Asheville is widely known as an artsy city. The major redevelopment of the River Arts District to house working artist studios was reported by the Citizen Times to have $50 million in city funding and over $200 million in private investments. On several hikes, I have stumbled upon artists painting freely in the woods. A recent survey indicated that Asheville was home to the highest percentage of craft artisans in the region with 85% of the respondents identifying themselves as artisans. As fun as it is to look at art, I decided it was time to grab a paint brush and give it a try.
My adventure began with an intro class at A-B Technical Community College in acrylic painting. I was like many of the other students on that first night who had not held a paint brush – say for the occasional making of a lemonade stand sign for my kids – since high school. Our instructor was Ursula Gullow, who has been dedicated to her craft for over 15 years and in 2014 as awarded the “Outstanding Continuing Education Instructor”. Plus she’s super nice, talented and very encouraging. No matter how much of a disaster my painting was, she would comment “nice brush stroke” or “what a beautiful shade of blue you created in this area”. I do love positive reinforcement.
So we began our adventure with color mixing. We were instructed to buy only yellow, red, blue, white and brown paint – from there we would learn to make our own colors. I remember very little from high school art class, but I do know that blue and yellow make my favorite color green. But who knew they made so very many shades of green. I’m still experimenting to try and create that elusive favorite shade of green.
Besides color mixing, Ursula demonstrated and then allowed us to create an abstract painting, monochromatic painting, practiced techniques for creating the illusion of clear and shiny objects…this was unbelievably hard and yet very rewarding. As I painted, it really looked like a mess of brush strokes, but stepping back I could actually see that my piece looked – especially if I squinted – like a clear mason jar. Amazing!
My final piece was a pitcher of flowers. I am still working on this as it has proven to be very challenging to make a simple flower look like something beautiful…not just a yellow blob. If nothing else, I have gained a deeper appreciation of what it takes to create something extraordinary on canvas.
I may not be a naturally talented artist, but I had a lot of fun and shared a lot of laughs with my classmates. For me it was not about the final product, but more about enjoying the creative process and finding joy. In fact, this was such a rewarding experience that I’m going back for a second course on painting landscapes. So keep your eyes peeled, I might just be setting up my easel on your hiking path next time you venture into the wilderness.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Most community colleges offer adult continuing education classes from welding (that’s what my husband is trying now), Photoshop, sewing, languages and arts of all sorts. What are you waiting for?