Painting with a pro

Nancy Sorensen offering summer painting sessions

Nancy Sorensen, artist extraordinaire, ran a paintbrush over our shared canvas, passed the brush to me and said it was my turn. There was nothing on the paintbrush yet but water – step one is to water the canvas so the paint slides more easily across it – but it was still intimidating to hold a master’s paintbrush in my hand.

Luckily I didn’t make any mistakes on that first invisible coat or on the second coat, which was a golden glaze we spread across the canvas.

“Especially in the beginning, you don’t have to fuss with it being perfect and precise. You just want to get the paint on there because you know you can go on top of it again or you can wipe it out,” she said.

When I made a whoops, she told me not to worry about it and dabbed my mistake away.

As we added a mountain range in the distance, Ms. Sorensen did the first few peaks and handed me the blue-tipped brush to keep the range going. It’s easy to see where her strokes stopped and mine began because hers are certain and bold with peaks and valleys, while my poor mountains came out as timid as foothills.

Then Ms. Sorensen had me step back from the canvas and check out the painting by Guy Roy that we were attempting to loosely recreate. She asked me to check for where colours or shapes were missing. I thought she would do the fixing, but she encouraged me to dash purples, yellows, browns and reds over the rocks, add in a tilted tree and dab the foreground with life.

By the time our masterpiece was done, it was a cheery burst of colour and something I’m thrilled to hang my wall.

If you paint with Ms. Sorensen – even if you only do a teensy portion of the work – she will send you home with the canvas and let you take full credit for it.

“I try to get the students to do as much as possible, whatever they’re comfortable with,” she said. “What I love and why I keep doing it is to see people get so excited about what they can do.”

As for our creation, she said: “It’s happy and colourful, which is what I like to do. I always gravitate to juicy-looking paintings that make me happy. They speak to you for different reasons, whether it’s something you can relate to or you just love the flow of it.”

Ms. Sorensen has done “hundreds and hundreds” of workshops, even with people who tell her they can’t draw anything besides stick figures. She respectfully disagrees.

“Everyone says they can only draw stick figures, but most people can get dressed in the morning and put on something that looks alright,” she said. “Anyone can do it, especially stick-figure people.”

To prove her point, she added: “You were really nervous about doing it and tentative and thinking ‘I can’t do this,’ but when I broke it down into those little steps for you, it didn’t seem so daunting.”

Ms. Sorensen is one of six artists displaying her work in a show at Pynelogs Art Gallery and Cultural Centre that will run until July 13th. But Ms. Sorensen is interested in more than showing off her creations; she wants to help you make your own too.

She is offering two-hour painting sessions at the gallery for aspiring artists. The one-on-one or two-on-one sessions are $100 per person, with 35 per cent going back to Columbia Valley Arts. Slots are available the first two Fridays and Saturdays in July.

She’s also offering sessions out of her home studio throughout the summer.

To reserve your spot at her easel and co-create something lovely, email nancy@eton-west.com or call 780-995-3458.

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