Diane Israel has been painting miniatures, selling and framing art from her store on South Fullerton Ave. in Montclair for 25 years. She’s also been giving private art lessons all this time. I discovered this at Montclair Center’s latest evening art walk this past May when I wandered into Essex Fine Art Gallery and started talking to Israel. As it happens, I’d recently bought a set of acrylic paints from Jerry’s in West Orange, and found myself a little perplexed about the art and science of applying it to canvas. Israel offers four private lessons for $125, which seemed imminently reasonable, so I signed up. Thus began a series of four of the most pleasant Friday afternoons I’ve passed in recent years.
I showed up with my paints and about 20 photographs, which Israel sorted through — finally settling on a picnic scene with watermelon. She first taught me to draw a grid on my photo to divide it into six equal boxes. I did the same on my canvas and then sketched the shapes I found, with a pencil, onto my canvas. Then, very hesitantly, I began to apply paint. Israel seemed a bit nervous when I took brush to the canvas, but eventually we both relaxed into the process. After all, this wasn’t watercolor. With acrylic — like oil — you can paint over your mistakes. My favorite part was adding the shiny white reflections on the coffee pot and painting the little seeds to the watermelon. Hardest: rendering a clear glass bowl.
Israel, who is a certified teacher for grades K-12, teaches both adults and children, and if you sign up for either watercolor or drawing, she provides the supplies. She also gives digital photography lessons, helps people learn how to create photo books online and teaches a popular class at the Montclair Adult School: “Painting Your Own Holiday Cards.” Private lessons are by appointment on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.
“I feel anyone who wants to paint can paint,” Israel says. “If it makes you feel good, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it.”
Essex Fine Arts Gallery is located 13 South Fullerton Ave. Visit Wednesday through Saturday to see Israel’s cunning miniatures. Find out more about the art lessons here.