Celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, the Southern Maryland Decorative Painters chapter, Society of Decorative Painters, continues to offer an artistic outlet for members and those in the community.
Two sessions of Saturday’s Learn to Paint event at the Charlotte Hall library allowed anyone interested in decorative painting the opportunity to give it a shot while chapter members offered guidance and tips.
Decorative painting is an art form that uses a variety of techniques and media to decorate functional and nonfunctional surfaces, according to information from the Society of Decorative Painters.
Projects can be designed and painted on household items — the chapter organizer scours yard sales for furniture that she stores in the basement for future projects — and includes stenciling and faux finishing.
Artists can work in oil, acrylic, pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolors.
“A lot of mixed media is super hot right now,” said Debbie Blair Williams of Mechanicsville, who organized the local chapter in 1995.
“We’re always evolving,” said Roberta Perry of White Plains, the chapter president.
Decorative painting doesn’t require extensive artistic experience.
“I didn’t know how to draw a stick person before I started,” Williams said.
As a child, she liked art but her parents discouraged her from pursuing it, she said.
Then in the fourth grade, a stash of paper dolls Williams made and kept in her locker was deemed a “fire hazard” by a teacher, further hampering Williams’ artistic pursuits.
Later, Williams would watch decorative painters Priscilla Hauser and Jackie Shaw on PBS and practice stroke work.
She bought a book from each to learn more before signing up for a conference.
When the conference was canceled, Williams joined a decorative painting chapter in Severna Park for about a year before starting one in Southern Maryland.
The first meeting was held at Charlotte Hall library with 35 people showing up.
Williams said that the heyday of decorative painting probably peaked between 1995 to 2000, but she thinks preteens are discovering it, prompting a resurgence.
Over the years, the meetings moved around to Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, Leonardtown library and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Waldorf before landing back at the Charlotte Hall library.
The group holds paint-ins, seminars with guest speakers showing up twice a year, community service projects like decorating a hospice tree each year, and fundraisers.
Learn to Paint is held once a year to introduce people to decorative painting — like Amy Wathen of Charlotte Hall and her daughter, Shelby, 13.
Wathen doesn’t have much time for crafts anymore, her kids keep her busy.
“I cross-stitched, took a crochet class. Art was my favorite class in high school,” Wathen said.
She read about the Learn to Paint sessions and signed up. Shelby, a musician, takes band in school, having to forego art classes. The Saturday session was something interesting to do, Wathen said.
Chapter member Debbie Reece understands how everyday life can get in the way of artistic pursuits. She came to a chapter meeting in 1995, but her kids were young then and she couldn’t work regular painting into her schedule. She returned about 15 years ago and has become the family’s resident painter.
“My kids are grown and I paint things for the house — now what do they want,” Reece said.
Reece said hand-painting Christmas ornaments for them each year has become a family tradition.
Reece likes working with watercolors and enjoys painting floral designs.
“It’s so relaxing,” she said.
Perry, a chapter member for several years (her husband Bernie joined two years ago), was Williams’ student for a while.
“Everything I know, I learned from her,” Perry said. She first was introduced to decorative painting when going to craft shows. She wasn’t necessarily an artist but found that wasn’t a drawback.
“You don’t need to know how to draw,” she said. “You learn different techniques.”
Projects can range from basic to complicated, an afternoon-long project to 50 hours spent on one.
“It’s so relaxing once you start painting, you lose track of time,” Williams said.