SOMERS, N.Y. – When Suzanne Babineau asked at Somers’ Van Tassell House if there were any art classes for senior citizens, director Barbara Taberer said she wished she could offer them, but there was not enough money in the budget.
So Babineau, who has a B.A. and M.A. degree in art and art history, and has taught art in its various forms to various ages in various places for more than 40 years, volunteered to teach a weekly class, pro bono.
Now seniors gather every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, paint pots and sketchbooks in hand. “It’s a great way to keep people active, getting out and having a good time,” Babineau said. “We all love it.”
Babineau says she “teaches what’s needed. Mostly I critique their work and we bounce ideas back and forth. It’s not about talent; it’s about the love of creating. Once in a while, we hold an exhibition of our works.”
An exhibition of Babineau’s own artwork is currently on display in the Somers Library Art Gallery. Although her artistic talents range from charcoal sketching to sculpture, with oil painting, watercolors, graphite drawing and other media in between, the library exhibition focuses on her colored-pencil art.
“Most people don’t realize the complexity of the colored pencil,” Babineau explained. “It’s a wonderful medium, and it’s not easy. People often mistake the drawings for paintings.”
Babineau starts by layering multiple colors to create her picture, then applies a solvent, which melts the wax binder in the pencil lines, softens and blends the colors and gives them more brilliance. “Some colored-pencil artists are purists – pencils only,” she said, “but I’m from a more modern school.”
She tackles a variety of subjects: landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, portraits. “Recently I was driving to Poughkeepsie and I passed this old barn,” she recalled. “It didn’t have one straight line. It had been settling into the ground for more than two centuries.” Babineau captured it on her camera and eventually based two drawings on it. Both are included in the current exhibit.
The colored-pencil drawings of Suzanne Babineau will be on display at the Somers Library Art Gallery throughout the month of March.