Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aim High!

starting out on the last leg of the race, a 6-mile run

The Importance of Setting Goals
When I was 17 I dislocated my knee cap and had to be rushed to the ER. My knee was the size of a softball from the trauma of the patella circling around to the back of my leg and taking the tendons with it.

Three surgeries later (this was in the days of NO arthroscopic surgery) my knee now includes two pins and three 8-inch scars. I used to be very self conscious of the scars and would not wear a skirt above my knee. These days I'm proud to say that I run (and bike, and swim) on that knee!

The key to my success in athleticism and art has always been about setting goals and implementing a plan to achieve them. It's not enough just to set a goal of obtaining gallery representation or having a solo exhibition, you have to draw up a plan on how you are going to get there.

coming out of the 1-mile open water swim

I Think I Can.... I Think I Can...
This past weekend I competed in an Olympic distance triathlon. That's a 1-mile open water swim, a 24-mile bike, and a 6-mile run, all back to back. I did not just get off the couch and compete, I planned and prepared for this. Three years ago I got up off the couch and did my first Sprint distance race (.5-mile swim, 13-mile bike, 3-mile run) at the urging of my sister, the athlete. I knew I was going to need a course of action to achieve what seemed like a monumental feat to me at the time. I went to the book store and started looking in the Traithlon Training book section. I picked a book that seemed like something I thought I could work with and started reading, after all, I had to learn what to expect! In the back of the book was a 12-week training plan, I copied it down into a small spiral notebook and set out to achieve my goal. Four Sprint Triathlons later, I was ready to step up my goal to something bigger. I knew that it would be a big jump to train for an Olympic distance race, because it is DOUBLE the distance of the races I was used to. Once you meet your goals, it's important to set bigger and better goals, that's how you grow.

If At First You Don't Succeed...
Having a day-by-day course of action makes all the difference in achieving your goals. When I decided that I wanted to obtain gallery representation with my artwork I decided to educate myself in what to expect. I learned through research that I would need a body of work (not just one or two pieces) that was cohesive and demonstrative of my unique style. I also needed to have some success in juried shows under my belt. With this in mind I began refining my collage style and entering many many many juried shows both local and national. I can't tell you how many times I was turned down! I could wallpaper my studio with rejection letters if I had saved them. Don't give up, don't let setbacks drag you down, you have to dust yourself off and keep going.

Sunday Best, 16x20, found papers on panel

Growth Means Pushing Boundaries
My earlier work did not include hand-painted papers, this was part of the evolution of my style. The more juried shows I entered, the more work I produced in my ever evolving collage technique. By the time I began to get accepted into shows, I had a small body of work in my signature "Paper Painting" style. I began to create a name for myself locally and was being accepted to most shows I entered. At this point I knew it was time for me to step up my goal, and I decided to look for gallery representation. 

Ready to bike, heading out of transition

The first gallery that represented my work in Orlando did not keep me on as a gallery artist at all times, they had me on their website and one to two pieces of my work was represented in some shows. It was at this gallery that I started creating cows and gaining momentum. 

Out To Pasture, 24x20, collage of hand-painted and hand-made papers on panel
First Place Winner in the Category of Collage for The Artists Magazine All Media Contest, 2010

I was thrilled to be on their website and to be able to say that I was "represented," but I had bigger goals in mind, as I always do. I set my sights on getting into a gallery that would have me on permanent display as a true gallery artist. I looked online for galleries that showed work similar to my whymsical style and I started sending out packets to introduced myself. My packet included my resumé, printed materials, and a CD with samples of my work. I did not limit myself to the Orlando area, I reached out to the state of Florida. 

Have Faith in Yourself
Eventually my efforts paid off and I was accepted to a very upscale gallery in Sarasota, FL.  It was the nicest gallery I had ever even showed in let alone been represented by! They wanted me to bring six rooster pieces the first month of my contract, I had to go into full production mode in order to create SIX roosters by my deadline. The first one I worked on I nearly threw out, it was so sad looking at 1:00am. I did not want to give up on it though, I knew that there had to be some way to save it, this was collage after all! By 3:00am it was turning the corner and the next day it was saved. This was the first piece I ever sold at my new gallery.

The bike, 24-miles of 21mph average pace

Stick to the Plan
The Olympic distance triathlon training plan was 18 weeks! Yes, I prepared six days a week for 18 weeks, every week the level of difficulty increased. In the end I was cycling 25-miles 3-days a week, swimming 2000M 2-days a week, and running 3-6 miles 3-days a week. I knew this going in, I accepted it and I mentally prepared for it. I took it one day at a time, small bites. This is important! It's good to look at the overall picture, but sometimes that can be too scary, you have to take bite sized portions.

Currently I'm working toward a solo exhibition of my artwork at the Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts. I am happy to say that they asked me to exhibit! They found me online and contacted me. I accepted the show and THEN I asked them "how many pieces?" only to be told.... 50! Remember, small bites. I decided to come up with a plan. After all, the best way to achieve a goal is to implement a plan.

My Noah's Ark Series will be 25 sets of two animal portraits. I will do each set simultaneously, on the easel at the same time. Working on them together will not only help me create the body of work in a shorter time frame, (my deadline is next March for an April show) but will also help me create harmonious pairs that I am hoping will sell as sets!

FINISHED! me and my friend Katy - supportive and smiley-
making the whole race experience fun!

It's Never too Late to Set Goals
I did not participate in my first Sprint distance triathlon until I was 40. I was not an active teenager, but I considered myself to be an adult who went to the gym and kept fit. But training for a triathlon was really a step up from my gym routine. My 43rd birthday is tomorrow and the Olympic triathlon goal I set for myself was in celebration of being FAST at 43. (I finished 2:28:01, 2nd in my age group and 11th woman overall)

I went to college for fine art, earning a BFA from Syracuse University. I majored in Advertising Design in order to have a career in which I could earn a living. It took me three years of struggling to get a job in my field out of college and many years later my husband and I started our own graphic design business. Running a business and having children back to back (16-months apart) kept me from my fine art for many years, but the passion was always in my heart. I have only been creating, promoting and marketing my fine art for the past seven years. 

Whether you want to cross the finish line or hang in a gallery, write a novel or climb a mountain, it's important to set that goal for yourself and commit to it. Tell your friends and family you are going to do it, make it known! Once you have committed to achieving your goal, outline the plan on how you are going to get there. And remember, small steps. 

Hoo #1&2, collage of hand--painted paper on panel

I'll be posting more sets of animal portraits here on the blog if you want to check back in periodically. I have a lot of fun animals that I'm planning on working on but if you have any suggestions please take a minute to leave a comment. Traditional Noah's Ark has a lot of the same animals, but there is no reason why this series cannot break out of the mold. I am hoping to do flamingos next, and eventually wild rabbits with big ears. Do you have a favorite animal to suggest?

In the mean time I'm taking small steps, one set at a time. 
Preparing for the flood.


  1. I love this post of yours :)....and am happy that I am the first one here to leave a comment....Happy to be your fan :)....and really proud of you and look at you as my inspiration...
    And I recently saw Zookeeper Movie...loved it....I would love to see you make a bear :D....they look so cute...

  2. What a wonderful post today!!! I'm in awe of what you've accomplished, no couch potato for you, girl, you are moving up and up :) As for animals...goats are always funny and fun and how about a couple of little frogs?

  3. THank you for your compliments and FROGS how fun!

  4. This was just what I needed to hear today. I have an art degree, and having been teaching elementary art for a long time... coming home pretty much "spent" creatively. For years I had put my art on the back burner but now that my kids are grown, and I'm down to part time, I'm starting to work again. I want to do something significant with my art, and have disciplined myself both last summer and this summer to get in my art room every day and work. I'm happy with my work, but I'm not getting very far.
    I saw one of your bird pieces on Pinterest which led me to your website, and I must say.... I'm one of your newest fans. I'm planning (God willing) to attend your conference in Sedona in November which really sounds fantastic.
    Thanks SO much for this post.....it has inspired me to set goals, and to keep at it. I appreciate the boost!

  5. I feel like you wrote that just for me. Goal setting is the secret to success in anything, as you've just shown us. Thanks for taking the time to coach us, your readers.

    How about something with horns... deer, elk, moose, reindeer, antelope?

  6. Elizabeth... you are an inspiration. This was a wonderfully motivating post and your Noah's Ark project is amazing. I look forward to following your progress and I am still enjoying dabbling and experimenting with collage and building on what I learned in your class... making it my own. :) So fun. As for inspiration on what animals might be fun. . . hmmm. . . Thinking of Florida... how about a pair of gators! matching manatee's? ... or Pelicans! Have fun!

  7. Wow! I'm exhausted from just reading your post! My son has been in training for the last year or so (he's 45), so I know some of the amazing things that you have done! How inspiring you are! And, even though I started painting late in life, I'm sure that I can come up with some sort of plan to keep me in the studio! I love reading your blog, and seeing your art. And, I know that everyone does cats, but they're my favorite animal!

  8. Elizabeth - you are definitely an inspiration for all of us in many areas - sports, art, self promotion. Thanks so much for sharing your story and how setting goals is so important and has definitly worked for you. I am not sure I will ever be as athletic as you but I definitely plan to step it up artistically - creating more art, refining my style and getting my paintings out there for more people to see!

  9. Thank you for so many positive comments! It is important to decide what you want to do and then work toward it. You have to choose what is important to YOU in your own growth and set your sights on it! Athleticism for me was something that I always told myself I was not good at, so getting out there and proving myself wrong was very empowering. I also feel that when you achieve goals and feel GOOD about yourself, it's an amazing positive feeling that will carry you through your life on a high note!

    Today is my birthday and I want to thank all of you for following me, for commenting and complimenting i totally appreciate that indeed.

    Thanks for all the animal suggestions, I'm taking them all into consideration!

  10. As a new fan--we found you through the Growing Bolder segment--I already depend on you! If a day is tough, I can just call up your site and look at your work which gives me such joy. I love this post, Aim High indeed. Such good advice and even better that it is personally experienced. Happy (belated) Birthday.

    As for animal thoughts, I saw a little poem several years ago which asked Noah why he included those "pesky flies." I think it would be great fun if your 25 included an insect or two, such as house flies, fleas, or maybe mosquitoes.

    All the best.

  11. i know i am late in sharing but i want to ditto the other comments...an inspiration and joy to look at your work, your story. i love collage and your work is at the top of my list.

    As for Noah's ark my gosh there are so many animals...lemurs, hippo's, of course monkey's, but i agree get an odd thing that would have certianly been on the ark....ants, earthworms, or bumblebees. Do not forget the ocean who would have been following along side...octopuss or seahorses might be fun.

    i am sure it will be done, but take pictures of the show and all of them together. What a cool project; it gives me inspiration...

    i ordered a day or so ago your notecards paid thru paypal. i wish i could afford right now something else. i hope one day to pick up something small of yours until then i will enjoy the cards (who i will send to a friend who does art as well), the little bound book, and i am going to get the Anne Marie so i can see the cover (and read it of course).

    Happy Birthday a few days late.
    LFS liz

  12. Liz, I'll be sending your cards out tomorrow, thank you! and what a good bunch of suggestions of interesting animals, AND BUGS and sea creatures. very very cool! I am excited about this project too. I'm going to work on flamingos next. I am happy to provide inspiration along the way. THe internet has brought us all closer together, it's amazing the camaraderie you can find online for anything that interests you, art, athleticism, whatever you fancy!

  13. Great inspiration.

    On a funny note. I was reading the materials you used on one of the paintings and it read to me "found papers on a plane." I thought WOW how talented to use the papers found on an airplane. Then I put my glasses on.

    Thanks for sharing.



thank you for taking the time to read and comment! :)