Old artists learning new tricks at Century House

Arlene Curtin works on a painting in an art journaling class for seniors at Century House on Saturday. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Arlene Curtin works on a painting in an art journaling class for seniors at Century House on Saturday.

Every Saturday at Century House, old dogs are learning new tricks.

Naomi Topuzoglu is their teacher.

She's a lifelong artist who's the creative director at Artdreams Creative, a Vancouver graphics and design studio. But on weekends she leads a class in art journaling for seniors in New Westminster.

Many of her students have never painted before. Those who have, have mired themselves in the same medium for years, taking comfort in familiar techniques.

Topuzoglu smashes those comfort zones.

Through the course of her workshops, Topuzoglu challenges her students to break free of their personal and creative ruts to explore new ideas.

LIke Dennis Anderson, a 77 year-old retired hydro lineman who'd never painted before.

"I just wanted to see if I could do it," said Anderson, looking up from the dark landscape he was working on. "I've discovered I have a bit of talent."

Or Jean Rollins, 75, a former grade school art teacher who'd never before strayed from painting realistic scenes with her watercolours but is now experimenting with more minimalist, abstract expressions.

"It's easier to keep doing what you know," said Rollins. "It's hard to try something new. It helps your confidence."

Which is exactly Topuzoglu's goal.

She treats each of her students as if they are a blank canvas, extending to them the permission to fill that canvas whichever way it pleases them.

"They've learned to paint in a certain way," said Topuzoglu. "Now they have to break the rules."

That can mean using acrylic paint on watercolour paper, splattering colours across a canvas, painting a landscape in bold colours and abstract shapes.

The experimentation infuses the students, and the class, with new energy, said Topuzoglu.

"I love when they flex their artistic muscles," she said. "They're learning art can be full of fun and passion."

They're also learning to put the challenges, aches and pains of growing older behind them.

"It's a chance to do something for me," said Rollins.

"You look at things differently," said another student, Susan Tamkin, 62. "It really does enhance your life."

For more information about the various art and activity programs at Century House, go to www.centuryhouseassociation.com


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