Sometimes your friends know best. They look past your objections, excuses and even fear to talk you into taking a certain path or doing something they know is just right for you.
For Dianne Klevinski, it took almost a year for her friend and neighbor, Liz Kostora, to talk her into joining her for a painting class at the Pooler Senior Citizens Center, just a couple of streets away from their Sangrena Woods homes.
“In my mind, I thought I was too young to go to a senior center, even though I was 62,” she says. “And I was very uncomfortable going to a paining class because I assumed everyone in the class would be so far advanced in their artistic abilities. I knew that I couldn’t even draw a straight line.” Fortunately, the painting class teacher made her feel welcome and worked with her and all the students individually.
At that first class in August 2014, Dianne began by tracing and then painting a picture of rudbeckia flowers. “I couldn’t believe how hard it was to come up with the colors to mix the paint, then get it to look just as I wanted,” she recalls. “I was a bit overwhelmed. It took me a long time to do that picture but, in the end, I was happy with it.”
Since then, she has regularly attended the painting class and, according to her teacher, is making great progress. “Like most new students, Dianne was very timid when she began painting,” says teacher Becky Marcussen, an accomplished and well-respected artist and instructor. “But she has perseverance, which is what you need to progress as an artist. She’s always eager to soak up new techniques and continues to work on paintings outside of class. She is really talented, and is becoming more creative as she continues to develop her skills.”
Becky added that her student is meticulous in her work, and Dianne agrees that she probably spends too much time on each painting. “I tend to work a long time on every single detail, but Becky keeps reminding me that not every painting has to be a masterpiece,” she said. “She encourages me to just enjoy the experience and not worry about every single stroke.”
Dianne’s progression as an artist is evident in her paintings, many of which are proudly displayed in her beautifully lit sunroom. Over time, she said she has developed a better understanding of blending colors and the effective use of shading.
Several of her paintings have evolved and even changed drastically as she reworked the canvasses to get them just right. “I really enjoy doing the painting, but then I get frustrated throughout the process because it’s not exactly how in my mind I want it to look,” she said. “So I go back and change it, even several times. But it’s never so frustrating that I don’t want to paint anymore.”
Dianne admits she still doesn’t have enough confidence in her ability as an artist, despite having sold five of her paintings. One of her commissioned sales was an incredibly detailed pencil drawing of a 1963 Harley Davidson. Her friends and family also regularly request her work and are thrilled with her paintings.
The painting class is held at the Pooler Senior Citizens Center every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon. The art teacher, Becky, provides all the basic supplies needed to become a part of this lively and welcoming group. “Although we have about 8 to 10 regulars, people join all the time,” she said. “And all of the students are pretty amazing.”
It’s one of many activities and classes for seniors organized and offered by Susan Edwards, center director, and her staff. The monthly calendar includes BINGO, jewelry making, card games, crochet, talent shows, exercise and many other activities to keep the seniors active and socializing. The center also offers day trips to areas throughout the low country, including Bluffton, Statesboro and Brunswick, with plans for lunch, shopping and visits to local attractions.
Dianne grew up in Savannah, but by the early 1980s she worked as an air traffic controller in Florida and later South Carolina. Until, that is, President Reagan’s mass firing of striking controllers left her without a career. After returning to Savannah for a period to care for her recently widowed grandmother, Dianne moved to Hilton Head and was working there when she met her husband, Mark.
The couple moved to North Carolina, Mark’s home state, and stayed for 25 years. Dianne worked for several years in the compliance division of Hanes Brands Hosiery and Mark had his own business servicing air pollution control equipment.
In 2013, Dianne’s 88-year-old father, Henry Sullivan, asked them to move in with him in his Pooler home. They relocated and that summer settled into the Sangrena Woods neighborhood. A few months later, Liz and Arnie Kostora moved in across the street and a close friendship soon began.
Sadly, Henry passed away in December of 2015, but not before he was able to enjoy some traveling with Dianne and Mark in their new 45-foot motor coach.
The couple celebrated their 30th anniversary in their RV this past year on an 8-week cross country trek, through all of the southern states and then out west to Utah. In addition to many wonderful memories, Dianne brought back countless digital photos of breathtaking landscapes for inspiration in future paintings.
“If someone had even hinted that I would be an artist one day, I would not have believed them,” she said. “As a fledgling artist, I enjoy so many things that I previously took for granted. Once you begin working with form, light and paint, you see the world differently.”