There’s More To Making Beautiful Art Than Just Putting In Your 10,000 Hours

By Cheryl Ryan

I used to think that artistic greatness could only be achieved through 10,000 hours of exhaustive, self-sacrificing practice. Hard work is certainly part of the equation. But these dedicated artists prove that you can continue to grow in your art while laughing, encouraging and sharing knowledge with each other along the way.

Thank you to artists Nancy Takaichi and Liz Fennell for sharing their thoughts on creativity, Plein Air painting and why they do it.

What is your art background?


I loved drawing as a kid. I took art lessons and every high school art class I could get, then majored in art at DePauw University, Indiana. Once I started painting in oils I was hooked on the medium. It allows for changing one’s mind and trying new things, which is what I did with my life too.  The plan was to move to California and get my MFA but first I had to afford to live here. So I found work in Silicon Valley and a short-term job became a 30-year career. I’m finally doing the work that I went to school for: making art!


I didn’t have any art experience until I started painting with Stefan Baumann more than 15 years ago. That’s when I met some terrific like-minded people. Occasionally, Stefan would take the class on Plein Air adventures. That’s what hooked me. I knew that I would keep painting after that. I loved painting outdoors! It took a few years before I actually started going out on my own.

Creating in Nature

What drives you creatively?


My creativity is absolutely driven by the colors that I see all around me and how they interact with each other. Because of this and as an artist I’ve become so much more aware of my unique surroundings and it continues to drive me to seek out beautiful places.

My painting of red poppies against a grey stormy sky is a perfect example of watching the interaction of colors. In this case, it was an image that I photographed and then painted in my studio. My Plein Air pieces are inspired by the feeling that a location gives me. 

‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ by Liz Fennell


When people say “you look so peaceful outside painting”, it makes me laugh. Yes, I’m focused and in the moment, but I’m having many conversations in my head as I problem-solve my way through a painting. It is anything but peaceful. If I’m lucky, when the painting becomes a complete mess, my quiet friend “intuition” steps in. She tells me to step aside and “let me take care of this”. I will admit to having a sense of art, but 95% of what I’m doing is from practice, learning, and hard work. This has not come easily at all, but like exercise, you get better if you keep at it. 

‘Logan’s View’ by Nancy Takaichi, available at Gallery 24 in Los Gatos

Preserving the Moment

How would you describe your style and what do you want to project through your art?


My art is a celebration of the joy of living in northern California where there’s such versatility in landscape and color palette!  It is fun to try it all; the ocean, mountain, urban, nature. I have a thing about trucks and houses.  When I’m painting, I think “I’m seeing this for you” and want my work to bring something to those who couldn’t be there. Art preserves “this moment” in a way that photos can’t capture. I get to decide what to include, what to omit, and how best to tell the story. It really is a blast!

‘Joe’s Tacos’ by Nancy Takaichi

I know that you paint individually in your studios as well as together outdoors. What do you get from painting together that you don’t get from painting on your own?


When I’m painting outside I love the peaceful calm of a trail or the energy of waves crashing. I enjoy both studio and Plein Air experiences, but the Plein Air is definitely more inspiring for me. I love to paint with my friends! My paint pals inspire me to just keep showing up, have fun and do my best.  We can all be painting the same scene and each piece turns out completely different. It’s a joy to compare, bounce ideas off each other and enjoy the whole experience.

Studio time often feels more like a job, but I like the time there to really concentrate on what I’m creating ( usually larger format too)

‘Carmel Beach’ by Liz Fennell


My favorite studio is the great outdoors. Having friends to share the drives, the views, and the adventure makes all of this so much fun. And again, like meeting friends to exercise, you commit to being there and you have to follow through whether you feel like it or not.   We never run out of things to say and I’m constantly learning from them. We have had hundreds of day trips, dozens of museum and gallery visits, several art workshops, and painting retreats. We cheer each other’s successes and make light of the failures.

You can find Liz Fennell’s work at and she will be showing her work at Los Altos’s Fine Art in the Park on Aug 14/15, 2021

Nancy Takaichi’s work is shown regularly at Los Gatos’ Gallery 24 and Colibri Art and Framing in Morgan Hill CA. You can also find her paintings at and she is available for selective commissions.


Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply Isabelle Stachnick June 30, 2021 at 10:55 am

    Cheryl, Congratulations on your blog. I really enjoyed reading about Liz and Nancy. Great writing style.

    • Reply zestandplomb June 30, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      Awe thank you Isabelle! How is your painting going?
      Are you still painting with Stephan?

    Leave a Reply

    You Might Also Like

    %d bloggers like this: