Meridian Star

February 23, 2014

French painting for art class at Meridian Activity Center    

By Barbara Wells
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — People are often intimidated by the idea of a painting class. “I can’t even draw a straight line!” some may say.

    That’s no reason not to paint if you have a chance to watch Mike French at work – which he did this past week at Meridian Activity Center. There are no straight lines in his portraits.

    Mike studied art with Homer Casteel at Meridian Community College, as did other members of the painting group at the center. Anyone who was in one of Casteel’s classes knows what it was like learning from Homer, he taught so much in so short a time and if you didn’t get it quickly he was down your throat just as fast! He certainly had a temper, but most of it was bluster. Of course, this is mostly from memory. But practically all the fundamentals of art I learned in his classes. He set a seed in many of his students.

    French worked about 20 years at the White House painting and repainting the walls (he painted the oval office four times!) After returning to Meridian, he began his serious painting study again with local artist Greg Cartmell.

    French will occasionally give a demonstration for Peggy Harmon’s painting class at the Meridian Activity Center. In portraiture, he feels it is really better to work from a live model rather than a photograph, because with a photo you are just copying a photograph. The entire time he is painting, French is talking to the class about paints, colors — the "in nominate" color, the three magic colors: orange, purple and green.

    “I can teach you all I know in 10 minutes,” he told us. “But the real skill is in practice, practice, practice.” His paintings can be seen at The Atrium in north Meridian.

Other painting classes

    Joyce Luke teaches a decorative painting class on Monday afternoons and evenings. They use acrylic paint and usually all paint an image the teacher provides, practicing use of brushes, shading and blending techniques.

    Don Shaffer teaches a colored pencil drawing technique class, which is another art form practiced by many artists. Some color pencil work can be wet down to give a watercolor or gouache affect — or they can be layered one on top of others to form deeper tones that imitate paint. Come take a look at some of Don’s "paintings."

    On March 15, Patsy Dean will offer a one-day painting workshop at the center. For more information, you can phone her at (601) 774-8354. We will have the painting you will work from here in our foyer if you would like to see it.

Classes begin soon!

    Spring classes begin March 17, so we are already accepting payments.

    After the recycled plastic bag class, guess what class is filling up already? Crochet! I always knew that would become popular. Just looking at the books Theresa Twente brings into class, there is so much you can make easily in Knitting and Crochet.

    As usual if you join the 4:30 p.m. Zumba class at the beginning of the month, you can get 17 classes for only $20. Otherwise the price is only $2 per class. Janie Howard has added a bit of the mysterious into her class – with special lighting. Imagine dancing in the dark! You don’t even need to be a great dancer, you can get all the workout you need without the embarrassment.

    At the same time, different days, Slimnastics is going strong in the other building – main room. Brenda leads her class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in at least 15 minutes of cardio work, strength training and ab work — all to the latest disco/pop tunes to make you move. It’s a lot of fun, a workout, with time to talk and share, believe it or not. Come give it a try – love offerings for Brenda.

    Now, the "Real Stuff" ...

    I love our yoga teachers, Rene Weiler and Pat Wilson, because they know what they are doing and it’s obvious they love yoga and its benefits. However, I work full time and seldom have time to devote to my yoga body work (well, I’ve gained weight, too!) – I tend to harken back to my early yoga days, which were more stretching, holding poses longer, breathing into the pose.

    So, after talking with Rene and Pat, they are willing to teach classes which are not so advanced. One, with Pat will not include floor work, so if you have difficulty getting up and down from the floor, this one is for you. Rene is going to teach a slower class, a basic beginning class. All we need to know is if anyone else is interested. Rene’s class would be held on Monday and Wednesday, from 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.; Pat would teach on Tuesday from 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

    We are offering a “How to Use My Kindle” class on Monday mornings. Our first class will begin in March. Call for times and price, (601) 485-1812.

    As most of you know already, Shangrila can be found by following signs posted at 29th Avenue and 36th Street, turning west on 36th Street, two blocks, left turn on 33rd Avenue – you will see our arched sign at the end of the block: Meridian Activity Center, 3300 32nd Ave. Phone (601) 485-1812 for information. Come in for a tour and to pick up a list of classes. We’d love to meet you!

    • Barbara Wells is director of Meridian Activity Center. You may e-mail her at