At art workshops, creativity flourishes on vacation

Carmel closes down early, and there's no cab to be found at 10 p.m. The five trudge to their hotel rooms on a dark road lined with multimillion-dollar homes.

10 a.m. Wednesday

Chris Sanders strolls into the studio. "Mimosas anyone?" Unlike yesterday, he has takers. Three of the six students take a glass.

Today's subject is landscapes, but not the faithful renditions by painters and photographers (such as Ansel Adams, who once owned the building where Artista sessions are held). Go for your own vision, Taylor says, slashing turquoise and cadmium yellow across a canvas to evoke a beach scene.

3:30 p.m.

After disbanding for lunch, a massage or a walk on the beach, students are back working on their canvases. Some create their own landscapes from memory; others copy from books. Copying is easiest. But somehow, their own personalities emerge in a bold swirl, a careful color or a liking for sharp lines vs. passionate curves.

7:30 p.m.

It's painting-party night. The students are left alone, with a printed reminder of the Sanders' cell number and a joking admonition not to let in "shady dudes."

Earlier, Bev Sanders makes her first appearance, saying that five years ago she stayed at the Cypress Inn and decided to move to Carmel. "I love artists and I just enjoyed it and I said to Chris, 'I want to live here.' It was just the energy here … There's so much beauty. The trees are magical. I can't explain it."

When she tried to offer coed art workshops, men didn't sign up. "But we get heartfelt letters from women about how (Artista safaris) changed their lives. One woman quit her job" in real estate and started selling her art, she says.

Taylor, who teaches private coed workshops, says she has had male students. And they've had breakthroughs. "I would buy this," one wealthy man announced proudly, showing off a finished piece.

Later, as the final-night painting party cranks up, some women refuse wine, believing it will compromise painting ability.

"Look at all the drunks who were artists," Kierstead counters.

Wine "helps you let go," says Alexa Stuart, 39, of Hillsborough, Calif., who is painting some of the most admired work in the class.

Yaffa Wagschal, tentative at first, now is in full bloom. "Wow," she tells the class, as she redoes a painting that had been a muddy mess.

"I made something beautiful."

11 a.m. Thursday

The goodbyes and hugs begin as students start to pack up creations to be shipped home. Some — including accomplished artist Joy Yu of Irvine, Calif. — leave with two dozen works. Hers look as good as pieces for sale in Carmel galleries.

Yaffa Wagschal is loath to stop. The sessions were "therapeutic, relaxing," she says. "I discovered I was more creative than I thought."

"We painted for nine hours yesterday," Stuart muses. "It's hard to imagine that I still want to keep painting — but I do."


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