Heather Dupree moves her brush to form an extra whisker on a painting of a blue otter.

Crystal Bowers taps her on her shoulder and suggests the whisker is too long and the otter is too blue.

Charvez Keys Jr. and Stacia Weed shake their heads; they believe no whiskers at all would be better.

Gracelyn Gurley tells Heather to add more.

It's called constructive criticism.

Or as Angie Waller and her critiquing-but-friendly students like to call it -- family.

Waller, the lead art instructor at Wayne Community College, will join 12 of her students at the Arts Council of Wayne County tonight for an exhibit called "Waller's Kids."

The first exhibit for Waller's class -- and the art show's reception -- takes place from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The exhibit will run until April 17.

"They're my kids. It's a sense of community," Waller said.

Waller started teaching at the college five years ago when the fine arts program began. And when Wendy Walker, executive director of the Arts Council, visited the college last month to invite the students to another art event, she looked around the class and she saw the different art from different students.

"And the rest is history," Waller said.

"That's what's great -- like-minded individuals from all different, various aspects of life. But they are all talented and have an appreciation for the arts, and I give the place that's safe for them to create," Waller said.

Her students meet twice a week, three hours at a time, to create different artwork in the drawing II and painting II classes. Waller said she also allows her students to create art in her on-campus studio on Fridays.

Each student provides a contrasting personality and style, which will make the exhibit unique.

Weed, native of Pensacola, Florida, is a second-year, dual-enrollment student attending both WCC and East Carolina University. She specializes in drawing and painting. Weed aspires to be an art teacher in Wayne County, and in pursuing that dream she became fascinated with a particular young girl who shares her passion for education.

That fascination prompted Weed to step out of the painting-and-drawing box.

She used 12,000 primary-colored pushpins to design a portrait of Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan five years ago because she wanted other young girls to have an education. Yousafzai survived and eventually received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stacia encourages people to stand back to see the skin tones of the optical illusion.

"They all have their magic power in a certain genre," Waller said. "That's what's great about this exhibition. You are going to see a wide range of different talents."

Bowers, who is from New Jersey, once was stationed in Germany as an airman with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. While overseas, she discovered a painting by Jacques-Louis David called "The Death of Marat." Bowers recreated it to present at the exhibit.

She will graduate from the college in May and attend Barton College -- Waller's alma mater.

Goldsboro native and second-year student Gurley aspires to learn cosmetology at Johnston Community College.

"We're all super different," Dupree said.

Dupree collects maps from gas stations. She will present her painting of a woman on a map with roads outlining the woman's face. Dupree, who is from Kentucky, will also present drawings from her first art class at the college.

Waller said people will be amazed at how far her students have come. She said her students look at their first drawing -- at the end of the semester -- and compare it to their final drawing. They also critique each other's first drawings with "love."

Heather said she picked up her ink pen on the first day of art class and simply drew her pen on paper.

"It's really good for us to see that growth," Dupree said. "It's like a visual representation of where they started. It's a big jump from the actual start until finish."

Keys smiled as he remembered his classmates' first drawings, and he said the other students have greatly improved over the semester. A native of Goldsboro, Keys will graduate from the college in May and attend East Carolina's computer animation program.

She said her students participate in the college's program, the Art of Giving, to reach out to various organizations and donate art supplies the community.

"Colleges want to see what are they doing for their community, what kind of services are you doing," Waller said.

Gurley created cards for patients at Kitty Askins Hospice Center, and she donated proceeds from past Wayne Community College art shows to the organization. Dupree said she is actually donating time at the Pets at the Shelter today for four hours to clean cages, walk dogs and anything the animal shelter needs.

But tonight the students join together for an art show, when each one could easily take the stage -- alone.

"They're my family," Bowers said. "They're like my brothers and sisters, and to showcase all our art in one show is incredible."

Heather turns to look at her painting of a blue river otter, which her classmates kindly asked her to fix "a little bit."

"It's not just my painting, it's our painting," Dupree said. "We push each other to make our pieces to be the best they can be. We critique each other and give our opinions on a daily basis."