By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Anybody can paint a pretty picture
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Linda Ledbetter called me up the other day and invited me over to her studio just past the Cherokee County line, where she promised to teach me how to paint a lighthouse.

Ledbetter, a retired educator and outgoing District 5 Forsyth County commissioner, calls her place the Paint Soiree.
The idea is that anybody can paint a pretty picture, even a guy like me who struggles with stick figures.

So I said, sure, why not, and showed up at 7 p.m. on a recent Friday with a camera, tape recorder and willingness to watch. But Ledbetter insisted I take part in the exercise.

She sat me down right in front of a tabletop easel and gave me a Styrofoam plate with a glob from every color of the rainbow and stuck a paintbrush in my hand.

Patrick Bell, a candidate for the District 4 post on the county commission, and his family sat across from me and nodded. They didn’t seem as frightened.

I was worried though. The virgin white glare of a fresh canvas promised ample opportunity to ruin a perfectly good piece of paper.

Country music hummed from a boombox in the back of the room. When everybody settled, Ledbetter told us to choose a shade of blue for the background.

To create your own shade, she said, mix blue with white until you liked what you saw.

So we all dipped our brushes in the paint and began mixing colors. Ledbetter encouraged the group to fear nothing.
“If you don’t like your painting,” she said, “put more paint on it.”

My hand shook as I swabbed paint onto the canvas. Cautious at first, I became more comfortable with seemingly every brush stroke. This was actually kind of fun.

Ledbetter shouted instructions from the front of the room, up on a stage where everybody could see what she was doing to her canvas. She splashed paint across the white board with carefree abandon and walked us through each step.

Bell, his 15-year-old son Clayton and wife Amy were having a good ol’ time. They looked as if they were having too much fun, so I ventured over to check out their paintings.

Patrick and Amy were in the middle of twin masterpieces, while Clayton’s painting was looking like the real deal too.
This got me worried, so I kicked it up a notch and stroked on some sweet-looking clouds to float behind my soon-to-be lighthouse.

Amy asked Ledbetter if painting a pink lighthouse was out of the question. Ledbetter laughed and said, “Honey, you can make it neon pink with sparkles if you want. Whatever feels right to you.”

What felt right to me was the feeling of release as I slapped that paint against the canvas.

You reach a kind of mental plateau where the hand stops shaking and brain and brush come together.

And for better or worse, you’re covering that blank canvas with color. The mental editor inside takes a step back just long enough to let you enjoy the process.

I must have gotten too excited. Ledbetter swung by my easel and cautioned against laying the paint on so thick.
“We’ll have to get out a hairdryer if you want to take that home tonight,” she said.

But glancing at my cell phone, I knew I would not have time to finish the painting, so I sat back and observed what I had done … not bad. I was amazed just to have kept the whole sky the same shade of blue.

The foundation of my lighthouse had been sketched with a pencil, but it was time to hit the road. I would have to return to the Paint Soiree another time to finish my masterpiece.

I wouldn’t say I was painting like a pro, but it sure was fun. And I was feeling a heck of a lot more comfortable with that paintbrush in my hand by the end of the night.

For more information about Paint Soiree, go online at