TAHLEQUAH -- Landscapes, portraits, animals and Bigfoot are common themes people can learn to paint from artist Dena Coleman, owner of Dena's Art Den.
The Cherokee Nation citizen has professionally taught art lessons for the past seven years, starting from her basement. She now has a downtown studio.
"I started out of the basement of my house doing children's art lessons," she said. "And one thing led to another and I started doing adult art lessons as well and paint classes. And it just took off from there. I moved downtown and opened a business in the Cort Mall, and kept growing. And now here I am, in this new place."
Coleman has created art since an early age. And after earning an education degree, she taught art in school. "I probably discovered I was an artist when I was 6 years old. And my first teacher told me that I was good at art. So I think from that moment on, I decided I was an artist. And I wanted to create. I took that on to teach art in the elementary at Keys. I taught there for about five years. And then I've taught after-school programs in Briggs. So I've worked with children for a long time."
At Dena's Art Den, groups can book a paint party for special occasions such as birthdays or a girls' night. "Just a family get-together, bring people together and we paint a picture. You can pick from any of any of the paintings in here or something that you like, and bring it together and I'll show you how to paint it," she said.
Examples of paintings include landscapes, flowers, animals, food and ideas that people might have. Coleman said she can work with people's ideas to help them create something new. She uses watercolors, oils and acrylics for most paintings.
In addition to painting, Coleman said she wants to make her space to where people can walk in and learn to create art. She also wants to introduce clay making, mosaics and miniature paintings.
"The art den is actually going through a transition right now," she said. "And I'm trying to make it a place to create, where you can just walk in off the street if you want to and bring a friend, bring your granddaughter in. And we're going have clay set up, little stations where you can make a little clay figurines, or you can pick a painting to paint. You could do a miniature painting. There's a lot of different things."
Coleman recently introduced a children's art class every Thursday. Her first class had three students, because of COVID-19 restrictions. She taught them how to draw faces as part of a theme called "Grandmother's Quilt," incorporating symbols and patterns meaningful to the artist and to Cherokee culture.
"Culturally, anything that we can do to show where we're from here in Tahlequah," she said. "It's an honor for me to be here and to do art and to show pride in my heritage, as well. One way I like to incorporate a little bit of culture, sometimes story storytelling, I love to bring in people that can tell a story and you can draw a picture to that."
She said she wants people to leave her business "happy and excited."
"That's my favorite thing about this business is watching people leave at the end with their painting," she said. "And they're so happy and excited. And they didn't know they could do it. And so that's probably the best part is just inspiring others."
Pricing varies upon class size and lessons. Dena's Art Den is at 108 Muskogee Ave.
For information, call 918-207-5488 or visit Dena's Art Den on Facebook.