As someone who is most definitely right-brained, you would think that I would have some kind of artistic aptitude.

Sure, I’m an adequate writer, but when it comes to putting color to paper or canvas, I’m a lost cause. My own mother will tell you that she had no problem keeping my early poems around forever, but somehow my stickperson scribbles mysteriously went missing a long, long time ago.

Never one to shy away from a challenge (or past missteps), I went to the North Port Art Center to take one of their classes in pastels. The class was taught by Barbara Archer-Baldwin, an acclaimed pastel artist, and was attended that day by people of all different artistic skill levels. Needless to say, mine was the lowest skill level of all.

All of the other artists at the table brought their own supplies, but since I was a brand new student, I was able to use Archer-Baldwin’s pastels and paper, which is typical of what would happen for every rookie who comes to one of her classes.

She set me up with a piece of fine sandpaper taped to a board and two sets of colorful pastels, as well as a photograph of what we were going to be painting that day — a beautiful scene of serene Warm Mineral Springs. Then she did what I have never before seen anyone do — she began to sketch the scene we were going to paint on her own paper upside down, so we could all see what she was doing.

Following Archer-Baldwin’s lead, I used a piece of charcoal to make my own sketch, and then she walked over to show me how to fill in my sketch with the lovely colors she helped me pick out. All through the process, she was educating me about color values and stroke techniques.

Despite my inexperience, Archer-Baldwin and all the other students in the classroom were very helpful and supportive of me and my efforts. Those of you who have had young children know that you always try to be as encouraging as you can when you know they’re trying to accomplish a task. Well, I was definitely trying, so I guess they appreciated that.

As I made my way around the room to look at what the other artists were creating, I could see there was a distinct difference in my skill level, compared to them. But it really didn’t matter, because I was having a lot of fun, and actually did learn a lot.

I also discovered the ideal distance and angle from which to properly view my new work of art — about 30 feet away, at a 45 degree angle, through narrowed eyes. Beauty truly is in the (squinty) eye of the beholder.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at


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