Opening Up

As you know, I recently went on a lovely field trip to a botanical garden as part of an art club activity. Last night I attended a meeting of our HFAA club which was held at our city park. Today I spent a good part of my morning at an art gallery in a nearby town, enjoying an open studio with the gallery owner and several members of our regional art club.

Conversations about art are now beginning to mention various art shows. Yes, our HFAA club will hold its annual regional show in the fall. We had no shows at all last year. The Cass County Fair will also have an art show, hosted by the Pleasant Hill Art Association. I haven’t yet heard any word about a few of the other shows that are usually held in the area, but definitely things are starting to open up once again.

Clubs are meeting, galleries are open, plein air events are happening, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming shows. Two years ago, at the last HFAA Regional Show, I was flabbergasted when I won both first place and third place in the oil category. I still have those prize ribbons hanging on the paintings.

It all means that I have a lot to do in the coming weeks. I need to look at my paintings, evaluate them, and decide which are show-worthy and will need to be matted and framed. It means, too, that I’ll be spending more time going to club meetings and workshops. I am looking forward to doing more art now that the world is opening up once again.

I’m excited, too, about my own “opening up” — how over the last year I’ve broadened my understanding of art, have improved my drawing and painting skills, I think, and have come through this “pandemic year” with a newfound sense of artistic freedom. Because there were no shows going on last year, I focused more on learning rather than doing. I also did a lot of art experimentation, played with mixed media and art journaling, worked my way through several abstract projects, and underwent my own home-grown personal art therapy program. I explored many online resources that focused on self-expression and individualism in art.

All of this has allowed me to “open up” to art — and to other artists — in new ways. Although I do believe my drawing and painting abilities are better now than they were a year ago, I know I’m still not on the same level as many of the artists in our clubs. I probably never will be, but I know now that it’s all right. I am my own artist. I’m free to express myself in my own way, to make my own marks, and to feel good about who I am.

And so it was that I happily joined HFAA club members for a plein air session at our city park. It was easy for me, very comfortable, because this is the same park where I frequently go to do a little sketching. Having others around me didn’t faze me, I’m happy to say, and I was proud to show off my work, not because of its merits, but simply because it was mine.

Here is “The Crooked Tree” — one of my favorite trees near the lake. I’ve sketched it before in my nature journal. This time I did it in graphite:



Not a great scan, and maybe not a great drawing, but I was pleased with it. I enjoyed the time I spent sitting at the shelter house, looking out over the lake, and quietly sketching this tree and the bark. Instead of showing it overlooking the lake, I took a little “artistic license” and added a grassy area behind the tree. It just felt right. I also just laid in a bit of graphite for the sky. Again, it just felt right. Mostly it just felt good to open myself up, to say “Here’s what I did,” and to share my art with the other members of the club.

Indeed, I intend to be much more active now in our art clubs, to take part in many more plein air events — either drawing or painting — and to proudly put my work on display at galleries, local exhibitions, and regional shows. I am an artist, and I have my own marks to make. I am who I am, doing what I do, and it’s nice to share my art with the world.


  1. That is beautiful. You obviously have no issues with sketching reality. I struggle so hard when I’m trying to put something from a 3 dimensional world flat on my paper. Maybe just because there is so much to compare it to lol. I don’t know. But shadow, light, texture. It all seems impossible to depict for me. I found an online course that I’m taking my time with. Not just rushing through it and thinking I’ll get better. I hope something gets through cause the last time I went to my city park with a sketch book I swear my 5 y/o daughter had better sketches than I did that day… and she really not that into drawing 😂😂 And I agree that art will be in full bloom everywhere soon. Can’t wait to see people setting up areas and booths Again. In New Orleans there is so much culture. Flair. Life. It’s all been gone for so long… and if I may offer my opinion. I spent a long time comparing my work to others around my. From amateur to professional. “I’m way better than him, I’ll never be as good as her” kind of thoughts. The only thing you ever need to compare your art to is your art. If you are working to be a better artist (whatever better means to you) and are making progress, that’s what’s really important! My art and yours will always be different. Not necessarily better. Or worse. Flat out different (except for your crooked tree… and all of your other realistic pieces, those are all way better than mine!!!!😂😂😂) always remember in the art realm it’s our diversity that unites us! Excellent work!

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    1. “It is our diversity that unites us.” I love the way you expressed that. You’re right in all you say here. Being different from one another doesn’t necessarily imply that one is better than the other. This has been a very important lesson I’m learning in art, and thank goodness I’m beginning to understand. When I first began learning to draw, of course I was working toward specific outcomes — trying to make my drawings as much like the reference drawings as possible. Now, after a few years, I’m learning how to express more of myself, not just make “copies” of drawings. To me, now, this is what “art” really is, where before “art” meant successfully copying an illustration. I think I’ve come a long way, but I still have so far to go! I don’t do as much graphite drawing now as I did when I first was learning. Mostly now I paint. But I love graphite drawing, maybe because it’s something I never thought I’d be able to do. I still have a lot to learn, especially now that I’m “branching out” and “opening up” to art in new ways. I appreciate all the kind words, and I will definitely encourage you to keep going to park, keep sketching, keep making your own marks and creating your personal art.


  2. It’s a lovely drawing! I esp like how all the different trees/bushes lean in one direction. It’s like how art may created in an infinite number of ways but at its heart it’s all art. Congratulations for all your accomplishments this past year or so! And how exciting your plans are! 👏👏♥️👏👏

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