Art Made Easy -- for 20 years and counting | May 3, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 3, 2013

Art Made Easy -- for 20 years and counting

Students tap inner talents, take break from worries

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Pleasanton artist Charlotte Severin and her students are holding their annual spring exhibit next week, but this time they'll be celebrating a special anniversary. This is the 20th year Severin has been teaching Art Made Easy through the city.

"I started at the Senior Center, 20 years ago," Severin recalled.

Now she teaches in the expansive new art rooms at the Firehouse Arts Center on Railroad Avenue. The exhibit will show works from her fall and winter quarters as well as the spring students.

"I taught beginning classes but people were wanting a more advanced class," Severin said.

Now her classes are for intermediate and advanced students. Her beginner classes are on a set of DVDs at the all three libraries in the Tri-Valley and for sale from her.

"The four DVDs range from the very beginning -- how to hold your brush, Chinese brush painting -- then moving into flowers, then into the color wheel and still life and about mixing colors, how to hold the brush and control it," she said.

The lessons also include contour drawing, landscapes, mountain scenes, a hypothetical and imaginary desert scene, then on to Mount Diablo.

"If people go through that series then they can come to this class," Severin said.

She encourages people to try her art classes.

"You never know what talent is lying untapped inside of you," she said. "You'd be surprised how many people never thought they had talent. If you stick with it, you can make it successful."

Severin's students rave not just about the painting techniques they learn from her but the therapeutic value of the sessions. Severin agrees.

"Painting is a meditative experience," she said. "It helps a lot of people get through problems. For those three hours your mind is completely off any troubles you may be having. While doing art, it allows yourself a vacation from worry."

Although Severin works in multimedia, she teaches watercolors in her city-sponsored classes.

"I started as an oil painter when I was 12 but now use acrylics, pastels, drawing with charcoal but primarily do watercolor because I am a plein air artist," she said. "We take trips all over the world -- China, Tibet, France Italy, Sicily -- so for traveling I bring a block of watercolor paper and I can peel each page off.

"My pull-on cart sits under the seat. It has all my paints, blocks, brushes, even some clothing. It's never away from me. And the handle pulls up and serves as easel. It works wonderfully for traveling all over the world."

She studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, then earned a nursing degree at Stanford University because her parents didn't think she could earn a living painting.

"But I always had a love of people, and I've always been grateful for my education in nursing," she said. "It helped me be a good mother, and when I had breast cancer in 1976."

Severin's classes include many older people, she said, which is a joy.

"It opens a new world to people, especially as people get on in life," she said. "We have some painting until the very end of life."

She also has middle-aged and younger adults in her classes, which accepts students 13 and older.

"Art is very healing," agreed Steffi Gross, who has painted with Severin on and off while raising her two daughters, now 24 and 20.

"I joined the class with an extensive art and photo background," Gross said. "My kids were little and I needed to get out after dealing with breast cancer. For three hours you think only of painting and leave your worries at home."

"After joining the class I found out Charlotte also had dealt with the disease," Gross added. "She brought in a breast examination chart kit during Cancer Awareness month -- still a nurse at heart."

"She is very encouraging for those who are new to being creative," Gross said.

Severin is going to demonstrate painting on Yupo paper in Niles from 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, sponsored by the Fremont Art Association. She'll also be teaching a course in Mendocino from Aug. 18-23. Contact her for more information at 846-6382. In the fall, Severin's classes will resume from 1-4 p.m. Thursdays for six weeks.

"Celebrating 20 Years of 'Art Made Easy'" will be on display from May 6-13 at the Senior Center, 5353 Sunol Blvd. An opening reception will take place from 7-9 p.m., Monday, May 6.


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