Prairie Tayles: Time Well Spent

Dec 22, 2017

Art day in grade school was so much fun. I looked forward to it all week and could barely contain my excitement through morning lessons. Throughout lunch, I’d mull what we’d create when the teacher told us to clear desks. My favorite activity was painting, but coloring, gluing, forming clay, whatever hands-on mess making was a hit as far as I was concerned. Art time meant dabbling, creating, and chatting with nearby classmates. What could make it better?

Well, as an adult, I have an answer. Sip or snack and paint class for grownups. The sponsoring artist provides the easel, paint, brushes, and canvas, while students bring beverages and treats.

Several area artists have discovered they live in communities filled with wannabe Picassos. They’ve learned they can offer classes several times a month and teach others to enjoy capturing a scene on canvas. Friends even plan birthday parties and showers involving such activities.

I’ve attended sessions in different area towns and enjoyed every one. In the hours leading up to class, I build the same anticipation that kept me on the edge of my grade school seat. My mind rehearses familiar questions: what are we going to paint, will it be hard, how can I avoid a mess, who’s going to sit nearby, will I like the finished product? Some personality traits never go away, and these have remained mine for decades, even those where I never touched a brush.

No matter whose class you take, teachers understand student limitations and the old adage that nothing succeeds like success. Every course I’ve seen advertised has a great picture for students to paint. Sometimes they focus on scenes involving trees, clouds, sunflowers, water, or farmsteads. Holidays offer options from pumpkins and black cats to big-eyed owls to trees silhouetted against a haunting full moon. Thanksgiving scenes involve everything from autumn leaves to jolly turkeys. My favorite is Christmas snow men. These whimsical characters might be skating, sledding, trimming trees or even standing on their heads. I enjoy such charming and colorful scenes so much I could paint them year-round.

I credit instructors with setting up the perfect get together. By the time we “artistes” arrive, they’ve arranged plastic protected tables, canvas on easels, paint brushes, Styrofoam plate palettes, and paper towels for messy pupils. They’ve finished at least one if not more demonstration pieces that model what the end result will look like if students follow directions. It’s fun to listen to everyone’s remarks as they anticipate the task before them.

It’s interesting how a special energy happens when creative spirits unwind and loaded brushes start slapping canvas. When colors fill in forms and designs take shape, everyone relaxes. Breathing slows as folks capture key elements of the painting. As participants relax, stories and laughter emerge, adding to a perfect event.

Thank goodness local artists invite dabblers into their studios and offer opportunities to rediscover joys found in grade school art class. For some, this’ll be their only painting experience, for others this is a springboard to more advanced skills. Regardless, it’s time well spent.