Painting is good for the soul

Heather painted for the first time in decades and did this amazing portrait of Nina Simone during the workshop

Every couple of days Heather announces that we have a few more people signed up for our Unleash the Artist Within workshops.  What began in a grade 6 classroom at Dr. Clark School and was field tested at Mindcamp (Canada's creativity retreat) in Ontario this summer has really taken off here in Fort McMurray.  The next session is Sunday afternoon between 2 pm and 5 pm; it is sold out.

Leighla's drawing of Gandhi taking shape

In a nutshell, people who want to paint colourful portraits arrive at the house, and three hours later they leave with a painting of our mystery subject.  I walk them through my process, then set them loose with their canvases, pencils, paints and brushes.

Five amazing ladies added colour to Gandhi on Sept 25

"I want to send out a huge thank you to Russell and his wife for opening up their home and allowing a group of lovely talented ladies to experience the creativity that Russell does in each painting of his," wrote Leah Foley.

"It was such a learning experience and one that I will never forget. He took the time to show us how it all started and gave us a tour of his workshop where his art work comes alive. The atmosphere was very relaxing and gave us lots of insight without judgement along with some laughs. I will be signing up again for another workshop and will also be bringing my hubby."

The finished portraits of Gandhi - stunning and all completely unique

"Had a fantastic time tonight painting Gandhi with Russell Thomas and a talent group of ladies," shared Kristi Tulk of Belle and Bee - Vintage Revolved.

 "If you haven't checked out his art you're seriously missing out."

The other element of these workshops is that I paint along with the participants, albeit on a larger canvas.   I draw when they're drawing; I paint when they're painting.  At about two hours and thirty minutes into the workshop, I switch out the music and we all race to the finish.  The resulting works are always interesting and utterly unique.

"Simply being in his presence was inspiring," wrote Leighla.

"I loved tonight with artist Russell Thomas.  I recommend his workshop to anyone, no matter how confident you feel with your own ability.  The atmosphere will pull out your inner artist.  Painting is good for the soul."

Leighla's complete portrait of Gandhi
I'm so grateful to my United Way colleagues Valerie Winters and Sherry Duncan who have both participated in the workshop.  Their amazing paintings are in their respective work spaces and make me smile each time I walk by.

Sherry's fantastic portrait can be seen at her office in The Redpoll Centre

Heather has scheduled a number of additional sessions if you are interested in signing up. The cost for the three hours is $50 (plus gst) and includes all materials.  All you have to bring is yourself and your creative spirit.  Please click here to secure your spot.

Upcoming Unleash the Artist Within workshops

Sunday, November 8, 2 - 5 pm
Friday, November 20, 6:30 - 9:30 pm
Sunday, November 29, 2 - 5 pm
Friday, December 4, 6:30 - 9:30 pm
Sunday, December 13, 2 - 5 pm

As we are in the giving season, with the United Way Community Campaign, both piece that I have painted during the two sessions we've done so far will be auctioned off to raise money to help meet community needs.

My friend Stu Marchand is going to add Nina Simone to a United Way fundraising event out at Shell Albian Sands and Sherry Duncan is going to add Gandhi to a silent auction she is organizing at The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place.  Both portraits are personal favourites, probably in the top 10 of the 150+ paintings I have done in the past year.  They will make lovely additions to anyone's home AND help contribute to a massive community caring effort.

I would be absolutely remiss if I didn't acknowledge and thank my beautiful wife Heather for supporting me in this brilliant adventure, and for organizing my painting life.  She does a wonderful job of dealing with the details: arranging the workshops, buying canvases and promoting them. Turns out, she's also one hell of an artist, as you can tell by the painting on top of this post, or the daily drawings she is doing as part of her #30DayChallenge.


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