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Vermont Painter Floats a Lesson Plan 

State of the Arts

This art class is not for the faint of stomach: Addison-based painter Sean Callahan has teamed up with Vermont Discovery Cruises of Burlington to offer a watercolor course that's actually on the water. Actually, two of them - one June 18-21 and one August 31 to September 3. Sixteen aspiring artists can board the Moonlight Lady and cruise around Lake Champlain for four days and three nights. For $1199 per person (plus taxes and port charges), guests will get instruction from Callahan and be able to "pick my brain," as he puts it. The boat will dock briefly in Vergennes so the group can pay a visit to his studio.

"When we're finished with this cruise, [students] will have an understanding of watercolor and be able to take it with them," Callahan says. "Great food, landscapes - it's just a wonderful opportunity."

Marie Lathey, director of sales and marketing for Vermont Discovery Cruises, found Callahan's paintings before she found the artist. "I was in Vergennes for a meeting and stopped in to Addison Outfitters," she relates. (Callahan's studio is above the store.) "I saw the art on the walls and thought it was so beautiful. We'd heard about the idea of painting on cruises and thought it was a great idea."

This is the cruise company's first season on Lake Champlain - the maiden voyage, you might say. VDC's other maritime excursions include the "Vermonter Cruise," a "Lake Discovery Cruise" and the "Discover Montréal Cruise."

The on-the-water seminar is a first for Callahan, too. He discovered painting with watercolors when he moved to Vermont about 15 years ago. Then he became obsessed with the medium. Happily, Callahan managed to turn his passion into a living - painting pet portraits - thanks to his yellow Lab, Addison.

"He just changed my life, and inspired me in so many ways," says Callahan. "I've painted him over 100 times. He was just my best friend."

That explains the curious name of Callahan's business: Dog Tired Studio. Owners bring him their pups - or just photos - and he paints them with skill and affection. He captures breeds from Dalmatians to pugs to black Labs (there've been a few sheep, too), as well as the unique characteristics of individual animals. "I've never met a dog I didn't like," says Callahan. "They're honest, and they're filled with love."

Of course, the cruise won't be about canines. It will be about the land and lake on view from the Moonlight Lady. And that's just fine with Callahan. "I tend to try to paint wherever I go," he says. "If I have to travel, I paint in the airport, on the plane, everywhere. Watercolor is such a great medium in that respect - you can pack it anywhere you want and just paint. I see it as a challenge to paint wherever I can."

This time, the challenge includes a slight rocking motion.

"The interesting part of this cruise will be to actually live with a group of people and share with them my knowledge of watercolor," explains Callahan. "We can just talk about art and paint in such a beautiful landscape."

Want to get on board? Contact Marie at Vermont Discovery Cruises at 863-3350. Reservations for the June cruise must be made ASAP - there's no deadline, but spaces are filling up.

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