DENHAM SPRINGS — “Images of Summer,” the latest art camp offered through the Arts Council of Livingston Parish, attracted aspiring young student artists ranging from the second- through seventh-grade.

The session, held June 25-27 at the Art Council’s Gallery in downtown Denham Springs, focused on drawing and then painting scenes inspired by Louisiana’s wildlife, according to veteran art teacher Kerry Curtin.

The young artists began the experience by learning how to stain the canvas on which their artwork would eventually emerge. Then the artists were instructed to draw what they were to later paint. As the camp progressed, the budding artists were instructed on how to use acrylic paints to create the desired finished painting.

“Painting with acrylics on canvas is not easy. This is a challenging process for any artist and these students are doing a great job while learning a difficult skill,” Curtin said.

Curtin has been working with young artists for many years and is the instructor in the gifted and talented art program conducted by the Livingston Parish school system. “I have been teaching art for a long, long time. I’ve forgotten how many years … it’s more than 40 years, that’s for sure. In fact, I started teaching art while in graduate school at LSU in 1976, and I really haven’t stopped since,” Curtin recalled.

He added, “I don’t want to stop. I enjoy working and I love what I do, especially teaching young people the joy of being creative through art.”

Curtin said he was encouraged by the turnout for the art camp noting that several of the students have attended similar sessions in the past. He said some of the young artists aspire to eventually become part of the gifted and talented art program which is a federally based initiative that encourages elementary and high school students to pursue art through their senior years.

Curtin explained that students interested in becoming part of the gifted and talented program must submit five black-and-white drawings and five paintings to a panel that judges the art. If the work is of high enough quality, the student is admitted to the program.

"Every parish in Louisiana has a gifted and talented art program, and those in the program will probably pursue art throughout their lives," Curtin said. "I tell my students that even if they do not pursue art as a career, art can still be a wonderful hobby. Being engaged in the creative process and having an appreciation for the arts adds a special dimension to one’s life.”

He said a number of his students have gone on to rewarding careers in the arts. "Some have found employment in the area of graphic design," he said. "I’ve had students who became engaged in architecture and I recently learned that a former student is actively engaged in fashion design in New York."

During the June 27 session, the elementary school artists were painting a scene depicting a blue heron in a typical Louisiana swamp environment. Curtin stayed busy working with each student teaching them how to arrive at the most pleasing colors by mixing different paints on their palettes. He reminded the painters that their creations did not have to all be alike thus encouraging them to bring their own imagination to the scenes they were painting.

Those attending the camp all indicated that they began dabbling in art at an early age. They also said they enjoy drawing and painting and that these pursuits are important to them.

Blayk Smith, a fifth-grader at Lewis Vincent Elementary School, said she has been painting for “a couple of years.” She added, “I like to paint and it’s something that I do whenever I get the chance. This is something that I really enjoy.”

Mahi Pathak, a participant in several visual arts camps offered through the Arts Council, said she intends on pursuing art as a career.

Bailey Wax, sitting nearby, said of her pursuit of art, “I have an easel at home. I like to paint on paper … . I put paper on my easel and get out my paints and have fun. I love to paint dogs. I have a dog, and I like to try and paint his picture.”

Chelsea Bellony, a seventh-grade student at Juban Parc Junior High, said she has been painting for several years. “My mother is an artist and she paints, and she has taught me how to paint. It’s special for me.”

Grayson Borlane, an articulate elementary school student, said of his experiences with art, “I really like to paint, but whenever I painted before, what I imagined never came out looking the way I wanted it to look. That’s what I am learning at the camp. I’m getting my pictures to look more like what I want them to look like."