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If you have a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ~Vincent Van Gogh
It happened many years ago, I loved the watercolor paintings of Door County birch trees and was inspired to create my own. I took a class with very disappointing (to me) results. Thus, when my husband bid on and won a silent auction prize for any class at the Bjorklunden campus in Baileys Harbor, I was furious at him for taking matters into his own hands.
The next day, as I glanced over the class schedule, I thought, okay it looks interesting, they offer a weeklong class in watercolor, he spent the money, maybe I should take the class…Fast-forward three years, to last month when I spent a week at the same watercolor class at Bjorklunden. What happened to overcome my resistance to taking another class? Why would I continue to take the same class for three years in a row?
Actually, I am a relative newcomer to this group; most of my fellow classmates have been coming back for this class since it began, over ten years ago. I can compare it to the old TV show “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. We have a special bond; we travel from as far as Florida and Montana to experience this class. On day one, everyone shares or updates their story, the newcomers who just want to paint a sunset, the art teachers who come to work on their current project while sharing techniques and asking Helen for advice, to the 85 year old who, although she is losing her sight, continues to paint. And her caring daughter, who came along this year so that her mother wouldn’t have to miss this yearly experience.
Perhaps the credit for this special experience belongs to our instructor, Helen Klebesadel. She is a wonderful, supportive artist/teacher who encouraged me to paint again and cheerfully shares her love of the medium. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and I love it when she demonstrates how to save a picture that you sadly considered lost.
A typical morning consists of a series of exercises in which she demonstrates various watercolor techniques. After lunch, Helen visits every artist, offering assistance to the newcomers and advice to returning students. In this encouraging atmosphere, we are free to browse the work of our fellow artists and engage them in a discussion about the different techniques they are using to create their treasures. By midweek our classroom has become an art gallery, as Helen encourages us to post our paintings on the classroom walls.
In this supportive environment, time slips away and I frequently find myself in a special zone as I paint. I am disturbed by the interruption when the snack or lunch bell rings. I am so involved in my painting that I forget about the outside world.
And yes, I have been able to recreate those beautiful birch trees that are so common in Door County. I am proudly known as the “birch tree lady” in class. I am looking forward to this fall, as I find it easiest to paint them during this colorful season where I can showcase the many shades of red, yellow and orange on the off-white bark.
With the multiple opportunities to create art in Door County, perhaps it can also be referred to as an artist’s colony. Thank you, Helen, for helping me find my “muse”, thank you Mike for forcing me to get back up on the horse and try again, and thank you, Door County for the inspiration to paint.
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