An Artist, an Influence

By far, Bridget Austin, not only “art wise” but also “life wise,” has been a tremendous influence on me. I always thought that I would study art in college, but I became a nurse instead.

In the early ‘80s while on a family camping vacation my husband discovered the Peninsula Art School and a three-day watercolor workshop that had an opening. He signed me up – no experience, no supplies. (I quickly discovered the Paint Box Gallery). Since I was a novice, the two instructors on the first two days were not terribly pleased or encouraging. But on the third day I met welcoming, talented, fun, and encouraging Bridget Austin. I loved her work, and she planted the seed – I wanted to paint! Although my life at this point was too busy for any serious art pursuits.

In the late ‘90s I began taking yearly workshops with Austin at the Peninsula Art School. I love her style and her use of light. Her classes are delightful. She is a great teacher, gives good suggestions and critiques. She challenges, but she keeps you smiling. As the years have gone by we have become great friends, traveling together to Provence, Ireland and southwest France on painting expeditions. Great adventures!

In 2005 Bridget encouraged me to have a show, and I sold my first painting; that’s when I started to call myself an artist. Because of Austin’s influence, support, and encouragement I have finally realized my lifelong dream of becoming an artist. I cannot thank her enough.

Karen Shanahan is a member of the Door County Art League, and her work can be seen at the Door County Art League Gallery in the Top of the Hill Shops in Fish Creek.

The Peninsula Pulse has partnered with the Hardy Gallery to present the series, “An Artist, an Influence.” For more information about the Hardy, please call 920.854.2210, email [email protected], or visit