PleinAir Podcast 197: Gene Costanza, From Officer to Artist
Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads. In this episode Eric interviews former police sergeant Gene Costanza, who shares the serendipitous experiences – and hard work – that helped him become the artist he is today.
Two Quotes from Gene Costanza:
“It’s a great time to be an artist. There’s so much information and inspiration and access.”
His bottom line: “Paint hard. Life is short.”
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, shares why it’s important to network, and how to do so; and thoughts on how to leverage your artist statement.
Listen to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads and Gene Costanza here:
“Shrimper” by Gene Costanza
– Gene Costanza online: https://www.genecostanza.com/
– Watercolor Live: https://watercolorlive.com/register-now
– Eric Rhoads on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericrhoads/
– Eric Rhoads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.rhoads
– Sunday Coffee: https://coffeewitheric.com/
– Plein Air Salon: https://pleinairsalon.com/
FULL TRANSCRIPT of this PleinAir Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
Eric Rhoads 0:00
This is episode number 197. Today we’re featuring artist Gene Constanza.
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 0:55
Thank you Jim Kipping. And welcome to the Plein Air Podcast. This seems like it’s the year that’s flying by it’s hard to believe it’s the end of November already. If you’re listening to this as it’s being released on time today, the deadline is today for the Plein Air Salon this month. The November Plein Air Salon, just make sure you get your best painting centered at pleinairsalon.com before midnight on the 30th if not get them done for for December. And today is the last day to save $200 on our January event worldwide watercolor event called Watercolor Live. It’s a virtual online conference with the best watercolor artists in the world teaching we got them from all over the world teaching. And we have people signed up from 20, 30 countries already. Sign up for for it at watercolor live and save 200 bucks if you get it before the end of November. Also a reminder, we’re all going to be gathering and celebrating plein air together it’s going to be a sell out for sure. We are already 1000 people before we had to cancel the Plein Air Convention. So I would imagine we’re going to hit that number pretty quickly as we get closer as long as we’re all allowed out and everybody feels safe. And if not of course we’ve got a refund policy that you can get your money back. But we think it’s going to happen. You want to sign up though before Valentine’s Day because the price is going up on Valentine’s Day it would make a great Christmas gift. Just go to pleinairconvention.com. Speaking of plein air, the new magazine Plein Air Magazine comes out this week and look for it on the newsstands Barnes and Noble it’s number one there look for it at Michaels just or you can subscribe at pleinairmagazine.com. Also, there’s a preview of it this week in Plein Air Today’s newsletter. All right, 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 our interview with Gene Constanza. Gene Constanza Welcome to the Plein Air Podcast.
Gene Costanza 2:56
Hey, Eric, thank you for the invitation.
Eric Rhoads 2:59
Oh, man, I’m happy to have you this is going to be great.
Gene Costanza 3:03
I’m always happy to.
Eric Rhoads 3:06
I oftentimes try to think about when did I first meet somebody? I’m just trying to think about when you and I first met I know we both went to a private event that Scott Christensen held years ago where everybody went hunting. I’m not a hunter, so I kind of just went painting but was that the first time we met? I know we connected on a deeper level there if we hadn’t met there for the first time.
Gene Costanza 3:29
No, actually I do recall when we met we met in Santa Fe. You went out to judge an art show planar New Mexico. I was in a little gallery there. Your magazine was really pretty new pretty early in it. And we drove up to David the film studio and sure McGraw studio. You and I went up and we met them you met David we went out to lunch to have their studio and and I remember I got to meet Sherrie McGraw and introduce myself and she said I know all about Gene Costanza from Scott Christensen. I’m gonna have lunch with you anyway. And so that was I’ve had a chance to hang out with her a couple times system was delightful.
Eric Rhoads 4:20
Like they are delightful loyalty. They care so much about everybody and doing the right thing for people. I had read I remember that, but I didn’t remember it in that order. And in other words, I I wasn’t sure when we had that dinner or when we had that lunch.
Gene Costanza 4:37
Yeah, I remember it was quite a while. I think I don’t even I’m not sure if your kids had been born yet or not. I don’t remember that. But it’s been a while.
Eric Rhoads 4:47
Yeah, it has been a while. Well, time flies when you’re having fun right?
Gene Costanza 4:52
Sure does. Your youngest are like graduating from high school, aren’t they?
Eric Rhoads 4:57
They’re actually in college now. Yeah. first year of college. So how did this whole painting thing begin for you, Gene? Because you had another career before all of this.
Gene Costanza 5:08
I did. I had kind of a mid career, I always wanted to be an artist. I used to get in trouble a lot at school because instead of listening, I’d be drawing. Like a lot of artists.
Eric Rhoads 5:19
I know. We have that in common.
Gene Costanza 5:21
Yeah, be drawing in class. And I remember one time the teacher picked up my paper to see what was going on and explain to the class what, or math thing was, and another bunch of Civil War soldiers battling it out order. So I get in trouble again. But I always wanted to be an artist. I studied a little bit in junior college in the early 70s. And then I just hung it up, I went to talk to a professor at the University. And he said, If you really want to be an artist, you got to go to New York City. Well, I didn’t know a lot about New York City. But I was 18. I thought, it doesn’t sound like a good plan for me at this point in my life. And I literally walked away from it, I thought would be really dramatic through all my drawings in a fire and burn them up. And oh, no, put them put all my supplies in a closet of a rental that we were moving out. I just walked away and went to find something else to do. And ended up ended up at a karate store, or Taekwondo studio. We call it the karate store. And I met a bunch of cops. And one day my teacher came in and said, Hey, you want to beat us in cops? Today? Who doesn’t? He goes, Well, come on. Once you meet these guys, we play nice. And so we went in and I met three guys, and we sparred for about three hours. And they were the greatest guys. They were so much fun. And there’s all still friends to this day. So I ended up getting hammered with the idea of doing police work. And it was pretty hard. But I got hired and spent the next 26 years in police work. Wow. And during that time, I always wanted to be an artist to paint I’ve always been enamored with, like, Rembrandt self portrait that hangs in the National Gallery, always one of my favorite paintings. You look into the eyes of that painting. And you see in this guy, he’s been dead for hundreds of years. I always was fascinated with that. And I wanted to paint but, I didn’t know where to go to get instruction. I didn’t know if I had the, the wherewithal to stick to it and really study as hard as we now know it takes to be any good. So I thought about it for years. How long? How would I paint that I would have painted out and paint that. But I didn’t do any artwork. for 23, 24 years, I think maybe 20. Sometimes it’s hard to remember back that far.
Eric Rhoads 8:16
Yeah, I get it.
Gene Costanza 8:21
Yeah, I got promoted to sergeant. And they sent me to a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. And on the one hour, I walked around the mall, and I walked into what I think was Trailside Gallery. I didn’t know people actually painted representationally anymore. And I walked in and there was this massive Grand Canyon painting. And it floored me. And I was going, Oh, I wonder if I grown up enough now to stick to stick to it and work hard enough.
Eric Rhoads 8:52
Who did it? Was it? Curt Walters or who wasn’t?
Gene Costanza 8:55
Might have been? I don’t know. I was so new. I didn’t even know people still painted stuff. Right? But it was big. And it was in Trailside. So it might have been Curt Walters I thought about that. And I just don’t know, I didn’t know anybody. But that started that led was like lighting the fuse.
Eric Rhoads 8:56
I thought you were gonna say you wandered into the Scottsdale Artist School and saw somebody giving classes.
Gene Costanza 9:21
I wish, I didn’t even know it was there. I just walked around at lunchtime, all of sudden, boom, there it is. Big Grand Canyon painting. That kind of lit the fuse.
Eric Rhoads 9:31
You know that happens I hear that story a lot in different forums is it’s oftentimes a single painting is the stimuli behind somebody deciding this is this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
Gene Costanza 9:49
Can I can well imagine and nowadays with, I mean, this was pre internet. And so but nowadays with the proliferation of information I can welcome as people would really want to be an artist, and it’s a great time to be an artist, there’s so much information and inspiration and access to. And you see images and why I want to try that. That’s, sort of what have made I. And then, shortly thereafter, my mom came to visit at Christmas. And she shows up from a garage sale, and she’s got boxes of old paints and brushes and an easel. And she was I just saw these, I just thought I’d leave them here. I’m going to school. She was always a great supporter of mine. always thought I was wonderful. In my drawing, even if I did get in trouble.
Eric Rhoads 10:46
Perfect timing all that material showed up. So did you just start self self teaching or what happened then?
Gene Costanza 10:54
Well, I was trying to find out, I started looking at a couple of magazines, at artist magazines out, way back in the olden days, and it was still around and I started going to bookstores and looking at at art books. Yeah, PBS had Helen Van Wake, watching her. And I went to the bookstore and I saw a book by this guy named David Lafell. And I looked at, I can’t believe people still paint like this. I didn’t have any idea that people still painted representational. So I started buying art books and looking and I call the, there was some local artists in Eugene, Northwest rendezvous guys, Tom Browning was there. Don (prej tail). And guys who had seen their work around a little bit in a couple of galleries downtown. I called Don (press sale). He’s He’s not a good friend. I called him and said, Will you teach me how to paint? He said, No. I said, Okay, how do I learn to paint? He goes, Well, you learn to paint by painting. That’s it. Okay. I’ll try that. Can I come see in your studio? He says, Yes. Come on down. So I went down. And he does a lot of historical art, right? military history and and I love that stuff. I’ve always loved military history.
Eric Rhoads 12:16
Yeah, drawing Civil War soldiers on your math paper.
Gene Costanza 12:22
Exactly. But I also knew that I would never do the research that it would take to be accurate. And so I started looking around for what I wanted to paint. And I love to figure out what to do more of it. I started last couple years and started doing a lot more life drawing and stuff. But I started I stumbled on in a magazine, this outdoor painting thing. And I thought, Wow, what a great thing to do. Because I love being outdoors. I played a lot of golf back then just get out of the house, get away from work. And I thought, wow, that’d be really cool to go places, paint outdoors. And in those days, I don’t sound like I’m some kind of Pioneer or anything. I just happened. I didn’t know anybody else that did it.
Eric Rhoads 13:10
Are you talking about Plein Air Magazine?
Gene Costanza 13:14
I don’t. I think this was a predecessor. I think it was artists magazine that I saw articles about Christensen and people.
Eric Rhoads 13:23
Yeah, because Plein Air is only only been around since 2004.
Gene Costanza 13:29
Yeah, yeah. Okay. No, these were just, they were previous magazines, but their articles about going outdoors. Yeah. Okay. And yeah, so I’ve done Wow, how cool would that be? I had no idea how to do it. Or what it would take I just thought it’d be kinda kind of complicated. Like I liked the idea that then when you’d have to explain to somebody what plein air means.
Eric Rhoads 13:54
And you still have to you still have to to a lot of people.
Gene Costanza 13:58
Okay. Yeah. Well, anyway, yeah. I just stumbled on that. It’s kind of going through what did I want to paint like still life but it wasn’t really floating my boat. And the idea of going places getting out of town. And painting outdoors really, really sparked my imagination, especially since I you know, I was in police work. And police work is nothing but conflict. It’s 24/7, 365 your whole career is nothing but conflict. And painting was a beautiful rest. A real mental break from the conflict except that you want it so bad or I wanted it so bad that I brought a lot of pressure to look kind of likened Well, I’ll get back to that because I started trying to try and start trying to paint outdoors. And then had the great fortunate circumstance of bumping into Scott Christensen and starting a conversation in an airport in Salt Lake City.
Eric Rhoads 15:17
Oh, you mean that was totally random?
Gene Costanza 15:20
Eric Rhoads 15:21
Tell me that story.
Gene Costanza 15:24
I had gone to play golf with a buddy of mine who is a doctor in in Utah, over in Salt Lake City in their Northwest rendezvous group was up having a show up in Park City, I thought, well, I can go up there and see some artwork because I knew they had met Tom (brownie) and Don (presh), the owner in the show, so play golf and went to the show. And then on the way back, I’m in the airport. And I knew that this guy named Scott Christensen was coming to Eugene to do a workshop, but it was already full. So I thought catching next time, because I’d seen his work in the magazines. And I thought it’d be kind of cool for Bob Gordon painting it. So he’s going going home, go to the airport and walk down to where the smaller planes are loading up. And there’s this guy sitting there. He’s got a French easel at that. And, I don’t like have a lot of conversations with strangers. But I asked him a question about it. We started talking. And I said, Oh, I know who you are. I didn’t notice him. But I knew about it, because I know who you are. You’re Christensen, and we started sitting there just talking to you guys up. Where are you coming back from? We talked about the North was rendezvous and, and all of a sudden, our planes were leaving, we’re running down the tarmac to get to the airplane. We started talking,
Eric Rhoads 16:42
You’re both on the same airplane.
Gene Costanza 16:45
Yeah, we were both on the same airplane going to Eugene. And he was going through the workshop. I was just going home. And so we’re running down the tarmac. I’m going it’s pretty cool. We get to the airplane and get on get our seats. And he came back and so I was a seat. Nice. Guy. So I said yes. Yeah, you bet. And I thought this is really pretty cool. And I had a magazine with me American Art Review or something, I think and we talk start talking about art and life and, and questions about family, and how kids and what I did for a living. And I thought, man, this case, that’s really, really good questions. He’s really pretty sheltered, is a deep thinker. He is always thinking, sometimes it amazes me. I don’t think his mind ever, ever shuts off. Now, we flew back to Eugene. Okay, well, we flew to Eugene. And I bumped into him at little art event later that week. And we talked and we bumped into each other a couple of times that week and, and just did really enjoyed a conversation. I called him. I called him a couple of weeks later, because I had a question. And I got a number from a mutual friend, the person that was putting on the workshops, and asked him a question. I don’t get it as well. I just got to show you something. I got a workshop in July out here. It’s full. But if you come out on come on out, you can get in. So my wife and I decided to go visit Jackson Hole for the first time.
Eric Rhoads 18:31
What a great story. I mean, you guys, you have a legendary friendship. You’re very close friends. And how fortuitous is that or happenstance, accidental magic, if you will, that you guys would meet in a situation like that.
Gene Costanza 18:49
Yeah, I think it was real gift from God. Absolutely. It happened. I don’t know if he carries his French he’s longer playing anymore. He can’t tell what will happen.
Eric Rhoads 19:00
Well, I don’t know if he uses a French easel or not. I have no idea … That’s a great story. So now you’re in a situation you’re learning to paint, you’re a little bit more into the painting thing. You’re still in police work. What’s the next step? How did you get to where you are now?
Gene Costanza 19:27
I continued to do policing as hard as I could. I was a new supervisor. I was always wanted to try my hand at leadership. I was a canine sergeant. And I was a dog handler and running the canine unit. But I also now really also and I love my job, my canine job. So just this job in the world, but I also really, really, really wanted to paint and so it was like two steps forward, one step back, continued to try to paint I’ve learned as much as I could went on lots of painting trips with Scott, get an invitation we did out to Santa Fe, Scottsdale a few times out now. So I take time off work to go paint. And it caused a little bit of friction at work, but I knew I wanted it so bad. And we go, we go paint and Scott would help Scott with the critique. And it’s a little intimidating to stand there when you don’t know anything to paint next to the guy that you think is like the best one of the best in the world. So it took a lot of time off work and just continued to paint. I knew it was gonna be hard. But I just decided I had quit once. I’m not going to quit again.
Eric Rhoads 20:53
Yeah, well, that’s the right attitude.
Gene Costanza 20:57
It’s, hard. It’s really hard. It’s kind of like everything else. It’s really a lot of fun and really rewarding. It’s just hard.
Eric Rhoads 21:06
What’s magical about it is, it may be hard, but unlike some things that are hard, that are not fun, it can be hard and still be fun.
Gene Costanza 21:17
Oh, yeah, as you know, at least you’re painting. You might be struggling, you’re painting. That’s true. And it has the lifestyle that I guess she has learned to fly fish. And so you paint and I know there’s a lot of a lot of plein air painters out there that that fly fish and hike and, boat and bike and stuff like that, well, you stand there painting and think about fly fishing, standard fly fishing, think about painting, and becomes part of a just a great lifestyle. And for me, getting away from the kind of work I did into that being totally absorbed in painting was a real was a real blessing. It is always felt like in the olden days, when I first started, I thought, plein air paintings kind of like being an a foot pursuit or a car chase a hot pursuit. And that everything depends on your prior planning, your training, your preparedness, your success or failure depends on what you bring to the game. It starts in, you only got you know, a short, it’s gonna be over an hour and a half. In the way I did it, you know, a one session type deal. I’ve come to expand my, my understanding a lot from the early understanding of it gets on like it’s on now. So it was a real intense, you know, intense pursuit. And you know, see what happens at the end.
Eric Rhoads 23:01
What, when will that be?
Gene Costanza 23:04
Oh, I missed like the end of the end of painting the end of a painting session.
Eric Rhoads 23:10
Okay. All right. I thought you meant the end of the end.
Gene Costanza 23:14
Well, never know. And he had a heart attack last night. I think about the end all the time. Oh, did
Eric Rhoads 23:20
Gene Costanza 23:21
I did. Yeah. That’s frightening. Yeah. It was. It was an interesting afternoon too.
Eric Rhoads 23:29
Well, I so this is a really good time to tell everybody to buy your paintings because they’re going to go up in value at some point. … Tell me essentially, you kind of went from you went from a hobbyist working another job, then you essentially when at some point you transitioned into selling your artwork, did you not? I did. And that was before you retired. So tell people tell people what you learned from that because I get that question all the time. Should I just quit my job and start you know, start becoming a full time artist. But what’s your best advice to them? What did you do?
Gene Costanza 24:20
I listened to Matt Smith and Kevin MacPherson who both told me Hey, like man, finish your career and then start selling your work or become a full time artist. And I listen to those guys and that’s what I did. I finished out I painted as hard as I could. I had my first gallery was here in Eugene. Oddly enough, I was on a SWAT call with my canine and after we had done an attic search full of tear gas and we found the guy and I went home to to get cleaned up before I went took my paintings down to the gallery So the gallery owner, and my back went out just because I had carried my dog or out of the attic. So not my back is out, but I got to go to the, to the gallery and show my paintings. So I loaded them up and got down there. And I didn’t care if I got rejected, because I just was not in pretty good shape.
Eric Rhoads 25:22
I know you probably weren’t exactly in the mood.
Gene Costanza 25:25
I wanted to share those paintings. And she said, I love them all and have a show for you. And so it was a successful day all around. So from that, I started searching around for galleries and kind of keep my ears and eyes open. A gallery owner in Carmel saw one of my paintings on a painting trip and asked me if I wanted to show there. And I did and started showing work in Carmel and just kept plotting one foot after another my, my next gallery and somebody saw my work in Sun Valley and answer some Valley and asked me if I wanted to show in Jackson Hole. So I did. My advice is to is to pursue it hard with your whole heart. And good things start to happen for those who are preparing, and put yourself in a position to to be seen.
Eric Rhoads 26:27
Well, you went through a process. And we all go through a process where and each of us goes through a different one. You now can look at that process and say, if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, or if I could advise someone who’s listening to this and saying, I want to take up this plein air thing. I want to take it to the next level. Tell us what you would do today, knowing what you know, now if you were giving them your best advice.
Gene Costanza 27:06
My best advice would be to not put out anything but your best paintings. Make a plan? Well, I put out some paintings that I really wish I had,
Eric Rhoads 27:20
but didn’t yet at the time at the time you put them out. Didn’t you think they were good?
Gene Costanza 27:28
I think you think so. I could do at the time. I think so.
Eric Rhoads 27:32
Well. I mean, that’s the thing is that we all go through this growth thing. And, I’ve told before I went into my gallery, and I and I wanted to vomit over some of the paintings that were in there. There were a few years old. And yet, then there and then there was somebody right there said, Oh, I love that I want to buy it. It’s like, well, it means something to somebody. But we you know, I mean, I would imagine you look back at something you painted a year ago and you’re not as happy with it as you would be something you painted today.
Gene Costanza 28:02
You’re absolutely correct. Okay. Yes, you’re absolutely correct.
Eric Rhoads 28:06
So don’t put in other words, if you know it’s not good, don’t put it out.
Gene Costanza 28:11
Yeah, that’s true. But don’t put it out. If you know it’s not good. You know, you’re not gonna be able to fake it. Somebody you’ll see through it. Just I think just work as hard as you can. And wait for some good things to happen to get a plan some some folks are better planners than I am. But don’t give up. Get some good teaching. Get some there’s so much information out there now get some good teaching, get some good information and don’t give up work hard…Think positive.
Eric Rhoads 28:54
I don’t think people really understand how much different it is today than that when you started it. You know when I mean? I started painting plein air because my wife was pregnant with the triplets. And I had to go outside because she couldn’t stand the smell of paint. At the time. I’m first off this is kind of pre Google and pre internet. I mean, it wasn’t pre internet, but it was there was really it was really tough to find things. And, you know, there weren’t this right now. I mean, there are hundreds of workshops, but there really weren’t all those workshops. There weren’t a lot of videos as certainly were no conventions. And now we have all these tools that are at our fingertips. I mean, you literally can sign on to something right now and be watching. We’ll be watching a video full length you know, 20 hour video in 10 minutes from now. And none of that was available then so you know, this is a different time you have no excuse for for not not jumping in and crushing it.
Gene Costanza 30:01
There’s definitely information out there. It’s a great time to be an artist. And there’s a lot of folks that, are buying art still. And so with that, I just think it’s great time young, the young guns that are that are now able to make a living in this business. really owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of pioneers that really hung on. Yeah, that’s really true all the time. really true. So we don’t take them for granted.
Eric Rhoads 30:32
I hope not to; who are some of those pioneers?
Gene Costanza 30:37
I think about games versus I think about Marcel, I think about my mind just went blank. But the New York crew, Bert Solomon, you know, the people that hung on? Yeah, I had no, my Go ahead. No, I’m glad my bookshelf. Oh, yeah.
Eric Rhoads 31:06
I had dinner with Dan Greene and his wife Wendy Caporale. About eight months before he died, maybe even a little less than that. And, and he was telling me the horrible things that they went through by being representational artist, you know, in the 50s, and 60s, trying to make it when modern art was just the bomb, and anything, anybody who was painting anything that looked like something, was completely out of Vogue and out of fashion, and, they had such a hard time making a living. And he said something that it really it really stuck with me. And that is that most of the artists who were doing what we did, sold out and switched and became modern artists, because it was about making a living. He said, For me, it was never about making a living. It was about doing what I was passionate about. And I just knew that if I was passionate about i’d figure out how to make a living.
Gene Costanza 32:12
Absolutely. I study a mission. glad you did. I had a chance to shortly after I got awakened again to art. You did a demo in Eugene, I got to sit and watching demo. And it floored me was just great. As I look over my shoulder. I got a Richard Schmidt book here. I don’t want to go on talking about heroes without mentioning. Mr. Schmidt. His contributions?
Eric Rhoads 32:41
Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, and most of these folks are, you know, they truly care about other people. I mean, they they really, Richard is a really great example of somebody who has really put everything his life on the line to teach. I mean, he could have done a lot of other things. And he’s just passionate about helping other people learn and grow as an artist, which I think is really fabulous. So what’s next for you? So you retired from police work about what five years ago?
Gene Costanza 33:12
No, I actually retired in 2004.
Eric Rhoads 33:14
Oh, you did? Wow. Way back, way back after
Gene Costanza 33:18
Yeah. Thanks, man. Thanks. It didn’t seem like that long ago. But 2004 and 26 years in. And I actually took a leave of absence. I was ready to transition. The art market was great. I took a leave of absence early. I had my time in but I wasn’t old enough. For my pension. I started painting as hard as I could. My wife was a consultant. So she would be out of town all week. So I I painted drove 14 hours a day, just like I had a real job. And it every five days a week and took the weekends off some. And I did that for a number of years. We know what happened in 2008. With our economy. Yeah. But at that time, thanks for smoking, so I kind of hit the ground running and had some great galleries and, and so I retired. So what’s next is to keep trying to make a good painting. Yeah.
Eric Rhoads 34:21
Well, that’s that’s the ultimate isn’t as hard now you said you’re doing some figure work and things like that now.
Gene Costanza 34:26
Yeah, my son is an artist. He draws a piece of story board artist in Hollywood, and taking up painting and so he and I went down to watch affiliate to do a workshop with Jeff Watson figure joined and I talked to Jeff on the phone. I said, Man, I haven’t done this since the 70s. He goes, come on down. You’ll be fine. And I just had the greatest time. Here’s another ever seen anybody. Oh yeah. He almost killed me doing so. Because he walks in his first guy there, he works all days Alaska out the door and his energy level, I tried to emulate that when I started teaching workshops. And the amount of energy he puts into giving his teaching was so inspiring. I’m being kidding about almost feeling because I tried to emulate it. And it was it was a hard act to follow.
Eric Rhoads 35:29
Yeah. Yeah. So well, some some people just happen to have the energy. I don’t know why, why some do. And some don’t.
Gene Costanza 35:38
Just love what he’s done there, where he’s developed and trained up as instructors and my son, and I’ve been back I think, to two or three times, and he’s gone back to the school.
Eric Rhoads 35:54
Well, that’s, that’s a terrific thing to do. Well, this is, this is always enlightening to learn about life as an artist did, how did COVID impact you positively or negatively?
Gene Costanza 36:10
Well, negatively, and that not a lot of travel going on. I happen to be really fortunate to live in a place we moved over here about a year and a half ago, where I can drive two minutes again, the National Forest. Wow. And so it hasn’t changed. Set except for watching your country and your world in turmoil. And the the fact that I can’t travel, like a lot of folks, you know, the one of the best things about the airplane, everything was going really great places and hanging out with really great people. And Jason that Jason that image a little bit back. That’ll come back. Yeah, yeah. So I gotta say, it hasn’t been I feel for my, my fellow countrymen of mine. And the artists that are kind of locked in a place where they don’t have access to that. I’ve got waterfalls two minutes away. So I’ve been working. A lot of studio work. I’m still trying to get to know the area around here. It’s a beautiful area out near Bend, Oregon.
Eric Rhoads 37:16
And how long how large are you painting?
Gene Costanza 37:18
I work largest last one. It was like 36 by 60. And I sent it back to my gallery in in Rhode Island, and it’s now lives a wonderful home in New Hampshire. So I was pretty pleased about that.
Eric Rhoads 37:45
Well, that’s something I think it’s something that sounds like a lot of fun. I haven’t had a chance to do much of that, because it takes too much time. So you were talking earlier about something I just wanted to probe because I think it’d be helpful for people. If I can steal you for another minute.
Gene Costanza 38:02
Eric Rhoads 38:06
You mentioned that time, when you took time off, you took a leave of absence and you worked, you know, 40 hours a week on your painting instead of, just not approaching and like a full time job. Anybody who does that for a particular period of time, will see a dramatic curve, a dramatic change in their work. I’ve seen it happen time and time again with different artists. Did you find that was happening to you? By the way, when you were working on your work that much time? Did you see a dramatic increase in your overall ability to paint?
Gene Costanza 38:42
I absolutely think that is true. So many things that as I was working through problems, hour after hour after hour, that would come back to me that I had heard teachers say Scott Christensen or Kevin or Matt Smith two gorgeous things that I’d heard things that I had packed away in my memory bags, it seemed like working that hard, was like a pump where it would pump up information and ideas, but mostly information that would then become clear things that I heard that I didn’t understand. And then you start working on problem problem areas and you’d start thinking about are you painting in light are you painting in shadow? Are you are you in the light family or the shadow family? For your value structures holding together? I painting that much seemed like a real priming of the pump of things that had been filed away information and then and figuring things out and then discovering that the harder it is then then the harder you work, all of a sudden you go wow, I pulled that off. I don’t I wonder if that helps. How do I do that? I pull that off. And then, you know, you started painting and feels like you’ve never painted before. Oh, what’s going on here? So you fight through that too?
Eric Rhoads 40:15
Well, and usually when you when you get to those points, that’s usually when you have your breakthroughs. You know, you get to a point where you get frustrated, you feel like, you just can’t do it. You just feel like you’re making no progress. And you just you just work through it. And then you you make breakthroughs now?
Gene Costanza 40:32
Absolutely, you only did one thing that i thought i think is helpful. And I am doing it again, is I had heard that the Russian masters had to work on their final piece for a year at the Russian a Russian Institute’s, I think, the Reppin Institute or something. And I thought, what if I just had a canvas and I knew this thing is going to, I’m not going to finish, I’m going to work on this thing for a year or more. And so I use this canvas, a big canvas that pretty big at the time was 30, 36. And I use it like a warmup Sprint’s are getting ready for an athletic event. And I go into that, because I knew I wanted to work on another painting, but instead of going in all stove up within anxiety, and fear, is I grabbed this thing, and I start working on this thing, and kind of get into the rhythm and get my eyes out. Kind of like, I used to be a swimmer as a kid shaking out before you get up on the block to, to, you know, to take offering to meet the match. And I started working on this thing, over time, over time over time in one year went into a number of years. And I learned so much by watching what I did before and what I now know, because they get more complicated, more simple, more complicated. And I started seeing color harmonies happen. Things happen, it made me really understand the advantage of not calling the painting done too quick. So that I use that. And so I tried to keep a number of really big paintings going along that line and use them and see if you know, sometimes they don’t work out a lot of times you you pull off some really good stuff, if you just just keep going. That makes sense.
Eric Rhoads 42:24
I think that’s a great idea. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. You’re right, they had a, they had what they called a diploma project. They do that at the reppin Institute in the circuit Institute, both in Russia, St. Petersburg, in Moscow, and, and they’re forced to work on this painting for their graduate year one painting all year, nothing else. And so, I mean, you know, in some ways, it puts a lot of pressure on some ways it takes pressure off, they are also encouraged to do something that they’re not likely to do in their lifetime. Meaning, right, you know, when else in your lifetime Are you going to have a full year that you can put into a painting. And there’s a there’s another Institute, I can’t remember the two brothers just two famous brothers in. In Russia, they probably are deceased now. But they built out an academy, which was a is either a three or five year program, if you were one of the top two or three people out of the, the academies in Russia. And they would award you a I think it was a five year scholarship. And they said, We want you to come here for three years or five years, and do monumental pieces with multi figures, we will pay all of your expenses because you’ll never be able to do this again in your lifetime. And by the way, you know, you’re kind of at the peak of your ability because you’ve been in these top schools you’ve you know, you’ve studied for five, six years. And so I got a chance to go and visit that place and see the work that these people were doing was just blew me away, you know, 10, 10 and 15 foot paintings. So the idea of what you’re talking about it is a really great idea is just keep a giant painting on an easel somewhere and just doodle away at it every day. Just a little tiny bit. … I think I saw some photos of that venture you talk about sorry, inspiring. Oh, yeah. can imagine always admired the Russian impressionist? I thought I might change my name to Stanzakaffee, maybe?
Eric Rhoads 44:45
Yeah. Yeah. stands a cough. That’s good. I like that. Yeah, well, if you start painting like a Russian, I think you should I, we have you have all of our permission to do that.
Gene Costanza 44:57
Eric Rhoads 44:59
There you have it. Before before we wrap up, do you have any any final thoughts or any particular pieces of advice that you, you want to share with everybody?
Gene Costanza 45:11
Well, I’m sorry, I kind of I think we kind of covered it all.
Eric Rhoads 45:18
Well, that’s good. Well, this has been fun. It’s been fascinating to hear the story. And, I learned things about you today that I never knew. And it was it was really a lot of fun to hear the story. And soon before you know it, we’ll all be out there painting again and, and reconnecting in person, which will be a big celebration.
Gene Costanza 45:42
Well, yeah, absolutely. I’m sure we’ll be looking forward to it. Be great to again, be able to gather with a bunch of folks and paint and convention and all that stuff. That we all we all miss. So yeah, I know, I’m looking to tell my students paint hard, life is short. And I guess that’s, that’s my bottom line.
Eric Rhoads 46:17
That’s a great ending, isn’t it? Paint hard. Life is short.
Gene Costanza 46:24
So thank you for the invitation to be part of the your podcast. I very much appreciate it. I always enjoy this is just the truth every time we’ve ever said in person. I’ve enjoyed the conversation immensely.
Eric Rhoads 46:37
eWll, I feel the same and, we got a little time because you came up to Fall Color Week in in Canada, and we had ended up being snow snow week.
Gene Costanza 46:48
But that was a gas it was you know, I figured out 23 degrees is really cold.
Eric Rhoads 46:55
Yeah, yeah. 23 degrees painting in the snow. I, we were all hearing all these stories, like take the mats out of your car and lay him down, put your feet on the mats. So you’re not standing in the snow. And all those little tricks I painted snow painted a couple of weeks ago in New Hampshire. And it was again it was a random storm during fall color week. And it was so much fun. Everybody else was kind of standing out under the under the eaves of you know on porches and things and I was standing right out there in the snow and I was just having a ball. Although, the snow coming down on your canvas is just like spritzing it with water every 10 seconds. But it was fun.
Gene Costanza 47:42
A lot of fun.
Eric Rhoads 47:43
Well, Gene, this has been a pleasure. I really appreciate you being on the plein air podcast.
Gene Costanza 47:49
Thanks, Eric. I appreciate the invitation.
Eric Rhoads 47:52
Well, thanks again to Gene what a terrific guy. Really good painter too. You guys ready for some art marketing ideas?
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 48:11
In the Marketing Minute I answer your art marketing questions just email yours to me, Eric@artmarketing.com. Here’s a question from Brett Mattingly in Pueblo Colorado who says, I keep hearing about the importance of networking through art clubs, co ops and the like. But how do I begin if there aren’t any groups around me? Well, Brett, first off, let’s ask why. Why is it important? Well, it kind of depends on what’s important to you. But the idea behind it is that if you’re not connected with other artists, you really won’t have a feel for what’s going on in the art community. Because when you have a lot of people connected, you’re now understanding what people are doing, what are they selling, what things are working for them, it’s nice to have friends that are other artists, you know, you might not have a group in your town. But you’re in Pueblo, Colorado, I know there’s a lot of artists around there. So really, the goal is to be communicating with artists and hanging out with him on a regular basis. You can make that happen by creating your own little group on Facebook, or you can create a group where people get together in person. But why not just kind of start putting artists together, create your own little club. And, you know, really, the whole goal is just to be talking to other artists and networking to find out what’s going on in their world. And if you can, that’s a good thing. You know, somebody called me for some advice the other day, they just moved to California. And they wanted to know how to get really connected fast. And I said well join the California art club. You know, there’s no better way to get connected than there because you know, all the great artists are part of it. And there’s a lot of collectors and there’s a lot of events happening and a lot of things that are going on. And so that is a really terrific way to get connected and so Or clubs and you know, and sometimes those connections lead you to introductions into galleries or making other people aware of your work. That’s the reason.
Eric Rhoads 50:07
Anyway, here’s a question from Lauren Goforth and Rapid City, South Dakota. Lauren says, Can you tell me what’s the purpose of an artist statement? And how can I use it to leverage sales? Well, you know, this idea of an artist statement, I’m not sure where it came from, but I just, you know, sometimes I wonder, the purpose. You know, I think the goal here is, you know, a lot of galleries will tell an artist to make an artist statement, I think the goal is to have something to talk about the goal is to maybe set an image or to try to create something for, for people that can kind of put a little bit of they’re there for you. I mean, the idea that, you know, what are you thinking about? Why do you paint? What do you care about, you know, what, why are you doing what you’re doing that kind of a thing? You know, that? I don’t really care about that stuff, quite frankly. I mean, I think it’s nice to look for ways to get people to know you. I don’t think it has to be an artist statement. But what you can do is you want to kind of create a sense of, you know, maybe a little sense of fantasy, you know, why do people create? Why do people like artists? Well, they live vicariously through artists, because we live lives that are different than what other people do. So I think it’s nice to have a line or two on your website, maybe at the top of your websites. As you know, Eric Rhoads is a, you know, traditional impressionist painter, who does this or does that. And you know, he’s really driven by landscapes and loves to also do portraits. I mean, that’s kind of a thing. It’s just really something to give people something to kind of hang their hat on. And to understand a little bit about you, because people are confused about art. How do you do it? How do you use it to leverage sales? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, I, I’m sure somebody would be able to answer that question. I can’t answer it that, you know, the reality is to leverage sales, you have to have continual contact with people lots of repetition, you need to get in front of them, they need to be seeing what you’re doing. And what’s more important about getting people to, to buy art is getting them involved with you, let them get to know you, people are more comfortable buying from people that they know, help find ways to let them get to know you, I suppose the artist statement could do that. But you know, get them to sign up for your newsletter, and then make your newsletter. really informative, something they’re willing to open, you know, that’s not just all about you, but it’s about things that you’re going to help them learn. And I think just the idea of, you know, you’ve got to be putting yourself in front of people on a regular basis, probably more than you’re comfortable with. And that’s what’s going to help leverage sales because you never know when somebody is in the market for something, looking for a birthday gift or a special special gift. And so, just staying in front of people all the time, that’s what it’s really all about, we have a product that we created. I don’t think we’re going to sell it much longer. Because we’re kind of ready to invent the next thing but it’s called Art marketing in a box. The whole purpose is to kind of make you a star in your local market and make people familiar with you and and really just kind of stay in front of people and it works really, really well. I’ve had artists say they’ve doubled their sales in the first year from it just because other you know, their stay in front of people. You don’t need that. I mean, you just got to look for lots of creative ways to get in front of people. Anyway, that’s the marketing minute.
This has been a Marketing Minute with Eric Rhoads, you can learn more at artmarketing.com.
Eric Rhoads 53:38
I want to remind you guys that plein air salon want to enter before the end of the month, just go to pleinairsalon.com also Watercolor Live, save money if you get in and get there before the end of the month. And that’s at watercolorlive.com and they can save 200 bucks. And of course the Plein Air Convention you should do that. You’re going to have a ball connect you with other people. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Of course we have a money back guarantee in the event we have to cancel depending on what’s happening in the world of COVID by then, but go to pleinairconvention.com. If you’ve not seen this blog that I do on Sunday mornings it’s called Sunday coffee and you can