BELTON — Sitting in her wheelchair, Frances Birtchet, leaned across the table and dipped her brush in baby blue paint.

From arches to straight lines, Birtchet, 84, painted for the first time by practicing brush strokes during a folk art and decorative painting class Wednesday at the Belton Senior Activity Center.

Birtchet, a former elementary school teacher, taught art but used other mediums for creating it.

“We (used) crayons and other things,” she said. Birtchet recently moved into a new residence and said she needed something to keep her busy.

“I’ve got a lot of time,” she said. “I might as well be doing a fun thing.”

She’s looking forward to using the skills she learns to paint other objects, such as birdhouses.

Helen Lehmannn, who teaches the class, said the decorative art techniques students learn can be applied to painting other objects, such as furniture pieces and cabinet doors.

After going on vacation to Germany with her husband, Lehmannn became inspired by the Bavarian region they visited.

“We saw beautiful paintings. Everything is painted, the buildings and everything has paintings on them,” she said. “There are scenes of flowers and all the doors in the hotel have paintings.”

Lehmann, who grew up an only child, said she dabbled with paint, crayons and watercolors to keep her entertained. She’s been teaching decorative and folk art classes for more than 30 years.

“I enjoy seeing them progress from tracing their pattern (to freehanding),” she said. “I enjoy helping the students paint something and be pleased with what they’re doing.”

Joyce Heyne, 77, has attended a class before and is interested in outdoor nurseries used in gardening.

“When (Helen) said we’re going to paint flower pots, it was right up my alley,” she said. “I love it. I enjoy it. The group we paint with is fun, and Helen is a wonderful teacher.”

Lehmann encourages seniors to take the class, even if they don’t think they’re artistic enough for it.

“Since most of the girls have not done a lot of painting, it’s easier to use a pattern,” she said. “It gives them a little guide they can follow. Once you get more confident, you can do (more free-hand).”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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