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Youthful creations at Monart show in San Luis Obispo

‘Armadillo,’ by Joel Lewis, 10, is among the many animals students chose as subjects.
‘Armadillo,’ by Joel Lewis, 10, is among the many animals students chose as subjects.

Caroline Vaccaro stresses to her students that there are no mistakes in art.

“You did something you don’t like, so let’s see if we can turn it into something you do like,” she tells a frustrated pupil.

Although Vaccaro says “we,” she doesn’t change the student’s work.

Regardless of their skills, children especially can be very protective of their creations. Not to worry. Vaccaro follows the tenets of Monart School of the Arts, a nationwide franchise, which bases instruction on “Drawing with Children” by Mona Brookes.

Vaccaro started her San Luis Obispo Monart business in 2006 and holds classes countywide, including after-school programs.

To celebrate the end of the school year, Vaccaro is exhibiting close to 150 works by 30 students. The Nautical Bean walls are filled with colorful drawings of animals, buildings, people, even food. “Cup Cakes” by Anya Mammen, 8, could stand alongside Wayne Thiebaud’s sweets; Holland Rolapp, 8, rendered a bright “Jamaican House,” with multi-colored steps; and Vanessa Castrejon, 6, puts the viewer nose to nose with a burly bear.

Work by youngsters predominates, but teens and adults are also included. Classes, geared toward age groups, are small, from four to 12 students. Some of the students are small as well, such as 3-year-old Naomi Garrett.

Resisting the urgings of eager parents, Vaccaro usually draws the line at age 4 for the “Getting Ready” class. Naomi, however, made the short list, and shows her talent with her pen and watercolor of wiggly ladybugs and another of a butterfly.

“We draw in pen most of the time,” Vaccaro said, with wide-tipped felt markers of prisma colors. “The philosophy is getting kids to see rather than teaching kids to erase.”

No eraser marks are visible on 10-year-old Sam Second’s delicate pencil drawing of four finches, the only graphite in the show.

Out of students’ earshot, Vaccaro does acknowledge specific students’ talents but would never single anyone out for praise or criticism.

“You don’t have to have an innate ability to draw,” she said, believing “you can teach them to draw anything.”

Lessons concentrate on recognizing shapes and elements and using line, color, texture, patterns and some unity. Examples of various subjects are posted for reference. The goal is to provide enough instruction for the project, while allowing students to make the work their own. “It’s more about the experience than the project,” Vaccaro said.

She and her three other instructors also teach perspective principles, which Kayla Walker, at age 6, applied to draw a skateboarder taking some air above the board.

Although Vaccaro teaches youngsters about the vanishing point, light source and how to create a shadow, she is satisfied if they at least insert a horizon line.

Above all, she wants their experiences to be positive.

“I talk about how there’s no right or wrong way,” Vaccaro said. “We never do comparisons of the artwork. There’s no competition.”

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