Thursday, February 16, 2012

Facing Your Fears

A gift from friend and fellow artist Kimberly Kelly Santini

As an artist, my biggest fear has always been putting my art out there to be judged. In high school when I was preparing my portfolio for college applications, I worried, will they like it? will it be good enough? what if I don't get accepted anywhere?

My art teacher helped me put my entire portfolio together, she gave me assignments that she felt would be appropriate, she helped me choose my 12 best pieces, and she photographed all my work for me on slide film and taught me how to use black electrical tape to mask off the background. (old school!) Her support and confidence in me helped me face the fear of having my artwork judged by the Universities I applied to.

Those of you who follow this blog or know a bit about me know that another passion I have in life is fitness. I have been competing in triathlons for several years now but have avoided any race that featured an ocean swim. Why? I am afraid of sharks! Yes, ever since I was 12 and saw JAWS on TV the night before a deep sea fishing trip with my father, I have had this fear. Who didn't? JAWS kept us out of the water for years, at least it did me.

As a teenager growing up in Massachusetts I had the opportunity to sit on the beach in Martha's Vineyard where they filmed the movie. You notice I said "sit?" No swimming for me! Just seeing the town and the inlet where the shark wreaked havoc was enough to keep me on land.

Critiques by my peers and professors in college helped prepare me for the world of juried art shows as an emerging artist. I have to admit, I took a lot of time off from my fine art between my graduation from college and the beginning of my career. I raised two children 16 months apart and I took time support myself with a career in advertising/graphic design (my actual major in college). SO when it came time to be judged for my fine art again, those old fears came right back.

Spending time in the studio with the shark

The last three years all the triathlons I have competed in have included lake swims here in Florida. I have swam in murky black waters tainted from the tannins of oak trees, clear warm waters in Clermont, and the lake in the middle of the Walt Disney World compound. The Amelia Man Olympic race appealed to me when I was looking to step up my distance, but the ocean still had sharks.

I think that every artist fears having their work held up to be judged. Entering juried shows can be nerve wracking, especially when you receive rejection letters one after another. We have all been there! I used to take a class with a woman who submitted to First Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art a few times and was turned down. She got discouraged and said "maybe I'm just not good enough." Not good enough? No way! I told her to just keep submitting, not to let her fear of continued rejection deter her in her goal. I told her how I had been rejected from that show consistently for about a year, every month, before they ever accepted me. And then, they asked me to be artists of the month in the museum shop gallery. Don't let your fears stop you from consistently reaching for your goal. My Dad was fond of this advice, which he gave me on a regular basis as a kid "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." He was an insurance salesman, he NEVER let his fear of rejection keep him from knocking on the next door.

Guess what? Barbara eventually got her work accepted to the show as well. And boy was I proud of her.

A super friend and fellow artists Kimberly Kelly Santini sent me the shark toy. She was cleaning out her basement and found this old tub toy from her kids and it made her laugh as she thought of me and my fears that I had confided in her. I had shared with her that I finally decided that 2012 would be my year to overcome the fear of the ocean swim. I officially have signed myself up for St. Anthony's Olympic Triathlon. I have decided to face my fears in fitness as I have faced them in my art career and in my life. The only way to grow is to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. I want to grow, I want to grow! (just please not in my feet, they are big enough already....)

Push yourself, push your boundaries, take the plunge and conquer that fear. Start with small local juried shows in your home town. Maybe your art museum or local art center. Then work you way up to bigger shows once you've been accepted to a few locally. You see I said accepted, have faith, you will get there!

Once you have a little more confidence under your belt and a larger body of work, you can start casting your net wider to national juried shows. A wonderful resource for this is Here you can find call for entries from all over the country, surely an opportunity will present itself here that is a good fit for you.

Guess what? once you spend some time overcoming your fear you'll gain a level of confidence that will propel you to the next level! I have been spending time with the shark toy lately as a reminder that I too can do it.

Love Birds in progress, note shark in top right

I promised Kim I'd tuck the shark into the leg of my tri suit when I do some open water swimming closer to April. But for now, he's keeping me company in the studio.


  1. I couldn't be any prouder of you!! It looks like Sharkie is having a great time in your neck of the woods, too!! :) Keep growing, girlfriend!!

  2. Great post about facing fear. Hey, I'm thinking big feet come in handy when swimming...I wish you the best in your artistic and fitness endeavors, Elizabeth.

  3. Big feet stink, no matter how you look at it.
    EXCEPT that I often get things on clearance.

  4. Way to go, Elizabeth. I'm glad you've faced your fear and are in the winning stretch. At least you won't be the only one swimming with the sharks. Stay inside the pack of swimmers.

    You're right about facing fears. I was thinking about that recently, about how it doesn't bother me to speak in front of a group because of childhood music recitals when I had to sing solos in front of church and school, and later as a classroom teacher. It's become second nature because of experience.

    Your fear came not from experience but from a scary movie... make believe! I think of surfers and ocean swimmers who time and again face the mysterious expanse of the deep and find joy, pride and confidence in the experience. You will, too.

    Swimming in Florida's inland waters would frighten me more than the ocean... all those gators and snakes. Ugh.

  5. Thanks Elizabeth! I have been lazy about the blog and I really need to get back to it because I love to write. And yeah, big feet have their advantages in some venues. LOL!

    Good advice Jo, stick in the middle of the group. my black try suit will make me look like a seal. yikes.

    my daughter dances a solo on stage in front of judges without any fear, it has helped her give oral reports in school and to not be shy! excellent experience.

    My fear did come from make believe BUT I do hear every summer on the news of people being bitten here in FL by sharks at the beach! You are right though, many many people go in every day.

    yes, not sure why the gators don't scare me just as much. .... the movie! LOL


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