Fresh off the great ART@EPL pastel workshops with artist Marianne Knipe, the stage is set for February’s free events with artist and sculptor Aryn Coyle. First up, Aryn will give a talk on Impressionism and Painting in Technicolor on Saturday, Feb. 8, 3-4 p.m. No registration required — just drop in and enjoy her talk or view her work on display in the children’s wing!

Aryn will also hold two painting workshops Monday, Feb. 10 and 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (both are the same). The classes are free and open to adults and teens 16 and up. All materials are provided — thanks to a grant from the PA Partners in the Arts — but attendance is limited and registration is required. Email Lauri, call 610-965-9284, or sign up at the desk for Aryn’s classes or any of the ART@EPL workshops with local artists (click here or see below for the full list).

We asked Aryn to tell us more about her journey as an artist and what she has planned for her talk and classes…

When did you know you were an artist? Tell us a little about your early path and what drew you to art.

My favorite things growing up were always climbing trees and catching frogs. I never thought of myself as a tomboy, though, since I did most of them in layers of pink ruffled dresses. I never fit the mold but I sort of liked that, and being raised by a single truck driver left me freedom to explore curiosities unhindered by parental control.

I was always looking up to the towering tops of the trees and imagining I could fly away from my troubles, so I guess my art began in the form of designing and building my own tree houses out by the old gravel pit. Since it was about two miles from my house, just getting the supplies there was a feat. I devised a way to balance 2×4’s on two bikes riding in sloppy tandem with my sister and carrying a backpack filled with tools. Each fort got more elaborate, including garden-hose Tarzan ropes, spy glasses made from magnifying glasses, and multi-shot rubber band guns to keep the neighborhood boys out. Math and problem solving were always a strength in my creativity.

As a homeschooling housewife, I’ve tried many work-from-home ideas over the years. My husband was an active duty attack pilot in the Army, so a true career was difficult. We moved all the time. My math and design background led me to sewing and quilting, including designing a wedding dress covered in custom Celtic knot embroidery. It had a 3-way convertible train that I was very proud of. I loved working with people, so I taught sewing as well. Though I enjoyed it, I still felt like something was missing. I had always loved the look and feel of thick paints, but I didn’t trust myself, so I had been afraid to try, afraid to fail.

When did you decide to pursue it professionally?
At forty years old, my kids were getting more self sufficient so I was looking for something that was just for me. An outlet that wasn’t controlled and calculated. A friend signed me up for a Bible study beginning in our church that was just painting. “Art as Spiritual Therapy,” she called it. The rest is a crazy Cinderella story that I never could have seen coming.

At my first class, the instructor said she liked my work so much that she wanted me to be her assistant teacher. The second class, she informed me that she had a significant change in her life and had to move to Florida, and that she wanted me to take over teaching the class! That was intimidating, but it actually went so well that the students asked me to teach a part two.

Afterwards, I sent one of the paintings I had done in the class to the original teacher, and she loved it so much that she insisted I attend Baum School of Art. She said she would sponsor my first two classes. It was wonderful.

My first class was with Rosemary Geseck, who has the extraordinary gift of bringing out the unique artist in each person without inflicting her own style on you. She is truly amazing that way. My first class with her, she loved my work and encouraged me to enter a public art festival, called Art in the Park in Allentown. During that festival, I sold my first painting to a man that owns his own private museum and gallery. He has since become an avid collector and dedicated an entire room to my work. It’s been a wild ride.

How has art fit into your life and work?
I am trying to become more disciplined in setting aside time for art, but it’s a struggle. I find that signing up for a repeating weekly class keeps me on track, and there is something invaluable about being around other artists, seeing things from a different perspective and hearing comments on your work. It’s great when someone else asks you if a certain piece of it isn’t working, and you realize that you had already questioned that same thing in your head. Every time that happens, you learn to trust your instincts and really listen to yourself.

What will you be discussing in your lecture on Feb. 8?
I will be speaking on the spirit and the science of Impressionism as well as its influence on modern art. This will include a look at its healing properties as a cathartic stress release for artists and non-artists alike. I will also be sharing Impressionists that have particularly influenced me.

Tell us about your workshops on Feb. 10 and 17? What can attendees expect?
This class will teach a start-to-finish work of art with emphasis on experimentation and escaping the need to over-control the medium. It is fun and freeing, and appropriate for anyone interested in artistic expression.

What’s your advice for anyone who wants to explore art, but can’t seem to find the time or feels intimidated by a blank canvas?

Aryn’s cat approves of the sculpture Aryn made of her.

I live by a few truths I have discovered:

  1. It doesn’t have to look like a photograph. That’s what cameras are for. A camera can’t do what I do.
  2. Set a timer. Limit how long you have to complete a piece. It forces you to get in what is truly essential and prevents you from strangling it to death with excessive detail.
  3. Fail gloriously. Seriously, go big or go home! Try crazy things, experiment and have fun. Don’t treat every piece like it’s a masterpiece.
  4. Don’t quit on yourself. If you don’t like something you are doing, pause. Stand back and really look at it for a while. What part of it don’t you like? How can you improve on it?

Anything else you’d like to add?
Anything can become a tool or a canvas. I actually consider myself more of a ‘sculptor of paint’ than a painter, and it just keeps evolving. Never let a supply list limit you. Go into your junk drawer, close your eyes, and grab three random objects…now paint with them!

[You can learn more about Aryn Coyle and view more of her work at her website.]