Letting out my inner artist, locking up my inner perfectionist

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No one will ever accuse me of being a talented artist.

I learned early in life that my particular expertise was with words, and although I took a one-on-one sketching class as a child, such was never my forte.

But that didn’t stop me from joining a couple of girlfriends for a night of creative expression at Spirited Art Auburn Tuesday.

In defiance of the threat of severe weather (which, thankfully, amounted to nothing), we stepped up to the easel about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, aprons donned, canvases blank and paintbrushes in hand.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Spirited Art, the set-up is similar to Sips n Strokes, formerly located in downtown Opelika. In fact, Sips n Strokes of Opelika was my first introduction to the format.

See, prior to the class, an artist (an actual, real artist, not someone like me, whose greatest artistic successes were achieved by watching the Pappy Drewitt cartoon) will paint the example for the evening’s artistic endeavor. Then, all you have to do is check the business’s calendar and attend on the night that features a work you are interested in duplicating.

During the class, then, an artist paints right along with the members of the class, showing them step by step how to create their own version of the masterpiece. They demonstrate how to mix colors, different brush techniques to use, when to be persnickety and when to keep it loose and flowy.

They can also help fix tragic painting mistakes and errors of judgement.

What’s so neat about this opportunity is that even though everyone in the class (which could be as few as three people and as many as dozens) is painting the same picture, they all come out with significant differences. For my first experience, a roommate and I painted a cherry blossom branch against a blue sky (or ocean – who knows?) with a white bird perched on the branch. Our final products were vastly different from one another.

Mine has been hanging in my office since I started working at the “Observer.”

The best part is that it doesn’t take a Picasso do this, and it doesn’t have to look like a Picasso when you’re finished (actually, not much art looks like Picasso … maybe I should have used Monet for my example). As I said, I’m no artistic genius – but it’s kind of nice to give myself license to have fun and just go at it, without it having to turn out perfect. I’ve been something of a perfectionist my entire life, and there a lot of things I have to do that have to be done RIGHT.

But in the studio at Spirited Art, for at least a couple hours, I was able to let that go.

As our instructor told us that night, “This isn’t serious. It isn’t a job interview. It isn’t birth control.”

So now I have a new “masterpiece” to add to my collection – the Eiffel tower, or a tower that vaguely resembles the Eiffel Tower, at sunset. It’s hanging in my office, too, right next to the bulletin board.

I shy away from using a column to promote a business, but I’m not hesitant at all to promote a good time, and that’s what Spirited Art is – a good time.

So if you enjoy art, or even if you don’t think you have an artistic bone in your body, you might want to give this place a try.

I can hardly wait until I get to go again.

Alison James, associate editor for the “Opelika Observer,” has loved to read and write since she was 5 years old. Her favorite thing about journalism is meeting new people and telling their stories.

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