The Rise Painting Parties and the Dangers of DIY

In recent years the art community has seen a rise in what you might call a “painting party.” For many small business groups, it’s the concept of a single night’s painting class in which a group of adults all paint a simple design while enjoying a bottle of wine or other beverage to relax. Thees BYOB nights have popped up all around the country and what started small has become a national phenomenon. However, with more and more people signing up for these events, I have to wonder about the long term implications of what might happen to artists and art as a whole. 

What does excite me about the opportunity these events bring to communities is how it opens new doors for many people and teaches them that they can be creative even if they have never thought of themselves as such before. In opening up new people to the world of art, it has begun to build their confidence in understanding the visual arts as well as being able to relate to artists rather than admire or gawk at them from a distance. However this understanding I believe can come at a high cost if we’re not careful. With the confidence to just paint something for yourself, these avid creators may not find the need to support and collect works from working professionals and skilled hobbyists anymore. 

Art should always feel accessible and “fun” for the creator, but this type of relaxing fun at these “painting parties,” cannot and should not take the place of fine art in our communities. In the mid 20th century there was a rise in the DIY culture for remodeling homes in suburban America. In most cases it became the norm to tackle large carpentry or interior designs to improve one’s home and lifestyle. These days hardware stores market themselves on this principle and it’s become integrated in our culture today. However out of the DIY movement came a slew of problems. Not all remodeling can be considered DIY, especially a number of electrical and plumbing projects, which have often plagued the average Do It Yourselfer and caused thousands of poorly designed and constructed homes across the country. 

So what does this have to do with painting parties? To put it simply when the visual arts are pushed into the DIY world, everyone suffers. If people reach a point where they decorate their homes with their own attempts at fine art, while at the same time moving forward with the mentality of “I can just make my own, I don’t need to buy something,” then the visual fine artist will go extinct. To limit the arts to simply something that can be done on a Friday evening for a couple hours, is to cause serious harm to the global art community and our culture as a whole. The dumbing down of painting in this case into the “party” mentality can potentially rob our society of the culture of great art; and in its place build an anarchy of DIY “arts and crafts.” 

However, this isn’t to say these party events are all bad. As I began, creating a fresh and engaged group of creative adults is something our culture is in desperate need of. The more and more people become engaged in the act of creating (in whatever form it takes), the more we will see a surge in the education and respect for the fine arts which could grow exponentially. I don’t feel that we are in either side of these extremes as of yet, however the dark side of them could easily overtake the culture not check on every now and then. As these types of businesses and events continue to flourish, it’s everyone’s responsibility not to simply limit our view of the visual fine arts. While the painting process is fun and rewarding it’s more than just something that takes a few hours while sipping on a glass of Merlot in a building that was once a pizza shop. Instead these events should be using the creative outlet to build up our desire for the beauty and aesthetics of work created by professionals and skilled hobbyists working in the field today.

The Immersive Education within Art Materials

The idea behind this is actually very simple, but I often find many artists that don’t take the time to learn about their pencils, pens, paint, etc. which I find to be a massive oversight in their art education. For someone like me it was always intuitive to learn about new materials, but I’ve found over time that I am in the minority in that regard.

However, I don’t feel like it’s a “you have it or you don’t” mentality. Instead the desire to learn about your materials is something that for myself and for others I imagine develops over time. Early on in your artistic lives we just want to make art (which is very important part for sure) however you at some point will feel limited by a medium’s capabilities. At this point you can (and to some degree should at least for a time) change media, and learn more about other techniques, but again you may find yourself hitting mental walls.

So, how would one get out of such a rut? Thinking about what types of materials you use, and how you might use them more effectively I feel is where this exploration begins. Something like my choice acrylic paint for example has a lot more to it than what might be first understood. High quality acrylics are made from a polymer emulsion, water, and pigment. Lower quality paints add more fillers and water in place of more concentrated pigment loads. Then depending on the individual pigment it will determine the price of the paint, its opacity, its tint strength, and its glossiness. Then subsequently learning about pigments can allow you to start seeing the limitations as well as the limitless possibilities a single color can have. Not to mention how one pigment can be called by several names across brands, viscosities, and individual media (ie. oil, acrylic, watercolor).

While all of this may sound complex it is the core from of education that I have pursued in the past few years that has continued to drive my worth further and further. Breaking down my understanding of transparent vs. opaque acrylics as well as the subtle difference in hue between pigments is transforming my use of color and composition in every painting. Sure it’s not helping something like my line quality or rendering skills, but the understanding of what the paint can do even further than I already understand it brings about new ideas every single day.

For acrylics I’ve found that many paint manufactures take a great deal of care in showing off their products. Not only because they’re wanting you to buy them, but because for a creator of professional materials like Golden, they really care about artists creating the best work that they can. It was actually Golden’s Youtube Channel, which first introduced me to acrylic gels and mediums (a discovery that at the time transformed my work entirely). For nearly 10 years prior I just didn’t really understand my paint, but when I started putting the time in to researching it, I began to see new ideas for paintings erupting in my imagination.

For companies like Golden, Liquitex, Blick, Utrecht, Faber-Castell and many others, the promotion of new and interesting products doesn’t just sell product but it inspires artists to create something new.

If you do nothing else this week artistically, start looking into the composition, the production of, and the possibilities of your materials, and I can guarantee you’ll find new techniques and ideas right around the corner!

Infectious Creativity

“Infectious Creativity: The Key to a Successful Art Career”

To begin, I will give you this premise to consider: “Love your art until it becomes infectious!” This concept came out of a conversation I had with a friend and fellow artist early last month, but has stuck with me in principle. This concept of an infectious form of creativity is what I believe to be the driving force of what makes an artist successful or not.

The more I thought about it the more it seemed to ring true for my work, and the work of those artists that I admire. Creating your art should always start as a passion for something you love. For most artists that is what creating art is. However, in the process of being self-taught or taught in a rigorous program, it can be very easy to lose your passion for creation in the pursuit of perfection. While it is vitally important to your success to refine your skills and pursue mastery of the fundamentals, if you forget why you love creating in the process, then you will have lost the most important part of being an artist.

This idea of loving to create, and loving what you do, is what makes all successful artists stand out to us. While yes, the beautiful images they create are also important, ask yourself how many grumpy artists you follow? Would you want to learn from an artist who is indifferent about their work? Or how about an artist that hates everything they do? Ok, there is a certain sense of creative humility and realization that ever artist has, in knowing that their work needs improvement. However, if they continue to say “I suck, I suck, I suck,” then you as the fan will also start to think they suck as well. If you the artist are not passionate about the work you create, then what hope do your fans have to love the work that you do?

This is really the idea I want to drive home for all of you. Love what you do. Painting, drawing, writing, composing, whatever your creative outlet is do it because you love it FIRST, then worry about marketing and making money. Forget about client work. Forget what kind of art your friends and family like. Make art for yourself, because you love to! Maybe that sounds a bit selfish, but when you become crazy passionate about your work and your process, then other people will be excited to see, read, or hear your next great masterpiece! Yes, the first impression of a great piece of art brings people in, but what keeps them coming back is that they know you are an artist in love with creating.

It is only when we love to create that our passions infect others with creativity to create something of their own. Success isn’t a dollar amount. It’s not a number of shows or a single great piece of art. No, success is about community! It’s about sharing your creative love with the world, and having of the world answer back with their own unique creations. So in case you forgot along the way, “Love your art until it becomes infectious,” and then you will truly be successful.