Nurse by Day, Painter By Night
Recently I attended my first “Paint Nite”. One of my coworkers sent out a group text message in December with the idea of getting a group together and I’d been eager to try so I jumped at the opportunity.
The venue was a gym that happened to be a large enough to house a little pizza place in the lobby. That was a contradiction in itself, here we were stuffing our faces on pizza, calzone and alcoholic beverages while the gym members were pumping iron and sweating it out on a Friday night. I realized later it wasn’t the best place for a paint night. It was difficult for us painters to hear our hostess because we could also hear echoing sounds from the gym; weight lifters grunting, weights clinking into place and the hum of exercise machines.
I arrived early enough to observe the paint night hosts set up for the evening. There were three rows of long tables and chairs. Each table seat contained an easel with a canvas, a Styrofoam plate with a splat of yellow, blue, black, white, red and brown paint and an extra plate. Under each plate was a paper towel. The paintbrushes were passed out next. There was large fat brush, a medium brush and a skinny small brush. The last thing passed around was a cup of water that would be used for rinsing our brushes.
The tables filled quickly with guests greeting friends and ordering snacks and drinks in preparation for the event. Our Paint Nite Hostess gave everyone time to get settled, greeted the group and our Paint Nite was underway. We started by raising our glasses and repeating an oath that began with several sentences of, “I promise”. I promise not to get frustrated. I promise not to say my painting stinks etc. Our hostess discussed all of our supplies, the paints, the easel and canvas, the water and the brushes and it was time to raise our brush for the first stroke.
We were instructed to use our large brush to wet the canvas with water and then cover the canvas with white paint. The act of stroking the brush onto the canvas with paint for the first time gave me a feeling of exhilaration. At that moment I was nothing else but a painter and all of the worries of the outside world were nowhere to be found in my subconscious mind. The act of stroking the paintbrush from one end of the canvas to the other gave me a new found sense of freedom. Next it was time for blue. The hostess instructed us to paint several diagonal blue streaks onto the canvas and then brush white paint into it. This was our sky. Our hostess encouraged us to add our own flair to the painting by using different colors if we wanted to. I had to laugh at a girl sitting a few seats down. She said she didn’t know enough about painting and colors to deviate from the norm. I nodded my head in agreement. I experimented with a few different colors of the sky and my sky looked like a storm was coming so I tried to get it as close to the blue sky as I could and had some success.
It was time to rinse off our large brushes, dry the brush and dip the large brush into brown paint to paint the branches of the trees. I watched our hostess carefully as she demonstrated and then I watched my friend to my left, took a deep breath and stroked the canvas with brown paint to form branches. Ok I can do this. I didn’t care for this next part though. The hostess instructed us to put white paint on the top of the branches, which I did and it made my branches look washed out. I didn’t let it put a damper on my enthusiasm; I just made a mental note to deviate the next time I don’t agree with something.
With each new structure on the painting, I found myself becoming more comfortable, I was finding my groove. We mixed blue and yellow paint to make two different shades of green, a dark green and a light green. As we put the leaves on the trees, some of the painters used long strokes to paint the leaves. I remembered the scene in the movie Stepmom where Julia Robert’s character teaches the young girl to paint leaves on trees by spackling. I spackled my leaves giving them a fern like appearance. I was pleased with that. I also added random long green strokes to some of the branches to give it some variety.
The final component of the painting was the cardinal birds. The first bird was a nightmare. I realized that I should have worn my glasses because I had difficulty seeing the hostess with her painting to my left and at the other end of a long table. It was also becoming loud in the gym. My first bird turned out to look like a fat red sea horse. The hostess helped me adjust it but it made it worse and I seemed to lose understanding of when to use the two shades of red we had created by mixing red, yellow and white paint together. Inside I was nervous about messing up the second bird. I lived in Saint Louis, Missouri for nine years and grew to love the Saint Louis Cardinals. It took me several minutes to begin the second bird. I finally mustered up the courage to put my first stroke on the second bird. Miraculously my second bird came naturally and I ended up loving it. I added my finishing touches to the bird and the rest of the painting, wrote JAC 16 in the lower right hand and my first painting was complete. I was pleased.
Last year, at the recommendation of a mentor, I purchased a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It is a twelve-week program designed for artists of all kinds to recover their creativity from a variety of blocks. One thing I have learned is that in order to enhance your preferred form of creativity, you must partake in different forms of creativity. Last summer I picked up my cross stitch again after a fourteen year hiatus. While on vacation, I cross stitched, read and stared at the lake. I felt my creativity creeping back in. That’s why this paint night was perfect for me as a writer. I have a new creative outlet to partake in. I’ve been curious about Paint Nite for over a year. I recently a purchased paint by number set from my craft store with the intention of trying a painting out if I didn’t get into Paint Nite soon. I look forward to the perfect week in “The Artist’s Way” that I can enhance my creativity by sitting down to paint. My biggest writing block is clutter. When my life becomes cluttered in several aspects, my creativity fades away. It is my goal for January to get rid of clutter, revisit “The Artist’s Way”, write and paint. It is doubtful that I’ll every become a Picasso but why not fill my writing room with my paintings?