2012-02-10 / Community

Rockaway Artists Alliance Adult Art Classes: Taking Flight

By Susan Hartenstein


Linda Kelly paints a landscape in pastel. Photos courtesy of Dan Guarino. Linda Kelly paints a landscape in pastel. Photos courtesy of Dan Guarino. RAA Art Classes for Adults: Instructor: Jeffrey Berman. Tuesday 7- 9 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.-12 noon, in sTudio 7 gallery, Fort Tilden. Classes include instruction in acrylic, watercolor, pastel, drawing, water soluble oil. Beginners to experienced artists welcome. Contact RAA for fees. 718-474- 0861

Why are you a member of Rockaway Artists Alliance’s adult art classes?

“I love it.”

“It relaxes me.”

“All week I do for others. This is the special thing I do for me.”

Lorena Griffin comes from Staten Island to class. She was in commercial art, then she raised five kids, “and now I’m back.” “It’s a challenge; it’s fun.”

Instructor Jeff Berman’s students are at all different levels of experience, from beginners learning a new, creative way to fun, relaxation and pleasure; seasoned artists encouraged to explore new materials, techniques, ways of ‘seeing’; those who haven’t picked up an artist’s tool in years rediscovering their art and themselves. Berman individualizes instruction to suite the level and needs of each student. He has years of experience as an award-winning artist, a teacher and juror, and is no laissez-faire instructor. He is hands-on, constantly circulating among his students, observing what can be done better, yet praising and encouraging what is done well. “There are no duds in my classes, just steps in learning.” But he doesn’t want cookiecutter followers. He wants his students’ “personalities in their paintings.” His approach to teaching art is “the most traditional way of teaching from beginner to accomplished artist; from drawing to composing, to value studies, to color theories and then some. You can take liberties once you understand the rules.” These lessons can be applied to innumerable styles; abstract, photo-realism, impressionism, traditional American art, etc. Berman says he “pushes his students to think selectively, to see, to analyze.” He is “instilling the voice on [their] shoulder.”


Tomasina DeCrescenzo, a newcomer to art, says, “I look forward to coming here every Thursday. Tomasina DeCrescenzo, a newcomer to art, says, “I look forward to coming here every Thursday. 
Jeff Berman gives individualized instruction to his students. Jeff Berman gives individualized instruction to his students. But class members are not sweating over color charts and theory books. Their lessons are giving them freedom and a sense of accomplishment. Several still lifes are set up, or students can work from photos, or from whatever. This day, to a student working in graphite pencil, Berman was illustrating how gesture, movement could be an element in her still life. Linda Kelly has been painting for years. Berman was working with her on improving the composition of her expansive landscape and tying the temperatures of her colors together to unify her pastel painting. Tomasina DeCrescenzo from Howard Beach, a relative newcomer to art, is a retired nurse who also does stand-up comedy and acting. “This is so relaxing. I look forward to coming here every Thursday.” Nechama Hackner, a selfdescribed housewife and mother and a retired data processor from Brooklyn, is for the first time working in waterbased oils.


Gina Todd, presently a stay-at-home mom, passes her love of art on to students at St. Rose of Lima. Gina Todd, presently a stay-at-home mom, passes her love of art on to students at St. Rose of Lima. Gina Todd was a dental hygienist and is now a stay-at-home mom. She uses what she has learned in RAA classes and what she has learned on her own to bring art and more to students at St. Rose of Lima, a few days a week. Elly Napolitano from Seagate was a special ed teacher who used art to help teach her students. She has worked in watercolors, but is now exploring water-based oils. Berman was having her do a painting in the gray scale to learn values, contrast and the use of major shapes. Sheila Curran combines the use of acrylics and water-based oils. Artist Denise Rolland assists Berman and also works on improving her own considerable skills.

Berman studied at the Art Students League with modern masters like Edward Lanning and Vincent Malta. His vast teaching credits include famed venues like the Art Students League, the Salmagundi Club and the Pastel Society of America. He is aiming toward a possible art show in the park exhibiting his students’ work. “Everyone that comes here has to be serious about learning,” says Berman. “Everyone gets better. We learn together. We help each other. This is the camaraderie we develop as part of the Rockaway experience.” Ask his students. They seem to be on a very special adventure … together.

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