On a Thursday evening at 8 p.m. in Sparta, you may hear silence, and see just the tops of heads, while 15 or so students delicately dab their paint brushes onto colorful pallets, then onto canvas. It's a weekly Art Class taught by artist Toni Chaplin through the Sparta Recreation Department.
At the start of class tonight, the students gather around Chaplin's desk, as she first observes and then with remarkable skill paints a replica of a water color of three Amish girls. The challenge is now for students to do the same. They head back to their spots along bingo tables assembled in a semicircle, setting up their water glasses, paints, canvases, and brushes, just so.
It's is an excellent learning experience for artists of all levels, and members of the class have gotten close over time.
"It's like therapy," said one class member, with a laugh. "You come here, and you forget about everything else. And you make some good friends. And Toni's an excellent teacher." Others nodded in agreement. The atmosphere is relaxed, the lesson effective, the paintings are impressive, and the sounds of good humor and companionship are frequent.
Classes are $25 per session. That may seem steep, but a portion of the proceeds is donated. Chaplin has been donating part of class fees to charity for years.
A longtime resident of Sparta, New Jersey, Toni Chaplin's work is represented in many public and private collections, some as a result of commissions. While mostly self-taught, her mentors include; Arleta Pech, Ed Havas, Bill Senior, John Saliminen, Robert Burridge & Sterling Edwards.
Chaplin works primarily in watercolors acrylics and enjoys experimenting with different techniques. She teaches watercolor, acrylic, colored pencil, and pen & ink for Sparta Parks and Recreation, The Joe Kubert Art School, and Blairstown Library. She has been an instructor of Watercolor for Road Scholar, at the Shawnee Inn, Shawnee, on the Delaware, PA. As an elected Member of New Jersey Watercolor Society, she serves as their First Vice President for 2018-2020.
Toni Is also a member of Essex Watercolor Club, and the Art Association of Roxbury, and the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council. She has been on the Art in Sussex County Committee with the New Jersey State Fair for 35 Years. She has donated paintings to raise money for the United Way, Karen, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America, Kiwanis, and worldwide causes.
Class members from beginner to advanced are welcome.
For more information about the class, or to register, contact the Sparta Recreation Department at 973-739-2383.