Why I Didn't Go To Art School... And What I Did Instead

Laurel Greenfield

Last week I told you all about the emotional beginning of my journey as an artist. If you didn’t see that, you can read it here.

After those long intensive classes, I had to make a decision about what to do for college. Did I want to go to art school and keep learning and pushing myself in a similar environment? Or did I want to go the liberal arts route and just see if I missed painting enough to come back to it?

After several promising portfolio reviews and being accepted into the College of Fine Arts At BU, I decided I couldn’t do it. The stress and comparison was too much for me at 18. I’ve always been a perfectionist and I didn’t see how I could make it through art school if there was going to be the same level of expectation and fast pace.

On the one hand, I was relieved that the pressure was off, but on the other I really missed painting. So I didn’t stop!

I carried a sketchbook everywhere and I painted on the floor of my dorm room whenever I could. Here are a few photos of some paintings I made in college.

As you can see, I was maintaining my food obsession! I was so obsessed in fact that I decided to major in Hospitality Administration because when I told an academic counselor that I just wanted to talk about food all day, she steered me in the direction of restaurant management, which spoiler alert, is NOT where I ended up, BUT that recommendation lead me one step closer to the program I had no idea was my perfect fit…

Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I did choose to go to art school and sometimes I beat myself up for not just pushing through it and getting an art degree, but my mom always tells me that every step along the way is leading you somewhere and looking back, she was definitely right.

Next week I’ll tell you all about where this food obsession led me and what program ultimately helped me articulate what I was trying to say with my artwork!

How I Learned to Paint (and the time I tried to quit painting forever!)

Laurel GreenfieldComment

I get asked a lot about when I started painting and whether or not I went to art school so I wanted to revisit my early days of learning to paint.

It’s really easy to look at the work of artists you like and somehow believe they were born with all their abilities, but it's powerful to know that the people who may seem “ahead” of you now were once in the exact same place you are! And let me tell you, my early painting days were painful! 

About 10 years ago, I was just starting to really focus on learning how to paint. Before then I always loved making art. It was my favorite subject in school and I could emulate the teacher’s projects with ease. I did some drawing and painting for fun and had a few introductory classes under my belt, but I wanted to get better.

After my junior year of high school, my mom signed me up for summer classes at a place in Poughkeepsie, New York called Mill Street Loft (it’s called The Art Effect now). The class, unbeknownst to me, was a summer intensive designed for kids considering art school, which wasn’t even on my radar. The course consisted of a few hours of painting in the morning, an hour of photography, and a few more hours of painting in the afternoon. A long day for someone who had never done more than one hour-long class in a day!

Each week, there was a theme for a painting assignment so we had to think about the concept, make sketches, and complete the painting in 5 days. In between painting sessions, our instructor Todd would pause for lessons on composition, color schemes, and show us examples of famous paintings to illustrate the lessons. In the beginning, I stayed quiet and tried to absorb these knowledge bombs.

Very shortly after we started our first project – a painting about “things your mother told you not to do” for which I painted myself eating two bananas because for some reason the ONLY thing I could think of that my mother told me not to do was eat two bananas in a day (food has been my theme for a while now) – I had a complete and total meltdown. I cried for hours, first in class sitting on the floor behind a drawing board and then even more when I got home.

 I literally thought I was going to die. I was 17 and feeling very dramatic, but I really did not see how I was ever going to make it through this class. I had never heard of a color scheme, I didn’t know the difference between acrylic paint and oils, I didn’t know the names of more than 3 famous painters, and everything we painted had to be painted from real life, which meant no photographs, which meant my self-portrait had to be painted while I was hunched over in this weird position looking at myself in the mirror.

I tried so hard to drop out of that class and to drop out of the second session I was signed up for later in the summer. I begged my dad to call the art studio and tell them that I just couldn’t emotionally handle it. If I didn’t know how to paint now, I thought I never would.  

I must’ve put on a good waterworks show because my dad, who was always against us quitting anything we started, ended up calling. But Todd told him no. He wouldn’t let me quit. I was so angry and so upset, but I had no idea that his “no” would be the best thing that ever happened to me as an artist.

So I went back.

There were still tears and there was still frustration, but I finished every project and every session I was signed up for. And I learned so much about painting that my head nearly exploded by the time I was done.

The two things that helped me get through it (aside from great teachers of course) were choosing projects that I could get excited about and exploring the bright, bold colors I was drawn to.

It won’t be surprising to you, but to make each project be something I could get excited about, I squeezed food into the theme whenever I could…


Things your mom told you not to do?

Obviously not to eat more than one banana a day!

Millstreet Loft - Steampunk Self Portrait.jpeg

Steampunk self-portrait?

Clearly this needs a cupcake!

millstreet greek painting.jpg

Greek Goddess week?

Who else would I be but Demeter, Greek goddess of wheat and agriculture?!

(Bacchus the god of wine was the first choice but seemed inappropriate for a 17 year old…)

I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but I was choosing to paint food because food is wrapped up in so much joy and nostalgia for me. It means something beyond itself and it was the subject that lit me up inside even back then.

I became a strong painter because the technique was steeped in my own stories. For the most part those stories were about joy and nostalgia. There was something really powerful about learning along the way instead of focusing on techniques out of the context of a painting.

Pardon my French, but learning to paint is fucking hard. It involves leaving your comfort zone, accepting failure as part of the process, and trusting that productive practice really will make you better. But when you’re painting something that lights you up inside, the difficulty becomes much less painful.

I am so grateful that I wasn’t allowed to quit even though every fiber of my 17 year old being wanted to. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t go back to that class.

If you’re an artist and you’re still learning, I hope this resonated with you! Learning anything new is hard but pushing through and finding a way to make it less painful is so key! Finding my favorite subject made the whole process less painful for me! It’s no secret that food is the subject that brings me the most joy, but what about you? What subject or memories bring you the most joy and nostalgia?

Next week I’ll be sharing what happened after these summer intensives and my decision about art school! Spoiler alert: I didn’t go!

The Huge Realization I Had in Portugal

Laurel Greenfield

I just got back from my painting retreat in Portugal a few days ago, and it was AMAZING.

It's hard to put the experience into words, but the last 7 days really reinvigorated and reinforced my love of painting and making art.

I didn't realize it until I was there that I haven't taken an art class in almost 10 years! I've been so focused on making paintings the only way I know how and have been strictly focused on trying to sell them. But I realized I forgot the joy and value of continuing to learn.

During the very first class on color harmony and abstract painting, I dropped into a painting zone so deep and focused that I forgot where I was.

This is me in the zone!

laurel painting in portugal

I also met some amazing women and was reminded of the joy of being part of a positive community. I spend almost every day painting alone so being around other artists was incredible.

portugal artist ladies

I'm just so excited because I can use everything I learned to create even better work to share with you!!

I had a lot of time to be by myself and think last week and that alone time really reaffirmed my mission of seeking out moments of joy around food and capturing them in vivid color.

It also lead me to a huge realization: That I want to bring you into my art world even more than I already do!

I had a lot of time to think about how I want to do this and...

I am so excited to tell you that I am finally working on an interactive (and affordable!!!) online painting class that will not only invite you to make your own works of art from anywhere, but will teach you about painting techniques and how I use color all while celebrating my favorite subject: FOOD!

CLICK HERE to get on the wait list for my painting course!


So many of you have come to my workshops and classes and told me that you really wanted to get creative and learn more about painting and I've been listening and trying to find a way to make it happen!

If you are interested in tapping into your creativity and getting to know my work and me on a deeper level, click here to get on the list to receive updates and be the first to sign up when it's ready!

CLICK HERE to get on the list and be the first to get more info to paint with me!

Talk to you next week!

P.S. I'm still working on my chocolate paintings, so keep an eye out for more info on when you can get your hands on those!

It's Time for the Sowa Winter Festival!

Laurel Greenfield
Shop local boston winter holiday market

Are you ready for holiday shopping season?! I know I am! I ordered tons of new prints, cards, and other fun stuff for all of your gifting needs.

I will be at the Sowa Winter Festival in Boston's South End for all 6 days and would LOVE to see you there!

If you like shopping for holiday gifts in person and love getting tons of different gifts for everyone on your list all in one day, the Sowa Winter Festival is the perfect spot for you to get your gifts this year.

Weekend 1
Friday, November 30: 5 pm – 9 pm
Saturday, December 1: 11 am - 7 pm
Sunday, December 2: 11 am - 5 pm

Weekend 2
Friday, December 7: 5 pm – 9 pm
Saturday, December 8: 11 am - 7 pm
Sunday, December 9: 11 am - 5 pm

Sowa Power Station
540 Harrison Ave
Boston, MA 02118

Here's a little blurb from the Sowa Winter Festival website:
Shop from over 100 of the region's best makers and specialty food vendors in the iconic SoWa Power Station. While you stroll, savor our favorite winter cocktails, seasonal craft brews and wines.

The SoWa Winter Festival is family friendly and free to attend. $10 cash parking.

If you’re not in Boston, don’t worry! All of my prints, original paintings, and gifts will be available online too! In fact, most of them already are. Click Here to check out my print collection and use the code SOWA for free shipping!

Starting on Sunday I'll also be sharing my Black Friday gift specials. Think print bundles, discounts, and free gifts! So be sure to check your inbox for those!

Until then, have a great rest of your week!


I Hate Pink But...

Laurel Greenfield

As you might've seen on Instagram I've been working on my pie series for the last couple of weeks. I'm painting three 16x20 pies which will make their debut at the Sowa Winter Market starting on Friday November 30th!

What's weird about these paintings is they're very pink... which is odd to me because I don't really consider myself a "pink person." In my head, pink falls into the "cuteness" category, which is a category I'm constantly trying to keep myself out of as 5'2" girl who gets called "cute" and "little" quite frequently. "Cute" isn't usually used as a negative word but it just makes me feel like a little kid. It makes me feel small and like I'm not a twenty-something woman creating an art business out of her apartment.

In my head, I'm an "orange person" or a "teal person" who only uses strong, vibrant colors that make me feel big and bright and in control.

But the thing is, I don't really have as much control over my colors as it seems from the outside. I mean, sure, I'm the artist and my hands are what actually do the painting, but sometimes the painting just demands to be a certain color. I don't really know how best to explain it.

I was explaining this to my mom over text and she asked if it's a voice in my head or a vision or a feeling. I guess it's closest to a vision. I put down the first layer of colors, which are almost always big and bold. But then those colors ask for the next colors and I listen and layer.

And sometimes the colors ask for pink. And I listen. And I end up with a painting made up of bold vibrant layers holding up the softer "cuter" ones. And oddly enough, I think I kind of like it.

pink pie paint.JPG