In one of the most ideal settings in the county for such an exercise, high school students in the Baltimore County Summer Visual Arts Enrichment Camp spent Friday, July 13, working on landscapes at Hampton Mansion in Towson.
"It's something new," said Daniel Flinchbaugh, 16. "That's what this program is all about: expanding our experiences."
Flinchbaugh, a Lutherville resident and rising junior at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology, was part of a small group of advanced artists working on landscape painting. He's in his fourth year at the camp, which draws students from across the county to pursue specialized training and instruction in painting, drawing and other visual art forms.
Hosted this year at Perry Hall High School — with a field trip or two to sites such as Hampton — the visual arts camp provides an opportunity for students in grades three through 12 to build their skills and add to their art portfolios.
The two-week camp, which opened July 9 and ends July 20, includes courses such as An Exploration of Artists and Materials for students entering grades three to five; Exploration of New Art Forms and Materials for students in grades six through eight, and Portfolio Development for grades nine to 12.
Flinchbaugh said the summer camp is basically a continuation of school for Carver visual arts students such as himself and Aubrey Baird, 17, of Reisterstown, who also attended last week's session.
Flinchbaugh said he knew he was interested in art, but coming to the camp as a helped ease his transition into Carver.
He said through the summer program, he has strengthened his relationship with both fellow classmates and teachers, such as Terry Shovlin, who will instruct Flinchbaugh and Baird next year at Carver.
Shovlin said that for more experienced artists, the camp pushes the students to find their creative voice — without the academic pressures that come during the school year.
Last Friday, while painters worked in pairs, a larger group featuring beginner and intermediate artists spread out on the lawn at Hampton to work on thumbnail sketches, which they would later fill in with pastels.
Instructor Mike Bare said his group would later move to the back of the mansion to draw some of the specimen trees, and then some of the mansion's architecture.
"It's a fabulous place to work," he said.
Sarah Goetz, 16, a rising senior at Loch Raven High School, is in her fifth year at the visual arts camp, and said she enjoys the atmosphere.
"It's more free than an art class in school, but you still learn a lot," she said.
Goetz explained that in the middle-school program, where she began, the focus was more on drawing — with much more work outdoors than in the high school program. For the high school group, the work is a bit more diverse. Goetz said they've worked on still-life portraits and oil painting as well.
Sarah Fellerman, a rising junior at Loch Raven, is in her second year at the visual arts camp.
"I love it," she said. "I just learn an immense amount of things here."
With a year of experience already under her belt, she says the improvement in her work is "huge."
When the group looks at examples of artists' work similar to their task at hand, she can more easily see the techniques they used and what makes the pieces work.
That, she says, transfers to her own work.
"Last year, my painting was very basic, and very blocky," Fellerman said. "This year, it's more detailed, and there's better color mixing."
Bare said the camp has equal benefit for the elementary and middle-school groups.
"The whole idea behind the camp is to give the kids an intense experience of making art," he said. "Hopefully, they go back and build their portfolios."
Bare, who used to teach at Hereford High School and currently teaches at Towson University, said the camp is just another part of the county's "fabulous art program."
"The stuff that comes out of here, relative to a lot of the other stuff that you see around, is at a very, very high level," he said.
"A handful of these kids are in that category. They'll make really good portfolios, and get big-time scholarship money from schools."
The Baltimore County Summer Visual Arts Enrichment Camp will host an open house and reception to show students' collective work from the two-week camp session on Thursday, July 19, from 5 to 7 p.m., at Perry Hall High School, 4601 Ebenezer Road, Perry Hall. For more details, go to http://www.bcps.org/offices/visual _arts/summer_art_EP.html.