As the passing days of my life turn into months and years, I realize I am running out of time to become the next van Gogh. I have been pretty busy raising children and working over the past several years, and I haven’t taken much time to practice painting. Yet I have always wanted to know how to paint. I often find myself viewing the world in watercolors, imagining beautiful sky-scapes on canvas, wishing I knew how to capture the beauty of a fall day in a painting. I have also always wanted to win an Oscar for best actress, but we’ll stay focused here and keep it real.
Last fall, I registered for a watercolor class at the ACAC. Committed to cutting out a little time just for me, I impressed myself with my ability to carve out the three hours a week to attend the class, only to experience a head-slapping V-8 moment when I was reminded that if one wants to become fluent in any creative process, she has to practice, preferably daily. I hadn’t cut out the time to practice. I had literally budgeted my time to the minute just to be able to attend the class. Our instructor suggested we set up an area in our homes where our paints were always accessible, which sounded wonderful, but I knew with a heavy heart from day one that this was not a class I would be able to continue with any success at this season in my life.
Although I highly recommend the class and the instructor, I confess my paints have remained in the closet for the most part since last year. They come out every now and again on a random Saturday when my daughter and I have a few hours to play with paint together. Now that it’s fall again, Sunday afternoons leave us a few hours clear of distraction while the boys in our house watch football, so maybe we’ll paint then, too.
I had resolved to put my dreams to master painting aside for the time being, when another opportunity presented itself. I was intrigued to hear about the Paint and Wine Nights hosted at the ACAC, taught by instructor Marie Betlyon Smith. During these monthly evening classes, the ACAC provides paints, easels and brushes, while Marie supplies a sample painting, accessible instruction, and music. Students are invited to munch on snacks and enjoy the beverages of their choice, while Marie leads the class through a complete work, from start to finish, in just a few hours. No experience is necessary. Seriously. Absolutely none. I went to my first class on August 7, and painted this:
There are a variety of people who come to the class – regulars committed not to miss a class, dabblers like me who will fit it in when we can, people who have never touched a brush, and some avid painters who may not even paint the subject matter presented, but who enjoy the opportunity to paint in community. The result is a truly lovely evening of relaxation and creativity with interesting people, complete with the satisfaction of a finished painting to bring home.
Marie leads her students through the process of her sample painting, but artists are free to vary the palette and subject as they wish. I pretty much followed the example during my first class, but next time I might branch out a little more, like my classmate, Jim McCabe, who decided to zoom in a little closer to the moon.
I enjoyed the opportunity to work with a new medium (acrylics), to see how Marie was able to break down the painting into simple steps, and to discover what I could do. I was able to practice painting without any worry about when I might get to practice again, thanks to a meaningful starting and ending point during an evening I can commit to one month at a time. I enjoyed food and wine with friends, new and old, while listening to good music. The energy of the room that evening was pretty magical.
The October paint night is already sold out, but there are more scheduled. Not available evenings? ACAC is also offering some daytime offerings. So grab some friends, or come out for a solo-adventure to meet new friends. Set aside some time one evening or afternoon to let your inner-Picasso come out to play.
Upcoming classes are:
Thursday, December 4 6:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Monday, December 8 from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m.
All classes are held at the ACAC Education Center on 125 S. Washington Street, Gettysburg. You can register for the November class here or call (717) 334-5006 for more information. Links to register online for December should be available soon. Cost for the class is $36.
This is the lovely painting being offered for the December afternoon class, taught by Marti Yeager: