By Josette Keelor
Kay Witt's first painting workshop in March nearly reached capacity. Her second, this month, has been sold out for weeks.
Even though she capped the three-day workshop at eight participants, she was willing to take nine -- until a 10th signed up. She scheduled an "overflow class" for July and asked the extra two students if they minded waiting a couple weeks to learn to paint wolves. In August, Witt will offer a class on painting horses and in September her class featuring cats will be sponsored by the Virginia Educational Center for the Creative Arts in Woodstock. Her plan is to offer a workshop each month.
It's not difficult to see what interests students in learning to paint wolves, horses or cats like Witt does.
One of her pastel paintings features a horse named Miss America with flowing hair that reminds Witt of her daughter's My Little Pony dolls from the 1980s -- something Witt didn't know existed in nature until she saw the work of photographer Lesley Harrison.
Miss America is a gypsy cob draft horse Witt painted from a photograph in May, using her talents to depict the horse's longer-than-believed white mane.
"From what I can tell, it's got this quality of lambs' wool," she said.
They call the horse Miss America because she has red, white and blue in her coat, and Witt said another horse she painted, Scarlet, has two-toned hair. Most gypsy horses have two colors, according to research she has found on the Web.
But in class "we're going to paint Ella," she said. Ella is a gypsy paint but might be a cross breed since she doesn't exhibit all of the gypsy horse traits.
With feathering near their feet, gypsy horses are a combination of hot-blooded draft horses like Clydesdales and cold-blooded ones like Arabians or thoroughbreds. Gypsies are warm blooded, Witt said.
"I tried to see if there are any in this area, and I couldn't find any," Witt said. "They interest me because they're different."
As she recalled, Miss America was featured on a magazine cover with the headline "It's all about the hair."
Ella doesn't have the feathering at her feet, Witt said, but "she's got the hair going on. She's pretty."
Witt has been drawing horses since she first could hold a pencil, but wolves are her main passion, and they feature prominently on the walls of her home-based art gallery at 115 Maynard Lane, Strasburg, where the workshops will be held.
Part of the Artisan Trail, a Virginia network of artists' studios, hers is the only one she knows of that's in someone's house.
"We had the perfect home for it," she said. She and her now retired husband turned the living room into a gallery, and she still has space for a studio in a room at the back of the house. Those who want to visit the gallery should call ahead, she said.
Experience is not required to attend Witt's workshops, which promote a learn-as-you-go atmosphere.
"We take you from the beginning to end," she said. All materials are included in the price, and everyone works on the same design.
In the wolf study, students will learn to paint "Twilight," a pastel work Witt finished earlier this month and named for the time of day the photo was taken.
The first day of each workshop, she teaches about eyes, which she called "super important."
On day two, students begin their paintings, and Witt provides demonstrations and one-on-one attention.
Classes run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with an hour break for lunch, and participants may order in or bring their own lunch. Some even have partners or friends join them for the hour.
According to Witt, her workshops have caught on because of the shared experience and the time students gain to spend to themselves painting.
"You build this camaraderie with people because you're like minded," Witt said.
Thinking back on the March workshop, she said, "It was just great fun. ... And everyone left with a complete painting on Sunday afternoon."
Kay Witt's pastel workshops are $250 for three days. The Wolf Pastel Workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 12-14; and the Horse Pastel Workshop Aug. 16-18 in Kay Witt's studio at 115 Maynard Lane, Strasburg. For more information, call 540-325-3327 or visit wildwolfportraits.com. The VECCA Sponsored Animal Workshop Sept. 13-15 at 7 East Gallery, 123 S. Main St., Woodstock. For more information call 540-459-4226 or email Donna Patton at email@example.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org