PleinAir Podcast 216: Kevin Macpherson on How Artists are Wired Differently, and More
Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. Listen to this podcast, and be a better painter. Kevin Macpherson discusses his magic grid system of painting; why he loves teaching someone who has never painted before; how artists are wired differently than others, and talent vs work; the organization he and his wife created to help youth learn art; and more.
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions: “How do you negotiate an art show?” And, “How long does it take to know if my website updates are working?”
Have a question about how to sell your art? Ask Eric at artmarketing.com/questions.
Kevin Macpherson will share more of his process at the 3rd Annual Plein Air Live in March. Register now at PleinAirLive.com, and check out Kevin’s PaintTube.TV workshop “The Magic Grid – Landscapes” here.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Kevin Macpherson here:
– Kevin Macpherson online: https://www.kevinmacpherson.com/
– Watercolor Live: https://watercolorlive.com/
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Plein Air Today newsletter: pleinairtoday.com
– Submit Marketing Questions: Eric@artmarketing.com
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this PleinAir Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
Eric Rhoads 0:00
This is episode number 216 with artist Kevin Macpherson, who is one of the greatest and most important plein air painters alive.
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 1:13
Thank you, Jim Kipping. And welcome to the plein air podcast. Now this is a first, this is the first time we’re offering the podcast on video and audio. So if you’re used to listening on audio, you can now tune in and watch it live or maybe not live. But you can watch it and see what goes on between the artist and me. So that’s kind of fun. So anyway, wherever you get your podcast, you can do that. We’ll also post on social media and so on. My apologies. It’s been a little bit busy and a little bit tough this year, in the last year, you know, not not only because of everything going on by doing the daily show, had some family issues and so on. Anyway, I kind of stopped doing the podcast consistently back in July. And as a result, I’ve not done it since and so my apologies, we’re going to be back and we’re going to try to get it back out every week if we possibly can. So thank you for your patience and tell your friends it’s back. We have over 2 million downloads of the podcast now. So we’re pretty excited about that. That’s pretty cool. The winter is here where I live, it’s not stopping me. It’s not a harsh winter, I’ve managed to get out and paint a couple of times and that’s been kind of fun. I’m waiting for some snow because I want to do a little snow painting. I used to hate the snow but I love snow painting. And so I’m excited. Maybe we’ll get a little this year last year we had too much so we’ll see what happens. Those of us who are plein air painters are kind of like the post office right? No matter sleet or hail or snow or rain or heat or whatever. We’re willing to get out and paint and that’s what it’s all about. We don’t want to be fairweather painters we want to be able to get out when we feel like we might have to learn to paint fast though when it’s snowing. I am honored that the plein air podcast has been rated number one and feed spots 2021 Top 15 podcast list let’s shoot for 2020 to see if we can make that happen. You can subscribe to wherever you get podcasts whether it’s Apple or Spotify or other things. Coming up soon after this interview. We’re going to have this week’s marketing minute where I answer your questions about how you sell your art or market your art. I just want to take a minute and tell you about an event that’s coming up which is like the Woodstock of plein air painting every year. The plein air convention brings the foremost artists in their fields to share their best practices and techniques with you for five days of high impact art instruction. It’s your chance to be part of a family of artists and learn from the very top painters in the world. Each action packed day includes indoor demonstrations on five different stages by the world’s leading artists, including specialty sessions for oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, and so on. And a chance to really sample the techniques of a varied faculty, they all approach things differently, will have a faculty of about 80 or more painters, and they will even work with you in the field. When we’re out painting together. It’s loads of fun, we go outside and we paint together every day in the beautiful Santa Fe area this year. And we’re going to have a giant expo hall of plein air specific materials. There’ll be a discount, and we even have training to help you sell more paintings. I call it art Marketing Bootcamp. We do it in mornings, and we have a beginners day before the convention and this year very important thing, a two day pre convention workshop with our guests today, Kevin Macpherson, and that’s going to sell out fast you want to make sure you get part of that. For more on the plein air convention just go there pleinairconvention.com And I suggest registering now because of the current situation. One of two things will happen First off, everybody we were almost sold out Before we had to cancel, and as a result, we’re going to sell out fast. But secondly, if for some reason, New Mexico decides to make us live up to certain distancing, or COVID restrictions, we may be required to cut down the number of people who can attend, which means the ones who are in first are the ones who get to stay first. And so anyway, go ahead and get your rooms there are plenty of hotel rooms, even though there’s a rumor that it’s sold out, but also mentioned that this is a big week for us. Because as the beginning of the new year, we have taken our weekly newsletter plein air today, and it is now a daily, we’re living up to the today that we’ve done all along. We have had so much success with that. And there have been so many people who have loved it and want more information and more content. So we’re just going to have all kinds of things in there demos, and that we just did the day in the life of an artist which was kind of fun for one of the artists and it is on fire people are loving it. So you can subscribe today, just go to pleinairtoday.com to get yourself on the subscription list. And we’d love to have you. I also want to mention to you that coming up later this month in January. The end of the month is our online global virtual experience, which is called watercolor live, where you can learn for the secrets of painting landscapes and still life and figures and portraits, even plein air from some of the world’s very, very best watercolor artists. It’s three days of demos, collaboration, breakout rooms, evening paint along sessions, and much, much more. You’re able to talk to the artists and chat with them and ask them questions and we get together. At the end of the day. We have cocktail parties, we have a paint along we have a lot of fun. So we hope you’ll enjoy it. And you’ll enjoy it and we hope you’ll join us. Yeah. For people like me who can’t travel with my oils all the time. This has been a lifesaver. Now I’ve been carrying watercolor with me for a lot of years in my briefcase, right? So I just always have a little watercolor kit. And lately I’ve been carrying squash although I’ve been traveling for a while. But I wasn’t really doing a great job with it. And by watching watercolor live and attending as the host, I was able to watch and really pick up a lot of techniques and watercolor and wash and it really made I’d say I saw three 400% increase in my own ability as watercolor painter. And that’s saying a lot and so I think you know if you’re whether you’re in oils, watercolors to pastel or whatever. This is something that you can always put to use. And we have some of the world’s top watercolor artists with us, including Alvaro Castagnet, Thomas Schaller, Thomas W Schaller, John Salminen, Amit Kapoor, and many, many others, you can register at watercolorlive.com. Now, my guest today is a very special person. His name is Kevin Macpherson. Kevin is one of the top plein air painters in the world. One of the first people that I met and sat down with and got to know when I kind of got into the plein air world way back 15 years ago, he was the first president of the plein air Painters Association of plein air painters of America, which is one of the great organizations. He’s the founder and art ambassador of a nonprofit that helps kids ignite their creative spark. We’re going to learn more about that from Kevin. He’s the author of four books on painting. And he just released a brand new video training series about his covenant magic grid system, then there’s a whole series on that. The first one is landscape painting. His career has spanned over 40 years. And I know that’s going to be hard to believe because he looks 20. But career spanning 40 years and over 120 shows of his work. Now that’s saying something. He’s got over 40 national awards. And most importantly, he is just an incredible painter and an incredible teacher. I mean, his work is world renowned. And I’m happy to have one. You can see that over my shoulder of this shoulder. I have Kevin Macpherson in my collection, and it’s one of my prized possessions, and maybe we’ll talk about that too. So let’s bring on our guest, Kevin Macpherson. Kevin. Where are you joining us from?
Kevin Macpherson 9:24
Hi, Eric. Thanks for having me. Wanda and I are in Mexico, Baja Mexico. In little town of Loretto on the Sea of Cortez. Right on water here. Beautiful place to be. Now you live there part of the year. Yeah, we’re here about six months of the year. During the COVID time I was here 18 months, and it’s just a lovely, quiet place and wonderful place to to have a studio and live in the mountains are beautiful. The water is beautiful.
Eric Rhoads 9:54
There’s nothing to paint around there.
Kevin Macpherson 9:58
Actually not very much now.
Eric Rhoads 10:02
So, we’re gonna talk a lot about your career and your painting. But I am curious how often do you personally get out to paint? Are you are you going out plein air painting a lot or because of COVID? Are you kind of laying low?
Kevin Macpherson 10:16
Well, it’s interesting, because I still travel and let’s say before the COVID hit, you know, it would travel a lot. So, being in Taos, or being here, often, even in town, sometimes I wasn’t home for almost two years, you know, a month or two, because on the road painting, so often, when I get back to my home, in studio in Taos, I kind of, sometimes don’t paint as much at home, and down here, building our homes down here. And, and then also with the COVID, that hit, sometimes I don’t paint as much here. And I do other activities, other creative activities, sometimes so. So every day, I want to be creative, I need to be in in some manner, you know, make myself smile and make somebody else smile by what I do creativity, creativity.
Eric Rhoads 11:18
What are what are some of those things? What kind of other things do you like to do?
Kevin Macpherson 11:23
Well, for instance, every day I walk on the beach with my dog, Mooshu. And, you know, I just love looking at the rocks. And I go at a certain time of the day where the light rakes across all the rocks that come in, in some time on the new moon or the the full moons when we have I say a new inventory, the rocks come in, I have a whole new load to look look at. And so I love looking there for inspiration of shapes, just like with my painting, I always look at shapes and how light works on form. And so whether I’m looking at Nature’s objects, you know, trees and landscape, or just looking at a rock, and it really inspires me to see something new, I see something unexpected. When I go out painting, I don’t necessarily know the subject, I’m going to paint, if I just go, out from here, the the mountains just come down to the sea, and they’re just beautiful on the light and shadow on them. And the effects of the day are going to be beautiful. So I know there’s going to be a great painting out there. But what that is and what angle it’s going to be and where I’ll find that I don’t know. And I don’t go out and say and I’m going to paint a palm tree, but maybe, you know, I’ll be inspired by that. So the same thing when I go looking for rocks, I just find shapes, I find one that looks like a Buddha one that looks like the Madonna one looks like a beautiful woman’s figure or a turtle or. And so it opens me up. You know, if I’m curious, I can see things that I don’t expect. And so I like that, to remain curious as an artist.
Eric Rhoads 13:07
So as an artist, as a beginner. We go through these these things that we think are musts, right, we must make it look like the photograph. Or we must do things a certain way or technically a certain way. I suspect you have a completely different approach for beginners, if you have an opportunity to coach somebody who’s about to become a beginner who’s going to start painting before they ever develop any habits of any kind, you know, it’s like somebody said, don’t get the bad golf instructor get the good golf instructor otherwise, you’ll develop a lot of bad habits. What do you say to somebody who’s new, who wants to start painting,
Kevin Macpherson 13:57
I actually view teaching painting as learning a language. And I can take somebody who’s never painted. And like you said, if you if you study golf with a poor instructor or by yourself, and you develop a lot of bad habits, it’s much more difficult to change them. So painting is really about seeing and I can teach a person to paint without ever picking up a brush. So and it was interesting down in Guatemala, I had a doctor with me on one of our trips and so I he was very interested in learning and paint. So I said okay, for the next couple of days, I’m just going to talk to you. And then the first day the first painting he ever did, it was kind of amazing what he did because I taught him how to see how to break the scene down into a logical two dimensional mosaic. Basically, I talk a lot about this in the videos that we produce together with the magic grid, how it says language that we learned. So, you know, the learning for a, for any artists, it’s really about how we see it first. And that the actual technical part that putting down the paint the mixing in the paint that’s really quite easy. Anybody can do that.
Eric Rhoads 15:20
So what would you say there are like two or three principles that you try to get in their head before they ever start mixing paint?
Kevin Macpherson 15:30
Yeah, just learning to judge relationships, learning to see and to not see things, you know that the amateur and you know, the painter that’s painted, say, average paintings for their whole career. It’s because they’re always thinking about the things. And so our language is a two dimensional abstract language of color line and shapes. And once we realize that, magically, the paintings come together very quickly.
Eric Rhoads 16:01
Yeah, we have these things stuck in our head, you know, the shape of a tree, is a lollipop or the shape of a pine tree is a pine cone, you know, I made as a triangle. And it seems a little hard to overcome, though sometimes.
Kevin Macpherson 16:14
And obviously, if we think of green paint, sometimes I’ll say, Hey, we’re gonna paint a figure. You know, so but the models late, so I’ll bring that model in, I’ll say, why don’t you mix up a batch of flesh. So they all do their imagined flesh. And then soon as I put up the model, then I turn on a red light. So the flashes red in the shadows are green. So who knows what it might be. So you know, we have to kind of change that way of thinking. And so it’s really quite simple. And that’s what I love. teaching someone who’s never painted before, you know, because I can get them to do some amazing thing. Getting back to that doctor. So we were painting in Antigua right on the square. And the newspaper person came by the first painting he ever painted in life, he was on the cover of the newspaper that day. Didn’t even put mine on, they put his on there. But yeah, so you’re, but it’s, it’s fun. When people realized, you know, they change the way they’re thinking as a painter, and how quickly then their work will improve. And I get great joy of teaching people painting, that’s one of my favorite things to do.
Eric Rhoads 17:27
If I had to describe you, I would say that, you’re a guy filled with joy. You know, it seems like your heart is filled with joy. You seem always happy. I’m sure you have your cranky moments, but I’ve not seen them.
Kevin Macpherson 17:43
You know, I grew up with a lot of negativity in my household and a lot of things that have overcome over the years. And, surrounding yourself with positive people. And I think artists in general, you know, are happy people, and I think the plein air, fraternity of artists are probably one of the most giving and sharing and joyful people to be around to and so, you know, we all have, you know, baggage that’s on top of us in a lot of issues, and you never know what everybody’s going through. But um, you know, I like making people smile, you know, that that’s one of my favorite things to do.
Eric Rhoads 18:30
It’s so important, I I would agree that people in the plein air world they’re the nicest people in the world, you know, there’s always a cranky one here and there but but this is you know, these are people who are doing what they love they’re outdoors doing it they are they have a community around them of supportive people who encourage them and make them feel a part of it and, and, you know, how can you have a bad day, I mean, we all have things that are happening that are bad days, but you know, when you have this in you and you have this, this ability to be around these other people, and you’re being creative, I think just that alone, you know, you’re talking about doctors, I have a physician friend and he’s grumbling he’s like, I can’t wait to retire if I do one more surgery, you know, and it says I want to you know, I just want a painful time I said, we’ll just do it and this is no I make too much money I can’t let go and I said well what if you die before you get to pain all the time? Just go do it. You know, who cares? You’ve got you know, obviously you’ve got you know, got financial concerns that you have to deal with, but life’s too short not to do what you love.
Kevin Macpherson 19:37
Yeah, and the quality of life the way we choose it is important. So you know, it’s funny when I am on the beach. Often people see me I’m, so intense looking down on the ground finding things and they say what are you looking for? I said, Well, finding treasures you know, they go I can’t believe people are passing these by but it gives me such joy and I start my day, which I call my magic towel, I put my bathmat out. And the very first thing I look at when I’m getting out of the showers, the shape that that towel makes, that inspires me to see faces or whatever I see in there. It’s everyday, it’s like this little thing. I’m going to sell them for a couple $100. They’re quite inspirational.
Eric Rhoads 20:21
So do you think that? Is this something that you trained your brain to look for? Or is it something that just was always there? I remember, when I was a kid, I’d look down at the floor, and I would see patterns of people’s faces and things.
Kevin Macpherson 20:39
Yeah, I don’t know if we all do it. But yeah, I think you did it as a young person, myself, too. And one of our favorite games, when we were little, we would just draw five lines, and then try to make something out of it, so you know, my sister would draw five, a couple curves is that then we would see some things. And so it’s kind of like that. And it kind of I tell my students like Norman Rockwell would start his Saturday Evening Post concepts. Every time he started the same way, he would draw a little lamppost like out on the street, and then he’d draw a little man next to it, it would just let his mind wander. So you know, I like having things. I can’t shut things off. When I go golfing. I take 100 photos during the golf, my buddies get a little upset with me, because I’m always looking at something else, you know, the color the shadow on the green, I said, Don’t move, oh, I want to get a picture of that, you know, go to the golf ball, you know, catching chatter, or whatever it might be. So I think it’s just a way we’re wired differently. Visually, and it keeps me very interested, I think.
Eric Rhoads 21:48
So if you had to, let’s say you’re talking to somebody who’s been painting for a while? Are there things that you discover when you’re working with somebody in a workshop? Are there things that you discover that are, you know, everybody’s making these same two or three mistakes, there’s, you know, there’s something that if they would change something about how they would approach things, it would, it would change everything for me, for me, it was big shapes.
Kevin Macpherson 22:18
I think that the biggest shapes and the biggest, I say 87.6% of the people have the same issue. And it’s, they don’t understand what light and shadow is. And once we separate light and shadow, when you talk about big shapes, you could look at anything you’re painting. And you could reduce that scene into two pieces. One of sunlight, one of shadow. And, you know, we’re all talking about, you know, when we’re creating a painting, we’re talking about light, you know, for color. And if we’re sculpting we’re, we’re sculpting light, you know, so that’s what we all work with. And once we understand those two pieces, you can’t get it much simpler than to Yeah, what we’re looking at. I, it’s like, name that tune, how many? How many shapes? Can we reduce that painting that scene into, and at first, it looks overwhelming, and then say, Okay, I see 20 shapes, okay, by simplifying a lot longer squint my eyes down, I could break it down into 10. But we could really break it down into two, light, and dark, light and shadow.
Eric Rhoads 23:30
What I find is, whenever I have a problem with a painting, I oftentimes will take a picture of it and send it to a friend and say, I can’t see what’s wrong. And usually the answer is, bring it back to bigger shapes, I have a tendency to noodle too much detail. And, when you bring it back to bigger shapes, something about the rest of the eye or something, you’re getting it just, it’s posterized almost, but it just feels so much better.
Kevin Macpherson 24:02
Yeah, definitely. So, you know, simplification is what, if you read about any famous artists, towards the end of life, they’re still trying to simplify.
Eric Rhoads 24:13
Now, you have taken that to a completely different level, you you really focus a lot on abstraction. You know, you’re taking, you’re focusing on looking for abstract shapes. Tell me about that.
Kevin Macpherson 24:27
Well, simply put, now that we can easily have a computer, you know, so 40 years ago, we had no computers, you know, and so we didn’t think about pixels. So I, I break it down like a stained glass window, a mosaic pixelating our scene so you know, we can do that now, with a touch of a button on the computer so everybody can understand that thing. But a painting is two dimensional. So it’s just mosaic shapes that come together. So What is the shape, it’s an abstraction and just, you know, a square triangle, rectangle, organic shape. And we just put those together one next to each other. And we magically create this image that we have to, as an artist look at our scene and kind of break the code of what we’re looking at, of three dimension into two dimensions. And the sculptor is what I like about how, like Rodin would sculpt in a way two dimensionally, he would turn his figure constantly, like around and always look for the silhouette, the two dimensional silhouette, and he just keeps on turning it and becomes three dimensional, because he’s constantly shifting, you know, 360 that image, but he too was looking for two dimensional pieces. That’s why I love the sculptures of his, you know, you can feel like he puts on that piece of clay, just like we put on a piece of paint. So when I, when I paint, I like to think that I’m sculpting you know, the way I put the paint down. And when I sculpt. I like to think that I’m painting, you know, so it’s kind of the opposite. But so it’s just a very simple process, but we make it difficult.
Eric Rhoads 26:20
George Carlson, the great painter, and the northwest said, you want to become a great painter become a sculptor.
Kevin Macpherson 26:28
Yeah. And he’s a great of both. He’s one of the best guys out there.
Eric Rhoads 26:31
But, it’s interesting, because he sculpted most of his life. I don’t know if he did much painting, but then he got to the point where, you know, it was too rough on his hands and his, you know, had doing all these big heavy things. So he went to painting and his first paintings that he released were world class.
Kevin Macpherson 26:51
Oh, yeah. He’s so a sculptor. You know, they’re, working with drawing, they’re working with form. They’re working with light. So it’s all the same things in composition. And yeah, he’s just a master of both. But he was doing his pastels of the Tera mera Indians way, way back.
Eric Rhoads 27:12
I remember he showed those on stage at the plein air convention now that you mentioned that they were.
Kevin Macpherson 27:17
Yeah, they’re terrific.
Eric Rhoads 27:20
So you got a lot of your inspiration from sculpture. Where else did you get inspiration? Were there particular artists that really spoke to you?
Kevin Macpherson 27:31
Well, I think, growing up I never really had the opportunity to go to museums. I wasn’t really exposed to any great paintings. I remember my father would bring home from the newspaper he worked at, he would bring Potlatch paper samples. And I just remember the other day I saw Arnold Freeburg. I think that’s how you say his name. Wonderful painter and his paintings of some of the Mounties. The Canadian Mounties were such great paintings. I remember seeing those, but we’d never really had real art in our home. And then going through school, you know, until I started painting, I guess and started going to Europe with Wanda on our trips and going to museums. No, it is, I’d say the Impressionists were the most biggest influence on me. I remember the German painters libel and that school like duveneck a much darker school, but and then that got me excited. And then, obviously, Monet and the Impressionists are some of my favorites.
Eric Rhoads 28:41
I’m reading a bio on Duveneck right now. Fascinating stories.
Kevin Macpherson 28:46
Yeah. And so, all those, there’s so many artists now at our fingertips, almost overwhelming we turn the page oh, I want to paint like him. I like this one, I, you know, it becomes too much. And it’s interesting. Some of the greatest artists lived in isolated areas, you know, and they, they create their individual unique way of painting by not seeing other people’s work, like, what would we do if we never saw work, and that’s where sometimes you get some of your best stuff. So I’ve mentioned in my videos recently, when we just did our magic grid with your crew. Monet, the way he sees or doesn’t see. Same with me by having poor vision, growing up seeing color shapes, more than detail, I think influences my work, obviously, you know, I’m sensitive to the way colors come together and the relationships of colors next to each other nature’s colors. And so, I’m attracted to that type of work in Monet’s work, for instance.
Eric Rhoads 29:55
Yeah, absolutely fascinating. So, what was growing up like for you if you were in it? If you were not exposed to art at a young age, it appears.
Kevin Macpherson 30:04
I wasn’t exposed are but, I was, I always did it. And my parents encouraged and enjoyed what I did. And couple my aunts and uncles were artistic. And so it was something that from a very young age, I had the ability to do so you know, everybody that saw my drawings, you know, saw that I had that talent. So I always did it. I was encouraged, but never really trained in it, until university. And I always knew from a young age, that’s the path I would choose. And I’ve been fortunate I did follow that path my whole life.
Eric Rhoads 30:49
Which I’m going to talk about in a minute. But I’m curious about this argument about talent, you know, that I come from the school of talent is not required to learn how to paint that, you know, there are people who come up to me when I’m painting and they say, I wish I could do that, but I don’t have the talent, or I can’t draw a stick figure. And I tell them that you can do it, that you can follow a process that you don’t have to have talent, that talent is something that’s more about the passion that you have, because you get better with the passion and the practice. But I’m curious what your take on that is.
Kevin Macpherson 31:33
I do think I was born with a, the seed of art, you know, like, more than another person next to me. But so it’s that desire. You know, which I always had that, but you can get very lazy within do nothing with it. I’ve known a lot of people who are talented and don’t do anything with it. So it’s, I think, like anything, you know, a tennis player, a golfer, whatever, you know, Tiger Woods, for instance. You know, he’s the greatest golfer, but it’s because he worked harder than anybody else in the world also, right? So he, let’s say he had that talent, but it just doesn’t happen. So you know, I don’t believe anything other than the talent gives you maybe the desire, and then passion, and then you have to constantly nurture it. And I think anyone, we also like, I can’t dance, and you know, people say, Oh, I can teach you dancing, you know, there are a few things that sometimes people can’t do. But I think I you can take anybody in if you give them the ability to see it. And then, you know, the just that little bit to get them going then how far they take that I’ve had so many people want it included. She’s a creative person, but she never did any drawing in her life. The first drawing she did to me was ridiculous. on our honeymoon, we were on a train and she drew my face. I think we still have it somewhere. But she ended up becoming a really fine painter by learning to see and doing it and you know, she did 1500 paintings before she ever showed one of them. And you know, they were bad and got better and better. And you know, and so how much you do it is the important thing. And so many people also are are kind of their, their desire is squelched by someone giving them negative criticism.
Eric Rhoads 33:34
Well, that’s happened to so many people, you hear somebody’s stories, and then you hear about parents who are you know, I don’t want you to go to art school because you’ll never make a living doing it. What, what was that like for you trying to make a living? How did you turn this into a living you have, 40 years, making a living as an artist, that’s pretty remarkable. You’ve never had another job, I assume?
Kevin Macpherson 33:59
No, other than an ice cream man, a janitor. And then I did go to school, and learned illustration. And that was my major in Northern Arizona University. And that was a great training. So it was good training that got me a job in Phoenix, Arizona at Art Studio as their illustrator for one year. My desire was always to be a freelance illustrator. So I worked one year before we quit and got married and went to Europe for six months. But that was my goal, to be a great illustrator. And I, again, it was, I was so focused to be the best at that and I just love doing it and I want to be a great illustrator. And then I fortunately got studies at Scottsdale artist school, right when that was starting to improve my illustration, but then it kind of changed my focus and then became a painter from there but I didn’t make a lot of money even getting out Got a school, it’s ridiculous, my monthly salary I think was $600 $700, you know, getting out of school and I, you know, I got job offers everywhere I went, but that was the highest pay I would get. So, you know, we didn’t make a lot of money. And I built up slowly. And then when I quit, that, I started painting for myself, again, built up slowly and not making much money and little by little, just keeping at it and not giving up. So, you know, we were fortunate, we didn’t have children in the sense of the responsibility. You have triplets, for example, you know, so, you know, when you have other people to survive on what you’re doing, maybe you can’t take that chance of not having three months of not selling a painting, you know, so that’s a big part of it.
Eric Rhoads 35:50
But you also have a very supportive wife and partner, that is huge, because not everybody has that. And if you have someone who is giving you pressure all the time, that probably impacts things as well.
Kevin Macpherson 36:06
I know, some very determined, passionate artists, that the spouses would just put a lot of pressure on them and hinder, what they what they could or could not do. So that, you know, that’s an important part of it, having, it’s a difficult time sometimes, you know, like, like I said, sometimes we might not, we might work for an exhibition to your exhibition. So maybe I’m just painting and putting things aside, and I’m not selling anything for nearly a year. So how do you prepare for that mentally? In and when you do have your exhibition, and you don’t barely sell anything? You know, that too, is a lot of pressure.
Eric Rhoads 36:51
I can’t imagine what that was like, or what that would be like, you have to learn to manage your money and live on the money, you’ve got it. You know, I think there’s also a lot of distractions and, and I understand them, I think, they’re important in some ways, but there’s so many distractions, that artists are, are getting seduced by today, that I think sometimes it changes who they could be. And I get a little bit concerned about it, there’s a lot of focus on doing other things that are survival oriented. And I certainly understand that … when you’re focusing on generating income through other means, that’s taking you away from your painting, that’s what I’m concerned about. So, everybody has to do what they have to do, but, it’s just real easy to, spend all your time on social media and spend all your time creating other things that you hope will generate money. But, if you apply that to your painting, would it make a difference? You know, would it happen sooner? I don’t know.
Kevin Macpherson 38:04
It’s interesting, even writing the book, it takes a lot of effort. And time. People don’t realize, how many years you get into a book and how much time and expense, you know, to produce one, to get one out, publishing, so that takes away from your painting, right. The way my career worked with the teaching, and the painting and the writing of the books and traveling, like they, it creates a it opens doors and opportunities that I think make my career interesting, I could probably have made a lot more money in a much easier way, if I just did the painting and stuff. So, there’s things that doing a lot of that does take a lot away from you. So you have to find that right balance, you can get sucked down a rabbit hole, and then find out that it wasn’t the right way to go sometimes.
Eric Rhoads 39:04
There are also things that I think are I daresay a responsibility, you have become whether you think of yourself this way or not, you’d become such a prominent and important artist in history. It would be a tragedy not to have books that are about your work or about you because it’s a way to spread the information on you and to teach others and to help others. And so, you know, then it’s a fine balance. I, you know, as you and I know, because we we’ve done a video together a video project, which is, by the way, going very well. I think you’re either right on the heels of being or are the top selling artists of the year. Year 2021. We’re not we’re just getting into 22 to you. But I think that these you know, we have a responsibility to carry on our legacy, you know, that the only way that things could be carried on if you were Rembrandt was to teach a student, and so on and so on. So those students would teach these techniques, they learn their own, they carry it on to their students and pass it on generation to generation. Now you can multiply yourself with a video, like your new magic grid video, you know, where 1000s of people can see it, instead of 15 people standing behind you at a workshop, which is important. Yeah.
Kevin Macpherson 40:26
But yeah, that’s why, I do feel that I’m teaching, painting, as you say, when someone buys a painting, they appreciate and gives them joy in their life, where you teach one artist to do it, but you know, I enjoy passing on that. That knowledge, you know, freely and give everything I know, a lot of people try to hold it tight, sometimes thinking that’s gonna protect them to keep a living, you know, them making a living, but, you know, I find like, the more you give out, you keep on benefiting from, from, you know, the things that we send out, I think we always receive great things.
Eric Rhoads 41:08
I’ll just tell a little story about that I have an artist that I know, who’s phenomenal. And I said, Hey, can I come by your studio? And but just show me a couple of things about how you do that? And he said, No, absolutely not. He said this, these are my secrets. And and I just, you know, I won’t show anybody. And I said, why? And he says, well, because I don’t want to breed my own competitors. I said, Well, they’re going to do it, they’re going to figure it out anyway, while I still want to breed competitors. So I happen to run into somebody who taught him and I said, Well, you know, how does, how does this happen? He says, Oh, this is easy. You get a five seconds, it’s like, Oh, I knew that already. So I don’t think you know, we we do a lot of elaborate promotion. And we talk about, you know, the secrets and so on. And we do learn tips and techniques and secrets. But the generous ones, pass them on so that others can learn them. And, you know, the reality is that everything’s out there today. And we can figure everything out one way or the other. But you could save a tremendous amount of time, you know, you’ve spent 40 years learning some of the things that you stoled across, I’ve spent 20 years stumbling across things. And you know, I would have not discovered them if I hadn’t been trying, but to be able to sit down and watch Kevin McPherson in person, you know, at the plein air convention in your workshop or on the stage or, you know, in your workshops or on your video, you know, you can save an awful lot of time and, and experimentation so that you can get ahead and get a foundation faster. And then you’re going to learn your own secrets.
Kevin Macpherson 42:52
Oh, definitely. And I, I definitely think, you know, a workshop or, you know, just the video that we just produced together, basically can save you, you know, years in college, you know, it’s amazing how little you can learn in a university setting. Some times it is saying that universities, you know, say what we’re giving is illegal, because it really is teaching them so quickly what they don’t get sometimes. And yeah, and if you have just a few minutes with a good instructor, sometimes, they can set you on a path that, you know will save you years of work and really open open your eyes to things. So I think teachers teaching is important. You know, I enjoy knowing that my books, they’re printed in different languages, and they’re around all over the world and have helped a lot of people and change a lot of lives. So, that’s something that I’m proud of.
Eric Rhoads 43:50
You should be and they’re fabulous. Absolutely Fabulous. Since we’re talking about this, you have established a process called the magic grid. Which our first video together is about doing landscapes using the magic grid. How did this come about? Is this something that you you discovered early on? Is it something that was more recent?
Kevin Macpherson 44:15
Actually, it’s I was working on big piece. I was invited to do an exhibition in China. I was the only nine Chinese artists out of 250 that we painted in cynjohn. For over a year, they came at different times I went with Wei Han Leo, and we painted there for a few weeks. And then we had an exhibition that traveled all around China and is now in museums, some of the pieces that big painting I worked on. I started using this system that just basically a dynamic cemetry laying out some of my compositional things but I started you Using it in a very different way that no one has ever really used it. And I, it helps me build the painting in the color mosaics at the same time. So it goes way beyond just a compositional addition to your painting. So it kind of I find I built on it. So that was back in 2011. So over the last 10 years, I’ve introduced it to a lot of my classes. And I kept on refining ways to help people commune help them understand how to communicate in their painting, and how to understand the build a painting. And so this magic grid, not only takes compositional, line shape, and dots throughout your paintings, but then it builds up the painting, the, the, the proportions, it builds up your color concepts, almost everything we need to do, and a painting kind of comes into this magic grid system, the way I present it. So I feel really good like because of the different books I made, and different ways of communicating with my students over the years and finding different ways to communicate. And it’s always been successful. This is another way of presenting it that I think, is really magic, it’s so simple for them to understand, and so quickly Will they understand it and progress on their painting?
Eric Rhoads 46:27
Well, I experimented with it, after watching you teach part of it, I didn’t see the full demonstration, but I experimented with it. And it forced me to do things I never would do. And to and to figure out solutions to problems, you know, because I’m creating a stained glass window, if you will, little pieces. And I had to figure out how to put the right stained glass piece in that window and make it work. And it was surprisingly fun and challenging. And it just kind of took all the drudgery. Not that there’s ever drudgery in painting. But there are you know, there are a lot of decisions. And it was kind of like, you know, put this shape here. Because the shape has been established by the grid system that you’ve developed. And it’s, it’s very free. And yet you look at paintings that you’ve done, you would never guess there’s a grid under you and never guessed that you’d follow this system, it looks to be like, you’ve put a lot of shapes together in a beautiful painting. But you know, one is not thinking that there’s a I daresay formula, maybe it’s a structure…
Kevin Macpherson 47:40
…painting is all about you, you said decisions and and this is really the decision maker for you, it helps you make the decision throughout the whole process. From the first mark, you put on the canvas, how to mix the color, where to put the color, you know about the edges. So it helps with all these decisions. So you have a structure. And as you say it’s not a it’s a formula of thinking throughout your painting process as you build it. And the trick is, in the beginning, you know, I present this to you. So it kind of teaches you all these decision making processes. But once you get it inside you it becomes intuitive, it gives you a way to become intuitive, like like a golf swing, right, you have to learn all these parts, and you get them all in your head as you’re trying to make your your swing. But eventually, they have to become so intuitive. You never think about them, nobody knows you’re thinking about them. They’re there. And so this is really successful for that. And so that when we look at a painting, we don’t want to know how the artist did it, you know, so in the beginning of when people are using this structure to start learning, you know, I want want it to be obvious, I want you to be obvious what you’re doing. And eventually though, then the viewer will never know how you are controlling them to enjoy and stay into their painting. And that’s what’s so great about this. So I feel really good about this system that we did and the video that your crew came, you know, they work 10 days, you know, filming every day and they did such a professional job we all did a great job. And then the editing part of it I think it’s really successful.
Eric Rhoads 49:31
Absolutely and it’s, what’s nice about it is that you don’t just tell us about it, you show us how to do it and you show us different different iterations of it. And then there’s a whole lot more in that video too. So congratulations on that, by the way, and we will post tell everybody how to get it later in the podcast. So I want to go back just wind wind backwards a little bit. I’m just kind of curious is Is there a moment in time that you can recall when you saw a real live in person painting for the first time that had an impact on you?
Kevin Macpherson 50:24
When I was in school, I went to work for the American Indian art magazine as a intern. During the summertime, I think in junior sophomore year in college, and the art director, her name was Marcia Burt. She took me up to her father’s house, who lived her birth the painter know a different one. Okay. And then she took me up to her. To her father, Mr. Harris, he was an illustrator. And he was living up in carefree. And he was the first artist I ever saw, who was he was a famous illustrator, and just did some unbelievable paintings. I just wished at that time. Oh, I wish I could have studied with him. Who knows what that opportunity would have been. But he was probably one of the first real artists I actually saw.
Eric Rhoads 51:25
And in terms of paintings, is there a painting that that you recall that?
Kevin Macpherson 51:30
No, I just remember him. He would do. He was doing portraits. And he did all these little studies, you know, I got to visit his studio and his process. And unfortunately, he Well, he passed away a while ago. But Marcia, his daughter came up and saw me and brought one of his paint brushes that she wanted me to have. Oh, she unfortunately right after that she passed away that was so I do have his paint brush on there. But you know, it’s discuss art school gave me an opportunity to get to know a lot of great artists studying like with James Reynolds and Wilson, Hurley and Henry Caselli and so many names that I was not familiar with, it opened my eyes to a lot of great things.
Eric Rhoads 52:20
Well, I think that, an organization like that plays such an important role. I mean, I don’t know, 25 years or something they’ve been teaching, maybe longer. And, you know, you don’t, that’s one of the problems is that, you know, when you’re entering into things, even if you’ve been around for a while, you know, you might know of some artists, you might know of some regional artists, but you know, there’s people out there that have things to offer you don’t know about and that’s where organizations like that really come into play. And, you know, just grab something that looks interesting and try it out and see, see what you can learn from it. Because, you know, you’re gonna learn something from everybody, even if it’s not exactly what you think is your course.
Kevin Macpherson 52:59
You may learn a way not to do something away, you don’t want to do it, you know, and, that’s valid too, because there’s so many choices out there.
Eric Rhoads 53:09
Now, you live in Taos, New Mexico, part of the time and then Mexico part of the time. You’ve got a lot of brilliant artists around you in Taos, is there a sense of community you know, do artists get together and paint their or do you find that everybody’s kind of off on their own? What’s that like?
Kevin Macpherson 53:27
What was interesting back, the first time I went to New Mexico was 1984. Raven, Ella was one of my teachers in Scottsdale artist school, and he was part of the group called the talus six ratar o walk on ski Robert daughters Julian Robles, Romberg Sano. They, they were a nice group and back then it was interesting. A lot of artists, we were young artists in Taos drew people because of the Taos School of Art the Taos founders like cows and Hennings. So it was a natural draw. And so we met so many artists, we would all come up there and someone like ravenala he was a great kind of gregarious man that gave a lot of artists inspiration. So people like John Butis, in gave fucking Barry Kwanko we all would gather and meet each other in paint with each other back in the day, you know, we’d spend a lot of times painting together, but as our careers get busy, then you know, it’s harder and harder for you to kind of hang out with everybody all the time. So we’re all busy painting. One of my great friends and great artists walk on skis there and you know, I paint with him. I visit with him. We don’t get really to paint much together. But you know, we talk art and you know, I hear him greatly. He’s a great inspiration. One of the most passionate fans Artists I know, now almost 80 years old, and he has the joy and the curiosity and the passion. You know, like, he’s like a little kid, you know. And so that’s what you want to kind of stay. But as we are, as our careers get really busy, it’s hard for us to say, hang out with the artists, as much as we did back in the earlier days.
Eric Rhoads 55:25
Well, I guess, that’s par for the course. It’s just kind of part of of becoming successful, you know, you have to have to make a living, I find the same thing true here. I’ll run into people that I don’t get to paint with them very often. So tell me about this organization that you’ve created to help teach kids. It sounds fascinating to me, I’d like to know where the idea came from. And tell us a little bit more about it, and how we can support it.
Kevin Macpherson 55:51
Oh, this is Art ambassadors is something that Wanda and I created a nonprofit, think around 2014 or so or 15. It started with me just going to places such as rural areas of China, I would volunteer my time are down here in Mexico, with kids, just giving them opportunity to paint so interesting. I saw a, a program on on TV about this man in Shanghai that would help these kids who came from the country who had no opportunity to do some school or after school activity. So he would offer a music. So I wrote him and I said, I know nothing about music, but I wouldn’t mind offering some art to your project. And so he’s come on over and I said, Well, I’m in New Mexico, it will take a bit. But I did go there. And we went to union, right on the border of Laos, to the most primitive school you could imagine. And so I was just thrown into that and working with the kids down there. And, you know, I did that many times in many places. And then I thought, well, maybe I can do this on a bigger scale, and, you know, create a nonprofit and maybe offer to more people, I gotta admit, I’m the worst organizer of, of anything that has anything to do with administration. So, you know, I do my best, and we do it on a shoestring. And it’s, it’s fun to do, we just got back from Guatemala. And we, I bring artists down, also, the adults, I teach them, but also give them an opportunity to pitch in and work with the kids. And they really love it. It’s fun. So, you know, just seeing the, the joy. You know, it’s interesting that people say, Well, why do you do it here, there are this place, you know, I just do it, where I go and where I enjoy doing it. And the, what we might think is an underprivileged child like, well, people don’t get art here, you know, they’re lucky to get a little crayon, you know, and it’s difficult for us to get sometimes materials like so a lot of times we just work on paper plates, and we have the simplest tools, going to the places that we do is not easy to get to sometimes. So it’s just a fun thing. And Laurie Putman is involved with me now and doing some great things and so wonderful, her we did some great projects at this last Guatemala together. And so it’s just something that I don’t have the skills to make it a grander organization, and maybe I don’t have the time. But you know, I try to do a little bit here and there.
Eric Rhoads 58:40
And you’re doing it primarily in Guatemala?
Kevin Macpherson 58:42
We do it in Guatemala. We do it here in Mexico with the COVID. That happened. We’re doing a big project here, right? In March 2020. With we had about 500, a little school kids here in Laredo, Mexico, and we were doing some murals out on the Malecon, one of the old buildings and then COVID hit so we we haven’t been able to do it very easily because of that and going to Guatemala a couple weeks ago, was the first time we can go back there too. And we did a lot of things in Yunan rural China too. And so just with the travel, it’s kind of difficult to do things now.
Eric Rhoads 59:18
I want to talk to you about China because you are spending our pre COVID You were spending a huge amount of time in China. Months and months at a time is that right?
Kevin Macpherson 59:31
I when I started doing that. I was first guessed by Jason, Jason. Sit to he asked one deny and John Butan and Andy evison to go down to the Kaiping Museum and share our talents with them. We did that back in 207. That kind of led to me going back bringing some students and then me going back by myself and just learning the language painting portraits doing things that are were different being exposed to, to just the different culture. And every time I went, it opened another door. And I found the culture, the people, it was just exciting. And then I brought my reflections on a pond exhibition there to Jiawei invited me to his museum and wonderful museum, down in southern China. And I had my first exhibition there. And then that traveled for five years. And I just brought that back right before COVID hit for Joel because I had a lot of the paintings over there. But it was it’s a exciting place. And I know you and I were going to go there right at in 2020.
Eric Rhoads 1:00:43
Also, we had yesterday we were scheduled I had just got back from Russia, we were scheduled to go to China and I was doing a seven city tour, you and I are going to shoot some video over there and send the video crew over and poof, it all ended.
Kevin Macpherson 1:01:00
Yeah. And so you know, as I said, every time I went there, I work with kids, I worked with students, I have a lot of adult students there. i My books are published in Chinese three of my books, I work with a publisher there for different things. So it is just, I find it really interesting. And it’s sad, you know, the way they the political situation now is with the COVID. You know, who knows how our two countries are gonna continue forward on things. Because the people are so nice. And I work I have so many students that, you know, keep in contact with me all the time. And they just love my teaching that I give them over there. And I love doing it. It’s just exciting for me.
Eric Rhoads 1:01:45
Yeah, well, I can’t wait to get over there again. And hopefully we’ll be able to do that one of these days soon. And I would love to experience that. I’ve never been to Asia. So I’m very much looking forward to.
Kevin Macpherson 1:01:57
Yeah, it’s fun.
Eric Rhoads 1:02:04
I want to make sure that we’re covering everything. There were some painters that inspired you that you even talk about any of those who we talked about the sculptors you talked about, I think you said the Impressionists any others?
Kevin Macpherson 1:02:26
Well, the California Impressionists were a big influence on my work. I actually got with Redfern gallery, back around 1990. The plein air painters of America were a big influence. And obviously, the California impressionist inspired a lot of the early resurgence of the plein air painters, Edgar Payne and Ritchell and Guy Rose, people like that, you know, have been a big influence on the way I work in a little different way than say, the French impressionist, the California impressionists, I think, used a bit more of form and light together, and some of the design a little bit differently. So that was definitely an influence on my work.
Eric Rhoads 1:03:21
Well, and I won’t say anything more than this, but I know that you have some some paintings in your collection that you showed me from some of those people. And, you know, they are to die for.
Kevin Macpherson 1:03:33
Yeah, I’m actually, I always collected artwork. You know, when I was working as an illustrator, I had enough money to start buying some small pieces, just early in my collecting career. And then knowing so many artists and painting with so many we traded paintings along the way, but little by little, I would, I would buy a lot of works. And you know, often when I was having my exhibitions at Redfern gallery, I’d sell all my paintings and then turn that money in by one painting, you know, it was something like that. So you know it, if I wasn’t a painter, I just appreciate being around artwork. And so having that combination, and we learn a lot by looking at other people’s work. So there’s so many artists that have implemented influenced me like the artists that we paint together with my peers and stuff. We all learn from each other.
Eric Rhoads 1:04:29
Oh, absolutely. That’s, that’s such a joy about this community. And the ability and we can all learn from from one another. It’s in some cases you don’t have to be they don’t have to be, you know, experienced world famous painters and sometimes you’re going to see something somebody does, it just blows you away. And you’re going to be doing a pre convention workshop at the plein air convention. Have you even thought about what you’re going to do. It’s a two day workshop you can have a lot of people have big screen TVs. so that, you know, people can see what you’re up to have you given any thought to that?
Kevin Macpherson 1:05:06
Oh, I’ve been given a lot of thought i’ll probably present a lot of the concepts, like we talked about the magic grid doing that. But it will be, I think in it’s a one and a half day or two day present.
Eric Rhoads 1:05:19
It’s about a one and a half day.
Kevin Macpherson 1:05:22
I’ll be up there able to give them you, if they imagine they were in a week workshop, you know, when you’re in a workshop, and you’re actually presenting, and then you’re painting and then I go around and work with you, you know, you get a lot, one on one and a lot in the group. But, you know, when you’re off doing your painting, you know, you don’t get a lot of time, sometimes individually where this is going to be so focused, I’m upstage. And I’ll be presenting with different visuals, different ways through live demonstrations, and talking way through things. And we have, like you said, the big screen. So there’ll be a lot of information that they would get like a, it’d be like a 10 day class in this two day one and a half day session, I believe.
Eric Rhoads 1:06:13
You’re not going to be able to have the time to spend personally working with people. But all that extra time is going to be devoted to more demos and more teaching and more.
Kevin Macpherson 1:06:22
And with the the good screens that we have, the good visuals they have. And I’m hoping that we can do some interaction, you know, question and answers. Well, yeah, of course, I’m there too. And so I think it’d be really a good, good event. We did it a few years back, and it was very successful. That was fun.
Eric Rhoads 1:06:42
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I’m looking forward to getting back to New Mexico, quite frankly, I’m looking forward to getting anywhere. Yeah, a little jealous that you’re in Mexico. It’s It looks beautiful.
Kevin Macpherson 1:06:53
Yeah, yeah. And it was actually fun. I, you know, we, our whole life, we have traveled one and I, probably six months out of the year, somewhere going, you know, multiple places. And being on hold with the COVID. Going back to Guatemala a few weeks ago, it felt really good. You know, it’s travel is much more difficult, you know, the hoops you have to go through to in a sense, so that gets stressful. But just being out in sharing, I realized how much I miss the interaction of sharing the art and the teaching with people, you know, that that’s something that I realize if that’s important aspect of my life, you know, if you don’t have that, if I don’t have that, I feel like, you know, it’s not as important to just keep on doing stuff. I don’t know. So,
Eric Rhoads 1:07:47
if you fast forward to, and this is kind of a kind of a tough question. But you fast forward to the end of your life in your you’re on your, your deathbed, heaven forbid, but it’s gonna happen to all of us. And you’re thinking back over your life in your career? What would you hope that people would remember about you?
Kevin Macpherson 1:08:16
Yeah, made them laugh, probably is the first thing you know, and I think it’s important that we, you know, given given something to them, you know, so I think, you know, if you just take take take, right, I don’t think that’s an important thing, the paintings and the teaching. I feel fortunate that you know, we followed Why deny we had a fun filled, adventurous life, you know, which, which is with its challenges, but, you know, we always enjoy the challenges and so I feel very satisfied. I always live on a, a five year plan, 1800 day plan, I always want to think some crazy I say we only got 1800 days left, that’s five years, you know, that’s not much. So when you put it down into, you know, 1000 days left, you know, what are we going to do with them and so, I do enjoy everyday waking up being creative. And I hope that my teaching my books, my joy for life, curiosity for life, you know, has changed somebody else’s life and made them better. And I’ve actually had a lot of people tell me, you know, you changed my life because of what I’ve given them how to see as an artist or do something as an artist. So, so I think that’s a good thing.
Eric Rhoads 1:09:46
So what’s in the 1800 day plan? Now? Is this something you tell yourself you’re going to move every five years or something or what do you are?
Kevin Macpherson 1:09:56
No, no, I just, it’s taking you know, maybe we only have 1800 days. left, fortunately, if we do you know, so just just, I can’t count.
Eric Rhoads 1:10:06
Yeah, yeah. Well, these days, we have to be more cognizant of that, because, we’re just watching people drop like flies.
Kevin Macpherson 1:10:14
I know and yeah, it makes it. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 1:10:18
It’s a little more possible than ever, I suppose. So, I think that’s a great philosophy. Yeah. Well, Kevin, this has been an absolute delight. It’s so much fun to talk to you. I think you and I could probably go on for hours and hours and hours. And hopefully we will when we get together in person. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Santa Fe at the plein air convention. And, of course, you and I will be dialoguing because of the magic grid video and what’s happening there. And thank you for doing the plein air podcast today. Looks like we just lost him too. Well, anyway, thank you to Kevin Macpherson. This has been an absolute wonderful interview to have him along and, and thanks for all his hard work and books and and what he’s been doing. You can reach Kevin, on social media on Facebook at Kevin Macpherson 12 And also on Kevin Macpherson art on Facebook. And you can find him at Kevinmacpherson.com. And so that’s going to be a wrap on the Kevin Macpherson podcast again, thank you to Kevin Macpherson. And now it’s time for 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 1:11:45
Okay, well the art marketing minute is all about answering your questions you can upload, you can shoot a video and upload it or and send it to us or you can go to our artmarketing.com/questions and you can automatically shoot a video there and send your video questions in or email to be Eric@artmarketing.com. And we try to answer questions for you. So already what is our first question today?
My first question is from Joanna. So it says how would you go about negotiating a weekend show with a neighborhood association or partment complex. I live in a complex in a high end neighborhood with lots of well to do folks. And I’m thinking of working with the apartment management to get a show in the lobby for a weekend. I’m trying to envision a successful negotiation with a win win for them and me and don’t know how to script the conversation, what questions to ask what I should expect for rejections, etc? And how to confidently go in and ask for a great deal.
Eric Rhoads 1:13:02
Well, Joanna, that is a terrific question. And I’ve got a lot of different answers. You may not like some of them. The first question you always want to ask yourself when you’re dealing with anything to do with marketing or a show or otherwise, is what are my expectations? What do I want to get out of this? Why do I even want to do this, you have a reason in the back of your head? Why you want to do this show in this apartment building and, and you know, maybe there’s a subconscious level thought about well be kind of nice to be seen by my neighbors. So they know that I’m this terrific artist. Or maybe you’re saying well, I just want to sell more art. But you want to make sure that you have a very specific goal in mind with everything that you do. I try for instance, if I’m going to do anything, I asked myself, What if I could only accomplish one thing? What is the one thing that I want to accomplish? So for instance, if I’m on I’m interviewed on somebody else’s podcast, then I’m going to try to promote one particular thing I might talk about a lot of things, but let’s say I want to get their email addresses or something, then that’s the one thing so you’re doing a show. And if you do a show at your apartment complex, I don’t know if this has got 5000 people or 10,000 people or 200 people or 50 people, you say it’s high end, but it seems to me to be narrow. Now I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it does sound narrow. And so when when you’re talking about something narrow, you might be limiting your prospects. Now you might be telling yourself our heads play an awful lot of a role in what we do. You might be telling yourself Well, I’ll start here, get a little experience here and try it with the apartment complex before I do anything more. And that’s okay. But make sure you first stops, okay, what do I want to accomplish? If if you say I want to make this about selling paintings, then that’s fine. Now, when now let’s take your goal to the next step, if you want to sell paintings, how many paintings Do you want to sell? What will you continue to be? What will you consider to be a success? You know, anytime you do a show, there is a huge amount of effort and work that’s involved in that show. And, you know, framing and time and everything else. And so you’re going to have a minimum amount of expense that you’re going to have to cover. And so you know, you might say to yourself, Okay, I have to make a minimum of $2,000. Or maybe it’s a minimum of $5,000. If you go in understanding what that looks like, you’re gonna have a lot more success that way. Because you have to, you know, what, if you do the show, and, and you don’t sell anything, well, that’s very possible. But if you if you know that you’ve got a nut, you’ve got to hit let’s say, you know that my minimum is going to be $5,000, then you’re going to work like crazy to make sure that you hit that $5,000 mark, you know, things aren’t selling, you might start discounting or you mark smart, you know, cutting deals or, or something to try to draw people back to you to get them in. Now, the downside of an apartment building thing is, maybe people want to do it, maybe they don’t, it depends on the nature, if your apartment building does stuff like that, if they have community aspect, it’d be nice to have a cocktail party, show your paintings and so on. But you may or may, if it’s an apartment building, it’s a narrow amount of people, and you may not be able to get as much success there. On the other hand, if you were to do the same thing for a month, in a popular restaurant in town, you might get 10 times as many people or 100 times as many people volume, you know, and if you do it at the country club, or you do at a high end restaurant where you know, people have money, then you increase your odds, you always want to look for how can I get the biggest possible audience, it’s good to have targeted audiences, but big audiences within targets are always nice. And so start there. In terms your question about negotiating with the apartment complex? The first question you have to ask is what’s in it for them? Why would they possibly do this? Is this something that they care about? While they may have something in their head about? Well, we want to do things so that people in the apartment complex think that they’re doing things for them. So it’s a good place to live? They’re going to want to renew their leases. So maybe they do cocktail parties, maybe they do gatherings? Maybe they do little things like this. And so in that case, that’s the reason that’s why they want to do it. But there may be, there may be other things they might be looking at to say, Why should we bother? What’s in it for us? Well, you might say, Okay, well, will I give up some of the income, you know, if I give up 10, or 20, or 50%, to them for housing the show for you, you would have to do that at an art gallery. And so why not do it? In a case like that, now, that amount of money may not be, you know, if it’s a big apartment complex, it’s only going to result in a few $1,000. To them, they may not care, but trying to understand that. And now when you have your meeting, first off, what I would suggest you do is you put together a little bit of a presentation, not a big one of the three or four slides on your iPad, and you say, Listen, you know, I want to show you what I have in mind, here’s some samples of my artwork. This is kind of what I have in mind, this is what I want to do, this is why it’s going to benefit you. And then then rehearse that a few times. And when you get together with them, what you want to do is start out the dialogue and start instead of starting pitching, asking them say listen, you know, I’m a local artist, I’ve got an idea, I’m gonna pitch you, but what are the most important things to you for this apartment complex? What do you need the most and, and they might say, you know, our biggest problem is getting people to renew their leases. Or they might say, you know, our biggest problem is, nobody feels connected. When they tell you these things, then you can lift them out in your conversation and repeat them back to them. So, you know, one of the reasons I designed the search show is because you’re going to make people feel more connected, when they make they feel more connected, they know their neighbors, they’re going to be less likely to want to leave, they’re going to want to be more likely to renew their leases. You didn’t have to build that into your presentation. But now that you’ve asked the question up front, you now know what’s important to them. So then build that into your presentation. In terms of getting yourself ready expecting rejections while you know you’re going to get rejections. It’s not a big deal. It’s a part of life. Just ask him those questions and then you know, you’re not going to have confidence because confidence is something that we all we all lack. In some cases, just go in there and be brave and just say Hey, I want to meet with you and they’re not going to bite. If they don’t want to meet, they’re going to tell you they don’t want to meet. And then you know, you can always follow up with an email, say, well, here’s my eat idea. But if you can get it in person, or at least on a zoom call, you’re going to be better off. So think in terms of what is my objective? What do I want to sell? What are they gonna want out of it? And then, you know, why would they possibly do this? What’s in it for them? Now, just get out there and do it. I think that’s the most important thing. Now the next question comes from David Wood. Amandine, what’s the question?
The question is, how long can I expect to wait to see whether the design of a website is working in bringing traffic and sales? I notice, a lot of visitors don’t really go beyond beyond the first page. My website includes both art for sale and teaching art. I feel it is a well organized and interesting sites. Also, is it a good idea to have items in the online shop that have sold?
Eric Rhoads 1:21:03
Okay, well, that’s a really terrific question. Thank you for that, David Wood. So the one thing I want you guys to get out of your head is that a website is gonna make you rich, you know, I’ve had people contact me and say, you know, I’m going to build a website, and I’m going to, I’m going to do all these great things with a website, and I’m going to get all this traffic, and I’m going to sell all these paintings. It’s not the case. Now you need a website, I’m not suggesting you don’t, you don’t have to have a website these days, you can, you know, because of Facebook, and Instagram, and so on. They’re also important for you, but you should have a website, if you’re a professional artist, and you’re selling your work. But hear me out, the thing that is going to drive your website success, or your success with a website is not the website itself, yet, what’s going to drive success is how you drive people there. And imagine, and a lot of people won’t understand this reference, because it’s an old, old person’s reference, I suppose. But, you know, back when there were phone booths in the city of New York, phone booths, were actually on the corners, right? They had attached to it a phone book, which was about five or six inches thick, it was a big book, and every page had 2000 names on it. And you would flip through and you know, look under roads, and then find Eric Rhoads and then it would have my address and my phone number. And then you’d call the phone number. Well, I mean, having a website, you know, there are probably billions of websites today. And having a website is kind of like getting your name in the phone book, and nobody cares, it doesn’t matter. It only matters if they’re trying to find you. And the only reason they’re trying to find you is if you give them reason to try to find you. So your design of your website matters. And I will touch on that in a minute. But first off, think in terms of if I have a website, what am I going to do to get people there? How do I do that? Well, a lot of that is going to be through your advertising, through your direct mail, through your newsletter, through your promotions, through your social media, things like that. So you’ve got to have a strategy to drive people there. Now websites are all over the map, I went to a artists website the other day, and it looked like he hadn’t touched it for 30 years, it still said click to enter, which was kind of what they did in the early stages of the websites, you know, you want to you want to make sure you’re paying attention. I go to artists sites all the time, because I’m looking for artists for the magazines. And I visit artists sites, and they haven’t updated their their website and three years, they don’t have their current paintings on it, you know, the websites clunky it doesn’t work, right? You got to make sure all those things happen. You also have a single focus. Now you talked about wanting to sell art, but also wanting to sell workshops 80% of your workshop 80 Excuse me, 80% of your website needs to be focused on the thing that is most important to you. So if it’s selling art than 80% of your time, and focus needs to be about that, you know, you can have a little slide at the bottom that says you know, workshops also available. But you know, you’re talking about selling art. I have had so many conversations with my advertisers over the year one called me said You know, I’m I know I’m getting website visitors after I started advertising because I’m tracking the numbers, but nobody’s buying anything. And I said, What are you trying to sell? And she said, Well, I’m trying to sell commissioned portraiture. So I went to the website and I looked at it I couldn’t find anything about commission portraiture and then I knowing I’m looking for it I dig around. I finally after 10 minutes I find it and it’s buried. It’s hard to find and I said you know your advertising commission for portraiture, the first thing they should see on your website is commissioned portraiture. And if you’re, you know if you’re one of the two See if you’re advertising landscape, you want that landscape, not just a landscape, the one that’s advertised needs to show up for that month or two months on the front of your webpage. Even if it’s sold, you can say, you know, this painting is sold, but you click here to see three others that are similar to it, you want to focus on what matters most. Okay? So I think websites are really important. And they’re a great way to get names, and we all need names, websites are a great way to say, you know, I’m offering up a free ebook of the 100 best paintings I’ve ever done. Or if you’re promoting workshops, I’m offering up you know, 10 really great painting tips from me, the artists, and just click here to get this ebook, you’re getting their email address, then you can add them with their permission, you can add them to your newsletter list, now you have a way to reach out to them to talk to them to communicate with them. So you’re not waiting for them to come to your website. Websites need to be there, you need to drive people there. There are organizations that make websites that you can buy from anywhere or their organizations to make websites that are specifically for artists. And those are also good, and they have some programs they can use to drive people to websites, so they can help you a lot. But you want to make sure that you are focusing on what is my purpose, everything you always ask is What am i What is my purpose? What’s my primary focus? And how do I make sure that that focus is front and center in front of everybody? And then how am I going to drive people there? Now you ask another question, and that is about your online shop. Should you show things that are sold? You know, I think so. And I think there’s a psychology of it. If you see red dots, and it says sold, it says it’s called social proof. It’s what other people are doing. They’re buying from you, it shows other people are buying from you. So you know, if you have a few red dots on there that says oh, there’s sell like, I’d better pay attention and maybe find something I want before it’s sold. So I think it’s a good idea. Now, if most of them are red dots, and they’re getting in the way of putting the work up front, put them you know, put a few red dots on the page, and then move them to the back, you know, and so that every page has a few red dots, but go ahead and show those sold items. The other thing, by the way, is it’s okay to show your prices a lot of people say call for prices. But that’s I think is the biggest mistake in the world. Because, you know, those of us in this in this day and age, we don’t you know, we’re on a website, three o’clock in the morning, when we can’t sleep and you know, we might be in the mood to buy something. I buy stuff at three o’clock in the morning all the time. If I don’t know the price, and I can’t click on it to buy I’m not going to pick up the phone call. I mean, there are people who will but I’m not one of them. So I think you should focus on that. Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. That’s the marketing minute. I want to encourage you to submit your questions at art marketing comm slash questions. All right.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 1:28:19
Hey, I want to remind you guys not to forget about the plein air convention sign up while you can you want to make sure you get your seat for this year at pleinairconvention.com It’s going to be in Santa Fe it’s going to be marvelous five days of painting and learning and growing together. I want you to subscribe to our daily newsletter, plein air today you can find it at outdoorpainter.com and make sure you go there and hit the subscribe button to plein air today. That’s coming out daily plus a Saturday Review in case you missed any days. Last but not least, watercolor live is coming up very very soon, the late late part of January you want to sign up for that. Even if you’re not a watercolorist it will inform you in many ways and make you better there’s plenty of watercolors on there too. And just sign up at watercolorlive.com a reminder, you know we got kind of didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Kevin because he dropped out but please know that his video is available. It’s called the magic grid and it’s the landscapes version, the one of a series that’s coming and you’ll find that at at painttube.tv That’s the new name of all over video painttube.tv Just search out Kevin Macpherson or just use the word Kevin it’ll pop up. And let’s just roll a little audio promo on that right now.
Kevin Macpherson 1:29:47
Hi, I’m Kevin Macpherson. Welcome to my magic grid workshop. Your head is about to spin. You’re going to get confused. You’re going to go crazy, but you’re going to walk away with some Great information and you know, it’s going to change the way you paint change the way you see, make life easy as an artist. I’m going to make the magic grid fun to learn. I think I was born with a squint essential pair of eyes because they’re so narrow, I don’t hardly even squint them. And I’m going to take you step by step from the first thought we put on the canvas to the lines, I’m going to teach you how to improve your paintings. This magic grid that I’m going to share with you today, it’s going to make you a much better painter, you’re going to get to for one here, we’re going to actually paint the landscape with a model. And that gives her a sense of scale and drama and excitement. And another challenge, and you’ll see how it all fits together easy with the magic grit. So I’m really excited to have you join me. I love sharing this method and I see such greatness coming out of the students so quickly. So so let’s get started together.
Eric Rhoads 1:30:56
Outstanding Kevin, thank you for that. And that is the magic grid is the new video and you can find that at painttube.tv Just search Kevin McPherson if you’ve not seen my blog where I talked about art and life and just miscellaneous thing it’s called Sunday coffee, coffee, you can find it at Coffee with eric.com Also, I’m on the air daily on Facebook shows called Art School live where hundreds of artists are doing demonstrations and talks I’m there noon Eastern every weekday. Some days are live some days a replay, but you can subscribe on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and search out streamline art and hit the subscribe and notification button. You can also find it on Facebook. And please please follow me on Instagram. You can find me also on YouTube. You’ll find us there but you can also find me on Facebook and Instagram at Eric Rhoads. Well that’s it. I’m Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. I want to thank you for taking the time today and thank you for having the patience to allow me to come back. It’s been a long podcast today but well worth it. Remember, it’s a big big world out there, go paint it. We will see you soon.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email 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.