Fearlessly Finding Yourself

I was a “closet artist” for about 15 years. I had a number of excuses why I couldn’t officially launch my painting career. Family obligations topped my list. But if I had been brutally honest, fear was also a factor. Following are five things I’ve done to help myself break free from the closet.


Three years ago, I joined The Chestnut Group, a non profit alliance of landscape artists and friends dedicated to the conservation and preservation of vanishing landscapes in Middle Tennessee. I had no earthly idea how many new friends I would meet, and how much there was to learn about plein air painting. Painting outside in the natural and changing light is a revelation. This one act of “joining” jumpstarted my curiosity, skills, and most important, my confidence.


Warehouse 521, owned and operated by Jeanie Smith, is a local Nashville studio that offers countless opportunities to paint the human form with live models. Painting from life is challenging, and if you’re not used to painting in a group setting, the first few sessions may prove to be a bit daunting. If you haven’t noticed, artists are some of the nicest folks around, and If you do have a disappointing day, there will be plenty of people nearby that have gone through the same frustration. They’ll most likely help you laugh at yourself, offer sound advice, and maybe help you realize that what you’ve got on your canvas isn’t half bad!


My critique group consists of a few of those really nice folks that I mentioned above. We get down and dirty with detailed observation and criticism. Honesty and encouragement prevail. Developing a thicker skin is a must when you’ve tagged yourself as an artist. There will be triumphs and failures to be sure. What better way to glean pertinent information about what you’re doing right, and wrong, than from fellow artists you admire?


You win some, you lose some, but if you don’t try, you’ll never win. I have met wonderful artists from all over the country at these competitions and seen stunning paintings that I would have otherwise never seen. Just do it. Pull on your thick skin, and be fearless.


Luxuriate in the process of learning. Ask questions of fellow artists. “What is your process?” “Why are you using this particular color?” We know in our hearts that we are in this creative process for the rest of our lives, and aren’t we lucky?

The goal is not to be superior to others, but to be superior to our former selves.

– Ernest Hemingway

Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

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  • Anne Blair Brown

    Thank you for sharing these insights, Marjorie Hicks! Wonderfully written and so true.

    • Marjorie Hicks

      Thank you, Anne! I’ve received several phone calls today from friends that (in my mind at least) seem to
      exude confidence, and have confessed to me they are battling off fear as well. You never know- Meanwhile, we’ll keep painting, supporting each other, and TRY to steer clear of that closet!

  • Amanda Sites

    Thank you, Marci ~ well said! You have inspired me to pull on my big girl pants! Two more “F” words I deal with is “Focus” and “Finish”. I have to continually reign in my mind, wants, desires, goals, and “interesting”projects and narrow down the focus to finish. A few (not 37) thought out goals with deadlines does wonders for me. I would love to be a part of your critique group. I learn so much by critique. Thanks again.

    • Marjorie Hicks

      Hey Amanda! Good to hear from you- I’m with you! I wake up every morning with a desperate feeling that I want to paint 20 subjects in one day- ridiculous, but true. I’m constantly reminding myself to calm down, and zero in. I’d definitely recommend you start a critique group. Mine is full- we have about 7 members, and that’s a rather large group. We take time to delve into each others paintings, and would be in the meeting all day if we added newbies. Make a list of friends who’s paintings you admire, and give them a call. It is such a good practice, and you’ll grow so much, TOGETHER! Hope to see you soon