Our children and I remember with joy the art classes we all took as one of our homeschooling subjects. Many pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor pencil pictures from those days decorate the walls of our house.
Last Wednesday I gave myself a present. Twenty-four years after our family’s first experience with Miss Judy, I returned to her studio to join an ongoing painting class. For an hour and a half, I enjoyed her instruction, her encouragement, and her calm, gentle, and joyful spirit. I am looking forward to my next lesson this afternoon.
Miss Judy leads each student to success. Let me describe her methods. I believe that you can find wisdom here that you can use with your own children in any subject.
I walked into Miss Judy’s basement studio holding an 11 x 14 canvas and a tablet of disposable paint palettes. Those are the only supplies I need because Miss Judy supplies everything else. She greeted me with words of welcome and a glowing smile. She introduced me to the other students: my 20-year-old friend and virtual assistant who encouraged me to join the class, Miss Judy’s teenage neighbor, and a homeschool graduate whom I had never met but who had grown up in a family who uses Notgrass History—what a special meeting that was for me, as it always is when we meet people who “use our stuff,” as we say. The fifth student was absent that day.
Dozens of Miss Judy’s own beautiful paintings line the walls of her studio. She told me to pick one out to copy for my first painting. The one I chose was too much of a challenge for my first project in this class, so she guided me to one she thought would be easier.
Miss Judy told me to draw my picture with a pencil and gave me a measuring tool to help me. While I drew, she went from student to student, watching their progress, complimenting successes, and giving suggestions. Sometimes she stopped to check on me.
When time came for me to paint my background, Miss Judy dug into her organized drawers of paint and brought out blue paint and white paint. She squeezed them onto my palette. She brought me an easel, gave me a palette knife, and told me to mix some blue and white until I got the color I wanted. She chose the brushes I needed and laid them on my desk. She sprayed some water droplets onto my palette, telling me to use a little water with my paint. I noticed that other students went to the paint drawers themselves and searched for paint. I suppose I will do that, too, when I learn more.
As I worked on my background, Miss Judy continued going from student to student, helping and encouraging each of us in turn. I learned from what she said to me directly, but also from what she said to others:
“Be sure to cover the whole canvas. Don’t ever let any canvas show through.”
“You need to loosen up. I was like that, too. I had to learn to loosen up.”
“You’ll get it.”
“It’s not finished until you like it.”
“This round brush helps you form the petals.”
“Now, you’re getting it.”
When I finished my blue background, Miss Judy gave me brown for the center of my giant sunflower and showed me how to clean my brush in the ice cream bucket of water she had placed on my desk and how to dry it on the paper towel she laid there for me. Later, when she noticed that I was trying to get my brush completely clean, she told me not to worry about it because she cleans all the brushes after class with Ivory soap.
As the class went on, Miss Judy brought me an additional shade of brown for my sunflower and three shades of green for the leaves. She left me to figure out how to mix the greens on my own. I studied her leaves and experimented. It was fun.
When class time was over, I left my unfinished canvas until next time.
Miss Judy complimented my beginnings and told the class that she knew I would do well. When I got ready to pay for my lesson, I told her that didn’t know what the price was. When she told me, I told her that was not enough. She said that she knew that but that wasn’t why she did it.
We had been excited back in 1997, when a spot opened up on Miss Judy’s waiting list for our son John who was the first of us to have the privilege to learn from Miss Judy. When I called the other day to ask if there was room for one more in her painting class, she said, “Well . . . . since it’s you . . . .” I’m grateful she made room for me.
Encouragement. Smiles. A desire to teach. Confidence. Individual instruction. Knowing when to help and when to step away. Praise. Accepting where each student is in their development and abilities. I love the hymn title, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” That is certainly true of Miss Judy.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.