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In Ballston Spa, Heather Heigl returns to childhood dream of teaching art

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In Ballston Spa, Heather Heigl returns to childhood dream of teaching art

From aircraft carrier to paint-and-sip
In Ballston Spa, Heather Heigl returns to childhood dream of teaching art

BALLSTON SPA — Heather Heigl has had a passion for painting — and a desire to teach it — ever since she was growing up in North Carolina.

It just took a few decades to achieve the dream.

But the 42-year-old U.S. Navy veteran finally has created her “dream job” — if only part time, for now — with the launching of her own business, Paint-n-Gogh, in a former storefront at 114 Milton Ave. in Ballston Spa. There, she offers adult paint-and-sip classes many evenings and children’s classes on weekends. The shop opened last April, and has been seen business grow.

“One day at work we were saying, ‘What would be your dream job?’ ” And I said, ‘Having a paint-and-sip,’ and it grew from there,” said Heigl, who is a civilian employee at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory’s naval nuclear training site in West Milton.

Paint-n-Gogh is decorated with dozens of Heigl’s own works, including whimsical or fantasy landscapes, pop-culture portraits, and some that pay tribute to Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh, who she acknowledges is a personal favorite. Heigl’s found more time to paint in recent years, as her children — now ages 21, 18 and 12 — have grown. And now, she has time to show others how to paint in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to creativity.

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  
Paint-N-Gogh owner Heather Heigl works on a piece during a class at her studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Paint-N-Gogh owner Heather Heigl works on a piece during a class at her studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Heigl was walking about 10 children, along with a few parents or chaperones, step-by-step through a 90-minute class during which they created a portrait of Olaf, the comically good-natured snowman from Disney’s “Frozen” films. All the students get to sign their works and take them home.

“I like the kids’ classes better because with adults, they’ll be like, ‘It doesn’t look right,’ and with kids, they just like to paint. It’s fun,” she said before the class started.

Heigl herself loved painting when she was young, and by high school she was good enough and committed enough that her parents paid for private lessons. But after high school, her parents wanted her to stay home and attend a community college, while she wanted to go to a university and study landscape architecture.

Her solution to the disagreement was to enlist in the Navy to serve her country. Heigl became a radioman and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln when, at age 19, she suffered a stroke. She would recover, but the investigation into why such a young person had a stroke led to the discovery that she had an undetected heart problem that required surgery, which she had at age 21.

All the procedures went well, but the medical problems led to her discharge from the Navy. The Department of Veterans Affairs discouraged her studying art, but it paid for her to get a college associate degree in computer-aided drafting and design — which is a little bit like creating art.

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  
Hannah Bentley (left) and Anna Seplowitz, both 8 of Ballston Spa, work on a piece during a class at Paint-N-Gogh studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Hannah Bentley (left) and Anna Seplowitz, both 8 of Ballston Spa, work on a piece during a class at Paint-N-Gogh studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

With her CAD degree and her military security clearance still active, Heigl was able to get a job working for defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and later for Newport News Shipbuilding, the Virginia-based naval defense contractor.

At 35, Heigl went back to college and got a bachelor’s degree in business, which both qualified her for promotions at work and taught her some of what she needs to know to run a small business.

More from Outlook 2020

Newport News Shipbuilding also maintains the small nuclear reactors at the West Milton training site, and five years ago, Heigl and her husband — who also works for Newport News — accepted transfers within the company from Virginia to Ballston Spa. “We love it here,” Heigl said.

At Paint-n-Gogh, the goal is to offer a relaxed place to create, and talent isn’t really essential to having a good time. “You’ve got to keep it simple, nothing too fancy,” Heigl said.

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  
Paint-N-Gogh owner Heather Heigl works on a piece during a class at her studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Paint-N-Gogh owner Heather Heigl works on a piece during a class at her studio on Milton Ave in Ballston Spa on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

Music, games and prizes are part of the vibe at the shop, which is also open for private events such as birthday parties. Sipping is part of every class — there’s wine available for the adult classes and usually something like hot chocolate when children’s classes are held.

“I’m so happy to offer a space for people of any age to express their creativity,” Heigl said. “This is a beautiful community with wonderful people, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to become a bigger part of it.”

The shop has a website at www.paintngoghbspa.com where people can learn details about upcoming classes, and Heigl also has regular posts on Facebook and Instagram. Heigl said she’s also gotten a lot of business through word of mouth.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

 

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