Lindsay Rapp '14: The Power of A Compliment

With more than 200,000 followers on Instagram, Lindsay Rapp (BFA ’14) shares her oceanic inspired artwork with people around the world. Through her paintings of mermaids and marine life, Rapp shares her lifelong passion for the beauty and energy and water.

She wasn’t always this open about sharing her inspiration or confident in her work.

The only time I ever doubted that art could be my career path was actually during college,” Rapp said. “I considered other career paths, however, the more I job searched, the more I realized how nothing fit me quite like my dreams of painting, which ended up strengthening my resolve and determination to work harder to make art my career path.”

While studying at PAFA, Rapp devoted herself to learning traditional techniques and fine art but found herself quietly drawing mermaids during class.

This led to the moment that she says changed her life.

“I was doodling mermaids in my sketchbook during a woodworking class. Professor Steve Nocella noticed my doodles and complimented my mermaid drawings,” Rapp said. “I immediately hid my book out of embarrassment of my ‘silly subject matter.’ Mermaids were always private doodles that I didn't feel were very serious but I just loved to do.”

Nocella encouraged her to pursue the mermaid drawings and believe in herself. As the semester went on, Nocella showed Rapp the work of other artists who painted mermaids.

“I took his encouragement to heart and often think back to that moment when people now ask me about how I started to paint mermaids,” she said. “I now know the power of a compliment, and try to encourage others in their own interests like Steve did for me.”

Moving to Philadelphia for college meant leaving her hometown of Clearwater, Florida, and the ocean. But once Rapp embraced her devotion to the sea and its feminine power, she finally knew herself as an artist.

“I would nostalgically fill my living area and art studio walls with seascapes. I would wear shells all over me even in the dead of winter to feel closer to the ocean, and everything I was attracted to always subconsciously reminded me of the water.”

Embracing what originally made her feel different from her classmates, gave Rapp confidence to share her work. She began posting her work on Instagram; growing her community using hashtags and finding ways to entice other artists to repost her artwork to their followers. She says the most important element of social media is making a genuine connection with people.

“It helped me find my voice as an artist. Through doing what started out as a private outlet of sharing my art progress, I found a community of people from all around the world that shared my particular taste in art.”

The encouragement and feedback she got online gave her the validation she needed to push her voice and dive into something new.

In 2015, she opened Lindsay Rapp Gallery in Old City, Philadelphia. It was sink-or-swim time.

“I mustered up all of my courage (and savings) and went for it despite all odds. I decided to chase after the best possible outcome rather than run away from the worst possible outcome. I learned to chase for my dreams rather than live my life trying to avoid mistakes.”

After more than three years of running her dream gallery, Rapp packed up her studio and moved to Laguna Beach, California to reopen Lindsay Rapp Gallery just a few blocks from the beach.

“It is an invigorating experience to spend my days doing exactly what I love and I think that everyone can provide themselves with this kind of artistic magic. Let go of the fear and leap into your passion!”

—LeAnne Matlach (

Lindsay Rapp
Lindsay Rapp

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.