I love going to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and marveling at the paintings of the Impressionist Masters. My brother inherited all of my mother’s artistic abilities, so I have always wondered what it felt like to be able to create or replicate something beautiful. When we were invited to a friend’s milestone birthday party at The Paint Bar in Newton, my only question was whether or not alcohol would be served. That’s the only way I could survive an evening of painting lessons.
With the word “bar” in the name of the place, it was confirmed that beer and wine would be available and so I confirmed our attendance. When we arrived that evening, we found a very bright and packed room filled with blank canvases awaiting our creative works. After being outfitted with smocks, the appropriate paint, brushes and an adult beverage, we chose our stools and awaited instruction. I must say that the example of the painting we would be recreating as a group that evening was incredibly intimidating. Why couldn’t the birthday girl have selected something perhaps less pretty but far easier looking?
Our instructor, Ellie, for the evening was vibrant, fun and reassuring. She made everything idiot-proof and empowering. We were not treated like children (though family days on Sundays are a big hit) or artistes, but instead were considered able adults with hidden talent simply needing to be coaxed out. I knew we were in good hands when she pointed out the importance of distinction between your drink container and your brush water. Picking up a cup of watered down paint instead of your beer or wine is not a mistake you want to make. The lesson here? Pay close attention to your task rather than getting lost in the beauty of your art.
At The Paint Bar, your instructor guides all in attendance through the step by step process of recreating a sample painting chosen in advance. Which brush to use, how much paint to apply, when and how much to mix colors and brush stroke techniques are all provided along the way. As your instructor demonstrates on their canvas, you paint along on your own. While you are completing your efforts the instructor wanders the floor and answers any questions or doles out individual advice as requested. Criticism and comparison are discouraged. Focus on your own creation.
Music of all varieties is played for entertainment and there are those beverages for sale to keep you loose and smiling. During drying time, be sure to grab some take-out from next door so that all those drinks don’t go to your head and interfere with your fine detail strokes. They sell vending machine style snacks and you can bring in your own cake or other food item if you like, but there isn’t much room to lay it out or time to eat it up. Your two hours are mostly spent creating that work of art.
As the time went by and the basic background and forms were done, our confidence grew and we were ready to be let loose with our painting to add our own personal flair – treating the guide painting as just that, a guide. At the end of the night, it was amazing to see all the different takes on the same work. I won’t say whose was better – that would be against the rules of fun. But we were pretty proud of ourselves. And of our friends’ interpretations too. We carefully stowed our nearly dry paintings in the car before moving along to snacks and drinks with a belly dancer down the street. It was a night of artistic expression after all. And thanks to The Paint Bar, we’ve got some new artwork hanging on the wall.
The Paint Bar
823 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02460
Post by and all photos credited to Molly G. @The Bumbles Blog