Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Getting Arty with The Paint Republic

If you were to ask me to rate my artistic ability on a scale of one to ten I'd be hesitant to suggest I had a skill level beyond about a 5. I love art (I nearly did a degree in art history) and would love to be the sort of arty person who can effortlessly sketch a family portrait or make a beautiful home made birthday card. But in all honesty, I'm most definitely not gifted with natural artistic flair. Since starting a job at Aardman - where creative people abound and walls and desks overflow with amazing storyboards, cartoons and concept artwork - I've never felt more artistically inept.

So I was curious to hear about a new painting club that promises to show people that you can make art - actual art you might even want to hang on your wall - whatever your ability. The Paint Republic has been holding events in London for some time and has recently been spreading its wings across other cities in the UK, including Bath. 

The concept - 'Paint and Sip' - is simple; you're invited to unleash your inner creativity (and I was assured at the beginning of my session that it was DEFINITELY lurking in there somewhere) in an informal setting that involves - you guessed it - the odd glass of wine, G&T or whatever you like to drink of an evening.

By taking away any suggestion of stuffy art classes filled with earnest people and intimidating teachers, The Paint Republic makes for a much more informal way to pick up a paintbrush and learn some basics.

For my class, we were invited to have a go at painting a picture of Paris but this isn't a prescriptive art class - you can follow the leader's instructions to the letter or go a little freestyle, trying our your own technique and artistic flourishes. Oh, and did I mention your art class is most likely to be held in a bar?  See, it really couldn't be more different to your average night school art class.

Armed with a G&T and all necessary tools (everything you need is supplied) I was feeling at ease about putting brush to canvas for the first time in about 30 years. To an eclectic background playlist of everything from the Stone Roses to Spandau Ballet, our lovely instructor took us through the steps to creating our Parisian scene, a suitably impressionistic piece featuring the Eiffel Tower, background buildings and a reflection-filled river Seine.

It has to be said that sipping on a G&T in between brush strokes really helps to loosen things up a little, somehow unleashing that aforementioned creativity without you really having to try. Once I'd painted my Eiffel Tower and added reflections, I started to really relax into things and I think my technique began to improve as a result.

Another thing that struck me afterwards was just how absorbed I'd been in my painting - the simple act of putting brush into water, then paint, and then onto canvas really is a restorative balm for a busy brain like mine. For the first time in a long while I really felt lost in an activity, unhindered by mental and technological distractions - I barely glanced at my phone all evening.

After two hours, the promise of creating a wall worthy artwork was realised - everyone in the group had produced something that looked pretty darn impressive for a beginner. It felt like two hours very well spent and a refreshing change from my usual week night activities. 

It's worth pointing out that I went alone which is a big deal for me - I can be quite shy in groups and was worried beforehand that I wouldn't enjoy the evening without being able to share the experience with a friend. 

In all honesty, it might have been more fun to have had a friend to compare notes with but there was also something quite special about experiencing a couple of hours' painting unencumbered by the need for any conversation - like I say, for me the experience of being totally in the moment with my paintbrush was a very restorative thing and perhaps I wouldn't have been able to surrender myself so entirely if I'd been with a friend.

The Paint Republic also offers private and corporate events; I think the experience lends itself perfectly to a bit of light team building and personally I'd much rather paint than paintball. Public events anyone can go to are currently trialing in Bath with sessions lined up for March, April and May, all taking place at the Hall and Woodhouse Bar, located just off Milsom Street. Each session features a different painting and there is currently a special offer to get three tickets for the price of two. 

Would I go again? Most definitely. I might not quite have located my inner Monet but I really enjoyed the experience and came away with a piece of art that my family was impressed with and that I wouldn't feel embarrassed about displaying. I just need to find the perfect spot for my masterpiece...

For more information about The Paint Republic visit the website or Facebook page.

I enjoyed a free session but all opinions are my own. 


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