EDMOND — Bert Seabourn, 80, starts most days on the second floor of his Oklahoma City home putting paint on canvas, a routine he's maintained for years.
But these days, he and his wife drive on Wednesdays to the Fine Arts Institute in Edmond, where he paints in front of an audience.
During Seabourn's long career his work has landed on gallery walls in the Vatican City, Washington, London and Taipei, Taiwan. His paintings were purchased by former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.
As a teacher at the Fine Arts Institute, he opens each class with a short demonstration, then allows his students to work on their projects, quietly offering tips and answering questions.
“I get to paint as well as share, maybe, some of my tricks of the trade,” he said.
During a recent mixed-media class his students put his advice to use making etchings, a technique that involves chemically transferring the relief of an image onto a piece of metal that can be inked and put through a printing press.
Tina Blaney painstakingly worked ink into the grooves that formed a picture of her baby nephew. Blaney said she had never taken an arts course as an adult until her friend suggested they take Seabourn's class in January. From the first day she could see he had a following.
“As he finished a little sketch he had done, people were grabbing it, trying to take it home,” she said.
Since then Seabourn has completed two four-week classes, and he will teach the last class of a third series this week. Blaney, along with several others in the roughly 10-person group, has attended each one.
“It's not just being around Bert, which is great,” she said. “It's being around each other.”
Joyce Allred has taken all three series of classes as well. Although she was in art classes sporadically for many years, she took a break until she heard Seabourn would be teaching an acrylics class at the place where her granddaughter was already taking kids' classes.
“It just took me a while to get back around to it,” Allred said.
Tony Carte hadn't taken art classes since college, but his father convinced him to attend Seabourn's mixed-media class in January.
“It's a great experience for everyone,” Carte said. “Bert's got a lot of history behind him.”