TARPON SPRINGS — Lynn Shaffer always wanted to be an artist.
That was until one of her instructors at a small college in Buffalo, New York, told her she wasn’t good enough.
“That door closed. That was the end,” said Shaffer, of New Port Richey. “That was it. I got married and other than drawing pictures with my children I did not do any art at all. It wasn’t until the pandemic I said that that since we’re all quarantining, why don’t we all do an art project?”
With that, her artistic career was reborn. She looked up the works of Iris Scott, a master finger-painter, and thusly inspired, Shaffer began the career she to which she had always aspired.
“I started finger-painting, of all things,” she said. “I was nowhere the caliber she (Scott) is. But my first business card says, ‘Custom Finger Painting.’”
While Shaffer enjoyed finger-painting, and while it helped to re-launch her career as an artist, it wasn’t long before she moved to another medium.
“My husband and I had taken a lot of bird photos, so I would paint anything in my Google photos,” she said. “I picked up paint brushes because there’s only so much you can do with your fingers.”
Now the artist who “wasn’t good enough” has become a member of the Tarpon Art Guild with a series of paintings on display called “Orphans of the Central African Republic.”
The Art Guild encourages artists like Shaffer, and although her reception is not officially a Guild event, the 1,800-square-foot gallery at 161 Tarpon Ave. in Tarpon Springs includes the works of a wide array of artists and offers them a place to display their work.
“Our goal is to keep our door open for artists,” said Heather Risley, president of the 12-member cooperative of local artists who make up the 5-year-old Guild. “No one is making a lot of money, but we have that desire to keep this running and open for local artists. We have so many wonderful artists who do not have a place to show.
“It may not be big sales, but it will boost their confidence when people appreciate their art.”
Risley said the Guild displays primarily oil paintings, but they also display watercolors, pottery, pastels and colored pencil drawings. Even “steampunk,” a medium where artists take things people think are trash and turn them into art, is offered.
The Guild, where each member donates a day of their time every week, displays works by its members, but it also rents space to artists who are not members.
“It’s a great environment,” Shaffer said. “There are all kinds of artists using different mediums. I love working with the other members and learning from them.”
The Guild is how Shaffer got her start. Now she considers herself an artist after playing the important role of mother to her now-grown children.
“The Guild encourages people who are trying to get into the art world,” Shaffer said. “It allows them to show their talents instead of just putting their art into their husband’s closet, like I did. This is an incredible opportunity. On a daily basis, I pinch myself that I am able to be living something I had always hoped I would be able to do.”
Shaffer initially placed her art in a local gift shop, but people encouraged her to branch out to other outlets. That’s where the Guild enters the story.
Her husband, Bob, showed Shaffer’s works to Risley, and although there was no opening at the gallery, Shaffer became a guest artist.
She was elated.
“Like most artists we all think we aren’t good enough,” said Shaffer, who is now a member of the Guild. “But my husband is very encouraging, and he had said, ‘Let’s go to the Guild.’ I think it’s just surreal to be living what I always hoped to do. I love expressing myself as an artist. It’s a dream.
“There was a day, and I don’t remember when, when I was painting, but nothing was working. I started to tear up and say, ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this. Maybe I should be selling cars.’”
She did not sell cars. And now a display of her paintings of children, “Orphans of the Central African Republic,” is featured at the Guild.
“I love working with children,” she said. “They’re embedded in my heart, and I thought I could paint these children and raise enough money to make a difference.”
The Central African Republic is labeled the most dangerous place in the world for children. Shaffer is trying to raise $4,000, which is enough to send an entire class to school, where they get an education, meals, uniforms, medicine to treat parasites, even Christmas presents.
Shaffer has never been to the Central African Republic, but she discovered the children’s plight while working on a Hand-in-Hand orphan project for her church.
“The story about these kids touched my heart and lit the fire,” she said. “I loved the fact that I knew all of the money I raise will go directly to help the kids.”
Shaffer’s work will be on display beginning Oct. 1 and she will hold a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the Guild.