Jenny Hughes is bringing the party from local restaurants into her own studio.
The artist, whose Oceanside Paint Party events at venues such as Thalassa, Cuckoo’s and other restaurants have become a hot commodity, will be opening Oceanside Art Studio on Nov. 1 where she hopes to continue her students’ journey into painting.
But not to worry — Hughes said she plans to continue offering paint parties at local restaurants while also offering more in-depth classes at her new studio, located at 702 Memorial Ave. in Qualicum Beach.
Hughes started her Oceanside Paint Party business about two years ago after discovering a lack of paint party events like she had seen in Vancouver and in parts of Alberta.
“I just saw that there was a little bit of a void in the market,” she said. A graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design with a design and graphics background but a dream of becoming an artist, Hughes decided to try holding paint parties.
The idea is to bring people with little to no painting experience into a relaxed setting where they can eat, drink and meet new people, and teach them how to paint a specific painting in about two hours.
“It took off right away,” said Hughes.
Originally offering one party a month, Hughes ended up offering four a week last winter, and saw some of her classes fill up within hours of posting the events.
She finds particular paintings she teaches resonate with people. Generally, it’s the local seascapes and landscapes that sell out quickly, she said.
“A couple ladies requested a horse, so I did this one and it sold out three times in a row,” said Hughes from her Qualicum Beach living room.
With her new paint party business growing well, Hughes moved on a long-deferred goal of opening her own studio. “It just kind of fell into place that there is an opportunity to open a space,” she said. “And there is not really any better place than Qualicum Beach to own your own little art studio.”
Rather than using the studio for her own work, Hughes said, she’s grown to enjoy teaching and feels she’s got a sizeable contingent of new painters who aren’t as intimidated by the process as they might have been at the start.
“People walk into my (paint party) class, they see a painting… and they say, ‘There is no way mine is going to look like that,’” said Hughes.
“They laugh at themselves. They think, ‘Mine is going to look like a big blob at the end,’ and then at the end of the two-hour session, as I’m walking around and the paintings are coming together and they are turning into that spirit horse, they give it the eyes at the end, and it gets a personality and you just see people light up, they feel so accomplished. And then it gives me a sense of accomplishment too, because I think, ‘Wow, I actually got these people to take a blank canvas and to create somewhat of a masterpiece that they didn’t think they could do.’”
Hughes added that she feels bringing people into a space like a restaurant rather than a studio to start their art journey helps to lower the intimidation factor.
It’s a more relaxed atmosphere where people can have an enjoyable social evening and take home the piece of art they create.
Hughes said she hopes to continue both the fun atmosphere and the basic rubric of the painting parties for her studio business.
That means, with studio classes, each night will be geared towards a particular painting or type of artwork, and painters will still take home a finished piece every night after a couple hours of work.
Some studio classes she’s already advertising include a portrait of your pet class, where painters email a digital photo of their pet, and then they are taught how to paint it on a canvas. Another will have artists use graphics and stencils to paint wood signs for the home.
However, studio classes will differ from paint parties in that they will include more in-depth brush techniques and art styles, and may include teaching the techniques of a particular artist.
The studio will also offer kids’ classes, as well as opportunities for private parties.
While these classes will range in price from about $15 for kids, or $30 for adults and up, Hughes said she also plans to include free and by-donation classes for those in need.
“Something I really want to do with the space is give back to the community,” she said. “I want to do a karma class maybe once a month and that will be free for people who can’t afford it, or by donation. For people who are struggling in life, kids that need some healing, they can come and they don’t have to worry about cost, and they can just let go from the worry and the stresses of life for a little bit.”