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Art class draws out new skills for retirees

In a class filled with retirees, pencils hit the paper in an attempt to add bright colors to the shapes of flowers and portraits. Carol Landreneau presses harder on her purple colored pencil to add depth to the flowers depicted on her page. Bertha Page uses a lighter touch in her graphite sketch of a thunderstorm at sea. Bill Roth eschews the pencils for watercolor flourishes to create landscapes in blue and green.

Class instructor Charleen Null stops at each person’s spot along the table to suggest adjustments such as using heavier pressure on the pencil, or more gradual shading. Null has taught the Thursday morning drawing class at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County for the past year.

Null has tried a variety of art forms herself.

“I love it, and I enjoy watching people discover that they can love it too,” Null said.

Some students come in with a clear idea of what kind of art they want to make and what abilities they have, but many have never created a piece of artwork or they may believe they have no ability.

“A lot of them are shocking themselves,” Null said.

Landreneau believed she couldn’t draw when she began attending the class several years ago, but jokes she can almost draw a straight line now.

“I could not draw anything free hand,” Landreneau said.

All she could do was trace images and color them in, she said.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot coming here. Anybody, whether they can draw or not, should come.”

Susan Cavet was surprised she could draw, after only managing stick figures for years. Cavet worked on sketching a cat’s face during Thursday’s class and is fascinated with sketching faces.

“God gives us talents we didn’t know we had,” Cavet said.

The class also gives students a chance to meet other retirees in the community. Cavet didn’t know anyone in the class at first, but has since become good friends with some of her classmates, she said.

“I think we get more fun out of just socializing,” said attendee David Delyea.

While some students are learning a new skill, others are returning to an old passion.

Leeana Crespo loved art class in junior high and always painted and used watercolors. When she retired, Crespo wanted an activity she had the energy and time for. The drawing class gave her a chance to return to art at the basics of sketching.

Bill Roth made large easel paintings in oils and acrylics when he was in college, but had not painted in 40 years. Coming to the class gave him an opportunity to try something different and paint with watercolors.

Null starts her classes by giving students a good foundation in sketching, she said. Once they learn how to use graphite, students move on to colored pencils. Students with a specific interest, like Roth’s love of watercolors, are welcome to pursue that method.

“I’ve traveled around Mississippi quite a bit and this is the only town I know of with a Senior Center with this much activity and support of the community,” Crespo said.

Many of the attendees also take the oil and acrylic painting class held on Tuesday, or the woodcarving class offered on Fridays.