Anne-Karine Thoresen takes her classes around the world

by Lee Adams

Tucked away behind a row of apartments just off of busy Wendover Drive, as you’re heading east, sits a beautiful Spanish Colonial revival house, a rare find in the state of North Carolina. This house, built in the early 20th Century, was a getaway lodge tucked in a serene wilderness area for guests and executives of Richardson Vicks, the founder of Vicks Vapo-Rub.

The place still has the same effect it was intended to have. When you walk through the front door it’s like you’ve left Greensboro and stepped into Italy.

‘“You about can be anywhere, you know,’” says current owner Anne-Karine Thoresen, ‘“southern France, New Mexico…’”

Thoresen, who everyone knows as Karine (pronounced Ka-ree-na), is a local painter who specializes in dog portraits and uses the house as a studio, just as other artists and photographers have in past years. In the kitchen area, where you enter, a miniature greyhound and a black and white pooch lounge on a doggy bed in the corner and several finches sing in a large cage by a window. The place is covered with paintings, mostly of dogs, but some of people and cats as well.

The living area is a studio hung with larger paintings and five easels take up space on the black and white checkered concrete floor. The ceiling is high, very high, and a narrow balcony leading to two bedrooms overlooks the place. A large chimney reaches upward on the far side of the room, its faux-brick surface giving it a look of worn out cobblestones.

Artist Jack Stone paces the floor space between the easels, giving tips, advice and encouragement to the artists who diligently work the canvases. A plate of pastries and a vase of flowers sit on a table across from the easels and each artist works to recreate it in the way she sees it.

Thoresen holds classes by different artists every couple of months. This class, like most, is seven weeks long and occurs one night per week. In addition she holds themed showings, like Rise and Shine in May of this year where over 20 artists put on an exhibit celebrating the ‘“extravaganza of the rooster and the glory of morning.’” Thoresen started the day off with a breakfast and estimates that about 1200 came through to see the exhibit. There were 50 guests waiting breakfast at six o’clock in the morning and 44 paintings sold throughout the day. Seventy-five percent of the artwork was sold to people not on the mailing list and others that were not used to visiting art shows Thoresen says. ‘“[They were] taking paintings off the wall and carrying them around,’” she says.

In the studio two cats lounge about watching the artists take instruction from Stone. One lies next to a deer skull on a table and another stretches out in a chair. A Nora Jones CD plays softly in the room.

Mandy Sloan adds hints of blue to the yellow and white daisies on her canvas and paints in a deep purple cloth that reflects in the glass of her vase. Between strokes she steps back to get the full effect, then moves in with her brush again to get the look she’s going for. Thoresen introduced Sloan to artist Denise Landi four years ago and Sloan has been painting ever since.

‘“I just loved it,’” she says of her first lessons, ‘“I just couldn’t stop. As a stay at home mom it was something I could start and finish, as opposed to the laundry and the dishes.’”

Thoresen likes keeping the place full of artists, keeping a ‘“working-studio feeling’” as she calls it. One of her goals, she says, is to make art more accessible to people and not as intimidating, like the rooster show.

This September she’ll hold a show called ‘“Afternoon Tea,’” where collaborating artists will show work connected somehow with tea. Over the Christmas holidays she’ll hold her annual candlelight show, where the studio is dimly lit with candles. And in February she’ll be holding a show celebrating North Carolina vineyards. Although any artists work will be accepted much of the work will come from an en ‘plein air painting session held at a nearby winery.

Anyone interested in art is invited to participate in the events, but you’ll have to call Thoresen for details.

‘“I’m in the dark ages,’” she says referring to her lack of web site and Internet. But then again that’s okay because once you enter her fairytale-like studio you’ll not want contact with the modern world.

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