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Blazing a New Trail: Local painting class can bring out your hidden artist

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By Bennett Horne

Hello, my name is Bennett Horne and I may or may not be an artist.

My mother was a wonderful artist. She majored in art at the then-College of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, but ended up as a full-time elementary school teacher and mother of five children.

So her artistic opportunities centered more around the delicious meals she created in a crock pot, the expert advice she gave her children when they needed to come up with an art project for school or even the handsome haircuts she created for me to help me not only look good, but also to help save money for our family.

I have a sister who’s also a fantastic artist. It’s evident she inherited my mom’s art skills, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to take those skills out for a drive on canvas much anymore.

These days most of her time is taken up creating safe, happy flights for her passengers as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines.

After Friday night though, I’m thinking a tiny art gene or two may have actually jumped over from my mom into my DNA strand.

Last week, while perusing the “Keep It Local – Los Alamos” Facebook page, I came across a posting that included pictures of several happy, smiling people holding up paintings they had done during a class conducted by local artist Susanne Harrison at the Pig and Fig Restaurant in White Rock.

Everyone looked happy. They were all smiling. And these weren’t smiles you force your face into producing just because someone is pointing a loaded camera at you and demanding you “say cheese.”

I now know why these people were smiling.

Each person was holding their own finished painting of “The Blue Door.”

They had painted their masterpieces earlier that Wednesday evening at the restaurant under Harrison’s tutelage. And even though no two paintings were alike, each was a masterpiece in and of itself.

And each smile reflected the genuine pleasure and satisfaction one feels upon having accomplished something enjoyable.

Maybe it was the result of having pushed themselves just past the boundaries of their comfort zone.

Or it was the umpteenth painting they’d painted, but each one was done for the sole purposes of fun and relaxation and The Blue Door facilitated that purpose that night.

Never painted anything before in your life? Always wanted to and decided to Nike up and “Just Do It”? Enter The Blue Door and “bam,” mission accomplished.

Break out the smiles.

Friday night, I was drawn to The Blue Door. An extra class had been arranged for the first night of the weekend and I so I signed up, along with about 20 others.

After ordering a sandwich at the counter, I took my place in front of my easel, blank canvas and palette of colorful shiny acrylic paint blobs and, to the accompaniment of fabulous classic rock songs – the words of which were known by many in the class, a fact played out by the enjoyable singing from the back row of some women who must also participate in karaoke classes somewhere – I began stenciling, drawing, mixing and painting.

I was doing it. I was “artisting.”

Stopping only to listen as the instructor offered advice on what colors to mix for the next phase of the project, or how to cover a random thumb print of a different color that may have shown up on the adobe wall next to the blue door (OK, so I have fat fingers and they tend to get in the way), I began transforming the blank canvas into something that represented relaxation and fun, not to mention the accomplishing of a bucket list goal that could kick off the painting phase of my life.

Fueled by the bacon sandwich – yes, there was more than just bacon on it, and no, sandwiches really don’t need much more than just bacon on them, but I digress, this is not a column about the beauty of bacon sandwiches, I’ll save that for a later column – and terrific potato chips, as well as the boogie strains of Earth, Wind and Fire, I became lost in The Blue Door.

So much so that at one point I fell behind, and my classmates, coordinated enough to sing along with Billy Joel and Elton John while painting at the same time, were leaving me behind in a cloud of brown-mixed-with-a-bit-of-white dust.
Soon I realized I had left out the tree that every other version in the room that night would have in the upper left-hand corner of its canvas.

Wondering what I should do, I glanced over at the canvas of the young girl sitting next to me, only to see she not only had the tree already placed in said corner, but had also passed the flowers-in-the-lower-right-hand-corner phase.

Even though she told me she had never heard of Earth, Wind and Fire after I mentioned it was one of my favorite songs, she was still crushing The Blue Door experience.

Her work was fabulous. Inspired. It was obvious she put a lot of thought into the flowers, the adobe walls, even the door handle, which she painted in the shape of a heart while everyone else went with the standard circle.

She was good, this young one.

I can see her filling many blank canvases in her future. I certainly hope so, anyway. If her rendition of The Blue Door is any indication, there will be many wonderful works come from the mind of this young artist.

So my canvas was lacking an element in the upper left-hand corner. And class was ending.

My options?

Leave it along and let the walls of the structure carry the painting through the corner.

Or perhaps paint a giant black question mark there so that the observer could interpret in his or her own mind the message I was trying to convey.

Or maybe I could quickly paint Bigfoot peering over the wall while drinking hot chocolate from a mug he fashioned from bark, mud and leaves.

Or not.

While trying to figure out what to do with “the corner,” my mind harkened back to earlier in the day when I told my co-workers here at The Monitor my plans for the night.

One of the workers (whose name won’t be mentioned because she’s the editor and I should probably keep this under wraps) told me of her experience with a similar painting class in Nevada. Apparently in the state of Nevada, they mix painting class and alcoholic beverages, so the finished expression of her creative side that night included additions of a giant coffee mug and an image of the Baby Jesus.

I decided to leave the corner as it was, and to never paint in Nevada.

There is a lot of inspiration here in this corner of America. Since moving out here from Arkansas in February, I’ve had this desire to paint, to create, to record my interpretations of the unique, breathtaking beauty I see all around me.

Evidently there are many others who feel the same way based on the numerous galleries and artists in this part of the state. And many artists who’ve felt compelled for whatever reason to take part in the process of expressing themselves through various art mediums.

On Saturday I told Ken, an artist who works at the Fuller Lodge gift shop, of my experience the night before.

“I painted The Blue Door too,” he smiled.

So here’s to Susanne Harrison and The Blue Door: An entryway to fun, to relaxation and to some good ol’ artisting.

To find out more about these classes visit lacanvasevents.com.

Do you have an idea or event for me to try out? Please e-mail me at bhorne@lamonitor.com if you have an upcoming event on which you think I may need to blaze a trail.