EVANS CITY — With a delicate hand, Ella Mae Smith transformed heavy black paint into fluffy crane feathers as she swept lines with her brush onto paper.
“At 87 years old, I had never picked up this type of brush,” said Smith of Evans City.
Chinese brush painting, which takes place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays at the Evans City Senior Center located inside the St. Matthias Church Hall, 426 E. Main St., is a creative learning opportunity for seniors begun last summer by the senior center's manager.
Smith's favorite paintings were the nine Christmas cards she painted for each of her grandchildren, she said.
“It's not that easy,” she said about the technique.
In three hours, Dorothy Weisberg, center manager, painted the four lessons for the month which is based on the perspectives of black, white and gray.
“I've been an artist all my life,” said Weisberg, who leads the Chinese brush painting session.
Painting and drawing are ways she relaxes, she said.
In addition to painting, she has also drawn, made 50 porcelain dolls, thrown pottery on wheel and sat in her garden and painted pictures of the flowers.
“I enjoy sharing this part of myself with them,” she said. “It's a part of myself I don't open up to the whole world.”
For volunteer recognition day, Weisberg hand- painted thank-you cards for senior center volunteers, which is when the idea came to her for the Chinese brush painting session.
When Bible study was canceled for the summer, she added painting to the weekly activity list at the senior center.
“Seeing them progress is the interesting part of it, watching them all get better as they go along,” she said.
Weisberg set two identical paintings side by side for the seniors to critique. In one, the crane's leg appeared unbalanced, one wing was wider and its neck was stretched out more.
“It's so that when they paint, they won't make the same mistakes,” she said.
Brush strokes are what give lines variability, Weisberg said.
When the bristles are wet, it gives the brush a pointed tip to gently create thin lines or wide lines when it is pressed down firmer, she said.
Resident Patricia Woods keeps a folder filled with the practice sheets from pink plum blossoms to orange dragonflies and the yellow bees Weisberg drew for the learners.
As time went by, the lessons have advanced, she said.
“It's a good feeling to be creative,” Woods said.
One special craft the seniors created were cards, which Woods has mailed to different people, she said, adding the cards are the most fun.
“It's the reaction when someone receives a card from me,” she said, which makes it meaningful. “It's something done from the heart.”
Connoquenessing Township resident Pat Enslen also sent hand-painted cards to friends.
“We do it mostly for the fun of being together,” Enslen said of the painting sessions.
The bonus to friendships is a sense of accomplishment, she said.
“We don't want to be considered old people or people who just come in here and talk,” Enslen said. “We want to do something.
“We're old, but not in spirit. We're old, but have new ideas,” she said.