Penney De Pas: “They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway”

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readAug 23, 2020



I was my own biggest “naysayer.” I thought it was impossible to be an artist, but the universe works in magical ways, making it almost impossible for me not to own finally my artistic, creative self.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Penney De Pas.

Penney wanted to be an artist ever since she could hold a stubby crayon in her toddler fingers. Once, in second grade, she was determined to go back to school immediately following oral surgery and anesthesia just so she could attend art class. Throughout middle and high school, she always took art classes, and on field trips would go into New York City to visit the famous art museums and galleries where she told herself that her school-level art work “would never be good enough” to grace their walls.

Thus resigned to never achieve her dream, Penney settled for being an arts supporter, arts advocate, art history major in college and graduate school, and finally an arts administrator. But every job to be an arts administrator ended abruptly. Her “personality” did not seem to match what the managers or board members wanted. After a stint working on Wall Street, she finally found her niche as an association executive, from 1980 until she retired in 2017, earning her Certified Association Executive (“CAE”) designation in 1992.

In 1997, while attending a personal development course called the Landmark Forum, it dawned on Penney that her self-condemned “not good enough” sentence was merely a story that she had made up, and she could un-author it. The possibility seed of being an artist began to sprout again, slowly, blossoming into her declaration to be an artist in 2002. She has been painting and exhibiting ever since. And once the painter artist came out, other creative personas also wanted to join the fun: dancer, writer, pianist.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

My family of origin on my mother’s side does have some minor artists in it, including a great-great uncle who was a British Impressionist of some repute in the Staves School. My mother liked to draw and write poetry, so she did encourage art as a hobby. I also participated in theatrical activities in high school and college, mostly as a set designer, costumer, and usher, rarely “out front.” However, there was also a pretty strong scarcity conversation in my surroundings about “How can you make a living being an artist?”

A couple of years after I did the Forum, I was learning how to be a “life coach” in a program called “The Coaches Academy” and was assigned a coach for the program. She asked me what I wanted to work on, and my response was that I wanted to own a craft gallery and start a life coaching business. Within the week, I passed a craft gallery on my route to pick up my daughter at summer camp and I registered in the then-three-year Coach University program. I made contact with the craft gallery owners, and joined as one of five partners in December 1999. We kept the gallery going until July 2001 when we felt retail slipping and sold everything down to the bare walls. Less than six weeks later, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred on 9/11, so we were very glad we bailed out of the business when we did.

In March 2002, in a second round of layoffs at my association job, my boss cut my hours back to half-time. In casting about for something to fill my time, I registered for a watercolor class beginning in April at a local arts center in the afternoon — something I could not have done if I was still working full-time. Meanwhile, I had two friends who were dealing with advanced stages of cancer — the first one dying in late June and the other in early August. Their deaths had a profound influence on my artwork; I used it as grief therapy and painted portraits of them both. I think that is why I am drawn to subjects of strength and fragility, of the eternal and the ephemeral.

A year after I began watercolors, a friend from my Landmark seminars suggested I have an exhibit at a local frame shop where she knew the owner, who was also teaching a basic framing course. He liked my work, and after I framed some of it, we held my show a month later at his shop. I sold seven paintings at that first exhibition…more than van Gogh sold in his first lifetime!

Art is a practice, so I continue to take classes, give a coaching program for those whose “artist within” is in hiding, and have branched out to charcoals, acrylics, and Chinese brush painting. In 2005, I learned belly dance, then moved onto partner dancing in swing, ballroom, Latin, and Argentine tango. In 2013, I published my first book. My life purpose is to enrich people’s lives with images and stories. I believe art is an outer expression of our inner soul’s flowering and an access to the mystical.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I first took on updating my art website, I realized I would have to pivot from in-person gallery sales to an online presence, now selling to a wider geographic region. I have been scaling the social media learning curve and searching out different methods to reach an ever-expanding audience. Using skills and connections I have made through my continued involvement in Landmark Worldwide programs as well as my coaching tools, I have been engaging in areas I would not have thought possible before the pandemic.

Recently, I partnered with another coach who is a Landmark graduate. Together, we developed a coffee table book, The Art of C.O.R.E., which pairs over 23 of my paintings with his “21-Day C.O.R.E. Challenge” concepts. My painting “buddy,” whom I also met in the Landmark work, has also been a supporter over the years; we have shared studio space and partnered together to hold art shows. Another painting buddy and I are discussing organizing an artist retreat. And I have presented my own courses, “Finding the Artist Within,” “Sustaining the Artist Within,” and “Stoking the Creative Fires” at arts organizations, churches, and the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute.

I think I serve largely as a role model of someone who has gotten out of her own way and over her own “story” to take on inspiring projects that enliven and expand my life and that of others.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

Essentially, my artwork is pitched at the budding art collector. It is moderately priced and relatively small, so that it fits in a residential setting rather than a huge corporate lobby. I also have a series of “minis” that are small for those people who are downsizing, living in tiny spaces or urban settings, and are “gift-sized” and priced.

My courses are for those people who, like I did, have disempowering conversations about why they cannot allow themselves the time to be art makers and how they can break through those conversations to truly find their own inner artist.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

I was my own biggest “naysayer.” I thought it was impossible to be an artist, but the universe works in magical ways, making it almost impossible for me not to own finally my artistic, creative self.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong?

I entered an early watercolor of some apples into a charitable art auction, pricing it at $65. It sold for $150! (Okay, maybe that was a “fluke”!) Selling those first seven paintings at my inaugural art exhibition started to challenge my negative self-talk about not having sufficient talent. Last year, I had two paintings juried into a national art show. It is getting tougher to believe the negative self-talk anymore!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As you know, “it takes a village.” First, I appreciate my boss, a former full-time artist himself, who cut back my hours and encouraged my artistic endeavors. Then, I am grateful to my friend who introduced me to the art framer for my first art show. Several friends purchased my early artwork and cheered me on. Of course, every art teacher I have had has encouraged me, and my painting buddies have been very supportive.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

There are quite a few, but the one that I feel I can share is that, on the last day of 7th grade, I went with two friends to one of the girls’ homes. We were playing around and the other two ran outside of the house, ran around the house as I chased them, and ran back in the house, locking me out. I went home, crying all the way, and explained to my mother what happened. Later the girls came by with my report card, but I refused to see them. That summer, my mother taught me to cook and sew, using craft to help me get over the sadness and build my skill sets, as well as strengthening my personal resilience.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

First, I think one must recognize that any version of “I can’t, “I shouldn’t,” “That’s not possible,” etc., is a disempowering conversation that has been learned over time. You were not born with those ideas. Those around you gave them to you; they are not natural. Fear is not God-given; it is a human phenomenon.

Second, recognizing that negative self-talk and fear are learned, human behavior, how can that be altered? One of my favorite quotes from the book Who Moved My Cheese? is “What would I do if I was not afraid?”

Third, whom do you admire or look up to? Who are your role models? What qualities do they have that you admire? What action would you take if you stood in their shoes for a little while?

Fourth, remember that the naysayers are coming from their own inadequacies and negative self-perceptions. It is about them and not you. You do not have to buy into their “stories” about what you can and cannot do. I have seen people in wheelchairs able to walk again and go skydiving.

Finally, on your deathbed, what would you regret not having done, said, or experienced in this lifetime? Are you willing to die with your music/art/creativity/forgiveness/love still inside you?

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“Ah! But a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” — Robert Browning. My art business is “A woman’s reach.” Keep on reaching beyond what you think you can do, as that is where the gold is.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

People having the knowledge, skills, and tools to access their own inner creative flowering and having the world recognize all the arts as important as athletics.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Tumblr under my name or “A Woman’s Reach” as well as my website,



Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.