Enjoying the freedom and process at local art school

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It’s kind of sad that the fast pace of our everyday lives leaves little time for creative play. Even in our schools less and less time is allocated for creative activities like music, drama and art.

Art was an important way of expressing my own feelings, especially during my turbulent teenage years.

Two people who really believe in art and its magic, and the positive impact it can have in the lives of people of all ages, are Vivian East and her daughter, Julia Ramdehall, owners of Freehand School of Art. Both have university teaching degrees, as well as art and design diplomas. Julia also has an anthropology degree.

Vivian grew up in North Toronto and went to Lawrence Park Collegiate as a teenager. After she retired from a career in teaching, she often thought of coming back to her old neighbourhood to open an art school. When Julia couldn’t find a teaching job, they agreed the timing was right, and they decided to go for it.

I am happy they are close by. I love their Thursday night open drawing class. Normally I don’t do figure drawing, but this class allows me to have fun with charcoal and paper. They look after all the details and all I have to do is show up.

It’s wonderful to see how different everyone draws the model. Some are detailed and perfect drawings, others (like my own) are loose interpretations, which is a way of saying … questionable. But I have a great time enjoying the process anyway.

Seven days a week this neighbourhood art school offers oil and acrylic painting, drawing fundamentals, ceramics, mixed media and life drawing. The ages of students ranges from junior kindergarten to adults.

Vivian said they’ve even had to get a chair with a back — after their 90-year-old art student fell off one of the art stools.

These are two wonderful and enthusiastic women, together with their part time and full time teachers, demonstrate a clear vision about art. Vivian and Julia say they particularly love teaching children.

“It’s great that these kids have such a positive outlet for their creativity,” says Julia. “It makes them feel good about their world.”

Adds Vivian: “They can let their imaginations run wild and they surprise themselves with what they come up with.”

You really get a sense of how enthusiastic they are about art at the school. And it shows from their website, www.freehandart.ca, to the welcoming and comfortable interior.

Vivian’s husband, a contractor, who replaced all the floors with local Ontario red pine and used recycled wood to build the counters, picture ledges and tables. All this woods adds an extra feeling of warmth, which is in sharp contrast to the usual cement floors of most art schools I have worked in. I also appreciate the extra track lighting for those of us whose eyes require extra illumination. I was very distracted when I interviewed Vivian and Julia, because there is so much cool art everywhere.

When the pace of life is making me crazy it helps to get back in touch with my creative side. When I’m at Freehand, immersed in charcoal and paper, I can have fun and leave some of life’s stresses behind me. And you never know, I may create a masterpiece one of these days!