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

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA 2019 Western Regional Exhibition 29th Annual National Juried Exhibition
The Twenty-Ninth National Exhibition and Convention will be hosted by RS Hanna Gallery, located in Fredericksburg, Texas, from May 15 through June 13, 2020. Learn More!
OPA Spring 2020 Online Showcase OPA Spring 2020 Online Showcase
The Spring 2020 Online Showcase is from March 1 - May 15, 2020 and will be open to Associate members only. Learn More!
Salon Show 2020 Salon Show
The Salon Show will be held August 23 - October 3, 2020 at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, GA. Canvas Size: not to exceed 864 square inches. More details to be announced as they become available.
Western Regional Exhibition 2020 Western Regional Exhibition
The Western Regional Exhibition will be held September 4 – October 2, 2020 at the Montgomery Lee Fine Art in Park City, UT. More details to be announced as they become available.
Eastern Regional Exhibition 2020 Eastern Regional Exhibition
The Eastern Regional Exhibition will be October 2 - 30, 2020 at the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, SC. Canvas Size: not to exceed 1,200 square inches. More details to be announced as they become available.