Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone

When I was asked to do some live painting demos at Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge for my winter show, the thought was both exciting and a little daunting. At the time, I hadn’t painted in front of an audience. I’m not a painter with a disciplined style. I’m a little scrappy in how I put the work together and getting out of my element could really throw me off my game. Luckily, I had leased a studio gallery in downtown Salida the summer before and decided to work right up front in plain view of customers and friends who dropped by. At first, even that was new territory for me, since I’m used to working in isolation with scraps of material on the floor, edgy music, various paintings going at once and lots and lots of experimentation (not all of which was ready for prime time.)

But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Whenever I’ve pulled myself out of my comfort zone, I’ve been thrilled that I did. Always. Getting into backcountry skiing, for instance, isn’t for the timid. The sport itself carries risks in the forms of avalanche danger, extreme terrain, exposure and potential for serious injury with no easy access to search and rescue. Ron and I took our AVI Level 1 Safety class on Valentine’s weekend 2015 in Rocky Mountain National Park during a blinding, freezing blizzard. It was tough getting to know the ski equipment (skins, tech bindings and uphill boots) which was all so different from the downhill ski equipment I’ve skied with for decades. I went from being a 30-yr seasoned skier to an awkward newbie in an instant. But I muddled through it and learned a ton about things like route finding, how to read the terrain, understanding snow loading and layers. How to measure slope angles, read topo maps and use a compass. The rewards have been hugely gratifying. I’ve improved both my skills and my confidence. I’ve been to places most people don’t get to experience and felt my own thrill of living large.

So, getting back to my studio gallery, I eventually got used to working in the front where everyone could see. I would pause to greet visitors but learned to quickly get back to focusing on the work. By the time January rolled around and the show went up in Breckenridge, I set up an easel and got to work. I created a painting from start-to-finish right there in front of the big picture window with people walking by, taking photos or stopping in to chat. Even a dog stopped on the sidewalk to watch me. It was actually kind of fun! So when I had the opportunity to return last weekend to do it again, I was looking forward to it. I met more people and even sold a commission.

What challenges are you being drawn to that feel a little scary? Is it traveling alone in a foreign country? Learning to rock climb? Taking a chance on a dating site? It’s when we show up to meet the challenges that life brings us that we expand and grow. Our world and our comfort zone expands. I’m so grateful to Portfolio Gallery and my own studio in Salida for dishing up these challenges. And I’m even more grateful to myself for saying Yes.


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