With her tongue sticking out, little Jozie Warner, 6, curls her tiny fingers around a paintbrush and concentrates on making a straight line. The blue acrylic paint glides from the tip of her paintbrush onto her practice paper.
The 14 children around her are also in their own little worlds as they too practice making straight lines and learn how to use different paintbrushes at Summer Art Camp.
Teacher and local artist Tina Dia of Nebraska City said the goal of the camp is for children to learn the fundamentals of painting and to keep their creativity alive during the summer months.
"It's a lot of fun for them to just kind of explore the different brushes and how they're used, and build up texture. It's a great medium so I thought that that was a great beginner with just letting them explore with paint," Dia said. "I was surprised (because when I've done projects here in the city) with how the kids don't know even how to hold a brush."
The first portion of the camp began June 22 and ended Friday afternoon. The weeklong camp was titled "Let's Paint Big!" where first- through sixth-grade children learned techniques on how to take their ideas and paint them onto large murals.
The fourth- through sixth-graders met from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the first- through third-graders met from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, located at 801 3rd Corso. The Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee hosted the camp. Dia, who is a member of the fine arts committee, said at the end of the week the older group painted a mural on a canvas together.
"The older kids will be doing it on canvas and the neat thing about canvas is that you can wallpaper it right on (to a wall)," Dia said. "I've done a lot of murals on canvas that way. When you go into a lot of museums and you see murals they're not all done on a scaffolding. They're done in a studio and just literally wallpapered onto the walls."
The younger group painted their own squares on paper and tiled them together to make a mural. Dia wanted the younger group to learn the basics about painting during the weeklong camp, such as: how to hold a brush, learning the different brushes styles, how to mix primary colors, how to use a brush, how to fill in shapes and how to trace shapes. Dia said teaching the younger children the fundamental skills will help them develop their motor skills.
Dia added that the older group of children mostly have the fundamentals for painting down already.
"I'm doing these techniques with both groups, but the older kids will get more advanced training like shading," Dia said.
On Friday afternoon, the younger group of children were putting the finishing touches on their mural and their own canvas paintings that they had worked on throughout the week.
This is the first time Dia has taught at the annual art camp. However, Dia has taught children art before. She's helped with an art project in her daughter's class and taught a class at an after-school program at Hayward Elementary School. She also does Girl Scouts crafts with both of her daughters - Katie Dia, 11, and Rachel Dia, 9.  
Tina Dia created acrylic murals and commissioned artwork for over 18 years in Phoenix and she's a fine artist who not only specializes in murals, but in tromp l'oeil and decorative paintings.
Dia has enjoyed working with the children at the Summer Art Camp.
"I think it's going good so far," she said. "I've had a little bit of feedback from my nephews who are in the class and I heard from their mom that they really enjoyed it."
Brother and sister, Lextyn and Boston Harker of Nebraska City painted by each other all week and confessed that they didn't know that either one of them could paint.
Lextyn Harker, 8, painted her father's race car as a surprise for her dad. She said she learned some new painting tips.
"I learned how to make purple and about the different brushes - the round, the flat and the Filbert," she said.
She added that she feels "alive" at art camp.
"Because I can make a mess and it's OK," she said.
Boston Harker, 6, was busy finishing a portrait painting of his English bull dog, Theo Nathaniel. He said his painting was a gift for his dog and that he enjoyed art camp.
"I learned new stuff and I just like painting," he said.
On Friday, Warner was finishing her work on her painting of a wooded scene inhabited by a wolf, horse, chipmunk, a duck and herself. She said art is one of her favorite classes.
"It's fun because you get to paint," she said.
Katie Radke, who is also a member of the Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee, helped Dia at the "Let's Paint Big!" camp. Radke taught at the camp last year and thought the children were learning a lot from Dia.
"I think it went great," Radke said. "I think Tina has a good lesson plan and I think the kids really enjoy it."
Radke is a graphic and Web designer, the owner of KR Creative Graphic Designs & Web Development, a local fine artist who's passionate about mixed-media and watercolors and she teaches art classes for the community. Radke will also be co-teaching the second art camp that will run from July 27 through July 31 called "Fun with Paper!"
Radke said first- through sixth-graders will be making their own paper, marbling paper, learning about book binding, making paper mosaics and art journaling.
Summer is jam-packed with sports camps and Radke said the Summer Art Camps help foster children's creativity.
"They have a chance to use their creativity," she said. "With summer there's a lot of sports and things like that. I just think it's important to have the arts too."
Dia agreed with Radke and added that she's noticed that children are lacking art education nowadays.
"I have noticed in working with some of the kids … a little bit of a gap and so I'm really happy to help at least with some students because I think it helps motor skills. I think it helps them focus and really see something, and I think just in education we're realizing how important creativity and innovation is in anything that we do," Dia said. "And there's this whole new train of thought called STEAM … Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math. (The) arts component was added in because they realize how important innovation and out-of-the-box thinking is for creating.
"Art is not just important for the kid that wants to be an artist someday. It's important for the scientist or the engineer to think beyond the rules that are given to them," she added. "Like in math there's an equation, but for art there's no rules and I think that when we learn to solve problems with art with no specific rules the answers are more dynamic."
Dia could go on endlessly about the benefits that art can have for children, but she said the art camps are to help children who love art to grow in their skills.
Jackson Radke, 6, of Nebraska City said he discovered his love for the arts from his mother, Katie Radke.
"My mom's an artist and I paint a lot," he said.
Jackson Radke's favorite part about camp was working on the mural and he also learned a few tricks from the camp.
"I like to paint," he said. "I learned how to trace murals, about the different brushes and how to mix colors."
The first week-long camp ended Friday where children finished creating murals. Katie Radke said she's not sure where the murals will be displayed, but she hoping to find them a permanent home in the community.
"We're gonna try to find some place around town that will let us (display them)," she said.
Radke added that there are still a few more spots available for the "Fun with Paper!" camp in July.
For those who are interested in signing up their children for camp, call Radke on her cell phone number at (402) 297-5087. Radke said she will email registration forms to those interested in attending the July camp. The registration charge for camp is $20 per child.
The Steinhart Foundation provided the financial support for the Nebraska City Fine Arts Committee to host the camps.