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Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004 10:23 pm

Painting for the rest of us

Donna Hopwood, owner of Brushstrokes Art Studio
Photo by Job Conger

Many people interested in learning how to paint on canvas turn to academe and enroll in semester-long classes. Others seek guidance from Springfield Art Association or the Prairie Art Alliance. Many would therefore be surprised to learn there exists a teacher whose approach to placing colors on cloth produces take-home results not at the end of three or four classes but at the end of the first.

Donna Hopwood, owner and manager of Brushstrokes Art Studio, teaches a method of painting developed by Bob Ross, the creator and host of The Joy of Painting.

Dubbed "the people's painter," Ross started his PBS program in 1983. He died of cancer at age 52 in 1995, but his registered lines of art supplies and schools and program syndication continue as Bob Ross Inc. (Local PBS affiliate WSEC-TV, Channel 14, airs The Best of the Joy of Painting at 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

"I grew up watching Bob Ross on TV," Hopwood says. "I always wanted to paint, but I never tried because I never felt I could. But he convinced me I could paint -- but during the early years, I was working three jobs, I was a single mom, and I was mostly a doodler. When I remarried, my new husband, Joel, encouraged me."

In 1997, Hopwood attended an intensive Bob Ross seminar, graduated as a Certified Ross Instructor, and started Brushstrokes. Later, she became a certified Ross floral instructor and a certified Ross wildlife instructor. "Bob always said, 'Take what I've taught you and grow,'" Hopwood says, "and that's what I did."

Hopwood also has studied at the Beartooth School of Art in Montana under Beartooth co-founder Paco Young, and is studying painting and drawing with artist Mohammed Drisi in Chicago. And Hopwood has taken art classes at Lincoln Land Community College. "I did it somewhat backwards," she says. "I learned how to paint before I could draw." She has begun seriously studying portraiture -- although she accepts commissions, she does not yet teach the genre.

Hopwood's ability to finish a painting in about 30 minutes has attracted large audiences during her demonstrations at the Illinois State Fair.

Brushstrokes accepts no more than nine students per class. "We do them just like on TV," Hopwood says. "We start out with Ross' 'wet on wet' method of oil painting." Each session lasts as long as five hours. The first classes produce landscapes and floral paintings. More experienced students tackle wildlife subjects. "Every class starts with a blank canvas, and we go from there," Hopwood says. Every student leaves with a completed painting. "It's friendly, not intimidating," she says. Even so, Hopwood says, "I am very strong on technique -- I believe that if your brush isn't loaded right, don't touch the canvas. When it comes to Bob Ross classes, I teach exactly the way Bob wanted me to teach."

Brushstrokes Art Studio is located at 1810 W. Jefferson St., Suite C. For more information, call 217-793-7677.

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