With GED and English-as-a-second-language classes that began on Jan. 14, the spring 2008 semester of Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning is already in progress.

The majority of the 60 courses being offered begin the week of Feb. 18, however, with course start dates ranging from Feb. 11 to April 21.

The spring 2008 course line-up includes everything from basic keyboarding and basic dog obedience to bee keeping and art photography, as well as two courses being offered by local artist and veteran art instructor Emily Oliver: “Introduction to Calligraphy” and “Learn to Draw.”

The drawing class will focus strictly on the fundamentals of drawing and graphite (pencil) will be the medium used for drawing in class.

“If you learn the basics of drawing, you can draw anything,” said Oliver, who says that once the fundamentals are learned students will have the ability to draw buildings, animals, still life and whatever they so choose to draw.

In the calligraphy class, Oliver will discuss all the different types of pens and ink.

“But I’m going to suggest that they use a calligraphy marker for the class,” said Oliver, explaining, “That way we’ll just deal with the strokes to make the letters and how to hold the pen. Once they’re comfortable with the letters, they can experiment with any kind of pen or ink,” said Oliver.

“In both classes, I will show students what I’m comfortable with and they can experiment and decide what they’re comfortable with,” said Oliver, who advises her students just as she was once advised by another artist, “Be true to yourself, I tell them.”

As a child, Oliver’s favorite gift at Christmas was a big box of crayons.

“I loved receiving Crayola 64 from Santa and one Christmas I got a paint-by-number,” said Oliver, who loved to draw, paint and color at home as a child, but never had art training of any kind during her youth.

“During the time I went to public school, from 1st through 12th grade, I never had an art class,” said Oliver who assumes she went to school during an era when “a lot of extra-curricular classes were dropped.”

One exception to this was in Mosie Lee Daniel’s third grade class.

“My third grade teacher, Ms. Daniel, was a local artist,” said Oliver, who explained that her teacher would always have her students do special art projects to coincide with a holiday on the calendar.

“She (Ms. Daniel) allowed us to use marks-a-lots. I thought, ‘Oh, this is wonderful,’” said Oliver, who described using markers as being a real treat.

It wasn’t until Oliver was in her 20s that she realized that she possessed artistic talent.

As a young mother, Oliver would attend painting classes while her children were enrolled in a mother’s day out program.

“Augustine Wilson taught me about color. That’s when I thought, ‘I like this,’” said Oliver, noting that she continued to take those classes for “a couple of years,” but all other training was self-taught and “trial and error.”

It wasn’t until Oliver’s own children attended school that she began drawing in the car while waiting to pick them up in the afternoon.

“I remember one year that I had four children at four different campuses,” said Oliver, who explained that, not wanting to waste that time spent sitting in the car, she practiced drawing while waiting for her children.

“My goal was to be a stay-at-home mom. I therefore needed to learn how to do something (to earn an income) that would allow me to stay at home,” explained Oliver, who found art to be that “something.”

“God gave me a gift (a talent for art) and He was faithful and I’m to be faithful to persevere,” said Oliver, who says she’s not one of those artists who “lives to paint,” but she does want to be faithful to use the talent God gave her.

“I enjoy art, but I’m not driven to produce art,” said Oliver, who added, “But I was passionate about being home for my children.”

Oliver noted that, while not as driven as some artists to produce, it is very important to her to please her customer and she does become passionate about the particular projects.

“Whether it be a portrait of their granddaddy or a painting of their old barn, it becomes special to me because I know it’s important to them and I want them to look at it and be pleased,” said Oliver.

For more information about Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning, call district Partners in Education/community education coordinator Melissa Cobb at 972-923-4631, ext. 142.

Email Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com.