Wednesday Morning Painters
Creativity and Camaraderie at The Arts Depot
By BY HELEN PRICE | May 07, 2009*** Reprinted with permission from The Arts Depot newsletter, April 2009. ***
ABINGDON, VA — What could be more fun for an artist than to gather with like-minded painters every week and just paint for several hours? Watercolors flow freely over smooth paper, brushes brimming with bright oil colors splash onto canvas, pastels are smoothed into colorful works of art, and everybody's hearts and minds are content.
While all this creativity is happening, the artists are savoring each other's company and catching up on what's new in the Abingdon art world.
That's what the Wednesday Morning Painters Group at The Arts Depot is all about. They come every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. All medias are represented. Some bring lunch, some go out for lunch. Some paint for an hour. Some stay until mid-afternoon. There are no rules. The purpose is to have fun painting with other folks who like to have fun painting.
But, looking back to its beginnings in the late 1980s, it wasn't always that simple. For starters, the Wednesday Painters used to be the Tuesday Painters; they didn't gather in the morning to paint, they gathered on Tuesday nights; they didn't meet at The Arts Depot, they met at the Washington County Life Saving Crew building on Park Street in Abingdon; and there were only four or five painters in the group. Now there are twenty-something.
But why does this casually-knit group of artists need to go anywhere to paint? Lots of artists have their own studios, or they paint in their kitchens, a spare bedroom, or by themselves outside, enjoying a beautiful view. Why go out to paint?
"I enjoy the companionship," says Nancy Camicia, a watercolorist and oil painter who is one of the earliest members of the group. "I joined the group to work and learn more, and it keeps my interest up by being with other people who paint.
"In the early years, sometimes we'd have videos to watch. They were classes on tape," she recalls. "And [Landon] Woody was so helpful — he always found something good to say about every painting he saw. That kind of attitude goes a long way toward encouraging a fledgling artist to keep on painting."
Penny Hite, who paints in pastels and watercolors and is an Arts Depot resident artist, has been a Wednesday Morning Painter for about five years. She could easily closet herself in the peace and quiet of her studio and paint by herself. Instead, on Wednesdays, she is right there in the midst of a group of noisy artists who chat while they work, wander around to see what others are painting, and get up frequently to refill their coffee cups or have a bite to eat. You'll find Penny smack in the middle of the group, painting along with the others and serving informally as the group's chief organizer and cheerleader — and almost every Wednesday finding a timely short poem to read to the group at some point during the morning.
"Being a part of this group offers everybody an opportunity to learn from each other and to grow as artists," Penny explains, adding that it's also just plain fun to be there.
All skill levels are represented in the group and all persons who would like to paint in an informal, relaxed atmosphere are invited to attend. All art medias are represented. There is no charge to attend, but regular attendees are expected to join the Depot Artists Association. Modest voluntary donations are also accepted every month or so to help offset the cost of utilities and other expenses related to operating the building.
Last year, for the first time, the Wednesday Morning Painters contracted its first exhibit space at the Virginia Highlands Festival. The venture was a success and the group plans to participate again in the 2009 Festival.
Nancy's vision for the future of the Wednesday Morning Painters is focused on "keeping amateur artists going, to give them a little push along the way." She hopes to see the meetings continue with the same pleasant camaraderie that the artists so enjoy today.
When she looks ahead to the direction where Wednesday Morning Painters may go, Penny says she hopes the group will "stay just as it is. Uninhibited. Free. You can't herd artists, just like you can't herd cats," she quips. Her vision is that the group will continue as it is — part social, part work-oriented, and most definitely — great fun.