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Artists Find Support in Weekly Meetings

September 05, 2000|TRESA BARKSDALE

Eva-Lynn Diesenhaus said she feels like a different person from the one who joined the Artist's Way support group five years ago.

Once terrified to show her writing or artwork to anyone, Diesenhaus now teaches calligraphy at a local stationery store and has an exhibit of her calligraphic paintings in the works.

Diesenhaus is one of a dozen group members who meet Fridays at the Borders bookstore in Thousand Oaks to provide emotional support and help each other become confident artists. Group meetings are based on Julia Cameron's bestseller, "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity."

"This class has given me the strength to do a lot of different things," said Diesenhaus, an Oak Park resident. "Before the group, my writing was very private, and I was sometimes very depressed. Now I feel like I have a place to share myself, and it's made such a difference for me."

Coordinator Roseanne Savo, who has organized the group meetings for more than five years, said she takes her lead from Cameron, but she does not follow the book to the letter.

"We like to branch out and bring in other books and other ideas," said Savo, an artist and teacher. "For instance, with Cameron's book, you have to write three full-length pages in your journal every day. It's nonnegotiable. We're a little more flexible than that."

Savo considers flexibility the key to the group's success. Although 1 p.m. is the official start time, members usually straggle in as late as 1:30 or 2 p.m. and they leave whenever they fancy.

Savo said she keeps things loose so the all-female group feels free to throw out new ideas or take the lead. Some members bring in recent art projects and ask for class feedback. Others share thoughts they have written in their journals. Class conversation flows from topic to topic.

"I show up and don't know what's going to happen, and it's perfectly fine with me," said Savo, who found financial sponsorship for her group two years ago with the Simi Valley Adult School.

Although Borders shoppers can disrupt meetings, Savo schedules meetings there so the group can take advantage of the inspiring material at their fingertips. During one class, the group read elegies by W.H. Auden to explore the poet's creativity during the grieving process.

Artist's Way participants also get a 20% discount on most books in the store, Savo said.

Karen Douglas, a physician and Newbury Park resident who started attending Savo's class six months ago, makes collage greeting cards and writes poetry.

"I like this group because you don't have to read anything or buy anything," she said. "You just do things together, and in the doing, you find out more about yourself."

For more information about the Artist's Way support group, call Savo at 491-3387.

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