I've been thinking a lot about the many people I have taught at my paint parties, and their varied experiences. I've had numerous conversations with customers, friends, family, and fellow artists about the "Paint Night" phenomenon that is taking our society by storm, and how people feel about it.
I work for my own company, so I have mainly my personal experiences to draw from, as well as feedback and stories folks have shared with me from their times at other companies' events. Through the 65+ events I have taught, and the feedback I've heard from customers, I've learned a thing or two about drinking and painting!
Here are a few "tips" for getting the best experience out of Paint Night/ Paint Parties/ Drink and Paint/Paint and Sip.... whatever you want to call it!
1. Don't put pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece.
If it's your first paint party event, chances are you might be a bit nervous. Relax.... the experience is supposed to be for fun. It's about trying something new in a social environment and having a good time. The emphasis is on making something everyone can do, rather than learning a lot of skill. Of course you want to create something great, but chances are it's not going to look the same as the original artist's piece, (and how boring would it be if it did?!) Follow along as best as you can, and don't feel like you have to master painting the first time. I have been painting for over 20 years, have a university degree in art, do this for a living, and I can tell you that MANY of my pieces are failures. It's part of the creative practice -and it's called a "practice" for a reason.
2. Don't compare your art to others'.
It's in our nature to look at other people and wish we looked like them, had their confidence, etc, etc..... the same goes for painting. People often look around and say "look at hers! It's SO good!" and a feeling of inferiority creeps in. Chances are that same "her" is looking at your work and thinking the same thing. Inevitably at paint nights, everyone is going to bring their own personal style and "touch" to their painting. It's natural to compare because so many people are reproducing the same idea, but they will never look the same -and why should they? It still blows my mind how I can watch literally hundreds of people paint the same painting, and no two are ever indistinguishable. Not even my own reproductions look the same -this is the awesome thing about painting! If they were supposed to be identical, we'd be taking photographs instead of using our brush marks to create. So relax, and trust that your inner self and style will make your painting unique and amazing in its own way.
3. Ask questions of the artist!
If you mishear a direction, need a step repeated, help with a technique.... that's what I'm there for! Don't be shy in asking the artist what you need to know. If they aren't receptive to questions, they shouldn't be teaching paint nights. I assume that most people are beginners and expect to answer questions. I know that sometimes I have to demonstrate a few times, or explain things in different ways -teachers know how to differentiate instruction -whether it's for students in school or drinkers in a bar! I try to make as much time as possible for individual help, and always want to know if my participants are struggling -or thriving! So speak up! I don't find it annoying... I want to help you. (And if my assistant Jaidyn is with me, ask her questions too. She's with me because she is passionate about art, and knows a thing-or-two about painting!)
4. Enjoy the social atmosphere.
Remember that the first goal at paint parties is FUN! There is a reason why we do these events in bars. If you wanted a skills only, serious lesson, you'd be signing up for a different class. While you can definitely learn some basic skills, take the time to meet new people, talk with your friends, and chill out. Laugh, make jokes, be loud (or whatever your personality dictates). I LOVE when people heckle with funny jokes -and sometimes I say things on purpose to get attention or lead people's minds into hilarious places.... and often they go there on their own and make me laugh. It's all in good fun.
5. Drink as much or as little as you'd like. Focus on the painting or the alcohol -it's your night!
While other paint night companies use slogans like "most people paint themselves more than the canvas", I have found that most of my participants usually do want to learn about painting. The alcohol is there for sipping "liquid courage" and adds to the social atmosphere, but at the majority of my events it's not the main focus. There are always those few folks who heavily indulge, and honestly they usually add to the entertainment of the others.... so whichever you choose to focus on, as long as you are having fun, it's all good.
6. Express yourself
Some of the most successful participants I have had, are folks whose paintings don't look anything like mine. If you want to try something a different way, or have an idea that suits your style better than mine -do it! Don't be afraid to try your own technique or add your personal touches. I certainly am not offended if people go "off-course"... I find it inspiring. After all, this is what creativity is all about, and a true artist is constantly fuelling their creative tank. If it flops, be proud that you tried it and remember you can always try again another time. (Also refer to tip #3 because often the artist can help you with the skills to depict what you want to express.)
7. Have another look.
Before you judge your painting, take it home and look at it with fresh eyes the next day. Remember the experience you had creating it most of all. As for the nit-picking... you may find that you like your piece EVEN more the next day when you haven't been staring at it for two consecutive hours and worrying about all the little details (that others usually don't notice.) Also keep in mind that art is usually viewed from a distance of at least 6 feet away -so stand back from your piece when you evaluate it. (Trust me, if you get up close to my paintings, you will notice imperfections too!)
8. Try it again.
Painting, like most activities, gets better with practice. You don't look like a body-builder the first time you enter the gym. You wouldn't expect to play professional sports after a few games... it's the same with art. The more you do it, the more you learn, and practice does make for improvement. The coolest thing I get to see as an instructor, is the improvement in my students -even at Paint Parties, that are designed for fun, rather than skill development, return participants really do get better -and more confident! There are a number of people who have come to several of my events (thanks to those from the bottom of my heart), and they are faster, more confident in taking risks, and have a repertoire of developing skills. It's wonderful to see this!
The thing I love most of all about the popularity of paint nights, (other than they're keeping me employed!) is that it brings art to the masses, and spreads appreciation for visual expression among the general public. I hope you'll join me at an event some time, or come again if you already have.