The room is bustling with chatter and laughter, as the members of the St. Boniface Watercolor Group work on their individual paintings. This group of art enthusiasts meets from 9 a.m. to noon every Thursday to chitchat with friends and get creative.
“The biggest thing about this group it not the painting,” said founder of the group Jessica Miller. “It’s the friendship and fellowship that has formed.”
Miller started the watercolor group in 2008, when St. Boniface Episcopal Church wanted to offer more group activities. Today, the group has 30 members, but not everyone attends every week. During the winter season, approximately 20 people fill Room F, at St. Boniface, where the group paints, and during the summer it gets down to about eight.
“There are others, like me, who have done the art class before and had to wait to retire before they could start getting into it,” Jane Aguilard said.
Many members have been drawing since childhood, some pursued it as a career and others recently started, but everyone loves to do it and help one another.
“I don’t think there is anybody in here who doesn’t try to help the person next to them,” Miller said.
Doriel Rock Boyce remembers one Thursday when she did not attend the session, but she did not inform anyone that she wasn’t coming.
“My husband travels a lot, so they know that I am alone a lot,” she says. Member Barabara Simmons called to inquire if she was OK. “That really struck my heart because somebody cared.”
Doug Hall worked as an architect in Canada for a number of years, but his passion has always been painting.
“My mother said I had a pencil in my hand before I could speak,” he says.
He mentors the group and gives demonstrations, along with Jim Aguilard and Miller. Hall pursued art at a university for two years but switched to architecture with encouragement from his grandparents.
“They thought art was a hobby not a career,” Hall says, “but you had to draw in my career, which was huge.”
After retirement, Hall returned to his natural passion and sells his paintings at a gallery in Canada.
Despite his vast artistic knowledge, watercolors are a new avenue for Hall because he usually paints with oils and acrylics. The snowbird gets inspiration from the group.
“There are all kinds of things to do in Florida,” he says. “If I didn’t paint Thursday mornings, I wouldn’t paint.”
The members come from all different walks of life, but each person has a story to share. Boyce first picked up a paintbrush in her home country of Barbados, before becoming a nurse in England. Jane Aguilard moved from her home in South Africa to Germany, where she met her husband, Jim.
“We are all varied from different backgrounds — some of us from different countries and from different careers,” Boyce says.
This eclectic group gets lost in the swirls of each brush stroke and finds it therapeutic.
“I get lost in the paintings, sometimes for hours at a time,” said Bunny Raabe.
Some members even turned guest bedrooms, offices and pantries in their homes into studios so that they could paint more often.
Simmons finds hope and support in the watercolor group while she battles cancer.
“I think it gets you out of yourself,” she says. “You get so involved in the composition and the colors and whatever is going on with the painting itself. You just totally forget what’s going on with you.”
Members bring their own supplies and sometimes photographs of their travels to draw. “It’s kind of like traveling the world without leaving home,” Simmons says.
At the end of the session, members display their work and critique one another in a constructive manner. Each year they donate their work to be sold at the St. Boniface Global Gift Fair and Art Show, and each year the paintings improve.
“We are here because we have a common interest in art, and I think the purpose of the group is fellowship.” Jane Aguilard says. “We know each other and feel comfortable with each other.”
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