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TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2007
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Patsy Roby works on her polka dot vase full of bright flowers during an art class with Scott Willis. 'I'm all about wild color,' said Roby, who will have about 30 pieces in the 'Legends in Their Own Minds,' which will showcase the classes' work.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Patsy Roby works on her polka dot vase full of bright flowers during an art class with Scott Willis. "I'm all about wild color," said Roby, who will have about 30 pieces in the "Legends in Their Own Minds," which will showcase the classes' work.

Artistic allies
Class provides inspiration through painting, friendship; 'Legends in Their Own Minds' presents women's work

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Their Tuesday nights are part chit-chat and part art talk and technique. And while they come to learn more, these artists already are confident and comfortable with their skills.

You can tell by their khaki Capri pants and white shorts that they have no fear about paint going awry during these late-night sessions in Carnegie Visual Arts Center's basement.

They have a daytime artsy sister group, too. Many of those women have children with sitters or in Mother's Day Out, so they paint a lot faster than the leisurely evening group.

All 12 — six daytime and six nighttime art students of Scott Willis — will come together for a show Thursday night at 7 at Willis Gray Gallery on Second Avenue Southeast.

You can look inside their world at the show, titled "Legends in Their Own Minds."

For one, painting is therapeutic; another says it's inspiring. The students are all females, with different backgrounds and a 20-year age span, "so that's part of the fun," Willis said.

"I had a man who came to class in the spring ... but that's probably all he could take of this group," joked Willis.

Last week, with only three of the six in attendance, Patsy Roby got her instructor involved in changing background tones for her splashy polka dot vase of bright flowers

"It's a good thing the full class isn't here, because we fight over the teacher," Roby said. "We can be very needy."

Marshall Horton Wise needed her teacher's help on how to work in a fourth leg for the horse she was painting.

And Judy Seymour, who likes painting intricate details, got his attention when Willis decided her abstract painting "is real tight and needs to be loosened up." As he took her brush and covered some of her details with his broad strokes, he added, "Just tell me when you want your painting back. I might be doing something you don't like."

Roby thinks painting is a great outlet and she's glad she took it up again after years away from the hobby.

"It makes me happy, and it promotes bonding between friends,"she said. "It's everyone else who keeps you inspired."

Willis explained what a little learning can do for an artist.

"At first they show up with paper bags of paints, and then they graduate to wheeled carts" that overflow with a rainbow of colors. "That's a rite of passage I've seen over and over."

Whenever the women ask him how he thinks a particular painting is coming, he answers, "It's a good start."

"And they hate it when I say that, because they usually think they're done," said Willis, who began working with groups nearly four years ago.

The youngest student, Wise, took time out from tediously applying color to the edges of her canvas to talk about the Thursday night show. She showed her new series of "cocktail paintings" accomplished on torn brown paper bags, with martinis and more painted in bright hues of orange, purple, red and green.

While she has painted for the last three years, this will be the first time she is selling any of her paintings.

"I get so attached that I can't let them go," said Wise, who is a schoolteacher by day and a painter by night.

Now, she has about 15 pieces ready for this show, where 20 percent of all proceeds will go to Carnegie. Three angels adorn one canvas, while another features bright red poppies that show up well on yellow with black accents.

"This is my therapy and what I do for me," said Wise, who paints a lot of horses and barns because her daughter rides.

Seymour said she has always enjoyed drawing but took up oil painting about three years ago.

She keeps a camera in her car so she can make photos to paint from later, and she and the others collect bins and notebooks of ideas torn from magazines and catalogs.

"Sometimes I get in the car and ride around Decatur looking for something to paint," Seymour said.

Willis said his night class is "very prolific," and the women attribute that to an additional painting get-together at Roby's house on Monday — without their instructor, but with a bit of wine and cheese for inspiration.

"I look back over the last couple of years at some of their past fears and hesitation and realize how much fun it is to see them tackle new things and watch their progress," he said.

"I'm not an art teacher," Willis said, "I'm an enabler."

If you go

What: "Legends in Their Own Minds."

When: 7 p.m., Thursday

Where: Willis Gray Gallery, Second Avenue Southeast

Twenty percent of all proceeds will go to Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

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