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Published: Tuesday, 2/24/2009

Painting class at Sylvania Senior Center offers chance to be creative

Norma Veit works on a watercolor at the Sylvania Senior Center. Norma Veit works on a watercolor at the Sylvania Senior Center.
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Norma Veit started painting decades ago as a 9-year-old girl, but she'd always worked with oils. To try her hand at watercolors, she signed up three years ago for the painting class at the Sylvania Senior Center.

"I've got a lot of oils at home, but I wanted to conquer this," Mrs. Veit of West Toledo said last week while working on a class project to re-create a scene from a painting workbook that instructor Elaine Scarvelis provided.

Across the room that morning, Jim Wolfgang worked on the same scene - a stream meandering through woods in winter - in oils. While talented enough to have sold a few of the 135 paintings he's made this decade to such buyers as local restaurateur Tom Cousino and UAW Local 14, Mr. Wolfgang relishes the chance to share studio time with others.

"We learn from each other. And it's really boring to paint by yourself," the retired computer technician from Sylvania said. "You never know everything about painting."

Class meets every Tuesday and Friday morning in a back room at the senior center, though students wishing to participate on both days have to pay double the normal monthly registration of $20.

Most of the time, Ms. Scarvelis said, the painters bring in their own photographs or magazine pictures as models for their art, but the workbook exercise was an opportunity for them to compare how each interpreted the same scene.

Ms. Scarvelis said the senior-center class has been a learning experience for her, too, since before taking it on about three years ago she had always taught children.

It turns out that teaching adults has been very satisfying.

"They're a great group. They're very talented," she said.

Taking the most time with the woodland stream painting were Al DeBacker, of Sylvania Township, and Helen Moore, of West Toledo, who with just four years' and two years' experience, respectively, identified themselves as the class beginners.

"The bars don't open this early, so you've got to do something," Mr. DeBacker quipped. "We have a good time."

At first blush, Mrs. Moore said, painting looks easy, "but you realize how hard it is when you sit down in that chair."

She prefers to do all her painting in class.

"I learn a lot from the other people here," she said. "I'm really not afraid to try a hard painting, because even when you haven't been doing this very long, you see things other people don't."

But Sandy Dohm, of Sylvania, chose to finish the project painting at home so she could move on to her next subject, a painting from a photograph she took five years ago of a summer storm developing over a lake at Branson, Mo.

The toughest part of that image, Ms. Dohm said, was getting sun sparkles on the water to look right - a task to which she had admitted failing once already and wiping the scene clean with turpentine.

"I've played with [painting] since I was a kid," she said. "All I was allowed to use in high school was pencils. It was really neat when I could get away from there and grab some color."

Paintings from the senior center's class are scheduled for an exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art from June 5 through July 19, with a reception planned for the evening of June 5.

Each student will select three or four of his or her works to enter in the show, Ms. Scarvelis said.

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