Meeting My Mentor


The 2022 Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Show featured exciting new, innovative, artwork, along with their mentors. My friend Denis Gaston work was on display along side of his mentee’s art. As I gazed at his work I remembered how much I admire him and his artwork. I thought, I would love to have Denis as a mentor. At the time I didn’t think about applying for the grant.

Fast forward a year, applications for the 2023 Emerging Artist Award were out. I made a commitment to myself to spend the time, energy and work to prepare the paper work. I had my doubts about being selected but i pursued writing, editing, and putting together images of my artwork.

It was done, I hit the submit button on my computer. The doubts started creeping in, I should have said this, the images were all wrong. To late, there was nothing I could do.

The judging was completed on Zoom, We were encouraged to listen to the comments of the judges. The process was long and educational. Anyone interested in winning a grant should listen to observations of the professionals about the various forms of artwork. I waited nervously to hear if my score was high enough to be a finalist. It was like watching paint dry. When my name was announced, I did flip flops across the living room floor.

Soon after, Charlene Harrison, from Creative Pinellas, and I chatted over Zoom. She gave me the choice of two mentors. Both were exciting choices. I told Charlene about my vision the previous year, Denis Gaston. My thoughts, wishes and dreams became a reality.

I first met Denis about thirty years ago at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. He taught a mask making workshop. Most of us made familiar, flat looking masks while he created one out of the innards of a box. I was in awe of his outside the box, no pun intended, perspective. I appreciate his sweet gentle but firm nature. He is encouraging while being non judgemental. We’ve maintained a friendship over the years and now I get the guidance of his artistic point of view.

Our first meeting mentor to mentee took place at my St. Petersburg studio. Denis challenged me to paint several large paintings for the 2023 emerging artist exhibition. I balked, 36×48 is larger than I was accustomed to painting. The largest canvas I ever attempted was 30×40. Most of my past work has been on paper, the largest 22×30. His response was that I needed to challenge myself. Nervously, I headed over to Michaels to take advantage of a sale they were having to pick up the canvases that hardly fit into my SUV.

Our second meeting was held at my home studio where I am doing the work. Denis made suggestions, which helped me get over my fear of the large canvas. Back at the house, we created a salon, like in nineteenth century France with my friend John. We looked at art, discussed various techniques, drank tea and ate cookies.


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