Art group offers self-improvement

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, November 1, 2018

It was a chill afternoon session on Oct. 25 in the North Main Street art studio, with chickpea dip, rosemary coconut bread and idle conversations between the five women, each of them working on their own Zentangles.

These are miniature abstract works of art created using a set of patterns called “tangles,” according to Chelsie Brown’s class has been using the same book of different tangles to combine with dots, lines and curves — dubbed “elemental strokes” — on small pieces of paper called “tiles.”

There are set rules to this process that the women have been following for weeks. Each piece will be put together in the same frame for a collage of different colors and shapes in which order can be seen in the chaos.

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“It’s like structured doodling,” said Janie Brackett, who penciled at the table with her daughters, Cassandra and Josie Brackett.

“Structured doodling with freedom,” added fellow amateur artist Linda Asbell.

Brown, a Suffolk mother and Navy veteran, has been holding public art classes every Thursday afternoon at 147 N. Main St. since early August. She has arranged them for participants ages 15 and older to make collages and art journals in a mellow, judgment-free space where they can work through any challenges in their lives and improve themselves.

Each class begins with a Bible verse. On Oct. 25 it was Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” The women then shared a few personal fears with candor. Brown admitted she had troubles with failure and the dark, Asbell with slick spots on Suffolk roadways while cycling and Josie with spiders crawling around at home.

“I’m not, like, deathly afraid of spiders,” Josie said. “I just really don’t like them, and since sweeping is my chore around the house, I interact with a lot of them.”

This is a support group to help people heal from past or present emotional, mental or physical struggles, according to Brown’s Facebook page “The Healing Power.” That includes healing their bodies through different exercises featured each week, along with recipes like that robust coconut bread.

“That’s why I combine everything to touch base on all of these topics each week,” Brown said.

Brown understands what it takes to endure life-changing struggles. In July 2010, a drunk driver ran a red light and T-boned her car, and she was put into a medically-induced coma for two and a half weeks with extensive injuries, according to her blog.

She received inpatient care at three different Virginia hospitals in just two months and had to keep a regimen of physical, outpatient and speech therapies for years afterwards. She adjusted to physical limitations on the left side of her body while being a stay-at-home mother for her young girls Audrey, Kaylin and Maylani, who was born after the accident.

More people have come and gone through her classes since they first started, and her friends at the Oct. 25 session keep coming back for the fun, therapeutic conversation.

“We get off track a lot, but we eventually get back together,” Brown said, whether it’s talking about spaghetti squash recipes or interesting history facts courtesy of Cassandra, an aspiring history teacher.

Janie Brackett and Brown know each other through Friends of the Suffolk Library, and Asbell is Brown’s neighbor. These Thursday sessions have become moments of creative calm in their lives.

Cassandra, for instance, gets to take a break from her studies towards an associate degree at Tidewater Community College — her fingers crossed for a transfer to William and Mary — while Asbell is caring for her mother, who has dementia.

“It’s helpful,” Asbell said about being in a support group with artistic flair.

“You do something with your hands while you run off with the mouth,” Cassandra said with a chuckle.

These classes are held at noon Thursdays in the art studio located at 147 N. Main St. There are no fees to register, but donations are encouraged. Contact Chelsie Brown by phone at 809-5316 or via email at Visit for more information.