The task: paint a covered bridge situated over a river and set against the backdrop of fall foliage.
That was the mission that four admitted non-painters—joining them was Donna McGary of Hyannis, the only exception, coming armed with a background as an interior designer—had before them on Thursday night at The Beach House Restaurant in North Falmouth, under the direction of Ward Parker of Mashpee.
The weekly event, organized by Paint Nite, whose slogan is “Drink Creatively,” allows family, friends and strangers to come together in a stress-free setting and tap into their artistic side, taking a blank canvas and attempting to turn it into something beautiful.
Most, like Ms. McGary’s boyfriend, Scott Sena of Hyannis, a computer technician, have not picked up a paintbrush since their school days and arrive nervous, not knowing what to expect.
It is up to Mr. Parker, a master artist and instructor for Paint Nite since April, to calm those nerves with words of encouragement and levity and by providing an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process for students to emulate. Throw in a cocktail or two and some music and most are put at ease almost immediately.
“People come here intimidated and not knowing what to expect, but when they get into it they have a lot of fun,” Mr. Parker said. “I can tell you I’ve had tons of people come in here and then afterwards start painting, which chokes me up.”
“I ask people to sign their paintings because 200 years from now none of us will be here, but the painting will,” he said.
Last week’s contingent of novice painters included twin sisters Audra Schiappa of Wareham, a nurse at Tobey Hospital, and Tara Bazarewsky of Plymouth, a real estate agent with Jack Conway, Realtor, and Ms. Bazarewsky’s daughter Samantha, 17, a senior at Plymouth South High School.
There have even been nights at The Beach House, where classes take place every Thursday, that have been sold out. And in nearby Plymouth at the Alden Park Bar and Grill where Mr. Parker shares his love of painting with others, the events have become so popular that it forced Ms. Schiappa and Ms. Bazarewsky to venture into Falmouth to find out what the new social craze is all about.
Compared to other groups he has taught, Mr. Parker said Thursday’s was relatively small. His cap is 40 students, a figure often reached in larger cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles where Paint Nite has offerings.
It's All About the Drinks
Armed with their respective drinks—Mr. Parker preferred Coors Light, Ms. Bazarewsky sipped on a pinot grigio while her daughter and sister drank waters, Mr. Sena opted for a Coke and his girlfriend chose an iced tea—the group began by placing two pieces of masking tape horizontally on their blank canvas, separating it into thirds.
Each had an array of paints—red, yellow, black, blue and white—from which to choose and employed everything from a big brush to a medium brush to a fan brush as tools in their arsenal. “Plymouth South,” Mr. Parker barked out to Samantha, “you are the heckler tonight. You have to ask what brush I use,” for each step of the process.
At one point, prior to applying foundation to the bottom third of the painting with a mixture of black and blue paint, Samantha forgot her responsibilities as her aunt asked, “Is this with the big brush?”
“Come on, Samantha, what kind of heckler are you?” Mr. Parker said playfully to her.
These types of exchanges were common throughout the night as Mr. Parker donned the cap of not only instructor but entertainer: “The next step in the process is the easiest step in the whole painting. Even a female can do this,” Mr. Parker joked, prompting Ms. Bazarewsky to laughingly yell out, “Hey, you are in big trouble now, Ward.”
And to her daughter, a libero on Plymouth South’s undefeated volleyball team, he cracked, “I hope you mess up in volleyball, but you don’t in your painting.” Why? Mr. Parker’s daughter and occasional assistant at the Paint Nite events, Amanda Parker, is the head coach of the girl’s volleyball team at Sandwich High School, which squares off against Plymouth South this week.
The 22-year-old Ms. Parker, who showed up in the middle of the two-hour session, said the events are “a lot of fun. A lot of people come in here never having painted before and they leave with something that is so impressive and end up saying at the end of the night, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ And everyone’s is so different even though they are following the same instructions, which is so cool to see.”
Her father expressed delight in having the ability to bond with his daughter over these shared experiences.
Pursuing His Passion
Although he has long been a painter, his career was as a businessman, admitting last night that his objective was to make as much money as he could. “I was in the restaurant business for 35 years and owned Wendy’s in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” he said. “I sold my business in 2011 and now I’m following my passion. I love painting and I love this stuff.”
Sharing that love with others, he said, has been rewarding.
The majority of the night he spent encouraging those who were merely exploring the ways putting paint onto a canvas can be turned into art.
“You are really good,” Mr. Parker said at one point to Ms. Schiappa, who asked immediately, “Should I quit my nursing job?”
Several times he would hold up someone’s painting to show them the work their fellow artists were doing. When he did that with Mr. Sena’s painting, he cracked, “The computer guy can paint.”
Regardless of one’s talent level, Mr. Parker stressed that the evening is intended to be supportive with no judgment made about any of the work. That philosophy extended to Beach House manager Vanessa Murphy, who walked into the room several times, complimenting the budding artists. “You are all doing fabulous,” she said. “You’re like Bob Ross, painting happy little trees.”
When asked why she was not painting, Ms. Murphy replied, “I’m not a painter.”
“Neither are we,” Ms. McGary said.
But for two hours last night, Mr. Parker showed them all that they were.
The final touch Mr. Parker demanded of all students: they sign their work. “I ask people to sign their paintings because 200 years from now none of us will be here, but the painting will,” he said.
The end result for the five in attendance was a satisfaction in the work they created, which they all said will be proudly displayed in their homes.
“I definitely would do this again,” Ms. McGary said. “We were nervous coming in, but the teacher actually made it feel like anyone could do this.”
To learn more about Paint Nite, held every Thursday at the Beach House Restaurant, visit their website here and make sure to LIKE the Paint Nite Cape Cod Facebook page for details on where events are happening locally.