What’s more fun than creating your own painting? Doing it with your friends! (And a little wine never hurts either.)
I’m convinced this is why the whole social painting scene is taking off. You may have heard of Paint and Sip nights or Coffee and Canvas. It’s also called Social Painting, or Social Creativity, and it’s a great way to get some “girl time” while doing something creative, especially if you think you have no artistic ability and would never attempt to paint a whole painting by yourself.
The only drawback is it can be kind of pricey, and you may not have a studio near you that offers such a thing. Never fear, I’m here to show you how to host your own paint party, and I’m even going to walk you through the process of creating an aspen tree painting, so you can lead your own group of intrepid artists-in-training.
We recently did this at my church, and it was a blast! It was a great way to spend time together, and the guests all amazed themselves with their paintings. The question I heard the most leading up to the painting party was “Do I need to know how to paint?” I reassured everyone that even if they’d never held a brush, they’d be able to create their own painting, and I would lead them every step of the way. They all looked simultaneously relieved and skeptical. But it was true! The secret is creating a simple, well-planned project ahead of time. Here’s how we did it.
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First, plan your party:
- You’ll need a venue with plenty of table space. Each painter will need about two feet of their own space, so don’t try to cram 6 painters around your kitchen table.
- Lighting is also important. If you’re having an evening party, consider whether your space will have adequate lighting for each workspace. These two considerations made our church the perfect location.
- When you’re planning your party decorations, make sure to get enough cheap plastic tablecloths to cover the work tables. They’ll look nice with your party decor, but will really serve the purpose of protecting your tables and helping with cleanup later.
- Make great food! Nothing brings people together like party food. Stick to finger foods that can easily be munched on with one hand, while holding a paintbrush in the other. (Although we had an amazing chocolate cake which didn’t fit the finger food requirement, but it was so worth it anyway!)
- Don’t forget the drinks! Since we had this shindig at the church, we skipped the wine (although I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been OK with it) in favor of coffee.
- Invite your friends, and reassure them over and over again that they’ll have fun, even if they can’t paint a lick. I promise they really will.
Next, plan your painting. Or just use this one.
For this first go-round, I decided to stick with a limited palette and use a simple composition, so we painted aspen trees in the snow. This allowed us to use a couple of tricks that cut down on the need for special painting techniques.
For this painting, each person will need:
- A 9 X 12 canvas (Get the kind that’s stapled on the back, not the side, so the finished painting doesn’t need to be framed.)
- 3 paintbrushes – a fine point, a medium, and a larger flat brush
- A sheet of palette paper, or a foam plate for mixing paint
- A solo-cup sized plastic cup of water for washing brushes
- Acrylic Paint: Cerulean Blue, White, Black
- Several strips of masking tape
- A credit card or library card
Here is the step-by-step process for creating your painting:
- Tear the masking tape into several strips long enough to reach from the top to the bottom of your canvas and wrap around the edges. Tape them vertically onto the canvas in a random pattern. These strips will be the trees. You can cross a few to make a falling or leaning tree, or you can leave them straight up and down. Advanced tip: tear the masking tape into halves longways, and put the irregular torn part on the outside edges of the trees to simulate the natural uneven lines of the tree trunks.
- You can make a few small strips for smaller branches and apply them diagonally or horizontally.
- Once you like the composition, be sure to smooth your tape down well, so no paint bleeds underneath.
- The sky is made by blending the Cerulean Blue with the White, starting at the top with pure blue, and ending at the bottom with lighter blue. To achieve this effect, you’ll use your large or medium brush to mix the paint a little at a time. First apply some pure blue along the top of the canvas. Then dab your brush into the white paint and add a little to the blue paint on your palette. Dab this slightly lighter blue all along the bottom edge of the pure blue on the canvas and use your brush to mix the two together, just a little bit, on the canvas.
- Keep repeating this step, adding a little more white each time until you get to the bottom of the canvas. Tip: You can use any kind of brush strokes. Smush it, swirl it, drag it, or try a combination. This is art, it doesn’t have to be perfect!
- Be sure to paint around the edges of the canvas too, so when you see it from the side it doesn’t look messy and unfinished.
- Carefully lift up the masking tape. You don’t need to wait till the paint is dry, just be careful not to smudge it while you’re working on the tape. It already looks good!
- Now we’re going to add the black stripes to the tree trunks. Working in small sections, dab a few dots of black along the edge of a tree. Then place your credit card on the outside edge of the dots and drag it toward the center of the tree trunk. This helps the bark look more natural by giving it an uneven, mottled look. Be sure to place your dots unevenly (three here, one there, six over here) or your trees will end up looking a little zebra-y.
- Great job! You can stop here, or you can use your smallest brush to dab on a few dots of white for falling snow.
- There. You just created a painting! Be sure to sign it so it’ll be worth something long after you’re gone.
Now I’m guessing that since you’re considering leading this party, you probably have some kind of creative or artistic ability. (If not, that’s OK!) Just keep in mind that folks who consider themselves non-artists will probably be intimidated by the process, and they’ll be looking to you for reassurance. Remember to break each step down into the smallest steps you can and describe everything. We started with how to hold the brush, and what the water cup is for. (Then we all labeled our water cups because people kept accidentally trying to drink out of the wrong cups.) If you remember to encourage your guests liberally, they’ll loosen up and have a much better time!
This painting has three basic parts to it: masking the trees (steps 1-3), painting the sky (steps 4-6), and adding the bark and snow (steps 7-9). It took us about 30 minutes for each part, which meant an hour and a half of painting. I feel like this was just about right. Any longer, and it would have been tiring. The whole party was about 2 hours long, including time to talk before and after. Also, it took me and two of my friends about an hour to set up, between general party prep and getting everything laid out at each painter’s spot at the tables.
We had about 16 painters at this party, and there was just enough of me to go around. If you want to host a party for more people, it’s probably a good idea to have two artists leading, one to demonstrate the steps, and one to walk around and help answer questions while people are working.
One last thing…cost. Since we kept our supply list short, it only cost about $10 per person to do a painting. (That doesn’t include costs for food and party decor.) I don’t think you could do it for much less, and I would probably recommend budgeting for about $15-20 per person, just to be on the safe side.
Whew! It sounds like a lot of work, but it really wasn’t bad, and was SO worth it to see all these lovely ladies learning to paint! I love how each painting has a slightly different personality to it, and they all look great.
Want to start your own Paint and Sip night? Give it a try, and let me know how it goes! I hope to do more of these in the future, and I’ll be sure to share my painting process for each project, so you can follow along and host your own. If you have an idea for a painting concept, send it to me in the comments below and I’ll try it next time!