April 24, 2009

DIY Become A Struggling Artist

OR A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Bank

Last year I lived for 6 months with one of my younger brothers and (it seemed) the whole touch footy team, all the locals from his watering hole and a gang of miscellaneous other mates.

Being in a house full of farting, burping, drinking grubs was nothing new to me (growing up with three brothers) but it did pose something of a problem for bonding. Until I stumbled upon a novel idea on the way to the bank.

At the $2 shop next to the ATM one morning, I saw cheap, primed artist canvases and acrylic paints and was struck with an unusual query. Could these house guests be persuaded to paint while drinking, bbq-ing and horsing about?

Could they be encouraged to create something of a bohemian gathering of artists, rather than just a bunch of yobbos?

So I gathered up a bunch of big ones, some paints and brushes and trotted back home to conduct an experiment in masculine creativity.

They all insisted they couldn’t draw, so I reminded them of Pollack. They complained they didn’t know how to paint what was in their head, so I suggested they go abstract. They said they weren’t neat, I told them to invoke Monet and the impressionists as I forcefully stuck brushes in their hands and a canvas before them on the table.

This is how we started having painting parties.

Pack creatures that they are, it was amazing how they all got stuck in. A few beers to release the muse and we had people dropping into our backyard barbies, to grab a sausage and put their mark on the communal canvas.

Some would doodle around the edges and others were more grandeur in their approach. The ones who resisted the most, in the end, became the most passionate artists.

I sold the most collaborative effort at a garage sale before I left Sydney. The woman who bought it loved the story of backyard artists working together and it hangs, framed, in her Eastern Suburbs lounge room today.

She got a very good price.

I’m a poor art dealer, I drive a crappy bargain.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beer holder.

Since leaving that funny little Bondi Junction terrace, I have carried on painting (something I never tried before the experiment) to mixed results. Now, unfortunately, it is a solo event so I can’t share the shame when people “don’t get it.” Carefactor: 0

This is a finished one that lives in my kitchen.

When some of my family visited Europe earlier this year (for the skiing, the fact that I was here seemed incidental) I proudly hung it up like a kindergartener sticks his fingerpainting on the fridge and my family politely ignored it. I think it reminded my mother of thearapy painting from the days when she used to run occupational thearapy in crazy houses.

The only compliment I received was from a Kazakh who the Russian invited over for the weekend but then got bored of after a day, leaving us to entertain him in awkward turns. His wife is an artist and he said he liked it, “Very Australian” was his remark... maybe that doesn’t mean he liked it at all?

This is my latest work in progress.

So maybe my art does suck, but by golly it’s fun.

DIY Have A Painting Party

- Buy cheap acrylics (they come in great colours)

- Get some brushes (fatter, longer ones work in group painting I find. The really el cheapo ones do leave bristles sticking in the paint, which then dry onto the canvas and look off.)

- Get some big inexpensive canvasses ($2 shops are stocking these lately, most sizes under $20)

- I bought a few metres of plastic to put under the painting, try a vinyl table cloth or an old sheet

- Get going with a bunch of mates and a few drinks

- Photograph the fun (my greatest regret is that I didn’t take pictures of the painting parties!)


  1. You should have one of these parties, Klaus.... you know, kinda like how you should have had a Stump Party.