When I was invited to check out Art Tonite by my friend Hollie, I was excited but also somewhat trepidatious. I’m not an artist, not by a longshot. I prefer to do my painting with words. My grandmother, now she was an artist. We have some of her paintings hanging in the house and they’re stunning. People routinely ask who painted them, expecting a famous artist’s name and I love telling them that it was my grandmother who painted them. The artistic gene seems to have been passed down to one of my cousins, but it missed me completely. I had a miserable time in art classes in school. They usually required copying a drawing or technique which was all but impossible with my learning disability. The only way I copied anything was by memorizing it (it is still the only way for me to copy information reliably) and while I was very adept at memorizing words, and to a lesser extent numbers, but paintings? Not so much. I remember being in tears trying to follow a “Learn to draw Archie” page in a comic book when I was 10 or 11. I was trying my best, but it looked nothing like America’s favourite red-headed teen. I recruited a friend to come with me to the event, and she conveniently lived just down the street from the venue. I had a nice dinner with her and 2 of her kids before heading out to Art Tonite. We entered the venue and followed the signs downstairs to where the basement of Pappas Grill had been transformed. There were easels, paints, and blank canvasses on all of the available table space. There was also an exemplar on display. My heart sunk. There was no way I was going to be able to copy it.The event included food and drink, so I grabbed a glass of white wine to stop me from turning and running out. I said hello to some people I knew from different social media events (mostly BlissDom Canada), and got caught up and tried to convince myself it didn’t matter if my painting sucked. Except it did. After about 40 minutes of socializing, the announcement was made to make our way to a canvas and get ready to paint. I started to panic on the inside. I felt like I was about to commit a crime against art. Then the lead artist took the microphone. I was expecting everyone to paint the same thing at the same time, with the instructors helping as needed. I was half right. The first thing our lead artist did was introduce the team of artists who would be wandering between the tables helping us create our ‘masterpieces’ . There were more of them than I thought, which was good. Then we were told we could either re-create our own version of the painting on display or, if the muse struck us, paint something else. I was saved. Well, sort of . I knew I couldn’t copy the painting, but I also didn’t have a clue what I wanted to paint. I love nature scenes, and have taken some really nice photos up at our cottage in Haliburton, so I reached for my BlackBerry and started scanning through photos until I found one I wanted to base my painting off of. I know the landscape around the lake very well as I’ve been there for part of almost every summer since I was born. I figured if any location had ingrained itself in my memory, it would be a lake / cottage picture. Having chosen the image upon which I wanted to base my artwork, I sat and stared at the blank canvas for a good five minutes. It was *so* white, and blank, and ohmygoodness what if I made a mistake? Luckily one of the assistants came by and asked if she could help. I explained that I’d chosen a different route than what most of the room was doing, still not quite believing that this was kosher, and she was very enthusiastic about it. She helped me figure out where to start and assured me that there was very little that I could do that would completely ruin the canvas, or that couldn’t be corrected. I painted, nibbled, sipped, and chatted for the next hour and a half. There were a few points where I got stuck – like how to do the water properly and how to make the clouds look like clouds instead of white blobs – but one of the instructors or assistants were always quick to come over and offer advice or demonstrate a technique and help me out. I got frustrated a few times, but that was more with my own artistic limitations and the fact that I couldn’t get an aspect of my painting to look the way I wanted it to, but didn’t know how to describe it to the instructors for help. At the end of the night, this is what I ended up with.
Once I was done, I got up to move around and check out everyone else’s paintings. I was one of 5 or 6 people (most sitting in my row) who had gone against the grain and painted something completely different. Many people had their own take on the exemplar though, such as the ultra talented Christella whose lovely additions really brought the painting to life.
Everyone had made the painting their own somehow. We’d all had a great night, had some drinks, some amazing food, and created something with our own hands. I wish my art classes in school had been more like Art Tonite; if they had been, I might have taken some art classes in high school. If you’re in the Toronto area and are looking for a fun night out with friends, go to their website and check out the dates (and art) for the next public event, or book a private event as a celebration.