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Pinot and Picasso: I hope I made him proud

Black Pinot and Picasso logo with wine glass and paint brush in the middle, on a white wall.

An afternoon spent sipping wine and painting a Santorini sunset, should be nothing short of delightful… right?

I walked in to the beautiful, airy and art filled room in Belconnen’s Picasso and Pinot studio, excited and a little nervous.

While these sessions are, quite obviously, aimed at drinking wine and painting, I wanted to find out if this is something that even a non-creative, non-drinking individual could enjoy.

Much to my own despair I have never been a crafty nor a creative person. As much as I wished I could create artistic sketches or paint gorgeous portraits during my high school days, my art lessons always ended with creations that were more synonymous with ‘wonky’. I had high hopes for this session, cautiously optimistic that I might be able to create something beautiful that I could be proud of.

The room was lined with plain white canvases sat on easels, paper plates with paint and brushes lined up neatly at each seat.

A row of plain white canvases sitting on easels across a table. Paper plates with paint sit next each easel.

I sat down and thought ‘wow how thoughtful, they’ve even put out little glasses of water for us’. Fortunately before I took a sip I overheard another conversation about the paint water. Ah, of course that makes more sense I thought to myself, pushing the water glass further out of my reach.

Wine glasses and plants hung from shelves, further enforcing the fact that the paint water glasses were not the suggested beverage.

Colourful paintings sit on top of a wooden shelf. Wine glasses hang from below the self and there is also a hanging plant.

I couldn’t help but notice how obviously well loved the tools were. There were dried paint drops and splatters over the tables, the easels and the aprons hung neatly on the wall. It was comfortable and beautiful.

Black, paint splattered aprons with the logo 'Pinot and Picasso' are hung on a  rack against the wall.

Pinot and Picasso have numerous sessions per week, with lots of different paintings to choose from. Some of the pieces I recognised from the website were displayed across the room.

Today we were painting a sunset in Santorini. I eyeballed the model painting that hung at the front of the room. ‘Looks simple enough’ I thought to myself. I thought I was giving myself a fighting chance with this selection, it certainly looked to be the most simple painting in the room.

It was BYO for snacks and drinks. A fridge sat against the back wall so you could keep your drinks chilled throughout the session. I had brought along my choice of beverage – peach iced tea. I must say that I felt extra fancy sitting and sipping my iced tea in a wine glass.

On a plaint stained table are a glass of water and a wine glass with peach iced tea.

As the class filled and our art instructor Levi introduced himself, I couldn’t help but notice my stress levels begin to rise. I was nervous.

Levi then talked a bit about the sessions and what we could achieve. He was friendly, charismatic and had already begun cracking a couple of jokes. He said that we were here to have a fun time, we had music pumping and it was good vibes only (it was).

Levi assured us it didn’t matter what kind of level we were at, this wasn’t a place for judging. He would be teaching us Bob Ross style as it were, simple techniques to make something effortlessly pretty.

Sitting in front of a large mural painted wall are a plain white canvas on a painting stand and a black cart.

With that, I relaxed and we got ready to start painting!

Step 1: outlining

Levi was set up at the front of the room with his own canvas, he would paint along with us as he showed us what to do.

He warned us that the very first step was the most difficult, but once that part was over the worst was out of the way.

We started by mixing a light blue and then drawing a horizontal line about a third of the way down the canvas, this was going to be the horizon line. We then added some fuzzy lines on the left side, and the top of the buildings dome on the right side.

I amazed myself at this part, I didn’t think that so quickly I could paint something that actually resembled what it was meant to. Adding more lines to the building created windows, the top story and arches. I was now looking at a roughly outlined Greek building. And I was thrilled!

A rough blue outline is painted onto a white canvas. It is a Greek style building.

Step 2: blending

The next step Levi was the most excited about, he said that mixing the paint and creating the ombres was definitely the best part.

Here we were allowed to get a bit creative and switch things up if we so desired, but I am by no means a trail blazer when it comes to art so I followed Levi’s example as closely as I could.

I mixed a light yellow (mixing paint is hard by the way, it took SO much work to get the colour I wanted) and started painting the top third of the horizon section. Then came a light orange and the blending began!

Levi and his student Shelby would walk around and mingle with us students, checking in, providing a couple of extra tips or easy conversation as they went. Shelby came to my aid to help me get the blending right. The trick – don’t overthink it. Also a wet brush and long strokes will also work.

Pink was the next colour, and after more blending I now had my sunset and I was honestly tickled pink! (and yellow and orange).

A sunset with yellow, orange and pink are painted onto a canvas with a rough outline of a Greek building.

Painting the ocean was pretty much the same process as the sunset. We began by mixing a light teal colour from light blue, white and just a smidge of green. Then started painting the top quarter below our horizon line. I was deepening and darkening my blue over the next three sections to get a beautifully blended ombre ocean.

A painting of a sunset, background island and ocean. A rough outline of a Greek building sits in front.

This is also the part where I fell behind from the rest of the class. The stress I was somehow putting onto myself to get the right mix of colours and blend them together smoothly was laughable. After a quick check of my apple watch to see that my heart rate had gotten to 120 bpm, I decided it was time for a snack break so I could chill the heck out!

A photo of an apple watch on a wrist with a heart rate measuring 120 beats per minute.

Step 3: colouring in

Remember those fuzzy lines we drew in earlier? Time to turn that into an island! This is where we got the first of the Bob Ross-esque moves. Mixing up a dark green of our own choosing, Levi directed us to press the brush into the canvas to get some texture and movement. We were then instructed to add a little more dimension to our islands by mixing a lighter green to create some shadows and definition.

Next was to fill in the arches and windows of our building. This step took no colour mixing (luckily) and with a dark blue covered paint brush I was reverted back to my primary school days with a task as simple as ‘colour between the lines’.

A painting of a canvas of a sunset, island, ocean and Greek building.

Step 4: flowers

The last part to add to the painting was the flowers draping over the arches. Levi showed us a simple little trick to painting very simple but still lovely flowers. I mixed a light pink and a medium pink and with our little flat brush pressed the colour onto the canvas. I mapped out where my flowers would sit and then just added more and more point until they were nicely dense. It was more so meant to be the ‘idea of flowers’ we were making. I included some red for a bit more variation in my flowers, before adding on the leaves. With the littlest brush in our collection I just dipped into the dark green and painted little lines, which were the leaves for my flower bush.

A painting of a canvas of a sunset, island, ocean and Greek building. Pink flowers hang from the arches of the building.

Technically there was a last step (which I fell a bit too far behind to accomplish) which was outlining the edges of the building just to bring the finishing details.

Levi told us that our time was unfortunately up but we had all done an amazing job.

I sat back and looked at my finished painting and couldn’t help but be both pleased and pleasantly surprised. This was the first time I’d painted since high school, and also the first time I’d painted something that I think actually looked good.

I walked into this session terribly nervous and unsure of what to expect. I was hoping that I could create something to be proud of and I absolutely achieved that.

This is an experience I would recommend to everyone and anyone. It’s a fun class, presented in a safe and welcoming environment. You’re instructed clearly by a supportive teacher and while it may be challenging, it’s such a valuable opportunity to be brave and create something. Who knows, you might even discover a love for painting that you didn’t possess before.

Photos by Hannah Flynn