04/11/2012 10:51 am ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

Local Couple Teaches You How to Paint Your Ancestors... and Relax!

Rick and Ronda with mother and daughter in painting class

Rick and Ronda Hyman with mother and daughter in painting class.

Nelson Mandela would be proud to know that there are white South Africans here in Los Angeles asking an African-American couple, Ronda and Rick Hyman, into their homes to teach them how to preserve their family histories through paintings... art which promotes love of family and other ethnic groups! These friends of mine, a lovely talented couple who teach Angelinos to paint, say that anyone can learn to paint... and it will provide a deep, satisfying emotional release which will flow over into your everyday life.

"The notion that you can preserve your family history by painting a loved one from a family photograph using acrylics on canvas has led us into a wonderful new adventure with a group of South Africans here," said Rick and Ronda at dinner last night. Their painting classes have been legendary among my friends for years, with Rick -- the world-famous artist -- and Ronda, his 'muse,' conducting painting classes for local residents.

Teen-age Girls in Hyman's painting classs

Girls in Hyman's painting class.

But their current activity with a large group of South Africans, adults and children, in and around Calabasas and Woodland Hills, is something special.

"A large group of Jewish ladies from South Africa and Israel, along with their energetic teen-age daughters, asked us to give them painting lessons. Then we expanded to painting parties for the 10-12 year olds in the family groups. What's astonishing is that these adults and children have become addicted to painting their families and ancestry," said Ronda. Rick then broke in to add:

They learn so much about themselves and their past, their heritage. We began with using old photos of their ancestors in South Africa, and have expanded to pictures of current family members.

They explained that no prior art experience is necessary to take their classes. What interested me deeply was their revelation that these classes really slow people down and make them relax as they use another side of their brains and go deep within themselves. Ronda went on:

Before the class, many of them talk about how hectic their week has been and how they have looked forward to coming to this painting class to relax. One said to me, 'I really needed this today.'

Rick said that during the adult painting classes, there is much music, meditation, conversation... and painting. All of them come away from the experience jubilant and pleasantly surprised by the outcome of their creations. They laughed as they described the teen class of several 13-year old girls.

One girl painted herself with her boyfriend at her Bat Mitzvah party, while another painted her heart throb, Bruno Mars. She says she plans to marry him one day. Another painted a seascape with a lighthouse, and one painted herself walking down a country road. They are so proud to show their parents their completed work when they come to pick them up. Then they take them home and hang their canvases on the wall. Remember, these are kids who have never painted before, but some will continue into adult life.

birthday painting class

Birthday painting class.

Rick Hyman's new book cover

Cover of Rick Hyman's new book.

I will be going to the L.A. Times Festival of Books on April 21 and 22nd at the USC Campus, Section T3, Booth 422 to help Rick and Ronda (818-477-2407, celebrate their new book, My Texas Family: An Uncommon Journey to Prosperity. This book began with hundreds of photographs taken by Rick's relative from 1912 to 1927, which the artist then reinterpreted on canvas. He has preserved in this book his family history by creating large colorful paintings from their treasured collection of 300 black-and-white family photos on their oil land in LaGrange, Texas.

Rick told me that after the Civil War, his ancestors were freed in Virginia and then set out on a perilous journey in covered wagons across the wilderness to Texas, with only 120 family members surviving. But the story changes for the better when, one generation out of slavery, his great-grandfather Henderson Martin prospered and owned over 2,000 acres of oil land, silver, jewelry and four Model T Ford automobiles in Texas and drove a different one to church every Sunday for a month in the early 1900s. A reproduction of Rick's first historical family painting that he did in 1996 from a 1920s family photo titled "My Texas Family" hung on the living room wall of the TV sitcom, Cosby. That's impressive.

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