Getting to the art of the matter: New Oak Harbor school helps first-time artists hone their skills

Koraley Orritt shows a painting created in adult oil painting classes at her new business, Artreach Fine Art School, now open to students.  - Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times
Koraley Orritt shows a painting created in adult oil painting classes at her new business, Artreach Fine Art School, now open to students.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times

A new art school in Oak Harbor promises to transform people who can hardly draw into painters whose work is worthy of decorating any living room.

At Artreach Fine Art School, located at 520 E. Whidbey Ave., owner Koraley Orritt arranged the oil paintings that will be created during each level of instruction.

The first level of adult classes results in a realistic grayscale mountain and water scene and progresses to using more colors, reflections and textures as the classes progress.

“I really encourage people who’ve never painted before to give it a try,” Orritt said.

Originally from Canada, she moved to Whidbey Island six years  ago when her husband took a job on the island.

Orritt’s own paintings, often inspired by themes from the Bible, consist of forest or water scenes that evoke peacefulness. One painting shows an eagle with fire in its wings raining down on bones inspired by the valley of the dry bones story in Ezekiel.

“A lot of people are intimidated,” Orritt said of new artists, adding that people think they can’t paint if they can’t draw. But Orritt’s methods will prove them wrong. Orritt pointed out that the general shape of the mountains students will paint is created using the shape of a hand, and she teaches a technique of painting that has nothing to do with drawing skills.

The trick is the step-by-step process Orritt uses. For the first two classes, students use one color. For the next two lessons, they expand to five colors and add in techniques of painting reflections, clouds and details.

The following lessons use eight colors, and finally, the completed mountain scene uses 14 colors and has shiny reflections and full-color trees.

“Step by step, you can hone your skills,” Orritt said. She also had an Artreach in Canada.

“I do find that when people start coming in for lessons, they just love it,” Orritt said.

Children, teens learn too

For those who do enjoy learning, Orritt offers advanced classes in which students can follow her as she paints. But lessons aren’t restricted to adults; Orritt has some of her most fun with child and teen classes.

Orritt developed the curriculum for fine arts lessons for children while one of her daughters attended a specialized school of arts. For children, she teaches a variety of media, including charcoal, pastel, watercolor, oil painting, sculpting, drawing and more.

At the end of the year-long session, her students in Canada celebrated with a Mother’s Day tea and art show.

“It was just a wonderful, confidence-boosting thing for everyone to bring friends and family and show their art,” Orritt said. “I really encourage parents to start encouraging kids to do art at a young age.”

Orritt pointed out oil and watercolor paintings her own children created as young as age 3. Framed and signed, they hold a special place in Orritt’s studio as well as in her heart. It goes a long way when children see their parents enjoy their work and frame it, Orritt said.

“And the teens, I really let them and encourage them to express themselves and share their ideas,” Orritt said. “The cool thing is, getting a portfolio like this together goes a long way.”

Children age 7 and up and teens sign up for a year of classes costing $95 per month for kids, which includes supplies, and $125 per teens. Adult classes are $35 per lesson and consist of six weekly lessons. Orritt said she has charged the same prices for the past 35 years.

As a fun way for the community to enjoy an evening of art, Orritt will introduce “Artin’ Around” the first Thursday of each month, beginning Nov. 1.

“I’m doing kind of a night out for everyone. Anyone can come,” Orritt said. She’ll offer something completely different from her art classes. For example, her first session will involve making soap out of goat’s milk.

“The purpose is just to bring people out for a night of fun. The idea is we’re just going to explore lots of things -- different media, lots of crafts, whatever comes up,” she said. Sessions will be free, with donations accepted for supplies, and will begin at 7 p.m.

In December, Orritt plans to have a session for stamping and embossing Christmas cards, and in January, she will teach basic watercolor.


Driven to drive others


While driven by her love of art, Orritt said Artreach classes are about more than that.

“What I really like about it is, the adults are pretty dear to my heart because a lot of people have been put down by teachers or parents and a lot of people have a bad self-image when it comes to art ,and I like to break through that,” Orritt said.

With teens, “there are always some that have been sidelined -- maybe bullied or just shy, quiet types. This is a place for them to come and grow and develop friendships.”

As a mother of seven, Orritt said she understands how hectic life can be for parents and how the difficult economy means less art is taught in schools.

“I know this is something parents have to pay for, but it’s worth it to instill at a young age that they have worth and value, and that’s what I like to encourage,” Orritt said, adding that she enjoys “just watching them grow into wonderful human beings.”

Adult classes begin the week of Oct. 22 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

To register, call 360-632-8553 or email to set up a tour.

Artreach is located at 520 E. Whidbey Ave. Suite 101 in Oak Harbor.



Want to learn how to paint?

Artreach Fine Art School seeks students ages 7 and up.

Adults classes are Mondays, Wednesdays or Saturdays and cost $35 per class.

Also sign up for children ($95 per month) and teen classes ($125 per month).

To register or set up a tour, call 360-632-8553 or email

Artreach is located at 520 E. Whidbey Ave. Suite 101 in Oak Harbor.

For more information, visit


Artin’ Around

Enjoy a fun, free evening of art every month.

The first session will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 and will teach how to make soap from goat’s milk.

RSVP is required by calling 360-632-8553.


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