Ask an expert - Gabrielle Tufano, art instructor
Last updated 2/12/2020 at 3:43pm | View PDF
Gabrielle Tufano loved painting and drawing, but as a college student, her hobby didn't have a place on her intended career path. Teaching art certainly never crossed the science major's mind.
A single comment from an art professor at Illinois Benedictine University changed all that.
"He told me that the world will always have enough doctors. What it needed was a great figure painter," Tufano said. That's when she turned her course of study from pre-med to painting.
Tufano now teaches art in the LyArts program at The Community House. A curriculum of art classes for newborns through adults, LyArts is named after The Community House's longest-serving executive director, Ly Hotchkin.
Tufano leads children ages 5 to 12 in weekly drawing and painting classes called Brushwork. The younger children, ages kindergarten through second grade, are Brushwork Apprentices, while older kids enroll in Brushwork Masters. Both classes introduce young artists to the studies of line, shape and composition and encourage creativity and personal expression.
Tufano said she loves the creative abandon of the youngest children in her class.
"I kind of believe we're all born artists," she said. Unfortunately, that 6-year-old who considers every creation a masterpiece often becomes a 9-year-old who doubts every brushstroke and agonizes over every mistake.
Tufano said she hopes to help students harness that 6-year-old confidence by learning to see mistakes not as failures, but as steps toward something better.
"It's my hope that I can help them hang on to that," Tufano said.
Once an angsty teenager herself, Tufano said she knows firsthand how art can help smooth the path through adolescence. She said she's just starting to realize the importance of art in emotional and mental health at any stage of life.
"You can be an artist at any level. It can help you in just about anything you do," Tufano said.
Cookies and Canvas is a way for children to create art with their favorite adult. Held monthly on a Saturday afternoon, artists young and old enjoy juice and cookies while Tufano guides them through the steps of creating a painting.
Studio Vino, which occurs one Friday night a month, is the adult version of Cookies and Canvas. Adults sip on wine and nibble on cheese and snacks while following Tufano's lead.
Once on the path to becoming a doctor, Tufano said she's now ready to follow her art as far as it can take her.
"I want that one thing to be my entire livelihood," Tufano said.
Along with her work at The Community House, Tufano also creates portraits on commission and sells her art whenever possible.
She takes time every day to draw and paint. As the mother of two small children, that often means getting up early or staying up late.
Tufano is still happy to offer the world a great figure painter, but she's also learned to love abstract art. Once a loyalist to oils, she now enjoys watercolor. Art, Tufano said, is something she can keep learning, enjoying and teaching throughout her life.