Eric Rhoads: Altering the world, one stroke at a time
How a taxi ride inspired Eric Rhoads and resulted in an approach to teaching that trained thousands of people to paint.
When Eric Rhoads started learning to paint, it was disaster after disaster – until he gave up and his painting supplies went to the basement. But one day a taxi ride changed all that and resulted in an approach to teaching that trained thousands of people to paint.
Eric wasn’t familiar with art when he was a child – any more than any child who used crayons and coloring books. But one day his mother Jeanne came home with a painting she had done in a class at the community center – and 12-year-old Eric couldn’t believe she could! After that they would sometimes paint together at the kitchen table, but that was Eric’s experience. He didn’t pick up a brush for 25 years.
“My father’s influence led me to become an entrepreneur,” he says. “But in my late 30s, I needed a little more. I’ve tried photography and other crafts, but nothing felt like it was for me. ”
Until one day, with time, he wandered into an art shop. “I ended up buying paints, brushes, even an easel. I’ve lost a few hundred dollars. ”
He set up a studio room and set about copying a photo. It didn’t go well, but he persisted, painting every night after work, but making little progress. Eventually he decided he had no talent and packed up his art materials with no intention of picking them up.
Sensing his frustration, his wife Laurie bought him art classes for his 40th birthday. He went to class – but found out that it was about abstract painting. “Express yourself,” said the teacher. “Just throw the paint on the canvas.” Rhoads finally told the teacher that he wanted to paint objects, people – real things. “This is old school. Nobody does that anymore. ”
So Rhoads left class and put the painting supplies back in the basement.
Months later, during a long taxi ride, he discovered that the taxi driver was an artist. Rhoads told his story and the taxi driver told him that there was an artist nearby who had studied with the masters in Europe. He assured Rhoads that Jack Jackson could help.
It took time to find the courage to try again, but a year later Rhoads got into Jackson’s class. He saw the beautiful work on the students’ easels – and turned to leave, convinced he didn’t have the talent. But Jackson saw it and shouted, “Can I help you?” Jackson quickly started Rhoads with a short lesson and convinced him that he could paint at a fairly high level within a few months.
“That was a life changing moment,” says Rhoads. “I learned that talent is not required. Jack had simplified things into a system that couldn’t fail. ”Soon he was making his first painting, and within a year he was copying old master paintings. He studied with Jackson for about three years.
Then Rhoads moved to San Francisco with its newly funded RadioCentral.com concept. Soon he was visiting the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts there and saw Bouguereau’s The Jug for the first time. “When I saw it, I knew what Bouguereau must have been through to paint at this level and I burst into tears.” Rhoads then decided to devote the rest of his life to art.
He was a publisher at the time, developing a vision for a new magazine on outdoor painting. (He had started painting outdoors when Laurie, pregnant with triplets, asked him to stop painting indoors.) Soon he had two art magazines and later an art convention and series of events and retreats. But it wasn’t enough.
“I kept running into people who wanted to learn to paint but gave up in frustration. I came to see the world through the eyes of an artist, and that’s what I wanted for everyone. ”
So Rhoads started a company to teach people how to paint through video, to make it clear that anyone can learn – no talent required. These videos taught tens of thousands of people to paint.
But when COVID hit, Rhoads wanted to do more. So he started a livestream to teach people art and distract them from their fears. He went on Facebook Live and pushed the stream seven days a week, seven months and later five days a week on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. The streams ranged from art lessons with top artists to art business and marketing tips to “anything that lifts the mood”.
These streams reached an average of 10,000 people per day and in some cases up to 150,000 people, including reruns. “I’ve heard from thousands of people who have learned to paint for the first time and from people who haven’t picked up a brush since childhood.”
Rhoads is streaming now daily with a new show, Art School Live with Eric Rhoads, on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
“Thousands of ordinary people like me paint to relieve stress and because they want to be creative and have more to live with than their careers. The world will be a better place when more people start painting. I can show them how to do it so they don’t get frustrated and give up too soon. ”
Eric Rhoads is chairman of Streamline Publishing and produces art magazines, newsletters, events and guides. Learn more at Streamline.Art or EricRhoads.com. Rhoads also writes a weekly blog at CoffeeWithEric.com.
Rhoads on the set of Art School Live, its new daily livestream show.
Eric Rhoad’s outdoor painting (outdoors) in the Adirondacks.
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