Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. In this episode Eric interviews Western artist John Coleman, who shares what, to him (and maybe to many successful artists), is the scariest thing in the world – it’s not what you think.
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions: “Do frames add value when selling a painting?” and “What’s a good way to get into a coffee shop with your art?”
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and John Coleman here:
John Coleman, “Night Spirit,” oil on canvas
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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 the Plein Air Podcast episode number 205. You’re about to hear one of the best podcasts ever. It’s packed with wisdom and ideas. Every artist in the world needs to hear with artist John Coleman.
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 1:09
Thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. Everybody is now rated number one and feed spots 2021 Top 15 painting podcasts list number one. That’s pretty cool. Thank you so much for making that happen. We really are really proud of that around here. And of course you’re the ones that made it happen. In case you missed the big announcement we’re going to be doing Plein Air Live again. It was such a huge success. Everybody’s saying bring it back, bring it back, bring it back. So we are bringing it back. This time completely different. It’s an online virtual conference featuring some of the top landscape and plein air painters in the world, including get this list so far and it’s not even done yet. Kathleen Dunphy Laurie Putnam Michelle Usebelli Dawn Whitelaw Christine Lashley Don Demers, Dave Santiallenes Bill Davidson, john McCartan from Australia and Kevin MacPherson. And there’s more to be announced. I mean, what an incredible lineup. Tickets are on sale now and they’re at their lowest price, but the price is going up on February 28, three days of amazing demos and content plus a beginner’s day, which is essential and quite frankly, most people do the beginners day, because they’re hearing from top experts who are giving them new feedback on things that they may have forgotten. If you want to get outdoors and paint or if you want to be part of the plein air movement. You want to get tuned up for spring, you just want to become a better painter. This is one of the best possible investments you can make in yourself in your painting, without ever leaving home, visit pleinairlive.com. And don’t forget, we’ve got that beginner’s day where we lay out all the essential fundamentals it really should be called fundamentals day instead of beginner’s day. Anyway, check it out at pleinAirlive.com All right, if you want to launch your career or you want to get recognition you deserve. Entering the Plein Air Salon is one of the best ways you can do that. Because if you win in any of the 19 categories, you’re entered into the national competition. There are monthly and there are national prizes, including the cover of Plein Air Magazine and $15,000 in cash. And you just need to enter before the end of the month. Right get it done before February 28. That’s at pleinairsalon.com it will help your career no doubt. People who have won people have things to talk about that they’ve won any category it really helps your career. But if you win the big one, you get the cover of Plein Air Magazine very nice. Also, I’ve got a favor, a favor to ask and that is if you’re on Instagram, please check me out and follow me. It’s @EricRhoads. You can find out the spelling of my name by going to the podcast directory. Anyway. There’s a link to everything that I’ve just talked about on the bio page and so make sure you check that out. Okay, coming up in the next issue of Plein Air Magazine a special 10th anniversary feature now and then we dipped into our archives selected five paintings to admire all over again then we asked the artists to share a current favorite and reflect on the changes they’ve experienced over the past 10 years expand on that man that’s gonna be pretty incredible. I think that you know the the Plein Air Magazine is really interesting. We kind of have a interesting past and that is I I launched And then I kept it going for two or three years. And then I just got crushed. I couldn’t keep it going. Nobody was into plein air at the time I thought more people were I couldn’t get the advertisers to support it. And but I always so I changed it. I made it Fine Art Connoisseur, which is our other art magazine very successful a collector publication. Well, by changing it, we got a little more meat on her bones. It was my big passion to also do this again. So I brought it back 10 years ago. And so now we’re celebrating our 10 year anniversary. That’s pretty cool. So join us if you don’t have a subscription to Plein Air Magazine, I’m just telling you, you’re missing out on a lot. It’s the number one selling art magazine in America at Barnes and Noble stores. We’re in Michaels stores now. But you should have your own subscription, your save money, but also that it just automatically shows up. And if you’re listening in, outside of the United States, where postal issues might get in the way, get the digital edition quite frankly, everybody gets both because our most people do because the digital has first off of course you can zoom in on images and things but it also has 20% more content than the print edition. So check that out at pleinairmagazine.com. Also, if you’re not getting our newsletter, Plein Air Today, it’s free, it’s weekly, we’re going to be sharing the free 2021 Guide to art workshops, schools and affiliates and you want to make sure that you have that it’s a terrific tool. Just go to pleinairtoday.com and sign up and get that for free. Coming up after the interview. I’m going to be answering your art marketing questions in the Marketing Minute. But first, let’s get right to the interview with John Coleman, who is one of today’s leading Western artists and this interview is gonna blow you away. I mean, he just is so good, so articulate and had so many really important things for artists to consider. This is one of the top artists in the world today. And you need to hear what he has to say. Here we go. John Coleman, welcome to the Plein Air Podcast.
John Coleman 6:59
Yeah, thanks for having me, Eric. It’s, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Eric Rhoads 7:01
II know you have done plein air painting in the past. And I know it’s not a big part of your world today. But you’re you’re such an influence in the art world. I just needed to find a good reason to get you on the podcast and just kind of talk about what’s happening in your world and in the Western art world. And so this is a great opportunity.
John Coleman 7:23
Yeah, no, and I think and of course, it all, it all relates, you know, you know, I’ve always mentioned that. It’s like doing life drawing, it’s something that is important to hone your skills, plein air painting, there’s nothing like it, you know, to really understand what color looks like what form looks like, you know, there’s no, it isn’t like when you get into a studio and you’re crafting something, I mean, it’s, you’re under under the gun, I think it’s a great exercise, I really enjoy the the idea of it, I think it just goes back to what you’re going to be known for as an artist and, and what’s going to dictate that normally is is once you understand that you have a certain destination for your work. And that destination includes certain like minded people. In other words, you’re going to be financially successful if you have a certain look. Obviously, the quality is important. But I found that you don’t get extra credit in the market for being able to do more than a couple of things. I used to think that. But But it seems like once you get known for something, you’re stickier in it and you know when it comes to that. But that being said, For me personally, my love for being an artist really is my love of learning. I’d love to find being over my head as much as I can, and see if I can’t bail myself out. And so that’s generally what happens.
Eric Rhoads 8:51
Why is that important? Can you articulate that a little bit more? Because you’re always pushing yourself?
John Coleman 8:57
Yeah, I think it’s important. I mean, it goes back to you know, I think that’d be a little bit crazy sometimes to be an artist and but my personal story and a lot of people have read this about me is I do have a bonafide learning disability. I say bonafide, everybody talks about dyslexia and things like that, but mine was pretty severe as a child. I never graduated from school. I’ve always had trouble writing and reading. And but I’ve always been attracted to education in general. I love books, even though I have trouble reading. So the and I’m also been interested in I’m always always had an interest in the philosophical part of what why people do what they do. I’ve always loved poetry. I’ve always been analytical about why why words. I have certain contexts mean different tanks. And we’re, it’s important and I kind of used that same idea in art, artists poetry, art is not a not a replica of something that already exists. It’s a poetic Dream, I’ll say, you see, and so the fun for me isn’t just replicating something that fun for me is is coming up with an emotional idea. And conveying it in some way to somebody else picks up on that same emotion. And so it gives me a sense of power. You know, that’s kind of a long way around the block your question, but I think that I think most people Excel, because they have, they have other aspects of their, of their personality or their life that they feel they don’t feel adequate with. And I think it’s the overachiever kind of syndrome. And you have to learn how to find your place in all of that. As an example, I mean, I discovered early on that I had a big ego and ego course comes out of insecurity. And I realized that I’m going to get better as an artist, as long as I’m an advocate for the art and not my ego. And so it’s always forced me to be humble, you can’t learn unless you’re humble. So all of a sudden, is sort of like that becomes the engine that pushes ever.
Eric Rhoads 11:14
So how do you keep your ego from controlling you?
John Coleman 11:18
Well, this is because the, the being an advocate is the advocate part of it. In other words, if I’m getting, if I’m starting to get a little bit full of myself, I realize that I’m shutting down my my learning opportunities, you can’t learn when you think, you know, know everything, you know, you have to understand that you don’t know anything, you got to learn what you don’t know. You know, I mean, that’s it. And there’s a lot more you know, what you don’t know, the better, the more opportunity there is in life to grow. And growth is synonymous with life itself. And as I get older, especially, I mean, I’m at this point now in my life, where I’m 71 years old, and I’m just more excited about the future than I’ve ever been, mainly because I see opportunities for growth. It even more so than I used to when I was younger. Yeah, because I, I’ve already proved to myself that I can figure out how to get where I need to get in certain on certain levels, but most of it’s still a big mystery. You know, and I’m really excited about how it unfolds.
Eric Rhoads 12:25
So what kind of growth Are you looking for now? And, uh, do you have something specific that you’ve targeted? That you you’ve said, I’ve got to figure out how to master that thing?
John Coleman 12:34
Well, you know, the thing that I think it’s really exciting right now is I’ve noticed, there’s been a real renaissance in figurative and narrative art, in the last I’ll say, 10 years, probably even more in the last five years, really, you know, for a long time, the kind of art that I was interested in was something that was considered passe or, or, or kitsch, you know, and now we’ve got all these new artists coming up that seem to really celebrate that the the, you know, the Richard Schmidt kind of idea of what figurative and narrative art could look like. And the idea of mash in America, modern masters being in having goals of being like the new sergeant’s, and things like that. In other words, the bars and reason, when I started, I started late in my career, but it’s still it’s still been 30 years, though. I mean, time flies. It was, there wasn’t as many people doing what I do 30 years ago, and now. Now there’s twice as many or more than half of these guys. Yeah, yeah, half these guys are really good. I mean, that’s the other part. My mentors 30 years ago, were just a handful. And who were your mentors? Well, when I first got into this industry, it was probably my favorite. Howard turfing, because of the mostly because of the western part of it. Even though I came in as a sculptor, mostly most of the people that really influenced me were were painters. I find that I do the same. Same basic ideas apply in painting as they do in sculpture. Sometimes people don’t understand what I’m talking about.
Eric Rhoads 14:26
Maybe this is a good time to make that make that clear.
John Coleman 14:29
Yeah, well again, yeah, it has to do with you know, the brain life like she likes to be surprised and so you you organize thoughts just like you’re writing a book. And using the example that Lincoln set out when he wrote that famous letter to his friend and said I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn’t have time to make it brief. You know what he did? He already did it he right there. Made made the case for eloquent. You Have to organize your thoughts in order to actually create something that’s profound and eloquent art, art is a way of allowing the viewer or the listener or whoever, to have their own story. And it just all it does is it starts to dream, it puts you in another state. And if you put if you, if you bury it with too much information, it’s hard, it’s hard for somebody else to have room for that. Art, in terms of painting and sculpture, the same rules apply. So what you do is you create something that somebody might be familiar with. But then you create little anomalies to that, that are little surprises, like in music, and the best example is the hook. The hook comes from it from, like, what could be a mistake, but instead of a mistake, it’s saved somehow, and it creates that goosebump factor?
Eric Rhoads 16:01
Well, there’s, there’s a thing called you probably aren’t familiar with this term. Most people are not because it’s kind of a narrow thing. But there’s a thing called a third gravitating body. And this came this came out of Roy Williams, the great marketer here in Austin, Texas. And, and Roy talks about that every good piece of art, every every good cook every meal. Every anything that that stands out in the world has the expected and then it has the unexpected, the unexpected is what he calls the third gravitating body something that that shows up randomly, that that works. That sparkles, that makes something happen.
John Coleman 16:43
Yes. And so to me, if someone said what, what’s important, I want to be an artist, what’s important? I would say, that’s the thing that’s important, almost to the point where nothing else matters.
Eric Rhoads 16:58
So can you can you articulate that, from the standpoint of a painting? Maybe even from the standpoint of a landscape painting? I mean, what what would an example of that be that somebody might be able to grasp a little bit more effectively?
John Coleman 17:14
Yeah, that’s kind of a tough one. But, you know, if you were to start to beginning one of the things that, that I found was important is, is to break it down into what’s eloquent, why and why is eloquent important? In a painting, it would be like, the old thing, and this is fairly common. But if you were to cover up part of what you consider a good painting, the part you cover should hurt the painting is a painting would have a hard time holding up under that. Meaning that the the part you’re covering up isn’t isn’t important. So that’s the first rule in my mind. You know, if you follow what I’m talking about,
Eric Rhoads 17:56
Using that example, if you cover it up, does that mean you ultimately remove it?
John Coleman 18:01
Well, yeah, you see that and it gets, it’s, you know, I’m a history artist. So in other words, I’ve got a storyline that I’m trying to tell. But, but but the same rule applies, I need to bend my story, I need to decide what what is the most important element in this, this whole thing, going back to Lincoln’s letter, if I’m going to express something, I need to find a cleaner way to express it, the heavier something is the, the harder it is for your viewer to get into it. It’s the difference between looking at a history book with really nice illustrations in it. And then looking at the paintings that might describe the same event, but they do it in a very artistic and eloquent way to where they’re very poetic and romantic to look at. One is just giving you an idea what actually happened, the other is is allowing you to participate, you having your own ideas and and your own feelings to that you can superimpose into those ideas. So that’s it to me, that’s, that’s the key to being an artist that demonstrated artists and illustrators so to speak.
Eric Rhoads 19:09
Okay, so I just want to probe that a little bit, just to make sure I understand it. So, you know, I think a lot of us when we start when we first start painting, the tendency is to at very early stage, the tendency oftentimes is to want to be photographic or to include every little detail, and I know every little leaf on a tree, and what your I think what I hear you saying is it’s you don’t want to render everything you want to just kind of give them the essence of what you want them to believe and don’t put too much information in.
John Coleman 19:46
Yeah, in a nutshell, that’s true. It’s that’s the key. I mean, it doesn’t mean that you know, someone looks at one of my paintings. They’ll go What the hell’s he talking about? It looks like he puts everything in, you know, but the fact is, is I apply that that rule about everything there is a counterpoint to something else. In other words, everything has its reason to be there, along with the narrative, I think of it in terms of music and lyrics. A good piece of music, you know, say Burt Bacharach, you know, he had a rock, he had a partner that wrote the lyrics boring, he can write, he can have the music, and then the lyrics don’t destroy the music, they come together, right? So the storyline is the literal meaning. But the music is the is the ethereal, meaning the rhythm or the poetry in it. So you need to, but the storyline is not coming from the artist, it’s coming from the viewer. If they don’t, if they can’t relate to it, then they’re not going to be interested in, they’re not going to, they’re not going to feel it and kind of change their moods, and they look at it. So going back to what you were just saying is we were talking about, if you’re talking about plein air painting, and someone’s trying to create a photographic look, then they’re trying to replicate what they’re seeing. Basically, they’re gonna come back with a replica of what they saw, and they’re not gonna, it may not have enough room for a viewer to participate in it, it takes a lot of skill, though, to leave things out. That’s the, that’s the rub. It’s really, really hard to be simple. You know that? Well, otherwise, we could all be poets, you know, we can’t be all poets. But, but you know, there’s a, there’s a great line that I read a long time ago that I love to separate, there’s a certain word that means 100 different things when spoken by a certain person. And the word is your name spoken by your mother. And the reason that was a good analogy was is that the argument was is that the word itself is not what’s important. It’s the inflection of the word and the context in which is set, right? So, so use a word in places say, a tree or a sunset, or that that kind of a thing. The, the object itself is not what what what gives somebody give somebody an emotional tug, it’s the it’s the context and how it’s set up. So when you’re creating a landscape, painting, as an example, you’re going to be wanting, you’re wanting to create a romantic feeling and a believable feeling, just going to bring your viewer into it. And then you’re going to throw in a few anomalies, you’re gonna throw out some differences. Richard Smith, for instance, I was looking at one of his landscapes just yesterday, and I was talking to a friend of mine, and I started counting the edges, the razor edges in that thing, and he’s really good at planning these little edges in places that you would, you wouldn’t expect it, but it gives it a look, there’s a certain identifiable look. I mean, there’s obviously a lot more than that, but that’s how I’ve always identified his particular style, is his use of how he creates those edges. And, and they’re not there, they’re either in the, in the reality of the, of what he’s looking at, or they’re not that it doesn’t matter, because it completes the design in such a way to where it helps your eye move around through the painting. Also, the way the cut up puts a little bit of a, of an unusual orange or a warm color in one part of the maybe a roof on a barn or something, you will find places in the foreground Navy to plant that same color. You don’t think about it unless you’re looking for. But he’s organized everything to where it’s, it’s, it’s his little Symphony, and everything he every note that he’s played, has a certain meaning to elevate a certain part of what you’re looking at. It’s extremely hard to do not everybody can do it. So that’s why he’s, I consider him one of the best living artists today.
Eric Rhoads 23:40
And so how do you get there? I mean, that I think that’s the one thing that we all struggle with is, you know, you can paint you can paint for 30 years and still not ever get there.
John Coleman 23:53
I think, it comes down to philosophy, I think. If you don’t, if, first of all, one of the first things I was told when I started was because I always had a story in my work and someone just suggested that, you know, maybe you want to maybe stand back and let somebody else tell you what they see in your work, you might find their story might even be better than yours. I found that that was the first thing the first thing was was to not, not create with my head so much kind of create with my heart. And, and and start observing other art forms. My daughter, for instance, I became a chef, and I noticed that the rules that applied to her apply to me as a as a sculptor, I what was more important to taste the food or the texture, the food what was more important, the texture, the food or, or the way the table was set, and who is the who are the guests at the table and what was the temperature in the room and all those factors. Everything came together. Gather to create something that would made made that meal. a masterpiece, that’s the full experience is the whole experience. And so that to me is that that’s the, that’s the philosophy and art goes into the, into this whole thing. Understanding that it’s, it’s not, your goal isn’t to it, especially if you’re a representational painter, your goal isn’t just to create a replica when you’re looking at it using your own experience as a filter. And there’s a mood that goes with that, and start to understand what those moods mean. You know, as I started off as a painter, I, my, my career, but my career started as a sculptor, I was painting before I was doing, doing doing it professionally, necessarily, but I immediately started to draw parallels between painting and sculpture. And painting, there’s three colors and sculpture, there’s two shapes. So obviously, sculpture doesn’t, doesn’t use color it as much as it uses shapes. And each one of those shapes or those colors also correlate to other other things, meaning, like in music, read it, for me is a high note, blue is a low note, because it’s the one has a deeper feel to it. And around your field. In sculpture, when you’re talking about shapes, round is is feminine, it’s soft, it’s, it’s the earth, it’s, it’s an egg, it’s a cloud, it has an it creates a feeling and a mood that’s different than an angle, a right angle, and sculpture is usually masculine. And, and will usually invoke action. So you have, you have those ideas. And the reason they call it a composition, of course, because it’s not, not all just circles, you do a bunch of circles, and you put an angle in it, the angle, this is the CounterPoint. Or if it’s all angles, you put a circle in the circles the CounterPoint.
Eric Rhoads 27:09
Well, so that’s kind of like in music, where you know, you put a rest in the music or that have, you know, you have I don’t know musical terms, but you have an area where it gets really intense. And then other areas where you have that slow it down.
John Coleman 27:23
Exactly, exactly. There’s all those factors. And so if you’re going to get good at something, you have to start noticing in your, in your world, as you look around, it’s everywhere. You have to learn how to feel it. And and then express it. That’s the that’s the that’s the thing that makes you good. Unfortunately, a lot of times what I believe it’s important have mentors, I always did. And but the kiss of death, of course, is if you’re if you start copying your mentor and you start working too much in their style, then you’ve done your work only remind other people of the other person’s work. I think it’s okay, up to a certain level. And I think it’s always important to get to that spot. And I have to confess that the first time someone said that I had a style I didn’t know that I did. I wasn’t trying to have a style, but it was a gift. And when I when I realized I had one.
Eric Rhoads 28:21
Oh, I’ll find you or do you find your style?
John Coleman 28:24
Yeah, no. See, that’s that’s that’s a that’s not that’s one of those paradoxes that he said, you know, no, it’s like, the harder you try to have a style, maybe the less you can have them because it comes from another place. Yeah, it really does. Yeah, it’s like, I equate it to, you know, like a baby who’s hasn’t really learned to walk yet, who starts to crawl up, you know, like a table leg. And if there’s music playing, he’ll start moving to the music, you know, and so it’s this will help. No one taught him to dance, but yet he’s stealing the music, isn’t he, you know, he just can’t help himself. And see, it’s kind of like that. It’s something that’s kind of there. And the better you, you know, the, you know, select the 10,000 hour thing is you is you go out and you hone your skill and your crap. The more you learn it, the more you can forget it, so to speak. And you start to start to become an inner rhythm inside you. And then you have your own little flair, or your little lick that you put on, you know, people look at sergeant’s hands, for instance, in the portraits, and you look at it and they’re just one little juicy brushstroke sometimes and then of course, everybody just Marvels over that. And so they’ll go back in their studio, and they’ll try to do it themselves. And it’s hard because it’s because it feels like it isn’t there like you say, you know, you got to find your own licks, you got to find your own way. And the rule is, of course, is make it eloquent, learn what eloquence means and try to find that spot. You know, and, and, you know, you kind of go from there.
Eric Rhoads 29:53
You and I had a conversation. I was sitting on the back porch here. A few years ago. I remember we talked for A couple hours. And we were kind of talking about the whole Western thing for those who are listening and might not know this, there’s, you know, there’s the world of Western art. And there’s a pretty large movement, a pretty large group of collectors and so on. And we were talking about people who were trying to penetrate the movement for financial purposes. But who were not who were not living. You know, you I remember you telling me that you could tell and a good collector can tell if you’ve combined two different styles of Native American clothing are different tribes, or, you know, and someone who actually didn’t live this style. Can you talk a little bit about that?
John Coleman 30:49
Yeah, rotation? Yeah. It started with I heard something fairly recently that I thought was interesting. somebody knows, the fella that did the tenant was he was the technical adviser for Saving Private Ryan. And they were talking about that same thing. The difference between are the importance of having accuracy in a in a work of art. So you take a movie that’s done very well. And it’s beautiful, and has all these things going on. And and this technical advisors role, and it seems sort of mundane, but the reality was, the way he put it is he said, he said, if the movie is good, a person will go into a dream. He says my my job is to is to keep them from waking up. And how they wake up is if they see something that doesn’t fit, you know, it might be the wrong in your car. You know, and I used to wonder about that when I was a kid, you know, you see things you go, what does that why does that bother me? Why does that have to what does that have to do with the overall mood and feel of what I’m looking at. And what it does is it creates a it breaks your trust you don’t you think of this is wrong, what else is wrong…
Eric Rhoads 31:59
You’re taking people out of the fantasy.
John Coleman 32:02
You’re taking them out of the fantasy so so now, you know use is a Western artist, I’m thinking to myself, one of the things that’s important to me is to be have integrity within the whole scope of what I’m doing. And I’m also my whole thing is about Native Americans, and I’m I, I don’t have any native blood in me. So I’m picking up this whole thing as I’m being approached, approaching this whole thing as an outsider. And so even mix my need to be accurate even more, but I don’t want it to be at the risk of losing my arm tip my artistic part of it too. I’ve often told people that compositionally, if I have to bend my composition, to fit some kind of act historic accuracy, I, I’ll either abandon the project, or I’ll find another storyline, they are always come first, but it still has to be accurate. So I think that’s a big part of it. Because you have you have an audience that you’re trying to, you know, you’re trying to bring into the fold, so to speak. And in Western art, a lot of the collectors a lot of them start off with loving history, and they come to art later. You know, in the rest of the world, it might be the other way around. They’re not Western art, these people come from, especially in the last 30 years, I’ll say, they come out of the movie stuff, you know, people, you know, people my age, for instance, came grew up with western movies. And in the West, the love of Western mythology, was based on a lot of that kind of stuff. So there’s a lot of people that that got into it, but as it became successful, you know, in the 60s, when the cowboy yars, America came together, they created a renaissance of Western art and in the middle of the last century, and the people that were collecting at that time happened to be ranchers and ranchers. I also happened to be oil people, you know, they had land and had oil there were a lot of them were in Texas and next thing you know, you have prices of art going like crazy going up, and it attracted a lot of other people to come into the, into the genre. And and, you know, that’s, that’s all fine, but you do you did get it does get kind of kitschy for a while I think it’s not as much as it was. But when I say kitschy, I mean, something is done over and over again so much to where it starts to cave in on its own success. Right. You know, so that’s, that’s a, that’s another part of it.
Eric Rhoads 34:40
I remember Bill Anton telling me one time, you know, he was talking about painting horses. And yeah, he said, You know, I can spot bad horse anatomy from across the room. He said because I live with horses every day. I you know, horses are part of my life. And so I think that that kind of play isn’t all of that too.
John Coleman 35:02
It really does and in in that it is a fact that there, you can get away with bad human anatomy or you can get away with course and people that have horses, no horses, you know, and they’ll find you out if you don’t if you’re a pretender. And that’s the other part of it. You don’t want to be a pretender. My my, my respect for Howard turfing as an example is thorough, it goes all the way through. He’s he doesn’t say he’s a historian. He’s, he’s, he’s, he’s always spot on, you see something that he did, or he is storyline, you can believe it. And that was one of the early lessons I learned was is that you better have your own artifacts, you better have your own wardrobe. So when I haven’t modeled the stuff, I dress, my own model, and do all those things that are in my paintings are my sculptures are things that I own. And to me, that’s all part of that integrity. It’s all part of the package doesn’t mean that you can’t, you have to do it that way. But I did it just to me, it just adds another layer that’s important.
Eric Rhoads 36:10
…happens when when an artist says you know, I want to tap into that, because it’s a lucrative market. I want to tap into it. And you know, so they go out and they buy a cowboy hat and they start painting painting cowboy paintings. Is that Ill informed? Is it successful? What what are your thoughts on it?
John Coleman 36:30
Yeah, I don’t really have any problem at all. As long as what what is happening, the interest is long as the end result, rings true. A good example of that is is about 20 years ago, we started seeing some Chinese painters come in into the Western art world. And it turned out that these a lot of these guys came from the Cultural Revolution, they did pop propaganda stuff and so forth. And, and they had a real strong Russian influence. And, and they were really good. The fact they were so good, made it made it. It was like a license to do whatever they wanted to do. And guess the key. That’s the key to it. I think one thing Trump’s another. You don’t have to be born out of the Western culture to portray things in a in an honest way. There’s another fella that’s coming up. That comes he comes from France. And he’s and he’s doing he’s doing some Western cowboy stuff. It’s really quite different. And it’s it’s really fun. It’s interesting, you know, any any Andy’s a little controversial? And I think it’s kind of fun. That’s fun, too for me, you know, because because I think it wakes up the art community a little bit. Sure. But I think I think quality trumps everything. So personal integrity, and how you how you view things is, is the first thing when I when we start talking about people that are pretenders, you’re really talking about these people have been around forever anyway. I mean, they’re in It’s okay. I mean, if someone wants to ask, what’s the difference between fine art and decorator art, I’ll say decorator artists just simply when somebody just copy somebody else’s work. I mean, you know, Howard chirping is a good example I I’ve, I’ve seen several of Howard terpenes paintings copied. And people just copy him. There’s a photographer Edward Curtis, who, who created several 100 photos 1900 beautiful work. There’s lots and lots and lots of Western paintings of Native Americans that are actually copies of Curtis’s photograph. Are they pretty? Or do they look good? Yeah, they look fine. And just like if you’re not violent? Sure, you should hang it up in your wall, decorate your house with it? Is it can ever be worth anything? Or it? Is anybody ever going to care about it? No, they’re not because it’s, it’s a copy of a Curtis photograph. doesn’t mean you can’t take it and bend it and make it make it a piece of fine art. You know, don’t get me wrong, you know, I think there’s lots of opportunities, you know, to use other other artists stuck starting points, but it just depends on whether you’re just being lazy or you’re actually really trying to use it to, you know, to build something that’s bigger. So and that that that’s the difference, I think. So.
Eric Rhoads 39:31
What is your your best advice for becoming the best you can be as an artist? How do you get but I mean, because we all are on a different everybody listening to this, myself included, we’re all in a different path. Some of it is about time, but you know, some of it’s not about time. What are the elements that you recommend, that can really help somebody, you know, kind of get to the next level. And get beyond that decorative stage get to where they’re where they’re really finessing something spectacular.
John Coleman 40:08
Yeah, well, the thing is, is, we kind of started off with that whole thing about being an advocate for, for the work and not your ego. That’s the first thing. Now, once you figure out what that means, and you can start surrounding yourself with people who won’t lie to you, that’s the next step. By what I mean by that is, there’s no rule that your take your act on the road, because your friends and family will lie to you. Meaning that you know, everyone wants to tell you how Oh, yeah, that looks good. Okay.
Eric Rhoads 40:41
Your mother loves all my paintings.
John Coleman 40:45
Yeah, yeah, I know, it was one of the I have a talk with people, you know, I say, look, I said, I don’t want to say, look, what do you walk into the gallery for the first time? And you look around? What what are you attracted to? What hits you right? Or what? What, where’s that little thing that isn’t quite right. And one of the things that I’ve always talked about first is the fact that I got lucky with my, my wife, being the kind of person who has got this crazy, wonderful taste a way better than my own. And she claims she’s not an artist, but she she sees things in my work when it’s when they’re not quite right. And she knows that if she doesn’t, if she keeps her mouth shut, it’s gonna hurt both of us. So she’s really got a dog in the fight. So she always, always tells me what is right and what’s not working. Or if something doesn’t feel right. And it’s gotten down to where it’s even, it’s interesting, I’ll bring a painting down to the house, we got a one special while we hang the work up on it. She’s kind of quiet, I know that it’s not bad, but it ain’t right yet. You know, so. And I think that’s the key. The key is, is to find people and be able to tell them that, that you need, you need that extra look, then extra feeling. I use an example, you know, your olfactory, your sense of smell. Most people understand how that works is if you’re in around a bad smell, for a short period of time, you won’t smell it after a while. And that’s, that’s just basic, that’s how your brain works. It works the same way with your eyes and other other senses to an artist needs to have a mirror he needs to have, he needs to photograph his work, he needs to paint upside down. He needs to do all those things to wake up his brain. But the but one of the most important things is to have a fresh mind come in and look at the work and say, yeah, that there’s something that’s working, or there’s something that is important. And people don’t like to hear that from people. So you just have to train yourself to surround yourself with people that are that are like that. And you have to build your confidence enough to where it doesn’t, you don’t get too rattled by it. And you know, and I think that’s the hardest part. One of the examples I give people when I first started as a sculptor, I did all my own patina work. And I realized that I wasn’t going to make it as a sculptor if I’m doing everything myself. So I set out to find a good patent owner, and I developed my own patinas. So I had my ego, it’s all tied up in that I worked, I looked for at least two or three years. And I went all over the country finding trying to find somebody or in my own backyard, there’s a young fella that happened to be working for another foundry who came in, and I gave him a model to one of my finished pieces. And, and one that wasn’t finished, I said, Here, copy this, let’s see how you do. And he finished it. And it was like a knife, you know, just in my gut because he nailed it. My ego was just killed me his his was better than mine. And I it was such a weird feeling as that I and I realized at that moment, that okay, this is what’s going to happen, I’m going to celebrate this kid, you know, and, and I’m going to bring him in on everything I do. And I’m going to make sure that everybody understands that part of my success is because of him. And it’s it’s kind of an interesting thing that because I already read lots of stories about other people who have been very successful, who surround themselves with people that are smarter than them. And it just makes them look even smarter. You know, it’s kind of interesting how that works. So he was like one of the first to come into my little circle. But he but he wasn’t the last. I still feel that way. I try to get other people interested in my little world. I try to celebrate them as much as I can. And I bring him in on what I’m doing. And what happens is you’re going in a collective of people who all believe and they’re all really good and everybody has their strong points and so So, my career, a lot of my success, most of it is really based on the fact that I’m surrounded by people who are smarter than me.
Eric Rhoads 45:09
Well, and that goes back to let it go to the ego.
John Coleman 45:12
Exactly. And that’s the key. Isn’t that the key to it. But ironically, the ego, though, is also an engine two, because that is kind of cold, just that little boy who didn’t think he was good enough and wants to police his parents. And you’re getting you’re just, you know, you just, I think we all have that little that drive for whatever it is inside us, where we want to push ourselves, you know, to be excellent at something well.
Eric Rhoads 45:38
You think about the world. I mean, we wouldn’t have skyscrapers if it weren’t for egos. And that’s exactly it’s it’s a it’s a double edge. Yeah. Yeah, the key, the key is figuring out how to be how to maintain that modesty and not buy into it not believe your own press clippings.
John Coleman 45:57
Exactly. Because you quit growing, when that happens. And that, to me, is the scariest thing in the world.
Eric Rhoads 46:04
But I think also your you know, your ego is driving you further, right? So, you know, you’ve got to have those days, when you wake up and say, you know, what, I think I could come up with something that’s never been done before, and, and blow everybody away with it. And it’s a good feeling. Yeah,
John Coleman 46:20
it is a good feeling. And I look forward to that. Always, I always have, and I always will. There’s going to be something I’m going to do that hasn’t been done before. And, and that’s exciting. But I know, the only way to get there is I need to, I need to remain teachable.
Eric Rhoads 46:37
John, I want to, I want to touch on another area. It’s not something I talked about too much on the podcast. But on occasion. As you know, I teach marketing at the plein air convention and in other ways. And and I, I tried to convince artists that you’re not giving up your artistic self, just because you’re having to develop muscles and other areas to make your career succeed. You have had in my perception of very fruitful, successful, financially successful career. And something drove that now, a very big part of that is obviously your ability to sculpt and paint. But you know, there are probably some people out there who sculpt and paint equally as well, as you who don’t have the career that you have. Can you touch base on the things that you do the principles that you employ that have really helped you become one of the top financially top successful artists in the world?
John Coleman 47:37
Yeah, sure. Again, it’s, it’s hard to get come down to one point on that. But if it does boil down to philosophy, I actually enjoy the business part. So when I say business, I’m not talking about the bean counting part. I don’t mean that. I like that I enjoy the How does one find a destination for your work? So you study, you start off with a problem? The problem is, is the destination the closet? Or is it somebody living? Right? I always choose the living room, not my closet. Okay. Now, how do I, how do I get them? How do I get him there? You know, how do I bring people to my side, and then tend to convince them that on the safe bet, you know, so that’s, that’s the other thing. I thought it was a career salesman, he sold vacuum cleaners, that real estate, and he used to tell talk to give me his war stories when he’d come home when I was a kid. And he always said, you got to give people permission to buy. And what he meant was, his people, a lot of times were like something but they, they don’t quite, they need a little something that they trust. And ego aside and all that you have to be, you have to feel that what you’re doing deserve the attention of whoever is going to take some money and put him put it in your work. I never used the word investment. That’s kind of a nasty word. It turns out, it’s in the art world. But you still they still want to feel like they’re not really buying something, what they’re doing is that they’re, they’re storing their money somewhere else, they’re putting it somewhere that on some level, they’re going to it didn’t go away, it’s still there, they’re going to do something.
Eric Rhoads 49:22
And that’s especially true with the type of people who are buying your art because your paintings and sculpture are very expensive. And so there are people who have a lot of money so they tend to think that way.
John Coleman 49:32
They do and I have to think that way right along with them. And so I when I first started I didn’t psychologically I didn’t use words in my mind, like being commercially successful. That’s why I use the word destination. I is the word commercial sometimes implies that you were selling you know that you’re Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Having Audience brings a sense of responsibility that can make your work better. When I started getting collectors that were interested in what I was doing, I started having a sense of responsibility that I didn’t have before. And I started realizing that, that the quality of my work, I didn’t want to let them down, I wanted them to believe that I didn’t feel that they thought they’re always they’ve always got the best, or what I could do at that moment, and that I’m growing. And then I’m, I’m evolving. And that’s, that’s always driven me. And that’s can. The reason I talked about that first is because that’s the psychological thing. You can’t put up a barrier, you have to believe in yourself. I’ve always said that. It doesn’t matter what your profession is, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. And so I’ve always had a tendency to be able to make money, because of my attitude. As an artist, it was no different. You know, it isn’t. It isn’t what you do. It’s how you how you think about what you do.
Eric Rhoads 51:03
Let me interrupt you there. Let me interrupt you that thought, though, because I think this is a really important distinction. I constantly run into artists who say, selling your work, is selling out if it or they’ll say, if it’s good enough, it will find home. And I think that’s – I don’t want to be critical of anyone. But I think it’s a little bit naive, in the se
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