After watching his wife paint for several years, Frank Pike, 86, was inspired to sign up for a painting series featuring six two-hour workshops. However, instead of using the coveted brushes his wife, Nancy, likes to use, he is learning to paint with a palette knife, a metal tool used for mixing and spreading paint. The Pikes are residents of Presbyterian Village North (PVN), a faith-based nonprofit senior living community, where they signed up for classes. They are thrilled to explore this technique of painting through the series held on Mondays from 12:30 to 2:30 pm.
"I started painting during WWII, though it was not a creative outlet for me back then," said Pike. "I was seven years old and my brother was off fighting the war, as were most other young men at that time. I did a lot of painting while they were away, but I was painting bedrooms, living rooms and houses, so you could say this is a different experience for me now. The unique part about this class is that the instructor teaches us how to paint using palette knives. Instead of using a bunch of different brushes and water to rinse them, we simply use the palette knife to mix the paint and put it on the canvas. To clean up, we wipe the tool with a paper towel and throw the towel away. I think we all appreciate the easy cleanup."
The instructor, Elliot Fallas, started teaching oil painting more than 20 years ago and found he preferred the palette knife to a brush. The students in his classes find inspiration for their own work, though he doesn't mind helping them come up with new ideas.
"We are looking for inspiration for our artwork everywhere, books, special interests, everyday objects and more,” said Pike. “Fellow residents have painted a variety of subjects including a single flower, a sailboat, a bison out in the snow and hunting lodge scenes. At the end of the class, Elliot will hold up each person's work, whether it is complete or not, and show it off to get feedback. It is interesting to see what people choose to paint, and the quality of work surprises us. The other day my wife even let me use one of her coveted brushes. I feel quite privileged, as it is the only brush, she loaned me for the remainder of the classes.”
Pike notes that the class is very quiet, as everyone focuses on their work. Though quiet, everyone finds inspiration as they work on their individual pieces in a group. Pike estimates that he will complete five paintings by the end of the series.
"I signed up for this series because I wanted to try something new and fun," said Pike. "I have drawn cartoons and things like that, so I figured this would be another creative avenue for me to explore. I am colorblind, and I hope this class will help me look at color in a controlled way."
Pike believes that any time a person has the opportunity to express creativity or try something new, they should because it may benefit them in a way they do not anticipate. He encourages people to go outside of themselves for these experiences. In the class, he is working on painting a desert scene and a mountain scene with lots of snow. Next, he would like to paint a canvas with an abundance of color.
"We value offering residents opportunities to discover and enhance artistic talents,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “Creating art is beneficial no matter your age, as it improves self-management, alleviates symptoms of depression, enhances communication skills, reduces stress and opens the mind. In addition to the painting series, our community offers other engaging artistic activities such as sewing, woodworking and crafting. Our goal is to provide residents with a lifestyle that leads to genuine friendships, meaningful options for personal fulfillment and a future filled with purpose.”