Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Portrait of a Happy Lab - Garth's Mom Visits Spirited Art

By Guest Blogger Rebecca (AKA Garth's Mom)

On Friday night, a friend and I went to Spirited Art for their Pet Portrait Class.  At Spirited Art, you don't need any knowledge of technique or talent at painting.  For $50 and a few hours of your time, you can have a couple glasses of wine (the wine is optional), spend a few hours painting, and walk out of the studio with a painting of your pet.  I think that's a pretty good deal.

Although I call myself an "artist" in my guest blogger bios, I'm using that term pretty loosely.  I love to work with things like polymer clay, beads, wire, resin and chain maille, and I have a knack for kirigami, but I've always had difficulty drawing and painting anything to look realistic.  Luckily I (and everyone else in my class) had help from the folks at Spirited Art.

For the Pet Portrait Class, we each sent them a photo a week before class.  I sent one of my favorite photos of Garth -- one you will likely recognize:

Before the class started, the instructors sketched our photos onto a canvas.  

This is how the painting starts -- your photo sketched on a canvas.

They set us up with paints and an easel, and a waitress from The Wine Loft next door took our wine order. 

Yep, definitely gonna' need that glass of wine.

The instructor guided us through the process of mixing colors, painting the background, then painting our pets' features.  I expected it to be like the "Paint By Number" kits we had as kids, but it was much more difficult.  We had to mix our paints to get the right color, and I found that part to be the most difficult and frustrating.  With the variation in color in Garth's fur and the shadows in the creases on his face, it nearly drove me batty trying to figure out how to match the colors.  But the instructors were available for questions and they gave me advice on colors to use and how to mix them.

At this point in the evening, I was seriously
questioning the instructor's advice about using grey.

Needing a break from mixing colors,
I decided to paint the black areas.

The instructor gave us some pointers on painting eyes, and somehow the eyes ended up looking like Garth's eyes.

I know at this point you're wondering if I'd had too much wine.

I don't know if it's because it was Friday evening after a stressful, frustrating week, and I was tired and grumpy anyway, or if it's because I expected the class to be dummy proof, with the correct colors of paint already mixed and ready, along with clear instruction on where to paint which color, but I found the class to be enormously frustrating -- despite a couple glasses of wine.  (For this class, I needed tequila.)  My friend who had taken the class before said it was really stressful when she took the class and painted her dog, so she decided to paint a whimsical pelican instead this time, and she said she enjoyed the class much more.

At the point in class when I was seriously thinking that I'd toss the painting in the trash as soon as I got home, the instructor came and helped me out.  She fixed a couple things and suggested ways I could fix others, and miraculously the painting began to actually look like Garth -- and not a Garth who had been rolling his face in grey and black paint.

After some help and advice from the teacher,
it actually looked good!

I was pleased with the finished product.  I sent a photo to Garth's dad and he texted back "I LOVE it".

A side-by-side comparison of the painting and photo

A side-by-side comparison of the painting and Garth
(his ball looks awfully clean in the painting)

Garth no longer interested in the painting

Hanging on a wall in our living room

My recommendation:  I like Spirited Art.  Most of us don't have many outlets for our creativity in our everyday lives, so I love that they're providing such an outlet in a very non-intimidating environment - and with wine available.  But I would recommend starting out taking an easier class before trying the Pet Portrait Class.  In many of their classes, everyone paints the same thing, and it's often a colorful stylized version of whatever they're painting.  I think that would be much more fun and less stressful than trying to paint your pet from a photo image.  

When you're painting your pet, you're trying hard to make it actually look like your pet, so it's frustrating when it doesn't.  And for the first 90% of the class, it may not look much like your pet.  So if you do the Pet Portrait Class, be prepared for some initial frustration.  But the instructors are very good at fixing things and helping you make your painting the way you want it.  They had a couple blow-dryers in the back of the class, so we could dry the paint and paint over mistakes -- and the blow-dryers got a lot of use.  Halfway through the class, some of the dogs appeared to have toupees while one looked like a lemur, but we were all amazed and pleased with the final results.  I was ready to tear my hair out in the middle of the class, but now I look at the painting hanging in our living room, and I'm ready to take the class again.  After all, now I need a painting of Jake.


  1. OMD. Dat is amazing. Great painting.

  2. That is SO COOL! When you posted the pictures on FB, I honestly thought it was done by a professional. I LOVE it!!! I wish they had something like that here!

    -Dr. Liz, who hasn't done much painting but can do a mean cross-stitch!

  3. LOL... sorry but this post made me laugh a little! Sounds like quite an experience... I think I'd be ready for wine too. I've always liked painting and art, but I'm not sure how well I'd do with something like this. I did a painting class waaay back when I was a kid that was similar, but with landscapes. I think your final product looks great!

  4. That is BEAUTIFUL! I wish I lived there because I'd SO be up all in their classes!

  5. Wow, first off: amazing job Garth's Mom...you are definitely a good artist! :-) Secondly, I wish there was a class like that in our area too...what a fun evening (especially with the accompanied wine) or a gift! I hope that you enjoy all the fruits of your labor!! Pat yourself on the back!

  6. What a great portrait! I also noticed the lack of realism as far as the cleanliness of the ball is concerned :)

  7. That is just pawsome Garth. What a fun class. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  8. My Gramma is great with art, my mom, not so much. She can write, sew, cook, etc, but painting, I doubt it! You did a great job! You should be proud and it sounds like a great program to get people interested and started with painting.

  9. We think that is AMAZING! We've never heard of those classes but Mommy would soooo take one if she could. (Mommy said Tequila would be a MUST!)


    Lily Belle & Muffin

  10. I think you did a grreat job! It looks just like Garth. Momma's done a class like that twice -- once for Cinderella's pawtrait, and once for mine. They hang side-by-side in our hallway now. Momma says the secret is you needed a lot more wine. ;)

  11. you did an amazing job! We have something similar here, it's called "Painting With A Twist".....it also involves wine :)

  12. A few years ago I went to a similar event (except the whole class was painting the same thing and we didn't have the pencil sketch done for us) We did have the wine ;) My painting is so awful it's tucked in the back of the closet ...You should be proud cause yours came out great...I'd love to try doing one of Gizmo this way...maybe have to talk to the local shop and see if they'd offer this

  13. Oh, that is SO COOL!!!!!! Okays, furst, 'wine optional'????? What??! Who in the ___ wouldn't partake???? BOL Second ~ FABulous paiting!!!
    That came out sooooo good!!! *clappin'*
    Ruby ♥☺

  14. Hi Garth! I've left you something over on my blog today :)

  15. Hmmm, Ma says that she would need an entire bottle of wine to get through that class. It has been so long since she mixed colors and painted on a canvas...she would have been frustrated with you. However, that said the portrait came out GREAT!! We love it and it does look like Garth!! Bravo!
    *high paw*