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Gallery students go under the knife

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

The Zullo Gallery’s hours may be limited to Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but that doesn’t mean the gallery isn’t busy during the week. Upstairs in the bright open space, the gallery hosts art education classes for both adults and children.

One particular class for adults met for the first time on January 22 to work on palette knife paintings once a week for eight weeks under the instruction of Ruth Scotch, a local artist.

“We do a whole bunch of different classes,” said gallery director, Bill Pope. “We tend to run them seasonally – so, fall, winter and spring for the adult classes. And the summer is mostly week-long kids classes. That’s what we’ve found works best.”

The gallery intentionally offers classes at different times throughout the week – some in the morning and others late in the evening – to provide even those with the most hectic schedules an opportunity to take a class.

Ruth, an instructor at Framingham State University, welcomed her students with an exercise to get used to painting with a palette knife, as opposed to the traditional paintbrush to which most painters are accustomed.

“It’s unexpected for them,” she commented. “It definitely makes them a little uncomfortable when they first try it, but then the results are so rewarding. It’s really great.”

Before long, the intermediate painters began working on larger scale paintings using landscape references brought in by Ruth. Some painters chose beach vistas, mountainscapes, and desert scenes, while others worked on their own renditions of views we see in our own backyards.

While the gallery often fell silent as the painters focused on their landscapes, the students took comfort in the fact that they were simply participating to nurture their own creativity. While Ruth helped improve the paintings with her suggestions and critique, she would not be grading the students any of their works.

“This also tends to be, I’ve found that in the past, a group where people can go and really learn, but it’s also sort of fun,” she said. “We’ll discuss things like books and movies, so it’s also like a social support group – or it also becomes that.”

Many of the students were amazed at how much texture the palette knife created on the canvas. One artist, who was working on a seascape painting, made fine, raised lines with the knife to make the tall grass on a beach’s dunes.

The students were also fascinated with the pure, vibrant colors that palette knife painting delivered – something Ruth felt years ago when she first began the technique. Although she first tried palette knife painting as an undergraduate student, she didn’t utilize the technique until 16 years ago, when she was pregnant and avoided working with any solvents.

“I loved the clean color I got from it. With a knife, you don’t need any solvents; you clean your knife by just wiping it,” she said. “So, I started painting with a knife again, and I loved it so much that I’ve just stuck with it for years.”

With seven more weeks of palette knife painting in store for the students, many are already convinced that it will be a passion of theirs for a long time, as well.

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