GTPulse: Traverse City Artist Inspires Creativity With Classes for All Ages

The last outdoor sale I went to was back in October. The third Saturday on Second St. had a wonderful block sale that I got to pick up several things from. A few knitted doilies, some art prints, and a Dolly Parton hat came home with me. Among all the interesting wares, the most interesting was the sign advertising the sale. In colorful bold lettering, the sign declared the sale a place to, ‘Have Fun + Find Treasures.’ Around the letters were small sketches of a jack-o-lantern, a pair of cats, a box labeled ‘Good Stuff’, and two ladies labeled ‘Friendly People.’ One of those friendly people is Penny Krebiehl, who was a seller at the street sale and is also the colorful person who drew the sign. How lucky was I to find her? Not as lucky as folks looking for a way to unleash some creativity. The talented local artist is teaching online art classes for all ages.

“When I think of all of the different veins of art, there’s a lot you can do with it. Some people are art therapists, some are teachers or painters. I tend to be a conglomeration of all of those things because I still feeling very beginner like, in a way. So I hold it close to my heart because if I’m going to continue to work with kids, and work with myself as a beginner, I’m going to continue to learn throughout my life.”

Penny’s humbleness doesn’t negate the fact that her artwork is pleasant to look at. It also doesn’t allude to her lifelong relationship with her artwork. She became aware of her inclination towards it as a young girl and credits some of her early artistic shaping and inspiration to two teachers.

“My first two teachers were my Aunt Gloria and Captain Kangaroo. I would sit on my Aunt Gloria’s lap and she made all kinds of crafty things. I remember in the corner of a magazine she was drawing a person’s face, straight lines, shapes, and curved lines and I watched her put those elements together and created this profile of someone’s face. It was such a powerful lesson. But the real reinforcement was Captain Kangaroo, a kid’s variety show. There was one part called the Magic Drawing Board. Instead of someone standing in front of the whiteboard drawing, it was a black line that would move around like an Etch-A-Sketch and I was absolutely transfixed.”

It may have been her aunt and Captain Kangaroo who taught her how to draw at a young age, but it’s her own children who taught her how to teach. She saw the same curiosities in them that she had as a child. She worked to encourage and build upon those early inklings of creativity, and it’s come full circle.

“I’m a grandmother now. I work with my granddaughter who’s only four. She’ll call me up on Facetime and ask if we can color together. So we’ll set up our workspaces. She’ll show me what she’s doing. I’m just completely in awe at how amazing she is with art already.”

Despite an apparent artistic gene running in her family, Penny believes that all people have creative abilities. Not only that, she believes that it’s necessary to indulge our natural creativity in order to live well. Because of this philosophy, she’s had a longtime passion for teaching. Before moving to Traverse City she lived in Lansing where she started an art program called Artspace.

“Seeing my kids paint and draw, I realized that they weren’t getting enough of a creative outlet during school. So I started a studio for children with other artists as teachers. We started that down in Lansing and it ran for about 10 years. It was great.”

She left Lansing and Artspace when she moved up to Traverse City. Her surroundings have changed, but her passion for sharing the joy of art with others has not. Penny often references being a beginner, and it’s this easygoing attitude that makes her a warm and down to earth teacher. Her ongoing art classes will run virtually now through the spring. Her classes can be taken singularly, or as a series, and will focus on learning the basics.

“I really want to empower all ages to build their creative muscle. It’s a little bit of a challenge with the virtual stuff, but I’m getting better at it. In this time of isolation, we’ve been given a gift to be able to sit down and work on these kinds of skills again. These classes are focusing on the fundamental basics of drawing. We’re getting familiar drawing with paper, pencil, and pen. Understanding shape and relationship between lines on paper. The goal is to help people get in touch with that natural creativity.”

Not only does she teach the foundation of drawing, but she also teaches about permaculture design, which is focused on incorporating patterns found in nature into art. Think honeycombs, ice crystals, leaf veins, and Petoskey stone patterns. Once you notice a few, you start to see nature through a kaleidoscope everywhere.

Spend some time with you, your creativity, and Penny through this season and next. Sign up for her classes can be found here.

“Creating is magical. But it’s a step by step process, and I don’t believe that genetics influence anything. I believe that creativity is a part of each of our makeup.”


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Categories: GTPulse