WESTMINSTER - She has blue eyes and a red smile.
"I'm happy," explains 5-year-old Rachel Gurecki, studying a self-portrait she has painted in bright hues of red and blue. "I'm happy because I might go roller skating."
Showing just a glimpse of the artist's temperament, the Eldersburg first-grader adds, "But I'm sad because I want to go back to Hersheypark with my cousin. I went on the swings there and went high. You could almost touch the trees."
Even so, happiness is the only emotion evident in her portrait.
Rachel's watercolor drawing is similar to countless others displayed on newspaper-covered tables in one of the art rooms at Carroll Community College, where about two dozen first- and second-graders gather two Saturdays a month to learn basic art.
The would-be artists are enrolled in CCC's Weekend Kids' College, a popular enrichment program in the arts for students in grades one through eight. Basic drawing is offered to students in grades three through five, and sculpture is available to older students.
"We thought this would provide some other alternative for kids on Saturdays," says Karen L. Merkle, CCC's director of continuing education and community services. "It's mainly for kids who have an interest in the arts."
Rachel's love for drawing and painting prompted her parents to enroll her in the program, which runs through November.
"She paints at home all the time," says her father, Dave. "We thought it would be a great thing to get her involved. She's very creative anyway -- as much as a 5-year-old can be. As long as she enjoys it, that's the main thing."
The Weekend Kids' College began last fall and is modeled after CCC's successful summer enrichment program for children. The summer program, though, runs for two weeks and encompasses a wide variety of courses, ranging from science to computer creativity.
"The art theme seems to be the most popular for weekends," Merkle says.
The courses are developed with help from the Carroll County Arts Council.
"We in no way want to replace the art programs in schools," says Peggy Slater, director of the Arts Council. "Our main objective is to enrich -- to take that program one step further. This gives more individual attention to a child who really does have art talent."
In Rachel's class, students are learning a variety of ways to handle paint. Their instructor, Maria Lederer of Hampstead, says the pupils will develop skills in perspective, detail, placement, color and composition.
During their most recent meeting, students not only painted self-portraits, but also learned about patterns.
"I showed them a quilt and talked about the crazy-quilt pattern," Lederer says. "We talked about the different patterns on their clothes."
Lederer, who recently earned a master's degree in art education from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, also strives to include some discussion about famous artists in her class. The inspiration for patterns and self-portraits was French artist Henri Matisse.
It is doubtful, however, that Matisse inspired this observation from Richard Pollock, a second-grader at Robert Moton Elementary School.
"This black is Freddy's worst nightmare," says the Westminster 7-year-old, painting stripes on his mixed-patterned drawing, which contains shapes and colors as varied as autumn leaves.
For the record, Richard doesn't like Freddy of "Nightmare on Elm Street" fame. He prefers martial arts star Bruce Lee and karate. And although he likes art well enough, he can't "survive two hours without food."
Lack of food didn't stop some from offering criticism to their peers.
"You need to make long hair," Westminster first-grader Audra Murphy suggests to Rachel, who obediently paints lines of brown above the peach-colored head on her portrait.
"Ohhhh, that's good," responds Audra, who received similar accolades from her mother.