“Armed with a paint box, one cannot be bored, one cannot be left at a loose end, one cannot ‘have several days on one’s hand’…….We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box” Winston Churchill
If the words of Winston Churchill are true then the ‘joy riders’ are to be found fortnightly on a Tuesday morning at the Sports Centre – they are the Burnham U3A Art Group. When I visited I arrived a half an hour after the start of the two-hour session and there was absolute silent concentration. They told me the session starts with chatter and clatter as the paints, easels and other paraphernalia are set out, and then there is silence until coffee time when they take a break, have a stretch and look at each others work. Then back to silence until the session ends. It is not a rule that words should not be spoken, and of course they are from time to time, but each is concentrating on their own work.
Members find that joining the group is therapeutic and also gives them uninterrupted time to pursue their hobby whereas at home everyday intrusions make it difficult.
The group has no formal tuition nor set pieces to paint, such as still life, although the ladies there joked that they might make an exception for a tall, young, male nude model.
It was fascinating being an observer. Val Halls, the group leader, very professionally talked to me as she painted. Using acrylic paints she was embarking on a landscape copying from one of her own photographs. When I arrived it was indistinct with varying colours of blue; apparently when you paint with acrylics you ‘build up’ the picture. By the time I left there were distinct trees, a lake, clouds and the whole picture was taking shape. Another member was also painting a landscape featuring a lake with a pier, stonewall and some shingle on a beach, which was causing some problem. Constructive criticism is welcomed and the benefit of being in a group is that, should you find difficulty with anything, usually someone can make a suggestion. For the shingle beach it was suggested that adding some salt might help, salt apparently breaking up acrylic paint.
Apart from landscapes members were painting sailing boats, fantasy science fiction (a painting commissioned by a grandson), a horse & groom, and a cat copied from a teaching book for line drawing. Previous subjects include buildings, wildlife, portraits and Chinese art.
This is a small, intimate group, which has room for more members: six more could be accommodated easily. It costs just £1.00 per session and you need to bring your own equipment. If this is to be a new hobby Val Halls will gladly give some advice as to what you may need but “don’t wear your best clothes,” she said as a brush filled with blue paint fell on to her lap.