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Have you checked your battery lately?

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Today’s cars and trucks require so little maintenance that most motorists simply fill up the tank with gas and occasionally check the air pressure in the tires. Among the many components that are no longer part of a vehicle’s regular maintenance is the battery.

Granted, a modern day automotive battery is a part that rarely lets its owner down without first giving some serious warning. However, if most motorists think that winter is the only season when a battery might disappoint them, they should think again. Summer heat combined with an extended period of disuse can take the power out of any battery.

Then again, some car owners might not even know where the battery is. In some special cases, auto manufacturers have put the battery in the trunk of the car where the build up of deposit at the poles is much less likely to happen; these same poles may nevertheless require cleaning.

Sometimes, car owners replace their battery with a model that does not fit precisely into the battery holder, and because it is impossible to use the original battery cover, they discard it. That cover, how­ever, had good reason to be there: It protected the battery from being contaminated by nearby components. When changing a battery, it is always preferable to use the correct replacement.

Even today’s batteries need some form of maintenance.

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A history of roads in Virginia: Strengthening the organization

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A mowing crew works on the median of I-95 north of Ashland in 1965.

Other study commission recommendations led in 1964 to steps aimed at equipping the Department of Highways to better meet the growing challenge. The General Assembly established the urban street system as a separate entity for the distribution of highway funds and directed that it receive a minimum of 14 percent of all revenue exclusive of federal interstate funds.

The urban system was to include extensions of the state’s primary routes within cities and towns and other local streets of adequate width and surface. Eighty-five percent of the cost of building improvements on this system was to be paid for with state highway funds or with a combination of state and federal funds, with the local governments providing the remaining 15 percent. In addition, millions of dollars in state road-user revenue were to be returned to the cities and towns each year for maintenance of local streets.

As another result of the study commission, the Department of Highways was reorganized to reduce the number of individuals reporting directly to the commissioner, giving him more hours a day to concentrate on broad policy and administrative issues.

The new organizational structure provided for the commissioner to carry out his assignment largely through the delegation of responsibility to two persons — a deputy commissioner-chief engineer and a director of administration. The division organization also was to be changed somewhat to more effectively meet the public’s highway needs. Its landscape division, organized in 1930 to deal mainly with erosion control, beautification, and outdoor advertising control, was expanded into an environmental quality division to coordinate increasing ecological considerations. A metropolitan transportation planning division was established to prepare long-range, comprehensive plans for more than 45 cities and towns and to aid in development of urban mass transit  improvements. A data processing division was formed to take maximum advantage of the remarkable time savings permitted through computers. A management services division became  responsible for ensuring implementation of internal policies and procedures.

Through the 1960s and into the ‘70s, the emphasis of the organization continued largely on the interstate and arterial programs, and on upgrading older routes by elimination of obsolete bridges, poor alignment, and curves. The factor of “need” was added to others, such as population, land area, miles of road, and vehicular miles of travel, which long had been considered in apportioning funds.

Improvements also continued on the secondary road system. By 1972, four decades after the system was established, 27,000 secondary roads were hard-surfaced, compared to 2,000 miles at the outset. Only 400 miles remained unsurfaced, and most of them served fewer than a dozen vehicles daily. The public’s investment in Virginia’s highways was valued at more than $5 billion. With nearly 12,000 employees, the Department of Highways was the largest agency in state government and was among the half-dozen largest employers in the commonwealth.

A strong corps of private contractors had developed, and major construction projects were built under contracts awarded on a low-bid basis. Prospective bidders on this work were required to be “pre-qualified” on the basis of their experience, manpower, equipment, and financial resources, to ensure satisfactory completion of contracts.

Questions about the importance of road and bridge maintenance had vanished long before, and millions of dollars were spent annually to protect the public’s investment and to keep the facilities in safe condition.

Some 5,000 department employees were assigned to maintenance operations — snow and ice control, roadside mowing, as well as resurfacing, clearing side ditches, collecting litter, and a multitude of other jobs. The road system they maintained had become the nation’s third-largest, covering about 51,000 miles. But for maintenance personnel, the demands sometimes were far from routine. The night of Aug. 19, 1969, was an example.

It was then that rains from Hurricane Camille touched off flooding that swept across large portions of western and central Virginia, striking while people slept. The U.S. Weather Bureau said later that 27 inches of rain had fallen in about eight hours near the little community of Massies Mill in Nelson County. Great torrents of water streamed down the mountainsides, uprooting trees that became battering rams against the houses below. Ordinarily tranquil rivers and creeks poured out of their banks and rushed ahead with massive destruction. Some said it was the worst storm in America’s history, and it struck hard at much of the nation’s East Coast. In Virginia 114 persons were killed, 37 others were missing, and more than 100 were injured.

Two hundred miles of the state’s roads were destroyed, and nearly 100 bridges were wrecked. The cost of repairing the facilities alone would exceed $20 million. Less than three years later, on the night of June 19, 1972, rain from a new hurricane — one called Agnes and considered a tropical storm by the time it reached Virginia — caused similar destruction over a wider area from the western regions to the coast.

At least 13 people died; dozens were injured. The property damage climbed above that of Camille, and estimates placed the toll at $160.7 million. Six hundred miles of roads were damaged; 104 bridges were left useless — washed away, heavily damaged, or without passable approaches.

Road maintenance crews hadn’t seen problems of these proportions before. Yet, they worked around the clock, and traffic was moving again within hours in many of the flood-wrecked areas and within a few days in most other places. The urgency was underscored because frequently other emergency and rescue operations could not proceed until roads were reopened and river and creek crossings were restored.

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A history of roads in Virginia: A new study, a new network

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Two additional lanes are constructed parallel with the lanes of Route 460 in Giles County in 1969 to  create a divided arterial highway.

It soon became evident, however, that the interstate routes alone would not adequately serve the burgeoning population and the increasing desire for mobility by Virginians in the second half of the 20th century. The spreading suburban growth that marked Virginia and other states in the years after World War II was induced in large part by the flexible mobility permitted by the family auto. Suburban housing development was followed by suburban shopping centers and office buildings. It all placed new demands on the state’s roads and streets. The 20-year improvement plan that had been implemented by the commission in the immediate post-war years had to be revised and updated frequently to keep pace with changing needs and growth patterns.

In 1962, the General Assembly established a new study commission to examine and evaluate highway needs, revenue, fund distribution procedures, and the organization of the Department of Highways. It consisted of one member from each of the eight construction districts and two citizens at large. The study commission members were appointed by Gov. Albertis S. Harrison Jr., in May 1962, with Sen. William F. Stone of Martinsville, an experienced legislator who had been a chief patron of the act calling for the study, chosen as chairman.

For more than a year, the study commission went about its assignment, reviewing nearly every aspect of the highway program. The commission itself probably was the most important highway study group since the 1916 committee that recommended the establishment of the first state highway system.

The Stone commission submitted its report to the governor and the General Assembly in December 1963, in time for its recommendations to be considered at the legislative session beginning the following month. Among its points: “One of the prime factors in inducing business management to select a state for expansion or a new location is a good highway system, which not only is needed for transportation of goods and raw materials but enables employees to be drawn from a wide radius. Some other states have moved ahead of Virginia in expanding their highway systems. We cannot afford to be left behind.”

The study commission also described the motor vehicle as “an essential and integral part of our everyday life. Its impact upon our economy and way of life has reached dimensions which have exceeded all forecasts.”

In an effort to keep up, the commission said, a new arterial network should be developed to supplement the interstate system.

Douglas B. Fugate, who joined the department shortly after graduating from VMI with a degree in civil engineering in 1927, was serving as assistant chief engineer at the time and in 1964, was appointed commissioner by Gov. Harrison. Fugate proposed the arterial network concept to the study commission and thus became chief architect of the network.

“The arterial road program, when completed, will in conjunction with the interstate system connect every city within the commonwealth of 5,000 or more and nearly every town having a population of 3,500 to 5,000. When completed, there will be an arterial route or interstate route within a 40-mile radius of every town in Virginia,” the study commission said.

Development of the network was authorized by the 1964 General Assembly, which also provided additional revenue through increases in the state’s motor vehicle registration and operator’s license fees. As approved, it totaled more than 1,700 miles and was to be developed chiefly by building new two-lane roadways parallel to existing two-lane primary routes to create four-lane, divided facilities. More than 70 bypasses of cities and towns were to be constructed, to free local streets for local traffic, and many of the bypasses would be constructed virtually to interstate standards.

The arterial network was half-finished within seven years after it was begun. In some quarters, the network was described as a “model for the nation because of the orderly way in which it ensured up-grading of older primary roads while the interstate system development was still under way.”

In the mid-1950s, when the interstate program was beginning, Virginia had about 300 miles of multi-lane divided highways. With interstate and arterial completion, it later would have slightly more than 3,000 miles of such roads.

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A history of roads in Virginia: The interstate system

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Interstate construction in 1964 progresses along the I-81 corridor.

In 1923, a Delaware business executive named T. Coleman DuPont had built a three mile stretch of divided highway with his personal funds and had given it to the state of Delaware. Road historians generally regard that segment of road as representing the origin of the concept of the superhighway. But Depression, war and catching up on other basic needs had slowed the spread of the concept.

Before his death in 1941, Henry Shirley had seen the need for such a facility in the rapidly urbanizing Northern Virginia suburbs of the District of Columbia. Active planning got under way in the mid-1940s, and the road was built in the late ‘40s and early ’50s. It was Virginia’s first superhighway, and the commission named it for Shirley.

Development of a nationwide system of such highways was first seriously considered in 1938, when Congress asked the federal highway agency, by then called the Bureau of Public Roads, to study the feasibility of a toll-financed system of three east-west and three north-south superhighways. The study report encouraged the concept of a superhighway system, but said that it would be far from self-supporting if built on a toll-road basis. It proposed, instead, a network of toll-free roads for which the federal government would pay more than the normal 50 percent federal-aid rate.

The idea was studied further, and in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1944, Congress called for the designation of a national system of interstate highways that was “so located as to connect by routes, as direct as practicable, the principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers, to serve the national defense, and to connect at suitable border points with routes of continental importance.”

It was not until the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that sufficient funding was provided for development of the system to begin in earnest. This act created the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Eventually, the system was to total 42,700 miles. It would represent little more than 1 percent of the nation’s total road and street mileage, but it would carry 23 percent of the traffic. It was to be financed with 90 percent federal and 10 percent state funds.

Virginia’s share was more than 1,070 miles (eventually 1,118 miles), and the Highway Commission assessed what development of the interstate system would mean to Virginia:

“Construction of this modern road network… involves many problems and radical changes in thought. Under the new program, interstate highways will be insulated from marginal traffic generated by motels, service stations, other types of businesses, and dwellings. Traffic entering and leaving these highways will do so at designated points. Cross movements of traffic, with which we are so familiar, will be eliminated.”

“The benefits of controlled-access construction are numerous. A modern controlled access road transforms, in many ways, the area through which it passes. Land values increase. This type of road promotes safety, saves travel time, reduces the strain on drivers, and aids the economic development of the area. Controlled-access standards also protect the state’s investment in its highways,” the commission observed, even before the first mile of the interstate system had been built.

The commission members recognized, as well, the size of the job before them. “We are now embarked on the most accelerated road program in the state’s history. Unprecedented sums of money will be spent… to provide Virginia with modern adequate highways. Present traffic patterns will be changed, new areas will be opened for business, and residential and recreational development. The future will present a challenge greater than any we have faced in our highway development. What we accomplish will depend largely on public understanding, acceptance, and support.” An extensive series of public hearings was held around the state to discuss plans for interstate system projects with citizens and local governing officials.

The first interstate system hearing in Virginia was held by the Department of Highways on Feb. 20, 1957. It concerned a 10-mile segment of Interstate 95 south of Petersburg. Within the next four months, 10 more hearings were conducted on interstate projects, and construction began on the state’s first project on the new system — the six-mile Interstate 95 bypass of Emporia. Early emphasis was on the 1-95 facility because it was to parallel U.S. Route 1, which by the mid-1950s had become the most heavily traveled through road in Virginia and one of the nation’s busiest highways.

The Emporia bypass also was the first interstate project to be completed in the commonwealth. It was opened to traffic Sept. 8, 1959. The first major interstate route to be completed fully was Interstate 495, the Virginia portion of a beltway circling the District of Columbia, with its final section being opened on April 2, 1964.

By the early 1970s, the interstate system was about 75 percent finished, and it was fulfilling to a large degree the expectations expressed by the commission at the outset of the program. Accident rates on the new superhighways were only about onehalf the rates on the older conventional roads; travel time was reduced an hour or more on cross-state auto trips; the new roads stimulated extensive commercial, industrial, and residential growth; and this, in turn, provided broader tax bases for local governments.

A new generation of Virginians, growing up with the interstate system, could hardly remember what travel was like without it.

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A history of roads in Virginia: 20 year plan – upgrade all roads; replace most ferries

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In 1948, the department took over operation of the ferryboat service in Hampton Roads. The service ended in 1957 when the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel opened.

Just after the war, Commissioner Anderson set a new objective for the state’s regrouping highway forces: Not a school day lost because of mud. Muddy roads remained a problem in many areas, particularly in winter thaws, and Anderson’s idea was to solve that dilemma while providing a solid goal toward which maintenance forces could work.

Moving in other new directions, the commission began implementing a 20-year plan for upgrading all road systems and embarked on a new program intended to replace most of the state’s remaining ferries.

As authorized by a revenue bond act passed earlier by the General Assembly, the commission decided during the 1946-47 fiscal year to construct toll bridges to replace ferry crossings on the York River at Yorktown and the Rappahannock River at Grey’s Point and to acquire from private owners the ferries that carried vehicles across Hampton Roads between the Norfolk and Lower Peninsula areas. Later, the commission was to construct a modern bridge-tunnel to replace the Hampton Roads ferries. Through separate legislation, the General Assembly would establish a special authority to replace the Chesapeake Bay ferries between the mainland and Eastern Shore with a 17.6-mile toll bridge-tunnel facility and would authorize toll financing for a few other facilities that were considered essential but for which other funds were not available. Unlike the turnpike era a century and a half earlier, this was not to be another period of widespread toll financing for roads. Relatively few were constructed in the 20th century.

By mid-1948, the state’s road program generally had recovered from the wartime slowdown. A few deferred construction projects had been completed, and many others had been started. The commission said the secondary roads were in better condition than ever before and proudly announced that “for the second consecutive winter, not one school bus day was lost because of mud on the roads.”

With that objective producing dividends, another goal was set: A reasonably passable year-round road to every reasonably located farm and rural dwelling in Virginia. It reflected the commission’s belief that “there is no comfortable living in rural Virginia without a motor vehicle and a passable year-round road.”

Progress truly was remarkable in those immediate post-war years. From 1945 to 1947 alone, the unsurfaced secondary system mileage was reduced by more than half — from 11,151 miles to 5,184 miles. As the state entered the second half of the century, its road development program was about to enter its busiest time.

Virginia in 1950 had a population of 3.3 million. Motor vehicle registration was approaching a million. The U.S. census that year would be the last showing a majority of the state’s citizens living in rural areas. Urban dwellers had grown from 35.3 percent to 47 percent of the total between 1940 and 1950. By the time of the 1960 census, 56 percent of all Virginians would be in urban areas.

Traffic volumes were exceeding estimates, and in August 1950, the commission said that many “roads designed 10, 15, and 20 years ago were incapable of handling the growing mass of heavy, fast-moving traffic. Throughout the commonwealth, the demand for road improvement was intensified… In most instances, no immediate relief is in sight… Funds simply are not available for the overnight modernization of the entire highway system… In the municipalities, the problem of providing free movement for traffic became increasingly acute. Huge sums will be required to alleviate traffic congestion in Virginia towns and cities.”

Five years later, the commission said again that it felt “a growing concern regarding Virginia’s highway needs. People who use our highways are continuing to pay a big price in lives and money because of inadequacies on our roads. Statistics prove that the better road is the safer road. Highways with controlled intersections, with entrances and exits only at designated points, have fewer fatalities in relation to traffic volumes than do highways that lack such controls.”

It was almost as if the commission knew what was around the next corner.

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A history of roads in Virginia: Another World War begins

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The Highway Building in Richmond was dedicated in 1939. The entablature across the Neo-Greek style building reads, “Dedicated to the comfort and safety of those who travel the highways of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Within months, the thoughts of Virginians and other citizens throughout the land were to be diverted by the entry of the United States into World War II.

“The war emergency has multiplied our responsibilities. Today as never before in history, the highways of the nation must be adequate at all times of the year to handle the modern mechanized army, and at the same time keep civilian transportation involving largely, as it does, the marketing of farm and food supplies and the carrying of defense workers to industrial plants, on the move without delay,” the State Highway Commission told Virginians.

“Under ordinary circumstances, these would not have been serious problems for us to handle. The foresightedness of previous years had modernized our major trunk highways to such a degree that they are equipped to handle their normal traffic load. The problem that has confronted us the most has been the need for rapid development and newly created feeder and access roads to the defense areas.”

As had occurred a quarter-century before, employees left to join the armed forces and, in some instances, to take jobs in defense industries. Materials and supplies were in short supply. Tire and gasoline rationing reduced travel, but also cut the accompanying revenue from road-user taxes. “All but the most urgent and important work… has been postponed until conditions improve,” the commission said.

Commission members sought to bring “our highways through the war winters without undue interruption to traffic or serious loss of capital investment” and to aid as best they could in the nation’s defense efforts. At one point, 3,000 pieces of federal equipment were repaired or overhauled at the Department of Highways’ equipment depot in Richmond.

Farm labor was hired to help with road maintenance, and students were employed and trained during the summers to assist in drafting rooms.

In 1942, the General Assembly expanded the commission from five to nine members — one from each of the eight highway districts, with the full-time commissioner serving as chairman — and the enlarged group set about planning for the future.

“Under the heavy pounding of war-time traffic and inadequate maintenance, some of the older highway surfaces and bridges are failing and cannot endure for any length of time without costly failure,” the commission said. “The reconditioning or replacement of these will furnish one of the most important salvage jobs in post-war activities.”

The winter of 1945-46 was described as “the worst experienced during the history of the department… 20,000 miles of low-type road went to pieces. The continued shortage of labor, equipment, and materials had greatly handicapped efforts to make these roads serviceable throughout the year.” The winter added to the post-war recovery woes, which were about to be tackled.

Next up: 20 year plan; upgrade all roads; replace most ferries

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Drive safely this summer

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Did you know that the highest number of fatal car accidents occur in July and August? The golden rule, as we all know, is to slow down! But going beyond the issue of speed, here are a few tips for safe summer driving.

Before leaving, answer any text or voice messages, choose the radio station or CD’s you’d like to listen to and adjust the volume and the interior temperature of the car. All of this should be done to avoid any “primary” distractions while driving.

When the sun is in your eyes be sure to slow down and keep your distance in order to have more brake time. If you’re blinded by headlights at night, look ahead and slightly to the right. Cleaning the inside of your windshield will also help — a dirty windshield increases glare.

During periods of heavy rain, put your headlights on low beam in order to be seen from the front as well from behind or park in a safe place. If an animal suddenly appears on the road in front of you, hold the steering wheel firmly, do not swerve, sound your horn and press firmly on or pump the brakes. An insect in the car? Stay calm and open the windows if you have the controls on your armrest. Stop the car as soon as possible, open the windows, if you haven’t already done so, and with the help of an object, guide the insect slowly and gently out of the vehicle.

Finally, check the air pressure in your tires on a monthly basis; under-inflated tires wear more quickly. Don’t drive all summer with your winter tires as they have less road adherence, especially in water; braking distance is a third longer and your gas consumption will be higher. Change your windshield wipers every year; dried out rubber causes streaks of water which reduce visibility.

Be careful this summer and remember: a distracted driver is a dangerous driver.

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Huge Annual Yard Sale @ YARD SALE
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Huge Annual Yard Sale, Sept 19 – 21 Location: 136 Passage Manor Drive, Strasburg, VA Flash Sale: Thursday: 10am – 2pm  |  Friday: 8am – 2pm  |  Saturday: 9am – 1pm
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6:30 pm Monument to Mosby’s Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
Monument to Mosby’s Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
Sep 23 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Monument to Mosby's Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
The Col. John S. Mosby Camp, SCV, will lead the annual ceremony at the Monument to Mosby’s Men, 6:30pm on September 23rd, at Front Royal’s Prospect Hill Cemetery. Past Camp Commander Richard W. Hoover will[...]
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1:30 pm Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Sep 24 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor Elena Maza will focus on learning basic skills to create watercolor landscape paintings: basic composition and use of color and value to create a sense of depth and distance.[...]
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8:00 am Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
Sep 25 @ 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
The purpose of the Expo is to keep our seniors safer and healthier, and to strengthen communication between the law enforcement and senior communities. And have some fun and fellowship along the way! Topics may[...]
10:30 am Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Sep 25 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Children's Art Class "Back to School" Session @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
11:30 am Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
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Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
Guest Speaker: Samantha Barber Topic: Voice for the Voiceless THIS IS A FREE EVENT – Please join us and other women looking to be inspired! “More than just another networking group.” FRWRC WIN is open[...]
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Sep 25 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four session course will focus on learning basic drawing skills as applied to botanicals: basic line drawings[...]
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12:30 pm Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Sep 26 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
This class will teach you the necessities to create your own watercolor paintings. Setup of materials and proper studio techniques will be shown. Indispensable ideas about drawing and color mixing as well as paint application[...]
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Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
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Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Pencil sketching is a great way to capture a visual record of your experiences and ideas. This class will give students a strong foundation for making pencil images for a journal or sketchbook. Principles for[...]
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10:00 am The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
Sep 27 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]