Written by : Whitney Alswede 

Create Outside the Lines

Katrina Lewis makes a living painting images with words. But when the marketing writer walked into a local art studio to celebrate a family member’s birthday, she found herself trading in her adjectives for an apron, a canvas and a palette of paint.

“Once I got over the initial, ‘I’m not an artist,’ I realized that none of us were; we were all starting with a blank canvas—literally,” Katrina says. “We began painting, joking around and mixing colors, and I began to see my own individuality reflected in my masterpiece. It was funny how we were all essentially painting the same thing, but everyone’s looked so different. That’s when I realized this wasn’t about painting at all; it was about being creative and expressing ourselves.”

Katrina’s experience echoes what many people are finding. Instead of hitting the nightlife scene, friends, family and even co-workers are gathering at local “art as entertainment” studios and rediscovering creativity they’d thought was lost. All that’s needed is a small fee for supplies, an open mind and a couple of hours, and the studio’s staff will supply the rest, including step-by-step instructions.

Find a non-judgmental environment

It’s a comfortable, there-are-nomistakes environment, says Christy Stindham, who owns a Dallas-area franchise of paint-your-own-pottery studio Color Me Mine. “You’re safe—nobody’s going to laugh at you… You don’t have to know how to paint a straight line or a brushstroke, and if you make a mistake, we can show you how to turn it into something that looks intentional, or you can just wipe off the paint and start again.”

It’s that sense of safety and encouragement that allows weeknight artists like Katrina to relax and be in the moment. Psychologists have drawn connections between creativity and happiness for years, but the relationship between the two is on full display when you visit a studio on a busy Friday night. Whether it’s painting a picture of the Eiffel Tower or a colorful bowl, the laughs come easy, the mood is light—it’s hard not to be happy.

Let yourself go

“People lose track of time,” Christy says. “They become so involved in what they’re doing that they look up and it’s been three hours, and they didn’t even realize it because they were having such a great time.” As Katrina and other modern-day artists are realizing, what they gain from their night in the studio lasts long after the paint dries, they take off their paint-spattered aprons and return to work. 

“Every time I look at that painting hanging in my home’s living area, I think of that night, of the fun I had,” Katrina says. “It’s my personal reminder that sometimes I have to take time out of my schedule to be creative in a very real, very tangible way.”

Find your own way to express your creativity

  • Do as the ancients did, and transform molten glass into art. 
  • Enjoy a fun evening out with friends at Color Me Mine or a mom-and-pop “art as entertainment” studio in your area.
  • Gather the family, get a set of watercolors and some white paper and paint portraits of each other.
  • Get your hands dirty—really dirty—and take a spin on the pottery wheel.
  • Put creativity on your schedule and take an art class at a local community college.
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