Warm, welcoming, watercolors

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A Place to Paint

Classes are held every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. at 418 N.E. Fourth Ave., Ste. 104, Camas. Beginners are welcome. For more information, contact Nancy Ryan at 408-985-9412.

When students walk into Nancy Ryan’s classroom, one thing is clear: There is no right or wrong way to paint.

“With watercolors, you can’t get it wrong,” she said.

The Camas watercolorist has been teaching classes for the past four years at the Washougal Community Center. Last spring, she opened A Place to Paint in downtown Camas.

“I had no experience, so I decided to volunteer at first,” she said. “I have a joy and passion for it, and wanted to share that with others.”

At A Place to Paint, watercolorists can expect to receive feedback, support, encouragement and camaraderie while they work at improving their skills.

There have been no regrets.

“I have had students tell me it has changed their whole attitude toward life,” she said. “It is a magical thing.”

Ryan, 69, began painting in her late 20s and then stopped to attend graduate school and earn a degree in marriage and family therapy.

“Then, 15 years ago, I began to take classes and get more involved in studying painting,” she said. “And when we moved here from San Jose, I became even more dedicated to it.”

She works strictly in watercolors.

“The spontaneity and looseness of it is just kind of a magical experience,” Ryan said. “People who paint with watercolors say the same things. It has a certain quality and creates a beautiful impression.”

Her favorite aspect of teaching is seeing the joy on her students’ faces.

“I love the excited looks when they create a painting,” she said. “Being able to share my joy of watercolor and how much it adds to my life is wonderful.”

Many people hesitate to take art classes due to feedback they may have received earlier in their lives about their lack of ability.

“You don’t even have to know how to draw a stick figure to paint with watercolors,” Ryan said. “You just need to play with the paint and experiment. We use a lot of different techniques and have fun.”

During a recent class, students Linda Peters and Ursula Burback worked on an autumn themed creations.

Burback began taking lessons from Ryan at the Washougal Community Center four years ago.

“I have done crafts and dabbled in painting, but never have done watercolor,” she said. “Having this time in class is a treat. I am a retired nurse, and never had time while I was working. We have a great group here. It’s the best two hours of my week.”

At first, Burback was hesitant to try painting.

“Someone I volunteer with at the center said I should stay for the class,” she said. “I told them, ‘It’s not for me. I don’t do that.’ But she convinced me to give it a shot.”

She adds, “I have saved everything I have done. When I first started, it looked like a third-grader did it.”

Linda Peters is a retired educator with the Washougal School District. When she was younger, she took private art lessons but focused much of her creativity on working with special education students.

She doesn’t paint what she sees, but rather, what she feels.

“I see it in buildings and roadways,” Peters said. “Art is there for us to enjoy. The kids were such a big part of my life when I was working, so this is a wonderful outlet and we learn from each other.”

Ryan noted that Peters has a unique take on painting.

“She really blows it out of the park,” she said.

Peters has learned a lot from Ryan.

“What I love most about this class is that I learn something new every time I come,” she said. “That’s the joy of taking a class.”

Ryan enjoys that the class allows both her and the students to relax and enjoy themselves.

“The students are always wanting to try something new,” she said. “Sometimes it may sound goofy, but I tend to be a little goofy myself. But this class allows me to be myself.”