Teaching 1 Million People to Paint
By Eric Rhoads
Dark-bottomed clouds fill the sky, ready to spill out overhead at any moment. How the wind moves clouds at such high speed is a mystery, with the weight of a water tower inside each cloud as they move gracefully across the sky like carefree dancing ballerinas.
My massive backyard oaks are bending to the will of the wind, which just flipped up the carpet under my little covered-porch sitting area, perhaps to nudge me inside before the looming storm. Though I think I’ll stay a little longer to hear the BBs of rain hitting the tin roof overhead. Somehow the racket is comforting.
The chill in the humid air is a reminder that winter approaches and my quiet back-porch mornings may soon require cozy sweaters, jackets, or even lighting the outdoor fireplace to provide warmth and the soothing smell of burning embers.
The rope swing hanging from a winding oak branch is quietly moving on its own, as if an invisible child is swinging in the wind. The neighbors’ horses playfully whinny in delight that the hot Texas sunshine is no longer beating down on their backs.
The neighbors’ cattle — three adults and one baby — are pressed against the fence, curious about my presence and greeting me with a good moo-ning.
A Less-Than-Tidy Mess
Across the yard about 50 feet, my little studio building sits, awaiting a visit from me to tidy up after an extensive video shoot on Thursday.
The shoot was for a project I’m passionate about, a new product, not yet revealed, that will help me meet my personal goal of teaching a million people to paint. It’s rooted in my own bad experience and self-esteem issues.
A Lucky Break
When I turned 40, Mrs. Rhoads bought me a painting lesson, my first, which went badly when the instructor, Sam somebody, told me, “Just express yourself. Throw the paint on to the canvas.” Perhaps you’ve heard the story.
“But this isn’t how I want to express myself. I want to learn how to paint things that are real … like a still life or flowers or people.”
“That’s old school. No one does that anymore.”
I shrank, left the class with my one colorful masterpiece (not), discouraged and feeling as though there was no hope for my learning.
I had picked up materials at a store, tried to paint, but could not translate what was in my head to a canvas. I had a globby mess. So, after the art class experience, the materials went into a box relegated to the basement. So much for painting.
A year later, stuck in a long taxi ride, I chatted with the driver, who was an artist. After hearing my story, he told me about a man who had studied in the lineage of the great masters through contemporary masters in Florence and America.
Once I got up the courage to show up at his class, which was about copying Old Masters, I sheepishly walked in, and I saw the amazing paintings being done in the class — which should have encouraged me. Instead the voices in my head took control, as they often do.
“You can’t do this. No way can you ever get that good. Talent is required, and you have no talent. You can’t even draw a stick figure.”
So I did an about-face and headed out of the room.
An Art Savior
“Yoohoo — can I help you?” said a voice in the distance.
“Oh, well, um, I heard this was a class I should attend, but, well, um, I can’t possibly do this. So I was just leaving.”
After introducing himself, Jack Jackson told me he could teach anyone to paint, no special gifts required.
“Step over here, let me show you something.”
He immediately engaged me in a simple project, where I could see instant progress. Two hours later, he had me working on my first painting.
I’m so thankful he stopped me at the door, because had he not, I probably never would have started painting. His influence brought me my art life today, which has resulted in three art magazines, my work in a few galleries, a couple of art conferences and newsletters, and an art video instruction effort.
Yes, one man, in one minute, saved and changed my life.
Therefore my goal is to amplify what he did for me. I want people to learn to paint, and do it well.
I want to catch them, encourage them, and give them tools for instant success so they can begin their lives as painters and experience the benefits. I want them to know they don’t require special talent, and that if they follow a simple process, they can learn to paint.
Critics will say, “Eric, painting isn’t easy. You can’t oversimplify painting.”
Feeling Pride and Progress Fast
How many people drop out of piano class, discouraged with no progress and the boredom of learning scales? Good teachers understand that baby steps, a feel of progress, and the ability to play a simple song is what keeps students coming back.
My friend Calla showed up at Jack’s art class too, but got discouraged because her head told her she couldn’t do it. She dropped out and missed a lifetime of painting.
That should never happen to anyone.
Art Instruction Reinvented
So I’ve developed a new system to make it easy. Though it’s rooted in a process many painters understand, most don’t use it.
I’ve found a way to simplify, a way to help make fast progress, a way to take baby steps. A way to give encouragement to keep aspiring artists interested. And I’ll be offering it up for free, because I want to eliminate barriers.
What is it?
It’s a little soon to say — nor do I want to ever use my Coffee blog for commercial purposes. But it will be revealed soon, tested, modified, and exposed, and I’m sure you’ll hear about it. In fact, I’m introducing it on a worldwide TV broadcast, a show that has well over a million viewers in 11 countries.
Teaching a Million to Paint!
My hope is that I’ll make my first step toward teaching a million people to paint. And if it works, we’ll keep pressing on.
Many of you are already there … you already know how to do it, you already teach. Therefore I’d like your help.
Do You Hear the Clues?
Simply said, listen for clues like “I wish I could do that, but I don’t have any talent. I can’t draw a stick figure.” When you hear that, engage them, help them, teach them, because if you do, you will change their life. And you may be the only chance they ever get, so you’ve got to jump on it fast, encourage them, and follow up.
I Need Your Help
I’d like you to be part of the team trying to teach a million people to paint … then help them progress to a life of continual growth as painters. You see, I don’t need pride of ownership. It does not need to come from me, through my system. It just needs to happen.
Sanity for a Crazy World
You may not have noticed, but our world is pretty crazy at the moment. What impact would we have if 1 million more people started to paint? I think it would be huge. And once we get to 1 million, we can set bigger goals. But let’s start with one person at a time.
What Can You Do This Week?
Share your gifts that you think others will cherish. And if you’re already drawing and painting, help those you encounter take a step to discover it for themselves. If you’re not drawing or painting and would like to … raise your hand and I’ll connect you with someone to guide you.
Set up in a public place. See how many people say those magic words and listen for clues of interest, then say, “Let me show you. Talent isn’t required. It’s just a process, like cooking or typing. Here, take my brush.”
Though I may never know how many we collectively touch, even one more person who finds painting will be a step in the right direction.
Enjoy your Sunday! Me, I’m gonna go find someone to teach.
PS: If you think someone might like Sunday Coffee, please consider forwarding it.
PPS: I’ve done some great interviews lately on my PleinAir Podcast. If you’ve never listened, you can find them here.