Painting group draws people in

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This summer I’ve had the pleasure of attending two art exhibitions, both where friends were exhibiting their work, writes Caroline Green of Wetherby U3A.

One friend has been printmaking for at least 30 years and now works in France, whereas the other has taken up art classes very recently, having been trained as an architectural technician in her youth.

The enjoyment they both get out of what they do is very evident. Having been inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment to the art forms, I thought I’d explore Wetherby & District U3A for Art Groups.

I found the Art Appreciation Group which runs on a Thursday afternoon every third week of the month at Deepdale Community Centre and also the Painting Group which is much more hands on and actually runs on three different days at Deepdale.

I’d already met Barbara McLean and Barbara Duncan at the U3A Showcase event last December at the Engine Shed so decided to ring and see if I could go along to their Thursday afternoon class.

I have to admit at this point that I have dabbled in Chinese Brush Painting, Calligraphy and pencil drawing at various times in my life but never really belonged to a group of artists meeting regularly.

When I arrived, the members had already set out their materials on a series of tables arranged around the room in a friendly U shape. Each one had brought their own materials which included canvasses, papers, brushes, glues, paints, pens and pencils. I’ve never seen such a huge variety of ‘things’ with which you can make shapes and marks on surfaces. This wasn’t what I’d expected. Not painting as I’d known it!

There was a welcoming chatter in the air as all this preparation was going on. This was followed by an utter peace and an air of tranquillity and purpose as experimentation and enthusiasm overtook the room.

I chatted with the two Barbaras, who had founded the Tuesday Group in the very early days of the U3A. They had both attended a Further Education Class run at Wetherby High School, and then over 12 years ago they joined the class which formed an Art Club in Boston Spa, the Boston Breakaways.

When Wetherby & District U3A was founded, they went along to the inaugural meeting and decided that they would be able to facilitate a group, not necessarily teach but arrange for a room and collect subs. While none of the three groups offer tuition, members of the groups, especially those who belong to other art groups, offer each other support and bring ideas to the groups which are then shared.

The vast majority of the members in the three groups don’t belong to other painting or art groups and so the regular meetings are the only time they are able to sit down and paint, which is the main purpose of the U3A Painting Groups.

The Monday and Tuesday groups have Iain Traill-Stevenson as a member. He is a self-taught artist, now specialising in miniatures and offers advice as do other members. Because there is not any formal tuition available, information about art exhibitions and local art demonstrations are circulated around the members.

It was evident from looking around at the materials that ‘painting’ need not be an expensive hobby; I saw sandpaper, lining wallpaper, tissue paper, pva glues, inks, pencils, brushes, felt tips, palette knives and a hair dryer! Using these everyday items engendered a sense of adventure in what the members were doing that day……exploring their own ideas, following their instincts, drawing and painting from their own photographs and producing the most amazing work for themselves, family and friends.

It was so impressive. This group, together with the Monday and Tuesday group, allows everyone the opportunity to practice and experiment in a social supportive and fun atmosphere.

If you’d like to see work from some of the members from the three groups, they will be exhibiting at the Boston Spa Arts festival in October at the Village Hall (October 13-14) and at the U3A Showcase in December at the Engine Shed.