Kerry Curtin walked to the front of Room 602 at South Live Oak Elementary and turned to face the room-full of students sitting at two tables in rows of eight.
“Okay ya’ll, we’re going to get started,” Curtin said.
With no time to waste, this group of 16 students was already sitting attentively in their seats with pencils in hand, ready for the evening’s lesson.
Tuesday marked the next-to-last class of the Children’s Spring 2017 Drawing and Painting Art Classes, an after-school program sponsored by the Arts Council of Livingston Parish.
There have been 11 classes since the first class Jan. 31, and the last one is scheduled for May 2. The program was broken up into three sessions, which were divided into four classes each. Cost for each session was $45.
Curtin said former principal Patty Davis came up with the idea for the program as another way to get the community involved with after-school activities for the arts.
All 12 classes are held in Curtin’s own classroom at South Live Oak Elementary. Since 2002, he has served as a teacher for the school’s Talented Program, one of the special education services that focuses on theater, music and visual arts.
But for nearly the past decade, Curtin can still be heard teaching in his classroom on Tuesday evenings in the spring, accompanied by the constant, soft sound of pencils sliding against paper.
“It always amazes me how these come out,” Curtin said as all the students held up their illustrations near the end of Tuesday’s class.
Curtin said he typically tries to incorporate different kinds of art projects each week. Sometimes students will sketch black-and-white pencil drawings, and other times they’ll use ink or water colors. Curtin’s goal is to make sure students can take home at least one finished project per class.
Last week, the students drew a still-life picture of a chair on the beach, surrounded by nothing but sand and the distant sky and ocean in the background. Some even sketched birds and clouds in the air.
During that class, students also melted pieces of shaped glass in a Jen-Ken Kiln that will soon be connected by string to make necklaces.
On this day, the students ranging from grades 2-6 were drawing replicas of a portrait of Curtin’s deceased Boston terrier, Buster.
Curtin started the lesson by having the children divide their sheets of black construction paper into quarters. Using white charcoal pencils, they then sketched two circles that would serve as Buster’s head and torso.
After that came the neck and the eyes followed by the ears, nostril and mouth. Once those were completed, the students began adding details to their pictures, something always reserved for the end.
“We always say details last, right?” Curtin asked the class, which was busy adding Buster’s collar and name tag to their portraits.
One class is all that remains in the third and final session of the spring program, but Curtin said he plans on doing a four-night program this summer after not being able to do so last year. He is aiming for June 19-22. Like the three spring sessions, the summer classes will be held Tuesdays from 6-7:30 p.m.
As Tuesday’s class drew to an end, Curtin asked the students to hold up their drawings, which now included streaks of white going down Buster's face and chest.
“They look great, all of them,” Curtin said glancing at the portraits.