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New art classes draw all ages

Islanders Jane and Steven Curtis were impressed by their children’s Silverdale-based art classes, so much so that they brought both the instructor and program to Bainbridge.

Now the island’s newest art program, Monart School of the Arts, which also has offices close by in Bremerton and Gig Harbor, has recently opened doors at Rolling Bay in a commercial space owned by the Curtises.

It is headed by art educator Ruth Harris, who has been with Monart since 1998.

“She (Jane Curtis) had been driving her son to Silverdale for two years,” Harris said. “She said ‘I’ve got a place for you – will you come?’ I said ‘you bet.’”

The Curtis’ are not the only parents to flip for what has become something of an international phenomenon: Monart School of the Arts, founded in 1979 by Mona Brookes.

The California art educator has a flair for elucidating on simple principles to teach drawing to children, and to adults convinced they “can’t draw.”

With five simple shapes and the conviction that no art can be deemed “wrong,” the Monart method teaches realistic rendering with techniques laid out in Brookes’ 1979 text, “Drawing with Children.”

Children draw to learn language, to tell a story, Harris points out.

When they learn to read, the art-making impulse often falls away – especially as the inclination to be self-critical develops.

“I see what happens with these kids,” Harris said. “I work to break through that barrier.”

How difficult a time an adult has learning to draw has less to do with innate talent, according to Brookes, than how entrenched they are in making invidious comparisons.

Monarts honors the individuality of the artist.

“It’s the individual, that’s what we are promoting,” Harris said, “the individual differences of students of any age. That takes away that ‘competition stuff.’”

Classes are small, with eight students ages 4 and up learning at one time.

Four is the cut-off for the program, Harris says, because of the “vast” developmental differences between 3 and 4.

“We do follow a sequential program step by step,” Harris said. “With the adults I kind of play it by ear, depending on the makeup of the specific group.”

The methodology makes an end run around the hokey “how to draw a tree, how to draw a face” sort of art instruction to put a new spin on the time-honored elements of drawing that drive art college methodologies: proportion, scale, perspective, contrast and shading.

Brookes has used the web adeptly to spread the word.

There are currently 43 licensed providers who run Monart schools in 14 states, and schools in Canada, England and Australia.

Besides the Silverdale office, Washington has Monart schools in Issaquah, Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver, and now Bainbridge Island.

To get the license, a provider must complete an internship with Monart trainers Mona Brookes.

Prospective licensees must spend from three months to a year learning to run classes.

Although some training has been conducted through viewing taped sessions, the trend now is for prospective Monart teachers to travel to one of several training sites in California, Harris says.

For Harris, absorbing Brookes’ philosophy has been a personally liberating experience she now loves to share.

“Artists aren’t born,” she said. “Anyone can do it.”

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Monart School of the Arts has opened registration for winter session classes on the island. Call (360) 662-1542 for information.

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