Classes teach young artists a new perspective

By David Broyles

July 23, 2013

Young artists learned to view a one dimensional tracing in a new way Monday as the Surry Arts Council again offered its Young At Art classes in its offices beside the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

The first project Monday tasked participants to take the standard tracing of their hands and loop lines over the hand print to make the drawing appear three dimensional.

Instructor Kayla Ellis, a 18-year veteran of teaching arts in North Carolina, said the youth program grew out of fall art classes offered by the council.

“Years ago (Arts Council Executive Director) Tanya Jones asked me to teach a monthly arts class and after that I became involved with the two-week Arts Alive camp. This evolved from there,” said Ellis. “There was interest in this and I thought something more intense would supplement arts education for many of these children who sometime get one, 45-minute arts class a week in school.”

Ellis said the spin she has put on a traditional arts project, tracing a hand, was designed to get them to develop perspective from the two-dimensional to something more.

“I’m having them create an illusion of their traditional hand outlines being three dimensional,” said Ellis. “I’m trying to get them to make a subtle shift in their minds to give it a 3-D effect.”

She said other projects this week will include making a rainstick, a fabric bowl, a paper mache’ bowl and painting sand dollars in the style of Australian dream paintings. The rainsticks will be made out of tubes which were once wrapped with fabric or gift paper.

At one point in Monday’s class, Ellis invited participants to stop working on their projects as she explained how nails pressed into holes in the cardboard tubes would simulate the sound of rainfall as dried rice falls across them.

“I want you to know if nails are too hard to push into the holes, I have another plan,” said Ellis. She demonstrated how to use the outside of the tube to make an aluminum foil spiral which could be placed inside the tubes. She compared it to Leonardo Da Vinci’s spiral staircase. Ellis takes pride in being frugal with the program and linking class projects to materials donated to the council.

The class ended with participants gathering around as Ellis read the story “Tar Beach” written by artist Faith Ringold, who is known for incorporating fabric scraps with writing on them into storytelling paintings. Tar Beach is told from the perspective of 8-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who imagines she can fly.

Lightfoot lives in New York City. She likens the blackened tar rooftop where family and friends gather to play cards to a beach where they fall asleep watching the stars and the George Washington Bridge. She claims if you fly over a building it belongs to you and she imagines flying over an ice cream factory so they can have ice cream every day. She also dreams of flying over enough buildings to keep her construction worker father from worrying about finding his next job.

“I want you to know today is the least fun day we will have,” Ellis continued. “Every day you come this week (after this) it’s gonna get messier. We will even use wet, gooey newspaper on the outside of our rainsticks.”

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.