When was the last time you devoted an hour to drawing? Pencil, crayon, marker, pen — the medium doesn’t matter as much as the act, which most of us dropped back in early grade school, or whenever it was that someone told us we weren’t an “artist.” There’s this stigma with art that we have to be “good” at it to do it, that we have to create something beautiful. But numerous local initiatives are breaking us out of that notion by opening up creative expression through accessible art workshops.

“We’re all creative by birthright,” says Susie Alexander, a Truckee artist who opened the Arts in Wellness loft studio in downtown Truckee’s Garden Folly building last July. “Somewhere along the way, we forget to doodle, and to let the voice of our imagination and soul come pouring through with colors and shapes.”

If you’ve read my column over the past few years, you may remember Alexander from her inspiring February 2010 accomplishment: completing 40 paintings in 28 days. Alexander says her Arts in Wellness studio is a manifestation of that endeavor: “I wanted to share the experience with everybody; connecting to our own intuitive creativity can radically change some of our life experiences — especially the difficult ones.”

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Arts in Wellness offers art instruction and open studio space on a donation basis. Classes are offered multiple days each week and range from the basics (drawing, watercolor) to the more expressive like the weekly Meditative Prayer and Gratitude Painting and the creative group that explores the book “Walking in This World, The Practical Art of Creativity” by Julia Cameron.

At a recent drawing class I attended, Alexander provided us with the tools (paper, an eraser, a smudge stick, and five pencils, in a range from hard/light to soft/dark) and a little instruction. The hour and a half floated by as we got lost in our own creations; I felt refreshed and slightly fuzzy afterward, like I was in a post-meditation haze.

Alexander explained after class that art creates brain waves similar to meditation. Alice Baldwin, a marriage and family therapist intern who conducts the Expressive Art Workshop Series at Tahoe City’s Rideout Community Center, has said similar things in her workshops. The Expressive Art Workshop Series is a partnership between Arts for the Schools and North Tahoe Arts that offers Placer County residents ages 13 through adult free art instruction. Watercolor, collage, and acrylic painting workshops were held earlier this year, and a mask-making class is coming up on Feb. 21 and 22.

Each class in the series explores the technical aspects of the art form, as well as the emotional importance of creating art. Baldwin points out that art-making bridges the verbal and non-verbal parts of the brain, it helps us see problems from fresh perspectives, and it says what we cannot say in words. What will you say with art? Pick back up the pen, pencil, or paintbrush and find out!

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