As we walked into Cocktails & Canvas, there is a weird sensation that passes over me – I’m not creative in the slightest. I’m just a budding journalist who types words down and speaks into a microphone, the idea of actually painting something just seems so far out that I’d freak out if I made something of significance.
There’ve been drawings before – many of my portraits are best described as abstract, but slowly over time I have got myself used to something, which resembles a hobby outside of work, plus writing for the AU Review. Therapeutic, perhaps.
Getting away from the pencil and using a paintbrush kind of scared me. It was a feeling I hadn’t really felt since the long lost days of high school. But walking through those doors of Cocktails & Canvas, there was a nice sense of calm and friendliness that welcomes you. It probably had to do with the alcohol obviously…
Cocktails & Canvas serve a huge array of alcoholic beverages. For my friends and me, a beer sufficed tonight, but looking around the room there were a wide array of fancy glasses and mixtures.The concept started with Melinda Janiszewski – the current owner of Cocktails & Canvas – who brought the concept to our shores. It was growing as a movement for social meet ups in the USA. It’s easy to see why it caught on, particularly due to the surprisingly calm and relaxed nature of the whole thing.
Camilla Eustance – one of four art teachers who teach at Cocktails & Canvas – likes to make a point that creativity is as important as having fun. “Creativity strides in limitations though, so we give people a template and we guide them in the same way an artist would. We really all are artists though, so that term is a bit odd to say. Within that, everyone has their own style. It’s important to know that. People who come here who haven’t painted before think that it all should be exactly how an artist does a painting.”
The environment is welcoming with a not a tense person in sight. Camilla is happy that the more often than not, everyone lets the night roll on without getting worried about the pressures of being creative. “Basically the whole idea is this is fun. Painting and responsible alcohol consumption go together well!” Of course, too much drink may get a result akin to a rough Dadaist painting. But if any of the cute, pretty and stylish paintings on the walls are anything to go by, it really does seem to be an instigator to open the mind up. “A little bit of alcohol breaks down inhibitions, and especially when it comes to painting – people get tense. Whether or not you want to drink, it’s up to you! We just try to make things social enjoyable, and a fun night out,” Camilla says.
So the lesson started, and tonight we are painting the Brooklyn Bridge. It looked quite complex seeing an already-completed piece on an easel in front of us, and I must admit, I was pretty terrified. Our teacher guides us carefully into mixing blues though first off, and instantly nerves are calmed. Eventually there are beers behind our small easels and flowing conversation as soon as the New York City skyline gets its detail.
There was wonder, surprise and a little bit of joy that this piece of art happened, and the best thing was that I could just take it home. All while I enjoy a bit of chat and company. At a time later in the evening, conversation gets around to styles and the education of visual art throughout history.
Camilla is excited by the particular classes that happen at Cocktails & Canvas that focuses on a part of art history. They are peppered ongoing throughout the program. “The real idea is to just get people painting, but we do an artist of the month. This month is Van Gogh, and we educate people on how they had a template, and things like that. When I teach a specific artists template, I really like to tell a little bit of background. I have an art history background so I like to have that in the painting… I did have a class about water lilies the other week and I like going into why the impressionists valued such brush strokes.”
And in the end it was very much fun! While I don’t think I’d still consider myself an artist afterwards, there was a nice little takeaway on how easy being creative can be if you enjoy things, relax and be in a good creative mind. Eustance sums it up perfectly: “It just makes for a fun night out. Most nights out people go to a bar, go to a restaurant, go to a club or what have you. How many nights out include painting and creativity that’s not an academic studio based spot?”
The Cocktails & Canvas studios can be found at 601 Mt. Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds in Victoria. For more information head to their website: http://cocktailsandcanvas.com.au/