Some people use writing or horses or physical activity as their therapy, while others use art. People who enroll in art classes at Art Relief with Donna Watts often use their creation of art pieces as therapy to help them through tough times.
Watts, owner and instructor at Art Relief, at 110 Colton Ave. in Burlington, is not a certified therapist, but she does have a degree in psychology and has written grants for art therapy. She just provides the studio and the lessons and her students often use it as an outlet for working through whatever issues they may be facing. Watts said she didn't think about art therapy when she opened her studio, but people would tell her what great therapy her classes were. People have also said that art has saved their sanity, she added.
"It's therapy as you go," Watts said. "There is no specific therapy class. The students focus on what they need to work on, like painting a picture of their loved one and I help them get there so it'll look like the one in the picture. It's a process for people."
Art Relief, the art studio in Burlington owned by Donna Watts, holds many pieces of artwork created by her students. Art has provided many therapeutic effects for Watts’ students, as well as helping to release stress and build confidence.
For close to 15 years, Watts has been teaching art classes and teaches art theory in all different types of media. She has lesson plans and said she tries to discretely hide a lesson in every project. Watts will also have other artists come in and teach other techniques that she doesn't teach. Students in her classes work with watercolor paints, oil paints, pastel crayons, as well as doing quilting and some craft-type projects. During the class, students find their own niche, Watts noted, and discover what material they enjoy working with the most.
"We basically just look for surfaces to paint on," she said.
Classes at Art Relief will start again in September, Watts said, although she does offer a class for teenagers in the summer. All of the teens in her class this summer are rebuilding their lives after the flood, she said, so they're repainting things for their new homes. She also does not teach classes to children. In the adult classes, Watts said they'll do artwork with an autumn theme and then a Christmas project. Classes are usually four hours and cost $25, she added, and the brushes, surfaces to paint on, and supplies are provided.
"It saves a lot of money on supplies they don't need," Watts said, and she provides her students with artist quality materials. Once students discover which art method they prefer, then they can buy their own supplies, Watts explained.
There is no critiquing in Watts' classes, she noted, and positive feedback is always given. Also, she separates men and women in her classes, teaching only men in one and only women in others. Watts doesn't allow smaller children to attend the classes because the women become moms and don't focus on their artwork.
Watts prefers to keep her classes at eight students because she said she can't give as much attention as she would like to more than eight. A wide variety of ages of people attend her classes, too, she said.
She also said that now is the time for people to attend art classes, if they're not working on their flooded houses anymore.
"I can't guarantee (the classes) will keep you from going nuts, but I can try," she said. "It's good for people to get out amongst people and talk."
Art is a great stress release, Watts said, and builds confidence because you get better as you go.
"It's instant gratification because you go home with artwork you've done, which is good for people," she said. "Art is just good for you in so many ways."
She said a lot of people feel like failures from the flood and art helps them process their feelings. Watts' art students learn that art is more for relaxation and she said she helps them transfer their interests into two- or three-dimensional art.
The most difficult part for most artists is getting started, Watts said, and a fear of failure or a fear of success. She hopes her students walk away from her classes with the ability to paint well without help from her, she added.
It's rewarding to help adults do something they've always wanted to do, but just needed a chance, Watts said. She also likes watching her students master art techniques, as well as growing in their confidence.
"It's cool to help them do that," she said.
The art students also gain a better appreciation of the process that goes into creating a piece of art. Sometimes a student will see a piece of art and decide they can make it themselves or use the colors they prefer, she explained.
Students in Watts' classes display their artwork at the Minot Public Library in the fall of the year, Watts said, and she never has a problem filling the space with students' artwork. At the end of September of this year, there will be a poker-themed show that will run from Velva, Burlington, Des Lacs, Minot and Kenmare, to give her students an opportunity to show off and possibly sell their work.
Getting the word out about art classes at Art Relief is done mainly through the open house at the studio once a year in the fall. Watts said she prefers for people to just come in and explain what they want in their art and what they want to learn.
"I like for them to have an individualized goal and I'll help them get there," she said.
For people thinking about taking art classes, you never know what you can do if you don't try, she said, and art is not that hard.
"Come in, relax, have fun and paint," she said.
Watts can be reached at 340-1918 for more information.