The room buzzes with excitement as people gather, serve themselves some refreshments and find their seats. The artist instructor prepares palettes of paint, distributes brushes and socializes with each of the guests, and then the fun begins.
Most of the time, everyone in the room will be following the artist’s instructions, step by step. At the end of the session, all participants will emerge with a more or less accurate painting of the same subject the instructor offered. And that is where the similarity of these very popular workshops end.
Paint parties abound in the West Sound area, and each experience is as different and individualized as the instructors themselves. While most are offered in the evening, a few are weekend afternoon events, and the wide range of fees and approaches to teaching make this fun activity available for everyone.
As far as she knows, Tami Figliola pretty much started Paint and Sip Parties in Gig Harbor six or more years ago. Friends were drawn to her large studio in her home and wanted her to teach them to paint.
“I have had lots of other careers but I have always painted,” said Figliola, who has a bachelor’s degree in art.
Always looking for fun, Figliola calls herself a “traveling artist” because she is willing to host parties in corporate offices, private homes, restaurants, boutiques and her own studio — wherever there is an interested audience. She also gives private art lessons to individuals ages 6 to 20, and hosts lots of kids’ birthday parties.
Figliola’s adult parties are usually packages starting at $55 per person and include all supplies and refreshments. They range in size from six or eight participants in a private home to 20 or 30 in a commercial space. She has even led a group of a hundred at a church, “which was a real challenge,” she said. Kids’ birthday parties are $25 per person, which includes supplies, but the parents provide the refreshments.
Figliola is a serious artist in her own right, and usually has a string of commissions she is working on. Her work can be seen at Kimball Coffeehouse and Nouveau MedSpa in Gig Harbor, The Urban Dandelion in Proctor and Creative Forces Gallery at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma. Her studio was also featured in a recent issue of Where Women Create magazine.
Nikki Brook also leads paint parties in Gig Harbor, but she prefers to hold them at “Mood,” her upscale studio and showroom. Brook is a serious artist with a background in elementary school arts education. She gives classes once or twice a week, in addition to private lessons.
Her motivation for giving classes is to engage her community in artful living.
“I really believe everyone has an artist inside of them,” she said.
Helping to bring that artist out in an individual gives her a personal reward.
Brook’s classes run $60 and include instruction, supplies, wine and other beverages, and dessert. They are about three hours long, “but often run overtime, because everyone is having such a good time,” she said with a laugh.
The majority of her participants are repeats, with a few new people each time. She advertises on Instagram and Facebook as well as through word of mouth, and many of her students introduce her classes to friends. Brook likes to make her painting subjects a little challenging, to keep the experience fresh for her clients as they progress in their skills.
During a recent painting event organized by Brook, participants agreed that a main reason for signing up is to have a night out and get absorbed in something other than their day-to-day routines. One said she has attended nine of these classes and “loves the recreational feel of the evenings — as opposed to college classes that feel more like work.” Another found Mood Studio on Facebook, loves to paint, but doesn’t have time to do it on her own, and likes Brook’s approach to the subjects she chooses — “a bit of impressionism mixed with abstract.”
An empty nester at the party said she paints on her own and is working on an illustration for a children’s book, but loves having something to do on a Friday night.
“These classes are a fun little outlet and I appreciate Nikki’s style. She teaches good classic painting,” she said.
One woman said she has never painted anything but was drawn in to try her hand because she liked the subject matter, which happened to be three Christmas ornaments in a still life. Others wanted a nice night out with a friend, and this one fit their schedule and location.
Brooks takes private commissions and sells her art at the Gig Harbor Arts Festival, the Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour, the Tacoma Home and Garden Show and at Mood Studio.
Marti Green has been leading paint parties for about four years. She is a well-known artist in the Puget Sound area, showing at art fairs and special shows, and is an active member of the Peninsula Art League and Fine Art America. Her experience with these parties began with a small paint club of about six members, but soon grew to 10 and before long, there were about 25 clamoring to join.
Green has a background in art and graphics design from Olympic and Evergreen colleges. She worked in banking for many years, painting in her free time, and when she left banking, she missed the daily interaction with others. Finding other paint partners and facilitating paint parties filled the gap.
She hosts her workshops at private homes as well as at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club near Bremerton. Private home parties generally are required to have a minimum of six participants, and top out at 10. Hostesses furnish the refreshments, and Green charges $35-$40 per person depending on the number of guests. She brings all of the art supplies, and the host or hostess furnishes the refreshments.
The paint parties at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club are managed a little differently. Green and her assistant list the event on Eventbrite, an online ticketing service. Those parties are offered as a package, with the catering done at the facility.
Regardless of the size of the group, Green often offers templates for her students to follow in order to produce a successful painting. Participants share the templates, using chalk on a white canvas, to ensure the general structure of the painting. Throughout the session, Green gives tips and solid art instruction because she truly wants to empower her participants to learn to paint.
“If I can inspire another person to try something they are passionate about, it is just so rewarding,” Green said.
A school teacher for 38 years at Orchard Heights Elementary, Maggie Olson fell into leading paint parties because another instructor had to cancel and left a friend in the lurch. Olson filled in, loved the experience and recruited her friend, Sharlene McLaws, to assist her, and the two have never looked back. Olson has a studio at her home in Port Orchard, where many parties take place, but she is willing to travel wherever a group wishes to gather and employ her service.
“All About Art,” which is her brand, advertises on business cards, Facebook and by word of mouth. She has offered parties at doctors’ offices, private homes and frequently at the Der Blokken Brewery in Manette.
Olson furnishes all painting supplies along with coffee, tea and water for a $25 fee at her studio and $30 offsite. Participants are welcome to bring their own additional refreshments to her studio, and are encouraged to purchase food and drink at commercial businesses.
She leads parties in other crafts besides two-dimensional paintings. Mosaics, rock painting, copper foil and painting on rustic wood rounds are a few other mediums she is currently offering. At Christmas, there is even a class to make a crafted lighted snowman.
Olson’s inspiration for painting is her mother, Eloise Connolly, a poet and painter in her own right who encouraged her daughter to paint and draw as a child. When Olson leads a class, she paints two examples — one vertical and one horizontal — allowing participants to choose their approach and to understand the difference in the scale and perspective of the scene.
All paint parties bring together people who are interested in pursuing a creative activity in a comfortable social setting. But the subject matter, approach to teaching, setting and structure of the workshop can be as unique as each of the individuals involved. A nice way to spend a winter evening, this is an activity designed to make new friends, learn a new skill and take home a decorative piece of your own art to embellish your home.