Jun 25 2020

An Evening With Draw + Liquor

It’s been a good 12 years since I have “practiced” art, with my last foray into the discipline being my compulsory lessons in Year 9. Art is apparently subjective but both my art teachers and I could agree with a high degree of objectivity that I was terrible. When my projected GCSE grade was revealed at the end of the year, it was a G. I did not know this was an attainable grade at GCSE.

So it was with MUCH trepidation that I agreed to attend an evening of painting combined with imbibing wine courtesy of Draw + Liquor. Furnishing an already inept artist with alcohol seemed like a terrible idea, but my curiosity got the better of me, prompting me to dust off my apron/brush/easel.

Based in the public transport nexus of London, Elephant & Castle, Draw + Liquor offers a fresh interpretation of the growing “sip-and-paint” scene in London. The sessions are thematic, with a two-pronged approach taken towards differing artistic style/movement and background music. An artist trained in that particular style comes and oversees the painting aspect, while the energetic hostesses act as DJs. Sessions so far have included Abstract painting with trap music, and most recently Instructional painting infused with dancehall.

There is an interesting intersection between the art and the music, with patrons becoming increasingly immersed in the experience as more wine is consumed. Soon any hesitation about lack of artistic ability dissolves away as the brushstrokes start to operate in tandem with the beat of the music. At the Abstract event, this culminated with one patron furiously dabbing across the canvas, brush in hand, to Future’s “Where Ya At”.

The resident artists provides instruction for the class in manageable quantities to break down a daunting task into several easier components. In a style reminiscent of hit TV show Art Attack, the artist provides a “Here’s One I Made Earlier” example for the class to aspire to before reconstructing from scratch along with the students.

The hostesses provide regular intermissions where they crank the music up and encourage attendees to intermingle. As well as being excellent fun, this helps to lessen the workload and help maintain focus when the painting resumes. Rather than a rigid painting-by-numbers approach, the artist provides technical guidance (e.g. how to mix colours or vary brush strokes to achieve certain effects) and encourages the class to paint at their own discretion. The result is several canvasses that start off identically but then deviate in all sorts of weird and wonderful fashions, particularly when inhibitions dissolve away as the music takes a hold.

The artist is on hand as a safety net to rescue any seemingly irrecoverable disasters, which gives us mere mortals the courage to express ourselves. The end result is that even the most questionable artist (like your humble author here) can end up with a truly impressive end product, and anyone with even a modicum of artistic ability can excel.

The “studio” is a bright and open space with large glass windows allowing passers-by to peek in one proceedings. This gives the sessions a certain vulnerability that is at first unnerving, but as the general public press their faces up against the glass in awe of your work, a sense of pride swells within you.

Overall, I am unbelievably happy I was able to put my reservations aside and step outside of my comfort zone. Draw + Liquor is the brainchild of two university friends, and that is abundantly clear from the warm atmosphere emanating from the event. 12 years on, I don’t know if I’m any better at art, but I sure am enjoying it a hell of a lot more.

Words by Brett Lewis