Young artists get spot in the limelight

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Seven-year-old Willoe Maynard pauses over a piece of her artwork, a monotype she made using two printing plates.

"I drew this picture of a wolf, and I decided to make it howling," she said. "First, I did the background in all blue and scraped away a place for the moon."

Willoe and her twin brother, Isaiah, have achieved something that adult artists strive for their entire careers. Their work is simple and straightforward, and they have the confidence to explain it.

While talking to the two young artists, children of photographer Jessica Maynard, it is hard not to be taken aback by their artistic vocabularies and aesthetic maturity.

While other children are selling lemonade, Willoe and Isaiah Maynard carry piles of artwork -- paintings, drawings and now monotypes -- to the corner to sell.

"We charge 25 cents for the best ones, 10 cents for everything else and 5 cents for the ones we don't really like," Isaiah said. And he knows what sells: "They like drawings of people with big heads and little bodies."

With their art already on the market, these second-graders are preparing for their first gallery opening, scheduled for Saturday. There will be beverages and hors d'oeurves and the artists will be on hand to talk about their work.

"Unspoiled Eye: Paintings, monotypes and drawings by Steamboat's young artists" is the end result of a class/experiment hosted by ArtLink's Pat Walsh this summer. It will feature monotypes by the Maynard twins and fellow artists Chloe Banning, Logan Banning and Mason Bates.

Walsh offered four monotype classes for children this summer. The classes charged only a small fee for supplies.

"ArtLink and myself at River Art Studio wanted to incorporate art for kids into what we already do," Walsh said. "The community needs to have art in their lives and that starts with the kids. We had no idea who would take advantage of it, but the first class was full, and the kids asked, 'When are you doing it again?'"

Walsh was overwhelmed by how eager the children were to make art, she said.

"They ran into the door and ran to the table and grabbed a brush. They were greedy for the opportunity. And their artwork was incredible.

"Artistically speaking, I was expecting great things, but not nearly on the level that I saw."

She treated the children like art students in any freshmen art class:

"We had critiques. They did copies of work by masters and they did exercises that you would do in any adult drawing class," Walsh said. "It was really hard to make them slow down and do those some times -- they wanted to get right to the paintbrush just like adults."

Walsh remembers one activity in particular where she taught the children to draw without looking at their paper.

The exercise, called "blind contour drawing," is a practice in keeping the eye in touch with the hand, Walsh said.

"There was one little boy who looked down at what he had drawn, and he was blown away by his image. He started running around the studio, drawing everything that way and being blown away again and again. He learned something he will know for the rest of his life.

"It was fascinating to watch this thing go on."

When the class wasn't making art, Walsh was giving art history lessons. She has an extensive library of art books. She randomly handed out the books and told the children to pick out one painting they liked and one they didn't like.

"I gave Isaiah a book about (Johannes) Vermeer," Walsh said. "He picked one with a line of light going across the page to a globe and he told me why he liked it. Then he said that he didn't find any he didn't like.

"Well, I did give him one of the great masters of the world and his discerning little eye picked up on the fact that they were all good paintings. That sums up how intuitively bright they are about art."

"I like to make art," Isaiah Maynard said, "because you can draw whatever you want and no one can stop you."

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