Until Thursday, there really has been nobody to show us artistic hacks how to properly paint our “happy trees” since the uber-mellow, spectacularly coiffed, TV paint-by-example instructor Bob Ross left this earthly realm almost a decade ago.
But with this week’s inaugural Masterpiece Mine instructional painting and wine-sipping event, the forward-thinking leadership of Aspen’s Red Brick plans to change that.
Not only will you get your happy trees and lazy rivers, participants will walk away with a finished, self-painted copy of a literal masterpiece, not to mention invaluable lessons in the craft. Also, did I mention the wine? There is wine.
Local artist Lorraine Davis leads the twice-weekly courses out of the newly minted “Art Factory” space within the hallowed halls of the venerable Red Brick. The idea arrived serendipitously and simultaneously to both Davis and Red Brick Executive Director Angie Callen.
Davis’ son mentioned seeing a similar event in Steamboat Springs, suggesting to his mom that it had combined two of her favorite things. “They paint and they drink wine, it’s perfect for you!” her son said.
“I thought it was a riot,” Davis said. “Then I went down the hall to Angie’s office and told her that I had this great idea for an event, and before I could really explain it, she stopped me and said, ‘Don’t go any further, I know what you are going to say!’” Davis explained. Callen also had heard of wine and painting events from her friends in the greater metropolises and had been mulling the idea for some time.
Callen mentioned to Davis that for the first time in a long while, studio space for such an event actually would be available soon within the nonprofit center and art incubator that is the Red Brick. By designating the space their new “Art Factory,” Callen and the Red Brick board had taken the initiative and the risk to begin to run their own self-funding art programs in space that they themselves leased as their own art-centric nonprofit.
The name Masterpiece Mine came about after Davis tweaked the existing format of painting everyday objects while enjoying a fine chalice of grape broth to focus more on the masters, while at the same time pondering the silver-mining history of Aspen. After some spit-balling, the name seemed to stick due its play on words. “I wanted it to relate to Aspen’s history. You — the newly-empowered painter — are mining something. You are mining a masterpiece, and you are making it your own. It’s a masterpiece, and it’s mine,” Davis explained.
Regardless of any amount of fermented girding, the actual work of replicating a masterpiece — one of the treasured art works of all humanity — in the span of two hours might seem daunting to most, especially those whose artistic career arc began its tragic downswing years ago, in the “stay inside the lines” era of kindergarten coloring books.
But Davis, who studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art before working as a graphic artist and oil painter for years back east prior to relocating to Aspen in 2010, has a plan for helping the laypeople overcome their artistic anxieties. Surely, the wine helps loosen things up, but Davis believes that even the most art-averse can successfully grasp her step-by-step painting techniques. She even has a motto: “Everyone can paint!”
“There are certain things about a Monet or Van Gogh … when you take apart the paintings in shapes, step-by-step and piece-by-piece and then put it back together simply it can be like an awakening for people,” Davis said. “It’s that step-by-step process that I walk them through that helps them overcome their fear. You just need someone’s encouragement to do this, and you can have fun doing this. You don’t have to be perfect.”
Her instruction covers the basics in choosing acrylic paints to use (they dry faster, allowing participants to walk away with their ready-to-hang masterpieces in their bags), mixing colors, and brush techniques.
Callen said that the Masterpiece Mine events will run often so that people will have the chance to choose which masterpiece they would like to tackle. She sees groups of women signing up en masse for a fun girls night out, and even hopes to run some “Masterpiece Beer” events for men someday. Space is limited to 10 painters and reservations are required, but individuals and small groups are encouraged to attend. Davis sees the event as an excellent chance to share a glass of joy and splash some paint. Combined with expert training, the result can be a real confidence booster. “By the time they leave, they are ecstatic. They say, ‘Wow! I did that?’”