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Painting course at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center proves to be hit among local seniors

Posted: July 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Marina Marcelin, 95, works with acrylic paint during an art class at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall on Thursday.

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Carol Leibowitz, of Newhall, always wanted to paint, but since she couldn’t even draw a straight line on paper with a ruler, she felt it wasn’t worth pursuing.

That was before she found the art classes held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall.

Now, a year after enrolling in the classes, she’s reproducing such paintings as Guido Reni’s “Saint Cecelia,” by hand.

“I just painted an Erte and gave it to my daughter for Mother’s Day. When she opened it, she asked how I could afford such a painting. I told her I painted it myself,” Leibowitz said proudly. “Peggy taught me all this, where to add shading, or when I make a mistake, how to fix it.”

Peggy Patti is one of three instructors for the classes, which cost $40 each quarter. The current quarter is July, August and September.

Open to all ages, students are allowed to attend as many classes, which take place from 9 a.m. to noon, as they wish. The mixed-media classes offer instruction in oil, watercolor or acrylic painting.

“Sometimes students come in complete novices, so I have them sit next to me for a while,” Patti said. “They have to bring their own materials, but usually they can use ours until we determine what they need.”

Patti, who used to teach science for a living, has painted all of her life and takes workshops to keep updated on the newest techniques.

“I recently learned negative watercolor, which is a really nice effect,” she said. “Painting may have not been my profession, but after 30 years, you know a couple of things.”

Her teaching style is low-key, which is a good fit for Patti’s students.

“Because I’m working with adults, they don’t want someone who’s going to stand up and say do this, this and this. Instead, I walk by and ask them what they need or to point out what’s not working in a piece,” Patti said.

That strategy has been very helpful for Leibowitz, who attends class every Thursday when Patti instructs.

“I can create on my own, but being able to learn colors and how to see perspectives of shades is fantastic. Peggy is the greatest teacher. I have paintings hanging in my house that people can’t believe I’ve done,” she said.

For Marlene O’Shea, it’s not just learning about art; it’s the social aspect of the class that’s especially appealing.

“I always liked to draw, and my daughter found out about this class. She wanted me to get out of the house and do something,” O’Shea, a Valencia resident, said. “There’s camaraderie here. I’ve made some very good friendships.”

O’Shea paints from photos, and is currently working on a tree and nature landscape. She often gives her work away as gifts.

Seated next to O’Shea is Rosemary Murray, of Valencia, who has been attending the class for so long that she cannot remember when she enrolled, but estimates it’s been about 12 years. She comes three times a week, and her current project is watercoloring flowers in a sketch book.

“I’ve done still-lifes and all kinds of flowers, but right now, working on this book is my favorite project,” Murray said. “This is a very comfortable class. Everyone is very friendly and helpful.”

According to Robin Clough, Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center director of recreation and volunteers, the painting classes are among the most popular of the center’s recreational and educational offerings for many reasons.

“It’s inexpensive. We call it a buffet, all you can paint for $40 a quarter,” Clough said. “It’s a great way to meet new people and it’s open to newcomers. There’s no pressure; it’s either a nice introduction to painting for novices or a continuation of learning if people already have some skills.”

Painting classes at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon in Room A1, 22900 Market St., Newhall. For more information, call (661) 259-9444 or visit


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