Plein Air Podcast 224: Russian Landscape Painter Zufar Bikbov

Zufar Bikbov Plein Air Podcast Eric Rhoads

In this episode of the Plein Air Podcast, Eric Rhoads interviews Russian landscape painter Zufar Bikbov in a fascinating conversation.

Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, explains how painters should put together a portfolio for a gallery, and if you should discount your artwork.

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Listen to the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Zufar Bikbov here:


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FULL TRANSCRIPT of this Plein Air Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the Plein Air Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.

Announcer 0:19
This is the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. In the Plein Air Podcast we cover the world of outdoor painting called plein air. The French coined the term which means open air or outdoors. The French pronounce it plenn air. Others say plein air. No matter how you say it. There is a huge movement of artists around the world who are going outdoors to paint and this show is about that movement. Now, here’s your host, author, publisher and painter, Eric Rhoads.

Eric Rhoads 0:59
All right, thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the plein air podcast you’re gonna learn actually about some heritage of plein air as it emanated from Russia. We’re gonna talk about that with our guests today a little bit later but I was painting this past weekend now I work a full time job 810 1215 20 hours a day doing magazines and and all the things that we do here at streamline. But I try to paint nights and weekends and of course I don’t plein air paint much at night, and occasional Nocturne but I was able to go painting this past weekend with about eight artists in a place called Utopia, Texas, which is down kind of past San Antonio. And it was about a two and a half, maybe almost three hour drive down there. And it was a beautiful area beautiful country. Imagine watching an old John Wayne movie. Well, if you watched an old John Wayne movie, you would see where these movies were filmed. They were filmed around Utopia, Texas. And as a matter of fact, the restaurants down there the very few that they have had pictures of John Wayne signature around everywhere. Anyway, so we, we went out and I learned a very important lesson. I kind of have learned this before, but sometimes we forget our lessons. So we gathered the the the organizer of this group, put together a nice little thing and he got some local people to let us onto their ranches. And there was this one ranch that we went to the first one and just beautiful along the river. Well, it was an overcast day. And it was felt like it was gonna rain and we really need rain. And so anyway, I walked way down along the river, I found a perfect spot, something that really inspired me, but I was going to have to carry my backpack, oh, probably about a quarter mile, which is not such a big deal. But anyway, all of a sudden, it started raining. So I there was an overhang. And so I set up under the overhang and decided to paint this old shack. And quite frankly, I wasn’t very intuitive at all I just it was it was a subject that I just decided, well, if it’s going to be raining, I’ll be dry. And so I sat here you know for an hour hour and a half and trying to paint that old shack and the rain stopped the light came out the light was back and forth and I just struggled you know with a dappled light and I just wasn’t hitting it. So it was a scraper as far as I was concerned. And then the second one in the afternoon after lunch, we went out to the southern ranch. And and you know sometimes people will recommend where they want you to paint what they think you’re going to want to pay. My wife is always doing that to me. We were driving down the road the other day. She said oh, you know you should paint that old, old barn there and I said no, no, you should pay it because it’s not something I want to pay. And but so we all have our thing, right I happen to love landscapes and distant landscapes and so on. So I’m looking around on this ranch and there’s cattle and there’s sheep and there’s goats and and it’s really beautiful and I you know I’m kind of looking around there’s old cars and old barns and nice stuff but I turned around and looked back on the driveway that we came in and there’s this incredible view of distant mountains and the road leading up to him and you know, cattle in the in the shot and so I set up there everybody else was getting ready to set up somewhere else and then when I set up everybody moved and we all set up and painted the same scene it was and it turned out alright, so the I guess the lesson in all of this is paint what you love paint what you’re inspired to paint don’t paint what everybody else wants to pay, do what you want to do. We are thrilled to have you here with us today and we’re thrilled to have our guests who you’re gonna meet in a minute. We have had this podcast is floating we have worldwide listenership in over 90 countries, we have 1.5 million downloads, actually, probably beyond that that’s probably been six months or longer since I got that number. And we have been rated number one in feed spots 2021, top 15 podcasts list. And of course, we hope to make the 2022. But that’s up to you. Because those things are voted on by by you, not by me. Okay, after the podcast today, we’ve got the art marketing minute. And that’s gonna we’ve got some good questions today, I just want to tell you that things are heating up, as I’m recording this for about two weeks away from the plein air convention, I’m so excited. I’m excited to get on an airplane, I’m excited to actually be in front live in front of other people. I’ve been to a couple little things. I’ve been on an airplane a couple of times, but I’m excited to get out and live life again and be at the plein air convention be. It’s like, you know, it’s like Thanksgiving for artists, right. So we, we all get together, we break bread, we have fun. We we paint together, we learn together, we’ve got four stages and a big main stage. And all the big, big, big, big, big players are on the main stage, right. And so we decided, because there are a lot of people are on the fence. This, by the way, is still our biggest plein air convention ever. But it’s not as big as it was gonna be. We had 1200 people signed up before COVID. And then everything changed, of course. And so we’re still bigger than our last convention in San Francisco. And it’s going to be fantastic. But I decided that I picked up the phone and I called the crew and I said hey, can we can we stream this thing? And they said, Well, you know, it’s it would be very complicated to stream the whole thing. But we could stream the main stage. And I thought, Well, the main stage is where all the really really big names are. Anyway, there’s great names on all the stages. But you know, we have all the biggest of the big names there. And we have the awards there. We do art marketing, training there three mornings a week, you know, we do all the everything. And so we decided we’re going to stream, the main stage. And we also decided that because you don’t get to go to to the expo hall because you don’t get to go paint out in Ghost ranch and other places with us. And because you can’t go to the other rooms and watch the other stuff, we cut the price for the streaming version of it dramatically. As a matter of fact, we brought it to the price of our other plein air live and other virtual events, which is a very reasonable price for the massive number of hours of content that you’re going to get. And you’ll feel a little bit connected. Very much like the convention. Of course, there’s people who tell me all the time, you know, I can never go to a convention because I’m taking care of you know, insert here. So that that’s an opportunity for you. So check it out, when you go to the convention website Just make sure to hit the button that says, learn about our online virtual option. And you’ll find it there and you’ll also find an incentive there that if you sign up, you’re gonna get some extra goodies. All right, so next up, spring is around the corner. As soon as I get back from the convention. I’m gonna pack up my bags, get in the car and start driving across the country for the Adirondacks. Adirondack Park in upstate New York is 6 million acres of protected land. It’s very little known throughout the country, but it’s it’s stunning. It looks like Colorado or some other beautiful places and it’s got lots of mountains and waterfalls and distant views and it’s incredible. So I have it’s been my muse since I started painting and I live up there in the summertime. And so I have an event. It’s an artist retreat. It’s called the publishers Invitational and I have that event every year. This is the 11th year that I’m doing it and we get about 100 people typically and and we’re about I don’t know maybe 75% there and so you know we paint to you. You stay on on location in the campus. It’s pretty nice. It’s right on a lake you can step outside and paint. We have all our meals together. We have an opening and a closing party we have just Do you know we paint all day we have our meals together. We sit up at night and we paint we we some people drink some people don’t some people sit around and talk we paint portraits we do all kinds of things and Anyway, it’s an incredible event. And it’s coming up. If you go to, you can check that out. And then next last, but not least, of all the things that are going on, we were going to be going to Russia, we’re going to talk about Russia in a minute. We’re gonna go there, because it’s so absolutely incredible. And the art in Russia is unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. Unbelievable. Well, we had to cancel that trip, for obvious reasons, because of what’s going on in the conflict. And so we were already planning New Zealand for the following year. And we just decided, well, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll just go to New Zealand, and we just had had the tour operators switch things around. So we’re gonna do pink New Zealand, and we can only take 50 people, but we’d love to take you we’re about, I don’t know, I’d say we’re about half sold out, maybe a little more than half sold out. And that’s going to be in September. And so you might want to take that trip, it’s going to be outstanding, I wasn’t going to return to New Zealand with a paint group. But I decided, after all the pressure I was getting, I would do it one more time next year. Well, now I’m going to do it this year, instead. Next year, I’ll go somewhere else. I don’t I’m not sure maybe back to Russia, but we’ll see how things are back then. All right, well, that’s a lot of stuff to cover. Now we’re gonna get to our guest Zufar Bikbov. Nice to see you.

Zufar Bikbov 11:41
Nice to see you too. And I’m glad to be in your studio, even though it’s virtual. Also, I’m glad that time invited

Eric Rhoads 11:53
curious to learn more about you, I know a lot about you, because of course, you did a video with us and, and it’s fabulous. But you and I need to talk more and get a little bit more depth and get more acquainted. I am First off, let me just say this for people who are listening, you know, the what’s going on in the Ukraine is a tragedy. I have lots of friends, lots of artists, friends from Russia. And these are wonderful, sweet people who are mortified by what’s going on over there. And so please understand that let’s not judge our guest, based on what the people running these countries are up to let’s judge our guests based on his his merits his heart and how he feels about it. Has this been difficult for you as an instructor or for your family, living as a Russian in America because of this conflict?

Zufar Bikbov 12:52
We’ve been lucky not to I think people who are judgmental, it depends on level of education. And I’m coming from medical background, then your friends of mine are physicians. It just happened away as I came first to the country, through exchange program with Yale University Medical School. My wife, she is a teacher of music and she teaches kids I think she teach a lot of I mean, tradition, beauty, so So kids doesn’t mean that they will become musicians, but they need to see beauty to tune up their souls to positive way to creative way to way of began making this world better, whatever path they will choose. So we’ve been lucky not to have any conflicts and talking and we have number of friends from different parts of former Soviet Union. Of course, Ukraine is a big country independent now. And we have friends from Ukraine from Bella Russia from actually from the era of Donbass. And it’s awful thing, what’s happening there. And of course, first thing which comes, of course, war is, is something which should, should be avoided. But I’m, I don’t think we know everything what’s happening. And we’ll see. But anyway, we support

Eric Rhoads 14:16
you know, from my Russian friends who have a completely different perspective on some of the things and we won’t get into those right now. But I do want to talk about your background and so on. I’m, I’m very much I guess you could say I’m a Russia file. I went to Russia for the first time and in 2004, where I don’t know if you’ve heard this story. I’ll try not to bore everybody with it too much. But I went to the LA art show and I saw a man I went into the cafe and there was no seats and there was a big table and a man that looked like Charles Manson sitting there at this table alone. So I went up to him nobody else would dare go near him because he almost looked homeless. So he was dressed nice. But he had this big beard and this big wild hair and, and so I went up to him and I said, Do you mind if I join you? And he said, No, not at all, we struck up a conversation. Turns out, he’s a dealer, a Russian art dealer in America. And he starts telling me about the art in Russia, and he’s all lit up. And I, of course, have not really seen any of it. And he started showing me pictures on his phone and go into websites, and I was blown away, never really even crossed my mind. And he, he said to me, you know, we became fast friends, he says, You should go with me. And I said, I’m okay, I’ll go. Next thing, you know, I’m on an airplane going over to Russia. And, and he was gonna go and visit artists studios. So we spent three weeks visiting artists studios in Russia. And I really learned a lot about that, of course, I went to the museums there. And I just have a whole deep respect for for Russia and the role that they have played. Can Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Because there’s a deep a deep connection to realism staying alive? Because of Russia? I don’t know if you know about that. If not, I can, I can discuss that. But, you know, Russia played a major role when everybody else was moving towards abstract art and modernism. Russia was emphasizing the realist work.

Zufar Bikbov 16:34
Yes, the course of history, I guess, a lead country to preserve a realism. But I would say those that movement, which was like probably the most productive and most famous is a wanderers, period, visioning key, which formed basically in the second half, second, third of 19th century. So where we have the names, LeBreton, and Serov, and Shishkin, all those big names, and maybe those names, which are very well known in Russia, not very well known here. So they came up, it was really a peak of development. And it’s also what’s happening during the time when Pinto was developed in let’s say, sub Ross of teacher of LeBreton was one of the first people in academia or an academy who said, Let’s go outside we need to learn there. So a realism formed, and then it was kind of was sitting mainly in Russia and Russian artists been going to France as Americans did at that time. And many of them, of those artists came back and felt that there is emotionally it just doesn’t fit. So how Europe feels on Russian soul. By fate, of course of the Russian Revolution, number of people emigrated to France later, and, and those people became known in the Western world. That’s name of corroboration. And of course, those avant garde artists who are not realists, and let’s say, Rothko, Chagall, they’re all came from, from area of Russian Empire. But they emigrated one way or another way or due to revolution. And avant garde Russian, I would say on Sotheby’s, and Christie’s it was more known then wonderous art. Yeah, that is why I think visits as you Eric went to Russia, you explore different types of art, which first was born there under influence, of course of the French and English painting, European painting. And then during the Soviet time, I think up to 1930s. And I think up to the Second World War, they will a lot of experimentation, of course, a lot of things with propaganda and posters needed for development economy, the same thing happened in the United States. I forget exactly what the style of those posters, and now we see them as posters for the national parks. There’s a special word for that. Again, it’s a flat, it’s clear, very kind of strong, bold font. But then it was neat, also special during the Second World War to the show that the soldiers even though country was actually losing a lot of soldiers still have to fight. And that was the period one western world America and Russia fought all together. That was a great time. And then of course, after the Second World War, the on one side of Russia had the Iron Curtain kind of developed and decided to kind of put the border between influence of the Soviet Union over part of the Russia Western, Eastern. And what’s what’s happening in the western part, which was freed by, by England, United States, France, I don’t know whose right order or not of things, but probably correct to be politically correct. Anyway. And at the same time, a realism in Russia had the second breath. Many artists realized that they, I mean, the war is over. And then later, of course, Stalin died. There was a lot of lyrical motifs showed up, and I would say, the Soviet art as we love it, and know it, I mean, that the Soviet probably still should call it Russian art, even though it’s not. I mean, there are people of different ethical groups being part of it. It’s it was a Thor kind of time, people started painting about love about the regular life people,

Unknown Speaker 20:58
regular people’s emotions, and it wasn’t the way as let’s paint something where the Soviet Union is heading to, everyone’s happy, there was a lot of things not maybe a lot openly about difficulties, struggle struggles of the whole nation, but about a problems of, of people. And there was no much pressure of kind of people did not try to hide it. Because in the art, along with the realism, there was abstraction and other styles, isms, as they, as they call it, Russia developed and they tried to, I mean, the officials tried to fight those movements, which has no idea at all, and many artists who created beautiful, lyrical, lyrical paintings. Without much of political kind of ideas in it, they did actually two things. They did, let’s say, official painting for museums for for government. So about the myths, or some legends of rulers about the Lenin about Stalin, or maybe later Khrushchev, and talking about the war later, at the same time, they paint, they create a big amount of something about the just a life where they’re immersed to, and that was a rebirth. And now it’s probably the golden font of Russian Soviet art. And when you come to Russia, you see that connection, which was first born in the second half of 19th century and then was kind of reborn in 50s 60s. And then later, it’s kind of faded down. And I think by age of 1980s, it’s it’s, I mean, it was, you don’t see that strong, strong connection to a realism of 19th century. Yes, that’s my thoughts about it, and how I perceive it, it was not officially taught that you have to think this way. But you know, we artists always talk to each other trying to collect it’s a little research on private way.

Eric Rhoads 23:18
I have, I have a couple of moments I want to share, because first off, I found, you know, when I first went to Russia, it was very intimidating, because Americans have a viewpoint of Russia that is based on the movies, you know, we always have made them the evil empire. And I was a little bit intimidated by that. And of course, when I went to Russia the first time, I’m staying in an old Stalin esque hotel, and there’s still propaganda paintings on the walls and ceilings. And, you know, so it was a little intimidating. But I’ve found out that first off, the people in Russia are very highly educated much more so than they are in the United States and including the average people, I found them to be much more highly educated. And the thing that was surprising to me is the the appreciation for the arts of all arts, music and painting and other forms of art, the the appreciation at a much higher level than than we have in the States. I think the Europeans have high appreciation in general as well but not as much as as the Russians. I was with Nikolai Dube avec, who’s my good friend who’s a master at the Surkov Institute in Moscow, and we went to the ballet or not the ballet to the symphony, and he walked in the room with his jacket on his shoulders. And as he stood there, the entire room turned around and looked at him and stood up and applauded. And this is a This is an artist. And if that happened, any of us we’d be completely shocked. Right. But, you know, this is just the way that that he was treated and, and people knew who he was, you know, and it was a rock star, so to speak still as I guess. So that that I thought was really interesting. The other thing that I found really fascinating is that the the Russian Academy approached things a whole lot differently than other academies. The and this probably had to do with the gentleman that you mentioned, who had a lot to do with the, you know, the, the agenda of these academies eventually, but plein air painting was very much a part of the process. We went to the academic Adarsha, in the middle of the country between St. Petersburg and Moscow, which was created by Catherine the Great, it was a house that she used to build, as, you know, a house she used to stay in while they were building the canals, so she could oversee it, but it’s a beautiful area. And now all these students, you know, would come there and study under these great masters and they would be required to do plein air painting all summer. Because the you know, they they realized that plein air painting is an important part of, of understanding form and light and shape and everything else. Can you comment on that?

Unknown Speaker 26:34
Yes, even though compared to other world, life’s landfill lifespan of people in Russia was four but since people didn’t know, people you know, it’s it’s a different environment, it’s off raising people were not much rushing to start working immediately. Perception of moneymaking was always kind of I cannot say it’s distorted or different. And it’s also came to So education would take years and years and years. And young people they start so like like I went to art school when I was nine, and then you graduate and finish that at age of 14, then you can go if you’re very talented, and if you want you go to boarding school free, subsidized by government, where you study and prepare yourself for Academy if you finish regular school, then you go to it’s like a trading school, you can go two years later, earlier or after full course graduation and school diploma for two years in college. And then after that you go for six years to academy or Institute. And after that still you feel that you have not learned everything what you want and you take a years of fellowship, it seems like three years of fellowship in art could be exactly under the professors or academicians of Russian Academy of Art. I should say that in Russia compared to the United States many artists who are known as artists and called professional artists, they did not take a path of commercial illustration good thing or bad thing they initially right from beginning were studying first studio art than the if you’re a landscape artist, if you need to paint light of outdoors Of course, plein air it’s not only landscape, right? It could be still outdoors, it could be a figure outdoors, but most important is real natural light, sun or clouds or overcast day, whichever and they try to create the best possible conditions for that and efforts of the school to create it was tremendous. Let’s say you probably have seen that or heard that. First let’s say if artists going to taking class off historical painting, they will maybe we’ll need to paint or first drawing then paid horses and not only sculptures of horse has been copied they have in studio real horses and really trained and of course you can understand it’s like yes, like that’s in St. Petersburg Academy and the buildings which I mean, which had they had a little bit support even for animals. It has some some areas to meet, maintain, manage, and Akademiska they had horse, couple of horses, but it was that way to practice painting people and and let’s say horses or cows, whatever you need to paint in the future in your paintings. I’m here various was a little bit different because people villagers from the villages around Akademiska been so used to it because it was for so many decades, they knew artists will be around. There is no, in Russia, there was no much of the like private land kind of problems. People had garden, let’s say quarter of Acre or less. And everything else was a collective land, you can walk anywhere. It’s actually I feel that problem here. You stop here, just have to put your easel. Yes, property and you know, beautiful view and you do not shall do you go and ask them first or try to find out their phone number or find someone who knows them. So for me, it’s still difficult. So in academia, for generations and generations, people used to help artists to to become better artists. And they’d been posing their kids been involved.

Unknown Speaker 31:06
Sometimes horse has been for a very minimum maybe payment or free people, artists will say no, you have beautiful horse, would you mind for a couple of rubles, we will have your horse is your horses quiet one or not. And they will do that they would paint it and learn a lot. Just from direct observation. I would say environment itself was quite helpful because of people. The the propaganda was not only that we’re just the best people and we have just surrounded by enemies. Part of propaganda was that everything is is it’s a propaganda we understand it belongs to everyone. It was not true, of course, but people had that feeling. And on some level between regular people. Sometimes they had the positive ways and helping without any money. It’s like, like some good samaritan ideas. They’ve been converted to ideas of kind of like Soviet person. And that was helpful. And I think it was working very well for artists. Talking about the length about the length of education, yes, you can imagine 13 Or like even some artists side like 18 years of total education. You have I mean a lot of time and you you have not just time have a luxury to go everything in the right system. Before you start painting outdoors you learn all fundamentals. And of course before you paint portraits or before in painting a landscape you you paint still is even before still as you do those simple shapes like those casts alabaster cast of the cubes or cylinders. To understand shape to understand values first, then you go to still life you go to colors, understand the temperature. So the warm light, you have cool shadows. How reflects this work? So all of like fundamental things, and only then you go and paint outdoors? And of course, painting plein air was it seen the curriculum of every school even for youth school? Like from I think second year? Yes. Second Year of Youth Art School, we had to go and spend two weeks of painting outdoors. First, of course with watercolors, goulash, yes. And then

Eric Rhoads 33:37
when I went to first time I went to to Moscow. They took me to a school, you probably know what where it is. And it was it was basically grade school and high school together. And I walked into a room a class of probably 20 or 30 students. They were maybe seven or 10 years old. And they were drawing from life. They had a nude, a male nude in that particular case. And then he was standing there and they were drawing him from life at that age. And then as I as I went through the hallways and peeked in the classes, and I looked at the work of the students, by the time they got to the equivalent of our 12th grade, they were better than any artist that I’d ever seen. You know, they just were so well accomplished. And then of course, they have to go into the I think it’s as you said a secondary school. And then when they get into application for the Academy, the Sarah call for the reppin Institute. I think I heard a statistic like there were 2500 applicants and only 50 Got in every year is that That sounds about right.

Unknown Speaker 35:02
Yes, competition to this academies is very high. So what was created during Soviet time in 20 century, education was unified. It’s it was like what you see in engineering, here, if you know that the size of your unit, the nut or bolt or any other thing, it has a mark on it, you know, exactly doesn’t matter is produced in one part of the on one factor or another, it has standards. So the same standard was involved in to education, to art. So the same curriculum books, and they’ve been very well chosen, very well written. And then, of course, it was taught in classes where I mean, there’s still lives and figures. It’s available, it does require anything from an imported or created on high tech thing. So they’ve been learning how to paint from life, and, but it was happening through the entire country, of course, to become an artist was a prestigious thing. At that time, it became less prestigious, I would say at the time when I was graduating from my school, my high school years. Now, let’s say at age of 14, I graduated cum laude from the Youth Art school after five years curriculum, and it’s not just once a week classes, it’s not studios, it’s real school. So I went to

Eric Rhoads 36:33
mostly it’s mostly art, right?

Unknown Speaker 36:37
It’s was three, four hours of painting or drawing and depending on which day of the week I was going, I was born and raised in suburbs of city of Kazakhstan is it’s easy to explain here. Those who know are where the Kazaam is, you say that that’s the home town of the Chi fetch and everyone say oh, yes, he has of course, infection. So, and of course, fame of his his name was all over. So we could go to see best collection of his paintings.

Eric Rhoads 37:13
museum with his paintings there, right, because

Unknown Speaker 37:17
we have a collection Yes, of his the biggest collection of his art in, in Kazakhstan, because art is a some people kind of mixed with the with the country of Kazakhstan, which is, which is a country because then is third university city in Russia. And what we’re also Russia Khazanah is famous for that the Lenin graduated and finished they’re not finished, he was expelled from university for his river revolutionary views. Shishkin was studied in gymnasium, and it’s it’s high school in khazana. Of course, there are some mathematicians, chemists also from there, it’s a big with all together. But the greater khazana is about three, 2 million population city, which is older than Moscow. Anyway, I’ve been raised in suburbs of Kazakhstan, and I went to a regular school and then later, I moved to a special school, which is the kind of Magnet School of Math and Physics. So I was kind of like more scientific kind of mind. Not artists, artists. I was very curious and I was trying to get better. And and also that was happening exactly at the time when Soviet Union was coming to the end. And the year when I graduated from high school 99 to one that was officially the collapse of the Soviet Union. And when I was choosing my job, at that time, like many a lot of uncertainity was happening, country was changing. A lot of industries just stopped the connections change the economy had to go through reforms, and they’ve been very painful. And I chose to be a doctor because I had also I finished regular school with golden metal and also finished two years before that from the Youth Art School and I could go to academy and I kind of find the compromise if I will not be accepted to medical school, I will go to I will go to school of architecture. So and then if I want I will switch to arts because of in School of Architecture, they teach a lot watercolor, drawing construction and I have very good I would say two dimensional way of understanding things that really helped me in medical school then to study surgery to see things depth and explains how deep things are. Because as a surgeon, you need to know and you approach one layer then you go deeper. You need to know what you will meet their nerve or blood vessel or just connective tissue. So I did not go to academy but I think before that, especially In 1950s 60s 70s, that was a peak when there are people wish to go to become artists. And also in, in Russia, you could see a number of dynasties of artists, the same thing like with Cougar watch, you could watch his son Mihalko Gotcha. And his grandson, Ivan, Nick, his name is Ivan vice. I think yes, yes, Yvonne. And there are a number of of dynasties. And the same thing we see among actors. I don’t think it’s very common here. But well, the

Eric Rhoads 40:39
equivalent that could Gotch there could gotcha equivalent would be the Wyatt Family, which was, which was NC Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth and so on. I’ll tell you a quick story. A quick story. So went to the academic Dasha. And I was interviewed, and I didn’t know who I was being interviewed by. And this older gentleman came and interviewed me. And he had a translator, of course, or I did, and they’re asking me questions about art and what I like, and you know, just everything. And so I’m interviewed for about 45 minutes, and then the man gets up and goes away. And I turned to my host, and I said, What’s going on here? He says, I can’t say. So a few minutes later, a younger man comes in, and he interviews me and then he gets up and leaves and he comes back. And the older man comes back, and he says, in English, he says, he will see you. And, and I said, What, who will see me and my host said, Well, we didn’t want to get your hopes up. But you’re gonna meet one of the great Russian artists, and they were interviewing you to see if you were worthy. And so the two men that interviewed me were Yvonne and and Mikhail Kouga. Watch the Father, the Son and the grandson. And then they took us to the Dasha. And there I’m meeting Yuri cookouts. And, and it was so we go into the room, and there’s stacks and stacks of paintings. And he says to John, who is his us art dealer, he says, you know, I’m starting to get old, I think he was 88 or 89. At the time. He said, I’m starting to get old, I think I probably should sell some of these. These are the things I’ve kept over the years. And so John’s going through him and he’s finding studies that were done for some of the great paintings that are in the museums. And so God says to me, with a translator, he says, I’m curious what you like he said, I want you to go through those stacks of paintings. There were two or 300 of them. He said, I want you to go through every one of those and pull out the five best paintings. And so I pulled I did that. And I pulled out the five and he lined them up and he says, Okay, which one is the best one? And I pointed to it, and he said, you’ve picked the best painting in the room. And I thought he was kind of pulling my chain. He said, I worked on that painting. He said, This is a plein air piece. It’s a snow scene. He said, I worked on that painting. For the last 30 years. He said every couple of years, I’d go out when it snows and I it was outside of his dosha and I would work on it because I never had it right. He said I’ve worked on that painting longer and harder than most of the other paintings I’ve ever worked on. And then he said that he wanted me to buy it. I said, you know, I don’t have that kind of money because they were pretty expensive. And anyway, long story short, I ended up owning it. And I had to make a promise that I would not. I would not ever sell it that it would stay on my family forever. And what’s wonderful is Cucaracha his wife Olga stitch Noyon was I think that’s the last name. Olga was a well known respected painter and then so I ended up buying one her paintings. I got to have McHale’s and and to have ions. And so I have a collection. It’s like having, you know, NC Wyeth Andrew Wyeth and Jamie. It’s pretty cool.

Unknown Speaker 44:15
Yeah, you’re very lucky. Yes. And yes. And Eureka. Gracias. I mean, the, the founder of the dynasty. Last wife’s last name is hard to pronounce. Yes. Olga. Scott Leach. Yes. So that leech name. Yes. And when we when you mentioned the art dealer was that John and Kathy of the lazarette gallery?

Eric Rhoads 44:41
Kathy workman. Yes, yes. And, their son John was an artist who had studied under Oh, who was it? studied at the Academy in, in in sweaters

Zufar Bikbov 45:00
Academy. Yes. That’s yeah.

Eric Rhoads 45:05
Studied under Isabella?

Unknown Speaker 45:07
Oh, yes, yes. And I know they’ve been showing as a balance works, because I was receiving invitation from it’s quite long drive to drive to Virginia. Like,

Eric Rhoads 45:18
he’s he’s got a couple of 1000 paintings and some of which I was with him when he acquired.

Unknown Speaker 45:25
Yes, a few years ago, I was talking to Kathy. And John was not there. I just stopped by on my way. And there were some ideas about the collection, shall they kind of, maybe sell it? And I and I thought American museums like met or like in Philadelphia and or Chicago, Chicago, they don’t have Russian or Soviet art I’ve seen just in Rutgers University Gallery, which is in New Jersey, next to Princeton, Rutgers University, they have few paintings, I think they have Pollyanna, they have Yuan. Maybe they have Leverton just like one piece here and there. And mainly galleries oriented to contemporary I mean, like, yeah,

Eric Rhoads 46:18
style the other day, you know, we all have French paintings, or they all have Italian paintings, but they don’t have Russian. And yet Russian is such an important part. What’s happening. The other thing they have is Chinese paintings, which the whole realism movement in China was because they went they did the connection between Russia and the Russians went in and train the Chinese. So, you know, we need to if you’re a museum person, this is actually a really good time to buy Russian art. Because of the conflict. It’s difficult for the dealers to sell it right now. I have a substantial collection, including a giant, a giant piece of Russian art, but there is this would be a good time. And you know, I will tell you this story. Sorry, Scott Christiansen and I went to Russia together, I took a group. And he stood in front of the paintings of of Fishkin and Leba, tan and, and all the reppin and so on. And we both teared up, you know, because there’s so spectacular and, and he said to me, he says, I’m not sure I can ever accomplish that kind of a level, you know, and it really frustrated him. And, and he really worked hard for for a couple of years after that trip, to try and get himself to a higher level because he saw that these painters were at a higher level than we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States.

Unknown Speaker 47:50
Yes, the quality of painting, it’s, it’s like, it’s like listening to singing. It could be the same word, same music, but somebody performs it and yes, you have tears in your in your eyes, or you’re kind of getting your chest filled with joy. And other singer can sing the same song with the same voice mimicking maybe one to one, and you don’t feel that chill. So it’s a partial, it’s a mystery. The part of it of course, the way maybe when you start when you do that 18 years of study, and you’re totally dedicated that you don’t do that just on weekends. That’s, that’s maybe a different thing. And it’s hard to say, but anyway, I think studying art, in different in, in any part of your life is very rewarding. Most importantly, you studied the way as you feel that you want to become an artist not. And I know that yes, those great artists whom we know in America, the number of them big number of them became fine artists from commercial illustration art, because they had that Call of heart and they already had been very well prepared.

Eric Rhoads 49:07
They had good Terranea.

Unknown Speaker 49:09
Yes. And I mean, it’s it’s like in medical field things are like multifactorial, you need to have special type of your perception you should have pretty good visual memory you should be sensitive, you should see probably well shape understand volume, to be able to present it see colors as well, too. And then also to have imagination quite often we need to redesign what we see going outside and quite often you have put in our study and you want to create a bigger painting, you do several studies, you kind of redesign you think this tree should be should not be there or maybe it should come and foresee like if I come here in the end of October. This will happen Have that mood which I want to show this is going to be set. And you always tell story behind even landscape, it’s not just a little impression should be like chain of thoughts and emotions bound together. And even without presence of a human, at least you should feel that there was an artist who was a human, it could be absolutely empty landscape could be even like no building, no bench, but you feel that there is a human and, and that human is the person who’s looking at it. So, I mean, it’s always conversation. Yes, so how to achieve that level of art. It’s partially it’s a mystery. But again, thinking as a physician, trained as a physician, I try to explain things, of course, not the way as it’s just this is just chemistry, this is serotonin works. And this is that path, which connects eyes with the brain, and then it goes to that part where you have emotions born. No, I try not to simplify it this way. And for for me, as for many people who are listening to this podcast, is the way to first to understand then to work on it, then to again to get deeper and increase your judgement of what you have created. And then you go to Museum and start seeing things which you haven’t seen before, just because you already past the problem of it, or, and then you go back to Studio, it’s you can call it spiral, you can call it triangle, you can call it whatever. But since it’s usually goes to higher and higher level, that’s probably spiral. That’s the, the way of development. So you kind of visit same same angles and sides. But on a different level every time. Consistency is very important. Of course, if you do break, you kind of get get thrown back. If this doesn’t disappear, it just gets packed into your brain, and then it will take time to get it back to your active mode.

Eric Rhoads 52:02
Is there something that you have experienced, you know, you’ve been in the, in the culture in America for you know, a number of years you moved over to the states? Are you still a practicing physician?

Unknown Speaker 52:18
No. I in Russia, I, as I said, I went to surgery and I studied in Cancer Center for a number of years, I finished and I had the license of a physician surgeon in a cancer specialty. And then I started PhD program and also being in my residency, I been involved in exchange program with Yale. And I’ve been here in 2000 2000 to one. And once I started PhD program, I didn’t really like the subject. But there was no subject by my professor, I didn’t want to relocate within Russia to new city or town. Because my parents lived. I mean, you know, connection between parents and the way as people live in Russia, they rarely move a lot. If they’ve been born in one place, they try to go maybe to a bigger city in the same district. They rarely go from your region to Moscow, from Moscow to the Far East, from Far East to Kaliningrad, or to St. Petersburg, they don’t do it. It’s just like, you kind of feel that your connections are important. And it’s it’s difficult to create deep connection to find people who will help you. And connections are very important. Russia, I should mention that it still it was true before it’s still true now. And I here, I came back for two reasons like my third time to continue my and look for new way of for my say new subjects for science. And I found interesting projects on biology at Yale. But I wish to have it connected to clinical medicine. Then the second thing being faculty in Russia, I’ve been involved in creation of guides and books on surgery. So I did illustrations, not many. I tried to prepare but you know I didn’t want to show it because that’s what looks scary when you have like part of the stomach on one side and there is a knife going how you need to cut it in the stitches yeah and so on. But I’ve been involved in ATL again, it’s a big university. I spoke to a couple of people whom I knew they came to khazana to Russia to us before they’ve been in medical illustration that maybe I will go that way as well. Or at least we’ll get involved because for my scientific research, I will need again that. A third way was just to go maybe to clinical medicine and I couldn’t wait long. I didn’t have many connections here and The easiest way for me was to revise my, like nursing degree because I had one from Russia. That’s the way how it goes after this third year of medical school, you can start working as a nurse, if you had experience, you kind of can go and get automatically into that job, even though it’s different from doctors, of course. But it’s still the same patients, it’s just different side of the team. And I got the license, I took exams, and I will start preparing for medical exams. Over the years, I passed all exams, all clinical skills, clinical knowledge, of course, all foundational pre medical exams. So I went through a program of medical school twice. And then, over the years, my artistic career was growing faster. And also, I like technology. And I started teaching and now I mean, our cameras, iPhones, everything is so amazing. And then COVID came, so teaching distantly, became an option. And I thought, if I now go to medical field, I will start thinking, have I earned enough for retirement? My family probably will not see me for first 10 years. Do I want that lifestyle? Some part of the time when you don’t have kids and you still do residency? It was missed? I said, Oh, well, I do not usually regret I do not regret about those hours, days, weeks years of studying medicine, because coming from another country, if you know, medical field, they still feel much more comfortable. Because you know, even when you go to plein air with, with with your students, and somebody gets hurt, you know, I mean, as a doctor, I know, when I have to bring this person to er, even without treatment, but you know, initial triage is very important. Or we can just get the pain medication, a little bit of massage or kind of immobility.

Unknown Speaker 57:16
Yes. And also, I learned and it’s the same in Russia, here, of course, as well, physicians have respect. When I’ve been here first time, one of the friends of my physician, his infectious disease doctor, he said, you know, he told me like after my first visit, he said, You need to go and apply maybe to scholarship, for scholarship and in Rhode Island School of Design, and you will do groups and do workshops. And if you say that you’re a doctor, people will have much higher respect to you, they will feel more confident coming going with you painting outdoors, so they feel much more protected. And it’s it took years before this happened. But that was so true. I feel, I always remember it was 15 or 18 years ago.

Eric Rhoads 58:08
So you have been making your living as an artist primarily then and teaching.

Unknown Speaker 58:14
Yes, about three years ago, I four years ago, I switched totally. I was speaking hours working in the hospital during the peak of COVID. I mean, when we had the COVID 2020. Starting Yes, March. So I’ve been called from hospital, I did not advance my medical career over the special Simon team RM. And I work on different floors. And but I’m drifting towards from 98% of my time of art 200% of my time with art. But teaching is a big part of it. I would like to say if we have time, a few words about teaching, interesting teaching.

Eric Rhoads 59:02
Young but I’m gonna go and keep going because it’s so fascinating.

Unknown Speaker 59:06
Thank you. I have seen a number of artists who teach and they don’t kind of feel like teaching not here like even in Russia and say, did you have a bad teachers? And so they say no, I had a fabulous teacher, let’s say many of them said they had a cougar which was spent on academic monitors and coming there but I cannot teach. I don’t like teaching. I do not try to kind of explain them or trying to figure out why they don’t but I feel that I like it. And not because I want to show that I’m better and I like to be a mentor. I’d rather to be a coach. And working as a physician working as a nurse I realized how important what you say to the patient during the treatment, even before treatment During the treatment and after discharge, because we deal with a, with a human being, and you should kind of put aside maybe some emotions or maybe to be more positive, to encourage your client, your patient to take study, if you truly believe that it will work. And each patient has individual approach, because they come with of different age with different problems, you never have to think one way everyone have fever, like in the winter. So this is this is flu know the person, your 11th patient or 13 patient could have. I don’t know, the peritonitis. And that’s the reason why person has and if you will think they take more fluids go home, and this person will die at home. From the problem, you always have to have fresh mind. And that’s one thing. Second thing the way off. When you study medicine, you go first as a student and you work with insurance, then you work with residents, then you work with attending. So knowledge gets passed. And I think once you learn something important, you have to share that your social role. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t really seem important, will you make money or not, but you will save someone’s life, you will save someone’s time. So I mean, giving back what you’ve been lucky to get sharing it with other people, it was all taught through medical field. And I like sharing it I’m always when I when I teach for me, it doesn’t matter if, if if I work with some students take more time than with others. I will. For me, the main thing is a result if everyone got better. So my function my my way of teaching was was right. And that is why I spend a lot of time with my students. And if I when I do workshops, I don’t take more than 10 At least when I do it in my studio, or if it’s outdoors, around my studio in Connecticut.

Eric Rhoads 1:02:10
So I want to kind of fast track into a couple other areas. First off, I’d love to know, some of the Russian paintings, the people who inspired you most what, what would those be?

Unknown Speaker 1:02:24
You’ll be surprised that the first touch to art, if we don’t talk about the having art books and albums at home. We I’ve been lucky having it because my my father, he was willing to be an artist, but he could not really afford that because he was my grandfather was a political prisoner. And he was he was not executed admittedly, but he was placed to jail in 1937 at the end and my father was born in the beginning of 1938. So he never seen my dad never seen his dad. And so he was during Stalin’s time when my dad was graduating from school could go to art college, he could not really get the government support, at least for art supplies or to have a place to stay. And in Curzon, so he went there and then after half of a year like lack of money, lack of food, so he came back to regular school finished and became an engineer. But anyway, there is a story that my dad on one of the first dates with my mom, he was late because he went painting plein air. So she went in play on Volga River across the voyage took ferry he went it started raining and he looked like yesterday time when they agreed to meet is coming. And he went down and the ferry left like 10 minutes earlier so he was late. So he came on next fairy back to to the day then he was like almost hour late. And mom she she probably been waiting and she tried to kind of like, not wait him like for that long. And but but then yes, a couple of days later, so my dad explained why he was late and he was free. He was forgiven. So plein air was part of my family stories. And we had library we had also encyclopedia. Like Britannica, it was 50 volumes like over 1000 pages, very thin paper with good illustrations. I could see this paintings of European and Russian and Soviet art since my childhood. But I would like to mention that book of rational Language and Literature during Soviet time and I think and I hope it’s still the same way now at the end had about couple of dozens of the color illustrations. And that’s been different painting some still lives, a lot of landscapes, and of course some On repainting, and that was to provoke in every student, some imagination, storytelling, and we had to write essays, of course essay, then on the beginning of the year was how I spent the summer. But some essays been exactly based on painting, they would say, this is Levertov golden fall. So, like, by the end of the week, you need to write a say. And I would say, first book, where you see, great Russian art was the book of Russian Language and Literature in elementary school,

Eric Rhoads 1:05:34
every student and every student saw,

Unknown Speaker 1:05:37
yes, every students saw and these paintings became, I mean, so well recognizable. And I would say, first, and most important painting artists, for me, it was of course, Isaac Levitan because his he had that such a balance of this storytelling, his very, like, thin, thin, very fragile, Soul organization. So which we know from some information from letters of the Anton Chekhov, who was a friend of Levittown, and he was his physician. So his, some of them are very positive, some of them are very sad. He was almost like a drama man. Yes. And he really picked the essence of a Russian landscape, even though he was ethnically not Russian, and never was Orthodox Christian. He was, he was a Jew, and he was born actually in the area, which is not part of Russia anymore. It’s now it’s Lithuania. Yes. And I would say paintings of leather tan, not particular one, but all of them together for me became that, that like a star, which I could really always turn up to, like, check my direction, if I want to. I mean, when I chose to my landscape to be as my main direction, there is, there is no wrong way of looking at Levittown. So works, not to copy him, but to understand and trying to understand thing, as the Scott Christiansen said, so this art is great. You first you, you, you kind of every time after every painting you created, you kind of check and go and judge your art and trying to try to look at your own paintings. If you were you had the teacher as LeBreton

Eric Rhoads 1:07:44
Would you would you look at Levittown as the as the best landscape artist of all time.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:51
As per my perception, I think in art, it’s I know it’s very It’s very popular idea. Yes. LeBreton is the best Russian artists he was recognized like that during his life. And of course, through the all 20 century I don’t think there was any moment even during the Soviet time when some artists could go or any musician go from the being favorite to not to go favorite because Stalin said You know, it’s there is no idea in this art. And then everyone say yes, there is no idea. And it was support that not to argue with with a style so and, and

Eric Rhoads 1:08:37
what about rep and rep and Sarah off are also considered, you know, among the best, I was gonna take our group to Eber meso which is where a lot of those people hung out for the summer and painted and, and a lot of the paintings that that they did were painted their rep and was more known for his figure work and his and his portrait work. But yeah, and I think so was saref but they were also very good landscape painters.

Unknown Speaker 1:09:13
Yes, of course, to be good landscape artists, at least to work like I’m very well good, professional way. You need to have those fundamentals. Even, of course, like, like Sargent, you know, he did watercolors, he did oils, he did portraits he did, he had landscapes as well. So once you have that foundation, it’s all just matter of your interest, and reppin if we talk about not landscape artists, but rather artists who did genre painting, there are a number of Russian artists of their time in very famous Surikov after whom was called the that or At school in, in Moscow, and I mean, Doremi, Surya, the foreign minister, litski, they all been very good. But I would say among all of genre paint painters, I would say rappin is the best, and the piece portraits are amazing. So, uh, he had that quality of the brushstroke, he had that feeling of composition, which really, I mean, it’s really hard to say what’s wrong there, it’s dynamically interesting, you know, where the focal point, you feel it, you don’t need to know it, you you know, it, it guides you. So self, not freely, but you know, certainly you, you come, you read this painting, and then you can come back and see even more. So idea is quite simple and clear. At the same time it’s created, if you look at the amount of work, like it’s a lot of work, but being so talented, he was making it fast, you

Eric Rhoads 1:10:57
think that the composition that they teach in Russia is different than the composition we teach here? You know, we tend to be focused on the golden mean, or on the dare I say, tic tac toe board, you know, the, the intersection of the lines for composition, is that how they taught composition in Russia?

Unknown Speaker 1:11:19
I would say no, I think graphical art, illustration and composition, taught very well in America. Again, illustration was so well developed here, it gave so many good artists and it’s actually was, it’s made America to have probably the biggest amount of books published in the world, having not only photographs before photographs, even now for kids children’s book, there are so many talented illustrators work to create them, I don’t think there are there is a big difference. It’s all I think comes from maybe from the French School of Art, the golden ratio, and these big shapes, values, it’s all universal. Russian school has different matter of the subject. Some of them just typical for Russia, some of them just the selection of them and composing them together, I really, and also the preservation of the way as it was painted. So painting still should look like a painting. feel there is a theory of the brushstroke. It should be loose, and it should be controlled. It should be not too many, not too few. And I’m trying to solve it and translate that into the way I could teach it here as well. I don’t want to show it as a mystery. There is a there is a mound of mystery probably exists there. But some artists in Russia, they would say like, you know, I started for 18 years and you are studying for three years what you want. Kind of how I mean, I don’t and it sounds formula like these people even don’t remember how I learned to do this. And then they say it’s a simple rules, but they cannot explain how it’s happening. My again, scientific and medical background tells me that part, the big part of this mystery could be solved. So I’m, when I teach, I also learn because I go deeper to study a world art and Russian art in specific, I think I’m very lucky that in Russia through that second half, I would say second half of 19th century and 20 century, there was a lot made to develop that style. And it’s still a lot to learn from Unfortunately, many artists say that it’s hard to preserve that type of realism. It’s not true realism. It’s I mean, what they call realism sometimes in the world, it’s something which like an photographic realism.

Eric Rhoads 1:14:21
Yeah. But many variations

Unknown Speaker 1:14:25
do yes, the rational realism is different. It’s just feels that you you feel more than just objects you feel or have it you feel air, and it’s complex thing. And it’s it’s a simple thing and like saying less you say more, all that kind of concepts. They’re all coded into paintings, and how it’s coded. Many artists cannot explain because they studied for so long. And when they’ve been studying they did not teach B Because when artists start studying and studying for himself or herself, and learn it and they start teaching it, maybe it’s, it’s a good time to kind of realize what you learned, while somebody is learning. Yes, 20 years, they don’t really put this all experience together to convert it into the, something which they can teach.

Eric Rhoads 1:15:23
You also learned by copying, I think, which is wonderful, I want to mention that you’ve got a great video out where you teach a lot of the principles that you’ve you’ve accumulated over the years, it’s called it It seems simple, it’s called landscape painting and four steps, but it really gives you the essence of, of Russian painting and, and what you’ve acquired there, and then, and then picked up and learned since then. So that’s available at paint We are way over time, and we probably should wrap it up. But you know, you’re fascinating, we have so much, you’ve got a lot to offer. And I’m anxious to go painting with you and to see you and pick up this conversation another time. Because I could, you know, as you can tell, I could talk Russia all day. It’s it’s such a wonderful culture. And I would encourage everybody who is who is listening or viewing for those of you watching it, to really check out some of the artists if you wanted to give them a list of, you know, a few artists to check out so they could study them and maybe copy them just try to try to emulate a little and learn from copying. Who would you who would you tell them to look at?

Unknown Speaker 1:16:45
I think I mentioned my favorites. It’s when you study, cupping is important. It’s also important to what sits under those layers of paint as well what preparation was done. And it’s very hard to find those studies which were preserved. Many of them sometimes get shown in shows and haven’t seen book which would say Russian pain, I mean reptans paintings and his studies and his sketches. I would say if you look at live at times paintings, you see different stages of his career, he was painting very natural in the beginning, which was like almost coming from romanticism. And then he turns to be to his probably the peak of development. And then closer to the end of his life. He had some health issues that he died at the age of 39, from the word dilation or coarctation, one of those conditions. And he probably couldn’t go much to plein air painters, and he did very quick studies. But that’s interesting, because you can study his later works maybe first and then go backward.

Eric Rhoads 1:18:11
So we’re highly developed.

Unknown Speaker 1:18:14
Yes. And then when you go to his when he was in his 30s, or like, maybe light, late 20s his style, which is my favorite, which is complex enough and simple enough. And then also, of course, you can go if you want to go more to realistic and photorealistic approach you go to his early works well, he was just out of the Academy of a non Academy he started in school. So that’s interesting phenomenon. In the portrait twice. Again, the best one is rapping, he was drawing every day, hours and hours. He was practicing even though he was very famous, he probably knew that he can draw, but he had to preserve it as he still had the feeling that he needed to grow as an artist and because you need to get ready for when you switch to your next level of career. And you will never know when and how it will happen. You just have to search for it. That’s the art you have to develop what to do.

Eric Rhoads 1:19:15
Well, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for being a part of the plein air podcast. It’s fascinating. We’ll take another in the future we’ll talk about your medical perspective on plein air painting and the things to to avoid. Watch out for because you know there’s some safety issues that we all want to be careful about. I’m not talking about about a wasp stings or bee stings but the materials themselves, but that will save that for another time. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It’s been fascinating and you are a terrific guest.

Unknown Speaker 1:19:50
My pleasure. And thank you Eric having me and also I’m very happy to speak to a wide audience through your show. Thank you

Eric Rhoads 1:20:00
Oh, you’re very welcome. Thank you. And all right. So thank you so far and we are wrapping up the interview. You can reach him at on Instagram @zufar_studio, on Facebook Zufar studio, YouTube Zufar Bikbov, and his website is So check that out and make sure that you look at his work and also if you look at You can find his video four steps to landscape painting, which is absolutely phenomenal, really will get a lot out of that. So check that out at All right, let’s get into the marketing minute.

Announcer 1:20:49
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 1:21:01
The marketing minute is all about answering your art marketing questions. And because I prefer to give you what you want rather than just what I think although I’ll give a guarantee. I’ll give you what I think. Amandine, What’s our first question.

Amandine 1:21:16
Our first question is from Betty from Arkansas. Eric, how should oil painters put together a portfolio to present to galleries?

Eric Rhoads 1:21:26
All right, well, I am gonna, I’m gonna dodge that question for just a second and kind of talk about something else. First off. In terms of a portfolio, I’m assuming that someone has requested that you show a portfolio. And if someone has requested it, then ask them specifically what they would like to see. But here’s the deal. And art gallery would like to see in person paintings, they want to see your work, they want to see if your work is consistent. I’ve heard many, many a gallery owner told me you know, I saw a painting from an artist, I was very interested in that artist. And I went to their website, and I looked it over. And that was the best painting of the bunch. And it was inconsistent. And the subject matter was all over the map. And the the style was all over the map, you want to look for a way to be consistent. If I were a gallery owner, and I’ve had gallery owners told me this, that they also want to make sure that you’ve got a body of work, you know, if if you’re going to sell and remember their job is to sell they, they want to help people find something that they love. But if if they sell a painting of yours, they’d like to be able to sell a second and a third and a 40th and 50th and 100. And so you want to make sure that you’ve established a body of work, and you can give a gallery, what they need, and you need to have that dialogue with them. You know, assuming this is successful, how many paintings do you think you’re going to need a year? And what sizes and and you could even go in and ask what subject matter although I think you should paint what you love, and they should pick you for painting what you love. The bigger question is getting into an art gallery. And I think the issue with that is that, you know, it’s a very complicated subject. It’s one of the most asked questions, I go into depth on it. In my art marketing video series. I’ll be talking about it a little bit in the art Marketing Bootcamp on stage at the plein air convention coming up in in a couple of weeks. And also, I should mention that art Marketing Bootcamp for the first time ever will be streamed online as part of the package for the streaming package of the plein air convention if you go to the website, their But the idea here is that gallery owners have told me, many gallery owners have told me that even though they make their living from artists that artists oftentimes are the biggest pests. If you can imagine I was with a gallery owner in New York one time. And he was he said, Do you mind if I open email? I opened mail while I’m talking to you. I said sure it’s okay. And so he’s opening packages and throwing them in the wastebasket. He finally said, What are you doing? He says, Well, I get about 500 submissions a year. And you know, probably, you know, maybe more than that 1020 a month, he says so I just opened the envelope peek in and then I throw it away. He says, you know, very rarely do I find anything that I like he said, quite frankly, I wish they’d stopped sending this stuff. But you know that people are contacting galleries all the time. You know, can I be in your gallery? The best thing is you want to figure out a way to get invited in now I go into depth in that in some of my training. But the idea is ask yourself, what are five things I could do to get invited into the gallery? Who do I know that’s in that gallery? What can I do to help them start seeking me out? And I’ve had a lot of Maya advertisers in Fine Art connoisseur or plein air magazine tell me that they get calls from gallery owners. I also know a gallery manager who said to me, you know, he had a fake E, fake account for Facebook and Instagram. And that he would use that so that he could watch what’s happening. He said, I’ll watch an artist for sometimes five or seven years before I realized that they’re ready to come into the gallery. And so just know that people are always watching you. So whatever you put online, you better make sure that you, you’re putting your best work out there. Because if you’re putting half finished work or things that are not good, or, or even, you’re showing progress shots, which I don’t particularly recommend, unless you’re really well established, because otherwise, you know, people are going to see that and think it’s finished because nobody reads anything they’re going to judge you based on on what they see. And as a result, you know, you might be hurting yourself. Anyway, I hope that answers that question for Betty in Arkansas. Next question, Ahmed.

Amandine 1:26:02
The next question is from Chantel Dupree from Canada. Should we do discounts on our artwork, even with discounts, I’m not selling but I put up old beginner paintings for free and this sold within an hour.

Eric Rhoads 1:26:20
Well, Chantel in Canada, I got shivers a golfer, you know, when you were giving away your paintings for free I, by the way, I don’t have a problem with that. I mean, I know Barbara tap is a very accomplished watercolor artist has been giving away paintings to people because she’s, she’s not interested in selling stuff in the in the money, but she’s interested in making people happy. I think that’s wonderful. But if you’re going to be selling paintings, giving them away may or may not be the best practice, you’ll have to decide that. But you know, setting prices is always a big question. People always want to know it. Pricing is a beginner is always tough, because you know, nobody knows who you are. Branding makes a huge difference. If you know, the question is, is a is a Mercedes a better car than a Hyundai? Probably, but maybe not. Maybe it’s all perception, right? Or is a is a Lexus a better car than a Toyota? When they’re made by the same organization? Yes, it’s a better car. But it all kind of is about brand. You know, I in my art Marketing Bootcamp, I talked one time about a Bentley. At the time, I don’t know if the numbers still hold up. But at the time it cost. Bentley was made by BMW in the latter years, or has been and it costs $18,000 more to produce a Bentley than a BMW. And it’s essentially the same chassis and a lot of the same working parts that you don’t see. And then you know, it’s all the stuff that makes it look prettier. And some of the performance but not much, that makes it a 200 $250,000 car. versus, you know, $100,000 car. So I you know, a lot of it is perception. So keep in mind that when you want to get your prices up, you need to start thinking about building your brand. And that’s a lifetime activity, that’s takes some time. But branding yourself, really makes a difference. Because people if they have a choice between two paintings, they’re gonna go for the one that is the most known brand. And also, when it’s a known brand, the price usually goes up. Not always, but typically, I’ve had stories that I’ve told about people at art shows who have torn up checks because it wasn’t a $4,000 That was a $4,000 painting, not a $40,000 painting, therefore, it couldn’t be good, you know, price sets a tone price, you know, if you’re the most expensive thing in the marketplace, then it sets the tone, it says this must be good. And there are people out there that are have a mindset that they want the very, very best and, and if it’s the most expensive, sometimes they think it’s the best. You know, sometimes the thing about art is that, you know, it’s very subjective, you know, if you love it, and it’s also a high price and you want a high price, you’re gonna pay for it. So, you know, it’s not always about the most accomplished painting it should be, but it’s not. And so that’s kind of how this stuff goes. So, you know, I always also believe never discount unless you’re getting something in return. That’s an old sales principle. But the idea is, yeah, I’ll give you a discount on this. But if I give you a discount, I need you to do something for me. What would that be? Well, you have to think that on your feet You know, it might be I need you to, to send out an email to some friends about this new painting you acquired or I need you to make an introduction or, I, I’ll sell you this painting at a discount if you buy this one at the full price, or, you know, yeah, there’s a lot of different finagling, things that you can do that are perfectly legitimate, unethical, that will help you down the road. So again, you’re gonna have to learn about pricing, you know, you have to establish a customer base, ultimately, because customers oftentimes become collectors. I’m big on the idea of, do you want fries with that, in other words, an upsell or cross sell the idea of when you go to McDonald’s, they say, do you want fries with that, because that’s an extra dollar that they’re getting, you know, and typically, someone who buys a painting of yours that they love, they would probably be willing to buy a second or a third or fourth, or fifth or a 10th. And that may happen over time, I have had that happen. I had one collector bought one of my paintings that led him to buy five additional paintings at a fairly substantial price I’ve had others tell me that they’ve had somebody walk in and and buy, you know, five or 10 paintings on the spot, you know, you just never know what you’re going to encounter. So the other thing is, discounting is about insecurity. I’m going to repeat that discounting is about your insecurity. It’s like, Well, I wouldn’t pay this much money for this. And it’s because you’re insecure. But you know, we don’t all live the way that everybody else lives. Right? So if, if we live the way we live, and there’s somebody else who flew into town in their, in their Gulfstream, and they rode, you know, a limousine or a Bentley or something over to the gallery, and for them spending $150,000 is like us pulling a 10 out of our pocket, then, you know, they think differently. So don’t be so insecure, and don’t be in such a hurry to lower prices, because you ask yourself, Am I lowering? Because I’m insecure? And the answer usually is yes, I would say that the majority of artists that I know across the world are underpricing their work and could be getting a lot more money for it if they would just try it. That’s I’m just saying, okay, that’s the art marketing minute.

Announcer 1:32:32
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at

Eric Rhoads 1:32:39
A reminder that we’re all going to meet at the pace convention live and in person in Santa Fe, on the 17th of May through the 20th. We have unstaged demos, outdoor painting, and it’s a lot of fun. But if you can’t attend in person, at least attend online, which is less expensive. And you have replays and you get some bonuses with that. So check that out at Also join me in the Adirondacks, this summer, this June, we’re going to be painting together about 100 of us, we paint all day, every day, a couple of places. It’s easy to get to and you’re going to need a car or you’re going to need to room with somebody or borrow you know, ride with somebody who’s got a car that’s at And, of course, what else do I have, oh, I paint New Zealand, we, we want to make sure that we remember I’m going to take a group to New Zealand in September, thick, my wife’s gonna go along. And we’re gonna go paint and see the unbelievable scenery. And we can only take 50 people because we have a limited space on the boat. We’re going to be taking a boat to paint Milford Sound. And it’s an overnight trip. And so we only have so many rooms. And so that limits the trip. I could have probably last trip I could have sold 200 people. And so I don’t know, I don’t know off the top of my head. No, but I know at least we’re at least 50% sold out and maybe a little bit more, probably a little bit more. So check it out of And if you’ve not seen my blog where I talk about life and art and other such things, it’s called Sunday coffee with me, Eric Rhoads and you can find it at and then you can subscribe there for free. Also, I’m on the air daily on Facebook. My show is called Art School live and we have hundreds of artists demonstrations. It’s noon Eastern every weekday. And of course you can subscribe on YouTube by searching streamline art or and hitting the subscribe button or you can subscribe on Facebook. And please, please, please, please, I’m begging you please follow me on Instagram. Because that would be cool. That way I can see your stuff too. All right, it’s at Eric Rhoads. Well, that’s it. It’s been a really terrific time. It’s been fun. Zufar has got an incredible background and it was really fun listening to him. Thank you for listening to the plein air podcast and remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it.

This has been the plein air podcast with PleinAir Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.