Every day Life
I come from a line of women artists, most of whom were pretty good. My great-great grandmother won a blue ribbon at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. My grandmother longed to paint her entire life but was discouraged by her mother and then got busy raising her family. When my uncle turned 10, she informed my grandfather that she had done her job and it was time for her to paint. She signed up for lessons and never looked back. When she was in her 70s, the state of Maine honored her with an exhibit at the State House. My mother also dabbled in art; she was good at all sorts of crafts and produced two paintings in very quick order.
And then I came along. I can appreciate artwork, but the talent didn't trickle down. Along the way, grown up things got in the way - working, chasing, cleaning, doing.
And that’s why I jumped at the chance to go to a Paint Nite. Truth be told, I was more interested in getting out of the house with a few good friends – the painting was the bonus on spending girl time together.
For those who have never been to Paint Nite, it’s the speed dating, fast-food equivalent of painting. You sign up in advance based on the featured painting for the night. Thursday may feature a beach scene; the following Saturday could be a starry sky, a cityscape, or a bunch of flowers. Or, it could be, like ours was, a very weird symbolic tree with pink sky and dangling blobs of ... fruit. But I digress.
Once at the paint studio, you put on a smock and fill a paper plate with blobs of paint, according to the number of squirts on the chart. 4 squirts of yellow. 3 browns. 7 whites. 2 cyans. Then you find your seat, where the blank canvas and clean brushes await. Then comes the most important step: You work your way over to the bar and order a big glass of wine. This, to me, proved to be the most essential tool in becoming an artist for the night.
Paint Nites are led by actual artists, who show you a model of the finished product, then whip out a blank canvas. She or he then goes step by step, showing you how to apply strokes and what to do next. You take the big brush and in big strokes, cover the canvas with a certain color. Then, you take a smaller brush and make horizontal lines just so. You mix brown with a touch of white to make it a tawny color. And then you take the small brush to make gray circles. And so on. We admire her work, then hesitate before plunging in. You sip for courage. You talk nervously. And then, magically, the nervousness appears and you just immerse yourself in the evening. You concentrate, and you dab a little paint. You then step back, declare it’s ‘ew’ and paint over the mess. And you sip a little more. Halfway through the evening, I realized that my painting had a distinct resemblance to a Van Gogh. But I didn’t care – it was fun and I felt the stirrings of an artist within.
Two hours later, we were all comparing our paintings to those of our fellow adventurers. Twenty individual artist wannabees, all painting the same scene, which naturally mean that we all had very different paintings in front of us. Our own personalities emerged… demure colors. Bold strokes. Blue where the instructions had been to paint pink. Unique touches of clouds in a night sky. A lone bird in the sky. More dangling, weird fruit. They were glorious in their unity and in their uniqueness.
Paint Nite is pure genius. In our go-faster, do more lives, where the majority of the day involves hands that pound away to fill digital screens, someone has created a fun, fast, and utterly satisfying night out. What better way to unwind from the stress of the day than to sip a little wine, get a little messy, and turn a blank canvas into brillant color. It is this generation’s answer to unleashing the artistry within, if only for a few hours.