Beginner Painting Class Offers More Than Tips and Techniques

When you’re an adult, it’s hard to go back to a time when there were fewer expectations and less pressure. In other words, it’s impossible to go back to a time when you were younger. This idea came into full view for me as I was holding an interview in the Link Gallery of Children’s Art and looking at the thoughtful, beautiful art of the Gibraltar students.

When you’re young – if you’re lucky and your school values the arts – you have time to create. That creation time, however, is not time that adults necessarily carve out for themselves. It’s a time that I miss. From kindergarten through college, art has always been a part of my education – not the focus, but always on the periphery. Taking those art classes – and painting in particular – was a way to reset my mind and slow down the day. 

Since graduating, painting hasn’t entered my life, and being at the Link made me realize how much I miss it. Luckily, Door County has many offerings for all types of artists, amateur to advanced. One of the newest opportunities is a series of classes for beginners at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor, where Door County artist Liz Heller teaches the Thursday Art Class Series in the Kress’s Maker Space. The class seeks to help beginners develop new techniques or hone their skills, and it’s also a good way for people who’ve lost their way creatively to reconnect and find their way again.

These classes are stress free and fairly low stakes. All you have to do is show up, sit down and let Heller guide you in creating a painting. There are three classes to choose from: landscape, abstract and still life. They rotate weekly, and all materials are provided. 

I attended a landscape painting class on Jan. 9. Three other women joined me in taking the class, and we all had varying levels of drawing and painting ability. The classes are geared toward people who “can’t draw,” but those who can draw are welcome also. 

Liz Heller helps a student through laying out a composition on canvas.

The class started with a mini-lesson from Heller about basic shapes: how they form the basis of everything we draw, and how to draw a box, sphere and cylinder. She also discussed how to use a vanishing point to build dimension and perspective and offered some basics about building a composition, such as the importance of a horizon line and how to create visual interest.

After our mini-lesson, we received a small canvas and found a photograph or painting on our phone or in one of the library’s books to use as a guide for our composition. Heller, who is represented locally at Plum Bottom Gallery in downtown Egg Harbor, said that because we’re amateurs who won’t be selling our work or having gallery representation, copying another artist’s work isn’t cheating – it’s how we learn.

With a little trepidation, everyone started their paintings. The class was small and informal, and Heller was very helpful when anyone got stuck. She earned a degree in art education from UW-Whitewater and was an art teacher earlier in her life, but you can tell that she’s also a natural teacher. She hopped among the four of us, answering questions, offering suggestions and, sometimes, taking our paintbrushes and demonstrating what she wanted us to do on our canvases.

The four completed paintings at the end of class.

At the beginning of class, Heller promised that everyone would have a finished painting by the end of class. Halfway through, a few of us were skeptical we could finish, but by the end, there were four paintings. And for me, there was also a renewed desire to paint.  

Classes are held on Thursdays, 1-3:30 pm. The cost is $30 per class. Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Kress Pavilion to assist with ongoing programming at the Kress. To find a class schedule and register for an upcoming class, visit

Related Organizations