March 6, 2013

Painting through life's second act

Mixed-media exhibition features senior works at arts center


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Sixty-five years ago in England, Ann Novoselec studied art at the University of Sussex in Brighton.

“I was a veteran,” Novoselec said. “I was in the Women’s Land Army during the second World War. I got a grant to college, but I couldn’t afford to keep going.

“I didn’t do much (artistically) after that until I had the opportunity with the Senior Center here.”

For nearly three years, Bryan Briscoe has taught beginning watercolor classes and encouraged his students to exhibit their works. There were baby steps exhibiting in the Senior Center and now “Encore,” a showcase of senior work, at the North Country Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh. Closing reception is Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

“Some have earlier experience painting, and some people are new to it,” Novoselec said. “They always wanted to do it, but it wasn’t until they were seniors they had the time.”

The show features 17 artists and 85 works that range from quilts to woodworking and paintings.


Novoselec, 85, works mainly in watercolor.

“Our instructor demonstrates, encourages different things and gives us the techniques. We’re starting a course in a couple of weeks on acrylics.

“I prefer landscape, but Bryan usually gives us a subject — portraits, working people, different tonal paintings, contrast and that sort of thing.”

Briscoe has taught in a variety of settings, including academia, and more informal sites, such as the Senior Center.

“I look at the artist to see how they paint,” he said. “I don’t tell them what to do. I find out what their strengths and weaknesses are first. I give them a chance just to mess up in class, to make mistakes. Then, I go back.”

He tries to get in his students’ heads psychologically to see where they are coming from. His interest lies in developing future artists.

He compares their work to that of late 19th century or early 20th century artists and asks them to try different approaches.

“I like to give people a lot of options, make mistakes on their own and figure out what they’re really interested in painting.”


He may demonstrate a particular technique, but the goal is to have each student to do it her way, whether she is a beginning or continuing artist.

“I really specialize in technique and get people to develop their passion — people to flowers to landscapes.”

He instills technique, color and perception.

“I want them to use their imagination and artistic license and feel free not to draw everything completely accurate. I truthfully think that ruins artists, if they try to draw everything as they see it. I try to get them to think internally first.”


Right now, Bertha Pavone, 85, is into flowers and plants.

“I never studied art, and I never drew pictures,” she said. “I can do that now.”

She signed up for Briscoe’s class because it looked interesting.

“I just wanted something to do. I just thought if I tried it, maybe I would like it and something would come out of it.”

She likes working in watercolor.

“You can make it as thin and as light as you want it. You’re doing a sky; you can bring it down so it’s nice and smooth and you can see the clouds in it with the watercolor.”

“Beautiful” and “very nice” are Pavone’s critique of the show.

“I think it should be done every year,” she said. “It’s great.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Encore." WHEN: Closing reception 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday. WHERE: North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, 23 Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh. PHONE: 563-1604. COURSE: Acrylic Painting with Bryan Briscoe, Starts March 15, 12:30-2:30 p.m., eight weeks. Senior Center, 5139 North Catherine St. Plattsburgh. Phone: 563-6180.