• Liana Steinmetz

In the Beginning...

In college, if you had told me you had seen the future and that I was going be a professional artist. I wouldn’t have believed you. And if you somehow managed to convince me you were right, I would have cried.

Like a lot of kids, I grew up making art all the time. It was a fun way to pass time and engage with the world. It was a fun way to connect with my mom, who was an art teacher. When deciding what to study in college, it never occurred to me to major in art. I would have loved to but that wasn’t allowed in my family. My siblings were studying economics and business. I had to study something practical and valuable. I still made art on my own, but it was just for a class, or just for me.

A few years after college, my brother was moving apartments and he gave me an old (halfway broken) easel of his. Just a flimsy, aluminum, collapsable easel. I had never had one and I didn’t touch it for weeks. Then one day when I was feeling anxious and alone, I decided to take it outside to paint. At the time, I had a job as a naturalist and I was spending a lot of time outside, hiking a lot. Taking the easel outside to paint just made sense to me. That was an idea that changed my life.

I took the easel, some acrylic paints and matte board to Stinson Beach. I parked my little Honda and instead of walking out to the beach to paint, I turned around to face the hills below Mount Tamalpais. The scene was beautiful. The fog was rolling in and the hills were a bright spring green. As I painted, I softened. The time flew by and I was relaxed. I was focused and smiling and having fun. I was no longer anxious, I was no longer alone.

That evening my friend’s older bother, who was visiting from out of town, came over. He saw the fresh painting leaning above a bookshelf, admired it, and took note. A few weeks later he called me and asked me if it were for sale. For sale! For sale? Someone would pay me to paint? This is crazy!

After that first experience at Stinson, I started to see painting differently. I understood how healing painting outside could be for me. Painting was good for me. I also understood that I could connect with other people through my art. I had the capacity to make something beautiful and valuable to others. I was hooked. Every year, I painted more and more and every year I took it more seriously. Eventually I started showing publicly and selling to strangers… and here I am now.

Even though art is a business for me now, when I paint the process is still the same. I still get lost in the moment and it still helps me feel grounded and at peace. When I focus on painting and connecting to the natural world, everything is fine.

And here she is! I cringe a little when I look at it now... but then I smile and I soften. I remember my 23-year-old self painting outside for the first time. Everyone starts somewhere. It's me and the hills and its part of our story. XO.

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