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Senior watercolor workshop teaches confidence in art

WORTHINGTON -- The 16 senior watercolor students at The Meadows of Worthington weren't initially impressed with their achievements.

Their task was to produce a lake-and-sky landscape scene aided by the expert instruction of Southwest State University instructor Charlene Buescher, who specializes in teaching art to people of all ages. She has taught more than 1,000 senior citizens through the years, but her Worthington pupils were humorously slow to believe in themselves on Thursday afternoon.

"I can't even put lipstick on without getting it smeared," announced one, to the snickering delight of her neighbor.

Another student, frustrated by her inability to produce trees that resemble trees, remarked, "I need help here. My trees look more like mountains."

Three others asked themselves where to hang their watercolor art when they finished. The living room? The bathroom?

"I think in the bathroom -- under the sink," one of them concluded, laughing.

Good humor was everywhere at The Meadows on Thursday. But in the end, the senior students discovered they are better painters than they'd bargained for. When Buescher picked up a few landscapes, set them in makeshift frames and stepped back to show them off to the class, the jokes turned to "ooohs" and "aaahs."

"I've seen people from these workshops take these paintings and carry them around with them at a time when other capabilities of life have been taken away from them," Buescher said. "They usually do the painting for a full two hours (during classtime). And if you'd have told them that before they started, they never would have believed it."

Buescher, who resides in Hendricks and has traveled extensively within the United States and overseas to practice her art, provided professional grade watercolors and paper to The Meadows' senior students. She took them through the process step by step.

One of the students, 85-year-old Hendrine Brink, said she'd never painted before and was reluctant to sign up for the class.

"I swore I wasn't going to do it," she said. "Then in the middle of the night, I thought about it and thought, 'That's foolish.' It's here, and I'm going to take advantage of it. It's fun."

Elizabeth Dirksen, 82, recently experienced a stroke, and she is unable to use her left hand. It was hard for her to tip her painting in such a way to allow her painted treeline to bleed into the blue sky -- thereby creating the illusion of branches. When she saw the result of turning her painting the wrong way, causing the "trees" to bleed into the water, she made the best of it.

"It looks like the trees are upside down," she said. "Oh well, that's the way I want it."

Buescher said senior students -- her oldest was 108 -- are routinely surprised at how well they can paint.

"We've had several people place in county fairs after just one class," she said.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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