Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wine and Canvas: Toulouse-Lautrec Edition at the Columbus Museum of Art

Wine and Canvas events have become very popular lately. I've seen photos of the artwork my friends have made at these events and I've always been really impressed. I wonder, how does everyone's painting look so similar? I've even entertained the idea that maybe everyone starts out with a "paint-by-number" template on their canvas.

A few weeks ago I was able to satisfy my curiosity. The Columbus Museum of Art hosted a Wine and Canvas Columbus event based on their latest exhibition: Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne: Paris 1880 – 1910. What were we painting? Our own versions of the famous Tour of the Noir Cat poster, originally painted by Théophile Steinlen.

I was so excited for this event - the cat in the poster reminds me of Emma when she's feeling grumpy! My Mom thought the event sounded fun too, so we signed up together. Before heading to the CMA, we stopped at C'est Si Le Bon Cafe in Bexley for an early dinner (and to continue our French theme of the evening - read about the cafe's delicious gluten-free crepes here!).

The Wine and Canvas event was held in Derby Court, a gorgeous open space in the CMA with a large glass ceiling and artwork by well known glass artist, Dale Chihuly. There were about a dozen round tables set-up with paper tablecloths and blank canvases on easels. Each place setting had a paper plate with acrylic paint (in warm red and brown colors), five brushes and a few paper towels. Draped over the back of each chair was an apron (per my friend, Bonnie's, suggestion, we wore clothes that looked nice, but that we wouldn't be devastated if we got paint on them).

When we checked in with CMA staff, we were given a medium sized magnet of the Le Chat Noir poster. We could keep the magnet or use it as our wine token (the magnet could also be purchased as could additional glasses of wine). Snacks like chips and popcorn as well as bottled water were also available. My Mom and I both opted to keep our magnets (which were very useful to reference while we painted), so while we did attend a Wine and Canvas event, neither of us actually imbibed in any wine (maybe we will next time!). 

The class itself was a lot of fun! Our instructor, Courtney, and two of her assistants (whose names I don't remember, mainly because they don't share the same name as me!), showed us how to paint our own version of Steinlen's poster. There was not a "paint-by-numbers" template! Courtney had us use our paint brushes as measuring tools. The only numbers that were used were the ones assigned to our five brushes, which were different sizes. Courtney suggested we use specific brushes when painting certain parts of the cat, or when painting the letters. We all more or less painted the same thing at the same time with our instructor. She had a finished Le Chat painting on her table and she worked on a new one so we could see the entire process.

I teach kids art and craft activities at work and I thought this method of everyone at nearly the same pace was neat (at work it's usually a 'craft-free-for-all' with the kids, which works well for their energy level). As I've noted in previous craft related posts (Create: An Etsy Craft Night w/Red Giraffe Designs at Whole Foods and Galentine's Night at Whole Foods), it's so nice to work on a craft or art project that has been planned and prepared for you! 

The hardest part of the class for me was sticking to the group pace. I frequently found myself wanting to linger on a certain color or skip ahead several steps - which doesn't really work when your instructions are given one step at a time as you complete them. It was a great exercise in patience for me! Individuality and creativity were encouraged throughout the evening. I never felt like I had to paint a specific way and I did deviate a bit from the example.

Halfway through the evening we took a short break from painting. Mom and I stepped into the galleries to see the real Le Chat Noir. The poster is HUGE! It was so cool to see the real thing! Before we left the CMA, everyone was given a ticket to come back. I can't wait to see the full Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne exhibit!

All of our paintings looked awesome! My Le Chat Noir looked stunningly similar to my favorite black feline, Emma Fox. My Mom's painting looked a lot like a black Nora Belle, their grey Russian Blue who is the only lady cat in a five cat household (no wonder she looks grumpy!). 

My Le Chat Emma is now hanging on our wall of 'cat art' at home. Emma seems pleased with her portrait! Olivia and Amelia however, are not pleased. I'll have to do some research to see if there are any famous art pieces featuring black and white tuxedo and tabby cats to fit the theme I started with Le Chat Noir!