A picture might be worth 1,000 words, but learning to paint starts with the right choice of made-up words for instructors at an award-winning Columbia County art school.
At Miss Charlene's School of Art in Winfield, students often hear the words unfamiliar to them.
Because they can't understand the words, the students in Charlene Montgomery's class started a dictionary to keep as a reference.
Stored on a bookcase in the classroom, Miss Charlene's Dictionary has many entries, each one in a different handwriting, and written with different inks or pencil.
Montgomery said the students started the book to tease her, and then kept it to help new students. Whenever she is giving instructions and she uses an unfamiliar term, a student immediately retrieves the book to document the new entry.
From the pages of the dictionary, Montgomery's students learn painting and drawing techniques that include sploochy (uneven brush strokes), jiggidy (not even, very irregular), ploofy (like sploochy, but with bigger strokes), spriggles (jerk up, as if the paper is hot), and stickuppees (lumps drawn in the clouds).
Whatever the language, the message works. Students from Miss Charlene's art school won nine first place best of show ribbons at this year's Columbia County and Richmond County fairs. They won an additional 40 ribbons in other placements at the Richmond County fair, and even more at the Columbia County fair.
The winning works were displayed at the Columbia County Library during December.
"I am just so proud of my students and the hard work they put into it," Montgomery said. "It takes a long time to finish a work of art. It's not something they can rush."
Matthew Blackburn, 11, was so excited when he heard he won first place that he decided to take advantage of his winning streak.
"I'm already picking next year's project," the home-schooler from Evans said.
Matthew won first in best in class and second in best in show with his pastel painting of a snowy house.
Another home-schooler, Doug Sloan, 15, of Harlem, also became "motivated to do more and to do my best" after learning he won best of show. Doug's winning work was a pencil drawing of a young woman's face.
"He was already good, but now he's learned to overemphasize the lights and darks, to put a punch in it, so that it's not a carbon copy, but a masterpiece," Montgomery said.
Whether the work is a masterpiece is in the eye of the beholder. Seven-year-old Mayci Rogers disagreed with the fair judges about her first-place prize for her pastel painting of a rose.
"I entered three pictures, and I thought the horse should have won," the Bel Air Elementary pupil said.
Mayci's parents are proud of her talents.
"I think it's incredible, because I can't even draw a stick figure," her father, Donny Rogers, said. "It's just incredible that she can do it."
Other local winners from Miss Charlene's school include Thomas Gardner, 15, a student at Greenbrier High School, who won best of class and best of show; and Jacob Blackburn, 9, who is home-schooled in Evans, won best of class.
Miss Charlene's School of Art classes are designed so only five students are in each class. Each student works on his or her individual project, rather than the whole class working on the same project. The school also offers guitar and piano lessons.
For information, call Montgomery at (706) 699-9194.
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