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Class offers seniors expression, escape

Posted: August 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Class instructor Peggy Patti, right, demonstrates a technique for making clouds as student Mona Antchagno paints a watercolor sky and horizon at the SCV Senior Center recently.

 

Escape Editor

A couple turns down the hall after you enter the SCV Senior Center on a Thursday morning, you come to a bank of windows, through which you can observe a room full of artists intently concentrating on their works. For the most part, these artists are seniors, though there are some younger, special needs artists as well. Most of these folks will be working in watercolor, and all of them will appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. That’s because they are.

Some of these artists have had quite a bit of experience painting and some are brand new to the activity, but all of them find camaraderie here, as well as skill development and a relaxing atmosphere. As their instructor, Peggy Patti, puts it, “It’s a very peaceful time for us. You can relax,” she said. “And when you paint, all you think about is what you are doing.”

Art instruction

Patti, 72, should know. Though she has been an artist all her life, she was a student in a Senior Center art class before she became an instructor.

“I was in a Tuesday night art class here. When it became hard for the instructor to get here, I offered to run the class,” Patti said. “Then Robin Clough (the Senior Center’s director of recreation and volunteer services) suggested I take over the morning class as well.”

She added that she’s been teaching at the Senior Center for at least three years.

Patti said that she became an artist as a little girl.

“I would draw and paint with my grandmother. Most of my brothers and sisters did, too, though one brother started four years ago, at age 72,” she said.

Relating to herself, as well as her students, Patti’s bio notes that: “Art is a passion for those of us who do it regularly. I find it keeps the mind sharper and perfects the technique we use to represent our inner selves. Because art has been in my life since childhood, it is integral to my wellbeing.

“I have studied art all four years of high school, at various workshops (Beverly Duncan, Jerry Brommer and Brenda Swenson, recently) and in college classes. I have won two silver awards and one gold award for watercolor painting at the annual Art Classic, the judged show for the Santa Clarita Artists’ Association.

“The wonderful thing about painting is, no matter how long one has painted, there is always something to learn and, eventually, something to teach. The two classes I teach at the Senior Center bring me much joy. It is lovely to paint with contemporaries who are fellow art lovers.”

Students have fun

As noted previously, Patti said the skills of her students vary widely, from absolute beginners to pros. And though her instruction can best be utilized by students working in watercolors, which is her specialty, she said she will help students working in other media with their composition and colors. “Some students are so advanced, they don’t need my help,” she said.

On the day I interviewed Patti, one of the students she was helping was Mona Antchagno. New to the class, Antchagno was picking up tips for making clouds and horizons in watercolor, and she seemed pleased with the results.

Another student, Kathy Corey, was working in oil. “I’ve been an artist a long time,” Corey said. “I come to class three times a week. It gets me out of the house. I could paint at home, but I like painting with other people. This is wonderful therapy, to come here with friends. I come here for the social part. We have fun.”

Patti emphasized this. “It’s a place to paint, to meet all your friends. We celebrate with birthday parties and Christmas parties,” she said.

Art as therapy

Patti noted that working in the art class is therapeutic. “If you’re having a bad day or don’t feel well, when you start painting, all those thoughts go away,” she said. “Even if you ache, you don’t notice while painting.”

She explained that painting is good exercise for the mind, as well. “Wet paint runs, so you have to know what to do and when to do it. You have to think about the process ahead of time. It keeps the mind sharp,” she said.

She added that she has been teaching all her life and enjoys seeing people progress. “If you can help, why not?” she said.

The Senior Center art class is held on Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon, and on Tuesday evenings 6:30-9:30 p.m. The SCV Senior Center is located at 22900 Market St., Newhall, CA 91321. For information call 661-259-9444. You can view Peggy Patti’s work at www.pegspaintbrush.com.

jwalker@the-signal.com

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