Paint Along Studios Offers Easygoing Atmosphere and Lessons
Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:50 p.m.
LAKELAND | Anyone can be an artist!
Artist David Collins, owner of Paint Along Studios and The Loft Gallery, is using his time, talent and money to prove anyone can learn to paint and create art.
In 2009, he began teaching painting classes, during which students copy his techniques on their canvases as he demonstrates them while completing a painting. Everyone leaves each session with a finished painting.
The studio, located at 123 S. Kentucky Ave., is continually evolving to include resident artists, rotating exhibits in an upstairs gallery, art classes of the non-paint-along variety, mural painting, and additional space for working artists.
His goal is to change the way art is perceived by the masses.
"The concept that nobody buys art in Lakeland isn't quite true. There's nobody selling art," he said, emphasizing the word "selling."
He believes art should move beyond the walls of intimidating museums and galleries.
"Art is a snob fest. I would like art to be more for the common man," Collins said. "We've created that highbrow thing about art that should not be. There must be a place for everyone."
Just past an inviting sitting area, easels arranged in several rows are ready for would-be artists.
Nearby trays of stemmed glasses sit atop trays for those who wish to sip a bit of wine as they paint. While Collins doesn't offer refreshments in the studio, he encourages people to bring a bottle of wine and snacks to nibble on throughout the session.
"I think it simply says relax, this isn't so serious," Collins said. "If you get uptight while you're painting, you try to do detailed things and they're not ready for that."
Classes run about 3˝ hours and are offered Monday, Friday, Saturday, and every other Wednesday. Sessions are also offered for parties, team-building exercises and fundraisers.
The $35 fee includes a canvas and supplies. Smocks are available for use during the session.
Throughout the class, Collins explains which brush and color to use while demonstrating various techniques.
"Everybody succeeds," he said.
Sara Easley, a 39-year old communications analyst from Auburndale, said Collins helped her find her inner artist.
"I always used to say, ‘I can barely draw a stick figure,' but I can't say that anymore," she said.
Now her original artwork hangs in her home and she gives paintings to family and friends.
"I tend to be a tough self-critic, so I really appreciated how David encourages you to not expect perfection — to just let go and have fun with art and the act of painting."
In the back of the studio, two resident artists — Aaron Corbitt and Ana Lopez — work in a cozy alcove.
"I have a passion to bring in unknown artists like Aaron and Ana," Collins said.
Collins met Corbitt, 28, at Arts on the Park, a gallery in downtown Lakeland, and was impressed with his work but bewildered by the low prices he charged for it.
A self-taught artist, Corbitt was born in Merritt Island and raised in Lakeland. He attended three local high schools before dropping out. He later spent a year in New York City's art scene but returned home when a family member became ill.
Collins knew he could promote Corbitt's work.
Corbitt joined the studio as its first resident artist in June 2012 and held his first show shortly thereafter. His second show, "The Face of Lakeland," opened Friday and will be on exhibit through March.
"I'm trying to express both diversity and unity in a community setting," Corbitt said of the 60-piece collection of portraits. "I wanted diversity and the widest range of people — the homeless, the window washer, and the mayor."
He spends 6 to 12 hours a day painting in the gallery. Corbitt, who specializes in oils, is one of five artists who offer four to six week classes at the studio.
"It's sort of golden for a starving artist to be able to paint here," Corbitt said.
A CREATIVE CULTURE
Collins said he is constantly looking for ways to bring the arts to the common man.
He keeps The Loft filled with exhibits and adds performance art with appearances by the Florida Dance Theatre and an actor who portrays various artists.
Collins is transforming two narrow storage areas upstairs into eight to 10 artist studios. The Garrett will be open so visitors can watch artists paint during business hours.
A mural painting class is also in the works.
"Ten to 15 people will learn together and we'll paint (the mural) together," he said.
Easley said Collins is successful in his quest to make art accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
"His studio, his style, and the overall class experience are so welcoming and non-threatening," Easley said. "It truly caters to the non-artist who just wants to try something different and creative."
Corbitt calls Paint Along Studios and The Loft the "next cultural arts center."
"You can get entertained. You can express yourself.
"You can learn," Corbitt said.
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