The concept of ‘Paint Alongs’ is HUGE in the USA.
The company ‘Painting with a Twist’ was the #1 franchise in the ‘Paint and Sip’ category (they have their own category!) just last year. They have a terrific story and great fancy websites. They fit in stacks of people and make it a lot of fun.
I’ve been painting on and off since I left school and over the years many people had asked me if I ran painting classes. A combination of having really young kids as well as some insecurity (as I am self taught) saw me saying, “Sorry, no,” over and over again.
Then one day I stumbled across the Paint Along concept online (it was probably in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping!) and thought “Yes! I could definitely teach a step-by-step painting”and the cogs in my brain started turning…
So I asked a few friends to come over and we gave it a go. We painted a butterfly garden and together we worked on the best ways for me to teach the painting… I asked a LOT of questions and they gave me incredibly valuable feedback – and encouragement. Enough encouragement to plan out an “Everlasting Christmas Wreath” Paint Along in December 2011 and through the magic of friends and facebook, these lovely ladies turned up to paint (below – hello Amber!)!
Then a second group of friends and friends-of-friends (below, complete with my daughter who needed a hug just as we were ready for the photo!) came over and yes – more terrific ideas and suggestions. And so today’s Shiny Happy Art Paint Alongs were born.
Now, I always knew I needed to make my Paint Alongs different to the rest.
For one, I needed to completely finish the painting. With a house full of unfinished projects I knew I couldn’t send someone home to find their own string and D rings and figure out how to hang their new painting. I wanted them to be varnished and strung – totally ready to hang as soon as they got home. So that’s what we do.
I also wanted to use AMAZING PAINT. Quite simply, great paint really helps you paint better. And I honestly believe GOLDEN is the best of the best. I occasionally use particular colours from other brands for specific reasons, but I wanted people to experience how good it feels to use pigment rich colours and decent brushes. It frees you up to work on technique, rather than fighting the paint while you’re learning. And we can use the qualities of the paint (like translucence or opacity) to our advantage – this isn’t paint by numbers!
I wanted to be able to help everyone. I have limited space in my studio so that means I have to cap numbers. But this also has the benefit that at the end of each painting I can come around and see everyone’s work. Making suggestions and helping out. Sometimes it’s that finishing ‘touch up’ that makes all the difference and when I can explain the type of mark that will work, it makes my painters happy. And I love that!
And finally, I wanted to help people create paintings I’d hang on my own wall. So many of the Paint Along artwork I’ve seen seemed clumsy, or was pre-drawn… definitely not something I’d be happy to put my name to. I knew I needed to spend the time to create compositions that were shiny and happy (once I painted six different paintings on the one topic before I had one I was happy with!) and that I’d be proud to call yours!
So essentially I created a ‘Boutique’ Paint Along experience in my studio, and I work hard to make my painters relax and be comfortable… to trust the process and see what happens.
Some people come along with friends and may only do one or two Paint Alongs with me. (And that’s just fine. There are plenty of things I’ve only tried once!) Others have become totally wonderful ‘shiny happy groupies’ (you know who you are!) and come along time after time, building colourful collections of paintings they can call their own and have very happy memories of creating.
And I can’t wait to see the smiles and hear the stories of achievement from these new Paint Alongers, just as I have been hearing lovely stories and making wonderful friendships at my studio Paint Alongs (my most recent Butterflies group is pictured below and we’re right back into it again this Sunday!).