By Katherine Gotthardt
Art is alive and artists thrive in the Prince William area. But some of these talented folks are more visible than others. While many create and teach in brick-and-mortar buildings, others enjoy home-based studios. These four artists are among them, and all four offer classes and encouragement while doing the art they love.
Pencils and Paints LLC
Donna Merchant owns Pencils and Paints LLC. She enjoys painting acrylic landscape and still life, as well as creating graphite pencil portraits. With close to 30 years’ teaching experience, Merchant started her business in February 2017.
She says her lessons incorporate art history/appreciation and she believes in putting “fun in fine art.” She currently teaches private in-home lessons to students at eight locations, offers weekly classes to children at the Potomac Shores community clubhouse and instructs homeschoolers at St. Nicholas Cottage School in Manassas.
Merchant also offers mobile paint parties for private homes, churches and corporate events. “This is a fun way for me to paint with people of all ages in a party setting, and still be able to utilize my art education skills by offering various painting techniques — even tossing out random art history trivia,” she says.
What’s her approach? “When adults book me for private lessons, I cater to their interests including acrylic painting, drawing, mixed media, etc. For children’s lessons and classes, I incorporate art history, terms and techniques through the use of posters, books and games. We paint, draw, collage, build sculptures and more.”
Blue Cat Studio Art
Wendy Klinke calls herself Chief Creator at Blue Cat Studio Art where she takes the guesswork out of making art. “We create fun, whimsical art tutorials and painting kits for crafty moms who need a little break from their everyday crazy,” she says.
Klinke has been drawn to art all her life, but for many years allowed fear to hold her back from pursuing art as anything more than a side hobby. COVID-19 changed that. “Many people were stuck at home and desperate for something to do,” .she says. “I wasn’t one of those folks looking for something to do. I was teleworking full time, a single mom and getting my master’s in business. I felt like my peers — especially
women — needed a creative outlet to help themselves stay sane through all the uncertainty.” So Klinke launched Blue Cat Studio Art.
Her business is multifaceted. Klinke offers mobile, private paint parties where she teaches live (online via Zoom or in person). For those who prefer a self-paced approach or don’t want to host a get-together, she has created “take and make” art kits.
Klinke also recently launched an online art membership — the Blue Cat Inner Circle — designed for those who want to immerse themselves in the artist’s experience.
For anyone trying to create, Klinke says, “I think the most important piece of advice I can give my students is to trust the process and be kind to themselves. Most art, especially acrylics, starts off kind of ugly and messy and students sometimes get discouraged in the middle because they expect it to be beautiful from the beginning and it isn’t.…Art is 97% practice/technique and maybe 3% talent. So, show up, don’t be afraid to make bad art, and chances are you will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.”
Yellow Brick Road Studio
Kerry Molina is the owner of Yellow Brick Road Studio, the name of which refers to The Wizard of Oz. Molina says, “To me, it symbolizes a path to personal discovery. The characters all believed they lacked the traits they needed to be their best selves. But that wasn’t true. All along, they had contentment, wisdom, compassion and courage. This is also true regarding creativity. I believe that everyone was born with creativity. They just need opportunities to keep it alive.”
Molina creates mixed-media pieces and handmade books, often known as art journals. Her work has been published in several national magazines. She began her teaching by working with fifth graders, which she ended up doing for nine years. She says at the interview for her first teaching job at a small private school in Fairfax, “The head of school mentioned that there was no art encore class there. I was shocked. I offered to do an after-school art class there. Well, it was a hit. I taught 20 students after school four days a week, for a total of 80 kids. I decided I better start an LLC.” She’s been teaching enrichment programs ever since.
Her home-based studio seats eight, and there she teaches homeschool art and writing, after-school art, summer camps for children and an annual Adult Art Camp, workshops for adults and more. Molina is also
the kindergarten art teacher at Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool and Kindergarten and conducts Art Nights at The Winery at Sunshine Ridge. Molina will teach as requested at homes, clubhouses, wineries, schools and other locations in the Prince William area.
Molina can be reached through her website, kerrymolina.com.
Kelly Haneklau is a freelance visual artist and Founder/CEO of Minor Miracles studio. “Art chose me,” says Haneklau. “It is a wonderful freedom of expression and creativity that opens the heart and mind to unteachable things. When I am creating, time does not exist, and I am in another world. I love creating
art and so my career is not a job to me. It is just a huge part of who I am.”
Haneklau offers classes in-person in her studio and virtually for “ages 6 to 106.” She began by teaching young children, which is how the studio was named (“minor” referring to her students’ ages). But her current class selections cater to all ages, and she especially enjoys teaching painting and sculpting. “I love seeing growth and accomplishment when students learn new brushstrokes, color mixing theories, perspective techniques, highlighting and shading methods, form building and more,” she says. “They see something rise out of nothing and know that they applied real art skills to attain that final product. It is something they can be proud of and continue to learn from as their art journey continues.”
Passionate about the community and equality, Haneklau also calls herself an “anti-racist artist.” She says, “Art is a great platform to share information across all barriers. It is amazing to me that something I love to do can also be an invaluable asset for public awareness. Although I love creating all kinds of art in many subject matters, my more recent focus has been in support of anti-racism. Kindness to everyone is paramount to me and everyone should be treated with respect, equality and justice.”
Social Media Director for Prince William Living, Katherine Gotthardt (email@example.com) is an award-winning writer, poet and author, as well as president of Write by the Rails, the Prince William chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Learn about her work at KatherineGotthardt.com.