It wasn’t the usual meet-up: we were there to take part in a Paint Night, which is now a thing. You pay a few bucks, have your own canvas and smears of paint on a plate, and commence to recreate the masterwork which is displayed on a table. You have the actual artist there to direct and help.
Or in my case, to drive crazy.
I can’t draw or paint, at all. I was a few minutes late, glanced around at what my friends were all doing, and grabbed a brush.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “They’re painting ocean at the bottom. I can do that.”
I ordered a glass of wine and slapped a few colours together and made wavelike brush marks across the canvas. My wine arrived. I made some more swoopy brush marks. It seemed to be nighttime in the original, so I put in more black. This wasn’t so hard.
The original had a big moon with a tree silhouetted against it. There might have been some birds flying to the right, but I never got that far. It seemed to be a night sky, which made sense with the moon. The artist was explaining how to make a purplish sky. I mixed together some colours on my plate that looked decidedly more like mud than purple, but used it anyway. It looked sad, so I threw some white on top of it. Now my brush was all gobbed up, but then I discovered another brush at my place setting.
I drank some wine.
I made more bold strokes for the sky, pleased with myself for capturing the moody quality of the painting that all the others seemed to be missing. I cleaned up a brush and started poking at the canvas with yellow paint to make a moon.
As I immersed myself in the artistic process, I vaguely heard the artist explaining that to achieve the right dimensions for the moon, we were to trace a paper plate.
Wait. What? I looked up.
I’d done my circle freehand. It was wobbly. I’d put so much white in the sky, my moon looked more like a sun. Sort of.
I pondered how to add the foreboding tree outline, then realized that trees can’t grow out of the ocean. I asked my friend Jenn why we were trying to paint trees growing out of the ocean.
“That’s not supposed to be water,” she replied, carefully tracing her paper plate moon. “It’s ground.”
I decided to forgo the tree all together. What is art if not free expression?
My right hand was getting tired with all the big, swoopy motions so I switched to my left. It made little difference to the end result.
I asked Jenn if she would like me to demonstrate my stabby technique to help her with her moon. She politely declined.
I could hear the artist giving advice to everybody as their creations began to look more and more like the original. Mine continued to look less and less like the original.
She stood behind mine, and paused.
“I like it,” she lied.
I decided I was done and proceeded to mingle with my friends while my masterpiece dried. A guitar player tuned up, and started playing Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”
“Oh! This is the perfect song,” I told a waiter who brought me more wine, as I nodded at the paintings.
“Well, we do karaoke every Wednesday night. You should come then,” he replied.
“I sing like I paint,” I replied.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t,” he smiled.