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An artist who teaches

Sky McClain combines her art with instruction

Special to The Sun: “Times are always rough, and it’s always good to have some work that you can look at and smile and feel good,” said Sky McClain, pointing to a photo of her mother, also an artist.

The Moorestown Library hosted artist Sky McClain earlier this month, who spoke about how she brings her creative ideas to life.

“The people were just so nice, and it’s fun to have people take an interest in your work and to hear their questions,” McClain said.

Growing up in Margate City, McClain was always surrounded by art, specifically that of her mother Margaret.

“Her art is not like anything you would expect,” McClain said. “She didn’t do still life and she didn’t do portraits and she didn’t do landscapes … Her art was very much progressive, ahead of the times.”

Early on, McClain decided that she wanted to carve her own path as an artist, including teaching people of all ages.

“I just seem to have this thing about wanting to help people who feel like they can’t do something, to learn how to do it,” she noted.

Along with teaching, McClain decided to pursue a master’s in environmental education.

“Environmental education is not environmental science,” she explained. “What it means is, no matter what their (teachers’) field is … they incorporate the environment into what they’re teaching.”

Special to The Sun: One of Sky McClain’s works originated from a photo inside a car wash.

For 25 years, McClain taught lessons focused on world cultures at Kresson Elementary School in Voorhees and loved every aspect of it.

“I can say I loved my job so much that when Monday mornings came, I didn’t even groan and say, ‘Oh it’s Monday,’” she noted. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’s Monday, today’s the day that we’re going to do paper mache.’ So I really liked my job.”

After retiring in 2009, McClain became a working studio artist who makes all of her pieces at home.

“The bright colors are probably an influence of my mother,” she said of the work. “She worked always, always with bright colors. I’m just not interested in lots of muted, soft Earth tones, although I do appreciate and love them, and I do incorporate them into some of my pieces.”

McClain also teaches classes at the Moorestown library and enjoys helping people who think they can’t create their own piece of work. She used the same methods at Kresson.

“I really start from the very beginning in such a way that each step is such a baby step, that by the time I’m finished, and they’ve worked on whatever they’re doing for a few minutes, suddenly they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just did something that I kind of like,’” she said. “And they start to get just a tiny bit of confidence … 

“I really focus on the positive.”

McClain hopes her art inspires people to feel the beauty of nature, and to look closely at things, versus just taking a quick glance.

“I’d like them to feel a feeling of lightheartedness,” she pointed out. “Times are always rough, and it’s always good to have some work that you can look at and smile and feel good.”

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