Plein Air Podcast 228: Thomas Bucci on the Art Career Path and More
The Plein Air Podcast has been named the #1 Painting Podcast by FeedSpot for two years in a row.
In this episode, Eric Rhoads interviews Thomas Bucci. Listen and watch as they discuss:
- Thomas’s early motivation and inspiration. He had an early start with watercolor and an inspirational neighbor.
- Disappointments with 1970s art education, which did not respect representational work; and finding alternate creative careers.
- His path to a career as an artist, and how he came back to painting and found his audience by avoiding the art establishment and going directly to the people.
- How he learned to talk about and sell his work.
- How an artistic life is driven by the things that truly interest you, and how cultivating his varied interests served as a motivator for the subjects that inspire him to paint.
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, addresses how to gain broader recognition if you live in a small town, and how to put together an art portfolio.
Have a question about how to sell your art? Ask Eric at artmarketing.com/questions.
Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Thomas Bucci here:
– Thomas Bucci online: https://thomasbucci.com/
– Plein Air Convention & Expo: https://pleinairconvention.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Plein Air Today newsletter: https://www.outdoorpainter.com/plein-air-today-newsletter/
– Submit Art Marketing Questions: artmarketing.com/questions
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this Plein Air Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the Plein Air Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
Eric Rhoads: This is episode number 228 with Thomas Bucci.
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 0:31
Thank you, Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. I’m Eric and coming up. After the interview today we’ve got this week’s marketing minute, which we always do at the tail end of the program. But this week, I’m going to answer questions about how to gain recognition where you want to sell paintings, so you can sell more art that came from a question from actually from Italy, someone from Portugal who lives in Italy. So we’ll be finding out about that. I I’d like to be able to say we’re doing a lot of painting in the last week or so. But quite frankly, I’d be telling a big fat lie. I was hosting last week from Wednesday through Saturday, realism Live, which is our online conference for realist painting. And that particular conference includes plein air landscape, but also figure portrait architecture, you know, a little bit of everything, a lot of drawing. And what a what a great time we had we had a massive number of people from 20 countries all over the United States. We had every state but one I don’t know which one but you’re in trouble, whichever one you are. And we had some great landscape painting including Deborah Huse and Lisa Egeli, John Pototschnik, and one of the highlights, quite frankly, something you’ll never get to see likely in your lifetime is the chance to see the great Clyde Aspevig actually painting because he doesn’t paint in public, he doesn’t teach anymore. And so a rarity to be able to get to see him paint. Now the reason that happened is we set a crew out to Montana and spent a week with a client actually maybe more than a week, maybe 10 days or something. And and I didn’t get to go unfortunately but we shot a series of videos with Clyde that are going to be released because he would like to be able to see his legacy carried on and see you know what he’s learned in his lifetime carried on so those are going to be coming up but one of those that we shot was for realism live. So that worked out and he did a lot of things about philosophy on painting and really some really great stuff. It was a real treat a rare chance to see him paint. I was really pleased with that. By the way. I am going painting though this weekend I’ve got a an artist in town, shooting a video a Richard Sneary One of the great watercolors of our time and Richie Vios who lives here in Austin, Texas near me. So we’re gonna go out on Saturday and some others will probably join us we’ll just go paint. I usually paint in oils when I’m doing plein air. Although when I was in New Zealand on my recent trip where I took a bunch of artists over there, I painted in oils and watercolor. And and what I was my goal was to paint a lot. I wanted to get a lot of studies done so and they didn’t have to be perfect. They weren’t necessarily finished paintings, but I wanted a lot of source material so I could come back and do some big studio paintings. And so I do a couple of oils on us in a spot and then I’d pull out my watercolor if I had some time and I do a couple of watercolors. And you know they’re kind of rambunctious but it was a lot of fun. And so maybe I’ll go watercolor painting with these guys this weekend because they can they can give me some tips that would be kind of nice. I’m pretty encouraged. We we have just just found out that we are again, number one in the Feedspot best painting plein best painting podcast of the year for 2022. We had best for the year in 2021. And a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting I wonder if we’ll get number one again or it will even get mentioned again. So We’re really thrilled and honored with that. And thank you for making that happen. I don’t know how it happens, I don’t know who votes or how that works. But thank you, somebody, whoever, thank you. Wow. If you really want to kick, you know, I’ve been watching a lot of spending a little bit too much time on social media lately. And if you really want to kick, if you’re kind of new to the plein air painting scene, or you’ve been doing it, but you’ve never really connected with a lot of different painters, or maybe you’re not part of your community yet, and, you know, whatever real kick would be apt to join us for the plein air Convention, which is coming up in Denver, it’s coming up in May, and beginners can sign up for our beginner day, which is optional. And you can also sign up anybody else on the same day for the Laurie Putnam pre convention workshop, which is two days or one and a half days. And she’s not doing workshops anymore. And so this is a great opportunity to do that. And also, the convention is about 80 instructors strong four to five stages, including stages for multiple mediums. And we’re gonna have, we’re announcing soon we’re just kind of waiting for the final Go ahead. But we’re announcing soon our big celebrity guests and when I say big celebrity guest, I’m talking big worldwide big known in every household big, not just somebody you would expect to see at the plein air convention. And when the word gets out on that, I’m guessing all the tickets are going to be gone. Also, CW Mundy is coming to the plein air convention Alvero Castagnet, Daniel Sprick, and many, many others are going to be on the stage. So you’re going to learn more about that at pleinairconvention.com. And, as I mentioned, we have a stage for watercolor and for pastel and if you really want watercolor, it’s a good place to go. But also, if you want to like a real fix for watercolor we’ve got like our realism live, we have watercolor live, coming up in January. And it is a huge, huge conference. As a matter of fact, it’s our biggest, we have a massive number of people. We have a faculty of probably over 2030 people, including some of the great artists of all time in watercolor. So you want to make sure that you look that up, get advanced tickets before the price increases to that’s watercolorlive.com. And last, if you’re into plein air painting, and you’re not a subscriber to plein air magazine, Well, we sure would love it if you would consider it. It’s the number one seller at Barnes and Noble nationally, number one selling art magazine in America, we’re pretty cool with that. We like that a lot. And by the way, it’s cheaper to subscribe than to pay new standard prices. And you know, when you pay a newsstand prices, you’re just giving money to the newsstand. We don’t get any of that. But do both you know get the digital and the print subscription, print and digital print. You get the nice magazine you can look through flip through touch and feel and beautiful rich images. We really have beautiful paper we don’t we don’t cheap out on that. And the digital has not only you can zoom in on images and all that stuff, but you also and a lot of people by the way, they’ll do it, they’ll do a screenshot and then they’ll do a painting from it just to learn from it. Don’t sell it if it’s somebody else’s painting. Anyway, we have 30% more content in the digital issue because there’s always stuff left over that we can’t use in the print edition because there’s not space. So it’s yours. We just started talking about this and all of a sudden we had this flood, flood of new subscribers. So get yours at pleinairmagazine.com Please. Thank you. Okay, our guest today is a brilliant watercolorist again, one of the Great’s of our time, Thomas buchi. And he’s an award winning water colorist with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s in architecture. And after working for eight years as an architect, he began working full time as a printmaker, and a painter. He is currently focused on plein air watercolors and also studio painting. He lives in Maine, way up there. And he’s been working full time as a professional artist since 1996. We’re going to talk a little bit about that and how he survives and how he makes that work. So Thomas, welcome.
Thomas Bucci 9:30
Hi, Eric. Thanks for having me.
Eric Rhoads 9:31
We’re really glad to have you and and, you know, it’s interesting, I, I mentioned that Richard Sneary here, you I’m sure you know, Richard and and he is an architect, turned watercolor artist. And Thomas Schaller is an architect turned watercolor artist. What’s the deal?
Thomas Bucci 9:52
And you left off quite a few. There’s so many. There’s probably one simple x connection two, which is a lot of us, or education came from the UK called The bizarre with a 19th century French version of that school, which taught architects, watercolor as a rendering tool. Of course, today, a very few architects pick up watercolor, because it’s, it’s all done on the computer. But most of the people that you mentioned, the architects who have delved into watercolor, went through school around the time I did, which is the 70s and 80s.
Eric Rhoads 10:32
Well, it’s interesting that you say that, because, you know, the reason that watercolor renderings were done is to help sell concepts to someone who was building a building or a park or you know, whatever. And you could, you could put it in situ, you could make it, you could put it in the land and the property with the trees and, and make it beautiful, and put some people in it. And that kind of a thing. And I know that’s, that’s been big for a lot of architects, and then everything kind of went digital. And digital was kind of sloppy in the beginning. But now it’s really good. And a lot of people are doing that. But interesting. I have a friend who is his daughter just went into architecture school two years ago, and I don’t know which school. But the first year, they said this is the first year we’re returning to drawing classes that we’re bringing it back, because so many architects can’t draw, they can draw digitally. They need to be able to draw because if you’re in somebody’s kitchen, and you’re talking about a kitchen remodel, you need to be able to sketch it out on a napkin, right?
Thomas Bucci 11:41
Yeah, well, when I was in school, in architecture, school, not art school, computers are on the horizon. But that was not seen by most of us as something that was going to happen, maybe even in our lifetimes, it was just out there in the ether. But by the time I graduated, it moved so quickly that the, the firm that I was working for announced that everyone was going to have to take a cat, a cat course, or having asked if I could get out of it. You know, I learned to draft and one of the things that I loved about architecture was pencil and paper, and drawing, and I loved sketching out my projects by hand in advance in a sketchbook, I kept the sketchbook and I worked out most of the basic ideas in a sketchbook that we use the French term party to mean the big idea. And I still think of a, you know, a thumbnail drawing that I do for a painting as a party diagram, which is everything that’s important in that painting should be contained in that thumbnail. And that’s the idea of a party diagram that’s taking a very, very complex thing like a building or even a city and reducing it to a simple diagram so that when the thing is done, and so many hands have been all over it, that you still retain the core idea in that party diagram in the in the finished work, and it’s so difficult to do in a building, it’s difficult to do in a painting too.
Eric Rhoads 13:18
Well, you know, I would say that, you know, that gives you a real advantage, having that background and understanding that how does that play out for somebody who doesn’t have that advantage, but they want to become a great water colorist. And, you know, they want to be able to paint, you know, buildings and parks and things like that, what, what is your best recommendation for those people?
Thomas Bucci 13:42
Well, you’ve, you’ve heard this a million times before, probably from every person that you’ve interviewed, that simplify, simplify is what it’s all about. And when you are, when you’re designing a complex project, you start out with a simple idea, you have to throw out all the where the bathrooms, obviously not important. And as the first thought for this complex, you know, maybe Convention Center, if that’s your first thought, you can imagine how the building is gonna go. And so it’s a little bit like starting a painting where your first idea is, is to make sure you you know, get all the the right number of windows in the building or get, you know, get the sewer grate in the right place. You know, obviously, you want to start with the big picture. And so I think that’s true for every painting. A simple idea. To begin, start with the big picture and then add in details as you go. I think back to my thesis project in school where I had to make my initial presentation to the faculty and the head of the of my committee said you’ve made it too complicated. You’ve got too much going on. It’s It’s it’s just too complicated. And, and I said, but it’d be boring. You know, it’s such a simple idea is what they were suggesting was just boring. And he said, Don’t, don’t ever start by making things complicated, they’ll get complicated enough, as you go, when we start developing the thing, that complications will come because you have problems to solve, the solutions to those problems are going to introduce complications. And that was a lightbulb for me as an architect, and it’s also a lightbulb for me as a painter, because I think you look at, I look out my window and see, well, I want to paint that scene. And if I notice all the shingles on the roof across the street, and start thinking, how am I going to render those? Obviously, that idea, you probably don’t want to render them at all, because your eye will see that without you actually drawing that you indicate. Yeah, and so that, I think that as, as painters, it’s so easy to get caught up in insignificant things or details that don’t matter to the, to the finished product. And they become detrimental. And
Eric Rhoads 16:12
that was a hard lesson for me to learn. And I’m still trying to learn it. I know, you know, first off, I started out studying with a great guy, but you know, he was Mr. detail. And, and it took me a while to lose that. But then, you know, it’s like every new painter, I think you go in there, and you start painting the things that attract you. But it’s like building the house before you put a foundation in. And so you know what, son, I don’t know, who told me this, it’s probably been used 1000 times, but they said bake the cake before you put the icing on it before you put the decoration on. And, and then once once I kind of got that down, that really mattered because now you’re working on big shapes. And, you know, interestingly enough, I look at somebody like David LaFell, who he’ll, you know, he’ll do a thumbnail sketch where he won’t put any detail and he won’t even I mean, he’ll just put squiggly lines in to show where the masses are going to be. You do thumbnail sketches of any kind before you start
Thomas Bucci 17:15
on this all the time. So I do I teach sketching, mostly when I’m teaching, I teach sketching. And that the general rule that I repeat at the beginning end of every session, and I’m remind myself constantly is thinking general to specific, it’s always general to specific. So I started out with with some basic lines, identifying the, the bones of an image and then put in broad, quick, broad strokes to locate the primary values and main shapes. And then you keep working back and forth between lines and tons until you have a kind of a finished drawing that you know, is more specific as you go. And then the last trick is to know how when you’ve gotten too specific to stop before you get too much detail.
Eric Rhoads 18:09
Yeah. Well, that’s also that’s also a temptation. You know, I, I am curious about a lot of things. So we’re going to kind of go back and forth into a lot of areas. I want to get into your background and how this all started. But one of the things I’m noticing, it’s almost like there’s a new renaissance for watercolor. And, you know, I started plein air magazine roughly 20 years ago initially, and and at the time, I wasn’t seeing a lot of plein air in watercolor. Now I’m seeing a lot of it. The other thing I’m seeing is there’s recently a big movement towards squash, which is a watercolor medium. I think so. And I’m curious why you think that is?
Thomas Bucci 19:00
I think maybe it could be a bunch of reasons. One of them is maybe just the you’re not dealing with solvents, and you’re not dealing with direct exposure to chemicals, Cobalts and cadmium as you know, have there, you’re still exposed if you get that on your fingers, but you’re not dealing with inhaling the fumes and all of that easier to travel with. And I think there’s those are practical things, but I think the real reason maybe more people are falling in love with watercolor is the same reason I did. It’s magical.
Eric Rhoads 19:36
It really is magical. And I will tell you that I did a little watercolor when I was you know, in kindergarten or something. I tried it a couple of times over the years but I’d never really did much with it. But when we did we launched watercolor live. I felt obligated that here I am hosting this event. I need to know something about it and I paid very close Attention. And even even though I wasn’t watching every session because I couldn’t, because there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. When I would go home at night after watercolor live, I’d start painting and trying to do the things that I learned. And remarkably, things changed very fast. It’s like I was doing amateurish, almost stick figure quality stuff. And then all of a sudden, it changed very fast just by watching guys like you who you know, who have spent your lifetime learning the process. The other thing that I think is going on is I think plein air events, has kind of started out about being a lot about oil, and maybe a little pastel and a little watercolor. But I think they’re opening up more, to other mediums more effectively, you know, you’ve got there used to be the glass problem. And now a lot of artists are not dealing with glass or Plex, they’re, you know, they’re tarnishing their, their watercolors and, and it just, it just opens up a whole world for people. Yeah, and, and I also think you’re right, it’s magical. So what I what I like about it, and it is just the fact that sometimes I’m in the mood to do something like watercolor instead of oil, or, you know, or, you know, trying another medium.
Thomas Bucci 21:19
Well, I’ve been thinking about what I call it for so long, even during the years when I wasn’t doing very much. And there’s just something about putting down a pool of water. And manipulating, putting down a pigment. The biggest disappointment of watercolor for a lot of people is that it dries differently than than it looks when it’s wet. And so one of the hardest things to learn is when to stop doing the wet watercolor so that it’s going to dry the way you want it. And the first workshop I ever took was with the great painter Charles Reed. And Charles was a little cantankerous at this point. He was he was 81. And he was he was struggling a little bit. But without ever cracking a smile he was so he was so funny. And one of the things he said was was if it looks good, wet, that’s a bad sign. Oh, I thought what does he mean by that. And by the by the end of the week, it made perfect sense. In other words, you keep working it, you keep working your wet watercolor until you get it looking the way you want. And then it dries differently. Poof, it’s gone. But everything you loved about it is gone. And mostly it’s because you worked it too much. Because watercolor paper is fragile. For the most part, even the most durable paper has a fragility to it. And what makes a watercolor Singh is the pigment sitting on the surface of the paper and molecularly it’s little crystals and gems and molecules that refract light. And if you open up the paper and push those, those molecules of pigment into the paper, they don’t do that anymore. And they look dead and flat, it becomes more stained paper rather than a shimmering, beautiful, clear watercolor sitting on the surface. And that’s what without all that long explanation. That’s what Charles was saying, don’t don’t keep working your paper until you get it the way you want. You have to know when you have to know that what you have now is going to dry better than it is better than it looks right now.
Eric Rhoads 23:35
So very, very well. A lot of layering technique. You don’t do any of that.
Thomas Bucci 23:41
Well, I do some but but I
Eric Rhoads 23:43
think mostly what mostly what, on what?
Thomas Bucci 23:47
Well, I don’t get the paper that way. And that’s something you learned from from many, many other other painters just how much water you use is the is the critical ingredient, too much water, the paper is too wet that you lose control of it very quickly. So it’s about getting the right amount. One of the paintings that I amI Dean asked me to to load up is a Pete a painting that John Singer Sargent did, and it’s called Corfu light and shade. It’s something that I saw in the National Gallery of Art about 30 years ago, and it just stopped me in my tracks. Yeah, that’s it.
Eric Rhoads 24:24
Now for the people who are listening and don’t have video we’re now available on video too. So we’re gonna we’re not going to ignore you and we’ll we’ll talk about it, but we’ll explain it so that you can see it in your brain and if you can’t see it with your eyes.
Thomas Bucci 24:40
Yeah, it’s a very simple white cabin, like a stuccoed white cabin with a green door sitting in a in a Mediterranean landscape and you can see the, the, the foliage is painted with just crisp, clear simple brush marks. But on the shadow side of the building, there’s a tree casting a shadow On the building on the corner of the building, so one side of that shadow, where the sun is raking at a sharp angle, the shadow is very blurry. And on the other side, the shadow is crisp, because the sun is directly hitting that. And I saw that and it didn’t notice that right away, I just thought the painting was breathtaking. And then as I started noticing all these little things, it was, you know, again, a light bulb going off. And, and I realized that he kept the paper wet on the right side, where the shadow is, is obliquely hitting the building and were attending and directly he kept the paper dry.
Eric Rhoads 25:36
So wetness then allows you to kind of create disappearing edges. That’s
Thomas Bucci 25:42
so you can see he probably painted that shadow. On the on the side where the shadows are bleak. He probably painted that with the paper slightly damp. So you can still see the brush marks but they softened and blurred the way they would when when the sun hits it at a sharp angle like that. But when the sun’s hitting something directly, you get a very specular, clear, crisp shadow edge. And he you can only do that on dry paper. And so the sergeant being sardine probably didn’t even think about it. He just he could do that without even consciously doing it like someone driving a car and not thinking about the clutch. He just he just did it
Eric Rhoads 26:24
while we’ve granted him sainthood. And we don’t know what his frustrations were. There’s not much about that, that I’m aware of. But he was probably fighting the same battles you and I fight.
Thomas Bucci 26:36
Well, you know what, I just was better at it. You know, interesting, you brought that up? Because I was just thinking about that when I thought about what I’d be interested to talk to you about. When I went to architecture school. I mean, went to art school, in 1977. required reading was Jensen’s History of Art. Are you familiar with that book?
Eric Rhoads 26:56
I never have read it. It’s it well, it’s
Thomas Bucci 26:58
a giant tome. It’s you know, it’s it’s a four inch thick book, the history of art from from cave painting and Lascaux to you know, like, abstract expressionists and pop art. I mean, it literally covers the gamut of art to people. Two of my favorite painters, interestingly, are never mentioned in the book. One is Sargent, and the other one is Andrew Wyeth. And I can’t even imagine that that sergeant was left out of this book, which literally is supposed to be everything that’s important in art. And but that was the attitude of the 70s. And
Eric Rhoads 27:37
well, you know, that’s right at that time in the 70s. You could, you could buy a sergeant. And they weren’t all that expensive, because they weren’t all that popular yet. It was really Sergeant’s nephew, who, who really helped popularize him again, to the level he is today. I have a bunch of books that I bought in Scotland at an auction house. And they are there was a magazine called The Studio magazine. It was the art magazine of the time when Sargent was was in London. And as I flip through these old magazines, you know, they’re from the late 1800s, early 1900s. And there’s articles in there like, there’s this new young upstart, John Singer Sargent, that’s getting everybody’s attention. And so it’s kind of it’s fun to see those perspectives, because it what it does is it takes him a little out of that sainthood status, right, and puts them into hay. He’s one of us, you know, he’s kind of trying to make his way. And of course, he was spectacular. So yeah, what what were some of your early motivations and inspirations.
Thomas Bucci 28:51
I’m the only person in my family who’s pursued alright, and even my extended family. So I’m not quite sure what it is in me that made me want to, but I’ve always been since child since early childhood had been interested in art, and never put down the pencil when other people did put down the crayons. The only thing I can think of directly is my neighbor, who was about five years older than me, was a very naturally gifted artist who could draw anything. He taught me how to draw cartoon characters, and to use watercolor to color them and that was my introduction to watercolor. And he says, become a very well known author, which to me, I couldn’t believe he was gonna go to school and study writing and not art because he was so good, but
Eric Rhoads 29:42
But you know, there’s so many famous people who used watercolor, especially watercolor as you know, as a hobby or as a relaxation medium. You know, you had well you have King Charles now, you probably doesn’t have much time to do watercolor painting. You had Winston Churchill who was very good. Yeah. And and even John F. Kennedy, I found a photo of him painting recently. And and so you know, a lot of people, you know, it’s something especially because it’s so convenient, so easy and a lot of people, you know, used it and have, you know, continue to use it. Are there you mentioned the Sargent painting? Are there other paintings that come to mind to you that were really especially inspirational.
Thomas Bucci 30:32
There’s another one that I that I, you can load up is the David Cox painting. I don’t know David talks. So I guess that painting is marvelous. There’s, to me, that’s a perfect painting, there’s absolutely nothing wrong. I couldn’t find anything that should be different. It’s a what a great study of values, edges, warm and cool colors. It’s a place I’ve been to it’s in north Wales, it’s a mountain called Cata Idris. I’ve climbed that. And when I saw this painting in the National Gallery, I just stopped me in my tracks, I used to live very close to the National Gallery, and I could walk there. So in my early 30s, I went there probably a couple of times a week. And I got to know the permanent collection really well. And this was in the Armand Hammer collection, which is prints and drawings. And they change it every couple of months. So this, this would appear for a while to disappear, and then it would come back. But whenever it was there, I would go and visit it, because I just couldn’t get over it. And look at it now. And I still find it astonishing. It’s about 22 by 30 inches, like a full sheet. And it just draws you in. It draws you into that fog at the base of the mountain there. I love the shadow I
Eric Rhoads 32:01
love I love watching your expressions when when you’re talking about it, because you know you’re clearly enthusiastic about that piece.
Thomas Bucci 32:11
Yeah, and my work is nothing like that. I don’t even know how that was done. The paper itself is is definitely a handmade paper that’s extremely rough. And so a lot of the texture he’s getting in there, it’s coming from the paper.
Eric Rhoads 32:25
So I talked to me about paper, what what what, what do you use? Do you use the same thing all the time? Do you vary it?
Thomas Bucci 32:34
Yeah, I, I’m going to try the next thing I’m going to try as hot pressed paper, which I have no experience with. I just want to see what that does. So this winter when I have some time, no plein air events. I can experiment in my studio, but I use probably the roughest paper or at every event I did this year I use this paper from India called Indigo. It’s very distinctive, it has a kind of a linear quality to it. It’s like a like a classic laid paper with a very, very rough and soft texture. So it’s a little hard to use. But I’ve learned that it’s forcing me to have the light touch that I’ve been trying to get. And with this paper, you have to have a light touch. You can it doesn’t allow a lot of reworking.
Eric Rhoads 33:24
I would imagine. So you dry brush across that you’re getting you’re going across a bumpy surface. And that’s that’s creating a lot of interesting marks where you normally would just get a smooth Mark.
Thomas Bucci 33:36
Eric Rhoads 33:38
Thomas Bucci 33:40
it is except if a smooth mark is what you want, then it’s not challenging. But I’m enjoying it. And I think I’ll probably you know, put it away at some point and move on to something else. But I like the classic papers most people use the Saunders, Waterford and arch and I used some Fabriano paper to
Eric Rhoads 34:08
you You came up at a time, which I think must have been interestingly challenging for people like you. Because you You came up at a time when representational art was kind of persona non grata. Right you had you had all the art schools were focusing on freedom and expression and not exactness or representation patient.
Thomas Bucci 34:37
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So I can sum it up with the story that my first painting class, the painting teacher on day one, asked the entire class to tell everyone who their favorite painter was. And so I’m thinking Andrew Wyeth, and a guy a few people ahead of me said, Norman Rockwell and the whole class left And, and the teacher just sort of grimaced. And then when it was my turn, I said, Andrew Wyeth, and again, some Snickers from around the room. And, and she said, very, you know, she just said, he’s not a painter. He’s an illustrator. And I was about to ask what the difference was when she moved on. And, you know, it was just, that’s not important. He just wasn’t recognized as, as a serious artist, I guess, by the art intelligencia. He was obviously a hugely popular artist. And I think that irked the art intelligencia, even more. Which brings brings me to sort of my own career in art. When I when I finally stopped practicing architecture. I didn’t find any galleries, or anybody interested in my art. But in the work that I was doing, which was watercolor, and
Eric Rhoads 36:06
you had two strikes against you. As you were representational, and you were watercolor,
Thomas Bucci 36:12
that’s perfectly true. And I know there were representational artists at the time, there were galleries in Boston and other places that were handling that kind of art, even in New York. And there were a handful of people who are quite successful, but it was definitely the exception. And so I found a way to take my art directly to the people. And it was the outdoor art festivals, which I did them for almost 20 years, did you
Eric Rhoads 36:38
really that’s really hard work. And
Thomas Bucci 36:40
it’s hard work. But it’s all hard work? Well, that’s truly Eric, I have to say, I really enjoyed them. And to some extent, I really miss doing it. Because what I miss about it is that I was talking directly to the people who are buying my work, I met all the people who bought my paintings, and talk to them. And I don’t feel like I ever tried to hard sell anyone or talk them into it. Or in fact, sometimes I would even talk them out of it, if I got the sense that they really couldn’t afford it, and didn’t want them to, you know. And so let’s
Eric Rhoads 37:12
talk about that experience for a second. Because, you know, when you’re preparing for something like that, are you doing all originals? Are you doing originals? Plus prints? What’s that look like?
Thomas Bucci 37:28
Okay, that? I mean, that’s a great question. I my goal in that world was to get to the point where it was just all originals, but I didn’t find that possible. Because, again, you know, you’re dealing with the general public. And most of the people who are wandering through those art fairs might come and admire your work, but they don’t have hundreds or 1000s to spend on a painting, but they they do have, they can afford to print, especially if they get if they really are taken with what what they see. They want to take something home and they’ll take a print home. And I soon started to realize that most of my money was coming from prints. Yeah. And so I
Eric Rhoads 38:08
knew that all the time at art shows I buy prints. It’s it’s because first off in my particular case, I have no wall space left. I you know, and so I’ll once in a while I’ll see something I absolutely have to have. But typically, it’s like, I really love that. I’ll buy the print to remember it. And sometimes the print doesn’t even get hung. Sometimes it’s in a stack. But I just love that. The the idea to do that. Now there is when I first got into the art world, I don’t know if this still exists, but there was a stigma. A lot of artists were saying, you know, prints are a bad thing. Yeah. What, what’s your thought?
Thomas Bucci 38:48
I’m not that judgmental. I think if it makes people happy, that’s a good thing. And and if they can afford to hang an original painting on the wall, better to have a print than not to have anything? Absolutely. Or just to go buy some poster, or, you know.
Eric Rhoads 39:05
So, as you know, I talk, I talk a lot about marketing. And I just want to ask you a couple of questions about that. Because you probably if you did that for 20 years, you learn some really incredible lessons that might be helpful to some other people who are listening.
Thomas Bucci 39:21
I absolutely did, and learning how to to talk about your work and to present it to the public. And the public is not a thing, right? The public is 100,000 different things. And so to learn how to read people and to talk to them in a way that would engage them. That’s something that is really valuable skill to me. And I still I feel like that still pays off and I’m at a plein air event. And I know I don’t like to abandon my wall. I’d like to be there and to meet people who want to buy my paintings or potentially And at least give them a dose of myself. Besides what my work can can present, I like to present myself and to talk about the work. And I think for a lot of people hearing, the story that I had to tell about the either creating of the painting, or what the subject is about, is the thing that makes the difference. It’s, a lot of times they don’t even. They don’t even tell you at the time when you’re talking to them that they’re gonna buy the painting, but then you walk away, and then 10 minutes later, the organizer comes over and says they just bought your painting. And so
Eric Rhoads 40:36
Thomas Bucci 40:38
Yeah, yeah. And it’s something that it’s an added layer of, of interest in that, in that painting,
Eric Rhoads 40:47
that what we’ve what we found when I was writing my book, and I was researching all of this. And a lot of this came throughout my career as well, is that about 50% of the people can can envision something and about 50% cannot envision something and they need, they need help envisioning. And so I and I don’t want to, you know, there are profiles of different types of people and the people who fall within certain profiles are the people that need somebody to say, well, here’s the story behind it, or, here’s why it might be something you might want to have around your house, because other people are like, I see it, I love it, I want it, I gotta have it now. So those, what we have found is those stories are really, really important. And they stick because you go back, you know, you’re you’re like, you’re, you’re in an art show, you’re looking at 5000 pieces of art every time you turn around, and you’re like I’m thinking about that painting. And when the story is with it, you’re like, oh, you know, that painting, the guy that had the fishing pole, and he was with his grandson? And, and that, you know, that reminds me of my grandfather and me and you know that those stories pull your back?
Thomas Bucci 42:07
Yep. Yeah, no, I love. I love that idea. Because 50% of the people come with their own story, and they apply it to your painting. And that, that does it, you know that I think a good painting can inspire a whole lot of stories and a person who is imaginative. And if they’re not able to imagine or envision their own story, you can give it to him. But either way, that the net effect is that they find your work interesting and have a way to relate to it. I mean, ultimately, it comes down to, they have to connect to it. And I’ve often thought that there’s three reasons that people buy art, I wonder what you what you’ll think of this, or I’m anxious to hear it, three, three reasons is they either buy the subject, they buy the artist where they buy the painting. And the last one is the most rare, but the best reason to buy they there’s something about the painting, they may not even be able to articulate it, there’s something about the painting that they love. But the first two reasons. someone buys the subject. They been there, they visited there, they lived there, there, they were married there, whatever, they have a connection to the subject, and that’s why they’re buying a memory. Yeah, it’s a memory. It’s a souvenir, it’s sort of the, in some ways, maybe the cheapest reason to buy pain,
Eric Rhoads 43:28
right. So just, let’s just play off of that for just a second. So you’re, you’re in an art show in San Francisco, and somebody’s a tourist, and they see a painting of the Bay Bridge, and they go, Oh, this would be a nice memento of our honeymoon.
Thomas Bucci 43:43
Or, or I was engaged on the Bainbridge or whatever, they have emotional connection to the subject. They don’t know the painter, or, and it’s not particularly the painting that’s doing the selling. And then the second thing would be they’re familiar with the artist, the artist is famous, or they’ve they’ve been collecting the artist, or they’re a friend of the artist or whatever, but they’re buying it because that artists paid to them. And,
Eric Rhoads 44:11
and sometimes, and I don’t want to interrupt you, I’m sorry about that. But in sometimes, that is the one thing that pushes them over the edge, because you know, if there are two equal paintings that they’re thinking about, maybe they’re in an art gallery, and there’s two paintings that they’ve fallen in love with. Sometimes the deciding factor is the branding of the artist.
Thomas Bucci 44:34
Sure, sure. And that’s, you know, that is a selling point. But so if you look if you think of those three things as a hierarchy of, of what is the third one subject, artist, a better reason than just buying the subject and the last one is they buy the painting, they don’t know the subject. They don’t know the artist, but they look at the painting and say that painting speaks to me. I love it. And I He’s told people that if you buy a painting, because you love the painting, but not you don’t know me, you don’t know this place, you don’t care what the place is, if you buy it because the subject speaks to you, that’s the painting that you’ll look at every day on your wall, and you won’t forget about it. That’s the painting that will make you feel better when you when you look at it, that’s the pain that will continue to speak to you. Because it’s easy to forget about the other things, you know, you buy a painting because you’re married there or whatever. And it just becomes another object in your collection that
Eric Rhoads 45:33
you’ve thrown out when you get divorced. So, so in 20 years of doing art shows, was there one that dominated more than the other?
Thomas Bucci 45:44
I want? Oh, yeah, subject by subject most people buy for subject. And if they don’t see a subject they want, but they liked your work, they’ll ask you to for a commission. Okay. But again, they’re commissioning a subject they want. Yeah, it’s they it doesn’t say that they don’t like your paintings, or that they don’t appreciate you as an artist. But the primary reason is Sunday are the primary
Eric Rhoads 46:09
Do you have a great, great discussion starter or opening line? When you talk to people?
Thomas Bucci 46:16
I worked on that for years. I worked on what, how to introduce myself or when at what point when someone comes into your space, at what point to introduce yourself? And I realized there is no, I had no formula. And I we just try to read people, I’d look at them. And I’d look at how are they looking at my paintings? Are they just? Or are they just coming in to get out of the rain? It’s kind of like I try to read them before I would approach them.
Eric Rhoads 46:46
So interesting. You should say that I just heard this the other day. I never knew this. If you look at people’s pupils, if their pupils are widening, they’re interested. And I you know, I’m not one that really studies people’s pupils, but I’m going to start watching there’s an ad on television right now that, you know, they they zoom in and show somebody’s pupil. Why widening, probably to show that there’s interest, subconsciously, the the line that that I think works really, really well, first off, you I hate it when I go into a store and somebody says, Can I help you? It’s just like, Don’t bother me. You know, and even if you’re interested in something, usually say, I’m just looking right? You know, I’m on a mission. I want to find a particular sweater or something, I might say something, but usually I just don’t want to be bothered. But if you can ask a question. And the question that really works very effectively is you notice them looking and say, does that remind you of anything? And they’ll go Yeah, yeah, as a matter of fact, it does. You know, my grandfather and fishing, or whatever it is? That’s a very effective question. It’s very, and it’s proven to work really well. Yeah. Okay, so what else about the 20 years of experience of art shows? And now applying it to the plein air world of art shows? Is there anything else that really stands out that people need to know about?
Thomas Bucci 48:24
I guess this is in particular to, to shows to be to painting or to doing plein air events or outdoor art festivals. But what’s your motivation for painting? I think that for me, a lot of people used to come up and ask me, So you’re an artist, you made a career? Are you making a living doing this? Or is this your hobby? My son wants to be an artist, I am very nervous about that. And I would say Well, that’s, you know, you’re being a responsible parent to be nervous about that. But I would suggest to your, you know, now that you encourage your child to study anything that they’re interested in, because everything is a potential, I think you need to be a well rounded person to be a good painter, and you can’t just be interested in self referential art, you know, artists who’s only interested in art is probably going to just end up reproducing someone else’s. I think I think it comes from a deeper place, you know, your, your motivation for art. So for me, when I was five years old, my parents gave me a telescope, because I was so fascinated looking at the stars, and I’m still fascinated looking at the stars. In fact, I’m a member of the Central Maine Astronomical Society. We have monthly meetings and we go look at the stars.
Eric Rhoads 49:52
I get some dark nights up there. Beautiful.
Thomas Bucci 49:55
Yeah. And I built I built the telescope when I was 16. And it’s been a I work in progress all these years, I keep refining it and improving it. And it’s quite a sophisticated telescope. And you know, it’s a handmade thing. And to me, you know that you’re not going to look at my work and see, oh, you must be interested in astronomy. I’m not doing paintings of the nice guy even that much. But there’s something about that, that that. Having interests outside of simply, artwork is what I think makes us better artists and make sure a kind of a well rounded person like it for me that interest in astronomy keeps my childhood wonder alive. When I look up at the night sky, and I see familiar constellations, Orion Orion is rising, you know, I know it’s the fall.
Eric Rhoads 50:51
And so when you’re painting, or you’re looking at somebody else’s painting in the sky, are you looking at the birds? And are they properly placed? Well, no, if they’re not, I can tell you. It’s kind of like I was talking to John Stolberg. And he said, you know, if I look at somebody else’s ship paintings, I can tell if they know what they’re doing or not because I know the rigging. Yeah, and if they put the wrong rigging on that, on that sale, it’s gonna stand out. Yeah, it’s John Coleman said the same thing. He says, I can tell if somebody is truly interested in, in painting Native Americans, because sometimes they’ll put two competing tribes clothing on on a model. And you know, it just doesn’t work. If you know that stuff. I want to ask you a question about, you know, you touched on the parents, and the idea of making a living as an artist. If you were going to, if I was a parent, and I walked up to you, and I said, I’m concerned about my kid, he or she wants to be an artist, and you know, I, I’m worried that they won’t be able to make a living. And, and it’s really, because we’ve all heard the Van Gogh story, right? starving artists, you know, just can’t make it. And you hear you hear all the stories about starving artists, you don’t hear about the ones that are filthy rich. And the ones that are making great livings and living in nice houses, you just don’t hear about that very much. But what if you wanted to tell a parent how to increase their child’s odds of success? In becoming a professional artists, what would you tell them?
Thomas Bucci 52:28
I think I started to say it, but I didn’t really I got I distracted myself. But really, what I have been telling people is I don’t know that I would encourage a child to go through a University Art program, I don’t think I would, I would say, study whatever. Whatever else interests you, that’s in a way, that’s your muse, you know, you’ve maybe it’s biology, maybe it’s history, mathematics, anything, it enriches your mind enriches your life. And it’s sort of a foundation for artists for for an artist. But the skills that you need to learn the techniques, the, the, the fundamentals of art, you can learn that from a teacher, and that’s the best way to go. And today, there’s so many teachers, you can you can pick your, you know, your favorite artists or favorite style, and pursue workshops. And for a fraction of the cost of going to a university art program, you can you can pick your cheat your actual teachers, and,
Eric Rhoads 53:34
or you can go to an actual art program, you know, at an affiliate or something, which is a fraction of the cost of university typically. And I and I’m not anti University at all, because there are a lot of them that are doing it right, again, you know, starting out with life drawing and some of the basic skills. But, you know, we have heard so many stories of discouragement of, I know, like what you talked about, you know, stubbing their nose at What do you mean, you want to do representational art, when I first started, I went to a class and, you know, he’s telling me to express myself and I said, Well, I don’t want to do that. I want to learn how to paint that bottle over there. And he said, Oh, nobody does that anymore. That’s been done. It’s like, don’t discourage people, you know, find a way to help them because you don’t know what they’re going to do with their life.
Thomas Bucci 54:20
I think people young person starting out not very lucky today, because they can pick from hundreds of workshops, or even videos that are out there. And you can learn everything you need to know much more quickly, directly and you can pick the one you want. If you go to a university program, you’re gonna get stuck with whatever Professor they throw at you who who knows what you’re getting, and you’re paying a fortune to be there. Yeah, I think it’s,
Eric Rhoads 54:46
you know, you can pick you know, if you’re at representational art, you can pick Florence academy or something like that. I mean, the and the problem is that a lot of course, the web has changed a lot of this but a lot of people don’t know those things exist. Thankfully, things like Instagram are really changing the world because we’re getting exposed artists that that we’ve never known about that are absolutely stunningly fabulous. So that’s really terrific. Let me let’s talk a little bit about plein air painting. Since it is the plein air podcast. You’re doing a lot of plein air shows? will tell what are the pros and cons of doing plein air shows?
Thomas Bucci 55:28
Okay, let’s start with cons. Because I think that’s a short list. Just know, no, it’s a very short list. I don’t think there is any really cons to it, there’s some people might find the driving or the traveling difficult. I should have enjoyed that. So the pros, the you know, that’s a long list. And number one, I think is, is becoming part of a community of painters that are out there doing what you love doing. That’s so important because you not only learn from them, but it’s just good for mental health to be around other people who validate what it is you’re interested in. And it’s a nerdy little group of people. And you know, I think there’s nobody is happier in this world than nerds, which is how I feel I’ve been my entire life like an astronomy nerd or a guitar nerd or a painting nerd. But nerds love what they do. And they’re really happy. And in the end, maybe the ultimate revenge of the nerds is or the happy people. It’s really true. And so your
Eric Rhoads 56:41
guitar nerd too will have to play together sometimes.
Thomas Bucci 56:45
So I love I love that. But by the way, you know that guitar if you’re a guitar player? Yeah, I story. That is kind of astonishing is you know, I had one of those unplayable guitars that kids have that. I think we found that the junk cell yard sale couldn’t really play. But my neighbor, the same neighbor, who was an artist, we were cutting grass together, you know, cutting, making a making some pocket change by mowing people’s lawns. And his uncle lived up in Pennsylvania near the Martin guitar factory. And he said it’s one of my one of my friends or whatever, up there, wants some, some golden colors grass, so he went up and cut the guy’s grass. And at some point in the day, this guy came out with a guitar case in his hand and walked over to him and said, Hey, kid, you knew what a Martin guitar is? And he goes, Sure, of course I did. And he said, Well, here’s here’s a Martin guitar, go home and learn how to play it. And it was Christian Frederick Martin, the owner of Martin guitars, and that’s his grass. He was cutting. And
Eric Rhoads 58:00
I hand out DVDs on on how to paint to my my lawn guy.
Thomas Bucci 58:09
Well, it’s same thing. But that’s how I learned I learned how to play guitar on a guitar that I can’t afford to buy today. But
Eric Rhoads 58:17
well, that’s that guitar is probably worth 60 or $80,000. Guitar, especially
Thomas Bucci 58:22
one that was made back then. Because that’s in seven days. And yeah, those are those are pretty valuable.
Eric Rhoads 58:27
Yeah, I’ll, I won’t bore everybody with all this. But I built a guitar for my 60th birthday. Because I wanted to do something different and memorable. And I used Martin guitar builder to teach me how to do it. So that’s another story for another time. And how much are you getting out? And where are you going? You’re going to a lot of these shows around the country? Are you kind of staying within a certain region? Are you going back and forth across the country?
Thomas Bucci 58:56
I haven’t gone across the country too much. I’ve haven’t been applying to anything west of the Mississippi yet. Okay, I think that’s something I’d like to do. I’ve been up and down the east coast, from Atlanta all the way up here to man.
Eric Rhoads 59:15
Any tips on painting watercolor and planner.
Thomas Bucci 59:22
Too many too many to mention, but I think the tips for for painting. Plein Air is probably similar to oil painting too, which is or maybe for events is they’ll be intimidated by him. I think if anybody feels intimidated to try one of these events, just put that to the side, jump right in and try it because I think you’ll find that the community of painters is very welcoming. And everybody knows what it’s like to do your first event. And I think people are really generous and kind.
Eric Rhoads 59:58
I think so too. That’s really great advice. You know, it’s but it is intimidating. You know, when you’re setting up next to you, you know, you’re, you know, if I were sitting up next to you, I’d be intimidated or I’m sitting up next to, you know, any great artist. There’s, there’s a little bit of, oh, boy, this is tough. You know, this is scary. And yet, what I find interesting about it, in the beginning, it was just scary. But now it’s challenging. So I pushed myself, if I’m, if I’m setting up next to somebody, like I was painting next to Richard Schmid, I pushed myself to be better. And I kind of it just made me think differently. And you know, after afterwards, he came up to me and said, You know, I didn’t know you’re that good a painter. He said, I just assumed you were just a writer. And so, but I think that, that putting yourself out there, that challenge is so important.
Thomas Bucci 1:00:59
Sure. Well, I think every you know, everyone who’s run a race knows that, that they run their best time in the Olympics, they don’t run their best time, when they’re running against the local team, you most runners will, will run fast enough to win. And so if you kind of want to run in the Olympics,
Eric Rhoads 1:01:19
that’s a great analogy. And I think,
Thomas Bucci 1:01:21
you know, what’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Because you’re confronted with someone who’s, who’s great, the worst thing that can happen to you is you might learn something. Yeah. And so great advice. You’re not really competing with them. And I think that’s the thing I would say to everybody. These events are called competitions. But I almost like to push that word into the background. There is a there’s a competitive element, but they’re not about competition. But these are not competitive people. They’re by and large, not
Eric Rhoads 1:01:59
by That’s right. I my wife, you know, we spent our a lot of our life in the radio industry. And she said, The these people in the art world are so loving, and so kind and so wonderful. You know, they have reasons to have big egos, but they typically don’t, you know, there are a couple of exceptions. Yeah. And, you know, he said people in the other industry were like, they had no reason to have big egos, but they did. And and I think this is right. I mean, everybody’s really welcoming. You know, it’s the same. Same thing at the plein air convention. You know, I’ve had people call me and say, I’m not going to go because I don’t feel like I’m worthy to paint there yet. And it’s like, come on, we’re all here to help you. So
Thomas Bucci 1:02:42
yes, gets that way. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 1:02:45
Yeah. Well, this has been absolutely fascinating. Thomas, I think you and I could probably carry on for two or three more hours, but we can’t. So I want to thank you. We’ll make sure to tell everybody to visit your website, which is what
Thomas Bucci 1:03:01
is my name? ThomasBucci.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:04
Okay, the UCC I NBCC. No, no. Ah, all right. Terrific. Well, I’m very impressed to get to know you and and to learn about you. You’ve got a really great heart. I love love the way you think. You’re a really great guy.
Thomas Bucci 1:03:22
Thanks, Eric. It’s really been a pleasure to talk to you and and meet you, I suppose. If Yeah, well,
Eric Rhoads 1:03:29
we need to go. Yeah, well, it’s come on down this weekend where I’m gonna go painting watercolor with some guys who just come on join us.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:50
Our guest today was Thomas Bucci. And now we’re gonna go to the marketing minute.
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 1:04:05
So the whole goal of the marketing minute is to help you help you learn if you’re somebody who wants to sell your artwork, if you there’s no pressure to do that, but if that’s something you want to do, my goal in the marketing minute is to help you do that. We also have the marketing minute podcast, which is the exact same content as this. It’s just we carve it out as a separate podcast for people who don’t want to listen to a plein air podcast why they wouldn’t want to I can’t possibly ever imagine. If you have questions, you can send me a video to a video question, artmarketing.com questions or you can just email me Eric@artmarketing.com And we have a really terrific blog called Artmarketing.com And that’s a really great place to go if you want ideas on some techniques and things a lot of the stuff that’s in my book is there. A lot A lot of the stuff that I wrote there got into my book. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not. So, Amandine, my producer from France is going to read the first question. But first Amandine, where in France are you from?
I’m from the Champagne region. An hour and a half east from Paris.
Eric Rhoads 1:05:18
Okay, good to know. All right. Okay, here we go.
So the first question is from Edwin Amelia Kentaur from Costa Rica. Even though I studied in the Florence Academy of Art many years ago, I’m living in a country with a tiny, tiny art scene and very few collectors, what would be your advice to gaining recognition in more important places or countries, when you’re stuck in a tiny country like this one with not many possibilities?
Eric Rhoads 1:05:51
Well, that’s a loaded question. There’s a lot to unpack here. First, congrats on going to the Florence Academy, one of my favorite art schools. I would go there if I could. But right now, yeah, putting kids through college. I think the first thing that I just want to say to you and I don’t mean to be disparaging by any stretch, but you might be telling yourself a story. That’s not true. This is something that we all do. I do it. We all do it. We make assumptions about things. And we need to test those assumptions and find out if they’re true. First off, you said you live in a small country, you’re in Costa Rica, Costa Rica is a small country compared to the United States. But what do we have in Costa Rica? We have First off, there’s 1000s, probably 10s of 1000s of expats who have homes there, some of them are pretty big homes. And what do they have inside those homes, walls, empty walls. And when you move into a house in Costa Rica from America first, for example, which might be fun, I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but I’m going to visit you down there. So you don’t want to drag all your stuff from your home in Texas or your home in Florida, you’re going to try to get something that feels local, right? So you’re going to buy local furniture, you’re gonna buy local paintings. And just because you’re telling yourself there’s not much of an art scene, doesn’t mean you can’t sell paintings there. And that’s, by the way, true of other places other than Costa Rica, you know, you live in a country, a country is filled with a lot of people, people who own businesses, people who have great jobs, people who work in medical centers, or legal centers, or courtrooms or, you know, I mean, there are a lot of a fluent people in every country and every city, every town, even the smallest little hole, Buck towns in the middle of nowhere, have some regular folks. And then there are some folks who have a little extra to spend, sometimes a lot of extra to spend, you know, you go into, you think you’re going into a small town in the middle of Texas, and you find out these people own oil wells, or have oil rights, that are getting checks. They call it mailbox money. Mailbox, money might be you know enough to buy 30 of your paintings. So be careful about the stories that you tell yourself that that’s the first thing to do. Secondly, is okay, let’s assume it is true. First off, how many paintings do you produce in a year? And assuming that you sold 100% of your paintings, which very few people do, but some do? How many paintings Do you really need to sell? Let’s just say that you’re really extremely productive. And you paint 60 paintings a year? All right, how many people do you need to buy 60 paintings 60 people or less, because oftentimes, people will buy two paintings. So if you got if sold two paintings, to everybody bought a painting, you only need 30 people, some people buy for six paintings, some people want to become your collectors. And so you can sell in a lot of situations. Now. Let’s just take the local example for a second. Let’s say you’re in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Maybe there aren’t a lot of wealthy people around maybe there are a few. And by the way, people people buy paintings they’re not they don’t have to be wealthy to buy paintings just depends on the cost of your paintings, right? So you might want to think about this. You need to make yourself a local icon. You need to say okay, how do I become known in my community? As an excellent artist, Rose Frantzen did this she lives in a small town. A coca was Makoto Makoto, small town in the Midwest, she went out and she decided to do a project where she was going to paint 50 or 60, or 100 or 150 of the local people in her town, and do a show out of it. And I don’t know if she pre arranged this or it happened afterwards. But she ended up in the National Portrait Gallery with the show, but she went out to local people and they came to her studio and she spent a day or two painting them and she get to know him, she got to know everybody. And she said to me, that she’s now known everywhere she goes into the grocery store, people know her. She’s the known local artist, I guarantee as she’s selling paintings, locally, she’s also nationally known so she’s selling paintings nationally. My friend Diane Leifheit, who lives in Saranac Lake, New York, at least now part of the year, she did the same thing, she started painting, a lot of local people did a show, that’s a great way you want to look for something you can do that will get you publicity, get the local paper, local media, local websites to write about you, you want to look for ways that you can get known get your name known, get yourself known, get your work known. I think charity events are a great way to do that. One of the things I talked about in my book, one of many is that you can a lot of paint, a lot of artists will contact me and they’ll say I don’t want to get people are always calling me and saying give me a painting for a charity auction. I don’t want to do it, because I can’t deduct it. That’s foolish, do it, do it. Because why? If it’s a charity auction, if there are the 50 or 100, most prominent people in your town there, if you can figure out how to get them to feature you on their postcard feature you on their website, make sure they hold up your painting, make sure they have you stand up and introduce you, then what happens is that you’re starting to develop your local celebrity, they see you at this charity, and the next charity and the next charity, all of a sudden, you’re a big deal. And now everybody knows who you are. And then you know, you have your local studio sale at Christmas and maybe another time a year and you do a show at the local restaurant or a local courthouse, you know, things like that, you’re gonna get known. And that’s how it works. And you can do that. And you can sell paintings in a lot of small places, and I have friends who do it, you can do it too. Now, if for some reason, you just don’t believe me, and you don’t think local is going to work for you, then you’ve got to go regional. And regional is just doing the same thing. Except maybe you live in an area that is a small piece of a bigger area, maybe it’s a whole state. You know, if you live in a small town, and let’s say Indiana, where I grew up, if that small towns not enough, and by the way it is but if it’s not enough, then you expand to the region, you know, the Northeast region or the southeast region, or maybe you expand to the whole state. You know, my friend, Rick Wilson, has become known as a pretty famous painter in all of Indiana. And why did he become famous, because he launched a project where he was going to do one painting in every county in Indiana, and then do a show at the statehouse and then do a book and that kind of a thing. And he got a lot of publicity all sudden, everybody wanted him because he got all this publicity. And so that’s the kind of thing you can do. Now, if you want, you can go for another country, or another state, right? So if you lived in the United States, and you don’t feel like the people in your state are going to buy your art and maybe they won’t because your art is a little different art or different level of sophistication or maybe it’s got to be maybe it’s really expensive. So then, you know, you work on getting a gallery. We’re going to talk about that in a minute. And then you you get known in another another area you there are a lot of people like yourself, who are painting in and sending paintings to other places. I met a young artist in Cuba, his fabulous artist. And he said to me I’m in galleries and you know, Lisbon, Spain and or Portugal and and Madrid and you know, he started naming all these, these countries where he was sending paintings to and so the key is getting representation in those places, finding people that want your work and again, we’ll talk about that in a second. And the other thing is, you know the world today is blended. The world today is all about everything right? It’s online, it’s offline, it’s in person, it’s, you know, it’s everything. So you don’t have, you can sit in a little town that has 30 people, and ship paintings all around the world and sell them online. And that can be very effective. Now, there’s techniques for doing that. It’s not always just about showing up online and posting things and say, hey, buy my paintings a lot more to that we don’t have time to get into that, um, that’s probably a day or two of teaching. But you can do that too. So you know, you can put your put your things on Instagram, and Facebook, and Snapchat and Twitter and you know, everything that that’s out there. And you know, there’s online auctions, there’s all kinds of things you can do. So you’ve just got, you just got to quit telling yourself stories, you can do this. And you can be successful, you can be as successful as you choose to be, but it starts here, in between your ears, so that you are telling yourself the right story and believing. And by the way, you know, right now, a lot of people are asking me a lot of questions about the economy, and can I sell paintings in the economy and inflation and all that nonsense? The answer is yes, of course. You know, I know people who this economy isn’t hurting as much as it’s hurting you or me. Right? I know people who, instead of maybe they’re not going to buy a $500,000 painting, maybe they’ll only spend 300,000 on a painting. Right? There’s always people with money. You just got to you got to figure out how to target them. Talk about that. The second okay, Aberdeen, what’s our next question?
Next question is from Betty McLean Henderson from West Helena, Arkansas. Eric, how should oil painters put together a portfolio to present?
Eric Rhoads 1:16:57
Okay, how should oil painters put together portfolio to present the galleries Betty? Getting into galleries is kind of like baseball, or football. Right? You’re if you’re getting into galleries, you’re in the big leagues now. Right now, maybe you start out in the minor leagues. But even getting into the minor leagues isn’t easy, right? So you got the you know, the galleries are professionals. They want to be treated professionally, they have ways that they do business. And it’s very important to understand that a gallery is a business, and what is the most important thing to a gallery business. And that is that they are selling enough paintings, to pay for the lights and pay for the employees and pay for all the expenses and pay the exorbitant rent if they have rent and make a profit. That’s their goal. And so what are they going to do, they’re gonna pick the artists who have a track record. Because it when you pick a new artist who has no track record, and you’re taking up 5% of your wall space, that could be generating money. Remember it shelf space, and wall space is really important. So if you’re, you know, like, if you’re in a Kroger, Coca Cola will pay extra money to be on that end aisle space. That’s how much you know, visibility is. So a gallery a good gallery will look at every painting that’s hanging and ask if that’s taking up real estate and other painting would be better off to sell. And so they’re looking at you from the standpoint of Will you sell? Is this too risky? Is this person have consistent enough work? Do they have a good body of work? There’s a lot of other things like that. So you’re talking about preparing a portfolio, don’t waste your time. That’s my opinion. Don’t waste your time, because they don’t want to hear from you. I’m sorry, you don’t want to hear that. And I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule. But galleries don’t want to hear from you why I had a gallery owner tell me that he said I get roughly 2000 2000 pieces of mail every single year, from artists who are soliciting send me pictures of their works. I said what do you do with them? He said I don’t even open them. I peek into it. Make sure it’s not something else. And I throw them away. I said, Well, yeah, but these people have gone to all this trouble. He says, you know, if I spent five minutes with each one of those times 2000 I’d be losing money. And he said, and I get another 5000 emails and I have to have somebody clutter. declutter my email before he even gets my email. He says, If I have to sit there and delete 5000 emails a year, it’s costing me money. He said and then they call you and they waste your time and he’s And I, you know, people call me and they said, I’d like to be in your gallery and you say, what kind of work do you do? And they say, Well, I’m a, I’m a modern artist, he said, did you bother to look at my website? I don’t sell modern art, you know, so he doesn’t even take the calls. So they don’t want to hear from you. So if that’s the case, how do you get into their gallery? Well, there’s a whole chapter on that in my book, but let’s touch on a couple of key points. First off, think about fishing, you’re dropping a line in the water, you’ve got bait at the end of that line. And what you’ve got to do is to get them to bite on your bait, and then reel them in. But if you’re, if you’re just, you know what, think about throwing bait in the water without a line on it, you’re just throwing bait out there, you’re sending out your portfolio, you’re sending out all this nonsense, and they’re not even seeing it, right. Or maybe they’re maybe you’re throwing the bait not in the water, you’re throwing it in the grass. But the idea is you want to get invited in. So how do you do that? How do you get invite in? And well, you got to figure out how to make them look at your work without making them think that you’re trying to make them look at your work. Other exceptions to this. But galleries typically invite people in, they typically reject people that are just soliciting, because the majority of them aren’t very good. That’s it’s a fact it’s true. I know you don’t want to hear that. But where do they ask yourself these questions? Where does the gallery owner or the person making those decisions? Where do they spend their time? With whom do they spend their time? What is the most important thing to them? I think having something to sell and also protecting their brand and their reputation. They don’t want to be known for having crummy paintings. What’s in it for them always ask this question? What’s in it for them? And what is your bait? Well, there’s a lot of things you can come up with strategy. We could go in through 30 things right now. But it might be something as simple as you know, you follow the gallery owner on social media, and they make they post something, you make a smart comment, you say, you know, it’s really interesting that you say that about this John Singer Sargent painting, because I was researching this. And here’s what I learned. And you do that enough times, they’re gonna go, Hmm, I wonder who this Eric Rhoads cat is, right? And so but here’s what you don’t do. You don’t troll them. You don’t get out there and say, hey, you know, why don’t you look at my portfolio, come to my web page, or come to my FaceBook page or my my Instagram, you don’t say that. Because that’s just our Troy. So, you know, smart comments. And don’t do it all the time. Because if you’re doing it all the time, you’re gonna become obvious. So just, you know, once every couple of months, maybe say something. And then at some point, they’re going to be curious and going, I wonder who this person is. And they click on the Eric Rhoads icon and they look at your work, now. They’re looking at your work. And it better be good. And here’s what happens. A lot of artists post everything, they put it on their websites, they put it on their Instagram, they post things that are not complete, you know, this is in progress. But if somebody’s coming on there, and they’re checking you out, and they’re not taking time to pay attention to your captions, they’re just kind of floating through what’s on the on the photos, or the video, then, if you’re putting things that are not your best out there, you’re getting judged, because what is the gallery want, they want a body of work that is consistent and high quality. And so if you’re putting out things that are not consistent and high quality, you’re gonna hurt yourself. The other thing is, don’t put your dog vomit pictures on there that you know, your head in the toilet. When you’re at a party or you know, you’re you’re walking around in a bikini, or whatever, because the stuff that it looked for, ask yourself, what happens if somebody looks at this, and I’m going to turn them off. And don’t put your political views on there, because you will lose half of the people. And so avoid that stuff. That stuff and you’re like, Well, I have an artist friend who’s like, I don’t care. I’m gonna say my political views. I said, let’s find where you’re gonna lose half of your people. I don’t care if I lose them. I still need to say my views. That’s fine, if that’s who you want to be. I don’t have a problem with that. But just keep in mind if this is important to you. And you know that artists, by the way is so big that maybe it doesn’t matter. But be careful about that. Be careful what you’re putting out there. And next thing is you want to get invited in right? You see you are more powerful. Not that we’re in a power game here, but you’re more powerful if you get invited in rather than being 1000s of needy artists trying begging to get in. So who do you know that knows them? A good place to start is to look at the website, look at the artists, is there anybody out there? You know, if you know him, you call them. And you say, hey, I want to talk to you about XYZ gallery. But you don’t. I mean, it’s a best friend, somebody you really know, you can be completely forthright with them on that. But you know, sometimes you can’t. So you might just say, hey, you know, what do you know about XYZ gallery? And they’ll say, Well, you know, I don’t know. Why do you ask? So well, let me ask you this. Do you like dealing with them? Yeah, I do. Do they pay their bills on time? Do they give you your commission checks? Yeah, they do? Do they promote you? Yeah, they do? Well, then they’ll say, Well, why do you ask so well, I’m kind of thinking about targeting one or two galleries, because I’m going to add a couple more. But I’m really doing my research and my homework before I figure out who I’m going to target. And then that artists will say, Well, if you, you know, if you think you might want to get into that gallery, I’d be happy to make an introduction, or I’d be happy to tell them about you. And sometimes they won’t say that. And sometimes it’s too soon. And sometimes if you don’t know the artists, well, they won’t say it. And by the way, they may not respect your work and might not say it, so don’t necessarily expect it. You got to take these things slow. You know, you got to plan. It’s like a chess game, you got to play in 30 months in advance. And I you know, I’m not about playing games, I like to be as forthright as I can be. But you know, you don’t call up somebody met at a party last night and say, by the way, we loan me $100 It take it slow, right? You get to know them, they become friends. You know, once they trust you, you call them and say hey, would you loan me 100 bucks, though, like, yeah, if I can sure I’ll loan it to you. So be careful about that. And make sure your work is the best it can be. Don’t put the half cooked stuff on there. And this will help you. It’ll give you it will help you ultimately. Okay, that’s the art marketing minute.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:27:28
Well, I appreciate you taking the time to be on with us today. We’re a little over on time. But make sure to join me at the plein air convention in may check out watercolor live at watercolorlive.com. And please consider subscribing to plein air magazine. Thanks again to Thomas if you’ve not seen my blog about art and life and other things. It’s called Sunday coffee, and it’s out there every Sunday and you can get it Coffeewitheric.com. We’re up to I don’t know, 150,000 readers or something like that. Also, you know, I’m on daily on Facebook, with artists teaching what they have to teach, you know, it’s kind of like it’s called Art School live for reason. It’s because you’re getting like art school, fed to you very, very fast. And if you just pay attention, and if you’re on YouTube, you can get it you can subscribe, etc. So go to art school live on YouTube, or search it on Facebook. And if you give me a follow, that’d be really cool on Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s at Eric Rhoads. I am that person. Eric Rhoads, founder of plein air magazine. And thank you for your time today. And thanks again to Thomas Bucci. It’s a big world out there. Remember, go paint it. We’ll see you soon. Bye bye.
This has been the plein air podcast with PleinAir 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 Eric@pleinairmagazine.com. 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.