Call it a whim or a yearning, but whatever the reason, Charlie Horn went out one day and purchased art supplies. His trip wasn't precipitated by retirement from his insurance job in Akron, Ohio, or a life-changing event. It was a yen to express what was he wanted to nurture from inside.
"I had no formal training, but I drew as a little kid," Horn said. Teachers would ask him to draw seasonal items to put on the classroom walls such as pumpkins.
After he had purchased his paints, he just got started.
"Every artist is self-taught," said Horn speaking on his philosophy and what we teaches his students now. "Artists have to develop their own style."
After attending a number of classes on his own, Horn tried to learn everything he could about art. He watched television programs on drawing. One of his favorites TV artists was Helen Van Wyke, who he says taught him the old master's way.
In 1990 a group of five people at the Island Country Club asked Horn how he got started. He set up an informal class to show them and that's how he became an art teacher. What he learned about himself was that teaching was enjoyable.
"It is fun seeing people who have never learned to paint get excited about it," Horn said. "I joined a group that became the forerunners of the Art League of Marco Island and watched what they did." Later he took formal classes at the art league before teaching there.
Horn teaches in January and February each year and holds beginner and intermediate classes. He stresses shape, tone and color with his newer students and composition and perspective in higher-level classes.
His best advice to his students is to paint what they like.
"If a scene interests you, paint it," he said. "whatever gives you a passion for it. You can paint pretty pictures, but real artists have to paint what turns them on."
Horn follows his own advice. He likes to go on location and just paint what inspires him. He also prefers doing portraits but finds them a little more stressful.
"I'm always concerned about getting a good likeness," he said. While he talks, his wife, Gretchen, takes a phone call from a women whose husband just died. She is asking if Charlie Horn would do a portrait of her husband's likeness for his office.
Although he is a modest man, Horn is also dedicated to the art league and served as building committee chairman for its current building. One of the first floor classrooms bears the name, Charles and Gretchen Horn Studio. Although members wanted to name the room for them for their dedication to the project, the two met the donation challenge to have a part of the building named after them.
Horn gives most of his oil and acrylic painting to charities as a way for them to fundraise. He charges when commissioned to do portraits.
"When we left Akron we sold 30 painting because we couldn't take them with us," Horn said. He now displays many works on the walls of his Marco Island home and looks for ways to share his talents with those interested in art.
Recently he tried painting an abstract for the art league's Abstract Expressionism exhibit. He was pretty proud of his color choices and subject selection: the art league in summer. However, he laughs now when he says that it didn't even make it into the selection.
He would be the first to acknowledge that art is in the eye of the beholder. But inspiration? That's in the hands of the artist.