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Drawing for joy

Art class offers unique perspective in drawing what you see

Created date

October 12th, 2017
Instructor Dave Brown (left) works with fellow resident Carol Richter during the Draw 4 Joy class at Highland Springs.

Instructor Dave Brown (left) works with fellow resident Carol Richter during the Draw 4 Joy class at Highland Springs.


When Carol Richter moved to Highland Springs ten years ago, the aspiring artist found herself in a small but companionable group of residents with a similar interest.

Now, as the North Dallas Erickson Living community has grown, Highland Springs is home to a thriving art scene with weekly classes exploring multiple forms of media, everything from watercolors to printmaking to sketching.

“There were only about five artists when I moved to Highland Springs in 2007,” says Carol. “Today there are over 40 of us living here.”

Recently, Carol ventured into the community’s newest art class, Draw 4 Joy, taught by Dave Brown. 

Dave, a man easily recognizable by his rainbow suspenders, moved to Highland Springs with his wife, Dee Ann McFarlin, in February 2017.

Second act

It’s hard to imagine that art hasn’t always been at the forefront of Dave’s pursuits. Yet art is Dave’s second act.

After earning degrees in aerospace engineering and computer science, Dave worked in the telecommunications industry for 30 years.

“About 12 or 14 years ago, my wife encouraged me to go to art school,” says Dave. “She knew art had long been a passion of mine.”

Dave earned his third degree, this time in animation, and began teaching drawing classes part time at the college level.

As Dave and Dee Ann were making plans to move to Highland Springs in early 2017, Dave reached out to Barbara Blachly and Billie Byrd, community resource coordinators at the North Dallas community, to inquire about teaching a drawing class that would be open to all residents, beginners through experienced artists.

“A lot of people, when they retire, decide they want to learn to draw or paint,” says Dave. “I realized that I could help with that.”

Dave launched his art class in May 2017, calling it Draw 4 Joy. His students come from a variety of backgrounds—retired engineers, a pastor, a business consultant. 

“It’s been a different experience teaching at Highland Springs compared with teaching at the college level,” says Dave. “Residents here have life experiences that give them confidence to ask questions. There’s no pretension. They come to the class to learn and have fun.”

See, understand, draw

Pat Young dabbled in art prior to moving to Highland Springs with her husband Wayne. She’s been a regular in Dave’s art class since it formed, honing her skills and learning new techniques each week.

“At Highland Springs, we have an opportunity to take lessons in almost anything that interests us,” says Pat. “There are some extremely talented teachers who live here.”

As Dave arranges a still life and encourages his students to draw what they see, he moves around the room, stopping to help one resident after another, coaxing the very best from each person’s pencil.

“I think about art and how to do it anytime I’m not drawing myself,” says Dave. “When I’m drawing, though, I turn off my brain and turn on my retina. I don’t think, I just draw. Now I want to encourage my students to do the same.”