Being an artist is a lonely business: You typically work in isolation and everyone, including the person in the mirror, is a critic. On top of that, you are most likely an introvert anyway.

During the first five years I painted, I was more fortunate than most. I had the support of my husband and a monthly critique group. But it wasn’t until October 2009, when I was selected to join the San Diego Fine Art Society’s mentorship program for artists who are doing professional quality work but haven’t broken into galleries. I bonded with other artists and was buoyed by their support. All of a sudden I was much less alone.

For a year, I met at least every two weeks with a three to four other artists struggling with the same challenges: finding places to show work, figuring out how to price it, learning to talk with collectors and gallery owners. We also explored who we were as artists and what we wanted to happen with our own careers. Once a month, we met individually with a former Los Angeles art gallery owner, who acted as our mentor in the business of art.

Now the society is accepting a handful of new artists into the program.

“When artists aren’t in galleries … If their work is hidden in their garage, it doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts society,” said Fine Art Society founder April Game. “It is important for art to be seen.”

The nonprofit Fine Art Society began in 2007 with the goal of strengthening the local art community and making San Diego a premiere destination for arts and culture. In addition to the mentorship program, the group sponsors annual art awards, and sponsors ArtPulse.TV, an online video magazine covering San Diego’s art and culture.

The next group of artists will be third to go through the mentorship program. Previously, the program lasted a year, but now it will be six months with opportunity for renewal. Game said with each group they learn more about how to help artists succeed. For this third group, the artists will get personal development classes in addition to the business coaching of the past.

The aim? “By the end of the sixth month, the artists will walk in the world with more confidence,” Game said.

Ansley Pye, an artist from the first mentor group, said the two best things that came out of her year in the program were “the tremendous support and recognition from SDFAS about what I do and why I do it, as well as the profound connection with the other participating artists.”

Artists, donors or volunteers interested in learning more about the Fine Art Society, can meet Game on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pimento Fine Art. I’ll be there, too: The event is also the closing event for my solo show in the gallery, so people also can see the work of someone who has gone through the program. (A portion of the show’s sales are donated to the society.)

While getting through the mentorship program doesn’t make your career as an artist, it can open up some opportunities.

Here’s what some of the people who’ve gone through the program are doing now:

Duke Windsor will have a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at Ball Park Loft. CityBeat’s Kinsee Morlan wrote a terrific piece on Windsor and his journey through the mentorship program.

• Pye’s work can be seen at the Timmons Gallery in Rancho Santa Fe, and a gallery in Arizona.

• Rae Barney began Fire and Mud Studios, a full-service clay studio in Escondido, as she went through the program.

Fred Briscoe is represented by Alexander Salazar Fine Art.

• John McDavid will be showing at Cirello Gallery in December.

Gallery hopping in Laguna Beach? You can find the work of Mercedes there at the Essence Gallery, 346 N. Coast Hwy. (The gallery’s website is under construction but you can call for details at 949.494.8224.)

Mercedes said the best things she gained from her year with the society were the camaraderie of the small group of other artists and “the gift of increased confidence about my work and talents that many artists are searching for.”

Dani Dodge paints, writes and likes to play with animals, including her mutt named Cezanne: Follow her blog here at VOSD’s Behind the Scene, and find her on the web and on Facebook. You can drop her a line at and follow her on Twitter.

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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