Partying with Paint

by Aaron Wilson


Text by Jennifer Poff Cooper  |  Photo courtesy of  The Artful Place: A Fine Studio


Art lessons for the masses are all the rage. Participants do not have to be specially schooled or possess innate talent. The fun is in the trying.
Anita Carden teaches “Paint Night” classes in Peterstown, W.V. “I provide everything and you come out with your own ‘masterpiece on canvas,’” says Carden, a freelance artist for more than 30 years. “There is no obligation to come to more than one class because we do a completely different painting each time. I draw the basic sketch in advance on all the canvases and give simple instructions. Participants have the freedom to choose their own colors or change whatever they want to make their painting unique to them. Many times someone who thinks they could never do this comes out surprised that they were able to do so well.”
Most short art classes cost about $35 per person, including all supplies, and last for two to three hours. The typical attendees are middle-aged women, though the range runs the gamut from kids around 10 to senior citizens, with the occasional man thrown into the mix. The majority of participants have limited or no experience in art. They tend to come in groups of two to four, totaling four to 20 participants per class. Most classes provide a light atmosphere with music, breaks for ‘drying times,’ and even refreshments. Classes are held at studios, restaurants, libraries, community centers, churches, schools, offices and homes.
Marianne Jackson, instructor of Creative Canvases Painting Workshops at The Pearisburg Community Center, says short art sessions “are unique painting classes for all ages and skill ranges. These classes were developed to get people out of the house and start getting their creative juices flowing.” She walks her guests through a step-by-step painting; however, what sets her apart from similar classes is that she will not paint or draw on anyone’s canvas… [so] no one person’s painting is the same as their neighbor’s.
What about the inherent untidiness? “I cover all of the tables with plastic tablecloths, and the paint is washable to minimize the mess,” Carden explains. Creative Canvases participant Sabrina Sexton notes: “There are plenty of paper towels in case of a spill.” Artist aprons to wear are part of the night’s package.
“I believe we need more art. Without art, we lack the ability to think creatively, and to think creatively opens up so many doors, including benefits to our health,” declares Jackson, an art teacher who is passionate about the craft. She cites a review in the American Journal of Public Health entitled “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health.” In that article, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies about the positive impact of art on people’s health and their ability to heal themselves.
Still, Jackson was skeptical at first as to how popular the concept would be. She has found that people come for all sorts of reasons. For some it is a “girls’ night out” or mother-daughter date. Other attendees come as a form of therapy. She has had people come to help improve their artistic skills, some even taking notes in class. It is also a place for participants to socialize and to express themselves creatively without a long-term commitment. Jackson’s goal is to make art available for all ages in a place where people can feel comfortable to try without the feeling of being judged or graded.
Carden concurs: “They are so proud to take their paintings home and show them off to friends and family. They post photos of their work on Facebook and say, ‘Look what I did! My first painting ever!’”
The Artful Place: A Fine Studio, affiliated with the Creekmore Law Firm, hosts monthly paint parties. There is a schedule of topics with each month bringing to life a different object, season or panorama. Private parties are an option for adults as well as children. Located in a house full of other artsy folks in downtown Blacksburg, it provides the perfect setting for creating. Lisa Petersen shares her experience: “The instructor gave us step-by-step instructions on how to paint Blue Ridge Mountain scenery. She had the paint colors ready to go and told us how to mix them to get the colors we wanted and how to move our brushes to create textures and shapes. Whenever anyone would get discouraged about how their painting was looking, someone would say: ‘Just drink more wine and it will look better.’ Everyone would laugh. It was a fun, easy atmosphere to be creative in – whether you were good at it or not.”
“I have always been lucky to be able to draw, but I had not done any kind of art in years,” states Sexton, who is also the account executive at New River Valley Magazine. By attending the painting classes, I have re-connected with the artist side of me.”


Artwork of Anita Carden
on Facebook: Artwork of Anita Carden
call or text at 304.952.3294

Marianne Jackson, Creative Canvases
on Facebook: creativecanvases85

The Artful Place: A Fine Studio:
on Facebook The Artful Lawyer, A Fine Gallery, Inc.
Art Gallery – 540.443.9350 ext. 707

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