When I stumbled on Creativita at 7502½ Madison St., its slogan caught my eye: “a byob painting party place where creativity rules!” The key letters for me were “byob” which promised affordable fun. In addition to beer, I also like challenges, and painting would offer all I could handle.
That’s because I’m a non-visual person with borderline color blindness. I also cannot draw. But owner Jessica Luciano was so sweet and encouraging, I made a date for me and co-writer, Jessica Jordan, to attempt canvasing.
That day, I checked in with Jess. Her energy was a bit low from a late project the night before, plus a full day’s work. But being overloaded and sleep-deprived is Jessica’s natural state, so I wasn’t surprised. I picked up a few beers on my way to the shop and Jessica brought an unfinished bottle of wine from home. When we selected smocks, Jessica picked the Flash and I went with Superman.
Just so readers won’t get confused about the two Jessicas, I’m calling my co-writer “Flash” Jordan. She certainly lived up to her name.
The owner/instructor gave us a choice of canvases. To further increase my difficulty, I picked the bigger size. Then Jessica selected a photo from our Ireland trip for me to paint. She picked a picture of the Cliffs of Moher, which rise 700 feet on the craggy west coast of Ireland. Great — I was going to paint cliffs so spectacular their majesty couldn’t be captured by my camera.
After studying my photo, Jessica gave me a palette with dabs of acrylic paint in the colors I would require. She also provided four different sized and shaped brushes and containers of water for washing the brushes. She warned everyone not to mistake their water for their wine.
Besides me and Flash, there were six other painters (Jessica charges $45 per couple). Several were complete novices like me. There was also a party of four from Riverside celebrating the birthday of their friend. I had no idea what my art student friend was going to paint but was surprised to see her start with a sun.
After I sketched out the general shape of the cliffs, I began painting the sea and sky. I felt like Picasso passing through his “blue period” and wondered if Jessica had a small roller. Then I set about recreating Ireland’s “40 shades of green.” I think I captured four.
As the hours passed, Flash’s sun kept increasing in circumference. I felt like I should be wearing SPF 30. I was also afraid she was creating a red sun, which would rob Superman of his powers. Meanwhile, the beer and wine flowed, as very pleasant music played. When French songs like “La Vie En Rose” came on, my brushwork actually improved.
After three beers and three hours, I was finished. Flash had shown her speed by finishing ahead of me. Her sun now filled the entire canvas. One of the painters from Riverside, Emily Mussio, declared, “I’m artistically challenged but the instructor helped me create a painting of the Chicago skyline I was happy with — while having fun.”
That sums up the Creativita experience perfectly. It’s a place where a complete non-artist can execute an intricate landscape, while the sleep-challenged art student next to him paints a very simple but warm picture.
Maybe Flash could call it “Sunny Sunny Day.”
But she can tell you in her own words:
I am 21 years old; however, I do not live the life of a vibrant 21-year-old. Thanks to attending school full-time and working part-time jobs, I am an exhausted 21-year-old.
A couple of weeks ago, John approached me and asked if I would like to write an article about attending a painting session at Creativita on Madison Street. He explained the class would include canvas, brushes and paint. The only responsibility I had was bringing my beverage of choice. I enthusiastically agreed because, as an art student at Lewis University, it seemed right up my alley.
However, when the day came, I was worn out from the night before and a busy day at work. I also got stressed out when I heard it was a three-hour session and not the two hours I originally envisioned. I was looking forward to hitting the sack early that night. So I figured that if I fell asleep at my canvas, I could just go home a little bit earlier than the rest of the group.
I walked into Creativita that evening feeling like a zombie and hoping the session would somehow fly by. John and I talked to the owner and instructor, Jessica, as the rest of the group trickled in. She explained we could free-paint, i.e. choose our own subject. Otherwise, we could paint the Chicago skyline, as she was going to walk the group through it.
I was too drained to try to recreate the Chicago skyline, so I chose to free-paint instead. There were a few in the group who decided to paint other subjects but, unlike me, they all had examples and pictures of what they wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to use warm colors. Jessica set me up with yellows, oranges and reds. Then, as I listened to the Pandora music and sipped my wine, I began to paint my “never-ending sun” as John called it.
My goal was to start with yellows and work my way into reds in a sort of blended progression. I found the task of blending difficult, but Jessica was there to give me some tips and techniques. She showed me how I could make my progression of yellows to reds smoother. I found that as I focused on my canvas, the time really did fly by. I felt relaxed and was having a great time. When I was almost done, I got excited about going home for some shut-eye.
After I finished filling my canvas with sunlight, I scrolled through my phone, looking for a profound quote I could inscribe across it. I went with, “Everything you seek is seeking you.” I planned to give the painting as a present to my friend Jamie.
Back when Jamie first heard about the session at Creativita, she asked me if I could paint her portrait.
Capturing another person’s likeness!
Makes me tired just thinking about it.