Anyone who has played Pictionary with me knows that my artistic skills are limited.
The concept is simple: For a small fee, participants get all the supplies - plus detailed instruction - needed to walk away with a self-completed painting. Classes are open to individuals, but most of the "artists" come in groups or couples and, in the adult classes, bring snacks and a few beverages to loosen up the brushstrokes.
I went with my 22-year-old-daughter, Amanda. We were tackling one of the masters that night, Vincent van Gogh's Vase with Twelve Sunflowers.
When we arrived, the room sported a party atmosphere, as a dance-mix soundtrack punctuated the popping of a few wine corks. Although most of the participants were women (Painting with a Twist is a popular girls' night out), there were several guys willing to take brush-in-hand as part of a unique date night.
The staff had preset all our supplies: Several long tables had stools at the ready, and each of us had an easel and canvas waiting. Outfitting each place were daubs of paint ringed on a paper plate, a trio of brushes and bits of chalk. At the head of the festive room, a stage displayed the final product.
Amanda and I got our smocks and sat.
Across our table were Nicole and Jacque from Collegeville. They were a mother/daughter team celebrating Mom Jacque's upcoming birthday.
"van Gogh is my favorite artist," she said, "and his Sunflowers is my favorite work. For my birthday, we're going to paint it tonight and then go see it tomorrow at the Philadelphia Art Museum."
Our enthusiastic instructor, Heather, took the stage.
She explained our three brushes: "We name them, so you always know which one I'm talking about," she says. "We have a Big Old Brush. So we call him Bob. We then have a middle-sized brush; that is Jan Brady, after the middle child on The Brady Bunch. And last is Tiny Tim, the smallest brush."
The painting began by sketching in the tabletop that holds van Gogh's vase of sunflowers. We use chalk for positioning purposes (mistakes could be erased with a damp paper towel) and then mixed a mustardy yellow with a sandy tan and used Bob to fill them in. Blue, green and white were then blended for the background.
I asked Jacque how things were going, and she scrunched her nose a little. "Er. Not very van Gogh-like," she said.
The chalk came into play again in positioning in the flowers. We drew several egg shapes that would eventually bloom in yellows and golds.
The remainder of the process involved layering floral colors dark-to-light on the canvas, working from the background to the foreground. We used Jan Brady to paint in dark leaves and then switched colors to the more vibrant hues to make petals. Before long, the work began to be recognizable as flowers in a vase.
I glanced at Amanda's and admitted that she had done better than I did. My sunflowers were wavy and iris-shaped. I also centered my vase badly, leaving my sunflowers crowded on the right. Her balance was better, and she had used her small brush on her petals to capture the right look.
The finale involved some simple line work with Tiny Tim, outlining the table and the vase. And, of course, signing our work.
After a group shot and a round of farewells, it was time to take our paintings home.
I may never become an artistic superstar.
But if nothing else, I did master the challenge of creating a memorable night with my eldest daughter.
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