Originally Published: July 7, 2008 9:54 p.m.
Paint a picture of life at 85 years old. It is never too late to enjoy living.That is the philosophy Sheila Savannah "paints" for her students at the Adult Community Center in Prescott. She teaches an eight-week class in oil painting and watercolors for beginning and intermediate potential Picassos."I have all types of students," she said. "Many are over 50 who have always wanted to try their hand at painting. We try to finish five or six oils or watercolors during the eight weeks."Savannah just finished up for the summer and will resume classes in September. "Actually, I like to have beginners because they don't have any bad habits," she joked. She provides students with a materials list including paint, canvas and brushes, and then emphasizes the preplanning of painting. "There are steps for completion and finishing touches." She bases a painting on values, or tones of color. "That is the most important element," Savannah explained. "There is also composition and design. Students paint indoors from photos. They choose their subject matter. I encourage them to have fun and enjoy what they can do. So many people have discovered hidden talents."In fact, some of Savannah's students have sold their paintings after showing them in locales including the Prescott Fine Arts, Mountain Artists Guild and Southwestern Artist Association meetings. In other instances, they turn the paintings into note cards or use them as hostess or Christmas gifts. The student enrollment limit is 12 per class, so Savannah can provide personal, individual attention. "The students critique the class at the end and most say it is more fun and harder than they thought it would be," she said. "Everybody likes getting comments on how to improve their paintings. Some have been in class with me for three and four years. They enjoy growing. I enjoy the challenges and helping students find their style and passion."Savannah has a passion of her own when it comes to painting. Savannah has been teaching for 15 years, but also paints at least five days a week. "It has taken over my life," she said. "I will let my housework go - I become so focused and concentrated that I don't realize how the time is passing."As a child, Savannah remembers paint by numbers with a definite fondness. She went on to live and work in Italy for three years as a school librarian for the American School of Milan. "I could not help but be impressed with the great art surrounding every corner," she said. "I took some lessons and started painting in Italy and then moved to California where I received more training."Over the years, she has achieved notoriety through her work in publications and galleries. "I like trying new things," Savannah said. "I think observing is the greatest teacher. I paint outdoors and see nature, light and shadows. I try to make sense of the landscape and wildlife. I love painting horses, birds and cows. I also do a lot of geoscapes and contemporary works, trying to capture something new with a different eye."Those who want more information about Savannah's classes may call her at 443-7733. Click here to e-mail the artist.Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org