By SARA ARTHURS
Painting allows children and adults to express their creativity, but many people may be too intimidated to try such an art form.
There is “a lot of self-doubt,” said Sarah Crisp, executive director at Awakening Minds Art, a nonprofit organization that teaches art to children and adults. Doubt is particularly prevalent among adults, with children being a little more comfortable creating art.
Lessons can be helpful even for those with natural talent, but they must include not just technique but help getting over inhibitions.
“The younger they are the less uncomfortable they are,” said Janealla Killebrew, a retired school art teacher who offers private art lessons at her home.
Killebrew has taught elementary, middle and high school art, most recently at St. Wendelin Catholic School in Fostoria.
She said with a young child, a teacher can just give them the paints and they’ll start creating but older children are more reluctant.
“Little kids are really honest and they’re excited about coming to you. … High school kids are a lot more reserved,” Killebrew said.
She said that, although high school students are less comfortable making art, “I love teaching them.”
Crisp said the hardest part is often getting started.
Awakening Minds Art teaches painting with acrylic paints to children of all ages as well as adults. It primarily focuses on working with children with special needs and adults with dementia but classes are open to anyone.
With adults, Crisp said, instructors find themselves needing to say “Do you trust me? I promise I won’t let you fail.”
She said adults, especially seniors, are harder on themselves than children are and tend to think they’re not good at art.
“They always say, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist,'” said Awakening Minds Art’s studio manager, Ally Smith.
She responds by telling them to try it and they might like it.
Part of the trouble is that when an adult thinks of art, “They think of very famous paintings,” Crisp said. So there’s a tendency to compare one’s own painting to those of professionals.
“I think people just judge themselves too much,” Crisp said.
Smith knows what it’s like to not think of oneself as an artist. Her background is in social work and psychology and she wanted to work at Awakening Minds Art because it was a chance to work with special needs children. Smith has since gained confidence in her own artistic ability and will get out paints after a bad day, something she never thought of doing before.
“It’s so relaxing,” she said.
She now feels more confident than she once did at her ability to teach and to break techniques down, step by step.
“You learn just so much that it becomes a passion,” she said.
Crisp, now an administrator, said when she was a teacher she loved seeing people’s “sense of accomplishment.”
Killebrew said it’s “awesome” to see someone learn, and really “get it.”
“Oh my goodness, that is the most fulfilling thing,” she said. “It almost makes me cry.”
One challenge is to let go of “that vision that you have as the instructor,” Crisp said. The instructor might expect a painting with one sailboat but the student may decide to paint five. She has learned that they need to “help them make the art,” not tell them what to do.
Killebrew has found that in private lessons she’s able to work more closely with a student than in a classroom.
“One-on-one is wonderful,” Killebrew said.
She teaches different types of art including watercolor and charcoal drawing. One woman she teaches decided to try colored pencil “and she feels like she’s found her niche.”
Killebrew’s teaching starts with drawing, if a student doesn’t know what he or she wants to do.
“Drawing is the basis for anything you’re going to do, even if it’s sculpture,” she said.
She shows the students her own paintings and talks about their experiences, asking if they may have snapshots from vacations. Killebrew said landscapes are a good painting subject for beginners.
Killebrew has painted in oil, acrylic and watercolor, and still has the first painting she created as a child. She has also worked in collage, decorated paper and wood sculpture.
What leads people to take painting lessons?
“I think there’s something in people that wants to make art,” Killebrew said.
As a teacher, Killebrew tries to offer constructive criticism to help her students improve, but in a positive way.
“The last thing I want to do is insult them or hurt their feelings,” she said.
She also tries not to end a lesson at a “hard spot” for fear the student won’t want to come back the following week. She said part of her job is to encourage her students.
“Sometimes people get discouraged,” she said.
Crisp said creating art is therapeutic and uses both the left and right sides of the brain.
“Art can actually help create new neural pathways in the brain,” she said.
Smith added that for the children Awakening Minds Art serves, it can also be a chance to improve motor skills.
Crisp encouraged anyone to try making art, even if they don’t necessarily think of themselves as an artist. Awakening Minds Art offers events for beginners. Crisp said often someone who’s never painted before will, after such an event, buy supplies so they can paint at home.
Awakening Minds Art regularly hosts Paint and Partake sessions for adults, where wine is served and participants are given the chance to paint. The sessions serve as a fundraiser for the organization, “and we don’t dumb it down for anyone,” Smith said.
Awakening Minds Art’s next session of children’s classes starts Sept. 16, with painting from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and sculpture from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Paint and Partake sessions are held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Friday and third Thursday of each month Reservations can be made on Awakening Minds Art’s website or by calling the organization at 419-302-3892.
Online: http://www.awakeningmindsart.org/ Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
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