Painting the future

Budding artists show off their work :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Mamie Zwettler, 10  

Ten-year-old Mamie Zwettler has a favorite "basic dog" she's liked to draw since kindergarten. At the Oak Park Art League last year, she created a mixed media version of "Brownie," using collage and chalk pastel. "I drew a bird above it," says the fourth-grader, who will display two of her recent works at the Art League's Young Artists Show this month.

Art League instructor Kelly Pelka recently invited Mamie to join an honors oil painting class. She continues to take a drawing and painting class with Pelka.

"Oils is hardest, because I am the youngest in the class," she says. "Even though I just started, I really, really like it."

Pelka might ask students to draw a landscape and choose from a variety of magazine pictures as a starting point. "I'll initiate a theme or theory and let the students run with it," she says. "Mamie will usually go in there and add her own ideas. She's excellent at changing the plan."

In drawing and painting, young artists might work with the same still life or media, but "get to do our own little twist, with our own colors and things," Mamie says.

After four years of art classes, Mamie has grown from someone who "had no idea there was a difference between water color, acrylic, and oil paints" to someone who not only knows the difference, but considers herself to have a specialty.

"I think one of my best medias I work with is chalk pastel," she says. "I did one two years ago, which is still one of [my] best. I made a sunset and two hills, outlined in black ... I think I called it ‘Peace.'"

All the League's young students, from preschool to high school, have been invited to display work during the Young Artists Show. "This offers children a chance to know that you can be an artist at any age," says Pelka. "You can show your work, and [have] people come and see it."

A veteran of past shows, Mamie finds the experience, "kind of normal" and "kind of cool." An admirer of both Georgia O'Keeffe and Vincent van Gogh, she doesn't yet foresee a career in art or even worry much about tracking her inventory.

"Some pictures I send to my grandparents. Some pictures go to my dad's office [or] my mom's office. Some are displayed downstairs," she says. "Every month or so, we have a new picture on the refrigerator. My mom will take [the old one] somewhere. I really have no idea where she puts it."

Before it disappears, see Mamie's work and that of other budding artists at the Oak Park Art League, 720 Chicago Ave., Oak Park. The Young Artists' Show runs April 24-May 29, with an opening reception from 3-5 p.m. May 9. Gallery hours are 2-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (708) 386-9853 or visit

Linda Downing Miller

Kids Eat Chicago

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