The moment of truth for Nancy Combast came with a dot of blue acrylic paint, which she carefully dabbed onto a small sheet of white paper with a long, tapered brush. Suddenly, being an artist was no longer just a wish. "I've always wanted to try," said the 55-year-old Combast as she blended in a little green paint from her palette. "It's a lot easier than I thought it would be."
Before the day was through, Combast and the other art novices who signed up for Hernando POP's fourth "Day Of Discovery" early this month got one-on-one guidance in several art media, including watercolors, clay sculpture, pastel crayons, batik printing and mixed media.
The monthly workshops, which are taught by noted local artists, have become a popular draw, said Hernando POP director Lynn Simone.
"It's all centered around people discovering their creative sides," said Simone. "That's what we do. They bring the desire to try, we handle the rest."
For $25, participants are provided with all necessary materials to create a small project that they can take with them. Participants are even treated to lunch.
At one table, sculptor Evie Harper took her group through the basics of shaping clay into small manatee figurines. She explained the importance of keeping the clay smooth and free of air holes that could cause the piece to explode when cured in a kiln.
"I try to remind people to have fun with it," Harper said. "Creating art should be a positive, enjoyable activity, something that gives back as much as you put into it."
Launched in December, the nonprofit Hernando POP (People of Passion) occupies the back half of a building at 417 W Jefferson St. owned by Hernando businessman Gus Guadagnino. The owner of Joni Industries, a marketing company in Brooksville, Guadagnino hired Simone as project manager to coordinate Hernando POP, as well as help him to integrate it into his new venture, Dream House Marketing.
Simone, an accomplished Spring Hill artist, said she and her artist friends have long recognized a need in the community for a hands-on facility where people curious about the artistic process can get a feel for it themselves.
"When we exhibit at art shows all of us hear the same questions from people, 'How do you make those colors? How do you start a painting? How much time does it take?' " Simone said. "Here, they can at least get a better idea of how it's done. A lot of people are surprised at what they learn about their own abilities."
Simone said it is not unusual to find artists stopping by to take advantage of the spacious, laid-back studio space. Several have shown up at previous Days Of Discovery.
Local artist Valdora Ward, known for her paintings of wildlife images on gourds, umbrellas and feathers, said she has attended just about every Day Of Discovery so she can experiment with new techniques that she can use in her own creations.
"I'm pretty much a painter, strictly," Ward said. "But I love playing with other media. It helps broaden my perspective."
The bimonthly Day Of Discovery workshops are in addition to regular art classes that are taught during the week. Simone said that one of her goals is to make the facility more attractive to young artists, especially during the summer months.
"Kids have a natural attraction to art," she said. "We want to be able to offer them more opportunities to explore that. It's a big part of our mission."
The next Day Of Discovery workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 9. Registration is required and the cost is $25, which includes a light lunch. Call (352) 345-4462 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.