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Paint. Drink. Laugh. Learn. Paint Nite.
The carnage. Where did it all go wrong? One minute the canvas was glowing with a perfectly formed sun and blended sky, black tree branches reaching for the light, red and yellow flowers poised on the branches awaiting a final touch. The next minute the spring morning had morphed into a thousand-island dressing mess. It was the pink. As soon as I blended the white and red on the styrofoam plate, dipped the medium brush into the paint and pushed it to the canvas, it was over. Soon, the scene in front of me didn’t look anything like the 40 other paintings in the room, let alone the painting completed by Ashlee Merchant, our talented Paint Nite painter and guide for the evening. One splotch after another, no matter what I did, the scene continued to spiral out of control until the only logical thing to do was put the brush down, turn the camera off and wrestle with my inner perfectionist.
The greater sin of the evening was that I had managed to break three Paint Nite rules. I refused to relax and have fun. I took the whole event too seriously. And by the end of the night I was telling myself that I had wasted a perfectly good canvas. “If you are a first timer, remember that Paint Nite isn't a class. It is a party. Just have fun!” said Ashlee, who recommended ordering a cocktail before picking up a brush or finding other ways to loosen up. I took her advice; however, the only thing that swallowed my margarita was the chaos that was overwhelming the local restaurant Don Marcos. I didn’t see my cocktail until the night was half over and by that time, I had already worked myself into a frenzy.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, the night was in fact a blast. Couples and groups of friends giggled over their canvases, sipped at margaritas, danced in their chairs, and laughed off each slip of the wrist. Chris and I indulged in fresh guacamole and mole enchiladas while we slathered paint and chatted with fellow Paint Niters. The whole purpose of Paint Nite is to make art accessible for people who don’t think of themselves as creatives and provide a relaxing non-judgemental space where creativity can be nurtured. That’s exactly what Chris and I experienced.
In the spring of 2012, Bostonians Dan Herman and Sean McGrail had an idea to bring people together under the roofs of local pubs to experience the thrill of brushing paint on canvas. Since then, thousands of people all over the country have armed themselves with drinks and paintbrushes and followed simple steps shown by local painters until beautiful works of art (or lessons in perfectionism) appear in front of them. “I have many fond memories of Paint Nite. I was drawn to it because of the fun and entertaining atmosphere.” said Ashlee. She started painting for Paint Nite at the beginning of this year, and it has since taken over her life in the best way. “I am in charge of events for all of the Inland Empire. If I am not teaching a class myself, I have an artist from my staff instructing. I am always looking for new artists to join my team, and new venues.”
Advice for First-Timers:
1. Relax. Seriously. Bring friends, arrive early, grab a drink, have fun, and leave all expectations at the door.
2. There isn’t much room on the tables for food. Save yourself the headache of trying to squeeze a plate of food into a space too small and spilling margarita on your mole enchilada. Arrive a good hour early for something to eat.
3. All the painting materials are provided, even lime green aprons to protect your clothes. All you have to do is show up.