Painting and a Party

Having reached a certain age, I’m grateful for the younger, hipper people in my life who update me up on popular culture.

My friend Katie is such a person. She told me about Groupons, longboards, and Snapchat. Long before the last federal election, she explained to me what cage fighting was. She expands my slang vocabulary. Katie’s latest intel from the big city was about paint parties. Now, there are two types of paint parties, and neither require half heartedly painting someone else’s walls in exchange for beer and pizza. One type involves large numbers of undergraduates, techno music, and buckets of luminescent paint—not an event likely to come to Whitehorse any time soon. The other kind, which Katie invited me to, is a gathering where each person is set up with a canvas, easel, paint, and brushes, and everyone follows an instructional video on how to paint a preselected painting. Some parties happen at home, but in the ‘urbs, there are businesses where real life artists to walk you through the painting process. In Whitehorse, you can attend a paint party at Bailey’s Pub by going to Paint Party Yukon on Facebook. I confess, my cheese detector was on high alert. The paintings on the web site tend to a folk art style, meaning that while they were painted by capable working artists and illustrators, if someone told you they were painted by middle schoolers, it would seem plausible.

The painting party, however, was pleasant and companionable. The video was straightforward and easy to understand, if a little low in production value. The instructor had a cheery, middle American camp counsellor manner and gave instructions like, “Go ahead and grab some of that straight up white paint onto your brush.”

The women at the party were universally surprised by the results. As participant Robin Sharples said, “I wasn’t anxious but wasn’t expecting the paintings to really turn out, maybe one or two, but I thought they all looked pretty good.” The resulting paintings were similar, but different enough that they didn’t lend themselves to comparisons of “better” or “worse.” Artistic ability was not a prerequisite, and seemed to be irrelevant to the outcome, barring any serious colour blindness or spatial impairment. Our low-key group did some minimal but sincere oohing and aahing over each other’s paintings, took a photo, and called it a wrap.

You might be wondering whether painting parties are similar to a painting class. No–they are primarily a social activity. It’s a way to spend time with others, but without the pressure to directly interact with others, since everyone is focused on their own canvas. Wine-drinking seems to be a major marketing element, making it also a way to drink with others without having to interact.

More importantly, painting parties are oriented towards one-time, short term success rather than skill building, as with a conventional art class. It’s a model that caters to a lowest common denominator, which ensures success for nearly everyone.

Nonetheless, while there’s no promise or expectation that the videos will turn you into an artist, you could conceivably learn enough and gain the confidence to start dabbling on your own, if you’re so inclined. Bottom line: painting parties are a great option for mixed groups of people of varying ages and backgrounds such as families, coworkers, and people who generally prefer to be doing something while they socialize. If you’re interested in organizing your own paint party, keep your expectations low and your spirits high and you won’t be disappointed. 

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