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Artists take up painting late in life

Many of them had never picked up a paintbrush, never painted a stroke.

"You don't even know you've got it in you," said Mildred Poe, 72.

For the past four years, she and about 11 other artists, ages 67 to 92, have been painting every Wednesday at the Lutz Senior Citizens Center.

The fruit of their labors now hangs on the walls at the Lutz Public Library next door. The SummerTime Cool art show is on display for the next two months.

Tim Gibbons has been teaching the seniors, using acrylic paints, brushes and other supplies from the Hillsborough County Adult Education art classes at Chamberlain High School.

The artists use cardboard because canvas is expensive.

"The problem is getting good canvases," Gibbons said. "They deserve it, we just can't get the money. When they do get the canvas, the painting gets better."

At the opening Wednesday of their fifth show in the two years, Gibbons told the artists, "This is probably the best show you all have done."

"They produce a lot," Gibbons said. "In fact, they produce so much, I can't get them all on the wall."

Lucille Thralls said she does about five paintings during a one- to two-month period.

"Tim helped me with all my paintings," she said.

"He draws them for us and then gives us instruction," Ms. Poe said.

"But now you do it yourself," Gibbons replied. "You've been doing it four years."

"He'll (Gibbons) make a painter out of me," said Al Demps, 92, a retired messenger who worked for Rockwell International.

Madeline Kildare, 89, created one of her paintings using a greeting card sent by her great-granddaughter. She will send the picture back to her relative.

Other artists include Mary Cannella, Catherine Cook, Helen Clause, Mabel McGinnis and Wanda Kelley.

"They have steadily improved in their output and their imagery," Gibbons said.

"We did a tremendous job because we've got a tremendous teacher," Ms. Poe said.

"He's so patient with everybody, and if you (make a) boo-boo, he can always correct it for you," art lover Elizabeth Horne said.

The showing of 37 paintings can be viewed during regular library hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The library is at 101 W Lutz-Lake Fern Road. For information, call the library at 264-3800.