Summer Art *Camp* for Adults

“I can’t draw a straight line!” or “I can’t draw a stick figure!” These are two comments I hear often. I usually respond with “That’s great! …because you don’t need to draw a straight line. That’s what rulers are for.”

Watercolor for adults at the Gibbes

Hollie Jackson, Susan Brinkley and Michele Singletary hard at work

Why do people respond in this way? And are these concepts keeping them from tapping into their creative side? Could a frown or disparaging comment while growing up have squashed their inner artist?

a palette-knife demo by Peggy Ellis

“Serenity,” a palette-knife demo by Peggy Ellis

I know and respect that not everyone holds the same interests, but my passion is to share artistic enthusiasm with those who may have buried theirs. My philosophy of art is to take a chance and experiment. Rules may need to be broken; and in doing so you could be in for a surprise.

 a watercolor demo of flowers by Peggy Ellis

“Elegance,” a watercolor demo of flowers by Peggy Ellis

I was thrilled last month to teach two of the first classes in the newly-renovated Gibbes Museum. My Tuesday classes were in watercolor, while my Thursday classes focused on oil painting with palette knives. The brand new classrooms are airy and bright with large windows and high ceilings. Roomy art tables on wheels and multiple stools are easily configured to suit each class. There is a sense of openness. When curious visitors happen by, I encourage them to take a peek at the work going on. One day a woman stopped to chat for a bit as I was preparing ahead for class. She related her experience of teaching classes at the old Gibbes for years. If I had not kept an “open door policy” I would have missed this sweet encounter.

"Inseparable." Watercolor Class Demo - a couple straight lines but lots of curves!

“Inseparable.” Watercolor Class Demo – a couple straight lines but lots of curves!

My students showed up from near and far, some traveling more than two hours each way. What a wonderful mix! From true beginners to more advanced, this random draw seemed to work. My goal is to hold their attention, sometimes interjecting anecdotes from my late father, artist Ray Ellis, such as “What’s the worst that could happen?” Or his proclamation at the start of each new piece: “This could be my best painting ever!!” I promise they will laugh, and that they will go home with at least one finished painting. I think I succeeded on both counts, laughs and three finished paintings by each student in a total of just six hours of class time. One thing is for sure, I get more than I give and my own painting time is the better for it.

After several classes, a number stayed behind to join me in a tour of the fabulous new museum space. Our appreciation of the exhibits was definitely enhanced after an afternoon focused intensely on our own art. The highlight was the last class when we had our critique. I still get chills every time I share each student’s painting and describe the progress and potential of their work. Ooohs, ahhhhs, and sheepish smiles are my reward. I’m proud to share a sampling from their hard work below.

Sunflowers by Susan Brinkley

Sunflowers by Susan Brinkley

Irises in watercolor by Brenda Bogren

Irises in watercolor by Brenda Bogren

Seascape watercolor by Alison Ross

Seascape watercolor by Alison Ross

Palette-knife painting by Judith Dominici

Palette-knife painting by Judith Dominici

Peggy Ellis, Gibbes Teaching Artist and Guest Blogger


Published July 15, 2016

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