marketing Minute Podcast.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Daniel Sprick here:
– Daniel Sprick online: http://www.danielsprick.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air 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 163:
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 163. Today we’re featuring the amazing, maybe amazing is not even a strong enough word, the incredible Daniel Sprick.
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 01:01
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome everybody to the plein air podcast. My name is Eric Rhoads. And I am the publisher of plein air magazine and plein air painter. And I don’t know if you’ve been following my activities on Facebook or Instagram. If not, by the way, I hope you’ll follow me. It’s just Eric Rhoads. But I’ve been in Russia for the last two weeks, I’ve been there doing three primary things, filming a new art instruction video with a famous Russian master Nikolai Blokhin, which is going to be coming out soon. I’m also there working on a documentary. So I interviewed top art leaders in Russia, including the heads of two major art schools there, the Repin and the Surikov, two of the best schools in the world. Also the director of the Tretyakov Museum, the world famous Museum in Moscow, and the director of the Hermitage, one of the greatest, maybe the greatest Museum in the world, in St. Petersburg, and I also interviewed the famous kukoc family of artists, which is like our Wyatt Family, and Nicholai Dubivik the other Russian master. That’s good friend of mine, I spent several days with him. And of course several others. I also got a chance to paint there. And even though it’s winter, I had to do it. I also went on a site selection Nicholai Dubivik. And I went in a car and we drove up to the small villages, incredible villages very Russian very romantic, some of them the old, like log cabin ish buildings, but and then the doshas and and the monasteries just really beautiful. Anyway, I’m preparing a trip to Russia for 50 people in September of 21. And it’s only going to be 50 people. And we’re going to do St. Petersburg painting there, but also some tourism things because you got to see the Hermitage got to see the incredible Russian museum and a couple other things. We’re then going to go into two areas where there are lots of villages, places where reppin and lava tan and shishkin and the other Russian greats painted and we’re also going to visit the top museums It’s a painting trip. So mostly we’re going to be painting but you’ll be hearing details about that coming up soon. And that’s something that once I announced that you’re going to want to grab it because it’s a rare opportunity. And it’s totally safe. You’re there with people that know the area. I’ve got people that are working with me that it’s going to be fine. And of course, Russia is a very safe place anyway, you hear a lot of rumors and their problems like there are any other cities, big cities like Los Angeles or Chicago or something. But anyway, that’s going to be coming up soon. This week, the 15th of March we end our annual plein air salon by monthly art competition. This is the last chance to enter for the year. And you’ll have till midnight on the 15th to get your best paintings of the Year in and get them judged anybody who wins in the BI monthly round and any of 20 different categories is then going to be entered into the judging for the annual plein air salon $15,000 Prize and all the other prizes, got a lot of prizes, and so get your Yours entered at pleinairsalon.com. I’m really excited about today’s interview, I got to know Dan Sprick because of his amazing figurative work. As a matter of fact, I had him come and do a demo at our figurative art convention, which this year is coming up in October, but I discovered he’s also an amazing plein air painter. In fact, one of the finest plein air painters I’ve ever seen very different from everybody else’s approach. He uses a lot of really thin paint and a lot of glazing techniques and his values are spot on and the depth and detail of his paintings are incredible and yet they’re not really detailed. It’s I can’t explain it, you’d have to see him. When I saw him painting at last year’s plein air convention, I walked up to him and I said you need to be on the faculty next year. So he’s going to be on the main stage. He’s amazing. And if you’re going to the plein air convention if you’re one of the lucky ones that got a seat to it, you’re going to see him and you will not want to miss it. You will Absolutely be amazed. Anyway, he’s our interview today. Coming up after the interview, I’m going to be answering some art marketing questions and the art marketing minute and I should also remind you, the art marketing minute is now its own podcast. And if you have friends that are not plein air painters that don’t want to listen to the plein air podcast, but they need marketing ideas, well send them to art marketing podcast, and they can find it on iTunes or their favorite podcast place. Well, let’s get right to the meat right to the interview with the incredible Daniel Sprick. Daniel Sprick Welcome to the plein air podcast.
Daniel Sprick 05:37
Thank you, Eric.
Eric Rhoads 05:39
I wasn’t sure you were there.
Daniel Sprick 05:40
I was expecting to hear from you.
Eric Rhoads 05:46
So for the benefit of everybody who might be listening you know, I, I think that you’re very, very well known, I guess probably famous as A figurative painter and and for your narrative scenes, but I don’t know that you’re as well known as a plein air painter. Because that’s part of you. We don’t see a lot of. And so I kind of am curious how this planner thing started, which was a chicken or egg which started first.
Daniel Sprick 06:24
Well, the first thing I was even doing when I was young was outside. And it made a lot of sense because I didn’t have a studio. So if you have a studio, paint wherever you’re at now outside was with my studio. And although the outdoor paintings I was doing then would say were really not very good at all, that it’s, you know, everybody has to start somewhere and it’s been a really long, slow process for me. And I’ve found outdoor painting and landscape painting to be the most difficult about subjects, was really challenging.
Eric Rhoads 07:11
Is it because there’s so many different pieces of form that you have to render? Or is it? What is it exactly?
Daniel Sprick 07:22
You know, there’s that what you just said. And there’s, it’s kind of a boundless subject literally. And you can, you know, you get a little framing mechanism and decide which card to make your painting was shown how to do that and an early age. But it’s still it’s like taking on the universe. And here’s another thing about it that it seems to be quite a bit different than working in a contain stage such as a still life or as a, even as a figure portrait. And what’s different is the local colors are quite a bit different in landscape, and they’re affected by different things that you may be painting a building, but it’s the color but it’s really affected by the sky, even if the sky is not in the picture and, and another aspect is that shade with with still life and with portraits, it’s essentially it can be reduced to geometric object. Sky can’t. Right I mean, maybe cumulus clouds can a few things can but it’s subject to different aspects that I’ve just always found much more difficult to understand what’s going on and then how to translate that into two dimensions.
Eric Rhoads 09:01
So when you started doing this as a kid, like what age were you?
About 20. So I got my first I was kind of, you know, at sea or wandering in the wilderness until I get some good instruction about 22.
Eric Rhoads 09:27
That was my next question. So who taught you?
Well, first really memorable effective instructor was a guy in who set up this one month summer school in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. And in the early 70s, is when I met him and his name was Raymond Froman, and he painted kind of in the style of John Singer Sargent. A big guiding influence on him also with the illustrator Andy Loomis. In subsequent years gotten all those Andrew Loomis books, and they’re really pretty darn helpful. This is really early.
Eric Rhoads 10:17
When I was in a studio, you I noticed that you had him up on your shelf.
Daniel Sprick 10:22
Yeah. Yeah. You know, it has occurred to me to, even though it’s drawing was really excellent to kind of make my instruction but modeled on that but supply my own drawings. But of course, it would take years to do,
Eric Rhoads 10:42
Why don’t you get started now and I’ll publish it. And then it gives you something to strive for, is I know you don’t have anything else to do.
I have nothing else to do, that’s the problem and I’m just sitting there looking for something. Yeah. I would like to But, you know, I would like to but there are really good quality instruction books around lots of them. And essentially if I was just a remote pipe dream to do that with Andy Loomis essentially, like basically copy his book only only do my own drawings and of course make no secret of the source material. Yes, but it would be way too much work really history it’s trying to really good there’s a lot to be said maybe there’s just a little taste different but it’s trying to really accurate and everything’s in the right place. And they’re just very commercial, which was he made no bones about it.
Eric Rhoads 11:53
You know, he was he was an…
Yeah, yeah, I think it’s going to…
Eric Rhoads 12:02
Those books have just been republished recently. So they’re really good. I got one for really good. You know, one of the things that that we hear from time to time from some people is that, you know, I’m painting I don’t really need to learn to draw. What would you say to that? Well in a practical way, the way I address that is that in my teaching, most of the teaching I’ve ever done has been drawing because it’s futile to paint without without having a really solid understanding of drawing. And I’ve found that attracted more serious, more interesting students for drawing classes 10 for painting classes. So that was pretty good reason. And I did it because it allowed me to strengthen my own drawing for about 20 years at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Community College. Now continuing education, and probably most of the people in my classes already long had their university degrees. They were just in there to learn and had a really good group and it usually boiled down to maybe three or four people who would persistently consistently come to the class. And so that allowed me to get my own work done. And I drew there one, sometimes two nights a week for about a 20 year period. And then some of the best artists in the group asked me to take it over for me, so Essentially what had happened was I continued to go and draw and do the hard work of instructing. Or, you know, I draw and say, Andrea camp or Dean Bowlby would, you know, talk to the other artists there and explain to them what I was doing so, because I tell you, it’s very hard to work and talk at the same time. I just I really can’t. It takes your full attention. And it’s a frequent question is do you listen to music or podcasts and I listen a little bit, but I can’t for long, it will depend upon what part of the painting that I have in progress. Because some parts of painting art, you know, don’t really require that much concentration, some part. But much of it really does which parts don’t require concentration in your mind.
Daniel Sprick 15:03
Darn it. One example would be that when I’ve painted Persian rugs, and they’re not easy at all, but once you have the drawing and pattern kind of laid out, again, the, you know, painting individual knots is very repetitious. Yeah. And it’s, you kind of have the, the big problem solved. And then there’s quite a prolonged period of rather tedious work to put them in, which, when I’m doing it, I just have to remind myself that Okay, I’m going to think later. I’m going to think this was worth it. But it’s a time it can be you know, kind of a of an endurance test. So that would be one example of something that doesn’t, at that point in the piece and the drawing problems are pretty much solved. Then you could Free your mind to listen to a podcast or chat with somebody else in the room or something like that. By the way, to really kind of a sidestep into a technical area, but a subject like, say, an oriental rug. If you don’t mind me going into some technical stuff really quick.
Eric Rhoads 16:38
No, that’d be great.
Daniel Sprick 16:41
Well, it’s a little bit of a segue, but and then I’m going to get back to painting on location outdoor painting, and things like that. But about that what a way that I go about it is is to say say the say…This is as you know, predominant, you know, reds, blues, Irie, colors and browns. But the rug is kind of going from light to shadow. But what I will do is okay, all the reds, all the browns, all the blues, just the same, same mixture of mixing the colors on the palette and paint the exact, you know all those knots. It requires a certain delay gratification because the painting well in painting, it’s obviously wrong. It’s just flat dead terribly wrong in the sense that there’s no gradation of values. But what I do was use a fast drying paint for that part. And then the next day I place the shadows on to it. So it’s essentially breaking a problem down into component parts. And the result is that comes out, you know, component parts and solve one part at a time, instead of, you know, beating yourself up to try to do everything at once. And there’s two effects, which leads to another pattern that we’re trying to hit. It’s not only faster and easier, but more importantly, the final outcome, the quality is so much better than any other way I could do it.
Eric Rhoads 18:35
So how do you translate that to, let’s say to plein air work, are you doing a lot of glazing when you’re out there in the field,
Daniel Sprick 18:45
No, no, no, you can’t because usually, I’m just out there for one day, you know, three hours, five hours certainly be out there long after the light is changed. But I usually don’t come back. But sometimes, sometimes it just depends on, you know, logistics with the need is I’ll keep working on the piece after I get home, sometimes with you know, photo on my phone or usually without, and, not, on account of virtue, but on account of the problems I’m trying to resolve wouldn’t be in it wouldn’t be able to sell move photos. It’s because they are either compositional problems and, you know, unity of color and value and things like that are those are the really kind of problems I’m trying to solve. And I want to do a video together where I would like to explain some ways of going about painting on location. And not just explained, but demonstrate. Sorry, I’m jumping around all over the place. But I do have an approach to it that I think is really pretty effective. And one reason why it can be done, quite a detailed piece without, without the use of photos on location is to get the essence of it very quickly in knowing that the lights gonna change, you know, dramatically before you can finish this light. Well, you know, a sunny day the light doesn’t stay the same. You know, for long, it all keeps changing, but you just put down the basic compositional elements very quickly, two big shapes. And then but the details of say, you know branches of a tree shingles on a roof, whatever the subject is, those details, you know, they can basically stay in the same place, the drawing of state, you know, fundamentally the same four hours later. So it gives you a lot of time to work.
Eric Rhoads 21:19
I want to interrupt you here and I know before you go on, you know there’s something completely different about your plein air work than anybody on Earth. You know, there’s, a tendency among painters right now to there’s a lot of sameness. There’s, a lot of people who are teaching and a lot of techniques that are coming out, you know, so that you, you look at a painting and they look the same in terms of execution style. There’s something different about yours is that about this process because a lot of them start with big shapes, but your Catching something differently and I’m not sure how to articulate what it is? Well, it is the big shapes, the most predominant essential part. And yet, there are a lot more meaningful with you know, complimentary detailed that support them. Do I say my technique is probably, it’s probably really informed by all these countless numbers of still lives and interior subjects that I’ve painted, in my life and use a lot of that same painting technique out on location, to paint buildings, you know, for one thing. For one thing, it’s just a really Elementary, incredibly important part that you should learn in, you know, on day one of art class. This is how to really use linear perspective and, and yet There’s lots of artists who have been painting all their lives and still messes up. But the rules of linear perspective are really self explanatory. But oftentimes to make it work in a painting is as deceivingly. deceptively, you know, more complicated than it might appear. Especially when you’re talking about two point perspective. One point perspective is pretty straightforward, because that one point is going to be on your painting. probably pretty close to the center of your painting. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that. In fact, Vermeer did, virtually all of his paintings are one point perspective. So you know, It’s not a judgment. But just many times, you know, the subject you take on is going to require two point, you know, just been shown that your angle of, you know if what you’re wanting to compose and so forth, right, so you, get the award, because you’re the first person in the history of the plein air podcast to ever bring up perspective. So, I think that we have to assume that there’s a lot of people who are listening to this don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. Because, you know, we have a lot of a lot of new painters who who tuned in. So is there a way that I know you can’t do it visually, but is there a way you can articulate it a little bit in terms of how you approach a two point perspective, your first off, you’re establishing your horizon line and then
Yes, the horizon line is this first thing you do. And then many times, like if I’m working on painting out on location that requires two point perspective, I just have to guess at it because you can’t set. You know, most times you can’t set up, you know, a nail and string and so forth. to, you know, snap, make snap lines or whatever you’re doing. But sometimes you actually can, or you can set up one of them, like a bring a say, I’m working on a small painting like an eight by 10. big piece of cardboard with me that you know, quite a bit bigger than the painting and might be able to set the two point perspective on those, you know, an extended horizon line that goes you know, far beyond the boundaries of the picture plane and put a little lightweight C-clamps On to support my mahl stick. And if if they’re close enough, and that will work fine. And if they’re too far for that, then they’re just really have to guess. Or sometimes I’ll even bring in a bunch of little c clamps and things with me just in, you know, things that you wouldn’t expect to need string, you know things with me on location. And if possible, like maybe I can tie a string to a tree nearby where I’m painting and, you know, pull a you know, put a nail at the elevation of the horizon line and then pull a string and make it make that work out. It’s you know, just try to solve problems in whatever practical way you can on location. And you know, if you just can’t then you build skill at estimating where you know what the slope of a line should be in relation to the other lines in you can get pretty good at that. And then also, what I’ve done lots of times is that I’ll estimate amount on location, and then I’ll get in the studio and then set up a string or a stick, you know, and then be able to mechanically correct them when where they’re off. So, do that quite a bit, come back in the studio, correct them. You know, real, you know, be out on location knowing that they’re close, but they’re not exactly right. So correct. You can you can correct them later.
Eric Rhoads 27:43
So there there are painters who would say, well, plein air painting is has to be executed entirely on location. Don’t touch it. When you get back. What do you say to that?
Well, I’d say ask, What is your goal, right? If you go To be a hero, or is your goal to do a good painting? You know to be some self satisfied, purist martyr not to inflict any judgment. But I think the only goal is to do your best work. Don’t see what else matters certainly doesn’t matter to the viewers, because they’re not even going to know and after you’re dead and gone and not around to explain and exemplify your virtue, and then nobody’s really going to care. If you continue working, I’d have to go back to the studio,
Eric Rhoads 28:42
but what they are going to cover is the quality of your painting.
Daniel Sprick 28:48
That’s it. In fact, this is an original to me I think a friend of a friend of a friend heard it from the artist Daniel Graves. It’s I think it goes something like this. Don’t worry too much, you’re only really remembered for your best work. And your not best work is pretty much forgotten. And I think I find that a little bit consoling considering that as humans, we have such a negative bias that a natural negative bias that comes from evolution and survival, that’s one reassuring thing is that, you know, essentially it just like in say, music, that one hit wonder. Well, they’re remembered for that one good song. And nobody knows. That kind of thing and the other side Journey been known. So even if the artists work just as hard or not. So actually, I take some consolation that it’s, it’s a bit back, an artist should strive for, you know, a level of quality and keep things as good as possible and don’t let anything out the door if it’s really not up to a certain standard. So you have a lot of pieces that never go out the door
Eric Rhoads 30:32
does that happen for you as well. Yeah, absolutely. they’re just pieces that meet a dead end. And usually I’ve worked longer and harder on those than the good ones. And it just happens that way. It’s just part of being human. I don’t think I’m the only one that has that. I’ve heard it from other people that you know, some of their best projects whether they’re engineers or authors redo some of their best projects actually went fairly easily and didn’t have to redo any of it and their lesser ones had to redo over and over and over. And actually I I find that sometimes that happens with me but I seldom give up on a piece I’ll fight it to the bitter end. And because I just hate to lose and I want to do anything to get it right because just I have this tendency to think that every problem has a solution hidden somewhere. But then there’s also the the old…here, yet And behavior. And so I don’t know which I realized easily prey to that. So I’d like to go into a couple of specifics if we could. Everybody likes to learn some technique or some ideas on technique. Talk to me about creating the illusion of light. You know, I’m looking at your website at a painting called North Denver. Your website, by the way, is DanielSprick.com. And this is an image of three houses and it looks like a kind of a crummy neighborhood. And the light is just about as brilliant as I’ve seen on a painting. And yet it doesn’t look like thick impasto. Maybe it is, what is it for you that creates that sense of light? How do you do it?
Daniel Sprick 33:01
Well, you know, first of all, I appreciate the compliments in there, the light really only makes sense. It’s, you know, the shadows around it that make sense of it. You know, since we’re stuck with our dualistic nature’s we can only understand like with its with its shadows. what I come back to all the time is well mentioned earlier geometric forms and the way light falls on objects. And, you know, in Leonardo that huge, you know, kind of number of drawings on the subject of way light hits objects and studied exhaustively. And light is brightest, where the, the surface of the object is perpendicular to the light source. And it you know, as the object grows away from the light source it it tapers off. And those who you know, that’s what should learn, you know, on day two of our one to one that whenever I’m instructing what no matter what the subject is, I make everyone suffer through you know, drawing some spheres , you know you know, primary light, you know, highlight, form shadow cast shadow reflected light core shadow, and get all that down. And with with a spear, cone, cube those subjects and I know it’s it’s too obvious, that linear perspective, they’re too easy and obvious for people, they don’t want to do it. But in fact, it’s endlessly important for understanding how to you know, generate a strong illusion of light falling on object. It’s, it can’t you just can’t even overestimate the importance of it. And it really when you have that down, just practice it so much that it just becomes second nature. Maybe you know, with your you know, neurological wiring that you just get it makes it easier for you to paint the light on the side of a house. Or you know, whether it’s a direct shaft of sunlight or if it’s a real soft, overcast like it just kind of already happened. instinctively and that is a result of practice. And, thinking about it constantly when the UPS driver knocks on your door. Instead of listening what he’s talking about, you’re probably looking at the shadow under his nose. It’s just that and miss the whole point in miss what might have been an important message, you just get pre preoccupied and it gets it takes over your lives. And that’s how you make it work. It takes over your life, but you’re a pretty willing slave.
Eric Rhoads 36:40
That was such a perfect Daniel Sprick moment. So one of the things I’d like you to do is tell the story of the horse. There was a documentary that was produced about you by PBS in Denver, which we showed at the figurative art convention when you were there and spoke, but there’s the story of the horse and I think it’s fascinating because it says something about your personality, we’d be willing to share that. Oh, sure. I will. I will. I have to say that documentary makes it seem like is this one of the, you know, turning points of my life, which really isn’t it just one thing that I’ve done, but Well, I’ll tell you story is that there’s a, there were drawings done by the English artist, George Stubbs in about 1780 or so, roughly around that time. About the time the American Revolution, I’d say, roughly in that period, but he was over in England and he was, you know, an artist of horses. primarily horses, but other animals too, and hunting scenes and, you know, other wildlife that primarily circled around horses, and he did these dissections of a horse. And he reduced the horse down to its skeleton and did these extraordinary drawings of it that, you know, 250 years ago that are just really remarkable drawings and I saw those reproduced in a book for the first time when I was about 20 years old, just slipped now I wanted to be an artist, and I did careful copies of those strikes. And and never really forgot about it. And I read the story of how you did the dirty work of cleaning up the horse themselves. And so many years later, well, about 10 years later, I was on a hike in the woods nervous the body of a Fairly freshly dead horse and you know the light went off and I without going into the gory details so I you know, I packed the thing home my truck and cleaned it up, which took weeks and it was, you know not the most pleasant of jobs. Yeah with flies buzzing around the stench but I knew there was a pony in there somewhere and then I think the job is just so so, you know, tedious and unfun and I think I kind of burned out on it, just because it took weeks to do it. And then eventually I just put just put all those bones away and didn’t even touch them for the next cash reselect 2020 years 30 years later when it was very close to throwing them out. You know, whenever would move, you know how you throw things away when you move and but they survived several moves and and still had them and I got the idea. Well, there was a commission, every honor to receive a commission to paint the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I said, Okay, I’ve got my horse. So I took it upon myself to rebuild, you know, put the puzzle together basically. So whether it is and I relied on the drawings with George Stubbs as a guide, because they really he did get it right. And, you know, as far as the skeletal anatomy goes, and it took about a month, and, you know, the hard part for me to figure out was just how to make an armature, you know, without being able to weld parts together, which would have been nice met, you gotta have welding equipment, everything we’re dead was a go the Museum of Natural History and just look at how they built their armitures and figure out how I could build one, just you know with pipes and cables and things like that and then the rest of it just goes together like a puzzle. And the parts will only fit together one way. And so in a lot of ways, you can’t really get it wrong, but it does take a long time to sort them out. What I found out later was that people who do this kind of work, don’t let the small phones get mixed together in a bucket because it’s pretty darn hard to you know, you know, get all four feet, you know, the small bones, the difficult and to get those, you know, in the right place is really hard to sort them out but it can be done just like a puzzle. So let’s move back to plein air painting because we’re going to have you onstage at the plein air convention, you’re going to be on the main stage along with some others, but you’re on stage by yourself, what are you going to try to demonstrate when you’re up there? What, what principles?
Well, the things I’ve talked about, you know, geometric principles of, you know how light falls on an object. I mean to say, I mean to say principles of how light falls on a geometric object and how to translate that to the things that we see and translate that to organic shapes. But also, just what I’m going to try to do what I have in mind, is just to try to paint the scene inside the room, just sit is and I have nothing against working from photographs. And I do a fair amount of it. But I want to just paint something, this impromptu on the spot, just an interior of the room that we’re working in and the principles will apply. I don’t know what do you think of that?
Eric Rhoads 43:19
I think, whatever you want to do you get to do.
Well, I want to try it, maybe put a few figures in there. You know, the thing of it is, could be working for hours after people have fallen asleep, and then being carted off on in ambulances from starvation and thirst and things like that. That is the problem is that it really, it can really take a long time when I’m painting on location A lot of times up either for good five hours to do a little eight by 10 And even that, it seems like the time goes by so fast. And the light has completely changed unless you’re lucky and had an overcast day. And that makes it life a lot easier for painting. No doubt about it. But I’d like to paint scenes with you know, crowds of people in sometimes, and not one single person holding still. And so what you end up doing is making it say you’re working on one figure, you may make a composite of numerous different figures.
Eric Rhoads 44:36
Well, one of my favorite paintings is I have up on the screen here a photo I took of it is the painting you did at the plein air convention in San Francisco. And you had, it’s a painting of the painters lined up painting a scene, which I love because I love paintings, paintings of plein air painters. But what I found amazing even though there’s not a lot of detail, you know, you don’t, you’re just kind of indicating detail. What’s amazing to me is how you change the light on a figure. It’s much different than what I’m used to seeing, you know, there is that still that gradual gradation on the light falling on those figures.
Daniel Sprick 45:20
Thanks now I have to look at it again it’s every call I think what happened there. What made a little easier for me was looking way across the bay. The other shore opposite shore had sunlight on it. So that was nice and bright, in the shore that I was standing on with the other painters was in shadow of the clouds in so it just, it kind of was a nice setup right there. And I saw the people in front of me, kind of stretched out in this horizontal tableau, which Oh, that was so great. And it really made me think of a painting by Thomas two paintings by Tom Eakins. One is mending the nets, where you see the figures, they’re small and at a distance kind of on your Horizon. And, and there’s another another painting by him called shooting for rail, rail being a 10th of chaplets little bird that gets shot at and the way he has his figures out across, you know, at a distance in a horizontal distribution, and I saw the artists just like that. Man’s perfect gotta do it. Here’s what I Like about painting on location is you go somewhere to paint. You may have thought you thought I was gonna paint the bridge, you know? But then I saw something knew it was just too irresistible. But you know, a better idea. So I’m always going to discard my intended purpose if you know if a better idea presents itself.
Eric Rhoads 47:15
Well, that’s, you know, that’s a pretty interesting approach too because I think that the temptation is when you’re standing in a place looking at an iconic thing, like the Golden Gate Bridge, you know, you’re showing basically your painting is showing everybody looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge, they’re all painting it and you’ve, chosen something different. And I think sometimes the temptation of a iconic scene is so strong that it’s, kind of hard to resist. So I applaud you for doing that.
Thanks. Well, I just want to say like you travel to, you know, paint an exquisite cathedral somewhere in Europe and you’ve been planning on for a long time. You We’re going to do it you get there. And you just you know, it looks fine. It’s what you expected but you look safe behind yourself and the light on a, you know, really nondescript object is exquisite, and the composition is really powerful. And I think my feeling is a turn around and paint a nondescript subject. If it’s going to be a better painting, that’s the only goal of it is to get the best piece I can’t. So if I could get a really good painting of a gas station or something uninteresting, rather than a mediocre painting of, of the Chartres Cathedral, then just try to get the best painting.
Eric Rhoads 48:54
So talk to me about talk to me about if you were training People today, and I don’t I don’t know. Are you doing that you’re doing any workshops or anything?
Daniel Sprick 49:05
I just do for friends. Yeah, that should show up at the studio one at a time.
Eric Rhoads 49:11
Well, it’s gonna be a lot of people showing up at your studio Now be careful. if you were kind of meeting somebody for the very first time and they said, I’m just going to start this plein air painting thing, what advice would you give to them?
Daniel Sprick 49:28
I would say don’t start out with plein air. Yeah, it’s just you know what, because it’s can be frustrating. And I want people to succeed. And so you think you’re more likely to succeed if you’re prepared and and you get a lot of preparation by Starting out just getting used to handling oil paint and, or pastel watercolor of charcoal, whatever you like to use, and, and really get pretty good at it. You know, get it to be great, but get get some experience with it. So you kind of know what to expect with the material handling? Because when you get out on location, it’s logistically a lot more difficult. And, you probably arrived there and you forgotten something, but you need it, are you you know, the wind is blowing or it’s burning hot or getting eaten up by bugs. There’s a lot of things and but even more importantly than that, even if the conditions are all perfect, you’re just looking at something that’s incomprehensibly difficult and complex and I just think you need to start with simpler objects and say You know, they get good at painting oranges on a plate in real controlled light you know, any kind of subject that might appeal to you flowers. flowers, are, very complex. But so I would do things like, you know, spears and cones and pyramids and you know cubes and little things like that and really understand how the light falls on them.
Eric Rhoads 51:33
I’ve had, several people that I’ve known who’ve taken up art classes, and they go into an art class and the first thing they’re doing is painting spears and cones and squares and so on. And it’s frustrating to them it’s kind of like learning the piano without learning a song. It’s like immediately going to, to the scales. So Is there a compromise in terms of doing something these people obviously need to learn these things, but is there something that will help keep them enthusiastic and interested so they don’t drop out too soon? You know, that’s true. And it’s very important. I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s because it seems like you’re just, you know, if you’re, you’re just doing scales. It’s like you’re jumping through hoops for no reason. And you certainly have to understand the reason and how it’s going to really be applicable to more interesting things. But what it’s generally been able to do not with everybody, but with some people is to make those fears in cubes interesting. And if you can do or, say a cone, if you can do a cone really, really well, you’ll find that you’re pretty happy with it and you find it more rewarding than you might have expected. And then it okay it direct answer to the question is it say your painting on that cone and then just look at the arm of a model and see see how it showed the person how many cylinders and kinda conical shapes there are embedded in that form and you know the overall form and then you know, on, you know, surface elements of it and how you can be able to go from painting, you know, cone and cylinder to painting an arm with a model, just for example. I think what you’re saying here and might be a really good, good thing for everybody who’s teaching is to be rather than just setting up and saying, okay, we’re going to the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to draw or paint cones and squares or whatever is to show them exactly of how this is going to benefit them early on. So for instance, showing some slides and and show a model and then say, Okay, now here, we’ll point out the cone in this or the cylinder in this or the, the cube in this particular shape, then maybe then the light goes off and they go on now I get it now, this will help me as I go further down the road.
That’s really true. It’s really important. As a matter of fact, I think that, you know, you look back at your own education, elementary school and throughout high school history classes, you know, if, as a student at any age, if you don’t see the purpose of it, it’s just, it’s think you’re just jumping through hoops to please somebody, and it’s not satisfying and and you’re not going to learn anything if you don’t understand the purpose. So think what you said is really important in And, you know, probably it was half of the people who attend conventions do a lot of instructing, too. And so a lot of this is really, I think, helpful for both learning and for instructing and learning and instructing your two sides of the same thing here. And as you instruct you deepen your own knowledge.
Eric Rhoads 55:24
Well, it’s it’s really, this whole idea of encouragement is so critical. You know, there’s a time to be tough, clearly. But there’s also a time to be encouraging, because I’ve probably met more people who have dropped out of painting that have taken up painting, because they they don’t have any confidence when they first start. And there’s this belief that there is natural inborn talent. That, I mean, some people do have that there’s no question about that, but that, that there’s this belief that if you don’t have that you can’t succeed and and, and have a happy life as a as a drawer painter artist or whatever. Well, it’s true there’s misconceptions that need to be corrected about what it is and I it’s really trying hard to set people up for success. Because I know you’re exactly right that most people don’t stick with it because it just seems too frustrating. But they’re, there is a way to, to get around it to improve the chances of success, and one of which is, you know, setting people up with exercises while very clearly showing how this is going to benefit Later, you know, in future problem solving. Yeah. I kind of disagree with what you said about people being born with natural ability. I just don’t think it exists in all of our music, literature, everything, it’s learned behavior. I mean, we may have natural dispositions. And as for me, it was a whole lot better to go into, you know, art or something visual than to say, try to be a professional basketball player, I’d never succeed at that. So just not any good at that. And so, you know, yes, you need to pick something that, you know, that aligns with your strings as an individual. And so some people are going to have better success in art than others. Probably based on you know, heritable characteristics that even if you take a basketball player is the most talented basketball player in the world. Well, this natural coordination and then practice 12 hours a day, every day, and then they became good basketball player. I think that, you know, there’s stories and legends and myths about, you know, Mozart, the most natural genius in the world say, well if he hadn’t been born into a family of musicians in a in a pretty demanding and encouraging instructor father, there would be no Mozart,. is born into it is born into it. Add that to natural proclivity and enthusiasm and I think it’s…In instructing you know, whether it’s a musician’s father instructing or whether it’s, you know, it’s you’re instructing his students. Half the half of it is the technical stuff, information into how light falls on objects, how to draw linear perspective. The other half of it is morale building. I think it’s every bit as important, you know, and showing people how they can succeed is, is every bit or even more important than then you know, the technical information. Well, I have the experience of raising kids and and you do as well and I noticed that, you know, we were pretty lackadaisical with our kids in some respects. We kind of want them to be kids and grow up and enjoy themselves and yet there are other kids whose parents have driven them. You know, you got a piano recitals every week and piano practice five days a week and, and on the weekends and constantly, and you know, a lot of these kids complain about it and then you know, 10 years later, they’re happy their parents did it for them. So there’s, there’s kind of the importance of somebody driving you, I guess if you’re young. Then there’s the there’s the other part about that is self motivation. A lot of people are coming into art at different stages of their lives. I counted, I think 30 or 40 doctors that I met who were still practicing surgeons and other things that came to the plein air convention. And, you know, they’re, they’re taking up art, they’re interested in art and they’re, they’re starting at, you know, 50 years old or 40 years old or 60 years old. And so they’ve got to be self motivated and, we have to find ways to get some of those. Some of these people are never going to give up because their personality Others give up too quickly because it seems too hard. I don’t know how we overcome that.
Daniel Sprick 61:11
just by you know breaking each problem down into component parts which geometric objects are in and and showing how you can’t solve it all at once to solve it down into little pieces and you know doctors definitely going to understand that because they didn’t learn medicine in one day. They learned you know, very small parts of it over many years and you just can’t explain it it’s going to be a lot like that with art. and which by the way, those are people, I think I love to help them most is just astounded that somebody would go, you know, how’s it Good, well paying career, accomplishment, recognition for their work, all kinds of things. Why on earth do they want to beat themselves up to be an artist? It amazes me and I think that interest in itself is that there’s just no substitute for something done by hand. Whether it’s, you know, you know, material crafting, you’re playing a musical instrument or painting a painting and picture. It’s just, it’s just fundamentally satisfying for humans. Similarly said intellectual accomplishments may not be Yeah, for sure. Different people.
Eric Rhoads 62:47
We’re kind of running out of time here. We’re running down the clock and so I apologize, but I think we probably need to wrap this up. And any final thoughts for Everybody, before we roll
Daniel Sprick 63:08
Well, let’s say I’d like to say keep encouraged. Like more to show you how to keep encouraged. And, there’s other things too, is that we’re never going to be perfect at this end what we have to do is learn how to be take some satisfaction in what we can do and not get too beat up about what we can’t do. We’re too, you know, because everyone has limitations, it doesn’t matter who the artist is. There are certain limitations to what you can do and you have to somehow forgive yourself for not being perfect. And because until you’re perfect your art won’t be and will never be perfect. It’s always can be, you know, have problems and we just we have to kind of back off of our pursuit of perfection a little bit and take some enjoyment from it.
Eric Rhoads 64:12
Good thoughts. Dan, thank you for being on the plein air podcast.
Daniel Sprick 64:16
All right. Well, thanks. Thanks for having me on.
Eric Rhoads 64:21
Well, thanks again to Dan Sprick. Dan is absolutely amazing what an incredible painter and I feel fortunate to know him. 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 64:43
In the marketing minute I try to answer art marketing questions from you. You can email your questions to me [email protected] By the way, there’s a lot of content at artmarketing.com. A lot of ideas for you. So here, this listener said he’d like to be anonymous. I assume it’s a he but I actually I know it’s a here because, I saw his email. And he says, My art is in a new gallery, but the gallery owner is focused on creating her own art. And as far as I can tell, isn’t focusing on marketing the gallery. There are no Facebook campaigns, no ads, no email campaigns, there’s nothing going on. And all the people coming into the gallery are the owners, friends and artists, I’m not seeing a lot of activity. So the first part of my two part question is how do I advise and help this gallery owner, reach out to the local market and help educate them about buying local landscape paintings? And what main steps should she take? I don’t know if the gallery has other than landscape paintings, but the answer is going to be the same no matter what and that is, first off, you gotta you gotta learn marketing and I can help her with that. You can point her to some of my marketing stuff, but I even have a blog for galleries, but I don’t want to be now. Negative so forgive this. But if you own a business, any kind of a business, but especially in this case in art gallery, it cannot be a hobby, or it will fail unless you’re independently wealthy. On the other hand, a gallery that knows how to promote an advertising is more likely to succeed. Now, my gallery works very hard for its artists and for itself, it’s always getting local stories in the newspaper on local websites, it’s always advertising, it’s doing direct mail and social media. They’re really working it they sell a lot of art. As a matter of fact, I sent a piece in and two weeks later, it was gone. They sold it. One of the reasons I selected this gallery is because they’re aggressive. The worst thing is the gallery that does nothing and hopes people will walk in and buy something, but that’s kind of the old days It doesn’t work that way very much anymore. So yeah, there are gallery owners out there that have people walk in and but the traffic is typically not enough. So one gallery I, I know one owner, I know actually makes calls all week long to potential and previous buyers, you have to work it, gallery owners have to work hard. That’s why I say, if you’re in a gallery and you’re in a good one, they’re earning their money, don’t be so worried about paying them their commission, they’re earning it, you know, you don’t want to be the one that’s on the phone all day trying to drum up business do you. Chances are if the gallery owner is serious, she would be doing all these things now. Now maybe she needs to learn them. And maybe you can offer help and suggest that she do some things but the way I would approach it is say, hey, I’ve noticed I’m not seeing a lot of marketing and so on. Would you be willing to let me help you with that? Or would you be willing to let me give you some ideas if she or he says no, then move on. You will spend a lot of time frustrated that they’re not working for you if your paintings are in that gallery. So in that case, If you don’t believe they’re going to work it, move on, because it’s not going to do you any good paintings are going to sit on the wall and not move, you don’t want that. You want a gallery, that paintings are moving off the wall all the time or as much as possible. So this goes to the point about selecting a gallery. We artists think it’s up to them to select us. And to some extent it is because you want to be invited in. I have a whole strategy on that in one of my videos but I tell artists to develop their wish list of galleries that they want to be in and I give them very specific information on how to promote yourself ethically and appropriately to them. But in your target list, you’ve got to do your homework. Is the gallery advertising and are they doing it frequently? are they sending out invitations to shows? you should get on their list. You should get on their email list and find out are they doing a lot of shows? Do they generate publicity? Are they properly working social media and I say properly because most social media strategies are flawed and most of the things that people think they’re doing a social media strategy is not working for them. And they can’t tell. They can’t see because they assume everything they post is getting out there. The reality is only 2%. Now 2% of everything you post, let’s say you have 5000 people on your Facebook, and you post your assuming all 5000 people see it, no 2% see it. It’s not always the same 2% but usually these days, they’re repeating a lot of the same 2% so there’s strategies around that. But the social media advertising can be effective if it’s done right, but it’s just not a matter of pressing boost post. It’s not a matter of doing what everybody else is doing. There’s a whole new realm of technological developments and new ways of making social media work. We’re doing a lot of it. And we’re using some experts to help us with that. Most people don’t know about those kinds of things. But when interviewing a gallery asked them about their process, how do they sell Who does the selling? How do they present their work to buyers? What happens when somebody walks into the gallery? How do they get visitors? How much is sold online? How much selling do they do via the phone? And how often are they selling artwork? If they say, well, we’re selling one or two pieces a month, you have to ask, Well, how are they paying the rent? Well, if they’re expensive pieces there, they can pay the rent. But if they’re inexpensive pieces, they’re eventually going to be out of business and you want to hang with winners, you know, you could be friends with people and I have a lot of friends that are not necessarily successful at what they do. They’re still friends and I love them. But I’m not going to put my career in their hands. I’m going to put my career in my own hands and in the hands of people who are going to succeed and that’s what you want to do. So do your homework. Your second question says, I find that many art lovers who attend art galleries and festivals are art voyeurs who visit as a form of entertainment instead of for the purpose of purchasing art. How do we educate this fan segment and convert them to buyers? I think your term art voyeurs is interesting. You know, I used to be an art lawyer, I would go to art shows because I liked art. And once in a while I’d buy a piece. I never ever went intending to buy a piece. And I don’t think most people go intending to buy a piece. They go to see things to see what they like. And if they see something they like, they might buy it. I have been literally to hundreds of art openings. And I can tell you that a good gallery can convert what you call art voyeurs into art buyers, and a poor gallery doesn’t know how to do it. And I think it’s about the gallery and their sales process, the training they give their people and how they engage people. Clearly, you start by inviting past buyers, known buyers, people who have spent money in the past because you want them they’re spending money again, second, you target people who have money and you can Find people through various lists. You can advertise in targeted places affluent magazines. For instance, my magazine. If you’re thinking a national strategy, my magazine Fine Art connoisseur is the most affluent art collector magazine in existence. It’s got billionaires and multimillionaires and no it doesn’t have tons and tons of them. It’s got probably three 400 billionaires and 1000 multimillionaires. How many do you need to buy a painting? Really? I have one gallery tells me every time he advertises he sells an average of $80,000 worth of artwork because he’s selling pieces that are expensive. Now that doesn’t work for everybody but there are places that you can go for affluent people. And so you want a gallery that’s working every show, all their sales people are they’re working, they’re engaging customers appropriately, asking them questions, engaging them about art, and they gently nudge someone into a decision. Now, other galleries I know are not working it. They sit and they drink with their customers, they socialize, they’re having a good time. But they’re not doing any selling. They’re just hanging out with people and you need to do some selling. And that doesn’t mean you have to be inappropriate or nudge people too hard or be obnoxious. There’s very appropriate ways to do it happens all the time. And and if you go to a good gallery, and you observe how they do it, you’ll see that these people are pros and they know how to do it. So don’t do it the wrong way. Don’t be pushy or obnoxious. Everybody though, needs a little bit of a nudge. You know, sometimes they just need to be kind of help realize that they love it and they want to take it home. Chances are these art voyeurs you call are coming to the gallery that you described, and chances are, they’re probably not serious about buying, but they can get nudged into it. The gallery that you described doesn’t sound like they’re serious about selling. So they’re going to be serious about it when they can’t pay their rent But by then it’s too late, of course, because, you know, when you’re once you’re out of money, you’re out of money. And it’s hard to fix that. So you got to be proactive and get ahead of this. So it’s important for everybody, whether you’re an artist, whether you’re a gallery, whether you have a business, it’s important to understand the principles of selling and marketing. Selling in marketing can make the difference. I was in a meeting today, and we were talking about a strategy that would make certain things that we do even bigger, and it’s all always about selling and marketing. So keep that in mind. I hope this is helpful. This has been the marketing minute.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 74:46
A reminder that it’s your last chance to enter the plein air salon to win the $15,000 in prizes. The awards will be presented at the plein air convention on stage. So get your best paintings of the Year in studio Painting still life figure portrait plein airs landscape, there’s all kinds of categories 20 different categories, including student categories, and so on. Visit pleinairsalon.com. before March 15, at midnight, if you’re listening to this, after the fact, enter the next one, because next year is going to be even bigger. We have more cash prizes, and some big announcements about next year. If you have not seen my blog where I talk about life and art and lots of other things, I think it’s up to about a quarter million readers now. It’s called Sunday coffee. And you can find it and subscribe for free coffeewitheric.com. And all of them are posted there. But if you hit the subscribe button, then they’ll come to you every Sunday morning. It’s fun doing this. I love it. We’ll do it again sometime like next week. I’m gonna get some sleep. I’m exhausted from Russia. But we’ll see you next week. I’m Eric Rhoads publisher and founder of plein air magazine. Remember, it’s a big world out there. I just experienced That and I just painted it. You need to get out there and 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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