From observers peering in the shop window at Book N Brush in Chehalis, all that’s seen is the tidy, orderly shop with rows of precisely sorted and displayed books and supplies. However, the loft above the storefront tells a different story. Book N Brush is so much more than a book store. It’s also a hub of creativity and inspiration, offering art classes throughout the week.
Lined with unfinished canvases and the occasional dab of paint sprinkling the floor, the small studio space is an artist’s playground, and the place where instructor Thelma Hauge teaches her students. Since becoming a full-time art instructor in 2007, Hauge has worked with hundreds of students, from ages 8 to 80, teaching the basics of drawing and painting with oil, acrylics and soft pastels.
Although Hauge considers herself a lifelong artist, her career as a teacher didn’t begin until after retiring from a long string of professions, from raising her children, working as a police detective and running a nursery in Vader. In fact, it wasn’t until a customer at the nursery admired Hauge’s artwork and expressed a desire to learn that Hauge had the idea to begin teaching. Taken aback by the 11 students in her first class, Hauge found a new career as an art teacher.
A decade later, Hauge is a staple at Book N Brush in Chehalis, teaching group and private art classes five days a week in the upstairs classroom space.
Dispelling the myth of talent, Hauge believes anyone can become a great artist with enough passion, patience, and hard work.
“If we were born with natural talent, say electrical talent, we would get right out of our crib and change a spark plug,” explains Hauge. “That isn’t going to happen. Once you learn the mechanics of something, once you enjoy doing it, you’ll do it better. As long as you want to do it, you can.”
However, Hauge also emphasizes that other key components to creating art are relationships, perspective and environment.
“Find somebody who you can do art with,” said Hauge. “If you can find someone who has a similar interest, it helps to have someone to get excited with. Have a passion for it. If you have a real love for it, you’ll get hungry for it.”
Beyond aesthetics, Hauge believes art is important because it changes the artist’s and the viewer’s perspective on the world. As artists observe their environment, they are forced to look beyond their prior ways of thinking and note every hidden detail. The common perception of a tree, for instance, might have a brown trunk and green leaves, but a keen observer might notice sunlight hitting the tree and turning the trunk black and the leaves blue.
“It makes you really start to look at people and your environment,” said Hauge.
Showing off her artwork, Hauge described an encounter with a man who walked into her store dressed like a cowboy. Hauge was so intrigued that she insisted on capturing and painting his picture. Although she only spent a short time with him, Hauge says that painting his portrait helped her learn the intricacies of his face, from his eyes to the curve of his mouth, which she may have overlooked at first glance. This change in perspective, Hauge said, is what makes teaching art so important.
“The students start to look at people in different ways and it makes them more tolerant,” said Hauge.
Even if oil and acrylic painting aren’t your preferred medium, Book N Brush offers many other excellent art classes to help you hone your skills.
For twenty years, Chehalis artist Ian Ricker has been guiding students through the basics of drawing, working in media such as oil paints, pencils, and pen and ink. He teaches classes every Monday from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
After discovering a passion for drawing and painting in her teens, instructor Jessie Erickson trained at Centralia College and has been teaching at Book N Brush since 2008. On Tuesdays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Jessie guides students through the art of storytelling and composition via watercolor painting in a 12-week curriculum.
In addition to fine arts classes, Book N Brush also offers life drawing classes with live models as well as Coloring and Cocktails for adults. However, if you wish to take a class that isn’t offered, Book N Brush can make accommodations to set up a class, given that at least eight people are interested. For anyone interested in dropping in on classes, the fee is $15.00, and $75.00 for a series of pre-paid classes.
This commitment to quality and customer service, Hauge said, is what makes Book N Brush an exceptional local store. Unlike corporately owned chain arts and craft stores that offer a limited selection of fine arts materials, Book N Brush is accessible to artists of various mediums. For instance, if a specific item isn’t in stock, the staff will specially order it for the customer, ensuring a quick delivery.
“We’re a one stop shop,” said Hauge. “You can get classes and you can get supplies here. They’re supportive and available.”
Book N Brush
518 N Market Boulevard
Chehalis, WA 98532