Plein Air Podcast 233: Thomas Jefferson Kitts on Art Influences 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 Jefferson Kitts: “I can tell you everything you need to know about all your materials..how to hold your arm…None of that is going to serve you better than just doing it.”
Listen as they discuss:
– The current influence of abstract art on representational landscape painting (“There’s a race right now to see how abstract we can all go without losing our audience.”)
– Painting for inspiration versus painting for money
– His biggest artistic influences
– What he says is “a blessing and a curse”
– His advice to artists who are just starting out
– And much more!
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions: “Should you hire a marketing specialist?” and “How can you implement TikTok as a marketing tool?”
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 Jefferson Kitts here:
– Thomas Jefferson Kitts online: https://www.thomaskitts.com/
– Plein Air Magazine: https://pleinairmagazine.com/
– Watercolor Live: https://watercolorlive.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.
This is episode number 233 – hard to believe… With the great Thomas Jefferson Kitts.
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 0:36
Well, thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. I’m Eric Rhoads. It has been a fun couple of weeks. It’s been fun because I love hanging out with my friends. I love hanging out with other artists. I love painting with other artists. And the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a couple of really great artists here staying in the world famous artists cabin and that gives me a chance to hang out with him go to dinner, go painting. And so it’s been really a great couple of weeks. artists that have been here this last two weeks is is Barbara Tapp, watercolor artist and Iain Stuart watercolor was just brilliant watercolor artists, both of them. And so this has been kind of a watercolor time for me, which is kind of fun, actually, because I am trying to learn how to be a better water colorist. Which of course, leads me to watercolor live. We’ll talk about that in a minute. So we are really honored that you guys are tuning in. And we’re humbled. I know that’s hard to believe that I might be humbled. Not really. But we are now number one two years in a row in the Feedspot list of painting podcasts online. So that’s pretty cool. Thank you so much for making that happen. And coming up after the interview with great Thomas Jefferson Kitts, we’re going to talk a little bit about marketing, including about tik tok marketing and marketing advisors. And if you need one or not. So that’s going to be in this week’s marketing minute. I should mention that this is coming out right before Christmas. So Merry Christmas to everybody. We, we hope that you get some good time with your family and some downtime and some some joy in your life. That’s all very important. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I actually have some that don’t actually have to be shipped. Okay, you can put little cards together right. So the first one is plein air magazine. If you’re into plein air, then give your loved ones the hint that gee, I’d sure love to have a print or a digital or both subscription to plein air magazine. And it’s the digital of course has got about 30% extra content at it. So just go to pleinairmagazine.com for that. And if you would like to go to the plein air convention, that’s a bigger hint. Plein Air convention is in Denver this year, and it’s going to be wild. And what’s really going to be wild is everybody’s trying to guess who our big celebrity announcement is going to be. We actually have a world renowned celebrity. And everybody’s guessing it wrong so far, which is kind of fun to watch. And we are not allowed to announce it yet. But once we do, and it’s gonna be right around the corner, I think because we had to kind of wait till the end of the year because of some movie deals and things. But anyway, I think that we should have final confirmation here in a minute. But anybody who’s at the plein air convention, who’s part of the VIP program, which has special seating and snacks and all this other stuff, they’re gonna get a chance to meet this person. So that’s going to be cool and have a chance to get their photo with them. And of course, watercolor live is coming up if you want to master watercolor, and I am really working hard on mastering watercolor because I just don’t want to drag my oils. Everywhere I go. I just you know like business trips I you know I’m taking watercolor and and I’m really starting to love it and really get good at it. Good is a relative term. You know, I’m not good like some people but but I am really getting to the point where I’m feeling proficient and feeling good about it. And that’s because of watercolor Live, which is a three day event that I believe is going to take you from that feeling of insecurity in your work and maybe not for you feeling good enough to feeling like you’re you can be confident and doing a great job with your work. And just after three days, yes, I know that seems impossible. Of course, you have to practice after that and get good. But you will learn all the principles from like about 30 Different top master artists in that three days and there’s an optional beginner’s day if you’re new to watercolor, or you just want a refresher, and a lot of really great artists on that too. So that’s at watercolorlive.com. Now, today, my guest is Thomas Jefferson Kitts, we become pretty good friends over the years, we’ve encountered each other at a lot of events. He is a really terrific artist who is inspired by light and the way that light plays off of other things and, and he loves to work directly from life. He loves to work alla prima, if you will. And, of course, he’s done several things like study Sargent and Sorolla and Zorn and he’s done. We need to do a video on Zorn but he’s done videos for us on on painting like Sargent painting like Sorolla. I guess it’s time for Zorn anyway, Tom is an observational painter, he paints mostly in plein air and has done so for 33 years before the term plein air was was even bandied about very much this whole movement is, you know, primary last 20 years or so. Anyway, let’s welcome Thomas Jefferson Kitts. Hey, Tom.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 6:24
Hey, how you doing?
Eric Rhoads 6:25
I am perfect in every way except for those few things that I’m missing. And get guess I guess it’s time for a Zorn video.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 6:35
While you’re pitching that hard?
Eric Rhoads 6:38
Yeah. Well, you hear you can’t say no, when we’re on camera or on audio. Right.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 6:42
Right. I get your technique I do. I will say that I think that of the three mentioned the Sargent and Sorolla and Zorn. In my opinion. Zorn is probably the most technically difficult to pull off. Yeah. I’m open to the idea. We should talk about it. But on the last of that list, so just
Eric Rhoads 7:04
Have your agent call me.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 7:08
Yeah, so shortly. I’m kidding.
Eric Rhoads 7:11
I don’t want to deal with her. Thank you very much. I know she’s tougher than you. So let’s just while we’re on that topic, you know, and I didn’t intend this to be you know, Hawk and your videos, and so on. But what I thought was really cool. When we work together on the Zorn, or on the Sorolla project. You went to great length in preparation, we see that very rarely. I mean, a lot of people do a lot of preparation. But you you hired a model, you brought her out to the ocean, you photographed her, you went through this entire process of really trying to mimic what Zorn would do, and then showing his entire process based on your interpretation and your study. I thought that was pretty cool.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 7:57
Thank you. So really, and by the way, not Zorn, because we haven’t done thoroughly. Yeah, did I say sort again? You did. But you know what, don’t worry about it. But I would say that yeah, that was a big risk for me, I probably dropped a good 35 3800 bucks, just fly down higher the model, get the cameras I needed. And I had about 15 minutes to shoot at the end of the day that the shore had no idea if it was going to come together or not. Except I hoped it would. But it paid off. As you said. I’ve always believed as an ex illustrator, if you have good references, you can make good paintings. If you don’t have good references, it’s kind of a toss of the dice. Well,
Eric Rhoads 8:36
how much of your painting life would you consider to be studio versus being outdoors?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 8:43
That’s a great question.
Eric Rhoads 8:44
It is a great question. Thank you for that.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 8:48
Well, because of the lead up, I think some people think maybe that’s all I do is on plein air outdoors. Actually, no, I we can talk about this later if you want. But I’d say it’s maybe 50/50 At this point this week right now. I do a lot of studio stuff. I do. I do paint from that’s a studio piece that I know I take that back. That’s a plein air piece.
Eric Rhoads 9:12
You’re not supposed to refer to the images for the video audience remember? Yeah,
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 9:17
sorry. Anyway, I paint, I paint indoors a fair amount, either from life or from a decent photo reference. And also I’ll I’ll go out and paint outside just to get the notes and the color and the value relationships and then bring it back in. Especially if I’m doing a big painting. The small stuff I’d rather do that on site.
Eric Rhoads 9:40
Well, I think one of the things that I really am fascinated with is that I have watched so many people who have been studio painters their whole life and I’ve never gone outdoors never wanted to never thought the whole thing was ridiculous and a waste of time and dealing with the elements outdoors and the mosquitoes and every because it is so fascinating for me to see how much their work actually changes once they start going outdoors.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 10:10
Oh, I think I totally agree. When you paint to the photograph, and that’s my way of putting it, then you’re limited to what you see in that photograph, and what that photograph is providing. And there’s just no way a photo can give you as much information as your own eyes, you did, the hardware isn’t comparable, basically. Plus, when you outside or when you’re painting from life, basically observational and painting, as you mentioned, you’re looking at the world with stereo vision. And you’re looking at the world with changing points of focus. This gets kind of geeky. But the bottom line is, you realize that those two things, the stereotypical vision, and the fact that you’re sort of looking at bits and pieces, within your focus is a completely different experience produces a completely different image than working from a flat photograph.
Eric Rhoads 11:00
Now I know people like you who, who can take a photograph, even if they don’t go outside and get any color notes or whatever, and make it feel like it’s outdoors. How long does it take? How much outdoor painting does it take to get to that point where you can kind of really mimic the outdoors from a photograph?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 11:22
Well, that’s a good question. Again, I think it’s a different answer for other people. I think that once you start to see what happens in shadows, and what happens in the lights, then you can take that indoors and work from the photograph, and invest. If that’s not in the photographic reference, you can invest that knowledge that you got outdoors into your photo reference, I find I would, I would point out something for, for example, most of the paintings by Monet, that we venerate the big ones, those didn’t happen entirely outdoors, he would go out, paint them, start them outdoors, bring them back in the studio, work them, then take them back outdoors and paint them and then bring it back in the studio over in some cases, the course of years.
Eric Rhoads 12:11
And so you think you used any photographs? You know,
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 12:15
there’s been a recent argument about that. Thank you is completing one of the parts while one of the parliament painting procedures of the English parliament. Very, very moody, mystical. And apparently he took a couple of those paintings that he thought were unfinished on trip to Norway and finish them up there. And I think the argument is whether or not he took photos with him, it’s not an argument I want to get into, personally, myself matter. Less than most people seem to think because there are diehard people who say you can’t use any potential device to make a better image. But you’re talking to like I said, an old dog illustrator, where it was like anything for a buck, how can we shorten the timeline? What’s the quickest way to get to the finish that I’m going to pass off to an art director. So you know. I mean, when I go out to paint from life, I want to see life, I want to see it. That’s why I’m there. But if I am having to work on a painting work does come in doors for me to finish or launch even a big piece. That’s okay, too. So what I’m curious
Eric Rhoads 13:24
about I find this to be very difficult still. And that is, first off, I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t want to use photographs. And I I’ll I’ll do a big a big painting from a small study, which is what a lot of people think studies were intended for originally anyway. Yeah. And a lot of people still do that. But I find that the the temptation in the studio, for whatever reason, maybe it’s because you don’t have the clock and the blowing wind and and the things that are distracting you, I find that I tend to over render things when I’m working in the studio, if I’m if I’m working from any in any case, how do you maintain that that same energy that you would get from a plein air piece? Or do you need to?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 14:18
I think you do need to, okay, you’re bringing up such great points for anyone who paints. That is the both the luxury and the danger of working from a fixed reference, ie a photograph, let’s say is that you do think you can get up and go get a coffee break, you come back or you might just put it away for a couple of days, let it dry so you can do something. And I’ve noticed in my own work that when I’m working let’s say from a reference, I tend to the longer at paint them on the painting, the more becomes the reference and the less becomes an expression of myself.
Eric Rhoads 14:59
Can you see that? Different way.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 15:01
Sure. It’s it’s kind of vague, I understand. But the longer I work on a painting using a reference because the reference doesn’t change, the more my painting ends up, drifting towards being a facsimile of that reference,
Eric Rhoads 15:16
I see flat and lifeless, are overly rendered or really rendered
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 15:21
maybe overworked. There’s not a lot of improvisational kind of stuff going on, because I’m killing that slowly strangling it as the longer I work, the painting. So to answer the question you asked at the front end of this is, I often give myself a time limit, saying, Okay, I need to produce in X number of hours. It may not be two or three like I would if I’m outdoors, but I might be saying I’m not going to put 36 hours into this. I’m going to put 12.
Eric Rhoads 15:49
And, oh, Joe, Joe Guang always talks about if you’re doing a small painting, use a big brush. And if using a big painting, use a small brush. That’d be fun. How do you feel about that?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 16:01
I absolutely. I see why he says that. I mean, I’m not so well, I very, I mean that. People are always asking me, How do I paint and it’s like, well, today, I painted this. I like what Joe said, and I see and understand what he’s saying. I am tempted sometimes to work with a small brush, it gives you a different kind of quality depends on what I’m going for stylistically. But then I also love the convenience and speed of working with a larger than normal brush as long as possible. In fact, I don’t think you knew about this, but I just finished up an online workshop on brushwork, we discussed this very matter, you know, working from big brushes, to small brushes, and what they do. To add, I’m sorry to talk over you, but I’m gonna add on top of this, that when I start a painting, no matter whether it’s indoors or out, I don’t have any preconceived notion where it’s going. There’s not a process that I’m now applying to get to the end result. It’s more exploratory than that.
Eric Rhoads 17:06
Well, you know, one of the things that I think is kind of fun, and probably a little bit distracting is that I’m all over the road. Like, you know, I get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Do you find that that to you try to maintain a Thomas Kitts painting style or, you know, or one one day you’re emulating Soria and the next day you’re emulating Picasso? You know, what? Do you find yourself?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 17:38
Picasso was on my list, okay.
Eric Rhoads 17:41
On your, what kinda list
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 17:44
learn what he was doing, because I really do love and respect what he did. I mean, a lot of people in our genre in our sort of community, they, they poopoo, the modernist and specifically Picasso, and it’s like, no, you got to understand a little more than that. Let’s go a little deeper. I love Picasso. I love all those people. I just don’t paint like them, but the things I can learn from them. Absolutely. So
Eric Rhoads 18:08
well, and especially you know, you you can learn something from every every painter out there and you look at something like a Rauschenberg. You just sit there and stare at those things. There’s an awful lot you can learn about brushwork and a lot about texture and form. So
Unknown Speaker 18:27
yes, and you know, since you brought that up, I mean, I on the fact sheet that I sent out to y’all before this, I listed one of the abstract expressionist is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. And that’s would that be Franz Kline, German American. Very expressive. I think he even sent a photo but who knows? Anyway, the bottom line is, what I love about his work is its action painting, you know, the guy is putting his shoulder into these the marks he makes, and he paints at a scale that’s often like nine by 10, or six by 10 feet. They’re not objective that you you look at them, and you don’t see what, there’s nothing there. It’s not connected to reality in any other way. But it’s about the paint, and what the paint will do on these giant house brushes. Now, if you look at it in small size, like if you look at it on the screen or in a history book, it doesn’t. It doesn’t engage you the way it does when it’s you see it monumentally? Yeah,
Eric Rhoads 19:27
because when you see it in person, it kind of envelops kind of like a big giant hug.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 19:34
Yeah, and I’ve heard people say, Oh, my kid could paint like that. And I’m going, No, they can’t. That just means you need to look more because your kid can’t paint like that. Help. Sorry for saying that, but I can’t paint like that. And I got almost 60 years in. So thank you. That is what I’m saying. When you look at you look at the modernist come through with some humility.
Eric Rhoads 20:01
Well, and this, you know, this is a, we probably don’t even want to open the door to that whole discussion. But it is a discussion that, that, you know, a lot of people don’t get it don’t understand it. And a lot of people feel like, we’re cretins for not understanding it. So I think in other rather
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 20:21
extreme positions to take your right. I mean, there are people who look at what you and I love and what we venerate that sort of, on plein air, observational based paintings that often convey a narrative or, you know, there are people who look at that and say, well, that’s old school, that’s, you know, that’s done. Well, that’s fine. If they if they think that way, that’s fine. Okay, well, I
Eric Rhoads 20:43
love it all. And what I love is when people are combining the two, you know, to look at that, and we’re seeing more of this than ever to see that abstract nature and that abstract brushwork and abstract shapes in a representational paintings. You know, when you’re back 30 feet, they they are really wonderful, you get close on them, you know, you got all these like, crazy marks. It’s so much fun.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 21:11
Absolutely. And I think there’s a race I do. I think there’s a race right now in the world of our peers that paint representationally. And ranging from realism to sort of heavily interpretive, but realism. There’s a race right now to see how abstract we can all go without losing our audience. And I think that’s great.
Eric Rhoads 21:30
That’s it. Oh, I may be against a new audience, though.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 21:33
Yeah, I think, you know, to turn this back on me if you take that. If you take a painter like Franz Kline, and you look at enough of his work, and then you go and look at my work, you’re gonna see it. Because what I do when I go outside into the landscapes, you know, even more so the lens landscape, is I’m trying to extract the abstraction. I’m not necessarily trying to end up with an abstract painting. And there’s a difference between abstraction and abstract expressionism. It’s a question of degree. But I’m just saying that when I go out into the landscape, I’m looking not to paint the tree and the rock, the mountain, the snow, the barn, the lady in the white dress with the Parasol in the wind. Although all that’s kind of nice, too. I’m not out there to paint that. I’m out there to find the concrete abstraction of what I’m looking at. And the fact
Eric Rhoads 22:23
yourself, how do you teach yourself to do that?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 22:25
Oh, it’s been a process. Because when I started doing this, I was on a conic, clastic, literal painter, and I really rendered a lot that came from my background. And it’s only maybe in the last 15 years that I’ve tried to let go of drawing things out and rendering things out. And just looking at the shape, the value, the color, the edges, the thickness of paint. These are abstract terms I’m using, they don’t sound difficult, but those are the things I look for when I look at life in general, I think. Yeah, the fact that I ended up with a painting that looks like something is literally just, I don’t care about that. And that’s just where it goes, I’m not trying to make a woman sipping a cup of tea, you know, and reading in sunlight. But that’s where it’s gonna go, if that’s what I’m looking at. But I’m not seeing that. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Yeah,
Eric Rhoads 23:24
I think that has to be a matter of experience. Because I remember when I did the first publishers Invitational, there was like 12, or 15 of us. And one of the artists was really trying to help me break my, you know, almost photo, representational little tiny brushstrokes of everything. And I just, you know, I felt almost accosted, you know, because it just, I couldn’t understand it. And now I completely get it. And I and I just tried to break it. I try to get those those crazy brushstrokes and movements into things, and I fight to get it. And everything to me now is so much more pleasing once I’ve kind of moved in that direction. But I could not embrace it in the early time. And I think I think part of it is just that I got bored with what I was doing.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 24:19
Yeah, that’s pretty common. Great. Because if
Eric Rhoads 24:23
you watch the track of a lot of artists, not all artists, certainly but you’ll see a lot of artists as they get further and further along in their life in their careers. They really start breaking things and they try to try to experiment thing with things. I mean, you’re a great example of that CW Monday, as he was getting super more and more abstract I, I didn’t think his work could get any better. And yet it keeps pushing it and try and experimenting and breaking things and getting better. And I just think it kind of tends to be a natural progression. And if you ever look At some of the early stage modernists, I mean, you know, they kind of started out very representational, and then just pushing the boundaries. And it’s kind of fun.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 25:09
It is. It’s not inevitable. It’s not that that’s what every artist is going to end up doing. But many do, because as you say, they get kind of bored, they feel they’ve mastered the illusion of realism. And that’s how I put it the illusion, because essentially, we are taking the two dimensional surface off to just white. And we’re adding shapes and colors and blah, blah, blah, all that to it to create the illusion of something. Well, at some point, some artists, they they’ve mastered that, or they feel they have. And that’s what happened to me. It’s like, oh, yeah, I can make this look like that. And I can get everyone to agree, this looks like that. But now I’m interested what, what’s next? What do I want to do? What’s the challenge? Can I make the paint more apparent? And still get people to say that looks like that. But now they’re looking at more expressive paint? That’s where I’ve gone in the past 10 years.
Eric Rhoads 26:06
Is it scary at all?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 26:09
No, because I’m a fool. I know how to make money. And I drive my I tried my galleries crazy, because when they call me up, because they just sold something, which they think is the best thing they ever did, because they just sold it. Yeah. Can you send me another? And I go, Yeah, sure. And then I send them something different.
Eric Rhoads 26:27
I, you know, took to that point, I remember, I won’t use names. But I remember this artists that we both knows very good artist decided to completely depart from what he was known for doing. Yeah. And he did this show at a major gallery in a big city. And nothing sold. It’s like all of his, all of his people were there because they loved and supported him and wanted to collect more of what they were used to getting. And the whole show bombed. And I thought that was a pretty risky thing that he did. And you know, he eventually found a new new audience for all of that stuff. And then it all eventually sold, and he kind of moved into another direction. But sometimes you have to take bold action like that. And, and it, it is a little scary and a little bit risky, I think, especially if, if your income is relying on it.
Unknown Speaker 27:25
I think that’s true. And that is a risk. I am not somebody who’s independent of making money. Gotta make money, no question. But at the same time, I have to be engaged. And as you know what, as our friend, Lori Putnam says, Nothing is more obvious than boring in a painting, you can tell when an artist is just kind of phoning it in, that they have pursued that line, and they’ve maybe been pursued it to the point where they’re no longer engaged. Yeah, that’s the time you have to change, you have to believe otherwise, why would you keep painting except to paint? Which is very well,
Eric Rhoads 28:01
you know, I have friends who are in that place. And they’re perfectly happy in that place. And they’re making a great living. And they’re, they’re painting the same thing the same way that they did 30 years ago, maybe a little bit better. But that is just the place they want to be. And so I can’t be critical.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 28:18
Yeah, I want to make sure I don’t sound like I’m denigrating that a pro. You’re kind of people. Because yes, there are people who find something niche, or they find that thing that they’re doing, and it’s just like the Voodoo they do so well. And they get to do it for 3040 50 years. So they really, really get to refine it. I get that. Yeah. You know, you’re talking to somebody who has ADHD, you know, I’m lucky to get to the end of the painting, let alone a wall of work that somehow is connected to each other.
Eric Rhoads 28:48
So you know what happens when you put two people with ADHD in a room? No, tell them, nothing, nothing gets done.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 29:00
I’m self diagnosed with that. But there’s enough clues. Of course, I’m also married to a psychotherapist. But where I’m going with this is the one skill that the ADHD brings to the mix here is while they’re easily distracted, they also if they’re not distracted, they’re able to focus intently for long periods of time. And I can’t think of a better description of an artist than someone who can focus intently for a long way.
Eric Rhoads 29:27
You’re saying that with ADHD, you can focus intently.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 29:31
Yeah, absolutely. You leave. The opposite
Eric Rhoads 29:34
would be true.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 29:36
Well, again, I’m not an expert in this but I know how it works for me. I mean, if you’re in the room, if you’re in the studio and I’m painting in the corner, I’m going to be tracking you as well as my brush as well as you know my dogs as well as my wife who’s upstairs making tea. But if nobody else is in the house, I am laser like in my focus.
Eric Rhoads 29:57
Interesting to know so somebody we’re talking a little bit of About inspirations in Utah, online. Who are some of the other artists? Were there any representational artists that really?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 30:08
Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely more than we could have mentioned here, but I wanted to limit it to three. Yeah, obviously, Sargent was an incredibly important early reference for me. And I think it was because of the abstraction. I was an undergrad learning, illustration and design. So they were cramming a lot of abstraction in my head, not through paintings, but through graphic design. And so when I latched on to Sargent and I looked at his work, not so much the portraiture, which was great grand portraiture, but the the casual stuff, or the things that he started to paint, after he gave up portraiture, I would see this design this energy, this effort to sort of organizations and also see that Sargent would create problems for himself with his paintings and find ways to resolve or solve them. And that’s something that if anyone looks at Sargent closely, you should be asking yourself, what problem did he set up for himself? It was a conscious thing that he did with place, Merle? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. We actually have him talking a little bit about that in some of the literature that exists on him. But I latched on to him early on, because he combined paint, he combined design, he combined focus on light and effects. So that was important to me, especially when I really didn’t feel comfortable what I was doing at the time. Well,
Eric Rhoads 31:38
rich, Richard Armand his grandnephew says that he he, portraiture became his job, he hated portraiture, he hated doing all these society portraits, but it funded everything else. And so that, but the fun stuff for him was going out and painting landscapes and doing watercolors and just doing fun stuff. And then, you know, when he got finally got away from portraiture, and all these big projects he had on his shoulders, then he really went, he went nuts.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 32:08
Absolutely. That’s why I tend to focus on the casual work, the landscapes, or the, you know, the portraits, not portraits, but sort of the genre paintings of, of people, the people in his life, or people at work. It wasn’t about a portrait, it wasn’t about pleasing the client anymore. It was about an expression of life. So that was important to me at the get go,
Eric Rhoads 32:31
surely deal. Alright, man, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Unknown Speaker 32:35
I was just gonna say that I would say the next class of big influence to me was the Russian itinerants, which is a very short period in Russian art that after all the classes I took in art history, not one of them mentioned this group of painters, and they were talking about love of tan, we’re talking about Shishkin, we’re talking about Reppin, we’re talking about? Well, I mean, to me to set off, oh, yeah. That when I saw that work, and realized that I had never been exposed to it, it was never included in the great canon of great painting. And I looked at, I just felt the penny drop. And I can remember crying at some of their paintings that I saw. Big because there was a connection to the realism that they would portray. And the subjects we need this sort of life, often very harsh, brutal life, with naturalism, with thick paint, sort of expressive paint, all this kind of work together. And then on top of that, the cherry on top of that is the, the actual landscape, subject matter the content was so like the world I live, literally, the world I live in is very much like these areas that they painted. And I just felt for the, this is so so cliche, but I felt heard for the first time. And this is like 86, when there wasn’t a lot of representational, painterly stuff going on. But I looked at that, and I thought, Oh, my God, this has already happened. These are my bros. Like, of course, I had no idea how they did any of this. And I’m always that kind of guy that wants to take apart the painting and say, Well, how, how was how’s the plumbing working on this particular picture? But I don’t know.
Eric Rhoads 34:23
I know those. I had a very similar experience and and I didn’t know they existed until it was pointed out to me by a Russian art dealer who I met by accident. And that I kind of ended up going to Russia multiple times and seeing these things in person and it was life changing really was and I I can tell you stories I’ve told on this podcast of artists who went were with me who you know who cried or who, who realized that they might not ever be able to get to that level because it was a level higher than anything they’d seen. In in most kids. aces. So it’s it just is, it’s spectacular. But I think the the big difference as a starting point is the depth of training. Oh, these people had more training. I mean, you know, you look at these guys, they put that I have my friend Nikolai Dubovik… a professor at the Surikov Institute. Now, I’d love to meet that guy, you have probably maybe not he I had him at the first plein air convention anyway, he was put into a school for what they perceived as talented artists. At in second grade, he was the state adopted him. And he was drawing from life from live models. unclosed live models in the second grade, and did that every year of his life until he was an adult, you don’t you get pretty good when you do that. And then when and part of their curriculum was to put these people out, you know, normally, you know, you go to college and you get the summer off. In Russia, you go to college, and then you have to spend the summer at their summer location, the academic Dasha in the mid mid part of the country where they have to paint plein air every day for you know, all summer. And they have to paint people outdoors and plein air. And I just think the, the entire experience is that starting point, but you know, very few are as good as Levittown or Fishkin or any of the others have mentioned to this level that they get to and you can’t even see it in the books when you see it in person. Oh, the books are a great starting point. But when you see it in person, it’s just like you, let’s like this is this painting must weigh 500 pounds. It’s so heavy, so much paint.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 36:48
Yeah, it’s funny, because one of the themes throughout my life and I started off as a very thin painter, because of the illustration influence thing, like I render this out. So I want too much paint my way while I’m rendering. But my whole career has been moving from thin to thick. And I don’t think I’ve stopped. I haven’t reached the thick point yet. But people look at the paintings now. And they go, that’s a lot of pain. That girl. Yeah, but you know, we can go more, we can go more. I love what Sargent said, interest, don’t put enough paint down so that you can push it around. And I do believe Redmond said something to the effect of edges become interesting when there’s thick paint. And so the only way to create those kinds of things is to put more paint down.
Eric Rhoads 37:38
Well, isn’t that a common thing? You know, when you’re doing workshops? You see people who are putting out these little tiny dabs of paint, you know, they just want to be frugal with it, understandably but yeah,
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 37:49
I do coffee,
Eric Rhoads 37:50
you know, you gotta you really got to get some pain out there.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 37:54
Yeah, well, I’m to mention another artist, I took a workshop from abondance Bavarian, Russian Armenian painter, you’ve, you obviously know him. And I took that workshop just to see what what happens when you paint thickly. And the first night we came in, we used to do a demonstration of a 50 by 60 foot Canvas tinted gray. And he was in Backstage kind of waiting for his time to come out, kind of show me kind of thing. But anyway, I walk over to his setup, and I see this groaning board of still life. And I look at his palette, which is a big surgical metal palette is probably 20 by 30 inches. And I looked at his piles of color. I kid you not. He had colors out there that occupied that much space. And we’re talking maybe half inch to three quarters of an inch tall. That guy had like over $1,000 For this demo for our class that he was going to use. And the first thing he does, this is what cracks me up the first thing he does. I mean, I’m just amazed, I go sit down and wait for the guy to come out. Yeah, he walks out there introduces himself, he walks over to his palette, he picks up a big number to brush like this. He proceeds to basically stir all that color and bring the screen into the center. And I just freaked out I thought how much money was involved. And then I looked at what he did, and I realized, oh, he just created like a crayon box. He just needs to pick up,
Eric Rhoads 39:19
put down. And it’s all marbled.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 39:22
Yeah. And so in two and a half hours, he completely fully completed this painting.
Eric Rhoads 39:28
When we we went to Russia and we shot Nikolai bohem, the great Russian master. We did two videos, one drawing and one portrait. And he literally brought in a door and he laid that door on a table. He had like 30 of them. He just gets old scrap doors, a laser on that table. And he took those big tubes of paint really big ones and he’d squish everything out of that. And he’d do two or three piles on one color and then he You know, the whole thing and it just, it was really fun to see. Because if you didn’t worry about economy of paint, and then watching it, push around, it’s so fascinating. plus, so
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 40:12
plus the sort of the idea if you just put a little finger in a little bit down, and then you cap your thing, and then you gotta put more down. Yeah. And on cap, then you have to cap it and cap. That just interrupts the flow to me. Yeah. So here’s, here’s what I do. This is the tip that I learned from Obama’s is that he would actually buy his paint in sort of, I think, plastic jars, they melt jars. And he would scoop out probably what you would consider almost 150 mil like the big tube, down on the palate. And then at the end of the painting session, he would take whatever paint wasn’t messed up and put it back in the jar. Oh, that’s interesting. Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s one of the most money saving tips I’ve ever, ever come across.
Eric Rhoads 40:56
There’s a company called classic oils in in somewhere in California, and they they sell paint and caulking guns. Yeah, that’s true in Austria is to take that caulking gun and put it out. It’s pretty fascinating.
Unknown Speaker 41:08
I want to go down to different panels of paint and Ken Auster. Yeah, yeah, he
Eric Rhoads 41:12
used a brush that was about, you know, the head of the brush was about three feet.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 41:18
And I’m gonna interrupt you, I’m gonna interrupt you here. But I will never forget that first plein air convention, when you had Ken come up to the stage. And you took away his small scaled canvas and made him out of the blue paint on something that was closer to like three by four feet. Without any warning without
Eric Rhoads 41:37
he was a little ticked off about that. But well, you know,
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 41:40
he got over it when he realized didn’t you know he assaulted somebody who was going home so he didn’t have to worry about it. But
Eric Rhoads 41:45
I I’ve spent my life wishing I had bought that painting because I had a chance to and I didn’t and you know, now he’s gone. It’s yeah, would have been would have been fabulous. You know what I was gonna path I was gonna go down as that. I find that a lot of the people who do really brilliant work in plein air started out as illustrators. What is it about that discipline that we might those of us who have never had the the training and never had the the experience of all those deadlines, etc? What is it about?
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 42:25
I think it’s a blessing and a curse. And I say that from personal experience. As I mentioned, I went to art school, I didn’t feel confident enough to make a living as a fine artist. So that’s why I chose to go to the illustration side. And in that school, if you did illustration, you also had graphic design, it was a great grounding. But what I did learn from illustration was you have to you have to be able to draw, you don’t actually have to use your drawing skill in a painting if you choose not to. But you need to have that choice. So illustrators generally are asked to focus on like drawing for one, or rendering, the rendering is kind of the curse, in my opinion, because it took me years to kind of let go of rendering, and just let the paint do what paint does instead of trying to make it do what you think it should do. That’s another topic. But you know, if you go into illustration, you’re very focused on realism, and you’re focused on skill draftsmanship? And that’s what I feel I carried into my fine art efforts.
Eric Rhoads 43:31
And so you probably had, you probably had to spend time kind of undoing some training yourself in some of the areas where you were overly rendering.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 43:41
Yeah, first I had to recognize that was a problem. That’s kind of like, you know, one of the seven steps to a think you have to recognize you have a problem. Well, that’s a terrible analogy. But the point is, you probably see that this was holding me back. And you know, this happens not because I realized it, but from something someone said to me 20 years ago, I was a little group of coffee klatch ladies who painted and I loved going to hang out with them and having coffee. And so we’re using them as my focus group. They love that too. But anyway, the bottom line is I really paid attention what they’re saying. And one of the mavens there, because I was complaining about how my paintings right then seem to die after a certain amount of time. They just give up the ghost, there’s no life in them. And she stood up and said, Thomas, you know what your problem is? You want the whole world to know you can draw. And I realized wisdom of what she said. I was valuing drawing accuracy over the expressional expressive qualities of paint and that’s where the painting was dying.
Eric Rhoads 44:47
So there was a there was
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 44:50
I it was a real aha for me, but I will now in my work if the thing isn’t quite exactly drawn correctly. I will think well does it need to would be, yeah, and if I do change, it doesn’t kill the painting.
Eric Rhoads 45:04
But I would assume your best advice or some of your advice to anybody who’s starting out in this game is you got to learn to draw. Oh, yeah.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 45:15
And when I say learn, I am, I teach drawing. And when I was a instructor and chair at fine art school I taught drawing there. To me drawing is not about rendering, it’s not about making the hair look like there’s little strands of hair and that there’s, you know, like a little eyelash, you see there, drawing to me is about shape, and value, meaning the value relationships, you give those shapes. So there’s two steps, you have to get the shape, at least approximate, if not close. And then the second step is you need to be able to assign the correct light, dark to that shape, in relationship to all the other shapes. If you do not do that, if you make something too dark or too light, it doesn’t matter how accurate your shapes are, it won’t read, right? So there are two things. So when I teach drawing, I generally limit tools to soft vine, charcoal, and newsprint. And a kneadable eraser that I’ve learned, when I teach it that way, people get it really quickly. That still requires them to put hours into it. And here’s my final pitch on this, okay, this is not just me, this is not about me teaching. But it’s really important for the student who’s trying to learn to draw to tell themselves, they’re not making mistakes, they’re making changes. You don’t have to be right, the first set first time, you just have to keep making it closer and closer and closer. And eventually, you’ll get something that looks like what you want.
Eric Rhoads 46:55
And this kind of happens in society, you know, these perceptions of, I can’t draw, there’s something flawed with me, I don’t have any talent, you know, it’s like, Well, how could you do brain surgery until I learned how I mean, it was it just was that, you know, we, for some reason we think that art is, is a natural talents. And instead of
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 47:18
I always substitute the word, focus for talent, nobody is born knowing how to do any of this. And so much of what you and I do is essentially comes down to hand eye coordination. And you only get that from sort of wiring your brain. And you get that wiring from in your brain from just repetition, doing things enough times that have become second nature. Yeah. And of course, art is not the only place this happens. But it does have to happen in art, I can tell you everything you need to know about all your materials, and how to hold and how to, you know, pull your arm. None of that is going to serve you better than just doing it.
Eric Rhoads 47:57
Yeah. Yeah. So what is your best as we kind of wrap up here? What is your best advice to somebody who is kind of on the road, they’re trying to kind of figure out how to either become a proficient plein air painter or Painter at all. Or maybe they want to kind of leap up and get a little, you know, they’re already past beginner stage, but they want to kind of climb the ladder and get to be more successful.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 48:27
Boy, what are the seven steps to plein air success? Is that what we’re looking at here?
Eric Rhoads 48:31
I don’t need someone I only need however many we need.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 48:34
Yeah, well, maybe you can do it too. I don’t know your your your exceptional. I guess it’s a tough question to answer. Because I think a lot of people when they start out, they have aspirations, which are good, essentially gotta have it, you got to, you want to have some idea of what you’re in pursuit of. And that’s going to be a little different for everybody. And you may not know what are sort of sequences or steps or things I need to learn to get to that. But you just start.
Eric Rhoads 49:03
Yeah, when you don’t know what you don’t know until you discover it when you’re painting.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 49:07
Absolutely. I was gonna throw out a quote by John Cage, the minimalist composer we all know and love or hate because he wrote something called 314. Three minutes, 14 seconds of silence. And that was his big, big orchestral piece. I really love what he said. He just said, start anywhere. I like it. Don’t worry, so much. Procedure, just start,
Eric Rhoads 49:34
just start. Well, on that note, we’re going to end we’re just going to end anywhere. We could go on for hours, you know, I can forever and we need to do that. But hey, thank you so much for doing this today. This has been fascinating. We’re going to have you back because we haven’t even touched on the beginning of what we really needed. touch on. So we’ll we’ll get you back. And we’ll we’ll do is do this some more in the future.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts 50:04
I look forward to it. Thank you very much, Eric. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
Eric Rhoads 50:08
Oh, it’s always my pleasure to talk to you. Thanks, Tom. Okay. Okay, our guest is Thomas Jefferson Kitts and, you know, that could have gone on forever, because he’s so good. And you know, he’s just a wealth of information. And also, by the way, just a really great guy. So I think it’s time now for us to go into the marketing minute to improve your art sales.
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 50:44
All in the marketing minute, my goal is to answer your questions get you thinking about some things. And you know, the same stuff kind of comes up again and again and again. Because maybe this is rooted in a particular philosophy or approach. I don’t I don’t pretend to do things the way everybody else doesn’t. I don’t I don’t want to be critical of those things. It’s just how I’m different. If you have questions, though, you can send them to me, Eric@artmarketing.com. Or you can go to artmarketing.com/questions and record a video if you want to. All right. So Amandine, my producer is going to ask the first question.
The first question is from Deb Price Kennedy from Centerville, Massachusetts. Should I hire a marketing specialist?
Eric Rhoads 51:36
Should I hire a marketing specialist? Thank you Amandine, you know, should I buy a new car? Should I drink a coke at dinner? You know that? I mean, there’s got to be more to the question. So I don’t need to be critical, Deb, but it’s impossible to answer that question. Because I don’t have any data points. And and one thing that you will learn, or you might learn if you really get good at marketing is that everything is about data points, right? Because you have data points that inform your decisions. You know, in my world, it’s like, how many people opened up an email? And how many people read that email and clicked on something, those are data points, and you are always comparing one against the other trying to better yourself and get those data points. I don’t know why you would be asking the question. So I’m going to assume a couple of things. But I don’t know what your situation is. And that’s why I can’t answer it for you exactly. But let’s, let’s say for instance, that you’re an artist, and you’re making $10,000 a year and I tend to use round round numbers just to make it easy. And your goal is to get to $20,000. Well, when you think about it, that’s doubling your business. That’s a pretty big deal. Most people can’t figure out how to double their business in one year. I’ve tried that many times, I’ve had had a chance to do it a couple of times. So it’s not exactly easy. But you have to ask yourself, if Let’s assume I could go from 10,000 a year to $20,000 a year, how much would I pay to go to $20,000? A year? But you know, if I’m at 10, and I go to 20? How much would I pay to get there? Because that’s kind of how a marketer thinks now I would I would be looking at that and saying, Would I be willing to pay 10,000 to get 10,000? And most people go, Well, that’s stupid. Why would you do that? And the reason is, let’s say, for 10, last 10 years, I’ve been doing 10,000 a year. And next year, I do 20, but it costs me 10,000 To get that 20. But that’s okay, I’m still at the 10,000 I had, but now my baseline if I do 20,000 Every year for the next 10 years, I’ve paid 10,000 to get myself to a $20,000 range. And it might be worthwhile. And that’s where an advisor can help you now, most of us look for metrics that are not quite that extreme. So we might look and say hey, to get 10,000 would I pay 10% of that? Absolutely. Would I pay? 20%? Absolutely. Would I pay 50%? Maybe not as absolutely, but it depends on you. And of course it depends on your costs and cost of delivering these paintings and all the other things that do that but but you’d be ahead of the game. And if I paid 10 grand to get to 20,000 and another 10 grand to get to 30,000 and another 10 grand to get to 40,000 if there was a way to do it, I would probably do it because then you’re getting your baseline hire. Now, I might say what am I willing to pay for that 10 grand increase. And it depends, you know, depends on it as the advice Good advice isn’t cheap. Now I charge $5,500 an hour for consulting. I try not to do it very much. And that’s why I charged $5,500 an hour because I don’t have an hour very often. But it’s time now for me to raise my rates. Because now that I’m in demand, I have to get my rates up. Because when you’re in demand, you have to get your rates up. I had a watch company it was Seiko actually hired me as a consultant for them on a tech project because I did that for a while. And they actually paid me enough money that they bought me a whole new house from that money. But the amount of money which seemed like a lot of money to me, to them, it was like, Hey, he he 20 XStar business, it’s certainly worth doing that. So that’s the way you want to look at it is what am I willing to pay? And but the first thing you’ve got to start, you got to backup because you’re way ahead of yourself. The first thing is, like, what is my target outcome? Where do I want to be? Because target outcome makes makes a huge difference. Now, there’s a lot of bogus, fraudulent HYPEE art marketing and marketing advice out there. And a lot of it is just complete nonsense. In my in my particular case, I hope it’s not nonsense, but most of it, I’ve learned by doing it, and I made a lot of stupid and expensive mistakes learning it. But there are two answers to any problem. What are those two answers? It’s two resources, you can either have the resource of time, or you can have the resource of money. If you’re busy, like I tend to be, I don’t have any time. But I have plenty of money. If I spend money to solve a problem, then I’m ahead of the game. Because if I don’t have to spend three months solving that problem, or six months or a year, then I’m ahead of the game, right. So a lot of us don’t have money. And so what we do have is we have time, you can oftentimes if you don’t have the money, you oftentimes have the time, you could spend time. So like I try to master things all the time, I want to learn things, I’m always taking courses, sometimes they’re courses that have nothing to do with anything I’m doing just because I want to learn it. But if I want to master something that I put aside some time, it might be a month, it might be three months, it might be three years. But I think anybody can master anything within about two years. And you know, if you focus all your time and energy on that, if you want to focus your time and energy on growing your business, then you can do that yourself, you don’t need somebody else to do it. And I think anybody can change their trajectory in life or their trajectory in business. In about 90 days, if you stop to think about it, you come up with a plan and you implement it, you can get there in a very quick amount of time now. I read like a madman, I buy courses, I buy lots of courses, I probably spent five or $7,000 on courses. You know, I have I people out there that buy a video from time to time to improve as a painter, I have other people who buy every one that I put out there, and to see the difference that they’re making in you know, in their work, because they’re studying, they’re really serious about it. So you can become an expert. The other thing you got to keep in mind is what was true in marketing a year ago isn’t even true today. Some of it is there are some principles that never change. But there are things that are changing fast and to be a pro, you have to invest your time to stay ahead of it. Now, why do I say that if you’re going to hire an expert, let them do it. The problem is that you need to be able to manage the person or people that you are having advise you, and they’re gonna see right through you if you don’t know what you’re doing, and they’re gonna tell you things that that some are gonna be honest, some are gonna be dishonest, some just don’t know. And so you have to learn the process. So you need to learn it yourself, no matter what you may not have to get the depth of knowledge that they know, but you need to know enough to ask the right questions and drive them in the right direction. Now I have lots of people who work for me, I have lots of people who are experts, some are employees, some are freelancers, some are agencies, but I got to know their business pretty well. Because I got to be able to stay on top of them and owning any business, a small art business included. You got to know these things. And so an expert might help you. But you got to know enough about it. You can’t just you can delegate but you can’t advocate you got to stay involved in the process. So the other thing is that really you gotta go back to the root of all of this room. Remember, anytime you want to do anything, you need to start with what is the end in mind, it’s real easy to say, well, I want to hire an expert. Why do you want to hire an expert? What do you want to achieve? How much money do you want to make? What else is important other than money? What is it about reputation? Or what is it about your pricing? Or what is it about getting into better galleries? You know, these things matter to they’re not always directly about the money? And so first, you got to start with, what do I want to accomplish? What’s my timeline to get there? How much is it worth it to me? If I spend this money and it doesn’t work? Am I bankrupt? Am I out of money? What if this expert isn’t any good, I hired an ad agency, no names, I hired an ad agency. In another country, they were supposed to be one of the best in the world, everybody was raving about them. I wrote them a very, very big check for a project that I was doing. And they completely bombed, they completely failed. I was completely disappointed because I really wanted to work. And, you know, sometimes these things happen, you know, they didn’t have any experience in the thing I was trying to do. But they believed that their system would work for that they were wrong. I was wrong. So anyway, that’s, that’s the long and short of it, you got to kind of know where you’re going first, and then what you want to accomplish. So that’s a long answer to a short question Amandine, what’s next?
The second question is from Gabriel from Lake St. Louis, Missouri, how to implement TikTok as a marketing tool.
Eric Rhoads 1:01:38
How do I implement TikTok as a marketing tool? Well, Gabriel, you’ve stated this correctly, you see all things that involves tactics are tools. And using tiktok as a marketing is a tool, right? using Instagram as a tool, using a magazine as a tool using a website is a tool. Those are all tools, they’re tactics. And if you were working on your car, let’s assume you had some mechanical skill, which I don’t have much of, you don’t use a hammer to loosen a bolt. Why? Well, first off, you’re going to ruin the bolt, you might break the bolt, you need the right tool, right. So you need, you need somebody who’s going to hand you the right tool, or you need to go find the right tool, the right socket, or whatever. So imagine if you’re watching trends, and you’re watching and everybody out there in the world is using hammers to repair their cars. And it’s like everybody’s doing it, I got to do it. Why? Because everybody’s doing it. That’s kind of how we think it’s very seductive. You want to do what everybody else is doing. So you start using a hammer, even though you don’t need a hammer. The point being that you got to know what you need, we get seduced by things like TikTok and social media and Instagram and reels and all the fun stuff. Because we see these YouTube stars making millions and you see tik tok stars making millions, you know, because they’re just dancing. And they do it all the time. And what we don’t see is that these kids are spending 810 hours a day sometimes, you know, seven days a week writing, recording, creating their reels, and we don’t see the struggle that they had to get there. And some of them didn’t have a struggle. You know, what Mr. Beast does on YouTube takes a lot of time and a lot of writing and a lot of planning a lot of people to pull it off and a lot of money. But he makes it look easy. But it’s not easy guarantee that so a habit that we all have is to get seduced by shiny objects, like tik tok. But first you got to ask yourself, what needs to happen. It’s kind of like what I was talking about before goes back to the idea of goals. What do I need to accomplish? What are my goals? What do I want TikTok? Or Snapchat or Instagram to do for me? And are they the right or the wrong tools to get the job done? Just you know, marketing, we all tend to go for what everybody else is doing. Remember, got milk and everybody started copying got milk. That whole campaign did not move the needle on milk sales. And everybody thinks it did. So they started doing you know, got pizza. The whole campaign was developed because they wanted to make the Board of Directors feel like they were doing something to move the needle, but it didn’t work. And yet everybody copied it was unique. It was fun. Don’t copy until you know why the copying what you know what you’re copying because there’s more to it. Now, I have lots of big Instagram sites. Some of them have hundreds and 1000s of followers. It’s taken me a long time to get there. It’s taken a lot of effort. You know my personal page is only about 17,000. My plein air mag pages 120,000. My realism today pages 205,000. But my Tik Tok is still under 1000. You know, even though I’m getting 30 40,000 views, I’m not getting followers. But none of that matters unless you have a specific purpose. I have a specific purpose, I have a specific plan. I monitor metrics for very specific reason. But you got to keep in mind that you know, when you see somebody that’s got 100,000 followers, you go to I need 100,000 followers, do you really? Why? What are you going to do with it? How are you going to turn it into money? Otherwise, it’s just vanity metrics. Getting followers on social media is cool. But unless you’re accomplishing a very specific purpose from that, and it might be branding, it might be awareness, it might be actual physical money, it might be finding ways to get email addresses, you know, there’s a lot of different things you can do. But you need to understand it first. So you need what I call a conversion plan. How do you get them to buy? Just getting out on Tiktok? isn’t enough? You need to know what you know, what is the process? Now, you can easily do this on social media easily. It’s It’s simple. It’s not easy, right? I guess it’s simply do it on social media. But it does require a plan. And it requires a lot of work. Now, people don’t usually give you money until you ask for the order. So if you’re going to say I want to make money selling paintings on TikTok, you got to figure out how to make it work, how to get him to the right place, how to make them come to you to a place where they can buy your painting, right. So there’s a whole lot to that. But to answer your question, if you have put the time aside daily, you come up with a compelling content, and you start putting it out there. If it’s good, it builds and Tiktok and Instagram and others have an algorithm, if they start seeing a lot of heat and a lot of activity, they’re going to put it more front more people in front of it, because they want them to click on it too, because that increases their metrics. And so you know, you just got to get it out there. And there’s lots of courses about how to sell on Instagram and Tiktok. And I bought one of them once and it was kind of useless. And by the way, it’s constantly changing. But you know, it’s about frequency. It’s about posting frequently. I post daily on Tik Tok, which are cuts from my art school live daily on YouTube. And we just cut them into 32nd reels or one minute reels. And then we put them up there and we put them everywhere we, we repurpose them on Facebook, we repurpose them on Instagram and so on. We put them out on you know, everything LinkedIn, et cetera. So, but if I were going to do it, right, for TikTok, if I had the time, I would do custom content specifically for TikTok with a very specific purpose in mind. That’s not important to me right now. But that might be what you should do. Now, the other thing is, there’s a very big possibility. This is gonna sound crazy, but there’s a big possibility TikTok is gonna go away. How? Why? Because the US government’s trying to shut it down because it’s sucking data from people, including you. And it’s all going to China. I don’t want to get into political discussions. I don’t even understand it. But there’s an awful lot of talk about shutting it down. There was talk before it didn’t happen. Part of it got sold, supposedly, but data’s still going in. So TikTok may not be the answer. And by the way, you know, I mean, if you look back at MySpace, it was like the hottest thing and then it went away, it can happen now maybe less likely to happen with something that’s strong, but you know, there’s gonna always be something that’ll replace it. There’s always new shiny objects, the new social media, there’s some new ones that are coming out that are right around the corner. So define what you want to achieve. get exact detail as possible about what you want to achieve, what you stand for what you want to be known for. And then once your strategy is determined, then you go to tactics. TikTok is a tactic. Okay. That is today’s art marketing minute.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 1:09:24
All right. Well, I want to thank Thomas Jefferson Kitts. I want to remind you guys to come to the plein air convention at pleinairconvention.com That’s coming up in May. Watercolor live is coming up and that is in January, it’s going to be a way to change your watercolor performance and you’re going to do a great job with it. That’s it watercolorlive.com It’s all online. We’ve got a worldwide audience. Those of you in the 120, 130, 190 countries that are listening to this, you should come and you can watch it on replay if you can’t watch it live but you know we have people in in Australia watching it four o’clock in the morning and of course Great Christmas gifts, pleinairmagazine.com. Now if you’ve not seen my blog on Sundays, where I talk about life and art and crazy things, it’s called Sunday coffee, and you want to get it because I’m going to be doing some special Christmas stuff. At least I’m planning to starting this weekend. And so just go to Coffeewitheric.com and hit the subscribe button, you’ll get it automatically. Also, I’m on Facebook daily 12 noon, Eastern Time and I’ve got a different artists on every day the school it’s called art art school live is the name of the show. And we get people from all over the world and we’re getting a lot of use. We’re about a just under 100,000 subscribers on YouTube just trying to get that last couple 1000 and seems like it’s really difficult, but we’ll get there. And anyway, thanks for following me and for following me on Instagram @EricRhoads. And I’ll see you around. I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher, and founder of plein air magazine. And I want to thank you for your time today. And remember, it’s a big world go paint it. 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.