Invite color into your life with a painting class

During the shortest days of this winter, when the darkness was trying its best to make us Mainers feel as bleak as an Emily Dickinson poem, I wanted to do something for my creative side besides doodling in office meetings. I wanted color.

Painting by Teresa Lagrange

So, wrapped up in blankets—which adorn me most of the winter—I poked around online and stumbled upon the website for Mary Brooking, a Westbook-based painter and painting instructor. I loved her loose landscapes full of light. With a bit of apprehension, I signed up for her six-week January class, “Simplifying the landscape in acrylics.”

I work as a graphic designer. For the most part, I am a self-trained artist and illustrator. High school in the 80s was more “big hair” than “big art” for me, so I steered away from art school. But I have drawn since the age of 3, when I decided my bedroom should have Winnie the Pooh characters on the walls. I have taken classes, but mostly in figure drawing, watercolor or digital art.

Mary Brooking’s gallery and sample paintings

Like her gallery, Brooking is warm and friendly. There are six women in my class, some of whom are experienced painters, some who had never before picked up a paintbrush, but all are made to feel welcome. Julie, a fellow student who has never painted, took the class “to have fun,” but she has surprised herself with her abilities. And we do have fun; laughter is part of the artistic process.

Being a former graphic designer herself, Brooking paints with a CMYK method. Like your inkjet printer that makes thousands of shades of color, Brooking paints with a basic palette of cyan, magenta, yellow and black—and of course white. The simplicity and my knowledge of this palette made me feel at ease. Loosening up is always a therapeutic process for me after spending hours creating on a computer—I just have to remember I can’t hit ”command z” after making a mistake. No drawing allowed, we start with an under-painting, which is adding a color under the painting to give it more depth, sometimes letting a few areas show through the final painting. We then go in with basic shapes, tweaking and modifying later. The key, Brooking says, is “knowing when to stop.”

Everyone can take an art class. Do it and cross it off your bucket list. And in the midst of winter, all that color turned me from Eeyore to a bouncy, pouncy Tigger.

Mary Brooking’s studio is located in Westbrook with ample parking nearby. Painting classes are offered in six-week sessions and one-day workshops. For more about Mary Brooking’s classes, go to:

Teresa Lagrange is a Maine native and loves her job as a graphic designer at Islandport Press in Yarmouth. She lives with her family in Portland and creates art when time permits.

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