De-stressing Teens (and Adults) with Art Lessons in Nature

What happens when teens visit a scenic working farm, complete with cows and sheep, and are given high-quality art supplies and an experienced, insightful instructor? As retreat organizer Susan Nicholas Gephart relates, they quickly embrace the serenity of nature, gladly put away their smartphones, and dive into the art lessons.

“I believe our youth are inundated with too much negativity and stress, but bringing them into nature to paint can be a life-changing opportunity that opens the doorway to a creative process that lifts spirits and removes stress,” says Susan. “It is my hope that their experience at Hameau Farm Artists Retreat will encourage these young artists to keep art in their lives.”

“Top Shelf” Teacher, Susan Nicholas Gephart

At Art Cantina, we applaud “top shelf” teachers who work hard to make amazing creative connections. And so we recognize Susan Nicholas Gephart, an award-winning plein air painter and long-time instructor of oils, watercolors and pastels.

For over forty years, Susan has been connecting with new and trained artists – both teens and adults – by teaching art lessons in her studio and on the road, at summer camps with Parks & Rec, and twice a year at her multi-day Hameau Farm Studio Artists Retreat in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania.

“These retreats allow me to combine my greatest artistic loves: working and making connections with artists of all levels and mediums, painting beautiful landscapes, and testing art supplies of multiple mediums,” says Susan.

What’s Her Recipe for Successful Artists Retreats?

Susan’s love of nature and talent for teaching must be working: The 20th Annual Hameau Farm Artists Retreat will be held this May. What’s made it successful for so many years?

  1. Careful attention to artists before the retreat. Susan and her assistant, Anna Crane, spend months preparing for each retreat, including getting to know everyone’s level of experience and their expectations beforehand.
  2. Variety of mediums. Susan demonstrates and teaches oil, watercolor and pastel painting. What a perfect time to experiment with all three! A big bonus: national art supply companies share their best supplies, thanks to Susan’s years as a product demonstrator for them.
  3. Mixing of skill levels and ages. Students of all ages and skill levels participate, whether they are new to art or have some experience, or are seasoned professionals. They inspire each other and share a heartfelt comradery.
  4. Beautiful and varied setting. Hameau Farm is a working dairy farm with panoramic views of mountains, fields and valleys, Amish farms and Kish Creek, wandering farm animals, and a big barn studio with a wall of windows. And, of course, gourmet food and great conversation.
  5. Positive reinforcement. “My main passion is to inspire my students,” Susan says. “My end goal is not to change their style or to make them paint a certain way, but to enhance their vision of who they want to be as a painter and give them an opportunity to grow.” With limited enrollment (maximum 14 people per day), each artist receives Susan’s personal attention.
Susan Nicholas Gephart and her assistant Anna Crane

Instructor and organizer Susan Nicholas Gephart and her assistant Anna Crane

Mentor Tuesday for Teens

High school students (grades 9-12) in Central Pennsylvania are invited to attend Mentor Day at the Hameau Farm Artists Retreat. They will earn high school art credit while learning plein air painting alongside adults. To apply for a scholarship, students should contact Susan.

Bellefonte senior, Brook Nadolsky had this to say: “It truly was an AMAZING day, spent with such kind, unique individuals in such a beautiful location. I wouldn’t have been able to learn such neat and interesting things if it weren’t for you… the things learned today will, without a doubt, stick with me for a lifetime.”

The Reward?

When asked about the most rewarding part of running the retreats, Susan replies, “I love to see the joy and enthusiasm of successful artists. Hearing their experiences around the table at meal time reinforces the fact that artists learn best in a positive environment, surrounded by laughter and fun.”

To view Susan’s art and see a complete schedule of events at Hameau Retreats, visit Susan’s website:  www.snicholasart.com

plein air lessons at Hameau artists retreat

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