7 things that really stand out about 2018

February 26th, 2019

I don’t know about you, but 2018 was quite a year for our family! I think we experienced some important changes that will affect us for years to come. Here are 7 things that really stood out for me this past year.

The highlights

My wife Hope changed careers. With all three kids in school, she decided it was time pursue a new full-time career. She’s had an interest in the legal field since working at a law firm before our daughter was born, so she started classes to become a paralegal, and changed jobs twice. This change in routine was a challenge for the kids but they adapted so well.

All three kids became active in Scouting BSA. It’s been somewhat controversial in some circles that the Boy Scouts opened their ranks to girls, but my daughter has loved every minute of it. She’s still active in Girl Scouts, too, and honestly wants to do everything. (We had to put a limit on the number after-school activities she was doing! She’s like the kid who wants to do all the things in this cartoon.) Since all three kids were active in Scouts and we went on several family camping trips, we bought a bunch of camping gear. Camping has kind of become our new family hobby.

I had an immensely successful Art Every Day Month. You know I’m a fan of this annual event, and this was my most successful one yet, with the most days worked as well as best sales. I’ll share more about that below and in a future post, so stay tuned.

The negatives

We lost my only surviving grandmother on Mother’s Day. My daughter is named after her, so she had a difficult time dealing with it, especially when it came close to when we usually celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.


Art Every Day Month was successful because I learned how to build better habits. I actually rolled AEDM into a larger project that I called 40 Days of Abstracts. I now have a better understanding of how to make a habit successful. As Jeff Goins says on his podcast, the trick is to make a habit easier to do than to avoid. He says this about writing, but it applies to any endeavor, creative or not. Soon, I will publish a post where I expand on the habits that got me through the 40 days of abstracts project. In a nutshell, you have to make your habit stick by creating a situation where it’s easier to do it than to not do it and by shrinking it down to as small a level as you can while still making it fun and challenging enough to stay engaged.

I received some good advice regarding pricing. One week in July, I ran a promo that I called Christmas in July. I knocked 30% off my prices.

Looking back, that was a bad idea. Art by definition is a luxury product. It’s not necessary for survival. It’s good for your soul and your mind but it’s not something that most people put in their monthly budget for survival. Since art is a luxury product, it needs to be priced as such.

My friend Pamela emailed me while the Christmas in July sale was going and said, “Brad, your prices are too low.” I appreciate when somebody cares enough to gently tell me what I’m doing wrong and how to correct it. “Brad I love your paintings, and I want you to succeed, so price them higher. Also, I know where you can get better canvases.” So, when I did the 40 Days of Abstracts Project toward the end of the year, I raised my rates to $5/linear inch.

That’s double what I was charging a year prior. And get this — I sold more paintings.

I have a plan to reach certain benchmarks in order to raise my rates over the next few years. Once my sales reach a certain level, the prices will increase. This is the kind of goal that will help my business succeed in the long run.

My friend also made a suggestion about where to get better canvas for a better price. It’s like what Picasso said:

“When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.”

Pablo Picasso

I could spend a small fortune upgrading all my paints at once, but as I run out of colors, I’m replacing them with Golden acrylics.

We incorporated essential oils into our lives and that has made a huge difference in our health. When my wife first brought home essential oils I was pretty skeptical. It seemed “woo woo” and weird. But when I realized I didn’t get sick in November like I normally do, I was sold. We eat clean(er) now, cutting way back on meat and dairy. Stuff like the NingXia gets expensive (we call it “Ninja Juice”), but it’s so worth it in the long run. (If you want to learn about essential oils, you can use my wife’s Young Living affiliate link.)

Well there you have it.

That about sums up 2018. What did your 2018 look like? I’d love to know! Sound off in the comments.


What I learned from painting with my autistic son

March 24th, 2015

A few months ago, an old friend reached out to me on Facebook. I interned in her office many years ago but we’ve managed to keep in touch. My friend wanted to know if there was any chance I could donate a painting to a fundraiser for her son’s school, Benton Hall Academy.

Benton Hall’s mission is to “educate children who learn differently.” My friend’s son is autistic. This is important to me because my son Greg is also on the autism spectrum. Greg is high-functioning, but being a little different does create some challenges for him (and us). He’s a determined little guy who works hard and I think he’ll turn out all right. He’s getting a fantastic education in Wilson County. He’s a great kid.

So for the Benton Hall auction I decided I wouldn’t pick through paintings I’ve already done. I thought it would be a great opportunity to collaborate with my son. It might teach him to help other children who face similar challenges.

Except it didn’t turn out that way.

I don’t guess I really explained it very well because he thought we were just doing a painting together. This became apparent when he got really upset when we delivered the painting to my friend.

I had to promise him we’d do another one. (We should probably follow up on that very soon. I know he’ll start reminding me. Parental guilt is the worst.)

But he certainly had a blast!

However, there was no real plan when it came to the canvas we collaborated on. Initially I was just painting something I wanted to paint, primary-colored abstract that just wasn’t quite coming together like the image I had in my mind.


I was working at my easel. The boys were playing at their IKEA MÅLA easels, combining all their paints into one color  to make it blackish mud. That mud was cheerfully smeared onto the roll of paper.

Then the phone rang. It was my mom on FaceTime.

I had to step away for a minute so I could hear Mom over the little boy giggles. I looked over.

Greg had proudly put a blob on my canvas.

My heart stopped.

You painted on my canvas! You can’t do that! You messed up what I was doing!
But I caught my tongue.

And then I noticed…

It actually kind of worked. The blob looked like a black submarine.

Greg gleefully said it was as submarine and he started singing “We all live in a black submarine.” (If you can’t see the video, click here.)

(The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Songtrack CD stays in the changer in my wife’s minivan. So it’s on heavy rotation on the way to and from school, church, Chick-fil-A, the grandparents’, anywhere else we might go. The kids love it and listen to it all the time.)

So I decided to keep it, and turn this into the collaboration piece for the auction. It wound up being a lot of fun.

Time-lapse video of him painting. (Can’t see it? Go here.)

The piece turned out to have two more black submarines on it, and Greg added the ocean below.

Three Submarines, Greg and Brad Blackman, February 2015. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 12 inches.

I think it’s one of the more memorable father-son moments we’ve had together.

While I was trying to teach him something about helping other people, I think I got the most out of it.

I am incredibly blessed.