George Deligeorge inspires his students to turn their creative impulses into art

‘Everyone can be creative!’

Sails on sailboats go from beige to black. A swimmer has an arm chopped off and painted back on.

“You can fix anything; it’s a painting not a bouillabaisse,” says veteran art teacher George Deligeorge as he helps his students find the right blend of fantasy and realism during his Thursday morning art class at the Rembrandt chalet in Rembrandt park.

A student gets a lesson in proper brush handling.

Deligeorge delivers the lesson and those that follow with a light, jocular tone.

The class is one of the Art for Adults classes sponsored by the Côte Saint-Luc Parks and Recreation Department for Fall and Winter 2017/2018

The ambiance is relaxed. Students banter back and forth. To honour rock giant Fats Domino, who had just gone to Rock ‘N Roll Heaven, a student croons Blueberry Hill.

The repartee between teacher and students flows effortlessly from English to French and back again. Deligeorge mixes in a jargon all his own. To get across his point that a student’s notion of a figure’s back side lacks depth, the back becomes the backular.

“If I don’t, they don’t pay attention,” he says.

A simple teaching philosophy

Deligeorge’s teaching philosophy is simple: the only qualifications for his courses are interest, patience and inspiration. Thus equipped, students can create art.

“I think I can get anyone to tap into their creative side because the only person they’re competing with is themselves. And how bad can you be when you are competing with yourself?”

He guides his students in five different classes. Mixed and Multimedia. Says Deligeorge, students use acrylic, a variety of glues and epoxies and a potpourri of feathers, wood, stone dust and “pretty much anything you can imagine,” to create art.

Live art. Using charcoal and coloured pastels, students sketch a live model or some object – it could be a flower that’s suffered the ravages of the first frost.

Carving in stone. Students start with a plasticine study.  “The challenge is to go from there,” he says. They do, carving art out of soap stone and a large variety of alabasters.

And for the traditionally minded, there are two classes where students use oils, acrylic and watercolours.

The courses are not watertight compartments

Deligeorge explains that if a student is uncomfortable with the medium they’ve chosen, they can switch. It often works wonders.

“One student went from sculpting to drawing, picked up a pencil and within the first three hours produced work I haven’t seen in some pupils after 10 years. She never knew she could do this.”

As a child, Deligeorge started out working with clay, plasticine and bronze. But he didn’t walk a straight line from there to the Rembrandt chalet. Instead he ignored the muse and studied history and science, earning a degree in each. Then he taught chemistry and physics. Unhappy with that, Deligeorge worked at a number of art galleries.

“I realized I could do as well as the stuff that was being exhibited, so I tried drawing and painting.”

A Fine Arts degree from Concordia followed. He says the only thing he learned in three years of study there was what he liked and didn’t.

Deligeorge art graces the Aquatic and Community Centre

Finally, in 1984, Deligeorge found a home teaching art with Côte Saint-Luc’s Parks and Recreation Department. His art work graces the walls of the Aquatic and Community Centre.

Art student Margie Gilbert also studied at Concordia and countless other places, but didn’t progress until she starting working with Deligeorge.

“He’s been able to bring something out of me that was dormant and the quality of my work has escalated. Now, I’m able to explore things in a much deeper, more professional way,” Gilbert says.

For Ellie Moscovitch, Deligeorge’s art classes have been therapeutic.

“I was in a bad mood in my life when I lost my husband. I met someone who saw how sad my face was. She begged me to try painting. I agreed and came here.”

“I feel in love with the people here and, what they were doing. I never dreamt I could paint. I’d never drawn a straight line. But the teacher made me comfortable doing it.”

For more information about the Parks and Recreation Art for Adult programs for the Fall and Winter 2017 – 2018, visit http://www.cotesaintluc.org/parksandrecreation

For more posts by Lawrence Papoff, visit http://ljpapoffwriter.com/blog/