On a steamy but sunny Friday afternoon, I experienced a form of self-care that I didn’t realize I needed. I had a tour of the Bel Air Armory scheduled as I am hosting the Costume and Cocktails Halloween Bash for the Harford Artists Association (HAA) this October. After surveying the stage area where my Zenobia Darling themed performance art tableaux will be during the event, I went back to the HAA gallery to touch base with gallery manager, Susan Zanella.
Susan and I were chatting about performing artist Allan Kaprow when HAA member Jen Schaefer came into the gallery to begin setting up for an art class in the back area of the gallery. Then, excited kids along with their parents dropping them off, begin arriving for this kids’ art class.
On Friday afternoons this past summer, HAA hosted a young artist’s workshop. For six weeks over summer vacation, young artists are invited to come into the HAA gallery for lessons in various art techniques, perfecting their craft and enjoying their afternoon making art. I went over to check it out once the class was set up with Jen beginning her instruction, coaching the class on how to begin a Starry Night-inspired acrylic painting on a 14 by 11-inch canvas panel. Jen asked if I wanted to join the class. I was hesitant at first because it is geared for beginning artists and with my advanced level at painting, I didn’t want to intimidate the young artists. Then I saw that HAA member, Jill Plaisted, there with her granddaughter painting, so I joined in. Jill is an accomplished artist and currently is in an art exhibition at the Liriodendron Mansion with five other women artists called “6 Women Paint”.
I typically paint at minimum once a week, and I hadn’t painted since the week prior when I En Plein Air painted a scene of the vulture tribe at the Conowingo Dam called “The Rock Show at Conowingo Dam”. When I saw another professional artist painting in the class, I decided to join in as I love any type of art making and so I began painting my own Starry Night scene following Jen’s instruction. At first, I was just painting because it looked fun, and I genuinely have a passion for art. But the more I painted with the class, I realized that I was doing lively self-care. But what is it about these kids’ art sessions that is self-care?
About halfway through painting, I took a short break and began to admire the other works in progress as everyone was blending vibrate yellows, magentas, and violets into their painted night sky on the canvas. It always amazes me that everyone is painting the same image following the same instruction, but the paintings all come out so different. I gave Susan my glitter covered camera and she snapped some pictures of the group painting while I got back to work, finishing my painting. As I painted, we started conversing as a group, connecting skilled artists with the next generation of artists who are just beginning their artistic journey.
Jen’s two kids took part in the art class; both possessing Jen’s artistic ability and were enjoying their afternoon painting under their mom’s coaching. During the conversations we as a group had while painting, her son told us that he was going into high school and had been admitted into the art academic track that Harford County Public School offers students. This was followed up with praise and encouragement by us, the professional artists in the class, as we all have experienced the “guidance” typically offered to young artists discouraging them from pursing a career in the arts. I made sure to share about how my performing and visual art career has taken me all over the world, and that a lucrative career as a professional artist is a very real thing, as us adults are examples of what it can look like. The best part of this is that even the kids in the class too shy to participate in the conversations were actively listening while having fun painting. It plants a seed into these young kids minds that art is something to seriously consider doing, as it can more than just a hobby.
It was also during this moment that I realized that this afternoon of art creation is more than just painting for fun but vital self-care for us adults. Seeing Jill paint with her granddaughter reminded me of when I was kid painting for fun with my grandparents and engaged my inner child more than I realized. I typically feel this drive to make art for profit when painting, and during these classes, that motivation is gone. I was painting simply for the enjoyment of it, and in doing so, I was connecting with fellow artistic humans in my community. It let me paint in a different style I normally paint in and was having such as much fun painting as the kids in the class. We as a class painted two paintings that day following Jen’s instructions. The second was a sunset water scene on a 12 by 9-inch gallery wrapped canvas; my both painting can be found in my Havre de Grace Rockstar collection on my online portfolio and art blog ZenobiaDarlingCreative.com.
HAA offers all sorts of art classes for all ages and levels of someone’s creative journey, and member artists can and should participate in these art classes. This self-care the non-profit art gallery provides with this type of community outreach is why I make sure to support HAA and agreed to host their upcoming Halloween costume bash. The next time you see one of these classes to sign your kids up for some imaginative art amusement, I invite you to sign yourself up too. This moment of painting is more than just painting a beautiful picture, as it is a moment to disconnect and engage a part of you that you might not realize you need engaging. This art making is actually much needed self-care, all disguised as a fun afternoon painting in a kids art class.