Class is about to begin.
Billings artist Sarah Morris is up front. Glasses of wine and bottles of beer have been distributed to the 38 students, canvases are on easels, and dabs of acrylic paint are waiting on paper plates for the would-be artists. Welcome to a great new series at the Yellowstone Art Museum — Paint n’ Sip.
This isn’t a class for artists who like to create in isolation or who are easily distracted. During the March 28 class, for the third round of Paint n’ Sip, there was a happy buzz . Do people paint better when their filters are removed by a glass of merlot or an IPA? It does change the atmosphere from a formal art class to a laid-back social gathering where participants play with paint.
Morris has an easily identifiable style. She does everything you’re not supposed to, most notably she outlines objects with dark-colored paint. And, for her, it works. Replicating that is a bit of a challenge, even though she talked students through the colors and even started the class with a roughed-out pencil sketch on our canvases.
Students, ranging from teenagers (who weren’t drinking), through grandparents (who were), began with big yellow moon shapes in the foreground. It made the process seem somewhat mystical because the moon was where the grass should be.
By the close of the two-hour class, the yellow moons became a field of wildflowers and the swoosh on the other side of the canvas became a road winding through the mountains. With varying degrees of success, the students all finished the painting. Some added trees, others painted with
more realism, others used impressionistic dots or slashes to add movement to the clouds or the hills. Mine turned out to be a bit of a mishmash with dots and jabs of color on one side and purple half-circles on the other. I bought a few tubes of acrylic paint so I can even things out before I show it off.
Mike Johnson, of Huntley, was also worried about filling his flower field.
“Maybe I should paint a John Deere tractor,” he quipped.
Johnson attended with his wife Suzie and in-laws Trudi and Steve Collins.
“It sounded like something fun to do,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if I’ll frame mine, but it might make a conversation piece.”
Morris circulated through the tables of students, beaming throughout the class.
“You’re all like my babies now,” she said.
More beaming ensued, this time from the students.
Cindy Welch came to paint to celebrate her birthday with her daughters Kassie and Katie. Even though the three said they don’t consider themselves artists, their paintings were some of the best in the class and they all left smiling.
“I am remodeling my bedroom so whatever I do, I plan to use our paintings in it,” Cindy said.
Jennifer and Chris Maize came for their second round of Paint n’ Sip. The first go-round featured Billings artist Kira Fercho as the instructor.
“I love to paint,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer said she hasn’t had many chances to paint since she graduated in 2001 with an art degree from Western Maryland College.
“I’ve gotten away from art and this is a fun way to get back into it,” she said.
Adam Restad, special events coordinator at the YAM, said all three sessions have been packed. Carol Spielman has also presented a class.
“Paint n’ Sip makes art approachable,” Restad said. “Our goal for this event is to get people into the museum, show them a good time, and keep them thinking about art, even on their Friday nights.”
The next Paint n’ Sip is June 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. Restad is still working on finding an artist to teach the class.